Saturday, December 31, 2011

An Awesome New Year's Eve LOL

What better way to end the year than with a chakra-deep guffaw fest? Take a deep breath and get your laugh on!

Vid not working?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Move Gone Wrong...Very, Very Wrong

A guest post by DH (dear hubby) explaining how our move this week went careening off the rails. Literally. In this retelling, the IY is using the code name Betty.

Buster and Betty Buyer hire Money Movers at an hourly rate to move their furniture and boxes into their new condo.  Money Movers send Larry, Mo, and Curley to do the job.  Unfortunately, due to traffic, the movers show up almost an hour late.  In addition, although the movers assured Buster and Betty that an 18-foot truck would be more than sufficient for the job, Buster and Betty's belongings (which included a few more boxes than they estimated) cannot fit in one truck load, necessitating two truck trips and extra time on the job. Ten hours into the move, which was originally estimated by Money Movers to take six to eight hours, Larry begins having a racing and irregular heart beat.  Buster advises Larry to take a break and begins helping the other two Movers (Mo and Curley) himself to help expedite the process.  Buster checks on Larry after about ten minutes and finds that Larry still has a very  irregular pulse.  Concerned, Buster insists on driving Larry to the emergency room, where Larry is immediately admitted to the hospital. 

Buster returns from the ER to the new condo to find Mo and Curley attempting to move Buster and Betty's couch, the last item to come off the truck on the second load, up the stairs.  Unfortunately, the couch can't make the turn at the top of the stairs, and Mo and Curley decide that it must instead be hoisted into the condo.  Since the hoist requires three movers, Mo and Curley call in Schemp (also a Money Movers employee) to assist.  Because there is no clear path to hoist the couch directly into the new condo, which is the upper unit of two units in the building, Buster asks Nice Neighbors who live in the downstairs unit to allow access to their back porch, where the Movers will first hoist the couch before, in turn, hoisting it from Nice Neighbors' porch to Buster and Betty's porch above.  (The two porches are terraced.)  Nice Neighbors agree to allow access to their porch for the hoist.  It is 8:30 pm, dark outside, and, after holding of all day, now raining.

The Movers wrap the couch in the hoist bands, and Mo and Curley go to the Neighbors' porch, which is on the second floor of the building, to perform the hoist, leaving Schemp on the ground to guide the couch from below.  Buster watches the operation from his porch on the third floor of the building.  Before the Movers begin the hoist, Buster asks whether he should move his brand new car, which is parked directly below the area of the hoist.  The Movers insist that this is unnecessary over Buster's desperate pleas, and Movers begin the hoist.  With the couch in mid air, and Mo and Curley pulling the couch up, the railing to Nice Neighbors' porch gives way.  Mo and Curley, whose bodies are physically strapped to the couch are pulled off the porch.  Schemp dives for cover under Nice Neighbors porch and is unharmed, as the couch plummets to the ground, pulling Mo and Curley behind it.  Mo, who is a trained ninja and hopped up on Tylenol with codeine, grabs onto an intact porch post and swings to a soft landing on his feet.  Unfortunately, Curley falls less gracefully and lands on Buster and Betty's car, caving in the roof of the car and injuring Curley.  The railing of Nice Neighbors' porch, which was not secured properly in construction by Crappy Contractor, follows Mo and Curley down, smashing in the rear window of Buster and Betty's car.  The couch is damaged upon impact with the ground.

 * that's the long and the short of it, I'm afraid. Now, two days later, I can tell you that Larry's safely out of the hospital and Mo, Curley, and Shemp appear to be (miraculously) unharmed. The couch is still on the back of the truck. We may just donate it and buy a sectional. Or miniature couch. Or do without a couch. I know moving is never easy, but this??! COME ON!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

$1M Yoga Lawsuit

Bikram Choudhury, the controversioal speedo-clad yoga guru, is suing Yoga to the People, a donation-based yoga studio in New York City for $1M in damages.

This re-raises, among many things, the issue of what, if anything, about yoga can be copyrighted. And also raises the question of what this dude will wear to court. Fingers crossed for the speedo. Not.

YJ: Bikram Sues Yoga to the People

NYT: Off the Mat, Into Court

As I understand it, the Bikram side is indicating that they're going to use the analogy that since you can copyright a musical or a song--even though words themselves have been around for centuries--you should be able to copyright a yoga sequence (even though yoga has been around for centuries). Their argument seems to be that putting something in a specific order makes it yours/copyright-able.

The Yoga to the People side seems to be indicating that they're going to use the recipe analogy--you can't copyright the ingredients but you can copyright how you talk about them (sort like a song or musical?) but since yoga is the ingredient, they didn't infringe.

I consulted my intellectual property lawyer hubs (wow! For once his IP knowledge *did* come in handy!) and he pointed out that neither analogy is perfect--each side is using the analogy that best suits their side of the case (obviously).

Where it gets all squirmy is that we in the yoga world think of yoga as something more than recipes and musicals. It's this (sometimes) spiritual practice that can be used for something more than exercise. And because of that, in addition to its ancient roots, we don't like to think about it being a business or subject to the legalities of other businesses.

I personally think that you should not be able to copyright yoga. The poses have been around for way longer than any of us have been alive. Rearranging them or altering them slightly doesn't make them yours. But that's just my two cents.

What do you think? Should yoga be copyrighted? Is this all about money? 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Yoga for the Exhausted Post-Painting Mover

It's been almost seven years since I last moved house. Apparently, that's the amount of time it takes to forget how freaking sore your entire body gets from painting/moving/whatever this process is. Yeah...I remember now and it ain't good.

So in case anyone's in the same boat, may I suggest the following yoga assists. They'll be brief because I've gotta get back to doing them myself. ;)

Problem: Mid-Upper Back (aka painting muscles).
Yoga Assist: Eagle/Garudasana

This can be done sitting or standing. Though why you'd still be standing after standing up and painting all day is beyond me. I just did this slumped on the couch and it worked.

Bring your palms and elbows together at a 90-degree angle in front of you. If this is enough of a stretch, stay here. Otherwise, drop your right elbow below your left, and twine the backs of your forearms and palms together. Stay for eight breaths and release. Reverse the arms (left below right) and repeat.

Problem: Lower Back (aka lifting muscles).
Yoga Assist: Janu Sirsasana

Sit on the floor and bring the sole of your left foot into your right groin. Stagger your hips so the left (bent knee side) is slight behind the right. Sit tall. Bring the right forearm inside the right shin and arc the left arm high over your head and then reach over your head and in front of you.

Also try Child's Pose (Balasana) Kneel on the floor and sit back on your heels. Bring your toes together and keep the knees a bit wider than the hips. Rest your forehead on a block or your stacked hands.

Hope that helps! Now back to it...resting I mean. Not painting. No more painting.

Until tomorrow...{vodka shot} {hot shower} {sleep}

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Gratitude

This Thanksgiving, I was (among other things) thankful to be surrounded by family and seated at a bountiful table of homemade food.

On Black Friday, I was thankful for the delights of post-Thanksgiving leftovers without any of the work.

And, in case you were wondering what canine gratitude looks like, here it is. Pelu is thankful to have finally worked her way up to getting this close to the kitty.

Hello, Kitty...I love you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Food, Writing, and Rock n' Roll: Got Inspiration?

What do Brandi Carlile, The Secret Sisters, and Kathleen Flinn have in common?

Well, aside from the fact that they are all inordinately talented, they've each inspired my writing in various ways this week.

I took my friend Reb to a Brandi/Secret Sisters concert and practically floated out of the theater afterward. Those voices! That harmony! The lyrics! The sweet humility of the Secret Sisters and Brandi's raw, blush-inducing vulnerability...Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.

Then I went to a cooking demo and book signing by Kathleen Flinn yesterday and practically floated out of the exhibition kitchen, yammering to the hubby the whole way. Yes there was the delicious food, and heaven knows I love me some good food, but there was also the inspiring fact that Kathleen left her corporate job, threw caution to the wind, and went after her dream of becoming a chef and writer...ahem...just like, you know, I left my corporate job, threw caution to the wind, and became a yoga teacher. I'm still working on the writer part.

"The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," Kathleen's first book about going to Le Cordon Bleu, is one of my top-five favorite books ever. If you haven't read it and you like food or have a dream, go get this book. There is something deeply inspiring about reading about/watching someone really go after their dreams. It's even better when you get to meet them afterward and they turn out to be even nicer and more awesome than you imagined. And, having read her first book, I'd imagined she was pretty freaking awesome.

I came home fired up and ready to write (or, in this case, edit..{sigh} {pound head} {vodka shot}). And that inspiration made me realize that you have to try new things, do new things, get out of your element. Because whether it's a concert or a cooking demo, you never know what will inspire you.

Thoughts? Ideas on inspiration? What inspires you??

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Real Challenge of Editing

OK. So I've cut 25,000 words. Baby's still got back, but significantly less. I'm feeling good about my new, more-streamlined manuscript. BUT there are a few outstanding issues. And by "few," I mean 41. These are the things that I'm just not sure if I should keep/delete/rework/enhance etc.

At this point, two and a half years into this process of writing a book, nothing I wrote seems funny, original, clever, or, frankly, worth keeping. I know it's because I've read it approximately 399,998,221 times and nothing's funny after that many reads.

Or, you know, at least I hope that's why. Maybe it was never funny, original, clever or worth keeping.

And what I'm really struggling with right now is when your brain is at this level of mush...when you've read and re-read and re-re-re-read it and you're so burn out that you curse the day you ever thought to yourself, "Gee, maybe I should write a book!" how do you keep editing? Keep staying the course?

I know that if I'm ever lucky enough to land an agent and then even luckier to land a publisher and its inherent editor, that I'll definitely be doing many more rounds of edits. And I'm fine with that. In fact, I'm better than fine with it--I'll be thankful and thrilled. Because then I won't be alone! I'll have professional, knowledgeable, authoritative guidance to steer me.

But right now, three steps back from that, when I'm all alone and just trying to refine this thing in the slim hope of someday landing an agent, it literally feels like I'm in the dark and shooting randomly in any and all directions.

Argh. Any comments? Thoughts? From those that are here? Those that were here?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Snip, Snip...Sob...Update

I continue in my slash and burn campaign, trying to get Baby Manuscript to fit in its yoga britches. I started out at 147K words. I'm now down to a far-more slender 134K and I'm only 60% through the book.

What started out as a daunting task/horrifically painful process to consider ("But what could I cut? Where?? Every part is so precious!!!!") has actually become an empowering process of shedding the unnecessary.

It reminds me of donating clothes that I no longer need/wear/want. Sure that sparkly tube top brings back beautiful memories. But let's be honest, I'm in my mid-30s. It's time to part with the sparkly tube tops {sob, thanks for the memories, old friend}.

And once I finally dove in and started cutting, I have to admit, it does feel pretty darn good to lighten up!

What about anyone else? Find slash and burn painful? Liberating? No biggie? How do you deal?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Snip, Snip, Snippety Snip

Recently, it has come to my attention that my manuscript/baby is a little should one say? Healthy. Large. Pleasantly plump.

It needs a haircut. A weight-loss regime. To tighten and tone its not-so-tiny tuckus. According to a several sources, it needs to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 90-100K words to be most appealing to potential agents and publishers.

At 147K my baby's got back. And while that triggers fond memories of a remix of Sir Mix-a-Lot 1990s classic ("I like big books and I cannot lie, you other brothers can't deny..."?), I know I need to get out the pruning shears and get to work. Serious work. 30% reduction kind of work.

This, of course, presents a bit of a problem since I wasn't just typing "ipsum lorem dolor sit amet" 36,750 times. No, I wrote what I consider to be a tightly woven tale with a plot arc and themes and everything. So losing 40,000+ words is no small feat.

I did a first pass and managed to cut 5,000 words here and there. Apparently, I reached for the shears and grabbed a scalpel instead.

Now I'm faced with the far-more challenging task of big cuts. Forget the shears, I need a freaking ax. I have to acknowledge (and execute on) the fact that I'm going to have to hack out whole scenes, entire pages, characters, and parts of the plot that I've become hugely attached to over the past two and a half years.

Commence the slash and burn campaign...

{sobbing} {falling to crumpled heap} {wailing, "NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!}

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Finding the Balance Between Time, Space, and Working Hard

Allison Winn Scotch (who, by the way, writes a truly noteworthy blog that you need to follow if you don't already) wrote a post this week about the challenges of writing a book a year. She made many great points (hop over and read it--but come right back!), but one that really jumped out at me was the need for time and space between books...her desire to "observe life," and how those observations fuel and inspire her future writing.

I could not agree more. I have always believed that creativity is a spark that needs to be conscientiously tended. If you don't nourish and replenish the spark, I think (and also fear) that the spark will die out.

I believe that creativity is really a form of energy and no energy supply is endless. So as an aspiring writer I think it's incredibly important that you take time and allow yourself space. As Allison says, to allow yourself to "breathe...and grow wiser."  

At the same time, there is a difference between taking time and space and just plain old finding excuses not to work on your manuscript. We all know the stats that less than 1% of people who set out to write a book will actually finish their book. Nobody wants to be in that bottom 99%. But at the same time, you don't want to burn out.

So it comes down--once again--to a matter of balance. How do you find that balance? Tips? Tricks? Do tell!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Alluring Scent of Wet Dog

When I got my sweet little mutt Pelu in February, it immediately became clear that we were destined for each other through a series of remarkable commonalities. I love Twizzlers...she loves Twizzlers. I love chips (the salt, the crunch, what's not to love?)...Pelu loves chips. I love gummy bears...and, why, what do you know? She loves gummy bears too!

Pelu has a remarkably diverse palate. Have you ever seen a dog who loves fruit? Vegetables? Well, sweet little Pelu does! Just like me.

Our commonalities continued...Pelu made it clear that she detested being out in the rain and would employ any means possible to avoid getting her feet wet. When I tried to take her out on rainy days (overcoming my own loathing of being out in the rain and getting my feet wet), she would lock out her joints and I would have to drag a sitting dog down the street as she squirmed frantically to get away from me and back home. Ah, sigh, a girl after my heart.

That, however, was back in the days of her earlier youth. Now, at nearly a year old, she has apparently overcome her fear/dread/loathing of rainy days and getting her tiny feet wet. I greeted this revelation with a very certain response: DARN IT!!!

Pelu's new non-minding of rain became depressingly clear when I took her out on this cold, dreary, rainy morning and she pranced happily along, looking for squirrels. Whaaaat??? Where were the locked out joints? The squirming as though she was being tortured? The darting back toward the house, pulling with more might than you might think a furry 11-pounder could pull with?

Apparently, 30 rain-soaked minutes later, soaked through to my socks and my layers of sweatshirts a  regretable soggy weight, I realized my little nugget has overcome her rain-issues.

This doggy mama, however, has not.

Now to enjoy a day full of eau de wet dog. [sigh] [sigh] [sigh]

Friday, October 7, 2011

Another Brush with Crazy at the Door

IF I was worried that I could only have brushes with crazy when I'm out and about...say, at the dog park or coffee shop...well then, that fear was allayed tonight.
Doorbell rings.
Me: Hello?
Random Guy: Is Bill there?
Me: No. There's no Bill here.

andom Guy: Bill??!! Is that you??
Me: No. There is no Bill here. There's a Bill next door though. Black door on the left.
Random Guy: Where?
Me: NEXT DOOR! The black door to the left.
Guy: The black door to the left?? Where would I find that?
Me: [silence] [pounds head on wall] [why me?]

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lessons from a Dog #2: Time is Relative

You know that whole thing about one year of a dog's life being equivalent to seven human years?

Yeah, so recently, I left Pelu in her crate for five hours (we're still housetraining phase and she's too young to be trusted outside her "den.") Five whole hours. I felt terrible and and guilty and worried. Then, in a sharp spiral down into anxiety, I thought of the 1:7 human:dog ratio. Which then made me wonder, "Five times seven is...what...35? OMG. Was my five-hour absence actually 35 hours to Pelu?"

Could it be true that a five-hour editing session with my critique partner was a day and a half to my sweet little puppy?

I guess we'll never know for sure. But it sure does help explain why she's so incredibly happy to see me when I get home after what I perceive to be a relatively short time :)

Pelu mid-yawn. She's had a tough day of playing at the park, eating, and taking an earlier nap.
If I was going to get all philosophical about this, I'd wonder, what can we do about our perception of time? Why does editing seem endless but popcorn and a movie fleeting?

What about you? What drags? What flies? What do you do about it?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Writing and Eating...Yum

Recently, one of my favorite authors, Kathleen Flinn, who wrote the fantabulous novel, "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," (and if that doesn't make you love food and feel super hungry nothing will) wrote a blog post about what writers eat when they're writing.

Interestingly, PB&J ranked right up there, which made me feel quite writerly since that is a diet staple when I'm writing...and also when I'm not writing...and also when I'm hungry...and yeah, pretty much anytime.

What do you eat when you write? And if you're not a writer, what're some of your favorite things to eat anytime?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Challenge of Considering Change

On the mat or on the page, change is a hard concept to consider. Recent writing events have reminded me of a scene in my book, about an experience that I once had with a student.

She—an athletic woman who was at least 6’ tall—was in Downward Facing Dog. She had compressed her pose in every conceivable way. It was like seeing Shaquille O’Neil in Danny Devito’s Down Dog. Which sounds kind of weird, but you know what I mean. Now, I know all too well the challenges of being a towering giantess. I’ve struggled most of my life with being “too tall.” But the bottom line is, you’re not going to get any benefit out of squishing yourself into something you’re not. 

So I went over to make a gentle adjustment and she tensed and refused. I verbally cued her and she yelled (yes, actually yelled at me—the teacher—in the middle of a class), “I’M NOT CHANGING!!!”
Startled, I stepped back. I considered my options. She’d said it clearly enough: she wasn’t going to change. So I walked away.

This interaction comes back to me now as I consider the challenge of receiving feedback on my manuscript. So far, I’ve shared it with my critique partner, my husband (note to self: do not share future work with domestic partner unless you’re OK with partnership suffering), a friend who’s a producer, and two agents who both requested the full manuscript but ultimately decided to pass. One agency provided feedback because, they said, they could tell I’d put a lot of work into it. The other had a vague, generic response.
My crit partner, husband, and producer friend all had extensive edits and ideas on top-level strategic changes as well. 

I considered, weighed, tried on for size, re-wrote, and re-re-wrote around every single one of them. To be clear, I didn’t keep every single one of them…but I did consider and try them. 

It isn’t easy to hear feedback. It doesn’t necessarily have to be painful per se, but it’s never going to be super-fun. Why? Because I’m going to guess and say that we all write to the best of our ability. If we thought it could’ve been done better, well, we would’ve done it that way in the first place, then.
However, because none of us is ever going to think of every angle, possibility, or opportunity, feedback from others is a necessary part of growth.

Or at least, that’s my theory. What do you think? How do you handle feedback and the invitation to change?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Overcoming the Dreaded Rut

Everyone in the industry tells you that as soon as you start the query process, you should already be working on your next project. There are several reasons for this:
  1. In the miraculous, unlikely, shocking, happy event that an agent takes interest/signs you, you become a more appealing candidate because you have another project in the queue. You're not the dreaded, "poor thing, he only had one book in him," cautionary tale.
  2. You have something to distract you pour your creative energy into so that you don't compulsively hit "refresh" in your email browser as you anxiously wait for agent responses.
This make imminent sense. Tremendous sense. So much sense that I should, in fact, be doing it.

Right now.

Seriously! NOW! Get going, self!

And yet, I'm not. Mostly because of that whole "creative energy" thing. Or frankly, lack thereof.

Creative energy is hugely lacking right now. It's been bled dry by that whole endless editing process over the last year and a half. Editing, I've learned, is where creativity goes to die.

Creativity needs space and time and silence. Or at least that's what I need to be creative. I cannot be creative without a break, after a year and a half of daily editing a 276-page tome--the nitty gritty contents of which I have become far, far too familiar.

My merciless slave-driving unforgiving critique partner seems to think the way forward is to write anyway. He has challenged me to push through this rut and write anyway--something I have never done before, always choosing instead to listen to the fluctuations of my own internal energy/creativity rhythms.

So I'm going to give it a try his way. What the heck, right? If he's wrong, I can also throw fistfuls of mac n' cheese at his face.

What about you?? Do you wax and wane or plow right through, regardless?

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Rain-Soaked Family Reunion

I've been at a family reunion this week in the Poconos. My extended family is flung far and wide and we're rarely in the same place at the same time. Which is why I was looking forward to this week so much.

Well, that and the really tasty food. And the downtime. And the lakefront. And sun and rest and boating and swimming.

OK. So maybe there were a lot of reasons.

One thing I hadn't looked forward to (or even considered) was five straight days of rain. Torrential rain. Incessant rain. Unstopping rain. Until everyone and everyone was damp and moldy and never dry. It seems Hurricanes Katya and Lee collided on the heels of Irene and that all combined to create a hell of a lot of rain. Which lead to 15 people being housebound in a very small cabin with my cousin's two (adorable and very high-energy) kids.

More importantly, it lead to severe flooding in the area. When I hear "flooding," I think, "uh-oh," followed by, "that's terrible."

It's another thing however, to actually see it. To see people's homes under water. To see roads that you drove on to get here (and that you'd like to be able to drive on to leave) underwater. Unusable. To see normally charming streams and rivers and our beloved lake swollen and muddy and angry. To see debris washed across roads, boats submerged and drowning, and all sorts of refuse in places it doesn't belong.

We lost electricity and I felt my first flurry of panic--what would do for food once the refrigerator was no good? How would we cook (on our electric stove)? How would we manage without water (the water to the house is controlled by a pump powered by electricity). No toilet? No shower? No stove? No phone? No INTERNET???!!! What would we DO???

Then you see families staying in emergency shelters and you feel stupid for contemplating your comparatively lame concerns.

Honestly, the scariest element was the loss of control. There was absolutely nothing we could do to get electricity back on. To ensure that our cabin wasn't swallowed by the lake. To make sure that we had water or light or food.

Which lead me to consider this: It seems that we modern day folks spend an awful lot of time feeling in control of our lives--or suffering anxiety due to a loss of control. Then nature comes along and smacks us down.

"You think YOU'RE in control?!" Booms an omniscient voice "THINK AGAIN!!!"

My cousin reminded me that we still had a gas grill outside. And suddenly a summer BBQ treat was a priceless necessity. My aunt reminded me that we could scoop buckets of water from the lake and manually "force flush" the toilets. We had candles and matches and our cabin wasn't underwater. We would be OK. And we were.

But that feeling of loss of control, of loss of independence...the feeling of complete and utter helplessness...that will stay with me for awhile.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Yoga for Stymied Writer #2: Stretching Your Computer-Weary Muscles

In this installation of the Yoga for the Stymied Writer Series, I want to focus on stretching. (Note: these are just as applicable for non-writing computer users.)

Now, in the yoga world, yogis would probably say something super-yogic like, "We're going to access the inner knowing of the muscles to release hidden sources tension which correlate to the blockages of your eternal essence," but over here in normal land, we'll just say "stretching your weary writerly muscles."

If you spend any time hunching over a computer, you'll notice that a certain tightness, discomfort, brutal pain may develop in the upper back/shoulder/neck area. Here are few stretches to relieve said discomfort and get you to pounding out your next best-seller.

From Child's Pose, described here, transition into Revolved Child's--Parivritta Balasana. To start, lift the right arm just a fraction above the floor, then "thread the needle," extending the right arm under the left armpit, palm facing up. Breathe for eight and release. Repeat on the other side. If you aren't getting enough stretch in the shoulders/upper back, then first lift the hips for Funky Child's Pose and come in from there. It will deepen your stretch.
Next up, Garudasana--Eagle Pose--is just the thing to higgity help you out. This can be done sitting or standing.

Bring your palms and elbows together at a 90-degree angle in front of you. If this is enough of a stretch, stay here. Otherwise, drop your right elbow below your left, and twine the backs of your forearms and palms together. Stay for eight breaths and release. Reverse the arms (left below right) and repeat.

Most desk jockeys feel their tension in their backs. And, indeed, these muscles do get tense from constantly hunching forward to type. However, let's not neglect the muscles in the front--the chest muscles. They shorten and compress from constant computering even if you don't feel it. It's just as important to release them. To begin, grab a yoga strap or tea towel (you may need something longer depending on your wingspan and flexibility). Grab an end with each hand in front of you as wide apart as possible. Keeping the grip where you are lift the arms up and over your head and then behind you as far up and back as feels good. Hold for eight breaths and release.

Voila! Ready to return to writing. Questions? Comments? Requests for other stretches? Lemme know. I'm your yoga DJ, yo.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Worst Smell in the World

Here is my latest entry for Courtney Miller-Callihan's super fun, summer-long writing prompt contest.

You may remember that she challenged folks to share their craziest re-imagining of their summer vacations a few weeks back (and this inadvertent yogini composed a modest Haiku an an entry). Earlier this week, I attempted to double the fun with a dual writing prompt contest entry. It seemed to be the perfect end to the writing fun.

But who can resist the challenge to write about the worst smell in the world?

Not this girl. That's for sure. :)


The worst smell in the world wasn’t the acrid aroma of alcohol and vomit as my boss lay on the floor of the public restroom purging after her latest bender. Nor was it the industrial cleaners that seem to be an innate fixture of any public restroom. 

No, the worst smell in the world was, in fact, the stench of failure that clung to every fiber of my Ann Taylor aspirational suit and soaked slowly into every cell of my being. Of knowing that working my way through college and killing myself over the past ten years in a series of entry level positions had led only and entirely to this undeniable fact: I worked for an alcoholic, pill-popping lunatic who actively loathed me. There was no silver cloud in sight.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Dual Entry for Agent Courtney's Writing Prompt Contest

Here is my latest entry for Courtney Miller-Callihan's super fun, summer-long writing prompt contest.

You may remember that she challenged folks to share their craziest re-imagining of their summer vacations a few weeks back (and this inadvertent yogini composed a modest Haiku an an entry). 

This is my second try and I thought I'd step it up a notch by going for a dual entry for her #6 and #8 writing prompts: "Three things you'd bring with you to a deserted island. Assume food and water are not an issue, and that you will be stuck on the island, Gilligan-style, for an unknown period of time. Defend your choices." AND "This was the first thing Anna had ever won." (Listed respectively.) 


This was the first thing Anna had ever won and she could not believe that this was where it had led: Stuck, Gilligan-style, on a deserted island

“Thank you! THANK YOU, oh benevolent reality TV gods!” She yelled toward the heavens, throwing her arms outward in the universal gesture of all-encompassing joy.

Finally, after nine weeks without a shower, no bathroom, no phone, no family, no friends, and the joys of social media a very distant memory, Anna’s dream of winning “Last One Standing”—CNC’s hit “Survivor” series spin off—was within reach. Only one other competitor stood between her and one million dollars. It was so close she could taste it.

Unfortunately, the other remaining competitor—who insisted on being called Axl even though Anna was 99% sure that could not possibly be his given name—was a bearded barbarian who made the off-screen life choice to live as veritable ruffian in rural Appalachia. No bathroom? No phone? No family or friends? These were non-issues for Appalachian Axl. Thus, he was a formidable opponent. And formidable opponents were a concerning hurdle for Anna on her path to victory.

But surely, the tangled path of near-misses, physical injury, and the last-minute salvation that had brought Anna to being one of the last two standing, would now carry her over the finish line and into that glorious seven-figure bounty that tantalized her with its nearness.

Anna had come so far since the day she’d won a spot on the show in the wildcard round after entering a contest online. Since she’d never won anything before and this boon had come in the wake of a very bad breakup, she had told everyone that it was meant to be. The chance to escape to an exotic, unspoiled location had seemed to be exactly what she needed to jolt her out of her post-break-up depression. The chance to win her favorite reality series—bragging rights for the rest of her life, not to mention who knew what kind of attendant opportunities—and an inordinate amount of money were mere bonuses.

Anna crouched low and slowly coaxed the small fire she’d started into a more-respectable blaze. Wisely, she had chosen matches as one of the three things she could bring with her. It was a choice that had served her well as two of her competitors bit the dust within the first week. Her other choices of sunscreen and a sleeping bag had also been well-researched lifesavers. While former contestants had suffered severe, health-impairing sunburns that prevented them from performing crucial daytime survival activities and insomnia-induced limited mental functioning that had led to poor choices and missed opportunities, Anna had steadily plodded onward, the end each day heralding another small step toward winning.

Anna watched the yellow flames lick the driftwood and dried seaweed that she carefully fed the fire. She focused carefully on taking slow deep breaths, on grounding herself mentally. The key to getting this far was staying intensely present on every task, allowing their natural progression to lead her toward her goal.

“Never look ahead and never look back.” She repeated her mantra, aware that it would make a perfect last shot before cutting to commercial.

The fire glowed calmly in front of her, warding off the evening’s chill and providing a comforting light that cut a swatch into the too-near forest and its lively population of wildlife. For the first time since she’d been dumped, she felt strong and capable. That alone was worth a million dollars.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Writing Humor: Not as Easy as it Looks!

Think of the funniest movie you've ever seen (me: Forgetting Sarah Marshall is definitely in the top five). Now think of the funniest book you've ever read (me: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is one I read awhile back, and I just ordered Jenna McCarthy's "If It Was Easy, They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living with and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-So-Handy Man You Married" after watching the hilarious book trailer. I anticipate this will rank up there in the hilarity category). 

Now take a moment and admire the genius of the authors and screenwriters who crack you up because let me tell you, humor ain't easy. 

And never has that been more clear to me than this week when I entered Nathan Bransford's Funny Writing Contest.

Here's what I learned from reflecting on how to write humor and reading other writer's entries:
  1. Humor is highly (HIGHLY!) individual
  2. Humor is highly contextual. And it take times to build context. Being funny in 350 words or less? Yeah...brutal.
  3. Humor is harder when confined to the written word, robbed of intonation, hand gestures, and face-making
Now that you're really depressed and stressed out, I'll share my entry, which is pulled from my narrative non-fiction work-in-progress. Which will now seem dazzlingly clever and infinitely hilarious. Let me remind you it's NON-fiction. That means it really, really happened. So not only will I seem like a super genius for writing humor, you'll also feel really bad for me for living through this. (SCORE!)


So far, my business trip is off to a less-than-stellar start. Despite the fact that my hotel is upwards of $600 a night, I’m starting to think it’s an establishment of questionable repute. Upon returning to my room after a day of being hard at it corporate style—over whiteboards, spreadsheets, and catered mini-muffins—I’d found housekeeping had indeed visited my room, and in addition to new generic mini soaps, they’d also left a fecal log in the toilet that had to have been at least ten inches long.

Duly impressed, I briefly considered immortalizing my discovery with a quick camera phone shot. I could even use my distinctly unfeminine ten-inch hand span for scale. But realizing this ploy would require closer physical proximity to a stranger’s excrement, I’d quickly discarded this initial impulse.

Getting down to business, I’d tried to flush with the pointed toe of one shoe. But instead of flushing, the toilet had flooded—spouting from the bowl like a veritable fountain. Perched as I was, precariously on one foot with the other midair on the flush handle, I’d been unable to retract my leg and run as swiftly I would’ve liked to safety.

So yes, I got poo-water on me. And that’s never good. But that was only the beginning.

Because the water had gushed forth like a geyser, by the time I was able to scramble in an ungainly fashion out of there, the contaminated water was already half an inch deep in the bathroom and rushing into the bedroom, where I was frantically running around, packing. I’d never seen a toilet belch forth so much water at such a velocity. It was this germ-phobe’s worst nightmare, live and actually happening.

Perched for safety’s sake on the bed, I’d called the front desk. By the time a bellhop—accompanied by a plumber—arrived, water was pouring out into the hall. I just hoped they didn’t think I flooded my own room. But from the looks they lobbed at me—“You, a 29-year old, slender slip of a girl, produced THAT?—they must have.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Writing Prompt Contest Entry

Got inspired by Courtney Miller-Callihan's writing prompt and was surprised where the story took me. Love when that happens!!

I opened the last box, and inside found a slim stack of photos. Tired and sweaty, I blew the bangs off my forehead and slowly straightened in the hot attic. The over-bright Technicolor shades of the photos told me they were from the early ‘70s even before the bell bottoms and embroidered peasant tops did. My mother—young, beautiful, and sporting the era’s trademark shag cut—stood smiling in a backyard. She held a toddler on her cocked hip. Blond and chubby-cheeked, the baby bore a striking resemblance to my young mother…and to me.

The fine hair on my forearms rose. The certain chill of dread that precedes any cataclysmic finding that you later wished you didn’t know, ran through my belly.

I flipped it over and read my mother’s handwriting: “Serena. First visitation. 1972.”

I slowly replaced it at the back of the stack and flipped through the rest which ran sequentially, annually, through the next three years. At the bottom, there was a well-aged envelope whose seal no longer held. Centered above the flap was the name, “Greater New York City Adoption Agency” in a cobalt blue print that had faded over the decades.

Hands shaking slightly, I removed the folded stack of papers and numbly read the words that confirmed that my mother had given a baby up for adoption when she was 18. This baby—Serena?—now an adult, was my sister. My sister that I’d never met, and until moments ago, hadn’t even known existed.

Confusion and chaos washed over me. A flood of questions cascaded into my brain, faster than I could catalogue them. Foremost I wondered why my mother had never told me. Realization crystallized: My mother had intentionally never told me—yet she had left this information for me to discover, certainly knowing that the task of cleaning out her house after her death would fall to me. With her gone, I could never ask her why…how…what the circumstances were…who the father was…how she knew him…why…why…why…

It was then that another emotion rose—rough and raw and unexpected, it crowded the others out: anger.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Yoga for Stymied Writer #1: Boosting Creativity

We haven't talked yoga since the holidaze, when I suggested a few poses for such travel-related challenges as the common cold, anxiety, back pain, insomnia, and being overly full. The holidays--and talk of yoga--are now a distant memory, so let's dive right back in, shall we?

Today commences a series of yoga assists for all your writerly woes. If you have any requests, let me know!

Scenario #1: Creative gas tank is running dangerously low--you're basically putt-putting out on creative fumes. You're Muse hasn't made an appearance for days--it's practically time to put out a Missing Persons (Muses?) Report. Your work in progress sits stagnating, yet torturing you. Anyway you cut it, you could use a little creative boost.

Yoga Assist: My number one recommendation is an inversion. This is the first thing I try when I'm feeling stuck/stymied/blocked/whatever. There are several options--the most important thing is to get your head down below your heart level so as to irrigate your brain with blood and literally turn your perspective upside down. (*Those with certain medical conditions should avoid inversions altogether--see below.)

Option A: (easier) Downward Facing Dog. Kneel on the floor, knees under hips, wrists under shoulders. Deepen your breath. Lift your navel up to your spine to engage your core. Lift your hips up so you're in an inverted "V" formation. Stay for 10 breaths (or until you're ready to come down). Draw your knees to the mat, wider than your hips. Draw your forehead toward the mat, floor, or yoga block. Sit back on your heals and rest for 10 breaths.

Option B: (more advanced) Supported Handstand. Begin as above--kneeling on the floor with your feet against a wall. Lift up to Downward Facing Dog (as described above). Then slowly walk your feet up the wall until you are in an inverted "pike" or handstand. Stay for 5 breaths to start. Then slowly work your way up to staying longer. When you're ready, slowly walk down the wall and take Child's Pose (as described above), resting back on your heels, forehead grounded on the mat or block. Rest for at least the same length of time.

Allow yourself to absorb the effects of turning your world upside down. Feel the burst of fresh energy permeating your body and brain.

*Those with certain medical conditions should avoid inversions altogether. This includes, but is not limited to: headaches, heart conditions, high blood pressure, certain eye conditions. Inversions should not be practiced during menstruation. Talk to your doctor before practicing any yoga.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

This is my entry for Courtney Miller-Callihan's super fun contest challenging folks to share their craziest re-imagining of their summer vacations.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation
A Haiku re-imagining by this inadvertent yogini

Conquered Voldemort!
Vanquished bridesmaids, Smurfs, bad boss!
Sigh. Just saw movies.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Editing: Don't Overwork the Dough, But Don't Turn in a Half-Baked Product

I'm not much of a baker. The few times I've attempted it, my (fewer) successes have been the result of mishap, mis-measurement, and flat-out disasters that have been narrowly resurrected through a random combination of desperation, prayer, and frantically throwing in more ingredients in an attempt to re-balance the batter.

However, one thing even I know is that when you're baking (be it bread, cake, or pastry) you don't want to overwork the dough. Over-kneading, over-stirring, over-beating, over-whatevering, leads to tough baked goods. And nobody likes gnawing their way through tough baked goods.

At the same time, you don't want to turn in an under-done, not well-mixed product. Nobody likes a half-baked cake or a mouthful of flour. So how do you know when it's done enough (the batter's fully mixed, the dough's well-kneaded) but not over-done?

The reason I am pondering these random philosophical baking questions today is because secretly, I am really pondering their analogous writing counterparts.

Writing Update: I'm still mired in the editing process. It feels like it will be the endless editing process. I've gotten some excellent feedback from an independent film producer friend (he was amazingly adept at reading my work and immediately finding the structural issues, then suggesting solid, strategic solutions). I've also gotten tremendous support and thoughtful suggestions from my critique partner. Friends, family, and spouse have also weighed in.

Only the spouse led to a screaming match. (Kidding.) (Sort of.)

(Note to self: do not ask spouse for editing help if you want your relationship to last.)

The point is, that all this editing/re-writing/re-organizing could drive a lass to drink! I'm up to my eyeballs in minute (and some large-scale) changes and it's combined into a brain-melting sensation that can only be described as standing too close to a Monet. You can't make out shapes, structure, or reason anymore. It's all just a blur.

So how do you know when the dough's ready (aka not raw) but not overworked?

To be honest, I don't have a solid answer. My immediate coping mechanisms will be getting a little space from the project (space = perspective). Turning to a mind-stilling practice like, ahem, yoga. And relying on my gut instinct, my vision for the project, and the unbiased advice of my crit partner, who hopefully still has some semblance of perspective left. (It's somehow easier to stay objective about someone else's work.)

Hey, just one more reason that a CP is an absolutely, non-negotiable necessity. But that's a post for another day. :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dog Park Etiquette: Another Brush with Crazy

You may remember that I'm a bit of a crazy-magnet. I accept that as my lot in life. Sometimes, however, I forget that it's my lot in life. Well, this morning, I was reminded. Le sigh.

I took Pelu for an early-morning outing to the dog park before an editing session with my crit partner. For those unfamiliar with dogs, dog parks, and dog park etiquette, it goes something like this. There's a "any-size/big dog" area for the...(wait for it)...big dogs or any brave little dogs that don't mind mixed big-dog company. And a separate "little dog" area for...little dogs. Each one is fenced in with three-foot tall fences, intentionally separate, and gated.

Lest there be any confusion, there is a painted sign of a little dog with "<#25"spelled out for the little dog portion.

Pelu--all ten pounds of her--was in the little dog park alone when a monster-sized, garantuan, astoundingly huge, mind-blowingly large dog leapt--yes, leapt--over the three-foot-tall fence into the little dog area. This alone was kind of amazing.

What was more amazing, however, was that the owner simply stood there and watched as little dogs began running around in terror and little-dog owners began scooping them protectively. It was practically akin to a post-bomb scene in a movie with people running for cover, screaming.

Meanwhile, the giant dog--let's call him Brutus--then began relieving himself all around our area. And in case you're thinking it was only "number one," well, you'd be wrong. After he left three separate piles around the little dog sanctuary, he then began tearing around in victorious loops. (I imagine this is the doggie equivilent of "Take that, b^tches! Your park is mine now!")

Still in the general/big dog area, Brutus's owner, let's call him Oblivious A-hole Owner (OAHO for short), yelled, "You got the sh^ts or something?" as he continued to simply stand, stare, and do absolutely nothing.

Yeah, he's got 'the sh^ts' from the little dog he ate on his walk here, I thought sarcastically.

Finally, one small-dog owner approached him and asked if he needed an extra bag to pick up after Brutus (aka hint-hint).

OAHO stared angrily, silently before finally pushing off the fence he'd been leaning on and ambling over, snapping "I've GOT it."

Walking past me, he said (as though we were having a conversation), "So, let me get this straight, my dog can't come in the little dog park but little dogs can come over to general area."

"Yep--those are the rules alright," I agreed cheerily. "Because big dogs can really hurt little dogs, so it's at the little dog owner's discretion if they want to take that risk."

"Oh that's it, is it?" He taunted, his voice a nasty sneer. "Well how am I supposed to know?"

I pointed to the sign.

"Yeah...too bad my dog can't read," he sneered derisively.

"Good thing his owner can...and that's the owner's responsibility, to control the dog and stick to the rules." I volleyed back.

Sensing that he wasn't going to win this one, he decided to make it personal. "Wow. You're a real happy person, aren't you? You're just in a GREAT mood today, huh?" The sarcasm in his voice could've peeled paint off walls.

"I was," I agreed, "until about 5 minutes ago."

By this point, my tiny Pelu broke free of her frozen state of fear and ran to the gate, pawing frantically to get out.

As we walked home, I remembered again that I have a bit of a crazy-magnet and that next time I need to resist engaging with crazy. Perhaps this sign on the pick-up bag dispenser said it best.

Thoughts? Etiquette violations (dog-park or otherwise)?