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Hello, I am returned – Ta-DA!

Last week was amazing. I spent five days in the Berkshires, taking a collage and yoga workshop with amazing women and an amazing teacher, learning and playing, cutting and piecing, and having a bit of a reunion.

It wasn’t just a reunion with other people, tho’ that part was pretty great, too – some of us have been taking the Vibrant Visionary Collage Workshop for years now, and it is a delight to reconnect and catch up. My mom & I attend together every year, and with her living in FL and me in MA, it’s a really good come-together for the two of us as well.

But the big reunion, really, was with myself.

There’s just so freaking much on my plate at home, it’s not even funny. There’s the film festival , there’s the household stuff,* there’s the art rep,** there’s the businesses,, there’s getting ready for the workshop I’m teaching at the end of the month, not to mention all the messy crap that goes along with the health insurance change that we just made.*** And did I mention that Our Man Cub broke his poor nose last week at the Memphis May Fire show?†

To say the gas was low in my tank is an understatement. And retreat couldn’t have come at a better time.

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Good morning, and welcome to Pretty Pretty Princessland, winter edition.* I am currently blogging it up in my pjs and bathrobe, with a nice hot cup of coffee, IN BED. Yes, sister, I am blogging in bed.

And really, what’s that about? you may ask. I might spend some sweet space justifying purchases here, but, really, let’s cut to the chase: teenagers today (the delightfully nerdy ones, at least – you know, my favorite ones) don’t use the phone so much as talk for hours over Skype while playing together on the same Minecraft server, and recording it for YouTube, and I share a desk with Our Man Cub. Which is to say, it can become a touch noisy at my desk. And I payed down the Best Buy card from the winter holidays last week. So a Chrome Book? Yes, please. I joked that I would blog in bed, and so here I am test driving that business, in bed, cup of coffee, big orange cat purring up a storm beside me, and all up in some soft blankets. Also, I sat in my studio the other day and collaged like a badass while watching Netflix. SO MUCH WIN.

SO! I’m trying to indulge myself more. Does that sounds ridiculous so early into the year? I know everyone’s all about getting back on the stick and losing weight and being more disciplined about their exercise regime, and cutting out sugar and all that – it’s resolution time, still, after all. But I’m so totally into indulgence tight now.

Honestly, I’ve been working like a dog since about mid-November. With the museum where Will Dearest and I work(ed)** closing down and then the cleaning and moving and consolidating, I’ve been on my feet constantly, and not taking very good care of me terribly well. And I discovered something important: when I don’t pour enough sugar on the everyday, when I come home exhausted and eat junk food and zone out, just waiting for it to be late enough to go to bed, and then get up and do it all over again, I don’t like being me so much. When I operate like that, even my weekends go to the dogs – I spend a ton of time just sitting still and feeling sorry for myself over how much energy I’m expending for someone else (no mind that I’m being, you know, paid for it, and that I really like the people I work with, and that I actually like the work I’m doing there) and how I never get enough time to do my stuff and blah blah blah whine whine whine oh, my feet. Yeh, I don’t like living in that headspace. It’s like moving a 9′ metal horse through a 7′ door – you can do it, it’s just really hard and involves a lot of heavy lifting.

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Oh, vacation. As of 3 o’clock yesterday, both Will Dearest and I are on vacation for a week! To celebrate, after work yesterday we grabbed some grocery store lobsters (they’ll cook them for you – joy!) and I steamed up the corn from the farmers market*, and we had a family picnic on the living room floor – which was truly lovely.

While I’m wrapping my head around the idea of a week without waking at six and going in to work, the smallest cat is laying on top of a handled bag from Old Sturbridge Village. He has killed it two tiemz, even tho’ he was frightened of it when it first arrived because it smelled strongly of fudge. I’m impressed with his fortitude and bravery. I am planning to channel his osm spirit in the coming days.

I have some plans for the week: I’m thinking about taking everything out of the sun room and reorganizing it. We are going to paint Man Cub’s room at some point. He and Dearest Will have already taken advantage of the weekend and the good weather to build a (gorgeous!) fire pit in the yard, and we are all eagerly awaiting the cement’s curing to test drive it. I would very much like to get back into my yoga practice, which has derailed over the last month because of Busy. I want to pick up some big pots and some soil, and replant the english ivy that’s looking droopy. I’m looking forward to sleeping in a few days this week.

But first, I got things to do. We have a 2 o’clock slam practice that we’re looking at ending around six tonight. We have a slam team send-off tonight, as they’re to Boston for Poetry Slam Nationals on Tuesday, another practice tomorrow night, and laundry and sundried other odds and ends to handle before we all depart.** Also, I have to order oil and pay the bills sometime today. So I think after Thursday, it will be about really digging into the move-stuff-around-in-the-house business. And going to the movies with Man Cub. I’m looking forward to it, just bringing the focus back home for a little bit.

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Ok, so! Let me tell you what I was super secret squirrel about last week – I made a Thing!

Here’s the scoop – over the last year, Dearest Will & I have been doing yoga together, and both of us have been interested in learning to meditate. It’s been nice that the gentle yoga practice that we do together* has some guided meditation at the end, but we’ve both wanted something more. We tried a yoga nidra cd. We tried some chanting stuff with Deva Primal.** A little flirting with it, right?

And then enter the panic attacks.*** Poor Dearest Will started having them at the end of last year, and has been working with a therapist around that stuff, to some really great success.  A couple months ago, she suggested to him that he should try meditation. Osm, right? She sent him home with some YouTube links, and a mission.

After some browsing the YouTube clips, hilarity ensued, as well as some aggravation on my part – why, for the love of Pete, do meditations always take place on the freaking beach? I find the beach to be one of the most stressful places I can possibly imagine – the heat, the garbage strewn all over the place, the reek of suntan lotion and stale beer, crowds, sand that follows you home and gets into everything you own. Lawdamercy, why??

So I ranted, Will giggled at me ranting, we discussed at length guided meditation clips and what we would both actually want from one. Being a skittery animal  myself,  I held that any good guided meditation should start with, Shh – it’s alright now.

So, in secret, I set to work. I wrote a script. I edited it. I read it out loud to myself and scrapped it. I started again. And again. And a third time, until I got it close to where I wanted it.

Then I emailed my friend Steve. This guy changed my life in 1990, when he handed me a cassette tape with Surfer Rosa  on one side, and Goo on the other side – omogod, blissful noise! Seriously, I had No. Idea.† Anyway – Steve’s still making Good Noise these days, and with that in mind, I asked him if he could do 8 minutes of ambient music suitable for meditation.††

Steve sent me the track he came up with, pointed me in the direction of good (and free to evaluate) mixing software, complete with notes on how to cut and paste pieces and fix volume, and I got the hell on it.

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Can we talk please talk about Bunny Yoga? Omigod, I stumbled across the site last night – one of the communities put this picture up (see below) without artist attribution, and I fell to, hunting for him. The artist, it turns out, is Brian Russo, whom I previously knew pretty much nothing about, but am now crushing on a little bit artistically.

So this is not the first time that I’ve been brought to moist eyes by a cartoon – I’ll admit it has happened in the past (Mouseguard, anyone?) and unashamedly, too. But this was a different kind of moist eye. When I saw the bunnies in different asanas, I immediately and personally related. The focused expressions, the little round tummies, the little belly roll in forward bend – I immediately though, omigod, that’s me!

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or
Let Us Speak About Meditation

Ok, so I want to talk for a hot minute about the slightly off-key chorus of balloon animals that resides in my head.

If you’ve ever been around when I’m hosting a slam somewhere you’ll hear me mention during the MC Spiel something or other about NO FUCKING BALLOON ANIMALS. Comes with the territory. At least I’ve stopped requesting that someone build me a paper hat. Rachel Hyman actually made me a paper hat once upon a time ago at a Java Hut slam – it was the Best Slam Evar, as far as I am concerned. But I digress.

So, yes, the talking balloon animals. Or the Radio, I sometimes call it. When I was in social work ages ago, people I worked with referred to it as The Committee, tho’ that label really implies a lot more about judgement than the other names. What I’m getting at is the ceaseless chatter of the mind which goes on ad nauseum, shifts topics with no warning, and distracts like a baws. Sometimes it’s got some judgement, but most of the time it’s more like a 1992 Honda Civic stuffed with some busy eight-year-olds who’ve been up since the crack of omigod eating Cap’n Crunch from the big bowl – Where we going? Are we almost there? Are we there yet? Can we buy candy when we get there? Don’t forget about that book you read in 1987 – I liked that book a bunch. Oooh! This is a good song – I’mma sing along with Avril Lavigne! Holy carp, what time is it? Are we there yet? Where are we gonna go tomorrow? I might be hungry – what’re we having for dinner? You start cooking dinner by getting a clean pan – no no wait – you have to wash the dishes fist. We’ll do the dishes and water all the plants right after yoga. Speaking of plants, the strawberries need to go outside – the windowsill just isn’t cutting it, and the bigger cat keeps referring to it as, ‘salad.’ Are we there yet?

Which is to say, when that shit is turned up, it takes some doing to concentrate.

And I’m trying to learn how to meditate, did I mention?
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Ok, so that sewing kitty gif sat up on the blog for over a month before I felt like I had something urgent enough to talk about to actually write up an entry.* It’s been that kinda of spring, so far. Thank goodness sewing kitty is adorable. Also, if you’ve come to this blog, according to my stats page, there’s an eighty percent chance you’re hungry,**  and there are plenty of recipes on the site, so really I haven’t been terribly worried, right?

Anyway! It’s not just that the rain has had me a little bit slow (holy, carp, I’m tiring of the grey weather!) it’s more than that. I’ve been working on some stuff that has my head in other places, and some days it’s really hard to hone myself to a clear focal point for the blog. Aside from the fact that soccer season is back in swing and I haven’t really adjusted to the schedule change yet, I’ve been working on another book.***

And this book is new to me – loosely, you could call it sci-fi, or urban fantasy (there are no spaceships, but there’s both tech and magic in it), and outside of a handful of short stories, I’ve never really delved into trying to put something like this on paper. I’ve always wanted to (one day I’ll write dragon fic!) but haven’t ever figured out how to navigate the doing. This is seat-of-pants stuff, and as a task-oriented person, and as someone who really likes to have a clear vision of what I’m doing, a little harrowing at times. (Also, I’m one hundred percent sure that this is not a book that I could show to at least four people whom I love very much, as they would cough at the content.)

Which is to say, the going has been slow – I think I started this thing some five years ago as part of a NaNoWriMo attempt.† I put it down for a year someplace in there, when I got stuck. I’ve been picking at it intermittently for what seems like a dog’s age, and cussing at it occasionally. There was a whole summer when I sat in bed and whined something to the tune of, “If I only knew what my staaaaatement iiiiiiiiiis – wahhhhh!”†† I wrote three short stories that happen in the same world, after sitting down to work on the novel and getting sidetracked. I made file after file of drafts, and made a bunch of print-outs. I sat down and made a synopsis. And then another one. I had an idea of the ending, but was fairly hopeless about the execution of said ending. And then I put the thing away again, and didn’t touch it for a while – four months, five months, maybe. Incidentally, that’s kind of a long time for a project  to sit, y’all.

But listen – something has shifted. Someone once described writer’s block to me as the time when your imaginary friends stop talking to you. Well, all of a sudden, they’re talking to me again \o/ And they’re rather chatty, actually. I’ve been nosing into my google docs while on break at work. I’ve been toting a paper printout and a notebook to the soccer pitch when Our Man Cub has a practice. I’ve been keeping a notepad on the bedside.

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So. I brought the little bitty computer with me to Kripalu with the express intention of writing every night while I was on retreat. But it turned out that even checking my email on the little machine was akin to trading on the NASDAQ from a cigar box, so, um, yeh, that really didn’t happen. But honestly, this was the first time in four years that I went on retreat and brought any electronic business with me – usually I go up there and unplug pretty completely; I don’t even call home, right? So perhaps this was a sign from the Universe that really, unplugged is the way to go while I’m on retreat. Or that the little lappie just gets bamboozled when taken out of its natural environment.* But, um, I’m back \o/

Anyway! What a fantastic week this was! This was the second year that Mom and I went to Kripalu for the Vibrant Visionary Collage Workshop, and it did not disappoint. We were both a little apprehensive that the course material would repeat from the year before, but no such thing – the presenter, Karen Arp-Sandel, had a different angle of approach this year from the year before, and it was just as delightful as it was the year before.**

So the workshop is just what you might think it is from the title – it’s a week of collaging, cutting and pasting, and playing with paper and pieces, and learning techniques for treating paper and other images. Which, in my book, is pretty dandy all in itself. But wait – there’s more: tho’ we were working in the studio all week,*** really, the focus was on Sisterhood. Now, before you tune out because that sounds all new-agey, try and embrace the crunchy granola spot inside you, because it was really truly osm to be in the presence of such business all week. (Also, please go read this, which I had the luxury of reading directly upon return – funny these rhythms, huh? Also, this.****)

I truly felt a strong vibe of Sisterhood in that room full of interesting, strong women. For someone who struggles (frequently) over the notions of safe spaces v. ghettoization of women, it was kind of a big deal for me. Maybe it’s easier to begin explaining it in terms of what it was not: it was not divisive, it was not anti-, it was not aggressive, it was not political beyond what the personal is in all of us. I don’t remember any talk about men in terms other than in terms of the husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers that we love.***** Actually, I don’t remember a whole lot of talk about men overall – primarily the talk was about women in our lives. There was a lot of talk of sisters and mothers. There were three mother/daughter pairs of participants in the group (I was honored to be part of one of those pairs, myself). And the energy in the room was about bringing together, about shared experience and consciousness as women, and about play expressed in in that scope.

It was also about claiming one’s art.

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This delightful kitty picture is by Dan Borris. Click on it for more of his photography.

Ok, so I want to talk about pain. Not because I want to solicit sympathy, but because the topic has been preoccupying me for, like, the last six weeks or so, and I feel like I need to explain my All Aboard the Grump Train demeanor of late.

So my back is a mess. The good news being that after five years of dinking around with mentioning it to my doctor, minimizing and then as it got more irritating, insisting, I finally have a diagnosis that makes sense. In a few weeks I’ll meet with the doctor to talk more about what we’re going to do about this ankylosing spondylitis business and get back in the groove. The bad news is, well, my back hurts, and I think it’s making me a whole lot of no fun >.< Read the rest of this entry »

Yoga marches on, and we’ve made it to the second week of the Yoga Journal 21-Day Challenge. This a super nice change-up from the dvds that we’ve been using to practice with the last few months – new poses, and new instructors, and so far, I’m liking it really well.

There have been a few sessions so far with Jason Crandell as the instructor (here’s a rather good one), and I’ve already decided that were he based anywhere near where we live, that I would go out of my way to attend his classes. It’s not just that his offered practices include a lot of poses that I really like (I do love me some triangle pose), but the manner in which the practice is presented is pretty great –

Listen: I’m always a little worried about injuring myself. See, I’m a bit of a klutz. Not like bobbling, face-planting, walk into trees kind of klutz, but the kind who can be imprecise of movement when not paying attention. Also, I multi-task. This is to say, I generally have at least one mystery bruise, and practicing yoga really calls on all my concentration. So, being asked to stretch and grow and push is nice, but I have to be super careful every time not to try to push too far, or lose concentration while stretching and growing – otherwise my lower back goes and makes that sick wet popping sound, and then by morning I’m hunched (again*).

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todays

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