My Mom, My Worries, My Optimism

Today’s daily prompt is Write a letter to your mom. Tell her something you’ve always wanted to say, but haven’t been able to.

red barn
Took this pic a couple months ago upstate New York. I love a working landscape.

A few days ago, the prompt was:

A writer once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

If this is true, which five people would you like to spend your time with?

My five people include dear ole mum, so this blog post fulfills two daily prompts.

  1. My mom – though I don’t talk to her every day (or even, every week) I think of her all the time. I thank her for passing down her good looks, sense of humor, personal style, and intelligence to me. Of course, she did this in combo with my dad, I know. But Mom still does yoga, teaches college, and stands on her head every day. What’s not to love?
  2. My secret garden – I would like to say more but, ya know, shhhhhh, it’s a secret. And it’s a garden. So ya… (it’s one of 7 Rules for Surviving, so revisit this post.)
  3. My three kids – they are my front and center; my alpha and omega. Everything I do and everything I want to do, I do for the darlings.
  4. Jolain and my girlfriends – When I became a mother, I found my center, but I also worried I’d lost my mojo. With a strong community of women friends, I’ve kept myself intact, even when I regularly lose it.
  5. Hal and my former colleagues. I know this is crazy, but I love my ex-coworkers so much. I love their intelligence and their passion for making the world better. I’m glad I’ve moved on from my full-time work, but this year, my heart and my social life is still full of the awesome staff from United Methodist Women and the General Board of Global Ministries.

I know many wives would put their husbands on their top five people. And Chris and I do have a great thing going, but, let’s be honest, the Parkinson’s Disease has really put a cramp in our romantic lives. We still are great co-parents and movie-going comrades.

Speaking of movies, next week our Screen Actors Guild special screening, Chris and I will see Les Mis and the Hobbit. How does anyone ever work full-time when there are so many amazing movies to see every damn week?

I have three persistent worries. And these are:

  1. Will we manage as we embark on two and a half months without health insurance?
  2. How long does my husband have in fairly good health? (I know, I know, no one knows how long any of us have, but with a spouse with a chronic disease, you worry.)
  3. How will we pay for our three kids’ college?

My sources of optimism:

my mom and my daughter, my raisons des etres.
  • my boot camp for writers, my new biz
  • my ability to make funny jokes
  • my obtaining more wisdom and patience as I age, (right? tell me there are gifts to ageing)
  • my crazy creative writing students
  • my president
  • my belief in the restorative nature of nature
  • working out
  • movies and books

Daily Prompt: Time Capsule

2012 is drawing to a close (3 weeks left!). What would you put in this year’s time capsule?

collage for UMCOR
collage for UMCOR

I would put:

  • My collage art to promote UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief). Am so proud! This was an early version.
  • My bike. Oh, my bike. I love my bike. Biking in NYC makes me happy.

    seen in a bike shop window in Portland
    seen in a bike shop window in Portland
  • My first (ever!) unemployment direct deposit check. Definitely mixed feelings, but overall grateful.
  • My new business cards.
  • Masks that the girls made at Art Students League. We all play roles, wear masks, make art.
  • Chris’s SAG movie pass. Going to the movies together has been a great way to connect. Due to Chris’s illness and our busy-ness, I feel we are ships passing in the night. But we’ve sat together at such amazing movies this year! Yesterday we saw Amour. Formidable! (my favorite French word!) Today we are going to see The Guilt Trip.
  • Abeach handful of sand from Siesta Key beach. The kids and I had such a restorative time hanging out at the prettiest beach in the world last spring. Great times, too, with my bro, Nicole, dad, and Marty.
  • A mosquito from the kids and my ill-fated camping trip to Fire Island.
  • Yoga mat. Because my mom still practices yoga and stands on her head.
  • Shake Shack fries. After teaching a semester of middle school creative writing, I take my kids to Shake Shack to celebrate.
  • School Swimming Pool and Van Cortlandt Park. I watch my kids play basketball, soccer, and baseball, but I spend most of my spectator time on the sidelines of the long benches of the pool or on the edges of the Van Corltandt Park track.
  • all the cousins
    all the cousins

    All of the cousins. Being with my four siblings and their kids for Thanksgiving was definitely the highlight of 2012.

  • President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Just in case anyone, in the future, has any questions. The man is an American, all right already. Forward.

2012 was a very good year.

Coffee & Meditation

Some mornings I only get out of bed because of the coffee. And my journal. And my friends. Okay, and my family. But coffee comes first.

Today’s Valentine’s Day. Perhaps it’s a little depressing for many? Like my family of origin, my husband’s not too big on gifts, cards, remembering holidays. I, on the other hand — the one who overcompensates — made every one a personalized Valentine’s Day card. And though I didn’t get much — or anything — at home, I did get some little cards with fair trade chocolates and a pink Valentine’s dish towel at work. I love my work peeps!

It was an ordinary day. I worked my job, did Pilates at lunch, worked again, then taught a session of comedy/improv at the Middle School, made dinner, shared dinner with the fam, went to the theater with my husband, (we saw The Broken Heart a play from the 1620s by John Ford — it was a bit of a slog). I took the subway home alone (I couldn’t stay for the second half). I shooed the kids to bed. I did the dishes.

And tomorrow I’ll do it all over again (though I hope I don’t have to see that play again).

I want to be grateful for every single day. I want to have an open, loving heart, especially on Valentine’s Day. And I did find one moment of deep calm and contentment in my day. At the end of Pilates class, Shayne, our teacher, turned off the lights. We lay in the Yoga corpse pose, Savasana. Then, Shayne read this poem by Hafiz:

The Sun Never Says

Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe Me.”

Look what happens with
A love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky.

Is that amazing, or what? Meditation is almost as good as coffee.


My fitness app says an hour of Pilates burns 336 calories. I find that hard to believe. It doesn’t seem like I’m doing that much.

This is Jenn, our Monday and Thursday exercise teacher.

Yesterday, at our lunch time work out Jenn said, “You all seem so down, like I’m torturing you,” when we were doing the hundred.

Hey, who has a smile on their face on Monday at noon, trying to hold the plank position? I said, “On Thursday, we’ll be less downcast.”

Also, it cracks me up that we work out in a small conference room right next to the cafeteria kitchen. Constantly in class, we hear the servers and the cooks yelling directives at each other, usually they say, “I need more waffle fries. More fried chicken.” But yesterday, I heard, “I need more broccoli.”

During exercise class, I am often thinking about lunch and so, always open to suggestion,  I thought, “Yes, I need more broccoli too.”

Even though I’m not always happy during exercise class, I am always happy when I’m done with exercise class. Then I can eat guilt-free, (broccoli not waffle fries).

I especially like when I am done with yoga class. That’s when we bow to each other and say, “Namaste.”

yoga and my manic mind

At the end of yoga class today, when the lights were turned off and the meditative music was turned on, my mind did not automatically rest. I found myself composing Facebook status updates, mulling over possible writing topics, questioning my kids’ afterschool activities, on and on.

Today, in addition to the sound of slamming lunch trays in the adjacent cafeteria, I was also distracted by a baby crying right outside our class.

yoga class from creative commons

Jen, my teacher, said, “Breathe and repeat the word, ‘Inhale’ on your inhale and ‘Exhale’ on your exhale. This will help you block out the noise.”

At first, I didn’t mind the sound of the baby’s cry. Not too much. Until after a while. Then it was really irritating. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe. “Will someone feed that child? Give her a binky!” Iwanted to yell.

The good thing about hearing a baby cry is that eventually the crying stops. Sweet relief. Thank you Jesus!

And eventually, my manic mind stopped fretting too. For a minute at the end of yoga, I drifted. Got silent. Like the baby, I descended into a place of contentment. It was really nice.

I forgave myself and everyone for everything. I felt only love for the whole wide world, even, and especially, that crying baby.

Yoga in Times Square

Times Square never seemed Namaste to me. Times Square is a moving place, a kaleidoscope of tourists snapping pics, of flashing billboards, of the Naked Cowboy, of friendly police officers on horseback, of quick pickpockets.

Times Square is a place to hustle through or be hustled in. But it is never chill.

Until yesterday. On my way to breakfast I passed this. How awesome.

Hundreds and hundreds of people doing yoga together in Times Square. And here they are moving from downward dog to cobra. The yogis centered the shifting kaleidoscope. They slowed the hustle. They brought inner peace. Then they picked up their mats and hustled on.

Freedom = Happiness

The sanctuary was big, round, and almost completely dark. It smelled baby-powdery, like a grandmother’s bosom. (I’ve noticed my most popular blogs have the theme of breasts as in breastfeeding or bra shopping, and I’m not above pandering so, yes, I’m mentioning bosom! And yes, this is a church blog.)

I do love that musty, incense-y, bosom-y church smell.

I debated at lunch time whether I needed to visit a church today since I was at devotions this morning at work. In the third floor conference room, we’d created multi-media worship stations, signifying Brokenness, Hope, and Beauty. We’d included fresh mint and time for conversation about the care of our shared space.

The theme was care of the earth. I think that was the theme. I just did what the rest of the team told me to do. And, of course, before devotions started, I cracked jokes with Jim and Morais (because, we’d agreed, every worship team needs a few hecklers as they’re laying out their cloths and getting into the serious business of prayer.) Seriously, I’m lucky to be part of such a creative, inspiring worship team (thanks to Sushil, Christie, Jorge, Lisa, Felipe, Noemi, Kathleen).

Back to West End, I waited for my Aha! moment, sitting in the bosom-y church by myself tonite. Nothing.

No wait. I remembered something Shane, my teacher, said at the end of Yoga when we were sprawled in Sivasinha. She’d read a quote by Thich Nhat Hanh, it was something like, “The freer you are, the happier you are.”

I quizzed Shane about the quote when I bumped into her in the women’s bathroom.

“Do you really think freedom is happiness?” Because I am looking for happiness. And freedom sounds like a good way to go.

“As in freedom from attachment,” she said.

“Ah,” I said. “Like detachment.” And this really helped me, because I easily get overattached — to ideas, to people, to this blog.

I loved that. I loved that in looking for answers in a church, I remembered what my Yoga teacher told me.

Crying at the Sky

I was in yoga on Saturday morning. Because it was Heritage Day, we could not meet at the Heritage House. So we met on the band shell of Ballard Park. It was a little like being on stage. Well, it was like that because we were on stage.

Almost everything that Michael, the teacher, says during class is brilliant. He said that in a new translation of the Upanishads, published in 2008, a line was written, “Hope is never false.” And he was making a political statement. 2008 was about hope. Hope is never false.

Wow. His July theme for the yoga classes was independence. Because Independence Day can be celebrated for days beyond the 4th of July. It can be any day. It can be every day.

I looked up at the sky from the band shell. I think I was in warrior pose. The white clouds were striated. The blue sky was almost too blue. I started to cry. I have no idea why. The beauty of the sky does that to me sometimes. I cry during church when the choir sings too. I don’t know why. I am an intellectual. There are times when yoga, a cloud or music sneaks past my intellect and makes a direct hit for my heart. Or maybe it’s my soul.

Downward Dog

I have no idea why I love Downward Dog — or it’s official name, Adho Mukha Svanasana.

It is just such a welcome break from more difficult stretches and twists in my Iyengar practice. I have come to love Downward Facing Dog almost as much as Savasana (the Corpse) Pose — my absolute favorite.

When we return to Downward Dog, it is like my body has met an old friend, an old comfortable dog. The pose is almost as good as a lounge chair on a beach in Akumal, Mexico.

It is familiar. My feet flat on the floor, my head in line with my arms. I can find myself in that space easily. I do it well.

I also feel — and I have no proof of this — that my waist is actively shrinking when I am in Downward Dog. Something about this pose makes me feel, “Ah, this is good. I like yoga. I like my body and what it does.”

It is a healthy feeling; I am doing good. Like eating a huge, yummy spinach salad for lunch instead of a cheeseburger.

I have been entering Downward Dog since I was in Seventh grade and took yoga at the Park Ridge YMCA, which is now the Park Ridge Community Center in suburban Chicago. That was 35 years ago.

I have always loved this pose, too, because of its silly name. For the life of me, I cannot see how this pose has anything to do with a down dog. What does a down dog look like any way? Ah well, I love the alliteration of Down Dog. Just go with it.

And I love coming out of this pose because I know Child Pose is coming along somewhere soon. Yes, Child Pose is down the road from Down Dog Pose. Ah, Child Pose, another old and beloved friend.

I have a lot of stress in my life — sick husband, three school-age kids, full time job. But there is something about Down Dog that makes me feel, I am up to the tasks of this crazy life.

There are many things I cannot control in my life. Many things I do badly, many cakes I only half-bake. But not Down Dog. That, I can do. And do well. And as I enter, rest in, and exit this pose, I am at one and the same time, resting and striving. It is a good place to be.