Saturday, December 31, 2011

No Fear in 2012

I love New Year's Eve.

Especially THIS year, which has been one of the most significant, hardest, and happiest years of my life. I'm telling y'all, if I keep the momentum I've gained in 2012, I fully expect that by the end 2012, I will be able to FLY.  You just watch me!

To recap:
I quit drinking officially on New Year's Day 2011.
I found yoga and fell down a lot.
I lost weight.
I found acupuncture and broke my toe.
I began to deal with the scars of having lived with chronic pain for so long.
I walked down the beach.
I celebrated my yogaversary.
I took my yoga to an entirely new level. (Well, I'm TRYING to do that, anyway.) (Today I went to the Power class at 9:30.  I came home so spent, I had to nap before I could even clean my kitchen.)

Amidst all of my personal growth and gratitude, our family sold our house, moved to a rental, enrolled BOTH girls in private school, took some trips, planted a garden, decluttered a large amount of useless stuff (well, we're TRYING to do that, anyway) and in general, found a new rhythm to our life here in New York.

It's been an extraordinary year.

I've loved looking back at it.  It wasn't an EASY year, really.  I feel sort of like I am emerging from the cocoon I've been in for the past five or so years.  Yes, I feel like I am coming into my own--becoming the butterfly I was meant to be.

It turns out that becoming a butterfly?  Is pretty dang PAINFUL.

No one tells you that part.

It's painful for everyone. I feel like I've been renegotiating the terms of all of my relationships.  I am less of a pleaser, but kinder.  I am fundamentally changed by having lived with chronic pain--in ways I don't fully understand yet.

Recently, I realized that I spend a lot of my time living in fear.  I am afraid of embarrassment.  I am afraid of pain.  I am afraid of exerting my own will/opinion/freaky sense of humor on others for fear they won't like me, or respond positively.  Part of my growth process for 2012 is to step out of that fear.  To feel it, acknowledge it and send it packing.

So, that's it, really.  That's my resolution for 2012.  I'm letting go of fear as often as I possible can.  To put myself out there as big as life, risking rejection and falling down (yoga) and making mistakes.  2012 is MY year.

Watch me fly.  I dare you to come with me.

I DOUBLE-DOG dare you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Irony

Monday, December 26, 2011

This morning, my husband went on a bike ride.  It's very cold out and windy and he really didn't want to go, but he made himself because he knew it would further his fitness, and that he would feel better afterward.

It is in that same spirit that I decided NOT to go to yoga this morning.

I know, what?

I've been on something of a yoga binge --pushing my body in a more advanced class, taking multiple classes in one day, occasionally dropping to the ground to do a headstand in my bedroom.  (It's the latest thing I've learned to do! It's super cool!  I can hold it for minutes without crashing!)

(I mean, you'd do that, too, right?)

(RIGHT?)

Anyway, yeah, yoga BINGE is no misnomer.  I just love it so much. I can't get enough.

Except, my body is protesting the excess.  My shoulder hurts, I've got a small strain in my lower right back and a larger strain in my left glute. Nothing serious, but warning signs that I need to throttle back for a bit before I hurt myself and have to take a REAL break from yoga.

The thing is...

Um.

I'm afraid to stop.  (I guess we can just add this to my legion of psychological issues.) I'm AFRAID to go slowly, because what if I'm unable to start again?

I've written about this before, but basically, I think one of the legacies of my chronic pain/immobility adventure is this feeling that if I stop moving, my mobility will be taken away from me.  I fear that every yoga class is my last one, so I have to push harder, go deeper. I can't afford to have a bad practice because what if it's my last one?

Which is flawed thinking on many levels, not the least of which, it's not yogic.  Dharma Mittra himself says, "Do all postures very slowly, without pain or straining. [...] Do not overhold any posture. Break posture whenever it becomes uncomfortable." It's supposed to be about achieving a meditative state naturally; the union of the mind and body.

Which is not the way *I* approach ANYTHING, really.

So, today was a big step for me. A chance to practice what I preach to my daughters about listening to their bodies and practicing moderation and how life is a marathon, and not a sprint.

It didn't stop me from doing THIS in my bedroom, but I don't think you can blame me for THAT.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Musings: We Are Blessed

This morning, I had to go have my blood drawn for my annual thyroid test. (I've been hypothyroid for almost 30 years.)

Yes, I had to go on Christmas Eve.

I would have gone earlier this month, but that might have meant missing yoga and you know how I feel about THAT.  (As it was, despite the fact that my forty-six year old body was screaming for a break, the twenty-year-old in my head was MASSIVELY pouting.)

So, because I had to fast (also not my favorite thing), I went when the lab first opened this morning. I was in a bit of a dark mood, because my family had stayed up late watching a movie and the living room looked like a bomb had gone off.  Ditto the kitchen.

Anyway, pre-coffee and grumpy, I sat in the waiting room, waiting my turn.

I noticed the family across from me, two parents and their little girl, roughly the same age as my eleven-year-old, Jane.  As I watched them, the realization dawned on me that this was a family dealing with a catastrophic illness of a child.  The little girl looked terrible--drawn and listless--and she was dealing with the repeated calls for more tests like a veteran. Her parents were studiedly upbeat, but the father's hands were shaking as he pretended to read his newspaper.

And there it was, see.

The ultimate reminder of how blessed we are.  That in the midst of all of the noise of the holidays and the frustrations with the hurried rudeness of people, the good fortune of having our healthy, funny, smart, merry little band of Coopers almost slipped past me.

I inhaled the gratitude and exhaled a prayer for the little girl and her family, ashamed of my petty grievances when others are battling my worst nightmare.

May you all enjoy good health and an abundance of family (assuming that's a good thing) this holiday season.  If you (or a loved one) are battling illness or addiction, may there be healing and hope today. Whatever your struggles, may you also be reminded of your blessings, and may you find a quiet moment to reflect on the bounty of this world.

And if you can spare a kind thought for a sick little girl in Huntington, New York, I know it will not be in vain.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

love,
Barb

Thursday, December 22, 2011

On a Yoga Bender. (Hah! Pun.)

I have so much to tell you.  Ana got her braces off.  We went to get our Christmas tree and decorated it. Coop had a birthday. We gave a little UN-Thanksgiving party. I ran into a Sydney doppelgänger. I finished my last freelance article of the year, all about polar dinosaurs --which was fascinating.

But honestly?  All I really want to talk about is yoga. (In fact, this whole blog post is about yoga, so if that is of no interest to you, you can skip right to the bottom to see my gorgeous older daughter with the straightest teeth on this planet.)

Um.

I'm a little obsessed with yoga at the moment.

A few months ago, my yoga instructor introduced me to another yoga studio and a woman named Yvonne, who teaches the same kind of yoga that he does. Actually, I was too shy/terrified to go by myself so he MET ME THERE and took a class with me. Is that just...incredibly kind?  He knew I was looking to augment my practice with him (he is unable to offer as many classes as I need because he runs a thriving martial arts center) and he knew that I would never have gone by myself. I am just...pathologically shy. I hate having to explain my situation and the FULF and everything. But this woman teaches the same kind of yoga that I already take (Dharma Mittra) so I think he knew it would be really good for me and then he just kind of made it happen. How did I get lucky enough to have a friend like THAT?

Anyway, I've been taking Yvonne's 8:00AM class on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays for eight or nine weeks now.  It's a lot harder than the other classes I was taking, because those are beginner classes. This is YVONNE'S beginner class, but if I had taken it when I was newly off the couch, it would have killed me.

So, for a couple of months now, I've been going to Yvonne's studio on MWF at 8:00 and then going to Chris's studio on Wednesday and Fridays at 11:00.  Five yoga classes a week.

In eight weeks, I've seen some positive changes in my body, and I've certainly seen some increased strength.

Then, about a week or so ago, I tried taking the Power Yoga at Yvonne's.

Which, y'all, is the hardest exercise class of any exercise class I've ever taken in my LIFE.  I'm not even exaggerating.

And something snapped in me--in a good way, I mean.  I think.

Now I just want to do yoga and think yoga and BE YOGA all of the time.  I want to be one of those super-bendy people.  I want to be able to hang with the true yogis.

I guess it's like high-school: I want to sit at the bendy people's lunch table.

I'm taking as many classes as I can (on Friday I took three classes on one day!) and at least once a day I WATCH some yoga on youtube. I guess I'm going to need an intervention before it's all over, because it's two days until Christmas and I haven't ordered cards, done any baking, or decorated outside.  The girls and I haven't even made our traditional gingerbread house.

Obsessively compulsively loving yoga seems sort of...well, wrong.  Not in the spirit of true enlightenment, if you know what I mean. I can't help it--I am dreaming yoga dreams! I think part of it is that I seem to have some natural yoga ability (I'm pretty flexible) so my dreams seem within my grasp if I can build my strength.

I'm on it.

Everything else?  Not so much.

Here, look at the pretty girl and don't judge me:


Also, tell me this dog doesn't look exactly like Sydney (scroll down if you visit the link--there's a picture of Syd.):

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dispatch 3: San Francisco, The Final Chapter

I know, I know, I know: where have I been?  Thanks for writing, but I'm not actually dead yet. I just kind of got sucked into the holiday/deadline/laundry vortex. I've emerged, not broken exactly, but bowed.

This time of year brings out the crazy in me.

When last I left you, we were still in San Francisco but had yet to take a cable car to Ghiradelli Square.



Jane has totally found her spiritual home.
Coop: "Yeah, that ought to shut your pancreas right down."
After loading up on chocolate, we went to a neighborhood beach that Coop runs by when he's in San Francisco to do a little sightseeing and we saw the most wonderful thing. There were a bunch of dogs and their owners playing fetch and we watched this one dog drop the ball he was fetching, make a bee-line for this couple's picnic bag, reach in and gobble up a sandwich. And the people were so incredibly cool about it. We talked to them afterward and they said they were pretty much done with the sandwich and they were very impressed with how fast the dog got into the sandwich container. I laughed very, very hard. We ALMOST got the theft on video...



(Why, yes, we HAVE become those scary people who write dialogue for animals.  What?)

The next day, we took the girls to the Exploratorium, which has to be one of the coolest museums on the planet.  Everything was hands-on and so interesting.  At one point, I came around a corner and found Coop deeply engrossed in a display about how the differential works on a car.

I took a LOT of pictures.  I will spare you all of them. Suffice it to say that this museum was so cool, we saw couples there on DATES.  I love that.

And the next day, the girls and I flew home.

The furry people missed us.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dispatch 2: San Francisco

So, Day Three of our San Francisco vacation, we got up early and went to prison.

(I just like saying that. I would not actually like LIVING in a prison. I'm pretty clear on that.)

We headed down to catch the ferry to Alcatraz, where we miraculously found parking in a lot and ended up with time to grab a little coffee at a cafe.  This is noteworthy because of the pigeons.

Any one else think of Ernie from Sesame Street when she sees pigeons?
These pigeons had learned to totally work the doorway of this restaurant.  They would fly in through the door, walk around on the floor eating crumbs, and then, periodically, a worker would come out from behind the counter and shoo them and they'd fly right back out the door.  One by one, they'd come back in and the cycle would begin again.   It reminded me of this video:



I digress.  (Shocker.)

Anyway, we boarded the ferry and headed to the Rock.

I'd like to go on record as saying that THIS is as close as I would ever like to be to visiting my children in jail.



We took a great and kind of creepy audio tour of the prison and we walked all OVER that island, including down into the recreation area where I took some pictures of the girls with this idea in the back of my mind that the photos would make funny holiday cards.

Yeah, I don't know either.  "This holiday season, we hope you're not a felon! And if you ARE, hope the recreation yard is awesome! MWAH!"
So then we took the Ferry back and had lunch in the Ferry Building which also had a lot of shopping.  Including THIS store:

Which, for the record, did NOT sell bacon.  Go figure.

We headed home, rested a little, and then took a cab to Chinatown for dinner. I forgot to take pictures but basically, the restaurant looked like any other Chinese restaurant. And the fortunes were GREAT.  Mine said, "You will soon have something you have always desired."  See? That's a strong fortune.  Promises me something.  Makes me think about what that might be. (A clean house? A book deal? A dog who doesn't sleep on the sofa?)

Then we came home and rented "Escape from Alcatraz."

On Wednesday, we had a slow morning due to having stayed up too late watching Clint Eastwood.  I took a yoga class at a local place, which went surprisingly well. The we drove to Stanford University, which is currently Ana's first choice in colleges.

And it occurred to me that she'll be leaving for college in four-and-a-half years, after which I had to put my head between my knees and breathe into a paper bag and stuff. Lordy, if it goes as fast as the past 13 years, she'll be leaving tomorrow.
It was actually a beautiful day, but I edited this picture so you could see their faces. That's the campus behind them.  
So then we drove back along the coast and took a detour to go see the Mavericks. We walked out to the point, where the wind assaulted us like it was armed. It was really beautiful, though. I took pictures until my people refused to stand still anymore, and then I took pictures without them.
(She looks pretty good in that hoodie, huh?) (Sob.)



Thus ended Day Four.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dispatch 1: San Francisco

So, we're on vacation in San Francisco.

I meant to tell y'all about it before we left, but the effort involved in finding a house sitter and then spoiling my pets rotten and lining the house with plastic sheeting in case one orange fur-ball chooses to express his displeasure at my absence in a manner unbecoming to one who really DOES know how to use the litter box sucked all of my bloggy words right out of me.

My husband had a business trip out here the week of Thanksgiving. We decided that we'd ALL come and spend Thanksgiving soaking up some culture on the other coast.

It's an almost seven-hour flight out here.  We flew Virgin America, an airline I'd never flown before.  The airplane seemed new-ish and was equipped with all the new-fangled gizmos one could ask for.  We ordered and paid for our meals via a computer system. When I wanted a class of water, I ordered it the same way! We had wifi and satellite radio and movies.  I totally reminded me of this clip, which I searched for and posted on Facebook from 35,000 feet in the air.  Gosh, we live in amazing times!



I did some serious knitting. The plane was full of parents with two-year-olds, and at one point, the father in the row in front of me was so desperate for entertainment for his daughter, he sat on the armrest of the chair in front of me, holding the little girl, and they watched me knit for about 20 minutes.  Which was a little odd, but I was glad to help.

(But y'all, seriously?  I had forgotten all about diapers. Specifically, I had forgotten about Toddler Diapers.  After about the third time, when my eyes were watering and I looked over at my gorgeous, tall, self-sufficient daughters (who were, of all things, utterly consumed by their good old-fashioned books,) I realized that I had to add something else to my long list of things for which I am thankful this year.)

We stayed in a hotel the first night, and got up on Saturday to have such a great breakfast that we almost stayed another night. But we are actually house-sitting for a colleague of my husband, so we checked out, dropped our luggage at the house, and set off to explore.  We drove down Lombard Street, the curviest street in the world:
(It was raining, and we were dodging a busload of Tourists who were standing in the middle of the street. This image courtesy of Google.)
And then we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge,

through the Marin Headlands (where we saw people surfing. Because this is California, and people take their surfing VERY seriously.)

People surfing.  Terrible picture because, HELLO, IT WAS A MONSOON and I didn't want to get out of the car.
See?  People are nutty even about WATCHING surfing here.
 and then we drove into Sausalito. (Where a small bit of shopping happened. Shhh.)

Then we went to see some redwoods in the Muir Woods.

And, wow.


Then we ate lunch at another fabulous restaurant and during the hour we were there, watched the fog roll in and completely shroud San Francisco across the bay and then roll back out.  It was like some sort of beautiful performance art.

We came home, had a bit of a nap and went out for Sushi.  (I should warn you that there is something about the food in San Francisco that requires one to take pictures of it.  Really, I don't make the rules.)
Ana's cucumber rolls --the best she's ever eaten.
We ordered something and there was a communication breakdown and THIS came instead.  We did NOT send it back.

This is the face of a girl who is happy with her dinner.
On Monday, Coop had to actually go into work, so the girls and I went out for breakfast
My morning coffee, with bottle cap for size comparison.
bummed around the Russian Hill area of San Francisco, found a bookstore, and even walked to a yarn store.  (Some small bit of shopping happened. Shhh.)

Then we had lunch in a Chinese restaurant.


and this fish in a tank became transfixed with Ana. He was just staring at her and staring at her.  Naturally, this was creepy and hilarious.

That's a fortune?
We spent the afternoon at the California Academy of Sciences, where we visited rain forests, an aquarium, and space.  I cannot overstate the coolness.

Can you find the frog?  Hint: it's NOT green!
Then we went to dinner at a Cuban restaurant near Amoeba Records, which is a music store that defies description.  Some shopping DEFINITELY happened.

And then, we went to Whole Foods to buy supplies for our Thanksgiving dinner, as well as homeopathic remedies for the epic head cold poor Ana (13 and such a good sport) was rapidly developing. 

The next day, we went to prison.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A Meaningful Day for Me



(You don't have to watch that video. I couldn't find one of Shawn Colvin performing the song on her own.)

One small year
It's been an eternity
It's taken all of me to get here
Through this one small year

Today is a very meaningful day for me.  One year ago, I took my first yoga class at Chris Gates Tae Kwon Do Health Center, which turned out to be the first step down the road that finally ended my chronic pain experience, and began a new journey into regaining my health and well-being.

One year.

In the past year, I've learned to walk again without pain. I've lost 25 pounds, gone off of my lobotomizing anti-depressants, stopped drinking alcohol, revived my freelance writing career, and not had a single migraine headache. Best of all, I've regained my former active role in our family.

If it were only that one thing alone, I would be inexpressibly grateful. To have all of this other bounty is just...humbling and exalting and uplifting and seems to require a larger response than just feeling this enormous gratitude in every fiber of my being.

I try not to take it for granted. When I pulled into the parking lot at the girls' school for their Halloween parade on Monday, I parked as far away as I could and I breathed a sincere prayer of thanks for the ability to walk into the school to see my kids. It was such a short time ago that I couldn't do that.

When I get ready for bed at night, if it has been a pain-free day (and I have more of them now than I have days with pain,) I try to recognize it and to acknowledge the millions of people out there who have no end to their suffering.  I wish I could convey to them that I know how hopeless they feel.  I wish I could give them hope that it will get better.

Today, as you go about your day, will you do me a favor? Will you notice some of the steps you take without thinking? Will you take a moment to appreciate the things you can do by virtue of your mobility? Will you spare some mindful sympathy for those who are denied this privilege, and send some healing thoughts to those who live with chronic pain?

Namaste, y'all.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

NOT a Zombie Apocalypse

Today on Long Island, the weather is freakishly cold, and...well...sleeting.

Freakishly.

In October.

The weather station says a low of 37 degrees is predicted, although it's already 35 degrees, so what do they know? I am spending my day helping Jane (11) with her Halloween costume.

Wait.  Wait, what is this??

Is it the Zombie Apocalypse?

Zombies?  Hello?
Ah!  Not Zombies.

Radiant heat.

I'm not leaving the house until Spring.

Wait, maybe my feet ARE the feet of a Zombie.  That would explain so much.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Cooper B & B and a Birthday

It's been fast and furious here at the Cooper Bed and Breakfast. We've gotten the hot tub fully operational, had house guests from the 30th until the 12th, had to rather unexpectedly buy a new car, went apple picking, saw a Broadway show, and most importantly, celebrated Jane's eleventh birthday.

(I know.  I don't believe it either.)

First, my parents and my cousin-from-Germany, Robin, were due to arrive on the 30th.  

Since we recently moved, this necessitated a trip to Ikea in order to buy my older daughter Ana (13) a new bed, because she was still sleeping on a mattress on the floor and it was getting a little crowded. 

We didn't get it put together before the visitors arrived --because it had at least 8 BAZILLION pieces --but this turned out to be fine because my cousin is the Ikea Whisperer.  At some point, my husband came out of Ana's room on Friday night and said, "I can't even hand him the parts fast enough."

Then my nephew, who lives in NYC, came out for the weekend. We were running a little short of beds so Jane graciously gave up hers. 

We put a mattress for her on the floor of our room, which was a nice reminder of why you would never want to actually share a BED with Jane.  All night long, we could hear her levitating slightly above her mattress, thrashing about, back and forth.  Some people think she inherited this trait from ME, but, believe me, she has taken it to entirely new heights.

(
Meanwhile, everyone has departed the B&B and the mattress remains on my bedroom floor.  Scout has adopted it as his own.) (Parenthetical picture--boo YAH!)

Anyway, eventually, after drinking a lot of beer, the guys finished putting together the bed.
Which meant that we could get down to the really IMPORTANT stuff.  My nephew taught my mom to play Words With Friends, and after that, every picture I took of my mom looked like this: 
I'm kidding, of course.  I did get some good photos, despite the fact that my camera was acting up.


(I'm sure that had NOTHING to do with the fact that my cousin brought his superior camera equipment, including a Nikon D90 with an incredible lens. I think I just heard Santa faint.)


There was time on the beach:
Cousin, mother. nephew, husband, daughter
And a trip apple picking, which turned out to be a big bust because Hurricane Irene ruined the apple crop this year:
Jane and my parents picking apples...out of a big box.  Not really the experience we were hoping for...
We DID take the girls to a corn maze and turn them loose for the first time on their own.  We gave Jane a phone in case she needed help, which sparked a hilarious deluge of texts, the last one saying that while she hadn't exactly given up hope, we could find her will under her bed.


(She found her way out, for those of you getting worried.)


Then, it was Jane's birthday.


Eleven.


I know...I...just...


I know.


Somehow, Jane's birthday has evolved into this week long festival (she asks for special treats because, "it's my birth week.") culminating in her actual birthday celebration which includes:

(These kind of turned out looking like feet.  I am no Kelly Cheatle.)
Chocolate chip pancakes.  

Cake.


(As an aside, I was worried that I would forget an ingredient when I was doing my grocery shopping.  Luckily, at MY store, there is THIS aisle:
Whew!  THAT'S a relief.
)

A full-on Present Hunt, sort of like an Easter Egg hunt, only with fewer eggs.



A steak dinner

And then the Opening of the Presents:
New golf club from Dad, her golfing buddy
Including a giant ream of paper, because, well, who wouldn't like THAT?


and some time before bed spent reading violent and inappropriate comic books while lying on the hot tub surrounded by her bounty.


Happy birthday, little Hurricane.  Just thinking about you makes me smile.