happy birthday Mom

Today my Mom would have been 76.

She lived a big life.

She drove a semi across state lines with no training, all for a bushel of nuts.

She beat the sun up most days of her life.

She drank her coffee with so much cream and sugar, it looked more like the remnant of a painter’s cup of cleaning water.

She spent every Sunday morning doing all of our laundry.

She gambled. First with pennies and quarters. But then as her bravery grew, so did the deposited coin. But always, always, she kept within her allotted budget.

She went after a man with a hammer because he threatened her. Once. Only once.

She ensured our van was packed with family and coolers of snacks to venture throughout the country. She might have forgotten her son-in-law at a gas station in Kentucky.  Maybe.

She was obsessed with chewing ice–the right kind of ice–and Lipton powdered ice tea.

She was a master at fixing vacuums.

She ate pounds of crabs legs, slathered in butter and “mmmmmms.”

She hated flowers. A fact she hid from my Dad for a while.

She overcame her fear of flying, visiting us in Colorado at least yearly.

She hunted for pennies in the parking lot as a child to buy food.

She laughed so hard she had to raise up her glasses and pat her eyes with tissues.

She taught me to speak up for what’s right.

She explored caves below the ground and fourteeners in the sky.

She loved to sit in the backyard under the warm Midwestern sun, with her sleeves rolled up to her shoulders. She never wore sunblock or sunglasses.

She loved Pacman and Bejeweled Blitz.

She refused to swim because her brother nearly drowned her as a kid.

She made the best homemade grape juice.

She watched my Dad die two deaths: the loss of his memory of a life spent with her, then finally the loss of a heartbeat.

She bought us groceries, as grown children, when we needed it. Or when we didn’t.

She played entire golf courses with a nine iron.

She loaded her ham with syrupy peaches at Golden Corral.

She escaped from charging bulls over West Virginia fences just. in. the. nick. of. time.

She made the world’s best peanut butter balls. And she wasn’t afraid to talk dirty about them.

She sewed the curtains in our kitchen.

She gave me my love of horses. When visiting West Virginia, she would race the neighbor’s horse down the street, all the while her Mom yelled two syllables from the porch in warning and fear: “Mi-ke!”

She was given the name Aletha, but known by Molly or Mike or Mom or MaMa.

She loved Dave as her own.

She collected bells, postcards and cookbooks from the 18th century. Or at least that’s what they looked like.

She turned her basement into an art studio.

She walked miles to school, barefoot, whilst cougars hovered in the trees looking. All the while her pet pig followed her, the same pet pig that soon became bacon for her family. She couldn’t eat it.

She rapped in our swing on our back porch.

She lived. A big life.

Happy birthday Mom.

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the art of transitions

There are some images that just resonate so deeply, they never fade. This 3 and 1/2 minute video is one such image. Once the senses move past the the scantily clad woman, the stunning cityscape, and the soft sultry music, what is left is asana that is so captivating…it steals the breath.

On my mat, I want to move like this woman. Not (just) because she is sleek and strong, but because there is not a singular pose visible in any of this. Rather it is a river of transformations, inhales and exhales that do not just move the body from one position to the next, but rather–and more importantly–keep it present to the moment at hand. Present to the change. Present to the transition. Present to the subtle and magnitudinous shifts. As a yoga instructor once said:

The transitions between poses are poses themselves.

Last week, I shared this concept with my seniors, who are in the midst of a large transition of their own. We just finished reading Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, a novel which sanctifies the space of shifting. I related to them the story of the video and its beauty. I stressed that we’re so busy thinking about our next pose (graduation, college, job, marriage, parenting, etc.), that we miss the glory IN the change.

The transitions in between poses are poses themselves.

I would be a fool to admit my own transition doesn’t weigh heavily on me. Changing job titles. Changing curriculum. Changing schools. Leaving behind friends with whom I’ve learned and students in whom I’ve invested–that’s a lot of love to leave in a pose. And it’s easy to be bound in thought by the next pose. How will I stand? How will I look? How will I relax into it? How will I ground myself? But in doing this, I’m already forgetting the most important part: the here and now, the present, the transition.

The transitions in between poses are poses themselves.

It takes enormous strength to change with grace,

leaving behind something that glows.

It takes deep rooting to transform with ease,

leaning into something that grows.

It takes daring courage to transition with honor,

so that on my mat, and off, it shows.


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