Saturday, July 30, 2011

what's with me and the pants?

Recently I invested in four new pairs of pants in a larger size -- as chronicled here a little more than a week ago. It occurred to me as I was writing and posting that particular post, that I have a thing about the pants.  Seriously.  The one post I did for Elephant Journal that got any traction at all, Retiring the Porno Pants, was naturally about pants.  And just by the way, the only reason it got any traction was because of the deliberate use of "porno" in the title.  Which is why I don't really write there much.  More pants-aria ensued in Personal Spanda.  And now I'm about to do it again.

What is with me and the pants?

The sad truth is that the yoga pants of which I bought four pairs over the past two weeks are actually too big for me.  Yes, I realized today that though they are capacious enough in the ass, they are too big at the hip, resulting in a different set of issues than previous pants presented. Damn it.

It's freakin' ridiculous.

I am back in my room between classes and grateful that I didn't bring only the voluminous pants, but also two pairs of my older, smaller bottoms.  Thank goodness for that, and for the ability to bust out a costume change between classes, allowing me also to change into my new t-shirt.

Did I mention there is so much retail here, so many opportunities to buy clothes and books and malas and yoga-related stuff.  Also, naturally, many many opportunities for feather hair extensions and even a booth where they will either assist or instruct you in how to "artfully" cut up your t-shirt.  It's a little bit Disneyland for me -- you know, in that way that people go to Disneyland and walk around in the ears, with their name embroidered on the back.  They'll never wear those ears again, outside the park, but damn it if they don't have to have them.  That's how it is for me with some of the garb being sold here, feathers included.  Every Cancun needs its corn-rows, apparently.  I warned you: I can't resist the Wandersnark even as I am loving it, loving it, loving it so much.  Like all things, it is not without its less-shining aspects.

Wait, back to the costume change.  I'm out of the YogaDork t-shirt for the moment, and into my new Rock the Bhakti shirt, Sianna's creation.  Loving it.

And my smaller purple pants right now.

But really, what's with me and the pants?  I'm thinking about it, but meanwhile, heading out to grab some juice and check out more stuff and make my way back to the Anusara Pavilion for noon-time class with Amy Ippoliti.  Hopefully I'll get a spot in the shade, but either way, I'm rocking the right bottoms.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Note to self about altitude

banded, ready to fly
I am not kidding or exaggerating when I say that every single time I go on vacation, whether it's a long one or a short one like this one that I'm on right now, every single time my body manages to re-arrange its calendar so that I get my period.  Every single time.  And yeah, this is going to be one of those posts where if you don't want to hear a bunch of TMI about such topics, you should just exit now.  Because really, I need to talk about it for a minute.  I swear, it's every single time.

And now is no exception, try as I did to encourage my body to let down its load of misery earlier in the week.  Nope, it's now.  Which is only made worse by the fact that I'm at 6,000 feet so I'm a little goofy from the altitude, and the combo of period + sleeplessness (can't sleep anywhere "new" for the first night) + altitude seriously is the migraine-inducing trifecta. 

OK, so altitude is not always involved in our vacations, though the period always sneaks its way on board.  I am reminded of the time we were in Grand Cayman on a diving holiday.  The water there is miraculously clear and warm.  You can dive to 100 feet in just a bathing suit, no wetsuit, not even a shorty, even remotely required.  It is truly so miraculous, so comfortable.  So imagine my horror in climbing back onto the boat after 45 minutes under water in a group when Joe whispers, "Honey, your tampon string is hanging out."  For fuck's sake, really?  Really!  

Snowcamping, where altitude generally is involved, is truly dicey when one has one's period.  Just adds a whole other element of complication, when you're dealing with how to pack out your own excrement (I shit you not, ha ha ha) and you have the whole issue of tampons to deal with.  Disgusting.

And just so inconvenient.

As the daytime part of Day 1 of Wanderlust is coming to an end, with the music yet to come, I am sitting here in the empty condo in Squaw Village, my friends gone to class, nursing my aching cranium and laughing at my own situation.  Seriously, Body, again with the ill-timed period and the migraine?  Lame!

But since this has happened to me time and time again, whether in Peru or Mexico or Grand Cayman or Bali or Colorado or Bosnia or Tahoe, I'm generally prepared.  I know it's coming, so I pack my pills and off I go and generally spend the first day or two in a fog of pain, its edges somewhat dulled by medication, waiting for the worst to pass, and trying to take everything in despite my ouchy senses.

This time, though, I've learned a new lesson: add a day on the front-end.  How much more wonderful would today have been had I arrived a day sooner, to give my head time to adjust to the altitude, to allow me to move through the adaptation before finding myself on my mat for 4 1/2 hours.  That would just be smart.

And that's something I can do.  I can't do anything about this insane period of mine, but the planning part, that I've got under control.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wanderlust prep, finally!

Underway, at last!
I've been ticking my way through an enormous pre-trip To Do list this morning, since about 6.  Well, OK, I admit it: I sat on my ass and did little until about 8 (if that's what you call reading and writing), when the work of paying bills and taking care of business finally began.  And then I had to put things away, fold all my laundry so that I had a clear, clean space in which to start on the packing.  You know how it is.

It's been interesting to pack without the golden-brown eyes of Mr Furpants watching my every move, calculating whether this trip includes him.  Sorry, Pony Boy, you're staying home this time.  ;>

I know I'm overpacking.  I feel horribly out of practice.  But whatevs, it's not like I am going to have to carry this around on my back, so if I like it, I'm bringing it. Which mean that's probably more yoga pants, bras and tops than I need, way more cute apres stuff stowed in there along with the just-in-case down vest and fuzzy hat and the uber-useful parasol (except that it's SO hard to text, hold an iced coffee and the handle at the same time, working on it).  So many activities, so many shoes!

This break is going to be great, but I'm a bit rueful to leave home at all.  It would be so nice to stay here, but now that my list is all checked off, stuff packed, I'm hitting the road.

Watch this space: I'll be blogging from Wanderlust, my first-ever festival of this kind, hoping not to Wandersnark too much and sharing what the experience looks and feels like.  Three classes every day, starting at 8am tomorrow, with hikes and hang-out and coffee and food and sun and kula and mountains in between.

See you soon!

Sweetness, sorrow, summer, Soleil

Last night around 8 the doorbell rang.  Joe and I were talking in our room at the time. I had to say, "wait, was that the doorbell?"  For years, we didn't need or hear the doorbell, since Jasper would alert us of the approach of anyone, human or otherwise, through the yard long, long before they reached the front door and the doorbell.

It was our neighbor, David, come to ask Joe's help with Soleil, their dog.  Soleil and Jasper were puppies together, Soleil a little younger, thirteen in August.  Soleil has been sick with cancer, has been declining as dogs so tragically do, before our eyes, growing ever sweeter every single day.  She's always been sweet, but lately when I've seen her, she is just so sweet and cute, slowly putting one paw in front of the other.

Soleil had had a bad day.  She'd been indoors for hours, so they let her out in the front, to her favorite patch of lawn, and she couldn't or wouldn't get up.  David was asking for Joe's assistance in devising a way to carry her back into the house, so they could keep watch with her, since it seemed her time was near.  Of course, our entire family, all three, headed over, eager to see Soleil, to be of assistance to our wonderful neighbors during what is truly such a terrible, painful experience.

And there she was, Soleil, beautiful white dog, such soft-soft ears, stretched out in the grass, breathing shallowly, blood dripping from her nose, Kathi by her side.

Oh how hard this was for us three, so fresh is our loss of Jas, but how sweet too to be able to be there with Soleil, to stroke her and love her and tell her what a good and beautiful girl she is.  We sat in the grass with her for a little bit, petting her as the sun set, taking in her gorgeous face, the way she looks so much like a little polar bear with her gold-tipped fur and black nose.

We carried her indoors and laid her on a rug near the front door, close to her favorite spot on the couch.  And petted her and chattered to her and kept our neighbors company for a bit.

And then we went home, and I cried my eyes out, missing my sweet Pony and thinking about Soleil and all of the tremendous sweetness dogs bring to our lives.

I wouldn't trade it for anything, no matter the huge pain of the loss.

Dear, dear Soleil, precious little neighbor-friend, wishing you peace and a release from pain.  And sending all our love, always.

Monday, July 25, 2011

what kind of fuckery is this?

Someone gave me shit the other day, albeit indirectly, about posting an RIP Amy Winehouse message in my Facebook status.  His point was that she CHOSE [his caps] to be a crack addict and was getting all this sympathy and attention, pushing those killed in Norway on Friday right out of the news.  How, he posited, was the death of this drug-addled celebrity more important, more deserving of comment than the death of eighty other people, victims not of addiction, but true victims of the actions of an extremist nut-job?

Good question.

And here's why, for me: What kind of fuckery is this?

I hadn't realized how lasting Amy Winehouse's influence on me was until I used the word "fuckery" in a sentence earlier today.  Immediately, the line from "Me and Mr Jones" ran through my head, and I realized I'd learned it from her.  Or if not learned it from her, then that the word in my mind is inseparable from her.  That whenever I use the word, and I use it not infrequently, I hear her sound.

Seems appropriate.

When I first heard Amy Winehouse, a thrill went through me.  Here was a combination of amazing tone, gorgeous voice, genius timing, horns, back-up singers, a juxtaposition of lyrics against that background that made me jump around with joy. It was everything I look for in a daily soundtrack.  It was tight.  It was dirty and sharp.  It was perfect.  I read about her travails, her status as a train wreck, but the matter of her talent remained for me completely untouched.  Undeniable.

This is not to say that it's not tragic that a lunatic set off bombs in Oslo and gunned down kids.  That's terrible.  It's not an either/or, that having strong feeling for the one, and talking about it, means I don't feel strongly for the other.  And yet I have to admit that though it's sad and awful, I didn't know those people in Norway.  Not that I have to to feel sad. But really, with Amy Winehouse, because I've been hearing her voice for 3 years, the loss of that potential hits me in a different way.  She wasn't just a crack-addled celebrity.  She had a spark of utter genius in her, a spark that's now out.
It's not OK with me that she's dead.  I don't think it's not sad because she died at her own hands most likely, finally finally reaching the inescapable end-point of years of addiction.

Trolling through video for this post, I couldn't find a version of "Me and Mr Jones" performed live that 2) didn't have fuckery bleeped out, or 2) didn't have Amy stumbling around, so please be content to just listen.  Actually, I think she's best that way, her voice coming through loud and clear in all its complexity without the baggage of her style choices or strangely expressionless face.

Gone from the world a truly unique voice, one tiny, tiny person who made a disproportionately gigantic impact. Losing the realization of that great talent, its unfolding, now that really is some kind of fuckery.

Goofy wolverine fan behavior

I'm such a fan of wolverine, my favorite animal besides Jasper (naturally), that I am a total sucker for anything that has wolverine in the name.  Although I do draw the line at the Wolverine character in X-Men, just by the way, because that's not real.  

I mean what's not to love about the real wolverine?  Gorgeous, fierce, endowed with everything it needs to thrive in its environment.  And did I mention gorgeous?

Those who see me regularly see me in the company of my notebook, which travels with me wherever I go and which carries on its cover this reminder of the year's totem animal, cut out from the Wolverine Foundation brochure, along with the I Love You sticker from the Valentine's Day cookie Laura gave me:

Every time I look at my notebook, I feel happy.  I am reminded of what this year is all about for me, not having to work as hard as I did last year, not having to struggle or prove, because I've got everything I need, teeth and claws and fur and heart, built right in, part of the package.  Or it just makes me happy because it's so freaking cute.  [Readers of Wednesday's Breaking Up with Lazy, here's your chance to nod knowingly at the bright-pink tab visible on the right.]

So because you know this about me -- that I'm a sucker for wolverine -- you won't be surprised even a bit that as soon as I saw the words " Wolverine Bread" at Arizmendi Bakery in San Rafael, yeah, of course I had to buy a loaf.  With a name like Wolverine, I "reasoned" (hah) that it had to be good.  [Remind me to tell you about porcupine meatballs sometime.]

Arizmendi Wolverine bread

So, Wolverine Bread?  Delicious, substantial and stuffed with nuts and dried fruit.  I tore into it yesterday (with my claws) and ate some at my desk.  I enjoyed some this morning, warmed, with a light glaze of delicious salted butter.  Yummy Wolverine!  What's not to love?

As I was enjoying my breakies this morning, Joe looked over, one eyebrow slightly raised, and asked, incredulity apparent, Did you buy that bread just because of the name?  My happy reply, mouth full of delectable toast: OF COURSE!


so so so so so so good!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Do it for your greatest love...

The practice of yoga is so much more meaningful, deeper, and sometimes easier, when we do it for something bigger.  When we do it for a bigger purpose.  When we do it for Love.

The pose can be so much lighter, held so much longer, with so much less effort, when we hold the image of someone we love, someone who needs a little extra something.  When we do it not for ourselves, not to be able to say we did a certain pose.  But for Love.

As we were setting up for backbend Saturday morning, Laura reminded us of this. She had started the class talking about using love to transmute hate, drawing on the news of the tragedy in Norway on Friday, expressing love for the victims, finding love for the perpetrator.  Her theme was the alchemy we can work when we respond with love, when we push away the inclination to hate and go with love instead.  So much more than just the repetition and refinement of various physical poses, really yoga is a profound practice of Love, right, always coming back to truly seeing the self, loving the self, truly seeing others, loving others.

And so Laura said these words, as we rested on our heads on our way into backbend, to remind us to go big, to make it about something more than just the pose:

Do it for your greatest love
Do it for your dog
Do it...

Which is how I found myself in a deep backbend with tears streaming into my ears, soaking my mat, filled with love for my dear, my sweet, my now-four-months-gone Jasper.  I didn't hear a single word really after "dog," although I think Laura did say "cat" and "beloved."  I was un-done, waterworks set to the On position from that point through savasana, all the way home and even now.

In truth I'd already cried before class.  I saw a cute brindle dog trotting alongside his person along Bridgeway in Sausalito, and the full sorrow of a life without my buddy opened up for me again.  I sat in the car, parked in front of the studio, and sobbed, Blackbird by The Beatles playing on the radio.  So maudlin, right?  But it's like I said to Joe the other day:  Jasper was my best friend.  He just happened to be a dog.  He cannot be replaced.  He's gone, and I miss him so much.

Is it wrong that Jasper was perhaps my greatest love?  I haven't yet lost in my life a person who was really close, really dear, so I don't know how much more pain, if there is more, is possible.  All I know is that the missing of Jasper doesn't go away, the deep longing to see his face, smell his fur, feel his strong little body with my hands, just never goes away.

So I'll use it, I'll transmute this great grief into whatever I can.  I'll keep on missing Jasper and loving him so much, and give him my backbends, my bound arda-chandrasanas, my everything.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

$248,000 playhouse: grotesque, delightful

One of my mother's students, Susie, grew up not far away from our home in the Castro, then known as Eureka Valley.  I remember a visit to Susie's house and meeting her parents, and having delicious coffee cake, something I'd never eaten before.  Delicious crumbly brown sugar and butter topping!  I was probably 7 years old at the time, at the most.  My sisters were not along for this visit, so it felt special. I have a memory of wearing a yellow dress that day, but who knows really.  It's possible.

Besides the coffee cake, and the tether ball set-up outside, what I really remember about that sunny afternoon is the playhouse that Susie's father had made her.  Of course Susie, then a high school student, was too old for it, too big for it, but oh, how neatly I fit.

It was a tiny cottage with a split door and two little flower-filled window-boxes under two tiny windows. From my seat at the tiny table inside, I could gaze out over the closed bottom-half of the door and see the tippy-top of the tether-ball pole and the sky, the grown-up voices so far away.  Little shelves ran along one wall, covered with play dishes and tiny house-things.  I was utterly enchanted.  At last, here was my long-sought paradise: my own place on my own scale, a retreat in which I was in charge, no bossy big people allowed.

Except that it was in someone else's backyard.

I dreamed of that little house for years, wished and wished that my crafty father would make me one.  With his skills, he could have made me one out of painted cardboard and some empty tea-tins and it would have stood the test of time.  But I never got one.  As my parents knew, I didn't need one, really.  We had all of the open space of our neighborhood, all of the hiding places offered by the row of tall Victorians across the street, all of the privacy afforded by being wild in the street.

And yet, when I read Playhouses: Child's Play, Grown-Up Cash in this week's NY Times, it all came flooding back: the longing, the enchantment.  Take a moment and click through to view the slideshow.  Amazing!  And while I do think $248,000 is an absurd amount of money for a playhouse, wow, that playhouse is something else!  It would be amazing to be a kid with access to it, to get to walk across those suspended bridges into a private little housey all your own.  And then use the zip-line to the nearby castle.  It would be like having Disneyland or Mr. Roger's Neighborhood in your own backyard.  So Swiss Family Robinson!!

Yes, children can be perfectly fine with a cardboard box to play in, to make into their little playhouse.  And of course it's entirely unnecessary to have your own private Disneyland in your own private yard.  But sometimes I still dream of that little cottage, the set-aside of a space that would be just mine, just the right size, small and cute, charming little window-boxes, split door and all.

Friday, July 22, 2011

PLEASE Do Not Touch

A person like me -- i.e., a person with vividly colored arms -- has largely given up the luxury of anonymity, of slipping quietly under the radar in the warmer months when long sleeves are out of the question.  It's a funny thing to be this tattooed -- it's deeply personal and yet also simultaneously loudly public.  It leads to all kinds of interesting interactions with total strangers, something which can be delightful or just plain weird.

And sometimes a little shocking.

Most of the time I don't mind at all being the subject of curiosity.  Most of the time I answer whatever question I'm asked.  I also note the pattern of the questions.  Besides the inevitable "did that hurt?" question (duh), it used to be, for years and years, that I would be asked, "what does that mean?"  I don't hear that one so much anymore.  Now it's shifted almost entirely to, "how long did that take?"  Which, seriously, evidences a very different mindset, don't you think?  From a search for understanding to a mental calculation of how much this process entailed.  Another popular question is, "what made you decide to do that?"  My recent favorite: "What's your theme?"  Now that's thoughtful!

I have a perhaps odd desire not to put people off in certain situations because of how I look, particularly old ladies.  I always have a lightweight long-sleeved cardigan in my car or bag, to throw on if I'm going to be in some situation, the pharmacy at Kaiser or a church, where the population will be a great deal older.  Or if I'm going into some group of strangers I've never met before, like my first Obama 2012 meeting two months ago, where I want the judgment of me to be based on something other than how I look.  I choose to reveal or conceal based on the situation and weighing various factors, one of which is how available I want to be for commentary and connection.

Because, let's face it, one of the weirder thing that happens is that some people assume that we're the same because they have ink, too.  I'm not a fan of Social Distortion and the reasons why I found myself reading an interview of Mike Ness are a whole other story, but I did appreciate this one thing he said enough to go dig the magazine out of a pile of Thrashers and Tattoo Artist magazines in the hall bath:
...back then [in the old days], and throughout history, it seems that tattooing was for anti-social reasons, an anti-social statement.  And now it's become social.  So that's kind of where I have a problem with it.  It's like, "You mean, because you're sleeved, you and I have something in common?"  To me, that's the same as just living in the same city as me.  That's not really enough to bro-down, you know what I mean?  Not unless it's the right situation. And "no, I don't really want to see your tats, nor do I really want to show you mine."
Besides the fact that I love this expression "bro-down," I so appreciate this sentiment.  But since my arms are art, not anti-social, I am open to the conversation.  Just sometimes I don't want the connection.  In fact, I go perversely the other way.  It took me months to talk to my friend Joanne, whom I'd seen in yoga classes for ages.  I didn't want it to be like the two tattooed girls just automatically being friends.  Being friends just because we both have tattoos: that's weird. 
But the thing that never ceases to amaze me is the frequency with which people actually look with their hands.  By people, I mostly mean men.  Sometimes they even grab.  And pet.  

That's crazy, right?  I'm always shocked, but also being an animal who likes pets, I submit to it.  I'm super uncomfortable, but I am a little paralyzed with the shock and the petting.  As a toucher myself -- as someone who learns with my hands -- I try to cut these people some slack, understanding that they can't necessarily help themselves.  If there's a baby alligator in front of me, I'm going to reach for it and pick it up, without thinking.  So I get it.  But still...

Just yesterday, the older man bagging my groceries at Trader's Joe's, the older man with the fucked-up teeth and the sparkly dollar-sign necklace showing through the open collar of his TJ's polo shirt, he laid his hands on me, turning my arms this way and that, taking it in.  Between swiping my debit card and taking my receipt, I was locked in this interaction, shocked as usual, trying to remain good-natured, smiling, answering questions, but also hearing the loud voice in my head which really wanted to be so impolite and bark, Take Your Fucking Hands Off Me Right Now.  I don't want to be that person, but honestly, I also don't think being a work of art means I have to endure the man-handling.  

It's super interesting to me, as a shy person (don't argue with me about it, it's the truth, even if you don't believe it), that I've made myself so public by permanently painting my arms.  It forces me into interaction many times when I just don't feel like it, and I need that.  But there's a balance, don't you think?

So I'm asking for your help.  I'm looking for suggestions on what to say in these situations, something not too Clint Eastwood, something not too Pollyanna (I have that one down, apparently), which will express calmly, lightly, that my skin is off limits.  

It's hot as hell out now, so I'm on display for weeks to come.  I am thanking you in advance for helping me to craft a witty, kind little statement to help me maintain some small bubble of untouchability in this curious, grabby world.


Look with your special eyes!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Last year at this time, we were in the beautiful paradise of Bali with my teacher, the lovely Laura Christensen.  Reading back through The MOST fun I've ever had in my life, posted July 22, 2010, I remember vividly everything -- the laughing, practicing, eating so well.  And oh, the delicious coffee at Tutmak in Ubud, truly the best cappuccino this side of Blue Bottle.  Such a great, great time spent with such dear, dear people in such a gorgeous, gorgeous place.

There's something about Bali, apparently, that requires the doubling, the piling-on, of adjectives.  It's just that delicious.

While we were there, I think on Day 1, after a stroll through the Monkey Forest in Ubud, as Joe and I were having cappuccino #1 at Tutmak, I said, sighing, "you know?  I think I am a tropical person trapped in a mediterranean climate."

What struck me that first day, besides everything that was coming in through my eyes, was the gentleness of the air on my skin, the perfection of the temperature, the ease of the attire appropriate to the climate.  So easy.  Just pull on a light skirt and a loose top and some sandals, and done.  Done for all day and all night.  Leave your sweater in the suitcase until the volcanos or until San Francisco, whichever comes first.  

I was remembering Bali yesterday because we had finally hit that point in our summer when I can walk around Bali-comfy.  Yesterday was just that hot, low 90s, that I wore the same thing I would have worn in Ubud last year - stretchy black cotton Athleta skirt, $5 embroidered black blouse purchased at Candi Kuning Market, sandals.  No sweater.  Delicious.

It looks like it's going to be another hot one today, so I'm luxuriating in my choices, clothes that have been largely put away since a year or so ago, clothes that bring back so many memories and a sharp longing to feel that air on my skin again.  Until then, I'm going to enjoy feeling this Bali-comfy, sweater not required.


* * * * *
Laura is heading back to Bali in one year.  Check her website for more details and to take advantage of August 1 early-birdy deadline for discount (morning price, just for you!) and payment plan.  Don't miss out!  If it's even a fraction of as wonderful as last year, it's going to rock your whole world.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Breaking up with Lazy

Since it's July, I have been going back over my plans for the year and checking in on progress.  These plans are a mixtures of goals and resolutions which I carry around with me everywhere I go, the pages in my notebook marked with a helpful bright-pink tab to make it easy to find my way back.  

I've also been checking in on our Small, Medium, Large projects lists and crossing off any accomplishments we forgot to cross off (small water feature: done!).  So satisfying to be able to cross things off, naturally, but I know, deeply, that the lists are a smidge of a distraction, that what really matters is progress toward bigger goals, like more peace in my daily life or its negative expression, less anxiety, which in turns means better sleep and fewer headaches.

I've been helped immeasurably this year by Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, which I read sometime in the early months.  This morning I'm thinking particularly of "Tackle a Nagging Task," in her first chapter, "Boost Happiness."

About a month ago, I wrote about Breaking up with Crazy, something which wasn't included in my plans for the year, but which emerged as an important step in my personal happiness.  So far, BUWC has been a big boon to me, though my eyebrows might disagree.  Yesterday, I realized that Breaking up with Lazy is an equally important component of where I am headed this year. 

The Lazy I speak of here is entirely my own, and I'm aware as I use that word that it's pretty negative and that it doesn't necessarily cut me any slack.  That's deliberate.  The Lazy I accuse myself of is procrastination around unpleasant tasks, whether they're regular tasks like doing my bit as CFO of our family business -- sending invoices, writing contracts, paying bills, doing the tax work -- or not-so-regular tasks like clearing up a mess on a student loan.  

What's nuts about this Lazy is that generally none of these tasks I'm procrastinating are truly unpleasant for me at all.  I love the family business work, in fact, but like a baby, rebel against having to work when I get home from work or on the weekends, when I just want to have fun.  I love everything being clear and organized and paid, but sometimes I just waste time and energy whining about how much I just want to be free of endless work, so then I don't do the work, and then I feel freaked out, and then up against a deadline I work like a fiend to get things done.  Exhausting.

Last week I wrote in my calendar:

Figure shit out this week, aka
why do I alternate between stupor and frenzy?  
Surely there is middle ground?

[Also I wrote that I need new flats and to return a dress to Anthro, but that's not relevant here.]

Enter Breaking up with Lazy.  Duh, that's where the middle ground is.  Yes, I need time to slack off, do nothing and be a sloth.  But I can't even enjoy that time unless I am more disciplined at other times, getting my work done so that I can fully relax when the opportunity to do so presents itself.  Duh, seriously.  And yeah, this only occurred to me yesterday, in its fullness.  I amaze myself.  

BUWL has many aspects.  It's as simple as ensuring that my living space is tidy, no clothes on the floor, no dirty dishes in the sink, no over-due library books, just staying on top of the regular stuff.  I am so much happier when things are clear and neat.  Some people thrive in clutter, but that ain't me.

BUWL is less simple, taking care of things that are a pain in the ass, like my yesterday 30-minute phone call with Sallie Mae to clear up a mess with a student loan.  This situation had really escalated to crisis point -- a letter about default, endless incoming phone calls at all hours from 800 numbers, causing me a ceaseless undercurrent of anxiety even though I knew it was a simple misunderstanding, that they were wrong -- and I couldn't ignore it any longer.  One phone call, one investment of thirty minutes of my work-day, and the whole thing is sorted.  

The amount of relief I felt was immense, such a weight lifted off of me.  Why did I wait so damn long to do this for myself?  Who, really, was benefiting from months of avoidance?

As Gretchen writes, 
An important aspect of happiness is managing your moods, and studies show that one of the best ways to lift your mood is to engineer an easy success, such as tackling a long-delayed chore.  I was astounded by the dramatic boost in my mental energy that came from taking care of these neglected tasks.
Amen, sister.

So really, this is it.  I am Breaking up with Lazy, too.  Which means I'll probably get to that task on my list above.  If you look closely, on the right hand side under the Financial category, you'll see it says, "pay bills early."  Yeah, I'm not going to be content with doing things on-time.  That's not good enough, that's a backslide into anxiety and frenzy.  No way.

For real and lasting personal peace and happiness, I am Breaking up with Lazy.  If it's anything like Crazy, I won't miss it.  I'll just be way happier without it.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Maha booty

Yoga pants cost an obscene amount of money, generally speaking.  My skill at rationalizing purchases of said-obscenely priced items can be extraordinary, but lately I've been unwilling to come up with my usual story about how essential it is to trade hard-earned cash for close-fitting exercise togs.  

And yet, last week, there came a point, 6 minutes before class started one evening, when my own physical discomfort drove me to grab a new pair from the shelf in the studio and lay down $73 for what are, essentially, pyjamas.  I was so much more at ease as a result, sad but at ease.

I have, shall we say, outgrown most of my current yoga pants, the pants that fill an entire drawer in my room, essential when one practices 5 times a week in public classes (ideal) and at home (ok, only rarely).  [In case you missed it, that was an example of rationalization.]

Yes, outgrown.  For whatever reason -- I still don't know exactly why, but place responsibility on my low-functioning thyroid, recently-uncovered Vitamin D deficiency, and on my advancing age, and also, if I'm being honest, on the fact that since Jasper died (hate that word), I am not hiking or walking consistently -- I have gained weight in pants-places.  Most of the time I am just uncomfortable, constantly aware of it. Sometimes the awfulness of it for me wakes me from my sleep.  I am just that fucked-up in the head, I suppose.

So there I was, at 6:09pm, throwing on pants for 6:15 class.  Because I was moving quickly, the color choice was nothing special, a dark blue.  Dark colors are slimming, right?

But there I was, going up a size.

That's what I've been foolishly avoiding, avoiding confronting what is, in favor of holding onto what is clearly not happening any more.

As recompense for squaring myself to what is [thanks, Abby, that's your voice inside my head], can I just say that I was so much more comfortable throughout class?  No fiddling with the waistband of the pants, no constant yarding-down of the top, no anxiety about exposure in inverted poses.  I was more at ease, less guarded and buzzing with a low-level of unhappiness, less constricted.

But a size bigger and $73 poorer.

If there's a time for new pants, I'm afraid this is really it. [More rationalization.]

I tell myself, though, that I could save money and just lose the weight.  But let's be honest: I'm not losing the weight.  I am still too paralyzed to hike alone in our hills.  I can't walk around the neighborhood like I did for years, except in the company of Jassie's ghost, and it's still too painful.  I can't eat less, since I just can't muster the give-a-shit to put myself through that.  So it's down to acceptance, to squaring myself to what is, to accepting myself.

To being a size larger.

This is an excellent opportunity to put everything into practice, everything that I've been studying for years.  If I'm perfect just as I am, then I'm perfect with a fatter ass.  The fatter ass is perfect.  [OK, that's a hard one for me, ok, just sayin'.]  Things change, people change, asses change.  It's all good.  That's life, etc., etc., etc.  But now, using myself as the material, I have to mean it.  And that, my friends, ain't easy.

Lo and behold, three days after my big purchase (oh ha ha ha, in more ways than one), imagine my own delight/irritation that there was suddenly 75% off items on the sale rack at the very same studio.  [Rationalization: now I had no excuse not to step up and accomodate reality.]  For less than I spent on the first pair of fat-pants (and I mean that lovingly), I bought two more pairs, including a bright pink pair (sale rack, after all)  + a cute t-shirt.  How's that for squaring to what is?

So I throw down the gauntlet to myself.  Yeah, I'm rocking bigger pants (for now), but I'm not going down quietly.  I'm going to be comfortable, and hot-pink, if that's what it takes, taking my place in the front row with as much acceptance as I can muster, busting bigger poses with my bigger butt.


Friday, July 15, 2011

July 15: The Trifecta of AMAZING

Today, Friday July 15th, 2011, is, as my genius sister Martine put it, quite simply the Trifecta of AMAZING!

Chez Nous: Maison Assibat, Arrens-Marsous
One: it's Stage 13 of the Tour de France, which passes through my family's country today, literally.  The stage begins in Pau, comes up the col d'Aubisque, across to and down from Col de Soulor and down through our little village, Arrens-Marsous, the village where my father was born, where our French family is buried, where my parents will be in just a couple of days.  Steps from this house was where I saw my first live Tour passing through, way back in the early 70s with a Poulidor cap on my head.  There again, in 2005, that we hiked to the top of Soulor and waited all day to see the caravane, the helicopters, the riders come by.  I'll be glued to the coverage today, eyes wide open for shots of our special place in the world, those beautiful mountains and gorgeous little villages.  I can almost smell it.  It's thrilling for me, especially now that Martine (deep, deep pranams, sister) prevailed on our parents not to sell the ancestral house and garden.  I am watching with even more intensity as a result.

Carlita and Joe,
Col de Soulor, 2005
The Kid and Ben: full fan regalia,
Col de Soulor, 2005

Two: Harry Potter opens today.  The Kid saw it at midnight last night, but I'm waiting until Saturday, waiting until the crowds of screaming girls in capes subside somewhat.  It'll still be plenty raucous, though, I'm sure, since we're not delaying long.  I've been waiting and waiting for this final film to come out, to go sit in the dark and revel in the story, in the love and heroism that's so deep in that story.  The last one was so good.  I really am so excited to take it in.  It occurs to me, naturally, that it's really the very same story in different outfits as the Tour de France in so many ways: bravery, struggle, friendship, loyalty and love.  Sweet!

Three: It's Guru Purnima!  The July moon was fat and bright last night, blasting my room with light as I tried to get to sleep, illuminating that today's the special day when we honor our teachers and the entire lineage of teachers who've brought us to this point.  I bow deeply today, all day, to my many, many teachers, with so much gratitude for all they've taught and continue to teach me, in the great unfolding of consciousness that is this life.

It's going to be an AMAZING day.  Live it up!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

other kinds of heroes, unassuming

I've been reading Oak Park Hates Veggies all morning, the blog of a woman in Oak Park, Michigan who is battling her city over her decision to plant vegetables in her front yard.  The family has been ticketed and fined, and goes to trial at the end of this month.  For growing vegetables in their front yard!

Given that we also replaced lawn with garden beds out here in the renegade badlands of Santa Venetia where pretty much anything goes -- and that I did have moments of wondering whether we'd get in trouble for that (of course not.  Anything goes, remember?) -- and just given my general obsession with anything home-farming related, it's natural I should take an interest.

But the thing is that I am enjoying reading her so much.  About herself, she writes, in a blog post titled "rosa parks i am not":

... this was so accidental, so unintentional. we just did our little thing on our little lawn in our little city- and here we are.  we never decided to “take a stand” or fight injustice or be held up as an example. i feel like what we did is so little in comparison to what really heroic people do that what we did is almost silly.
i think i am a good person. i am a loyal friend and a caring mom and hopefully a decent wife. but i’m so……….regular. there are so many truly wow people in the world- i don’t want to pose as one of them when i’m so not.
i am touched beyond words when people say nice things here and in other places about our family. i am awestruck at the outpouring of support and kindness from people who don’t even know us. i don’t want to downplay that one bit.
but at the end of the day, i am soooooo not wow. i am so astoundingly regular. i think our garden is great, but even the garden is pretty unimpressive in the greater scheme of things.  i think people should have a right to grow food. i think people need to take more responsibility for the choices they make. i think more people need to think before they act. i think governments, large or small, should not be allowed to ride roughshod over their citizens. i think power should never trump truth. but there are so many people out there who are really fighting and really suffering and being truly heroic- they are living these principles when i am just sitting here in my air-conditioned den and blogging about them.
i just want to be clear: i am not rosa parks or gandhi or mother theresa. not even close. i am just me.
And just her, not Rosa Parks or Mother Theresa, planted what is a really modest starter veggie garden.  It's four beds, mulch in between, tidy, modest.  No big deal, no great shakes.  Actually, what it is is totally accessible.  Some people who've never gardened will look at it and think, "Oh, that's it?  I can totally do that."  It's right out there, in front of the house, not as a provocation, but because that's what worked.  It's small-scale, do-able for regular folks.  It is exactly what municipalities should be encouraging rather than attacking.  Crazy, silly Oak Park: what an unfortunate tempest in a little tiny teacup, leaving city officials looking like utter asses.

If you are so inclined, there's a Facebook page to Like, as a way of showing support, and also a petition hosted by Care2.

Heroes are made, whether they want it or not, sometimes out of the most unlikely characters.  Julie and family in Oak Park: it's your turn!


Monday, July 11, 2011

jusqu'au bout de son courage...

Johnny Hoogerland, comforted on the podium
by legend Raymond Poulidor
photo credit: Bettini,
As much as I am enjoying the hours and hours of coverage of this year's Tour de France, the familiar sights and sounds pouring out of the TiVo, the excitement of watching the moves and finishes, the gorgeous countryside unfolding, the courage and strength of the riders, I have to admit that the number of crashes is working a weird number on my head.  Yesterday's stage, #9, in which Johnny Hoogerland was sent flying into a barbed wire fence after Alexandre Vinokourov ended up in a tree, just about did me in.

It's not even about me.

But with every crash, I just cringe, remembering Joe's crashes, particularly the last one, re-living that sick feeling of the phone call, the drive to the hospital, the first sight of the beloved in the ER in some stage or other of unconsciousness.

And yet how beautiful and brave and remarkable that that poor Hoogerland picked himself out of the barbed wire, got back on the bike and finished.  That he went, as the French announcer says in this video, to the very end of his courage to stay in, despite his injuries that later required 33 stitches.

That's amazing.

That's why I'll keep watching every year, for these feats of endurance and strength and courage.  And for the loyalty, the laying down of the bike for a teammate, the entire peloton slowing down and waiting following the catastrophic crash.  It's such a great rolling story every single year, with so many opportunities for individuals to shine, both for their own strength and for their bigness of spirit.
Thank goodness it's a rest day today, so the riders can recover.  And so that we can, too.  Yesterday's action was so horrific and yet amazing -- Thor Hushovd's leadership even as his yellow jersey was slipping away, Thomas Voekler's joy on the podium, Johnny Hoogerland's tears.  We are invited to watch the full gamut of human possibility and to go, vicariously, to the every ends of courage.  After which a rest, really, is needed.

Tomorrow it's back in the saddle.  Fingers crossed everyone stays upright and Voekler carries the yellow through Bastille Day!

Vive le Tour!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Always Say Thank You

one week, three cards!
This has been quite a week for Thank You cards -- I have received three so far!  

Receiving personal snail-mail of any kind is always notable, but three Thank You cards in one week?  That's some kind record.  Makes me think I must be doing something right.  

Actually, what's more true is that other people are most certainly doing something Super Right -- i.e., sending notes to say Thank You, which is always an incredibly thoughtful thing to do. 

This is a super-social season, filled with dinner parties and graduations, so there's plenty of generosity to feel grateful for.  Personally, right now, I am just feeling grateful to those who've taken the time to send their handwritten expressions of thanks, such a lovely habit which we should really and truly never lose.  Becca, Nicole, Heather and Michael: thank you!  No matter how much faster and simpler to write an email, a card is just so much better.  It has life in a way that an electronic communication just can't, no matter how well-worded.

I know this is my training talking.  The Thank You note was a cornerstone of my politeness training, after all, and it lives on in me, deeply, in the form of one of my rules, Always Say Thank You.  It and its companion, Be Invited Back, mean I always have a stack of cards at the ready for just this expression.  I may suck at sending birthday cards, but Thank You cards I can manage.   At Thank You cards I can excel.

There's something so pleasant, I think, about re-living the experience, the birthday or the holiday or the dinner, through the action of choosing the card, and then the words, to send.  For me, it's a kind of reveling in the memory of that moment, celebrating the friendship, the thoughtfulness, all of the deliciousness of time spent together.  So good and tasty both in the giving and in the receiving.

We went to a great party last night, and I was so happy to find the perfect card to send today.  I think it sums things up quite nicely.  And now I just have to find the right way to express the fullness I feel remembering what it was like to be in the company of people I love.  How very precious it is, indeed, to love and be loved.  And how essential to take the time to say it.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

everything is connected to everything

Let me see: for the past few weeks, I've been suffering from, not writer's block, but from what I think of as Writer's Blah.  Writer's Block seems (to me) to imply that there's something to block.  I've just been blah, had nothing, really -- extremely limited energy, some ideas but execution zero -- and have been sleeping like the dead, which is insane for me.  But today, I'm feeling like I'm back.  And so's insomnia, no surprise, my more-usual companion.  There's a crash coming later on, but for now, I'm enjoying feeling so much more like myself than I have in weeks.

No coincidence that last night was the first time I've been to class in weeks. Literally, weeks.  Which is also super-weird for me.  My rationale was that I was injured and recovering, and also grieving still.  That's all true, but it's also true that it was more of the above Blah taking me over.  It's like a Dementor got me or something, just every drop of joy sucked out of the universe for a bit.

Just in case this is a temporary relapse to normalcy, with a return to Blah imminent, just wanted to get some stuff down on "paper."  Which is also the reason that I got up at 4:05, after 2 1/2 hours of trying to get back to sleep.

If I'm going to write, then I have to practice. 

Class with Laura last night was fantastic.  We did one-minute holds throughout the 90-minute class in our exploration of her theme of finding stillness in motion, motion in stillness.  And truly, finding alignment and then holding forearm plank or handstand for a minute at a time immediately drives home the point.  To hold on, you have to get quiet, go inside, pull in and focus.  Meanwhile, in that holding, so much ricocheting, pinballing motion.  Not to mention the despair of the monkey brain crying out, "is it time yet?"  We worked hard, I dripped sweat all over my mat, I lost my mind and found it again, waiting for me with my sandals in the cubbies by the bathroom.

As soon as I took my seat on my mat, I realized how essential the practice is to my creativity, how it lays down tracks for my train of thought.  It's no coincidence that I suddenly have this urge to write again, that it kept me awake from 1:30 am today.

When I practice, I have more words.  And more words is what I want to be having.  I have been profoundly uncomfortable and unhappy for the past few weeks, because I just was
for various reasons but also because I felt so wordless.

Besides practicing and farming, writing is all I really want to do. 

I'm not sure where it's taking me, but I'm sure enjoying writing for this, my own, my beloved blog, writing for San Rafael Patch, writing for Bay Shakti, and now writing and social networking for the San Rafael Neighborhood Team of the Obama 2012 campaign.  Fingers crossed that a recent piece really, really does get crossposted (after ferocious editing, down to 250 words, by the national office, but whatevs, they can do with me as they wish) to the Barack Obama website.

I LOVE all of this and am not entirely sure where it's leading, but it's a source of profound happiness to me to be able to express myself this way.  So I'll keep doing it and see where it leads.  To be clear, it doesn't have to lead anywhere.  It's an end in itself, I suppose, but since I wish that this were all I had to do, that it really were true that this is what I did for a living (as a recent acquaintance assumed, so sorry to burst her bubble), then that does urge me always on to thinking of how to make that reality.  And well before retirement age, if you please.

Oh, and reading.

I've been reading like mad, too, something that's been a smidge worrisome, only because I have taken to using the time I formerly employed in hiking and walking with Jasper to crawl back under the covers with a book.  It has, actually, made me wonder -- what with the ridiculous sleeping -- whether I was depressed.  

Thanks to a new library card, I've been re-living my days of Summer Reading Program at the Eureka Valley branch of the San Francisco Public Library, and making my way through some re-reads and new reads of children's literature.  As a result of which I have now irrefutably established that Great Expectations, though assigned to me and the rest of my 7th grade class, is not a book for 11-year-olds.  Or at least not this particular 11-year-old.  I didn't remember a thing about the book, except for the way Ms. Silverstein's approach to dissecting the book nearly turned me off to reading altogether.  I enjoyed it as an adult, though, I must say.  Oh, Havisham: may we avoid becoming you.

I'll be finishing Graceling by Kristin Cashore this morning before work.  And then it's on to re-reading two E. L. Konisburg titles, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth.  I am thoroughly enjoying this kid lit foray and thinking about this audience so much.  Who knows: maybe there's a book there.

everything is connected to everything

I am adoring a new show on FX, "Wilfred," perfectly weird and hilarious.  [In fact, I was rhapsodizing last night that FX has basically all of my favorite shows, which perhaps says a lot about my TVMA LSV tendencies.]  And yeah, it's just tv, but tv can be awesome, tv can be inspirational, tv can be delightful.

And so it is that I woke up with this phrase, "everything is connected to everything," spoken by the dog, Wilfred, on the show's second episode.  

Which is seeming so true, especially now when I am acutely aware of how connected my practice is to my writing is to my reading is to my writing is to my practice is to my ultimate happiness.  Sometimes it just takes an Aussie in a dog suit to remind me.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Happ-bee Independence Day!

Celebrating freedom all day and loving on what surrounds us.  Happy Fourth!

Pomegranate blossom