Inversion work

Tonight I worked on inversions for far longer than I ever have before. It felt great. I'm pretty sure I'm going to feel it in the morning. At the end of my inversions, I tried out king pigeon pose because I'd been doing a lot of scorpion variations. To my surprise, my foot touched my head. First time ever!

There is Always Room for Kindness

This afternoon, Cora and I were nearly "backed over" in the parking lot of Trader Joe's. We were crossing from our car to the store between two stopped cars that were being held up by someone else leaving a parking spot. The car we were walking behind started backing up to make a little extra room for the car in front of him to get out. It was obvious he didn't see us. I yelled, "Stop!" And the driver did. A second later, we rounded the car to see a man looking out of his window and back at us. He asked if we were okay.

I didn't say anything. I just kept walking. My heart was racing. The adrenaline that kicked in to make sure my girl wouldn't get hit took away my rational self that knew no harm was intended. Essentially, I gave this man the cold shoulder. [And possibly a scowl.]

I kept thinking about him the whole time we were in the store, and how I wished I'd reacted differently. After we purchased our few items, we went back to our car, and I found a receipt sitting in one of the cupholders. I opened the console looking for a pen, and found a Sharpie. I wrote something like this:
Sorry I didn't acknowledge you when you almost backed into us. It was kind of you to ask if we were okay.
I ran over to his car and put the note under one of his windshield wipers. His reaction could have been different, he could have instantly become defensive, as so many of us do even/especially when something is our fault. Instead, he showed concern. I didn't want him to hesitate to show anything less in the future because of my reaction.

My favorite t-shirt from a decade or so ago said "Kindness can change the world." I believe it can. It does so through mostly tiny, often unseen acts that can happen every single second of every single day.

Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind. -Henry James
(Malibu Bluffs Park)

The time I went the wrong way down a one-way street

I had a meeting in downtown Los Angeles tonight. DTLA if you want to speak local. My destination was exactly 12 miles from my house. It took 50 minutes with traffic. The building I was headed to was one block over from the Disney Concert Hall, and shares a block with the new Broad Museum that I'll get into someday after the newness wears off a bit. When I made my first pass, I realized I'd need to go around the block to get on the correct side of the median that runs down Grand. No problem, even with the gathering crowds at the various theatres in the area. 

On my second pass, I missed the entrance to the garage, which is exactly in the middle of the building. To my credit, I was looking for a lot because that was how it had been described. No big deal, I just needed to go around the block again. That's when it happened. I was heading south on Grand, got to 5th street, and made an easy left. Not a car in sight.

Not a car in sight for approximately 1.5 seconds. And then numerous cars turn left from Olive onto 5th. All 6 lanes of 5th are filling up, and I'm going the wrong way for every single one! 

Way too many thoughts went through my mind in the .2 seconds it took me realize what was happening. My initial thought was "Pull over." But that was quickly followed with "You've got time!"

I said "Shit!" (This is important to note because I very almost never swear.) Then I whipped my worse-than-the-Titantic-turning-radius Volvo wagon around in the middle of the street. It was a three-point turn. Only one car had to slow down for me. Holy moly.

I have never done that before. I hope it never happens again. If it ever does, more cussing will ensue.

The end.

January 15, 2016

Every single day in first grade, my teacher, Mr. Miracle, would have us say the date exactly the same way. It went like this:

"Today is Wednesday, November 15, 1991. And there will never be another day like it."

I think about this often, and the quiet, yet powerful way it taught me (and hopefully the rest of the class) to make the most of each day.

I met my biological father's mother for the first time this afternoon. I can't tell you how many times I've dreamt of this moment. I've imagined what this woman was like for as long as I can remember; she has been the great mythological figure of my life.

My father greeted me at the door, and as we went in, he quickly made his way to the kitchen. I was following him, but before I made it, Kathrine, my grandmother, appeared in the hallway. Just like that, there she was.

She hugged me and said it was nice to finally meet me. She said I was such a beautiful girl. The hug was long and warm. Just like that, she was in my arms.

It's interesting to meet someone you've loved so deeply for so long. I was giving myself pep-talks the whole way from LA. "Now don't cry, BrieAnn. Keep it together. You can do this!" I was trying so hard to keep the butterflies at bay. As I got closer to their house, I kept thinking I needed to pullover and do a headstand on the side of the road. But I didn't.

Also on the trip, I wondered how many people were doing the same thing I was doing. How many 30-year-old women were on their way to meet their grandmother for the first time? 

We went to dinner and then back to their house to talk. On our way back to the house, she told me that Lance (my father) had sent her a vhs recording of my last choir concert in high school. She said it was at her home, and she wished she had it with her so she could watch it. (She is currently living with Lance and his wife while a pretty complicated legal issue is going on with her home and the property she owns, which is why she can't just go get the tape.) This was so touching. She'd seen me without really seeing me. A video tape of me was a possession she treasured. 

After I left, I drove to Apache Junction to see Alice and to go to my dear, sweet Marlene's house (my favorite place to stay in my hometown). It's about a 40 mile drive. I said a prayer of gratitude for much of the first part of the trip. I said "Thank you" over and over for a good 15 miles. My heart is still saying it. My soul will never stop saying it. 

Today is January 15, 2016. It's the day I met my grandmother for the first time. And there will never be another day like it.

Breaking the Rules

The sign at the playground equipment in our apartment complex clearly reads: "Children must be supervised by an adult."

I do not supervise my children while they play at those "parks."

I have been the responsible mom who attends the play areas to watch my girls slide down slides and poles, run around, swing, climb trees, you name it. But the thing is this: I don't think they need me watching over them all the time. I know the supervision required by the signs has to do with safety. And I get that. And some kids act all kinds of crazy. My girls are not crazy. I trust that they will always do the right thing. Because we live in a gated community, I treat those play areas like our backyard. Going down to the park is a tiny slice of independence for them. A big slice, actually. I was nervous the first few times I sent them down without me. But I love what that alone time does for them. (Okay, and I love the little bits of alone time I get, too.) I believe kids need space to run around, make their own choices, have fun, be creative, etc., without depending on their parents to provide all of that for them.

Our living situation is one where we are basically on top of one another. I know that's a huge exaggeration for places in the world where dwellings are a quarter of the size of our apartment with twice as many people, but it feels like it. I don't have babies and toddlers who need me every second, I have children who are growing and ready to move into new levels of independence. Letting them go to the playground on their own fulfills part of that. And for that reason, I am unapologetically breaking the rules.

A rule I follow, but don't like:

Reading logs for homework.
Ugh. I hate them. Cora reads all the time. But that's not enough. She has to document something that she's read for at least 20 minutes everyday, and I have to sign it. Every. Day. My personal philosophy of motivation is very intrinsic versus extrinsic. We should do something because we enjoy it, or because it's the right thing to do, not because there's a reward waiting or because someone tells you to. It's like, "Here, let me read because it's something I have to mark off a list," versus "I LOVE TO READ!!!" Or "I'm going to be kind and responsible because it's the right thing to do," versus "I'm going to be nice and responsible because I'll get a reward." The trick is that extrinsic motivation is very effective on the surface, but it doesn't really teach deep-down important values and lessons.

One of my favorite things about Primary school at Westminster, my girls' school in Oklahoma, was that it was all about child-led learning, and more than that, shaping and developing a child's capacity for intrinsic motivation. Being intrinsically motivated is seriously one of the greatest gifts one can give a child. It's a lot more difficult sometimes, especially when so much of what we experience in our society has to do with getting something, being entertained, living on the outside of ourselves, pacification, but it is much more rewarding and fulfilling.

A Day of Firsts: Hindu Temple and Toys"R"Us

Cora and Magnolia experienced two firsts today. I had one first. The one we had in common was visiting a Hindu Temple.  We went to the BAPS Shiri Swaminarayan Mandir in Chino Hills with a group from church.

We started our tour in the visitors center, and it was wonderful to hear more about Hindu beliefs and the idea that Hinduism is more a way of life than a religion, though different religious movements grow out of it (like the BAPS movement that built the temple we were at). I decided that was true of all major "religions," Christianity included. What stuck with me most is the combination of their belief in a universal God and incarnation - that God can be made manifest anytime, anywhere, through people. There needn't be a shrill announcement, the heavens needn't open, God can come and go as he chooses because God is God. They also believe that the universal God is over all universes. It's a belief that can really put humans in their place in the grand scheme of things. (Full disclosure: please pardon the any shortcomings of my attempt at relaying what I learned today.) 

(This is a view of the back/side of the mandir. We entered from the front.)

I loved when our tour guide said that he believes all people who worship God, despite their particular religion, are all worshipping the same supreme God. And then he made a few arm motions showing different tracks representing the various paths people can take to God, ending with his belief that all are valid and valuable. It reminded me of something Jake's grandma said to me not long after we were married - that there were many different roads, but they can all lead to God. I didn't appreciate that bit of wisdom as much than as I do now. Mammy was very wise. And so very loving in a way that transcends our everyday needs. 

From the visitors center, we went into the mandir. The outside was made of intricately carved sandstone. At a distance, it reminded me of a stalagmite sand castle. After we walked up the stairs, we passed through beautiful wooden doors and entered into a magnificent ethereal space made almost entirely of Italian cararra marble - columns and domed ceilings all carved just as intricately as the sandstone and wood we'd seen. They purchased the marble in Italy, and it was shipped to India where it was carved by stone carvers whose families had been in the business of carving for generations. When the carvings were done, each piece was shipped to Chino Hills and assembled in what amounts to a huge 3-D jigsaw puzzle. I believe the carving took 7 years, and the assembly took 5.   The interior was literally glowing. 

We stayed for the worship service. Before it began, people trickled in, found a place on the floor and sat in silence. Promptly, at 11:15, recorded music began a chant that worshippers followed along with. After a few minutes, the wooden doors hiding the shrines representing the gurus of the BAPS tradition opened, and the ritual began. I wish we would have had a play-by-play of the service to better understand all of the rituals and symbolism. The purpose of the service was to welcome God, both to the place, and to our hearts.

With all the things I appreciated about what I heard and learned, I was taken aback, literally, when all women were moved to the second gathering space, behind all of the men before the worship service started. My girls and I made up the first row of women, along with a Hindu woman who moved through the worship so beautifully. Magnolia asked, "Why do all the men get to sit in front?" 

I never, ever have a good answer. Not ever. I never will. (I think I said a very brief, "That's just how they do it here.") Though I was trying to stay really focused in the moment and spirit of worship, I couldn't help but think, "Expletive! No wonder gendercide, specifically femicide, is so prevalent in the country where the main religion puts women in the back." And then I thought of an even more personal thought, "Expletive! How will I ever EVER be able to end this break from a religion that doesn't allow my daughters [my sisters] the same leadership opportunities as their male counterparts?" Bleepity, blankin' bleep bleep! If huge organizations are going to keep women in their place [or anyone from a place at the table - a table without assigned seats] based on tradition, then we need to seriously start questioning the importance of those traditions.   

Phew, now that I got that out of my system (again)....

I couldn't help but draw a few parallels between the Hindu temple and being in a Mormon temple. Both are built to be highly attractive, ornate spaces where God is invited to dwell. Where we invite God into our hearts on new levels every time we attend. The actual materials of the mandir reminded me of moving through a session in a Mormon temple. There are a series of rooms that worshipers move through in an LDS temple. One of the first rooms, depending on the temple, represents the earth. The final room represents the highest degree of heaven. The exterior sandstone of the mandir reminded me of earth, the glowing marble interior reminded me of heaven. And then there was the ascent of the exterior staircase, that great climb that takes one's feet from earth to heaven. If one were to ask me what I miss most in my break from Mormonism, my first response would be my people, though I still get to experience many of them outside of church. The most personal response would be my time and work in the temple.  

There was a restaurant at the Hindu temple site, so we had some delicious Indian food for lunch. When our bellies were full, we headed home. When we were almost to the freeway, Magnolia said, "There's Toys"R"Us!" They haven't ever been to that store. We had nothing else planned for the day, so I flipped a u-ey, and we arrived. We must have spent over an hour browsing every aisle. Not every aisle. I didn't take them to look at any electronics/video games. I feel like that was about 1/4 of the store. 

It took a while to get home because it started raining, sprinkling is more like it, so of course the freeway was crawling. I thought of an LA-ism while stuck in traffic: "It's not so scary to drive in Los Angeles because you'll rarely be going more than 30 MPH. And maybe the reason why it is sometimes scary to drive in LA is because people are so used to not being able to go above 30 MPH that they lose all good sense when they can." 

Anyway, as were were driving down our street, I saw our other car sitting in front of our apartment. I knew Jake had gone to UCLA to work on his final paper, of three, that he's working on this week to fulfill his Special Field Exam, so I decided to ask if he wanted a ride home so he wouldn't have to take the bus. Magnolia had fallen asleep about an hour before in the car, and I didn't want to end that miracle. He gave me a thirty minute timeline, so I turned back out of our complex, and we hit the road. Goo was still snoozing when we got there, so I drove around UCLA, which took about twenty minutes, and let Jake know we'd just hang out somewhere until 5 when the music library closed so he'd be able to maximize his time. 

We parked at 4:31, Magnolia promptly awoke (she almost never wakes groggy), and we went on a tree climbing adventure. We stayed until our $3 parking limit (aka 1 hour) was up. At one point, Cora reached up and grabbed a branch that would have been way out of Magnolia's reach. Cora said, "Come grab it, Magnolia!" Goo trotted over and reached the once impossibly high leaves, beaming with pride, and beckoning me to acknowledge the accomplishment. Cora kept a slight smile, letting her little sister have her moment. I LOVE these girl, these smart, amazing, wonderful, generous, beautiful soul daughters of mine. 

(I wish this would have captured both of their smiles. But I was glad I saw those initial smiles in first person and not filtered through the screen of my phone.)

Twelve Years

Sunday marked the twelfth year since Jake and I were married. Four years ago, we started going "Family Bowling" on our anniversary as a way of celebrating with the girls. Last year actually ended up being "Family Miniature Golfing" because we were in Arizona, and the girls really wanted to go to Golfland. I didn't mind switching it up a bit because I hadn't been to Golfland in years but have so many fun memories with friends and family there. 

This year, as we were leaving for church, I said "Let's go to Santa Barbara!" Jake was initially hesitant, and thought of all the cons out loud almost instantly. After twelve years, I've grown accustomed to this initial reaction of his. It has been quite deflating throughout the years, but as time goes on, I'm getting better at remembering he speaks as he's processing, and he's getting better (sometimes!) at just going with it. 

Remember all that talk about how marriage is compromise and hard work, and opposites attract? It all certainly applies in a marriage where one is super spontaneous (Me!) and one who can't make sense of things that aren't planned a good time in advance (the other person in my marriage!). Maybe this is why old couples are so good being together in silence: They're both tired of one each other's [you-know-what], but there's no one else's [you-know-what] they'd rather deal with, so they've called a truce.  

So now that you know we're just like everybody else...

Santa Barbara was fantastic! Neither of us, er, not one of the four of us, had been. We spent most of our time exploring the shops on State Street as we made our way down to Sterns Wharf. We took our time and let the girls look at whatever they wanted to. They especially loved all of the cooking gadgets at Sur La Table. Magnolia was so afraid she would fall over the edge of Stearns Wharf that Jake held her the whole way, and she held him. She was mostly okay if we didn't get too close to the edge. I don't blame her one bit. The end of the wharf had no rails! The city was beautiful, full of the Spanish-Colonial Revival architecture that I love, and all against a lush mountain backdrop. We drove through a few of the neighborhoods and saw Old Mission Santa Barbara

We headed a bit further west to check out UCSB because that is what academics do. Jake and I actually have this weird superstition about visiting places we might like to end up at some day. So far, every school we've visited that he's applied to, he's been accepted to, so I mean, why not continue the logic that one of the schools we visit might be the place where he gets a job.

Speaking of school....

We've been in it forever. When I say, "We," I mean it. When one member of a marriage is in school, so is the other. Even in the four years between Chicago and Los Angeles where Jake wasn't in school, it still felt like he was because he was constantly researching and continued to publish articles. He is literally the hardest worker I've ever met. EVER. His work ethic borderlines on obsessive, but he's been fortunate enough to work in fields for which he has a great passion. Now if only music and musicology fell into one of those super high roller gigs...

Our time at UCLA has been the very first time in our twelve years where he hasn't been employed. And "unemployed" isn't the right term here because he gets a fellowship when he's not teaching, and a stipend when he is. We both worked all through undergrad, he took on crazy hours while working on his masters so that I could "retire" from teaching and stay home with Cora. He worked at DePaul in Chicago when I was in the throes of HG (hyperemesis gravidarum) while pregnant with Magnolia. He worked 60-80 hours a week at OCU in the four years between Chicago and UCLA. Work, work, work, school, school, school... It sounds weird to say I'm so glad he gets a break while he's in the middle of a PhD program, but I really mean that too.

He's doing cool things right now. This week, he's taking his Special Field Exam. He's planning on defending his dissertation proposal sometime this spring. After that, he has to finish researching and writing his dissertation, which he thinks will be ready for revisions sometime this fall. All of that means he'll be ready to start applying for jobs this fall, too. He'll be doing so ABD (all but dissertation), which can sometimes be a little tricky as he won't defend his dissertation until spring 2017, but I have a great deal of confidence in him and his abilities. It's okay if you all want to start praying with us now that super rad jobs will be open when we're applying.

There are definite perks of someone who is wildly spontaneous being married to a major planner; I don't think there are many people who could rock their way through a PhD program like he is. I've entered into the dreaming stage already - dreaming up our lives in a myriad of places we might end up. I can't help it. I was over living in our teeny tiny grad school housing apartment before I ever moved into it, though I must say, I've made it awfully cozy. But you know how cozy can mean snug, and snug can mean tight? The walls still feel like they're closing in sometimes. Thankfully we live at the edge of a continent, and we get to go stand with our toes in the sand looking out into sky and sea so far that they disappear into one another.

(On Stearns Wharf - it was not exactly sunny SoCal weather)

One final note: We ate at a cute little Thai restaurant (Zen Yai) for dinner before we left SB. At the end of our meal, our server said, "You don't look old enough to have two kids." I told her we were out celebrating our twelfth anniversary. She smiled and, without hesitation, kindly touched Cora's shoulder while saying, "You have a Hot Mama!" I laughed. Thank you, Sweet Server in Santa Barbara, for your total bewilderment at the numbers I was throwing at you. It was the cherry on top of an already wonderful day. 


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