Writing and editing

Sometimes you work and work and work really hard to make the right choices in life. You say no to a bunch of things like cigarettes and cheese burgers even though your brain tells you that you might really need cigarettes and cheese burgers to be happy. Eventually, you get to a place where your brain tells you to eat a vegetable instead of smoking a cigarette or eating a cheese burger and that is strange. And then, it happens all the time, and then you never want a cigarette or a cheese burger again. And that feels weird, but right. Your friends who like cigarettes and cheese burgers think you are a pretentious dummy, and you try not to judge but you feel superior.

And then you go to Whole Foods.

And you are wheeling a little shopping cart around the store after coming close to having a coronary in the parking lot, and all the choices have been made for you. You do the math in your head and realize that you are spending most of your pay cheque on crackers and sprouts. And you can buy fake cheese to put on your fake burger and you line up with basically nothing to eat in your cart. You have a strange sinking feeling that you hate everyone in the store, so much, because they are always in your way or they are rude or they are buying real burgers. And you realize: you are not any better. All that yoga and fake cheese, imagine what you would be like if you didn’t do all that? Frightening.

Ugh. Whole Foods.

I have been to the Whole Foods in Toronto and the one in the suburbs. And I am inured. Maybe the Toronto pushy is a pushy I am used to. Maybe it is because our country in so big, we tend to spread out a little. I’m not sure. But whenever we travel in the US, I look up the nearest Whole Foods expecting that I will be spending most of our vacation eating from the coconut yogurt aisles. And we do. But I often come away with such serious doubts about my life choices afterwards. For example:

1. Seriously, what is the deal with the Whole Foods parking lot? Three days ago I watched a man on a phone back his Porsche up into a police officer and then shrug when the cop yelled at him. AND the cop just kept walking because he was in a hurry to buy kale like the other 40 million people crammed in the store that day.

That same day, we tried to leave the parking lot, but realized the car line-up to leave was over 30 minutes long. I had a weird feeling like I might die in the Whole Foods parking lot. But I also felt better because we had purchased strawberry popsicles sweetened with brown rice syrup. So we ate them and  and we listened to the cars honking at one another. Just as an aside – if the driver of the first car in line isn’t busy backing up into a cop but waiting for a break in traffic – then why honk? I don’t really get it. I mean, if you own a Range Rover than you probably get a pay cheque and so you have to be smart enough to get to work and make someone pay you, so it follows that you should be smart enough to figure out that honking might not solve your problem in this instance. Anyway, we ate our popsicles on the stoop and waited until the parking lot had cleared. Later I read that the popsicles also contained white sugar and I felt stupid.

I found a video about the Whole Foods Parking Lot! I think I am late to the party. but it made me laugh.

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2. White sugar: Often when I go to Whole Foods, I think to myself, “Stanny, this is Whole Foods. Where EVERYTHING is healthy and a whole food. You can buy whatever you want!” But when I leave, I realize that I spent Holden’s college fund on every vegan product in the world that contains sugar. I know this, and yet I continue to make this choice over and over again. I dream of the day when I can walk into Whole Foods with my eyes truly open and my cerebral cortex functioning and say to myself, “Stanny, that vegan chocolate mousse is not a whole food. It is vegan and it has tofu and it is a million dollars, but that doesn’t make it good or healthy or worthwhile.” Sigh, dreams.

3. MindReading: There is something a little unsettling about the fact that while I often think I am a unique snowflake, Whole Foods all over North America has me figured out.  How do they know that I, a struggling yoga teacher, would pay a million dollars for vegan chocolate mousse? That means the store is filled with people just like me who can’t resist the temptation of vegan chocolate mousse. And that seems so sad and strange and depressing.  It also furthers my belief that in a zombie apocalypse I will be the first to go. My neighbours will come and eat me and I will spend the rest of my undead life chasing cats for supper and shuffling my ethically-sourced vegan boots around.

Thanks Whole Foods.

So, Miami. Do you really want to see? Are you living under a mountain of snow right now? Can you imagine that some people live in a place that is like this in February? I will be shovelling out my car soon enough, don’t worry.

We ate carbs on the beach. So good.

I wore this and wasn’t cold!

Holden wanted a Valentine’s balloon very badly from CVS. He took it everywhere.

Handsome dad!

I love Christmas. I like the lights in the trees and cooking nice dinners. I like hanging out with family and getting cozy by the fire. This year we had heat and lights and hot water so we were extra, extra lucky. I am truly blessed, obviously. But I can’t help but feel like an addict who keeps stretching out the day she is going to kick sugar.

It is bad enough being an Ashtangi during Christmas, because I still get up to practice. But I am also vegan, which makes me the bummer at any family holiday occasion. Like, I know, it is probably hard to eat a dead animal across from David and I, silently judging.

On a side note, Holden has started playing a game where we quiz him about what he eats: Do you eat Pigs? NOOOOOOO! Do you eat dogs? NOOOOOOO! Do you eat tigers? NOOOOOO! Do you eat rice? Mhmmm……. and the last line of the game: DONT EAT ANIMALS! I blame it on this totally harsh vegan kids book I picked up at Farm Sanctuary last year. Holden insisted I read it to him every night with the Lorax for weeks (it was an issue-driven month, I guess). You just know that Holden is going to be a total bummer at most holiday dinners pretty soon.

All this to say, if I didn’t eat sugar – that would be weird and over the top and difficult to explain. Or at least junkie-mind tells me so. Because of course, there is really just one big holiday dinner with my extended family, maybe two.  Really, I start eating sugar early in anticipation. And by Christmas day, I am sort of a mess. Why can’t I just eat sugar like everyone else? People drink gallons of pop everyday and they seem fine – okay, they are  functioning – well, at least they aren’t total bummers at holiday parties.

Currently, I have a sty inside my eye which makes me look like I was punched and feels like I have a twig shoved in my lower lid. I saw it and knew: This was punishment for all the brownies, pies, cookies, and chocolate we ate.  I told David, no more sugar – I have something living in my fucking eye.

And then what happens after I put Holden to bed? I eat a baked good that was  around from the holidays.  David looks at me and says nothing. But what can he say? He missed work today because he has a stomach bug/flu – probably from eating all that sugar with me.

FUCK THE HOLIDAYS.

New Years Eve is Mercedes’ wedding. We are in charge of the dinner and there is, of course,  cake. I guess I HAVE to eat a piece! It is Mercedes wedding! I can’t be that asshole who refuses cake at her stepdaughter’s wedding! I will just be the asshole with the drooping oozing eyelid at her stepdaughter’s wedding.

So, I thought maybe I would kick then. But then my neighbour came by and invited us to a New Years Day bonfire with the kids. He is making bannock and we are bringing vegan marshmallows. So, looks like Jan 2 I am going to kick.

But then my birthday is January 7th. Thanks Mom – now my eye is totally fucked.

Sigh, I will see y’all on the 8th after I arouse from my diabetic coma with a glass eye.

When I was a little girl, I thought every farmer had a couple pigs, a couple cows and some chickens. And then one day while everyone was minding their own business on the farm, the farmer (always a man?) would come out and shoot one of the pigs – Charlotte’s Web style – and then we would have bacon the next day at our house. I loved bacon, but I thought that arrangement was horribly unfair for he pig. My dad egged me on a little and on my 8th birthday I stopped eating meat. I started up again years later, but for a while I ate chip hotdogs at birthday parties and picked the pepperoni off my pizza.

Now I know that we don’t raise meat that way – or at least we don’t raise meat that way anymore. My whole family, except for the cat is vegan and I try to do whatever I can to support vegan organizations and spread the word about how awesome it is being vegan. You do feel so much better. Since I became a mom I had to really think about my choices and if they were safe for my baby. So far, Holden has been a very healthy guy and we are lucky that he has such a big appetite. As a mom, I feel kind of emotional about what breeding food mammals have to go through in a factory farm. Mercedes and Holden are my everything, and it is difficult to think of the horrific nightmare of being constantly pregnant and having your babies taken away over and over again to be eventually killed.

Anyway, I get to keep my baby, so my baby is walking for all the animals who don’t. On September 29th, while his sister and the AYCT team are walking for farm animals in Toronto,  Holdy will be walking on Chamundi Hill. Maybe not all the way up, but certainly up enough to get freaked out by the monkeys (okay that is step number one).

All the proceeds go to Farm Sanctuary. If you donate, I promise to send you a picture of Holden in his official Farm Sanctuary Walk for Farm Animals tee with the monkeys. He is very proud of his t-shirt which came in the mail for him and is for a child 10x bigger. It has a picture of a pig on it, which Holden assures me is actually a dinosaur. So, maybe he will be walking for dinosaurs, I don’t have the heart to tell him that it is a lost cause.

Here is the link to his donation page, with a super cute picture of him. Totally worth the clickity click.

Here is a picture of Holden at Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York this year, petting a goat:

And just a short drive from Farm Sanctuary is a place to get vegan ice cream. it was a big day.

David went to the last conference on Sunday. The Baby was sleeping and so I stayed at home. It turned out to be about ahimsa and vegetarianism

I became vegetarian on my 8th birthday. I am blessed with very patient and understanding parents and they spent the rest of my childhood cooking extra tofu or beans on the side for me. When I went to university, I began eating meat again. I stopped when I moved back to Toronto. Interestingly enough, I think of my university days as some of the most unhappy times in my life. I was away from my family, a little sad and lonely – trying to figure myself out, and I ate meat, drank and smoked.

I do really believe that the reason I fell into Ashtanga – and not say Bikram, where eating meat and wearing leather is Ok – was to put me in touch with other vegetarians and create a vegetarian community. Being vegan is the single most important lifestyle choice I have made. It is also easily the most important part of my practice.

There are many parts of the practice that can make it challenging for my body and my ego. Waiting in the vestibule to be called in sometimes really bugs me. I often feel itchy and irritated when I don’t get new poses that I think I deserve. And then there is the usual thought garbage that comes up during practice: envy, competitiveness, anger, weird mat-territorialism, self-pity. I can make these feelings about the teacher: Why doesn’t he notice me?; the students around me, “How come she gets that pose and I don’t.”; or myself, “I just had a baby, my body is so broken.” Sometimes these feelings lead me to thinking I should quit, get up  and leave and take up running or something where I don’t have to deal with other people in the room, the teacher, the tradition blah blah. I do truly believe that this is part of the process and an integral piece of the practice.

In this blog, I like to explore the things that come up in my meditation – and I know it is about me, my own issues,  and not about Sharath or the person practicing next to me.

I have been thinking about this a lot in terms of veganism, because the tradition advocates dairy consumption as well as the practice of ahimsa (non-violence), and I don’t feel the two are compatible. This is one instance where after some reflection – I don’t believe it is about my own neurosis getting in the way of my practice or listening to my teacher.

Sharath told students at conference to eat ghee as part of a healthy vegetarian diet. He said that calves were given the milk first and the rest was used for human consumption. He also mentioned an organization in India that is working towards having no cows slaughtered in the country. I had several conversations with friends in India, who told me that drinking milk in India is different than drinking milk in the West because the cows are treated fairly and can roam the streets, eat what they please and generally be free.

To be totally honest, those conversations and the teachings from Sharath really aggravate me. There are a billion people in India. If you seriously believe that there are no factory farms in that country then you are, frankly, deluded. I think it is one thing to drink milk and say, “Yeah I drink milk – I participate in this.” It is another to pretend that the few cows you see wondering around Mysore are supplying the milk in your chai. They aren’t. And before that milk was extracted, it certainly wasn’t given to a calf. As lovely a story as that may be. Having had some personal experience with this, mammals tend to give birth to males as well as females. And while I see quite a few mama cows around town in Mysore, I see very few grown boys. Whether you sell the male cows to Muslims or Christians to slaughter them in India, or take them out of the country and slaughter them in Pakistan or whereever – it seems the outcome is pretty much the same. The cows are not free, their lives are short and brutal if they had the misfortune of being male; long, confined and painful if they are female.

Often people complain to me that fake meat or soy is not healthy for your body and that it would be better for you just to eat butter or free-range chicken or whatever. And while I am obsessed with digestion, and I know that those fake meats and margarine are pure garbage (and I choose not to eat them most of the time), I would rather eat garbage than participate in the industrial farming of animals.

The separation between animals and us is dangerous because it leads to other “us” and “them” thinking. I believe it changes the level of compassion and understanding we have towards other humans. If there are a group of living things that don’t deserve to be happy or free why should that be limited to the non-human variety of beings?

My type of animal activism is certainly the Farm Sanctuary variety. I like to pet the cows and make the connection to their sentience from their heroic rescue stories. I choose veganism because I can only imagine the hideous and brutal treatment animals receive in factory farms. I usually can’t watch insider footage of those farms because it is much worse and more inhumane than I can even fathom. It makes me feel hopeless and angry, but I know it works for some folks.

Here is the link to Earthlings, you can click and view if you are interested. The movie documents the way we use animals as pets, clothing, food, and entertainment. The site streams the whole movie as well as the trailer. I personally couldn’t make it through the trailer without crying, shrieking and hiding my face in my sweater. It is extremely violent and disturbing. It is probably a good view if you do decide to eat or use animal products. Ultimately, this is a personal choice and knowing what you are supporting is an important part of that choice. I choose to drive a car and buy plastic, and knowing some of things happening in Libya make this decision pretty uncomfortable for me. I suppose it is mine to live with and hopefully I can strive to make better choices in the future.

I love vegan thanksgiving.

I can’t spend another moment in my kitchen and I have a food hangover which means I have to eat constantly to feel better. Woot! I am thankful for all the crazy indulgences!

Did you know Holden got a job? Yep. He is a bouncer. Look out.

Practice Notes

So, this is supposed to be a yoga blog, right? But all that blah blah blah about yoga gets kinda dry. Really an ashtanga blog can be summed up  with the following complaints: Oi – the shoulder! Backbending –  tricky stuff! Tired! Sometimes tears.

Maybe I should start a new blog called “Sometimes Tears” and that shit I would update everyday with a rotation of of the above complaints. And the title works for tears you get in your hamstrings and crying tears. Genius.

New this week: Holden Owl has a bedtime! This was so easy to start doing – I can’t believe it has taken me so long it get on board and he is such a cheery boy with an extra hour or so of sleep. I get more time for writing. And you will get to read more about my practice. Everybody wins. Well, except for you!

Here’s a little moment of interconnectedness. David just looked over and noticed I was writing a blog and he complained, “You never write about yoga anymore. You just write about the baby.” So, I’ll put it to a poll.

I know that the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gay people in the US military is really regressive, but unfortunately I’m going to have to institute the same policy re: pregnancy over here in Miss Stan blog world. Happily, unlike gaydar – which can be hit or miss – you can tell I haven’t given birth because I’m still blogging. I promise to post pictures very soon after the policy gets revoked!

I switched last week to a home practice after a bout of contractions on Sunday kept me housebound. I cut out my closing inversions this week. The baby’s head is fixed and is too far into my pelvis to be moved or turned around, but I felt like I didn’t want to give the baby any funny ideas about staying in here longer. This Friday, David told me to do standing so I wasn’t pushing too much energy up with all the primary vinyasa. I did standing and then a whole round of backbends. Really, all I want to be doing is backbending, forward bends are getting uncomfortable – even with my legs really far apart. I’m still practicing everyday, and I still really need it. Practice lifts my mood and works out all the kinks and sore spots from the night before.

I made a terrarium this week, inspired by my sister’s link on my last blog post.

I got the bowl at the dollar store, the cacti from a local flower shop for $4, and the rocks, soil and toys I found around the house. Making terrariums is actually a lot of fun, and they are so low maintenance. This one is a little boreal forest, but a gorilla has escaped from the zoo and he is scaring the oversized birds (made from fimo).

Mercedes made one too, with more of a wild west theme.

I want to do more. They make great housewarming gifts.

I went out on a date last night to a fancy vegan restaurant. I curled my hair, wore a mini skirt (Ok not so different from the usual) and everything. It was fun to be out even if the food was just OK. David said the food was like going to a really amazing huge party but there are only 1 or 2 interesting people to talk to. I ordered (gasp!) a glass of wine. I think this was the very first glass of wine I have had all pregnancy. I could tell because I started going on about which soccer teams had the best looking players (ie. who I plan on rooting for in the World Cup).

In good news, David and I saw my tattoo artist on the street and he told me I look like a python. Later, David told me my bum looks better just a bit fatter like it is now. I know in normal non-pregnant lady world, being told your bum is fat and you look like a scary reptile digesting a large animal would be cause to shut yourself in your room and seek revenge on all your friends for letting you out in the world looking like that. But I was totally pleased. Anyone who doesn’t say you look “Huge!” or “Ready to give birth!” within five minutes might as well be telling you that you are the next Helen of Troy.

Digesting python with fat bum, so hot right now!

I’m  bit of a busybody, but these last two weeks before the baby comes are supposed to be my time to relax and sleep. But the lawn NEEDS mowing! And the kitchen NEEDS cleaning! And I NEED to make pound cake! I’m getting really excited to meet the baby. Who has been in there this whole time growing, moving and hiccuping? It is such a gorgeous mystery. Sometimes, I feel like I know the person inside me. Other times, I feel so disconnected – like maybe this has all been a strange mistake and I should just be eating a little less pound cake.

When I was a little girl, I thought plane rides were big scams.You never felt like you were moving in a plane – the same way you move in a car or train or on a bicycle – the sky just stayed stationary around the windows. I wondered if maybe the plane would lift off the earth and then just hover midair until everyone below had reorganized the city to your destination of choice. Often I feel that movement and momentum, take off and landing, things are changing and moving in inexorable ways. But then I also feel liminal. I’m just waiting around, watching movies and feeling uncomfortable until someone tells me I have magically reached the place I am supposed to be.

Veronica has started a baby pool at AYCT. Everyday, I check for new possible answers – girl or boy? June 8th or June 1st? I dismiss all the answers that I don’t like – anything over 9 pounds is nonsense! anything past June 10th: crazy talk! But my guess is as good as any. Who, who is in there?

In my last post, I gloated about my ankles. Well, clearly instant karma has other ideas and only a few days later, my feet are lumps of dough that take the shape of and then rise up and swell over the rim of any shoe I wear. I’ve been strolling around in my mary janes lately, so I have these puffy little semi-circles on the top of my feet. I would post pictures, but no one needs to see that.

David make a little video of himself doing karandavasana. I haven’t made it up to there in my practice, and I have mad respect for women who can pull themselves back up – like the amazing Laruga, who I have seen do it in Mysore, India.

David’s video is cool because his head doesn’t touch the floor at all and his hands don’t meet when he comes back up. He is so crazy strong. Sometimes, when we are watching a movie, he will put his arm on my leg, and within minutes I can start to feel pins and needles.

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Last week, Larissa posted this video on my facebook. God bless her! I was growing weary of the slow loris and this is now my daily obsession.

http://www.vimeo.com/11712103

I’m going to go roll around in some food now.

p.s. Stay tuned: I have a little video of Pound Cake belly and I coming up in my next post.

Happy New Moon!

No scary childbirth educational toys at last night’s prenatal class, thank goodness. Just the little cloth baby with a plastic head that our teacher demonstrates with and then disconcertingly throws around when she is finished demo-ing.

She asked us what we remembered from last week’s session.

D: Well that placenta toy.

T: Oh yes, what did you learn about that?

D: It haunted me.

T: OK…. And what about you, Stan?

We practiced breathing and David practiced rubbing my back. That was fun.  We learned about epidurals:

Ughh. My last two experiences with needles have been a little crummy. When you are pregnant they test you for everything under the sun, syphillus, rubella – whatever – you name it. The second last blood test I had was at Women’s College Hospital and the staff were training someone new. Because the skin on my arms is basically see-through they used me as a pin cushion for a trainee. She was nervous and her hand shook when she put the needle in. She had to take several vials of blood for each test and she kept filling them up to the very top. At one point the supervisor came back into the room and yelled at her for making all the vials overflow unnecessarily with my blood. Great.

The last time I had blood taken, it was at the midwife’s office with the student midwife – who is also just learning. She made a bit of a mistake and blood started spurting both inside and outside the vial. Suddenly, there was blood running down my arm, all over her hands and covering the pillow my arm was resting on. We both started apologizing to each other as the blood kept streaming down. I had a bruise on my arm for a week. Pregnant junkie is not a good look – in case you were wondering.

I’m done being helpful to the medical community. I’m going to need a resume from the next person who sticks a needle in me.

David and I ate chap chae on Bloor after the class. I love chap chae. We ate at 9:30p. Because we always eat at senior citizen’s hour, we spent most of the meal remarking on how amazing it was that the restaurant was open and people were there eating as well.

Tomorrow, I am back to practice. I was so grateful for the break today. I haven’t taken a day off practice in over two weeks, because I did a fantastic mysore with Kino on Saturday (David calls this a “bonus practice”) and the Saturday before I took Oliver’s beginner class. I am teaching Oliver’s class this Saturday, and now I know how he tortures his students with extra holds in chaturanga. I’m hoping if I talk in a really low voice and pretend to be much nicer than I really am, his students won’t mind his absence too much.

Have a great Thursday back.

Practice has been funny all week. I am pretty wobbly in standing, and I nearly brained myself coming up to standing from backbending yesterday. I think I am paying for all the travel and jetlag. It is wonderful to be back at the studio. The energy is very calm and focused. I feel safe. I can’t really imagine having a Yoga Terror Spot chart at AYCT. Next week, I will try adding some backbends from intermediate back on. I have been Miss Primary for the past two months in India, which was fine because of how much my body and practice has changed particularly in the last few weeks.

I have really been enjoying being back in my own kitchen. We have had noodles with white beans and cold rice wraps, homemade soft tortillas with black beans and tofu sour cream, squash and kale soup. I love cooking. I bought a baby-sized head of napa cabbage. it actually hurts a little to pick it up. Mmm…napa.

Our Neighbourhood:

At the end of the block, there is a tattered grey house, split into three apartments. The top two are occupied by a large family. The bottom level has a very quick turnover. The landlord seems incapable of renting the basement apartment to sane individuals. At some point after two months of renting, a motley collection of furniture ends up strewn across the lawn and the old For Rent sign goes up. Today we met our new neighbour. Skinny with a large mustache, he was muttering to himself as he collected his bike.

Neighbour: No! No! Awwww. You fucker! How did you do that?

S: (Should I cross, should I cross?)

N: Little fucker. Hey! You guys have got to help me.

S:

N: (points at a fat grey cat) My cat got out. And you got help me get him.

S: Ahh

N: Oh no. Oh wait. Nope. Never mind. I think he is taking a shit.

S:

N: Wouldn’t want to interrupt. Hehehehe.

David, who didn’t break his stride or even look over during the entire conversation, spent the rest of our walk talking about living on a farm.

Fruit Brute bordering on Yummy Mummy Terror Yoga spot today, it was a peaceful day. This trip I have noticed that Sharath and Saraswathi have a different organizational technique for dropbacks. Two years ago, I would find myself waiting for several minutes. But this year, they seem to catch most people as they are doing their three dropbacks, and so you can transition very quickly into your assist. I like not waiting, and it is fun to stay on your breath as you come up from your third. The one drawback is I find myself dropping back with no one in front of me and when I come back up two seconds later, Sharath or Saraswathi is standing three inches from my nose. It can be a little unsettling and it makes me want to laugh because they always give me a blank look. Like they somehow ended up in front of me through a strange set of circumstances beyond their control. I guess that is half true. Anyway, I like it.

Last night, I had a terrible sleep. It is getting more and more difficult to get comfortable in bed and I toss and turn. I started using an extra pillow to wedge under my belly, which does help. Last night, I kept waking up in pools of sweat. Finally, I got up in the middle of the night, took a cold shower and cried a little as I dripped cold water on the floor under the fan in the living room.

I like getting stuff done, but I think I can’t physically do very much when the temperature goes above 35. I think I just overdid it yesterday. So, I’m keeping a low profile for the rest of the week. Today, I ate a lovely breakfast of fruit, fenugreek roti and spinach. Then, I read a little White Noise and took a quick nap – dreaming of North American supermarkets. We went to Kelly and Hudson’s house for lunch. It was unbelievable – Kelly had nori!  We had a lovely time hanging out. Then we all clambered into a tuk tuk and went to the pool where we watched all the kids play and swim so beautifully.

It was, however, a busy day for critters. Critters all over Mysore were on the move.

This horse had no time to stop and chat. He had somewhere to be!

This one was catching a quick snack between engagements.

These monkeys were trying to sort out their problems. It involved lots of chattering and some wrestling. The one on the left wasn’t really part of the disagreement, but he liked to join in the wrestling when it was happening.

Well, I wasn’t doing anything and someone has got to work!