Writing and editing

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.

Hi!

I took a little break from blogging because I sold my house and bought a new one. I  know, I know, we are moving how am I going to regale you with tales of my neighbours? Obviously, I am going to miss, “Get me a beer, faggot!” But luckily we aren’t moving until after the Canada Day long weekend – so we will certainly get our fix before we leave.

Also, I have been putting off writing this entry before I did all the things that needed doing. I was catching up in Ashtanga-blog world and some folks have gone private, some are missing, and I read some stuff that totally bummed me out and made me not feel like blogging for a while. Sadly, I even did my taxes before I wrote this. My 2009 taxes.

Anyway, I know lots of my peeps think the politics of yoga and particularly of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga are boring, and I sort of get it. 99% and all that, why all the blah blah blah. Personally, I like to think about it. I think we are at an interesting time in this practice. When we were in New York studying with Sharath, it felt quiet – certainly much more quiet than with Guruji. Sharath certainly has a student base that come to Mysore – but it struck me that he is still building his student base in the West.

I have friends who study different disciplines – Capoeira and Tae Kwon Do – and we talk about traditional practices, splits and changes to the system and how they chose the path they are on. Time, exposure and a bit of fiscal motivation seem to reveal the differences. Opinions happen. Some voices get louder than others, things change. Completely sane and rational people decide to choose a different path, and other equally sane folks stay the course. They choose their path based on what they need.

Funny, how all the interweb strife – that has nothing do to do with me really –  made me feel very reactive. It was a good lesson for me, because it reminded me of one of the big reasons I need this practice. Without it, i am a crazy reacting-machine. That is just my own personal journey and many people have told me that painting, sudoku, and gardening elicits the same feeling of liberation. I was listening to the radio the other day and I heard skydivers talk about the meditative qualities of falling thousands of feet. I’m glad I don’t have to jump out of a plane.

I used to study vinyasa, and truly I owe a debt of gratitude to my past vinyasa teachers for introducing me to self-practice and getting me stoked on yoga. I find it hard to believe that anyone would think that traditional teachers are strict autocrats intent on hurting their students and robbing them of their true destinies, just like I don’t think vinyasa teachers are watering the work down to appease students. If you are interested in money or power – you just would never go into teaching yoga.  There are a handful of self-practice programs and two traditional mysore options here in Toronto. I think I know everyone who teaches these programs and they are all very serious and thoughtful about their craft. I think to say or imply otherwise, is unfair.

There is this part in the great Canadian movie, Hard Core Logo. It is the band’s last show, the guitarist and the lead singer have just had a fist fight, and the bassist, off his meds, walks up to the microphone and repeats:

“In the end, its love.”

You should see it if you haven’t.

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On Mother’s Day we walked through the Necropolis – one of Toronto’s oldest cemetaries. On the older graves, names and dates had been rubbed away. Many of them, we could only read the person’s place in their family: Mother, Father, Daughter. Looking at those graves, for the first time, I wanted to be buried when I die.

In the meantime, I do want to be a better person. I want to be a better friend, and I want to work harder at giving more to my community and at the causes to which my heart responds.

i’m not sure my yoga practice really matters all that much. What does seem to last and matter are the people left at the end of the day that want to belong to me. Our names and stations in life fade pretty quickly. Our practices, our jobs – they are make-work projects for the bigger picture of what we are to the people who follow us.

and in the end, its love

and in the end, its love

and in the end, its love

pax.

Here at Miss Stan dot com, I like to keep it light. My forays into darkness (exhibit A – hey don’t judge I just gave birth!) are met with a bit of reader brow-furrowing. And really they should be. I didn’t want this blog to be about how crappy or hard my practice is. I wanted it to be about how the practice has helped me lead a positive, healthy life. I am a lucky girl. I do think that you make a small piece of your own luck and this blog is all about the small part of my luck that I work for every morning.

I was reading Kapo is My Bitch last night and it prompted a discussion between David and I this morning about tradition. There are some old school teachers who teach the Ashtanga technique how it was taught to them in the 70s and 80s. When we use that word, “tradition”, that is exactly what comes to mind. A practice that was originally taught and handed down from generation to generation. I guess like most traditions, Ashtanga has changed, many times, even within this generation. And while it might make sense initially to follow whatever was taught 30 years ago and carry on that tradition, it was the Guru himself who modified it.

I can see if you learned a technique at a pivotal moment in your life, and that technique changed everything for you – it would make sense to want to replicate that experience in teaching others. I would argue that it isn’t the sequence of poses, although very elegantly and intelligently stacked, that changes us in Ashtanga Yoga – but accepting and trusting a teacher.

David says you wouldn’t go see a doctor who only used medical information she learned thirty years ago because it was empirical knowledge then and therefore must be empirical knowledge now. I think tradition is a clumsy word in this case, maybe technique or method is better suited because the whole thing is so mutable. I’m pretty sure that is how Sharath describes it. I’m not sure if I have ever heard him say it is “Traditional Ashtanga”. And yet we seem to use that word all the time to describe what we do.

Coincidentally, there was an article about Sofia Coppola’s new film in the paper today. She used camera lenses from her father’s film Rumblefish to shoot her movie. She talked about loving the warmth and soft quality of film. But she also mentioned that her father is really into HD, and won’t shoot on film anymore – although he does think it is cute that his daughter is so fond of it.

I have listened to different yoga teachers speak about yoga like it is an art form. And from that point of view, I think I understand. You have a story to tell or an idea to express and using a traditional process can add meaning and texture. A friend of mine shot the cover of her book on a pinhole camera. It is gorgeous, but the murky-sepia tone of the photo also adds a layer of meaning to the narrative. Maybe more so then the same shot taken with a digital camera.

I guess I can’t get my head around the whole yoga as art thing. I just don’t see it as a dance or creative expression. I don’t really understand when people describe a vinyasa sequence as artful either. I mean, you would only put a series of poses together because they complement each other in your body, not because it looks cool in front of the mirror or whatever. It is interesting to me how different bodies “express” a pose, but that seems more like anatomical geometry.

But maybe I am missing something. I know this isn’t Sister Wives, but if you have an opinion – please share it!

Next post: Don’t EVER let your kid get a cold. Unless you hate sleeping.

Hello from Stockholm!

Things are really different here. In Copenhagen, there was definitely a Children of the Corn thing going on. I was semi-convinced that anyone over the age of 40 or not drop dead gorgeous in a blowsy, effortless way was being sacrificed and their bones were used to make quaint bicycles.

Regular humans live here. There is more racial diversity, more tourists and a bit more of the rush, rush, rush mentality we have in Toronto. Actually, it reminds me a lot of Toronto – if Toronto were nice looking. We are staying at a pretty hilarious hotel on Skeppsholmen Island right beside the Museum of Modern Art. The hotel is like the nadir of Swedish design – all look, no function. Which is a bit strange for this part of the world where everything seems to be about coming up with solutions. David and I are so wigged out by this hotel, we dragged Laruga and David down to our hotel room to check out the sink. The sink is a stone on a platform with a drain underneath. Have you ever tried bathing a baby on a stone? OMG hard.

David and Laruga are so lovely and have been amazing tour guides and have been helping us find great food. It is so nice to have a wonderful international community. I felt a little badly that they have been showing us the Theatre and the Parliament buildings and we made them walk 30 minutes so they could see our shower. Hopefully, the workshop made up for it.

Of course we went to H&M, tried on hats and stood in line (not for the hat).

The light in Scandinavia is lovely. Slightly grey and diffused without being depressing. I love walking around and staring at the sky.

Yogayama is a stunning space. The restaurant is out of this world and Eva has made us feel so incredibly welcome. This morning while I was waiting to practice, Holden and I were walking around the studio and we felt so warm and at home.

Today, Little Owl and I are going to look at modern art and tomorrow Daddy is off work and we will go on a boat tour. Yay, vacation!

We are having such a fabulous time. It is a postcard perfect city populated by supermodels. We just need a great vegan restaurant or bakery here, and I need to make a bajillion dollars so I can afford a cup of coffee – then it will be perfect.

Yesterday I had another lovely practice with Mikko and we went to Elsinore.

So, the Dane didn’t really live here. I think the actual story  of Prince Amled is a bit more Viking and bloody. But it was fun to walk around the large drafty castle, and you can kind of imagine the boredom that would set in during a long, dark Danish winter.

There is another castle with cannons pointing towards the North Sea on the other side of the strait and both would work together to catch every ship that passed in 400 years. Eventually, an American ship refused to pay the tax and the whole racket crumbled. Leave it to the Scadunavuans to ingeniusly tax everyone, and the Americans to consider it resolutely undemocratic.

Every year at the castle features new performances of Hamlet in the courtyard. There was a Taliban Hamlet, which might be interesting from the Polonius and Ophelia perspective. There was also a poster for Hamlet without words, which seems a bit like cooking without food – but whatever.

We also went into the casements where the king stored food, soldiers and prisoners. We saw the cell that was built in a triangular shape and the bars would be slowly, week by week, be pushed in towards the corner until the prisoner was stuck in the corner. It felt creepy and sad to be in a place designed to be mean to someone else.

In super genius news, Holden has learned how to pick up his squish toy and put it in his mouth. Harvard, here we come!


I will have to start singing the song that Mercedes taught me, “Dontcha put it in your mouth, dontcha put it in your mouth – unless you ask a grown up first.”
Now we are visiting Uncle Pat in Malmo staying in such a swanky hotel. We have hardwood floors in our room to practice on! Friday we take the train to Stockholm.

A few weekends ago, I went to a beautiful elopement party in the park with Holden. It was a perfect day and the ceremony was lovely. Afterwards, someone asked me if I always coordinated my outfits with Holden’s. I looked down at myself, and realized that 1) we were wearing the same colours 2) I was momentarily relieved to notice that I was, in fact, fully dressed.

A friend once told me about a woman they knew, who answered her door topless by accident. I now think that she must have been breastfeeding. That said, I did show up to my midwives appointment with my pants completely undone. They were being held up and obscured by the baby carrier. But the top button and the zipper were undone on the 40 minute subway ride to see the midwife. I only noticed the button was undone when I took off the carrier and handed the baby to the midwife and she gave me an odd look.

Holden’s Practice Notes:

The Buffalo crew from East Meets West are always so welcoming and fun to hang out with. Buffalo is really quite pretty if you aren’t just heading straight to the nearest Target, plus America is the land of a million vegan treats that you can’t get in Canada. This year, we discovered these:

Even the cashier at the store told us, “If you haven’t had these before, you are starting something you shouldn’t.” Oh lord. I am almost glad that we can’t get them in Canada. Now, why Buffalo – land of wings and almost winning football teams – has better vegan treats than Toronto, I have no idea. I just know if I lived here I would be 600 lbs and camped out at the Lexington Co-op.

So, while his mom is slowly slipping into a diabetic coma, Holden took a yoga class with the wonderful Sarah. Itsy Bitsy Yoga was so much fun, and Sarah said that Holden was a super genius for not crying. Ok, maybe she didn’t say he was a super genius but she might have mentioned Yale. I think our vinyasa should certainly include the song, “1,2,3,4 – I love you, forever and more!” I’ll write to Sharath – maybe at janu c?

Today we head home, I’m sad to say goodbye to all the desserts and the lovely peeps – but I’m excited to get back to our routine and see Mercedes and my mom.

I have been internetless in Farm Sanctuary over the past week. But I am going to make up for it with critter pictures!

AYCT sponsors a pig and a cow from Farm Sanctuary, which is a charity that does rescue and advocacy work for farm and food animals. Every year for the last three, David and I have travelled down to Ithaca, New York to visit the animals and spend time on the farm. It is a peaceful and beautiful place and it puts me in touch with why we are vegan.

This year we learned that Sprinkles, our pig had some medical problems due to his unnaturally large size. He wasn’t bred to reach this age, and he has developed leg and hip problems. He is on medication, but he seemed pretty content when I caught up with him again.

Samuel, our adopted cow, is in the special needs herd because he likes the senior citizens. He is also massive. He was pretty bothered by flies when we were hanging out and was swinging his head wildly from side to side, which is why we are keeping a respectful distance in the picture.

My favourite are the goats. Goats are friends with everybody, so you can always be sure of a warm reception in the goat barn.

Holden liked the goats too.

But the tour was pretty exhausting.

Practice Notes:

I practiced in YOGA PANTS for the first time in 6 weeks last Tuesday. Usually I practice in my undies at home, but that isn’t really acceptable attire at the studio. Yippee! It was stinking hot, but I had such a great time. I went up to Janu C and I did a backbend and full closing. At this point I have worked up to navasana with dropbacks, and David told me today that I am ready to finish primary, which I am a little scared about. Navasana is basically the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Trying to lift my feet off the floor for the pick up seems like a far away dream. My belly is still pretty numb from surgery, but I can keep plugging away at it.

I love the studio, I love being able to practice. Mercedes watched the baby and I felt an overwhelming amount of gratitude that he has such a great older sister. It was such a gift to be back.

We are in Buffalo for the next few days, and by golly we have internet! I hope to update over the weekend with Holden’s practice notes. He took his first yoga class today. Super genius!

Holden slept 6 hours on Saturday night. I woke up with a start thinking for sure he was dead. I think I might have woken him up when I leaned over him to check to see if he was still breathing. 6 hours. My mind started racing – could I possibly try to sleep 2 more hours during the day to make it a full 8? 8 hours in one day would be like a normal person, and then I might start behaving like a normal person!

I didn’t get the extra two hours, so I’m still a big unsocialized weirdo, but thankfully my family and friends are understanding.

I told everyone I knew yesterday that Little Owl slept 6 hours. Every conversation went something like this:

Friend/family member: Hi.How are you?

Stan: Holden slept 6 hours!

David said all the moms respond like the baby got into Harvard, and it is true. I could replace “slept 6 hours” with “got into Harvard”.

S: Holden got into Harvard!

F: What! That is terrific. My baby only got into Harvard at 6 months.

— or —

F: Wow! My baby never got into Harvard!

— or —

F: Holden got into Harvard? You are doing a really good job?

I heard my mother on the telephone with friend yesterday;

Mom: Hello?…..Oh Hi! Holden got into Harvard last night!

Apparently, Harvard checked my bank balance, because during the night they decided he isn’t going after all. What would 2 hours be? Community college?

He smiles now – obviously ready for the Ivy League!

Practice Notes:

This morning, I heard Mercedes leave with David and I realized I had missed an opportunity to practice at the studio. I got on the mat and the day stretched out before me long and unbroken, and I suddenly started to cry. Like a dark cloud passing, it was over just as quickly as it started and I was left sitting on the mat wide-eyed and listening to Holden cooing himself awake in the next room.

I decided I would write a screenplay about a woman who spent her days alone with her baby (Ok – this is really not at all true of me, my family is amazingly supportive) because her husband is a high powered something or other (Hahaha!). Her left side begins to get overdeveloped because she is carrying a 75 lb baby around all the time and her right side withers because it is only used to shovel food in her mouth (Ok – this is a distinct possibility for me). She starts having delusions about her baby getting accepted into Havard. Then in a strange and horrible twist of fate, she goes so crazy about the Havard thing that Child Services takes the baby away and gives him to the next door neighbours. She spends the rest of her life picking her baby’s cigarette butts out of her flower garden and listening to his adoptive parents call him “Faggot”.

The end!

PeaceLoveYoga reminded me today of Guruji’s birthday. The rain last night cooled off the heavy damp heat from yesterday. This morning there are slim shafts of lemon light poking through the clouds. Nice day to think about Mysore, KPJAYI and Guruji. Big up.

Last week, my little milk jumkie got in the bad habit of eating every 20 minutes. Ok. I’m totally the enabler, but everyone kept telling me feed on demand. Then, I realized – I’m the dealer – I call the shots.  So, now I am cutting off his frequency. Yesterday was every two hours, today is every 2.5 hours. Eventually, I’m working up to 3 by the end of the week. David bought me a breast pump, so that I could leave Mr. Owl to run an errand but we couldn’t figure out when pumping would make sense because he is such a snacker. As my sister wisely told me, “It is a level of higher math you aren’t capable of on two hours sleep.” He is pretty good about the new wait, but there is some clockwatching around 15 minutes before he gets his next fix.

The whole thing reminds me of the Velvet Underground song, Waiting for My Man: “He’s never early, he’s always late/ First thing you learn is you always have to wait.”

Last year, David and I were walking down our street and on the corner, I noticed an addict punching numbers into a pay phone furiously and with a perplexed look on her face. I thought, “Funny, how you can see a crack addiction on someone’s face. The lines, the hardness has a uniformity to it.”

She looked up at me and stopped banging on the number pad. “What? You never seen a crackhead before?” She yelled.

Embarrassed, I looked away. Quietly and to David, I said “Well, I live in this neighbourhood – so yes I have.”

But a little self-awareness, even if it comes out of nowhere, is always welcome.

Happy moon day, happy birthday Guruji. Back on the game tomorrow.

Mercedes turned me on to 16 and Pregnant recently.

16 and Pregnant makes you feel super organized and on top of your shit, unlike most reality shows that just make you feel bad for watching and depressed about the state of the world. I get pretty weepy when the baby appears, as do all the grandparents (who are my age), which is nice. I hate to spread a bad habit, but if you go to the mtv.ca website under shows, you can watch all the episodes. You will have to scroll past such stellar shows as “1 girl 5 gays” though

Honestly, why haven’t I pitched a show to MTV yet? It seems like any awful thing that drifts into your head could be made into a program.

During pregnancy, I was quite into “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant’ about moms who go to the bathroom and a baby comes out in the toilet. Mercedes, the purveyor of good music and terrible television got me started on IDKIWP. That show is truly incredible, and I think the product of limited access to  health insurance in the US. I go to the doctor when my fingernails are too long, so half the show is spent in gobsmacked amazement that someone could ignore the missed periods, the weight gain, the nausea, heartburn and eventually the searing pain of labour for nine months.

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Postpartum Ashtanga Yoga Practice

It is a month since I gave birth and I have two weeks until the go ahead from my midwife to start exercising again.  I am doing all of standing first thing when I get up in the morning. I have just enough time to crawl out of bed, throw on a top and do a quick little practice in the morning before I am called to duty.

I have some twinges of pain on my right side when I do backbends from the surgery. I think that tightness will be there for a while. I am slowly accessing my strength again. It is funny, because I was lifting all that extra weight when I was pregnant and I carry the 12 lb baby around everywhere, but the strength you need for ashtanga is different. Often I feel like I have been repeatedly punched in the stomach.

I would sometimes have moms in my class that did not practice for a year after the baby was born and joined my level 1 class – something they could easily do before pregnancy. Most of them would get a bit panic stricken after the third sun salutation. I can really understand why now. Body memory or whatever is really out the door for the first little while, I think I will need to retrain my body for months maybe the next year before I can do what I was doing pre-conception. Mysore style will help with that. I don’t know if I could jump back into a led class without feeling a little defeated.

But then, anytime I start feeling a bit down about building up my practice – I remember: I’ve got the cutest baby in the universe!

Really, if I only do standing for the rest of my life it is the best trade off.

Now if I can only figure out how to get more sleep….