The becoming of a book author

Some believe that our loved ones who have left this earth communicate with us through our dreams.  I’ve had a few dreams about my mom since her passing, most of them somewhat disturbing.  But last night, I had an amazing dream about her.  There was such a lovely connection between us… an honoring of what we had created together, a knowing that whatever we might have left undone, would wait for another time and place.  In the dream I was attending a gathering of women, and I had been asked to give a talk, and although the reason had to do with my upcoming book, the topic I was going to discuss was my mother.  I had prepared such nice things to say about my mom.

But she disappeared toward the end of the dream before I could give my speech, and as hard as I searched, she was nowhere to be found.  I felt no despair though, instead an understanding that out of sight was only pertinent to this lifetime.  From what I can recall, we spoke more through our eyes than our words.  And our union was clear and strong and there was no room for blame or sorrow.  Instead all that I felt was a strength and a calmness. 

And although I’ve been a bit emotional all day, I’ll take it because my dream left me feeling optimistic and safe. 

I’m heading into what I anticipate will be a somewhat difficult period finishing my book and getting it published.  I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating.  To reach a long sought-after goal is exciting, but at the same time a little daunting.  In my dreams, the book is a friggin’ bestseller, it’s all good.  There is something very safe about living in your dreams. 

But the reality is that publishing a book is without doubt baring your soft underbelly for all the world to see, especially when you’ve written about yourself and not some murder mystery or summer romance (although I’m sure the same feelings apply, it’s your creation on the line.)  And there will be people who don’t like the book, and a few friends who aren’t really all that interested in the book, and that all needs to be okay.  But who am I kidding if I try to tell myself that I will be completely fine with that.  I won’t … at first.  I will need to learn to leave any negativity in my wake, which I’m pretty sure will be a lesson I learn in baby steps.

With our goal of releasing the book this spring, February has arrived to wreak havoc with my sleep.  I wake up most nights now at about 3:30 a.m. with all of the what if’s and what still needs to be done racing through my mind. (No amount of melatonin is going to quiet this storm.)  Last night was no exception.  I tossed and turned and made mental lists until about 5:00 a.m.   And it was when I finally fell back to sleep that my mom arrived, I have no doubt, to remind me of her confidence in me.

I may have already told you this story, but when I was in fourth grade, I peed my pants in class.  Oh, my, way too old to do that.  But in my defense, my teacher was very strict and I was afraid of her. I waited much too long to get up to ask her to go to the bathroom.  Standing at her desk, asking permission (which of course she so easily granted… really?)  it was too late.  I stood frozen peeing right next to her desk (served her right for being so unapproachable.)

Perception is an interesting thing, many times what we believe about someone is not accurate.  Turns out The Bitch was actually very nice to me in my time of need.  She told me to go straight to the bathroom.  She cleaned up the floor as quickly as possible (at least in my mind, because of course I was already out the door.)  And she met me in the bathroom and told me to go on home as it was almost lunchtime.  I so clearly remember running home crying all the way.  And my mom surely gave me the nurturance and pep talk I so desperately needed, but at the end of lunch, I was going back to the playground, no ifs, ands or buts about it.  She armed me with her words, and sent me off crying all the way back to school.  But by God, everything she suggested I do, worked.  There was no real aftermath after the Great Pee of 4th Grade, thanks to my mom and the teacher who turned out not to be a bitch after all.

I am beyond grateful for my mom teaching me to walk into the storm, hold my head up high, know my strength, honor my truth and leave any negativity on the path behind me as I dance toward the light. 

And I am beyond grateful for her reminder last night, which I will tuck in my back pocket to take along on this journey of a lifetime, the publishing of my very first book. 

Yesterday I saw the first blossom on my magnolia tree out front.  Even though the storms are lining up on the horizon for the next few weeks, spring is following right behind them.  Here’s to the sweet smell of spring combined God willing with the sweet smell of success.

Namaste

The River

The weekend was definitely a little stressful with our finals.  I always feel happy for the drive in, and enjoy the time to gather myself before heading into the storm, so to speak.  My emotions ramp up somewhere between my driveway and the highway.  I’ve learned to expect that now on Friday nights and just let it be.
Friday night was spent practicing in our groups for our final which was scheduled for Sunday afternoon.  Nerves were running rampant.  By the end of Friday night, the teachers proclaimed that none of us were ready for the final.  (Yikes.  No, wait, blimey!)  We decided the decision could be made Saturday morning after another practice, and if we needed to move it to the final weekend, we could.
Saturday morning I drove slowly, not in any hurry to arrive at the Perfect Storm (another of my favorite movies.)  I missed my mom.  And I felt grateful for that sorrow.  There was a time I would not have believed I could feel this.  Through our later years together, the movie I felt more of a connection with was “Throw Mama from the Train.”  I used to joke about that all the time, and I have to say, my mom really did remind me at times of Anne Ramsey.  She once gave me a portrait of herself she had taken at Sears, she was probably around 70 at the time, and I’m not sure what prompted this gift (maybe she was upset with me that I didn’t have enough pictures of her in my home) but when I opened the box, it was scary.  It was a close-up head shot of my mom with a completely serious look on her face.  No smile, just completely serious.  I was a little speechless, but thanked her and put the picture away, far far away for safe keeping.  If you don’t know who Anne Ramsey is, google her.  I’m looking at her now, and by God, they could have been sisters.
My friend, Peter (at that time we were just getting to know each other) came to my mom’s place to notarize some papers for us.  My mom was pretty hard of hearing, and actually wasn’t really listening to others too much anyway (a lot going out, not much going in) and she was in a mood.  About half way through as she was bad-mouthing me to whoever in the room wanted to hear it, I leaned over to Peter and quietly asked him if he’d ever seen the movie Throw Mama from the Train?  His eyes grew wide in disbelief, and I think probably that moment was when our friendship was cemented.  A sense of humor is your best friend sometimes.
These days I reminisce about our antics, and because we did have it so rough for so many years, I feel such gratitude for the simple blessing of missing her company.  Like I quoted a few posts back “Unthinkably good things can happen even late in the game.  It’s such a surprise.”
Appreciating my feelings, I drove slowly sorting through my emotions, enjoying the beautiful moon greeting me, shining ever so brightly to light my way. The day would be eventful.  We collectively decided before lunch that our group was ready, and would lead the way.  We would perform our final Saturday afternoon and Group 2 would follow up on Sunday.
As I think I already mentioned, we each had sections to lead, a total of a 90-min class, so eight people in the group, we each were responsible for about eleven minutes.  I was the greeter, opening the practice and guiding everyone through a meditation, breathing, chanting, and relaxing.  If you had told me 40 years ago that I would one day be sitting in front of a group singing a chant, I would have told you, no way.
When I was in about tenth grade, I was in a drama class.  Much like this class, we were divided into groups and had to prepare a skit that we would perform for our final, on stage.  I had one of the opening lines, and also the closing line.  I was so nervous that I entered the stage, said my first line, followed by the last line, and the curtain went down without any of my classmates being able to say a word.  Hilarious in hindsight.  We got a courtesy D from the teacher and my classmates were, to say the least, not too happy with me.
Well, good news, I didn’t let my yoga mates down on Saturday.  I definitely was nervous, but I managed to for the most part, park that anxiety and get through my eleven minutes.  I joked, and taught, and sang and read something I wrote to the group.  I fought back tears while I read it, and let that be okay, because that is me.  I received nice feedback afterwards, as did the rest of our group.
The knowledge I came away with this weekend, and have continued to contemplate yesterday and today, is how important it is in life that we bring our authenticity, even when we might think we are showing our weakness.   It’s also what I have been learning throughout this blog.  When I am vulnerable and blog about something personal, that’s when I feel the warmth of others come flooding back.  I have learned this lesson before in life, but I think more from the perspective of loving others who showed me their underbelly.  If someone cries with me, they become a friend for life.
This time around I’m learning the lesson from the reverse side, me opening up and being completely blown away by how great it feels and how truly accepting and welcoming others are.   Our journey is much like going to school.  You have certain courses, maybe a foreign language for example, and you learn a word and move on to more words, but at some point you circle back and truly begin to learn the proper enunciation of that word and the exact way to roll your tongue through the new and uncomfortable sounds, and at some point, the lesson is over and will not appear again in your curriculum.
I am witnessing first-hand that it’s our weaknesses that collect us and draw us closer, as we can see ourselves in others if they are willing to show us that they are fallible.  If someone does not show me any vulnerability, I can’t see them, and when I can’t see them, I find it hard to trust them.  Much like if I were walking through a forest at night, if I can’t see my way, I am going to feel frightened and guarded.
Something I probably enjoy the most about blogging is when someone says, “hey, you made me think and I’m going to give that a try.”  If you decide to try this vulnerability idea out, I would say this, remember that what you are giving is a gift.  You are sharing a part of yourself, and you are a GIFT.  If someone doesn’t seem to care for it, then oh well, bye Felicia.  Just means maybe they are not open to feeling at that moment, and that’s okay.  They may have a mountain of their own to move, and your openness scares them for fear they might have to look at themselves.  Their reactions will always be more about themselves than you.  And trust me, the truth is you’ll be enjoying yourself so much with those who do gravitate toward you, that you really won’t have much time to be looking in that rear view mirror for Felicia.
I’m planning to move forward in life embracing this new-found vulnerability, one day bring it to my yoga class, and create my own little yoga community filled with those who enjoy what I bring, people who are looking to improve, heal, and move whatever is in their way.
Will close with sharing my opening in our final practice.
“Welcome all of you.  So happy you are here with us.  We wanted to set a theme to our class today, and we’ve decided on dedicating our practice to the beauty of the majestic rivers we are graced with in our world, and especially here in our little community with the American River.  Ally has a gorgeous reading she will share with you at the end of our class.
And I will begin with something I wrote.
Please get comfortable on your mats, cross legged. Eyes closed.
 
Tap into your body, pay attention to what you’re feeling.  Just take note, is your mind quiet this afternoon or lively?  Notice the flow of your breath.   How is your spirit feeling today?  No judgement, just acknowledge where you are this morning and greet that spirit.  If you are feeling happy, remember what a blessing that is and please share that with us.  If you for some reason are feeling sadness, try to nurture yourself during your routine.  And if you are angry for some reason, maybe your boss pissed you off at work or your mate, kids, whatever, remember that there’s much power in anger so use that to do something amazing on your mat today that typically you might not have the power to do.  Take this time and make it yours, as for some of you, this might be the only time you have to spend on yourself today.   And remember, above all, you are right where you are supposed to be in this moment.
 
As you breathe in, take that breath all the way down to your sits bones, and then let it out through your mouth.  Inhale,  hold at the top, exhale.  Breathe at your own pace.  As you do, adjust your posture if needed, sit nice and tall.  Soften your brow.  Relax your jaw, your neck.  Lift your rib cage.  Drop your jaw ever so slightly.  And settle in.
 
 
All rivers begin with a droplet … one droplet after another of melting snow cascading down from our majestic mountains.  It almost seems impossible when you think about the wonder of nature.  Yet it’s true, snowflakes come down one at a time from the heavens above, form together, freeze together and then at some point melt together, making their way down the mountain sides toward our rivers.  We see the streams every day moving down the canyon toward our beautiful American River.
There is no end to the number of tiny individual streams trickling down to the river where they will become strong and united.  They will learn at times to rage and destroy much in their path.  They will change the shape of our land.  They will move what gets in their way.  They will dance in the sunlight. They will be a vessel for creating and sustaining life.  And sadly they will die in time if they lose too many of their droplets.
Are we humans really any different?   We are a million and one snowflakes, each one bringing our own beauty, but traveling in unison, creating a universal flow.
Our tiny tribe has united for our short journey, and soon we will all be off to the oceans, but for this brief moment in time, we have come together to move what’s in our way.  And I think we’ve done an amazing job.
I hope when you each practice this morning, you keep in mind your power, what you’ve accomplished in this six weeks, what you’ve helped others to accomplish in this six weeks, and know your power going forward.  You are the river.  We all are.
Namaste
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Giving Thanks

Had one short post for you guys this morning, only to thank you for joining me on my quest.  Your responses mean a great deal to me.  To hang yourself out on the line, so to speak, can be a bit daunting.  But this journey with you doesn’t feel that way at all.  It feels so good to have my long-time friends and loved ones near, my new friends joining in and people I’ve never met reach out.

And I wanted to give thanks to a friend from high school, Doug D’Anna who is usually one of the first people liking my post every morning while he drinks his coffee (guessing) and peruses the Wall Street Journal.  Doug has been a writer for years.  Some 20 years ago when I picked his brain about what I should “write” about, he gave me the best advice I could ever get.  He said to me, “Write what you know.”  I’ve never forgotten his words of wisdom, and am putting them to good use.

Thanks, Doug, for the great advice, and thanks to each of you for tuning in and for those of you reaching back to me.  Will be back tomorrow with my post about Saturday.  Have a blessed day.

Namaste

Jalopy girl

Good morning, or night or afternoon, wherever or whenever you join me.  Time to fill you in a bit more about my class.  While I knew I’d be learning a lot about yoga and stretching, I had no idea how much of the class would be spent looking beyond my postures and into my heart.  I think we all to some degree spend a fair amount of time considering ourselves, our actions, our thoughts and our feelings.  It’s human nature.  But life is busy for most of us, and distractions are ever present, so we can sail through days, months, and even years in a kind of status quo.

That’s been the case for me the last few years.  I had my plate full taking care of my mom, moving, working and commuting regularly to the bay area for work, and making time to enjoy my loved ones.  This class is clearly going to allow me the opportunity to reconsider old ideas or patterns, decide if they are still working for me, and change them if they aren’t.

Each student is required to spend a fair amount of time speaking in front of the group.  After all, public speaking is a prerequisite for teaching yoga, so it’s important to become comfortable with that. Unfortunately, it’s NOT comfortable for the average person, and especially if you find yourself in front of a room of strangers and you are being asked to tell the group why you are crying.  (Do you guys have some time on your hands?  This may take a while.)  I’m not certain if all yoga instructor classes are like this one, but our teachers encourage each of us to share what we are feeling as we go through this process.  There was no shortage of tears last weekend, and I’m confident that was only the tip of the iceberg for this group of amazing old souls.

You see, each student came to this class with different desires and needs.  And after listening to each of my classmates over the weekend, I would have to say that even though we package our needs in different wrapping, bottom line is that we are all there to heal in some way.  I was so touched by each story, and so happy to be connecting with these souls for the next five weeks in their individual journeys.

You might ask, what are some of the reasons my teammates have chosen this class.  And I thought it would be nice to share a few of the backgrounds throughout my posts (of course, with their permission) but to serve as an inspiration for anyone who might be reading this blog and have similar feelings or know someone who does. Yoga is just one approach to healing or change, but the bottom line is, there is always help if we put our need out to the universe.  It’s up to us to be brave enough to, at least internally, acknowledge our true feelings.  But once we take that step, it is amazing how quickly life answers us.  Kenny always rings true … endless second chances to take it one chance at a time.  It is never too late to reinvent yourself when makin’ it don’t make it any more.

I wrote in an earlier blog what my reasons for joining the group were …  generally a desire to return to taking care of my body.  This old girl (referring to my physical body) has been taking good care of me without proper maintenance or nurturing these past few years.  She’s overdue for some attention and a good old-fashioned overhaul (I’m sounding a bit like a jalopy, right?)

But one weekend into this experience, I’m a little suspicious that my needs go a little deeper than that, and that I’ve manifested this experience to also help me heal and mourn my mom’s passing.  And most likely, there’s more I’m still unaware of.  But at this juncture, this is the view I see on my horizon.

I was so moved by each person’s story, but the one I will start with is a woman in her forties who was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago.  Outwardly she is the picture of health … strong, fit, with an outgoing and friendly personality.  But when she began to speak, I doubt there was a dry eye in the house as she described the fear she lives with on a daily basis … afraid she is going to die of cancer.  She expressed how tired she is of living in fear and that she chose this path to find a peacefulness and heal not only her body, but maybe more importantly at this point, her soul.

I doubt there’s many readers that can’t relate to this in some form or another, whether it’s cancer or some other life-threatening disease, and whether it’s fear for yourself or a loved one … we’ve all been there.  It’s a lonely and frightening place.  I look forward to watching her crusade against the fear, and have no doubt I will learn much from her journey.

On a lighter note, there was no shortage of down dogs, up dogs, and my body was doggone tired by Sunday afternoon (by about 2:30 all I could think was enough with the dogs!!)  We practiced both instructing and being instructed.  And you’d be surprised how hard it is to guide a pose when just learning, “inhale plank pose exhale …  uhhh …. uhhh …. inhale again … no, exhale again …. long pause … people’s faces turning red … need to think … what’s next … mind is a blank …”  It really was hilarious.  We all were novices and everyone held poses for prolonged periods of time while the “practicing teacher” was working through the mixed up jumble of words clogging their brains. It was a pretty good workout.  Lots of laughter and camaraderie as we each struggled with what might seem to be such an easy task.

But isn’t that life?  All beginnings can be challenging as we slowly learn  to master the baby steps, until one day we sail through that which at first seemed so difficult.

Tonight we begin weekend 2.  I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again.  And this week when I pass Carmelita’s Restaurant next door, I may still eye the good-looking meals, but I will not be yearning to duck inside and call Rick to come rescue me.  I will be content to try their cuisine at some date in the future when this adventure is complete.  I have no doubt I will most likely be sitting there in tears as I wax nostalgic about my experience in this amazing class.

Moving forward … baby steps.  Life is good.

Namaste

Opening Doors

 
It’s a bit hard to even know where to start on this blog.  One weekend in, three days, nineteen hours, I write from a humbled and grateful perspective.  I marveled all weekend at how intuitive our inner voice can be, and thankful that the universe is always, even though we might not recognize it, offering up what we need.  Sometimes I think we just need to slow a bit to receive the message, as even if the sign is huge with red arrows and large letters saying “SUE TURN HERE,” traveling at a hundred miles an hour, I have been known to miss it.
I can only thank a higher power that when I found myself drawn to the little old-fashioned store front window of Eastwind Yoga in Auburn, that I paid attention to that small flash of recognition that some might call coincidence, but I call a knowing.  At this point in my life, I no longer need an earthly explanation for some things, as there have been far too many coincidences to write off.  I simply don’t believe any longer in random coincidence.
The beginning of this training definitely lived up to its hype.  Amazing weekend … transforming already in three days … what will six weeks bring?  So many self-realizations in such a short time.  I think the best way to describe the class is that it was like having a huge mirror placed in front of you, a mirror not so much of your outward physical appearance (although that too) but one showing your soft sweet underbelly.  And my phrasing might sound pleasant here, today, Monday (as I write this), but that warm feeling came after two days of enormous upheaval in my soul.  And I think I can speak for the group when I say, I don’t think anyone was exempt from giving themselves a hard time this weekend.
Friday was surprising for me, as I had been anticipating this class for months, and the day had finally come.  But instead of being excited, I found such resistance in my heart while I gathered my belongings for class.  As I drove from home, I actually felt like crying.  I thought to myself, “I don’t want to go to this class.  I want to be home with Rick this weekend working in our yard.  What did I get myself into?”  I thought the feeling would pass as I drove through our beautiful canyon, but it did not pass.  As a matter of fact, it just kept building.  I fought back tears the whole way to Roseville.
It was my first time visiting the Eastwind Roseville location, so I found my way, and also found that there’s a really popular little Mexican restaurant right next door.  As I walked past seeing all the jovial-appearing people inside with their delicious looking meals and sparkling margaritas, I again thought, man, let’s scrap these plans and have Rick meet me here for dinner.  I did not enter my class with an open heart.  I arrived blocked and scared and very resistant.
As I walked through the doors, I realized perhaps my biggest resistance was that it’s been a long time since I’ve truly been vulnerable.  And the teachers made it clear in no time that this class would be nothing but being open and raw and vulnerable.  I’m quite sure I wasn’t the only one who left a bit shook up.
On my way out, I passed by the same quaint little Mexican restaurant as the crowd was thinning, still wishing to call Rick and have him meet me here and take me out of this fine mess I’d gotten myself into.
The drive home was filled with thoughts like, “how will I tell my bloggers that I quit one day in?”  (Holy cow … no, holy shit, not good. Check out my p.s. for a cute story about my mom and shit.  I think of my mom now whenever I say that word.”
Saturday began much the same, up at 4:30 to arrive by 6:00 to begin another day, a drive through the canyon seriously out of sorts, which is so not like me.  I usually love my drive through God’s country, how can you feel badly? (Oh, but I did.)
But when I arrived, I felt my kindred spirits around me all suffering from the same affliction of a serious case of self-doubt.  And within an hour, we were all sharing our feelings (sitting in our circle, all eyes on you, just sayin’).  It was in that moment that I let down my walls and explained truthfully how I was feeling (not the rosy picture I so like to share) and found I had plenty of expressive understanding eyes staring back at me (we speak so much more honestly with our eyes than we ever will with our mouths). 
The weekend unfolded from there and by Sunday, as I left, I drove through the canyon with gratitude in my heart, an excitement for the next five weeks, and an understanding that I’ve entered a chapter in my life that will stand out from the rest.  I believe in anyone’s Book of Life, there will be probably three to five chapters that will be pivotal in the story.  They will be filled with the moments that change your life, that point you in a new direction … and fill your gas tank for the journey.  My guess is I’ve just started one of those chapters.
I will digress just to say, on Friday, what I felt I was crying about as I drove to Roseville (which I think was only a small part of it) was my mom.  I just felt so sad thinking of her, and the realization that I would not be in this class had my mom not passed.  It all felt so connected and I felt so melancholy.
When I drove through the canyon just two days later, Sunday morning, on my way to the last class for the weekend, I passed through a thin wisp of fog before I began the descent into the canyon.  I love the pockets of fog on the road down to the river and all along the riverbank … they always transport me to such a peaceful place.  My thought as I drove through this mist was, wow, such a beautifully sheer fog pocket.
As the fog cleared, I felt that same flutter in my soul that I spoke about in the beginning of this post; it can only be described as recognition … a memory, past, present or future … a knowing.  And I could swear I heard my mother’s voice …  “Good luck, honey.  It’s your time.”  I actually found myself looking in my rear-view mirror, not really realizing what I was looking for until I got a mile or so down the road, and then understanding that my mom felt so close that I expected to see her with a smile on her face waving goodbye.
I entered class Sunday morning emotional, but a good emotional.  Happy to be there, and knowing I was right where I was supposed to be.
More to say next post about the class … so friggin’ amazing.  I just couldn’t bear to skip ahead, as the story is all in the moments, always.
As I close this post, I thank God that many months ago I was moving slow enough on my way down the little main street in our small town in the foothills to hear that tiny voice telling me … look at that storefront,  922 Lincoln Street, Suite 100, Auburn, California … it’s a place you will need to remember some time soon.
 
P.s.  My mom was certainly a character, probably always, but I understood that more in her last years.  She had an amazing group of caretakers … you all know who you are if you are reading this blog … but they came to me with the funniest of stories on a weekly basis.
One in particular, my mom needed to go to the bathroom, so she told her buddy/caretaker/Tyler that she needed to take a shit.  He laughed and suggested to her that maybe it would be more appropriate to say she needed to take a crap.
She answered him in no uncertain terms, NO, she needed to take a SHIT.  98 years old.  Clear.  True.  No uncertainty finally for my mom.  And since I wish she could have always owned that clarity in her life, I will always love the word SHIT from here on out.
My British peeps will have to understand if they don’t favor the word.  It’s here to stay.
A final P.S.S.  With class underway and an understanding of what’s on my plate workwise/blog wise/class wise, I am hoping to post twice a week going forward, with maybe a small side note for fun here and there.  This will be the only week that might be hard to get two in, but I’m still going to try.
Thanks, as always, for tuning in.  If I was Carole Burnett (look it up youngins’) I’d be pulling my ear sending love off to my family as well as all of you reading this blog.
Namaste