Assuming makes one an….,

I have a scrap box. It’s more convenient than a scrapbook. Just toss in clippings, photos, a 1/2 filled baby book. Had still has his completed one. Dee is saving her unmarked one for my nieces Who or Loo. Evidently baby books weren’t a high priority.

I’m pretty good at culling through bookshelves and closets but this box is staying intact and current, and will be until I’m dead and gone. My nieces will be fascinated to read that Dewey and I played guitar for the Garden Club when we were in 5th grade. They will wonder why I was wearing a dirndl.

A few decades back the local paper had a front page photo of an adorable, smiling, child forming her first snowplow on skis. Her tips are being held together by a faceless woman, showing a fair bit of her lumbar spine. In the ’80s, short jackets were the most popular and impractical of ski school uniforms.

The caption read “Young skier enjoying the delights of winter, instructed by Alexandra Smith, age 30”. Not only was my rear end named but it was aged incorrectly. I was 29 for another 10 months.

During that time I hung out with the big girls, the ones in their thirties. I was considered the youngster of the group, so always got great advice. My boss and good friend Doji said “When you’re in your 20’s people always ask you what you’re going to do with your life. In your 30’s they figure you know. After that it doesn’t matter”.

What a relief to know that in 10 months I would know…something…maybe. Let’s not rush it.

At 3am when I have nothing better to do, I flip through my mental rolodex of Questionable Behavior and Situations for something to dwell on.

So far I’ve found Rear End listed under the letters R, A, B and C.

Why did the reporter put a name and age to a body part and not to the star of the shoot? No matter how I spin it I can’t come up with a positive reason for her naming my ass. How many people said, “I’d know that butt anywhere”? Was it said in a funny or mean way? I wonder if it was a passive aggressive thing. Then again maybe she had nothing to do with it.

I’ll never know.

Through yoga I realize we don’t have control over how people view or feel about us. We do have control over assuming we know what people are thinking. And we all know what happens when we assume.

We also have control whether or not we care what others think.

What if  Who or Loo, chuck out the scrap box without looking at it once my ashes are floating around? What if I remain a memory as the aunt who stops by, says hello and immediately checks their frig for leftovers?

I’ll never know.

What I do know is that I save clippings (for now) to remind me that I am a participant of this world. Perhaps it’s a reminder that I love my family, I love to to teach, I love to ponder. And I love to laugh. It’s all in the box.

I saved an envelope sent to me by my aunt in the ’60s. It was addressed to Alexander Braddersnitch, Dorset, VT!

I wonder if the postmaster said “I always knew Alexandra Bradish Smith was a Russian”.

Then again I’ll never know.

Namaste- the cat’s in the box and wants to play.

Ski Teacher

Acorns Keep Fallin’ On My Head

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow. Rumour has it the origins of this proverb come from England. Big things can come from small beginnings. Everyone knows that.

Well not everyone. I read a guest blogger’s post on a VIY (very important yogi’s) website. The author described the massive amount of acorns she noticed while walking amongst the maple trees. Maybe it was a typo.

Nope.

The fact that she brought it up again at the end of the essay made it clear that she wasn’t aware that maple trees don’t drop acorns.

”This can’t be right”, I said to myself and Georgia.

“Where was the editor? How could someone let this misinformation slip past?”

I got so worked up that I felt sick. I think I made the dog sick too with my pacing and ranting.

When I met with my dear mental health guide a few days later, yes days, I was still in a tizzy.

”Are you upset at the content or method of delivery?”, she asked.

”Both”,  I barked.

”This woman had the opportunity to reach thousands of people but no one checked to see if she was going to sound like an idiot doing so.”

”You sound judgmental,” she said without judgment.

With a slow and steady breath I managed to respond with ”Well, yes, I guess I am” rather than retort with “Am not”.

I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to cry or feel shame so I chose neither. (That’s a first.)

So this is what being judgmental is all about.

All this time I thought it was when you read a book by its cover.

I didn’t feel judgmental but I did feel

-jealous because the author was on this massive platform,

-admiration because she went through the process to do so,

-irritation at the lack of attention to nature facts,

-protective of this person who had no editing support.

Talk about a can of mixed nuts and emotions. No wonder I felt sick.

Feed a cold, starve a fever.

Feed judgment, starve empathy.

Today, my other mental health advisor, Bliss said, ”Einstein said ’Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act’”.

Good point.  Should I have sent a comment or correction?

Maybe.

Then again who am I, Euell Gibbons?

Namaste- wild hickory nuts taste like hay.

PS – All spelling and grammatical errors are due to poor editing and me pretending to be a Brit.

Acorns

Beauty is in the Eye of…oh whatever.

The cosmetic store was pretty empty. Apparently I’m one of the few in need of some makeup help today. My friend Nadia’s teenage daughter recommended a bronzer as something to use throughout the day to touch things up. God knows I need something.

The young saleswoman who pulled the short straw came over to offer assistance.

“I’m looking for a bronzer”, I said with authority.

She took me over to a section that didn’t look any different from the one in front of us, just different containers. She handed me a Kindergarten sized crayon. I started applying it to my cheeks. “Whoa, this is a bit dark”, I murmured.

“You don’t put it on your cheeks, you draw a number 3 from the middle of your forehead, out to your ear, back into the cheekbone and back out and around your chin on both sides of your face. You accentuate where you want contour and definition.”

This takes paint by numbers to a new level.

“I’m not sure that I want to define anything. I just want to look…uh…(pretty, perky, pulled together?)…uh…more consistent.” She walked me to another area. How was she choosing our path? Why don’t I ask her? It’s like when the salesperson says “That color makes your eyes pop!”.

Why? How?

I recently read that when going for a make-over you should find someone with your coloring and age. I wish I’d known that when I got the last one. He was an attractive, young, African American, gay man. The only thing we had in common was that we were both wearing shoes.

I don’t think I was clear enough about that fact that I don’t wear much makeup generally, have no reason to, and tend to forget what goes where. It was more like a 40 year old’s rite of passage. He was quite pleasant though and deserved his sizable commission.

Yoga encourages us to accept ourselves and that takes steady and consistent practice. Change and impermanence is a given. Physical abilities, appearances and attitudes can be altered in a second. Anyone who has slipped on the ice knows that, especially if you land on your face.

Practice means we work to control thoughts in our minds that feed impatience, irritation and irritability. Sometimes we need help, kind words from a friend, advice from a mentor, palette recommendations from a makeup artist.

A new shade of lipstick allows the mind to say “Okay the color looks great. Now can we focus on what comes out of your mouth not what goes on it?”.

Applying bronzer takes practice. Applying patience, calmness,  and kindness is, frankly, easier.

Reminder to self: You are not a beautiful, teenage redhead.

Namaste- I think pink is the shade of the day!

 

 

 

cosmetics 2.JPG

Word Play

I called Mom to wish her a pleasant journey. She and Dee are heading south for a short vacation.

“Have a great time near the sea while I watch for school cancellations”, I said.

“Oh I’m sure we will. I love you. Behave yourself”, she replied.

“I love you too. Bye.”

Wait? What?

I called her right back.

“Did you say behave yourself?”

“Well, yes I guess I did.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“Okay…bye”

“Bye.”

I called Dee immediately and asked where Mom was.

“In the kitchen eating toast, why?”

“She told me to behave myself.”

“Yeah, I heard that. Sure am glad she didn’t say that to me.”

I called Had seconds later.

“You won’t believe what Mom said to me.”

I told him.

“I’ve never heard her utter those words before”, he spoke soberly.

I’m not sure if his intention was to make me feel better or not. Dee’s response needs no explanation.

Although Mom’s advise was out of character it obviously hit home.

Do I need to be reminded to act properly? To not throw a hissy fit in public?

Behaving is about accepting what is happening and doing whatever it takes to calm things down, internally and externally. It’s learning how to not push buttons, our own and those of others.

We can find the most inane things to get furious about, fastening a bracelet, opening up a jam jar, remaining in a Yin pose for hours.

The practice of yoga reminds us that we are human beings trying to do our best.

When we feel strong, steady, patient and calm, things are okay.

When our balance is off, the teacher or music bugs us, or we can’t stop checking the time, things aren’t so good. We misbehave and have inner tantrums. We gripe, grouse and grumble.

An anagram for yourself is “lose fury”.

Maybe Mom was reminding me through word play to behave if I feel slighted, irritated or ignored, let it go, lose fury.

Funny we aren’t much of a word play family…I wonder why Dee and Had didn’t need a reminder?

Namaste- “sane mat” by the way!

Phoney Phone Calls

Had works at the local ski area.

During the busy holiday times, when Dee and I aren’t working as hard as he is, we take turns calling him with phoney phone calls. It was her idea, a way to lighten up his harried day.

Her best:

“We have reservations for Christmas vacation, can you give me directions from Chicago to Vermont?”

When he lists off highway numbers and exits she looses it. If he was serious then he is an excellent customer service representative. If he knew it was Dee then he’s a good brother playing along.

My best:

“Hello may I help you?”

“Yes. Do you do birthday parties?

“Uh, What?”

“I have 10 four year old kids and I’d love to do a skiing birthday party.”

(Pause from Had….a long pause…. ) “Perhaps I can connect you with marketing…”

“It would be great if you could wear a costume, something with antlers,” I add.

(Pause from Had. Choking sounds from me.)

“Okay Alexandra…”

I laughed so hard and long that I thought he hung up.

He was just patiently waiting for me to get over myself.

Had started this family practice, back in the 60’s, when he and the boy next door enacted mini dramas over the phone to some poor chump, before caller ID.

“Hey Joe, meet me behind Russel’s store in town. I’ve got the stuff.” (BND whispers.)

(Had shoots off a cap gun.)

“Ahhh, they got me!”

(Hang up phone.)

Sometimes the gun needed more than one pull of the trigger to produce the desired effect. Still, it was impressive.

While in college I made a tape to play once my father picked up the phone. I didn’t trust myself to keep a straight face or voice.

“Hello, is this Charlie Smith? (Pause- allowing him to respond.)

“If you can name this tune in 7 notes you will win a Ford Pinto!”

(I play the first 7 notes of “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” on my Casio calculator.)

As expected he guesses the song in about 3 notes because he sings it every morning.

“Oh What a Beautiful Morning!” , he yells. (Song keeps playing.)

“ I said Oh What a Beatiful….” (He’s cut off)

“I’m sorry, time’s up. It was “Oh What a Beautiful Morning”. Better luck next time”

I hit the stop button and hang up.

I have to thank Dee, Had, Hopper and the boy next door for inspiration, ideas, and the ability to prank and graciously be pranked to this day.

Unfortunately phoney phone calls aren’t the innocent fun they started out as. Now most are methods for scamming and stealing.

Ahimsa, the second Yama means non stealing. It doesn’t refer solely to robbing stores, taking things that don’t belong to us or taking advantage of the elderly. Nor is it just wasting someone’s time complaining, boasting, or being late. It includes the taking of ideas.

Theft brings sadness, confusion, anger, envy and frustration.

Fortunately it is easily remedied by giving credit where credit is due.

Show respect, honor and gratitude for those who inspire you. Maybe it’s a teaching technique, business advice, an idea, a joke or good deed.

Be a borrower and a lender of thoughts and ideas. Be a giver of credit. If we practice this there is no need for theft.

Namaste… is your refrigerator running?

I’m Proud to be a Vermonter.

Gratitude is a big theme in yoga studios during November. It’s a reminder not only to give thanks but to savor feelings of contentment. Be proud, happy and grateful for the simplest things, everyday things, not just nailing a headstand.

Dee and I ran into the local firewood man at Rumney’s store.

“I’ve moved the car. Plenty of room so anytime you’re ready”, she says.

“I’ll be by next week or so. It’s the same wood your sister is getting. Some green.” he warns.

I’m grateful and a little bit proud that the wood man knows we don’t need seasoned wood to keep the stove going, by the Jesus . I’m also grateful we are on the delivery list without me hounding HoneyBun.

“Wait. It’s hunting season. You sure you mean next week?”, I ask.

“More’n likely in a couple” he grins.

Mom and I are at Gaudette’s Dress Shop. As Mom takes the clothes to the the register, I slide my wallet back into my pocket because (conveniently) I notice a sleek, retriever type dog, out the window in the middle of the road, oblivious to the traffic driving around it.

As pedestrians look on curiously and drivers look on impatiently, a woman at the cross walk tries to call the pooch over. She’s ignored because the lingering scent of squashed squirrels is much more interesting.

I see a long rope attached to it’s leash. I walk on to the road without concern. Who would dare honk or drive into me. I step on the end, limiting the dog’s movement, and start roping it in. For a moment I feel like I’m the main act at a rodeo. Disappointingly no one cheers or applauds except for the mailman woman.

Moments later a woman walks down from one of the last hidden hamlets of Old Manchester with two other dogs in tow.

“She’s with me! I hoped there would be a Vermonter down here who wouldn’t be afraid to catch a dog on a Goll Dern leash.”

The owner may have been grateful but probably not as much as me. She called me brave… sort of. Coming from a multi-generational Vermonter, the comment meant something.

The Discount Beverage Store is one of the only stores open on Thanksgiving. This I know because two years ago there was no celery in Mom’s icebox for the stuffing. The DB isn’t know for it’s vegetable department but they did have a deli. Fingers crossed.

The owner started working there when he was 10 years old, obviously a native.

He gave me a whole head of celery, no charge. That’s one for the books. Neither Mom nor I will forget it by God.

Gratitude is a never-ending story, a stream of conscious and unconscious connections.

I’m grateful to to buy wood, to build a fire, to have a home, to feel brave, to save a dog, to accept a compliment, to give a compliment, to have food, to take a chance, to support local business, to have a Mom who buys me an outfit, to read, to write, to have a family, to have friends who help fix the roof, to be a proud Vermonter.

I’m grateful that the practice of yoga reminds me to be thankful at all times. Jesum Crow, I am thankful I didn’t look at my watch one time during class today. I’m just glad to be here.

Namaste- a little gratitude goes a long way.

Halloween Misery Part 2

In college I gave up on store bought Halloween costumes. It was time to get my creative energy going.

I fastened Christmas lights around a wide cardboard tube and wore it as a helmet. I made a flannel beard and attached a tail to my long green wool coat. I was extremely proud dressed as the Cowardly Lion off to save Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West.

I chanted “Oh-wee-oh, wee oh-yo” while marching around the judges. In case you missed the last post, the underlying costume theme of saving the day continued.

“And 1st place goes to the nuclear reactor!” announced the bartender. Damn it. Lost again. At least the Long Island Iced Teas were keeping me cool.

“That’s you!” my friend yelled. The bar erupted in cheers and looks of admiration.

What the heck?

In retrospect I guess I did look like a reactor and my chant may have been interpreted as an alarm siren. However an activist was not the persona I was going for.

The following year I decided to forgo saving mankind unless subconsciously I believed that mermaids rescue drowning sailors. I sat nimbly on a bank of seats encased in a long skirt sewn together at the bottom and reshaped into a tail. A piece of fishing line attached my wrist to the bottom of the skirt allowing me to wave and wag my tail in an alluring fashion.

My shimmering top was pretty good but my painted face of aqua blues, teal and green swirls was really something.

I didn’t win a prize but I sure felt beautiful.

Near the end of the night an old man came up to me and murmured sadly, “You poor thing, do you get beaten often?”

What the heck?

“Wait… I am a mermaid“, I wailed.

“Sure, sure honey. It’s okay” he replied.

I swam/hopped my way into the bathroom to realize my magnificent make up job had lost definition. I looked like I’d literally been beaten and tossed from a dry-docked ship. I guess the old man was trying to rescue me.

Pantanjali’s Sutra 4:15 says different minds see objects (costumes, events, comments) differently.

We all have instances where our intentions were misinterpreted. Disappointment, anger, frustration, and misunderstandings can take hold. “Am I an activist or a battered woman?” I ask myself. Perhaps observations from others allow us to talk with our own true self.

Yoga is about taking time to understand our own thoughts and intentions. What are our wishes and hopes? No one knows the truth except us.

Do you want to feel beautiful? Do you want to save the world? Do you want to win? If so then do so.

Feel. Save. Win.

The Cowardly Lion felt brave, he saved Dorothy, he won back his pride.

Namaste- oh Halloween don’t come my way.

Halloween Misery Part 1

1965 was the year I was going to win first place at the church Halloween party. I dressed as a secret agent complete with trench coat and briefcase. The plastic mask was a woman with a fedora and dark glasses. It’s quite possible that a cigarette was smoldering between her red lips. Agent 99 of “Get Smart” was my heroine. She was the real brains of the show. Maxwell Smart was a goofball. Although she was a brunette, we were one and the same.

My real life nemesis was Lisette. Despite being a year younger than me, she had won first place two years in a row. Her mother made an elaborate Heidi of the Alps outfit the year I was a cow. Her Little Bo Peep costume won against my brother’s hand-me-down gorilla suit. I don’t know what the judges were thinking.

This year I remained confident as we marched around the parish house; that is, until Lisette floated into the room in mounds of tulle. The child bride, fashionably late, with veil and corsage did it again. She walked off with my prize.

I was astounded and horrified. “How could a stupid old bride win ?” I whined. “Don’t the judges know that a secret agent will help save the world? What’s a bride going to do?”

Years later I’m still complaining.

During a recent period of painful childhood reminiscing Mom said I seemed to have tough time with Halloween. “One year I brought home a nurses outfit complete with a cape and medical bag. You broke into tears.” Apparently I didn’t think nurses were that essential to saving the world either.

In part, Yoga Sutra 1:33 asks us to be happy for other people’s happiness. Jealousy only hurts the self. It’s not always easy to do when that self is 58 much less 7 years old.

Successful friends, acquaintances and competitors work at it. Nothing in life comes easy no matter what we think. Everything we do takes practice, commitment and hard work. Some of us work harder than others.

How many times did Lisette and her mother prick their fingers sewing on seed pearls? How many hours did someone spend crafting a story? How many yoga classes does another take each week? What does one give up in order to succeed or be happy? What am I not giving up?

I have no doubt that many brides and nurses have helped save mankind much more than me. I rejoice in their happiness and success when I’m not coming off of a candy corn high. Many of them have in fact saved my world.

Namaste- about Halloween there’s more to say.

How you say?

The first time is at MacDonald’s in Greenwich, NY. Dee and I are heading to Saratoga for some higher state taxed shopping. We pull in for a cup of joe.

“You have to use an accent when ordering” she commands. The challenge reaches deep into my soul, the soul of a secret agent.

Quickly I run through possibilities, Miss Jane Hathaway from “The Beverly Hillbillies”, the Swedish chef from the Muppets, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne? So many options. I play it safe as a Pepe Le Peu. “Pleazzze, donnez-moi, Errrrr, how you say coffee garcon.” Mission obviously accomplished as Dee tries not to wet her pants laughing.

A few years later while shopping in a town with lower tax rates, Dee requires a coke with crushed ice. As I pull up to the intercom she instructs, “Use an accent.”

Like Jason Bourne or James Bond, there are some assignments you can’t turn down. It’s in our blood.

My brain goes into tactic mode. A foreign person or tv star? Relative or people we know? I opt for the voice of an Irish woman who spent the last 20 years in the Italian part of Scotland.

Gosh I’m good.

Mission is successful as I notice Dee squirming not to laugh. She presses the dollar bill and dime on my leg.

“You have to keep it going” she says while trying to regain control.

“Hey, I’m a professional” I whisper back.

As we pull up to the window a sweet, cherub faced boy says “Here is your drink”. He gives me a look that says “You don’t sound like me, you are from elsewhere, I’m going to make you feel AOK.” His evident kindness causes me to drop my guard and the dime.

“Ach and begorrah mien leibchen”, I say moving to the German side of my beloved Scotland.

“Just leave it, don’t worry, it happens all the time” he says.

“Nay I’ll find the wee coin” I reply followed by “Ow f*ck”, in an undeniable Vermont accent as I hit my head against the door. Cherub boy looks slightly confused. I should have said “feck”.

“You broke character” Dee says, unnecessarily as we drive away. Like I didn’t know.

Using accents at the drive through is like practicing arm balances in yoga class. It’s setting an intention, focusing, and giving it all you’ve got. It’s accepting a challenge. Sometimes you nail it and sometimes you don’t.

Life is filled with challenges, ones we ask of ourselves, ones asked by others and some that just appear. The remedy is to do our best, be kind to ourselves and to others, be forgiving. Find delight and laughter in all of our experiences.

A botched or aborted mission doesn’t equate to failure. It is a source of information for the next assignment. Focus and attention take practice on and off the mat. Sometimes you need to imagine yourself balancing with ease or speaking in someone else’s native tongue. It’s setting an intention. Keep at it.

Namaste- this post will self destruct in 30 seconds eh?

Wheels on the bike go round and round.

I consider myself athletic and I’m not the only one, the catalogs I get in the mail think so too. They are ready to outfit me for most every outdoor adventure under the sun.

Once I get a bit more serious at golf and quit practicing headstands while Honeybun tees off, I’ll purchase more appropriate attire. That’s bound to happen about the same time I buy a real biking outfit.

Dee and I rode on the rail trail today. My 10 speed (or is it a 12 speed) girls bike hasn’t been off the garage wall for years and the dense cobwebs left behind are proof. My helmet is quite comfortable considering mice removed all the interior padding. The seat seems a little high but then again aren’t you supposed to be on tiptoes when pedaling?

Earlier this week it was suggested that I practice mindfulness. I have a few too many tennis balls bouncing around in my head these days. An easy bike ride would be the perfect thing to do, be mindful, focus on this moment, this experience; enjoy the steady rhythm of the movement.

Because my helmet is basically a large bowl strapped to my head I can’t look behind me without it dropping over my eyes. Is something following me? I’m pretty good at scaring myself, especially if I’m not wearing glasses. Rabid dogs, stalking mountain lions and monsters could be behind me. Best not to dwell on the past (or what you never saw). Are my wheels completely attached?

I can’t look too far ahead because as wide as the track is, the illusion of it narrowing makes my arms and hands tingle. “Hey Dee, doesn’t it look like the track is a tightrope? What if it were? I’d be falling off left and right.” I veer from side to side feigning exaggeration as she moves on ahead.

No choice left but to slow down the breath and focus on the sensations of the two wheels under me.

“Wow dance sneakers slip off pedals pretty easily. Yoga shorts have zippo padding. This wide seat isn’t wide enough. These brakes sure are loud. If Dee points out one more ‘spooky’ thing I’m heading back.”

Eventually I end my soliloquy and spent the next 3 minutes in mindful bliss until I ride into Dee’s back wheel.

“I can’t believe you ran into me,” she yells. “We are barely moving!”

She’s right about that. It’s a slow motion collision. It’s not like I don’t see her, I just misjudge the stopping distance. For my own amusement I will be replaying that scene for decades.

“Remember the last time we rode bikes down that hill near your apartment in Somewhereville?” I ask.

“Yeah, your chain fell off three times” she replies.

“Is biking fun?” I ask rhetorically.

“Remember when we went mountain biking and I thought I could jump a log? Frankly I’m pretty sure I hate bikes. Do your handlebars face in a different direction than your front wheel? Maybe my bike is just for riding in circles. Can you imagine if we were on a tandem bike?”

“Stop talking right now or I will wet my pants” she replies.

Note to self: “This is what makes biking fun!”

On the return trip I find a steady pace nothing spooky behind me, no death defying obstacles ahead. “We’re almost back to the truck that took no time at all!” I feel happy, comfortable, calm, satisfied.

“Do you want to keep going?” Dee asks as she pulls ahead.

“No” I yell at her back.

“Oh thank God” she adds unnecessarily.

Mindfulness is just like riding a bike. At first it seems impossible without permanent training wheels. Once we have it down, time goes by and we leave it hanging on the wall too long and forget it’s an option. Brush off the cobwebs and we are soon sailing along again.

Time to find the old catchers mitt.

Namaste- anyone up for a game of croquet?