Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stormy Night Social Night

I'm sitting here tonight with intermittent power, listening to the rain and thunder crashing outside. It's night two of a three-day long tornado siege that is raging across the South. Twice so far tonight I've huddled the kids into the bathroom as tornado sirens wailed and winds howled around our home.

The irony is, I moved to Tennessee six years ago when I was fleeing Hurricane Katrina. Had I known then that I was running from a hurricane state to a state known for tornadoes, I might have kept going.

I'm staying logged on to Twitter and Facebook as much as possible because it's the best way to keep in touch with friends and make sure everyone is safe. And since the satellite TV signal goes out in even a slight wind, I can track the storms and tornado paths and know when it's time to run.

Stormy, scary nights have become social media events.

Earlier this afternoon I posted to Twitter and Facebook "tonights yoga practice is knowing that teaching class isn't worth going out in dangerous weather & not being bothered by those who disagree." Most didn't disagree with me and my students were glad I let them off the hook to go out and drive in this weather just to get to yoga class.

The storm texts began about dinner time.

"You guys OK up there? No power down here"

The TV wasn't working anymore so I logged onto Facebook from my iPhone. There was our local weather channel tracking the tornado heading my way. Once the kids were safely huddled in the bathtub I went out on the front porch with my oldest to watch for the funnel cloud.

"Do you hear the sirens? R those for us?"

Yes! I texted back. Grab the baby and get to the bathroom. But put your shoes on first in case you have to walk over broken glass.

Darn Southern newbies! By next year they'll be standing on the front porch watching the storm roll in too.

Once I decided it was time to get off the porch and get in the bathroom, I saw a Tweet from a friend that the river was beginning to overflow and they were moving their electronics to the upstairs of their house.

"Hard decision -if tornado hits want stuff downstairs, flooding upstairs."

You gotta go with upstairs. If a tornado hits you can just kiss your iPad goodbye. But if it floods maybe it can be saved if it's upstairs.

The tornado party continued on Facebook once power returned.

          "Power lines down on Highway 51."
          "Half-dollar size hail down here."
           "Power out thru most of Millington and Arlington"
"Alright I'm off to bed. Someone call my cell phone when the flooding starts in Atoka."

We've got another 12 hours or so of this so I'm off to try and rest between thunder bursts myself. I'm not worried about missing a chance to run for the bathroom - I'm signed up for automatic weather alerts. If a tornado is in my immediate area every phone in this house will ring and alert me.

Social media and technology take a little bit of the unknown out of the storms and provide a little bit of piece of mind.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Here We Go Again: Another Stormy Night

It's been almost exactly a year since Millington and Nashville, TN were hit with horrible flooding, tornadoes, straight line winds and millions of dollars in damages.

Now tonight we're sitting here eyes glued to the tv watching the weather reports and making storm preparations.

Right now it's quiet at my house. But just south of here they are reporting 92 mph winds. No, that's not a misprint. Winds clocked at 92 miles per hour. The weather guy is saying it should begin here in 12 minutes.

Some of my friends make their families sleep in the living room on nights like this so they can quick get into a bathroom in case of a tornado. I let my little kids continue to sleep in their beds, but each of the older boys knows when I say NOW they need to grab a younger sibling and get into the bathroom.

We've hidden in the bathroom more than a few times since we've lived in Tennessee.

The irony is we moved to tornado ridden Tennessee when we evacuated Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Less than 24 hours before the storm hit NOLA, I packed the kids, including kid #6 who was just a newborn, the dog and some dirty laundry into the car and headed north.

I had no idea at the time my life in New Orleans would be washed away and I'd be starting all over again. Although the good thing about a hurricane, if there is a good thing, is you get enough warning to get out of the way.

Even when the tornado sirens are going off (they aren't here yet), you don't know where the tornado will hit until it's right on top of you. And you can't out run straight line winds and flooding.

I hear the winds starting to blow outside now and the satellite tv signal is starting to get fuzzy.

It's going to be a long night.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Personal Yoga Space

I was browsing YouTube videos tonight and came across one by my friend and mentor Leeann Carey. (LCY video tips ) Let me admit here that I have placed Leeann on a bit of a pedestal. I'm not sure I'll ever learn as much as she can teach me, but if I'm half the teacher she is I'll be thrilled.

Leeann's YouTube video was shot in her home yoga studio. So, keeping in mind the glamorous vision I've created for her, imagine my surprise when on one side of her yoga mat was a book shelf and on the other side was her desk.

Wait, where was the cliff overlooking the ocean? Where were the birds chirping and breeze blowing? Does the lovely Leeann really have to squeeze her mat in between real life too?

Here is my normal home yoga practice place. It's the corner of my bedroom, between the bed and bookshelf. Notice it's also where new puppy sleeps. It's also the place where things get thrown when I don't know what else to do with them. So when I'm ready to roll out the mat, I have to move this stuff -and dog - out of the way first.

Since my mat is in the corner, it is nice to open the blinds and throw open the windows. It's not an ocean breeze but it feels good as I'm flowing my practice. And how nice to be able to turn my face to the sun during morning meditation.

Sometimes there are other people or dogs or too much stuff in the bedroom and I'll move out to the living room. Again, moving the rug out of the way, pushing the chair over and usually moving dogs again.

My favorite place to practice when the weather is nice is my backyard deck. The deck provides ample space,  the perfect mixture of sun and shade in the morning, a nice breeze and even birds chirping. Often on a Sunday morning I'm flowing through vinyasas while one of the kids is on the swings and one of the dogs is chasing birds.

The deck is also big enough that I can invite my yoga friends over to enjoy the space too. Last summer when our regular yoga place got flooded, class continued on the deck every Wednesday morning. We slathered on the sun screen, let the kids run around the backyard and we got our yoga on.

Now that I have the deck to myself again, sometimes it feels a little lonely. But I still enjoy the quiet, the breeze, the sun and the space to roll out my mat. And there is plenty of room for the dogs too!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Yoga Fun & Flying

Yoga is supposed to be fun.

So often I take a look out at my class and I see strained faces, clenched jaws and that look in the eye that says "I can do this (even if I can't or shouldn't)!"

Relax! I remind them they are in class voluntarily and yoga isn't meant to add one more stress to their day.

Today I took some time off from my regular vinyasa practice and attended an Acro Jam. If you don't know what acro yoga is think Cirque Du Soleil. One person is the "base" and one person is the "flyer". Both base and flyer require core strength, upper body strength and trust.

And a willingness to have fun.  And an incredible sense of trust.

Let's be honest, if I'm going to come into full dhanurasana while balancing only on the bases feet - I better trust him not to drop me. And if my base allows me to soar in flying bird he better be able to believe I have the core strength to lift myself and understand what hollow body means.

But most of all, we both need to just relax and have fun. I might fall ( I didn't today by the way), but as long as we can laugh then it's all good.

There is a therapeutic aspect to acro yoga that incorporates Thai massage. We didn't get in to that part of it today. Today's Acro Jam was all about having fun and flying.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

First Birthday Without My Mom

Dear Mom -

Today is my birthday. I'm 42, exactly 20 years younger than you were when you died. Maggie told me today she'll be 13 when I die. That means I only have 7 years left. I'm not all that concerned about her premonition considering her exact words were, "When I'm 13 you're going to die and can we have chicken nuggets for dinner?"

You'll be very glad to know Dad did a good job today. He called me this morning and offered to sing Happy Birthday, texted me later and his birthday card arrived in the mail today. Thank you for the check and yes I know it's to use on something just for me! No groceries or gas in the car. I already have a yoga workshop in mind I'll put it towards.

You'll also be glad to know Kim has taken over your job of forgetting the time difference and texting me very early in the morning. Not just on my birthday. Many early mornings my phone beeps and wakes me up before I'm ready. I tell her it annoys me but it makes me smile because it reminds me of you.

I made myself a chocolate mayonnaise cake for my birthday. I used to call you every year for the recipe and I remember last year you yelling at me to write it down. Did you know then I wouldn't be able to call you this year?

I almost started to cry making the cake. Not because I was making my own cake, and not because my little helpers were making a mess, but because you weren't here. I'm still kind of mad at you about that. And then when I was making the icing I hit the wrong button on the electric mixer and powdered sugar went flying everywhere. It's kind of funny now, but not then.

The cake didn't even taste that good. Maybe because I just wasn't into eating a cake I couldn't call you about, or maybe I'm just finally done my "leave me alone, I'm grieving so I'm going to over eat binge". Oh yeah, I've been on quite a binder. You wouldn't be so happy about that.

But my new friend Wanda told me it's how I grieve and I need to let myself do that. She keeps asking me if I've had a good cry and I'm sorry but I haven't. It was actually her idea that I begin writing letters to you.

You'd like Wanda. I wish you were still here so I could tell you about her. Although it's very interesting that she came into my life right after you left me. What's that saying? When the student is ready the teacher will come?

You taught me a lot, Mom. And not just about baking cakes. I guess now I need to move on and learn the lessons your death is supposed to teach me. Because eating this cake isn't teaching me anything except how many bites does it take to get a sugar headache.

It takes four.

Last year you would have told me that.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday "Music Is My Life"

Warning: I was laughing too hard to take really good quality video!

(Yes I know it's not Wednesday. I've been trying to get the video uploaded since yesterday)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Easter Bunnies - Cuddly Contentment

I have a rule that nothing else that needs fed or poops is allowed in my house.

Right now we have six kids, two adults and two big dogs that live here. That's a lot of food and a lot of, well, that other stuff. Last summer I broke that rule when I allowed dog #2 to enter the house ( You can read about new puppy here! ). The rule is back in force now and kid #1 was told no he is not bringing home a cat, kid #2 was told no he can't save his money to buy a parakeet and when kid #6 asked for a bunny for Easter, well, I kinda sorta said maybe.

I didn't just say maybe, I became obsessed with getting the kids a bunny for Easter.

Now, before I get slammed with comments about how many bunnies are bought at Easter and then given away, how irresponsible it is to buy a pet just for a holiday, etc - relax. Read back a few paragraphs. Any living creature that enters this house gets very well taken care of and doesn't get kicked out when I get bored. Geez, I haven't even threatened to kick out the teenagers. Yet.

So I decide a bunny is a wonderful idea and I begin making plans. I even drove down the road where there is a  guy who sells chickens, rabbits and ducks to see how much a rabbit cost. (It's the South, people sell all kinds of things on the side of the road).

I called my husband to verify he could have the hutch built in time for Easter.

Him: Why am I building a hutch?
Me: Because we're getting the kids a bunny for Easter.
Him: Why are we doing that?
Me: Because I want to.

Ohhh, there it is. I want to. I want.

So much for living the yoga. That pesky second niyama is rearing it's head again. Santosa - the practice of contentment. Instead of being content with my already full house, I heard the word bunny, bunnies are cute, I want a bunny!

If I were to take an honest look around the house, almost all my possessions fall into the "want" category. I wanted this mac, I wanted that yoga mat, I wanted new puppy and for a brief while I wanted a bunny.

In Holy Cow, my current Twitter Yoga Book Club selection, an Indian man explains to Sarah why Americans always want so many things: (What's a Twitter Book Club? )

"We Indian people, we look at the people more poor, more low, more hard than us and we be thanking God we are not them. So we are happy. But you white peoples, you are looking at the peoples above you all of the times and you are thinking, why aren't I be them? Why am I not having that moneys and things? And so you are unhappy all the time."

There will be no live bunnies in our house this Easter. Instead I am content with the animals we have now. I don't need anymore.

Now those chocolate bunnies - I can't promise santosa alone will keep me away from them!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Crying Because of A Man: My Mom Would Be So Proud

If you are even remotely involved in my life you know by now Elephant Journal printed an article I wrote about the Yoga Book Club on Twitter.

In case you are the one person who has been hiding in a cave I haven't found yet to tell, you can read it here: My first Elephant Journal article! See that's really my name and picture!

A couple weeks ago Bob Weisenberg, Elephant Journal Yoga editor, emailed me and asked if I'd be interested in writing a story about the book club. At first I shouted YES. Then I sat down and wrote a proper, calm, cool and collected email response saying of course I would write something as time allowed.

Then I did nothing for 4 days, paralyzed by fear. Who am I to think I can write for Elephant Journal? Never mind I have a college degree in print communications, never mind I began my career days as a newspaper reporter and freelance magazine writer. That was years ago.

But in the back of my mind I kept thinking about my mom.  In one of our quiet moments together before she died, she told me how proud she was of me, how much she loved me and to get off my ass and start writing again.

Yep, that's my mom.

So finally I sat and I wrote and I emailed it off. And Mr Weisenberg - the Bob Weisenberg - said he loved it. He liked me,  he really liked me! Well OK, he liked my writing but I think if he spent enough time with me he'd like me too.

He said he'd not only like to print the book club article, but offer me a regular monthly blog on Elephant Journal.  Did you hear that mom? I got off my ass. I took a chance. And it worked.

Does this mean I've passed the Elephant Journal litmus test for coolness? Does it mean I'm a hipster yogi? I'm letting myself believe it does. (No worries about my head getting too big. I have six kids who right now are complaining about the gross dinner I made that will keep me very grounded.)

But mom's not here anymore for me to share this with her. And when I picked up the phone to tell my mom that the Bob Weisenberg from the Elephant Journal liked my writing, it hit me that mom really is gone now. Damn. She would be so proud of me.

So I cried because it feels so good to be writing again. It's been a piece of me that's been missing for too long now. And I cried because Bob Weisenberg validated that missing piece. And I cried because cancer stole my mom from me. And now another piece of me is missing that no one can ever replace.

So I shall keep writing. But first this cool, hipster yogi needs to go squash a dinner boycott. Mom would be so proud of that too.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stress and Sniff

Jennifer time has been missing lately.

Jennifer time is time to drive the 45 minutes to the closest yoga studio and take a class, or get a pedicure, or browse a bookstore. Alone. Only Jennifer is invited to Jennifer time.

I've been really busy lately teaching, training, and other assorted projects and I was feeling that sense of impending doom that comes when I'm being pulled in too many directions.

So this morning I cleared my schedule and began the drive into town. I left my house in plenty of time, but didn't take into account the leftover road damage from yesterday's storm. So with stop lights not working, I sat in traffic.

At first I was calm. I enjoyed the radio and caught up on my Twitter feed.

But my car still wasn't moving. At this point I'm not even sure I'm going to make it to class on time. And there is nowhere on this road to just turn around.

Warning - potential complete meltdown approaching.

I hate that I live so far away from a yoga studio! I hate this town! I hate this state for having such bad weather all the time! I hate this radio in this car! I hate I hate I hate!

I'm no longer practicing my yoga breathing but instead fighting the urge for primordial screaming.

Finally traffic starts moving and my non-yoga mantra becomes "slow down, this road is always full of cops".

I pulled into the studio parking lot with 3 minutes to spare. I ran thru the studio door, quickly signed in, kicked off my shoes and roughly rolled out my mat. I was full of pent up negative energy and ready to jump some chaturangas.

Instead, the teacher started us in meditation. And I melted. My breathing slowed, my anxiety calmed and I actually felt some peace. The rest of the class was a gently flowing practice that allowed my heart to open and my mind to clear.

During savasana the teacher placed lavender on our shoulders. The smell was all I needed for my final descent into yoga bliss.

Driving home I felt completely yogified. And then my cell phone rang.

It was the high school geometry teacher. Again. Kid number 1 has a lot of missing assignments. Again. He has detention this week to make up the assignments. Again.

As I hung up the phone, I turned my head to the side and sniffed my shoulder.

Ahh, lavender. I took a deep breath and smiled.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Change The Voices In Your Head

You're so mean, when you talk, about yourself you were wrong. 
Change the voices, in your head, make them like you instead. 
-- Pink F'ing Perfect

What happens when you get what you've wanted for so long? Do you jump for joy and shout it from the roof tops? Or do you get paralyzed with fear and question your worthiness?

I get quiet and scared and make mental lists of why it won't work out anyway.

Why do I do that?

The voices inside my head tell me I'm not good enough. And I believe them. 

At about midnight last night my iPhone beeped with an email that had great news. My first thought was oh no.

Why do I do that?

Today I got on my yoga mat and had a good practice. I moved, I breathed, I was confident.

Then somebody asked me what my good news was and I said oh it's no big deal. I played small.

Why do I do that?

Some days when I'm having trouble settling into meditation, I'll repeat the So Hum mantra. So Hum: I am that. Inhale So, exhale Hum.

I am that. I am worthy. I am loved. I am valuable. I am confident. I am secure. 

I am that. So Hum.

I deserve this opportunity. I've studied, trained and worked for it. I am ready. I accept it. I am. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

No One Gets Turned Away From Yoga - Welcome to YIOM

Today marks the beginning of Yogi's Inspiring Oneness Month. A totally made up movement by the lovely Vegan Asana to gather together a bunch of yogi's to write about yoga and it's impact on not only their life but the life of all those around them. (Read the original idea post here Vegan Asana YIOM ). It's a way to reinforce we really are all connected and my words and actions affect others.

As the universe usually works, I was reminded of this interconnectedness just this week.

I had an elderly woman ask to take my regular weekly yoga class. At first glance this woman was not a candidate for an all-levels group yoga class. She relied on a cane to walk, had inner ear balance issues, arthritis, osteoporosis and a host of other issues.

But my policy is no one gets turned away from yoga.

As I taught the class to my regular group of growing-stronger-everyday yogis, I would show my new friend how to modify what we were doing so she could do the same pose in her chair.

Over and over again I would say "those of us on the floor will.... while those in the chair can ..."

As an added twist, one of the moms brought her son to class with her. So we have a 70-ish year old woman in a chair, a handful of 20, 30, 40 year old women and a 6-year-old boy all doing yoga together.

How cool is that?

At one point I wanted to grab my iphone to take a pic, but my brain was too focused on making sure everyone was able to participate in the practice.

Admittedly, it was a slower-paced class than normal and I did have some self-doubt that my regulars might have been annoyed by the difference.

Instead, almost every one of the class congratulated the woman for doing yoga from her chair and encouraged her to come back again. One even told me she realized at one point that while she was looking in the mirror at her own pose, she realized she was also looking into the mirror of her future self.

At one point we were all little kids who could easily touch our toes. And at some point we will all need some physical modifications and a little help to get up and down from our chair.

But for that hour in that room, together we moved and breathed and let the yoga connect us.