Friday, February 20, 2015

all good things

Thursday was one of those days when many good things happened.

In the morning, I attended a half-day session at work about mindfulness and meditation. The workshop was facilitated by Cheney Creamer of One Green Square Wellness Consulting. It was a very lovely morning - a spa day for the heart and mind. Cheney taught us simple and easy practices of mindfulness and meditation, grounded in scientific research and traditions from many cultures. My mind is spinning with possibilities for integrating these practices into my everyday living. Stay tuned for a post about it!

Back at the office I met with the seniors' Social Committee. My co-worker Linda has been working with this group of volunteers to plan the annual Chinese New Year Lunch, which will be celebrated next Friday. I joined in to catch up on the planning and prepare to help with the event. How fortunate I am to be helping this dynamic and dedicated group of senior volunteers to put on an 8 course banquet, with entertainment by our own members. I think I have the best job in the world.

Then I hopped in my car and drove to choir practice. On Thursday evening, De Coro met for an hour with the youth choir and children's choir to practice the two mass choir pieces that we will be presenting at our concert at the end of the month. We have been rehearsing our parts for several weeks. It was astonishing to see the risers filled with choristers, and to finally hear our voices all together. I am looking forward to continuing to work so that we are ready to present our newly commissioned piece to the world on February 28.

After that, I picked my friend Karen up from her house, and continued on to a meeting of a parent group that I am helping to form. It's called The Square Peg Society. Soon we'll have a web presence, and I'll tell you more about it then.

I got home after 10:30, but I stayed up, because Alex and Andy had waited, so we could all watch the final episode of Two and a Half Men together. I remembered that I forgot to eat supper, so I sat on the couch with my sweetie and my grown up son, and ate mashed turnip and carrot (I love it, really!) and watched what happened finally to Allan, Walden, Charlie and everyone else on the show. It wasn't perfect but it was a heck of a lot better than the final episode of How I Met Your Mother.

Crash! 11:15pm. Happy, sound sleep after a very good day.

question - what's good for you yesterday? today? tomorrow?

mompoet - a good day is a nugget of yes

Sunday, February 15, 2015

instead of counting sheep

I am not good at counting things. Maybe it's because I am easily distractible, maybe it's because I am not oriented to details. I am a big-picture, eagle's view, story arc kind of person. I am just not inclined to keeping accurate track of small increments.

When I am trying to calm myself and go to sleep, I don't count sheep or breaths. Instead I pray, which usually ends up in me listing everyone I love, care for, or am concerned for. Somewhere along the long recitation of people's names, and recollection of their faces, I will drift off.

Now I am learning to run, and I have to run and walk intervals. I have a wristwatch that keeps track of the length of time for each interval, and also of how many intervals. An alarm sounds at the end of each interval, so I know when to switch to walking or running. I need only to glance at it to see how many repetitions I have gone through so far. Still, I have a way that I prefer to keep track of when I have done 5 or 6 or 7 repetitions. I use days of the week. So if I need to run 7 repetitions, I will call the first one Sunday and the last one Saturday. If it's fewer cycles, I will begin on Monday or Tuesday, always ending on Saturday. Somehow, "This is Wednesday," feels better to me than "This is the 4th of 7 repetitions." They seem to go by more quickly, and I associate the feeling of each day of the week, with the place that repetition is in my run.

In yoga, I am learning that breathing is a way to let go of distractions. Focusing the mind on the breathing anchors me securely in the here and now, especially when distracting thoughts beckon. One of the teachers at the studio suggested breathing in to a five count and out to a 6 count. Again, the counting. I find I tense up approaching 5 on the breath in. Will I have room for 5? Counting 6 out is easier. But to me, it's somewhat distracting in itself. So I choose instead to recite something old and familiar. I breathe in, "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold." Breathe out "Peas porridge in a pot, nine days old." So long as I don't start thinking about what to cook for dinner, or reminiscing on when I used to read nursery rhymes to my babies, this is an easier way than counting for me to slow my breathing. Of course I use this only when I am still. During movements the breath goes along with the movement and position, and in poses, it goes along with growing, strengthening and extending the pose. No counting required.

I still lose count of how many scoops of coffee I just scooped into the coffee maker, or how many teaspoons of baking powder I just measured into the muffin mixture. I'll have to think of a way to move through those tasks without losing track.

It's a good thing my fingers and toes are attached, and I have only 2 children. (I think)

question: do you like to count?

mompoet - don't count on my counting!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

thank the sky

Today I attended my first ever live music yoga class. It was at Moksha Yoga in Burnaby. I wasn't sure what to expect, except that I had heard that these classes are very popular, and that the music is good.

It was mid-morning on a Wednesday, and the practice room was more than half full. The teacher explained that she would practice with us, with minimal cueing to guide us. Then the musician, Laura, began playing her guitar and singing songs to us, for the whole hour of the class. We moved through the poses, stretching, holding and breathing together, in what the teacher, Simone, described as "a kind of dance through our yoga practice." It was lovely.

Almost always, when music starts up out of silence, my emotions well up and I want to cry, then to laugh, and to move and be alive and overflowing with all of my feelings. The class felt that way to me. It was really a beautiful experience.

Laura sang her own songs mostly, I remember these lines from one of them:

Thank the sky every day
in our own way.

I thank the sun, the moon and the stars for this experience.

question: have you encountered music in a place where it is not usually found?

mompoet - thanking the sky

Sunday, February 08, 2015

the little voice that talks to me when I run

I am sure I am not the only person who has an internal dialogue that runs sometimes as I go about my day. The little voice can help me remember things that I need to do, rehearse how I want to say things, or remind myself of commitments and intentions. The little voice is with me also when I run. Usually it is an encouraging voice, but the other day...

LV: Hey! This is a lot of running today!

ME: Oh, it's not so bad. Just 2 more 2-minute running intervals after this one, and there's a walking rest in between. We've done it before.

LV: Yeah, but I'm tired. I worked all day. My feet are tired. This is boring.

ME: Four more minutes of running and a few more minutes of walking aren't so bad. We can do it!

LV: It won't make a difference if we finish the running now. We can walk longer. It's almost as good as running. I'm tired.

ME: Well, we could just run 5 intervals instead of 7. I'm sure it wouldn't set us back substantially.

LV: Good! That's just what I was thinking.

ME: But what if we get to the Sun Run in April, and we run 8 kilometers, then we say to ourself, "That's enough. We can just stop now. We don't need to run 10 kilometers really."

LV: Humph!

(by this time LV and me are running our 6th interval)

LV: Well, that's 6 intervals. Surely we can finish running and just walk. It won't hurt to skip the 7th interval.

ME: So then, at the Sun Run, we can run 9 kilometers then give up and say, "Nine kilometers is really as good as 10 kilometers. We don't need to run 10 kilometers, do we?"

LV: Oh shut up you smarty-pants.

ME: HA HA! (we are running our 7th interval by now)

ME: See. We did it! I knew we could.

LV: So did I. I was just messing with you.

ME: Thanks very much for that.

I am glad that I can almost always discern when it's right to heed my little voice's advice, and when it's right to talk back to it and say no. I have a feeling it's going to come around soon anyway, and act like this was all its idea in the first place.

question: do you have the little voice? what does it say to you?

mompoet - listening to my head, and my heart, with curiosity and openness

Saturday, February 07, 2015

happy new year

It has been almost a year since my last mompoet post. Today I was out on my run, and I decided it's time to start blogging again. I have made a few changes this year. I think blogging will help me make sense of things as I go along. If it's interesting for anyone to read, that's good too.

I have stopped trying to explain to myself why I stopped blogging. I think a lot of factors have contributed, but really, I think it's just because I like to do one leisure/creative/expressive thing for a few years, with all my passion and all of my heart, then take a break, or switch to something else. I can see that in the way I set down my writing and slam poetry practice, and joined a choir. It's that way with my fitness activities too. For a long time I chose spin class and weight room. Then it was mostly walking. Now I'm trying something new: running and yoga. It feels right, right now, so I am enjoying the moment and looking forward to an exploration of new things.

I do like new things. I may pick up the old again - hopefully that's the case with blogging. But what's important is that I am doing things that are interesting, meaningful and encourage me to be open, curious and generous.

I have been in bit of a slump for the past year or so. I found that I have been watching television more than I think is good, and looking forward to a glass of wine almost every day after work. This is not shockingly unhealthy behaviour. It's just that there's so much better available. Although I have maintained a reasonable level of physical activity, and stayed artistically active and spiritually engaged, life has been a bit blah. I don't like blah. I like juicy, challenging, exciting. I have, in a nutshell, been resting too much.

So here goes.

Three weeks ago, I started running with a Sun Run in Training group. We meet one evening each week to run together, then through the week I do two more runs on my own, following a training program set out by Sports Medicine BC. I used to run when I was in university. But that was 30 years ago. I trust the Sun Run program will be a safe an fun way to get myself back to where I can do a 10k. The real goal is to find the calm and zestful feeling that I remember from my old running days. It's like an active rest that makes air and water taste better for the rest of the day. I want to do it without injuring myself, so that I can make it part of my ongoing practice. I'll blog about my experiences as a 53 year old learning to run again. I expect there may be a little TMI from time to time (too much information), but I will try to give advance warning, so you can decide to read those parts or not.

Last weekend, I signed up for an introductory month of yoga classes at Moksha Yoga in Burnaby. It's hot yoga, and it is lovely. I did yoga through my employee fitness at work about 10 years ago, but I never really got into it. I remember thinking that the stretches were too difficult, and holding the poses was too hard. I feel insufficient. That's not how you are supposed to feel in a yoga class. I decided that this was not for me. My daughter practices yoga. She encouraged me to try it and told me that her experience with Moksha during a summer theatre stint was very good. I have been to 4 classes already, and I love it. There's so much space to find my way through the series of poses, and I am feeling the good feelings. I have an energy and openness that I haven't felt in a long time. This is good stuff.

That's all for now. I am going to hit the shower, then cook a yummy lunch. I'll talk to you soon!

question: what makes you feel open, curious and generous?

mompoet - trying new things

Sunday, February 23, 2014

the hockey jersey

These things I know:

The hockey jersey is the least-flattering garment known in modern times. Whatever your shape, size, age or style, put on a jersey and you look like a block. You are a block wearing your team colours. You represent. Nevertheless, you are a block, wearing a $200 polyester garment that makes you look like a block.

The hockey jersey is warm. Very warm. Hot flashes and hockey jerseys don't work well together. Women of a certain age had best wear hockey jerseys in hockey arenas only, preferably while lying on the ice. Note: this is not recommended during a hockey game, nor while the Zamboni is on the ice.

Sports fans love their hockey jerseys. Alex has 6 of them now, I think. Get on public transit on game day, and  you will see dozens of people wearing hockey jerseys to the office, to lunch, to the game. A Skytrain car full of blocks in expensive polyester shirts. Go figure!

The hockey jersey requires no imagination. Just put it on. You are immediately identified as a fan of the team. Imagination is demonstrated by people who paint their faces or dye their hair with team colours or wear watermelon shells on their heads. No, wait, that's CFL football. Never mind.

My lack of appreciation for the allure of the hockey jersey would indicate that I would NEVER, ever wear a hockey jersey. Finally, on Friday, at work, I did. I wore the jersey. Canada's men's Olympic hockey team was facing Team USA in the semi-finals. The winner would compete for the gold medal. The loser would go to the runoff match for the bronze. I borrowed Alex's team Canada jersey and wore it to work.

It was warm. I work indoors, so I wore a light T-shirt underneath. I managed to keep my cool, and keep the jersey on all day. Thank goodness. I looked like a block. Yes I did, but I represented. The Maple Leaf emblem told everyone that I was cheering for Canada. Hooray! And it was funny, people who I see everyday, who would never mention my outfit, my shoes, my haircut, my earrings, went out of their way to say, "I LIKE YOUR JERSEY!" Yes, they said it like that, in capital letters. And when we won the semi-final, several people admonished me that I had better wear that jersey again on Sunday, to ensure that we would win the gold medal. Hmmm, so jerseys also have magical powers? I knew that beards, socks and underwear have magical powers, but not jerseys.

So now I know a few more things about hockey jerseys:

Jerseys are not about looking attractive. They are meant to make you look uniform - the same as the other fans. Wearing a jersey says, "I am with YOU in our devotion to the team."

Because the jersey is in no way personal or individual, it allows others to say, "YOU LOOK AWESOME," without risking any misunderstanding about why they are saying it. The person who compliments your jersey is not attracted to you, or trying to flatter you. The person who compliments your jersey is excited that you like the same team that he or she likes.

Jerseys are imaginative, but in a different way. They encourage the wearer, and those who see him or her, to imagine winning. If there's a magical power in a jersey, it's that it allows the wearer to feel the magic of doing something tangible to support the team. That's good.

When I came home, I gave Alex back his Team Canada jersey and thanked him for letting me borrow it to wear to work. I appreciated the opportunity to share in the fun, and I learned a lot.

question: do you wear the hockey jersey?

mompoet - happy (sometimes) to look like a block, with all of the other blocks
YAY TEAM CANADA!

Sunday, February 09, 2014

thinking about dylan farrow and woody allen

This post is about sexual assault.

I have been reading online and via social media about Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen. In the 90s, Woody Allen's daughter Dylan, then 7 years old, told her mother, Mia Farrow, that Woody Allen sexually assaulted her. I remember hearing about it at the time, and thinking about how horrible that was, and wondering what happened, but not really wanting to know more. I was a new Mom at the time, and felt frightened and repulsed by the thought of anyone hurting a child in this way.

The story has been raised in the media again because Woody Allen recently received a Golden Globe Lifetime Achievement Award. His daughter Dylan, now an adult, spoke publicly for the first time about what happened. Here is what she said.

A week or so later, Woody Allen responded. Here is what he said.

A google search or a look at your facebook or twitter feed will lead you to dozens of editorials and blog posts about the controversy around this devastating incident. I have been thinking and thinking about it, and wondering what an ordinary person can or should do.

We will never know exactly what happened. There's lot's of discussion and opinion about that, without much light shed. I think for myself, it's beside the point. Here's what I am thinking:

I have to believe Dylan Farrow's account. Maybe I am wrong, and I am wrongly believing that Woody Allen did this horrendous thing. I would rather risk believing this wrongly than leaving a survivor of sexual assault to hang out to dry. Experts on both sides of the controversy can tell you about studies and statistics around wrongful accusations of abuse and manipulation of child witnesses. All of that pales in the light of what a story like this tells us about what is right and wrong, and what it means to be a victim of sexual assault.

I am choosing to think about this on a personal level. What does this situation say to people who have experienced sexual assault or harassment, or people who will be survivors of sexual assault in the future? Dylan Farrow describes her experience of being disbelieved and disregarded, while her famous and powerful father continued to live as a highly regarded artist. Her trauma and guilt have been with her since that day, while he has gone on to continue to live a good and happy life.

I have (thankfully) little experience with instances of sexual assault and harassment, and (blessedly) no experience with cases in which a child is involved. My indirect personal experience (as a friend and supporter) affirms the fact that survivors find themselves in a no-win situation. They are disbelieved, examined to determine if they did anything to provoke the assault, and isolated in their state of injury. Many (not all) people would rather disbelieve them because believing them is just too upsetting. When you read Dylan Farrow's personal account, then Woody Allen's description of the expert witnesses, you see what a person is up against if he or she comes forward with allegations of abuse.

What happened with Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow is not just about the high profile principles in this story. It serves as a cautionary tale for someone who has been assaulted. It tells friends and family who receive a report that maybe they should be skeptical, or at least that they need to caution the survivor that an investigation may be painful and unsuccessful. It helps explain why assaults go unreported. It illustrates the painful fact that the survivor will feel guilt for not protecting others who are vulnerable to an assault by the same perpetrator.

In short, it stinks. Taking a personal perspective, I have to remind myself to be open and aware. When someone says they have been harmed, they need acceptance and support. They need to be believed. They need the community around them to take action to make them know they are protected and valued. The same community needs to let the world know that sexual assaults are not acceptable, and that survivors are the priority for our care, attention and protection. We need to assume that the balance is tipped against the survivor when it comes to legal and societal response to their situation. We need to change that too.

Talking about it, not dismissing it because we can't be sure, is the first step. In my limited experience, I have been heartened to see hearts and minds changing through the experience of being a supporter and friend. I have seen individuals and groups taking accountability for improving safety for people who are vulnerable, and making ways for those who feel unsafe to ask for support. There's no way we can make predators disappear. We can adjust our thinking and actions to be better human beings when awful things happen.

This is what I'm thinking about as I think about Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen. I hope that we will all think about them, even though it is hard to do so.

question: how can we be better human beings?

mompoet - pondering