Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Universe Listens

Patañjali's initial statement of intent: “Yoga is mental-movement stopping”.

The Tree pose is one of the mind. When I am not centered, I wobble in Tree pose. We all do! Unlike other poses, Tree is build for people of any build: heavy, light, tall and short, flexible or not, young and old, we should ALL be able to master it. IF … our minds are level, grounded and focused.
And the Tree shakes if we’re not those things, “up there”!
So, lately, I am trying “different” things … I know: “different” is a vague word: well, “different” as in “different than I have tried so far”, shall we say. For instance, I am going to yoga instructors that I have not gone to before. OR, instead of staying away from the ones I went to before and hated, I am going back to them. That kind of different.
So, tonight I went to the one of the latter kind, just to test her again (I thought), after many years. I forgot, really, what she offered “good”. We always do!
A lot of what she offered felt like new to me. We forget so easily, even when we don’t have age as an excuse. Yet.
So, at the beginning at the class, when she was making a call for our focus, she didn’t just talk about breath and quieting down and leaving the world behind, which is what every instructor does. She also asked us to quietly, in our own minds, “give intent to our practice for tonight”. And I thought to myself: “WHAT??? That’s YOUR job! You usually tell us what we accomplish or work towards tonight: open shoulders? Flexible pelvis? Stronger legs? Or breathing? YOUR job!!!”. But she was waiting patiently for us to find in our minds an intent: I didn’t want to lag behind in the practice. So scrambling after the crazy, hectic, nuts kind of the day I had had, I came up with this and told myself, in my mind’s voice: “My intent tonight (I spoke voiceless) is that I want to be focused! I want to be focused on this moment, this body, now, this breath, and nothing else! I will shoo away every foreign thought, noise, happening that’s outside this very body and just stay HERE. Not judge. Just be. And listen. And know. And take THAT into the world when that door will open at the end”…
This is almost impossible to me, because no matter how great the instructor is, and no matter how hard the camel pose, I have “stuff” to think about, like: "Did I pay the bills? Did I feed the cats? Did I turn off the coffee machine? Did I send that email before I left work?” Or “ I wonder if my feet smell? Oh, the person next to me is really wobbly in this tree pose!” – my mind works overtime. All the time!
And tonight, not only my usually un-quiet mind was my enemy, but everything else around me, it seemed! The Universe listened, for once, and threw everything it could think of my way!
I could not get out of my head the idea that the teacher was wearing not only socks, but SHOES too in the class! My favorite teacher, somewhat of my “guru”, because I would do everything that man tells me, even if it were jumping in active lava, always taught us that we do NOT bring shoes in the classroom; we do not allow “unsacred” things to invade the sacred of the room! This instructor had ugly, big, rubber shoes on, stepping on the sacred ground, and on MY mat!!! What a sacrilege!! But I had to get over it. “Stay focus on ME”, I told myself, “and the NOW. Don’t judge it. Just be it”.
Then, she gave me yet another blanket that was wet with sweat and smelled too … Again, I could not focus on my shoulder stand, but on the smell… Again, I drew closer to the NOW and the core of my chakra stem, and blocked away the thought …
And then she came with a different style, too. I like for teachers to tell me what’s next and let my pace do the pose in its own speed. No, she wanted us hanging in the pose, and when we least expected it she’d move us to the next stage. Again, what she wanted was our mind to let go. To be in the now. To listen to it, and follow it. Absorb it, like a sponge does water, and then … let it squeeze the benefits out! She read my mind, somehow, it seemed!! She was the enemy! Or was she my friend? Hhmm…
And there is nothing like a very well-lead Savasana (relaxation pose) that’s disturbed by the noise of the Miller truck pulling in and the sound of the beer crates dragged across the parking lot right outside your window. At that point, I wanted to laugh, it was so helpless … But I didn’t. Following my “intent”, like every lost ship does a beacon, I enjoyed every single muscle and pore being relaxed and melting away in the ground beneath me! All the meetings of the day, and the tense shoulders, and the anchored toes – all melted and were released away in yet another week of life.
With all those challenges, I came out centered. I walked straighter. I drove better, I yielded more, and I can guarantee you my Tree pose would not have been wobbly!
Try it sometime: give yourself as a puzzle to the Universe and watch It solving you! It works! You have ALL the answers within you, but you’re too busy “living” (actually not caring, getting lost in futile, irrelevant, unimportant, superfluous little things) to acknowledge they’re there. But give yourself “intent” and enough room to “listen” and you’ll hear it. Just like “the Alchemist”, you’ll find that the only travel you’ll have to do is down deep; that your treasure is home!

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Note: this is long past due…

I have been overwhelmed with joy and life-stricken , ever since I heard the news that my baby sister is pregnant! I have not mentioned anything because, like everyone else, I am superstitious… And they have to make it to the second, third trimester before we can talk openly about “this”… It’s the rule of Today… But I have felt exhilarated and so outrageously happy ever since I heard the news… I just could not scream it out loud…
I am now…
Every piece of news, every photo that she sends me of a new ultrasound, everything… just gives me tickles and “warm fuzzies” (thank you, Ms. T!!) inside…
This is another life in our family, just now being conceived. Another entity… another being… He will come from two very strong personalities, and even stronger genes . He will come with his own schedule, and way of cooking the potatoes, and way he likes his eggs. Cats or dogs? Vanilla or chocolate? Will he be afraid of heights like his dad, or a daredevil like his mom? Thick lips or thin?
He is a personality now (you can tell by the way he blinks fast and the way he frowns in the movies), as I see the pictures and I can make out his habits already and his features. Amazing what they can do with pictures before the baby’s born nowadays …
I feel like he is part of me, although, of course he is not – just because he’s part of my baby sis! She and I have been for years now One. We have shared more than soul mates, mothers-and-daughters and more than twins share. I have loved her as my own ever since I can remember… And now, she’s the bearer of this wonderful gift of life…
I read sometimes about rivalry amongst sisters, that she got pregnant and I am not even dating anyone … But these feelings/ attitude are strange to me. I feel just one with her, just witness at this miracle called life. THIS is not a competition. This is her gift to herself and to the world and to our families, and I am just glad to be witness to it.
I can never, ever, ever, get the rivalry thing figured out. I stopped competing with her when I was probably in first grade. I have always known that she will be the “mother” of the two of us, and I will be the “helper”, the watchful servant of her. I am the Godmother, of this first wonderful miracle and that is … just such an honor! I am breathless!
I would like to hug them, she and baby, every day, at the end of the day, and tell them “I Love You”, every second! I would love to have to almighty power to protect them from any harm!
I have got to be feeling the same love, happiness and fulfillment that the tree in the spring feels when it nourishes new branches full of blooms! I am speechless, breathless and ecstatic!
Every picture I see, every 3D movie, every … image … makes me want to scream with the joy of happiness and hope. No envy, no jealousy whatsoever. Just joy of being a witness! And privilege of being so close.
There IS life, after all… and it shall perpetuate. And even if some of us came barren, or sick, or unwilling, or…otherwise … we CAN still see the miracle of life blooming in our bloodstream!
It’s so beautiful. And so sacred. And I wish she were closer. And him too!
His first pictures in the womb lead me to believe he looks like his dad… Now, I am more inclined to say he takes after her … but until I see him “out”… I remain breathless. And happy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New Year’s Resolutions

To J.C.
"Come back to square one, just the minimum bare bones. Relaxing with the present moment, relaxing with hopelessness, relaxing with death, not resisting the fact that things end, that things pass, that things have no lasting substance, that everything is changing all the time - that is the basic message". (Pema Chodron)

· I will eat more greens and less meat.
· I will listen to more music and watch less TV.
· I will tell mom and dad I miss them more and I love them most.
· I will make an effort to touch the cats, and snuggle, even if I come home with a splitting headache and no willingness to touch anything other than a bottle of Excedrin.
· I will eat less pills and I will do the bridge pose more, to cure migraines.
· I will use my furniture more. I have two comfy chairs that I never sit in. I will sit in my chairs more. Give them attention.
· I will spend more on others and less on me.
· I will be open minded. “Crazy” is such a simple classification. “Crazy” should be so complex and so thought-through. “Crazy” should never be used as an easy dismissal!
· I will pay more attention to words. They can cure … and they can hurt … and they can kill!
· I will label less. Actually, I’ll throw away the label maker!
· I will be mindful of my presence, here, on Earth.
· I will make an effort not to leave marks, unless they’re of love and whispers.
· I will really smell the roses and hydrangeas in my garden, not just acknowledge their color.
· I will kiss Gypsy more and pop his tail less.
· I will hug more.
· I will kiss less fast.
· I will “make” more and “buy” less.
· I will write more and speak less.
· I will speak less and listen more.
· I will teach myself patience, one teardrop and one sweat bead at a time!
· I will open my heart, like you open a vein, into the running water: free, and hopeless. Completely flowing and exposed, oblivious of the consequences!
· I will let my heart bleed to the world and learn freedom!
· I will read more.
· I will make my nails more often. They make me smile and make me feel pretty and clean.
· I will touch my toes more.
· I will welcome life and love in my life.
· I will start the days with a smile and not a frown.
· Like a beautiful willow tree, I will be lonely in the field, with my head bowed humbly at the sky, and thanking Mother Earth for having me …
· And people will see me from afar and will come visit my strength and beauty.
· But I will be OK. Alone. And just letting the wind comb my wild and unruly branches.
· I will seek freedom and allow it on others, too, as much as I can help it.
· I will be the door that opens. Never the one that closed.
· I will learn more and forget less.
· I will use my crock-pot more and my microwave less.
· I will heat up more tea, and open less wine.
· I will eat more honey and less preserves.
· I will kill fewer chickens, and grow more lovage!
· I will stubbornly live.
· I am stubbornly starting.
· I will have no regrets!

“The sound of the stream, after all, is without present, without past.” (Ching An)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

"La vie en rose"

It takes roughly 6 hours to get from Greensboro to Montreal.
Loaded up with ALL my winter attire, and I really do mean ALL of it, every thick sweater I own, I spent Christmas in Montreal this year. The thing was: Montreal was quite warm. And that was not the only pleasant surprise on this trip…
Although this time I was planning to just see family and stay in and get a serious case of the cabin fever, I reluctantly accepted the invitation to go out, after 4-5 days of heavy Romanian cooking and eating, of too much sausages and “sarmale”…
There is something about the city that makes me feel like I am in Europe. Before I went to Canada the first time in 2006 I thought I would feel more like being somewhere in YankeeLand, America. Not so! I felt more like in Northern Germany, or Holland. My sister always says she feels more like in Northern France, but I have never been, so …
The city has an Old World feel and safety about it that’s unusual in a metropolis, to me. Yes, there are times of the day and spots even in New York City where I feel borderline “safe”, but not many!
In Montreal, I feel like in my own back yard, with nothing to fear, no danger awaiting. There is a peace in the hustle and bustle of the city that’s hard to describe. Easier to grasp though. There is a slower pace and a friendlier attitude of the French, I guess, that are reassuring and inviting. And I think the French is what makes the city feel and look “non American” to me. Not much to annoy the Americans who expect to hear English; but enough of it, where it makes it feel you’re abroad.
In just the couple of days of sightseeing that I set aside on this trip, I still managed to entertain the eye, and the palate with some of the bazillion things Montreal has to offer. That’s the thing about a big city: you never run out of things to do and see, I guess… The trouble there is: what to do with such a variety and so little time?? But I usually like little portions of time on my hands: gives me no hour to waste! And I love the concentration of those little chunks of time. It’s what stays with me.
One day, we went shopping in the Underground City on Rue Saint Catherine. I hope I got the street right here, but I know I got the place. It’s this huge honest-to-God Shopping City, built indoors, mostly under the street level, but also above, but all indoors. I hate shopping, but I love shopping with my sister, because she loves it so much! She’s like a professional shopper. She wastes no time. She’ll make a list of what you need, and then take you there. Like the project manager of shoppers, she has all planned out and timed!
One thing that stuck with me on this tour was the $1 lockers they have. It’s Montreal, or as my sister says, “The North Pole”, so everyone wears thick, heavy clothes : well, “for your shopping convenience” they have these lockers you drop a coin in and then you lock your baggage and your coats in. So convenient!
I was also fascinated mostly by all the various cultures cuisines in the Underground. Anything from Lebanese to Serbian and Japanese seemed to be represented, as in a Babel Tower of goodies. My sister had to have a shawarma – her favorite sandwich since forever, and I just gawked at all the sushi fast food counters, because as much as I love sushi, and as beautiful as everything looked, I was saving myself for a “flamm” at Les Trois Brasseurs later. No, it’s not a pizza. It’s better than a pizza! The menu looks like a newspaper, and working for a paper here, I can appreciate that; it’s even called “La Gazette” and along with their own beers it features these very thin and loaded with flavor “flamms” which are like pizzas, only better. Maybe more like flat breads?!
Another day, we went to the Beaux Arts Museum. I have not been to a museum probably since college (don’t ask: that’s a LONG time ago!). There, I saw for the first time ever original works by Dali, Picasso, Warhol and Rodin, amongst soooo many others. I am never a museum fan, typically, but I’ll have to say, if it comes in small portions and at long intervals of time, it can be very relaxing and mind opening. With the risk of stereotyping, if America is all about movies and amusement parks, Europe is about museums. Anyone I know goes to Paris, and Madrid, Russia and Rome for the art! The museums. Reconnecting with the way I grew up, as a perpetual student, was good too, this way … Refreshing. Rejuvenating. I don’t do spas, so, this was my spa treatment. For the spirit – which I’ll have to tell you, I worry more about than my skin!
Some pictures I took there were because of the viewpoint of the art, or the materials, some others were for their fame. They were all taken because they opened my vision and they all provided food for thought. They were never “dry” … They fed me! In many ways! Creative, spiritual, visceral. Check out the gift shop when you’re there. It’s not cheesy! At all!!
Another stop was the lounge bar at Suite 701 on Cote Place D’Armes for an appetizer and wine dinner . Very subdued, hip but classy, modern décor, model-like handsome wait staff, and THE best cheese plates I have ever seen! You felt like in The Iron Chef contest, and you were given the opportunity to sample and judge! The judging would have been easiest: all the plates would have won! The presentation of the dishes was outstanding, but they definitely passed the tasting challenge too. True feast for many senses.
The seafood plate was oozing with sea smells and full of flavor, once you tasted it! The best smoked salmon I have had in a long while, and the best oysters! And what a presentation! The fries came like in Europe, of course, with mayo on the side. Yum!
Once outside, in the surprisingly warm Montreal, we soaked up in winter decor and snow, like we were walking in a fairy tale.
It was such a nice break from the routine. And like my French teacher said in school: she used to go to Paris once every two years. She didn’t have much cash, but she said she needed to see Paris every two years, “to feed herself with beauty for another 2 years, and then her routine life became more bearable” … Now, I see where she was coming from!
Note: Enjoy Montreal Pics Here.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Layoffs, Buyouts and Other American ... Opportunities

What To Think? – you ask …

It was just announced sometimes last night that Landmark Communications, our parent company, is about to have us sold. The news traveled from mouth to mouth, from computer screen to computer screen like wild fire.
Eyes were bulged, people were numb; some were even crying. They’re all sad and disapproving. I think they’re all mad at the institution one more time (like they were after the June layoffs) and at the leaders. They’re frustrated that they feel lied to, and cheated one more time by “the bottom line”. They are mad that they had to find out from another paper’s front page, or from the website.
I guess I am one of the “numb” ones. I am not even vehemently or otherwise disapproving.
There are a lot of speculations and that’s all they are, at this point in my book. A lot of folks are talking about "remember when such and such got bought and fired everyone", or "I was at Cone when we got bought out" or "I was at Sealy and usually what happens is: they push out everything here and implement everything they have; they might not even have Windows, they might work in some other system"... “the big wigs fall off first, then us, the ‘little people’ “… blah blah blah... We were around the table for an hour this morning, our team, making “if” statements like those. Staring into the void of the room. Thinking out loud. The point, please?!
Who’s going to buy us, the papers (meaning "me"), asks my friend who works for The Weather Channel, another Landmark property (granted, with better odds for a more advantageous sale than us, papers, who are losing money right now)?! “McClatchy ?? MAYBE Cox?? What if it's Media General??” – well, yeah: that’s it for now: ANYONE in the business can buy us at this point in time … or we can fold. Story of the market economy, I think. Story of any economy trying to stay strong and healthy and doing what they think it’s best. I am not wasting my energy on this… Yet!
I for one, of course, am interested in what happens to my future and to my career; I have invested more than 7 years in this, so it’s not indifferent to me what happens next. But I think for now, for me, it’s time to keep eyes and ears open and wait. And what I want or would like might happen or might not. I think it’ll take time and we’ll have options either way. And then, when we have real, touchable, palpable options, I will weigh and I will pick one. For me, this is nothing more than a learning experience.
My heart goes out to people who are either in key positions or who have invested 20+ years in this! To people with families and especially special needs (kids, old people to take care of, sick folks, etc). It is disheartening to see those who have made a life out of this, here, at the Paper and to see their empty stares looking at a blurry future – I will say that. I wish everyone luck and wonderful choices ahead!
Till then, I am reading the news. With no opinion. Unbiased, like a true media person should be, right?! Smiling. I don’t believe that myself.
I am just learning about democracy and a market economy still. And this is one of those opportunities. I come from a place where people go to college, find a job and retire from that job 30 years later. So, this is all new to me. But very expected. I don’t hate the leaders, I don’t hate whatever decision they’re going to make. In any kind of “household” there comes a time to remodel, move out, cut bills or just plain start all over. So, I am trying to understand which is it this time.
Still numb.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Resurrection

I am one of those blue cheese haters (and no, "hate" is not too strong of a word here!). Yep. When the wings are coming, I am one of the wimps that says “Extra ranch, please!”. I hate everything about blue cheese: the looks, the smell, the taste, I am officially a blue cheese hater.
I am a pumpkin-anything hater too, but while I think anything pumpkin needs to be fed to pigs, not humans, I find no purpose at all for blue cheese. If I’d find it in my fridge, I’d probably chuck it, considering it spoiled food! To me, it tastes like good cheese that’s been soaked in water along with some sweaty, dirty, smelly, man-socks for days!!! It’s foul and evil!
Or I thought so, till the other night, when I decided to give it a chance! It was a big step! Trust me. HUGE step. Like moving to the States from a Third World country big step!! Like deciding overnight you want to give it all up to move in a tree and live there forever like a monkey. Huge. The dish I ordered came on a bed of “blue cheese coleslaw” – very plainly stated in English on the menu. No surprises. And I said, what the heck… And let me, the blue cheese hater, tell you: when you know what you’re doing in the kitchen and you know how to mix tastes and textures, you can send your customers straight to Heaven!
If you ever go to Revival Grill, please order the crispy, fried oysters!!! Oh, boy, is that heaven or what, to utter “the” understatement of the year?! It is a feast for all senses!
It’s fried oysters served with a garlic and chili red transparent sauce, on a bed of green and red cabbage slaw, mixed with chunks of blue cheese and roasted, sweet-glazed walnuts!
The textures of soft oyster, liquid garlic and chilies, crispy cabbage, even crispier walnuts, and semi-soft chunks of cheese, and the combination of all tastes: sweet, and hot, and bitter, and woodsy, and garlic-y, and sea-y make you think you died and ended up on the shores of France or some other Mediterranean culinary Eden. Just like a great orchestra, every ingredient was a standalone talented player, which also made for a great-sounding, in this case tasting, whole.
Did I mention the colors?! The subdued shades of green of the cabbage, along with the purple of red cabbage (that’s funny: “purple red cabbage”… ), the light brown of the oysters, the white of the cheese and brown of the walnuts, almost floating in this bright red, transparent sauce – it’s a beautiful food, too!
Yes, you still taste the blue cheese – very much so, but to me, it was not repugnant this time! It was the perfect complement to everything else on the plate! And I will say: the blue cheese was needed there, for the whole taste to come together. It was definitely not dispensable!
Makes my mouth water as I think of it. Should I think of myself now as a blue cheese convert?!? Hhhmmm… Probably too soon. I’ll still have my wings with ranch, but I’ll be looking for the next blue cheese mixer favorite. I finally found a redemption for the poor food! And surprisingly enough, it doesn’t involve swine!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Thoughts on New Year’s Night

Life’s a trip, indeed! The kind that never stops and never stops surprising you, either!

2007 turned out to be weird to its very silly end… The year when a long awaited family gathering 5000 miles away from here fell apart to bickering and pettiness; the year of a beautiful couple’s wedding AND separation a few months later; the year of going in business with dear friends only to be cheated on, lied to, not to mention fallen apart with disappointment; the year of another one night stand, when I swore I am too old for that; the year of a freak happening on the top of the one mile bridge mountain, when the wind locks me out of my car; the year of the long awaited first Christmas in Canada, only to witness a death… Also the year of a new home, and new praise at work, the year of new-found love and respect for people I have taken for granted.
So, last night, when my friend called 15 minutes before our dinner to tell me she can’t show, because she broke out in hives from her makeup and can’t go out, I said to myself: well, THIS is a fine ending to this crazy year: going out on New Years alone. I have been out alone before, but the folklore of the masses in any culture will tell you oh no, you can’t be alone on New Years. Oh, no, it’s bad luck!! Well, I said to myself: what else am I going to do?? I have two options: alone at home with the cats, or alone in a crowd… So, I went for the crowd… I had not dressed up and made up my face to show it to the cats. Nope.
Yes, I felt stared at and pitied when I first walked in and sat at the bar, but just like a new piece of furniture eventually blends in the room’s décor, so I became part of the scene just after the first sip of my Riesling…
There is something thrilling on the night between the years, that I would always want to be part of, I think. People grow smiles out of nothing; even the shiest ones are chatty and even the cold, aloof ones are warm and approachable! Everyone is evidently throwing off the worries of the heavy, old, past year and embracing, it seems, a new life, with new hopes, and new dreams. Of course, we know that tomorrow is just another day we wake up to, with the same lives and people and problems, but this night, between the years, we all get this glimpse of hope in our eyes, and we throw away the worries to the wind, and for just those 10-15 seconds of the countdown, we are worriless, and fearless, and free, and happy. Truly, unbelievably happy!
Every year, I feed off of the smiles, and the light in the eyes of people at midnight on New Years; the tears, the kisses, the hugs. They all seem sincere and whole! For those 10-15 seconds, I think I will always want to see and be around “people”, to renew my jaded energy from an old, tired and “silly” year that passed, and appreciate being human again. It gives me fuel for the new beginning …
It was a smart choice to go out. Food was unbelievable (more on that later); people were friendly and welcoming; music was great. I told my sister I need to go to Romania every 5-6 years for a wedding to REALLY dance, because in the US no one dances… Well, not so on New Years. Old and young, fat and skinny, beautiful and plain were dancing their hearts out. I felt right at home …
I felt right at home, with strangers all around me. I let the crowd swallow me, and the wine warm up my cheeks and the music sway my hips and everything was all right and easy and non-weird again.
I woke up the next day to the same cats, in the same bed as always, but coffee tasted a little sweeter today and my omelet was a tad tastier, I thought. I smile more and I am once again hopeful.
Bring it on, 2008. I am ready!