Sweet Potatoes the size of grapefruit.

It was 5 pm, time to start the hour long yoga class. I turned the music down so Tibetan bells sang quietly in the background. It was a small class of four. Large classes can amp up the energy but I like the quiet intimacy of smaller groups.

“Good evening everyone, welcome to Slow Flow… “, I began but was quickly interrupted by Moe.
“Excuse me, when does this class end?”

“At 6, one hour.” I replied.

Moe said “Oh” and lay back down.

“Now take a big inhale…” I continued.

Moe sat back up and asked how long it took to cook a potato. “I put it in the oven just before I left the house.” She said.

Curly sat up and asked, “Regular or sweet?”

“Sweet of course” said Moe. We all murmured our approval.

Larry stayed prone but asked how big it was.

Moe made the size of a grapefruit with her hands.

Shep, with eyes closed, asked what temperature the oven was set.

“300” answered Moe.

“It’ll be fine, can’t really overlook a sweet potato” added Shep.

Everyone lay back down and I started class…again.

Unfortunately all I could think about were sweet potatoes.
Funny I never liked them as a kid, wouldn’t even try them, marshmallows added or not, just not happening. I love them now. Isn’t it funny how palates change? Acorn squash is also added to the list of things I now eat. Then again enough butter and thyme works on a myriad of vegetables. Honeybun likes squash but not sweet potatoes. (He had a terrible experience as a child.) I wonder if he’d notice if I mashed up sweet potato and put it in an acorn squash shell. He’d be mad if I tricked him. I’m getting hungry.



This internal monologue went on through the warm up, standing and balancing poses, until I glanced at my watch. Holy Hot Potato, I have 15 minutes to cool everyone down and go into final relaxation. Where did the time go? The thing is time didn’t go anywhere, my mind did. I managed to shorten the class by 15 minutes because I think 45 minutes is the perfect amount of time for a sweet potato to cook in a 300 degree oven.
Moe said “Wow that was fast!”
Larry, Curly and Shep echoed her sentiment. “We must have been in the zone!”

“Uh, I have a confession to make.” (Yes, I really did confess.)

Dharana (dah-rah-nah), the sixth limb of classic yoga, is the practice of roping in our wandering minds. It’s concentrating and focusing, and it takes a lot of effort to disengage from distractions whether you are a student, a teacher or a chef. Pranayama (pra-nah-ya-ma) , listening to, controlling and feeling your breath, helps. Sometimes repeating a mantra or intention will draw the mind back in as well.

I don’t recommend chanting “One potato, two potato, three potato, four, five potato, six potato, seven potato, more”, but then again…

Namaste- what will we have for dinner today?

Finders Keepers?

The Nestle’s Quik tin was kept in a corner cupboard and to reach it required getting up on to the counter. I don’t remember when we were allowed to make chocolate milk by ourselves but it must have been after Had, Dee and I stopped spilling milk at dinner.
At least weekly one of us was banished to the kitchen to finish eating alone. I can still see me and my red Captain Kangaroo cup shunned until dinner was over. Something about milk dripping through the slats of the dining room table drove Mom crazy.
One day while pulling out the chocolate powder I noticed a red wallet. Inside was a ten dollar bill. Obviously I had discovered treasure. Finders keepers.
A few days later Had announced he had been robbed. THAT WAS HIS WALLET? 
I was mortified so of course I denied knowing anything about it. Apparently there was no doubt that Dee and I were innocent so interestingly the subject was dropped. I remembered thinking “phew, that was easy”.

Twenty years later, in a moment of pleasant sibling inebriation, I confessed to Had.
“Here’s ten bucks, I swear I didn’t know it was your wallet, don’t tell Mom”,

Even after all this time I was afraid of Mom’s reaction but assumed my secret would be kept. 

It wasn’t.

“I can’t believe you stole that money”, Mom said. “I was sure Keath took it so he was never invited to stay here again”.
Cousin Keath, from Kentucky, was an Eagle Scout and why she ever thought him capable of theft still astounds me. He was excellent at building tree houses and making spears. A couple of convicts escaped from Comstock Prison that summer so the spears were protection when going upstairs to bed.
For a short time I thought I should apologize to him, but didn’t. Look where the last confession got me.
My exciting discovery and subsequent shame followed years later by a drunken confession and more shame still wakes me up periodically in the middle of the night. My action and non-action affected so many people. Had was sad. Mom was mad. Keath was confused. Dee was relieved not to be a part of the story.
Asteya and Satya are two of the five Yamas that remind us how to engage with ourselves and the world around us. These two encourage non-stealing and truthfulness.
“I’m surprised I didn’t realize you were lying”, Mom said. “Usually your face gets beet red”.
That did it. Those two Yamas became ingrained. (Mama’s Yamas). When I find money on the ground, or anywhere, I either leave it or give it to the next person I see. I’m not taking any chances at having my face turn the color of Had’s wallet.

Namaste- find a treasure, give it away.

Groundhog Day sort of.

“A groundhog lives in the old culvert next to the new daffodil bulbs. I need to trap him”,  Mom said.

I think she meant I was supposed to trap him.
I’m not very good at catching things. When mice come in the house I use a stern voice and tell them to scram before the lazy old cat upstairs sees them. Honeybun has a different tactic that we won’t go into now.

Two days later the Have- a -Heart trap was set by someone other than me. A day later the squatter was caught. Had stopped by and said he would pick it up later. Dee said she would come sooner. Mom was concerned that he/she/ it would overheat in the sun and maybe get thirsty. So Dee was summoned.
As Dee tried to pick up the cage she said “Wow it’s looking at me, get a towel.”

Maybe she thought covering it would induce sleep like with a parakeet.

Mom returned with a towel on the end of a broom and held it out to Dee. I guess she wanted to remain out of its line of vision.

Mom described the grunts and shrieks as Dee lifted the lurching cage. 

“From the groundhog?” I asked.

“No, from Dee.”

They got the cage into the car and Mom asked where Dee would take it.

“ The brook…wait aren’t you coming?”

“Well I had not thought so.”

Dee made Mom drive while she sat in the back next to Mr. Hog. She wanted to be sure it didn’t escape and jump over the seat and cause an accident. They drove to the brook turn off and Dee struggled bringing the cage to the embankment.

“How do you open this thing?”

“What?” (Mom was trying to pretend she wasn’t there.)

After Dee got it open mom said the varmit ran off with glee and happiness . I asked if it turned back to say “Bless you both”.
According to Dee mom did a 15 point turn to get out of the parking area. At one point she was precariously close to the ditch.

“If we get stuck the groundhog will have to call 911. I need a drink.” She said.

“Me too” said Dee.

After hearing the story me three. I’m so glad I didn’t have to participate.
Ahimsa, non-violence, is what those two practiced that day. They relocated the animal to a place where there were no worries about noisy lawnmowers or human activity. Neither Mom nor Dee wanted harm to the squatter in her yard despite its natural tendency to eat bulbs.

After describing the adventure mom added “ I hope her babies find her.”

I said silently “we always find you”.
When can we practice ahimsa (a-him-sa)? How can we choose non violence even when it may wreck your garden?
Namaste, ground hog ground hog go away.

Barefoot and Proud

Had, Dee and I spent summer hours running on the gravel driveway. The goal was to toughen our bare feet to the point where no grimace of pain could be observed. This activity lasted for years until I turned eight. While comparing our toughened soles I realized with horror that my toes were frighteningly long. The more I examined them the longer they got. They were monkey like. No more bare feet or sandals for me. I was an anomaly. 

One day at the beach my mom asked why I wasn’t taking my sneakers off. We rented a house with our minister, his wife and three boys that summer. No way was I going to be ridiculed. I had shells to look for and they could be sharp if stepped on. I was too embarrassed to admit the real reason until mom did what she does best and got the truth out of me.

Mom:  “Didn’t you know that long toes are an Egyptian sign of good luck?”

Me:  “Really?” (You are kidding right? was not inappropriate question.)

She changed my perspective. I not only returned to the challenge of barefoot running torture trials but honed my ability to pick up coins with my toes. By summers’ end I could hold a pencil and write my name with my foot.

Was Mom practicing Satya (saht-ya),truthfulness, or practicing creative nonfiction? To this day I have not checked Wikipedia to validate her claim and probably never will. She change my perspective by stating a fact as she knew it and changed my view. It freed me, that’s what truth does.

10 years later I visited a psychic and she said that in a past life I was an Egyptian king. Maybe my name Alexandra aided in this pronouncement maybe she glanced at my toes. Truth or creative nonfiction? Don’t care. 

Namaste no shoes today!

Dog sh*t happens

At 12 I loved reading in the grass in between the house and the barn. It was the perfect spot to keep an eye out for the two hippies living in the octagon up the road. They came down often to buy milk. I assumed others lived with them, maybe girlfriends? I think it was a commune. How cool is that?

One day I took a break from Spiderweb for Two (one of my favorite books) and got engrossed in a love comic. Women in pencil skirts and sweater sets often crying over the guy with the chiseled jaw.

“Whatcha readin'” drawled Keith.

I was startled and then mortified. A LOVE COMIC OH MY GOSH!

I did what any 12 year old girl would do and jumped up to empty the dishwasher or something equally absurd. I didn’t look where I was going and stepped my bare foot in dog poop. Could things get any worse?

I hopped inside crying tears of embarrassment. My father took me into the bathroom, sat me on the sink and washed my foot.

It was a pivotal moment. For some reason I assumed I’d be stuck with that muck between my toes forever. That’s not the case, excrement can be washed away.

Saucha (sow-cha) means cleanliness. It reminds us to be clean, not just physically smelling good but also being pure of actions and thoughts. Get rid of stuff that lingers unpleasantly. Better yet help someone else clean up the muck.

If I hadn’t been reading that love comic who knows how long it would have taken me to turn on the proverbial faucet. Let things go down the drain.

Namaste- getting laundry done today.

I’m so pretend busy.

I like being busy as much as I like sitting on the couch with a book. My to-do lists are long. My pile of books is big. Lists keep me organized and books keep me distracted.
Today’s List

Write the nieces.

Make up a dance about popcorn.

Vacuum the kitchen.

Plant some peas.

Check on IRS refund.

Think about a new business card.

Walk with Candy.

Buy candy.

Call Franny.

Plan another get-rich-quick scheme.

Do homework.

Teach 3 kids classes.

Teach 2 adult classes.

Some things on the list need immediate attention. Most of them don’t. Those that fall in the latter category are in bold. I like having a picture of things I have to do and reminder of things I’ll get to when I feel like it. 
Horribly paraphrasing Stephen Covey in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, there are 4 categories of stuff we have to do.

1. Important and urgent.

2. Important but not urgent.

3. Not important but urgent.

4. Not important not urgent.

Rumor has it we compile list #3 a lot whether on paper or in our heads. Put “I must, need or have to” in front of any of your (my) list items and it changes everything. It adds urgency where it may not be necessary. That’s being pretend busy.
And that leads to being so-stressed out, it’s no longer acceptable to be simply stressed, we need to be so-stressed.
At what point did being super busy or highly stressed become such a sought after human condition? When did we become inundated with talking about all the stuff we have to do ? Wouldn’t it be better to take the time spent mulling over our busyness and read Mad Magazine on the couch for a few minutes?
Don’t get me wrong. There are times I like making mountains out of molehills. I do that so others will feel sorry for me. They will cut me some slack for not completing my to-dos. The thing is they didn’t make up the list, I did. 
Satya (saht-ya) the second Yama, is truthfulness. Be truthful to ourselves and others. 
You: “I am so stressed out, I have so much to do before the weekend.”
Me (not practicing Satya): “I hear you!”

My reply intimates that I am as stressed and as busy as you.  No way I’m going to admit that I’m looking forward to an afternoon with Georgia on the sofa. If you’re busy I am too. So I’m not being truthful.
Remember yoga is not just a physical practice, it’s a mental one. It takes practice to hone down our lists and focus on what is really important. Cut yourself some slack and redo your to-do list. What’s really important? What’s really urgent? Be truthful. What must you do today and what do you get to do today?

New list:

Breath in.  Breath out. Repeat.

Namaste- Georgia and I are lying on the porch today!

Ma’am what is the nature of your emergency?

Dee and I took a road trip to the next town up yesterday. It was sort of a bust because no shoes at TJMx, favorite sandwich shop closed, in fact most stores closed. What ever happened to the days where no one celebrated the Sabbath?
Driving down the main drag we noticed the lights in the windows of the cool dress shop. It was the only store open for blocks. Well it was and it wasn’t.
We walked in and it seemed a bit under lit but maybe the shopkeeper just arrived and was busy in the back. We browsed… and browsed…and browsed.
“Maybe she’s in the bathroom.”
“Yeah probably. Would you ever wear this?”
After about 10 minutes (maybe 15) it became evident that we were alone. 
“Maybe we should just go.”
“We can’t just go. Maybe I should call her.”
I looked up the store on my phone. Sure enough the web site said closed on Sundays. I called the number and we listened to the phone ring on the counter next to us and then listened to me leave a message.
“Uh we are here in your shop, the door was unlocked but I guess you are closed. Maybe I’ll call 911. Bye”
“Ma’am what is the nature of your emergency?”
“Well it’s not really an emergency, you see we are in this store…”
“Ma’am where are you?”
We couldn’t see any street signs and for some reason didn’t feel walking outside was an option OR looking at the address on the phone for that matter.
“Uh we are on a corner across from a bank. I think it’s Main Street and something.”
“Someone will be right down” Quite impressive considering the lame directions. We looked at jewelry and pocketbooks until the young officer arrived.
He took our names and asked how long we had been there.
“About 5 minutes or so”, that was sort of a lie.
We helpfully pointed out a closed door in the back that we assumed was the bathroom. He pounded on it and said “Anyone in there, this is the city police”. He was kind of loud so we didn’t know whether to laugh or be alarmed.
As he went on his rounds we kept browsing. 
“Maybe she’ll give us a free outfit for being good citizens. What would you pick out?”
She arrived and thanked us. We were allowed to go. No free gifts.
“Did I steal anything? I sort of feel like I did.”
“You mean something like this cute necklace?” (Kidding)
An hour later we saw the same policeman in the nearby mall as I pulled out of the parking spot.
“Is he following us?”
“Wait! I don’t have my seatbelt on.”
“Hey me neither and look I’m smoking a joint!” (Kidding)
I dropped Dee off and then called Mom to tell her of our adventure. I spoke with her earlier in the day so all I had to do was say “Redial” 
The robot voice speaking from the radio said
“Redialing 911”
“NO…CANCEL…HANG UP…OH MAN”
It did.
Asteya means non-stealing.  (Uh-stee-yuh) It is one of the Yamas, how we relate and behave in the world. 
What if we were bad guys? We easily could have pocketed something. I wonder how things might have turned out if it was a candy store.
You never know when your actions or inactions will change the course of someone’s day. 
We saved the day, Namaste.