Tuesday, February 17, 2015

This Gift Sucks!

In the over quarter century Mr. Lime and I have been a couple there have been many gifts exchanged for various occasions, be they birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, Valentine's Day, Mother's or Father's Day, or on rare occasion, just because.  Now to be forthright here, we often do not exchange a gift for our anniversary because it is the week before Christmas.  We also tend not to exchange gifts for Valentine's Day because of it's proximity to Mr. Lime's birthday....but sometimes we do.

As you may imagine, sometimes the gifts have been things one or the other of us has longed for and all parties are happy upon receipt.  Other times the gift is a complete surprise which also brings joy.  Then there are the gifts that make the recipient wonder what thoughts went through the giver's mind during the selection process....indeed, were there any thoughts at all?  We've covered the full range.

Mr. Lime had another birthday this week.  I had a particular idea in mind but had not yet executed it due to snow storms and the size of the item I was considering and having no place to hide it.  However, the day before his birthday he announced he wanted one thing this year....well, ok...two.  First he wanted a box of Devil Dogs.  Gross, but ok if it's what you want.  The second item was astounding to me.  He declared repeatedly that this was what he wanted.  He stated in the presence of witnesses that should he receive the hoped for item he would use it with regularity.  Calypso added her voice to the chorus and emphatically seconded the motion as to desire and commitment to use.

Now to be sure, this gift is something that were it to be given from Mr. Lime to me there may be all sorts of accusations of thoughtlessness or anti-feminist sentiment.  However, the direction was reversed and this IS what he specifically asked for.

Ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, I present to you Mr. Lime's birthday present.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Radiant Threads

Last May I joined a yoga teacher training program.  I had only been practicing yoga for about a year and a half at that point.  There were, and still are, many poses which I was unable to do at all.  Part of me thought I had no business thinking I could be a teacher.  Fortunately, my studio is full of teachers who believe in empowering their students and who are faithful to impart the idea that yoga is not a destination in which both feet are behind your ears, rather it's a journey which, though partially physical, is largely between the ears.  As the Yoga Sutras tell us, the purpose of yoga is to calm the fluctuations of the mind, to quiet the chatter, to embrace stillness.  All our movement and sweat and physical effort is really to tame the mind and prepare us to physically endure meditation long enough to find the stillness.

Still I had doubts.  I was blessed to have people I respected tell me that I definitely had something to offer in this realm.  I had little comments here and there from fellow students which made me dare.  I had a therapist who, after three years of sitting quietly and neutrally when I expressed various things, blurted out emphatically, "I don't think there is any question that you should do this."  I asked where the carefully neutral therapist went and why she would so strongly advocate for this particular path.  She said it was a no-brainer because yoga had proven enormously beneficial to me physically and emotionally and when I expressed the possibility of joining the teacher training program it was the first time in three years I had said I was going to make a major investment of time and money in something just for me.  She had a point.

Thus, I plunked down my deposit on the last day they would be accepted.  I bought a dozen books.  I rolled up my mat and prepared for my first weekend of two ten hour days back to back spent listening to lectures, engaging in a physical practice and, cramming my brain full of anatomy, philosophy, and the names of ten other women, only a couple of whom I knew.

It would be fair to say our group of eleven ended that first weekend wondering just exactly what the hell we had gotten ourselves into.  And already personalities were emerging.  We had the shy, the sassy, the seasoned, the serene, and the silly.  Our age range spans four decades. Our cultures are diverse.  Most of us were fairly local but a couple came from considerable distance.

Over the months there were some major life transitions experienced by members of our group.  One made a move of over a hundred miles right at the time when we needed to begin teaching community classes.  She had to scramble to find a new studio in which to practice and which would provide space for that aspect of her training.  One broke an engagement.  One culminated hers in marriage.  One had a husband and child move to a different state in order to separate her child from a very destructive situation.  One buried an only child.  When one member rejoiced or mourned the entire group stood with her.

As the months passed and trust grew, histories were revealed.  Wounds were exposed, sometimes for the first time. Stories one might never have expected bubbled to the surface.  Sometimes they filled gently and floated aloft like a balloon as the person holding the history realized she could let go, that it no longer had power over her.  Sometimes the stories erupted like lava from the belly of the earth. When the mountain trembled and a woman feared it might destroy her there was a circle of support to provide safety.

Our group of eleven went from being acquaintances to being sisters. We shared laughter, tears, joy, frustration, exhaustion, delight, wonder, anger, discovery, insight, and boredom.  In the last weeks we all wondered how we might do on our final exam.  We spent one study session not so much studying as reminiscing over the last ten months, quelling anxiety, and laughing our asses off.  This past Saturday we took our exam.

Sunday morning we received the news that we had all passed with A's. Sunday afternoon we gathered for a simple graduation ceremony in which our head teacher spoke to each of us about what she respected and appreciated most in each of us.  She then handed us a small lit candle and our diploma.  During the party immediately following, the student who is an Indian woman presented each of us with a saree she had chosen especially for us.  She said, "We read the Yoga Sutras for our training.  Sutra means thread.  These sarees represent the beautiful threads of our friendships.  When you look at them remember how much I love you and all the love we have shared and will continue to share no matter where life carries us."

And then we shed a few more tears and hugs and laughter as she wrapped us up in her love just before we prepare to go out and share our light.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Taking Stock

I know January is nearly half over but here I am to finally usher in the new year formally.  I look back at the last post and see it's been over a month since my last post.  That's the longest hiatus I've ever taken...period...even factoring in having body parts rebuilt or removed completely.  I've missed being in this space and getting my thoughts out digitally in a more extended format than Facebook might allow.

That last post still pains me to consider.  I miss my friend.  His departure was unexpected and sudden and left me reeling.  In the wake of that I had the hope of a children's services position in a local public library.  It was much closer to home than my current job, better pay, and hours which would have been conducive to my continuing professional development in both library science and yoga instruction.  I thought the interview went well.  I still think my credentials had to put me at the top of the list.  For whatever reason, I didn't get the job. I felt condemned to continuing a horrible commute to be paid less than what Calypso makes working in a chain restaurant.  You all know I love what I do but the conditions are just worsening by the day and with the various automotive traumas the idea of a long drive to a deteriorating situation became demoralizing. 

Although I don't make resolutions I do reflect on the end of one year and the beginning of a new one.  Honestly, I was not in a particularly happy place as I considered 2014.  Three cars totaled.  The equivalent of a new car spent either in repairs or complete losses.  Three job interviews with no fruit. Work going downhill fast.  And the year bookended with Galen's death in December and my mentor's in February.  I was ready to send 2014 packing.

And then I cracked open the mason jar full of notes I had collected throughout the year.  Another friend shared at the beginning of 2014 how she jots down the date and a sentence or two about something that makes her smile or laugh or gives her great unexpected joy and puts it in the jar.  At the end of the year she opens it up and reads each one.  I liked that idea and did the same.  Opening the jar and reading through each of the notes reminded me of joys and blessings large and small, which 2014 brought my way. 

I remembered that along with the sorrows, 2014 brought:
  • The return to my life of an old friend whom I had long ago assumed was gone forever after she withdrew. Tears of joy at the first phone call which lasted a couple of hours and later a reunion face to face.
  • Expressions of respect and encouragement from coworkers who have become friends.
  • Lights of dawning understanding in the eyes of students.
  • The courage to enter a yoga teacher training program and getting to know the amazing women in the program with me.
  • Special and unexpected opportunities to share time with friends and family.
  • Courage to try new things and find success.
  • So many examples of laughter and love and joy from a myriad of sources.
The notes I read made me remember the good of 2014 and I realized how many more I should have written but forgot to do so. Even the sadnesses and frustrations had aspects in which to find good.  Cars were lost but no one has been seriously injured...thank God!  Friends have passed from this world but I was blessed to know and love them.  I miss them dearly and wish with all my heart that I could sit down and share a conversation and a hug again but I still carry their voice in my heart. As for the jobs, I have to trust there will be something out there sooner rather than later which will be a better fit that I imagined the ones I didn't land to be.

Here's to 2015.  May we all take time to see the good it brings so we may not be brought low by it's trials.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Friday 55 & Da Count-RIP G-man

(Two because sometimes it's necessary)

You are loyalty and kindness personified, a devoted dad, a fabulous cook, an avid fisherman, the kickass host of Friday 55, Mr Knowitall in the best sense, a lover of all things Michigan and Harley Davidson, the glue in any circle of friends, the love who helped his friends smile in the darkest of times.

I was honored by your friendship, blessed by your kindness, cheered by your humor, encouraged by your patience, exhorted by your gentle wisdom. I already miss your laugh and the way you said my nickname.  I'll never forget your smile, your eyes, or your hug.  Rest in peace, ride on in glory. Love, Trini.

 I cannot believe he is gone.  I am gutted.  We first became acquainted when he began blogging and I commented in a case of mistaken identity.  I thought he was someone else I knew and had finally started a blog.  We emailed back and forth a couple times before I realized I was totally mistaken.  It could have been completely awkward but Galen thought it was hilarious and was so gracious.  We became fast friends....for real.  We had fun trading trivia.  He tried to trip me up on cultural references from his own childhood and was surprised that I could keep up.  He said I was an old soul and he forgot to grow up was why we got along so well in spite of the age difference.  

We talked about how much fun it would be to meet but never much thought it might happen since I had no cause to go to Michigan and he had no cause to come to Pennsylvania.  In 2007 I went to Texas for a wedding and noticed several of the flights had layovers in Detroit.  I thought, "Hey, this could happen!"  Respective work schedules conspired against being able to spend a day or two there but I planned a layover of several hours when Galen and Signgurl said they could manage to get to Metro for a quick visit.  Bonus!  I'd get to meet both of them.  They brought Roxi Moon and Frogger along for the ride.  The four of us had a little party in some area where non-passengers could go and where I wouldn't have to go through security again.  Signgurl had awesome food for us as we all chatted away.  Galen sat there grinning ear to ear the whole time.  When it was time to go he wrapped me up in the biggest hug of my life.  Somewhere there is a picture of that moment but sadly I can't find it.

We shared confidences.  I was honored that he'd trust me with some of his deep hurts.  I was blessed that he helped me bear some of mine.  He certainly helped me endure the year Calypso was sick.  He always wanted to know how my kids were and often talked of his own.  He'd share about his lifelong friends and his concerns for them.  He  didn't describe himself as such but I could tell he was the driving force behind a lot of social activity whether it was among friends, family, or coworkers. He was a big clown but he was also incredibly intelligent.  He was just too humble to toot his own horn though he'd be happy to fart the alphabet for you if you asked. He had purchased a fishing cabin within the last year and since giving up season tickets for U of Michigan had taken great joy in spending weekends there with friends or his son.  He told me a few times that retirement was beginning to look attractive.  I knew he loved his job and worked hard at it.  I also knew he was deserving of some leisure after his own terrifying health scare a couple years ago and a lifetime of hard work.  I anticipated a happy retirement for him spent fishing and riding his Harley.  Sadly, his great big heart gave out at work this week.  What I wouldn't give for it to still beat strong in his chest and to share another hug.

G-man, I am so grateful you were my friend.  Rest in well-earned peace, ride on in glory.  Love you always, Trini.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

I'll just be over here getting ready to move to Mackinac Island*

August: My car is totaled while Isaac is driving it and another driver hits him. He is not injured.

September: Diana totals her car.  She is not injured.

October: Calypso is in a minor fender bender with Isaac's car while hers is in the shop getting transmission work done. No injuries.

Early November: Isaac hits a deer with his car.  Deer is a casualty.

Mid-November: Driver in front of me stops short, I rear-end him.  Still waiting for word as to whether or not the car to replace the one totaled in August is...totaled.  Minor sprains and strains.

Late November (today, in fact): On her way back to Georgia from Pennsylvania Diana is at a full stop on the interstate in Virginia in heavy traffic and another car hits her so hard she spins and winds up in the median.  She finds he glasses in the back seat.  Diana is concussed and whip-lashed. 

Dear God thank you thank you thank you from the depths of my heart for protecting my girl from serious injury.  Please, I beg of you though, no more accidents. Every time one of my kids calls me with this information my heart stops and then restarts at levels normally only achieved in cardio classes.  I'm so grateful no one has been seriously injured or worse.  I'm also feeling quite emotionally whip-lashed by it all.  Surely, you understand what this sort of thing does to a mama's heart.  I know I am a fortunate mama because I get to hug my kids again but ya gotta know it all terrifies me that one day that may not be the case.

Dear Diana, Calypso, and Isaac, I know you think I am silly because I always want to hug you before you leave the house and tell you I love you.  Please indulge me.  This is not frivolous.  I needed to do it before all this crashing began occurring.  Even more so now.

Dear family from North Carolina,  thank you thank you thank you for getting to my girl and taking her someplace where she can rest peacefully and for helping her sort out practical logistics while letting her head rest and heal.

Now someone please remind me how exactly this breathing thing works.....

*Mackinac bans nearly all motor vehicles.  Sounds good to me right now.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Good Hindu

A teacher of the Law asked the Lord, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

What does the Law say?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.

You have answered correctly.  Do this and you will live.

But, Lord, who is my neighbor?

The Lord replied, "A woman was having many trials in her life.  She had found a lump in her breast and needed surgery.  Fortunately, it turned out to be benign.  However, just four days after surgery and though the woman also had a daughter who was critically ill, her boss, an elder in a local evangelical church, demanded she come to work on her normally scheduled day off because the office was short-staffed.  She was incredulous but dragged her still weakened self to work because she mistakenly regarded her boss as a "friend."  Shortly after this he fired her and refused to give a reason although the office manager commended her work ethic and skills.

Some time later the woman became frighteningly ill and this time it really was cancer.  She had recently left her congregation though her son and husband stayed there.  She and her family had been involved in that church in many ways for nearly 20 years.  When the pastor learned from the woman's husband that she was ill he told the man he was sorry to hear it.  He never called the woman, never sent a note, never asked the husband to express his concern for the woman he had known.  Later, when the woman visited the church for an event her son was involved in the pastor made demeaning comments from the pulpit about "those people over at the ashram."

Meanwhile, the woman had met a female monk from the ashram.  They exchanged pleasantries only twice.  When the monk learned of the woman's illness she asked if she could have the woman's email address and phone number to keep in touch before and after surgery and treatment.  True to her word, the monk checked in on the woman several times asking how she was doing, if there was anything needed, letting her know she was offering prayers for the woman's well-being.  When the woman said she was feeling sad about the need for being quarantined from human touch during treatment the monk checked on her more often during that period of time to provide encouragement in the loneliness.  When the quarantine was over the monk gave the woman a big, loving hug and rejoiced with the woman over the good report from the doctor."

Which of these do you think was a neighbor to the woman facing trials?

The one who showed loved to the woman.

The Lord said, "Go and do likewise."


I give thanks for the folks who demonstrated love to me in my time of need, whether I share their theology or not.  I am honored by their friendship and blessed by their kindness.  I can only hope to reciprocate adequately when the opportunities arise.  I will not remain in the presence of those who would demean them.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reclaiming My Mat

A little over two years ago, in the wake of losing a job in a very nasty way, I discovered yoga.  One of the messages which helped me heal from that unpleasantness was the message of "letting go of that which no longer serves."  It did not serve me to dwell in anger.  It only kept me from moving forward. 

I also found it very healing to develop a practice in a discipline which teaches its students to honor their bodies meaning that whether I can make the same shapes as the instructor or the folks next to me isn't important.  It's important that I am listening to what my body says is good for it and I am the only one who can know that for sure.  Yoga helped me develop trust in listening to that inner voice.  This was healing in both physical and emotional ways because I had struggled with back problems serious enough to send me to a neurosurgeon many years ago.  I had limped through various forms of rehabilitation only to have certain health care providers suggest that when I complained of pain it indicated an unwillingness to work on my part. 

I kept telling them no, I was experiencing serious pain which was setting me back rather than moving me forward.  I hasten to add I worked with great endurance and perseverance to regain the use of my hand and arm after demolishing it eight years ago.  It ain't a lack of willingness to work...it was not being shown proper form to have the work be effective rather than harmful.  Yoga gave me a sense of proper alignment so I could work in ways which allowed me to increase strength and flexibility while avoiding injury...because I was listening to what my body told me in the process. 

In so doing I was empowered to listen more carefully from day to day and even moment to moment.  I had teachers who explained that just because I could do a certain pose yesterday didn't mean it would happen today.  Conversely, not being able to do something yesterday didn't mean it was beyond reach today.  I needed to greet each time on my mat as a new experience, without attachment or expectation.  This message became critically important when I was diagnosed with cancer less than six months after beginning a yoga practice.  The nature of my health problems created wild swings in my metabolism and energy levels to the extent that it wax impossible to predict how I'd feel on any given day.  It was a crash course in advanced listening.  Sometimes I'd have to stop in the middle of class and just take a rest while others continued working vigorously. I was ok with that.  I was even encouraged when other students said seeing me in a resting pose gave them permission to do the same when they needed it.

Yoga also helped me find a place where I could quiet a restless mind.  My mat became the place for dropping out from between my ears and into mindful movement and meditation.  Yogic philosophy tells us yoga is not just exercise for the body but a union of breath with movement and the body with the spirit.  I found that on my mat.  I shed anger with God and people.  I found a greater ability to listen to the messages  my body was giving me and the still small voice, conscience, God, the universe, whatever you want to call it.  It all came together in union as intended.  It got me through some dark days and helped me increase health both mental and physical.  It made me want to know more and to be able to share it with folks who might want to learn too so I enrolled in the teacher training course.

Teacher training has been at turns, amazing, fulfilling, overwhelming, frustrating, wonderful, inspiring, and infuriating.  Two weekends of it have been downright upsetting.  This past month's training made me want to burn my mat and never get back on it again.  Part of the frustration is due to having to become familiar with styles of yoga which I do not connect to at all, which I find far too physically demanding.  Although the message "honor your body" remains the same, that I even have to take a class in a particular style feels dishonoring and yet I have to find a way to learn the style even as I do not push myself to the point of injury.  It's a challenging balance to find. 

The other aspect, which pushed me over the line recently, was topics which opened up huge trauma triggers for me.  Between the physically demanding style I was learning and the distressing topics I felt as if I were losing the safe space my mat has always been.  It felt as if my mat were being invaded or usurped, as if I no longer had a right to honor my own body and my own spirit by giving it what it needed.  I was wrong, of course, but just like Dorothy had to learn that there's no place like home, I had to be reminded that my mat is MY mat and my practice is MINE.

I am 46 years old.  I've come to yoga late in life and after considerable physical trauma.  I do not need to have a practice which looks like that of an athletic 20-something.  If I do, great.  If I don't, that's great too.  The point is, I have a practice.  It doesn't matter how vigorous or how gentle it is. It matters if I am finding a union of breath and movement, of body, soul, and spirit.  It matters if I derive pleasure from my practice and want to engage in it, not whether I can put a foot behind my head or  do 62 chaturangas in a vigorous Ashtanga class (I can't do either).

The last training weekend I had damn near every trauma trigger tripped.  I was reeling.  I was a gaping, open wound sitting in a corner weeping through a class.  I was broken and depleted and yet asked for more....which has so often been the story of my life.  I was angry because MY mat is not the place for that.  MY mat is where I heal from all of that.  MY mat is my safe place.  I wept because I was afraid I was losing MY mat.  Then I remembered, it's MY mat and no one gets to tell me what My practice on MY mat looks like. 

I reclaimed my mat by staying off it for two classes.  For one class I sat in the corner just working to find my breath while others worked physically difficult poses.  For another class I stayed home.  When I returned, I went to the class taught in the style that speaks to ME.  I worked in the way MY body told me felt right.  I dropped out of my ears and into my body working a slow, meditative pace which allowed my mind to find the rest it needed.

When I teach I want to remember to empower my students to listen to themselves on their mats.  It will be my job to tell them what they need to know to be safe.  What they do with the rest of my instruction is up to them because it is their practice, not mine.