Bayou Country Superfest #3: It’s Even Better When It’s Wet

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I discovered StubHub this weekend, and I was able to attend both nights of the Bayou Country Superfest in Baton Rouge for $79. It was a bargain after last year’s splurge cost me about $250. Last year was three nights and included Reba and George Strait, but still, as a last minute impulse purchase, $75 went down real easy. And I have to say that my General Admission seating was not any less desirable than last year’s reserved seats. I may have to try this again next year.

Saturday’s Fare

Saturday night’s line-up was good but Sunday night’s show blew me away. Kenny Chesney was the highlight by far on Saturday. The bands before him had good music but I felt like I was watching a cross between Duck Dynasty, punk rockers and motorcycle gangs. Three of the five acts started out with motorcycles revving their engines and one even showed the star donning pistols and brass knuckles. It was a little weird and didn’t seem at all like country music. These younger acts have some great hits but they sound really different on the radio than they do on the stage.

That being said, Kenny’s beachy cowboy-themed show was amazing. My life flashed before my eyes as I heard song after song that marked some specific moment in my life. He is one of the best entertainers I’ve ever seen. He knows how to get the crowd moving, his music has meaning and depth, and he’s not too bad on the eyes either. His cowboy hat was the only one of the evening. It seems as if country music stars prefer baseball caps now… the ones that don’t have mohawks. And the only female voice the entire night was performed by the female guitarist in Kenny’s band. I wondered where all the gals are these days. The evening was testosterone-laden in every sense of the word.

All Kenny Chesney … All the Time

Sunday’s show was definitely more in line with what I’d call country music. However, I know the genre is constantly changing, and it is a good thing. Cassadee Pope was as cute as a button in the first act. David Nail was a surprise. I don’t think I’m familiar with much of his music, and he is extremely talented. It almost reminded me of country jazz. It was fun, and I’ve made a mental note to purchase some of his music in the near future. Kip Moore was the hottie of the night appearing in a LSU tank top with bulging biceps and a beautiful derriere. He made a wild dash through the audience later in the evening, and it caused quite a stir.

Hottie Kip Moore

But the fun really got started when Miranda Lambert took the stage. After about her third song, the rain that had been threatening all evening let loose in a torrential Louisiana-style downpour. She totally rocked it in stride. The crowd went wild as she walked right out into the rain and belted out her hard-rocking lyrics without a care in the world. She’s never struck me as a woman that would be that worried about her hair, but I might have thought she would have been concerned about all of that electronic equipment attached to her. The concert advertised that the show would go on ‘rain or shine’, and Miranda must have been prepared to show off her badass self in case the predicted weather finally let itself loose.

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Her show was cut a little short. The announcer came on and announced that Blake Shelton would be a little while. He said the show would go on, but it may be 45 minutes to an hour late. Keep in mind we are still sitting there 45 minutes into a torrential downpour, and it’s not slowing down at all. I turned to my friend Jennifer and asked her what she wanted to do. She looked at me incredulously and said, “I’m not leaving here until I see Blake!!” I was so glad. I was worried she’d wimp out. We walked into the concession area for about 30 minutes to get out of the rain, but I finally decided that part of the experience was going to be getting totally soaked. The only thing I was concerned about was my iPhone, so I covered it up with a poncho and let the rain take me in.

The storm was definitely a game-changer for the evening. Everybody that stayed – and I don’t think we lost a lot of fans – were committed in this together. People were playing in the rain. A group was slip-sliding on the floor down on the field. A cop was dancing and entertaining a large group up above me. Beach balls bounced around and paper airplanes flew into wet heads. It was fun, and it rained … and rained … and then rained some more. In the two hours that it poured, I made two observations. 1) I am a heterosexual, and Miranda Lambert looked totally smoking hot soaking wet with her black leather hot pants and black lace stockings. And, (2) there are some men who should NEVER remove their shirts in public. I’m just sayin’.

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The rain started to momentarily subside, and the crews mopped the stage floor. Blake made his appearance in a dry moment. He quipped about his bad-ass wife getting soaking wet, and he couldn’t let her show him up. When it started pouring again, he tentatively walked to the edge of the stage, asked if it was cold and stepped out into the rain. He stayed about 30 seconds and said, “Okay, that’s enough,” making the point that he wasn’t the same class of bad-ass as his country rocker wife. He kept raising the house lights and remarking about the number of people that stuck around in rain that heavy. We were in for the duration, and we were quite noisy in our collective pride in sticking this one out. The show ended around midnight, and I have to say that Blake’s performance was the best of the weekend and maybe the best I’ve seen at the three Superfests I’ve attended. Luke Bryan puts on an awesome show, but it’s heard to create the kind of momentum generated when thousands of people endure a wild, turbulent thunderstorm together – outside in Tiger Stadium.

It was a fun night!

My friends Jessica and Jill are already signed on for next year, and I’m quite sure Jennifer will be back. She said it’s the best time she’s had in a very long time. I had a blast. I can’t remember feeling that good during a concert. Blake was phenomenal. I was soaking wet with out a care in the world. I had eaten really healthy all day, and my energy was good. I had the thought that I feel as good at 54 as I ever have in my life. There are times when I was younger when I don’t think I would have fared so well in the wet and the late night. I spent an entire day in a torrential downpour at Summerfest in Milwaukee one year, and I barely made it through Tim McGraw’s performance that evening. I barely remember it. I don’t think I’ll forget this one. I got home and could not fall asleep. The evening kept replaying in my mind. This year was truly the superest of the Superfests…. and to think I was dreading the predicted rain. :)

Reflections on ‘This is Water’

this-is-waterMy sister-in-law Laura posted this commencement speech on my Facebook timeline. Laura is a scientist. She is one of those people who always surprises me with her depth of spirit and intuition. At first glance she seems very logical and rational, and I’m never surprised at her intellect. That’s a given. But the things she reads and her empathy and her depth of spiritual intuition always seem to catch me off guard. That’s probably because I’m so stupid sometimes in thinking that people are what they seem to be on the surface. I love people like her in my world that constantly remind me that I know nothing about another person’s heart and spirit unless they share it with me.

I am not familiar with David Foster Wallace‘s work. A short Google search tells me that he was another one of the tragic tales of a genius who struggled with addiction and then later committed suicide. Ironically, in his speech, he foreshadows his own suicide with a firearm.

Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.” This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head.

For it is our thoughts that torture us day in and day out with their incessant chatter. This speech was very through-provoking for me, and I found myself noodling its meaning tonight when I walked Ashok.

In the opening, he tells this story:

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet
an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says,
“Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a
bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes,

“What the hell is water?”

I thought about the analogy of ‘water’ in a human’s life. My first thought was that it is air. We are surrounded by it, and we breath it, and we often take it for granted. But, since fish don’t really take in water, the analogy is not perfect. I thought and thought – yes, I think too much – and I finally realized that God is water for me. What else is there, permeating every pore, facilitating every breath and enveloping me in its grasp? I’ve often heard people say, “God is either everything, or He is nothing.” I argue that God is water. Maybe not for a goldfish … but for me.

For a very long time, I couldn’t stomach Christianity as a religion. I had a strong faith, but I had a really hard time with the practice of the religion because of my own issues. I still have a hard time with it in practice, but I’m much better at understanding the difference between the practice of the faith and my relationship with God. I saw a Christian counselor because I was beginning to accept Jesus as my version of God, but I was still struggling with how to put that into practice. She asked me about reading the Bible. I got real tense. I had no idea where this was going to go, and I struggled with the Bible. Every time I read it, I felt so inadequate. I would never be able to follow all of those rules and guidelines. I’d get frustrated and mad and put it down. I decided that I was paying for this session, so I just told her that I had trouble reading it and why. She assured me that I wasn’t expected to be able to do all of those things. And I asked her to explain how I was supposed to interpret it since I’d experienced so much judgment and condemnation with those verses. She described the Bible as a handbook for living. My life will be easier and I will have less trouble if I live by those principles. But it is not a law. It is a teaching tool. That one conversation opened up the path to God for me.

Wallace says that we have to understand that even though everything that ever happens to us makes us feel like we are the center of the universe, we have to try to focus on the world as if we are not. It’s not that we will be bad if we don’t. It’s just that it will make us crazy. There is no event in my life that I have ever experienced that I didn’t feel like I was the center of the universe. The fact is I am the center of my universe. My challenge is to understand that God is the rest of the universe …. AND He is me. And I fail at it miserably.

God is in the running of my marathons. God is in my divorces. God is in hot sex with forbidden lovers. God is in every sunset I have ever seen. God is in every act of kindness I have ever made. God is in the relationship between me and my dog. God is in the middle of every argument I have ever had. God sees all, hears all, touches all that I do. Even in those moments when I don’t feel Him, He is running through me. He is water. There is no life without Him. He is either everything, or He is nothing.

I’m not a particularly religious person, but I am a very spiritual person. I love yoga because it quiets my brain and allows me to sense the peace of an unthinking brain. When my mind is quiet, I am less apt to believe I am the center of the universe. I sense the water. I even noticed the other day when I had been off sugar for over a week that the ‘noise’ of the sugar had died down. My addictions, like sugar, keep my mind revved up and engaged … wanting more .. more … more …. and trying to land on a thought that will drive me to ‘use.’ I crave the quiet because it allows me to hear and feel and touch the ‘water’.

I thought of my codependency when I was considering God as water. Everything in my life teaches me lessons if I’m just cognizant enough to listen. In other words, if I’m not caught up in being the center of the universe, I am much better able to see the bigger picture. When I am waiting desperately for a door to open, God is there waiting with me. In fact, the waiting may be the fire that teaches me something I can learn no other way. When I am lonely, and I’m so frustrated that my life looks the way it does, God is there breathing through my loneliness with me. While I am processing, feeling and coping, He is enveloping every pore of my body and holding space for whatever changes need to happen within me. In my codependency, I felt like I needed to help people through things and save them from pain. I had such fear of somebody hurting or going off the deep end, that I’d intervene to save them. I was not allowing the ‘water’ to flow the way it was supposed to in that person’s life. It took me so long to understand that my pain was not the center of the universe, and it was none of my business to get in the way of their process.

God is either everything, or He is nothing. I can’t tell you how comforting that is to me. Tomorrow, my brain may be in a different place. I may be back at the center of the universe. I feel sad that Wallace had to end his life. But, I know that even at the moment that the bullet entered his brain, God was enveloping every pore of his being and was holding him through the experience. With every ending, there is a beginning, and, that, too, is ‘water’.

The Realist Adjusts the Sails

d7b1f1aa969ce81859d5336bf2981d38One of my morning readings this morning was about the reality that everything in life is always changing. I am faced with loss all the time. I don’t always think of it as loss because I haven’t actually had my hands on it yet. But, sometimes  just the taste of ‘what could be’ turns into the bitter pill of loss. And loss – at some level – always expresses it’s misfortune in grief. Anger, denial, bargaining, depression and eventually acceptance once again dance their chaotic, painful dance.

During my first marriage, we lived in Knoxville. My ex had a job where there were plenty of other singles and childless couples who were making their way through the often challenging schedule that is typical of sportswriters. We hung out, hiked in the Smokies, supported each other and became great friends. I remember it as one of those idyllic times when we had a great ‘family.’ Eventually, one or more got married and had kids. One or two moved away. One morning I woke up, and my community had disappeared. I felt such a sense of loss. In the naivete of youth, I somehow thought that everything was set. I’ve since gone through many, many changes in community, residences, employment and romantic partnerships. The one thing I know now is that nothing ever stays the same. And, I’ve learned to dance the dance of grief much more comfortably. It is what it is … and then it changes.

When I left my call center job in Knoxville, my staff gave me a paperweight as a parting gift. I don’t ordinarily pay much attention to gifts like that because they are usually just sort of a generic gift that marks a milestone. But this one opened my eyes – perhaps for the very first time – to the way people saw my approach to life. A sailboat was etched on its surface, and it said, “The pessimist curses the wind, the optimist hopes it will change, the realist adjusts the sails.” I still have this paperweight in my office. I’ve moved it from Seattle to Michigan to Indiana and now here. It reminds me of who I am. Because sometimes I don’t want to adjust the sails. I just want the damned wind to stop.

I often think that the world believes being an optimist is the superior role. And, sometimes I even fake optimism to get past my somewhat pessimistic streak. It’s sort of like the ship that’s leaning too far to one side, you know? I may need to move as far as I can on the other side until I get the boat balanced. I like standing dead in the middle of reality. Well, like may be a strong word. I’m most comfortable in reality. Well, maybe comfortable is a little strong, too. Let’s say that my preference is to live in reality. When my second marriage was failing so miserably, I would try to be optimistic, and I prayed and prayed and prayed for things to get better … or to help me pretend that things were better. Ultimately, I had to face the reality of what was happening and start to dig myself out. If I’d faced reality sooner, maybe I wouldn’t

Thankfully, today, I enthusiastically own that label of realist. I do find myself mired in pessimism from time to time, and I may swing to optimism occasionally, but I know I’m a realist. I want to know the facts – all of them. I feel the most alive when I’m facing the music. Tell me the truth, and I can deal with it. I’d much prefer to face the cold hard truth than always wonder what the hell is going on – or worse, be in denial that anything is percolating under the surface. I know sometimes people are uncomfortable with my tell it like I see it manner, but it’s the only way I know to operate. Perhaps its a symptom of having a life-long dance with anxiety. If I know what’s going on, I don’t have to be anxious about it.  Let the chips fall where they may.

The last couple of months have been windy. There have been a couple of times when I thought I might capsize. I do have to say it’s been interesting. At times it’s been fun. And at times I’ve been heartbroken on a number of fronts. Luckily, I have a lot of capable shipmates, a pretty darn good background in sailing stormy seas and an adaptable sail. When it gets too bad, I just close the sail and ride it out. Today, I think I’ll open it back up and see where the wind is blowing. One thing’s for sure, it’s going to change – sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis. I trust my inner compass. I’ll adjust the sails.

Sunday Night Check-In: Surf’s Up!

FullSizeRenderI had a really social weekend this weekend. I had the opportunity to go to my niece and nephew’s music graduation Friday night and my other niece’s confirmation celebration today. It’s fun seeing them grow up and celebrate milestones. I can’t believe how tall they are all getting. It won’t be long until they all look like little adults, and they’ll no longer be interested in talking to me at all. That drift is already happening right before my eyes. Life goes on …..

IMG_2211Saturday I headed out to the Farmer’s Market early, and I met a young man and his Mom who were selling BBQ sauce. It was their first day at the market. Tres Bien Que is the son’s business, and Mom was helping out. Apparently he’s already really successful. His Tres Bien Que BBQ sauce is already in 15 local grocery stores like Calandro’s Supermarket. They are also at Alexander’s pop-up market, V Watt’s Trade Day and on Indie Plate. I really liked them and loved the spicy sweet tea BBQ sauce, so I bought some. I told them I didn’t like meat all that much, but I’d try it on tofu and let them know how it is. I think you should go try it, and tell Trey I sent you.

I came home Saturday and did some yoga before meeting my friend Beth for coffee and my Meetup group at Superior Grill for some dinner and music. We had a great time even though it was really hard to hear on the patio. The place was packed. I met a couple of really cool women – one of them a misplaced Bostonian who has fallen in love with South Louisiana. I loved her accent, and it reminded me so much of my favorite city in the country. It’s been way too long since I’ve been there. I’m salivating for cannolis just thinking about it.

I headed out to the Mississippi Gulf Coast early this morning since it was on my way to my brother’s house, and I got a chance to walk on the beach with Ashok. It was windy, and the usually calm bay was whipped up into heavy whitecaps. The tide was going out, and a long lovely pool had formed on the beach. Ashok had a ball running through it and rolling in the sand. Afterwards we visited my friends John and Gwen while they picked my brain about blogging. We had a lovely light breakfast after sitting for a spell on their veranda. I can already tell the days are starting to get hotter and muggier. I was fairly uncomfortable today for the first time in awhile. But, I’m going to try to keep my cool about it. I headed over to the Mockingbird for a coffee and a short visit with my friend Phillip that I met the last time I was in the bay and then bought some cookies and flatbread from the Serious Bread Company as my contribution to the confirmation lunch.

IMG_2216This weekend I was struggling a bit with my perfectionism and worrying about how people perceive me. I was sort of on a roller coaster ride with my emotions. Feeling strong and confident one minute …  the next minute feeling like a 12 year old at her first dance. A friend of mine recommended I read a book which helped me shift my perspective a bit, and I feel much better. Right now I think that I’m just about as talented and capable as anybody else, and, if the rest of the world doesn’t see it… well … that’s their loss. I’m not about to live my life as if I’m in some show where I have to be somebody I’m not. At this moment, I feel like I’m pretty special just like I am.

It was a lovely day all around, and the weekend was pretty fun. It seems like it’s only been a half hour since I left work on Friday night. This was a really short one. I don’t feel as rested as I like to feel on a Sunday night, but I’ll go do my yoga nidra soon, and that will probably fix me right up. I’m looking forward to going to bed tonight. All my animals are brushed, fed and walked, and it’s time to start settling in.

See You in Dreamtime

imagesI’m so grateful to be dreaming. I haven’t remembered my dreams in a long time, but I remembered the ones from last night. In one, my parents were camping in a campground in some obscure location. There was some type of world crisis going on that involved drugs, and the police came to search campers for drugs. I knew that Momma was smoking hash for some health-related issue, and I was worried they would find it. I found myself in the odd position of watching the police in their camper but I was not really inside. Sure enough, he found the hash in Momma’s suitcase only it looked like these beautiful deep green leafy reeds. He looked up, thought for a minute, and covered them back up. I walked in, and he asked me to go through her things. I – realizing that he was cutting her a break – didn’t uncover them, and the officer went on his way.

I believe that this dream was a confirmation from God – my authority figure – that He will not bust me for everything. Some things I do help me to learn things that heal certain wounds, and, although doing it might have been wrong, He will let it slide. Both of us know that there are better ways to handle things. It felt comforting, forgiving and very loving.

The night before I dreamed that I moved to St. Joseph, MI without a job. I was just up there a few weeks ago, so the sights and sounds were fresh in my mind. In the dream, I was asking everyone to help me find a job. I didn’t seem to care what kind of job it was, I just knew I needed to get my foot in the door. Apparently, I had just quit my job here and moved on a lark, and I needed money. At one point, I found myself swimming up the St. Joseph River which flows into Lake Michigan between Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. The water was cool and as blue as any Caribbean ocean. I was thinking how wonderful it was to swim in this river without having to worry about snakes and alligators. Huge yachts were coming toward me and passing me as I swam. But there wasn’t any wake. I felt like a dwarf among giants, but the water felt so good, and I wasn’t scared at all. Then I started thinking that all of this would be frozen in no time, and I wouldn’t be able to swim like this always. It made me very sad.

The best thing about dreams is that fleeting moment, when you are between asleep and awake, when you don’t know the difference between reality and fantasy, when for just that one moment you feel with your entire soul that the dream is reality, and it really happened. ~James Arthur Baldwin

I think the river was some sort of metaphor for my spiritual flow. I’m feeling much more free and comfortable in the flow of things. Big stressors are passing me by, but I’m taking it in stride. I have some fears about the future but they seem far off and are pretty innocuous. But there is some sadness that is very real over some substantial losses. The fact that I quit my job and made a move without any safety net tells me that I’m feeling like taking a few risks that maybe I wouldn’t or couldn’t have taken in the past. And, there is certainly the assurance that I will get on my feet. I know how to move forward. I’ll work through people, and I’ll adapt.

Both of these dreams feel really positive and supportive. I don’t know how much my yoga practice of the last month has impacted my subconscious, but it does seem that I’m feeling more serene at night when I’m sleeping. My dreams are confirming it. There was something else I dreamed last night, but I can’t remember what it was.

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This evening I’m at the Magpie Cafe with Ashok celebrating a great day at work. We launched a big project today, and I’m  very excited about it. I facilitated a large, boisterous group, and it felt good to be working in my strengths. July is looking less and less like a threat, and I’m feeling hopeful that it’s going to be a good summer. Even Ashok seems more relaxed this year than last. Sitting outside this evening is very comfortable. Last night around dark the mosquito trucks came around coughing up their mosquito poison, so I can now sit outside a little more comfortably. I don’t like the idea of breathing mosquito dope, but I like it more than I do getting West Nile virus. Like my dream says, sometimes you just have to swim in the water that you’re in and enjoy it. With every gain, there is a loss. And with every ending a beginning. I look forward to the next vivid dream.

Yoga Challenge Day 30: I Made It!

Me and my fave yoga teacher, Teresa, on the first day of my Challenge!

Me and my fave yoga teacher, Teresa, on the first day of my Challenge!

Today was the 30th day of my Yoga Challenge. I did yoga every day for 30 days. Some days it was a vigorous practice. On others, I did a long yoga nidra. But, I did something every day. I listened to my body and did challenging practices when I needed the energy, and I did relaxing practices when I needed to relax. Tonight I did a more relaxing practice since I didn’t started until 8:30. I needed to wind down for bed. But I wanted to check-in and celebrate the end of my challenge.

I am going to keep doing the yoga. I like the way it makes me feel, and it’s rather easy to do. I have decided that I don’t like the really fast-paced yoga that is so popular these days. I like the slower, strength-building yoga. When I started the yoga challenge on April 13, I said I would measure 5 things:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Sleep
  • Emotional Stability
  • Energy

So, here goes:

Strength – I feel much stronger. I especially feel stronger in my core, and my joints feel much more stable. I don’t know if joints strengthen, but I can stretch and open without so much wobbling and shaking going on. I also am moving very smoothly through transitions where I used to be more wobbly and unsure of myself. My arms can now do many chaturangas. In the beginning, I had to rest through the last few in a class.

Chaturanga

Chaturanga

Flexibility – I am more flexible in my hamstrings. I think I would be even more flexible if I hadn’t overdone it that first week with Monkey Pose. I ended up overstretching, and they’ve been tender ever since. It causes me to back off, but I’m going to just take the time I need. My spine is definitely more flexible. Last night, I popped up into 3 consecutive wheel poses, and I felt free and light between my vertebrae. When I first started, my back was pretty tight. And, my hips are way looser than when I started.

My favorite yoga pose!

Sleep – I’m sleeping really well. I wasn’t sleeping well when I started. My sleep started improving, and, even when I didn’t sleep as much as I like, I did my yoga nidras, and they reset me. They say the yoga nidra replaces a couple of hours of sleep, and I believe it. When I have insomnia, I get up and practice, and I don’t really feel like I’ve lost that much sleep. That being said, lately I’ve been getting great sleep. I can also thank my sugar cutbacks of the last week, but I was starting to sleep better as soon as I started the yoga.

Links to my Favorite Yoga Nidra Practices

Beach and Stars – 42 Minutes

Blossom Garden – 25 Minutes

Emotional Stability – I haven’t been writing a lot about it, but I have had a LOT of big things going on in my life lately. Plus I had a rather exhausting trip to Michigan last week. In the past, these kinds of stressors would send my anxiety over the edge. My anxiety has been extremely low given the circumstances of the last month. If nothing else, that improvement should tell me that I really need to do yoga regularly.

Energy – My energy has not increased as much as I thought it would. I guess I’ve had energy to practice, but I haven’t felt super energetic. I do get up and walk my dog every morning now at 5 AM for an hour, so I’m doing better with that. That’s partly because of the good sleep I’m getting, too. But, I would like to see my energy improve.

I would say the challenge was a success. I learned a few things and got back on track in several areas. I know that I want to continue the yoga, but I’m also getting anxious to do a little extra strength-training for my arms and a little running. It’s heating up down here, so I won’t be running a lot, but I’d like to pick up the pace over walking. Hopefully the yoga has stretched out the kinks and provided enough of a different kind of movement to heal my injuries totally. I look forward to easing back into it in whatever way suits me.

Most importantly, the challenge game me a change of pace. My exercise became much more inner-focused rather than focused on my body. Although yoga is a very physical practice, for me it really is an inner practice. I get less worried about how much I’m doing and more concerned about how I feel. I push through less and honor where I am. I think that may have bled over into my life a bit, too.

Tonight’s practice was designed to stretch me out and get me ready for bed. We did a lot of crescent lunges, twists and hip-openers. We carry a lot of tension in our hips, so it feels great to work them and stretch them out before sleep. And twists help me let go and melt into softness. Ashok is already snoring, and I’m getting ready to be. One thing’s for sure – I look forward to going to bed now that I’m not tossing and turning all night. That’s truly a blessing.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 9.42.23 PMCrescent Lunge Pose Instructions

Monday Blues: Nap-time, Butter and Squirrels

Naptime after work.

Nap-time after work.

I’m not feeling so well tonight. I felt great this morning. I mean I felt so good I noticed that I was feeling much more clear-headed and energetic for the morning. I’m on a sugar detox again. I’ve still been pretty good about sugar, but my usage has gradually been creeping up into more of a habit again. And, when I went to Michigan I enjoyed quite a few sugary treats. I didn’t feel so great the Tuesday after I returned. So, I immediately stopped buying the occasional mocha at Starbucks and eating dark chocolate as a snack. But I was still putting honey in my tea and eating granola and cane syrup on my yogurt in the mornings.

I managed to quell some of the sweet cravings by cutting back, but I wasn’t totally committed. My friend Jennifer and I went to lunch on Wednesday, and she was really working hard on continuing her sugar detox. After a long discussion about sugar, I came away re-motivated to come off the sugar again. Thursday was my first real day without sugar at all on purpose. I haven’t had much of a withdrawal. I wasn’t doing that much regular sugar, but I have found myself getting into down moods on occasion due to the withdrawal of my favorite drug. Friday night was bad. And, tonight got bad. It seems to hit me in the evening around quitting time at work. I even came in and took a nap tonight.

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I woke up from my nap with an intense craving for sugar or junk food or something comforting. It’s the depression wanting a snack. I knew it, and I promised myself I wouldn’t give in. This will pass by tomorrow morning or maybe even by the time I go to bed tonight. I’ve read that eating a high protein, high-fat meal will help with sugar cravings, so I cooked some fresh asparagus with butter, sliced a half of an avocado with some cherry tomatoes, sauteed some grass-fed beef and slathered a piece of Sunflower Bread with cracked pepper goat cheese. It was a yummy, tasty meal, and the sugar craving has gone away. Now, I’m just left with a little bit of a down mood. I’ll either do a yoga nidra later or take a hot bath. Either will make me feel better in the long run. I just want to curl up and close out the world.

I re-read one of my blogs that I wrote when I gave up sugar before, and I had some good tips that I had forgotten. I need to make some of that yummy black rice pudding for snacks and some blackberry grits. I have some frozen blackberries. Maybe I’ll make them tomorrow morning for breakfast for a change. That would be creamy and comforting. I’m using rice grits now. I find they taste much better than corn grits plus I get the nutrition of brown rice. I can see why I got back on some sugary treats. I forgot about the yummy snacks I was making that made me feel like I was having dessert. Sugar is really a relentless temptress.

IMG_2196I pulled the squirrel card tonight in my deck of Medicine Cards. Squirrel medicine tells me to prepare myself for the future. If squirrel has scurried into my cards today, it may be that it’s telling me to honor my future by readying myself for change. Squirrel tells me to be prepared but don’t go nuts with it. I’m supposed to be reserving something for future use. It also urges me to know that all will ‘be taken care of in its own time.’ Maybe part of my drive to give up sugar is an effort to gather my energy and my wits about me for some change that may happen in the near future. And my body may be telling me to rest with my down moods. As erratic as squirrels seem to be, I think I like squirrel medicine. It seems to suit me right this moment. I think I’ll go do a yoga nidra. I feel like checking out. Night, y’all. Sweet Dreams.

Sunday Night Check-In: No More Crumbs

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A week or so ago, a friend of mine told me about an eye-opening conversation that she had with her gay boyfriend. She had told him about a guy who kept promising he was going to call her for a date but it would be months before he ever did. She still was willing to go out with him if he called because he seemed like a nice guy. But, after talking to her friend about it last week, she became very aware of her tendency to accept crumbs from men in relationships. I high-fived her and said that I did the same thing in the past but we should not accept crumbs anymore.

This weekend I found myself in that very painful, hungry place beneath a table where I was once again getting crumbs. The problem is that I’m used to subsisting on crumbs. I don’t even realize how hungry I am until I’m hurting so bad that I can’t stand it. I am trained to just wait and beg for more rather than moving on to one of the many tables where I can feast like everyone else. Somehow it seems less scary to take crumbs consistently than it does to take the risk that there are other feasts that are open to me. And, yet I know they exist. I’ve feasted plenty.

Wildflowers at City Park

Saturday I found myself in Goodwood Hardware – this really cool hardware store that has lots of kitchen and cooking supplies. I was looking at some kitchen utensils and picked up one that was curious to me. “What is this?”, I asked myself and then read the label. It was a crumb scraper, and immediately I remembered sitting in a white linen restaurant in Montreal where the waiter used a crumb scraper to clear the table of the buttery crumbs from the croissant I had just consumed. I had never seen one before, and it felt really nice to have someone clear the crumbs from my space so that I could continue eating. He put the crumbs in his hand or a napkin or something and threw them away. My friend’s words echoed in my brain. In hindsight, I should have bought the tool as a reminder that the crumbs are for the garbage … not as part of the main course.

It was a beautiful weekend. The weather was gorgeous. I had breakfast with my parents at the Cajun Village on Saturday, and I continued my yoga practice. I have 3 days left of the 30-Day Yoga Challenge, and it looks like I’m going to make it. This morning I did a practice that focused on the transitions between poses, and I noticed how much stronger I’ve gotten. I hardly stumbled at all making the complicated transitions. I felt tired by the end of the practice but not exhausted. I’m still a little mad at myself for early on pushing too far with my hamstrings. I’m still feeling it. Now, I’m being more respectful of my hamstrings by keeping a bend in my knee and only stretching as far as is comfortable. I suppose it’s a way of taking care of myself. It would be a good lesson to bring into my life. Don’t overdo; push my edge if I want to, but stop expecting so much of myself.

I had a great coffee date with a girlfriend this morning. We talked about our histories with Mother’s Day since neither of us have children, and we discussed some great ideas for using LinkedIn and social media. We are in the same field, and it was fun to talk about my career on a Sunday in a way that was inspiring. We also talked about moving energy, and I mentioned that one of the reasons I did the yoga challenge was to try to just keep some energy moving. When there is movement, there will eventually be progress. We completed the Artists’ Way together, and we are missing each other now that it is done. We parted with a promise to set up more coffee dates so we can stay in touch. At this table this morning, I was definitely invited to the feast.

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I drove out to City Park in NOLA this afternoon and met a friend to walk Ashok and enjoy the gorgeous afternoon. For a few minutes, I was way too hot, and July flashed into my mind like a reminder that hell is yet to come. Luckily, we went under a shade tree, and it felt much more comfortable and cooler. I packed a picnic lunch of Mediterranean chicken dip, fresh strawberries, Trader Joe’s trail mix, sunflower bread, and cracked pepper goat cheese. It was delicious and light, and I enjoyed every bite. I can certainly be responsible for my own feast if necessary, and I need to remember that. In fact, in setting my own table, I can choose exactly what I like, in the amounts that I desire and in the highest quality I can find.

Overall, the weekend was good. I learned a lot about myself, and I was reminded of my tendency – just like my friend’s – to accept crumbs in relationships. My awareness helped me to pull out of it more quickly and remember how to satisfy my own hunger for love and attention. I don’t have to accept crumbs from a table where someone – or something – has already consumed the feast. It’s ultimately a choice I can make, and I’m making it once again. NO MORE CRUMBS.

Beautiful or Average: Which Would You Choose?

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For the past two days, my mind has been spinning. There’s a lot of reasons for it, but the primary instigator is that I became interested in this whole Texas martial law scare and started reading the news. All of a sudden, I’m reading about ISIS threatening that they are already in the US, Louisiana’s budget woes, the extinction of half of all the animals on the planet, and the destructive almond crops. For this anxiety-plagued gal, reading the news is a path to a living hell. I know it. So, I vowed to stop this morning.

I took a moment to pray and ask my God for some wisdom on how I let go of all I heard and read in the last 24 hours. I know that I can only live in my environment, my own body and my individual moment. I can’t fix the world’s problems, but they can sure devastate my world. The answer back to me was the Hummingbird. Hummingbird medicine is about beauty and joy. The hummingbird’s main focus in life is spreading beauty. Its uncanny ability to fly up, down, forward and back is unique. In its tiny cylindrical body, it carries nectar that populates the world with floral beauty. I drew the card reversed from my Medicine Card deck which tells me that for some reason my heart has been closed, and I need to journey into my personal pain to experience joy again. I am sorry that the world is such a mess. I’m sorry that we don’t pay attention to nature’s signs that we’re destroying it with our greed and consumption. I’m sad that I won’t be leaving the world in a better place than how I found it. And I cried.

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When I got to work, I googled Finding Joy. My search led me to a Facebook page called Finding Joy which is a personal blog at http://findingjoy.net/. This blogger is apparently a true Hummingbird on the internet. She looks for positive things and then blogs about them. Maybe I could learn from her and spread a little hummingbird joy this morning, too. I clicked on her category called You Are Enough. The first thing that came up was the video below. Yes, it’s a Dove campaign. I’m a somewhat cynical big business marketing person, but I love the message so much, I think I’m going to act like a Hummingbird and focus on the beauty in the message.

Which Would You Choose?

What would you choose? What would Hummingbird choose? What if we were put on this earth to spread beauty? What if we were put on this earth to make our own choice about who we are? What if God made us in his own image, and he is horrified that we think we are ‘average.’ What if when God made me in my mother’s womb, he said, “Wow… this is going to be beautiful”? Instead, I live my life as if I’m average. What I think that God was telling me this morning is the same thing that I found in this search. Finding Joy is not a hunt for something positive. Finding Joy is merely a change of perspective, and it’s a decision to say I’m going to be, live, do and act Beautiful today. What will you choose? Ultimately, it is our choice … not the world’s.

“I went through that door that said average, and I didn’t really feel good about myself … Obviously, I had rated myself average and nobody else.”

“It was my choice, and now I will question myself for the next few weeks… maybe months.”

“I went through the average door. Yeah … I didn’t even hesitate.”

“It was quite triumphant feeling, really. It was like telling the world I’m beautiful.”

What if everybody chose Beautiful? How could it change the world?

Yankee BBQ Worth Eating: Lark’s BBQ

Me and my friend Marv

Me and my friend Marv

I met my friend Marv when I was a sales trainer for Whirlpool out in Seattle. He was some higher up executive, and I was a young trainer in the Western Sales Division. We were both recently divorced, and we hit it off right away. My perky, snarky personality resonated well with his dignified sarcastic humor, and we had many rounds of chatter about life, dating and Whirlpool history. He taught me to parallel park in Chicago. Actually, he motivated me to parallel park. I was trying to park the car in the city, and he got so frustrated with my poor skills that he got out and parked the car for me. I was bound and determined to learn how to do it, and I can whip in a small space now with the best of them.

The old BBQ at the Car Wash. Willie still cooks it this way every day.

The old BBQ at the Car Wash. Willie’s nephew still cooks the meats like this every day.

Marv retired from Whirlpool sometime back, and, of course, I’ve moved on, but we chat every now and then just to catch up. He’s smart, talented, good-looking and has a heart as big as China – especially when it comes to community. He was one of the first people that renovated a loft in downtown Benton Harbor as an investment. He showed it to me when it was under construction, and I got the feeling that this was part of an effort to make Benton Harbor a better place. The town had been on hard times for years, and Whirlpool and some locals were trying to create something different. Ironically, my gay boyfriend Michael stayed in that loft when he came up to work on a temporary assignment for corporate some years back. He said he saw the nipple-baring costume malfunction Super Bowl in that loft. It is one of many lofts in Benton Harbor today, but it’s still really nice.

Marv and Willie

Marv and Willie

When we met for coffee last weekend, he told me that he co-owns a restaurant in town. He and his friend Terry went into business with Willie Lark to create Lark’s BBQ restaurant. Apparently, Willie’s father Napoleon had a BBQ business alongside a hand car wash in Benton Harbor for a long, long time. It was one of those roadside BBQ pits that I remember down south. I had never heard of it, but everyone I asked said they remembered having Whirlpool meetings catered by Lark’s BBQ. They’d drive over and pick it up before the meeting. Even in the days when Whirlpoolees wore suits, they’d drive over to suck on ribs for lunch. It has always been a Benton Harbor tradition.

Lark's is in a remodeled service station.

Lark’s is in a remodeled service station.

When Marv said he wanted me to come try Lark’s BBQ I rolled my eyes.

“I’m from the South, and I lived in Memphis for 7 years,” I said sarcastically. “Why would I want to eat Yankee BBQ?”

He looked at me like I was a moron and assured me I’d love it. “Especially the catfish,” he said. “You have to try the catfish.”

“Catfish?? I don’t know….. ,” I countered. I told him I love catfish, and I’ve eaten it at some of the best places in the South. I really did not think any restaurant that ships their fresh catch in from the South could prepare it to impress me. I mean, I’ve eaten at Middendorf’s. What could be better than that?

Me and Nancy - chowing down

Me and Nancy – chowing down

But I know Marv is a smart, well-traveled guy, and he motivated me to parallel park. I suppose he could motivate me to try some Yankee catfish and BBQ. My friend Nancy arrived, and we headed over to Lark’s. The people of Benton Harbor are so nice. I was a little taken aback for a day or two because I forgot how friendly they are up there. Lark’s was more of the same. They greeted us at the door, and I met Willie and his wife, Marilyn. Marv gave us a tour of the pictures in the front dining room and a history of the place. He and Terry went in with Willie when he expressed that he wanted a real restaurant but didn’t have the know-how or the financing to do it himself. They saw it as a great opportunity to stand together with the African-American community and create something special. Besides, Lark’s BBQ was very profitable, and it looked like a great investment opportunity.

They serve Triple XXX Root Beer, and Marv gave us each one to sip on while we tasted greens, ribs, red beans and rice and fried catfish. I had already eaten lunch so this was round two. I saw a container of banana pudding over there by the counter. I knew I definitely wanted to try that. I can NEVER pass up banana pudding. The ribs were meatier than the ones I’d had in Memphis, and I have to say that they gave Central BBQ a run for my money. The greens were delicious too. But, I have to hand it to Marv… the catfish was the best I’ve ever had. I’m sorry Middendorf’s … you are now in second place. It was lightly – ever so slightly – battered, and it was fried just right to be tender enough to melt in my mouth. I didn’t even need or want tartar sauce. As full as I was from lunch, I ate a pretty good bit, but I couldn’t finish the banana pudding. My friend Nancy said she’d take it home for me, but then she pulled a fast one on me and ate it herself. I’ll just have to go back, but they only have on weekends. And Marv said it sells out fast. Don’t get in front of me in line, ya hear me!!??

Lark’s still has a car wash. So, you can still go and get your car cleaned up nice and pretty while you go to the restaurant and order up some catfish and ribs. I had my car washed today in Baton Rouge, and it was certainly nothing to write home about. I might wash my car a lot more frequently if I could eat some of Lark’s fare while I waited. This blog won’t inform anybody in Benton Harbor or St. Joe about Lark’s. They all know about it. But, if you find yourself driving around Lake Michigan and end up in Benton Harbor, you might want to stop in at Lark’s. If nothing else, get a Triple XXX Root Beer. It is definitely refreshing and worth the experience. Tell them the gal from Midlife Moments sent you. They wouldn’t put my picture on their wall of fame. They need to know it should be there! And, lucky for all of you unskilled folks, you don’t even have to parallel park.

Larks Ribs & Bar-B-Que
440 W. Main Street
Benton Harbor, MI 49022
(269) 926-9833