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I woke up this morning “full of awesome” with my new tiara!

“If you can’t find the sunshine be the sunshine,” the optimists say. I’m here to tell you, being the sunshine is a lot of work…and considerably messier than one might think, actually. The present state of at least three rooms in my house could best be described as, “there was an explosion at the rhinestone factory.” The shimmering mess of it all extends beyond my home even; yesterday, as I was going about my mundane rounds someone plucked a errant sequin off me. That reminds me of this time I went to the doctor because I was positive I would soon die from the reaction I was having to poison ivy and the physician squinted at me and said, “I think you have glitter in your hair,” before stammering, “Oh, no…I’m sorry… I see now that’s intentional.” (It was gold hair tinsel. I was feeling festive). I responded that it was totally ok and that I actually get that squinty look a lot. I went on to explain that I work with children and I just have live with the possibility that I could be covered in unintentional glitter at any point in a given day, so I just chose to embrace the sparkle. My filter kicked in before I got to the part about belly dancing, so the rest of the transaction unfolded according to the normal rules of social conduct.

But let’s get back to my tiara. I made it for under $6 from an ugly headband, plastic zip ties, fabric glue, and rhinestone adhesive sticker sheets…and maybe like three prayers and possibly a curse or at least a cuss word. Ok, maybe two.

Here’s its “before” picture:

I may add something else to it to give it a little more pizzazz before it makes its big film debut tomorrow. We’ll see.

Out of nowhere El-D announced today that he is done being El-D. This is perfectly fine by me. Henceforth he will be called BeauJeau. Just thought you should know why there’s a new man in my life.

So anyway,  I somehow convinced BeauJeau to do an acroyoga class with me last night. Full disclosure: beer and wine were involved before hand – not a lot, but some, which probably had something to do his agreeability.

As a yoga teacher I feel it’s my duty to advise against drinking alcohol before practice. In other words, don’t try this at home kiddies!

Before we started with the acrobatics, we did passive partner work on the illiotibial band, which was quite enjoyable.  Relaxing on the mat and having my IT bands fondled was the best part of the class as far as I’m concerned.  Alas, the aggressively cheerful and energetic couple leading the class insisted we get off the mat and get to doing some balance work.

BeauJeau was the base, I was the flyer. I tried being his base at one point, but that didn’t work at all. I’m too little and he’s too big. He made a good foundation though.  At one point he lifted me up with his feet while I struck a flying superman pose. Then I did the same pose balanced in his hands. I was Jennifer Grey to his Patrick Swayze…

We saw the writing on the wall
And we felt this magical fantasy
Now with passion in our eyes
There’s no way we could disguise it secretly
So we take each others hand
‘Cause we seem to understand the urgency…

Yes I swear it’s the truth.

 


…or that could just be the alcohol talking.

At one point in class I partnered with the instructor who somehow sent me doing somersaults in the air before I fully understood what was happening.

In BeauJeau’s words, the experience was summed up as “learning to do cirque du soleil.”

In my words, “I think I may be too old for this.”

In the final analysis, it was ridiculous and fun and nobody got hurt…unless you count the aftermath of today’s sore muscles – his abs, my biceps. Overall, it was a physical study in body mechanics, and in power/surrender, cooperation, trust, balance, and boundaries.

Yoga is yummy in so many different ways.

*Yogi Goaty Goodness*

I’m not making this  up.

It’s something that exists in the world now.

Just….LOOK!!

yoga goatsNosowitz, D. (August 29, 2016). Goat Yoga: It’s Yoga with Goats. Modern Farmer. Online

 

T

 

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

A young friend recently introduced me to this book, which is required reading in a local high school curriculum.  I was really not in the mood to read this sort of thing at the time, but once I started it, I was hooked. Drawing from sources in neuroscience, philosophy, history, and literature, Carr proposes that technology steadily alters our patterns of thinking. Our use of the Internet in particular is rewiring our brains in the areas of working memory, long-term memory, attention, and comprehension.  In a nutshell, the process goes something like this: with the abundance of information in hypertext links, posts, updates, emails, ads, crawls, and flippers, and various other pings, and dings that we’re multitasking,  our  concentration becomes fragmented, which overloads working memory, which causes information to not be processed deeply enough to find its way into long-term memory, which interferes with comprehension. So our brains get really busy and excited when immersed in electronic media, but not  in a way that promotes contemplation and comprehension.  Sustained attention is necessary to forge those deeper links.

The chapter on memory was my favorite — well-researched and simply explained.  The ideas raise all sorts of interesting questions.  What are the long-term consequences of outsourcing our cognition to machines – on an individual and societal level?

Will habitual use of electronic media, particularly among children, erode the desire, or even the ability, to develop sustained attention? Being in schools and classrooms across districts everyday of the week I see more and more “smart” technology being implemented in classrooms at earlier and earlier ages.  Given the hand-brain-cognition connection (see Levin’s book The Hand for a comprehensive review of that topic) do preschoolers really need to have more iPads instead of 3-dimensional toys to manipulate with their hands? What are the gains and are they worth the cost?

Grace Flow Yoga

If you’ve ever experienced the “tumbling piles of fear” that can come with living a creative, authentic life, the video below is for you.  Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat. Pray. Love., Committed, and Big Magic, shares how she handles fear.  I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did!

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My village people can’t take it anymore.  They have set fire to the village in protest. Six months without resolutions is too many.  Abort Mission!  My village people are not ready for the laissez-faire approach to life. (Click HERE for more village people context if you missed the first post).

There is a time and a place for surrendering to what is and for accepting life as it comes.  And then there are the rest of the times and places, during which I need exorbitant details to obsessively micromanage in order to keep myself occupied and entertained.  I need goals and measurement and progress – or at least the illusion thereof.

These realizations hit me last week as I was reading Gretchen Rubin’s
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.   This book was an emergency, impulse vacation purchase.  Having abandoned every book I had packed, I had to have something to read to tide me over until I could get home. Rubin’s memoir is peppered with tidbits on the art and science of happiness, combined with her meticulous list of a year’s worth of resolutions to guide her in the practice of achieving joy.  Her resolutions are organized by month, category, and sub-category, all of which are rigorously tracked.  The book annoyed me to no end!  It’s no fault of the author.  I claim full responsibility for the baggage I took with me inside the cover.  I saw my own annoying OCD resolution-tracking self on every page and it made me itchy and irritated with the fact I didn’t have a single resolution to track this year.

So here I am in July making my New Years Resolutions. My first resolution for 2015 is:

1. Cook something fabulous and complicated every other week.

I don’t cook.  I am plagued by mageirocophobia, or the fear of cooking. You see, I have this history of setting devastating kitchen fires. Yes, that’s plural, as in fires$$ of the devastating-call-the-fire-department-and-the-contractor-and-the-insurance-company sort. A certain member of the family gave me the nickname “Housefries” once he started talking to me again, which was weeks after I burned down his kitchen and half the family’s wardrobe. The wardrobe aspect of this story needs explaining. What happened is, in the heat of the moment (literally) I tried putting out the kitchen blaze by smothering it with the contents of a nearby laundry basket full of clothes. As you might imagine, this only succeeded in making it all much, much worse. Go figure.  On the flip side, meatloaf flambe with a side of smoked socks should get some points for creative culinary pairings.  I wish that had been an isolated incident. My father may still bear the scars from another of my kitchen fires.  And then there was that unfortunate Christmas morning we were forced to use a fire extinguisher we had JUST received as a gift.  Even the fact that people give me fire extinguishers as a non-ironic Christmas gift should tell you something about the magnitude of the problem.

Despite my checkered and charred past, I am increasingly drawn to the kitchen and the alchemy of cooking. I am inspired partly by the thriving herb and berry garden I’ve planted that needs something to do besides look pretty. Plus there are all these fabulous cooking blogs I read and drool over, like Peri’s Spice Ladle  and Once Upon a Chef.

Yesterday I kicked off my resolutions by making vegetarian lasagna with fresh basil from the garden.  I picked mint to make Strawberry and Orange Salad with Citrus Syrup and Fresh Mint, which I polished off this morning for breakfast.  There was a lot of strawberry and orange juice leftover so I poured it in a popsicle mold for later. Knowing this popsicle awaits in the freezer has made me happy all day.  It’s the little things.

One of my subgoals is to finally do something with the crabapples.  We have an abundance of crabapple trees and each year I think something should be done with them, but I never manage to figure out what.  A friend popped over last week randomly and told me about her grandmother’s recipe for candied crab apples. This year it’s on! I have my recipe picked out for Spiced Crab Apples based on her gram’s recipe.

Another sub-goal related to food is to stop eating after 7:30 p.m. We’ve gotten into the habit of eating dinner between 8:00-10:00 p.m., which is ridiculous and unhealthy.  Part of the problem is I teach yoga classes two evenings a week, and I don’t want to eat right before them and I’ve been too busy to catch a decent lunch, so by the time I’m done with class it’s late and I’m famished, so I eat like a Viking (well, a vegetarian Viking) then I crash. This must change.  I need to make time to  eat a big late lunch and then be done with it.

In conjunction with the cooking thing, I also want to have people over more for dinner.  I’m intrigued by the idea of having a dinner party with mixed and matched guests. Just the thought scares me.  I have no idea how to do this sort of thing. People of the Web: who out there has experience with dinner parties? Can you give suggestions? Themes? Ideas? Testimonials?

El-D took me out on a date last night. I got all decked out and then asked him who he thought I was going as.  He dubbed my look Spunky Spice; I dubbed his Incognito. 

Pockets of free time are bursting open in my world – time for dates and other joys – a welcomed gift following a frenzied semester that is nearly over.

Here’s what I love most about December: all the busy-busy of autumn finally finds its way back to stillness. It’s Nature’s time for sleep and dreams.

Only four days in to December, but sleep and dream, I have.  Strange dreams go on and on across years of life, a parallel universe transversed in a single night.

December means time to catch up with old friends, which brings to me to the story of beauty secrets that inspires this post.  The other day I saw a friend I’ve known for many years.  About six months have passed since our last visit. On this occasion she surprised and delighted me by speaking the words every woman wants to hear.  She said,

“Everytime I see you, you look younger and more beautiful! What is your secret?”

Never being one to accept compliments gracefully, I laughed in her face at the absurdity of the remark.

Afterall, I do keep mirrors around the house and I can see Time’s lines etching across my face.  And let me assure you, I know the number of wayward silver hairs wildly weaving through my tresses: sixteen.

Having more social grace than I, she persisted, “No, seriously, what’s your secret? Do you use Oil of O’lay or what?”

I should also explain that my friend and I were in a pretty dark room, so her projection of beauty was  clearly being cast by her own inner light.

Her sweet words got me thinking about the many magazine and internet pages we have devoted to sharing beauty secrets.  So much “beauty” is out there being sold and prescribed: pills, products, lotions, serums, and surgeries. Take your pick.  From eyelashes to fingernails — you can find your beauty fix.  Adornment at these fringes, is that beauty?

Perhaps beauty isn’t in the products we add, but in what we take away or avoid.

Let me tell you another little story.  Around age 8 I began painting my nails – fingers and toes. I collected a rainbow of colors and at least an hour each week was devoted to removing polish, filing, and repainting. This strange obsession of mine went on for a quarter of a century! It wasn’t until my 30s when my nails beneath the paint had turned brittle and yellow that it finally occurred to me I was putting toxic chemicals on my body – and wasting  a lot of time and money in the process. In the elegant words of Sweet Brown,

“Ain’t nobody got time for dat!”

So I stopped.  Without the distraction of the poisoning Mint Candy Apple polish at my fingertips,  I had more time to think about and do other things. Time has to be filled somehow. Shortly thereafter, I also quit eating meat. My conscience could no longer abide the behavior. I’ve never made the connection between these two decisions before now, but I was doing a bit of thinking at that time about the environment and consumption and how I wanted my existence to contribute to the world.  Life went on. My nails grew back healthy and natural. It took awhile to get used to seeing them all naked and unpainted, but eventually I came to realize naked is pretty sexy.

As I write this, I realize how often beautiful and famous celebrities choke the airwaves with their beauty secrets. Why should they get all the attention? We ALL have beauty.  And sometimes our best kept beauty secrets are hidden even from ourselves.  Let’s own up to it.

So what’s my beauty secret?

Beauty comes from prioritizing radiant health and a clear conscience.

What are your beauty secrets?  Please share them.

December is half over and I have had too little farmy fun to show for it.

My work life this semester was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  For starters there were over 800 preschoolers involved.  I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not. I stopped counting at the beginning of November when we were at 786. Add to that my little afternoon friends who I visit, the usual weekly yoga classes, and a new teaching gig: a university course called “Piyo.” When I was asked to apply for the job I had no idea what “Piyo” was or how univeristy physical education courses worked as I had never taken any as a student. Piyo turned out to be a blend of Pilates and yoga, and I invented the curriculum as I went. After chaotic mornings with preschoolers, Piyo was my saving grace. The course turned out to be the most fun and authentic teaching experience I’ve ever had.  I got to completely nerd-out on anatomy and delve deeply into somatic learning. And while I have taught several college courses, I have never before taught one barefoot.  After teaching the course barefoot all semester, I’ve come to the conclusion that shoes change everything about the teaching experience.  Shoes make your feet all claustrophobic and rob you of sensation and connection to the environment. They make you teach like “I’m somebody wearing shoes”…which is to say all formal and like you have somewhere else to go or like you’re going to step on something disgusting or dangerous.  Who knew?  Anyway, it was just awesome to not have desks, to kick off shoes, to cut the lights and learn cool stuff. The students, freshmen and juniors, were the youngest college students I’ve ever taught and they were unexpectedly fabulous.  They were an interesting, smart, fun, diverse, and engaged group that gave me much hope for the future.  It was such great experience.

Today I finished grading, posted grades, and completed an article review. Tomorrow I meet the last of the preschoolers for 2013, write recommendation letters, and then I’m free from university obligations for this year and I intend to get back to farmy fun and hopefully experience some goaty goodness.

Today my bruise is a purple nebula with a black halo. Like a shifting tattoo, its pointillism has revealed images of a horned goat’s head, a sheep, and The Great Gonzo. This alone is well worth the price of admission. Add to that the shock value: I derive a perverse thrill from flashing it at unsuspecting victims to see their expressions of horror. I will miss it when it’s gone.

Life has only gotten stranger since I fell into the bucket. We have suffered a series of unfortunate duck mishaps in the last few days– some too tragic to detail here. In a nutshell, I’ve lost three ducks this week — all members of Generation Z. We almost lost a fourth. Somehow this duckling, who is at that awkward, in-between stage of ducky adolescence, managed to get his silly duck head wedged in between two loose boards in the barn. He must have been stuck there for awhile because he had worn some of his neck feathers away trying to free himself from the gap. After I gently helped him get loose, he stumbled drunkenly around the pen, unable walk straight or keep his head up. So I scooped him up and carried him into the house for rehab. He’s been living in my bathtub getting physical therapy for the last three days. Sadly, I’m not kidding. He was put on a regimen of neck stretching and strengthening exercises. Today he seemed much better, so I put him back out in the pen with the others. The reunion was incredibly strange to watch. His family gathered around in a crescent to inspect him. While he stood there quack-quack-quacking they listened. He quacked and quacked and quacked some more as if he was telling them all about his abduction by the crazy lady. Eventally they started quacking back, walking around him, checking him out, and kinda poking at him softly with their bills. I hope he lives. By the way, his name is Michael Jackson. I didn’t name him. I’ve been asking my little preschooler and kindergartener friends to name the ducks of Generation Z when they visit. The names they gave the remaining 6 are Lily, Muddy, Jelly, Sparkles, Willie Nelson, and Michael Jackson.

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