The End and the Beginning

The call came and commenced an almost total overhaul. With so much happening at the end of 2010, it's easy to chalk the whole year up to something turbulent and tumultuous--not always bad, but unpredictable in the best of times.

That's not the case, though.

While the Year of the Tiger certainly brought trauma and drama in the form of a broken husband and his long recovery, it also brought a deeper calm to our pack--new roles to fill. I'm pleased to say we rose to each occasion; we thrived.

The year began with uncertainty and the feeling of treading water--reacting to life, not making things happen.

But then Brad got hurt, and suddenly life seemed too fragile to take for granted. I launched a concerted effort to fill my life with challenges and joy; after a few false starts, I'm proud to report that I ended the year with a compelling job, a strong body, a happy family, a healthy bank account, a solid partnership, and a balanced life.

It was no small effort, and there's no room for coasting as we slide into 2011. Still, though, maintaining isn't quite enough, so I've established a few goals for the coming 365:

Accompany Arnie on 22 therapy animal visits
Run two footraces
Save a big chunk of money
Travel to a new place with Brad
Take a trip with my family
Submit three pieces of writing for publication

It doesn't sound like much, but I'm trying to remember that what seems inevitable can become impossible as life delivers unexpected changes; and just as I hope to embrace those blows, I also hope to continue making things happen, taking ownership, and staying my course.

Stay tuned.


Tolle, Lege*

What's hard is that the world doesn't stop while you mourn a lost opportunity. Or wait for the phone to ring while you hold out hope.

But then you realize that it's not so bad, because you remember Auden's Funeral Blues:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Because that, obviously, was a darker day. And like Auden, you, too, will face worse. And when you do, you hope to remember the words of that spitfire in sensible shoes, Eleanor Roosevelt: We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot.

We must do that which we think we cannot.

Until then, though, you will retreat to your favorite place in the world--your bed, with your husband and dogs cuddled in close, a stack of novels on your nightstand and the light soft.

*Take up and read.


You Must Be at Least This Tall to Ride the Emotional Roller Coaster

Nanci Griffith sings a wonderful cover of Richard and Linda Thompson's "Wall of Death."

On the wall of death
All the world is far from me
On the wall of death
It's the nearest to being free
Let me ride on the wall of death one more time
You can waste your time on the other rides
But this is the nearest to being alive

I envy the even-keeled. I'd like to be able to weather bad news calmly--to hear it, accept it, and then get on with the business of the day. I'd have liked to do just that today, when Arnie and I failed our Therapy Dog evaluation. Don't misunderstand--Arnie performed beautifully for most of the test. The only hard part--the reason we failed--was when we had to approach and pass another dog WITHOUT REACTING.


Here's the thing: Arnie loves other dogs. LOVES THEM. All his life, other dogs have been his buddies, his playmates, his friends, his humpers, his humpees. My boy is a well-behaved beast until he spies another pup; then he completely loses his furry mind.

So, when we approached the other dog (who was completely disinterested in Arnie and me), Arnie ignored my "sit" and my "stay" and my "no," and told me in no uncertain terms (by sta-rain-ing on the end of his leash) that he wanted to say hello to the other animal.

So that was that. And I was sad. I opted to complete the test, even though I knew we wouldn't pass (neutrally meeting another dog is imperative to pass the therapy doggie test). Throughout the remaining steps (which Arnie performed effortlessly), I fought tears and worked hard to ensure that Arnie couldn't sense my sadness--he was having fun and I didn't want to stop his happy tail.

Later--after a good cry and a long talk with Arnie about how this isn't his fault, it's my fault, and I love him whether he ever becomes a therapy puppy or not--my phone rang.

It was the executive director of the therapy animal organization, calling to tell me that the other volunteers in the test room thought the evaluator was overly harsh with Arnie and me. They thought we handled the test well, and that Arnie would make a wonderful therapy animal.


Then she offered Arnie and I a free re-test next month.


So we have some work to do, my puppy and me. We have to visit many dog parks and crowded places, and we have to behave, even in the face of such distractions as baby Heelers (good for rolling), bigdumbLabs (good for humping), Jack Russels (good for chasing), and--the hardest test of all--other Golden Retrievers.

So, ok. It was a rough afternoon. But then it was a better afternoon. And now, Arnie and I are cuddled up against the rapidly cooling weather (just how we like it), grateful for another chance, and exhausted from the Wall of Death.


We've gone monthly

It's a tough time over here. I'm struggling with motivation, with ideas. Sorry for the lack of posts--consider The Wasatch Report a monthly publication for now.

As I indicated in my last post, fall in Northern Utah offers little for wannabe hermits who long to shutter against the cold, tend the fire, work wool into scarves and hats, and turn inward. This year has been so warm that even the snakes haven't gone underground yet, which means that I am a frightful hiker, jumpy, shrieking at unsuspecting sticks and field mice.

Naturally, though, I'm choosing to blame the weather for a bigger issue--that of feeling purposeless. When I talk about this out loud, people tell me to get over it, that lots of others feel this way but simply press on, opting for fortitude over crumbling into a heap of emotions.

It's not all bad. It's not bad at all, actually. Even as I stare out the window and wonder how to get my psyche back, I don't lose sight of my good fortune and all the gifts in my life.

1. Brad's hind paw recovery is nearly complete, and he's stronger than ever.
2. My whole family is healthy and happy.
3. I just ran my 6th half-marathon.
4. Brad and I had a fun mountain biking season together.
5. I am taking and loving guitar lessons.
6. I've made a few new friends lately--fun, active, fit women.
7. I'm writing yoga articles for examiner.com (the page isn't up yet)--thanks to Alex for that great idea.
8. We're spending Thanksgiving with friends in Boulder.
9. I have a job that lets me write and occasionally work from home.
10. Arnie takes his therapy dog test this Sunday (all paws crossed).

Life is good.


Close Your Eyes and Think of Scotland

Since June, I've been urging fall along, willing it to arrive.

Wind events. Rain. Complex skies. Cool temperatures. Early nights.

We're robbed of true autumn in Utah. What we get is beautiful--the maples and oaks deepen the aspen gold into an ombre of foliage that smacks of the East Coast--but it's too still, too hot. The skies are glass-eye blue--there's no strife in it.

I want whipping wind and sideways rain. Mad dashes from the driveway to the house. Muddy-pawed puppies making for vacuuming marathons.

When I close my eyes, I see a wild shoreline--Lewis or the Hebridies. I feel rain on my face, strong wind at my back. I smell wet wool. There's salt in the air, and the pungent smoke of peat fires.

But what I'm longing for isn't the discomfort. I'm too soft for that. What I want is the shelter that comes after the suffering--the comfort of feeling warm after being cold, of drying off after getting soaked though with rain.

That's what I'm looking forward to.


I could promise to write more often...

...or practice my guitar everyday, or
bang on my djembe until the neighbors call the cops, or
finally make those thousand origami cranes I've been thinking about, or
really, like, really learn to knit, or
finish that kaleidoscope string quilt, or
better tend to my correspondence, or
whip up the Little Squares Scarf, or
stitch together the Schoolhouse Tunic.

But for now, I'm content to dwell in the physical world: running, biking, climbing, hiking, practicing yoga, jumping into cold lakes with the dogs, darting around empty schoolyards catching frisbees.

It's finally starting to feel like fall around here, and soon enough it'll be time to sit by the woodstove and work on subversive cross stitch projects.

But I'm avoiding a big work-related question right now, so it's easier to be outside, to sweat, to breathe hard, to get worked, and to be too tired at the end of the day to give it any thought. Too much time in my head is best avoided when important decisions are afoot.

So I'm sorry to have been such a lousy blogger lately. I'm just having trouble sitting still and facing my thoughts head on. Better to let them sneak up on me in the middle of a run, or halfway up a climb. Even though I still have to deal with them, I feel better equipped when I'm not meeting them at a desk.

I'll write more often as the weather cools and I turn more inward. I always do.


The Company of Animals

Today I stopped at 7-11 for petrol for the car and fuel for me. While the car was filling up, I went inside for a bag of Smartfood popcorn and some chocolate milk (my favorite "fast food" lunch). The man behind the counter was large, jovial, and wearing a hairnet over his bald head.

"3.51," he said, smiling broadly.

I handed him four ones, and as he took them, he reached into the penny dish (this one, like many in convenience stores, sponsored by Newport Cigarettes) and said, "Out of 4.01."

"Thank you," I said. "That's very kind."

"Thoughtful," he countered politely. "If I were kind, I'd reach into my own pocket."

, I thought. There's a difference.

The words we choose matter, but are they as powerful as our actions? Arnie can't actually talk, but I always know what he's thinking, what he needs. Meanwhile, some of the most loquacious people I know say nothing, just fill space with sounds and noises.

Brad and I just celebrated our wedding anniversary by climbing the South Ridge of Mount Superior, an exposed line that overlooks the spot where we got married 4 years ago.

The doing took considerable effort on my part, being a little out of shape and a lot more cautious that I used to be. I'm no fan of exposure, and even though the climbing is easy, it takes time to do it carefully, what with the many loose rocks disguising themselves as hand or foot holds.

I was a little gripped and grumpy when we started, foreseeing all the things that could go wrong. Ever the champion of the positive, Brad usually responds to my fatalistic mutterings by pointing out that I'm being illogical, that my concerns are unfounded. It's a natural response for him; he's a practical man. It's not always a helpful response for me, though, being a mostly impractical woman.

Brad struck supportive-husband gold that night, though. While shuffling across a skinny ledge, he found a clump of goat fur and promptly placed it on his head. As I edged across to his stance, I was freaked out and about to complain, but when I looked up and saw Goatman, all I could do was laugh and laugh and laugh.

"Baaaaa." He commented.

And in the company of animals, that's all that needs to be said.


Coming Down

Today was a yoga day--morning practice followed by discussion and study until mid-afternoon.

It was an excellent class, hard and sweaty--it's July in Utah after all--and the brainwork was engaging, funny, enjoyable.

Still, though, I feel restless now, agitated.

I had a fine day--after yoga school I took the dogs to the lake for an hour--they swam and fetched, I waded and threw. We were the only ones there (that never happens); I felt blessed--actually blessed--to have the clean, cold water to ourselves.

But there it is, the feeling that I've left something unfinished...

But maybe that's just bad programming....We're taught to work hard, taught that work is hard. We're told to put our heads down and plow forward, to not question what we're trading for a paycheck (time, health, youth, glow, passion, humor, love, spirit).

So I guess I feel guilty about not hating my work--guilty that I don't resent how I'm spending my time.

It's absurd. There is absolutely nothing wrong (again, I am so blessed), so I'm concocting an issue to fill the void.

It reminds me of one of my favorite poems, by William Napier:

The last log on the fire
Sends a momentary galaxy
Spiraling into the night.
Of course! Before all where or when,
Hunkered around that singularity,
(nothing but eternity's harmonica)
You had to stir the coals.
Light, delight...at least relief.
If we meet at all it's in these stars,
My awe and ignorance beneath a desert sky,
Your omniscience precluding mystery.
Let us talk of need, of who and what
We've made to fill the void.

Ok, enough.

As I've been typing and thinking, I've been listening to this mantra/song, which has helped me feel more relaxed.

I have to take a step away from all this and realize something: I took a risk in doing all this. I offered a scenario to the universe, and the universe said, "Ok, give it a try." So just as we have to let go when our offerings are turned away or rejected, so do we have to let go when they are accepted.

Attachment on either side of an experience is still attachment...let it go.


The progression of things.

Red Dog wakes me up by biting my hair.


Feed the dogs, give Red his pills.

Run long at Round Valley with the dogs.

Take cookies to a friend who bettered my bike brakes.


Eat scrambled eggs with cheddar for lunch, consider swearing off wheat.

Write, but mostly surf the Internet.

Eat toast. Think again about cutting wheat from diet.

Study yoga books, think about who I'd like to mentor with for credit.

Head to yoga class; Kim is teaching.

Think about Kim's discussion of Ishvarapranidhana, the 5th niyama, that of surrender, of accepting what comes.

Wonder how to reconcile Ishvarapranidhana with one's athletic goals.

Red Dog wakes me up by biting my hair.


Feed the dogs, give Red his pills.

Road run while listening to Sean Kingston on Pandora...my favorite new running station.

Take the dogs to the park for a romp.

Eat yogurt and fruit while thinking again about giving up wheat.

Audit an Intro to Yoga class.

Manicure (I love this $15 indulgence) in Ballet Shoes pink.

Read some yoga texts.

Take the dogs to the lake for an evening swim.

Avoid meth addicts with scary looking dogs.

Eat Chinese food while lessening the leaning tower of unread magazines.

Watch Cashback (awesome) while researching single track for tomorrow's ride.

Feel happy about biking again.


A Kick in the Asana

Groove Pants and a passable adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog) do not a yogini make. Well, not necessarily.

Here in the wild West, we often think of yoga as a series of asanas (poses) with a few minutes of pranayama breathing tacked on at the beginning and end of class.

But according to Patanjali, asanas are of tertiary importance. His Yoga Sutras suggest that yamas (five abstentions) and niyamas (five restraints) are the first two steps toward yoga. The five yamas are ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, and aparigraha. The five niyamas are shaucha, santosha, tapas, svadhyaya, and Ishvarapranidhana.

At this early point in my yogic education, I've only studied the first two yamas: ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truthfulness). They're so big, though, with such reach, that as soon as I started looking at them and thinking about how they related to me, I became so overwhelmed that my body shut down.

It was Tuesday, and I was in the studio with my fellow teachers-in-training. We were talking about ahimsa as it related to us, and I realized how infrequently I practice non-violence to myself. Most of the time, I dislike my body, am disappointed in my performance, frustrated at my skill level, and am ashamed of myself as a result.

So while I'm not especially violent toward others or with my speech (not that I'm perfect on those counts either), I doubt Patanjali would pass me on an "Are You Ready To Yoga?" test. So as we moved on to satya, I was faced with a bit more truth than I could handle.

Rather than sit with it, though, be with it and face it, my body decided to protect me from too much truth at once, and at that point, right there in the studio surrounded by people, my neck spasmed, and I spent the rest of that day and the following 36 hours in a cycle of pain, spasm, nausea, vomiting, and unconsciousness.

The logical part of me (it's small but it is there) tells me that the injury (two facets between c4 and c5 were stuck closed) and resultant spasm came from too much sitting on the floor of the studio or at my computer with my head in a compromised position. But the rest of me (flighty, intuitive, feeling-rather-than-logic-based) believes that my injury came when I needed a break. I'd seen or heard too much, just couldn't take in any more, and my body closed itself off for a couple days to regroup and recover.

Our bodies know so much, and still we ignore and discredit them.

I don't have any conclusions or final points to tie this post up neatly. The past week has been incredibly educational and humbling, and even though I'd love to wrap it up and move on, I have a feeling this theme will continue for posts to come.


They Said it Best

So far, the emergent theme of yoga school is this: you're perfect.

The training is an integrated approach to Hatha yoga (physical practice, asanas), comprising elements of Ashtanga, Anusara, Bikram, Kundalini, etc. It's broad, it's open, it's inclusive, it's accepting.

That's not to say it's a free-for-all where anything goes. For example, there are safe ways and horrifying ways to move into upward facing dog (urdhva mukha svanasana), and if you take a horrifying option (crane your neck up to the ceiling, sinking into your shoulders and compressing your lower spine), you'll probably get hurt.

But to offer alternatives without authenticity is pointless...it will get everyone nowhere. It's important, I think, to illustrate, teach, and speak with equal parts compassion and knowledge--to recognize why people might be wrenching down into a heart-opener rather than letting their solar plexus move forward--maybe there's darkness there, maybe they're not ready to deal with what they've been hiding in that space. Lots of poses--even breathing exercises--take courage. You can't force courage--it has to be nurtured.

But this isn't news.

Plenty of wiser people than I have been talking about this stuff for years. Here are two exmples:

An organic structure is aligned with who we are and what we have to say. It is not disconnected from ourselves. If a form isn't organic, I think a great struggle ensues--the writer tries to stuff her being into a costume that doesn't fit.
--Natalie Goldberg

Men ask the way to Cold Mountain
Cold Mountain: there's no through trail.
In summer, ice doesn't melt
The rising sun blurs in swirling fog.
How did I make it?
My heart's not the same as yours.
If your heart was like mine,
You'd get it and be right here.

--Gary Snyder


Just When You Thought This Blog Couldn't Get Any More Selfish...

My Mom decided that because it's been over a month since my last post, I can no longer claim this as a blog; The Wasatch Report has been demoted to a BLAH.

Here's where I've been:

Brad's injury shook something loose in me, and after ensuring his well-being (he's making a fantastic recovery), I checked in with my own, and found it lacking. So, I quit my job and signed up for a yoga teacher training certification.

I'm serious.

And I'm thrilled.

I also returned to PR, which I'm just loving. I'm working part-time for a boutique agency and really digging it.

And I started playing djembe again, taking lessons and accompanying a weekly African dance class.

All this good stuff in my life--good people, activities that make me smile, a supportive husband who doesn't bat an eye when I tell him I'm quitting my job to become a yoga teacher.

I'm so fortunate.

So that's where I've been, and that's why it's been kind of hard to sit down and write. There's just so much excitement and change--I'm still figuring out how to make sense of it all, still realizing that it's all happening....

As I sit in these teacher training classes, though, my mind whirls with quotes and observations I want to share. And I will, because, you see, I have to. I need to keep a journal throughout this certification process, and I hope you'll forgive me if this BLAH becomes that journal--a place for me to jot my feelings about what I'm learning, what I hear, what resonates, what I hope to avoid in my own teaching.

I mean, I say I hope you'll forgive me, but I know I've likely lost all readers by now. Except one (hi, Mom).

And obviously I can't share anything proprietary to the course work or studio.

And, of course, I'll still post photos of Arnie as needed.

Here's what I loved best about today's class:
We spent some time talking about how it's not the yoga teacher's job to impart some huge philosophical or spiritual ideology to students. The yoga teacher is simply there to remind students to breathe, to be present in their bodies, to breathe, to be present in their bodies....

And as I thought about that, I realized that the most transformational classes I've ever taken have been less "airy fairy" and more "stay in your body, stay on your mat." In fact, for the past few months, I've been setting an intention before every class to simply stay on my mat. Stay on the mat. Don't let the mind stray, don't let the eyes wander to the girl in the cool yoga top who's purse costs more than your car--nothing, nothing, nothing good can come of that. So I've been challenging myself to STAY ON THE MAT. And it's been awesome.

The other concept I've been into lately (in my yoga practice and off the mat, too) is the idea that wherever I am is ok. Whether I bend so far forward that my palms are flat to the floor, or just lean over enough to graze my kneecaps with my fingertips, I'm in a perfect pose. There is no right, no wrong, no better or worse. It's all yoga, and it's all ok, all perfect. The element that interests me there is that the concept of "perfect" is fluid, because as my postures change and develop and my "edge" deepens or backs off from day to day, my "perfect" pose changes, too.

Fluidity. Acceptance.

Those are the words for the day.


Oy to the Vey

Sometimes we accidentally prepare ourselves for what’s to come. Whether by chance or intuition, we provide ourselves with and squirrel away the tools we’ll need to handle what the universe is about to rain down.

Remember all that talk about gratitude? My resolution to make thankfulness a part of every single day? About three weeks ago, my resolve was tested when Brad was involved in a motorcycle accident.

He crashed during a desert race, breaking his femur in five places and sustaining a serious concussion (not to be confused with a silly concussion).

Like any marriage, mine has high and low points. What is harmonious one moment can be a battle the next. But when I heard, shortly after the start of the race, that Brad had fallen and was injured, there was suddenly nothing in the world but him, nothing as imperative as his being ok.

As I ran to find him, I switched to autopilot, dodging kids and dogs and motorcycles without seeing them. As Brad came into focus, I felt like I was watching a film.

He was in a C-collar, his face caked with blood and dirt, grimacing from pain. It was gruesome and frightening, unfamiliar. Some skilled medics, who were racing alongside Brad, saw his wreck and acted quickly, pulling his leg into traction, loading him onto a spectator’s 4-wheeler, and getting him to a waiting ambulance. The transition from 4-wheeler to backboard and then ambulance was jerky and excruciating, and throughout the ordeal, Brad slipped in and out of consciousness.

Later, after a 40-mile ambulance ride over bumpy, curvy roads, I held Brad’s hand as an ER doc in a small-town hospital quietly told us about the femur breaks, the concussion. He was so calm it barely felt strange to hear him say that a helicopter was on its way, and that Brad needed to get into surgery within the next couple hours.

Delirious from stress, pain, and trauma, his voice hoarse with the effort of speaking, Brad then told me that his femur was broken, he had a concussion, and that he had to take a helicopter to another hospital, where he’d have surgery.

“Ok, honey,” I responded. “Thanks for keeping me updated.”

After the heli-crew loaded Brad onto the ship (see? I’m savvy with the vernacular), I jumped into the car and high-tailed it North, toward the fancy new hospital where a surgeon was awaiting Brad’s arrival. The 75-minute drive was both painfully slow and over in a heartbeat, as I alternated between wanting the whole ordeal to be behind us and dreading what was to come.

Along the way, friends and family called, having heard the news of Brad’s accident via the mysterious viral network through which bad news spreads. About 10 miles from the hospital, I got word that Brad was heading into surgery within the next 20 minutes. I suddenly felt an overwhelming need to see him before surgery, to make sure he wasn’t too scared, to tell him—and reassure myself—that everything would be ok.

I dashed into the ER just as the surgeon finished explaining the procedure to an out-of-it (but trying hard to pay attention) Brad. Before they took him to surgery, I had about five minutes to hold Brad’s hand while he told me that he felt like he was in good hands because his surgeon was a rock climber (she says wryly).

In the three weeks since that day, Brad experienced debilitating nausea, anxiety, and pain. There was sleeplessness, fear, confusion, frustration. The head injury remained mysterious and scary, and I was humbled and thankful for every calm, coherent moment Brad had.

As the effects of the concussion waned, though, things began to improve. One day, Brad woke up feeling good. His leg still ached, but his head was clear for the first time since the accident. We began to talk about how the accident exposed what we’d been taking for granted—our healthy bodies, our support of each other, our freedom to play and go and have fun whenever we wanted.

I looked at him that day and for a moment couldn’t speak or move—I never wanted to lose him. I never wanted him to feel pain or sadness.

This morning I learned that a woman in the Crossfit community died. Melanoma. I didn’t know her, but less than a year ago Brad and I watched her compete in the Crossfit games (her outrageous tattoos and rock star style made her Brad’s favorite contender). From dead-lifting over 300 pounds to dead in a year—life is so fragile.

We learn from crises. We transform pain and fear into strength and understanding. We move on with richer, deeper perspectives. Three weeks after Brad’s wreck, I’m learning to let gratitude guide me, enlighten me, choose my words when I’m too shocked or weary to come up with my own.

With this new teacher comes new lessons, new plans. I’ll tell you about them soon. In the meantime, thank you for reading. I’m grateful for you.


The Punchy Hour, brought to you by Lord Tweedmouth

I've written about Lord Tweedmouth before. The father of the Golden Retriever, he's the fellow to thank for the floppy-haired, big-pawed, snuggly, wiggly, loving, compassionate, goofy beast in your life.

Thanks, LT.

Every now and again, especially during the punchy hour*, I type Golden Retriever into Google, just to see if there'sanything new (i.e. cute) online.

There always is.

Today's video features such highlights as golden puppies rolling in the dirt (no surprise there), bagpipe music (they're Scottish, after all), gratuitous smiling, nonstop wagging, more puppies rolling in the dirt, a bit of synchronized swimming, and the narrator referring to a recognized Scottish Lord as "The Tweedster." Obviously.

*The Punchy Hour was coined by PN of BBM and refers to the time of day when all hell broke loose in the office. It usually involved MD and I laughing so hysterically that one or both of us would fall out of our chairs. Often PN would join in, but not before shaking his head and trying reeeeeallly hard to admonish us. The punchy hour was directly related to low blood sugar, over-caffeination, puppies (usually Arnie) misbehaving in the office, ill-advised first dates, fashion don'ts, and the retelling (and reenacting) of events that took place under the effects of much, much alcohol. It's a wonderful, silly time of day, and it's just not the same without MD and an espresso machine.



I’ve been so grateful, these past few days, for the funny people in my life.

From out-of-nowhere comments on Facebook to houseguests and old friends telling stories that have me doubled over, laughing so hard I can barely breathe, the past few days have been filled with mirth and joy.

Everything feels a little lighter, a little more relaxed. I’ve been motivated to make plans, to commit.

I just had a wonderful conversation with two friends for whom I have bucketsful of respect. We were talking about the pursuit of happiness, about how it’s so easy to say, “I’d be happier if I was doing this,” or “I’d be happier if that would happen,” but not only is that unproductive, it’s also erroneous, because you are what you are no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Your matter and being remain the same…for example, even if someone called me tomorrow and said, “Katie, I’ll pay you a billion dollars just to write a self-indulgent blog and slap together crooked a-line skirts out of cute fabric for the rest of your life,” I’d eventually return to being slightly discontent, a little bit uneasy, and curious about what else is out there.

After years of travelling to new places and trying new things to quell those feelings, I know they’re not going to go away.

There is no one thing I need to find; there is no single purpose. There is only finding peace in what’s happening now, being as content as possible with the given situation, with my own skin. Accepting what is and finding joy there instead of waiting for it, looking for it, expecting it to come to me.

Today is Jonny Copp’s birthday—Jonny who died in June. He’d have been 36, and even though I only saw him about once a year for the last 5 or so, each reunion was supercharged, those crazy eyes and medicinal energy overtaking any sadness or restraint in the room.

The people in my life—now and in the past—don’t wait for inspiration to push them out of bed. They find it themselves, on sandstone towers and granite ledges and snowy ridges leading to north-facing powder shots. And the whole time they’re laughing, enjoying the company and movement and laying down the plot of stories that will be retold—bigger and bigger—for years to come.

I'm grateful to bask in their energy, and, sometimes, to share it.


Born of Demeter, a post of renewal

I’ve heard that if you do something 21 times, it becomes a habit. Or maybe 17. Or 35. Whatever.

The point is that doing something over and over makes it part of the day’s unconscious choreography, something as easy and mindless as breathing.

For me, these steps include my morning migration to the coffee maker, driving to and from work, and a daily episode of self-loathing.


No wonder I’ve felt so miserable for so long. I’ve made feeling horrible a part of every day—an act as routine as taking my anti-depressant, feeding my dogs, and telling Brad, “sweet dreams” before bed.

This weekend, I spent time with three of the most positive women I’ve ever met. Despite dealing with challenges unlike anything I’ve ever known—unfathomably tough stuff that wouldn’t be out of place in Lifetime Television for Women movies or Oprah’s favorite novels—these women remained upbeat, encouraging, and supportive.

24 hours later, back at home and thinking about the weekend, I’ve realized that I can’t continue to dwell here, in this negative place. My outlook must change.

I’ve been focusing so hard on micro-problems—small areas of my life that aren’t perfect—I’ve been blind to the many blessings in my life.

I’m so lucky; I know that. But I think it’s going to take more than just knowing to make gratitude a daily part of my life. To make it routine enough to replace the daily tirade of negative comments I direct at myself. I think it’s going to take repetition. Conscious awareness. Saying it out loud. Writing it down.

The little things—my bad haircut, the dry patch of skin on my chin, my lack of skill at any number of sports—absolutely don’t matter when compared to Brad’s well-being, my family’s good health, my dogs being able to run pain-free, living in a comfortable home.

I can stand and walk and run and jump. I have a functioning mind. I can drive myself to work. I have a job. I have reliable transportation. I get to take classes and pursue hobbies and plan vacations. I am lucky, I am fortunate, I am blessed.

So, because even though half of Persephone’s routine was dwelling in the underworld for six months every year, the other half saw her returning to the Earth to deliver growth and blossoms and promise and hope.

Now that she’s back—having brought with her the baby chickadees at the feeder outside my kitchen window—I’ll make her routine my own.

Every day, gratitude.

Every day, thankfulness.

Every day, a little bit of happiness.

Today: I am unspeakably grateful for Brad.


One thousand one…

It makes me sad to hear people complain first thing in the morning.

Yesterday, at a 6 am aerobics class, I listened as the other attendees made small talk before the instructor arrived.

“I hate daylight savings time,” one woman barked.

“Why is it so cold in here?” complained another.

“I hope she does a new routine today,” grumbled a third.

As I said, it was 6:00 in the morning. How could things so bad that already, already they felt moved to gripe and whine and spread negativity?

I felt so sorry for these women. I wanted to touch their arms and tell them that everything was going to be ok. “You’re alive. You’re physically healthy enough to take an aerobics class. You’re mentally aware enough to clothe yourself, drive yourself to the gym, and make exercise a part of your day. Isn’t that enough?”

Of course, it might have been fear talking. Maybe these women felt intimidated by the class. Maybe they were nervous about looking silly or botching the dance moves—it only takes a second for a great mood to deteriorate when we’re scared.

I get edgy and curt when I’m worried about something—a big run, skiing in unfamiliar terrain, routefinding. When it’s over—when everyone’s standing at the car sweaty and safe and happy—I’m fine; the relief makes me downright giddy. But before the starting gun goes off, I’m a wreck.

I felt wonderful yesterday, though—happy and calm and able to focus on the good. Even when work felt overwhelming by 9:30 am, I was able to take deep breaths and keep things in perspective, remembering that no matter how stressful work feels, I have a wonderful family, a kind and loving husband, two dogs who delight me, and a very, very good life. I chose to remain calm and positive; I felt totally in control.

Then I got an email from a friend with some unwelcome news, and at once I felt everything spinning away from me—like I was physically losing my grip.

This took less than 30 seconds.

But yesterday, for the first time I can remember, I caught myself.

I reminded myself that my response was fear-based—fear of something that hadn’t even happened yet.

It was fear masquerading as protection—fear that saw me surrounding myself with imaginary couch cushions, keeping people out.

It was a clinging fear that, after a decade and a half of shielding me from unseen amorphous dangers, had done nothing but strip me of experiences and relationships.

It was getting me nowhere; it was time to set it free and take some chances,

This took less than 30 seconds, too.

Sometimes that’s all it takes.


A Doing Post

I write two types of posts: doing posts and feeling posts. Doing posts come together quickly, usually in list form. They comprise images and surface-level thoughts; they’re track listings. Feeling posts are harder to write. They contain equal parts whining, complaining, guilt, and fear; they’re the self-indulgent liner notes (“I’d like to thank God and my fans, you know who you are…”).

This is a doing post to fill you in on what’s been happening at the compound lately.

1. Brad took top 5 racing in his new motocross class. That’s a very big deal (it's a super competitive class), and despite my discomfort with the sport (too dangerous!), I’m very happy for him.

2. We found out that Red has hip dysplasia and arthritis. Even though that news was very, very sad, we were grateful to learn that we can manage his pain and keep him happy. In fact, since putting Red on a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (Deramaxx, which doesn’t hurt his liver or tummy), he’s shifted from a forlorn, mopey, snappy dingo to the sweet, smiley, cuddly animal we remember. We also tried acupuncture to treat his pain, but despite the very skilled efforts of the kindest vet in the world, Red just didn’t enjoy being poked with needles. In fact, he was so distraught he delivered a dose of Heeler acupuncture to Brad’s face.

If you look closely, you can see where Red acupunctured Brad. He felt very guilty and didn't want to leave the safe zone between couch and wall (where no one could get at him with a needle). It's ok, Red—no more acupuncture for you.

3. Arnold officially became a Good Dog. After six years of sweet, goofy, all-id living, Arnie and I went to Basic Dog Training (he had to learn the basics if he is to become a therapy dog). It was good for both of us—he had fun and I learned all the rules I’ve been ignoring. He even graduated first in his class! (He was the only dog there.) It was wonderful to see how proud Arnie was on graduation day. We’re proud, too. Our big golden horse will make a wonderful therapy dog.

If you look closely, you'll see that the instructor crossed out "Puppy" to write "Basic." Yes, this class is usually intended for puppies--dogs who are 6-months old, not 6-years old. I don't mind, though. We're thrilled for our little Spicolli.

See the resemblance?

4. I bought this Anna Maria Horner pattern—the Empire Evening Dress.

It reminds me of Grateful Dead hippie garb, which I love, as well as my favorite dress of all time: J. Crew’s Patchwork Talitha Dress (which debuted about 5 years ago, and cost something like $500, so I never owned it, but I adored it from afar and still look for it on eBay from time to time).

5. I also bought this Anna Maria pattern, a versatile tunic that will work in lightweight and wintry fabrics.

I really like it, but I think the sewing might be a bit over my head, so I’ll work on it here this summer.

6. My first quilt is done! We've been sleeping under it (and the dogs have been sleeping on top if it) every night. I love it, and have pictures to share, but sadly, they're on my camera, and I don't have the download cable with me. They'll show up soon. Also, my second quilt is well underway.

Since I took this photo (with the Dingo for scale), I've made about 20 more blocks, so I think I'm almost ready to sew the top together. I still need to organize the blocks properly, to get the correct color array within each diamond. I also have to choose a backing fabric...I haven't seen anything in our local shops that really wows me for this. Anyone have any suggestions?

That's all for now. Good weekends, all.


A reminder

Driving home from work tonight, in rush hour on I-15, I started to change lanes, moving left while talking on the phone to my mom. Halfway across, a truck that had been in my blind spot loomed suddenly beside me, god, like, inches away. I whipped the steering wheel to the right, over correcting, and felt the back of my car swing wide into the left lane. I forced the wheel back left, and felt the car swing into the right lane.

I don't know what happened after that...my car spun out of control, fully to the right so that I came to a stop facing oncoming traffic. I managed to avoid all the other cars on the road; I hit no one. I drove the rest of the way home gripping the steering wheel and feeling nauseous, but without a scratch.

Man, I'm lucky.

Ok, universe, I get it. It's time to stop complaining and start making things happen.


Now I Talk at You

Let's talk about the Superbowl commercials. As an ad writer, it's my job to find the funniest/most clever spots, and then rip them off. If my work in the next year looks like any of the stuff below, don't say I didn't warn you.

1. Officially it's known as the Budweiser "Fences" spot, but I like to call it: Why I will never eat animals again. Now I want a calf. And a foal.

2. I thought the CareerBuilder ads were all spot on. With unemployment sky high and the country treading economic water, the business of finding a job is serious enough. That's why these light-hearted 30-second spots delighted me so much. Also, they used consumer-generated content (the only ads of the bowl to do so, I believe)! Here's my favorite of the three:

3. I love this spot because it cast several members of the Guest Comedy Troupe. And because it's so like a pre-pro meeting, and in fact every meeting I've ever been to. Plus, the message within the message is a good trick--people are learning without even realizing it.

4. Monster.com also kept the job-hunting reminder light, which was well-advised. Of course I love this spot. A rags to riches storyline, furry animals, a nonsensical leap (asking the viewers to accept a fiddling beaver with no explanation)...it's all there.

5. I thought the Google spot was lovely, right down to the music. How interesting that we could all follow and maybe even identify with the story, told via tools that weren't even invented the last time the Saints played in the Superbowl.

Oh, and here's what I thought about some of the other ads:

1. Budwesier "Book Club" -- Ugh. Reverting to the typical male archetype of dumb, horny, beer swiller? Come on. You can do better.
2. Bridgestone, both spots: Meh. Too reliant on pop culture, plus grossly expensive productions with little purpose. And the "life/wife" thing? Old joke.
3. E-Trade talking babies: I thought they were creepy when they debuted a couple years ago, I think they're creepy now.


Learn your rules boys and girls.

If you don't, you'll be eaten in your sleep.


A Start

Sartorial satisfaction in the form of a new tunic:

Creative inspiration from Heather Ross's Far Far Away fabric line. Unicorns. Obviously.

Something to look forward to: a trip to the shore with my mom, followed by a journey here for a sewing workshop.

Enjoying the moment: Dinner with a friend. A fire in the stove. To bed at 8:30.The dogs sleeping on my feet.

Finding joy in the unexpected: Arnie in training to be a Therapy Dog. And I'm proud to say that his training is going very, very well. It's been fascinating for me to see how quickly he learns, how he wants to learn--just soaks up information and cues. It seems to make him super happy, too--he wags his tail the whole time we're training. He's going to be a wonderful therapy animal.

A new approach: I called a few schools today and asked about graphic design courses. There are no fashion design or merchandising courses in Utah, so I'll gladly settle for some graphic design coursework to learn how to use the software and some of the basic elements of color, layout, etc. I'm excited to see where it leads.

Dreamtime: I visited the Aga website today and requested a catalog. I've wanted an Aga (in midnight or robin's egg) for years and years. Someday I'll have the kitchen for one. In the meantime, I'll have inspiration.


I Interrupt the Whiny Introspection...

To bring you this reminder, via Natalie Dee, to listen to your messages.


A Sense of Direction, Volume I

I'm terrible at setting goals. I over or under estimate my capabilities, or give up along the way.

It's not that I don't like accomplishing things. Even the smallest action (paying AT&T the minute I get my phone bill or getting all the laundry washed, dried, folded and put away) makes me happy. We Cancerians love to feel needed and important, and achieving goals ticks both boxes.

So I recognize how important it is to accomplish goals, but I also know how awful it feels to give up on them. It’s worse than actually failing.

I recently read The Dip by Seth Godin, which told me nothing especially revolutionary, but did resonate a bit. (That’s what Godin does best, I think. He aggregates what is already swirling around in our heads and presents it in a concise, less noisy way.)

The whole idea is that we hit roadblocks (or “dips”) in everything we do. Whether learning to knit, completing a project at work, speaking a new language, or forging a new relationship—-there comes a lull. What Godin says (which is perfectly obvious), is that we need to realize when we’ve hit a dip, and then decide whether it’s worth pressing on and getting through the hard part, or if it's a waste of time, and then turn our attention elsewhere.

The key to getting through, he continues, is not being content with the Dip, but working hard to go forward. Try new tactics, keep an open mind, ask for help…just don’t get comfortable spinning your wheels, because that leads nowhere.

I’ve been dwelling in the dip for a long, long time. I like my job, but it’s just a job, not something I’m passionate about. I’m good at lots of sports and activities, but I don’t excel at any. I feel ok, but I don’t feel like I’m really psyched about anything.

This is tough, because some of the most important people in my life are professional or near-professional athletes, driven by the exact monomaniacal focus I seem to lack. Or they’ve identified the thing they want to do most in the world and have made a career out of it. They are passionate and driven and goal-oriented. While they sail ahead, I search for my flip flop in the gloppy, murky water near shore.

With leeches.

And water moccasins.

Obviously, this is another of my shortsighted, spoiled-brat complaints. I’m creating a problem where there really isn’t one (I do it all the time…just ask Brad).

Except, this is a little different. Yes, everything is ok, but I know it could be better, and I know that something within me is getting in the way of “better.”

I tend to lose momentum. I set a goal-—something totally doable-—but distraction or lack of motivation gets in the way of training or practicing or whatever I have to do to stay on track.

So what causes that lack of motivation? Maybe it coincides with the training getting hard (right around the day of the 18-miler in marathon training, for example), or maybe it has more to do with a mountain of dirty laundry, two dogs who need exercise and attention, a house that needs to be cleaned, and a marriage that needs to be nurtured.

Or maybe those are just excuses.

I’ve practiced Bikram Yoga on and off for 13 years. I’ve had dozens of instructors, but McKell was my favorite.

She offered an authentic calm that quieted the room and kept me focused on my own practice, not distracted by the leaner, stronger bodies around me. That calm belied a driven, goal-oriented woman, though, one who just opened her own Bikram studio in Kauai.

That news struck me because I don't associate "calm" with "driven." When I think of people achieving goals, I think of the chronic Facebook updaters, the people who tell you how many miles they ran that day, how hard they climbed, how accomplished they are. I don't think about the quiet strength I felt from McKell, which obviously works for her--goal achieved, studio opened.

I've said before that I don't want to talk about my goals because I don't want to have to report that I've failed or given up. It feels easier just to think about them on my own and either achieve them or not, without having to lose face if the outcome is "not."

But that's isolating, and when I think about the five years I've lived here, I can identify a pattern of isolation that's done absolutely nothing for me. I left the industry I love, which, for a while, was a good choice. I needed to learn new skills, needed to look at work from a different angle. I stopped climbing because I was tired of being average. I'd been in the Dip for a decade, and I didn't know how to push through. Training harder just injured me, and I tell you, I was tired of spending all my time doing something that made me feel bad, and feel bad about myself.

Half a decade later, I realize this: I've simply been avoiding putting in the hard work. Not just with climbing. With everything. I feel far away from Brad, from my friends, from the sports that fulfill me and the activities that make me feel good.

Rather than, "I want to improve my guitar skills," or, "I want to speak better Spanish," perhaps I should be saying, "I want to rejoin the world."

Blogging, while therapeutic at times, creates an environment of introspection that isn't always good for me. After writing an entry about what I need to improve, how I need to better myself, it's hard for me to face real people, because I feel worthless, and am sure they agree.

And much of what I've written about here, on this blog, is just filler. The "likes" and "ums" of the conversation of my life, the stuff I say when I don't want to get to the point.

The point is this: I've lost my sense of direction. While people around me are focusing on what matters to them and achieving their personal goals, I haven't had a real goal since 1998, when I decided to go to Nepal for a while.

So that's it. In 2010, I resolve to find my sense of direction.

Maybe I'm setting myself up for failure by making such a vague, non-quantifiable resolution, but without first finding out where I want to go, how can I possibly do anything else? Nothing matters much when I don't know how, or even if, it relates to the big picture. Who cares if I climb well, if climbing doesn't fit into the grand plan?

And anyway, I think it is quantifiable, if not exactly describable. I'll know when I figure it out. I'll know because I'll resemble the girl who had her sights set on Nepal, and figured out exactly what she needed to do to get there--arranging grants and housing and airfare and a thesis topic.

To find my way, I have to identify the things that I really care about--the things I can use to help me push through the Dip.

That'll be a happier post, I promise. Stay tuned for Volume II.


Sesame Street Will Save the World

If I ever have children of the non-canine variety, I want to expose them to music and theatre at an early age. I was lucky enough to grow up with lots of opportunities to be creative and expressive: singing, playing the piano, acting in the local children's playhouse (well, not so much "acting," as dressing up in animal costumes and talking in funny voices).

I was encouraged to step, however tentatively and sometimes wearing a badger or flying monkey costume, into new arenas. It was a wonderful way to grow up.

That's why I can't say enough good about this interaction between Elmo and Andrea Bocelli. The original song, Con Te Partiro, is wildly popular, part of the neo-opera style that horrifies traditionalists but serves as an ideal gateway from inane lyrics and beats to proper liberetto and accompaniment. It's the marijuana of music.

But really, what a cool thing to introduce to kids. Just as Warner Brothers introduced generations of children to classics like Wagner's "Ride of the Valkeries" (Kill Da Wabbit) and "The Flying Dutchman" (really, we owe so much to Wagner), so is Sesame Street educating kids on subjects beyond the surface, subjects that will make then sensitive, perceptive, critical-thinking adults.

And maybe that's what we need: a generation of artists to silence the philistines that have garnered so much power, so much of the national voice. Imagine if, instead of footage of rednecks turning left, networks aired opera on Sunday afternoons. Or art-history programs.

I know. So absurd I sound naive and whiny just bringing it up. Plus, that's why we have PBS--so fruits like me don't complain about Nascar (news flash: I will always complain about Nascar).

Still, though. By hacking music and art programs, schools in Utah and everywhere else are sending the message that the skills one develops through those pursuits--perception, sensitivity, subtlety, awareness of space, knowing when to be bold and when to be soft--aren't important, aren't worth as much as sports and math and dissecting pickled pig fetuses. (Truly a lesson from which I learned absolutely nothing, except that my lab partner, who wrapped said pig's intestine around his neck, was seriously fucked up.)

But ENOUGH out of me. Let's let Elmo and Andrea take over, all charm, funny lyrics and kind intentions. "Lay down, here is your bear, you have had such a wonderful day, playing and counting to 20..." And oh my god, that dancing, slow-motion bear? Please!


I’d Rather Be Blogging or, Why Everyone Needs a Golden Retriever

Sorry for the lack of new posts.

Work is kicking my ass.

I’m not helping matters, regularly flinging my arms about and stomping around. I should probably lay off the Diva Juice.

Anyway, I have big plans for 2010, and can’t wait to share them with you.

I’ll do that, I promise.


In the meantime, have you heard about the Golden Retriever who protected her owner from a cougar?

Like I needed another reason to love Goldens.

Here's a sneak peak of what's to come (Arnie skiing with us in the Sierra):