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Ready, Set, Live !

If there is one thing life has taught me in 54 years, it is to take your time when making important decisions.
It’s easy to get into relationships, but very hard to get out of them.
Easy to buy a house, but very hard to sell one.
Easy to start a business and sign a lease, but very hard to do what it takes to make a business work. 
Easy to spend money, but hard to earn it.
Easy to make plans and dream, but hard to follow through on all the inspirational talk.


For many years I lived with someone who was inclined to act impulsively. In some ways, riding the wave of his enthusiasm and embracing his romanticized vision of himself and life was fun. Life was this daring, wild rollercoaster that included abrupt changes of direction and leaps of faith. Occasionally, things worked out, and this reinforced our belief that the “Universe provides” or “Without great risk you will never get great rewards,”  but in retrospect, I think we occasionally got lucky, and that luck supported our foolish behavior rather that teaching us practical lessons. Eventually, we didn’t accurately see the truth of how and why things worked out for us, and we certainly didn’t embrace gratitude or appreciation for those that helped make our achievements possible.  We just chalked our successes up to our being talented artists or smart or special. But time and distance helps to see things clearly, and in retrospect, I see that most of our history is seeped in loss, heartache, and feelings of being trapped or not really having a choice due to cages of our own design. We lived in a constant state of chaos, worry, and stress – all a result of acting without careful thought or patience, shifting gears randomly, and not thoroughly exploring issues under the surface or waiting for the initial excitement to subside to gain honest perspective. Delusion and ego fueled our belief that we could defy practical odds and would end up OK. In the end, impulsive acts and random choices destroyed our lives, our family suffered financially, emotionally, and in every other way you could count. That is a sad story, and not something that needs revisiting, so suffice to say, like most people my age, life has taught me important lessons the hard way.


Once I was on my own, I couldn’t help but celebrate that I was finally free to follow my own instincts. I could forge a practical plan with good odds, play my own devil’s advocate and prepare for wrenches in the plan, then proceed with caution towards happiness. Best of all, I could do this without being accused of lacking faith or being a bubble buster. I was delighted to regain control of my life without guilt or worry that my practical nature was stifling someone else’s dreams. I felt empowered by the fact that whatever plans I made I could follow through to the end, as long as I had the fortitude and determination to do so. This doesn’t mean I stopped taking risks or leaps of faith, but being on my own allowed me the time and space to really explore what I wanted from life and redefine my own priorities. This should have been easy, but was in fact hard, because when you spend years and years making someone else’s dreams and happiness the top priority of your world, you become numb to your own needs.


I was an emotional mess for a long time, and I see that as a gift now, because it kept me from attaching to whoever came along.  Had I married the first person (or second or third) that I dated after becoming single in a quest to fast track my life to domestic bliss (which would have made things easier financially and emotionally so it was tempting, let me tell you) I would no doubt be stuck in an unhappy situation now, and perhaps even facing another divorce. I cared very much for each of the lovely men I dated, and yet, I knew I wasn’t ready to make a decision regarding love and commitment when I was still reeling from feelings of loss, resentment and sadness over my family’s demise.  Everyone seems like a great potential mate when they are putting on their “A game” but it takes time to really know someone, and see if they are all they first appear. So I curtailed every relationship as it started getting too meaty and continued to insist “I need space & time to heal.”  Let me point out that I didn’t WANT space, because I was lost, lonely, and feeling unloved, and the best cure for heartache is to hook up with someone who thinks you’re special. But still, I recognized my NEED for time to heal before making another man’s dreams and desires my life’s priority. 


When I met David, I instantly saw he had all the qualities I respected and most wanted in a mate. He was kind, socially & morally conscious, liberal, educated, creative, healthy, fit and sporty, sexual, open minded, immensely talented, sensitive, and as my mother says, “perfect for you because he is your  intellectual  equal.” (This always makes me laugh; because David is a genius and the most intellectual person I’ve ever met who doesn’t come across as pretentious or obnoxious.) I am deeply flattered by her comparison, but I don’t consider myself his intellectual equal. I do however, very much appreciate being with someone who has so much knowledge about the world, is quick to research new ideas, can creatively brainstorm like there is no tomorrow, and who listens to NPR as much as I do and likes to come home, pour us a glass of wine and start conversations with “I heard this great interview on NPR while driving home about (fill in the blank) and wondered what you would think about it.”  If a shared curiosity about the world, an inclination to read & research, and a mutual love of learning makes people good partners, then we are indeed well matched.


Nevertheless, as my relationship with David grew, I still kept him at arm’s length. He asked me to marry him and I accepted a ring as a sign of my long term good intention, but I really couldn’t imagine going through with an official ceremony. I didn’t want to be with anyone else but him, but still, I couldn’t imagine calling anyone other than Mark Hendry my HUSBAND. That title just seemed too poignant and intimate to pass on to someone other than the guy I had spent twenty years working beside, sleeping beside, making babies with, interacting with each other’s families, etc…  Even when Mark got married the very week of our divorce to the first and only other woman he has ever dated (I was his first and only girlfriend until then, unless you count a one night stand he had at the end of our marriage) I couldn’t get past the belief that marriage was sacred and a HUGE commitment that must only be offered to someone who you love so deeply and with such integrity that you absolutely believe no one else could ever earn the title. I was hurt that I was so easily and readily replaced by the very first gal that came along, because it made me feel my entire marriage was a farce, just a random act of convenience to a guy who didn’t set the bar all that high when it came to selecting a mate. But more than that, I was jealous because I wanted to move on emotionally as he so easily did, but I just couldn’t.  I just couldn’t imagine calling David or anyone else “husband” ever. Mark was my husband… a dirty-rotten-stinker-glad-to-be-out-of-my-life-because-he-caused-nothing but-grief-and-hardship husband, but my husband nevertheless. (I say that with a smile, for the record. I’m not seriously bashing my ex.)

Poor David. After over a year of dating, I agreed to move in with him, but even so, I only wanted to move into a house my family owned, one that I could afford alone if ever we split up. I just wouldn’t put myself in a situation where my life (and my daughter’s) would again be disrupted or I couldn’t afford to take action and kick the boyfriend to the curb if things didn’t work out. This semi-commitment had to be frustrating to David, but he is a wise and patient man and more than once he’s said, “I want you heart and soul, with no reservations or compromises involved. I will wait until you are ready.” Meanwhile it was hard on me, because I was killing myself to financially hold up my end of bills. I did not want to owe David anything or start depending on him.


For a year plus, David and I have lived together, exploring the ebb and flow of life as a couple. Watching him handle work, housework, my daughter, me and all my moods and idiosyncrasies, career challenges, the stress of my demanding business, and all the mundane details of life such as who takes out the trash, whether or not he snores, or how he responds to family holiday expectations, has assured me that all the surface stuff I loved about him in the beginning was not smoke and mirrors. He wasn’t on his “A game”. David only has an A game. I have now seen David sick, tired, in a good and a bad mood. I’ve witnessed his grace and patience when my daughter is difficult, watched him handle money responsibly and discovered that no matter how angry, hurt, or frustrated he might be, he never, ever will speak to me or treat me with anything less than respect and tenderness. Being treated with consideration in a relationship is HUGELY important to me at this stage in life.


Meanwhile, my business has been unfolding with similar tentative action & slow exploration. I have worked crazy hard to get a footing in an economy that is very challenging. I have not caved to frustration and nurtured opportunity while my business takes shape and finds a voice.  My school is not what I originally imagined it would be- and by that I do not mean better or worse.  Just different.  My constant evaluation of priorities and my commitment to “right livelihood” has resulted in a business that fills me with a sense of purpose.  The point is, after several years of being tentative about decisions while I heal my life, I have become very sure of what I want. And I have grown strong again.


This summer my three year business lease expires. So I have been thinking a great deal about how to get my life moving in positive, exciting directions. The thought of signing another expensive lease that forces me to work this hard for another three years just to help my landlord make money while I struggle is killing me. I know that I should do all I can to purchase a commercial building so my hard work has an eventual return, but I am not financially capable of that step just yet, since they want 20% down and every building that would suit my business costs a million dollars or more. (Lord knows, I’ve met with bankers, realtors and others to seek out my options.)  I also have been thinking about what I want in my relationship, because my choices in regard to work will influence my love life too. My business choices influences levels of stress, time management, and how much I can financially contribute to our building a life together. I just can’t afford to act impulsively knowing that every choice a person makes regarding where they live, who they live with, how they live, what they do, and their overall attitude and priorities is connected. Our lives are the result of our choices. And our lives touch the lives of others and determines their happiness and safety too.


For a year, while pondering all the options, I have looked at buildings. I’ve looked at houses David and I might purchase together as an act of true commitment.  I have crunched the numbers to really understand my business. I’ve looked into dividing the school into two different businesses, selling part or all of it. I have also considered expanding the business and considered getting bigger and more involved, perhaps opening a preschool too. I’ve built up my credit, kept good records, and gotten established “just in case.” I’ve thought about when and if I ever want to retire.  The thing is, I have many many options in my life today because I’ve taken my time, held back to let the dust settle, worked diligently,  and I’ve acted slowly and mindfully to explore what I want, heart, soul and mind. Most importantly, I’ve acted responsibly, creatively and carefully in a quest to keep options flowing. My choices are not easy or simple, but at least I have choices.


But being cautious and moving slow, while good in a way, also means missed opportunity. You can’t drag your feet forever if you want to accomplish anything of merit, and anyone who knows me well understands it is NOT in my nature to be patient or move slowly on anything. Some days, I feel like a race horse that has been detained in the starting gate, stamping her feet as she waits for the gun to go off so she can run freely. Oh, how I miss running with absolute commitment to a distant finish line!


Suddenly, recently, if feels as if the gun has gone off. While exploring land for potential retreat sites (after giving up on a commercial building) David and I stumbled upon a piece of property that seemed to pull everything together. The moment we snuck over the gate illegally (we couldn’t help it, we drove up and saw our dream come true and we had to explore the property even before calling the realtor.) we knew this was where we belong. We had a found an answer to our home and business dilemma at once. This land spoke to us.


A week later David and I bought the property– well, we made an offer and it was accepted. We are now waiting for bank approval, but we have plans we believe will make it happen even if we hit a stumbling blocks. God willing, we are buying 8 acres of land with a barn, a separate yoga building and room for gardens, trails, outbuildings and more.  It is everything I’ve ever wanted in a home, and in fact, it’s the kind of artistic, rustic home I dreamed we were going to build when I sold my business years ago to retire and live “the dream”. This property is only 18 miles from ReFlex just around the corner from one of my previous businesses in Lakewood ranch. It is nestled in nature, a perfect site for retreats, yoga trainings, Ayurveda product manufacturing, farm to table dinners and so much more that I envision my business adding. For David, there is a workshop and space to create furniture, build a boat or whatever. For me there is a place to raise chickens, bees, and perhaps even bring home a donkey as a new life mascot. With a small creek on the land, pastures, space for gardens, huge oak trees and unique, artistic outbuildings, this place offers David and me both a chance to blend love, work & personal interest so we can live creatively and in harmony with nature.


In my next post, I’ll share our vision and a few pictures of our (hopefully) soon to be new home & business site. For now I am buried in books, studying how to build a labyrinth in nature, a medicine wheel, the ins and outs of Florida garden design, retreat planning and more. Every dream begins in planning stages – takes shape with research.


I’m ready for someone to open the gates! It is time to let the ole mare run!

A life you can savor…


  Yesterday I was feeling overworked and nostalgic for a bit of country living, so I decided to pause and give myself what I was craving. I drove out to Huntsader farms (only a quick 20 minutes up the road) where they currently offer a variety of u-pick produce and everyone says you can get a big bag of tomatoes for only a dollar. When I got there, everything seemed sadly familiar –  the stand was quaint and authentically country like the places I loved in Georgia– and I couldn’t bear to go out to the u-pick fields myself. I decided instead to come back with Neva and David later to enjoy an afternoon in the sun among the growing plants. (A good decision since when I picked up Neva from school her eyebrows shot up and she said, “You did NOT go to u-pick without me…” I assured her I was waiting until we could all go together.)  But since I didn’t want to waste the drive, I picked up tomatoes for only 6.00 a case.
 
 


     In Georgia, I grew my own veggies but if I wanted to make a big batch of canned sauce, I needed to purchase a load of extra tomatoes, so I would go to the flea market and purchase tomatoes that didn’t because the fruit was starting to turn. I was lucky if I got them for 20.00 a box. Here, I can get tomatoes that are fresh, perfect and only 6.00? Wow. I bought two cases.
   I also picked up some onions, squash, beans and cantaloupe. After loading my car, I sipped a bit of cider and walked around enjoying the ambiance. I visited the goats and the barn and thought of both my happy and not so happy memories of Georgia. I ran a hand over a tractor parked on the gravel road, and talked to a kind woman in the store who talked about what produce was going to be available next month.



     I used to visit this farm once a year, on our annual preschool outing for the pumpkin fest. Meanwhile, I pined for our annual trip to Georgia to see fall leaves and enjoy the quaint ambiance of the country. I could have had a taste of country anytime, if I just got in the car and drove a few minutes. I wasted so many years living in this diverse, opportunity laden place while living such a narrow life where all I experienced was work and an occational visit to the mall. For some reason, Mark and I believed we had to leave the region to have fun. We were so short sighted. 



    Today, I spent the morning cooking fresh marinara sauce. I blanched and peeled a case of the tomatoes, and cooked them down with other veggies and spices I gathered, along with more tomatoes, from my own garden. As I chopped and pealed the sauce bubbled. Music blared through the house. I danced and sang as I cooked, hit with a swell of happiness.



    
  
     When I drove away from Georgia on the fateful day I moved back to Sarasota, I was devastated, believing I was leaving all my dreams and everything I loved behind. For two years, I felt so empty I couldn’t imagine a happy life much less muster the energy to pursue one. But one by one, the passions of my life are returning to me, and my dreams seem more real and attainable now than ever before – I was up against impenetrable obstacles back then, even while I had more resources than most people ever have in a lifetime. Now, on the surface it looks as if I have less opportunity to create the life of my design, but the truth is,  I’ve never felt closer to achieving the kind of life I can be proud of and contented with.



     David sent me an e-mail yesterday. He wanted me to see a listing for a ten acre piece of land that is horse and airplane friendly. The lot is situated a short drive from my studio in a community where people have gardens and chickens and pools and many have private planes in hangers – there’s a small runway too. Thanks to the economy having lowered land prices, gorgeous tracks of land like this are available now, close enough to Sarasota to continue working here, yet remarkably affordable for anyone willing to drive a bit. Some of these lots have older houses on them that we could remodel, or we could buy land only and build a Zen-sort of house ourselves (if I can get past my panic at the idea of letting the man I love ever build a house again.)


  


    David said, “We might really be ready to try for something like this in about a year if we stay on track with our life recovery plan (we are both working like dogs to build a life and make up for huge setbacks due to our past mistakes, and slowly our hard work is moving us the right direction.) “But you would have to be OK with the twenty minute drive.”



    Are you kidding, I thought. In Georgia I drove 45 minutes a day just to get milk or take my daughter to school. It took an entire day to go to Atlanta if I wanted to be exposed to culture or professional services….  Things cost more, and there were very few options for work or embellishing a life. A twenty minutes trek to live in a personal paradise where I could raise with bees and have a wine cellar for homemade wine, and keep chickens and maybe even a horse or two, and where David can have a workshop and together we can work, him at a job and me running a business with serious potential, and perhaps have a project boat for the occational weekend on the water – all in a place where we can enjoy the culture and enrichment of a sophisticated town as well, is too good to be true.



    I stood in my kitchen happily squeezing the juice out of my tomatoes thinking that I’ve spent more time in canoes and kayaks enjoying nature in the last two months here in Florida than my entire 5 years in Georgia – I enjoyed taking classes in folk crafts at the Campbell school there, but classes like that had been available here all along – I just never ventured out of my narrow existence to partake. Since returning to Florida I’ve discovered classes in art and craft subjects at the local college, in art galleries, in speciality pottery and bead stgores and in art centers. I’m signed up for a drawing class this summer (to help me with art journaling) and Neva and I are thinking of taking a language class together this summer too. Neva signed up for a cupcake making class at the Publix cooking school recently.  I’ve stumbled upon beading, boating, literature and pottery classes, writing groups and horseback riding, running and scuba clubs. My list of “gonna do one of these days when I carve out the time”, is growing.  I have an amazing library for when I need to do research, wholefoods or the farmer’s market for stocking up on organic fare, art festivals and live music, and beaches and quaint shops down by the shore for entertainment. I have museums, movies and concerts and an airport only a five minute drive away. The only thing I’m missing from my former life is the Georgia mud. And what’s most important is now I appreciate the wealth of opportunity and paths to personal growth that are all around me now.  Nature abounds… you just have to drive past the mall to one of the national parks nearby, or to the florida country farms, or to the seashore, or the swamps…..



    When I lived here before, I thought Sarasota was primarily shopping, restaurants and concrete. I thought the people were demanding and stressed and had their priorities out of order. Georgia seemed a beacon of peace –  but rather than retiring in the quiet, happy world I expected, what I landed in was a place of ignorance, lonliness, and more stress, disappointment and loss than I ever had to deal with here.
   My Georgia adventure taught me that that what we feel inwardly is simply a reflection of what we project outwardly. People in Sarasota didn’t have priorities out of line as we supposed  – Mark and I simply lived a life out of balance and we projected our discontent on others. We missed out on all the beauty and opportunity of Sarasota because we were too set in a narrow grove of habit to embrace the joys, entertainment and discovery that was right before us. We ran off to Disney or drove to Georgia seeking relief from our problems, when all along what needed to change was our own attitude and perception of the world. Ah well, I have a new perspective now, and thanks to that, life here is different this time around.  


 


  A few minutes ago, I went out and checked my lovebirds to see if the eggs have hatched. My curious, beloved dog wagged his tail at my feet and I smiled thinking that animal adventures come in all sizes.


I walked out to my garden to get some parsley and basil for my sauce and checked the blooms on my pepper plants, eager to see the promise a new crop. I took the remains of cut up veggies to my huge smoldering compost heap out back and tapped the oriental chimes in the trees to cause them to softly fill the air with music. Then, I came inside to check my e-mail to find a message from the editor of a local magazine who is running an article I wrote that will be published next month.. I looked to see if I’d gotten a response from the agent who requested my book – sigh, not yet – but hey, I’m writing again, enjoying what for me is an artistic outlet that gives life clarity. I also read a message from a writing student who is throwing a party this weekend to celebrate the book he wrote (inspired from essays he wrote in my class) that he just self-published. While my sauce is cooking, I will spend some time reading his manuscript so I can fully appreciate his celebration on Sunday.  Tonight, my daughter is having a friend over, a child I consider a wonderful influence because when they are together they always make cupcakes or cards rather than holing up in a room on a computer….. We will all go to the dollar movie theater and have a great night out for only 10 bucks- proving that life here is economically better, as well filled with opportunity to be productive and/or give back to others.
   Tomorrow, at work, I’m scheduled to interview two people interested in yoga teacher training this summer. I will start the day with yoga then I will teach dance to students I love. In between I’ll laugh with my staff, a group of positive, talented and committed individuals who appreciate and value me as their “fearless leader”. Oh how I missed the down to earth kidding of my dance peeps going crazy at recital time.



   
    Today I’m thinking of how rich my life is. I have a lovely home that reflects my personality, a very happy, well-adjusted child I can hug at will, and a business that is growing roots, building, providing me with the opportunity to do what I love. Every day I meet amazing people.   I am healthier than I’ve been in years – emotionally and physically. I am loved and appreciated by an amazing man who shares my life values, work ethic, personal interests, and long term vision for a life of substance. He is a true partner, sharing in the work, decisions, and efforts required to make our life unfold in the best of ways. We will spend the weekend balancing work and friends. We will eat homemade sauce for dinner and talk about how lovely it is to eat organic food grown in our own garden. He’ll share what happened in his work day, and I’ll talk about making sauce and the great call I had from my son.  Perhaps my birds will hatch. Perhaps that agent will write. Perhaps I’ll win the lottery. Ha. Perhaps I already have.  




     There is a Buddhist saying – you must lose everything to gain the world.


   
    A year ago, I kept reading that over and over, certain it couldn’t possibly be true for me. The devastation I felt over the loss of my family and the life I anticipated and worked for for years and years, but never reached, was more than I could bear.



    Now, I feel differently. All of life is perspective and the juxtaposition of my former life, with all its drama and dissapointment, next to my life now, which may not be easy, but is loving and filled with hope and respect and small pleasures, reminds me that finding happiness requires a person to be pro-active. It isn’t about chasing the things that you assume will make you happy “if only…” Happiness doesn’t come “later” when all your ducks are in a row. Happiness is being wise enough to recognize the things that truly make a person happy are all around you and if you can’t embrace them now, you never will. Our job, each and every one of us, is to honor and celebrate the subtle gifts that life bestows.  

An “Off” Christmas – Ah well



This Christmas never seemed to get off the ground for us,and a perfect example is our tree. Last year our gigantic fake tree, chosen especially for our 25 foot ceilings, disintegrated in the attack over the summer, so when Kent and I went to put it up, we ended up using duct tape and fishing wire to hold up the branches. No problem, we thought, we’ll just toss it at season’s end because there is no way we’ll still be living in this house by next season . . . we’ll pick a tree suitable for where ever we land….but of course, here we are. Ah well.

So this year, we decided to get a real tree to fit our big ole house, and about ten days after Thanksgiving, Mark and the kids went to a tree farm to have one cut. Thus begins the tree ordeal. They pick out a nice tall tree and have it cut, but on the way home the truck breaks down and it lands on the side of the road. A day later, we had the truck, tree and all, towed to the transmission shop. I suggested we go put the tree on my van roof rack to get it home and start our Christmas decorating.

Mark says, “I’m afraid that would be impossible. It would crush your van.”

“Just how big is this real tree?”

“Pretty big.”

And it was, because a week later three burly guys came over with Mark to lug the 16-foot spruce into our living room. It had now gone a week without water, and the base was so big that we couldn’t fit water into the largest tree stand we could find. Ah well. We would just cross our fingers that it would last the few weeks until Christmas.

But, before the poor thing got decorated, it was loosing pine needles and looking the worse for wear. We decorated it with lights and started putting on ornaments, but when we had gotten through only two boxes or so, we decided that was enough…. the darn tree would end up bald from losing pine needles if we stressed it any more. For the first time in 19 years our tree was not picture perfect with ribbon and hundreds of meaningful ornaments collected throughout the years dripping from the branches. Ah well.

When it comes to ornaments, nothing compares to the Hendry’s gluttony. We started collecting ornaments in our early years whenever we traveled or did something meaningful, because back then, a small token was the only thing we could afford to buy for a remembrance. As time wore on, it became tradition. Now,each year as Mark puts up the tree he plays, “Can you remember where we got this one?” with me. And every year we prove once again that I am not the ornament historian in this family.  But every beautiful or sweet or funny ornament has a history and once a year, putting up a tree brings awareness to this ornament map our life adventures, so just the act of putting up a tree becomes a poignant experience. Lovely.

In the end, Christmas isn’t about decorations anyway (It’s about mistletoe and cooking in this gal’s book) and no one seemed to care about what might be missing from the tree, which goes to show that you can fret about things for no reason if you fail to put life into perspective. Our scaled back holiday was right sized in the end…..


(Kent & girlfriend, Brianna, sister-in law Dianne, Denver, Neva, & Jason. Mark must be somewhere with his mother. I was behind the camera) 


Dianne & Ginny


(Denver and boyfriend Jason)

Today, the day after Christmas, we were more than ready to get the dead tree out of the house, but how? Mark decided we would have to cut it down piece by piece and burn it. Ah well. It’s a plan.



So this morning, he and Kent removed the few ornaments and packed up the lights and begin cutting branches. Within moments the house was heating up from a roaring fire that sounded like a forest burning to the ground. For hours they kept feeding the fire as the tree dwindled and a foot high pile of pine needles collected on the ground and began to spread to every corner of our home. You can bet whoever lives in this house will be finding them in corners for eternity….

As Mark was cutting branches he called out to me that he found a bird’s nest in the upper crest of the tree.

“That’s a shame.” I said.

“Why? It’s not like there are any birds in it.”

“Well, obviously. But in the spring I’m imagining a bird will be looking for her summer place and not only will it be gone, but also her entire neighborhood will have been cut down.”

“Ah well,” Mark said.


 When enough branches were removed that the tree could be lifted by Kent and Mark together, they lugged it outside, pine needles scattering every which way from room to room – my mess now so extensive I could only grip my broom tighter and sigh. Did people really do this all the time in the old days? Eeesh. Someone told me that a Christmas tree bag is the way to avoid this entire cleanup, but where do you find one for trees the size of Rockefeller Center!

So this afternoon, I’ve been sweeping, sweeping, sweeping…and mopping, mopping, mopping… and I must say, it feels good to have Christmas over this season…. It just wasn’t our year, and frankly, I’m tired of cleaning up messes and making this house picture perfect in case a buyer stops by (and we have two scheduled to come this week). When life feels
like it is all effort and no pleasure, you know it is time to restructure your approach to living…. and perhaps living large is not all it’s cracked up to be.

So, next year, when I get that Christmas gleam in my eye and start contemplating how to go about creating a really dynamic tree from scratch, somebody out there better remind me to go the pre-lit, easy to put up route – or better yet, a live tree in a big dirt ball – so my tree has meaning in a different way and doesn’t need as much glamour and sparkle to be special.   I’m making my new life motto -KISS.

Keep 

It 

Simple 

Stupid.

It may mean giving up a little in the creativity department….But, Ah the pleasure of simplicity…….. 

Does that mean I’m losing my celebratory edge? Probably.  Ah well.            

The Things That Count

Sometimes, when I am feeling low, I start looking at the world in intense detail, as if I’m searching for something to pick me up or to remind me that whatever void in my own life is making me sad isn’t really missing. It’s out there, lingering, and I should take heart because in time I’ll grasp it once again.  It was while I was in this mindset and teaching yoga that I witnessed something special.

 My students were all laying still on the floor in a spinal twist. After I gave hands on assistance to the 9 people in the class, I stood back for a few moments to just enjoy the restful nature of this particular moment, and I noticed that one woman in class was laying next to her teen age son (they always take this particular class together) and she had stretched her hand out to his and her fingers were running gently along his palm in a sweet, motherly way. And after about two minutes of this, the son opened his eyes and cast her the dearest smile I’ve ever witnessed. I watched this innocent loving exchange in the silence and thought my heart would explode, because it was just the evidence I needed to remind me that intimacy and trust and unspoken examples of tenderness are exchanged between people all the time. 

 A few moments later, the class ended and I looked at the boy and said, “How do you feel?”

He smiled sleepily and said, “Totally great.”

And I knew he really did feel great, because his yoga experience tonight wasn’t about stretching or balancing or breathing. It was about sharing a lovely activity with his mother, which led to a moment of sweet communion.  You can’t plan that kind of thing. I suppose ten years (or ten minutes) from now, their exchange will be forgotten, or might have gone unnoticed from the start. The mother and son may never remember this particular class or the gentle caress, but I always will, because I believe that the act of touching a hand of someone you care about, while not life altering, leave feelings that resonant forever. Layer upon layer of simple, tender acts create a blanket of trust that softens relations between people, and this is what makes it possible to endure conflict later.  Anyway, I was not meant to notice what transpired, but I did, and I’m glad. It was a beautiful, moving thing and it filled me with such a longing I could barely breathe. 

 Sometimes it feels like I’m nothing more than an audience for other people’s lives. I watch the world around me and reflect, and because of my heightened awareness, I see (and often record) things that others all around me miss.  I’m glad now that I’m older that I no longer go through life so self absorbed that I fail to notice or appreciate the small signs of beauty all around me. I guess writing and yoga have made a huge impact on how I look at the world, and even if all this personal reflection makes me sad sometimes, I’m grateful for it.   

Feeling is, after all, what makes life an intense trip. 

   

Winter is here.

Winter has arrived. Always puts me in a bit of a funk here in Georgia where Dec. to March offers mostly gray skies and precipitation. Don’t’ get me wrong, I do love the change of seasons. There is something appealing  about bundling up and curling your hands around a warm cup of coffee when you do venture outside. The sting of cold air sits on your cheeks like a loving slap, a wake up call to get moving and create some internal heat,  but it seems most of my time is spent inside looking out in winter. The natural world looks bare and open, inviting, but each time I heed that invitation I’m forced back in by frozen fingers and a numb nose. I end up gazing out a pane of glass thinking everything looks picture perfect, as long as I’m not actually out there shivering, waiting for the ice to thaw on my wind shied and/or trying to dodge gusts of wind that feel like they’ve come directly from the north pole. I guess after all those years in Florida, I’m just a winter wimp. 

Funny, but despite my obvious dislike of cold, I have always wanted to go skiing. I’m a sporty and I like the outdoors, so its surprising I’ve never tried to ski (not counting water skiing of course.) I just never had the opportunity or enough inspiration to actually arrange a ski vacation. When I was young I worried I’d break a leg and, as a dancer, such a risk seemed foolish at best. Later, I avoided planning a ski trip because everyone told me it was a very expensive pursuit, and since I had no idea whether I’d love it or not, and considering all the other things I’ve wanted to experience in the world, I always put the concept aside choosing some other sort of trip. But still, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at it and every winter I’m reminded of that fact. Over the years, I’ve mentioned my latent desire to go to a ski lodge to Mark, but he usually chuckles and says, “You might like it, but I’m guessing you’d try out a slope or two, and then spend the bulk of your vacation in the lodge sipping hot toddies and enjoying a game of cards by the fire. Cold isn’t your thing.”  He’s probably right, but hanging around a ski lodge sounds rather romantic too if you ask me.  If you’re going to spend winter inside looking out, might as well make the “inside” an enticing, different environment. Besides which, I can only assume skiing is like running, that it’s cold only until your body adjusts and heats up from the exertion. Considering that, skiing probably isn’t cold at all the way waiting for your wind shield to thaw is. But since there is no skiing in Georgia, or at least none in my area, and since I doubt I’ll be taking on that lurking “one of these days before I die” dream anytime soon, winter is just a big drag. 

On Monday of this week, I watered my begonias. big lusty plants that I have outside my new business in four big, cement planters. That night we had a cold spell and the very next day the flowers had all withered and died. The sidewalk under them is now stained with big pink blotches where the color literally seeped out of the flower petals and soaked the ground beneath. Every single student that came in that day greeted me with a smile and said, “Did you notice? You’re begonias hit the dust last night.”

Like I could miss these big dead plants that look like they’ve been liquefied.

“Yeah, I’m planning to do something about that but I haven’t decided what.” 

I was offered a variety of solutions, from getting plastic plants (not my idea of perfection for a yoga studio where nature is celebrated) to planting pansies – a very hearty winter resistant flower (so really, it doesn’t make sense that we call people who have no backbone a “pansy”). One student suggested I leave the pots empty. Well, I suppose that could symbolize the yogi’s detachment to the outer world and emptiness as a path to self understanding and . . . who am I kidding. That’s stupid. 

The pots are under the shade so I’m limited with my choices, but I’m thinking some evergreen would be nice. I sure as heck don’t want to keep those dead flowers on display for long, because somehow it makes me sad to see the passing of something so beautiful, even if it is a part of nature’s rebirth. Change is natural and good, but watching it happen stirs up feelings of loss, at least it does for me lately.

This is the time of year when visiting my animals is something I dread – at least until I’m actually out there with them. I have to deal with the frozen hose making it impossible to fill water buckets and frozen latches on gates and other inconveniences, but at the same time, I love running my hands along Donkey’s back and feeling his warm body on my frozen fingers. There is something calming about watching the warm breath leave the horses nostrils as they snort in greeting. For all that I complain, I really like having animals as an excuse to drag myself outside everyday, and sometimes, I stand there, looking out at the calm, snowy pasture and feel moved by the quiet of winter. Even a frozen, barren landscape is beautiful if you just pause to notice the stillness. My horses have grown their heavy winter coats now , so instead of looking gray speckled, they look starkly white, like the abominable snow monster. The donkey, in contrast, looks like he’s wearing a bear skin. My beloved horses are for sale, and someone happens to be coming to look at them this weekend, so each day I remind myself to savor my time left with them, cold or not. I’m ready to let go of the responsibility, but I will miss them dreadfully and it will hurt to imagine someone else enjoying their lovely sweet company when spring arrives. Sometimes you need to let go of the things you love – a non-attachment concept that is big in yoga philosophy, but that doesn’t make it any easier for me, a girl who could hardly be called “enlightened”, though I do my best to be somewhat aware of the world and my place in it.

Anyway, it is cold today and it makes my heart feel heavy. Spring feels a long way away today.  
  
               

Happy Thanksgiving – – – in a weird way

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

It was a weird one for me. We had plans to go to Florida this year to spend the first Thanksgiving in 6 years with my parents, but as the day drew near, Mark was bombarded with work and felt he couldn’t get away. I wasn’t willing to disappoint my Mom another year, so we ended up going separate ways on a holiday for the first time ever in the the last 20 years.   When we lived in Florida, Thanksgiving was always my gig, ( a cooking fest that involved a massive number of dishes) but since we’ve moved, my sister has taken up the reigns, and now the new tradition is for her to take everyone to a very fancy buffet at her ritzy country club. Mark took his Mother & sister (and Kent since he opted to stay home as well) to a fancy resort in North Carolina for a similar buffet. In essence, we ate the same meal, only in different states. 
(Brother-in-law Bill, Me, Sister Linda, Neva, Dad and Mom – all of us pretending we enjoyed posing for a picture, when we could have been at the table with our friends ordering booze already at 11:30 am . . . yeah, we get what a serious gorge is all about.)
 
Mark and I called each other to wish a happy Thanksgiving to all and I said, “This is weird.”
“No kidding,” he said.
“And the worst thing is, I think I’m having cooking withdrawal. The food is remarkable, but none of it tastes like Thanksgiving to me. I wish I had made stuffing and stuffed it into my purse. This meal, for all that it’s so extravagant, seems to be missing real food.”
“No kidding.”
Since the food was so different from my usual holiday fare, I decided to get adventurous and try my first ever oyster. I’ve always avoided oysters because, as someone with no sense of smell, I’m a texture oriented person and I never liked the look of those slimy, gray blobs, but with everyone around me digging in and encouraging me to partake, I thought I might as well join the party. I do happen to like the romantic folklore of oysters, of course, and that gave me inspiration – besides which, going for the oysters gave me a chance to flirt with several cute men at the seafood table who enjoyed giving the “single for the day” young woman advice on how to prepare the tasty morsel (the fact that they considered me, a 50 year old, a young woman tells you just how spry and sexy (and half dead) the men I flirt with actually are) .  
My dad saw me cautiously eating my appetizer, and said, “How come you never had an oyster before – thought you couldn’t handle even one more degree of passion run amok?”
“Yea, Dad, that’s it. It’s  been a self preservation thing . . . I got those wild genes of yours, and it’s all I can do to keep them from raging out of control. Never wanted to risk it  by adding oysters to the mix.”
 “It’s the East curse,” he deadpanned.
For the record, I consider oysters tasteless, and the texture is like eating a flattened slug. Needless to say, I now can say with authority that this particular shell food is overrated . . . especially since I didn’t even feel a glimmer of heightened libido. False advertising, I say! 
It was fun seeing my family though. I enjoyed an evening with my aunt (84  – I’ll offer a picture of this grand and dear old relative, for prosperity sake) and as the next picture proves, I had hugged my sister . . .but don’t let looks deceive. We are always one step away from a full out wrestling match . . Hey, I can take her – really I can – maybe I’ll prove it at Christmas.
     
It was all together an interesting holiday. I drove down in the wee hours, my head mulling over a million thoughts – and I arrived early enough to fit in 5 solo appointments with some lovely young dancers. The next day I spent time with family and we ate, then played dice (which wasn’t so special since lucky me didn’t win a single dang round.) And before you knew it I was up at 4am and driving home dodging the black Friday traffic for ten hours while Neva slept – again just me and my thoughts slipping around my head like a movie on fast forward – the only thing to distract me was the occasional NPR interview blasting on the radio.  I stopped to buy Neva headphones for her I-pod so she could be spared what she called “Mom’s radio torture”.
But despite the pace of this weird holiday, I did pause to give thanks. Even on years when you feel its a stretch, there’s always a great deal to be thankful for if you stand back and think your life through.   
With twenty hours of solo driving to fill, I found plenty of blessings to focus on. Hope everyone else did too.      

Holiday madness begins


Yesterday, I taught what was supposed to be my last class for ten days. The studio closes for the holidays, so I’m getting some time off. I even canceled Yoga for the week. I’m going to Florida for a visit next week, but first I will enjoy spending a few days at home, sans responsibility. 

Meanwhile Denver, God love her, decided to plan an impromptu rehearsal for some of the students to practice a parade step (a marching dance to the FLEX song). She made arrangements for us to dance down Main Street the Saturday after Thanksgiving at the big light up Blue Ridge festival, you see. I appreciate her enthusiasm, so when she called me last minute to come help, I couldn’t refuse. And in I go to the studio on Friday, my sacred day off.

 Denver teaches the march and I putter on the computer out front, working on the studio newsletter. Then we decide to take the kids outside to practice around the parking lot with me driving the van with the music cranked as high as it can go. Old school. The problem is, these kids have never been exposed to a dancing parade, and so they don’t quite get basic elements like how to keep formation or remember the steps or pace themselves. We have a rather long haul in front of us if we ever want to train real dancers. Now it is a matter of getting by and not being embarrassed by a handful of stark beginners.

 We decide someone needs to dance in front of the group, and Denver suggests  we let Jason (her boyfriend) drive so the two of us can work the group. OK, that means I’ll help and actually do the parade. I haven’t had to actually dance in the parade in about 20 years. I’ve always been the chief honcho on the float waving to the crowd while Mark and other teachers handled our 100 plus dancers stretching out like a FLEX kite tail from the float. The good news is, this is a very short parade distance – perhaps 20 minutes of dancing unlike the 3 mile one hour dancing we had to do in Sarasota. I can handle that.

 Then, I come up with a brilliant idea. What we need is Santa leading the pack to make this fun – that way no one will notice how “unseasoned” these dancers are. And I just so happen to have a new, wooly Santa mascot costume that I bought ‘Just in case” we wanted to do a holiday performance with our young kids.

 Denver says, “Don’t look at me. I have to run around the dancers to make sure we don’t lose any of the little kids and to make sure the dancers stay paced. “

“OK, then I’ll do it.”

Denver says, “Mom, you can’t dance in that costume for the entire parade route. You’ll afixiate!”

I was thinking I’d be much more comfortable dancing with my face hidden underneath this costume, not taking myself seriously, than leading the pack like some figurehead thinking she was all that. I insist I can do it and climb into the costume.


 The head of this thing is like a gigantic pillow, hot and stuffy and the stuffing covers your mouth like a gag. It is lovely to be able to breathe while exercising, but right now I’m thinking I can stand to go san’s air for a mile or so…. All in the name of making this first exposure of the school to the local crowd memorable, of course.

 So I try dancing first in the studio, then behind the van for one round of the FLEX song. About die. I’m wheezing and sweating and thinking that if I don’t take off the head and gasp some air into my lungs, I’m going to puke. But I keep dancing. Heck, I’ve accomplished harder things than this.

 When we finish, Denver looks at me and says, “Well?”

 “No prob.” I lie. “Piece of cake.”

Man, what I won’t do to make things fun for friends.


So, I’m dancing in the Blue Ridge Christmas parade next week. I figure I’m bound to loose 5 pounds if I don’t pass out. I’m going to have to gear up for it, do some serious running this week and practice some efficient breathing if I don’t want to crash half way through. But hey, you are never too old for a challenge, and I kind of like being put to the test if it makes the event more fun.

 Meanwhile the kids are saying, “You’re not fat enough . . .you need more stuffing to be a decent Santa!”

“Stuff this . . “ I want to say, but instead I smile and say “A dancing Santa is supposed to be lean. Besides which, this costume is huge. I look big enough . . “

 What counts is that the kids were laughing and having fun, which is exactly the feelings I want them to associate to dance and this new studio.

 We are a serious school of course. If you don’t believe me, check out this photo of Kent two minutes after he came into dance class with some of his buddies one night. Yep, I run a classy place. But everyone will agree, it just wouldn’t be a FLEX without the playfulness.