Gratitude Friday

1. Morning walks. Because it’s been so dry and Sam has been walking further, we’ve been going by the river and around the ponds this past week. I can’t wait until it gets lighter in the morning again so I can get some good pictures. For now, the sun is only just coming up when we are on our way back.

2. Yummy food and company. I’m heading over to a friend’s this afternoon for tea, and I’m bringing snacks.

3. Sweet Sam, and Red Sage Vets. With their help, Sam is up to walking five miles a day, and he seems to not be getting as stiff or sore. He’ll probably never go for another 10 mile run, but I’m happy he can go as much as this.

4. Ringo Blue. I’m super jealous that he loves Eric more than me, even though Eric has totally earned it.

5. This guy. A few years ago we started buying packages for the Lincoln Center where you pick five shows from their full season. Usually there is one we really, really want to see, one that we didn’t really care about that turns out to be amazing, a few more that are good, and one that’s just “meh” or even a dud. Portland Cello Project this year was brilliant, and this one (Friends! The Musical Parody) was “meh” – I have a complicated relationship with the original show and much of the cast had either just graduated from theater programs or previously worked cruise ships (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but there were other people in the audience losing their minds with joy. Eric and I have a nerdy tradition of taking selfies with the programs and texting them to our good friend to prove we really do leave the house and go out at night.

Bonus joy: a big glass of clean cool water, sleeping in, yoga, aqua aerobics, swimming, Pilates, sitting in the sauna with Eric, good TV (I’m embarrassed to tell you what I’ve been watching lately – so bad, it’s good), meditating and writing in the morning, orange juice, our new Instapot (mostly because Eric keeps trying new recipes), a really soft tshirt, computer glasses, owls hooting, having dear friends whose houses are within walking distance, having dear friends who are just a text or Zoom call away, the growing appreciation for the privilege of having a car I can get in and go anywhere I want any time I want, reading in bed at night before I go to sleep.

Something Good

1. Drag Queen Story Hour sashays into Windsor with popularity, controversy.

2. A 76-year-old man and his wife have transformed a barren Chinese mountain into a vast forest. (video)

3. This wildlife artist captured an incredible amount of animals using the same fallen tree trunk as a natural bridge. (video)

4. Sea turtle rescue. (video)

5. Hula dance is being taught in San Quentin State Prison for reform. Here’s a video of the same story.

6. This little guy is so grateful when he gets his favorite treat. So cute! (video)

7. Woman Captures London’s Most Beautiful Front Doors.

8. When you realize you’re in a word problem, and the train is traveling at 2 double rolls per apple. Hilarious. (video)

9. How do two 17 year olds dial a rotary phone? (video)

10. Kid playing with light sabers with his dad is the cutest thing. (video)

11. “Stop working and play, human!” (video)

12. This Syrian refugee opened a small falafel shop in Tennessee. It was just named the ‘nicest place in America.’

13. Fat Patients’ Bias Epidemic. “Beyond the “obesity epidemic,” fat patients face another public health crisis — bias, disinterest, and misdiagnoses.”

14. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, speaking truth to power. (video) “I rise today in opposition to the occupant of the White House. Mr. Trump, you took an oath, just as I did five days ago, to protect and defend the Constitution and the American people. Sir, you dishonor that oath.”

15. Here’s how farmers in Iceland are using volcanoes to grow food all year round. (video)

16. Woman Offers To Show Up At People’s Funerals For $50 And The Responses Are Hilarious. “If you pay me $50 I’ll show up to your funeral but stand really far away, holding a black umbrella regardless of the weather, so that people think you died with a dark and interesting secret.”

17. This little girl is mesmerized by the magical notes. (video)

18. Inspiring dancer. (video)

19. Health care in America: This father lost his health insurance just before finding out his toddler had cancer. (video)

20. Neighbors won’t tolerate church’s anti-LGBTQ sign & they’re taking to the streets over it.

21. This viral thread on what people can and can’t say due to ‘political correctness’ is gold.

22. What we gain from keeping books – and why it doesn’t need to be ‘joy’.

23. Showing some simple variations for yoga. So cool! (video)

24. Neuroscientists Discover a Song That Reduces Anxiety By 65 Percent.

25. This Muslim Youth Group Stepped Up To Help Keep Our National Parks Clean During Trump’s Government Shutdown.

26. Why Is It Still Controversial to Call Trump a Racist? “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told Anderson Cooper that there’s “no question” where Trump stands; Cooper appeared confused.”

27. The BoPo-Washing Of Weight Watchers (& The Weight Loss Industry).

28. When White People Are Uncomfortable, Black People Are Silenced by Rachel Cargle.

29. The Difference Between Introverts, Empaths, And Highly Sensitive People. I am all three. In related news, 8 Honest Truths From A Contradictory INFJ.

30. Oh no we’re still us from Austin Kleon.

31. Does It Pay to Be a Writer? on The New York Times.

32. Are White Westerners Culturally Appropriating Yoga?

33. 10 Vows to Not Make Things Difficult.

34. The Great Escapers, a TV series available streaming on Netflix. “From villas to vineyards, bars to boat charters, this series follows a wide range of different business and their ambitious British owners as they look to establish a brand new life.” This show is seriously making me consider moving to France.

35. U.K. Bridal Boutique Celebrates Wedding Dresses And Wheelchairs.

36. Contribute to the Capital District Women of Color Committee. “Citizen Action of New York Capital District Women of Color Committee is joining with other groups and organizations to present the Capital District Women of Color Brunch, March and Rally on Saturday, January 19, 2019. To be able to provide for 200 Women of Color from across the Capital District to participate in the brunch, we are asking for support from individuals, corporations and organizations to raise $5,000 to cover the cost of the venue, speakers, food, drinks and supplies and other costs for the brunch as well as the larger march and rally.”

37. Poet Jane Kenyon’s Advice on Writing: Some of the Wisest Words to Create and Live By.

38. Black Lotus Healing Arts. This is a local practitioner, but she does sessions via Skype too.

39. 4-year-old Junior Park Ranger cleans up Cuyahoga Valley National Park amid government shutdown.

40. 48 Books By Women and Nonbinary Authors of Color to Read in 2019.

41. Little Caesars Posts Sign On Door After Finding Homeless People Eating Scraps From Dumpster.

42. Arrests For Illegal Border Crossings Hit 46-Year Low.

43. This week in People Behaving Badly: Canada is evicting Indigenous people to make way for a mega-pipeline (video), and Joshua Tree National Park has been trashed in the shutdown. Now visitors are cutting down trees, and Government Shutdown Curtails F.D.A. Food Inspections from The New York Times, and Kroger Manager Accused of Racial Profiling After Calling Cops On Black Teens Buying Snacks, and It’s Not a Government Shutdown. It’s a Right-Wing Coup, and R. Kelly Is Reportedly Working On A Website Titled ‘Surviving Lies’ To Discredit His Accusers, and Shutdown Leaves Food, Medicine and Pay in Doubt in Indian Country from The New York Times.

Gratitude Friday

1. Morning walks, although this morning’s wasn’t quite as long or as much fun – what was supposed to be snow was a whole lot of rain.

2. Teaching yoga. I subbed twice last week, started another module towards my 500 hour teaching certification, and saw my regular weekly class again after a two week break.

3. Being certain. As my final days of working at CSU get closer and closer (about 17 more weeks left), I am more and more sure that this is exactly the right choice. Sure, I still feel anxiety arise about the uncertainty of the future, but it doesn’t overwhelm me. I know it’s a natural response to a very big shift in my life.

4. Eric. One of the hardest things about going back to work after a long break is I don’t get to see him as much.

5. Ringo and Sam. I think we’ve reached their golden age — that brief moment when no one is a baby and no one is dying. It doesn’t last long enough.

Bonus joy: orange juice, a good rain jacket, computer glasses, a dependable car, slippers, a house that has electricity and running water and heat, reading in bed at night, CBD oil, Pilates, sitting in the sauna or under my infrared heating pad, yoga, cancelling plans.

Something Good

1. This social faux pas prompted a rush of similar confessions and they’re brilliant.

2. The Other Side Of Paradise: How I Left A Buddhist Retreat In Handcuffs. Meditation is not for everyone.

3. Be an organ donor. (video)

4. Is Orthorexia the Eating Disorder for the Digital Age?

5. Roxane Gay: “I’m not an opinion vending machine.” “Yomi Adegoke talks to Roxane Gay about the importance of boundaries, the complexities of ‘body positivity’ and what it’s like working with Channing Tatum.”

6. Runaway Cow Gives Birth 2 Days After Fleeing Slaughterhouse-Bound Truck.

7. Sometimes you just need a cuddle. (video) In related news, Cutest puppy ever. (video)

8. Rejected By Italy, Thousands Of Migrants From Africa Risk The Alps To Reach France.

9. Last Year, The Flu Put Him In A Coma. This Year He’s Getting The Shot. Yikes!

10. Barack Obama Issues Battle Cry With First Twitter Post Of 2019.

11. The bee population in Amsterdam is now growing! Here’s how the city is helping bees. (video) We could do this too.

12. UMass Says You Can’t Say ‘Fuck Nazis’ Because It’s Not Inclusive. Disagree.

13. The Exhausted Introvert’s Guide To Saying No.

14. The Broccoli Tree: A Parable. (video)

15. Cyntoia Brown Is Granted Clemency in Case That Drew National Spotlight on The New York Times. “Cyntoia Brown, a sex trafficking victim who was serving a life sentence for killing a man when she was 16, during her clemency hearing in Nashville last year. She was granted clemency on Monday and will be released to supervised parole in August.”

16. What Happens When Professional Artists Recreate Kids’ Monster Doodles In Their Own Unique Style.

17. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Says There’s ‘No Question’ About Trump’s Racism.

18. Floral Designer is Turning NYC Trash Cans into Giant Vases Overflowing with Flowers.

19. Detox Diets Aren’t Real or Healthy — and Body “Toxins” Don’t Exist.

20. These houses in India are built entirely from plastic waste in order to provide low-cost housing for underprivileged communities. (video)

21. Thoughts of Dog, my new favorite Twitter account. I found them because of their latest tweet, which goes like this: “sometimes. the human presses their noggin against mine. to figure out what i’m thinking. so i just think really hard. about how much i love them. and hope they figure it out.” *sigh*

22. This wild fox just found a dog toy and look how happy it made him. (video)

23. Guy Becomes Best Friends With A Butterfly. (video)

24. This airline worker danced on the tarmac to cheer up a crying kid. (video)

25. When you use your phone way too much. (video)

26. Black Women Changing The Game Business fund. “Here’s the reality: our culture — and our banking and business institutions — excludes and marginalizes Black women entrepreneurs. And entrepreneurship is a critical path, and sometimes the only path, for Black women to develop thriving livelihoods.”

27. This week in People Behaving Badly: New Study Finds Emergency Personnel Less Likely to Treat Pain for Black Patients Than White Ones, and Americans may love their national parks, but they can’t be trusted to enjoy them unsupervised, and National Parks Getting Trashed During Government Shutdown, and Louis C.K. Mocks Parkland Kids, Nonbinary People in Leaked Stand-up Set, and 7-Year-Old Killed in Senseless Shooting Attack on Black Family, and California Monarch Butterfly Population Down 86 Percent in One Year, and A Day in the Life of A Homeless College Student At California’s Humboldt State (video), and Pediatricians Voice Concerns About Care Following Two ‘Needless’ Migrant Deaths, and A guest at a hotel in Portland says he was harassed by staff when he was asked to leave the property after taking a phone call in the hotel lobby (video), and Migrant Baby Contracted Pneumonia After Five Days in a ‘Freezing’ Holding Cell, and A Macy’s customer berated an employee for speaking Arabic to a co-worker (video), and Atlanta Ended Its ICE Contract. But a Nearby Facility Quietly Started Jailing Immigrants, and Kansas Man Arrested For Kicking 1-Year-Old Black Child In The Back, Hurling Racial Slurs At Family, and Shutdown Leaves Food, Medicine and Pay in Doubt in Indian Country.

Day of Rest

I taught yoga twice last week. Just like if I teach yoga near Thanksgiving, I’m compelled to theme my classes around gratitude, when I teach around New Year’s Day, I feel like I have to talk about intention and transformation. As much as we might try to insulate ourselves from  external demands, in particular those coming from entities trying to sell us something, it’s difficult to escape entirely. And the message right now, coming hard and fast, is “new year, new you.”

And yet, there is nothing wrong with you. Exactly as you are, you are basically good – wise and compassionate and powerful, whole and well. You are not a project or a problem. And still, we can’t help but feel the constant pressure to make more of ourselves. We see videos like this one from DDP Yoga (which is NOT yoga, btw, imho), and the transformation, the way the drama of it is distilled into a short burst is so compelling. We watch it and believe that if we just sign up for this program, the size and shape we desire is easily within our reach. But what the video really shows is ONE human’s determination, ONE person’s process and resulting success – and that has little to nothing to do with the program the video is trying to sell us, the fix it promotes.

We all have to find our own way. Our truth is never the big T truth for everyone, and similarly just because something worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will be helpful to us. We are all on our own path. Certainly we can support and help each other, and there will be times when we share our path with others, have that in common, but ultimately we all must find ourselves, our own particular truth, our own way. As Buddhism refers to a middle path or middle way, but that middle is in a different place for every person, relative to our particular experience, and even then it is constantly shifting rather than a fixed point. It’s all a big experiment for each one of us.

Yoga as I understand and teach it isn’t about self-improvement. It isn’t about becoming something better or different, even though it sometimes unfortunately gets promoted as such. Yoga is about showing up with who we are and what is arising, having a sense of curiosity, cultivating an open heart and open mind, letting go of our agenda in order to meet what is, and meeting it with our innate wisdom and compassion. It’s about pealing away the layers of confusion. It’s not about putting our body in a specific shape but about being in our body, with ourselves, and becoming more and more authentically that. Through practice, we become more and more ourselves, and in this way we are on a path to wellness.

That said, yoga might not be your path. After years of doing traditional workouts, practicing from a place of self-improvement fueled by self-hate, I had to start over completely. I needed to find ways to move my body that felt good, that brought me joy. For me, that meant yoga, and also Pilates, aqua aerobics, swimming, and walking my dogs. It also includes things unrelated to moving as such, things like journaling and meditation, managing stress, healing trauma, getting enough water and sleep, and cultivating supportive and satisfying relationships and work. For you, it will be something else.

Soften towards yourself with compassion and trust your own innate wisdom. Let go of your agenda, turn away from external expectations, and tune into your intuition, your knowing, your longing. It is there that you will find the magic and the medicine, a kinder more sustainable middle path.

Gratitude Friday

1. Flowers in the bathroom. I hadn’t had any in a while. I wanted a small white poinsettia but kept forgetting to look for one. Then I had to get rid of my Christmas tree and needed the cheering up.

2. An intention and visioning workshop. I haven’t done one of these for a while, after doing them regularly when Jamie Ridler hosted monthly full moon dreamboards. It also inspired me to pick a guiding word for 2019, something else I haven’t done lately: space. Holding space, making space, taking up space, resting in space. My Buddhist name translates to “space dancer” so it makes sense.

3. Eric. He and our friend Kerri were recently honored as Colorado Community College System’s Outstanding Faculty. They totally deserved it.

4. Ringo Blue, and his mama and papa, Peaches and Spec. It was five years ago we went to visit a litter of puppies, met their parents, and committed to taking one of the babies home when they got old enough. I suspect we’ll never get another dog under those circumstances, but I’m glad we have him.

5. We finally got snow! It’s almost all gone now, as the temperatures zoomed up to the 50s the very next day, but it was nice to have a little.

6. Sweet Sam. I didn’t get any pictures of him this week, even though he was with me almost every minute. Here’s a cute one from last year.

Bonus joy: citrus essential oils, naps, good books, bad TV that is good in its own way, aqua aerobics, teaching yoga, hanging out with Mikalina, texting with my brother, working on a puzzle, vet visits with both dogs who were so good for me, a big glass of cold water, sunshine.

Something Good

Note: I’m skipping the “People Behaving Badly” segment of this list this week again. There are still bad, awful, horrible things, but as I say good-bye to 2018 and look to the new year, watching the snow we’d hoped to have for Christmas start to fall, I feel like skipping it once more. I’m not denying or ignoring it. I’m not “focusing on the positive.” I’m just leaving it alone for another week, letting it rest for now. Happy New Year, kind and gentle reader!

1. Burning the Old Year a poem from Naomi Shihab Nye.

2. Saying Goodbye to 2018’s Seesaw of Outrage and Numbness. This post includes some really great prompts, “guiding questions to use the image above to reflect on your own social change journey for 2019,” that can help us distinguish the specific roles we play “in pursuit of equity, liberation, inclusion, and justice.”

3. UN panel says the U.S. owes reparations to African-Americans. Similar steps should be taken for indigenous people. We owe so much to so many.

4. Complete Guide to 2019 Artist Grants & Opportunities.

5. Mary Oliver on On Being. “Often quoted, but rarely interviewed, Mary Oliver is one of our greatest and most beloved poets. She’s just released a new volume, Felicity, at the age of 80. And so we’re revisiting the interview she granted us earlier this year on the wisdom of the world, the salvation of poetry, and the life behind her writing.”

6. An Introvert’s Road Map To Mindfully Controlling Stress And Anxiety.

7. What I learned from losing my dog by Jennifer Louden.

8. In 2019: Persist, Persist, Persist, wisdom from Chuck Wendig on Terrible Minds.

9. A Daily Journal Ritual to Jump-Start 2019. In related news, 19 Questions that Will Open Your Mind in 2019, and for writers, Writing Inventory, Intentions, and Reminders for the New Year.

10. Thank you for not trying to fix this from Andrea Scher. “Sometimes we are afraid that if we move toward our difficult feelings they will devour us, drag us under and engulf us. What’s more true is that allowing ourselves to have them, while shining a light of loving attention on them (either from ourselves or another) is a very miraculous kind of medicine.”

11. This Is The Kind Of Work That Excites An INFJ Personality. Alternate title, “Why I’m Quitting my CSU Job.”

12. Wisdom from Zen teacher Cheri Huber, “Self-hatred uses self-improvement as self-maintenance.”

13. Authoritarianism Thrives on Demoralization: How to Fight Trump and Stay Psychologically Healthy.

14. What Health at Every Size ISN’T. In related news, Why Eating Disorder Treatment is Failing Us All.

15. This Japanese pub is made out of 100% recycled materials. And it’s gorgeous.

16. This duck’s story is heart-wrenching but his new yellow boots are the cutest thing we’ve ever seen. (video)

17. Abused Wolves And Troubled Teens Find Solace In Each Other.

18. Cloth wrapping, known as furoshiki in Japan and bojagi in Korea, is a traditional and waste-free way of wrapping gifts, packing lunchboxes, and much more. (video)

19. The weight of being fat and black in America is worth more consideration than goes into a cheap joke. “A trio of new books lays bare the struggle of being large, African-American and considered too smart for the authors’ own good.”

20. 50 Times People Found The Most Unexpected Things.

21. Bandersnatch Stole 3 Hours of My Life Last Night, and Will Get Even More of My Time Over the Weekend.

22. Researchers Double Down on Claim Yoga Changes the Expression of Your Genes. “Over the last decade or so, we’ve been hearing that mind-body practices like yoga and meditation may affect our genes. A new review of the research solidifies it.”

23. This Russian artist is creating stunning intricate 3D landscapes with embroidery. (video)

24. This elementary school surprised their ‘superhero’ janitor with an appreciation party — and his reaction will have you ugly crying. (video)

25. Blackness Redefined: The 10 Best Films Of 2018. In related news, The Beautiful Clutter Of Black Film In 2018.

26. Forgiveness Repairs the World from Jack Kornfield.

27. Poet Andrea Gibson on Feeling Everything Everywhere.

28. Grandmothers bring food and comfort to asylum seekers at bus stations.

29. The 28 Most Amazingly Wholesome Things That Happened In 2018.