Monday, December 17, 2012

Grief Beauty Strength

Thoughts are like waves. See them, acknowledge them, then let them pass. (paraphrase) ~Ruth Riffe

I haven’t posted anything in a long time. I have so much I’d like to say, but not sure how to construct it, well, constructively. These words ache to come out.

The past several weeks have been rough; add the tragedy in Connecticut, and I’m a regular waterworks. I’ve been bouncing back and forth between raw grief and ordinary life and it sometimes feels weird. I even struggle now and then with guilt. How can I go on living and laughing and eating cookies when families are ripped apart, never to be the same?

Yesterday, I attended a fundraiser for a dear teacher Ruth at my yoga studio. Ruth called in sick just over a month ago and a week or so later was handed the diagnosis of cancer. All over. She could try treatments, that would maybe extend her life, maybe. And, she’d be miserably ill. She opted to let it take its course. You see, Ruth watched her own husband fight the same cancer just 2 years ago and she knew what lay ahead. Our vibrant Ruth, who sometimes had so much energy I thought it was going to vibrate right out of her and the very walls would start dancing.

We gathered together for her yesterday. We dedicated our class to her. Normally, a teacher leads us with their words, but yesterday, only the names of the postures were called, and we moved into them silently. It was such a beautiful dance. We were all moving for Ruth. I think we were moving for something even larger.
I marveled as tears flowed down my face that I could be so heartbroken as memories of Ruth splashed across my mind, as well as images of the sweet babes in Connecticut, that I could still move and my body could still bend backwards and forwards and dare I say do amazing things. I marveled at everyone’s strength and beauty. I know I wasn’t the only one in the room with a tight heart, not for the aerobic activity, but the sadness welling up and out. And yet, we all followed along, wordlessly and with purpose. It’s one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had.

It strikes me now that that is how we move on. (Or at least one of the ways). In strength and beauty, we go about our business, and we cry when we need to. It’s very simple, and yet I at least struggle with it.
Ruth will always be with me. The things she taught me both actively and passively will always be with me. The crying and grief will slowly fade out. Hearing Ruth’s voice during class will fade as well, I am sure. But the way she has touched me, just as I’ve been touched by others who have gone before Ruth, they will always be a part of my being, whether I consciously know it or not.
We take time to remember, we take time to honor and then we move out into the world with grace and strength and do each thing to the best of our ability and in love.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I have been threatening to write a post on judgement for some time. This is not that time. I'm just going to post a few synonyms to the word judgement, and continue to ponder this word that I think is perhaps misunderstood?


1. keenness of mental perception and understanding; discernment; penetration.
2. keen vision.

Discernment is a term used to describe the activity of determining the value and quality of a certain subject or event. Typically, it is used to describe the activity of going past the mere perception of something, to making detailed judgments about that thing. As a virtue, a discerning individual is considered to possess wisdom, and be of good judgement; especially so with regard to subject matter often overlooked by others.

I'll perhaps cite sources at another time.

Do I even dare to tackle judgement (again)? 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Something has been on my mind lately. Shallow. Actually, a lot has been on my mind. So much so, that sometimes I can only speak gibberish.
Judgement has been heavy on my mind....but I'm not ready to tackle that, so I'll stick in shallow waters. Shallow waters can be lovely. Coral reefs need to be in shallower waters, so they can receive light. You can snorkel in shallow water, and cruise around with clown fish.
This crossed my mind as I was talking to a friend the other day, and this friend described someone else's lifestyle as shallow, quickly followed by the no judgement disclaimer. I didn't take it that way. But to really seal the deal in my mind, I started thinking about the beauty of things that are shallow.
Not everyone needs to go deep. Not everyone needs to be a philosopher. Not every observation is a judgement. I'm grateful for all the different people in my life, each displaying their own unique beauty on so many different levels.

Monday, May 14, 2012


I haven't had much to share lately. Lots to say, not much to share. Life hasn't been very funny lately.
It isn't funny that I am so afraid of rattle snakes and tip toe around the ranch with my head bent low making sure I don't step on snakes. It isn't funny that I am so cautious. Until I am not. Thankfully, the writhing mound of snakes under the tarp that had been untouched for 2 years until I crouched down and studied the puddles of water still present after all these warm days....they weren't rattle snakes. Lucky me.
Because I pretty carelessly poked around until I was too close for comfort.
Not funny.
It's also not funny that the day after I told my Mom I should be running a company instead of what I do, my boss pointed out a very inconvenient mistake I'd made. Not funny at all.
I was sick about it all day. Except when I was laughing at myself.
It's not funny that I can parallel park my beast of a car in a teeny tiny space as if I'd just slid it in sideways, but I can't make a U-turn on a mostly soft shouldered spacious road without hitting the one random panel of sidewalk and putting a gash in my tire. Not funny. At all.

But really, it's all pretty funny. Life is funny, really. We all make mistakes. We all get a little puffed up, and then maybe taken down a peg. I am sorry I inconvenienced my boss, but I'm going to go with a little humility rather than wounded pride.
I'm going to learn from my mistakes, and slow down a little. And then maybe pick up the pace again. And maybe make some more mistakes. (maybe?) And I'm going to laugh at myself. And stay away from tarps. I'm really going to stay away from tarps.

This guy is the last man standing. The others slithered back under the tarp.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The one about tanks, or me, it's difficult to say

Since this blog originated with the concept of extending grace, more and more I find, the person to whom I need to extend the most grace is um, Me.
I'm a complete mess most of the time, and the only reason I write at all is because I must.

So, here's guilty confession number 237: I am not of strong character. I am a people pleaser. Ooohhh, that's 2. It's ironic, since I am also very outspoken. But there it is. I am an outspoken people-pleaser of weak character. I bet you're jealous.....I am a walking oxymoron. (But definitely not a moron.)

Here's the stage; I've just sat down to a picnic lunch with a handful of acquaintances and friends I have not seen in a while. I am eager to impress. Especially since one of said acquaintances can only recall me based on a very unfortunate crush I had years ago. Gosh, I hope I gave him a better association today. I'm thinking maybe no.
The table is spread with wine, cheeses and bread, olives, pate and prosciutto. A discussion on the humaneness of pate arises. I didn't bring it up, but being the know it all that I am, and only after the question was asked, I contributed to the conversation that pate is often the result of inhumane treatment of animals, look across the table and realize aforementioned friend is spreading generous portions of pate on bread. Shortly thereafter, it was pointed out, not by me, that I am a vegetarian. I felt on the spot. When asked why, I gave my stock answer that there's many reasons, I'm not a militant vegetarian, and I really just don't like meat. I was so anxious to not offend, that I wanted to wave it all away. I felt all sorts of wishing I wasn't such a big-mouthed introvert.
I shared funny stories of the "vegetarian" friend I traveled with in Israel who ate lamb every chance she had. Who can blame her? I shared how, as a child, I often was sent to bed during dinner because I would not eat the meat on my plate. In my haste to control the attention placed on me, I missed out on something. I missed out on hearing that my  friend's new husband is also a vegetarian, and that he and I probably have a lot in common. I missed out on hearing his perspective, and maybe being the richer for it, and perhaps others would have been the richer for it as well. He was about to share his perspective on industrialized food, but the discussion of whether or not we had to eat everything on our plates as children took over.
None of that really resonated with me until much later. That night, I was doing what I do. I read blogs. Other blogs. I don't just read the blogs, if it's a good post, I read the comments. Last night, I read hundreds of comments on a couple posts. What I discovered, which is really not news, is that people just don't listen, or rather pay attention. Comment after comment revealed the reader latched onto one teeny portion of the whole and completely misconstrued the post or the previous comment. Time and again, the author would have to retell what had already been said, and said clearly the first time in my opinion. Commenters preached and pontificated, and I realized I'm not the only misunderstood person on the planet. I get frustrated that I am often misunderstood, but how can I be surprised when I see it happening to others and I'm so busy crafting a pleasing persona, my real person is lost. Everyone has a paradigm from which they operate. Everyone. Some are more aware of this than others. Some can step outside and understand another's point of view. Others cannot or will not. And there's the rub.
What I really take away is to talk less, listen more. Which is really difficult, because I love to tell stories.
That is why I prefer reading blogs and comments. It affords me the time to really hear other people. I am richer every day from the insights and stories others are willing to share. Now to figure out how to apply that in person.
Meanwhile, if you want to know, I will tell you why I am a vegetarian. And, if you eat meat, I am not judging you. Well, mostly not. Maybe a little. No, I'm not.
If you can't make a clear connection between the photo and this post, refer to The Oatmeal.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The one where I use the "F" word

As I fiddle with the color balance levels on one of my camera apps, it occurs to me how much we are responsible for the color of our world. I altered the color balance so much on a photo that a blue sky turned bright orange, and the brown grass turned lavender. The photo may not have any artistic merit; I may be the only person who appreciates it, but for this moment, for something as harmless as a photo, I don't care what other people think.
I do care (what other people think) when it concerns my well being, or the well being of others. What was initially going to be a post about balance is turning into many thoughts on how we color our world. In word, deed, thought and action, we all have a paintbrush. Finding that balance is tricky. Life is about balance and contrast. Day/night. Sleep/work/play. Trust/self-protection. Dark/light. What would you add to the list?
We spend about a third of the time in my yoga class doing balancing postures. I wonder if that translates into real life.
Every facet of life has been challenging my notion of balance lately.
How do we find our balance? How do we find balance in a world that seems to be spinning off its axis?
I feel things acutely. It's part of my genetic code. Sometimes it leaves me wondering if I was the only one who felt the earth move, or if the whole world did. I'm not yet able to decipher that out. For instance, that awkward moment when people don't know if they should clap or not, and then the awkward moment of when to I the only one who wonders about these things? What is the perfect balance of time to clap? Not so long you're a lone cheering section and not so brief you're the sourpuss barely able to rub two palms together. As a dear friend says "stop thinking." I can't help it. Sometimes, I have vertigo of thought. Spiraling thoughts make me dizzy, and I want to find that firm leg to stand on.
I've been really enjoying a new favorite blog; Recovering Yogi. Usually the stories crack me up. Often, they are self effacing. People have forgotten self effacing I think. They translate it into negative self-talk. But that's another blog post....Recently, someone tackled manners. I have long wanted to tackle manners, as many people around me already know. What I found interesting is the responses to this post. This is all about being in a yoga community, but I'm sure it translates across life.
I'm going to get gross here. Real gross. Leave it to me to use gas as a launch pad for deep thoughts. There was your warning word. I'm going to talk about farts. Right now. Follow me here (if you can stomach it): the author suggested one leave the (practice) room until they can get their gas under control. To which several  responded in different shades of how terrible she is to judge the accidental fart, to which the author responds she wasn't referring to the accidental fart. She understands those happen. Are you so turned off now? Because I'm taking it to the next level. The next comment had me rolling on the floor. "What about the accidental shart?" Yep. I went there.
Where do we draw the line in our collective prudishness/open-mindedness?
Because, this probably isn't a news flash, I would die if that happened to me in class. So should we shame people for bodily functions? No. And, I think we'd all agree that we'd all like to just not have to think about any of the above. But what about the guy who rings out his soaked towel so you can hear a rush of water on his mat while the room is still and quiet? Is that necessary? I've gotten really acceptive of the sweat that happens in hot yoga class. I've accepted gas happens. But if you can help something, do.
Today, I complimented a new (to my studio) woman's top. She thanked me, told me she made it, and that it was the least amount of clothing she could get away with. Followed by, "wouldn't it be great if we could practice naked yoga?" Um, no, no it would not be great. I'll tell you right now, that thought offends my sensibilities way more than the above conversation about gas. But, I can choose to go or not go to a naked yoga class. I can choose to go or not go to a hot yoga class; knowing there will be things that are not my favorite. I can also choose to be mindful of others. I can choose to try not drip all over others. I can choose to not shave my legs when 10 women are in line for the shower. I can choose to respect other people's time and space. I cannot choose whether or not my nose is going to start running. I cannot choose if I have gas...though really friends, I never do that.
Sometimes, I feel like we've gone so overboard in being love and light or being irritable that we don't really know which battles to pick. What I think is okay and not okay is not what you'll think. Somewhere in the middle is balance, no? I think the key is: do no harm, within balance. Be mindful that we share a space in the yoga room and on this planet. I confessed in my last post that I talk about things. It's true, I do. I talk about what's funny, what I want to see change, what's obnoxious. I talk. Here's my choice; if you can't change it, I'm not going to talk about it. If you had a rough day, you've got all my grace. If you're new to something and don't understand, no judgement from me. If you're a selfish prat, then I'm probably talking about you. And when I'm done, I probably still like you. I just don't like that thing you did. The longer I practice yoga, the less annoyed I am in general. But I still expect people to show up and realize we live together and share space. The balance I struggle with is realizing you can't change other people; and realizing you can.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Scarlett Letter

I wish I could wear a Scarlett Letter. I'd wear a "G" instead of an "A" though. For those of you who are not familiar with the "Scarlett Letter" it is a work of fiction by Nathanial Hawthorne. Hester Prynne has been discovered to be with child by someone other than her husband. Her punishment for such a shameful act: to wear a Scarlett "A" round her neck so everyone would know she is an adulterer. You gotta love the Puritans.
I cheat on yoga with gossip. I don't repeat things told to me in secret, I share observations. It's a tricky relationship for me. I am gifted with an ability to take in a lot of information at one time, which means....I take in information I'd rather not. I'd rather not see your private bits, but if you don't know what to wear to yoga, and I'm craning me head in final spinal and get blasted with your bits, I'm going to tell. And there will be laughter.
Also, I get frustrated with things that are off balance to me, that I vent by talking about the things I'd like to change.
Did I say vent? I gossip. It's true. I'm saying it out loud, well I'm broadcasting it. And, it's something I truly dislike about myself. Because I hate to hurt other people. I hate to be petty. If I had to hang that Scarlett G around my neck, perhaps I'd think twice before passing on information. The kind of information that serves no purpose but a commiseration of how messed up people are.
But then again, how else do we learn, but by being called out? There's a quote periodically making the rounds that says something like small minds discuss people, average minds discuss things and great minds discuss  ideas. I see that. If you'd prefer to discuss how big someone's butt is in those jeans instead of world peace....maybe you're shallow.
Then's not that simple. Is it? I've been reading in the yoga community, and there's interesting discussion about what is annoying, how annoying it is that you're annoyed in the first place, and really who is judging whom. I had to laugh as I read because things got blown so out of proportion, and really, even the best of us can't shake the ego. For example, I'm not judging your worth as a human being when you carelessly slam the door on your way out during Savasana, you're still a worthy being. I'm judging that in that moment, you're obnoxious. And, if enough people talk about how obnoxious the door slamming event is, maybe it will become an idea that we all need to not slam the door. See how that works? Of course, others may not care about the door slamming at all, (in actuality I don't), but let's hear it for courtesy and mindfulness.
I'm not trying to justify being a gossip. I'm serious when I say I hate that about myself. I am saying a lot of bad behavior goes unchecked, and when we fall into the trap of rising above it, excusing it as human nature, it seems to me it just gets worse.
The word that keeps coming to mind as I contemplate these ideas is balance....this post has been sitting here for weeks, because it is such a scary topic to me! And given the Scarlett Letter, I still think Hester would do it all the same.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Guilty Confession Part Two, or Another Crunchy Gravel Show

I believe in my last post, I made a confession of enjoying a Masterpiece Theater program  soap opera. (They changed their name to Masterpiece Classic, but's my blog.) This week's confession is going to get a little thicker. I check the Masterpiece website, and, oh my gosh, I'm sharing this in a teeny tiny whisper; I vote for characters I love and loathe. What's more, I check the chart to see how other people are voting. I am sucked into Downton Abbey.
Tonight, I changed my mind about a few characters. Some went down in my estimation while others went up. I'm watching lives unfold, and seeing some characters make bad choices, or be misunderstood, or maligned even, and how it all shakes out. I find it interesting how each week, the chart shifts with the storyline. And, when I see a particularly loathsome character display a change in character, I wonder, can a leopard change its spots? Or, more importantly, the character who has been misunderstood has new light shed upon him or her which paints a much different picture. Or, the character who has been strong and honorable suddenly falls off his proverbial white stallion.
And a thought occurred to me. Maybe it's not  earth shaking to you, but for me, very. If we could view people in the fulness of time, what would we see? Would we have more grace with someone if we knew that one day, they would display better behavior? Would we be more accepting of people if we knew that we didn't know the whole story?
I'm sure some of my friends already live this way. I'm sure most people are not half as judgmental as me. And I don't believe in throwing judgment out entirely. I'm kind of a realist. You know, as George Bush said, "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. (awkward pause.) Fool me — you can't get fooled again." —Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002.  Well, actually, it's "fool me twice, shame on me." I fully believe in the balance between self preservation which comes from discernment which has a flavor of judgment. But, I also wonder what it would look like if I treated people like the characters on Downton Abbey. Maybe today someone appears super dastardly, and so it is. But what if I leave room for interpretation and depth of character? 
It is a balance between discernment and grace. I love being able to see the characters develop in the series, and being privy to information before them, and seeing how they'll receive the information. One writer says "they are always looking to do the right thing." I don't agree with that entirely, but where it is true, it is interesting. It has helped me gain perspective I wouldn't necessarily have.
It is ironic, the two favorite characters on the series are completely opposite. One is loved for her outspokenness and wit, while the other is loved for her discretion and kindness. Guess who I am like and who I wish to be like.....
Humans are complicated. Some more than others. I'm sure over time, we all rise and fall in people's estimation. But, at the end of the day, the ensemble of us living and being together is a Masterpiece as well, and we're all capable of doing the right thing, whatever that may be.

*Crunchy Gravel credit to Lisa De Moreas, Washington Post

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Another Guilty Pleasure

Tonight, on my way home from yoga, I caught an interview with Gregory Maguire. He's the brilliant author who takes fairy tales and turns them on their head. That is not what tonight's post is about. Sorry. But he did strike a chord with me.
He reminded me of a lost era. He reminded me of my childhood. In explaining how his ideas came about, he reminisced about a time when there were only 3 channels on TV. I came a little later, and can remember  just 10. I thought my family was really super high tech when we had 10 buttons to push, rather than a dial to turn on our television. I could feel a little bit of the excitement from long ago when Maguire shared how the Wizard of Oz was scheduled to air once a year, and it was eagerly anticipated. These days, most kids grow up seeing their latest favorite movie until it wears a hole in the floor. Oh, waxing nostalgic, when The Wizard of Oz came on, it was an event. We marked it on the calendar, we made popcorn, we may have even curled my hair; I'm not sure.
What has this to do with guilty pleasures? Just this: I'm just 30 minutes away from part 3 of Downton Abbey on Masterpiece Theater. It's a period drama, but I won't have a freak out if you call it a Soap Opera. It might be. Only the acting is better, the location is better, the story is better and ooh la la the wardrobe is better. But sure, it's a soap.
I had to wait a whole year for this. Actually, more than a year. It's the same feeling I had while waiting for the next Harry Potter book or movie. Anticipation.
This connection in and of itself is obvious. Least, I think it is. But, just to really drive it home, I recently had a little exchange on facebook regarding Downton Abbey. A friend of mine, (forgive me friend for using you as my foil), wrote: "Managed to watch seasons one and two of Downton Abbey in three nights. Now what?" After a little bit of confusion on my part, as all of season 2 has not yet aired on Masterpiece, I discovered she'd watched it all on some website. And you know what ensued? She was jealous of me that I have several episodes yet to view.
I didn't think about this exchange until I heard the interview with Maguire. And then I realized, I'd been looking forward to Downton Abbey all week. I've known no matter what happens this week, good or bad, on Sunday night there's nail polish, wine and Masterpiece Theater. (Truth be told, if handsome man asked me to dinner, I'd watch it online later this week.) But the point's gooooood to look forward to things. And, it's not often I do look forward to something. Everything is so right here, right now. Tomorrow is crashing in on us instead of being a beautiful wistful full of possibility and mystery day to anticipate. I'm going to take some time to think about some other things I can look forward to. There's a saying that goes, "Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?" Just for this moment, I'm going to think about replacing instant gratification with, why consume today what you can eagerly anticipate tomorrow?

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Words in the New Year

I love words. I collect them like flowers. I mentioned elsewhere, I've been bereft of words today. In fact, I believe I've actually growled several times when I just couldn't find the words I wanted. Perhaps I had the words even, but I refused to string them together, refused to let my thoughts run their course.
I have been told my whole life to keep expectations low. If we keep expectations low, then we cannot be disappointed. I beg to differ.
I had no expectations of the transition from 2011 to 2012. And yet, I was a perfectly disappointed monster last night. I hadn't given much thought at all to what I'd do to ring in the new year. I could care less really. And after having been awakened at 4 am that morning, raging all night did not seem to be on the menu.
When I found myself at an event after all, having left a wonderfully warm and delicious house party, I thought the evening would be a breeze, as I had no expectations. I could just be. So I thought.
That is not entirely true. I could not just be. I had to navigate through crowds of people all doing the drunk bump up and down narrow corridors and on the dance floor. I wished I was wearing hiking shoes, as the flooring inside and out was a death trap. All evening, the heel of my boot managed to find every random hole in the floor or upturned brick. I craved a cane, or even a walker. I might have some rage issues, because I wanted to punch whoever invented the strobe light. Really only cool if you're totally hopped up on drugs. (I imagine.) I'm getting old, and though I've never been the cool kid, I'm now hovering somewhere in the negative numbers of cool. I'm going to have to start paying people to be cool for me. I look like I've been sucking on a lemon, and have to do things like go outside and pull myself together.  Drunk people are maybe fun to watch if you can remain disengaged, but as an empath....not so much.
I told my Mom today that I wished I was Amish. I'll give you a moment to let that sink in.

I learned something today, that I think I already knew. You probably already know it too. You're probably even shaking your head at me right now forming the word "duh" under your breath. I think it is possible to keep expectations too low. I think it is possible I was so blase about the New Year that I had no intention. I think low expectations and  a lack of intention, (and a lack of sleep) equals a very crabby woman wishing for a walker on a Saturday night. Sad. More importantly, if it's true that if you expect the evening to go poorly it will, then you should follow the converse; keep your expectations high.
I think it's possible to create a better outcome no matter where we start. I think always expect the best. Listen to your heart. Stay in good humor. Get enough sleep. Listen to your heart. Be honest. Be kind. Listen to your heart. Laugh. Laugh some more. And always. Listen to your heart. Did I alienate any men? Sorry. Listen to your heart anyway. Even if you claim not to have one. Because that's the other thing I learned. (again.) In my heart of hearts, I wanted to stay home. And I didn't listen to my heart. I have to laugh at how I proclaimed last week that each day is ours to do with what we will, and a week later I gave it away. Sometimes the simplest things are actually the most outrageous.
Today, the first day of 2012, the first words to pierce my heart that has felt like a bleak winter whiteout since 4 am yesterday were from Neil Gaiman. He says:
I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you'll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.
Flowers are budding in my winter heart again. The thought of living outrageously unlocked my words, not just words for blogging, but words for living. It is the key that gives me something to be excited about this year. Listening to your heart will sometimes seem outrageous. Listen anyway.
May you have an outrageous year full of kindness, that which you give, and that which you receive. And may you expect the best, and receive that as well. Here's to expecting the best in 2012. (Unless the Mayans were right, and then well, shoot. Expect the best anway.)