Category: Yoga

Blissfully awake

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Some days I don’t have so much to say. Some days I’m teeming with ideas. Today is the former. I find myself a bit dazed and distant, wandering my treadmill (though I promised not to mention it). Maybe it was being awoken at 4:44 AM by a whining dog, and then submitting to the realization that I wasn’t fated to fall back asleep, given that my alarm was set for 5:05 AM. And the dog would not stop whining. Even after I took her outside.

4:44

I brought the dog inside. I drank a glass of water and brushed my teeth. I woke my daughter for swimming. I dressed and did yoga in the dark of the living-room. And then I went out for a run (-19C). It was a bit earlier than I usually go, and the streets seemed especially dark and empty. My eyelashes became bejewelled with droplets of ice. Cold seeped through my double and triple and quadruple layers. I ran as fast as I could, but I couldn’t run myself warm. I saw three people during my entire run, and a single vehicle passed me. The neighbourhood felt that emptied out, that silent, that blissfully asleep. And I was blissfully awake. I am a complete convert to the early morning.

The people I saw: one woman going for a walk; one woman going for a run; one man I’ve seen before (or smelled, more precisely), who walks down the middle of a particular street smoking a cigar at approximately 6:15 AM (eep!).

Before kids and jobs, as a university student, my interior clock was switched around. I did my best work after midnight, and had difficulty rising in time to make my 11 o’clock classes. Maybe waking early is just another version of that devotion to the hours when most of the world is asleep. I think that’s what I love about being awake early. I love the quiet. The illusion of solitude. The sense of being a watchful eye on the sleeping houses.

My daughter was so happy when I picked her up at the pool, maybe for the same reasons, though I don’t know for sure.

I’m not saying it’s easy to set the alarm, or that it comes naturally, even now, after several years of practice. Oddly, it’s actually not. It’s actually something that I have to remind myself, almost every single time, will be worth it. If there’s a secret to discipline, it’s this: the first step is the hardest one to take. I forget this regularly, and learn it again, regularly, very often at 5 o’clock in the morning when my resistance is low and I’m somehow willing to stagger forth. The first step is the hardest.

Alight

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A habit I’m reinstating: yoga, once a week. I went to a free class on my birthday, and renewed my commitment to practice more regularly, and not just in my office (although that counts too, and is valuable). I like being pushed, in a class setting, to hold poses longer than comfortable. I like the community feeling, too. And I’ve become excellent at savasana. I’m serious! When I started practicing yoga, four years ago, I hated lying in the final pose, and had to force myself to be still and stay in the room. I was absolutely itching to get up and get going — after all, the hard work was done; what was the point of lying around?

Now I open my eyes and think, Uh-oh, there are only two people left in here, and the next class is waiting to get in. And while I haven’t been asleep in savasana, I have been away. It’s that away-ness, that emptying out, that I’m committing to again this year. I remind myself, again, that I can’t grab for things; that isn’t how it works. The things that are truly worthwhile arrive, alight like the gifts they are. The moments we live for. I’m not saying sit back and relax while the universe takes care of everything. I’m saying, prepare yourself always for these moments of grace, and recognize them when they come. That’s all. Choose work you love, if you can, so that the process always seems to be renewing and refreshing itself, so you’ll always have more to learn, so you’ll stay curious and engaged.

After yesterday’s class, I found myself reflecting on the word “discernment.” (Fellow Mennonites are likely to be familiar with this word.) It’s a word I’ve long disliked. At worst, I suspect it of being code for “refusal to decide” or “failure to take a stand” or “terminal wishy-washyness” or “paralysis of purpose.” (Can you tell I would flunk at committee meetings?) I’m not against reflection or debate or consideration. But at a certain point — and who’s to say when this is? — the discernment must end and the decision-making begin.

Or maybe that’s my problem with discernment. Maybe I don’t like for discernment to be artificially separated out from action. Maybe the way I figure things out is to do, to try, to practice, to hash it out along the way, to stuff my foot in my mouth from time to time and learn the hard way. Maybe I believe less in coming around to clarity, than in going on gut and whim and instinct. I really don’t know. Too many questions, too much guilt, too much worry about being politically correct or causing offence, and I grind to a halt, afraid to do or try or say anything. But the opposite of discernment is Rob Ford: shameless empty entitled belligerent self-pitying posturing. There’s got to be a middle ground. There’s got to be a way to be in this world that is considerate and out-spoken, compassionate and practical, whole and vulnerable, open and strong, clear and welcoming, thoughtful and active.

There’s got to be.

That’s my savasana reflection, from January 9th, 2014. Perhaps this will be the first in a small, ongoing series.

Fright night tonight

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Cold rain run this morning. Yoga stretching to kundalini playlist before that. Soon after, a quick shower. Picking up two swim kids from the pool, eating bananas. Eating eggs on toast. Braiding the hair of two red-headed girls. Laundry. One minor meltdown (mine) on the subject of the constant stream of demands directed at MOM, when Dad is clearly standing right there, too. (Why? How is it possible that I am the recipient of all grievances, from the much-loathed raincoat that has yet to be replaced, to the injured knee, to the pangs of hunger, to the lack of desirable snacks? I suppose I should counter that by noting that I am also the recipient of news, ideas, stories, and proud dictee results. Where was I?) Driving costumed children to school to avoid the rain. Stopping to get a coffee and croissant at our local French bakery. Falling into a coma of a nap. Wondering why I’m so tired.

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Rain on Halloween, for trick-or-treating. Plus high winds, apparently, yet to come.

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But we’re ready. The pumpkins have been carved. Kevin even got out the drill, which all the kids heard from their beds last night. “Oh, that’s what you were doing!” I saw the trick somewhere online. It does result in a really pretty lantern-like effect. I affect an effect. That’s what I say every time I try to remember whether it’s affect or effect.

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Yeah, I’m tired.

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I raced to my office last night to finish prepping for today’s class. I still haven’t found any scary stories to share. The problem is, mainly, that I don’t read scary stories. I hate being scared! So does CJ. When I returned home from campus last night, the pumpkins were being carved and he was watching a “Halloween playlist” on YouTube. Guess what happened the instant I walked in the door. He hopped off his stool and came running to me, his eyes popping out of his head: “There are dead people coming out of the ground!”

See what I mean: I’d only just got home. How long had the dead people been coming out of the ground, exactly? “What the hell is he watching?” Yes, this will be a little exercise in dialogue, just like I’m going to have my students do tonight.

“Dead people coming out of the ground!”

“You’ve got to be kidding me! You’re letting him watch this?”

How to convey silence within dialogue: The pumpkin continued to be carved.

“At first it was funny, it was my favourite song from Just Dance! But then dead people came out of the ground!” “You need to stop thinking about it.” Clutching my leg: “Dead people coming out of the ground.” “Think about something happy! Like Daddy getting to sleep in your bed tonight!” Actually, I didn’t say that. But I thought it.

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And CJ slept fine, so he must have not been permanently scarred.

But he was back at my elbow when I was repairing his clown costume a little while later, so that he could go to school today as a line from his current favourite song, not featuring anyone coming out of the ground: Baby, be the class clown, I’ll be the beauty queen. “Mommy,” he whispered, pulling my arm as I stitched impatiently. “Dead people. Coming out of the ground.” “It is time to think about something else. Hey, Grandma’s coming over! She’s here!” “Can we play?” “You can play until I finish this. It should take about ten minutes.”

It took about half an hour. I’m bad at sewing. And apparently also at estimates.

Meanwhile, we put that half hour to further use and discovered a costume for our eldest, who was hesitating about even going trick-or-treating. I think twelve is too young to quit the candy game. You’ll be forced out in a few years anyway. Enjoy it while you can! You’re only young once! Etc. “But I can’t think of anything. And it’s going to rain anyway.” (He was right about the latter, as it turns out, if not the former.) We brainstormed possibilities. He’d just been given a hand-me-down dress shirt and tie. Stuff it with a pillow? Rob Ford? But AppleApple had a slicker, higher-concept idea: “Nigel Wright!”

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She even fashioned her brother a special prop, of her own design. I won’t get into it if you’re not a fan of obscure Canadian politics, but I think a few parents might appreciate the costume when he arrives on their doorstep, with Monopoly money spilling out of his pockets, and the over-sized cheque. Kevin and I have a new inside joke; when discovering ourselves in trouble of any kind, we just ask: “What Would Duffy Do?”

But better to ask, at this point in the sluggish grey day, larded with high-level obscure Canadian political gossip, for which I seem to have a boundless appetite: What Would Carrie Do?

Carrie had better turn off the internet, finish her class prep, make an early supper, and keep working on the intro for the panel discussion at next Saturday’s Wild Writers Festival, which deserves a more comprehensive plug, don’t you think? Here’s my attempt:

Writers and readers in Waterloo, the Wild Writers Festival is coming to town next weekend (Nov. 8-10), and promises to be a rollicking and inspiring event. Many events are free, and intensive workshops with amazing writers are $20/each. The festival is in its second year, and if its first was anything to go by, this one will be warm, welcoming, thought-provoking, and unique. I’ll be there, soaking it all up (and leading a panel discussion (free!) that includes the fabulous Elisabeth de Mariaffi, coming all the way from Newfoundland!). Please pass on the word, and come if you can.

Tickets here, and registration for the free events, too.

Stretching by the soccer field

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A few things. If you don’t hear from me, assume I’m writing. Or summering.

So far, this holiday has made a lot of sense. The kids are swimming in the mornings, and I write (working on revisions) all afternoon. We’re travelling by bicycle as much as we can. I’m back to running and soccer, so life it is good. It is filled with goodness.

I took my yoga mat and stretched on the grass, Saturday afternoon, while watching my daughter practice her keeper skills. Rain was lightly falling. It’s been hot, humid. It was just about the perfect afternoon.

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No photos of my younger daughter, but you never know, she might step in and make a claim for the title “soccer girl,” too. On Thursday evening, Kevin and I watched in amazement as our sturdy and determined seven-year-old carried the ball up the field, beating out player after player, and calmly fired it into the net. Five times. Seriously. We know she’s got the skills, but this was the first we’d seen the fire-in-the-belly. Our jaws were dropping. We were so curious to know what had inspired her, but all Fooey said afterward when we asked how did you just do that??? was, “It was a different goalie, so it was easy.” Um, okay.

(I wish I could say that. And I wish I had even half her foot skills. I mean, she dominated. That is not a word Kevin and I tend to associate with sweet Fooey.)

I love the very different personalities that pour out of these fascinating individuals I get to claim as my kids. I love trying to figure them out. What makes you tick? What gets you excited? What brings you to life?

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It’s berry season in our backyard.

And it looks like rain, again.

We’ve got more soccer coming up this evening, I’ve got laundry to drag off the line, and another half an hour to direct toward Girl Runner. I love when life makes sense like this. It doesn’t always. I spend a lot of time flailing around worrying about direction, although I don’t love to blog about those parts. (Maybe I should? So life doesn’t look too perfect?)

I’m super-thankful when everything seems to fit together.

Welcome to Monday

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Sunday at the farm

My Monday contains an early morning yoga class, the coordinating of this week’s many details, a really good bowl of soup for lunch, a finalized book contract to sign and send (details coming, I promise), and eight loads of laundry (no exaggeration).

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family

This past weekend we travelled north of Kingston on Saturday, home again on Sunday, to visit with Kevin’s family, some of whom had come all the way from Scotland.

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cousins

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roommates

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Badminton was the popular sport, with soccer coming a close second.

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cousins

There was even a baby to hold.

:::

Our visit was preceeded by a minor home renovation. On Friday, I realized that our front hall reeked. The smell was distinctly dog, and I don’t know how to describe it other than to say, come smell our carpet, which, trust me, you really don’t want to do. In any case, you can’t. Friday afternoon, tormented by the smell, I abandoned my office to scrub the carpet before leaping to the sudden conclusion that the carpet had to go. Like, now. I vacuumed the rest of the house in an attempt to bring order to the chaos that had become instantly apparent to me, everywhere, not just in the front hall. And on Friday night, after we’d packed and the kids were all in bed, and we should have been too, Kevin and I ripped up the carpet. Lo and behold, the wood floor beneath was pristine, and after a late-night scrubbing, reeked of nothing at all. I find it funny how often Kevin and I make snap decisions, together, that feel absolutely right. It seems to be how we operate.

Let me ask you a question about cleanliness. Would you agree that women are still judged on the cleanliness of their homes, while men (even those who participate fully in household chores) are not? I think it’s true. I would like it not to be. (She says, heading down to the basement to deal with laundry load number 6. Only two more to go!)

“Snow” day in April

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Was relieved to get up early for yoga this morning, if only to escape the circular anxiety dreams.

But I was tired in yoga class. As I lay, half-awake, in the final shavasana, I thought to myself, nothing had better get in the way of my morning nap, or I’m not going to make it through today.

Huh.

Must have been a premonition. I drove home through the rain, thinking, the kids aren’t going to enjoy their walk to school today. And I opened my email to discover: SCHOOL CANCELLED! Apparently a massive ice storm was in the offing, though I can’t say it’s materialized as promised (which is not a bad thing, I realize). Frankly, all I was thinking was: with school cancelled, how am I going to get my nap???

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I was desperate. I told the kids they could play electronics while I went back to bed. Worked like a charm, although those dreams were even more bizarre. I was on a train in Syria doing an aerobics class led by a Serbian instructor whose moves were comically complex. I couldn’t follow. I sobbed into my seat cushion (being on a train, remember), a feeling of fear and despair permeating the dream, which I understood was a dream, and I worried in the dream about having a dream that would make me sob.

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And then I woke up, and cleaned the house. Electronics time over.

I stopped cleaning at lunchtime, in a really grumpy mood. I made a delicious homemade chicken noodle soup. I went outside and grabbed some ice photos. The photos aren’t terribly impressive, there not being much ice. As far as I can see, the cars keep whipping along our street without any trouble at all. But not to worry, the kids are safe, playing soccer in the living room and creating a Lego bomb in the upstairs hallway. It is now around the time I’d expect them home from school. I’ve hooked them back up to their electronics again, which gives me the luxury of writing this post. I’ll admit no feelings of guilt.

I’m still kind of grumpy, though. Can you tell? I’m not hiding it very well.

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Yeah, well. We’re all a little grumpy. We’re all accustomed to activity and go, go, go, and even if it’s not a really bad storm, the weather is still yucky and cold and wet and not conducive to outdoor play, and everything’s closed, and we haven’t gotten up to anything more exciting than electronics and housecleaning.

::

Total side note before I sign off and unhook the children: Have you seen The Mindy Project yet? It’s a sitcom, so if you hate sitcoms, don’t bother, but we find it hysterically funny at our house. We’ve been letting the older kids stay up to watch (be warned, there is some adult content). I found myself fighting not to giggle out loud while lying on my yoga mat this morning, waiting for class to begin, because I was remembering scenes from the episode we watched last night.

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