Saturday, June 26, 2010


Today was another glorious day of rest (my bones are still so tired from finishing up the school year that I am at home, no demands, no conversation, no responsibilities). Anyway, the sky was cloudy so I decided I didn't really want to sit outside on my beautiful little deck. What to do? Since I missed my morning spin class I drug out my elliptical machine and positioned it right in front of our giant TV. What to watch? Nothing was on the DVR so I surfed around the ON Demand line-up and found, Intervention, a one-hour series about drug addicts and alcoholics confronted and sometimes helped out of the abyss by concerned family and friends. An A&E reality show, criticised by some as exploitative, it's definitely pretty raw. And, for whatever reason, maybe because there was nothing else to watch on TV (which is the case most of the time) I decided to watch this docudrama while cranking out an aerobics session.

The program is basically tragic TV 101. Viewers watch, voyeuristically, as people fight for their lives. More disturbing, and not a little surprising to me, however, was how I started reminiscing about my own unhappy time with drugs some 40 yeas ago. As I was listening to this sad, herion-addicted woman, Crissy, who has pretty much lost everything and wasn't really helped by the Intervention, I thought about what I know to be true, that not everybody makes it out of the drug world or out of mental illness (my mom) or out of the ghetto, despite all the kind and valiant efforts of professionals, family and friends. As a kid, this skinny, unhealthy 36 year-old sad soul, recalled feeling enormous relief when she took drugs for the first time. Her dad was abusive in nightmarish ways and when she was high, she just floated away. She described heroin as that itch you scratch on a dog's behind right where it's tail meets it's hind end. It's like soaring around in heaven. For her and for me, when you take drugs (when I took them, I should qualify), you don't hurt. Some people take drugs for the experience of it, the mind-expanding state of consciousness they enter. Peace, love, and all that. I didn't. I took drugs to escape feeling ugly, fat, stupid, unloved and friendless...and it worked.

What surprised me today as I was sweating away on my trusty elliptical machine was the reappearance of a lot of those painful and familiar feelings. I thought I had long ago dealt with all those yapping voices in my head that made me want to explode at 16. Obviously I will never really "deal" with them, or silence them completely. They are a part of who I have become and, honestly, I am happy for that as I do like who I am these days. But, I guess I'd rather not revisit that particular time warp, thank you very much. And, yet, there I was, swimming around in those feelings again. I guess my perspective on my desperate adolescent years, is that I am totally amazed, absolutely astonished and extremely grateful at how far I have traveled from then to now. I live in an amazing waterfront condo, hold a Ph.D. in psychology (every Ph.D. in psychology is driven by a need to know themselves), am happily married, have my health, love my work (of course with troubled kids), my puppy, my family and friends. I feel loved, happy and is finally good :)

Forty years ago I was one of those kids, stoned and prowling the streets at night, parents unaware, hanging out with my druggie friends, high on who remembers what. I clearly remember, however, heaing some girl screaming her brains out one night while I and my drugged up pals were all dancing down at the pool (local hangout, next to my elementary school). What a shock when I "woke up" and it was me screaming, rolling around on the floor. My "friends" quickly scooped me up (the cops can't see you!) and put me in a car where I sat, hallucinating and in near panic as little aliens tried to get me. Whew...glad those times are long gone. I was a miserable teenager, no doubt and unfortunately. Through no fault of my mom's, her behavior towards me was really soul-deep damaging. All is forgiven now (and rest her hopefully peaceful soul) but, wow, what a path I have traveled.

Intervention, Episode 24, the story of a 55 year old woman who still hasn't kicked the habit, lost, alone, miserable. Happily, that isn't me.

I am not who I was 40 years ago. Then again, who is?

Hoarding, Moderation or Just a Bad Habit?

One evening this past spring I was flipping through TV channels, trying to relax after a crazy-ass day at work by watching one of those reality TV programs that mean absolutely nothing. You know those programs that you just zone out to while your eyes are fixed forward in the direction of the TV? Those programs where when my husband asks me what just happened, and I can't recall. Well, in that mood, I found the A&E reality program, Hoarding. Hmm, I think to myself. Whatever is this about? So, I pick the program about a woman, a nurse in London, who hoards garbage. I find the program almost impossible to watch. Here is this professional woman, who looks very sad to me, showing her house to the camera man as she cuts a trail through old moldy food laying on the floor, piles of unopened bills, newspapers strewn everywhere, and clothes mounded higher than small mountains on either side of the path. And, this leads me to think about a woman I used to work with who had an obsession with school objects such as pencils and rulers and cafeteria food. Once, around lunch time as I was walking down the hall, she was walking towards me, an unsteady pile of 7 hot dogs on her school-cafeteria cardboard tray? A tiny little woman, what in the world, I wondered, was she going to do with 7 hot dogs? Turns out she stored them in a safe, a giant, used-to-be-in-a-bank type of safe, in her office along with her over-flowing stash of rulers, crayons, pencils and a pile of yesterday's cookies.

And, oddly, all of this leads me to think about overeating. It seems to me that that, too, is some sort of hoarding, an inability to operate under the notion of moderation. I love this moderation notion. In yoga philosophy, moderation is one of the keys to quieting the self. Ah, but that path to quiet is not so easy to wander down :) I see this in myself. I can eat a piece of toast with peanut butter or cheese for breakfast and my stomach is full yet I want another piece or maybe a bowl of cereal and fruit to go with. It's like stopping just when I have enough to still my stomach isn't enough...I am compelled to eat more although I am not hungry. This is particularly an issue for me at night when I am fully aware I shouldn't eat. And, I'm guessing it's why I have about 10 extra pounds (ye old muffin top) around my waist even tho I work out all the time and eat so healthfully that it annoys even me. I think my nocturnal eating is a form of hoarding. To me, hoarding is not about the object the distraught nurse flings on the stinky landfill that is her living room floor or the 7 hot dogs the little woman so carefully tucked away in a safe. Hoarding is a behavior driven by the need to have more, to fill what is empty and in that provide some sort of comfort. And I think, for me, that's kind of what my night-time over eating may be like. It's not like I eat a whole carrot cake at 9:15 pm (tho years ago I was known to eat an entire bag of chips or box of cookies when stressed!) but I do eat when I am not hungry right around bed time, most every night. And while I can say to myself, "Self, are you hungry?" I answer "No," while munching on a handful of calorie-laden peanuts and raisins, deluding myself that it's OK because it's healthy. I think if I actually thought, "You are eating when not hungry because there is something you are trying to fill up," I'd probably cry and then go to bed without eating.

Hoarding, or over-eating, I think, for me, is about not being OK with moderation because there is something I need to fill up or fill in but I'm not really sure what that is all about. Tho I am fully aware so much goes on beneath the surface (my unconscious, ever bubbling) that I don't pay much attention to as I live my little life working, working out, sleeping, eating, spending time with family and friends. Although when I recall a dream of my mother (dead almost 3 years now) peacefully laying beneath a wooden patio with red lips, bare feet, and a smile on her face I know I'm thinking about so much more than I actually reflect on during the day.

In the end, it seems so much easier to eat those 3 icy cold spoonfuls (at 100 calories a dip) of left-over frozen chocolate ice cream pie just before bed than to cry! Then, again, maybe I'm just in a bad habit. Or maybe bedtime is the very time to reflect on what moderation means to me. Maybe at the very moment (around 10:00pm) that I'm chomping down on that yummy piece of When Pigs Fly raisin bread spread ever-so-carefully with chilled, creamy butter, maybe this is when I should stop and reflect and tell myself, "Stop hoarding, use moderation, get out of that bad habit." Maybe the muffin top won't win :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ah....Summer Begins

A fresh cup of pomegranate green tea, an unopened copy of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by my computer (been wanting to read this book for a full year), my laptop open and ready for my flying fingers, the river gently flowing all around this is the way to spend summer mornings.....once I regain consciousness, that is. These last few weeks, days, hours, minutes of school have been painfully long and drawn out for reasons too boring to even write about.

Today, on my first day of summer vacation, I feel comatose but once that lifts, and it always does, here is where I expect to spend many an early summer morning reading and writing. I am hoping that book is finally on it's way this summer. Well, after I return from Seattle, Idaho and spending much of a week visiting my friend at her lake house :) Summer needs to be longer! Although whoever am I to complain as I look forward to 9 weeks off :P

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


As I was working out last night ( there's nothing like lifting weights and sweating to help me feel like I'm really grounded in my body) anyway, as I was hoisting more weight than I really should over my head I was thinking....I feel bad. Am I depressed I asked myself? No. Am I feeling sorry for myself for some unknown reason? No. Well, what, I ask myself, is going on? Is my life going OK? Yes. Do I love my husband, have enough money, have a job, have my health. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Well, what is it? What are these feelings? And, then, as I was lunging away with a 12-pound barbell in each hand it hit was the last day of school. I have been so busy with meetings, paperwork, data entry, filling out forms, filing consulting, etc., etc., etc., that I haven't had any time to reflect, let alone feel. And what I am feeling is not depression or some deep-seated sorrow that I am totally unaware of and need counseling for. Rather, I'm having a rush of feelings about people at work as the school year ends.

I am feeling very concerned about a colleague who had a hysterectomy today and is not sure she has cancer. I thought about this woman all day. It's 9:00. Is she up and out of bed? How is she doing? It's 10:45 and she's supposed to be at the hospital, checking in. Is she doing OK? It's 12:30 and her surgery has begun I tell my friends at work. I send her healing thoughts and wish her well. I am saddened by the moving on of a colleague who is retiring. Happy for her but, God, she is near my age and retiring! I cannot believe I am almost 56. And what will my retirement look like? This colleague is actually retiring and then taking a job in our same school district, part time, just to pay for health insurance. This could be me!

I am saddened that a substitute who I have come to know well and really like, is gone. I'll probably never see again. She and I thought similarly about kids and worked hard to make sure a very challenged student did well. I will miss that collegial relationship. And, mostly, I am sad and feel a real loss for students who I have come to know so well, who are moving on, as they should.

Of course, new colleagues replace those who leave and future students will become my new favorites but moving on for me is.....hard. Although there may be an up side. I did ask for my retiring colleague's office! It has a window and I'd give my right big toe to be able to actually feel the fresh air while at work. Right now I look through my window, across the hall and out the glass doors at the fresh air. My room can reach 86 degrees on warm spring days. Although I turn my little room into a wind tunnel with 3 fans humming in the background, I would LOVE that room with the window, right across the hall that my colleague has held for 20 years! We'll just have to see how I can finagle that one :)

For me, it's not being unaware of my feelings that feels the worst. Once I can figure out why I'm feeling whatever I'm feeling, my mood lifts. I feel lucky for that. OK, back to that 40 pound bar I'm balancing on my shoulders while squatting... I feel so much better :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Idaho Family

These are my nephews in Idaho. I don't seem them much. I try to get out there once a year but sometimes it just doesn't happen what with high air fares and busy lives. But I love and miss them and am so excited to see them all in a few weeks!

Monday, June 14, 2010

What To Do on a Rainy Spring Day

Well, first you fill up the sink with water and start pouring from ladle to bowl to sister's hand...
Stop screaming, Sis!...I'm bigger, I get the bigger sink!

Grampie is looking a little intense...
Take a chill pill Gramps...
But, seriously, I'm so stylin in my pink hat, don't you think?

OK, tired of that...hmmm. What's next?
Hey these are cool little bubble guns. Lets' see.
Yah, this is pretty darn cool. Look puppy, bubbles!

Point, click and watch the bubbles fly!
I'm loving this but my sister is getting kind of bored.
She's so young.

So she decided to go inside, peel off her clothes and play with the crazy lab.
Unfortunately for her, that sweet but whacky dog is more interested in the carpet then her!
When it rains, my advice is to put on your favorite pink hat,
splash around in the sink a bit and then go find a bubble gun! poblemo for me and my sis!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Muffin Top, You Win

So, I have been working out a lot lately. Maybe because my 56th birthday looms, but for whatever reason, I am on a mission to be as healthy as I can as I near 60. Here's an example, I spin in the wee hours of the weekend mornings as my husband snores away in our warm and cozy bed. I lift weights in a class full of buff bodies on beautiful spring evenings while my husband sits on our deck enjoying a cocktail. And, I lift weights on my own when a class is not available, following my trainer's advice. I ride my elliptical machine at home while trying to catch up on the latest episodes of So You Think You Can Dance (OK, why do I torture myself, those young and vibrant kids have perfect bodies!) when I would much rather be sleeping on the couch after a long and stressful day at work. And, tho I am definitely getting in much better shape I retain a stubborn and fleshy muffin top (fat and flab) spilling out over the top of my jeans. Such a lovely sight. My husband tries to make me feel better when I complain. "Just imagine what you'd look like if you didn't work out," he tries to console me. Thanks, I feel so much better now.

Tthis lovely Sunday morning, as I was madly spinning away at the raw hour of 7:30 am, huffing and puffing, my eye caught the backside of two women sitting directly in front of me. In their skin-tight black riding shorts and brightly colored little bra-like spandex tops, their bodies looked.....amazing. No muffin tops there. One woman's rear end, which is not a foot ahead of my frantically spinning self, looked tight and firm and I know she's near my age. How do they do that I ask my breathless self? I lift weights like I am supposed to, straining so much in a recent class, that I gave myself a giant hemorrhoid that took me a week to recover from, no kidding! I get into my workouts with fierceness so I know I am really burning fat and building muscle. I work out on a regular basis, often 6 times a week. I eat a healthy diet and as a consequence, am rarely full or satisfied with my low fat, low salt, low calorie meals and still....the muffin top.

In my best yoga self, I am resigned. I give in and vow to let it be as it is obviously meant to be. I know I am physically fit and taking care of myself. Muffin top, you win :P

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Let it Be

Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind.

Nonattachment or vairagya, is a yoga principal that has had a lot of meaning for me. It's one of many teachings in the Yoga Sutras (a collection of life principals) by Pantanjali. Simply, practicing non-attachment means you are able to let things go. I had a conversation with a dear friend the other day. She noticed that for some reason, recently, when her husband became angry she just let it go. I can totally really relate to my friend because we were both raised by similar mothers who, I am sure unintentionally, but nevertheless, treated us with disrespect pretty much all the time. As a consequence, we both grew up as quiet young girls. It was just easier to not talk with a mom like that. Talking meant feeling badly.

Although we took very different paths to adulthood, both my friend and I have matured into women who stand up for ourselves. In the past I did this a little too much...the pendulum swinging from voiceless to yelling across the valley. I honestly used to feel compelled, "I have a voice and I'm using it!" But, I think with wisdom and confidence, aging and my study of yoga, I have become much more able let things go. When I offer a suggestion at a meeting and nobody picks up on it, I let it go. When my husband is cranky because he is on a diet, I do talk to him later but in the moment when he is irrational, I let it go. I love that the same personal transformation is happening for my friend. I am sure it's one of the reasons we have such deep and genuine friendship. And, I think, for me, what also goes along with this is some sort of faith in life (God?). The little things don't matter so much to me anymore (so I can let them go) because I feel there is a bigger purpose although whatever that really is I am still not sure about. This reminds me of isvara pranidhana, or surrender of the self to some higher principals (another of Pantanjali's yogic aphorisms).

Over and over I am reminded and amazed by how much yoga has become a part of my life :) Yoga has given me a philosophy and a history that helps me articulate what I am feeling. Yoga has always seemed so familiar to me, as though I have always known, forgotten and am remembering again. And in that process, I find peace.

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be

(the Beatles, of course!)


As my summer vacation draws near, my husband says that if I didn't have summers off, I wouldn't be so tired. I think he's right. Odd kind of dynamic going on there. Anyway, I look forward to wrapping up the school year and moving into a totally different frame-of-mind for July and August. I don't work in the schools because we get a long vacation, but I love it. I love my work as well, well mostly, but I thoroughly enjoy having time to do what I want, when I want, without the guilt of not working. During summer, all my creative juices flow. I spend lots of time reading. I enjoy travel. I paint and decorate furniture, make jewelry, dream of building giant metal sculpture. I have to admit, tho, that I know I will sincerely miss my students. In my line of work, you get to know kids intensely, hopefully make a difference in their lives and then wave goodbye as they walk on down the road. Bittersweet for me. But I won't miss endless meetings, reams of paperwork, and tiresome data entry (the part of my job I don't like). Here's to summer and a snappy, sassy cattitude!