Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Don't Look

When I go to yoga class, I like to get there early, and stick my mat way up in the front of the class, usually in one corner.

Why, you might wonder, do I like to practice right at the front of the room? There are a few reasons, and some of them translate to how I carry out my beading practice, too.

First of all, the whole idea of a good yoga practice is not to compare yourself to what anyone else in the room is doing. Harder than it sounds, I know: as soon as you push back into your first Downward Facing Dog, you can see exactly what the person behind you is doing, or the person on either side of you. And you always want to compare YOUR asana to what someone else is doing! Are they going a little deeper than you? Are their feet flat on the floor? Are their knees bent?

It's crazy. Yoga is not a competition! So, in order to make it so that I can't see what anyone else is doing (except for the teacher, because I want to make sure that I'm understanding her instructions), I plop myself up in the front of the room so that when it comes time to do some of the really difficult poses, I can focus just on my own body, and not on what my friends are doing.

Beading, or hell, any other kind of art, can be the same way. If you let yourself look too hard at what someone else is doing, you're going to start thinking badly about your own abilities and gifts. So what if someone happens to be an insanely talented sculptural peyote stitch artist? If I start comparing myself to someone who has been beading for longer than I've been alive, yeah, I might start to get a little bit depressed.

On that note, it can be good to see what someone else is doing, both in yoga and in beading, if you look at it in the right frame of mind.

A couple of weeks ago at a particularly challenging vinyasa class, I came to the conclusion that my body makes no sense whatsoever. I'm very open and flexible in the hips, but my hamstrings are so tight that I can't do a standing forward bend without bending my knees, too. (Most people who are flexible in the hips the way I am are also very loose in the hamstrings, or backs of the legs, too.)

So, it's hard for me to watch someone else do a perfect forward bend with straight knees. If I let myself think about it too much, I get really frustrated - I mean, I've been doing this for six months now, every single day. Why aren't MY hamstrings getting loose and flexible?

But then I take a look at my teacher, and I understand that we have different abilities, and different backgrounds, and that's why she can do all these asanas and forward bends and core-working poses and not have to do all the modifications that I have to do.

Again, same with beading and art. Look at what other artists are doing and be INSPIRED by that, not frustrated. Look at what another artist does and set yourself a goal, not necessarily to match the skill and technique of the other artist, but to be able to go just as deep into yourself and find what's there in order to create great art.

Does that make any sense at all?

Right now, I'm off for a yoga class, two meetings, and goodness knows what else today has in store for me...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cringe

Yes, I still do and say things that, when I look back on them, make me cringe. Like, what part of this did I ever think might be a good idea? (Although, admittedly, part of it stems from my lack of whatever thing is supposed to be between your brain and your mouth when it comes to saying exactly what's on your mind.)

The same thing happens with my beading. I'll get to a point in a design and think, Good Lord 'n' Butter, what part of this did I think was a good idea? The choice is to either pull it apart, set it aside for later (or maybe forever), or to keep going and see if it morphs into something other than a learning experience.

But then, there are the times when a piece comes together by itself, and it's so beautiful that it just makes me ache. Those are the times when I have to remind myself that all that beauty came from inside me. Those little beads are allowing me to express everything that is beautiful and quiet and peaceful that resides in me, and they are the way that I can share some of that peace and beauty with others.

Last night, I went against one of my basic rules: never bead when you're sad or angry or frustrated.

I was feeling completely overwhelmed by all three last night, but rather than lay in bed and stew about it, I took a hot lavender bath to relax, then went and sat with my beads and some episodes of old sitcoms that I love.

I knew I wasn't going to have much time to work on this piece today, so I wanted to do some more work on it while it was still fresh in my mind. Using all of my favorite glass beads like gumdrops, cup flowers, and druks, plus some amazing seed beads from my lady friend Kelli Burns at The Hole Bead Shop, I just stitched those little flowers into little hoops and allowed myself to be soothed by the beauty of them all.

When I was in savasana at my Monday morning yoga class yesterday, I allowed my mind to relax, and it traveled to a realm of color. I saw palettes and shades and  rainbows...

That's the challenge of life, and in particular, of my life, today. How do we balance the good with the bad? Nobody's life is perfect, and those of us who are exquisitely aware of how imperfect life can be need to find ways to carry on.

So, for now, bead on, my friends, bead on.

Friday, May 24, 2013

WTFriday: Umbrellagate

Oh, so now, the so-called "Conservatives" in the U.S. have sunk to a new low, which I have saved just for today's WTFriday post: Umbrellagate.



Apparently, at a press conference with the Turkish Prime Minister on May 16, it began to rain. Two Marines acting as valets came out and held umbrellas over both Obama and the Turkish Prime Minister for the remainder of the press conference.

And now, it seems, the "Right" and the talking heads at Fox "News" are positively scandalized at the fact that a U.S. Marine held an umbrella over Obama. The nerve!

So, let me get this straight: Military personnel have been holding umbrellas over acting U.S. presidents since G.H.W. Bush. (And probably long before.) But NOW it's a big deal?

What's next? Obama is gonna get caught picking his nose, and we're gonna have Fox doing a story on his poor personal hygiene? They're gonna call it Boogergate?

What a great way to distract us from the real issues in this country: the student loan crisis, the raping of the middle class by the corporate world and Wall Street, our food being turned into poison by Monsanto and their GMOs...

Yeah. Because a Marine doing his job and holding an umbrella over the President of the United States during a press conference is way more tragic than any of those.

Really. If this is the kind of stuff that you think is important, you're not fit for adult conversation.

Monday, May 20, 2013

When Things Fall Apart

This also happens to be the title of a book I'm reading as I try to carry on, and it also includes my Battle of the Beadsmith piece, which has taken a brand-new direction.

The first piece that I envisioned for this competition was nothing like the one I'm currently working on. I spent over $100 on metallic seed beads, a brass necklace form, bead embroidery backing... And then it just didn't work out.

Over and over and over again, I started beading on the base. But it just didn't work out.

I started to panic with the deadline approaching - what was I going to do? But once I finally admitted that this piece was just falling apart and that there was no way I was going to be able to pull it together in the time left, something happened.

While cleaning up and sorting beads, I started digging through a big bag of beads, and out came a handful of beads that I had set aside for something else.

To be fair, I wasn't sure what else I was going to do with these particular beads. But they looked nice together. Even though I didn't have a finished design in mind, I loved the way the colors and the shapes looked together.

And that was when...it hit me. I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew I could make it spectacular for this Battle of the Beadsmith.

With just over 10 days to go before the deadline (eeps!), I've been beading furiously, and I've the Band-Aids on the fingers of my right hand to prove it. (Fireline hurts.)


This is all you get to see, for now.

What struck me as I was giggling to myself over this new design is how perfectly it all came together, just as I was starting to despair over the first piece falling apart.

Sometimes, things fall apart for a reason. And when they do, we have to figure out how to accept it with grace and strength. It helps to keep in mind that when things fall apart, sometimes they come back together even better than they were before.

Friday, May 17, 2013

WTF, Abercrombie & Fitch?

So, I know I'm late to the party, after the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch talked about how he didn't want "unattractive" or "fat" people wearing "his" clothes. It seems to have caused quite an uproar among larger-sized people (read: any woman who wears larger than an anorexic size 10), and I've been mulling over this whole thing for a few weeks now.

For those of you who may have missed out on the controversy, here's the deal:

Mike Jeffries, the CEO of clothing company Abercrombie &Fitch, said in an interview that he markets to the "popular, cool kids", instead of the "not-so-cool" kids. (You can read all about what he said in this link from EliteDaily.)

But, whatever. You know what? Mike Jeffries can sell his clothes to whomever he pleases. If he doesn't want to sell to me because I'm not one of the "cool kids", well, hey, I'm okay with that, too. If he doesn't want my money, that's fine by me.

What Mr. Jeffries is really saying, with all due respect, is that he really only cares about what people look like on the outside. If you look the part, then you're okay in his book, no matter what else you may possess underneath your skin.


Here's my take on the whole thing: If being one of the "not-so-cool" kids means that I get to explore my own eclectic style (accented, of course, with my beadwork), then I'll continue to shop for 99% of my clothes from resale and thrift shops where my money goes to supporting the local food pantry for needy families, and to a small business that helps support a local family. Plus, I won't look like everybody else, wearing the same clothes, just because they're "cool".


MUCH better than lining the pockets of some arrogant gasbag CEO, methinks.

Just remember, Mr. Jeffries, that those "not-so-cool" kids have all the same problems, needs, and desires as your "cool" kids, but they get something more: the chance to feel special just solely based on who they are, not based on what they wear.

And thank you, Mr. Jeffries, for making me feel better about what I wear and how I look, mostly because I don't fit into your narrow-minded view of what's beautiful and what's not.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mom

Mother's Day.

This is my fourth birthday/Mother's Day without my mom, who passed away in 2008 after a lifelong struggle with mental illness and eating disorders.

So, mostly on Mother's Day, I focus more on wishing well to the other mothers in my life - my sister, my sister-in-law, my mother-in-law, and the awesome local community of moms that I interact with on a daily basis.

Colden turned five this year, and I still sometimes look at him in complete disbelief. Where did this little person come from? What will his life be like? Why the hell is he so quiet and what is he up to?

Joking aside, I remember thinking and feeling all these things those first few days after his birth. It really was the most miraculous thing I've ever witnessed. I couldn't help but be completely amazed that I had grown this little creature inside of me for all those months, and here he was, now, mewling and nursing and snuggling down into my shoulder after his belly was full. It was a humbling experience, and even on the days when I felt like I was exhausted to the breaking point, I would settle down under the warm blankets on the bed, tuck my little baby in on my shoulder (where he liked to sleep), and enjoy the sensation of being completely in love with my baby.

Watching him grow the last few years, I very often find myself looking at him with that same awe and wonder. Where did he come from? How has he grown so fast?

I watched him practicing doing the buttons on his shirt yesterday morning as we ate breakfast. I took a long, slow look at his beautiful little face, the concentration in his jaw, and his soft, gentle eyelashes.

What a beautiful child.

His laugh stirs something in me, especially when it comes tumbling out of him without restraint. He's had the same laugh since he was an infant, the only difference being that these days, it's louder and longer than before.

I feel like I would do anything for this little boy, anything at all to protect him, to nurture him, to help him grow and be happy.

I tell him that I love him on a daily basis. Several times a day, there are hugs and kisses on the nose exchanged. (Yes, even on the days when I am at my wit's end, the crying and whining seems nonstop, and I question my motives for wanting a child at all.)

Sometimes, I wonder: did my mother feel the same way about me?

Thinking back about it, I can't remember a lot of times with my parents like the times we have with Colden.

We make a lot of effort to do things as a family, taking time for hikes and walks and visits to museums, watching movies together, playing outside, meals and parties with family and friends, and sometimes, just lounging about the house doing nothing in particular.

My mother didn't do much with us as a family, mostly because she hardly ever left the house. And if I'm completely honest, I can't remember her being very physically affectionate, either. It would have been hard to give her a hug, even if I had wanted to, because she was so very bony - when she passed away, I believe she weighed around 75 pounds, to give you an idea.

One night, during her last few weeks in the hospital, she had overheard some nurses talking about a patient - I'm unclear whether it was actually her or not - and the nurses were implying that this patient wasn't going to survive.

My mother assumed that they meant her, and somehow conveyed that to all of us. That she wasn't expecting to live through the night.

I remember sitting in her hospital room with her, watching Shrek on t.v. It was the week before July 4, and the program was riddled with advertisements for the fireworks programs coming up that weekend.

My sister and I left at the end of the evening, presuming that we weren't going to be able to see or talk to her again.

As I left that evening, I said to my mother, for the first time in probably many, many years, "I love you, Mom." To which she replied, "Ditto."

And that was it. That was the last I ever got out of her.

Now, my mother did not pass away that evening. We were told that the nurses were talking about another patient on the same floor, and not her. When I finally left to come back to New York at the end of that week, we were discussing plans to move her to a facility in Oklahoma (the closest one to Texas) that specialized in rehabilitating patients with severe eating disorders.

On my way back from Texas, I missed a connecting flight between Newark and Albany and found myself stranded at Newark airport with a five-month-old and no diapers.

Thankfully, I had some friends nearby who came to my rescue, picked me up at the airport, took me out for dinner, and gave me a place to sleep for the night with Colden.

The next morning, as I was getting ready to leave for the airport, the phone rang. My sister was on the phone, telling me that my mother's blood pressure had crashed overnight, and they couldn't get it back up. Her organs were failing. They didn't see much hope for survival over the next few days.

I finally got the call in the wee hours of a Monday morning, after spending the night unable to sleep.

I know it was probably very hard for my mother to show affection. She spent her life hearing from her own mother how she was a mistake, and how she wasn't wanted. Her eating disorder and her struggles with mental health were probably her way of trying to be special or of getting some kind - any kind - of attention.

So, on this Mother's Day, instead of thinking about the tragedy of my mother's life and death, I'm going to try instead to think about how I can show my son just how much he is loved and wanted by his mother.

Friday, May 10, 2013

WTFriday: WTF Is With Shape Magazine?

So, this is what greeted me on Yahoo the other morning. An article aaaaaaall about how Britney Spears got back into "shape". And it just really pissed me off. So wrong on so many levels, I didn't know where to start.

First of all, what's up with the cover of this magazine? "A Body Built For Sex"? (Weren't all of our bodies built for sex, in order to prevent the species from dying out?) "Tighten Your Tummy"? Really? Way to sell magazines.

Next, let's move on to the article itself. In the summary I saw posted on Yahoo, it states that Britney does two 90-minute yoga sessions every week. I doubt that it's the same kind of yoga that I do. When I think of a celebrity doing yoga, I immediately picture that Bikram-barking-orders-sweating-in-a-100-degree-room yoga. Maybe that works to get her fit, but to me, that's not yoga.

Okay, so, yoga styles aside, the article goes on to talk about how she has to work harder, now that she's 31. Well, d-uh. The human female body isn't really supposed to look like that. She had two kids. Where's the paunch? I've got one kid, and I'll probably never get rid of that paunch, and that's okay.

Where's the softness? Where are the natural curves?

Then, her diet. She talks about how much she loves brownies, cookies, and spaghetti, but she eats a Nutrisystem-type diet to "get in shape": a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, and protein and veggies for dinner. In WHAT universe is that a healthy diet? A synthetic, heavily-processed shake instead of real food? No wonder she looks like she's starving.

I think, underneath it all, is my discomfort with how this magazine is trying to make us feel about our bodies. It's one thing to want to improve your health by taking care of yourself, but to me, this magazine cover is just playing up on all our insecurities. So what if you have a little flab on your tummy? My flab is from growing my son, which is arguably the most important thing I've ever done. Who cares if my paunch sticks out a bit?

Obviously, magazines that promote accepting ourselves don't sell in our culture and our society. But telling people that they're not good enough and should look like THIS, well, that's how you sell magazines. That's how you sell diet aids and diet books and supplements and...well, that's how you build a multi-billion dollar industry. You tell people that they're not good enough.

But, guess what?

You are.

Why I Love Yoga: Balance

Balance seems to be something lacking in our world. Especially in mine. Every day feels like a juggling act between working, cleaning the house, cooking, and trying to find quality time with my boys. It's constantly a thought process of, "Do I clean the house at 9 p.m. or do I go get some rest?" "Do I try to go set up at the farmer's market and earn a little extra cash, or do we spend the day in the canoe?"

It's a tough one. Life throws things at us as lightning speed, and so often, we just react without thinking.

In one of my very first sessions with my wonderful massage therapist, I was going through some pretty tough stuff. As she worked on me, she said, "I get the feeling that you're not feeling very balanced today." Well, damn, it was like she looked right into my head and saw the argument I was having with myself at that very moment over two very opposite ideas.

One of the most delightful and surprising discoveries to come from my yoga practice is how easily I can balance on one leg. No, really! I can do some crazy, crazy stuff (most of the time) while balancing on one, strong leg.

I can remember when I first started getting serious about yoga 10 years ago. I bought a video, Basic Yoga For Dummies. When the presenter got to Tree Pose, I wobbled a bit at first, but after a few tries, I found that I could stand almost perfectly still while grounding one leg down.

I didn't think anything about it at the time. It wasn't a big deal. Or maybe I didn't realize it was a big deal.

Then when I started going to these yoga classes with Robin, I was surprised to see how hard it was for the other students. I had just kind of assumed that balancing poses would be easy for everyone, since they were so easy for me.

As I progressed with the yoga practice, I began to understand that executing a balancing pose is the perfect combination of both strength and surrender. It's hard. Like, really hard.

As an example, to do Tree Pose, you begin by standing in a good, firm Mountain Pose. Tailbone tucked under slightly, feet hip distance apart, shoulders slightly back, and lifting up through your heart and the crown of your head.

Next, start with your left leg. Ground that leg down, feeling it go strong, maybe even engaging the muscles in your thigh to pull up just a bit on your kneecap.

Take your right foot. Put it against your left ankle, or shin, or even try to tuck it up into your upper thigh.

And then stand there. Keep that left leg strong, and just breathe.

You can put your hands to your heart center in Namaskaara, or you can raise them above your head, index fingers touching thumbs, and just breathe.

While you're standing on one leg, you can focus your attention, your drishti, one one fixed point in front of you. Really focus. Let everything else in the room just get fuzzy and melt away. Keep your mind still, as well.

Maybe I make it sound too easy, but for me, it is easy. The ironic thing is that I find it so hard to achieve balance in so many other parts of my life. But when I come to the mat? It's easy.

I love the balancing poses. Squatting down on one leg, King Dancer (where you actually lift one leg up behind your head while you balance on the other), and Eagle are all poses where I feel as though I can find a little peace. Just standing. Just breathing.

To find meaning in your yoga practice, you need to constantly be balancing between the physical and the spiritual. You can be as flexible as a rubber band, but if you're missing out on the compassion and teachings of yoga, then you aren't practicing in a balanced way. If all you're doing is sitting and meditating, you'll find that your body may become sore and stiff, and you won't get as much out of your meditation without using yoga to develop a strong body.

For me, yoga is a powerful reminder of how we need to seek balance in everything. While that may not be easy to accomplish, just like yoga, it's a work in progress that we can practice every day of our lives, with every breath.

Namaste.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Why I Love Yoga: Surrender

The second reason why I love yoga? The surrender.

Now, make no mistake: when you're practicing yoga, you need to just give up all your expectations. You don't know what that session on the mat is going to be like. You might have had a fabulous practice six hours earlier, but now, all you can do is hang out in Down Dog or Child's Pose. You have to surrender to what your body wants.

Yesterday, in our Blissful Hips class, we did Pigeon Pose (of course). This pose is always a powerful one for me. Moving into the pose with one leg stretched out behind me, the other one tucked under my belly and pointing out to the side, brings up unexpected things.

This particular day, Robin gave us a mantra to finish and to focus on while we were resting in Pigeon. She said to us, "Just finish this sentence: I am..."

I ran through a few words in my head to finish that sentence, and then suddenly, it hit me like a thunderbolt: I am changing.

It was so powerful a thought that I started to cry. And not just itty bitty sniffles. Big, fat, hot, wet tears streaming out of my eyes and down my cheeks.

Thankfully, I was bent over with my belly on the floor, so no one could see it.

But that's the idea in yoga: you surrender to the practice, to the pose, and it makes wonderful things happen for you.

You can't do a forward bend or Downward Facing Dog without some degree of surrender. You have to let your head hang loose, surrender to gravity to pull your body down. And it feels WONDERFUL to do that.

For me, surrendering to the pose, to gravity, means that I can surrender anything else that's bothering me. Any thoughts that come up during practice? Yep, there they are, and then I let them float away. Surrender.

Some days, it feels as though I'm being washed down a giant, peaceful river when I'm on the mat. No cares, no worries, no expectations. I just am.

In a world where we are increasingly made to feel that we need to control everything that goes on around us, putting ourselves in a place of surrender can have an amazing power to heal.

It's a paradox - while it makes you realize how powerless you are, at the same time, it makes you understand how very powerful you can be. You CAN transform yourself, your life - if only you can surrender.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Why I Love Yoga: Strength

This last week, ever since the yoga conference, has been such a turning point for me.

I went to last night's gentle meditative yoga class, and then was back bright and early this morning for a Blissful Hips class. (Think lots of lunges, squats, things to get you loose in the hips and gently stretch out those hamstrings.)

Since I had an appointment with my therapist at noon, and it wasn't worth driving home 20 minutes only to have to leave again for the same town less than an hour later, I brought along my laptop and some work and a beading project, planted myself at one of the picnic tables in front of the bakery/cafe next to the yoga studio, and just...was.

The sun was shining. The wind was blowing. And I could hear the river rushing past me across the street, under the bridge.

After my appointment with my therapist, I decided to grab a little bit of lunch and then went for a little drive.

While I was driving, I was thinking about the ways that yoga has transformed me these last five months. And I realized that there are three reasons why I love yoga so much: strength, surrender, and balance.

The first one, strength, has to do with both the mental and physical strength. With the anxiety, it makes me feel stronger when I can recognize that an attack is imminent and make preparations to ride it out. It makes me feel stronger when I can catch the thoughts that precipitate an attack early enough that I can avoid it altogether.

It's really the way that yoga trains your mind. No matter what your body is doing, you have to focus on your breath. If you're not breathing, you're going to hurt yourself. So, while you're keeping an awareness of what your body is doing in each pose, once you've settled in, you focus just on your breath.

It's the same way in a meditation or a mindfulness exercise when I'm going through an anxiety attack. The goal there is for me to focus on my breath, regardless of what my body is doing. I'm aware of how my body feels during the attack, I'm aware of the thoughts, but it takes a lot of mental strength to allow them to just float away and focus on the breath.

As for physical strength, well, that's one that I wasn't really expecting. But I am physically stronger. I have better lung capacity - I can huff it up those hills now without thinking about it. I can sit and bead longer without any back pain or neck, shoulder, and arm pain. I can haul my 56-pound five-year-old around without hurting myself.

The physical symptoms of the anxiety have decreased greatly in the last two months. Hardly any pain in my stomach or under my ribs, no more pounding heart, no headaches. It's like I've been given this miracle drug without any (negative) side effects.

At first, there were a lot of muscle pains the morning after a strenuous practice the night before. On Monday, we did a lot of core work because Robin had injured her knee, and she didn't want to aggravate the injury. I woke up on Tuesday, thinking that I would have more pain in my belly, but no - nothing. I felt just as strong as I had in class.

The aches that I used to get in my legs after going through a flow between the Warrior poses and Extended Side Angle stretch? Gone.

Sure, sometimes I shake a little bit during practice. But, sometimes I don't. And just because I shake during practice this morning, that doesn't mean that I'll shake again in the evening.

I remember when I first started seeing my therapist back in February, she asked me, "When was the last time you felt strong in your own body?" I may not be back to my tearing-around-on-my-bike frame of mind from when I was a kid, but this is, without a doubt, the strongest my body has felt in years.

Don't believe me? Check out a couple of yoga workouts on YouTube and try to hold those poses. I dare ya. Yoga builds strength in more ways than one.


Monday, May 06, 2013

Restore

Warning: This is a long one. So, if you're really interested in how this goes, you need to get yourself a snack and drink and settle in for the long haul.

Yesterday morning, I set everything else aside, broken heart and all, and took the ferry over to Vermont to spend the day at the Burlington Yoga Conference. It was like an early birthday gift to myself. For my workshops, I chose a Prana For Spring Cleaning (Vinyasa flow class, where you match your movements to your breath, kind of intense); a mindfulness workshop; and a Restorative Yoga for Breath workshop.

I'll 'fess up right now: I was terrified at the thought of eating lunch at the conference. I had added the option to eat lunch at the conference when I registered, but I had absolutely no idea what was being served, only that there were vegetarian/vegan/gluten free options available.

As I walked into the building, I looked at the other participants walking with me, all of us carrying our mats and tote bags and props, and I tried to imagine what it would feel like again to be just walking. Just walking. No fear, no anxiety, no pounding heart or queasy stomach. Just...walking into a yoga class.

Before I went in for my first class, I sat down on the floor, took off my shoes, and took out my journal. I've been keeping an anxiety journal for the last few months where I write down what's worrying me and what's making me feel anxious. Somehow, putting it down on paper makes it less scary in my head. So, I just wrote, "I will not get sick from eating. Nothing bad is going to happen to me today. Not today."

Goddess forgive me, but the teacher for that first class reminded me of Yoga Barbie. Petite, cute, blonde, with a bright pink shirt and a long strand of huge beads around her neck, she suggested that we all turn our mats facing east so that we could look at Mount Mansfield while we practiced.

Before we began, she started talking about spring and change, and how spring is a time of renewal. Her words really resonated with me, or maybe it was just the nervousness again of it all catching up to me, but as we pushed back into that first downward dog, I once again found myself in silent tears. (Thankfully, I was towards the back of the room, so I don't think anyone saw me, just the instructor and her assistant. But I'm sure my neighbors heard me sniffling.)

As we moved through the practice, I became aware of how powerful I felt. Even when I had to do modifications for some of the poses (because I just ain't that flexible in my hamstrings yet, and I did NOT want to hurt myself), I could feel that heat rising through me that Robin is always talking about in our classes back home.

When we got towards the end of the flow and started doing some standing, wide-legged forward bends, I could feel myself getting slightly queasy. My mind was fighting it. No, damn, I thought, I just can't DO this anymore.

But, really, I wasn't doing anything super-strenuous. There was no reason to think I couldn't finish this practice. I was sweating like a dog, yes, but so was everyone around me. I wobbled a bit, yes, but I held my ground, rooting down through my feet in the standing poses. I acknowledged those thoughts, and then pushed them aside and continued to move through the flow.

The balancing poses gave me a few minutes to rest and focus. I know, it sounds crazy, but balancing on one leg is where I feel strongest in yoga. I can do some pretty crazy shit, I don't mind telling you. So when she presented some new variations on Eagle Pose and Warrior III, I was down with it.

At the end of the practice in final savasana, a thought boomed into my head like a cannon: I'm still afraid to eat. It made me so mad, but I acknowledged it and let it go on its merry way until the end of practice.

Class had run about twenty minutes over, so I had about thirty seconds to munch down a snack and get to my next class, Modern Mindfulness.

The mindfulness class was a much-welcomed break after that vigorous vinyasa practice. As we sat in mindfulness for a few minutes at the start of class, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my mind was calm, so calm. It was a wonderful class, and it basically just reinforced my practice of using mindfulness to work my way through the anxiety these last few months.

Then it was time for lunch.

Yikes.

Just as "backup", in case I totally freaked out over eating, I had brought along my lunch sack with some quinoa tabouli, fruit, cheese, and crackers. (And brownies. Can't forget the brownies.)

When I got down to the lunchroom, I saw that there was a magnificent spread: mushroom risotto, a medley of zucchini and summer veggies, a hot lentil salad with sweet potatoes, a quinoa salad, tabouli, a HUGE salad bar with kale and mixed greens, shredded cheese, homemade buttermilk dressing, two kinds of bread, and three different deserts.

 I told myself, okay, you don't *have* to eat any of it. Just fill up your plate with what looks good.

So, that's what I did.

My stomach and my body were telling me, urgently, that I needed to re-fuel before that afternoon's workshop and subsequent drive home. So I nibbled at the mushroom risotto, and it was delightful. I started munching on the kale and the slice of rosemary bread with butter. Yum.

While I ate, in order to distract myself from my impending anxiety attack (which I felt was coming, no question), I got out my journal and started writing in it. I understood that I needed to release this fear of food and eating and of my body because it doesn't serve me. I thought to myself, what reasons could I possibly have for hanging on to these fears? So, I wrote in my journal, "Being afraid of food..." and then just started free-associating with it.

Well, wow. The shit that popped up on the page not only surprised me, but also felt true. I'm not going to get into it here, because that's what I pay my therapist for, and she's definitely going to have her work cut out for her this week.

So, still feeling a little sick, and a little headachey, and with that annoyingly subtle pain below my right ribs, I went back upstairs and browsed the vendors' tables. A table full of colorful fabrics and gemstone and brass statues caught my eye - and there, I saw a little, tiny, labradorite Ganesh.

I picked him up - so tiny! - and saw that he was about the size of my thumbnail, but exquisitely carved. He just felt right in my hand, so I let him stay there. When I heard the price, I knew he was coming home with me. I looked around some more, and saw this adorable little crawling Ganesh, something that I can't remember seeing before. He, too, felt right in my hand - heavy, substantial, but again, oh, so tiny. The two of them were under twenty-five dollars, so I paid the vendor and slipped them into the little velvet sack I had brought with me that held a couple of amethyst and moldavite stones.

I found my restorative yoga class, and decided to just lay back on my mat, with a big bolster under my head like a pillow, hold my little labradorite Ganesha in my hand, and try to relax before class started.

The instructor talked about how important restorative yoga was, about how crazy and fast-paced our world is, and how we forget that slowing down is just as important as "getting things done". She talked about the parasympathetic nervous system, and how when we pay attention to that part of our physiology, our bodies have a tremendous capacity to heal.

Thirty seconds into the first pose, I knew I had picked the right class to end my day  at the conference. Just, wow. Draped over that bolster, first one side and then the other, allowing my body to expand and really breathe... It was incredible. It was that quiet, peaceful, place that I have been longing for lately. There was nothing else around me - just my breath, and the bolster, and the smell of lavender coming from the eye pillow.

About halfway into Frog pose, where I was settled tummy-down on a bolster with my forehead touching the mat, I started to think about what I had written in my journal at lunch, and yep, started to cry again.

It's funny that I feel safe when I need to cry in a yoga class. Probably because it only seems to happen in poses where absolutely no one but the instructor is going to notice. In this case, the instructor's assistant, who also is an experienced bodyworker, came over to me, and gently drew a line across my shoulder blades with her fingers. I felt my shoulders spread out and relax. Then she used both hands to draw a soft line down my back, and again, all that tension just left me. It felt like it was draining out of my feet, and far, far away...

Throughout this practice, the instructor read some poems that she had brought with her. The meaning of the words, the feeling of letting my body sink heavy, down into the Earth, and the absolute quiet and stillness of the room was just flowing through me. I could feel it like a circuit, like a quiet river.

When class was over, I didn't want to leave. I could have just sat there for another hour or two. My body felt amazing - no more pain under my ribs, no more headache, no queasy stomach. I just was.

I helped stack up the bolsters and blankets and collect the eye pillows. I was one of the last ones to leave. Before I left, I went up to the instructor and thanked her, gave her a warm hug, because I felt like she had taught me something so important. Just thinking about it now makes me tear up again.

The instructor warned us that when we left and went back outside to the rest of the conference and the rest of the world that things would seem different. She warned us about driving carefully.

Well, she was right. I walked back into the hubub of the rest of the conference, but it seemed softer, in a way. The light looked different. There were still dozens of people milling about, chatting, laughing...but it was all very subdued.

As I walked back to the car, I was overcome with a deep regret that I hadn't done the entire weekend at the conference, and resolved that next year, I would.

The ride home? Well, amazing. I had energy like I haven't felt in years. I felt joyful. The late afternoon sun streaming down on the fields and farms was gentle and beautiful. The music? Well, I had that car radio cranked up as loud as I could stand it. It was okay, really. EVERYTHING was okay.



It was gloriously warm on the ferry back across the lake, so I walked out onto the upper observation deck, and had a lovely conversation with a visitor from Florida. She was in the area with a friend who's husband had passed away last year, and they were taking pictures of every place they went and emailing them back to a friend in Florida who had never traveled outside the state! Turns out that this fascinating woman was a craft teacher, and she was well-versed in beadweaving, basic metalsmithing, and fiber arts. We had such a great time chatting that I was really disappointed when the ferry pulled back into the dock, and I had to go back to my car.

This morning, well, this morning I feel more than a little hung over. My head ached, my legs hurt (but in a good way), but I'm feeling stronger than I did on Saturday night.

I woke up around 3:45 this morning and could not get back to sleep. I tried, really, but it just didn't come. For the heck of it, to keep my mind occupied, I did a little research about labradorite and the crawling Ganesha (because I don't think I've ever seen a crawling Ganesha, and had no idea about the symbolism behind it) and found some very interesting things... But that will have to wait for another post.

For now, I've got blogs to write, pages to write, and a Battle piece to complete and photograph.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Breaking

My heart is breaking, and I don't think there's anyone I can turn to. It's not like people get themselves into this sort of thing every day. Or maybe they do, and just no one talks about it.

But even though I can't talk about, or write about it (at least, not yet, anyway), while I ponder all the things that have gone into and come out of my broken heart, I will follow the advice of one Neil Gaiman:

Make Good Art.

Almost 40

So, this is what I do when I'm procrastinating at work. I was messing around with the webcam on my laptop, trying to get a decent picture of myself, because lately, I feel like I have a hard time looking in the mirror.

Plus, the day I took this, it was a gorgeous day - the first truly warm day we've had all year. It was 81 degrees, sunny, and it was the first day that I'd felt almost alive in months. Maybe even years.

One week from today, I'll turn 39. The last year of my thirties. I tend to freak out a little at the last year of a decade - I had a similar freak-out when I turned 29.

But I don't think I look bad for almost 40. I'm sort of enjoying being back to my post-pregnancy weight and size, and I feel healthy most of the time, even on the days when I struggle with the anxiety.

Last weekend, after my day trip to NYC (which is another post for another day), we decided to spend the day out at the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpreter Center. It was a beautiful day, a little breezy, sunny, and warm.

We walked on the trails for about 4 miles. Colden got to go on his favorite wobbly-bridge trail that goes out over the river and connects a peninsula to the rest of the property.

What blew my mind was when we got to the two big hills on the trail - really big hills. When we were there back in November, I couldn't make it up those hills without being out of breath and my heart pounding. This time, after four months of yoga nearly every day, I scooted up them with no problems. I wasn't exhausted at the end of the hike. (I was, however, hungry enough to eat two sushi rolls, an apple, a brownie, and a handful of pretzels.)

So since this is my last year in my thirties, I'm trying to figure out what I want my forties to look like.

I remember when my friend turned 40. She started jogging again, got healthy, lost weight, found a new job, and really used her forties to start a new chapter in her life.

I have the feeling something similar awaits me.

Friday, April 19, 2013

AcroYoga

Yep, last weekend, I did it. I went to an AcroYoga class and learned how to do a headstand! Of course, I giggled through the whole thing, but when I went to class on Monday night, Robin said to me, "You looked pretty good doing that headstand! We've GOT to work on that together!" Made me giggle even more.

I don't think anyone got a picture of me standing upside down on my head, but this is a great picture of our instructors demonstrating Bird pose:


Yes, we really did that. Yes, I really balanced someone on my legs and arms like that. And yes, I even got to balance myself on someone's legs, sitting upright, hands to heart center for a short Ohm.

So, I'm more than halfway through this yoga challenge during the month of April, and while I haven't been able to do yoga every single day, I'm learning a lot.

First thing that I've learned is that doing yoga well is all about finding your limits, and accepting them. So what if I can't do a forward bend with straight legs? I can do the forward bend well enough to get most of the benefits of the pose.

I'm also learning about gently pushing your limitations, while still being accepting of them. Any new yoga pose that comes my way during class immediately sets off my little warning bells in the back of my brain, but I'm finding that if I'm calm and focused, I can usually pull it off, even if it's a modified version.

For me, yoga is all about learning to feel strong again, to be okay with pushing myself again, and with eradicating my fear of fear.

It's also hugely about getting my butt out of the house and back into the world at large, something that I have missed dreadfully these last few months.

And with that, it's time for me to get my butt out of my chair and out into the world at large.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Asgard

I love movies. Ever since I took a film making class in high school, and then again in college, I've loved the whole magic of how movies are written, shot, and edited. An old favorite of mine, Erik the Viking, reminds me of the days when I lived with my best artist friend forever, L.A.-based artist Susan Tompkins, and we would pull all-nighters in front of old episodes of Monty Python or Terry Gilliam films like this one:


In the opening scene, Erik, our hero,  is participating in a raid on a neighboring village. While attacking a woman in her hut, the two enter into a philosophical conversation about plundering and pillaging, which in turn sends our hero on a journey of wild adventures and self-discovery.

But what really caught my attention in that opening scene was the necklace worn by the woman. It was a fabulous metal work piece, full of ancient motifs and designs, and I took a few seconds to make a quick sketch of it so that I could recreate it with beads.

Last weekend, while recovering from a wonderful AcroYoga class that left my poor little core muscles sore and ouchy, I managed to sit still long enough to finish it.

It actually worked up much faster than I had originally thought it would.

Creating the little bead embroidered drops using dyed gemstone rondelles was a process of trial and error. I was worried that I wouldn't be precise enough to make them look good, but in the end, I found that the process I used for creating them was quick, easy, and perfect.

I connected them all using a simple spiral rope - after playing with so many variations like double and triple spiral, doing a simple single spiral rope felt almost like cheating!

I need to take some better photos of this piece, but truthfully, I haven't the time to do it this week. But I was excited to share another finished UFO.

The name of this piece is Asgard, after the mythological Norse realm that is the home to the Gods, ruled by Odin and his wife Frigg.

You might remember that I began this piece back in October, while recovering from a bout of power vomiting, and I think part of the reason why it took so long to finish was that every time I looked at the focal piece, I thought of how sick I was! Nothing like aversion therapy, eh?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Road to Shambhala

Yes, I love Three Dog Night. And I love this song, used to great effect at the beginning of the film, Drowning Mona:


So, it only makes sense that as I'm continuing on my beading spiritual journey that I whip up a few of these wonderful beaded mandalas, and then turn them into a necklace... Right?

 I decided to add a little pop of texture into the center of each mandala with a yummy gumdrop bead. And I chose the colors (pink and yellow) to symbolize both hope and love.

While the overall design of this piece is quite dramatic in shape and form, because each of these is backed with a lightweight and flexible piece of plastic milk jug (ha ha ha!), the necklace is most definitely comfortable and wearable.

Stitching these little mandalas was how I took my breaks during the last few weeks. Any time I felt overwhelmed with worry, I just sat down to my little stack of pink squares, cut out from a large sheet of Nicole's Beadbacking, stitched down a gumdrop, and went on my merry way.

The fringe was fun, and a challenge. I decided that the mandalas needed a little something extra to enhance their shape. I used a super-long piece of beading thread - probably about twenty feet - and did them all in one continuous loop, weaving back and forth between mandalas. Because, you know, I HATE weaving in thread ends more than I hate removing knots from my beading thread.

I designed the fringe with the necklace on a bust so that I could get an idea of what it would look like in "real time". Lately, I find that designing fringe is much easier for me if I can see what it will look like when worn, so my necklace bust has become my new best friend for designing.

The connections were fun to figure out, too. Now that I've completed this piece, I want to move on to the other colors of gumdrops that I have and see how else they can be connected, embellished, etc.

Can you tell I'm having fun with these beads? Throwing myself back into my beads, and into my yoga, have been the two things that have saved me these last few months. Slowly, slowly, I'm starting to feel like myself again. I have good days and bad days, yes, but it's starting to feel like the good days are outnumbering the bad days.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Love - And Turning Off the T.V.

"For small creatures such as we the vastness is only bearable through love." ~Carl Sagan

I had started out this morning thinking that I was going to write about my amazing weekend at yoga and the two pieces I finished. But that was before I heard about the Boston marathon, and the bombs that went off.

Within minutes, Facebook was lit up like a freaking Christmas tree with all this insane speculation, misinformation, and crazy conspiracy theories. People vowing revenge, promising justice, etc.

And I just packed up my yoga mat and drove to class.

No one was talking about the bombings. No one was saying things like, "Oh, how horrible!", or, "Did you hear..."

It was just five of us students, and Robin, our teacher, focusing on our breath and our bodies and trying to create stillness in our minds.

I didn't listen to the radio on the way home from class. I plugged in my iPod and listened to whatever music I had on there.

When I got home, I decided that I was not going to look at Yahoo news, or CNN or any of those kinds of places. And it's not because I don't care, but it's because I don't want to add one tiny little bit of energy to the hype that's created over this kind of tragedy.

The event itself is bad enough - the bombs, the injuries, the deaths, the terror. Why do the news media insist on dramatizing it even further?

I think that there are some people who, deep down on some primal level, crave this kind of tragedy. They feed off the negative energy. I feel that, too, sometimes, but that's when I pop "2012" or "Dante's Peak" into the DVD player. Disaster porn, imaginary drama, is all I have a taste for these days, I'm afraid.

What if we all did that? What if in the face of a tragedy, we decided to ignore all the rabid speculation and the milking-it-for-ratings coverage on the t.v. news?

I probably won't listen to the radio while I'm working today. I will go to Yoga class tonight and set my intention for the class and my meditation, wishing peace for all sentient beings.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bead Soup Blog Party - My Big Reveal!

I'm so excited I'm so excited I'm so excited!

Can you tell I'm excited?

Okay, without further ado, here is what I created with those fabulous beads from Tina Holden, which I've decided to call, "Be Love":

Isn't it a doozy? I don't know why I was drawn to this set from the two that Tina sent me, but I think it was a combination of the colors and the heart pendant. I don't often work with hearts, and that was a challenge for me. I enjoy a good challenge lately, and this one was so inspiring!


Picking the colors for the triple spiral rope (thank you, Nancy Dale, for the amazing tutorial!) was something else. I had this assortment of beads on my bead mat that looked totally awful in the tubes - blues, greys, golds, brown, orange... I thought, there's no way those colors are going to work. Ugly!

But, I picked up my needle and thread and started stitching. And stitching, and stitching, because triple spiral rope takes three times as long to make as a regular spiral rope, doncha know!

The colors just blended together beautifully, just as they did in Tina's gorgeous set. I was absolutely thrilled to see how the spiral turned out, and it made me feel much better about trusting my own innate sense of color.


I learned a couple of things about triple spiral rope, too. The first is that thread choice is EVERYTHING.

I started out using a piece of moss green Spiderwire fishing line, thinking that it's a little thinner than Fireline and probably wouldn't clog up the bead holes so fast. What I didn't realize is that Spiderwire tangles like crazy - and when you're using 15 feet of beading thread, yeah, a few tangles can definitely slow you down.

After I finished the first 3-inch section of triple spiral, I switched over to Fireline and was absolutely amazed at how much easier it is to use when working a triple spiral! The beads just slipped together nicely, even if they did get a bit unruly at the end. Which led me to discovery number 2...

When working a triple spiral, always bead much looser than you normally do! Really. Like I said in my blog earlier this week, once I loosened up, those core beads and accent loops just lined themselves up perfectly, with very little cajoling from me.


Attaching the segments of triple spiral was a learning experience, too. It's one thing to be able to join sections of spiral rope, or even double spiral, when you can at least see the core beads pretty easily, but trying to join the sections of triple spiral, where you have to try to peek under nine or twelve little outer spirals is definitely not for the faint of heart. I lost count of how many times I stuck the needle into the core beads where it came out the other side and directly into my fingertip. Ouch!


 I'm so in love with this piece... I briefly thought about selling it, but, nah, I think this one is a keeper. Wearing it will be a good reminder to me that I need to be love, to give and receive love, and to trust myself and the Universe that it will all work out okay in the end.

If you're totally in love with the handmade polymer clay beads, button, and focal in this piece, I suggest you check out Tina Holden's Etsy Shop and see all of the other amazing goodies she has in there. You'll find beautiful polymer clay cabochons and beads, as well as lots and lots of fabulous tutorials and supplies for making your own polymer clay pieces. And, of course, don't forget to check out Tina's blog to see what she made with the sparkly dichroic cab soup I sent her!

And, of course, make sure that you spend some time checking out all of the other amazing reveals today in the 2nd Reveal of the 7th Bead Soup Blog Party! Cheers!

Friday, April 12, 2013

WTFriday: What's Up With the Weather Today?

Today is April 12. We're nearly two weeks into April. And this morning, we woke up to roads covered in ice, freezing rain, and our onion gardens covered in snow...

The ice pellets have been smacking and cracking against the windows all morning. The fire is roaring in the wood stove, because it's freezing cold outside. The snow is starting to pile up on the road in front of the house...

And I just have to wonder...WTF is up with the weather today?

Don't get me wrong: I love winter. I love the snow, and those days when it's so nice and cozy in front of the fire, slipping into warm pajamas...

But I'm ready for some warmer weather. I'm ready for some sunshine. I'm even ready for some warm summer thunderstorms.

Alas, this morning, we have one more storm to deal with before we can get to those things.

I've also got to deal with this crushing headache, no doubt from the low atmospheric pressure of the storm.

The forecast is calling for temperatures in the high 50s and low 60s in the coming week... Dare I hope?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gumdrop Mandala

So, here's a quick clip of a piece that I CAN show you.

A couple of years ago, I fell in love with Wendy Ellsworth's fabulous book, Beading the Creative Spirit. I followed her instructions for creating simple beaded mandalas, and I found that stitching those little beauties is a wonderful beading meditation for me. I pick the patterns for the beads, pick the colors based on what kind of energy I want to bring to the piece...

Then last fall, I thought of an idea for a necklace (which is also still in progress, yikes) that was a series of simple bead embroidered components strung together with bits of spiral rope.

But then after I finished my Hoarder of Beauty necklace, and I started to think about other ways to use those sweet little gumdrop beads, I thought about making a series of beaded mandalas with gumdrop centers. Why not, right?

These little beauties were so much fun to make. Whenever I felt the need to take a break, I would work on one. The soothing repetition of each little mandala worked its magic on me and my anxious thoughts, and pretty soon, I had more than enough for the collar.

This is just a potential layout, with gumdrop spacers between each mandala. I made a copy of a collar template from Heidi Kummli's book, The Spirit of Bead Embroidery. After I enlarged it, I traced it onto a piece of clear plastic from a milk jug, and now I use it whenever I need to trace a template for a collar.

I love the idea of creating a large-scale, intricate piece of bead embroidery from a set of smaller pieces. It makes it seem less intimidating - instead of working on a huge piece, I can break it down into smaller sections.

So, now my next step will be to start attaching these mandalas, and then to figure out if I want to fringe the piece or not. I'm thinking about adding long swags under the bottom of each mandala, or possibly long, thin loops between each mandala.

The colors I chose were for healing and hope and peace. And speaking of which, it's almost time for yoga class tonight, where I am very much looking forward to getting a good workout, both spiritually and physically.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bead Soup

This is how Bead Soup gets made:

Before: My beads start out in nice little piles, all neat and organized.

After: The result of numerous instances of tearing out beadwork and playing with colors results in little piles of not-so-neat-and-organized beads that get put into little plastic baggies and tossed into my cabinets until I need them for something in a few years.






That's about all I can show you of my Bead Soup Blog Party piece until Saturday - I know, right? I really stink at keeping secrets, and this one is KILLING me. It's so totally unlike anything I would have ever thought about making, and the colors were a challenge, and the construction was a challenge...

But you'll just have to wait to read all about that one.

And while we're on the subject of challenges and waiting...

My friend Suzanne Branca of A Grain of Sand discovered these fabulous mercury glass beads while digging through the famous Bead Hoard, and she wondered if I'd like to create something with them for Beading Daily! Well, yeah!


And as much as I'd love to, I really can't show you what I'm doing with these beads, either. But I can tell you that it involves purple seed beads and cubic right-angle weave.

The silver strand next to them are antique Ethiopian tribal silver that I won in an eBay auction last week. (Thanks, Perry, for bringing those to my attention. Not.)

Tomorrow is a day for quality time with the camera, and beading... And snow. Yeah. A winter storm heading our way, threatening to dump a few inches of snow, sleet, and freezing rain on us. Nice winter we're having this spring, eh?

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Loosen Up

Once upon a time, back when I owned a bead shop, I was talking with some of my business partners and fellow beaders about tension in beadwork. We talked about how getting just the right tension was important for pretty much any beading project. A few of us joked about how tension in beading was related to personality, at which I quipped, "Well, I always bead really, really tightly - so what does that make me?"

Working through this project for the Bead Soup Blog Party on Saturday (yikes!), I realized that working with a tight tension is not conducive to a good triple spiral rope. Really. I've been trying so hard to control where the core beads line up, and how the spirals lay against each other... The first few sections of this rope were so frustrating, I almost wanted to give up.

Then, lo and behold, for some reason this morning, I decided to back off on my tension.

I could feel the difference in the beadwork instantly! Instead of fighting with each new core bead, they just sort of stacked up on top of each other neatly. The little set of spirals around the core stopped fighting each other, too.

And, sort of miraculously, the headache I had been fighting all day disappeared, too.

So, yes, maybe I'm reading too much into this, but with all the life lessons that I'm learning lately, maybe the next one that my beads are trying to teach me is to back off and loosen up a little. Stop trying to control everything (control freak that I am) and just sort of go with the flow...

Those little beads of mine are so smart, sometimes.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Procrastination

So, I *should* be working on my Battle of the Beadsmith entry right now. I should...

But, I'm not.

Instead, I'm trying to finish this gumdrop mandala necklace that I started a couple of weeks ago.

Why am I playing with these bead embroidered mandalas instead of working on my Battle piece?

Well, for starters, while I have a design in mind and sketched out and have the first big part of it ready to go, I'm just sort of letting the idea ferment for a bit more.

I'm also still trying to work out a design issue, and while I can't tell you exactly what it is or what the final design will be, I can tell you that this is something brand-new to me that I've never tried before.

Am I a little nervous about attempting this? Well, yeah. But then again, last year when I created my Battle of the Beadsmith piece, I tried something completely different for me. I had absolutely no idea if it would work out, but after a little time spent playing with my idea, well, it worked out pretty well, I think...

I can't tell you what my final design will be, or the theme, or anything about it, really. But I can tell you this: the idea came to me, as so many great ideas do, while I was relaxing in a hot lavender bath. I had my sketchbook, my iPad, and a few of my favorite jewelry design books handy. The idea just sort of popped in there, and after I did a little research about it, it clicked. I just sort of KNEW that it was the right design for this year's competition. 

Hey, I may not make it past the first round again this year, but one thing about this competition is for sure: it's pushing me to design and create pieces that test my limits, and banish my fears about beading!

Friday, April 05, 2013

WTFriday: Getting Old Already?

So, the other day, I was in the natural foods store, looking down at the label on a bottle of essential oil, and I realized that I was having a hard time reading the tiny print on the side of the bottle.

Woa.

I had to squint a bit, move it into the light, before I could make out what was written on the label.

Sure, I've gotten used to wearing my amazing CraftOptics when I bead. And, as I had to remind myself, I'm turning 39 in a few weeks. That's almost 40.

Like my father always says, getting old sure beats the alternative. My therapist had to remind me the other day that I can't get up at 5, hike 7 miles, then put in an 8-hour shift because, well, I'm not 24 anymore.

But, GEEZ! So, here, for my WTFriday post, I'm giving it up and making an appointment with the optometrist to get my vision checked. It's been a while since I had new glasses, anyway, and it looks like things have changed since my last prescription...

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Attack

Well, I did it. Went to two yoga classes yesterday: the morning class was a mixed levels Vinyasa class, and it was wonderful. I left class feeling energized and happy. Went through my day, but as the day went on, I started to feel tired. Like I could have gone to bed an hour early kind of tired.

But my goal was to do two yoga classes in one day. So I drove back to Keene, and made a quick trip into the bakery/deli next to the studio for something to eat for dinner.

As I walked through the deli, I noticed that my thoughts were racing: What if I can't find something to eat? What if I eat something and it makes me sick? I'm so tired, I can't skip dinner, but what if there's nothing to eat?

Over, and over, and over...

I went to class, but about ten minutes in, I felt that old sensation: nausea, stomach pain. My thoughts were still racing. I couldn't find that stillness.

Robin came up to me when she noticed that I wasn't keeping up with the flow, and told me it was okay to lie down. So I did. Scooted my little pillow under my head, put my knees up with my feet on the floor, and just focused on my breathing.

I was overcome with the urge to run away. I wanted to just pick up my stuff and RUN.

But I stayed.

I finally felt good enough to sit up and continue with the practice, and then sat through a meditation at the end.

I was STARVING on the ride home. Tired and hungry, the whole way.

But I did it. Made it through two yoga classes, even if part of one was spent on my back. I didn't run away.

Of course, I had the same old fears running through me on the way home: What if this happens when I go to Burlington? What if it happens when I go to Colorado in the fall? What if it happens when I go to Bead Fest in August? What if it happens when I go to NYC this month?

But this morning, when I thought of those things, none of them felt real. None of them felt like they were going to happen, and if they did, at least I know how to handle them now. So, no worries, really.

And now, I have to go finish up some beading for next week's blogs, and hit the bag sale at the thrift shop to see if I can find some more pants for my son, who is capable of tearing holes in the knees of his pants faster than I can blink.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Battle of the Beadsmith 2013: It's On Like Donkeykong!

April 1 - the first day that we are allowed to work on our pieces for the Battle of the Beadsmith 2013! It's on, baby! It's on like Donkeykong!

I can't give any hints or clues about what I'm making. All I can say is that over the last few weeks, I've placed orders for many different glass beads and beading supplies in order to make this year's masterpiece.

The idea is something that came to me after my first few weeks of really intense yoga - just this strange thought that popped into my head. After doing a little bit of research online, I found that I was really on to something, and I just ran with it.

I've already stitched up a couple of experiments to see if this design is going to work out. So far, so good. One step at a time!

Sadly, I can't give it too much attention today, because there are deadlines for work, and two other beading projects that need to be off my table before Friday.

The other big thing starting today is my 30-day immersion into twice-daily yoga, with Tara Stiles. But this morning, my plans to begin my day with a yoga workout were derailed when I woke up to discover that my hormones were, once again, trying to kill me. It's like my reproductive system is playing a huge April Fool's day prank on me, only I'm really not laughing.

I've got to get serious about making time in the mornings. Mornings are just not a good time for me - there's always so much to do, breakfasts to be made and eaten, Colden to take care of, and I think it sets the stage for a lot of my anxiety throughout the day. If allowed, my body would sleep straight through until about 7 a.m., but Colden is almost always awake before 6. (Which is, ironically, when Tom is always out the door for work.) So, something has to change. I need to find some kind of a new routine for myself and for Colden to diminish some of the stress and anxiety of our crazy mornings.

That said, I'm very much looking forward to an evening of a warm fire, leftover "meat"loaf from last night, some cozy time with my boys, Moose's birthday party (yes, he turns 10 today), and a half hour of uninterrupted yoga/meditation time by myself.

Don't forget - this Saturday is the second reveal for the 2013 Bead Soup Blog Party, and you'll get to see what myself and my partner, Tina Holden, did with the goodies that we swapped! Stay tuned!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Work

So, that pesky pinched nerve in my shoulder had me sidelined for three days this week until I got it straightened out. By the time I got back to yoga class last night, anything that involved my arms and shoulders felt tight and frustrating.

My anxiety levels were getting up there, too. As we moved through the first sequence of warm-ups and poses, my mind kept thinking, "You can't do this. You're going to be sick. Feel that? You're going to be sick."

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't relax my mind. It wasn't until we were more than halfway through class that I finally managed to relax. We were in King Dancer pose (one of my new favorites), and I realized that it felt like meditation to me. I couldn't calm my mind when I was sitting, but standing here, giving my mind a reason to focus and balance, that was calming and centering.

Instead of feeling elated at the end of class, I was tired. It felt like I had just done some kind of grueling, unpleasant task. It felt like work.

Of course, I realized as I drove home, that not every yoga class will be blissful. Sometimes, it will feel like work, the same way that beading sometimes feels like work. But the important thing is to move my behind to the mat or to the beads and get on with it.

On my way out of class, I picked up a flyer for the Burlington Yoga Conference. I looked it up online and saw that a one-day pass, including three classes/workshops and lunch, was about $113. I didn't hesitate, and registered for three Sunday workshops. Because, why not? Baby steps. I need to get myself moved out of my chair and out of the house.

I'm also signed up for an acro-yoga workshop in two weeks. Yikes! What am I doing?

There are beads on the horizon, too, but more about that later...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Pigeon

Colden, demonstrating Pigeon pose.
Honestly, lately, I have no idea where the minutes/hours/days/weeks/months are going... It feels like I just wake up in the morning, I turn around twice, and it's time to go to bed!

Thankfully, I've been going deeper into my yoga practice, and that's helping me become more mindful of each moment as I watch my breath and become aware of what's happening around me.

I went to my first Vinyasa class last Thursday night. Robin, the wonderful teacher from whom I'm learning so, so much, came up to me before we got started, and she told me just to take it at my own pace. It's a very physical class she said, with lots of movement. But she also said that she knows I'm comfortable with knowing where my edge is, and I'm not the kind of person who's going to push myself past my comfort zone and injure myself.

We spent part of the class practicing Yinyasa yoga. Where Vinyasa is sometimes known as "Power Yoga" with lots of movement, Yinyasa is where you get into a yoga pose and hold it, sometimes for as long as 5 or 10 minutes.

One of my classmates had requested Pigeon pose during that evening's class, and ever since I learned it a couple of months ago, I've had this love/hate thing going on with it.

To get into Pigeon, you start on hands and knees. You bring one leg up in front of the other knee and aim your foot out to the side, keeping that other leg stretched out behind you. You can either plant your palms and stretch up, or, as Colden is demonstrating in the photograph here, you can place your elbows down, bend forward, and rest your head on your clasped hands.

Well, that was the variation of Pigeon that I got into on Thursday evening. At first, my mind was telling me, "I hate this, I hate this, I hate this, I hate this." But, no, I told my mind that now was not the time. I acknowledged those thoughts, and then released them. I concentrated on my breath, breathing down through my hips and that outstretched leg......

It hit me sort of like a gentle thunderclap when I realized, to my surprise, that every single muscle in my body was relaxed. More than that, I became aware that I was in a deep, meditative state. My breath was flowing smoothly and deeply.

From somewhere deep in my belly, I felt a bit of that nagging queasiness that has plagued me so much during the last few months of anxiety. But in this state, with my head down, my eyes closed, my shoulders engaged and relaxed, I just let it come to the surface, thanked it for what it's taught me, and then released it. It felt like I breathed it in deep, and somehow, it was transformed by my heart and my breath, and then I let it back out into the world as something positive.

I finally had to get out of Pigeon when it was time to move on, and even though my hips were thanking me for finally releasing the pose, my mind wanted to stay there.

At the end of class, I felt energized. It was strange - I haven't felt that way in MONTHS. I felt like I could fly. I listened to Def Leppard the entire way home in the van, cranked up as loud as I thought I could stand it.

I felt like ME again.

Robin has told us that they are adding classes to the schedule in April, after spring break. I can hardly wait to see if I can fit a couple more into my schedule.

It feels to me like the yoga calms and centers me, while allowing me to burn off all this excess energy from my anxiety in a productive way. The Reiki healer I saw a couple of weeks ago suggested to me that when I started to feel anxious or nervous or queasy that I breathe those sensations into my heart, breathe them in deeply, and then allow my heart chakra to cleanse them and turn them into something else before I breathe them out as positive energy.

Yeah, it sounds crazy. But when I'm at yoga class, that's how it works.

So, now, there are two yoga classes tomorrow: a Vinyasa class in the morning and a gentle beginner in the afternoon.

Two classes in one day: can I do it? Is it crazy?

Stay tuned...