THANKFUL FRIDAY

Yesterday, I was chatting with Amy and I asked her how everything was going. She told me about the things going on in her life and with her family and the struggles they are experiencing. She said that recent events have made her all too aware of our mortality. Her words hit me hard, like being hit with a rock. You would think that you would only need the lesson of our fragile lives one time in order to be fully aware of our mortality. You would think that your first loss would help prepare for the next one and the next one and the next one. In some ways it does at the very least make us aware of the inevitability of loss. 

I told my therapist once that I was really good at throwing away things. I told her how I'd thrown away a whole rats nest of cords only to discover later that one of those cords was the power supply to my external hard drive. The weekend everyone left my house after Chris died, I pulled all of his clothes from the drawers and closet, stuffed them into bags and took them to Goodwill. I did it partly because it gave me something to do, but also I knew that if I didn't do it right then, I may never do it. When I come into savasana and practice the act of saying goodbye, I have no problem saying farewell to all things. Farewell sun. Goodbye to this moment. Bye bye life as I once knew it. I should be really good at loss by now. Yet, I, like so many others, fall victim to complacency. I get caught up in the day to day chore side of living, cleaning up dog vomit and fixing microscopy problems. I let myself believe that loss is easy because of how well I can throw things away. I let myself forget that those abilities to say goodbye are on my terms. I'm the one in control and loss, true loss, is something out of our control. 

Of course, I have always known this. It is why every day is important. I am grateful for these lessons that make me stronger. I am thankful for these lessons that remind me how important it is to reach out to others in loving kindness. I am thankful for the reminder to make the most out each day. I am grateful that Amy and her family are safe and sound. Tell those you love that you love them. Put the phone down and turn off the TV and sort through a pile of old photos together. Practice saying goodbye to something you find impossible saying farewell to and allow for a loss of control. 

Be grateful.

YOGA AND SCIENCE

Yoga Journal recently ran an article on the safety of jumping back to plank or chaturanga. What I loved so much about this article is not just how it discusses the anatomy involved in performing jump backs, but how they visited an Applied Biomechanics lab to take actual scientific measurements of the impact on joints when jumping back to plank and chaturanga. Their data showed that there was no more force placed onto the joints than as if you were walking. The article goes on to say that hopping back is perfectly safe if you can hold plank properly without sagging in the belly. The same goes for hopping back to chaturanga. I stand with the quiet rule on this. If you can't hop back without making a sound, then you should work on your core strength and skip the hopping.As a research scientist, I want to see this experiment done with non-seasoned yogis because this is the side of yoga that I can totally relate too. What's the impact of hopping back if you don't have proper form? How can teach my students to stay safe in hope backs? 

Yoga has some stigmas and one of those is the whole hippy dippiness of it. I mean, Yoga Journal followed the anatomy article with an article on crystals and their healing powers. You guys know me and know how hard I rolled my eyes at this. The only time I was not fully engaged during my yoga teacher training was when we got to the not scientific lulu stuff like auras and energy bodies. I was all in on those lessons that focused on the anatomy of the human body because I could see it in action. I could place my hand on the body part that was working and feel the muscle working. I could also look at the scientific studies and publications about yoga. There are many many NIH funded research programs that involve studying the effects of yoga on health. There is published data that shows both the pros and cons of a daily yoga practice. For instance, studies have shown that yoga is a great exercise for relieving low back pain. Pranayama or breathing practices yoga was taught to relieve asthma when in fact there is no evidence that yoga improves asthma. Pro. Con. All scientifically based research.

The yoga we see today is not the original yoga. It has and continues to be modified to make poses safer and more accessible and even to fit trends. Yoga battles with preconceived ideas from non-yogis. There are people who believe yoga is a religion. There are many who think you have to be flexible to do yoga. There are people who think yoga is sitting in lotus with your eyes closed while chanting. Linking actual scientific research with yoga is a pretty powerful tool for battling those preconceived ideas. When I tell my students that chanting "Om" can be good for them I can point to a scientific study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care that shows that humming increases the production of nitric oxide in the nasal passages. You end up humming as you chant "Om". The extra nitric oxide helps you fight of sinus pain and infections. 

I like have scientific evidence to back up some of the lulu sounding things I say.

WHAT'S GOIN' ON

I spent the weekend at my Mom's with my brother and sister-in-law. Our Mother's Day Weekend activities included a Tabouleh Festival in Bristow, where I was surprised to discover that there used to be a large Lebanese community. I was also surprised to find only one source of tabouleh and that one booth had a super long line. We left the the tabouleh festival without tabouleh, which was disappointing because we had planned to have tabouleh with dinner later that evening. So we left the Tabouleh Festival and headed over to a German festival. This was less festival and more 'pay us some money to enter our raffle so you can win this quilt covered in elephants'. We did have a beer and a pretzel. We did not win the raffle. At least I don't think any one of us did.

We left the German Festival and I said "now what?" Katrina, my sister-in-law, looked at her phone and said "there's a Latin Festival." This would have been almost perfect except we all decided that were all festivaled out and that maybe we should just go to the liquor store. That's what we did, but then we got distracted by plants on the way back to Mom's house. So now I have a hanging basket of pretty flowers that I don't know the name of. Then we spent the rest of the evening eating pizza, drinking gin and sorting through boxes of old photos. I came home with a pile of old pictures and a letter to Santa Claus my Dad had dictated to his mother in 1945. Dad had requested a bow and six arrows and a Buck Rogers gun. He also asked for some other things, but those were my favorites. 

I got home Sunday afternoon and then Josephine started puking her guts out. The two of us did very little sleeping Sunday night because of it. She puked in my bed. She puked in her bed. She had to go outside several times. She couldn't get comfortable. She was one sick puppy but not in a psycho kind of sick puppy way. I kept my cool and waited it out, but seriously was this close to panicking and rushing her to an emergency vet so I could spend half a million dollars for them to tell me that she just ate something bad. She's fine. I still have no idea what she got into except maybe all the grass she's been eating in the backyard. I stayed home with her on Monday so I could wash all the stuff she'd puked on and monitor her health. She was pretty mopey until I got the vacuum out. Then she mustered enough energy to attack the vacuum and I knew we were in the clear. 

Any way. I am home and things are returning back to some kind of normal. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

We used to always go to the Black-Eyed-Pea for Mother's Day. My sister and I would cheer from the backseat of the car when Dad would suggest skipping church service to get to the restaurant early. We'd all meet back at the car after Sunday school. [I can see Michael reading this and trying to understand the difference between church service and Sunday school and marveling at how we spent almost four hours in church on Sundays.] Randy, Katrina and J would meet us at the restaurant and I'd get a Shirley Temple. I always finished my meal quickly at this place because there was a bookstore right next door. My parents would let me go hang out there while they finished up. I read one whole book from the Chronicles of Narnia series once while waiting on them to come get me. 

Mother's Day was much simpler then. 

I find that age and time have added a complicated layer to Mother's Day. For me, the day feels slightly forced. I know that is my own resistance to the idea of being thrown into the so called role of motherhood. It still sits awkwardly because I don't feel very motherly when it comes to the Cabbage. As I was leaving Dr. Mary's Tuesday night, she called me back to her office. She said "I started to tell you to have a good Mother's Day, but I stopped myself because you're not a mother. But then I thought 'No! You are a mother'. So Happy Mother's Day." That same evening, the Cabbage gave me an art project she made just for me, covered with elephant stickers and Happy Mother's Day written across it. I knew she was up to something because she picked out all of her supplies when we went to the craft store over the weekend. I guess I was surprised that it was all her idea. No one prompted her. I am still trying to wrap my head around how it is that she sees me as some kind of mother figure.  

I am also keenly aware of just how difficult Mother's Day is for others. At times, this made up holiday seems a little cruel. You cannot avoid all of the marketing that goes out regarding the celebration of mothers. That has got to be hard for people who no longer have their mothers with them, but it also has to be difficult to be a mother and no longer have your children with you. Maybe part of the reason I resist being on the receiving end of Mother's Day is that I know that the statement that motherhood is hard is simplifying the actuality. I don't feel worthy of the title because I have not experienced the emotions that mothers experience. I have not experienced the joys and the struggles that come with being a mother. It is more like I occasionally dabble in motherhood and that's mostly by just making sure the Cabbage has clothes that fit her. And carrots to eat. But I guess this enitittles me to a moment of kindness and lots of elephant stickers.

Of course I am thankful for my own mother. She held my house together while my life was falling apart. And I am thankful for the tribe of women my mother relied on to help raise me. I am thankful for the lessons they taught me and I am thankful my mother had that support. I read a lot blogs written by women who are mothers, not because they are moms, but because they are amazing writers. I am thankful for those women for sharing their words and craft. I am thankful for the example they lead and how they encourage each other. I am thankful for all of the women bloggers I read, mothers or not because of the way they encourage each other. I follow a good crowd of women. It makes me want to be a better person.

It gives me hope. 

 

MOON ZAP

My period started today, so I'm thinking about what to do in my yoga practice this week. I used to never think about this. Back in the days when I had yet to establish a daily practice on my own, I went to yoga classes at the gym and did it all. I didn't even think about it. It was only later that I discovered there are views about menstruation and your yoga practice. Some teachers are adamant about NO YOGA during this time. I sort of regarded this view as dumb. I threw it on the ridiculous pile of things women have been told not to do while on their periods, like swimming in the ocean because you will attract sharks or hiking because you will attract bears. I am amazed that our species has survived with all of us women attracting predators all the time. The raging feminist yogini in me wants to shout "you can't tell me what I can and can't do!" Women have been fighting the stigma of menstruation since the dawn of time. 

Though in the defense of yoga, the reasons some teachers believe that you should not do yoga during your period is not because you are considered to be 'unclean' or you will attract wild animals to the studio. That time of the month is considered to be a time of cleansing and renewal and you should just take it easy. That's a nice thought and my kapha side tells my pitta side that this is exactly what we should do. Except my pitta side is a jerk and I end up trying to do all of the things on my yoga mat because I feel better when I get off my mat. A study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health of sixty four women found that practicing breathing exercises, cat-cow, down dog, cobra, plank and child's pose reduced the effects of premenstrual stress. Of course this is a small study that took place in Taiwan, but the data is sound. [A different rant is the complete lack of research in reducing PMS, at all] 

There are many yoga poses that are beneficial to relieving cramping and bloating. Twists and supported fish pose are great. Bow pose is good for belly bloat. There are also poses that I just won't do during that time. I avoid certain inversions like headstand and shoulder stand, but there's no definitive scientific evidence that inversions cause problems if performed during menstruation. Really it just comes down to how you choose to interpret the word yoga. Yoga means 'to yoke'. I hear 'yoke' and I think of two large oxen yoked together and pulling a plow. One ox is your brain and the other ox is your body. They are forced to work together. The brain listens to the body and the body respects the brain's choices. Sometimes my body does not want to take the stairs, but my brain says "Come on! It's good for us!" and I take the stairs. Sometimes when my brain is saying that, my body goes "no, really. My knee hurts." I take the elevator. Practicing yoga doesn't just take place on your mat.

That time of the month is a good time to remember that lesson and really listen to what our bodies are telling us to do or not do. You know how on some days during your period, you feel just fine and other days you feel like a truck is rolling back and forth over your fat bloated body? On the days you feel just fine, have a regular asana practice, but on those other days when you feel achy and gross, take care of yourself. Choose a restorative practice with cushions and blankets. Sometimes I do a little bit of both by mixing in an asana practice at the beginning and finishing up with restorative poses like supported supta baddha konasana and supported twists. Sometimes, I just don't do anything but rest in final relaxation. I will it admit that it has taken me years of practice in order to be okay with doing less, but this is true self care.  

Namaste. 

BIRD SEASON

I was up at 6:00 AM on Saturday morning. The sounds of a bird in distress makes a pretty good alarm clock. I don't know if it is a skill I should be proud of, but by now I can tell the difference between bird and rabbit distress calls. I don't know about squirrels. They never make it into the house alive. The rarely make it into the house with their heads still attached. On this particular morning, I opened my bedroom door and then followed the trail of feathers to the kitchen where the cat had the bird cornered between the back door and the refrigerator. I told the animals to scram, dropped a dishtowel onto the bird and then scooped him up. I carried him to the front yard and I could feel his wings trying to flap. I just relaxed my grip and he flew off and up into a tree branch in the neighbor's yard. Then immediately after he landed, another bird tackled him and they both fell to the ground. I have no idea what happened to him or if he was the same bird I "rescued" at 4:30 this morning. 

I'm sure the bird from this morning didn't make it.

Since I was up at six on Saturday, I went ahead and got showered and dressed. Then I cleaned the kitchen and scrubbed the stove because a bird had pooped on it. I gathered my grocery bags, the list, my journal, my purse and my glasses, locked the door and stepped out of the house. With out keys. I stood there for a few minutes, trying to decide what to do. I banged on the front door a few times knowing that there was no way Micheal was going to hear me from his cave in the basement. I stepped around to the Cabbage's window and started banging. She pulled the curtain back with squinted eyes and I asked to her to go open the front door. She had a moment of panic when she didn't think she could get the door open, but I talked her down and said that all she had to do was turn the lock. I opened the door and told her to go back to bed. Later on, Michael went into her room and she said "Why did you lock Cindy out of the house?!" He didn't know I'd locked myself out or what the Cabbage was talking about.

That's probably the first time I've ever locked myself out of that house.

The rest of the weekend went just fine and dandy. My massage therapist removed a giant knot from my right thigh. I pulled up old dead plants and planted new vibrant living plants. I made the kind of guacamole that you never want to stop eating because it's laced with crack (not really, but I make some delicious guacamole). I spent time reading while swaying gently in my hammock. It was real nice. Some time between Saturday and today, I dreamed that Albus dragged a goose into the house. The house was a wreck with goose poop and feathers. It was like we'd used our living room for rituals. After that dream, I really studied the dog door. Could Albus even fit a goose through that door? Maybe. Yet my thoughts keep drifting back to the Saturday morning bird. He was a living breathing metaphor. I saved that bird from the clutches of a gruesome death only to release him into a different kind of gruesome death. It's like all those videos people post of releasing the trapped mouse into a field and then watching as a hawk swoops down and carries it off for it's dinner. 

It's really true. There are some things that are just out of your control. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

This is one of those weeks where I am actually really grateful that it is Friday. I don't like to admit this. I used to work with a guy who did not like his job. Every morning, he would come into the office and say "Is it Friday yet?" or he'd count down the week until Friday. "Just two more days until Friday!" I always tried to nod my head along in agreement to show solidarity, but mostly I just felt bad that he was so obviously unhappy and he was just suffering through to make it to the weekend. I know what it is like to not like your job. I understand completely the toll it takes on the mind and spirit. Eventually he left to start his own business. The business is going well and he's super happy. I am really happy for him, but I can't help but think of him when I have a week where at the end of it, I think "TGIF!"

This has not been a bad week. Actually, it's been a fairly productive week. I got all of the camper blankets washed and dried. Images from the DSLR got uploaded to my computer for future editing. I made some changes to the blog and my 'About Me' page. I've had some really satisfying moments on my yoga mat. This week has been good and that is partly why I am grateful that today is Friday. Friday is the cherry on top of this week's sundae. This is the day I get to sit back and take a breath and a moment to appreciate the things I have accomplished. I can sigh with relief that nothing blew up or died or got taken away by tornadoes. Sometimes it is just good practice to be thankful you not only had a successful week, but a successful week, free of disasters. So yeah...TGIF! 

Now I get to reap the rewards of the weekend with sleeping in and meeting my massage therapist. I'm also going to dig in the dirt and plant some thing to make the house look pretty. I'm going to put Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae on repeat and swing in a hammock. I might even have a margarita in celebration of Cinco De Mayo. Except I don't care for tequila. A Ginarita? Is that a thing? 

BODY CONFIDENCE AND YOGA

I skimmed through an article the other day about how yoga fosters body confidence. I say 'skimmed' because the article wasn't giving me any new information. Nothing profound jumped off the page. Yoga teaches you to let go of perfection and to focus on your inner self. Ideally...this is what yoga teaches, but letting go of the idea of perfection in yoga is not so easy to see visually. Not until recently, like in maybe in the last two years, has yoga magazines like Yoga Journal graced their covers with models who are not super thin and wirey with muscles. Iyengar and Brikram yoga practices put an emphasis on alignment and perfection in poses and I have heard stories of serious Ashtanga teachers sending students away until they have mastered a pose in the ashtanga sequence. 

It is not just the yoga media and some forms of practices that seem counter intuitive to promoting body confidence though. There have been many times when I have walked into a yoga studio, looked around me and thought "I do not belong here." I have looked at the other students, I have met the teacher and I have immediately started listing all the ways I am not enough for this class. I am not fit enough, strong enough, young enough, skinny enough, enlightened enough. All of those not enoughs dissipate once I am moving on my mat, but to someone new to yoga, that whole experience can be very intimidating. Though Yoga Journal has gotten a lot better at showing a more diverse group of yogis throughout their pages, many yoga studios feel a little less diverse. It can be difficult to cultivate body confidence in that sort of environment. 

There have been many psychological studies on the effects yoga has women's body confidence. A study released in the September 2016 issue of Body Image handed out questionnaires to a hundred and something yoga practitioners and a hundred and something non-yoga practitioners and found that people who practice yoga scored higher on body confidence than those who do not practice yoga. They also found that the people who practice yoga scored lower on self-objectification. A study released in Psychology of Sports and Exercise in March of this year focused on the effects of mirrors on yoga students in a yoga practice and found that women in yoga classes with mirrors had greater body image anxiety. It is clear that yoga is good for us, but it is also clear that it has it's own set of complicated pros and cons.

One reason I choose to teach at the Y is because it is a way to expose people who normally would not go to a studio to yoga. My classes at the Y are a diversity of age, size, color and fitness and it is beautiful. I try every week to put an emphasis on safety over so called perfection. I purposefully set my class up in a way that they are facing away from the mirrors. I tell them to find the joy in their practice and I have started to see my students grow in their own confidence. These lessons are all well and good and something any yoga teacher worth their salt teaches. Something I feel I could do better as a teacher is pushing my students to create their own personal practice. Because this is where true self confidence blooms into the sweetest flower. Those times I practice on my own are moments when I feel the most beautiful. 

I know that cultivating a personal yoga practice hard. There are days I unroll my mat and think "I don't want to do anything." but I do something. It may be simply sitting back in child's pose and counting my breaths to ten, but it is something. There are no hard set rules of how long you should be on your mat or what you even need to be doing. That's the joy of making it your own. If you are a teacher, I encourage you to impress the importance of a yoga practice outside of a class. If you are a student, I challenge you to spend just five minutes every day this week on your mat, on your own.

Namaste. 

WANTS

I have started to slowly clean up this space and make some minor changes. I've added some new pictures and removed some broken links. Some stuff had just become outdated, like my Life List. I pulled that from the blog and stored the content someplace safe, but slightly forgotten. I haven't looked at that list in ages. The list still contains things I had planned to do with Chris and it makes me sad to read through it. I start seeing how we never made it to Paradise Falls in South America and wondering just how many helium balloons it would take to lift this house. Then I have to scroll through old pictures to remind myself of the things we did do together to get the bitter taste of loss out of mouth. I decided it was time to officially let the Life List go.

Way back when we all sat down to write our Life Lists, I had a hard time separating things I should do from things I wanted to do. I might as well have written "take out the garbage" as one of those items. I was really bad about coming up with things I wanted. I read other's life lists and would see things like "swim in bioluminescent pools" or "eat a 100 different kinds of cakes" and I would think "oooh....I want to do those things too!" Except I didn't. Not really. Sure I'd love to go swim in a bioluminescent pool of algae, but the whole science girl part of me says "gross." Also, I can't help but think that there's something harmful to the algae and ecosystem by us swimming around with them. Cake used to be one of my main food groups. Sometimes I would have cake for breakfast. If I went to a buffet, I'd get a small plate of salad and two large plates of every single dessert, mostly cake. I cannot tell you the last time I had a piece of cake. Things changed. I changed. 

I have changed.

I have learned that a lot of the things I should do are the things I want to do. I want to take out the garbage and I want to declutter. Cleaning is an enjoyable past time for me. The things that ended up getting crossed off my list were things I really wanted to do. Some of those things that got crossed off are things that I want to do again. Like the water balloon fight. That should be an annual event. But I noticed as I was taking the list down, that there are things on the list that I do not want to do any more. I don't care to know how to make tofu or learn acupuncture. My yoga practice is so rounded and balanced now. I don't want to learn ashtanga because I already know the basics of that practice. But that's the thing about the list. It is meant to change with you. I did not go in an edit that list according to my life changes. Instead it became a time capsule of a different life. 

If making the Life List has taught me anything, it has taught me to recognize and own the things that I want in this life. I want to learn how to make macarons. I want to eat so many different and exotic cheeses that I don't poop for a week. I want to spend more time in a hammock and less time thinking about my fat belly. I want to go dancing, like club dancing where I end up with glitter on my face. I want to go roller skating and I want to go jump around on trampolines. I want to collect more National Park stamps. I want to take the risks that come available to me at unexpected times. This might mean saying "yes" even if I am not sure I should be saying "yes". I want to say "no" to the things I do not want to do and not feel the need to apologize for it or feel guilty for it. 

And I no longer need a list to keep track of the things I want. 

 

AMELIA

When Michael booked us into the Lewis and Clarke State Park, I never really looked at a map. He said "It's about fifteen minutes north of Weston." and I just shrugged and said okay. Weston Missouri is this little town north of Kansas City where everyone goes on weekends for wine and distillery tours and antiquing. Fall is crazy pants there. One year we took the Cabbage to a pumpkin patch and orchard near Weston. We thought we'd have lunch in town, but when we drove into the town, Michael just continued on driving through because there was no place to park. Anywhere. Weston Bend State Park was number two on the list of best state parks in Missouri last year. It is nearly impossible to book a campsite in this park. So, Lewis and Clarke seemed like our best option. 

We arrived Friday afternoon and set up the camper and Michael ran water through the lines to clear out the antifreeze. Things went surprisingly well with our first setup of the year. I noticed that we were missing some food items, so Michael suggested we find a nearby grocery store. He looked up grocery stores and found that we were ten minutes from a Walmart. He entered everything into his navigation system, who we call Hazel and then proceeded to follow Hazel's instructions. Along the way, we passed a billboard for Atchison Kansas and the birthplace of Amelia Earhart. I said to something to Michael about it and he said "That's weird because, we are no where close to Kansas." Which I should have known better, because Michael is the type of person who, when facing north, will say he's facing any other direction than north. So, yeah, that Walmart we were headed to was the Atchison Kansas Walmart. What this really meant was that we were ten minutes from the birthplace of Amelia Earhart. 

This completely changed our itinerary for Saturday. 

Saturday morning, we found ourselves back in Atchison and wandering around Amelia Earhart's old stomping ground. We did not go inside her house. It is now a museum and was not open at the time of our visit, but we peeked in the windows and walked all around the outside. The brick path around the house is dotted with memorial bricks where loved ones and friends have donated money to the museum to get a brick in memory of someone. So many of the bricks are memorials for women pilots and members of The 99s and so many of those bricks shared words of gratitude for Amelia Earhart. My eyesight blurred as I became overwhelmed with tears. Amelia Earhart broke the rules that conventional society had established for women during a time in history when it was so much more difficult to break those rules. She did not just inspire women to be pilots. She inspired us to defy convention, to be true to ourselves no matter what, to take risks and seek out adventures. When I wasn't playing Little House on the Prairie, I was sitting in my tree flying an airplane and being stranded on a deserted island. I was Amelia Earhart. She was one of the first to teach me that women can do anything, be anything. We make our own rules. 

Michael and I eventually made it to Weston and out to a creamery where we ate so much cheese, but Amelia Earhart took over this trip. Later on, when we were reminiscing about our day as we sat around our campfire, Michael said "My partner is basically Amelia Earhart reincarnate. How could we not visit Atchison." Atchison had not been part of our plans, but it turned out to be the best part of the adventure.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

I don't know why January first is the day we all resolve to do something. I am hardly ever ready to make my resolutions at that time, let alone get started on them. I always end up coming up with a list of the usual suspect resolutions: lose weight, get in shape, eat better, meditate, get organized. Except all of those things are my forever resolutions. Year in and year out, I am always resolving to be skinnier and fitter. I am always resolving to declutter and get organized. It is not like I don't ever work towards those resolutions. I do. I work hard. So I don't know why I continue to put them down as resolutions other than I have nothing better to write down. I think this is because January is just the wrong time of the year to feel motivated to create change.

Inspiration for change always comes to me in the Spring. It starts as a bubble that sits in my chest like indigestion. This is probably why I get so cranky towards the end of winter, when it should already be Spring, but for some stupid weather reason, it is still snowing. My inspiration comes with the budding of new growth. Almost a month ago, Facebook asked me if I wanted to repost a picture I had taken from that time a year ago. The image was of all the redbuds blooming with light purple and white blooms. Those trees just now look like that today. They are a month behind from when they bloomed last year. Up until very recently, they have sat with the tinniest hints of buds waiting for more warmth and more sun. That bubble of inspired indigestion has been sitting in wait, right along with them. 

I don't know. Maybe it has been the scooter rides this week or a good session with Dr. Mary. Maybe it has something to do with all those little walk breaks outside. Maybe all I needed to cure the indigestion was a little vitamin D, but I finally feel like I can make a New Year's Resolution that is not as open ended as those I have made before. That resolution has to do with this blog. I've already written out an outline of changes that I want to make to this space. I'd like to add a shop where I sell prints and maybe yoga classes. I've taken some pictures recently that made me finally believe that I could possibly sell something or I have produced something worthy enough to put a price tag on them. There are changes coming to Flickr that might make it easier for me to do this. I would also like to find a way to film myself teaching some yoga classes, like a yoga for beginners series, and post them for a downloadable price. Besides the addition of the shop, I would like to have some consistent postings other than a Thankful Friday post. I'd like to post some creative writing, maybe putting the Fortune Cookie diaries here and I'd like to add some writing on yoga. Mostly I just wanted to make some changes here.

This week I am thankful for New Year's resolutions that come in the spring. I am thankful for the inspiration to make some changes. Obviously, I am also thankful that Albus is home and not out there somewhere 'sleeping' in a brown paper bag. I am thankful for scooter days and warm weather. We impulsively booked a campsite for this weekend in hopes of de-winterizing the camper and it looks like the weather is going to be perfect. So, that's something to easily be grateful for.

And as usual, but particularly this week, I am thankful for you. 

P.S. You can still report Scott Pruitt for environmental violations. Just go to https://www.epa.gov/home/forms/contact-epa and click on the button that says 'report a violation'. Type in Scott Pruitt for the violator and enter the address for the EPA. That address is 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20460.

THE CAT'S A DUMB DUMB

The cat is home and safe, very dirty, but uninjured. Last night, as I was feeding the chickens, I heard a faint 'meow'. I told Michael this and how I thought that maybe the new family in the house behind us to the east might have decided to keep the cat. I could see it. There's two little girls playing in the backyard. They see this cat and coax him inside, not realizing he's an outside cat who likes to come and go as he pleases. Later, we are sitting on the couch watching TV when I say "What if he's trapped inside that garage behind our house and no one knows he's in there?" Michael hopped up off the couch and said "Let's go find our cat!" And we did. He was trapped in the attic space of the detached garage of the house directly behind us. 

I climbed through dirt, junk and insulation to fish Albus out of the corner, while Michael opened a can of sardines. Once I got Albus out of the corner, Michael coaxed him towards the ladder so he could scoop Albus up and carry him down. Then we all cheered and went home to take showers. I can still feel bits of fiberglass from the insulation poking my forearms. Albus is still filthy. He looks like he's been in a fire, but he's been very loving to all of us since his return. It's ridiculous how relieved Michael and I both are about finding Albus. Michael said yesterday that he almost started crying over the cat while he was in class. He said he was surprised he had become so attached to Albus. 

In other news, which also totally fits with the title of this post, Scott Pruitt (Head of the Environmental Protection Agency) is proposing to exclude certain scientific reports from regulatory decisions. He is wanting to only allow the use of scientific reports that make ALL data available to the public. Here's the problem with that. Scientific studies involving impact on human health includes data from real live people like you and me. When you sign on for such a study, you sign a confidentiality agreement stating that the scientists will not reveal your personal information. Personal information like your vital health statistics and your death certificate if you die during the study. Scott Pruitt wants the scientific report to give open access to all of this information or not be used in consideration for policies to protect not just the environment, but your health as well. 

So I am starting a campaign. It's very easy. We are all going to report Scott Pruitt to the EPA for environmental violations. Just go to https://www.epa.gov/home/forms/contact-epa and click on the button that says 'report a violation'. Type in Scott Pruitt for the violator and enter the address for the EPA. That address is 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20460. In 'Violation Description", I wrote something like "Fact-based scientific reports are fundamental to the development of policies that protect not just our environment, but people. Scott Pruitt is directly violating the environment by excluding fact-based research." You are welcome to copy and paste that directly or come up with your own. I want to flood the EPA with violation reports against Scott Pruitt. Please help me do that. 

MISSING

I haven't seen the cat since Saturday. His food bowl is half full, the level it was on Saturday. No one is eating his food, so it's not like he's sneaking in at night to eat. Michael and I take turns despondently looking from Albus's food bowl to the backyard. Josephine has searched the house every morning for him. Michael has posted on Nextdoor and Facebook about him, but so far we've heard nothing. I checked the animal control website today and found out that they do not pick up stray cats. He's either found a new family or something bad has happened to him. I'm really hoping it's the first thing. 

When I was a kid, we had a gray tabby named Tuffy. He was hilarious and the whole family loved him. He would lay at the top of the stairs and slide down them just like we used to do in sleeping bags. He liked to walk on the edge of the tub while you were taking a bath. Sometimes he would freak out and climb to the top of the floor to ceiling baluster of the staircase. Tuffy was one funny little cat. We had him fixed and declawed so he'd stop ruining Mom's furniture and permanently made him an indoor cat. One day, I was walking back from playing at one of our neighbors houses and I stepped up the steps to the back door. As I pulled the screen door open, something caught the corner of my eye at the edge of the steps. I looked over and there was Tuffy, sleeping in a brown paper bag. I started to say "Hey! What are you doing out here sleeping in that bag, you silly cat?" but then it dawned on me that he was not sleeping. Tuffy had gotten out of the house when no one was looking and was attacked by a stray dog. You know? I can still see every detail of how Tuffy looked 'sleeping' in that bag. 

Tuffy was the last cat I cared for. After that I was officially a dog person and only tolerated cats. I never begged Chris for a kitten. It was always "can we get a dog? can we get a dog? can we get a dog?" until he finally gave in. Then, when Michael fed a can of sardines to tiny white kitten, I shrugged my shoulders with indifference. I told Michael Albus was his cat even though I ended up feeding him and it was my lap he usually plopped down in. I have cursed that cat for all of the dead bunnies, squirrels, rats, and birds we have had to dispose of. I have snarled at all of the cat hair that I sweep up from our floors. I have done my best to remain indifferent to the cat. Michael said once that we should be prepared for the day Albus didn't come home. We know he leads an adventurous life of a wild animal and it is a dangerous world out there. He never really belonged to us as much as we have belonged to him. 

That doesn't mean I am not sad about the idea of him never coming home. I'm pretty sad about it. All three of us are. 

 

SLEUTHING

That Son of a Bitch knew. This is what I am thinking as I gaze out the kitchen window while washing the skillet I'd used to make scrambled eggs. It hits me so sudden and so out of no where, but the thought is insistent and consuming. He knew he was sick before we moved. Oh, I know I've had this thought before and I've listened to each and every one of you tell me "oh no, Cindy he would never keep something like that from you." I heard you and I let it console me, but come on. Did anyone see him in Twilight of the Golds? He was good. Like real good. That man could act and the more I think about it the more I am convinced of this. And I. AM. FURIOUS. He found out he was sick right around the time I got the job offer that would have us moving to Missouri. This, of course is speculation, but just hear me out. 

Think about what things were like for us back then. Both of us were in jobs that we didn't really love. We lived with his mom. Sometimes we had to go get a hotel room just so we could have uninterrupted time for each other. We squeezed out joy from whatever source we could and put on a brave face because we were together, but we both wanted something more. Then suddenly we had an opportunity for something more. Except right at the same time, Chris finds out he has incurable cancer. But. BUT! Chris decides to keep it a secret. He has this plan. Get me to KCMO. Get me settled into a new city and a new job. Spend as much time as possible enjoying all the newness of this place, driving all over the city and exploring. Get me settled into a house. Get all of those things taken care of until he can no longer hide the increasing symptoms and pain associated with his cancer. Then he feigns shock and surprise at the knowledge of a giant tumor on his liver. 

See?!?!? It's so fucking plausible, that now you even believe it.

He duped us.

I know on some plane of reality that this is not true because Chris and I were always perfectly and very frankly honest with each other, but all that honesty aside, I cannot be certain. I have even skimmed over his blog archives looking for hints or evidence of something suspicious. I know you're shaking your head and thinking "Not possible. Let it go." You are probably also thinking how is it possible that I am still bringing this up after six years. All I can tell you is: I DON'T FUCKING KNOW! Just like I don't know why whenever Chris shows up in one of my dreams he's usually a total jerk. It's almost like he's doing it on purpose. It's his way of saying "forget all of the good things about me and our times together and only remember the times we were cruel to each other." Which is dumb because I can count on one hand the number of times we really argued. 

Any way. The whole did he or didn't he is my obsession of the moment. It is a scab on my brain and because I can't leave shit well enough alone, I have picked enough at it that it is open, raw and sore. Maybe even slightly infected. When do the statue of limitations run out on this particular question for the dead? I'm thinking never. 

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

It's Thursday and I'm sitting here racking my brain for some poetic and thoughtful phrasing on gratitude. This is how it is for most Thankful Friday posts. I get to the end of the week and I can't think of anything more than the possibility of taking a nap sometime over the weekend or going to bed at 8:30 PM on a Friday night. I also can't help thinking about all of the things that I need to accomplish before Sunday afternoon and how that's going to interfere with nap times. Ridiculous problems. Of course, there's always found gratitude and by the time Friday morning rolls around, I have most of my entry written. 

Today I am distracted by images my friends have posted of the Murrah Federal Building. Twenty three years ago, I was sitting on a couch in the lobby of my college dorm along with half of the other girls. We were all glued to the TV as we watched the news reporting on the bombing of the federal building. My roommate spent hours on the phone trying to get through to her dad. He was supposed to be at the federal building that day for a meeting or something, but he'd either been late or it got canceled. The how and why didn't matter as much as just knowing that he was safe. I remember how we all looked shell shocked and how the air crackled with uncertainty and confusion. Bombing? Oklahoma? Terrorists? What? This was an event that any person ever raised in the state of Oklahoma could never have fathomed as possible. Our disasters are nature born. We lose houses to tornadoes. Power goes out because of ice storms. Acres and acres are scorched from wild fires. We do not lose people and buildings to moving trucks filled with explosives. Yet, there we were, watching the whole horrific event unfold, watching as rescuers pulled people from the rubble. By the time it was all said and done, six hundred and eighty people would be injured and one hundred and sixty eight people dead. Nineteen of the dead, were children. This was the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States until the attacks of 9/11. 

I know that this doesn't seem or feel like a topic for thankfulness and gratitude, but it is one of the reasons why I will always be an Oklahoman. No matter how many times I am frustrated and embarrassed by the politics of that state or have to roll my eyes at some of the ignorance that rolls out people's mouths, I will always be an Oklahoma girl. The red dirt of that land is caked into my skin. It was part of the clay that molded my first thirty five years of life. Even though, I claim a new state for a home, my first home and loyalty is with Oklahoma. I can't help it really. Thirty five years allows you to collect more than things and I have a collection of framily and family that keep me tied to the place, but I was also a witness to what happened in the days following that horrific bombing. I watched as Oklahomans came together, took care of each other and comforted each other with a resilience and determination not normally witnessed. We take care of each other even if we don't agree with each other. The Murrah bombing linked us all together in a way I fail to have words to explain.

So, today, I am thankful for life I had in Oklahoma. I am thankful for the family I have in Oklahoma. I am thankful for the framily I have in Oklahoma. I am thankful for you.

 

THE EYES DO NOT HAVE IT

I few months ago, I had to renew my driver's license and I did not take my glasses in with me when I did this. Then the lady told me to look in the box and read the last row of letters. I paused while internally saying "fuuuck". Somehow, I managed to blunder my way through, though she did ask me to read them a second time. Up until this point I had no idea how much I had been relying on my glasses for distance vision. Cut to a day or so ago when I had to go in for my annual eye exam. The technician had me leave my glasses on and then read the letters from a board first with my right eye and then with my left eye. I could not read ANY of the letters with my left eye and I almost started hyperventilating.

It was bad. Real bad. I got into the room with the eye doctor and she set the phoropter (that's what that thing with all the lenses is called) in front of my face. We went through the whole right left rigamarole again. When we got to my left side, I gasped and kind of yelled out "WHAT IS HAPPENING!?!?" I told the doctor that I couldn't make out any of those letters, hearing the high pitch panic in my own voice as I made this confession. I started to worry that something was really wrong with me. Like maybe I had a tumor sitting behind my left eye. Maybe I somehow burned a hole in my eye when taking pictures of the eclipse or working with the lasers on the microscopes. I have seriously effed up my left eye. In fact, it's probably going to fall right out of my head.

My doctor could sense my rising panic and assured me that I was okay. She said "we knew your left eye was the problem eye. It's just gotten a little worse." Then she showed me cool 3D images of my eyeballs. She pointed out certain structures and told me that they looked nice and healthy. She drew imaginary lines along all of the blood vessels and said that my blood vessels looked healthy. My reading vision is still 20/20. I nodded my head and allowed her to console me. Then I spent about $500 on new lenses for my sunglasses and regular glasses. Later, I was talking about all of this to a friend. She played down my blinding left eye by telling about the time she left her glasses off at a pool party. She said everyone was so blurry that she couldn't even tell if they were wearing swimsuits. Her story really put things into perspective. At least I can tell if people are naked or not. 

So...things I learned: My left eye is not going to fall out of my eye socket. I do not have a tumor. My vision has gotten worse, but not so bad that I couldn't see something like a bear running towards me. If I decide to change careers and become a pirate, I need to put my patch over my left eye. 

WRITING A MILLION WORDS

The other day, I started a word document on my computer for the sole intention of writing a specific story. All of my other bits of started stories are on the drive which means I have access to them whenever I am not near my personal computer. I kind of thought if I put it in a word document on my computer that I would specifically dedicate a certain amount of time every day to sit and write. That happened four days ago. I added two sentences to the two pages I'd copied and pasted over from a drive document. You know what I did Sunday after finishing laundry, making ghee, washing dishes (we use a lot of dishes on Sundays) and cleaning the bathroom? It sure wasn't writing. I organized my sock and underwear drawer. It's really nice. I should have taken a picture of it to show you. 

I also read. I've been reading Loving Day by Mat Johnson and I'm pretty much in love with this guy's writing style. There have been many times I've had to stop and read some things out loud because of how the words were strung together. I need to stop doing this because it's slowing me down. I pre-ordered Circe by Madeline Miller and it arrived days ago. I'm really excited about this book, but I've always been the kind of reader who finishes a book before starting another. Even though my fingers twitched to open up to the first page, I set it down and walked away. The idea of hearing Circe's side of the story, even if it's made up, is oh so appealing to me. I didn't really care for the Odyssey when I read it as a kid. Actually, all of those old Greek stories have been on my least favorite list mostly because women are either no where in the story, a beautiful damsel in distress or a witch. 

My insecurities were developed hundreds of thousands of years ago, just like all women. It has been passed down from ancient ancestors through art and storytelling. From the earliest literature, women have been depicted as meek and mild or hateful and villainous or a combination of all of those things. We are rarely depicted as warriors and depicted lovingly only when our bellies are are round with child, most specifically a boy child. We are never smart or if found to be cleaver we must be doing the Devil's work. Women are deceitful. I can't even bare to pick up classic literature anymore without cringing. It reminds me how long and slow our struggle for this current level of equality has been. It's been over three hundred years since the last witch trial. It's been about a hundred years since a woman was arrested for protesting for her right to a vote. It's been fifty five years since Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, though we still see discrepancies in equal pay.

All of this has nothing to do with my inability to discipline myself into writing every day. It does have everything to do with how I want to twine words together. I once heard someone say that to be a better writer, you should read from different writers. So that's what I'm doing. I'm reading so that I can eventually write a million words. 

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

I noticed a white powder drifting down to my yoga mat as I moved through my sun salutations. My skin was so dry that it was flaking off of my body with each movement. I was disgusting. The next day, I took a long steamy shower and scrubbed my body with oily bath salts and then coated myself in lotion. This is something I have to do every day or I am just a walking flake. This is called self maintenance. This is something I have gotten better at over the years. I schedule regular doctor visits for all of the doctors. I take time to visit my favorite massage therapist every so often. I keep my toenails trimmed so I can't use my toes as weapons. These teeth get flossed every day. Look at me, being a grown up and self maintaining. 

Once week, I sit in my therapist's office talking about my week which inevitably circles around to how I am not enough. I could write you the longest list of ways that I am not enough. I am not fill-in-the-blank enough. The biggest not enough of them all is the hardest one for me to say out loud, but sometimes I do so I can hear just how ridiculous it sounds. Because I know that biggest one is ridiculous, but still...that's the one that sits with me day in and day out. Dr. Mary doesn't really ever say much when I talk about not being enough. Whatever she says it tends to prompt me into talking about the things I do that are enough. I talk about the money I can spare every month for charity and how teaching yoga at the Y is giving back to my community. This is self care. This is something that I have not gotten better at over the years. 

Whenever the weather is remotely nice outside, all the people in Kansas City get outside. This means that the Y is practically empty. Wednesday night, I set up to teach my yoga class and then ended up sitting around for about half an hour. I was just about to pack it in and call it a night when a woman stumbled into the class. She looked around, slightly confused and then said "Am I the only one? I thought I was only just late." Then we had a short discussion about whether or not to have class at all. I told her that I didn't mind teaching a short thirty minute class with her, so she grabbed a mat and a block and I taught class. And it was a good class. It was the kind of class where I could see the student making those mental connections to the cues I was giving her and see the lightbulb of understanding light up above her head. It was the kind of class that could make me believe that I was making a difference and doing something good

This is self care. 

This week, I am thankful for that one student. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my practice and knowledge. I am thankful for that moment where I was enough. I am thankful for self care. 

I am thankful for you.

 

THE FARM LIFE

Michael's been reading a book about food and how he should eat this instead of that. A lot of the information he's getting is about the dangers of processed foods and industry farming. He tells me things and I just kind of nod my head. He's learning about all the things Chris and I learned about food years ago when we watched all of the documentaries and read all of the books. We fell down a rabbit hole of organic, responsibly sustainable food and how to get them on our tight, almost nothing food budget. Those were the days when Saturdays were devoted to grocery shopping and it took us all day to do it because we had to travel to at least three, sometimes four, different places spread out across the OKC metro to get all of our groceries for the week. The breaking point came when Chris and I went on a road trip and stopped at a convenient store for a snack. I walked out in tears because I couldn't find anything to eat. That's when Chris realized I might have gotten a little out of control and that we needed to find a better balance. 

And we did. I did. 

So, I'm listening to Michael tell me why we should only eat grass fed beef and how sugar is the enemy as if it's all new information and I am clueless about all of it because we all need to discover things on our time, in our own way. I know the rabbit hole he's about to fall down. I told him about how I'd been using "Do what you can with what you have, where you are." as a meditation mantra and how it is not a bad mantra to apply towards food. He agreed. We still ended up visiting a farm Saturday morning to look into buying some pork chops. Bonnie View Farm is seriously eight miles from our house, which sounds surprising because we are in such an urban city area. Just a few minutes south and suddenly you're in rolling hills and pasture. Bonnie View looks like any other midwest farm house, painted a buttercream yellow with a wrap around porch. The farm itself is tucked down the hill behind the house. You wouldn't even suspect that there was a working farm there if they didn't have a sign posted out front. 

We got out of the car and stepped into the cold, just as Justine, one of the owners, stepped out of the small barn that acts as their store and houses their giant freezer. She greeted us warmly and beckoned us all to come inside where it was a little bit warmer. Two of her older children where in the process of moving chickens from the coops to the pasture. She said that the chicks should have been moved out there weeks ago, but with weather being so cold they had had to leave them in the coops to keep them warm. Then she got down to business and talked pork and bacon with Michael. She said that she does have some greens that she grows in her hoop house and she'd have them on her list whenever they are available. We talked about vegetable gardens. She agreed with me about the work. Her two oldest daughters where the gardeners of the family and when they got married and moved out, Justine let the garden go. We chatted about seeds and piglets and then I asked if I could take pictures. Justine said "let me go get one of the girls to take you down to the barn." Her daughter Emma came out and took us down to the barn to see the baby goats and a calf.

They were all so nice. 

And relaxed. 

Even when we noticed that one of the chickens had escaped. Justine and Emma slowely circled around the chicken, which led to a chase into some fencing before Justine calmly scooped up the bird. They all shrugged their shoulders as if to say "this is life on a farm." For just a tiny half minute, I thought I could get used to life on a farm. Then it snowed on Sunday and I started looking at retirement villages in Mexico. The thought quickly shifted to 'I could get used to visiting this farm'. Hopefully, the next time we do visit, we will be able to go on our scooters.