Friday, February 25, 2011

I Love You - A Visual Reminder

Sometimes, all it takes to make you feel better, to wipe out a rough time, to make you feel you matter, is for someone to look at you and say "I love you."

And mean it.

A genuine I love you can soften the hurt carried inside for too long. It can make you realize that your presence on the planet matters to someone. And they would notice if you were gone.

I got the most unexpected I love you today. And it left me speechless.

You know this little thing I do - teach yoga? Turns out it matters to some people. And those people surprised me today and showered me with generosity and love. They knew I've had some rough times lately and they wanted me to know they noticed. And they cared.

They were generous with their gift, but the time and effort that went into planning this surprise amazed me just as much.

Can you tell what their gift was? It's a new yoga mat with a picture of all my best yoga buddies on it!

The mat is from A really cool site where you can make a yoga mat from any image. It's the same place that Jennifer Aniston gave Oprah a yoga mat with a picture of her dogs on it. I have the same mat as Oprah!

But mine is so much better. My new mat is a reminder that someone, quite a few actually, love me and think I'm pretty ok.

The best part is in the upper right corner it says "You love us!"

And they are so right. I do love them. And will be forever grateful to them for carrying me through a bad time, lifting my spirits, and telling me I love you at the exact time I needed to hear it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Run Away Home

I was talking to my cousin and his partner last month. They've been together almost 20 years and since they first met they've had to deal with serious issues. Sick parents, cancer, more sick parents and more cancer. I asked him how come you guys haven't just run away yet?

"We think about it all the time!" he said.

Running away. Away from the hassle. Away from the drama. Away from the pain and sadness. Because there has to be something else right?

Am I alone in this fantasy?

The dog days are over, the dog days are done. Can you hear the horses because here they come.

The fantasy of just walking away. Maybe hopping a plane and landing in a new land with a new name and a new life.

Yes it means leaving behind the good I have now and those I love here. But out there is the promise of something new. Something different. The promise to be someone new and different. To reinvent myself.

Leave all your loving, your loving behind. You can't carry it with you if you want to survive.

But running away isn't really an option is it? And when do I know it's time to stop running?

Instead I lace up my sneakers, turn on the ipod, and start running. And when my foot that has been broken too many times starts screaming at me to stop, I always have my yoga mat to roll out.

Asana is the place to reinvent my body. Sun Salutations keep me moving and breathing. Meditation turns the inner screams to whispers, and then to contented breaths.

The yoga mat is my place to stop running away from life, and instead find a way to live this life.

(The lyrics are taken from my new favorite crank up the ipod 
and get moving song):

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pink Pigs, Silly Songs & Meditation

The seventh limb of yoga is dhyana. Meditation. That elusive state of a calm, clear, peaceful mind.  I’ve heard it described as “sitting in the hands of God.”

You’ve seen the images of people sitting in lotus pose on the top of a mountain, the wind blowing, the sun setting, as they find inner peace and happiness. Yeah, that’s not me.

But I’m sitting in a teacher training workshop where we’ve just spent the past couple hours talking about meditation, what it means, how it relates to yoga, the medical and scientific benefits of it.  I’m interested and more than willing to try to find some inner peace.

I and my fellow yogis roll up our mats and blankets, find a place around the room, the lights dim and we begin to breathe. So far so good. I’ve been here what, a second or two? Then my nose itches. And my hips ache. I wonder if I am allowed to change positions once I start meditating? I figure this is probably against the rules so I stay still and suffer.  Isn’t there something about finding the true path through suffering? (There’s not by the way).

Ok, I’m here I’m breathing let’s make this happen. Finally my breath takes over and I feel my body begin to relax.  I don’t really notice it yet but my mind is actually becoming quieter.  My body is relaxing.

I don’t know how long I was in this relaxed state, but I was able to reach a place where I had an image. Are you ready for my grand and life-altering image? It was a giant neon pink pig running through the streets of Memphis.

What?  A giant neon pink pig? That’s not fair! I want to sit in the hands of God! What does a giant pink pig mean? I want a do over to this mediation!

Since then my meditation practice is very slowly evolving.  I’ve learned that setting my iPhone alarm for five minutes is a doable amount of time to carve out of my morning to sit still and breathe. Days I allow myself those five minutes are days I find myself more centered and better equipped to handle whatever the Universe throws at me.

But, still, I’m not always the picture of serenity.  In fact today was especially frustrating. My brain kept breaking out into Cee Lo’s song Forget You. Sure it’s a catchy tune: I’m like forget you, and forget her too.

Stop singing and just be quiet! Oh great now I’m yelling at myself for being a meditation failure.  This isn’t going well.

Although that’s why both meditation and yoga are called a practice. They are both a work in progress. There is no perfect meditation or perfect yoga.  Some days are quiet reflective sessions that bring me closer to the Divine. 

And somedays, well, it’s best to just break out into song and let myself sing.

For those not familiar with the song you can check it out here. (Note: this is the version NOT safe for work or children!) Cee Lo Green F* You

Here is the cleaned up Glee version - it's just as catchy! Glee / Cee Lo Forget You

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rolf Me, Baby

Tonight I got rolfed. And oh baby it hurt so good!

Rolfing is a type of deep tissue massage that manipulates the myofascial tissue to bring the body into proper alignment, create efficient use of muscles and release pent up tension and emotion.

It's a really DEEP massage. A "is this supposed to hurt" massage? A "yes I am breathing" massage. A "am I going to be able to walk again" type massage?

I've been having trouble with an impingement in my traps and rhomboids for a little while now. It was causing me some minor pain and a weird burning sensation. But most of all I'd lost a lot of flexibility in my right shoulder. Where six months ago I could grasp fingers together on both sides of go mukhasana (cow face pose), all of  a sudden when my right shoulder was externally rotated my fingers weren't even  close.

I'd been talking to a massage therapist I know and every now and then he'd give my shoulders a quick five minute massage, always telling me I "needed work."

Tonight I had a little extra time between classes, and he had some extra time, so I hopped up on his table and told him to have his way with me.

As soon as he laid hands on my shoulders he said "Girl, you're holding on to some stuff aren't you?"

Yeah, you think?

I could feel the knots being pushed along my shoulder blades, taking deep breaths as he pushed deeper into the tension to help release it.

I knew we were getting into the myofascial tissue when I started getting really queasy. Nausea is a common side effect since the underlying myofascial tissue is essentially being torn.

Again, he told me I need to take time for myself and take care of my body. Again I reminded him how much yoga I did and how many classes I taught. Again he emphasized the take time for myself part of the equation.

"How are you doing since your mom died?", he asked. Immediately my shoulders tightened up again.

"I'm fine."

"Your body doesn't lie." And he pushed deeper into my upper back, along my shoulders and down my arms.

Before I got down off the table I couldn't resist testing myself. So I twisted my arms and tested my flexibility. My fingers touched!

As I gathered my jacket to leave I practically begged him to schedule me for another session. I may in fact start stalking him and throwing myself down in front of him whenever he walks past.

Maybe I'll even take some time for myself and let my body rest. Or deal with some emotions I've been denying. But for now I plan to memorize his schedule and be conveniently available when he has openings.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wine, Food, Laughter & a Funeral

Today was fun.

Is it wrong to say that? Shocking? I had fun at my mom's funeral today.

I'm a little shocked to hear myself say that. But it's what mom would have wanted.

The service was beautiful.  The overwhelming turnout of friends, family and co-workers was truly touching.

The champagne toast given at the luncheon captured my mom's memory perfectly.  Although, dear cousin David, it's andouille sausage not andale sausage. (Maybe you had to be there, or maybe it was all the wine and champagne, but it was one of  the many moments that elicited way too loud laughter today).

The afternoon was spent visiting older family members that couldn't make it to the service. Honestly, I wasn't thrilled about going at first. But, I'm so glad I did! The stories they shared and the things I learned!

  • It was "scandalous" that my mother got married in a mini skirt! Even though it was 1968 and the height of hippy flower power, how dare she show her legs on her wedding day!
  • My mom played the guitar. Really? Check out this pic of mom rocking the Joan Baez look. 
  • I did not dream the gaudy late 1970's silver Christmas tree. My cousin has the same memory.
  • Mom sent weekly pictures to my dad when he was in Vietnam of her growing belly when she was pregnant with me. He finally came home and saw me when I was 6 months old.
Tonight a few of us cousins met for dinner. Again, the wine was flowing and we were breaking bread together. And we laughed. And laughed. And laughed so loud the tables next to us were looking at us.

It was fun. And exactly what mom would have wanted.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

20 Years: One Photo, Many Memories

Me at 20.
Mom at 41.
One of my friends made an interesting observation today. My mom was about the same age I am now when this picture was taken.

Why hadn't I realized that? 

My god we were both so young.

And so hopeful and full of dreams.

In the past 20 years:

  • Mom was there for every baby that  
  • was born. That meant when both me and my sister had our first babies mom had to be in two different states just a few weeks apart.
  • Mom helped me set up a new home each time my Navy career husband said we're transferring.
  • During difficult times she reminded me I always had a soft place to land at home.
  • She drove the six hours one way when I was living in Virginia Beach just to babysit so I could go to the Jimmy Buffet concert.
  • And she flew to where I was living to babysit again for my trips to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
  • She let me use her Macy's credit card and bought me my paisley stiletto Carlos Santanna heels.
  • When each of my kids had their 10th birthday she sent them a plane ticket to Philadelphia to visit for a week.
  • And she stayed in constant phone contact with me for the whole 2 hour flight as my kids flew alone their first time.
  • She walked Bourbon Street with me. We both earned our beads.
  • She became a technologically savvy grandma sending daily text messages, playing on her iPad and regular skype phone calls.
  • She was a regular in Tai Chi class at her local YMCA and attended my yoga classes at my YMCA.
  • She became more involved in church as I pulled away from organized religion. It was never an issue. Many paths to one truth.
  • Our relationship evolved from mother/daughter to grandmother/mother. But through it all our friendship grew stronger.
  • Together we rediscovered our love of horseback riding. When I moved to Tennessee she bought a pair of real cowboy boots. I teased her all the time to just give them to me. Before her death she finally gave me the boots. I don't want them anymore. They are sitting in a box in my closet.
I keep looking at that picture of us together on my wedding day. We had no idea what the next 20 years would throw at us. Or how much we'd need each other to get through it all.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Missing Pictures & Missing My Mom

Me and Mom on
my wedding day
This is the only picture I can find of me and my mom.

How is that possible?

Obviously this is my wedding day. I was so young. Too young to get married.

Mom was 62 when she died. She was so young to be over taken by cancer. Too young to die.

Soon after this picture was taken I yelled at my mom to quit taking so many stupid pictures. It hurt her feelings and she started to cry.

I really haven't cried much since I got the call she was gone. Haven't felt like doing much of anything actually.

On my wedding day my mom made me promise I would finish college. Of course I graduated and she was there to watch me get my diploma.

The night before we took mom to in-patient hospice, she made me promise I'd finish my Yoga Therapy certifications. I told her I'd finish, but honestly not with as much enthusiasm as I had with my earlier promise.

Without mom here who will watch my kids as I travel for my trainings? Who will help me financially when I come up a little short for the next levels tuition? Who will tell me to quit whining and start studying when I tell her I just don't have the brain power anymore for advanced anatomy?

I found out today that mom also made my sister promise to go back to school. My sister has already cut back her hours at work and is looking at beginning courses soon.

Both my sister and I are grown women with families of our own now. Yet we're still trying to make mom proud of us.

Why can't I find any more pictures of me with my mom?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Balance: How Many Classes do I Want/Need to Teach?

As a yoga teacher I'm constantly talking about, teaching about, and encouraging the search to find balance.

But as a human being I struggle to find balance in my own life. I love my job, but how much work is too much? At what point does my job interfere with my family or with myself?

I was presented with the opportunity today to take on more classes. The center was so impressed with the class I taught last week, they are giving me the option to pick how many days and what times I'd like to teach. And they gladly agree to my teaching fee.

I can't possibly turn that down. Right?

I'm leaning towards adding on three more classes. That would bring my total teaching schedule at all sites to 16 classes per week (not including private appointments). It would definitely affect my personal time - time I use for my own home practice, or to hit the gym, or even to sleep a little extra.

But I'm sure I can make it all work. Right?

Kid #2 was next to me tonight as I was writing out my potential new schedule.

"So I guess I can't join football weight training?", he asked.

"Why not," I said.

"Because who'll watch the little kids while you're at work that night?"

Oh. Stop. Where's the balance here?

I was so excited at a new teaching opportunity that I forgot to step back and breathe for a moment.

In years past I've taught 16 and even more classes per week. There was a definite lack of balance in my work vs home life. Granted, the kids were babies then, yet as they get bigger their needs get bigger too.

So I'm going to take the lesson from my on-the-mat practice to just drop for a minute to child's pose and breathe. I'm going to wait and listen to my breath. And let the answer come to me.

I love teaching yoga. I'm blessed to have a job I love. But it's a job. And no job should weigh enough to throw my life out of balance. Or stop kid #2 from joining the football team.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Life Not Lead

I mentioned to a friend today that in an alternate life I'd be in Egypt right now standing in the middle of the crowds of protesters snapping Pulitzer Prize winning photos.

My friends response was "I don't want you in Egypt right now."

Well I'm not saying I'm running away from home with my point and shoot. I'm just saying there was a time in my life that I thought maybe that would be my life.

In college I was a communications major with a minor in photography. This is back in the pre-digital dinosaur days where cameras used actual film that had to be developed in a dark room full of noxious chemicals.

We were a strange group there hanging out in the dark room. There was the wanna-be hippy girl who loved photographing nudes, the guys who liked to play with trick photography and of course the artistic photographers who had glamorous dreams.

My love was photojournalism. I don't have an eye for art or lighting or fluid lines. But I knew when to snap to capture a moment in time that spoke a story words couldn't tell.

But like most stories, mine took a different turn. I met my husband, moved with his career, had babies and made a different life. It's not a bad life. Just a different one than I once thought.

The sad part is I don't even have my portfolio anymore. In a moment of postpartum depression I threw it away, convinced I'd never again do anything beyond changing diapers and breast feeding.

The few people I've shared my past love of photography with have asked why I don't just pick up the camera and start shooting again.

I'm not sure. All the usual reasons I guess: time, energy, opportunity.

Not prize winning.
But the kind of pictures
my college education bought me.
I can't have regrets when I look
at pictures like these.
Last year I took pen to paper for the first time in a long time and began this blog (well technically I started typing on my mac). Maybe this year will be the year I pick up the camera again and start shooting.

I'm past wanting to win a Pulitzer Prize, but I still want to capture those moments in time that tell a story.