Monday, May 31, 2010


On the path, just sitting there, right next to my house, was this amazing little empty bird's nest. I picked it up and held it gently in my was as light as a feather. I just can't get over how a little bird made this. How does that bird know what to do? When to do it? How does a bee know when and were to do it's little bee dance? Instinct you will think...but what is instinct? How is behavior encoded in a little bird brain, I mean, what is really going on..... The answer is, as any upstanding ethnologist would tell you, that the little chickadee gets a cue, the warm weather associated with spring, and starts building. But what, really, is the mechanism by which a robin knows how big to build and what kind of materials to use to create it's nest? That we don't really know. I spose you can think like Darwin (in Origin of Species) and believe it's all about learning from one's brothers....and, you know, survival of the fittest. Either way, little bird nests such as these are a marvel to me....

Saturday, May 29, 2010

And, Summer Begins!

A giant cup of delicious vanilla ice cream
topped with colored sprinkles just yells out,
"Summer...glad you are here!"

A drippy mint chocolate chip ice cream cone is like
a round of applause,
"Yah! Summer. Bring it on!"

But, nothing beats, 3 bowls of ice cream
to slowly dip into, one icy cold bite at a time.
So many flavors.
So little time!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What Do You Love About Your Body?

Yogis teach that one way out of suffering is to change negative self-talk into positive self-talk. Just do it. Simple and sage yoga advice but so very hard to do in the moment. In a recent yoga class, I asked my yoginis, all young girls, to think about what part of their bodies they loved. Before answering, some of the girls talked about not liking their bodies. "You feel fat", "you want to be perfect", and "boys make fun of you" were some of the reasons (negative self-talk) these girls gave as to why they thought it was hard to really love their bodies. Even when I asked, what do you love, these young girls first wanted to talk about why they didn't love about their bodies. After that brief conversation, I asked the same question again and one bright and creative girl answered, "I love my brain." I had to big surprise there as she is a gifted math student! Two girls told the group that they loved their families. A sweet and tender response. But I wanted to know what these girls thought and felt about their bodies so I pressed them further. Finally Maggie told the group that she loved her legs because she had had a hard time walking when she was younger. Made me think....we take so much for granted. She was grateful that her legs now worked, that she had the strength to walk. Grateful to just walk! Melinda, another young yogi loved her legs, as well, because she was a dancer. She couldn't imagine life without dance. Still another girl, Cindy, who has had more physical problems and hospitalizations than any tender soul should ever have had to endure in her lifetime, told us that she loved her hair. It was one part of her body that hadn't failed her. Bless these tender young yogis, I thought to myself as we began our asanas.

Research has found that girls as young as 5 are overly focused on their bodies in such a way that when they feel fat or unattractive (at 5!), they feel really about bad about who they are as a person. I certainly have had my issues with my body over the years. How many times have I asked my husband, "Do I look fat in this?" How many jokes have I made and how many products have I bought to tame my wild and curly hair? It's only now because I workout several times a week, eat in a healthy way (most of the time!) and study and teach yoga that I have come to feel pretty good about my body, and that statement isn't true every day. Maybe if we focused more on what we love about our bodies vs. what we dislike, we'd all be happier. As the yogis teach...just do it. Or as Cindy said so genuinely and from the heart, "If you don't like yourself then you won't like what you see in the mirror, anyway." Amen.

Hot Nude Yoga

Oh my. This is the most ridiculous type of yoga I have heard about yet. Apparently Hot Nude Yoga started in the 1960's, becoming really popular when a Hawaiian, Aaron Star, released a DVD with the title, Afternoon Delight, in 2001. Afternoon Delight? Supposedly, it's not at all sexual....hmmmmm. Etiquette includes not staring at your fellow naked kidding. Men outnumber women in these classes which are held behind heavily-curtained windows. Partner poses are common. There are also DVDs and books on nude tai chi. Oy vey...I prefer to remain fully clothed while bouncing around on my yoga mat in a crowded room full of people I barely know, thank you very much.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Open Heart

I have been studying and practicing yoga for 5 years. Now I teach yoga to kids. I have not always been so good about an early morning practice even tho I enjoy it and know how good it is for me. Sometime back, during a stressful time at work, I did my asanas (physical poses) and pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation for an entire work week, early in the morning. I felt wonderful as I confidently drove to work. However, once I got to work I noticed that I could barely function with such wide open, peace-and-love-to-all heart. Everything people said to me touched me, emotionally. Their words either moved me in some deep and significant way or they pierced me and I was mortally wounded. I wanted to cry or run away all day! So, I stopped doing yoga in the mornings before work. But, I have missed it. A month or so ago, at a yoga training, I brought this up to my friend, who is also a yoga for kids instructor. To my surprise, she immediately knew what I was talking about. She said that when she went to work, she had to have her $*&^ face on. If she was too open, she just couldn't call up that face and couldn't function in her job. So this is the trick. To be open but not so open that you can't easily move through the day. There is a place for complete openness and a kind, loving heart just hanging out there....with family and friends, in my yoga community and with the kids I work with. I need that open heart when I do my art work and write. At work, however, where I am being criticized, evaluated and monitored (which is OK..that seems to be what the workplace is), by people who hold very different ideas and values from me, I need to practice restraint and not walk around with my heart dangling from my sleeve. I want to be open but not unprepared for what might come my way. Moved but not mortally wounded. Now I am doing my early morning yoga practice again (and I LOVE it) but mindful of my heart sitting ever-so-openly on my shoulder. Maybe this will work better :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

The West

I love children's writing and drawings. I have collected various pieces over the years. This drawing was done by a Kindergartner with a very active and creative imagination. I love the building with home fires burning and flags flapping in the breeze. Here is her story.
The West

The people were going to a new place, like Hanukkah, or the West, like where cowboys usually go.
The flying submarine is going to another land
to destroy it.
The energy bowl gives the people energy so they
can watch TV or play games.

The "energy bowl" is the dark cap-like structure topping the building on the left. When I asked this clever little kid if there was more to the story, she said, as she laid her head on the desk, "I don't want to tell you everything because it makes me tired." Well, there you go!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox

I had been absent on the day Syliva read the last few pages of The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I didn't realize how much I had enjoyed reading this book, with this student, until the day I returned. At her reading time, I told Sylivia that I was sorry I had missed reading with her and maybe she could re-tell the story to me. I had never read the book and really did want to know the ending. Instead, she insisted that we go back and re-read the parts I missed, together. At the time I was annoyed. The teacher in me wanted her to practice re-telling the story, an important skill for her to work on. Sometimes, I hate to admit, I completely miss what a student is trying to tell me. For Sylvia, reading was important, and she enjoyed Mr. Fox's exploits, but what really mattered to her was our relationship and how that played out when we read. When I think back, it truly was a very sweet, mutual relationship. She read a page, I read a page, she read a page. She enjoyed my company, I enjoyed hers. Sylvia needed lots of emotional support given her home life and I was there for her. Sylvia had difficult relationships with most everybody at school. Our relationship, on the other hand, was always on a fairly even keel. Probably because I only saw her 1 hour a day but also, I'd like to think, because we had a genuine relationship together. I liked her and she liked me. It reminds me of what I know to be true, teaching is about two souls connecting and learning together. If that isn't there...neither is real learning.


My dog was whimpering at 5:23am this quiet Sunday morning so I woke up out of a deep sleep to take her pee. When I'm awoken like that I usually remember my dreams. Last night I drempt that I was on vacation, at the wrong time. I was somewhere exotic, with other school employees but thinking to myself, "Gee, I'm going to get into trouble as I'm taking my vacation next week when February break is over. Guess that'll be some days without pay for me. Hope I don't get fired!" So, that was odd. But, the most memorable "scene" was having this woman with crazy hair, give me a mohawk! I sort of looked like myself as I peeked around her head and into the mirror, tho I had blond hair.....and now it was shaved into a funky mohawk! And my "stylist" made a big deal about telling me to use just the right amount of gel to get that ridiculous stripe of hair, now running down the top of my head, to stand up! We also talked about my dream I was looking forward to experiencing the resident ghosts...something I WOULD not seek out in any other state of mind. My associations? Hmmmm. What comes to mind is that when you take vacation at the wrong time without telling anybody and then return with a aren't following the rules. I didn't follow the rules when I was younger, now I probably follow them too much so maybe this is a message...loosen up!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Portrait in Sand and Earth

Laura Snyder Smith photos

I guess it is both a pajama and a writing day today. What is on my mind now is this amazing art exhibit my husband and I were invited to (thank you, Roseanne!) last week at the George Marshall Store Gallery in York, Maine. The gallery is located on the York River, next to a building identified as one John Hancock, yes THE John Hancock, owned many years ago. The building has had several lives and is currently home to art. We entered through the back door, on the riverside and I was...not so impressed. We walked up a narrow set of steps and then entered a larger room. Hmmmm....local wine and appetizers....nice after a long work day. We greeted our hosts. Mary, the curator, was a lovely woman. The new owner of Sotheby's was very friendly and we are always happy to see our real estate agent, Roseanne. Greetings and food in place, I started to wander around. I found my way into a back room where science tubes had been hung up in rows all around the room...100 of them. "Looks like a science experiement," I told my husband. As I was about to leave, disinterested, I looked closer. Underneath each vile of sand, shells, rocks, dirt was a journal entry. The local artist, Lauren Gillette, had created her life, an autobiography of her life, using earth materials in science tubes. I was amazed. Under the black sand from Hawaii was the journal entry, "From our trip to Hawaii.....". And I remembered when my brother and I walked the black sand beaches of Hawaii. Under the reddish dirt/sand from China, "My father-in-law's home that we visited......." And then I was amazed, engrossed and had so much fun! Clever, novel.....what I love most about art!


As I passed by the room, I looked in on this wonderful teacher reading with her young student. They were comfortably sitting in a pile of giant pillows. He was reading, "Tom.... i s..... r u n n i n g." She kindly and gently nudged him when he got stuck on a word. He has read this level of book for 2 years and is in the 4th grade. Learning to read is a major feat when you have a significant learning disability. She is there to guide and help him. She is the teacher this child will remember all his life. It saddens me that what this woman does best, teach, is what she has the least amount of time for these days. The nature of special education is such that teachers who are also case managers, spend endless, and I mean endless hours as the list is evergrowing, working on the computer, meeting with teachers, parents, outside agencies. She plans for assessments, gives assessments, writes reports. She has little time for what matters most and what she does best and what she was highly trained for, teaching and planning for teaching. The federal government is up in arms as is the state about the condition of our educational system but they are missing it. In my opinion, they are missing the key element...excellent teachers and the relationship they nurture with their most challenged students. Teachers need time and support to do what they do best, TEACH! As long as that is missed, we, as a country, will continue to lag behind.

To Spin or Not to Spin

I know how important it is to workout. I get it. The latest book I read demanded..that you work out 6 times a week. But, I just cannot. This week was draining beyond imagination. Last night I had the best of plans to work out, lift weights and get my heart beat racing for 45 minutes at the gym, but instead I came home, made a cup of tea and sat on my deck in the warmth of the sunshine, reading! This morning I need pajama time..I NEEEEDDDD pajama time...... and no spin for me. But, tomorrow, I will hop back on that wild racing horse and work my body once again. Sometimes I just need it to be quiet and I cannot do that when my heart is racing and my muscles are burning! Isn't there some pill I can take so I don't have to work my body out so much :P

That Indian Yoga Guy

The last time my young yogi group met, 3 weeks ago, I talked about Ghandi because 3 of my students are very interested in war. One had recently written a beautiful poem about how her grandmother felt during WWII right here in our community, as she had to pull down the window shades in fear at night or worry about what she would eat for dinner. I don't remember being so interested in war in elementary school but such is the world we live in. I had decided we would talk about friendship a bit this week...what makes a good friend....because I had "inside knowledge" that two of my students, sweet, bright little girls, were having friend problems. As we sat in a circle and opened class, and I mentioned our topic, I asked for questions. One of my yogis requested, "Can you tell us more about that yoga guy from India." We had talked about Ghandi and peaceful war....such a contradiction..peaceful war.... They wanted to know more. We went on to talk about how Ghandi used total non-violence (ahimsa), non-cooperation, boycots, and peaceful resistance as a means of resisting social injustice. He led organized protests and always spoke the truth. I could see the wheels turning in these young and open their world, how do you remain peaceful and stand up for yourself? How do you do that when somebody you think is your friend pushes you down and makes you cry? Difficult but important lessons for these young souls to learn :)

Where's My Wife?

My husband told me about the funniest dream he had last night. This is significant because he rarely remembers his dreams. He was walking around a local town, at night, in his blue plaid pajama bottoms with his pillow under his arm. He felt like a little kid. In his dream he didn't talk to anybody but people stared at him. He felt embarrassed but eventually found me. Whatever does that mean? They say when you don't dream much, every dream you recall is important. Furthermore "they" say that we actually dream all the time which is why the ones you recall carry such importance. Neither my husband nor I could really figure out the deep and hidden meaning in his wandering the streets, pillow under arm, looking for me, but it was pretty funny! Here I'm "lost" on the beach in Seattle....dancing around :P

Sunday, May 9, 2010

What is Yoga?

At the very moment my yoga mentor posed the question, What is Yoga?, I noticed the smallest of creatures, an ant, I think, crawling around on the hardwood floor. He crawled to the right and then to the left of my mat. As I watched him, all I could think about was how tiny his body parts are....a mouth I'd need a microscope to see, a miniature eye, teeny weeny legs, an itty-bitty ant heart pumping fluid throughout his little bug body!

What is Yoga? was the question presented last night during my monthly yoga teaching training seminar. I answered that it is believing in something bigger than myself. I added, “It’s understanding the big picture without getting hung up in the minutia.” Others answered that it is the breath, prana, energy.... When I began my yoga training some 5 years ago I would have answered, “Yoga is about getting into downward dog, making sure my heels are flat on the ground and learning how to breathe using the 3-part breath.” I knew nothing about yoga then and I know a little about yoga now. Without a doubt, the physical moves and learning about my breath are essential components of yoga. But to me, now, yoga is really about how I am in my life. Am I kind, centered, self-aware, mindful, organized, disciplined, generous or am I not? Do I take care of my body and my home and those around me or not?

Today I was reading the Bhagavad-Gita again (one of the texts we study in training). The warm and wonderful sun was shining through my bedroom window. As I lay on my bed engrossed in the story of Arjuna's enlightenment, I thought again about that tiny little ant crawling around the yoga room on this and then that side of my purple yoga mat. If there is a God I like that idea that he or she is everywhere (as the Bhagavad-Gita tells it) and in that I think I would change my answer to What is Yoga? Today I might answer, "Yoga is like this little ant. I am like this little Ant. We are both alive and connected to one another, as are all living things. And yoga, for me, is about being present enough to notice the tiny little insect with it’s tiny little beating heart, circumnavigating my yoga mat as I sit in a group of budding yogis pondering the deep meaning of yoga." Yoga and the Ant......the latest book on yoga philosophy! Coming soon :P

From one Joy to Another

Shortly after my mom (who's name was Joyce) died, I lay in bed at her house early one morning. To my astonishment and then a little fear, I smelled the most distinct scent of roses in the air. It happened one other morning. I looked high and low. There were no roses in the house. Roses were especially important to my mom. My dad has always had a rose garden. Every morning roses were in bloom, he would bring her several fresh cut flowers that she would proudly display all around the house. As my mom lay in her pink casket on that last, sad day I sprinkled pink roses petals from dad's garden over her finally peaceful body. Miss and love you mom...

My 85-year old dad! Still alive and well :) And, still loving his roses!

Sent to me from my very thoughtful friend...For my mother in heaven: If roses grow in heaven, Lord pick a bunch for me , place them in my mothers arms and tell her they're from me. Tell her that I love and miss her and when she turns to smile, place a kiss upon her cheek and hold her for awhile, because remembering her is easy, I do it everyday, There's an ache that will never go away.......Happy Mothers Day In Heaven

What, No Bike?

So, I like to think of myself as calm and yogic most of the time. After all, I am a 200 level yoga instructor, working on my 500 level certification. I am certified to be a kids yoga instructor and certified to teach yoga in the schools. I teach yoga to kids on Fridays. And I have a Ph.D. in psychology. Calm should be readily accessible to me. But sometimes, my reactions shock me because they are so not how I like to think of myself. Take yesterday morning. Now I knew that my spin class started 15 minutes earlier. I think it is a bad idea because that spin class is always jammed packed. This is because Hilllary, who is in charge of the class schedules, has changed the weekend morning spin class times for some illogical and maybe even emotional reason. Well, that's my thinking after talking with everybody. So, spin started, as of yesterday morning, at 7:15. I knew everybody would now get to the gym at 6:45 when the gym isn't even supposed to open until 7:00. And they all did! Well, everybody but me. My fall back was counting on a very nice woman who has offered to sign me up for the class. I arrive at 7:03. No more space on the sign-up sheet! "I'm pissed," I must have said 12 times as I stomped around the gym trying to tell everybody how unfair it all was. Whatever is the matter with me? Where is my yoga-self? Fortunately for me, the woman who usually signs me up wasn't there (I later found out she was sitting in her car afraid to come in for fear of throwing up all over... food poisoning) so her friend, who usually signs her up told me I could have her spot. I was happy but not really. I was glad I had a spot but kind of puzzled at my own nasty behavior. As a result I was able to spin but not so happily and it wasn't such a good workout. I'd have been better off going with the flow and going for a run.! Always so much to learn :)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What's that in Your Ear?

"What do you want a hook for?" I asked Billy, completely puzzled. "Well," he went on, "I have a staple in my ear." WHAT THE $#@ I thought to myself. In the most calm and centered teacher voice I could muster I responded, "Uh, I don't have a hook but I bet the school nurse does."

"So why did you put a staple in ear," I asked the obvious question on the way to the nurse's office. "Because, duh, my ear itched!" Working with students with significant behavioral problems has always been interesting; certainly an adventure and most definitely unpredictable. At lunch I happened to mention the errant staple story to a staff member. I explained how the school nurse had instructed me to hold the flashlight at just the right angle so that she could carefully navigate her mini forceps into his ear canal and with great skill release the staple. "Whew, there was ear wax in your ear so no damage done, " the relieved nurse told Billy and me. "Remember," she went on to Billy, as she showed him the staple, "putting things like this in your ear can damage your hearing." "Oh, that's OK," Billy told us with confidence, "I can always hear out of my other ear."

A teacher listening to my lunchtime story had known Billy for a long time. "This is nothing new. Billy has been known to put erasers, staples and even little sticks in his ears. And, he does this for the attention." And in that moment, it all made sense to me. His father was being released from jail and there was soon to be a custody shift. Kids scream out for comfort and attention and love in any way they know how.

When I think back on Billy, I truly hope that he found his way without losing his hearing in the process! I also think that somebody along the way should have told Billy what my mother (who was a nurse) told me some 50 years ago, "Never put anything smaller than you elbow in your ear." But he probably wouldn't have listened to that advice...or maybe he couldn't have heard it with all those sticks, erasers and staples jammed in his ear canals!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Still the Senses

I felt lucky to get one of the last stationary bicycles for spin class on Saturday. Class starts at 7:30 but you have to get there at 7:01 to get a spot. Spin is a class in which you sweat.... a lot. Spin is a class in which you breathe deeply for 45 minutes. Not 2 minutes into the hour long class I noticed a nasty body odor emanating from the "biker" in front of me and I knew....this is only going to get worse as we pump away on our bikes to the sound of blaring rock music under the flashing lights of the disco ball and I am breathing like a marathon runner nearing the end of her race. And, it did. What to do? One of the techniques I have learned from my yoga studies is pratyahara. Basically, you use your mind so that sensations (sound waves, smells) don't turn into perceptions. The annoying clanging in the background as you try to quietly read your book fades into the background as you purposely don't hear it. As I knew would happen, the more sweaty our stationary pack of bikers got, the more the smell intensified (geez, this person needs a bath I think to myself). Then I think...pratyahara! So, there I was for rest of the class, being as mindful as I possibly could in such a way to block the ripe and hideous body odor. Intentionally not thinking about it. Strange way to "think", but it worked and I no longer smelled the offensive odor! Spose this is an odd blog entry but I am honestly amazed at that ways in which my yoga studies make my daily life easier :) I have written about pratyahara (intense philosophical pieces for my yoga mentor) but who knew how useful it'd be in a spin class on an early Saturday morning. Had I not thought...pratyahara!.... I would have most definitely hopped off my bike as the first fly wheels whirled and ran for fresh air :)

p.s. this is a picture of a fractal! Cool, huh?

Mrs and Me - Mistake of the Week

My husband told me the funniest story. Some 30 years ago he used to come into the Mrs and Me, a local ice cream shop on Route 1 in Kittery, ME. He was struggling financially but knew he could always stop in for the price-reduced Mistake of the Week. Pistachio ice cream minus the pistachios or cherry ice cream sans cherries. He'd order the ice cream and the forgotten ingredient(s) would be sprinkled on top! Love it. He remembers that Mrs and Me used to employ a lot of students and, apparently, they had a little trouble following the recipes :) Kind of funny you'd leave out the main ingredient but love the idea of admitting it and selling it anyway!

Before Mrs and Me. Rural Maine!

The re-opening after closing in 2000.

I'm guessing butter pecan, maple nut, and lemon souffle are all automated today so ice cream mistakes are uncommon. But, what a great memory for my husband :)

For more information, check out this 2007 article