Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Moth Story At The Moth StorySlam

Another amazing, powerful and awe-inspiring night at The Moth StorySlam. And god bless the volunteers and the folks at KUOW that help make these nights happen. 

The theme was "saved" and I'll admit -- except for my coworkers at church (which at the moth part felt sort of weird) I hadn't ever told this story out loud because who wants to admit to being that desperate to.... well, listen and you'll see. Even James laughed, and laughed hard and he's my toughest audience.

Click here for a fun little listen to brighten your Saturday morning.

(or try the soundcloud player below ... in beta ... I'm not thrilled with the gi-normous size of it, but have to start somewhere.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Awwww ... I'm Her Hero! ...

Bernadette's kindergarden class has a monthly sharing day -- they have to stand up and give a presentation for about five minutes on any topic. This month they were to talk about their hero. 

That's a tricky topic for anyone, but, yeeesh, she's only five six. I pushed for James's mum, Margaret. First of all, because she's one of two Margarets in the family, the K teacher's name is Margaret and B's middle name is Margaret. 

And Margaret is really damn cool. Orphaned by age 10, then enlisted in the British Navy in WWII and flew -- on an airplane! -- to Canada with only her older sister in tow and an address of a friend-of-a-friend's-cousin's-sister that allegedly had a boarding house. Amazing! 

Bernadette decided that I am her hero. She wasn't sure why except that I'm a fun mom. Well, that is true. 

So I put together a couple of photos to hit some (kid-friendly) high points. 

When I was sixteen, I went to the Dominican Republic with Amigos de las Americas and gave vaccines to ghetto children. 

(When she's older, I'll be sure to tell the story of how I 'helped' a man that beat his children for crying after getting their shots. )

When I was seventeen, this was my morning commute in Honduras. Yep, I walked up mountains ... 

 ... to go to schools to teach children about the importance of dental hygiene. 

(When she's older, I'll regale her with tales of hardship on this trip, including no food, then too much food, then dysentery and having to go through the mayor's house to get to a proper outhouse and how hitchhiking, while fun, is not a great way to get home from a vacation. Also, fire ants really, really like Pepto.)

(I helped put an end to marching band hazing in my freshman year of college, but that's too heady a topic for a young child, no?) 

 After college, I moved to New York City and lived on the 2nd floor of this building... I was often late for work because subways are really confusing. 

(When she's older, I'll sure to warn her that subways are especially tricky when the express switches to the local tracks and vice versa. Yes, 4 and 6 Lex Ave train, I'm talking about you. I'll also explain how exciting it can be when women decide to band together to, ahem, address a chronic feel-copper on the F-is-for-Forever train.) 

I worked with graffiti artists at The Door and convinced an art school to provide scholarships for about a dozen graffiti boys so they could stop putting their markers on buildings and start putting their markers on paper. 

I worked on a trading desk, which I didn't mention because stocks and bonds are hard enough to learn about at age 26, let alone age 6.

I was on the radio as a news reporter and had my own show and a big silver microphone, just like Kermit.

And before I grew twins in my belly, I wrote a book and am always happiest at a keyboard, 
just like Snoopy. 

Miranda -- this one is for you. I accomplished a lot before the age of 20. 
Was I a dating maven? I was not. Were men beating a path to my doorway? Not exactly. 

I *adored* the guys from Amigos, they were cut of the same cloth. I would have married any of them, except the tall creepy guy with bad skin and freakishly unruly hair. 

College gets easier because everyone talks about how they hated high school and how they never fit in and you'll be all like "omg, me too me too!" And then you'll read about some group meeting over in the student union and you'll go and meet all the other unicorns. 

And then you'll go to the 10-year high school reunion. All the shy nerdy guys will have great hair and fascinating jobs. And all the muscle guys, the jocks, etc., will be partially bald. 
See? Faux overconfidence leads directly to hair loss. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Relax Your (Damn) Toes, The Finale

Funny, it's been so cathartic to bang on the keyboard with fellow yoga teachers about the inanity of teaching yoga for a living. 

Dana, this one's for you .... 

So, back to Big Guy. Big Guy was a former sports star who had been drawn to Bikram yoga due to the (alleged) high calorie burn each 90-minute class offered. He was, ahem, oppositional. When asked to lock his knee, he'd bend it. When asked to exhale, he'd hold his breath and puff his cheeks out like a, well, puffer fish. ("I'm not sharing my life force with anyone!"). 

The studio owner, who I was convinced was a mafia witness relocation gone horribly awry, refused to address the issues we were having with Big Guy. Aside from the weird and semi-dangerous stuff he was doing in class, he refused final savasana. Which is mostly okay, you can't force someone to relax. But it was exit strategy that was problematic. Right as his fellow students were laying on their mats,  he'd stand up and shake his mat vigorously, much the same way you shake sand from your beach blanket. Only instead of sand, he was flinging his sweat everywhere. Did I mention? He was flirting with being seven feet tall.  Everyone complained to the studio owner. 

Do something, darnit! The answer? But he's sports guy, dontcha remember that game three years ago? Second answer: He's gonna buy an annual. Let's reel him in to the annual and then we'll set some boundaries. I had tried to talk to Big Guy after class, telling him it was certainly okay to pass on savasana ... but that the yogically polite way was to simply leave the class room quietly, shower and then return to the studio to fetch mat and water bottle. Easy peasy. 

But no matter, every time I said "Relax your toes," bam!, like a weird pavlovian cue, he'd stand up and fling his sweat everywhere. 

One day, I'd had enough. Right as I was settling in the students for final savasana, I thought to myself "This is the last time you ruin savasana, you big sweaty bully." So I walked over and stood on the top of his mat. 

"Relax your toes," and we are staring at each other, duelers at sunset. 

"Relax your ankles," and Big Guy tries to yank the yogitoes right out from underneath me.   

"Relax your legs," and he hisses get off my mat, bitch

"Relax your hips," and he shouts OFF MY MAT BITCH. 

"Relax your shoulders, relax your neck, relax your jaw." GET OFF MY FUCKING MAT YOU CRAZY BITCH. 

"Relax your  nose, relax your eyes, relax your eyelids, relax your eyebrows. Namaste!" 

And then I spirited out of the studio, to find the chubby little studio owner just standing there. 

The studio door flings open and Big Guy is now really mad. Like 1,000% madder than 60 second prior. YOU CRAZY BITCH, NO ONE STEPS ON MY MAT. THAT'S MY MAT BITCH. 

And he has his hand raised to strike me and the studio owner? Steps behind me. Not in front of me, not gallantly stepping between me and harm's way ... but behind me. (In his defense, I was definitely in better shape than him.) 

And the outcome? I was fired for not apologizing to the student. 

"Just apologize so we can get 'im into an annual, and you don't have to mean it when you apologize." 

"That's marvy. So, um, this might sound crazy, but I'm totally opposed to apologizing to a person who tried to hit me." 

So I was fired. Chubby owner asks if I'd mind vacuuming on my way out and I said no thank you. 

Owner has studio manager call me that night and she informs me that she will mail me a check and that if I ever come near the studio again, they will file a restraining order. "Students shall never be abused by teachers. They need to feel safe in this space." 

p.s. no, I don't remember the name of Big Guy. No, I'm not protecting his crappy sports legacy, I just remember part of the name and the last thing I need to do is to accuse the wrong sports hero of sweat-flinging and teacher-sassing. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Reward the Good, Ignore (sort of) the Bad

Charlotte was sick about a month ago -- it started out with general malaise and a lot of sleeping. I remember asking if anything hurt and she said "my ear is wet like in the pool." Hmm. That's a weird thing to complain about it, isn't it? Ear looked fine. Two days later, there's gooey amber dripping out of her ear and I thought, "Ohhhhh, my ear is wet." The doctor says she's got two things going on -- both an ear infection and pneumonia. 

Thank god and ganesh, the antibiotics did worked their magic and within 48 hours, Charlotte was back to her sweet self. And then, almost like the lurking shingles virus, once Charlotte started feeling much better, she started to really annoy her sister. On purpose.

I'll admit it -- I did nothing. There was no parenting hotline to call and no crystal ball and Bernadette is so bossy 90% of the time, that I thought, pffft, turn about is fair play. I did nothing. 

And a week later, it escalated as we were getting ready for church. Charlotte was singing a silly song about candy corn and wanted her sister to learn the lyrics to sing with her and B would have none of it. She spoke unkindly, then she yelled and when I got upstairs, B had her hand over C's mouth (with C still singing).  

When I'm totally stumped and when my Love & Logic book doesn't have the problem in their index, I refer to my puppy training book. Puppy training says: reward the good behavior. No sense smacking them on the nose or rubbing said nose in kitchen floor puddle -- but if they pee outside, set off the fireworks, love, praise, snack. 

I told the girls we'd go to church and ask Pastor Mary what to do. The standard WWJD wasn't working -- baby Jesus did not have a twin sister. And then after church, Charlotte and I would go to Sweet Cakes and indulge in gluten free cake pops. Bernadette would stay home and help James with yard work.

Ever the planner, B asked if we would bring a cake pop home for her. No. 

"It's okay, you pick the flavor." 


"You could bring it home and then put it in the freezer and I could have it for later." 


"I know! You should buy three cake pops. One for you and one for sissy and one for daddy. And daddy doesn't like cake, so then he'd give it to me. But you wouldn't buy me one." 

Still, no.

 There's Charlotte, enjoying a vanilla cake pop with sprinkles. I'm hoping she's not thinking "I should annoy sissy more, this worked out great for me!"

And the two of us in a sweet selfie. I'm thinking "Hooray, first egg-filled bakery treat coated in delicious dairy in six months and, look!, I'm still alive. "

We did some shopping. And the joy with having just one child on hand is that yes, you can play a bit and try things on and take a moment to breathe and soak it all in. (And also wonder -- why does C also try on the 6+-in heels? No imprinting from me, that's for sure.)

Also interesting to watch, normally reserved Charlotte told anyone who would listen that she had a sister that broke the rules and so she, who likes rules, gets to have a cake pop.
About eight stores later, we were ready to go home. I called James and he and B decided to take the dogs on a hike and C couldn't believe sissy wouldn't be at home waiting for her. So she cried and moped on the way home. Until we got to Uwajimaya and she found kiwi fruit.

(As an aside -- snaps to Sweet Cakes and Jamie Seefurth for telling me about them in the first place. Delicious bakery that's gluten free. It's where we go to celebrate all our milestones -- potty training successes, dental work, physical therapy graduation, end of thumb sucking.)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Religion, Parenting and the Religion of Parenting

seriously, cuteness overload!
Parenting sometimes feels to me like a religion. There are some similarities. 

For starters, a religion asks that its followers take a leap of faith, to believe in the unknown. Likewise, parents embrace their new role with a blind faith that it'll all work out. 

Churches need tithes (ideally, 10% of income) to keep the lights on and the followers happy. Children also need tithes (50% is ideal!) for shoes, kindergarten (yep, we pay over $600/month to attend a public K), little bear leather orthotics we throw out every growth spurt, crib tents and My Little Pony hoodies. 

Parenting choices can also feel as divisive as religion. In these modern times, maybe even more so. Most parents I know are sort of vanilla on their spiritual decisions, but poke around and bring up a hot parenting topic, and, oh!, the fervor. 

I muttered many curses at the breast feeding zealots people who espoused the firm belief that if BF hurt, well, then momma is clearly doing something wrong.  Woe to the many doulas who tried to convince me that sleep training my twin babies was 'child abuse.' Don't even get me started on the doula broker that informed me that my BabyWise book has led to baby deaths all over the country. (And then there was the BF expert who informed me that she just knew that all BF issues always happen to moms who read BabyWise.)

People who sleep with their children in their beds do so to prevent night time crying and believe that crib-reliant folks are simply teaching babies how to cope with, and accept, abandonment. Parents who use cloth diapers feel morally superior to lessening the landfill burden while disposable diaper people are quick to point out that washing a cloth diaper on three separate cycles is stealing from the ocean (and, therefore, killing Nemo).

The biggest similarity between parenting and religion, IMO, is the lack of the bat phone, the direct hotline to god that confirms the Right Way and the Wrong Way for once and for all. It could be my former life as a search engine webchick, but I think a nice telephony app could fix a lot of woes:

 If you want answers about heaven entrance requirements and current wait time, press 1. 

If you are currently in heaven and having trouble locating a loved one, press 2. 

If you are at the rainbow bridge and have been greeted by an incorrect number of pets, press 3. 

If you've arrived and are unable to locate your allocated 72 virgins,  press 4. 
If you are a designated virgin and need help maintaining your perpetual virginity, press 5.  

If you've bitten into an apple and discovered a worm bit and need a kashrut exemption form, press 6.
[explanation of kosher dietary laws]

If you've been denied heaven entrance and would like to file a complaint against your sin-eater, press 7.
[the movie didn't quite get it right]

If you've begun reincarnation for the first time, press 8. 

If you looking for ways to defeat both evil and Nightmare Moon, press 9 to connect with Twilight Sparkle. 

For all other inquiries, please stay on the line. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

FODIWitis ... and car accident #8

I know they say you shouldn't self diagnose ... but I've come to realization that I'm suffering from acute FODIW. Fear Of Doing It Wrong. 

(Even thinking about writing this down had me worried -- was it doing it wrong? or doing it incorrectly? Incorrectly is probably more correct, but then FODII looks more like a computer language than an illness ... see there I go again. Naming my illness incorrectly. Oy.) 

Busted through the cobwebs and went to The Moth Storyslam last night in Seattle. 

And I won!! 

Technically, I came in 2nd place, but there was about, oh, one point between 1st and 2nd place. And I'm glad I "lost" to the amazing story about surviving climbing up a mountain during an avalanche. Also, overcoming crippling FODIW is a win in and of itself. 

Without further ado... here's the story I told last night.  (And, damn, if only had remembered to record it ... the audience was *amazing.*

----------------- at The Moth Storyslam at the Fremont Abbey Art Center ------------

The funny things is, when I saw that this Moth theme was “accidents,” I was thrilled because I’ve been in not one… and not two … and not three … but EIGHT car accidents and I finally get to use that to my advantage.

Since I have just five minutes,  I’ll have to pick my favorite car accident. Which is kind of a weird thing to do, since they are like little children, each one special in its own way. 

My favorite car accident is accident #8. First of all, it is my favorite because it was my last one. It was the most dramatic accident and, years later, impacted me profoundly. 

Ten years after my final and – did I mention? – eighth car accident, I was called to jury duty in the heart of Brooklyn. In case you are wondering, when you have eight car accidents, you eventually move to a city with great public transportation.

My super serious book club had just selected Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain and I thought that jury duty would be a great time to make a dent in one of those classic books that everyone claims to have read.

(as a side note: do not read this book if you have recently reduced your antidepressant medicine and/or if you have a family history of depression, suicidal tendencies or lung problems. Spoiler alert! Part of the book focuses on TB patients who are shipped to Switzerland, wrapped in blankets and left outside on a balcony. And then everyone is shocked and when that doesn’t work out well as a cure. )

Where was I? I’m settled in with a bleak, cold book, ready to do my American civil duty for the next 10 days. On day #4, I get called and during the voir dire, I am asked if I had ever been in any car accidents. When I mention that, yes, I have had, ahem, a couple of accidents, the lawyer wants to hear about them all and then the opposing counsel says he objects because who has time to hear about all eight accidents. So we focus on the last accident.

So the details go like this: I’m driving north on MOPAC, the equivalent of I-5, in Austin, Texas. I’m going about 65, it’s 1985 and there’s great dance music on the radio, Raspberry Beret, Would I Lie To You? … and then my car is smushed into the back of the car in front of me. In fact, I’m car #3 in a 5-car pile up. We all get out of our cars and no one is bleeding, which us drivers think is great. We talk and learn that the driver of car #1 is new to Texas and saw a squirrel on the highway and, being Buddhist, wanted to practice ahimsa and slammed on his brakes so the squirrel could safely cross the road. All 5 drivers agree that any sort of suing each other made no sense – the insurance forms alone would keep us busy for a while.

The lawyer is incredulous. He cannot believe that there were no lawsuits after such a big pile up. “I find that incredibly suspicious.” Someone had to be held accountable, darnit. Surely I could see that?

“You mean I should have sued the squirrel?

He pauses. “There are many avenues for legal remedies.”

“So I should sue the squirrel’s parents for raising a naughty squirrel?”

The lawyer angers and his cheeks turned shiney red. “What I mean is, the highway was on land owned by the city of Austin.“

“So I should sue the city for allowing bad squirrel parents to live and work on their land?”

No, he shouts, exasperated. “You could sue the city for not putting up a squirrel-proof fence?”

“A what?”

“A proper fence that would contain squirrels.”

And I don’t know why, but it just slipped out. I answered, “You are a city boy, aren’t you?”

City boy lawyer narrows his beady eyes and me and changes the topic. He sneers “I think you just don’t get that the legal system is an American god given right…”

And I said, “Well, it is true, I do think that karma is the ultimate supreme court of life.”

At which point I was thrown off the jury. All because of car accident #8.

On day #5, I’m called for a jury and the lawyer says “Are you the girl that had eight car accidents?” and I say yes and am thrown out.

Lather rinse and repeat for day #6 and day #7. When I enter the courtroom, lawyers start huddling and I can hear them whispering “it’s that squirrel girl” or “who has eight car accidents?”

I beg the woman at the front desk to just get me out, if everyone is going to shun me, then I’d rather be at home. She says it is up to the original cityboy lawyer and tells me I am prohibited by law from speaking to him. “Not a word,” she says sternly, “or you could be jailed for contempt. Not. A. Word.”

And so, on day #8, with the Magic Mountain book pushing me over the edge, I walk up to the attorney, Mr. cityboy attorney and I hiss at him. A nice big wet scary hiss.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m released from jury duty. And I’ve never, ever been called back.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hike to Heather Lake

With earnings season, teaching yoga at three studios and a new job (more on that later), my days off have been few and far between this summer.

August 24th is a big day here. For reasons that perplex, both of our respective ex-spouses share this birthday. So 8/24 is "happy ex-spouse birthday day" ... and our cat Fergus and poodle Charley were born on 8/24. I realized that I had zero work scheduled for Sunday or Monday (or Tuesday for that matter ... three consecutive days off, oh!, the possibilities!).

I hopped on to the Washington Trail Finder and decided that Heather Lake met all our criteria: less than 2-hour drive, less than 5 miles, rated as kid friendly.

Perhaps the newly-legal marijuana factored into the "kid friendly" reviews ... but, man!, this was one tough hike.

The first 100 feet were great and easy and we're like, yah, we are Rainier hikers, we got this.

In fact, I was filling chill enough to stop during the easy part of the trail and photograph the happy family. This is pre-waterfall, pre-mud, pre-river and (importantly) pre-meltdown.

Then the remaining 1.95 miles was a series of gnarled tree roots, loose unstable boulders or water-slick granite.  Like this little stretch.

James and I are both super proud of our little mountain goats. They did great despite the challenges and the second we got to the top and found the lake, oh!, what a view. Both girls scrambled up to the stop of a boulder to get a better view of the ice blue (and icy!) lake.

One teeny tiny meltdown over which was a 'nicer' boulder on which to dine ... and we settled on this spot. All I'm thinking here is "damn, one energy bar and bottle of water per person and one pound of trail mix ... I totally underpacked!"

And about ten minutes after this idyllic photo was taken, a thunderstorm blew in and it poured rain for at least 30 minutes ... and then hailed. We were oh-so happy to see our car and I was quick to point out how lucky our children were that I had packed dry clothes for them (but not the big people ... but the big people had heated seats for the way home). And a Family First: first drive through ... at a Starbucks. Hot cocoa for the two brave girls in the back, and yes!, of course we need whip cream on top.