Friday, November 26, 2010

These Boots.....

Don't you love these cowgirl boots? What is the history of cowboy boots, you might ask? Here's the story...the history...where's herstory?...well, anyway (from

No one really knows who the original inventor of cowboy boots was. According to several different stories and legends, the first pair of cowboy boots was made by either a shoemaker in Kansas, or by one in Texas. Either way, the story is still the same. After the Civil War was over in 1865, the cowboys who were driving cattle across the country discovered that they needed a different style of boots. The ones worn during the war just didn’t suit the long hours riding on the trails: blazing through the brush and brambles, splashing through creeks and rivers, and riding with their feet in stirrups for hours at a time. Around 1870 some ingenious cowboy took his boots to a shoemaker and asked for a pointy toe so he could get his foot into the stirrup more easily; a taller shaft to protect his legs; and a bigger, thicker, underslung heal so his foot wouldn’t come out of the stirrup during the rough riding on the trails. The knee-high design protected his legs from the thorns of mesquite trees, barbed wire, snakes, and other dangers. The cowboy boots were pulled on with long mule-ear straps but were loose enough on the top so that they could be wiggled out of easily if the cowboy was hung up in the stirrup and needed to get out in a hurry. The tough leather that the cowboy boots were made from also protected the cowboy’s ankles from being bruised by the wooden stirrups, and his legs from rubbing against the stirrup leathers. The cowboy boots were stitched on the outside to keep the leather from buckling and eventually rubbing against the cowboy’s leg.

The high, underslung heel of the cowboy boot also served to protect the cowboy. He could dig that heel into the ground when pulling a stubborn mule or when leading his horse down a steep and rocky trail. The heel also kept the cowboy’s foot from going all the way through the stirrup so that if he were thrown from his horse he wouldn’t get stuck in the stirrup and drug on the ground. And just like that, the first pair of cowboy boots was born.

The first pairs of cowboy boots had very little style and were for working purposes only. They were a tool that helped keep the cowboy safe and quickly became a part of any cowboy’s everyday life.

At first, cowboy boots were only custom made. A cowboy would have to go to a cobbler who would measure his feet and make a pair of cowboy boots just for him. Later, the first mail-order boot companies came about. Getting a pair of cowboy boots in this way was much more humble, but a cowboy down on his luck had to do whatever he could to get his boots.

Cowboy boots began as a practical tool for the cowboy, but soon became a fashion statement. The stitching on the outside usually done in a plain black or brown soon gave way to more colorful thread, and designs and pictures were sewn into the boots. From there, bootmakers began to experiment with inlays and overlays, and suddenly boot designs became limitless. The more extraordinary the cowboy boot could be, the better.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

TED - Technology, Entertainment, Design

I love surfing around on my husband's computer in the early morning hours as the sun rises, before I meditate and do my yoga and get breakfast, shower.....on and on and on....Anyway, as I was up on this early Thanksgiving morning I found TED, a website, nonprofit company, devoted to spreading new ideas. In a world where the news can make you want to run back to bed and dive under the covers all day, there are great things happening! And, on this Thanksgiving morning, I am grateful, among many other things, for such positive and possibly world-transforming organizations as TED! Nothing flaky here, the board of board or directors are all philosophers, psychologists, physicists, architects, inventors. Check them out at There are amazing things happening in our world beyond all the worries and woes we see on the nightly news :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wings of Enlightenment

I love that my brother, my husband and I all went to listen to the author of this book, Living as a River, read from his book last night. We sat for a very happy hour listening to him not only read from his book but go on to discuss life, meditation, and all that deep and wonderful stuff so few people spend any time even thinking about. The author, Bodhipaksa (a former Scottish veterinarian) has been popping up in my life in strange ways, recently. First, I looked online for a meditation training for somebody I know...his request was to not actually go for meditation training but to learn how to do it online. So I set out to find an online meditation training course and what did I find?, Bodhipaksa's website, Wildmind. That meant little to me at the time, tho I did bookmark the website and sent the link to my friend because it looked interesting. Next, as I was searching around on the internet for a writing class as both my husband and I want to take a writing class together, I stumbled on to RiverRun, a locally-owned and very cool bookstore right down the street, and who was giving a talk the day after my brother arrived from NY via a Buddhist "retreat" in Rockport? This author, with the curious Indian name.

And then I find out that the second meditation series that my husband and I are taking (we have elevated ourselves to the intermediate meditation group..haha) at a local Buddhist center is taught by......Bodhipaksa, the author of this amazing book on the nature of who we are. There must be some meaning in that. And, last night after listening to him for an hour, I had the most amazing dream. My husband, brother and I were traveling around Europe meeting the most intriguing people, getting lost, regrouping, so thoroughly enjoying life.

Yes, I find the Buddhist names people take on when they join the Buddhist order, odd. I can barely refer to people by their Buddhist names (Narotana taught our first meditation class...Nara who?) but it is the tradition so it is what it is. Bodhipaksa, of course I had to look that up...what does that name mean?...means "Wings of Enlightenment." OK, Graeme Stephen (his birth name) I can live with that because I really, really, liked what you had to say last night.

Oh, and, big thanks to my brother for buying a copy of the book for Ken and me. Love you so much!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

When I Am Sad My Mom Gives Me $40

I prepare for my Friday kids yoga class by spending several hours on the preceding Sunday thinking about a topic that I believe will have great meaning for my young yoga students. In good yoga-teacher form, I try to connect the upcoming class theme to a topic that I have an idea may resonate well with my young students. I plan an art activity that I believe will be a natural extension of whatever topic I have chosen. But sometimes, despite all my careful planning, the best yoga classes seem to simply follow from what my students need that day vs. what I think they need. And, I love this. For example, one chilly fall session I was all set to talk about peace and practice the warrior series of poses. I had recently read the cute little book, Peaceful Piggies Meditation. With lights low and everybody very still and quiet, my young yoginis loved our 5-minute sitting meditation that followed this story. And, so, I wanted to carry on with that topic and have my students make piggy puppets and recreate the peaceful piggy storyline with our own twists and turns. However, earlier in the day one of my students had revealed to me that she was very sad because her aunt, who had been free from breast cancer this past summer, had recently and very sadly, succumbed to another form of cancer just that week. She was very down as her family planned to attend the funeral some distance away. So, with that in mind, I threw my well-thought-out lesson plans aside and decided "what it feels like when we lose someone we love" would be our yoga session topic.

As I revealed the topic of the day to my yoga class, love and loss, one of my youngest yoginis groaned, "Oh, no. I hate this topic," while the rest of the group sat perfectly still on their mats, staring straight at me. I guessed they were all not a little hesitant as we launched into our discussion. Several girls told us about pets who died and how they missed the ones they loved but not the ones who bit them. Ya gotta smile. Kids are so honest. One serious little girl told us about longing for a grandmother she never knew; one who had died years before she was born. She went on to tell us all how sad she was for her dad because it was his mom who had died when he was a young boy. I am always amazed at how deeply kids feel, and not just about themselves. Hope, a 5th grader, with tear-filled eyes, told us about how her whole family was with her grandmother as she passed away not so long ago at the age of 91. We had a short discussion about what a great, long life her grandmother had. And then I told the girls about my morning. Before I left the house I grabbed the first rain coat I found in the closet, a red rain coat. As I slipped the bright red jacket over my shoulders I remembered, "This is my mom's coat." Sliding my hand into one of the pockets, I felt my mom's lipstick, pink lipstick. She loved pink. I twisted the tube to get a better look at the color, imagining my mom applying this very tube of pink lipstick her lips and thought, "Miss you mom." The girls were wide-eyed as I told them my story. Not one of them could imagine her life without her mom.

Although we could have spent then entire 75 minutes yoga class talking about our feelings when somebody we love dies, I shifted the direction of the conversation and asked the girls what they do when they feel sad. One girl told us her mom gave her $40 when her grandmother died and she felt much better :) Another said that her family goes out to eat. In fact, she went on, her family goes out to eat whenever something good or sad happens. Yet another student said that she likes to go for walks in the woods to lift her mood. And, Lidia told us that she tries to just push sad thoughts out of her mind. Several girls said that their parents had bought them puppies, gerbils, or other furry creatures to ease their sadness. I laughed as I told them that I had done that very same thing after my mom died. Four weeks after my mom quietly passed away in her sleep, my husband and I bought a lively and crazy yellow lab puppy and it did make me feel better.

With all that heavy talk in the air, we stood up and began our asanas (yoga poses) and pranayama (breath work). We lifted our mood with Bunny Breath; Celia demonstrated. I showed them Conductor Breath and we all laughed at the energy it created. We hissed with Snake Breath, as we moved up and down in Cobra Pose. "Look," I noted, "how moving our bodies and changing our breath can change our mood." We all laughed. Each girl then led us through her favorite yoga pose; Sun Salutation, Rockin the Baby, Rag Doll. And, we found 10 minutes after meditation to make our piggy puppets. "Maybe we will have time to recreate our peace puppet play next time" I thought, "And, then maybe not." "

I love my kids yoga classes because I think a lot about what we discuss and what transpires during class well beyond our hour and 15 minutes together. Since I am the teacher, what I teach reflects me and in that my classes are all very personal. And so following this class I thought about how as humans beings, young and old, we all suffer through sadness and loss. Whatever works to ease our suffering, be it $40 from a kind and loving mom or Conductor Breath in a class full of yoga friends who all know how you are feeling...whatever works, I think, is worthy of thought and consideration as it may help us find ease and grace in our lives.