Category Archives: Random Musings

Trusting The Chaos

When my daughters were little I remember feeling slightly sick to my stomach when we would visit large, outdoor playgrounds.

Wiltshire Park in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania

Their chubby legs would teeter up the steps of the slide and climb, fall, reach, miss, fall, reach again, fall again, etc. while they gained their footing.  I realized that they had to learn how to navigate around other kids that were pushing, shoving, running, teetering and just as uncoordinated as they were.  Tripping and falling was part of the package and like it or not, I had to allow that to happen if I wanted them to grow physically, psychologically as well as socially.

So I did what any conscientious parent would do in this situation.  To keep myself from freaking out, I frequently  turned my back on them.  I would get lost in a conversation with a friend and let my kids play instead of shrieking, reaching, grabbing and otherwise choreographing their every move.  I tried to alternate between being close with a helping hand and giving them the freedom to create a muscle memory and explore.

When we moved to an urban area they were forced to spend all of their play time on even more complex equipment involving higher slides and older kids that would teach them cool tricks like how to sway through the monkey bars or worst yet, climb on top of them.  Again, my stomach was in knots.  My kids that used to play with a few children on a backyard play set were now one of 50 kids of various ages trying to stake their claim on a metal jungle gym.  It was chaotic, frankly but instead of nervously anticipating that my kids would fall, I tried my damnedest to anticipate success.  I decided to assume the best and keep the entire experience in perspective because although my kids appeared to be seconds away from a head injury, in actuality, every kid there was moments away from serious injury.  And yet in all my years of public park visiting, never once has an ambulance been summoned.

This chaos continued when I returned to my apartment.  From my 10th floor window I would watch cars commuting north on 1st Avenue as they barely missed side swiping, clipping and crashing into each other.

Photo by Beggs

I wondered how the traffic below would change if the pedestrians realized how close they were to harm or if drivers knew that they were mere inches away from paying towards their $1000 deductible?

This memory is helping me now as my husband and I teach our daughter to drive.  I keep reminding myself that like the playground and 1st Avenue, although danger is lurking – closely – it somehow keeps it’s distance.

And even though chaos theory,  (the butterfly effect) tells me otherwise…that initial conditions are so sensitive that small changes in a nonlinear system can and may result in vastly different outcomes, i.e., the presence or absence of a butterfly flapping its wings could lead to creation or absence of a hurricane…I’m surprisingly calm.  Not because I’m trying to control the chaos. That would be futile because as controlled chaos theory tells us, even if you can successfully stabilize a system, the change you insert must be small, as in extremely small, so as to only affect one outcome and not derail the entire system all together.  

In other words, calmly telling my daughter to “slow down a little” will help her avoid a crash.  But if I scream “SLOW THE FUCK DOWN!” while stomping on her foot to slam on the brakes – sure we’ll avoid crashing, but I risk derailing the entire system, i.e., scarring her for life, making all driving situations stressful rather than exciting, fracturing her foot,  and putting us both at risk to be rear-ended by the car behind us.

Thus my only option is to follow my own theory which I like to call, trusting chaos  while remembering that like all of the combined worst case scenarios involving kids from the playground and cars from the city  – in the end, everything worked out fine.  I simply remind myself that we’re in a non-linear system which means that even though the idiot next to us is texting, a lot of things have to happen before he’ll actually wreck into us.  

Likewise, I’m finding that this new found calmness, is carrying over into other areas of my psyche.  For example:

  • Even though I enjoyed a deliciously, fattening salted caramel cupcake from Angelcakes last Tuesday (and a Snickerdoodle flavored one, last Saturday), my entire metabolic system will not be derailed overnight and force me out of every pair of pants that I own.  Quite a few things must happen before I need to go up a size, so I’m not going to sweat celebrating my birthday with baked goods.
  • Although the economy is in the shitter, a very specific sequence of events must happen in order for me to find myself living under a bridge. Considering that I’ve always had enough and have never been homeless, I highly doubt that will change any time soon. 

Suddenly, and maybe for the first time ever, I’m finding comfort in the chaos and wondering if my lack of acceptance and complete avoidance of pandemonium has been the problem all along?  Has my inner control freak been secretly wanting to chaotically wave her freak flag all this time?  Could it be that, flying by the seat of my pants and embracing the commotion around me, has been the answer all along.  I’m not 100% convinced of this – but for whatever reason, all the signs are pointing in this direction right now so it’s certainly worth exploring.

Yesterday, during the big East Coast Earthquake, I was outside with my youngest and therefore didn’t feel a thing.  Apparently you had to be inside your 4 walls here in Frederick to experience it.  So when I returned home, I asked my daughter, the new driver of the family, what the Earthquake felt like.

“I didn’t notice it,” she replied.

“How could you miss it?  Our neighbors on each side of us and across the street felt the rumbling and heard/saw things shaking in their houses,”  I said.

“Well, honestly, I blast the music when you’re not here.  I had the volume up to 10 on the stereo.  The house had been shaking pretty much since you left, so I didn’t feel a thing,” she admitted.

So basically her self-created chaos, camouflaged the natural disaster chaos which allowed her to avoid any internal, fear-based feelings of chaos…Interesting.

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Oh Canada…

Spent a wonderful week in Canada.  It was my second visit, but my first in the summer.  A few random thoughts:

  • Canadian money is colorful and thus more functional, however, one and two dollar coins are a little annoying.  My purse got heavier and heavier as each day went by.
  • 86 degrees, oops I mean 30 degrees in August is what I call a beautiful summer’s day.
  • I forgot how much I enjoyed constantly hearing other languages and accents when you’re in a big city (Toronto). Here in Frederick, MD I only hear English, Spanish and see Sign Language.
  • I’m always surprised at how much folks from other countries are tuned into our news.
  • Talking politics with Canadians was interesting as well.  Apparently they don’t mix their social issues with fiscal ones.  They would never waste time debating gay marriage when fiscal problems need to be solved.  They think we’re insane for constantly allowing our differing dogmas to distract from what needs to get done.  They’re right.
  • They say, “pop” not “soda” which is not only awesome but correct, damn it!
  • I found a grocery store called Longos which is my Mom’s maiden name so I not only shopped there, but we also had dinner there which was delicious.  It was like the Wegman’s of Toronto.
  • A small coffee is actually “small” as in 1/2 the size of a kid’s drink in the states.  Kudos to them for portion control.  Paying the American price for a small, however, kind of sucked.

Seeing my gorgeous friend Michelle, her husband Steve and their daughter’s Alex and Josie after 10 years was the highlight of our trip.   Having lunch made by Michelle who’s a fabulous cook was delicious.  The fact that the kids got along after a decade long break was wonderful.

Friends Again!

  • Michelle tried and failed to open a bottle of wine via the trunk of a tree.  This is how it’s supposed to work:

  • But Michelle’s can-do attitude along with a pen knife and ink-pen, got the job done.  Kudos to her for her tenacity.

See how happy we look after splitting a bottle of wine on a beautiful summer's day?

Our trip consisted of visiting Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls from the Canadian side.

It’s definitely worth the passport hassle to see Niagra Falls from the Canadian side.  The views were amazing.  Looking back toward the US and not seeing a bunch of commercial shit behind the falls was a relief.  Imagine this picture with golden arches, casino lights and giant hotel marquees in the background?  That would’ve been awful.  Kudos for the people of Niagra Falls, New York for allowing nature to remain the star.

I was surprised at how much cheesiness was just beyond the beauty on the Canadian side.  It was a cross between the Ocean City, Maryland boardwalk and the bright lights of Times Square.

Commercialism at it's best!

On a side note: Sadly, it appears that visitors to the Falls like to urinate from a distance.  Thus along with taking a ride on The Maid of The Mist, my husband came dangerously close to becoming “The Man of The Mist” on quite a few occasions. Luckily he has quick reflexes.

We then explored, Niagra On The Lake, an adorable and picturesque town 30 minutes north of the falls.  You can hang out on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Niagara On The Lake

Or explore the Ma and Pa type shops while enjoying the flowers in town.

Then we headed to Toronto which was a blast.  Loved the Hockey Hall of Fame:

We love you Mario…

And Crosby..

And Malkin.

But Stanley, you're our favorite!

Right outside our hotel was the ferry to the Toronto Islands.

You get a great view of Toronto from the ferry.

We spent the afternoon on Centre Island, opting not to explore the “clothing optional” beach at Hanlan’s Point.  Instead we enjoyed walking around

as well as hanging out at the beach.  This was the first time I have ever relaxed on a beach, under a tree, which is now officially my favorite kind of sun bathing.  If all beaches had shade trees, I’d probably go more often.

The view from my beach towel - sweet!

We saw Billy Elliot. Great show.  Piss off! is my new go-to cuss word when yelling at the kids.  It’s fun and communicates that I mean business without being personally degrading in any way as opposed to Fuck Off! which is too harsh and raunchy to use as a parenting device if you ask me.  Leave it to the British to come up with a more civil way of cursing at each other.

And of course, no trip to Toronto would be complete without a visit to the CN Tower.  One of the world’s tallest towers and a great example of how you can take something a city needs (i.e., better radio communication) and turn it into a money making attraction as well.

I don’t like heights.  Well, I don’t mind being up high, if I’m going fast, like on a roller coaster, but looking off the side of a giant building, really doesn’t do it for me.  Standing on a plexiglass floor 360-some meters above the ground, also seems like a bad idea.

Paige was the brave Pruce that took these pictures, not me.

And if you asked me to go OUTSIDE this tower and walk around?

Not like this. I can handle being outside and looking out through a metal, safety grate.

I’m talking about this craziness…

Who thinks this shit up?

From inside the tower, you can watch via a live cam all of the adrenaline junkies that pay $150 to walk on the outside edge of the CN Tower.  These fellas were enjoying the view from the outside, while I was getting a little sick to my stomach on the inside.

When we were safe on the ground, we decided to sit a spell before heading back to the hotel.   Before leaving, I took one last look up at the tower, only to see 5 asses staring down at me…

Are they mooning us?

This was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

Canada was great and even though Gary and Jarin didn’t get to enjoy a traditional beach like they wanted, we got time in and around water while Paige and I got to explore a big city.  I will say that being in Canada both during the winter and now the summer, I remember a lot more from this trip.  Not freezing our asses off, we meandered more, walked everywhere, opting often to simply sit and people watch.  We spent a ton of time outside as opposed to spending all of it in their underground PATH system that allows you to explore the city without having to brave the elements.

My kids loved Canada.  My youngest wants to move there.  In all fairness, she would move anywhere, but still, I told her she might want to come back in say, February and then decide if Toronto is the place for her.  Being on the water when it’s 30 below, just might have her saying, Piss Off! or worse!

If Only There Were A Yogic Reality Show…

Dare to dream.

I love me some trashy, reality TV.  I do have limits, but I’ll admit, I find Billy The Exterminator, sweet, Toddlers and Tiara’s mind-boggling and a Hoarder’s marathon?  Don’t even think about interrupting me.  But my all time favorite is Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise.  And even though each season more and more of these ladies get divorced, lose their fortunes and dignity for their 15 minutes, I keep watching, rooting, discussing and most of all, judging the shit out of these ladies.

So when I heard that there was some drama brewing in New York City yoga circles – like a car accident, I couldn’t turn away.  If you too like some asinine with your asana,  head over to Shine to read my post.

Mazel Tov!

At 12:01AM today, gay marriage became legal in New York state.  Andrew Sullivan wrote an amazing piece on The Daily Beast which includes this passage about his own marriage:

I still didn’t think it would ever happen to me. I thought I was too emotionally damaged, my emotions and sexuality severed by all those years of loneliness and arrested emotional development. I thought my heart had too much scar tissue, and I could live my life well enough with just friendship and occasional sexual encounters or dates. But when I first set eyes on my husband, I knew I had lucked out. Some things you simply know. And when we finally got married, a few years later, and our mothers walked us down the makeshift garden aisle, and my sister gave the reading through tears, and one of our beagles howled through the vows, and my father put his arms around me and hugged, I did not hear civilization crumble. I felt a wound being healed. It is a rare privilege to spend your adult life fighting for a right that was first dismissed as a joke, only finally to achieve it in six states and Washington, D.C. But how much rarer to actually stumble upon someone who could make it a reality. And to have it happen to me in my own lifetime! This joy is compounded, deepened, solidified by the knowledge that somewhere, someone just like I was as a kid will be able to look to the future now and not see darkness—but the possibility of love and home. That, I realized, was really what I had been fighting for for two decades: to heal the child I had once been—and the countless children in the present and future whose future deserved, needed, begged for a model of commitment and responsibility and love.

And isn’t that what marriage is about for everyone, gay or straight?  The healing of who you were by two people lovingly joining forces to consciously co-create a new reality?  You take remnants of your old life with you to the new one, but the one created will be very different from the one you left behind.

Why on earth anyone would be against this, I’m unsure.  I don’t understand the anti-gay marriage people whether it’s the haters that are violent or the super religious, loving folks that “tolerate” gays while praying to their God that these gay people see the light and “change”.

Sure the latter ones are nice and non-threatening, but it’s insulting, frankly.  People don’t want to be tolerated.  They want respect and reverence, which is different. Which brings us back to New York state who’s dishing it in droves today.

Congratulations!

Working Smart Not Hard

Those that know me know that I avoid hard work at all costs.  It’s not that I wont work hard – I just prefer to work smart whenever possible and keep my load light.

In honor of that – step on over to Shine, my yoga studio’s blog, and read what I posted there this morning (in lieu of writing 2 separate posts today on two separate blogs).  It’s about my becoming so yogafied that when my experiences aren’t “yogic” enough, I get a little restless and how important it is to give ourselves permission to simply finish, i.e., relax, rest and rejuvenate when we exercise.

Yogis Interruptis

For thirteen years I’ve been a fan of yoga.  Not an addict.  Not a stalker.  A fan.  I’ve enjoy the practice and fit it into my life as was appropriate, meaning, sometimes it’s taken a back seat to other areas that needed my attention.  In theory, I wanted to be more committed to my practice, but activities like motherhood, moving, and volunteerism got in the way.  Looking back, I believe that was part of the problem.  My theoretical yoga practice had a bigger hold on me than my actual one.

Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root word yuj which means “to yoke”, or “unite” and many claim it’s specifically about the union between mind, body and spirit.  Because the word may also derive from the root “yujir samadhau,” which means “contemplation”, you can see how for some, yoga is more about the mind and/or spirit and less about the body.  Which is fine if you need a distraction from always focusing on the physical and hating yourself, like I’ve done most of my life.  But if your default setting is always set to “cerebral” as mine tends to be (because it’s a lot easier to ignore the body that you hate if you spend the majority of your time in your head) it was easier to focus on living my yoga than performing poses on a mat.

I had hoped that yoga would eventually bring balance to the body part of the equation.  I think sensing this innate need is what inspired me to sign up for yoga teacher training (YTT), but in the end it was my mind that made the decision because teacher training was also a way to make a living.  Since I was already volunteering at the studio and really liked the yogis I met there, it seemed like a smart idea to make money doing something I enjoyed.  Regardless I was going to FINALLY give my yoga practice the attention it deserved (while secretly hoping that yoga would give me the physical body I’ve always wanted).

That was the plan, until my head took center stage because besides going to numerous yoga classes, YTT meant reading books about yoga, taking notes from lectures about yoga, conversing about yoga and and thinking various thoughts about yoga.  This of course was my favorite part of the training because it kept yoga between my ears where it truly liked to be.

After paying my first deposit and receiving my book list, I got cracking.  Instead of going to class I read Power Yoga and Moving Into Stillness.  Rather than doing asanas, I memorized their sanskrit names.   The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali?  Something I discussed with my classmates in lieu of actually experiencing them.

Training to be a yoga teacher quenched my thirst for yogic knowledge.  It meant understanding anatomy, physiology and contra-indications for poses.  I learned facts about properly sequencing a class and was taught the best way to verbalize alignment cues.  Because I intellectualized yoga so much, I spent most of my physical practices analyzing the teaching styles of the instructor and stealing ideas to use for future classes.  Thus yoga, even when training to be a teacher, continued to be a cerebral endeavor.

But then an interesting thing happened.  By the third weekend of training I was hitting the studio every couple of days attending vinyasa flow and even some hot yoga classes.  Besides simply doing more yoga, I was also walking daily and eating healthy.  Finally and perhaps for the first time in my life I was allowing my consciousness the luxury of settling within my body and staying present in it for more than a few seconds, here and there.  Yoga was slowly (and without a lot of fanfare I might add), doing it’s job.

Then, halfway through teacher training as I was FINALLY on my way to unifying my mind, body and spirit, a freak accident occurred.  I hit my head.  Hard.  The dizziness that made practicing more difficult was no where near as problematic as the results from my MRI.  It seems that yet again, my head was getting in the way of my performing the asanas.  Not my mind per say, but my brain itself.  The physical body that I’d become expert at ignoring must have finally had it, so to get my attention, it moved north to officially compete with my mind.

Turns out,  I wasn’t just a yogi with a concussion or an inability to yoke her mind to her body.

I was a yogi with 9 brain lesions.

I was a yogi with Multiple Sclerosis.

Yes, that’s correct.  A yogi lousy at living in her body got the disease that affects the body with an alarming level of inconsistency.  The disease that constantly brings your attention back to your body due to the ever changing plethora of physical symptoms it creates.

Did you hear that?

That was the sound of my personal yoga practice crashing into a brick wall.

I know what you’re thinking.  A progressive neurological diagnosis?  Or course she turned to her yoga practice to create health and wellness.

Naw.  I didn’t have time for that.  I had to go get a job.

Ode To Oprah

I received an offer from O, The Oprah Magazine for a $12 yearly subscription.  I haven’t been a subscriber in a while but since the show is ending and a $1 per month price is crazy, good, I decided to send in a check.  Besides getting a free O totebag and a chance to win a Kindle loaded with every Oprah book pick ever featured, I also got a leaflet that noted Oprah’s all time, top 10 “What I know For Sure” tenets.

In honor of the final Oprah show airing tomorrow and all that we’ve learned from her many guests, I’d like to give a shout out to Ms. Winfrey as these tenets definitely have stood and will continue to stand the test of time.  Some I’ve used. Other’s I’m still working on.  All I’ll try to pass down to my daughters.

  1. What you put out comes back to you.
  2. You define your own life.
  3. The past has no power over the present.
  4. When people show you who they are, believe them.
  5. Worrying is a waste of time.
  6. You become what you believe.
  7. The only prayer you ever need to say is Thank You.
  8. Your happiness is directly proportional to the amount of love that you give.
  9. Failure is an opportunity to go in an different direction.
  10. If your thoughts and choices are different from others the world will not fall apart.

Number 4 is the tenet that has helped me the most.  I’ve ended friendships, kept my distance from people, made important life decisions – all to my advantage by  following that nugget of wisdom.  I use it at work, at home, in my neighborhood and even at dinner parties.  I used to make excuses for people’s behavior.  I now see bad behavior as information that I need to have.

Other Oprah life lessons that I’ve benefitted from are:

  1. To get your attention, the universe will drop a pebble on your head.  If that doesn’t work, it’ll drop a rock, then a brick, etc.  I’ve found that over the years, I’m better at reacting to the pebble and not needing a piano to drop on me.  Thank you, Oprah.
  2. When you see crazy coming – Cross the street! Iyanla Vanzant  taught us that one and it’s very similar to the when people show you who they are, believe them philosophy from the above list.  It also works with when you see bitterness, laziness, judgement, I’m going to take advantage of you, or I’m going to be a pain in your ass, coming – cross the street as well.
  3. Knowing when you’re trying to be right versus trying to solve a problem.  (A Dr. Philism from his early days pre-his own show). This has assisted me when having discussions with my husband as well as shaped many an argument with my teenage daughters. I’ve definitely not mastered it, but at least it’s in my consciousness.
  4. Truly tapping into and trusting your intuition is one of the most powerful things that you can do for yourself.  I’ve had the opportunity to be in situations where I knew no one, had no background information and only had my intuition to guide me.  My internal guidance system was eerily accurate during those times. Thank you Gary Zukav for sharing this with your readers and the Oprah show audience
  5. Seeing fear as a gift that keeps you safe.  Security expert Gavin de Becker’s idea that you should ALWAYS listen to that voice in your head and never out logic yourself when it comes to your safety.  Who knows if it’s worked as I’ve never been a victim of anything violent, which could in fact be proof in and of itself.

I can honestly say that over the last 25 years, I’ve learned quite a bit from Oprah’s show, her magazine and all of the experts she’s featured.  Of course not everyone agrees.  Joan Rivers was once quoted by The National Enquirer as saying that “She feels Oprah’s real gift is exploiting people’s suffering and emotions and turning them into TV ratings.”  I don’t think she exploited people’s suffering as much as she’s wanted her audience to learn from it.  Many of her viewers featured these last few weeks have illustrated that point by coming forward to share how the show has changed them, or even saved them.

One woman said that a show about safety made her fight an attacker to avoid being taken to second location and thus saved her life as her attacker as she later discovered that her attacker had killed people in this manner.

Another viewer said that show about a stressed out mom who’s baby died when she forgot and left her in a hot car made her a more mindful parent.  When her own baby’s cries that she normally ignored as fussiness seemed different one afternoon, she remembered the mom that had been featured, walked into the nursery only to find her infant being strangled by the cord of her window blinds. She believes that being inspired to be more present saved her child’s life.

One mom said that advice given to a grieving mom on Oprah was her only “anchor” as she dealt with the overwhelming grief that she was experiencing when her own child died.

That’s powerful and important television.  How many talk show hosts even come close to that?

Oprah isn’t perfect.  Not every guest was phenomenal.  In fact, I’m still a little confused as to why she gave so much airtime to celebrities without medical training spouting medical advice?  But in the end, even the gaffes are okay because I also believe that…

  1. The universe honors intentions not necessarily outcomes

and I believe that her’s were good.  She never guaranteed results as much as she simply gave us more options.

I think the Season 25: Oprah Behind The Scenes show that’s been airing on OWN really drove home how the “Oprah Way” of doing things is not a bad way to live. Each week you get a behind the scenes look at Oprah and her team pulling together two shows.  Many of these hard working producers (that are clearly working long, stressful hours) are at their core, very centered and present people.  When something goes wrong, they are surprisingly calm, compassionate and gracious, even.  They, along with Oprah, seem to really live this “Oprahic lifestyle”, if you will.  Yes they get angry and disappointed and flustered, because they’re human – but they stay centered in a way that you don’t see illustrated in most reality shows. It makes you wonder what it would be like to work in an environment like that every day?  Or better yet, be the type of person that brings that energy to a work environment each day.  Maybe that’s why the show has been so successful – because it’s not only been hosted by Oprah, but produced by people that are very “Oprah-like”.  People with good intentions that are mindfully attempting to do their jobs well.

I’m definitely going to miss Oprah.  I think women over 50 are just beginning to settle into their power so imagine what else she could’ve taught us had her show stayed on the air?  I look forward to seeing what she’ll do with an entire network.  I’m guessing that it’ll be pretty spectacular.

Thank You Oprah.  Wishing you all the best.