Posts from the “Wellness (or lack thereof)” Category

Focus

Posted on September 21, 2012

cafes

Cafes in Paris. Taken September, 2009.

Almost two months ago, I returned to my yoga practice, thanks in no small part to a studio that opened just around the corner from my house. At first, my goal was not to fall down. (A month after I started, I face planted into my mat). My goal quickly became “Forgive Yourself” after that. Once I got stronger on my mat and more confident, my goal became “Challenge Yourself Every Day.” I think I have. Last week I began inching away from basic classes and into the more challenging ones, like Ashtanga, which causes you to break out in an unbelievably unladylike sweat (There will be more on Ashtanga in another post. I find it to be eleven kinds of awesome).

Sweat aside, yoga has been a good thing to reintroduce into my life. I feel stronger, less anxious and my clothes fit better than they did after two years of building up a volcanic amount of stress in graduate school. If I skip a class, I crave yoga. Besides, the practice of focusing on what you can do on your mat for more than an hour a day is

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A Wrinkle in Time

Posted on June 2, 2012

I had coffee with my academic advisor yesterday. He told me I looked composed and (believe it or not) relaxed. He also told me this post was “weird” because no one was trying to “get” me, or drag me back for a PhD against my will. I told him it was an ill-conceived joke, just me making fun of my inability to read anything off-topic. And then I told him that I surprised myself when I rewrote the bio for this web site. In an effort to keep myself honest, focused and real in my writing pursuits, I discovered that nothing looks the same, or feels the same, at least bio-wise. He said I needed more time. I told him I don’t wait well.

By the time we had finished our wide-ranging conversation, three hours had elapsed.

And three days after I went through the exercise of “rebranding” myself (or so to speak), I still haven’t posted my effort here. What gives?

****

A few weeks ago, I finished reading A Wrinkle in Time with my daughter. I didn’t really understand Wrinkle when I read it as a child and certainly wouldn’t have recommended it to any of my friends because fantasy was so not my cup of tea. As an adult, I found myself on the verge of

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Beanstalk

Posted on April 19, 2012

beanstalk

I have to hand it to Instagram. Their camera function is pretty good, so good that I can see I need to weed this spot where my bean plants are beginning to sprout. Peas are sprouting too. So are two different varieties of cucumbers. Tomatoes are bursting on the vine. Bell peppers are beginning to emerge. Things are starting to get interesting in my backyard plot.

Knock wood.

Five years ago, I had the power to destroy any seed I planted. These are different times. When you take the time to tend to something, to really love it and nurture it, it grows and flourishes.

I’m not necessarily talking about beans, either…

The Cheer Up Beagle

Posted on November 20, 2011

daisy

Where do I begin about the dog in this picture?

Better yet, where do I begin about the state I was in when I happened upon this dog?

I was sad in February, 2004 because I had to put down a dog that had been in my life for 14 years. I got lonely for canine company, so I started lurking in pet stores. That’s right. I was the lady who’d stare at the doggie in the window, then ask a staffer if I could just play with it for a second to see what I thought. A second would turn into…a while. And then the staffer would start gently suggesting that if I wanted to play with the dog for a good long time, I could up and buy the thing, you know. That way, I could have it forever.

I wasn’t ready for forever again.

But I kept looking just in case. One day my husband called me from work, and said he found an ad for beagle puppies that were at a veterinary clinic not too far from where we lived in Atlanta. Did I want to go check them out? You bet I did. And within hours the dog above, then a puppy, flew at me, licked my face, nibbled me and gassed me with her sweet dog breath.

Her name back then? Ginger. In those days, a black cap of fur

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The Heffalump in the Room

Posted on November 4, 2011

heffalump

When A.A. Milne first wrote about heffalumps —  which are elephants in little kid speak — they existed as a figment of Winnie-the-Pooh’s imagination. All the same, Pooh was determined to capture these pachyderms that stomped through his dreams. In the end, Pooh snagged himself and his nervous little buddy Piglet in a trap that he set to catch one of these critters.

I bring up heffalumps because some friends and former colleagues have told me I really should write about what it’s like to be an older person in graduate school. That is the heffalump in the room, so to speak. Honestly, I haven’t done it, because I could not see why anyone would find my impressions of graduate school interesting or the slightest bit entertaining. A lot of times it’s neither of those things. Footnotes? Please. Historiography? Please. Sitting still for three or more hours straight? Please. I also haven’t done it because I felt like my first year of graduate school mainly consisted of battling Heffalumps, Wizzles and Woozles — imaginary monsters that trapped me in my own net.

Now that I know those monsters aren’t there, I laugh a lot more.

I’ve also thought of the people who told me to write about graduate school. Many of them are my age and have wondered whether they could go back and do this to themselves as they juggle a career and kids and whatever else. They’ve wondered whether the time and the toil are worth it.

I’d say yes and no. I’d say yes because the experience has knocked some cobwebs out of my brain and helped me refine my so-called critical thinking skills. I’ll  never read a book the same way again, because I’ve spent the past year looking at arguments and finding out what’s wrong with them. These skills are useful for a reporter, writer, or really anyone from any walk of life. So that’s good.

Still, a lot of times I ask myself why I did this. A lot of times I count the days until I can go back and do what I love — write full-time for a living. I miss reading well-written books. I don’t know what that’s like anymore.

I miss a lot of things but I know I’m going to come out of this grateful and good. Because I’m determined.

And I’ve had a lot of great people in my corner who have been pulling for me.

I’m a very lucky lady.

In the meantime…

Maybe I’ll start telling Student Union cashiers that I actually DO get the employee discount. Or maybe I’ll stop telling professors that no I’m not teaching the next class, I’m learning in it.

“Hell yes, I’m teaching this class,” I’ll say. “Who wouldn’t want to learn about ‘Duran Duran: A Soundtrack of 20th Century Decadence’?”

But I’ll refrain from beating the next 18-year-old with my walker when he asks “Excuse me, ma’am, can you tell me where Lockett Hall is?”

Ma’am?

There’s a certain fun in pointing to a vague “over there” and just letting them meander through a sea of pajama-clad, hormonally-deranged humanity. I guess we come back to school to wade through that sea so we can emerge on the other side, waterlogged but stronger in who we are.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Posted on March 24, 2010

In the middle of the night

Miss Clavel turned on the light

and said, “Something is not right!”

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

***

As writers, we start with the feeling and everything follows from that.

— U2 guitarist The Edge in “It Might Get Loud”

***

I got trifocals recently. Yes, trifocals. My optometrist calls them progressive lenses, but admits that’s just a nice way of saying my eyes needed some major help. Getting adjusted to these new specs has been something of a chore. But when I can figure out where my eyes are supposed to go to see different increments of near and far, it’s amazing how crisp and clear the world is.

I knew something wasn’t right last spring when I found myself squinting in my old, Buddy Holly-style frames. My optometrist (who had a maddening habit of calling me “old girl”) at the time told me I would be fine for another year, but by December I was noticing that I was reading fine print over the top of my glasses and squinting to see, well, pretty much everything. A few weeks ago, I finally dialed up a new optometrist (new only because his predecessor was no longer covered by my vision plan) who decided that it would behoove me to have housefly eyes.

So far, the newfound clarity is dizzying. This, coupled with a fresh outlook, has brought on quite a bit of change as of late. In recent years, I’ve felt that I needed to shake things up a bit. I had a vague sense of how I might actually do that shaking up, but when the vision of how it would all go down snapped into focus, I found myself…talking myself out of it.

I suppose that’s easy to do when you’re an “old girl” like me.

The saving grace in all of this? I have a disturbing habit of going to France and coming home with a fresh outlook. Last fall’s trip was no exception. I immersed myself in a wonderful city with my family, was reminded of my lifelong love for the country’s history and, in the process, stumbled upon a story that I felt I had to tell. That sense, coupled with a tremendous afternoon in Shakespeare and Company bookstore, left me feeling overwhelmed and goosepimply. I sat in a cab, crying, as a couple of things became frighteningly clear.

I ran screaming from graduate school some 15 years ago because I felt I lacked the patience and maturity to study dead Frenchmen and their impact on the world. Though my maturity is still suspect, I knew during my cab epiphany that it was high time for me to be a student again, and a student of French history, no less. When I returned to Atlanta, I studied for the GRE, took the test the day before Halloween and began applying to schools shortly after that.

I was humbled by the process, from rounding up recommendations to writing a purpose statement that explained my background (eclectic) and interest (an inevitable byproduct of being from the great state of Louisiana). I submitted my applications and then waited.

The result? Like Drew Brees, my family and I have been called to Louisiana. We will be moving to my hometown of Baton Rouge where I will be a graduate student in history at Louisiana State University this fall. I will be working with a beloved mentor, someone I probably didn’t appreciate enough in my twenties even though he saw something in me back then, some beast he felt he could unleash. Fifteen years after the fact, I have decided to find out whether he was right. I am looking forward it.

The Wisdom Report

Posted on January 28, 2010

I’ve learned that some of the world’s best wisdom comes from preachers and curmudgeons.

First, the preacher wisdom: Sometimes stuff has to die off so something better can be born in its place. Now, the preacher in question wasn’t necessarily talking about people dying when he said this. He said this death could be the loss of a job, a relationship, a preconceived notion about yourself or someone else. This death could actually be a major life change that turns everything you thought you knew on its head. Maybe it’s the so-called death of publishing. Maybe it’s something else. Whatever the case, as with any loss, you have to go through a period of mourning. But then, you have to let go and have faith that something great is going to bloom.

It’s good to remind yourself of this in challenging times.

Second, the curmudgeonly wisdom: “In your late thirties, you’re looking at what you’ve done and whether you’ve done everything you’d hoped to do. But what you need to realize is that you have a lot of living left to do and that will get it done and you will be fine.”

It’s good to remind yourself of this in your most neurotic moments.

Why do I tell you this? Because I think that sometimes we need to be reminded to sit back and get ready for new growth.

Forcing things does you no good at all.

So says Meryl Streep at least in this month’s issue of Vanity Fair. Streep told Vanity Fair writer Leslie Bennetts: “I’m sort of like the girl at the dance who waits to be asked…I don’t seek out material, I don’t buy books, I don’t curry favor with producers—I just wait.”

Waiting seems to have worked for her. I’m learning to make it work for me too.

What’s some of the best wisdom you’ve heard recently? Share it in comments.

*****

Shifting gears, here are some stories and posts that have interested me over the past few days:

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Stone Cold Blogging

Posted on January 13, 2010

Shadows of mom and kid, freezing on Friday.

Shadows of mom and kid, freezing on Friday.

My daughter woke up early this past Friday morning and reported that it had snowed in the front and back yards. Spellbound, she looked out of the front window of our house and breathlessly continued her report.

“It snowed on the roofs, it snowed on the trees, it snowed on the cars, it snowed on the mailboxes, it snowed just a little tiny bit on the porch, it SNOWED!”

Snow, of course, is in the eyes of the beholder. When you are four years old and have only seen maybe two other snowfalls in your life (one of them decent by Southern standards, the other negligible by anyone’s standards), any snow is a major deal especially if it gets you out of school for the day. However, when you are a boring old bifocal-bound mom, such dustings are a mild annoyance, especially if they are accompanied by bone-chilling cold.

“Let’s go out and PLAY in it!”

Let’s wait until it warms up a bit after lunch. It is really…REALLY…cold out there.

“But I want to go now!”

You have to eat breakfast/bundle up/insert other excuse here before that can happen.

The maternal stalling tactic worked, but only for a little while. An hour later, I was bundled to the hilt in the front yard, trying to start a snowball fight with…virtually nothing. But I started one. Though it didn’t last long (it couldn’t have, what with our resources), it was fun.

Lesson one for the New Year in finding joy in (and with) small things.

*****

Though our great Southern snowstorm was laughable, the cold weather we’ve had here in Atlanta has been no joke, mimicking the fairly decent deep freeze this blog has experienced since last fall. Said blog freeze is a story for another time (and probably a really boring one when you get down to it).  In the meantime, let me make a few cold weather recommendations before the rumored thaw hits sometime later this week:

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