Thursday, July 31, 2014

Day 360 of 365: Write or Simmer

As I've mentioned before, I've been playing around with a possible story idea for this year's NaNoWriMo. It's the first time I've ever had to actually think about and unwind a story; usually the story idea grows in my the back of my mind until I can't take it anymore and realize that I need to write it out. This time, I have the background, but not much else. And I've been attempting those "interview with myself" moments while I'm drinking my morning coffee (and, at the recommendation of my husband, going out to our underused farmer's porch to do it). Ideas have been rethought, scrapped, revised... it's getting to the point that I might actually have a proper synopsis on my hands.

So the question is: do I let it simmer or do I attempt to get everything out on paper?

Every writer is different. Some love layouts; others love dropping their characters into a situation and figuring out alongside the protagonist how shit will sort out. Some people love making detailed character profiles; others just play it by ear. Given that the past three manuscripts were essentially ideas that hung out in the back of my mind until I was ready to write them out, I'm more of a "simmer" type of person. But the situation is completely different now. Now, I'm trying to actually think stuff up.

The best advice I've ever been given as a writer is also some of the vaguest: if you need to write an outline, write an outline. If you need to not, don't. If you have to think up the entire story arc first, do it. If you don't, don't.

Every writer, every situation, every storyline is going to be different, and it's okay to play it by ear or plan it out or whatever. And maybe I can let this count toward my, "do something writing-related that isn't this blog" -- a blog project that finishes in five days, holy shit.

Either way, I think I need to spend more time swinging on the bench on my farmer's porch, sipping on my coffee before the weather gets muggy. For pure literary reasons, of course.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Day 359 of 365: Not a Choice, Pt 2

So, somewhere along the line, I got complacent with my writing.

I don't know if it's because I've been going balls-to-the-wall ever since the fall, or because other events are slowly growing in my life, but somewhere along the line, I stopped challenging myself.

For the last month or so, I've been more than happy with posting in this blog and nothing else. Even though I haven't really been writing anything that I could use as a base for an article, I would write my daily thing and be happy with just that. I'd look at the dwindling days and pat myself on the back, seemingly okay with finishing up the project and nothing else. I'd look at all the things I'm putting into place at the moment -- finishing up teacher training, slowly building my class schedule and clientele -- and I'd look at all the things I've already done. I would attempt to edit M#2 or submit M#1 to an agency, only to fall short in record time.

But I'm attempting to get back on the right track by telling myself the exact same thing I did when I started this blog: it's not a choice.

So, whether it's editing or coming up with article ideas or submitting M#1 or editing M#2, I And it doesn't matter if I'm busy that day or not feeling particularly creative. It's not a choice.

Because I can only be indignant about the state of the writing world if I'm actively trying to do something. I can't roll my eyes about the dying publishing world and the growing illiteracy if I'm standing still with my writing. Someday, regardless of my level of success, I don't ever want to look back and realize that I could've done more. Granted, there's always some more you can technically do, but I never want to feel like I rested on my laurels.

I never want to say that I stayed complacent.

So I'm off to edit an article that has been gathering dust for months now. Because it's not a choice. Again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Day 358 of 365: Homeless Services Pt 2

Five people were signed up for the class, but only one ended up showing. I had just sat in on a class that I will to be a substitute for in a few days, and I ended up essentially copying her sequence for my class. I'm still finding it a challenge to create and teach gentle sequences for beginners or people with limited mobility. Before I got serious about teaching yoga, I hadn't taken a gentle or beginner class in years.

A second person showed up to the class about five minutes after it started, went through a few poses, and immediately left, talking about how his shoulders hurt and he'd probably have to go to the hospital. After the class, the director would tell me that that particular person most likely had nothing wrong with his shoulder. Apparently it's incredibly common for that individual to back out of things, using whatever dramatic excuse he can muster.

My one student was incredibly inquisitive and ended up telling me about the various meditation techniques he does. Aside from the fact that he immediately popped out of the final resting pose, the rest of the class is incredibly uneventful. I thank and say good-bye to the people in the offices and make my way outside.

Outside, a couple in a few of the plastic chairs by the entrance yell out, "Hey! Where you going?" I laugh and yell back, "Home!" -- which I immediately cringe at. Over to my right is a guy from my first class sitting in another plastic seat. Last week, he was essentially the yoga helper, rounding up people who were interested in the class but had been given the wrong time. This week, he's slumped back with a glazed over expression on his face.

I run into the director on my way to the parking lot, and we end up talking about the class and what we could expect in terms of attendance. After a few minutes, the guy who attended class last week gets up from his chair and saunters over, apologizing for missing the class. He then tells us about a fight that happened in the park last night -- a nearby park where the homeless now congregate at ever since the hours were cut back at the homeless services center. He's slurring his words and drooling out the left side of his mouth.

The center itself is essentially deserted. Aside from people signed up to attend my class, no one is allowed in the center after 1 pm now. The director had warned me that there will be days where people are in my class purely as an opportunity to stay inside. On a day like today, when the weather is perfect, I might not see much of that, but once winter hits, there will be a lot of people in my class purely to be in a heated place.

Before the director and I say our goodbyes, a tall man with a scowl on his face walks past. He gives the director a curt, "hey," before walking down the street. When he's out of earshot, the director tells me that particular guy specializes in getting with the homeless women in the area, only to attempt to pimp them out for drug money. When things inevitably go awry, he sees nothing wrong with beating them senseless. He's apparently gone through 5 different "girlfriends" in the last 6 months. The director tells me that he tries to step in and help the women, but most of them came from horrific and abusive backgrounds, and the cycle of violence is stronger than one guy's words.

I make my drive back home, past the park where every bench has at least two or three homeless people on them. The officials wants them out of the parks, but also wants to scale back on shelters and services. As if there's a dividing line in the city, I quickly go from the "bad" neighborhood to "good". Before long, I'm driving past recently-created neighborhoods with 3000 square foot homes lined up and down the streets. I get to my own neighborhood and collapse on my couch. As we had learned yesterday, there have been a few burglaries in our neighborhood in the past few months. The neighborhood watch is on high alert and apparently a few teenagers have already been caught attempting to break into another house. For the first time since we bought the house, I'm more aware of locking doors behind me, closing easily-accessible windows, and keeping my laptop out of plain view.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Day 357 of 365: Always on the Brink

It's not exactly an easy time in the world. The body count in the Israeli/Gaza attacks keep creeping up, Russia is making us all invoke Gowdin's Law... and then there's the ongoing issues, like the bloody civil war in Syria, the frightening anti-semitism in countries like Greece (and Russia...geez...)... Combine that with the precarious position that every other first world nation is in (including America), and it's easy to think we're on the brink.

And, hell, maybe we are. Maybe we're about to see what the global version of post-empire Rome looks like. Or maybe we've been "on the brink" for centuries now.

Today marks the 100-year anniversary of the start of WW1. I wonder how many people growing up in the early 1900s saw what was happening in WW1, and then WW2, and felt that the world was on the brink of collapse. I wonder how many people who are part of the Baby Boomer generation looked at the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis and Watergate and felt that the world was about to collapse in on itself.

You can honestly go back to every single religion from any single region on Earth: there is always some prophesy about the world ending, and it always is prophesied to end within those particular people's lifetimes. Maybe it's evolutionary, maybe it's built into our DNA for a reason, but, either way, feeling like things are about to end is part and parcel of the human experience.

And maybe it's for the best: I mean, this is finite. Our lives our finite, this planet is finite -- shit, this universe is finite. And pretending it will last forever even in the abstract is an exercise in despair (and I swear this isn't me trying to get all nihilistic. From a biological standpoint, this shit gun end). Worrying that things are going to end forces us to appreciate the now. I know after, say, reading an article on peak oil, I can't help but feel incredibly appreciative that -- at least for now -- I can just drive around in my car.

Only time will tell what happens with us. Maybe Russia starts WW3. Maybe the conflict in the Middle East boils over into the rest of the world. Maybe the sun goes supernova tomorrow and we're all good and cooked. Who knows.

All I know is that you have to appreciate today for exactly what it is, even if part of that day involves watching the news and shaking your head.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day 356 of 365: Walking Out With A Job

I walked into the Open House for the studio I teach tai chi at and I walked out with a substitute job.

This whole "waiting out the summer" has been a huge frustration for me. Aside from the fact that summer is a hard time for the fitness world, people tend to frown upon hiring someone who is "finishing up" her 200-hour RYT training, especially when there are a million other yoga instructors looking for some extra gigs.

And then there's the fact that practically no one wants to learn tai chi during the summer, which has caused me to scale back tremendously. You would think I would be all about that: get the summer essentially off in a situation where I'm not in financial need of getting a steady job. But I take pride in this new career I'm building for myself and I'm not a fan of taking a few steps back, even temporarily.

So, I started talking with someone who also teaches at the studio. Within two minutes, we realize that we're both part of the same yoga teacher training program, only she's in the 500-hour program and I'm in the 200-hour program. She then tells me that she is going to need a substitute for a few weeks, starting in October, and wanted to know if I would be interested. She told me she was thinking of just cancelling the classes, but she would be okay with having someone who already knows the studio to step in.

A temporary sub job isn't exactly landing a major timeslot at a popular studio, but I will take it. We all have to start somewhere. And I'm excited for all the opportunities I have been getting before I fully complete my training. It's something I can easily forget when the potential opportunities are few and far between (and I never hear back from them, not even for a quick phone interview).

For me, it's not a case of bringing in a little extra money (although, when you have a mortgage and a car payment looming over your head, additional income is always welcome). I am a neurotic, high-strung individual. But I am not that when I am practicing or teaching yoga. Yoga helped keep my head on straight even as I dealt with some of the most grueling times in my life, and I want to pass some of that peace of mind on. It's why I want to teach beginners, even though they're actually some of the most difficult people to teach. It's why my fingers are crossed about being able to teach yoga to, well, teachers, because I remember how important going to class after a particularly nasty day was for me.

So while I don't expect people to start lining up to try out my tai chi class, I'm pretty psyched that I have another yoga gig in development. It's been an insane, zig-zagged path, but I have faith that it's bringing me to where I'm supposed to be.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Day 355 of 365: Milo and the Pea

Let me tell you a story about Milo and the pea.

Yesterday I'm eating a heaping plateful of peas (because that's what happens when you have too many leftovers; sometimes you have meals of straight peas). Milo comes up to me to beg for food. Now, some cats beg by sitting next to you with an expectant glare, as if they're going to Jedi mind trick you into giving them your food ("This is not the chicken you are looking for."). Other cats will put a tentative paw on you, with big dopey eyes that are so pitiful that you can almost hear the cockneyed, "Pleez, ser, ah wun sum morwah." And other cats are assholes, shoving their wet nose into your skin and headbutting your arm to get whatever they want.

Milo falls into the asshole category.

After the fifth or sixth snot attack from Milo, I decide to give him exactly what he's asking, which is whatever it is I have on my plate. I give him a pea, expecting him to do the usual Milo behavior when it comes to vegetable: attempt to eat it, spit it out, try again, spit it out again, all the while looking at the vegetable with a betrayed/confused look that says, "Why are you not food?"

I place the pea down on the floor and watch as he starts this usual ritual. I go back to eating my food and suddenly feel a cold nose on my arm again. I look down, and the pea is gone.

Okay then, you fat chihuahua with identity issues, I think to my cat. If it's peas you want, it will be peas you get.

So I give him yet another pea, and watch as yet another pea disappears into the empty void that is Milo's stomach. I give him another, and another, and yet another, and watch him gobble it up as if I had given him kibble.

Looking back, this was probably not the smartest move, as giving cat some unknown-to-his-digestive-system vegetable. Thankfully a quick Google search after the fact showed that peas (in small doses) are actually okay for cats (also, you're welcome NSA for now getting to have, "Can cats eat peas?" as part of my internet browsing file). But, regardless, this further proves that I have a cat who does not know How To Cat.

However, this means only bad news for me. The days of defending my food from asshole begging cats by showcasing the foods that are not supposed to be appealing to cats are long over. Looks like I just need to eat my meals with long sleeves now.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Day 354 of 365: The Power of Lists

There are some days where I am just on top of my shit, getting shit done, making shit work. And then there are days when I don't do shit.

The difference between the days where shit gets done and days where I don't do shit all boils down to one thing: lists. Did I make a list of things to do that day?

Certain things are given: if I'm teaching a class, I already know the time frames that I need to have open in order to do my job. But, given that a solid chunk of what I do these days is in the freelance or student department (which doesn't exactly create a set schedule for you), I am given a lot of weird open time to do with as I please. And -- like I've said before -- I'm not exactly an intrinsically motivated person; I just really like getting results and am willing to kick my own ass to get them.

Without lists, I can get pretty directionless. I know there are some things I gotta get done, and I might halfass a few of those things, but that's about it. Because, again, I'm not inherently motivated. With a list, I know exactly what shit I should be doing today and I know the steps I need to take to get those jobs done.

Maybe you can blame my obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Maybe you can blame my ADD. Maybe you can blame the fact that I am so pro-results that I tend to scatter myself, which leaves me with a lot of half-finished projects and no gains. Either way, making a list can really make a difference.

And you know what's been on every list? "Write blog post." The frightening thing is, is that, in about ten or so days, I won't have that as part of my list. Frightening.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day 353 of 365: This Is My Nightmare

Well, that's a bit extreme, but in terms of reading a certain book, it doesn't get any worse than this for me.

My husband has been slowly but surely getting me into the world of Sci Fi/Fantasy. And there has been some reasonable success: I loved The Darkside series, and Patrick Rothfuss is easily one of my favorite writers of all time (if you don't check out his books, at least check out his blog. He has a seriously Whedonesque sense of humor). There's one particular book he has been trying to get me to read since forever: The Way of Kings. He even bought me a copy and had it signed by the author himself, with the message, "Now you have to read it."

During the height of teacher training, I had no time to read. Between essentially a textbook a month plus anatomy homework, the last thing I wanted to do was look at more print. But with school winding down, I'm finding more time to actually do some reading. And I'm excited to get back into actual reading. I've noticed that it has been downright agony trying to get any editing done as of late -- and I've also noticed that there is a strong correlation between the amount I read and the amount I write or edit.

So, after dealing with some seriously horrendous books, I finally give The Way of Kings a stab. It's been at the bottom of my pile, even though my husband is super excited for me to read it, even though the author signed it with a demand o' reading for me.

And why? Because I am very particular when it comes to the types of books I read. And I don't mean genre or style (although keep me the fuck away from Twilight et al). But I prefer trade paperbacks over mass market. No, strike that: I downright hate mass market. And the bigger the page count, the more my disdain shows through. Small print + thin pages = eyesore Abby.

Plus, I have been leary of fantasy novels because of the huge info dump that usually happens in the first chapter. "Alright, within 20 pages you are going to learn about this particular brand of magic, the races of people that live on this planet, the lineage of the royalty who live there, and -- oh yeah -- all the characters, who have crazy fucking names."

So... guess what The Way of Kings has? You guessed it: it's a 1200-page mass market paperback with a massive info dump within the first 50 pages.

My. Nightmare.

But I'm pressing forward anyway. The last time I trusted my husband with a book, I became a Patrick Rothfuss fanatic. My husband is also the reason I'm fanatical about Joss Whedon in the first place. I trust his judgment. But I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't cringing over sloughing through that first 50 pages, while squinting my eyes and turning thin pages.

Here's to hoping this all works out. Who knows: maybe I'll end up a Brandon Sanderson fan at the end of this.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 352 of 365: The Great North

A long time ago -- long before this blog existed -- I made the move across the border to a town called Nashua. The move itself wasn't that extreme: we were only 45 minutes from our slightly-north-of-Boston apartment, and we were literally a stone's throw from Massachusetts (step to the edge of the apartment property, huck a stone, watch it hit Massachusetts territory. I never tried it, but I'm confident it would work). But somehow that seemed to open up the rest of New England for me. Friends would come up to visit me and we'd spend our day driving to Portsmouth, Concord, towns up the Maine seacoast, etc, etc.

Maybe it's because Boston is as egocentric as it gets (I love my city, but sometimes you gotta call a spade a spade) and the idea of just nonchalantly going to, say, Vermont, just because, seems out of our wheelhouse. It's far easier to go Down The Cape instead, even though that's the same drive (and possibly longer because Rt 3 traffic south of Boston is where cars and dreams go to die).

My husband and I have been getting into the habit of just going on drives -- not exactly out of the ordinary, given our love of road trips -- and seeing what the little towns around Manchester and Concord and Portsmouth have to offer. These types of drives never happened when we lived in the Boston area but, then again, who would want to drive around congested streets for fun?

And somehow, moving more up north helped crack open the wonders of traveling through the Great North, crossing borders and exploring places I might not have thought of exploring before. There's something about removing an hour to an hour and a half of travel that suddenly opens the doors to areas you would've considered a big to do to get to before.

Which is what we're doing right now. I'm keeping mum about the details of our next little adventure, at least publicly. One, I hate talking about plans unless they're already in the process of coming to fruition (and even then, I worry about jinxing things) -- and, two, I was recently made privy by a friend to a very interesting set of coincidences, facilitated by someone who has a history of shamelessly copying what I do, so I think I'll wait until we're packing our bags to talk about that.

But, regardless, it's thrilling to recognize just how much of this region feels more open for travel. Whether that's because we once drove to San Francisco and back (and drive yearly to Ohio) and therefore what's a 3 - 8-hour drive seems like nothing ("what, we're only driving for one day, and we could be there before dinner? Sign me up!"), or because crossing the Massachusetts border really did kick the egocentric habit of treating anything outside of the Boston area as a huge thing to plan out, I don't know. All I know is that I feel the need to quote Calvin & Hobbes: It's a magical world out there ... let's go exploring.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day 351 of 365: Homeless Services

When I walked into the Homeless Services Center, I heard one guy holler, "You're the yoga instructor? Well, sign me up for yoga!" I laughed it off and walked over to the front desk lady, asking where the director was.

For all my concerns about teaching yoga at a homeless services place (which is a lot different than a homeless shelter), I didn't expect the director to come in, hands pressed against his head, going, "I completely messed up and told everyone that the class would start at 2."

In a way, that little mess up was exactly what I needed. I spent countless hours wondering if certain poses would trigger people, turn people off to yoga, make them give up half through... I worried about fights breaking out in the class and I worried about the mentally unstable snapping in the middle of class... But I had never worried about an administrative error.

The class itself was a lot calmer than I could've imagined. Aside from one man grumbling that he couldn't do a certain pose, the class went off without a hitch. The students fidgeted during savasana and were a little quick to sit up, but that's okay. That's expected for any level.

The best part of the class was overhearing one of the guys tell his friend that he appreciated being able to focus on one thing at a time instead of a million things at once. That's what I want; that's why I do what I do. If I can give even one other person the tools needed to sort out the bottlenecking thoughts, then all this training and fussing and applying for yoga teacher positions that won't come to fruition will be worth it.

So I might've spent the first half of the day quelling the urge to fret, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. And I do get to do it again, as I'm officially on the roster as a yoga instructor there. So, yeah. Here's to new chapters, and all that jazz.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Day 350 of 365: Conmigo, Nada Es Facil

Tomorrow, I start teaching yoga at a homeless shelter.

I've been working on a proper sequence for weeks now. Something simple, something grounding, something that a beginner with not the best past in the world can do. This is not exactly an easy task.

I've also been worrying myself about being able to handle a room of homeless people. To quote a friend, "You're 5'11". You were an imposing figure even before you started putting on all the muscle. You'd honestly be shocked at how intimidating you can actually be." Granted, that doesn't mean much when you still feel a bit small within your own skin, but it's still reassuring.

There are easier jobs for a first-time yoga instructor. Far easier jobs. But then again, "easy" hasn't exactly been in my vernacular for a while now. I've always tended to jump headfirst into things; I've always tended towards multitasking and taking the hardest possible road up. I think about the multitude of things I juggled when I was getting married. I think about how quickly we settled our house so we could have a housewarming party before my husband's mandatory OT. I think about how my first day as a preschool teacher was spent with a substitute who didn't even know the schedule and 17 kids who had no idea who I was (which also gives you some insight on the type of environment that kickstarted my very-short early education career). I tend to go all in. And sometimes that doesn't work out for me. But sometimes it does.

I have to take my own advice on this one: do everything in good faith, with the best intentions, and filled with the utmost love, and everything else will fall into place. There's a reason why I felt compelled to contact that shelter director. There's a reason why I met a yoga instructor who teaches to inmates not even days after having a tour of the place. I just have to be open to the idea that this is leading me to wherever I need to go.

There's a line in a Shakira song that goes, "Conmigo, nada es facil," -- with me, nothing is easy. I used to joke that this was my life motto. Back then, I said it because I used to fall to pieces over every single obstacle in life. But, really, I don't like things being easy in my life. I like challenges. I like having that moment when things feel so overwhelming that you worry you're going to drown. That's what defines you. Those are the memories that stick with you.

So I'm going to practice my sequence by myself one last time, agonize over the right music to play, and go from there. And whether that's to the left, to the right, or straight on, is only for the future to know.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Day 349 of 365: Breakfast Interview

I always wake up way earlier than my husband. In terms of getting things done, there's not much I can do until he wakes up (the only drawback to a super open floor plan is that sound echos like nothing else). The only real option is to plunk down in front of the laptop, which I've been trying to avoid (since there are few things in this world as soul-unsatisfying as sitting down to your laptop first thing in the morning). So, as quietly as I could, I made myself some breakfast, sat down at my kitchen table, and conducted an early morning interview over breakfast. With myself.

I've mentioned before that, despite my original decision not to, I'm going to attempt a third year of NaNoWriMo. I have the beginnings of an idea for a YA novel (I cringe at that title but, meh, what can I do? The story is about a 16-year-old and a lot gets lost if I try to change the age). It's mostly background at this point, with most of the plot still uncharted.

As I've also mentioned before, I've been trying to do a "morning meditation" with my coffee, sitting and sipping and trying not to think of anything in particular. That hasn't exactly been the biggest success: something pops into my head and I abandon my coffee yoga in light of completing whatever it is I suddenly realized I needed to complete.

Today, I sat down with my breakfast and my coffee, looked out the patio door, and essentially asked myself 20 questions.

Silently, of course. Because: 1) I have a loud voice and can easily wake up anyone in the house, and 2) It's accepted human behavior to think intensely to yourself. It's considered insanity to talk to yourself.

But I asked the questions any person attempting to write a novel: who is the main character? Who are his or her friends? What is the catalyst for everything that's going on in the book? What are the obstacles? What are the initially flawed or inefficient ways of overcoming these obstacles? What actions happen in the character's life to drive the story forward? What is the ultimate decision that they have to make?

You're not going to get all the answers you want, but at least thinking them puts the questions somewhere in your mind, allowing whatever it is you've got concocting in your brain to focus and potentially narrow. A proper story arc is a lost concept these days; all I have to do is point to the meandering mess that was the Twilight franchise as a starter. Thinking up the world and characters and plot in very specific ways can help create a good and dynamic story.

Of course, NaNoWriMo is not for another three and a half months -- and some consider it blasphemy to think of ideas before the month begins -- but I like playing by my own rules as a writer. Which includes interviews with myself while my nightowl of a husband sleeps in.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 348 of 365: Jumping Off

Somehow -- somehow -- I've made it to near the end of this project. I'm now 17 or so posts away from being done with this project. What started as a hybrid of the 365 Photography Challenge and a professor's assignment for his students has helped me articulate a lot of ideas and opinions that are usually left swirling in my brain. Before this, I didn't "blog" so much as I attempted to document major shit going on in my LJ (which, to be fair, was more for me than any of the dwindling number of people allowed to see the posts). I definitely didn't write essays before this (and I will repeat myself again in saying that the essays that websites have published are not blogs. Blogs don't need to be approved by editors and have the author fill out W2s). In some ways, this blog was one of the best decisions I ever made when it came to my writing career (even better than taking a fiction-writing workshop in the summer when my application to spend a summer semester in Greece was denied).

But I'm now less than 17 posts away from completion. And -- because I'm neurotic and like things to be even and just so -- I'm leaving this blog alone after 365.25 (because we gotta accommodate that leap day, right? =)). But I know I can't go back to writing about my day in a secured online journal on a dying website and call it a day.

So I've been hard at work (and by "hard at work" I mean, "That thing I do when I don't feel like being properly productive") creating my jumping off point. Something to also help rope in all these other branches I've got going on (like the start of my yoga website, which is a discussion for another time).

The real funny part is that my best friend sent me a free ebook called Writing Prompt Boot Camp. It's a two-week intensive where you -- gee -- write every day for two weeks, answering whatever prompts you've been given. I can't help but chuckle. This must be what marathoners feel when people try to send them 5k training schedules. Like, how adorable.

So I find it somewhat humorous that -- at least for two weeks -- be doing exactly what I was doing on this blog. But I see it as a Nicorette Patch. Going to a new blog -- one where I am not required to write in every day -- and doing a "boot camp" for two weeks is an interesting step down from this project. And we already know I've been feeling overly sentimental about closing out this colossus.

So it looks like I did the math wrong (me? Do math incorrectly? Surely, you jest) and this project will be over before I graduate from yoga teacher training. Well, then, guess that'll mean I'll have to talk about it in my new blog (after boot camp, of course =)).

Friday, July 18, 2014

Day 347 of 365: The Subtle and the Overt

I tend to go mad sociological on the essays I submit to websites. My most recent essay is a polished up version of a blurb I attempted a few times on this blog, about "girl" versus "women" and the power of semantics. While a few of the comments are painfully misogynistic, what really got to me was the reminder of all the times I've made the mistake of reading the comments section in any essay or article. To this day, I remember a guy completely disregarding the notion that our society has a blasé attitude toward sexual assault because, "Bars are filled with men high-fiving each other over their recent rape."

And, again, maybe it's because I have a bit of a background in things like semantics and sociology, but this shit drives me insane. However, I have to recognize it's not mankind's fault: we are influenced by the subtle, but look to the overt when figuring out influences.

Ready for some fun neurological talk? No? Well, shit. You're outta luck.

Why? Because I'm about to talk about the Split Brain Experiments. These experiments were done on people who had their corpus callosum (aka the communicating channels between the left and right hemisphere) removed. The people originally had said corpus callosum removed because they were epileptic and doctors hope essentially breaking up the left and right hemispheres. And, for the most part, it did. But doctors were curious what the side effects would be.

In many of these experiments, they would show something only to the left eye (so that only the right hemisphere would register it). For example, they would show the word "walk" to the left eye. This would cause the person to get up and start walking. The scientists would then ask the person why they were walking. Unfortunately, the left side is in charge of coming up with rationale. And, with the corpus callosum severed, the right hemisphere can't communicate, "hey, I saw the word 'walk' and did what I was told."

So what does the left hemisphere do? Lie. And convincingly.

This happened every single time they would show something to the right side of the brain and then ask the participant why they were doing what they were doing. The left side would craft this incredible story of why they chose what they chose, did what they did, thought what they thought.

And the kicker is that the participants wholeheartedly believed the rationale. To them, they really were getting up to get a soda, or picked up a picture of a chicken because chicken can be a type of food, etc, etc.

This is an extreme example, but all I have to do is bring up the bump/crash experiment again -- or any number of experiments that show how the slightest shift in authority, or peer opinion, or even a change in what pictures are hung up in the room -- to remind everyone that the brain is influenced by the subtle, but we look to the overt for influences.

Why? Because it looks bad if we say, "Yeah, the tiniest change in verbiage is what affected my overall mood." The human brain has evolved to value looking like we're in control of at least our own shit (pretty hard to secure a mate and move up in the tribal social ladder if you look like any little thing can control you). So when it comes to figuring out influences, our brain looks to huge matters -- because what makes you look like you're more in control? A subtle shift in cultural values, or a giant neon sign saying, "DO THIS OR DIE"?

I know the world can't be filled with people who wax philosophical and sociological way more than is healthy (guess what I do while driving my car? Spoiler alert: it's not texting or playing Candy Crush). But, the same way I feel like the world would be a better place if we could all just admit that we're not biologically programed to be nice, the world could stand a better chance of changing if we all admitted that we are influenced greatly by the subtle, but we look to the overt when figuring out said influences. And the real irony here is that we can usually process out the overt, but we internalize the subvert.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 346 of 365: Boston Half Marathon

Today I got the email that I have been picked to be part of the Boston Half Marathon this October.

I've been running with my husband as of late. He's trying to train up to a 5k; I'm trying to get used to running after injuring my hamstring tendon. I'm hoping I can actually force myself to see a sports doctor soon so I can get the all-clear to start upping the distance.

To be honest? I just want to finish this particular race. It's not about beating the 2-hour time, or even getting a better time than my previous half marathon. I just want to run without stopping for 13.1 miles.

Like I've mentioned before, I've been having a difficult time letting go of the fact that I'm not doing the Chicago Marathon. Given that the half marathon happens at roughly the same time as the Chicago Marathon, this is a bit of a consolation prize.

That, and -- since the BAA is the one hosting it -- the medal for finishing is almost identical to the medal for the full-out Boston Marathon. So... that's cool.

It's hard not to just lace up my shoes and go at it again. In some weird way, it's fitting that my zombie app has been on the fritz and I have to essentially restart the missions when I do go back to running for more than 15-minute stretches (but more on that later). But I understand that I'm not 20 anymore. I can't twist and sprain my joints and be perfectly fine the next day.

And it's also hard to admit that I should probably see a doctor first. The last time I went for a non-lady-doctor check-up, I ended up footing the bill for an ECG that my insurance company refused to pay for (although -- plus side? -- I don't have to worry about any hidden heart issues). That only makes my doctor-eschewing tendencies more severe. But, again, I'm not 20 anymore. I can't just heal up on my own anymore.

It's a surprisingly short amount of time between now and October. That freaks me out on so many different levels, but, hey, it's all good. Like I said before, I felt like if my number got picked for the BAA Half Marathon, then it was something I was meant to do. And dammit, I am going to do everything in my power to get that done.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Day 345 of 365: When The Idea of Your Novel Sickens You

I mentioned a long while back about the Travis Parker Effect. That's something I made up to bring to light a very common phenomenon with writers and artists alike: we work like a dog, pumping out our little creation to the exclusion of downright everything else, we finish the project, and there's a moment when we've decided it's the worst piece of shit imaginable and we should be ashamed for putting that much effort into it.

I call it the Travis Parker Effect because of 6 Days to Air: The Making of South Park. On Day 6, with the show conceptualized, written, recorded, and animated, Travis Parker slumps at his desk, muttering that the show is the worst show he has ever created. No one really seems to pay him any mind; you quickly get the vibe that this a common situation after a show has been created. The Travis Parker Effect is nothing more than the fallout artists sometimes get when they finally come up for air.

About a month ago, I finished Manuscript #3. It was a bit grueling at times, but somehow I plodded ahead and got the damn thing done. I finished it knowing that there were scenes I would have to add, scenes I would have to rewrite, characters that would have to be consolidated and characters that would need more fleshing out. That's the joy of a first draft: you got your main idea down, but now the real work begins.

I decided to follow the 3 month rule: you are not allowed to even look at your manuscript for three months. This helps you look at the manuscript with a fresh set of eyes, reading what is actually in front of you and not what you were trying to convey. But there's another reason: to avoid the Travis Parker Effect.

I'm already starting to feel it: man, I know this character just pops out of no where, and these characters are interchangeable, and this and that and this and that... which is hilarious, because, plot-wise, this is probably the best novel I have ever written. And let's not even get into the number of rewrites my first manuscript went through.

So, what do you do when the idea of your novel sickens you? When the very idea of editing makes you cringe because you're still feeling the emotional fallout of finishing your novel? You leave it the hell alone.

In fact, you leave all your manuscripts alone. I attempted to work on M#2 (which is still in it's first round of edits), only to find myself getting discouraged by the same attitude: this is the worst thing I've ever written, the number of edits and rewrites I will have to do is disgustingly high, what was I thinking, why did I let myself spend so much time on this...

This is why I have nothing but respect for full-time writers. I've been focusing my energy on the other endeavors in my life, like my yoga training (and preparing to teach yoga at a homeless shelter, but more on that later) and my tai chi classes. I've been focusing on writing out my proposal to martial art studios for a Yoga for Martial Artist class. I've been focusing on this 365 blog, which gets zero editing (I'm lucky if I read through the damn thing after it's done.)

The editing process is an onerous enough task on its own. The last thing you need is to attempt it while still processing the emotional fallout from what you created. So this little confession is my way of letting fellow writers know that it's okay to metaphorically slump at your desk and proclaim that you just made the worst thing ever -- just so long as the rest of you plays the part of the production team, paying no mind to the emotional fallout.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Day 344 of 365: Timing

The schedule for the public classes for us teachers-in-training has been released. For four days -- the 16th to the 19th in August -- me and my fellow trainees will be teaching classes that are open to the public. Some of these classes are scheduled the same time as regular classes at the studio -- those classes are 75 minutes long instead of the standard hour for practicum (since the usual classes are also 75 minutes). I checked the schedule and saw that I (and my class partner) are up first, and in the time slot for the usual Saturday morning class.

That's a little frightening, to go first, and during a class that is usually pretty full. But, in a way, I think it is perfect timing.

Once upon a time I moved to New Hampshire. I had been playing with the idea of yoga for some time, but never could commit myself to going to an actual studio for a class. And then, one day, I decided to buck up and finally try a full-on class at a proper studio. And that class? The Saturday morning class at the studio that has hosted the majority of the teacher training.

In some weird way, this is me coming full circle. I credit that class -- and I credit the incredible savasana and this weird but innate understanding that my body was nothing compared to the dynamic spirit that rested inside of me while resting in savasana -- with consistently coming back again and again, growing on my love for yoga and my love for what my body can do, until I finally realized that I wanted to be a yoga instructor. Granted, originally I was looking at retreats in Costa Rica (all the while sighing that I didn't even have the money for the more local varieties of training), but it just felt right when I heard about the training my studio would be hosting (and it felt wrong to not sign up -- only to have it feel right when I opened the box at Christmas and saw the new student questionnaire).

By the time I teach this class, I will have taught roughly three times at the homeless shelter. I guess I'm not freaking out about the Saturday class because, after working with the homeless, I doubt I'll be scared about a bunch of fellow granolas going through a few sun salutations.

I've noticed that life has perfect timing when you become aware to it. Whether or not that's actually a thing, well, I'll leave it up to you to decide. But of all the scheduled slots to do my class, I couldn't have asked for a better time.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Day 343 of 365: On Good Faith

If there is one topic I have returned to a million times since the start of this blog, it has to be running.

As I've mentioned a time or eight, I have a very unhappy tendon in the back of my left knee. Day-to-day life is completely unaffected. Even after a vigorous workout, nothing much changes. But I attempt to run and I feel it tightening up to the point that I'm positive I would strain, sprain, or even tear it if I kept going (much like what I did to myself sometime in March). I also feel it when the weather turns. I can honestly tell when it's going to rain based on whether or not my hamstring tendon tightens up out of no where.

As luck would have it, I got injured just as the Chicago Marathon lottery opened up. And -- in a fitting turn of events -- I realized I had to drop out of it just as the lottery closed. I also had to downgrade my half-marathon to a five-miler (which worked out for the best because I was *not* used to running that early in the morning, making the run an incredibly daunting experience even without the injured tendon). And -- aside from a few light jogs with my husband around the neighborhood -- I have not been running.

This Wednesday, the Boston Half Marathon opens up for registration. It's a very slim window before it goes to lottery, as they only allow 8,000 runners to compete. I remember getting so pumped at the idea of doing the Boston Half Marathon last year, only to realize that it falls on the same day as the Chicago Marathon (aka Columbus Day). However, with that weekend suddenly freed up, part of me feels like this has to happen, especially since the Chicago Marathon was supposed to be somewhat a "last hurrah" in terms of pushing myself physically before going on to another stage in life.

October is three months away, and I know I still have the muscle strength in me to run a half marathon (given how quickly I started running 10-milers after taking the winter off, I'd say training back up my muscles is the least of my concerns). But the question is that tendon. It is downright impossible to gauge how it is without running distance and potentially injuring it. And I have been avoiding that because, the more it rests, the more likely it is to heal.

So what I'm going to do is take how I feel after my next jog and decide one of two things: either I'm going to dive headfirst and attempt to register during the narrow window of opportunity, or I'm going to sign up for the lottery and let fate decide if I'm going to run this year. Either way, I'm taking it on good faith that I'll be doing whatever it is that I'm supposed to do.

As a competitive person (and as someone who just weirdly loves to run), I have a hard time letting go of the idea that I'm literally out of the running. I would love to do the Boston Half Marathon as a bit of my last hurrah (especially since the Boston Marathon is a bitch to get into, even if under a charity). My last two attempts at a distance race have been failures (I had to pull out of a 16-miler in January and I had to downgrade to a 5-miler for the Boston Run to Remember), but I have faith that putting my name out there one last time is the right things to do.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Day 342 of 365: Being Emotional

Most people who know me personally know how emotional I am. It's honestly to the point that I'll start crying because someone else in the room has started crying. Shit, if a judge on So You Think You Can Dance starts crying, I tear up. In terms of handling emotions, I'm a wreck.

Now, confession time: at every weekend-intensive training session, I've always found myself on the verge of crying at some point. It's just an emotionally-charged time and we were even warned that we might start crying. But somehow I've been able to keep it together. Usually this would result in the most random-ass thing popping up in my mind on the drive back (and me crying big ol' tears for a solid 5 minutes like someone released the fucking Kraken).

Now, to backtrack even further: last week, I met with a director at a homeless shelter in Manchester. He's looking for someone to teach yoga to the homeless once a week. After a few emails, I had a one-on-one interview with the director. He made no bones about it: this wasn't going to be a usual yoga class. These are people who are drug-addled, who have been abused in ways that make them unfit for the regular world, these are people who are down on their luck in the worst way. It scared the piss out of me, but there was still something in me to do it.

So we can now jump up to present day. Today, we had a presenter talk about her time as a yoga instructor at a jail. That hit me right in the heart, especially since I've been dealing with the emotional baggage that being a yoga instructor for the homeless could be. By the end of the day, the instructor leading the training opened the floor for comments.

I was already charged up, because I wanted to say exactly that. And, right before I am to go, a yoga trainee talked about how important training has been, especially in the midst of a very nasty situation (which I have no right to say in a public forum so this is exactly where I'll stop). She starts crying and ... I start crying. And then I cry even more when it's my turn to talk. And then I don't stop crying.

On the way out, I note to one of my friends that I'm honestly surprised it took me this long to cry in class. And she noted that she was honestly surprised that I would ever be so emotional. She always took as me kind of a rock -- the type of person who is emotionally stable and secure. And I guess that wasn't an uncommon sentiment.

Boy, were they proven wrong.

I get it, though. I'm 5'11" (although technically 5'10" because somewhere along the line, I lost an inch). Thanks to yoga and tai chi, I have very defined muscles that can make me look even more intimidating. I'm sarcastic and quick with a snarky comment. Yeah, that person looks like she's never blubbered like a baby when Mufasa died (but I mean how could you not? Simba was pawing at his dad! He wanted him to get up! Oh man someone get me a Kleenex...).

It's just funny how perception is. Because here I am, feeling silly for crying in front of the group, when I was person #3 to do it publically, and person #12 overall to cry. Here I am, feeling like I must've looked like a hysterical mess, when some were just shocked I was capable of crying in the first place.

There's a lot more I want to talk about, especially how that particular person with the current situation and I keep meeting up randomly (which is also how I knew about her story and partly why I latched onto her crying the way that I did), or how I feel like a whole confluence of events are downright conspiring towards something big. But I am completely spent from this weekend. I think it's time for me to just call it a day and be happy I was able to write the way I did, even after crying my eyes out and feeling crazy-silly after.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Day 341 of 365: One-Year Homeownership

This time last year, my husband and I were signing on the dotted line ... only to get a call from our mortgage company about wanting more proof that we could pay the change in our closing costs ... only to get another call from them after we had already come up to the house that they wanted a slightly different way of having the paperwork signed ... only to change their minds again when we make the trek back to the lawyer's place.

This year, I spent the majority of the day in teacher training and meeting with my fellow trainee about our upcoming practicum. A huge difference from last year.

I recognize that I am absurdly lucky to have the house we do -- or to have a house in the first place. So I've decided that, with my remaining energy, I'll tell you three things that I wish someone had told me about buying a house:

1) It will cost way more than you expect it to.
We had a serious chunk of cash squared away for our house. Given that we were first-time home buyers (and we were preapproved for an absurdly high loan), we got the sense that what we had was more than enough for any type of house.

We ended up finding a house that was actually below our budget. We thought about where all our extra money would go -- finished basement, new furniture -- only to find our closing cost fees double. And what didn't get eaten up in fees disappeared after we realized that we had none of the essentials: no ladders, no shovels, nothing. Factor in money for movers and painters, and our huge chunk of cash turned into a sliver.

2) You have no idea how much mortgage companies suck.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we get it: thanks to the house bubble bursting, mortgage companies are absolutely jackasses now. You expect that now. But you don't expect just how horrible they are going to be. They will pry into your lives and make you explain every transaction you've ever made in the last 5 years -- in a formal letter, dated, signed, and faxed over. And they'll wait until the very last minute to inform you of crucial changes. And they'll pick inopportune times to decide they need more "proof" of something (like proof that we could afford the extra closing costs, even though we had the farkin' cashier's check in our hand).

They're terrible and horrible and your only choice (unless you have a cool $150 - 600k rolling around).

3) Thought picking out things for your wedding was stressful? Try picking a house.
A house is the single most expensive thing most of us will ever invest in. And, sure, it's a lot of fun to make up your dream house on Pinterest. But it's a whole other game when you're being shown houses that have some of what you want, and a whole lot of "almost"s and "not quite"s. Suddenly you have to figure out what is a deal breaker, what is a complete necessity, and what you can do without.

However, when you find the house, you will find "the house". It will probably not have everything on your Pinterest board, but it will just feel right. We swore we needed a four-bedroom house with a same-floor garage and a tile-floored kitchen. We walked into our house -- a three-bedroom house with a basement garage and wooden-floored kitchen -- and knew we were home. And while the process was stressful -- from crappy mortgage brokers to terrible painters -- we'd do it all over again. Because this is home, plain and simple.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Day 340 of 365: Heifers in the Modeling World

It really doesn't matter how long I've been modeling, or how many times I remind myself that I'm a commercial model (not fashion), or how often I talk about "strong is the new skinny" and love my body for exactly what it looks like: when I am put into a casting with a bunch of 21-year-old, industry-standard-sized models, I feel like an old heifer.

I'd say, for the most part, my go-sees are uneventful. Usually because, as a commercial model, they want svelte and pretty, but not necessary crazy-young and crazy-skinny. That means I'm usually in the same room as a 40-something dude, a 30-something lady, and young kids. It's a motley crew, if you will.

But yesterday, even though the casting called for people of all ages, I somehow got there during America's Next Top Model hour. And there are few things as damaging to your self-esteem than sitting next to a girl who is your height, probably half your weight, and so surrealistically beautiful that it makes you want to hide in your makeup bag. Especially when you factor in that they'll probably get the job over you.

I talk a bit about this in my essay collection (which -- have you gotten it yet? Hmm? Hmm? Available where all ebooks are sold, motherfucker). The modeling world is a rough industry and, to be frank, if I didn't enjoy the actual being-in-front-of-the-camera part, I probably would've quit a while back. But it is just hard to accept that these cuties are going to get the job -- the same way it's hard for me to accept that I get injured easier and don't recover as fast and can't do all the fun things that I finally feel comfortable enough in my body to do (which includes running distances, but that's maybe a post for tomorrow). It's a reminder that life continues on and that I'm not the target demographic anymore, for almost anything outside of Pampers Baby Wipes.

Even though I left that particular go-see feeling like the aging cow led out to pasture, I still made sure to enjoy my city on such a beautiful day. And, like clockwork, the walk helped clear my mind and helped me remember that it really doesn't matter how youthful I am in comparison to everyone else. Here I am, with two (relatively) working legs, enjoying the sun on my face and the wind in my hair and the parts of Boston I almost never go down unless I went there specifically for a casting. I still get the opportunity to take in this incredible world and it shouldn't matter that I'm bulkier than a girl who can somehow fit into a size 0 at 5'11".

And -- really? -- I'd hate to be that age again. I'd love to have the impossibly-fast metabolism and quick physical recovery, but you couldn't pay me to have the mindset of a 21-year-old again. You couldn't pay me to be that unsure, unassertive, and insecure again. You couldn't pay me to have the coping strategies and temperament of a 21-year-old. Shit, you couldn't pay me to have the coping strategies of a 25-year-old. And if turning back the clock on aging would result in turning back the clock on my development as a person, I would pass.

And who knows: the last time I felt that low on a go-see, I ended up getting the job (I had a, "I'm Ron Burgundy?" moment and walked away feeling like a huge putz, only to get an email a day later saying I landed the gig with Volvo). I'm not saying I'll get this job, but I am saying that I can't rule myself out just yet.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Day 339 of 365: Forge This Smile

I mentioned a long time ago that I'm not one for jumping blogs. I believe that creating a brand new blog every time you feel like getting back into writing is like buying a bunch of workout clothes every single time you try to get back to the gym. It's to the point that I have to remind myself that this blog should be left alone once we hit 365/366. I also mentioned that I have had the same LJ since 2004. Granted, I update it maybe once or twice a month, and I use it primarily to comment on the gossip site ONTD, but hey, I still have it.

Now, like I said, I got this in 2004. I got this in the midst of the kind of gnarly little heartbreak that is part and parcel of high school life. So, what was my LJ name? Forgethissmile. Aka, "Forget His Smile".


I don't want to abandon an old LJ, and I feel silly for paying money to change the name, so I kept it what it was for over a decade. Then, yesterday, I had someone on ONTD ask me what my LJ name meant.

And, no, the LJ user didn't ask for the background of "Forget His Smile"; they wanted to know if the name was "Forge This Smile" or "Forget His Smile".

In all my time with this name I've never once considered that version of the username.

I saw the typo "forget this smile", and that was about it. I replied back that it was originally the latter, but I was now adopting the first idea.

In some weird way, it's fitting that, over 10 years later, I completely change the meaning without changing a single letter. And it goes from something a little whiney and dependent to something that could downright be the name of a death metal band.

Forge this smile from iron, forge this smile stone, travel through the fire, know you're not alone.

Oh, I could make a killing making crappy song lyrics.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Day 338 of 365: Yet Another Idea

I swore I wasn't going to attempt NaNoWriMo this year, especially since I went balls to the wall for the last two, but yet another novel idea has hit me upside the head.

It's in its absolute infancy right now, and, for the most part, it's all background. This usually means I let the idea just swirl around a bit in my head until something more meaty comes to surface. But what happens when November hits?

And thus the problem with being a wannabe-novelist. Each manuscript has been a tiring, daunting, frustrating, and unnerving experience. With each completed manuscript, I felt relieved like a marathon runner crossing the finish line. Each time, I told myself that I'm done writing these 70,000+ word beasts, that I'm going to take a breather and edit and maybe try to sell one.

LOL. Nope.

I won't say much about it, aside from the fact that it will be *sigh* a YA book. But that's only because the character I have in mind is 16. The idea of writing something that could easily be considered YA was enough for me to potentially try to make the character 24 or 25 instead -- only doing so would ruin a few major elements of the story.

So I've got a character, I've got background, I've got events that could serve as a catalyst for the beginning of the story... and that's about it. Yet another idea that is eating away at me, begging me to figure it out to the end.

Well, in some weird way I'm thankful for it. Thanks to this blog, I've gotten used to writing a ton -- probably way too much for my own good. It might be nice to transfer some of this energy into a potential M#4.

Besides, YA is all the sells nowadays, anyway.

So this is one gigantic, "we'll see," when it comes to what the future holds. I might be so exhausted with everything that it'll get the boot until next year. And I might have M#4 on my hands by December. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Day 337 of 365: No, It's Not Weird

"I mean, you're not going to be weird about this, right?"

I've said it a lot and I'll say it again: I really, really lucked out in not having to deal with the post-college dating world. All the buffoonery that goes on in the college dating scene seemed to just spill out into the "real world". Including warning one to "not be weird about this" when they start showing signs of actual feelings.

I've been there, albeit before "not going to be weird" was a thing. He might as well have said, "Hey, I know we're constantly spending time together, going out and sharing dinners together, becoming physical and physically attentive -- but, I mean, you're not going to act on the emotions you are developing because of our time together, right? Because that would just be weird."

People in the dating world used to say, "Let's keep this casual." Now we warn people to, "Not be weird." We've evolved the decision to not be something more from a dual effort to you being flawed and not "getting it". We've stripped ourselves of the onus of understanding that there is a fine line -- that you cannot eat your cake and still have, that actions do have consequences -- or the onus of finding someone who wants the exact same thing from a dating experience. No, now we must wag our finger in front of the person we spent all night last night talking and cuddling and fooling around with and tell them, "Don't be weird," when they start acting like it could be something more.

You want casual? Go right ahead. The world is filled with people perfectly okay with obligation-free minglings. You want something a little more open? Go right ahead. There is a pot for every lid.

But don't you dare tell me to, "not be weird" -- because there is nothing weird about having feelings for the person you are with.

Do you know what is weird? Navigating a completely ambiguous dating world. Where people "talk" for months on end and you never know exactly where you stand. Weird is deciding a relationship is over and coldly avoiding contact until you think the other person has gotten the hint, leaving them to wonder what it was that brought things to an end, leaving them to assume the worst about themselves. Weird is withholding information, refusing to say what you're looking for in a dating partner, refusing to communicate when you're mad or falling in love or falling to pieces over their careless actions. Weird is pretending that everything is ultra cool and casual while still holding onto the option of it magically evolving into everlasting love or randomly ending with the person "ghosting" away.

No, the only weird thing is to go out for drinks, coffee, dinner, movies, cuddling, talking, sharing a bed, only to turn around and act like no one develops feelings after all those interactions.

Take a moment, when the girl next to you wakes up and rolls into your arms and you want to tell her that her natural feelings are unnatural. Or take a moment when you contact your ambiguous pseudo-significant-other, upset that they cancelled plans last minute, and they start venturing into "don't be weird" territory. Take a moment to realize what is being said when, "Don't be weird," gets flung about like the last grenades in the bag.

Don't be weird? Oh, I promise to stop being weird. And the first step to normalcy is to get out of this unhealthy situation.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Day 336 of 365: The End of Legends

(Warning: this is an MMA post.)

Last night capped off Fight Week for the UFC. BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar fought for the third time after coaching "The Ultimate Fighter". BJ Penn, for those playing the home game, is a legend in the sport. He's fought in five weight classes, won belts in two, and built the sport when it was still this misunderstood fighting thing. But, in this fight, BJ Penn got knocked around for three rounds before getting a TKO (the first in his career).

About a month ago, Renan Barao -- who should be a legend, given that he was undefeated in 30 fights/10 years -- lost his belt to a relative rookie. And lost it without any doubt in anyone's mind.

Last year, Anderson Silva (and if I feel like explaining Silva to the internet is like explaining Oscar de la Hoya or Floyd Mayweather) lost twice to Chris Weidman -- and the second fight ended when Silva shattered his shin against Weidman's knee. George St. Pierre (who was "that French villain" in Captain America: The Winter Soldier but, more importantly, the embodiment of technical perfection) stepped down from his title after getting whooped (but was able to score enough points to win the match). And then there's Dan Henderson -- another fighter who is on the level of BJ Penn in terms of multiple championships and weight classes and building the sport -- who got thrown around like a ragdoll by Daniel Cormier.

Jon Jones -- who was hands down my favorite fighter for a good stretch of time -- has lost a lot of credibility after downright refusing to have a rematch with Alexander Gustaffson (a fighter who showed that Jones might actually be mortal). It's to the point that I don't even know who I'm rooting for when the fight does come (and I know I'm not the only one who feels this way).

And then there's Chael Sonnen, who isn't really a legend in the traditional sense, aside from his ability with words/ability to get into the good graces of the UFC, who went from essentially brand ambassador to fired from the UFC and FOX after testing positive for EPO and HGH (aka the Lance Armstrong cocktail) -- his third failed drug test. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not naive: Sonnen has proven to be such a great politician that he could slash your tires and, by the end of the conversation, you'd be apologizing to him for dulling the blade. I see the "firing" getting overturned within a year. But it doesn't change the fact that Sonnen's already questionable image has been seriously marred and all those ambiguous situations suddenly become a lot more black-and-white.

There is a change in the world of MMA right now. The legends of yesteryear (forget that: the legends of last year) are falling by the wayside left and right. You're already seeing these incredible new-generation fighters absolutely destroying the competition (Ronda Rousey defended her title within 16 seconds of the first round. The first round!). It's just weird to see the fighters who blew my mind when I first got into the sport back in my college days (back when my brother-in-law would mute the fight and put on slow jams when the fighters were doing a whole lot of lay-n-pray) now petering out.

I mean, that's just how sports work. Brett Favre went from icon to that old guy who just couldn't keep up with the youngin's (and let's not forget when news broke of his *cough* extracurricular activities. Speaking of people who marred up their image...), but it's still an uneasy feeling when you just watch the absolute great systematically get picked off. It's enough to give you an existential crisis.

And hey, maybe that explains that weird, almost ethereal feeling I've been having in light of everything that has been going on. Maybe everything that's coming to a close is just a catalyst for an existential moment. Well, better that than nihilism.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Day 335 of 365: Transience

I've been feeling pretty weird as of late. I'm about a month away from finishing yoga training -- which, as happy as I will be to not have to be sludging through coursework (and I've definitely hit my limit on that), the idea of being done has been incredibly bittersweet. This project -- which has taken a chunk out of my day-to-day life for the last year -- is now 30 days away from being done. My third manuscript -- which had been in the forefront of my mind for the last two years -- is finished, and I'm not allowed to even look at it until September. And this is on the heels of the release of my collection of essays, which was, for all intents and purposes, my entire life from November until March. Factor in that it's the summertime, when things naturally shift in terms of school years and what happens during the summer, and I'm a hypersensitive fool. It's honestly to the point that show seasons would end and I would be like, "I don't know if I can process this."

You know that feeling you get when a book ends and you're left almost unsure of where to go next because your mind is stuck on the story arc and the fact that it's over? I've been getting that, only sans books.

I was talking to my best friend about this. In some weird way, we went through the exact same type of life experience last year, where everything about our lives changed. On top of moving time zones, she moved into three apartments and ended up changing jobs. Romantic situations came and went and guy she thought she could trust turned out to be selfish and self-serving all along. Right now, she's in an actual career, she has an apartment situation that is actually stable, and, without delving into her personal life, there are healthy influences that could transform into something more. But that feeling in her gut is still there, that feeling like the rollercoaster has just tipped over the edge and you are still a long way from getting your feet back on the ground.

The hardest part about transience when you're no longer a kid is that feeling that you're betraying something by not anchoring yourself down. Here I am, a former teacher, completely stripped of the identity that defined me for four years, who both moved away and found others moving away from what was once the epicenter, who writes with an uncertain path ahead of her, who attempts a new path in life with grounds just as muddy. I don't know what the future will bring, or when it will get completely unearthed again thanks to having children (another reason I'm having this hypersensitive feeling. Being on the cusp of a completely different way of living your life when you've already changed everything about your life is a weird experience).

All I know is that I look back on other times like this -- times when my life would turn upside down and I got a crick in my neck from trying to adjust my viewpoint -- with a profound sense of awe. Those are the memories I hold close. Those are the moments I turn to when figuring out what has defined me. So I don't fear the transience, and I don't dread feeling like I'm still trying to secure the anchors.

I'm not looking for a way out of it. But I will be looking forward to looking back on this time.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Day 334 of 365: Most of Me

I went to bed last night noticing that my right wrist was clicking weirdly. I woke up today with my wrist swollen. Thankfully, we have all the equipment needed when a wrist goes funky (since my husband injured his sometime in 2009). Nothing like a wrist brace and an ice pack to really make you feel functional.

Since the weather is finally beautiful (after half a week of soup weather and another half of hurricane weather), I went out for a walk. Within half a mile, I could already feel the tightness in my strained hamstring tendon and the soreness in my pulled right hamstring (thankfully the locking right knee went away on its own -- although my way of getting around that knee issue probably led to my pulled hamstring). And I only had one thought in my head:

"God, it sucks getting old."

I remember eating pavement as a kid and being perfect fine. I remember twisting my ankle during track practice and having zero issues the next day. For crying out loud, I had my thumb kicked in the opposite direction when I was in the seventh grade (I was playing the part of goalie during a Field Day soccer game, and a very competitive player from the opposing team decided a ball getting lifted up by the goalie was still fair game) and ended up with nothing more than a throbbing hand. Now I get stabbing pains in my neck if I look to the side too quickly.

My husband tried to warn me. When I was 23 and he was 28, he tried to tell me that he was getting old and injured and that it happened as early as your late twenties. And here I am, toeing in on 28, with the exact same issues.

Well, all I can say that is that it's not worth fighting it. Down that path lies some frightening tactics to say "youthful" in all senses of the word. I might not have the body I had when I was 20 (and, sadly, I totally did not utilize the body that I had at 20, which is a bemoaning for another time), but I'm still happy to have most of me around. I might not be going into any hand- or headstands anytime soon (and *just* when I learned out to kick my legs out to the side and up to get into a handstand. Motherfucker) but I still have the ability to do a type of yoga that will fit my physicality. I might be out of marathon training -- and I might be forced to not sign up for the Boston Half Marathon -- but I am still able to go outside on beautiful days like today and stroll around with music in my ears.

So I might not be 100%, but I'm 100% thankful to still have what still remains.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Day 333 of 365: Value Difference

So, in light of America's Independence Day, I decided to get to thinking about the differences in mindset when it comes to allocating instruction and guidance.

A little over a week ago, I was in Washington DC, enjoying a world festival at the National Mall. We made sure to make it to the tai chi lesson (because what better place to have your first "tai chi in the park" experience than on the National Mall?), which included a lesson in tai chi ball. The two instructors showed people how to do a few simple flips and left us to our charges. Within about a minute, after noticing that I had already figured out one of the flips, one of the instructors spent the rest of the time instructing me on what else I can do. While other people were still dropping their balls (*snicker*) left and right, I had the instructor's full attention, to the point that the second instructor jumped in to help the first instructor translate what he wanted to say to English better.

So I know that sounds like a nasty case of humble bragging, but I do it to make a point about values: as an American tai chi instructor, I devote the majority of my time to the poorest-performing student. And that falls right in line with the American idea of who should get the most attention: help the lowest rungs because they need to catch up with the rest of us.

From what I've learned about the Chinese way of doing things (at least when it comes to martial arts), the attitude is the opposite: devote your time to those who can get it down pat quickly because they show the most promise.

I'm sure there's something here about the irony of a communal society favoring the individual best versus an individual society favoring helping those in the back, but it's stupidly early in the morning and I've already used up all my articulating abilities. So I'll end it by wishing everyone a happy and safe Fourth (especially us on the East Coast -- what is up, Hurricane Arthur).

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Day 332 of 365: Wrong Side of History

I really make no bones about the fact that I'm progressive in a way that makes other people uncomfortable. I'm progressive in a way that makes both sides hate me (pro-Second Amendment and pro-legal abortions -- albeit with the understanding that it's always more complicated than legalizing it and going on your merry way). So it should come as no surprise that the Hobby Lobby ruling irks me in about a million different ways.

The biggest problem is treating pro-profit corporations as religious institutions purely because the owners are Christian. We already have this "corporations are people" ideology, which makes it really easy for corporations to do whatever they think they can get away with. For crying out loud, people don't want to raise minimum wage because they don't want corporations to throw a hissy fit and fire employees to make up for "lost profits" (which makes as much sense as saying that you have to buy the candy for that toddler, or else he'll throw a tantrum and be really, really annoying).

But "religious freedom" for an individual is a completely different matter than "religious freedom" for a corporation. Right now, it is against the law to discriminate based on sexual orientation. Well, in most states, it is. However, we are starting to see legislation like in Mississippi, where for-profit organizations can turn away homosexuals because it's "against their moral beliefs" to do any type of business with them. They'll ignore the part where we already had this conversation in the 60s -- where we learned that it doesn't matter what your personal feelings are; you don't get to decide who sides at the diner counter -- and claim it's persecution to not be able to deny someone a job purely because the boss found out the applicant is gay.

So that's Irk #1: the can of worms this "religious freedom" decision has made. Aside from the fact that 90% of all corporations can fall into this "closely held to a religion" category, it is setting a very scary precedent. It's not that far of a hop from "religious freedom" laws to laws that are created purely because of a religion (which in some ways we already have but that's for another time).

Irk #2 is the stigma on birth control. This toes in on my pro-legal abortions stance (fun fact: places where abortions are illegal actually see an uptick in abortions, the same way places where there is a gun ban see an uptick in gun crimes), but it makes no bloody sense to say, "BC and Plan B are for whores and drunken mistakes." Aside from the fact that Plan B is not the abortion pill (and actually has a direct impact on a decrease in abortions), it is foolhardy to act like treating contraceptives as taboo won't have result in more unwanted pregnancies.

And then there's the part where most women stay on BC because of medical issues. Just from personal experience, I don't know any single woman who stayed on BC so they could have mad sex and not get pregnant. It's exhausting and onerous to take a pill every single day at the exact same time. But that's a rant for another time.

But, seriously: decisions like this make it that much harder to dig up our Puritan roots and understand that life is a little more complex than, "I shall live a chaste life and have sex only when I want to have children."

My biggest issue is that it throws us back a bit when it comes to progress. And, to paraphrase a Supreme Court Justice, history always eventually sides with progress. The same way you wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of history when it came to things like slavery, women's voting rights, racial equality in the modern world, and gender equality in the workplace (I'm noticing a pattern here...), you don't want to be on the wrong side of history for things like this as well. The only period where mankind went against progress for any length of time is now referred to as the Dark Ages. Just to give you an idea of how history works.

I say this about gay marriage, and I'll say it about "religious freedom" laws (that don't seem to get that freedom of religion also means freedom from religion): you do not want to be on the wrong side of history. You don't want to be part of the group that historians look at 100 years from now and go, "Wow, what barbaric ways of thinking."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Day 331 of 365: On The Cusp

Imagine this scenario: you're in the car and you just changed the station on the radio. The song sounds completely unfamiliar -- in fact, it's noise at first -- and, just before you finally recognize the song and start detecting melody, you have a moment where you know you should know the song, but you can't stop hearing the song as if it's incoherent noise.

That's me and Spanish right now.

I talk a lot about learning Spanish. I've had a love of the language for quite some time (fun fact: once upon a time, when my husband and I first started dating, he started talking to his grandma on the phone in Spanish, and I immediately was like, "Well, how you doin'? Someone's stock just went up in my eyes.") and leaving the time-consuming and spirit-draining world of teaching gave me the time and energy to finally dive in and maybe -- just maybe -- get to the same level as my husband (who I guess was once fluent but, over time, the fluency has dwindled down to a fundamental understanding).

I'm obsessed with language to begin with. If I ever go back to school (for a non-career-related-field like physical therapy or kinesiology, but that's a talk for another time), I would love to dive deeper into the world of semantics and linguistics, because it is just that cool. I'm obsessed with Sapir-Whorf and I'm fascinated with the idea of how a different language -- how a different sentence structure -- affects thought. For example, the passive voice is a lot more common and acceptable in Spanish than it is in English; Spanish also uses a lot more reflexive verbs and pronouns. How would small changes in a language that -- for all intents and purposes -- has an identical grammatical structure to English affect all the little ways one thinks?

In a perfect world, I would master Spanish and go on to one of the big guns, like Mandarin (because part of me still lives in a Firefly world where everyone speaks a weird English-Mandarin hybrid), just to see how different things can be. Of course, in this perfect world, I'm running the Chicago Marathon this year and not nursing a strained tendon and locking right knee (that might put me out of the running for the Boston Half Marathon as well ... no pun intended), so take that as you will.

Getting back into Spanish lessons after a week off was tough. It doesn't matter that my husband and I attempted (key word: attempted) to talk to each other in Spanish during our roadtrip (although I can say, "Qué digas?" like a motherfucker), it felt like turning rusty gears just to get a simple lesson in (and don't even get me started on reading a CNN article in Spanish). But I genuinely want this language under my belt. Aside from the superfluous reasons (which also includes a "teach yoga abroad" program in many Spanish-speaking countries and territories), I would love for my hypothetical kids to experience Spanish outside of their grandmother (and hopefully great-grandparents) talking to them. Like any white suburban first worlder, I would love for my kids to grow up immersed in multi-lingualism.

So, the same way you have to keep listening to the song in order to recognize it, I have to keep plugging away. Because there is no SoundHound for learning Spanish.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Day 330 of 365: Home Again, Home Again

We finally got home yesterday at around 5:30 -- not bad for having to deal with 495 and 93 north of Boston at the height of rush hour. Since then, I've been doing one thing and one thing only: placating the cats who were letting us know just how neurotically they missed us.

It's now 8 in the morning and I sat down to the dining room table, where I keep my laptop. Within minutes, I had two cats quasi-napping next to me. I now have Salem sitting next to my laptop like a gargoyle, systematically pawing at my shoulder so I'll get closer to him (so he can headbutt me). Milo brought his Teddy into the dining room (and I think I've gone on a time or two about his relationship with Teddy). At 5 this morning, Milo decided it was really important that he got pet, nuzzling his wet nose into my skin until I lifted a hand and scratched behind his ear. Last night, when I left to get groceries (because we had a bag of peanuts and not much else), Milo stood in between me and the door and meow-yell at me.

They're lucky that the things I have on my agenda are home-related. From unpacking, to editing my second manuscript (my husband has been incredible about reading M#2 in its early stages and telling me what works and doesn't work. Everyone needs a husband like this.), to getting caught up on my Spanish lessons (my husband and I attempted a little Spanish talking during our road trip. For me, I feel like I'm listening to a song that I might know, but my brain hasn't registered it yet, so all I hear is noise. That's the only way to describe how I feel about understanding Spanish right now.), to working on my "yoga homework", to getting ready to teach tai chi tonight.

Of course, none of this is getting accomplished because I've been knee-deep on the Chael Sonnen drama (for those playing the home game: well-known MMA fighter got busted for the same shit Lance Armstrong got busted for after failing a previous drug test and now he's been fired from both Fox and the UFC). Because that's the joy of being self-employed: no boss to yell at you for not doing your job, ergo you don't have to hide when you're hanging out on gossip sites instead of doing what you're supposed to be doing.

But hey, I am doing one thing I have to do: this blog entry. I'm only 35 days away from completing this bad boy and like hell if I'll let any type of drama stop me from finishing it.