Category Archives: The Gratitude Stash

Here’s where I collect my morsels of gratitude to save for when I’m feeling blue.

Do you Believe in Magic?

happy birthday

Just eight days shy of three years ago I opened this space with my first post.  It was raining in July and that hardly ever happens in Oakland, California.  I took it as a sign.  

Today, once my newly 4 year-old son finally gave into falling asleep for his nap, I stepped out onto the porch to grab something and realized that once again water is falling from the sky in July.  I took it as a sign; time to return to this space for a little check in.  Just because (to borrow my child’s most common justification).

I haven’t been here much because the personal work that I’ve been doing is of a new sort and requires that I shut down many of the tendencies that would bring me to write it out.  The ambition that drove me for so long has been almost completely dissolved.  The mechanical impulse to intellectualize everything that happens to me has been significantly quieted.  I am now a seeker of contentment above all else.  And, for perhaps the first time in my adult life, I believe that it is within my grasp and I actually experience it (dare I say?) frequently.

A few things of note led to my new approach.
1.  A major health crisis in two stages which was clearly a result of my work style.
2.  Reading of the book that every woman in western society owes it to herself and the world to read Yes, I’m serious ladies.

I do not know what the future brings for my writing hobby.  I only know that I’ve enjoyed having this space and I’m not ready to close it up even though I haven’t been here much.  I do know that I have a renewed appreciation for magic and all her machination thanks to my personal priority shift.  For now, that and some long neglected craft projects are enough to keep my days more than full.

A Question Worth Asking

I love it when a city gets behind its people.

I love it when a city gets behind its people – Go San Francisco PRIDE!

If you’re anything like me you have some voices way in the back of your head that are rather critical and have a tendency to question your choices.  I’m increasingly interested in quieting these voices as responding to them wastes my time and energy.  I’ve come with an idea which I  am inclined to share – maybe because I think that might help me along in my endeavor.

First off, I’m going to remember the mantra:
I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.
I have found it to be very helpful in resolving unproductive thoughts.

Secondly, I’m going read more of Mary Oliver’s poetry and think of her question often:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Somehow I think that question will help me keep things in perspective.

In the Meanwhile

Michigan's Gone Green!

Michigan’s Gone Green!

It makes sense that my ten days home in Michigan which included my 20th year high school reunion would leave me with lots to think about.  It’s taken me a week or so to wrap my head around it all.

Up until now and especially back when I was a teen, I thought of myself as being in a holding pattern during my high school years.  Back then I was biding my time until I could get on with the work of my dreams and sort out the unanswered questions from my childhood within Detroit’s city limits.  I understand that many of us don’t know exactly what our interests are in high school, or we don’t have access to them, or we are completely caught up in the drama of being a teen.  For my part, I fear that my focus on moving on kept me from enjoying the goodness that surrounded me.  When I graduated, I hit the ground running.  It was only becoming a mom over fifteen years later that slowed me down.

As I process the impact that spending a couple hours with my high school classmates had on me, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for my youth and the innocence of friendship for its own sake – there is such a sweetness to the affections shared when we are young.  I’ve found myself wishing that I’d had more appreciation for my friends, that I’d kept in touch with them, that I hadn’t forsaken them because I was so focused on getting on to my next endeavor.  I’m realizing that I’ve been given another reminder to enjoy the meanwhiles of life or maybe to just stop thinking of them as meanwhiles in the first place.

I’ve often thought of how a life takes shape, how there is so much happening before that thing that captures the attention of the masses.  I’ve wondered what was happening before that big accomplishment, what does it feel like to be a regular person living day to day with a passion or a dream as a primary motivator but not as symbol of success?  Why do some of us experience impatience and frustration at the difference between our aspirations and our reality while others are simply content to be alive?  I think that the answer is that we are thinking of things in terms of results and the meanwhile until the manifestation of those results.

The past few years have felt like a meanwhile time for me, while my passion for my work has only increased, my successes are few and on a remarkably small scale.  It’s been a let down for my ambitious self.  I’ve been forced to acknowledge and embrace that all I have.  In doing that, I’ve discovered the opportunity to enjoy the moments as they come, to stay present.  While I may be in the meanwhile of my aspirations, I’m living out the days of my life.

Toward the end of my college years I spent the better part of one summer in Cuba.  I’d gone with the plan of solidifying my Spanish language skills so that I could avoid taking a course the following year.  Lucky for me, my plan fell through – I was in such an excellent language program I can’t imagine now why I would have wanted to skip any bit.  (The truth is, Cuba really isn’t the ideal place to hone Spanish speaking skills, but it is a wonderful place to spend a summer.)  I kept company with other long-term tourists who were also on a vacation from life-as-usual.  While I did manage to keep in touch with some for a short while once returning home, I bid a final adieu to others on the island.  We knew that we’d met up in the meanwhile and that our paths would never cross again.  And yet those people and that time have left a permanent mark on my life.  Why did I put them into a particular category in the first place?  Why be in such a hurry to get on to the next thing?  In doing so I surely created some limitations on my experiences and the relationships that I formed.

One of my friends’ children doesn’t speak much due to a condition for which he receives speech therapy.  Spending some time with them and then fielding my mom’s inquiries afterwards made me realize that when some people see certain attributes as a challenge or limitation, I see an opportunity for something else.  While our young friend isn’t speaking, he’s doing plenty of other things and developing in a way that is ideal for his situation – his way.  If we think only of his speech then we put him in the meanwhile and risk missing all that he’s doing in the present.  I have no doubt that he is and will be all right living a life with a characteristic that might cause alarm in some people.  I can also see how lucky he is to have a mom that knows that.  If his primary caregiver were to look at him only in terms of his speech then all that he’s doing, being, and becoming while not speaking would be ignored.

It all just made me realize that some of us come up with lots of ways to create meanwhiles.  And that really meanwhile is a limiting condition we put on our lives.  The amazing work that we people do happens in the meanwhiles, friendships happen in the meanwhiles, life happens in the meanwhiles.  Even having the idea of meanwhile separates us from the fullness and joy of life because it holds us apart from what is happening in the now.

I wanted to write this for myself because my visit home was so full and I needed a way to process it all.  And I wanted to write it for my friends, family and classmates to share just how significant it was to see them.  And I wanted to write it for anybody who is on the fence about attending a reunion or going home, to encourage them to go and see what discoveries are to be had there.  There’s a lot of life in our days, as much as we are able to take in, this post is my way of celebrating that simple fact.

Thank you Doc Mike Evans and Benjamin Degenhardt!!!

Many Grateful Hearts

Many Grateful Hearts (a valentine wrapping job from years ago – I was quite pleased with the results)

I owe Benjamin Degenhardt a thank you for sharing these videos on FB.  Just this past week I heard of a local doctor who is repeatedly turning people away from Pilates because of the negative impact she sees with her patients.  I only wish that she knew enough about Pilates to realize that it’s not the Pilates that’s to blame for those painful results, but poor execution of the method’s principles and exercises.  Pilates is brilliant when practiced well; but like anything else when not completely understood and performed imperfectly – Pilates involves a certain degree of risk.  Time to remind:  change the body not the exercise (thank you Jay Grimes!)

Anyway, I really enjoyed the low back pain video, Dr. Evans gives sound advice and I’d venture to guess that his other videos on various health-related topics are just a good.

Now if I could just get that local doctor into my studio, maybe I could give her enough information about Pilates to convince her to stop turning people off to Pilates rather than advocating for finding quality instruction that truly helps each and every person find their own inner power….another day, another project awaits me!  Yet another reminder of why I visit this space so infrequently these days.

Pride and Sentiments

Railing cozies bursting with Pride

Railing cozies bursting with Pride

Our beautiful bay is abuzz with Pride these days.  And I’m feeling sentimental attachments to the gay citizens of humanity, but especially those who I know personally in and out of the Pilates world.

I’m grateful to live in a community that embraces everybody.  I’m grateful that there is no one human being like another and as we collectively advance we learn the depth of meaning in that common observation.

I’m grateful that Pride happens once a year and that I get to bear witness in the smallest of ways with my heart bursting with love for those who are bold enough to express their love in spite of the hardship that comes from being in a minority.

I’m grateful that the people in my life, who I love and appreciate so much and who happen to be gay, are free to be who they are.  Because I know that freedom makes each of us much more loving and wonderful.

Here’s to expressing our sentiments opening and freely – and to trusting that there will always be an empathetic person to receive us with open and loving arms.

PS.  Aren’t libraries the best?!  Ours is putting on the most amazingly entertaining series of events this summer and I am so grateful to have lots of free and fun outings for my son to enjoy with me and with his caregivers.

The Tenacity of Pilates in the Face of Injury

tenacious by nature II

tenacious by nature II

Recently a client of mine showed up five minutes early to class, to show me her freshly broken wrist and explain her upcoming absence.  I assured her that she’d be able to return to her Pilates practice just as soon as she recovered from the initial shock and swelling.

As we parted ways, I marveled yet again at how cool Pilates is.  It truly is a complete system of exercise.  I’m pretty sure that there’s no other sort of exercise out there that can get a person out of pain, into their once-too-tight clothes, performing better at just about everything else in their life, and not miss a beat when injuries or other situations occur.

Even more than that (and all the rest that doesn’t come to mind as I type quickly during my son’s shower), Pilates puts the practitioner in the power seat.  Injuries do happen along with everything else that comes up in the course of a lifetime.  How we respond it all is up to us.  Injuries in particular can be an impetus either to diminish or enhance our body awareness.  They can be a call to action or a reason to shut down.  But that’s not Pilates, that’s us.

Pilates is always available.  Pilates is tenacious by nature.  That’s just one of the many reasons that I love it so and feel so grateful to have had Pilates as my primary form of fitness for the past decade or so.

Tenacious By Nature

tenacious by nature

During our visit to Esalen, our son discovered what my husband declared to be the most beautiful trail he’d ever hiked (and he’s quite particular about these things).  My husband pointed out the tree in the photo above and speculated that though the tree had fallen many years back, it wasn’t quite dead and so new shoots took up the organism’s perpetual quest for sunlight (and endured a fire too).  I admired that tree’s tenacity, so I took a picture.  A while back, somebody called me tenacious and I took comfort in knowing that somebody recognized my enduring efforts.  I’ve had to be these past few years, holding on to the career that I built with a decade’s worth of all my available resources (and then some) has taken all my resolve.  And I’m not in the clear yet, not by a long shot.  In summary, being a business-owning-hands-on-mama is no joke.  No joke.

Saturday 3/29 was slated to be the end of the second phase of My Pilates Body Boost.  But as I’ve mentioned, I got a little off course this time around and I don’t feel that I’m ready to be done.  Last weekend, I had a treat in the form of a lesson with Siri Dharma Galliano.  She gave me some great things to think about with respect to my current goal of creating more space within my body.  It was a pleasure to have somebody with such knowledge and heart so close to my home.  Part of me misses my days of frequent travel for Pilates training, but the other part knows that this is my time to deepen into my home and my own life.  Pilates is ever-present in those endeavors and having a lesson with such a great teacher feels like a celebration and affirmation of that.  And honestly, it keeps me going.  True to her style, Siri gave me some much appreciated tips about how to transform my little studio into a thriving small business so I’ve got lots to work on in the coming months.

I’m gearing up for some new projects and in the meantime tying up unfinished ones so my mind is mostly swimming these days.  I remain grateful for this space and eager to share more once I get my bearings.  For now, I’m deeply engaged with the many tasks of transitioning and so very grateful to have the feeling that I’m right where I need to be, and that my tenacity may indeed pay off.  For so long that hasn’t been the case and so my sense of gratitude is even stronger than usual.

Since my mind is rather scattered but very full at present, I thought that I’d share a couple fun things that have been keeping me entertained and engaged:

A really cool tour of the female pelvic floor in two parts.  This is the sort of thing that every woman should know (IMHO):
http://www.anatomyzone.com/uncategorized/pelvic-floor/

And a bumper sticker that made me laugh today:
Back off!  I’m not that kind of car.

As far as the day to day goes, I’m going to keep that tree in mind and keep looking for the light.

Hitting the Road

We're headed to the coast!

We’re headed to the coast!

Today our family heads to Esalen.  It’s our first visit and I’m quite excited.  But I’m not one to get out of the house easily.  I’m having trouble tearing myself away from my desk, truth be told.  But I saw a little item in my “to be published” list that I thought might make it a little easier for me to say goodbye to cyberspace and all my unfinished tasks.  One little thing to post, one more little thing done before I unplug.

It’s something that I read on a bumper sticker.  I do appreciate a good bumper sticker:
BIRTH IS NOT AN EMERGENCY, IT’S AN EMERGENCE…SEE?

And with that, we head off on a little family adventure to discover together what will emerge once we are free of our daily constraints.

Good for the Body

Little Footwork

My son loves to meet and greet my clients.  Sometimes he likes to do some exercise along with them.  Sometimes he likes to do the instructing.  Lucky for me, my clients respond to my toddler with kindness and what I hope is sincere pleasure.

Today my client, son and nanny were in the studio a couple minutes before me and my son was talking about what they were going to do.  His plan was that they’d do the exercises together.  He got up on the reformer, waited for all but one spring to be removed, and started with his footwork.  Once he was done with that he bustled purposefully on to the next exercise.  All the while he explained what he was doing and the benefits that would follow.  He summed it up by saying it was “good for the body.”

At that turn of phrase I couldn’t help but remember how many times I heard Romana’s stories about Uncle Joe’s frequent answer to the all too common question, “what’s this exercise good for?”  According to her, his response was always the same, “it’s good for the body.”

These days as I’m enhancing my Pilates practice with studies of other methods and continually learning in my teaching practice, I’m seeing the method in a broader way.  Each and every intricacy makes up such a perfectly complete whole, that Joe’s answer becomes so much more significant than it once seemed to me.

These kids, they know some worthwhile stuff.  Maybe it won’t be too long before my kid is teaching the Pilates lessons.  For now, at least, he reminded me of something very important and for that I am grateful.

My Thoughts After Reading “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed

tiny beautiful things

My recent few days have been full as is to be expected.  But there is something of a theme running through them, that has to do with pain and perspective and the role of tiny beautiful things.  A while back Tara recommended this book to me and boy am I grateful for that!  It is full of so many heart-moving insights that I could not possibly sum it all up other than to say that it’s a worthwhile read.

My biggest take-away so far comes from what Sugar had to say about entitlement and ambition.  She gave me some good thoughts to marinate on and I feel that I may have been able to turn around my thinking on a few topics that my mind is prone to torturing me with.  The sum of it is this, sometimes the way to change perspective is to alter the scale of thinking.  When the unproductive and obstructive thoughts are grandiose, then it can be useful to get engaged with something on a very small scale.  Likewise when the thoughts that paralyze us in a negative holding pattern are minuscule, then it may well serve us to think big.

These days it’s the big thoughts that drive me crazy.  The past couple weeks have made it clear to me that there is no point thinking about why these thoughts enter my head, rather I have to shift my perspective:  spend time with a friend, work on an intricate crochet project, admire tiny little pebbles collected by my husband and son on the beach, focus on very small gentle movements in one very specific area of my body, talk through the details of someone else’s current life experience.  All of those things have been a welcome salve in recent days.  And it was Cheryl Strayed’s words that helped me put it all together to understand what was happening.

When I’m four days into a painful episode that relates to my decades-old injury as I am today, I am prone to angry thoughts about the lack of help that I received when I originally knocked my tailbone to the side.  I happened to be complaining to my mom about my frustrations when by some grace, I was granted a perfect opportunity to redirect those thoughts.  Probably because it was related to the topic at hand, she mentioned that a co-worker had to leave early because her teenage daughter called from school with back pain so extreme that she wanted to go home.  It occurred to me that my mom and I could do a little something with all the regret that we shared over the failings that we experienced back then.  I suggested that she make good on our unfortunate history by telling her coworker that there was most likely some relief in her daughter’s future if they were to seek the appropriate support in the form of a healing practitioner outside the western medical model.  Had I been told even this as a teen, the search would have begun.

It’s not that any problems were solved in that moment.  But a mental shift occurred because I was given the opportunity to shift my perspective.  The big and unalterable history of my current situation melted away as I considered the plight of another and one tiny little thing that I could do to offer my help.  Who knows what will come of it, but in that moment despair gave way to hope.

In the course of a full day, that’s a beautiful moment worth appreciating.