Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 329 of 365: A Wedding and A Return

First off, let it be known that Russians know how to throw a wedding.

Second off, let it be known that, when dancing is involved (and not just drinking), I can party with the best of them.

(Third off, let it be known that, when partying just involves drinking, even the minor league parties look at me like, "Pssh. Rookie.")

You know a wedding that has a cocktail hour before the ceremony (and the ceremony isn't until 8 that evening) is going to be something stellar. And it was. I couldn't help but marvel at just how doey-eyed my friend's now-husband was when looking at her. I always love going to weddings and watching that interaction between bride and groom and just knowing that they're a good match for each other.

Since the wedding (well, cocktail hour) wasn't until 6:30, we spent the day at Jones Beach on the southern edge of Long Island, which was absolutely stunning and could almost rival the beaches in Florida (almost). I apparently had hit my sunscreen quota for the week, which resulted in a haphazard application, which resulted in a nice patch of sunburn along my outer right thigh. But that didn't stop me from busting a dance on the floor for nearly 5 hours (Also -- fourth off -- let it be known that all I need is a group of girls who don't mind dancing like an idiot and I have found new friends).

And after a very busy vacation, it is time to return back to New Hampshire. We plan on driving a little further into Long Island and taking the ferry across to Connecticut (why? Because why not. Because a boat ride sounds more enjoyable than wrestling with New York traffic). I return to my classes tomorrow -- I return to my "yoga homework" and massive editing I'm doing for M#2 tomorrow. It's always a little bittersweet when vacations end, especially vacations that have their foundation in exploration instead of just relaxation. But, hey, a few of my other college friends recently got engaged, so there's always a chance of getting that invite in the mail soon -- and, of course, getting another excuse to travel.

And, finally -- fifth off -- let it be known that I could go to bed in the wee-small hours of the morning and still somehow wake up before 8:30. Motherfucker.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 328 of 365: The Evolution of Things

My parents suffered from what I call "New England Vacation Syndrome". Common symptoms include a downright belligerent lack of willingness to ever leave New England for any vacation, ever -- instead opting for vacations in New Hampshire, Vermont, or Maine. An offshoot of this phenomena includes buying a camper-trailer, parking it at a campground, and calling that place your one and only vacation spot for years upon end.

Now -- don't get me wrong -- I have fond memories of my campground days. I had my first love (and crushing heartbreak) at a campground. However, there is something pitiful about graduating high school and never once leaving the region.

So, the second I was off to college and out on my own, I jumped at every opportunity to travel. I remember going to New York City for the very first time: my college friend invited me to visit her out in Long Island, and I boarded the first Lucky Star bus I could get. I was such a sheltered creature that I actually gasped when I saw the, "Welcome to New York" sign.

A lot has changed in the eight or so years since I was a meek college freshman. Aside from the obvious graduations, career changes, movings, and -- well -- marriage, I've been racking up travel like I'm making up for lost time (and, in a way, I kind of am). From spending a summer in Belfast to driving from coast to coast to hopping around Italy for my honeymoon. And now, here I am, back in Long Island, to see that very friend get married.

The evolution of things is downright overwhelming. I remember when we were two freshmen, grabbing coffee at Dunkie's together, bemoaning our less-than-stellar romantic lives (we were both caught in incredibly unhealthy pseudo-relationships -- little did we know that, a year or two later, everyone, from middle school to post grad, would commonly find themselves in these situations). Neither of us really imagined marriage being in the cards.

I know the, "woah, time flies and things change," sentiment is not exactly original, but -- oh well. The same way you have to allow yourself to be sentimental from time to time, you have to look back and be in awe of how things have changed. And if they haven't changed much over the years, maybe it's time to reevaluate some things.

On a more journal-y note, we took the LIRR in to the city yesterday and enjoyed New York the way I usually enjoyed Boston: by walking around a lot. We visited the 9/11 memorial (which is easily the most incredibly-done memorial I have ever witnessed), walked through Chinatown and Little Italy and Central Park, before weaving our way through Time Square and back to Penn Station, all in the course of 7 or so hours. We ended up driving thirty minutes away from the city, further into Long Island, to have a somewhat late dinner at a Mexican restaurant -- a place where arroz con pollo is actually on the menu.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day 327 of 365: Sentimental Like That

Virginia Beach ended up getting scrapped. From some crazy reason, we didn't feel like driving 10+ hours on our rest day. We opted instead for a little more time in Old Town Alexandria before driving up to Long Island.

It was dinnertime by the time we got to Long Island, so we decided to spend the night at the movies. 22 Jump Street was playing and I immediately jumped at the idea. On top of the fact that 21 Jump Street was shockingly hilarious and self-aware (and I would gladly watch its sequel), we had watched the first movie on our very first anniversary vacation.

22 Jump Street did not disappoint, this time poking fun at sequels in general (instead of just poking fun at remakes). I was entertained by the movie -- and possibly even more entertained by the fact that we were able to watch the sequel in theatres in June of 2014 when we watched the original in our hotel room in June of 2012.

I'm horrifically sentimental like that. I mean, given the number of scrapbooks I've made, this should not be surprising. I'm sentimental enough that I found the pair of shorts I wore to Searles Castle on my wedding day and decided to bring those along on the trip so I could wear them during the day on our anniversary.

To me, life's too short not to be a little sentimental. Granted, this can turn into hoarding real quick, but being 100% pragmatic sucks the life out of, well, life. Sometimes it's nice to have a set of jewelry that you like wearing when seeing certain people, or holding onto a souvenir as a way of remembering.

I'm sure this could be a whole lot more articulate if I weren't writing this at 8 in the morning, but, meh. What more can you honestly expect from a girl on vacation (and 327 days into this crazy project)?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 326 of 365: It's Been Real, DC

Yesterday was spent mainly at the Smithsonian, particularly at the Museum of Natural History (you could honestly spend a week at the Smithsonian museums alone). We took a break to go out to the National Mall, where they were having a festival on Chinese and Kenyan culture. I took a tai chi "lesson" in the park (although I kept getting ahead of the crowd because I already knew the moves) and learned about tai chi ball (and felt like a mad badass when I could flip my paddle with the ball still in it). We capped off the night in Old Town Alexandria, where we had the best scallops of our lives and ate froyo by a wharf overlooking the Potomac.

I've spent roughly four days in Virginia/DC. Now we're off to potentially Virginia Beach (if we feel like making the drive) before crash landing in Long Island for my friend's wedding. We plan on spending Saturday (the day before the wedding) in NYC, just doing whatever (unlike our last trip to NYC, I didn't plan out a thousand different things and buy tickets to a hundred different sites). So this should make today a bit of a resting day, especially given that we spent the last four constantly going.

But, either way, we're hours away from checkout. It's been real, DC. I'm glad I finally got to experience what most people get to do as part of a school trip but, hey, details. This way was far more fun, anyway.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Day 325 of 365: Three Years Ago Today

Three years ago today, I was on NyQuil because I could not get any sleep naturally for the week leading up to the wedding.

Three years ago today, my best friend and my sister-in-law were texting updates to my fiancé on how I was doing. He told them that a walk would be a great way to calm my nerves and "get my dolphins in" -- and that I would understand the last part. My sister-in-law relayed that bit of information to me and I burst into (happy) tears.

Three years ago today, hair and makeup was taking way longer than it should and -- unlike the neurotic mess I was up until an hour before that -- I was calmly giving out directions and orders and telling people where to go.

Three years ago today, I was so sick to my stomach that I had Pepto Bismol tablets in every bag brought into the Searles Castle.

Three years ago today, I was a completely different person. I was roughly 20 pounds lighter than I am now -- all skin and bones from stressing out over my Pre-K job and night courses and moving and getting married; certainly had no muscle mass going on -- and with no sense of assertion. I was unsure about moving to New Hampshire, convinced I was going to be a Pre-K teacher forever, and felt awkward in my own skin. I had a smatter of publishing credits to my name -- all through my university's literary magazine -- and one semi-edited manuscript.

Three years ago today, I did the one thing I swore I would never do: get married. I saw what marriage looked like and it didn't look like fun. I saw the types of relationships I would get into time and time again and had enough self-awareness to understand when a pattern is being formed. I decided at a young age that marriage was not in the cards for me -- and not in the, "Oh why are boys such jerks; I'll never get married!" way.

Three years ago today, nine months of balls-to-the-walls planning finally came together. I boogied my ass off, cried like a baby every chance I get (including but not limited to: before the ceremony, during the ceremony, during our first dance, when my bridesmaids serenaded me, and after the wedding), had exactly one glass of champagne because that's all my stomach could handle, and found myself at the end of the night sitting in one of the guest chairs, looking at the empty reception area, looking out at Searles Castle at night, and thinking to myself, "Did I really just have a wedding?"

And today, I'm almost eight and a half years into this relationship, officially three years into the marriage, hanging out in DC, and eternally grateful that I decided to give the precocious MIT dude who jumped into the seat next to me.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Day 324 of 365: We Can Not Hallow

There are two staples to every visit to Washington DC (on top of, y'know, the 4 other staples): the Lincoln Memorial and the Arlington National Cemetery.

Engraved on the left side of the Lincoln Memorial is the Gettysburg Address. I couldn't help but find a few ironies when reading over the words of the famous speech. The most noticeable: "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." And for obvious reasons.

The other? "We can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. [...] It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

(I assure you long quotations isn't my way of cheating out an entry).

I take that passage as saying that we cannot treat an area of war as a fetish while ignoring why these men died and the task left for everyone else. And I found that to be a very interesting passage, especially given the time we are in, but I couldn't figure out exactly how to put how I felt into words.

And then I watched a man sit on the bench dedicated to those lost in the Korean War at the Arlington National Cemetery and scarf potato chips into his pie hole.

It wasn't until I noticed the constant signage, reminding people that the cemetery is a place of reverence and respect -- not a park where you can have picnics and act up -- that I really could put into words how ironic Lincoln's words are in comparison to the present day. I needed to see how people act at the Arlington National Cemetery, how people behaved in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, to have my concrete example of how we do the exact opposite now.

Because what do we do after times of tragedy? We make the ground sacred. But we do way more than that: we fetishize it. It becomes a place you must go to -- compelled for the same reasons people have to visit that pawn shop in Vegas that they saw on TV -- to take pictures and say that you've been there, as if the land itself holds inherent value. And yet, we have people who take selfies by John F Kennedy's gravesite. We have people stuffing food in their faces when the signs clearly say no food. We have rangers who have to constantly remind people to show some respect.

To these people, there is no difference walking past rows of men who died in the Vietnam war and walking past stars on Hollywood Boulevard. They do not take a moment to think about not just the great sacrifice, but what their sacrifices mean to the living, and the obligations we have to each other in light of it. Politicians are guilty of this too -- possibly even more guilty, since they are the ones in power.

I'm sure this would be a lot more eloquent if it were not 11:30 at night and this were not a 365 blog. And maybe I'll return back to it (the same way I returned back to my girls/women thought). But it is really saying something when people will pose by a countless number of little white tombstones because it will make a good Facebook profile picture, all the while turning a blind eye to the things that really matter.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Day 323 of 365: A Constant Reminder We're Human

Washington DC and Virginia has been a blast so far. I'm exhausted out of my skull; I haven't spend this much time walking around outside since my honeymoon in Rome. But it's awesome to say that I've finally seen the White House, the State Capitol, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, and the Washington monument (helloooooo, phallus). I also got to do some sick yoga moves in front of some of the various landmarks.

We also visited the Holocaust Museum today, which touches upon the history and the sociology of genocide. They had areas dedicated to other genocides of the past and, unfortunately, in the present day. It's enough to make you despair for humanity when you realize everything that is going on.

It's frightening how we, as humans, have to be constantly reminded that the person across from us is an actual human being, with feelings and emotions and family. Genocide is an extreme example of what happens when we lose that constant reminder. What we say in text messages or how we act on the road is a more common situation. Suddenly, they;re not humans. They're assholes whose only purpose in this life is to make you annoyed. And you hope their car explodes or your text message renders them speechless (and in a bad way).

Evolutionarily speaking, it makes sense. Those who were quicker to dehumanize probably won the wars quicker, which mean less of them were killed off, which meant more genes being passed on to the next generation. There's a lot of shitty shit humans do that make perfect sense evolutionarily speaking, but that's for another time.

Like I said, it's easy to despair for humanity when you look at things this way. No wonder authors write about aliens studying humans like it's the most fascinating book in the library.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Day 322 of 365: Jesus Christ it's New Jersey

...get in the car!

I'm writing this en route to Virginia. We are enjoying New Jersey at its finest: the turnpike during rush hour.  And, for those who don't own a map, we get to drive all the way through NJ in order to get to the DC area.  The only thing keeping me sane amidst this traffic is that our next potential road trip will be to Montreal, which involves three hours of driving through northern NH and VT -- and there is no such thing as rush hour traffic in the boondocks.

There's something about travel that makes my husband and I talk about ... well, more travel.  I've got a wanderlust (as in a literal lust for wandering) like no other. Even when we get stuck in traffic (or have our plane rerouted like our last &#$!ing fight) we love talking about the next place we want to explore.  Before entering New Jersey, we talked about going to Puerto Rico as a way to help with our meager Spanish. Now, who knows when that trip(s) will happen, but the fact of the matter is, is that travel apparently spawns more travel. 

To be fair, the topic of Puerto Rico came up when our flight last March got rerouted and the flight across the gate from us was going to sunny Puerto Rico instead of freezing cold Boston.  If there were ever a time that we would say, "fuck it," and take a spontaneous flight, that would've been it.

Kind of hard to do something like that when you're stuck in lane #5 of the New Jersey turnpike in bumper-to-bumper traffic.  But, hey, imagining you're on a sandy beach or old French streets is not a bad way to pass the time.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Day 321 of 365: Cleaning House and Knowing How to Adult

There are only two events that will get me to properly clean my house (and, before that, apartment): when someone outside of my immediate group of friends was coming over or when we're about to leave for a while.

The first makes sense: hey, these random people are coming over. And, for some reason, you care about their opinion of your residence way more than the people who are closest to you. Hurrah for flawed human logic.

The second makes sense if you are even the least bit anal-retentive. Who wants to come home from vacation and see dirty dishes in the sink, floors that need cleaning, laundry that needs to be done, and a bed that needs to be made? If you don't give a flying shit (or even a meandering shit) about laundry or dishes, than a pre-vaca clean-up makes zero sense.

I've spent the last three days completely overhauling this house. From the standard, "pick your random shit off the floor," to washing the doors -- to scrubbing the fridge to within an inch of its life. What really shocked me was the level to which I cleaned up the house. I mean, I ironed the tablecloth for my dining room table. When did I become someone who irons their tablecloths? Or washes doors? Or even realizes that doors can get dirty in the first place?

Wait, rooms have doors?

It's a stark contrast from even just a year or two ago. Before this, I would clean up the apartment before a vacation by making sure laundry and dishes were done and no cat vomit had been left unattended. Now I fret over the wrinkles in long swatches of fabric. Is this what being an adult is like? Does this mean I have to start wearing pants now?

Somewhere along the line I drank the Kool Aid and started doing things my parents would do. Well, other people's parents, really. I haven't yet started acting like my mom, and I won't until I start chatting with the telemarketers about my dog's diarrhea problem or womanly issues associated with menopause -- and not in a way to troll the poor telemarketer.

I'm not kidding about either of those, by the way.

But, seriously, preparing for this particular vacation has been a huge reminder that I somehow learned How to Adult. And knowing How to Adult includes cleaning soap scum out of shower door runners and dusting things.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Day 320 of 365: See What Resonates

Be forewarned: this is about as hippy-dippy and pseudo-life-poetic as I get.

Yesterday, I got to buy my tingshas. As I mentioned yesterday, tingshas (or Tibetan chimes) essentially look like brass flying saucers connected with a leather cord. Chiming them together creates this absolutely gorgeous ring -- a perfect way to end that last pose in yoga (aka savasana). I remember my main/favorite instructor using them during my very first yoga class in Nashua and I thought to myself, "Holy God why don't all yoga teachers have these?"

I lucked out tremendously: the instructor (who also owns the studio and is an assistant instructor in my teacher training) was able to order them wholesale, and pass them onto us without any markups. I paid for my tingshas roughly 1/4th of what I'll be paying for my new mat (and the ultra-tally version of the mat I'm looking at is roughly $75) and the quality of these tingshas beat anything I saw on Amazon. I came into class early yesterday to play around with the various tingshas. Each had a different, intricate design on them, which affected the ring it made when chimed. The differences were subtle but noticeable. I chimed away until I found a pair that literally resonated with me.

I've been holding onto this "pre-graduation, almost a yoga teacher" euphoria as hard as I can, because I recognize it can and will not last. The feeling is all-too familiar for me: this is exactly how I felt my senior year of college when I realized I wanted to be a preschool teacher. And we all know how that played out.

However, the euphoria between the two are similar because, at least at one point in my life, I was ecstatic over something actually resonated with me. I was bored when I interned at a library. I was unsatisfied when I interned at a publishing company. I came alive when I did volunteer work at a Belfast primary school. I was in love with my job when I student-taught at an elite preschool (and those exist, especially in cities like Boston). I dove headfirst because working with children like that resonated with me.

In a way, that never changed. When I see my friends' kids, I immediately gravitate towards playing with them (and they immediately gravitate towards playing with me -- this right here was why I was the go-to teacher for new, unsure kids when I taught Pre-K. Not so much when I looked after one- and two-year-olds and they just screamed all day, but that's for another time). But what didn't resonate with me was the politics, the overcrowded classrooms, the parents who could not be bothered and -- most of all -- working with toddlers en masse (there's a reason why the turnover rate for teachers who work with toddlers and infants is exponentially higher than teachers who work with, say, 4-year-olds). What didn't resonate with me was the realization that schools operate a lot like businesses sometimes, and your intentions will get squashed under the bottom line.

And I recognize that there is a lot in yoga that probably won't resonate well with me. From finding a place that will hire me to people who cannot be bothered to enjoy the class to any slew of issues with payment. But it's about finding that balance: seeing what truly resonates with you at the base and seeing if it's worth it to invest more into it. Whether that's a literal, "the sound vibrations just feel right and I'll buy this tingsha," or a metaphorical, "This feels right in my gut and I'm pressing forward." It's about seeing whether or not you still feel right about where you are, even when the reality and the setbacks come seeping in.

The reality of working with young children was more than my pie-in-the-sky, elite-preschool-with-ideal-teacher-student-ratios, self could handle. But I have a good feeling about my yoga classes. And it's just a matter of time and letting things unfold naturally and exactly how they're supposed to unfold.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Day 319 of 365: Small Town Living

Yesterday turned out to be one of those days where I lived out every stereotype of small town living in the northeast. I picked wildflowers while on a walk, I visited a pond with a bunch of wooden pallets serving as a dock (which results in a spooked cat jumping into the water, then attempted to run in a perfect semi circle with a look on his face that can only be described as, "BAD DECISION BAD DECISION BAD DECISION."), I tended to my chicken and collected a good number of eggs (four eggs for three chickens in the span of 24 hours). I also noticed that the garden filled with plants that the former owners said were strawberry plants but really looked more like poison ivy turned out to actually be strawberry plants. This resulted in me picking strawberries and pulling out weeds for an hour.

One of my favorite memories of my childhood isn't even a memory at all, but a smell. The smell of the forest in the heat of summer. The smell of humidity and leaves and pond scum and dirt. There's something so incredibly comforting in it, something that brings me back to a unbelievably innocent time. And now I experience it every time I step out of my house.

If you had asked 2010 Me what I would be doing in 2014, I would've told you this:

"I'm going to be a bad-ass Pre-K teacher, probably with my M.Ed or going for it. I'll be living in Boston and relishing in the city living."

If you had told her that she'd be living in a house just outside of Manchester, NH, right on the border between civilization and the absolute boondocks, where she'd relish in nature trails, fruit and vegetable gardens, and scenic views as she drives to work -- if you had told her that the teacher would she romanticized is an absolute nightmare and she'd quit the entire field before she could even pinpoint which schools she'd want to apply to -- she wouldn't believe you.

Oh -- and if you told her that she'd not only get into martial arts, but be proficient enough to teach it to others, she'd call you an outright liar. If you told her that she'd get so stupidly good at yoga that she'd go on to become a 200-hour RYT and market her class ideas to studios, she'd -- again -- call you a liar. She'd point out that she's nothing more than an awkward oaf who quit her kung fu classes the second she injured her knee.

Life really never happens the way you expected it to happen. There are some things in my life that turned out differently than what I expected and I'm not so thrilled about it (I always assumed I would have a bestselling novel by the time I was 28). And there are some things in my life that turned out differently than what I expected and I'm incredibly grateful for it (after an especially heinous pseudo-relationship my freshman year of college, I "realized" that my dating life would be nothing more than a string of douchebags -- oh, and there was no way I was ever getting married. I had seen enough negative examples of marriage to know I want nothing to do with that!!). And there are some things that turned out differently, and proved to be exactly where I needed to be.

Maybe I'm waxing philosophical over something as simple as strawberry picking because I'm in the process of ordering the various items I need to run my own yoga class (including an actual professional mat -- no more $15 cheapos from Marshall's -- and these adorable chimes called tingshas. My own instructor ends savasana by gently knocking the two tingshas together and it's like being woken up from a nap by the smell of freshly-brewed coffee). Never in a million years would I think this is where I'd be just two months before my 28th birthday, and there's really no where else I'd rather be.

This morning, I went out to do a little more weeding in this strawberry garden (since we didn't really believe the original owners, we let the weeds overrun the garden this year). After I write this, I'll be letting the chickens out so they can stretch their legs (and eat the bugs in my backyard). Then I'm going to a two-hour yoga class to learn the ins and outs of arm balances (which I have gotten frighteningly good at). This isn't the Pre-K classroom or the classroom at UNH to get my M.Ed, but I really wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Day 318 of 365: Walk, Don't Run

As I've mentioned a time or eight, I strained a tendon in my left leg. This forced me to downgrade to the 5-miler in Boston's Run to Remember (which I was able to complete with only minor pain and a very bruised ego). This has also forced me to stop running, completely -- which has also forced me to put myself out of the running (har har) for the Chicago Marathon.

The Chicago Marathon is this Columbus Day Weekend. Ideally, I would've had 20 miles already under my belt, which would give me the summer to keep it relatively short (aka 10) until the weather calmed down. Even in less than ideal circumstances, I would be started my training right now, getting at least 6 - 8 miles in as a starting point.

As I hinted at briefly that dropping from the Chicago Marathon was a big deal for so many reasons. One being that I have to go back on a pact that my best friend and I made (she'd have the chutzpah to move to Chicago; I'd have the chutzpah to run the marathon there). She's said a million times that the pact itself was enough to do what she knew she needed to do (namely, move out of Boston) and that actually going through with it is unnecessary on my end, but still. I'm a woman of my word. I don't make promises or goals lightly.

The other is the timeline of everything. I also mentioned that my husband and I have been thinking about that whole "raise a family" thing, and the Chicago Marathon was going to be more or less my apex moment before taking a breather from running my body into the ground (literally). We don't want to put things off another year (because, as much as I feel 24, I'm not. I'm toeing in on 28 and I am vehemently against having any kids past the age of 35, which means the metaphorical and biological clock is ticking). So that means the marathon could be on the back burner for a very, very, very long while -- because any female athlete, professional or amateur, will tell you that the physical strain of intense training is enough to send your body into, "Oh fuck that shit," mode when it comes to fertility.

I spent the last month doing absolutely no cardio. I did my yoga, I ran my tai chi classes (which is about to turn into "tai chi class" singular, but that's for another time), but that was it. No running, no Zumba -- shit, no DDR, even (and we all know how much I love my DDR).

I've now added in a few walks during the week. Now that my tendon only acts up when it's raining, I make it a point to walk to the lake near where I live, which is roughly two miles from my house. It is beyond frustrating, going from running to walking, going from crossing that threshold after 18 minutes to crossing that threshold after 30+. But I do love walks for the sake of walks, so as long as I don't try to think about it as exercise, I'm fine.

One of the biggest messages in yoga is accepting your body exactly where it is. And right now I need to walk, not run. I'm eyeing the Boston Half Marathon (which is also on Columbus Day Weekend). Registration is on the 16th of July, which means I have 3 weeks to see if I would be okay to re-train come August. I'm not setting any expectation for myself, and I'm certainly not expecting my tendon to be 100% by July 16th, but I just can't completely let go of not running that October weekend.

But, for now, it's time to just walk. Put one foot in front of the other one and see where I go from here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Day 317 of 365: Women/Girls (Try #2)

So I've decided to make one very small, but very crucial change in my life:

I've stopped calling adult females "girls".

It seemed really silly to me at first. I immediately thought of all the, "Atta girls!" my track coach would yell. I thought of someone saying, "We're having a girls night out/It's just us girls!" I thought of how the diminutive is a term of affection and endearment in so many languages. Obviously there was nothing inherently wrong about saying, "girl," when the person in front of you (or in the mirror) is quite obviously over 18, so why would I try to do this?

While a diminutive label like "girl" makes sense when the coach is congratulating her team or the group of friends is going for a night out, it stops making sense outside of it -- the same way you'd never use the diminutive in Spanish to refer to a superior or a stranger. But here I was, talking about female celebrities as "girls", talking about co-workers as "girls" -- talking about myself as a "girl" when I am toeing in on 28 years of age.

So I tried to stop cold-turkey. I allowed myself to fumble over my words as I nixed "girl" from my vernacular and replaced it with "woman". I'd stop myself mid-word to keep myself from saying "girl". I'd even reword a thought in my head if I started slipping into old habits.

Again, this seems a bit unnecessary. Why am I letting myself sound like a stuttering freak in order to not say, "I talked to the girl at this company..." or "She's the girl from..."? Why go through all this trouble when it's socially acceptable to do what I'm already doing?

The problem is, is that language shapes thought. You don't have to attend a semantics class to know that how something is worded can drastically change how it is taken in. My favorite example is of an experiment where they showed groups of people a video of two cars getting into an accident. In one group, the testers would explain that the audience was about to watch a video of, "a blue car bumping a red car." In the other group? They were told they were about to watch a video of, "a blue car crashing into a red car."

The differences between the two group's reactions were startling. The "crash" group saw the accident as more severe, the red car as having taken more damage, and the blue driver as being more incompetent of a driver. Exact same video of the exact same two cars, but viewed in completely different lights, purely because the testers replaced "bumped" with "crashed into".

The most telling reaction to this change came from within -- the visceral reaction I would get against myself when I would say "woman" over "girl". I felt out of place using that term -- who the hell was I to use such a strong word when describing this female or that female. Especially, who the hell was I to use that word when referring to myself? "Girl" is sweet, "girl" is dainty, "girl" is unassuming; I have no place busting out the big guns like "woman".

And that reaction is exactly why I needed to change. As I mentioned already, "girl" is diminutive. The same way a coach will say, "Atta boy!" or a friend will talk about, "hanging out with the boys." The only difference, here, is that "boy" feels out of place when taken out of the familiar and affectionate. We replace it with "guy", which carries a more masculine and strong connotation. But there's nothing to replace "girl". However, "girl" doesn't magically lose its connotation of soft and unassuming when we start referring to women that way. The word doesn't carry the same type of weight, and when even the most subtle changes in language can change thought (which, in turn, shapes behavior), that small inequity can unravel into bigger consequences.

Recently, a man who shall remain nameless got in trouble with his boss. His boss gave him the third degree -- and rightfully so, since he had messed up. However, his boss was a woman. What was the first words out of his mouth when he was out of earshot from that woman?

"I'm not going to let some girl tell me how to do my job."

People will disagree with me. People will brush off the idea that one seemingly-innocuous word would ever make any type of influence in life. People will see this change as another example of a hyper-feminist harping on every detail in society, changing "woman" to "womyn" and burning every bra she can get her hands on. And I'm okay with that. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, man and woman alike.

Besides, none of this will stop me from shouting, "That's my girl!" when a friend finishes a race or busts a seriously sick move on the dance floor.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Day 316 of 365: Well, That's Disheartening

As I've mentioned before, my husband and I are going to Virginia/DC for our anniversary (and then up to Long Island/NYC for our friend's wedding). Since I've never been to DC before (somehow never went on those class trips, I guess), I decided it was high time I do all the touristy things: visit the Smithsonian, the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and (of course) the White House. I learned a long time ago to always look into every single place you are traveling to, so I decided to look into tour times for the White House -- because I distinctly remember there once being group tours of the White House.

Well, color me surprised when I find out that you have to get written permission from a state congressman, now.

After the confusion settled, I vaguely remember hearing that they discontinued group tours of the White House for safety reasons. Which I can get, to a degree. There's only so much you can control when you have 20 or 30 people roaming the halls on a routine basis.

But, still, though. I find that incredibly disheartening. You can only tour the inside of one of the most important buildings in America during very specific times, and with written permission from a state leader -- something you get as much as six months in advance.

It just doesn't make sense. And I can't help but put my tinfoil hat on and speculate why this is the case.

But, regardless, I'm excited for Washington. I'm excited to enjoy Virginia and I'm excited to knock a few more states off my "to-visit" list. And -- most of all -- I'm excited to see an incredible woman get married in just a few weeks.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Day 315 of 365: One Year Ago

I've been trying to figure out what to write about today. It's been a busy day: I had one of my scheduled observation classes today, followed by a long talk with my favorite instructor (which included talk about putting me on the sub list for that studio). I filled out yet more paperwork, both for yoga and for writing (what they don't tell you is that, as a freelance writer, you get to fill out a W-2 every.fricken.time a website accepts your essay and actually pays you for it. But, hey, not like I'm complaining. Get money, bitch). I talked briefly on the phone with a yoga studio that might be using me as a sub as early as this August. I even submitted some more work and edited M#2 until I found myself reading to read (which is a sign that I need to stop editing because I've lost my critical eye).

That's a lot of stuff to write about. And yet, I really didn't feel like writing any of it. And then I realized that today is June 16th. I checked the 2013 calendar and realized that it's been a year and two days since I left the teaching world behind.

That means it's been a full year since I've worked a standard, full-time job. I spent the first three months in a weird tizzy, thanks in large part to our road trip and moving into/establishing the house. I then spent the next three months wondering WTF I was doing, if I really understood what I was doing next, and, really, if leaving such a stable paycheck made that much sense in light of buying a new house.

The last six months were spent in teacher trainer to become a registered yoga teacher. During that time, my ebook got published and I went from a lowly contributor to Thought Catalog to someone who had multiple publishing sites under her belt.

I feel like it figures that today is the day that I can't think of anything to write about. A day when I made some progress in both yoga and writing, but still couldn't think about anything to write about until she realized what date it is. Today is a good day for retrospection. Today is a good day to see where I was before I left teaching, to see where I was before training -- shit, to see where I was in February, when the very idea of even doing a 10-minute practice class blew my skull.

So here's to a second year being free of a standard 9-to-5, a proper paycheck -- here's to a second year of freelancer like the pseudo-broke baller I am, because I'd rather be budgeting our money and be happy than be more financially liberated and miserable as all getout.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Day 314 of 365: It's Okay to Not Say "Best Father A Girl Can Ask For"

It's that time again: another parental holiday. On Mother's Day, Facebook and Twitter and Instagram became flooded with posts proclaiming a happy Mother's Day to the "best mother a girl can ask for!" And now we're at Father's Day, which means we'll get more of the same.

First off, I find that to be a little disingenuous. I am physically capable of asking for a lot. I could ask for a billionaire father who is fluent in 20 languages, travels the world, fights dragons, and buys me a pony for every birthday. In fact, I could ask for all of that and still have the innate capability of saying the phrase, "But can I have a father who is also Batman?"

And then there's the sincerity behind that comment. For every person who genuinely feels like they had the best father a person can have, there must be five or six people who will verbatim post that same line because people tend to side-eye you funny if you say, "Happy Father's Day to that guy who clumsily tried to raise a child in an ever-changing society!"

Is my father the best a girl can ask for? Even when you factor out the chance to ask for billions of dollars, ponies, dragon-fighting skills, and -- of course -- the ability to be Batman, I could definitely ask for more. And people who know me personally would nod their heads in agreement. But if I did get to ask for a few changes here and there for my father, I probably wouldn't be the person that I am today. Whether a different version of me would be an upgrade or not is irrelevant. I like who I am and where I am and I've watched enough of that shitty Butterfly Effect movie to recognize that even the tiniest things factor in greatly.

So I say happy father's day to a man whose intentions were good. Happy Father's Day to a man who did everything within his power to raise his daughter to be a productive citizen in this world. Happy Father's Day to a man who loves to his absolute maximum capability. Happy Father's Day to a man who really, at the end of the day, only wants what is best for his children, whatever that "best" might actually be.

Heaven knows that, when I have kids, I won't be the best mom they could ask for. And I'd feel like they're intentionally being hyperbolic if they said otherwise. But I do hope to go forth with those good intentions, to do everything I can to raise them right, to love them with all of my heart and soul, and to pray that they see that I only want what is best for them.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Day 313 of 365: Paid What You're Worth

There's something that has not been sitting right with me for quite some time. It started with a random comment on the minimum wage increase. Someone said, "You're not paid for how hard you try; you're paid in what value you are to the company." Misguided and slightly pie-in-the-sky attitude, but, in terms of internet comments, they could be a whole lot worse.

But, because the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is an actual thing, suddenly that's all I could see. "People are paid what they're worth! If you're punching numbers in a cash register, then you're not worth much!"

I'm going to first set aside the part where, if you look at wages over the years and adjust for things like inflation and productivity, a "punching numbers in a cash register" person should be making at least $18/hour. That's a rant for another time. I just want to dissect the "you're paid in what value you give to the company" belief.

On paper, that makes a lot of sense. A boss will make more than his underlings because his worth to the company is greater. It takes more work and responsibility to keep the ship sailing, and it's harder to replace a boss. On paper, this makes 100% sense.

But what about interns? And I don't mean interns from yesteryear, who got paid in college credits, worked part-time, and mostly played the part of observer while they did menial tasks. I mean the 2014 intern. The person who would have the title of "VP of Communications" or "Marketing Manager" in 1999. The person who works full-time and gets paid nada. No college credits. No stipend. Just "valuable experience" -- which, somehow, in our day and age, has become a commodity in and of itself, even though apprentices of yesteryear still got paid as they learned their craft.

I'm talking about the 2014 "intern" who really is "accounts receivable". The internship that weirdly hires a 35-year-old man with experience in the field. I'm talking about the intern who is not even remotely an intern, but slave labor.

That sounds like something out of a Colbert Report skit, but it's not: the previous paragraph describes an actual situation that an actual 35-year-old man got into. He applied for an internship after getting laid off, and quickly realized that they were just using the term to have a free accountant.

Because, "A company will pay you what you're worth/your value to the company," is about as farcical as, "Communism ensures equality for all." A company will pay you what they can get away with. Because -- honestly -- are you going to tell me that a CEO is really worth 400 times what their average employee makes? I can go ahead and list about three or four CEOs who are now notorious company-hoppers, driving the company into the ground as they do whatever they need to do to get their yearly bonus and then deploying their golden parachute. And that isn't including any of the CEOs involved in creating the Great Recession of 2008.

Companies have hemmed and hawed about having to make changes to better protect their employees, from the Industrial Revolutions, when they scoffed at the idea of putting up expensive safety rails by heavy machinery, to far, far, far beyond that. It's the same flawed human mindset that gives rise to slavery in the first place, but that is also a rant for another time.

It's exhausting, hearing people spew out flawed ideology like this, as if corporations are calculators, systematically figuring out exactly an employee's value and subsequent wages. Because, at the end of the day, companies will do whatever it is they can get away with. And the more the government shrugs their shoulders, the more corporations will act up. And the more "interns" we'll see in the marketplace.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Day 312 of 365: Yoga for Martial Artists

Well, ha ha, you're stuck with another yoga post.

Or, not, since this isn't, y'know, a mandatory read.

So, on top of preparing for my practicum, I've been trying to research how other yoga instructor do "Yoga for Athletes" and "Yoga for Martial Artists". I even found a lady on YouTube who has a "Yoga for MMA" series. And -- since I'm a fanatic of mixed martial arts -- I jumped on this. Please, established yoga instructors, tell me the magical way to instruct yoga for athletes and martial artists.

The problem I've found is that most of these sequences are one big, "Hey! You're athletic! You can do physical shit! Let's so crazy physical shit!"

I was actually talking to one of my teacher training instructors about this. She had advised me against observing a certain Yoga for Athletes class in the area because she knows the instructor has a reputation for creating unsafe sequences and doing things that can potentially injure someone. I talked about how this gung-ho attitude for athlete yoga just doesn't make sense -- that the last thing you would want to do is tell a bunch of naturally competitive people to jump into intricate poses that bend and strain muscles in an unfamiliar way. Athletes are taught to push push push, push through the pain, muscle on through, and "get better". Problem is, if they've never done chaturanga before and suddenly you're making them do one-legged chaturangas, someone's going to walk away with a torn shoulder muscle.

My instructor smiled and said, "You know what this tells me? This tells me that you don't need to observe a Yoga for Athletes class in order to create your own class. It sounds like you already have the right intuition to do what is best for those athletes."

Granted, this "intuition" doesn't get me out of fulfilling my observation hours -- it just means that I shouldn't feel like I need to be told what to do for these hypothetical yoga classes.

So: how would I run a Yoga for Martial Artists? On the physical side, I'd focus a lot on the hips and shoulders (as a strong punch is all about shoulder and lat strength; not bicep). I'd hold poses for a little length of time to help build strength. I'd do a good amount of core work (since the level of achievement in any athletic endeavor essentially starts at how strong your entire core is. Note that I said "entire core" -- that means more than just your abs).

But that's the physical stuff. The mumbo-jumbo I would start my pitch off with to a martial art studio. The part that would assuage a studio owner who would be worried that the yoga was going to be hippie-granola.

The more important part would be the mindfulness. Learning to draw that attention inward, listen to your body, listen to what it needs, and understand that yoga is a time to do exactly what you need. That yoga is about letting go of your ego, letting go of your expectations and attachment to the results. That deep, deliberate breathing can mean the difference between falling out of a pose and being able to maintain it.

And if a martial art studio is worth its weight in wall-to-wall mirrors, that aspect of yoga should be just as enticing. Martial arts is all about the calm energy -- that explosive kicks does not mean an explosive temper.

With any luck, starting in August, I'll be trying to get this started up. It's very tough in an area like New Hampshire; aside from Manchester, it's easy to find places who think "gong fu" is just a really hard version of "kung fu" (which I have heard a guy say before. Fun fact: "gong fu" is just another way of saying "kung fu" -- and neither literally mean "martial art". It just means something that take a lot of time, practice, and skill to do.) But I'm willing to see what I can make of it. Being a bit of a pseudo-athlete gives me that advantage of other yoga instructors, who will tell their students to do hamstring-ripping shit like "roll from plow to boat while still holding onto your feet".

I mean, seriously: who does she think will be able to do that? I'm abnormally flexible and even I would have to let go of my feet during that.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Day 311 of 365: Thankful in Retrospect

From Kindergarten to about Grade 3 or 4, my teachers all had one thing to tell my mom at parent-teacher conferences: "She's smart, but she's exhibiting signs of ADD. We advise you to get her evaluated."

Now, anyone who has spoken with me on a personal level already knows this. I'm not exactly known for my linear train of thought and intense attention span. My elementary school life was one gigantic, "Get A on the test, then get in trouble for doing random and disruptive stuff." Now, that may have been purely because I was bored in school and, instead of being the oldest in the class, I should've been bumped up a grade (and subsequently the youngest in the class -- something you could do in my hometown in the early 90s if you were born within the last few weeks of August or first few in September). That may have been because I didn't have the most stable of home bases and my acting out was my subconscious trying to sort out what a 7-year-old's mind cannot sort out consciously. Who knows. All I know is that my parents poo-pooed the idea of me having ADD, even though, two years later, my then-kindergartener little brother would get the same parent-teacher conference result -- and, within that same year, be diagnosed with ADD and ADHD.

I remember growing up and finding that so unfair. Like a proper firstborn, I couldn't get why certain things were just expected of me, while my little brother was getting his hand held every step of the way.

But, the second I got out into the real world, I realized that, in hindsight, my parents refusing to believe their firstborn had issues with attention and auditory processing was a gift in disguise.

In a perfect world, I would've been given the proper guidance and tutelage, perhaps seeing a specialist to help keep things on track. But this was 1991 - 1996 -- a world where were doctors not only handed out ADD diagnoses like Oprah hands out cars, but personality-changing drugs to boot. I think about how quickly my fellow ADD students were put on Ritalin, and I think about all the issues that came with it. Granted, many of them genuinely needed it, but it made me wonder how many could've gone without it -- how many of them would've been spared the complicated side effects if they had seen specialists and given interpersonal treatment instead of chemical.

But, even then, even if going on medication at the astoundingly young age of 5 or 6 would've been beneficial to me, I think about the attitude that surrounded children with that diagnosis in the 90s: please excuse their behavior, they had ADD/ADHD.

What would my life have been like if, growing up, I had been given that excuse? Please excuse this disruptive behavior; I have ADD. Please excuse this shoddily-done project; I have ADD. Please excuse my inability to Know How to Adult; I have ADD.

And this is where I shift from me being thankful in retrospect to how kids are raised today. It doesn't matter if they have ADD, ADHD, or any number of diagnosable problems. What do we hear from parents these days? "Please excuse my daughter's behavior; she's bored in your class." "Please excuse my son's poor test scores; he doesn't test well." I know one teacher who tried to have a sit-down with a parent about a son's disruptive behavior, only to be told to, "Stop sending these notes home. You are upsetting my son when you do that."

I know so many Millennials who had such a rough transition to the real world -- not because of their ADD, but because their every action had been excused from Day 1. Suddenly, they're in territory where no one cares about their "inability to take tests" or "being bored" or even having ADD/ADHD. People only care about what results you can produce for them. And -- the same way a lot of us had to scramble to actually be "college ready" during our freshman year of college, but that's a rant for another time -- they had to scramble to learn how to take proper responsibility for their actions.

Now, I know this is veering off track (what was that about lack of a linear train of thought?), but this turn is inspired by the phrase, "Please don't be mad." I can't think of a phrase that better encapsulates this ideology of, "Yeah I did this, but I believe I should be excused from all reactions/consequences." I honestly getter madder when I see that phrase, even if it's part of a conversation that does not involve or influence me in the slightest. No, that's not how the world works: you screwed up, you did something careless or shitty or selfish, and now you own up. Don't tell the person you offended, "Please don't be mad."

So, in some weird way, growing up in a household where none of my transgressions were immediately excused or explained away -- even if it meant going a little to the extreme and not addressing what might've needed to be addressed -- was one of the best things to happen to me. I couldn't just shrug my shoulders at the 8th grade teacher, tell her I had ADD and know that my parents would back me up if it ever came to a meeting with the school.

I say all this knowing full well that the medical world has changed dramatically -- that I would never in a million years tell someone to ignore a diagnosis and go about life as originally planned. But I am also saying this knowing full well that the parenting world has changed dramatically as well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Day 310 of 365: Some Days

There are just some days when the well is dry and you are struggling to get even the tiniest sentence out.

This was bound to happen: I spent the last two months downright Juggernauting through my last manuscript. I barely gave myself 12 hours to rest before I was back in the saddle, querying out for M#1 and editing for M#2, pitching to various magazine websites (remember: "e-zine" died with Web 1.0), and writing and talking out every damn opinion I have, from the #YesAllWomen movement to the sudden string of failed drug tests in the MMA world (which I have not posted on this blog, but can be found in opinionated comments throughout the internets -- but, cliffnotes: bravo, high time we clean up the sport) to yet another school shooting (and, at this point, I'm just too exhausting to even comment on anymore). At a certain point, your well is going to run dry.

So this was my morning today:

"I could write about John Oliver's segment on Syria, and how it's dictator is the reincarnation of Macbeth/King Tut. Nah, too esoteric, and I don't have the energy to make the proper comparisons."

"What a lovely day. Let's right about the few spring days we actually get. Wow, how clichéd and pedantic."

"I could write about the various prospects I have going on! Yeah, great idea -- jinx the precarious thing that may or may not happen. Man makes plans and God laughs. So shut up."

So, obviously, this post is just me rambling about how I've tapped out the writing resources. I'm sure something will inspire me tomorrow. Something will happen that will make me go, "Fucking a, I need to write about this."

But, until then, here's this obvious time-waster of a post.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Day 309 of 365: Toning Down the Naivete

So now that M#3 is finally finished, sent to my loyal first readers (aka my husband and my best friend), I'm back in the saddle with my first and second manuscripts. I've been a good chunk of yesterday tearing through my query letter for M#1 (which, at this point, has been torn up and pieced together and rewritten and torn up so many times that I probably wouldn't even recognize the first draft anymore). I got to beef up my "Writing Credentials" section and I changed up the wording in the synopsis for easily the 50th time. I sent out one query today. My goal is to do a slow-and-steady one-or-two-queries-at-a-time pace for M#1. Spray and pray is just a bad idea for using guns, peeing in the woods, and querying agents.

I remember when I sent out my first query. My writing credits were abysmal -- short stories and poems in my university's literary magazine and that was it -- but I kept pressing forward because I believe that an agent would be so enamoured with my story that they'd look past that whole "completely unpublished" part.

On a scale of "One" to "Gullible is Written on the Ceiling", how naïve is that statement?

It's an ugly truth that, unless you are Stephanie-Meyer-possibly-made-a-deal-with-dark-forces levels of fortunate, a "good story" is just not good enough. There's a reason why most authors these days are also TV writers or comedians or celebrities in general. You essentially have to have a ready-made audience before anyone will take a "risk" in getting your work out to an audience.

It's a fun Catch-22: they won't look at, let alone publish, your work unless you have built an audience, and it's hard to built an audience if you're not ever published.

So, this time around, the naivete has been taken down a notch or eight. I no longer think in terms of, "When I get a book deal..." (and, yes, I actually thought like that for a bit). I recognize that how "good" of a story is doesn't really matter much in the grand scheme of things, as disheartening as that can be.

And I also recognize that my credentials are still paltry (or poultry) compared to other people my age and in my exact same situation. But hey, we all have to start somewhere.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Day 308 of 365: Holy Sweet Frijoles, I Finished M#3

I don't know how I did it, but in the span of about a month, I went from having three more chapters to do, two three more scenes, to three more pages, to three more paragraphs.

And now, I have three manuscripts.

This is easily the fastest book I have ever written, from conception to realization. My first book spent a staggering two years just mucking around inside my brain, before I spent another year and some change writing it. My second -- while essentially written during NaNoWriMo and half of December -- was first thought of as I was rounding out my first year as a teacher. I'd write about 7,000 words in 2011, only to let it gather dust for a solid year before NaNoWriMo of 2012. I actually started thinking about manuscript #3 during NaNoWriMo of 2012, but wouldn't actually do anything until NaNoWriMo of 2013. And while the manuscript gathered dust for three or four months, it is finally, finally, finally finished.

So what's next in store for me? Well, for one, I get the privilege of not doing anything with M#3 for the rest of the summer. A good rule of thumb is to create distance between you and your work and not try to edit while still in the post-writing afterglow. I'll send it out to my husband and my best friend to read (since they are the only people allowed to read anything of mine when it is still in the first draft, the ramblings in this blog not included), and that's about it to M#3.

But that doesn't mean I'm done with my novel-writing world just yet.

This means I can go at it again with my first manuscript, as well as edit the crap out of my second (the editing process got dropped halfway through in favor of NaNoWriMo 2013, and then the ABNA, and then life). My fingers are crossed that my bigger writing résumé will help me land an agent and maybe -- oh man, just maybe -- an actual book deal. But I also recognize that the cards are stacked against me -- that people will buy a Real Housewives memoir and the books on that first table at B&N and that's about it. But I have to try, regardless. And I self-publish, I self-publish. But I want to be that writer who talks about her hundreds of query letters, her relentless drive forward, and maybe her eventual circumnavigation around an industry that -- let's be real, here -- is becoming too old-fashioned for its own good.

On a much less exciting note, I also finished my anatomy class, culminating in my little group presentation on flexibility, Golgi tendons, and PNF stretching. I'm less than 60 (!!) days before I'm done with this little project. It kind of blows my mind that the things that have taken up so much of my life for so many months -- one of them going on almost a year *cough* -- are finishing up. There's something oddly poetic about all of this happening at once. I'd like to think that this year away from the "Real World" and a year of necessary milestones and transformations (going back to school for yoga, getting my little ebook out, moving and settling into the house, writing out M#3). It seems fitting that so much would finish on roughly the one-year anniversary of when I quit teaching, and everything else will wrap around the one-year anniversary of when my first essay was published on TC.

I'm definitely interested in seeing what the rest of the future holds. It's definitely an exciting -- albeit frightening -- time for me right now. But if life doesn't scare you a little bit, then there's something you're not doing right.

And now -- off to edit M#2!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Day 307 of 365: La Noticia

Learning Spanish has been a slow and steady endeavor. In some ways, I feel like I'm on the right track. In other ways, I feel like I'm way behind, especially given the amount of spare time I now have (especially since I'm not training for a marathon, or even a half-marathon -- or running in general). I've been trying to trick my brain into thinking I need to learn Spanish more than I actually do. The GPS in my car is set to Spanish, I've been listening to more Spanish-language music (which, by the way, the more I listen to Shakira's Spanish-language music, the less I can stand the English-language variations. It's almost like she can figure out beat and flow better in her native tongue, or something).

And now, I'm adding CNN Español to the mix.

I thought about getting Spanish-language books (especially Pablo Neruda books of poetry), but I decided on the news instead. Why? Because the news is written so that anyone with a fourth grade reading level can understand what's going on. No worries about large or obscure words -- or any slang or colloquialisms -- just simplistic retelling of the news so that any moron (or anyone who doesn't actually speak the language) can understand it.

So that's my new addition to my Spanish learning endeavor. Now, on top of trying to do at least one Rosetta Stone lesson a day, I'm attempting to read at least one article from CNN Español to the mix (why CNN? Because MSNBC and FoxNews are both horrifically biased in their own ways and Reuters has a habit of actually writing intelligently, making it harder for us morons/non-native speakers to comprehend what's going on).

Some stuff is starting to sink in. My GPS will tell me, "hágase a la izquierda," and, instead of trying to remember what "izquierda" means, I'm instinctively making a gripping motion with my right hand to remember which side is which (which is depressing that I'm 27 and still need reminders on left versus right -- although I rest easy knowing I'm not exactly the only person who holds a pretend pen to remember which side is which). And that's when you know the language is actually starting to make a home in your mind: you've stopped desperately trying to translate and you just think in the words you know -- even if that number of words is pathetically small.

It will be interesting to see what happens when teacher training is done and I finish this third manuscript. Granted, I plan on diving right back into the agency/publishing hunt for my first manuscript once this puppy is finally done (all the while relishing in the advice that you do nothing with your manuscript for at least three months after it's completed). And, granted, I'm hoping to replace those hours in training with hours with an actual job at a studio or gym (or dojo, or after school in the gymnasium). But, maybe I'll be able to devote a little more time to learning the language my husband grew up with (and that I've been oddly attracted to since, ironically enough, I quit Spanish in high school to learn Latin).

At the very least, this has been a great excuse to listen to Shakira's "La La La (Adentro)" a million times and shake my hips like I'm the queen of belly dancing herself.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Day 306 of 365: Soft and Unassuming

I've been talking with one of my friends about the harsh realities of the dating world. I know I lucked out tremendously, in that I haven't had to deal with those rocky waters for going on nearly a decade. But that doesn't mean I'll refrain from calling bullshit when I see what's going on with my single friends.

My friend's biggest problem right now is guys are intimidated by her. She's a bit of a rocker chick, she's smart, and she can outsmart you in hockey Q&A any day of the week. She's had guys tell her a whole list of reasons why they aren't going to make their dating more "official" -- I believe I ranted about this a while ago with my "too sexy" post. Lately guys have been telling her to tone down her overall personality, because guys don't want a smart-aleck chick who can banter with the best of them. They want "soft and unassuming".

And in case I haven't said it before, I'll say it now: if you want soft and unassuming, get a puppy.

Like I told my friend, it's good when guys who feel that way say what they're thinking out loud. It lets you know right off the bat that this isn't a guy who is looking for his partner in crime; he's looking for someone to smile and nod and stroke his ego (among other things). And what type of relationship is that?

I've been told I'm intimidating my entire life. It might be why, for the first 24+ years of it, I did everything in my power to be as soft and unassuming to the outside world as possible (constantly downplaying yourself does wonders for your self esteem, by the way). When I was a retail slave, it was always my job to confront shoplifters, because what's more intimidating than a 5'11" girl with broad shoulders hovering over you?

Then I started getting to yoga, tai chi, and martial arts in general. Suddenly my shoulders grew even broader because of all my chatarungas. I could imagine what Alternative Universe Unmarried Me would be dealing with in the dating world, being tall as all getout, with muscular legs and defined shoulders. I could hear the guys making jokes about being in the WWE, or maybe a wisecrack or two about being able to beat them up. Enough to make you want to dress like a flower child with long skirts and peasant shirts.

And what does my husband say when I point out how big my shoulders have become? "Well, better do some bicep and tricep exercises to keep the amount of strength balanced in your arms."

So -- surprise, motherfuckers -- this post is now about me gushing about my husband. Because not once has my husband ever wished I "toned down" my intellect, or "toned down" what others would find intimidating. In fact, he would routinely call me out when I would play down whatever it is I was trying to play down, telling me point-blank that those are all traits I should be proud of instead.

That's what you need. You need someone who sees what you bring to the table and, instead of asking you to dial it back, matches it without blinking an eye. This obviously excludes things like emotional manipulation or lashing out or anything within that realm of behavior. But a smart chick shouldn't be told to act dumb; she should find a smart guy that she can riff with. A strong woman shouldn't be told to be more "soft"; she should find a strong man who respects what she can do, physically or otherwise.

It's exhausting to see the dating world filled with so many egocentric narcissists who would have the gall to say, "No, what you are is wrong -- and I know this because I'm not attracted to it." But hey, they're looking for soft and unassuming, and if they can't get that in a terrier or retriever, they'll get it in their girlfriend.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Day 305 of 365: The Very Last Chapter

After trudging through paragraph after paragraph, wondering how in the world I could ever get this book done during this millennia, I have somehow made it to the very last chapter of this manuscript.

My goal was to finish the novel around the same time as I finished my teacher training (so, August). It was originally three chapters in three months, which was about the rate I was writing this daggone book. But now I am with a little under a chapter to go.

From conception to realization, this is easiest my quickest manuscript to date. The first manuscript stayed swirled in my head for nearly 2 or 3 years before I finally used a writing workshop class to flesh (at least some of) it out. Not including editing (which is still going on to this day), I'd say the first manuscript took about 5 years to complete. The idea for the second manuscript came halfway through my first year of teaching, but didn't get past the 5,000-word mark until November of 2012, when I went balls to the wall and turned 5,000 words into 80,000 by the end of December.

The idea for this book came roughly around the same time as NaNoWriMo of 2012 -- but I didn't start writing it until the summer of 2013. I added in a sweet 30,000 words during NaNoWriMo 2013 and then hit the skids immediately after. For three months, the manuscript was not so much as looked at, let alone added to. Granted, I was devoting my time to getting my first manuscript ready for the ABNA and finishing my modeling essay project for Thought Catalog, but, still: excuses, excuses.

So now I have a new goal: finish this book before I go off to DC/NYC, which is in a little over three weeks. Three weeks for three-fourths of a chapter? It's harder than you'd realize.

But I'm ready for it. One of the things preventing me from just finding any office assistant job that would have me was this driving feeling that I need to use this time to write. Finishing this manuscript means having yet another story idea finally fleshed out. Finishing this manuscript means I can finally go back to my first manuscript and try at it again, this time with a much more impressive writing résumé under my belt.

And finishing this manuscript means I might just have more time to devote to this whole "yoga teaching" thing, which I'm praying will take off once training finishes up and September hits.

As I say way too often: we shall see.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Day 304 of 365: Hey Notice the Numbers?

So something happened in the last few days that I hadn't really paid attention to until now: I'm finally in the 300s with this project.

I guess that's what happens when you actually have things to write about. But here we are, so much into the final stretch that the first number is starting to look like the second.

I know I should save the full retrospection for the last entry, but I can't help but indulge a little bit: roughly this time last year (save for two months), I decided to kick my butt and do something about writing, combining one professor's assignment of a blog post a day for 90 days and the 365 projects that photographers do. It's been arduous (incredibly arduous) at times, especially when we first moved into the house and we had absolutely no internet -- or during NaNoWriMo, when there were some days where just the sheer thought of writing one more word drove me to exhaustion.

I'm happy that this is the year I decided to try this project. It's been a transformative year, to say the least: I was only two months out from leaving the teaching world, I had just moved into our very first house, and I was trying to figure out just WTF I was doing. I finally began teaching tai chi (after a year of goading by my own instructor), I had my first (e)book published, and I started yoga teacher training. Before this project is done, this blog will also document my anniversary trip to DC and my friend's wedding in NYC/Long Island. It should also document finishing training and possibly -- possibly -- a trip to Montreal (because, FFS, I am only a five-hour drive to the city) but that plan is as up in the air as the possibly teaching yoga to teachers, so we shall see.

So obviously this post is a bit of a cop-out, and I'm okay with that. With 61 more entries to go, I think I earned/deserve a freebie post or two.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Day 303 of 365: What Makes You Different

So I'm rounding out the last few months of my training, which means I need to start thinking about life outside of "Yoga School". They were right in saying that yoga teacher training is transformative in and of itself, and there's a part of me that really will miss the classes. But I'm also anxious to start getting ready to actually teach.

The training ends at a great time: in August, just as the summer ends and people are heading back to school -- and the gym. I've been in talks about potentially doing yoga for teachers (which is so much in the earliest phases of development that I almost don't feel right talking about it as a viable plan. Almost). I also plan to hit the ground running again, talking with martial art studios -- only instead of trying to hawk my tai chi class, I'll be trying to hawk yoga for martial artists.

There are so many yoga teachers in this world -- way more than there are full-time positions available (which is why the majority of us are independent contractors). And the current trend really is, "I'll just quit my job and become a yoga teacher!" Which, to be honest, is about as foolhardy as, "I'll just quit my job and become a writer!" Granted, I essentially did both, but I'm also in a financial situation where I can do whimsical shit like this without worrying (too much, at least) about how I'm going to pay the bills.

The thing that should be on every aspiring teacher or writer's mind should be, "How do I set myself apart?" There are a million wannabe yogis and a million-plus wannabe writers. Everyone claims they are great, but very few have the chops to back it up (and even fewer outside people have the patience to verify your claims). What can you do to make you noticeable?

While my staggeringly meager four-year tenure as a teacher turned out to be an abysmal failure and my time as a tai chi instructor has been a frustrating situation in terms of gaining regular students, this background gives me something over the typical college kiddo who dives into yoga training to avoid the real world: I can offer classes tailored for those frenzied, overworked teachers and I can offer classes tailored for martial artists. I have the background to understand exactly where those teachers are coming from and I have the background to know what would and wouldn't work in a class set for martial artists.

So that's what I'm hoping for when it comes to officially register myself as a yoga instructor. The world might be filled to the brim with enough yoga instructors to fill every gym in the tri-city area, but maybe there's a place for yoga instructors who have a keen eye and kind heart for the overworked teacher and the devoted martial artist.

We shall see.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Day 302 of 365: How Improper Yoga is Making You More Inflexible

This is the part where I should start breaking down why, scientifically, improper yoga is leading to a decrease in physical mobility. Well, sorry: no can do. If you need something scientific or else you're ready to yell, "Click bait!", then here you go: here's a fascinating article on the science behind flexibility, which points out that fast, abrupt stretches will actually hinder your ability to gain flexibility.

Well, now that we have that out of the way, let's get to the meat of this essay: let's talk about how improper yoga is making you inflexible.

When it comes to increasing physical mobility, yoga cannot be beat. From the balance of strength-building and stretching to the long, slow movements paired with long, slow breaths, to the repetitive postures and a keen eye for alignment, yoga has the potential to transform you from the inside out.

But the key word, here, is "potential". It's time to pay attention to the classes your taking, the attitude of your teachers, and -- most importantly -- your own attitude, because improper yoga can lead to an increase in mental inflexibility.

We've all taken that class before: the one where the instructor immediately jumps into the hardest possible poses without taking any time to show the modifications. You can downfeel feel the air of competition in the room, and all you can do is think, "If I could only get my leg to do this... if I could only make my arms to this..." Without even knowing it, we put a value on the fullest expression and berate ourselves for not getting there.

I once heard a yoga instructor talk about people with enough bendy-stretchy going on that they could join Cirque du Soleil, but with a mind that was as rigid and immobile as a plank of wood. How easy it is to get into the habit of pushing ourselves past our means, purely because we feel like yoga is supposed to "look" a certain way.

I mean, if we can't gracefully flow into dancer's pose without a hint of imbalance, what are we doing there, am I right?

A proper yoga class is for the mind and spirit as much as it is for the body. This includes allowing your brain to be flexible, accepting your limits without judgment. This means letting go of competition -- especially that competition with yourself -- and modifying a pose until it suits you best. Maybe that's the fullest expression of the pose. Maybe not. Maybe some days one variation works and some days it doesn't. A common saying is, "Yoga without breathing is just kalisthenics." I'd go one step further and say, "Yoga without the right mindset is just a set up for injury."

So look around you -- at the class, at the video on your laptop or TV screen, at the teacher leading the sequence, and at yourself. Is there anything going on that is making you lock up your brain, feeling like you must get into bakasana or else your practice isn't "real" yoga? It might be time to see if we can let go of more than just the tension in our body as we go into our stretching postures.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Day 301 of 365: Better Than That

Any professional fiction writer will tell you that you need to invest as much time to reading as you do to writing -- if not more so. As Stephen King so bluntly points out, if you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time to write. But sometimes, reading can be the biggest roadblock to writing.

I have read a string of really, really bad books. Granted, there were a few gems interspersed, but I'd say for every good book I've read in the last year, I've read about 3 or 4 absolute crap ones.

I've been trying to read within the genre that I am currently writing in -- "intelligent chick literature", for lack of a better term -- and that has been a colossal failure. And that was somewhat to be expected: sometimes you can't tell intelligent chick literature from the standard crap beach read until you're already 100 pages in. But what got me was when I was picking up critically acclaimed books -- or books that had won international contests -- and was still sighing at the weak storyline and poor characters.

Shitty books will make you want to stop reading -- but how could they make you want to stop writing as well? Especially when you are reading the drivel in front of you and going, "I can do better than that"?

Because of that very reason: you can do better than that, and yet your books are digital files in a folder instead of in paperback at Barnes & Noble.

Because this person got a book deal -- be it because they were a writer on a TV show or because they got Twitter famous or because they seriously looked out and snagged not only representation, but a deal -- and you have been querying agents for as long as you can remember. Because this person won a contest with their book and you can't even get past the first gate. Because you have poured your blood, sweat, tears, and talent into your writing and your manuscripts still go unread. Which makes you think about every time a website has rejected you, only to post "10 Things I Totally Wish My Crush Did" instead.

It can throw you into a serious tizzy. It reminds you we live in a world of Twilight and 50 Shades. We don't live in a Pride & Prejudice world anymore. We don't even live in a Life of Pi world anymore. We live in a world where the majority of the books that prosper are young adult, because people like "reading something at their level" (and I mean -- really, people? I get hating James Joyce -- I do, too -- but are you honestly shunning mainstream adult books in favor of books that can be read at a fourth grade reading level?).

It's enough to make you want to give up.

But the key here is going back to that first remark -- the "I can do better than that" -- and holding onto it for dear life. Trudging forward because you know that, while you might not exactly win a Pulitzer for your writer, it is damn better than a lot of the drivel that is published. You have a story to tell and you are not about to give up, especially since people are spending their time reading garbage that might actually be killing brain cells.

I feel like I say it a lot, but you realize that you just have to keep on keeping on. I might not have received any representation, but my ability to write queries has increased significantly and my writing résumé has been slowly building up. And maybe I end up self-publishing my first two manuscripts, but the world is shifting and more and more people are looking favorably to the self-publishing world. And maybe that will be just what I need to properly sell a book to a publisher.

Or maybe I never do and gain only the tiniest readership because of it. Or maybe that tiny audience reads my stuff and maybe -- just maybe -- they go, "Well, that was a breath of fresh air."

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Day 300 of 365: What is Beautiful

There are a lot of things people don't normally tell you when you buy a home. They joke about mortgage people putting you through the ringer, but they don't tell you that the mortgage people will be monitoring your every move and asking for a formal letter every time you make a large deposit or withdrawal. People neglect to tell you that you will spend an arm, a leg, and four or five weekends at Home Depot, buying all the things you never even thought twice about when renting (like a long ladder, a shovel, a weed whacker...).

And sometimes there are things that no one -- not even those blogs dedicated to first-time homeownership -- will ever talk about: like when you experience springtime in your house for the first time and you genuinely do not know which plants are annuals, which plants are perennials, and which plants are weeds.

The previous owners of this house were avid gardeners. Which I am not complaining about: one of the things that drew me into this abode was the beautiful landscape. However, I spent most of April wonder which plants would stay dead and which plants would spring back to life like the phoenix. And after I figured that out, I had to figure out which plants would bloom into beautiful flowers and which plants were just weeds.

Then I had the task of removing the weeds from our walkway. In this case, a weed was anything that was attempting to grow in between the stonework. This included planned-out plants that had pollinated and were somehow able to spread into less hospitable regions.

This whole gardening experience made me think about what we consider to be beautiful. Here I was, looking at these plants, wondering to myself, "Should I consider you ugly?" Here I was, looking at plants that were considered beautiful under very set parameters, and going, "Sorry, but you make our house look unkempt if I don't kill you off."

It's the same way a kid loves to pick dandelions and genuinely cannot understand why their mom is less than thrilled to see them in their backyard. What is so bad about dandelions, aside from the fact that they proliferate at an absurdly high rate? Is their commonality that only thing keeping them from being adored like their lilac counterparts (practical vegetable gardening issues aside)?

I know this post is about two sentences away from telling everyone to link hands around the world and sing, "Kumbaya." But it's absolutely fascinating to stop and really think about what we consider beautiful. There are certain things our brains will biologically gravitate towards -- patterns, symmetry, the "golden ratio" -- but what about everything else? We certainly don't adore gardenias over dandelions because of symmetry.

Just something to ponder while you join hands and sing campfire songs. Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya... Hey, pass the granola my way.