Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category


March 28th, 2011 by Jane

The weather keeps springing back on us, doesn’t it? My husband and I spent a long time working in the garden this weekend, as I’m sure many of you did. The above photo is of my rose tree that is about to explode in crimson blooms.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I attended a conference a few weeks ago, led by one of my favorite yoga writers, Judith Hanson Lasater. She was so generous in sharing her knowledge about yoga and about life. I’m still digesting and absorbing many of her aphorisms. She beautifully articulated, sometimes in a funny or moving way, that life is yoga and how we practice both is up to us.

I thought I would share a few of my favorites with you:

Awareness in Tadasana (basic standing pose) is a life skill.

You can only be
yoga, you can’t do yoga.

We have a tyranny of choice in our lives.

Stability is the first rule of yoga.

Relaxation helps everything.

There is no ease in the edges of anything. Happiness and ease live in the middle.

You can’t be compassionate when you’re exhausted.

Yoga is a support group for people who can’t do yoga.

Give yourself 30 seconds of conscious whining everyday.

How do you define “enough?” The answer will define your life.

Yoga is a strategy for remembering your true self.

Breath is always in the present. You can’t breathe for last week or to get ahead for tomorrow.

Svasana (relaxation pose at the end of practice) is coming home. The post-svasana state is who you are.

Even if you don’t practice yoga, these are interesting to think about. I wrote down many more, and I’ll continue to share them with you. Which is your favorite?

For more of Judith’s wisdom and humor, follow her on Twitter @JudithYoga.


January 25th, 2011 by Jane

Hello Blog Friends. I know, I know-it’s been a while. Everything is pretty good over here; I just got caught up in the holidays, minor communicable diseases and an organizing jag.

Over the last two months, I have started four or five posts and then left them withering in cyber storage, unfinished. The great ideas I had to wow you with, shriveled when I sat down at the keyboard. I’ve had a lot on my mind and it seems that I’ve needed to mull. In yoga, this is called turning inward.

Forward bends are a certain group of poses that are conducive to this introspection. Whether standing, sitting or lying down, the point of a forward bend is to fold the body over on itself. Head to knees, hands to floor, belly to thighs. In a forward bend, you can’t look around and distract yourself. Turning the head to either side will get you a side view of your knee. Then you turn your head back to center and try to concentrate on yourself, the pose or maybe the intense sensation in your hamstrings. Either way, in a forward bend, you are always called back to yourself. Yoga’s kinda great that way.

Sometimes, the introspection extends beyond the mat and that’s what has been going on in my world. I’ve been feeling a pull toward quiet, toward solitude, toward thought. Those of you who know me personally are probably on the floor, doubled over with laughter. I know what you’re thinking, “What is she thinking? She’s got three kids! There’s no time for navel-gazing.” And you would be right, which is why my psyche keeps pulling me toward the idea of contemplation. I think most of us are more susceptible to that this time of year, you know, new beginnings and all.

I can’t say that all of this introspection has led me anywhere in particular, but it has been nice, the little snatches I’ve gotten of it.  I’ll let you know what bubbles up, until then, I’ll keep mulling. What are you mulling over this year? The following are a few things to mull, if you need some material.

1) Black Swan
I saw this movie over the weekend and I’m still deciding what I think about it. I liked it and it is a beautifully dark movie, full of gray and black and white images.

2) Poser
I loved this memoir by Claire Dederer and I want to be friends with her. Anyone know her? She captures early marriage and motherhood, weaves them together with yoga and feminism to make a complex,  lovely, funny statement on her life and many other women during this time in our country.

3) Spices
It’s been chilly here lately and since I’m in the mood to mull, I think I will apply that to my spice cabinet. How about some mulled cider? Or mulled tea?

Why I Love Tim Gunn…

November 10th, 2010 by Jane


I’ve never met Tim Gunn, but I’d like to. Yes, he is a distinguished sharp-dressed man. As co-host of Project Runway, he has what looks to be a fun job and he gets to hang out with really famous people. But, the fashion, the glamour and the celebrities are not the reasons I adore him.

Everything I have heard him say and the way he interacts with people is remarkable. I’ve co-opted his catch phrase: Make it work! This covers a lot of area, if needed. An article about him ran in the Austin-American Statesman a couple of years ago and I cut out a quote from him that has been hanging on the side of my fridge ever since:

“I’d like to believe that people respond to the fact that I’m a truth teller, but that I’m thoughtful and respectful of who they are,” he says. “I have a profound respect, frankly, for the human race. Am I disappointed by certain aspects of it? Of course. We all are.”

“But I really believe in the right of people to choose, and I believe that we’re not all the same by any means.”

I love his personal philosophy and wish that more of us lived by his motto. I think his respect and humanity come across in the television shows he has been involved with over the years. As far as I can tell from a 2-D experience of him, he tries to bring his highest and best self to what he is doing and he treats others as if they are doing the same.  Think about that. What if each of us treated others as if? As if we were our best selves at each moment.

I recently gained another reason to love Tim Gunn when I saw that he posted a video as part of the It Gets Better Project. This movement was started by writer Dan Savage as a response to recent suicides of Gay and Lesbian teens reported in the media. Tim Gunn’s video is very personal and poignant. Take a look and see for yourself.


October 24th, 2010 by Jane

I’ve been poking around the world wide web lately and I have come upon some new (to me) bloggers and writers. My favorite sites are those that make you laugh, make you think, are visually yummy and sometimes bring a tear or two.

The following few are just that perfect combination. I’ve marked specific essays that spoke to me, instead of linking to the home page. Can you have a crush on a blog? I do. Check them out and see if you agree.

37 Days
Patti Digh (rhymes with sigh) asks what you would do with your life if you had 37 days to live. No, she didn’t dream this up as a self-help gimmick. She has a very personal, poignant reason for this movement. But she is also very funny and her work is thought-provoking, tender and profound. She’s a wife, mother, diversity expert and writer who has a crush on Johnny Depp, which I get and totally support. Read her Eat on a Door entry and prepare to be charmed.

Kelly Rae Roberts
Kelly Rae is a very successful artist, a new mom and an experienced do-it-yourselfer. Her blog about her life, her art and her home renovations is beautiful to look at and read. Fall in love with her work, her writing and her house here.

Stark. Raving. Mad. Mommy
Her tag line reads, “Losing my mind, one child at a time.” She just might be crazy because she has more on her mommy plate than anyone I have ever seen, heard or read about. She lives in Houston and there are days that I want to get in my car and take a road trip to rescue her. But then we wouldn’t get funny posts like this. Or this.

Wishin’ and Hopin’
If my friend Kelly, who’s in Seoul for two years, ever expands her Random Korea Facebook postings into a blog, then you’ll need to keep some Depends on hand to address the resulting bladder leakage. It’s that funny.  She’s afraid she might cause an international incident, so she only shares her musings with her friends. Maybe when she’s stateside for good…

Thoughts on Perfection…

September 28th, 2010 by Jane

Brenè Brown is staging a prostest. Now, I don’t know Brenè personally, but I’ve seen her speak, read her books, I’m devoted to her blog, and would sign up if she’s ever in the market for a new BFF! So, when she decides to start a movement-I’m all in.

She is protesting perfection. If you are compelled to make sure every detail in your life looks like a magazine spread, to not let the cracks show, to “never let ‘em see you sweat,” then this movement is for you. Not interested, you say? Well, most of us aren’t and we have a pretty good reason for hanging on to our sense of perfection. Brenè believes that we use it as a shield to cover up, disconnect and ultimately hide our vulnerabilities, effectively masking our authentic selves.

Her work as a researcher at the University of Houston is centered on shame-something most people don’t want to think about. She has figured out a few things in her years of study that can help all of us. Such as, it takes courage to be your authentic self. Shame cannot survive empathy. And, empathy and compassion toward yourself can be the most courageous, liberating thing you do. And everyone, yes, everyone craves connection.

Perfection is a stumbling block to connection, creativity, authenticity, compassion and love. Because if you can’t love your perfectly imperfect self, how can you love another imperfectly perfect, goofy soul?

My favorite line from the summer movie Inception, occurs when Leonardo di Caprio’s character tells his wife that he could never have dreamed “the complexity of you with all of your perfections and imperfections.”

Can we look at our beloveds as complex and perfectly imperfect? Can we look at  ourselves that way? Join the movement.

7 Questions…

June 20th, 2010 by Jane

Our three girls are very curious, active and clever people. But we’re not biased! We enjoy them so much every day, even when they are pushing the limits of our patience. There is a lot of good stuff we get in return, of course and some days we think we are living the modern version of the TV classic Kids Say the Darndest Things.

One of the twins, Twin A on the sonogram, is especially curious about everything. Her nickname around here is Lois Lane. She always knows what is going on in the house and she comes up with questions that we have a hard time answering most days. Here is a sample.

1) Why do we have chins?
Her dad told her it was so our noses wouldn’t slide off of our faces.

2) What’s the number before infinity?
She understands what infinity is, so this one really blew our minds.

3) Why are eyes different colors?
We consulted our neighbor, who is an eye doctor for this one. She gave Lois Lane a really good explanation about pigment and people’s different coloring.

4) Why do boy lions have fur around their neck?
Best guess: For protection when they fight other boy lions.

5) Follow up question: And why do they have that little bit of fur at the end of their tail?
Anyone got this one?

6)  Why are pirates called pirates?
From Latin and Greek origins meaning to attempt or attack.

7) What’s your favorite, Favorite, FAVORITE thing to do?
Be with you and your sisters and your dad.

7 Bright Spots

April 7th, 2010 by Jane

Spring has sprung and the world looks a little brighter, yes? Here are a few more bright spots for you to enjoy!

1) Who is Amy?
No, not our own lovely, Amy K. Brown. I am talking about the equally lovely Amy K. Rosenthal. She is a Chicago-based writer and maker of merriment. Her books are whimsical and touching, her small films are truly inspiring. And in my opinion, The Beckoning of Lovely is brilliant. Her work will be a definite bright spot in your life.

2) Guess What’s Exploding in Central Texas?
See the above photo, shot by our favorite photographer, Amy K. Brown.
We are having an awesome wildflower year here in Central Texas, due to all of the fall rains we had. The state flower of Texas is the bluebonnet and they are showy flowers in any year, but this one is a bluebonnetpalooza! Bring your toddlers on up here to put a heinie print in a field on the side of the highway!

3) Do you know TED?
If you are feeling down about the state of the world, then watch some of these TED conference videos. At the Technology Engineering and Design conference each year, some of the smartest people on the planet share their ideas and plans for making the world a better place. It gives one hope.

4) Got Gratitude?
I have been a fan of MJ Ryan’s books on gratitude for years now, my favorite being A Grateful Heart, but I didn’t know that she is an expert on change and adaptability. Peruse her website and blog and you might become a fan, too.

5) Know Any Young Poets?
Check out New Moon, no not that one. New Moon, the online and print magazine for girls, written by girls.

6) Wanna Get Lucky?
Katherine Center’s new book, Get Lucky is out today. I know what I am reading this weekend!

7) How Do You Eat an Elephant?
One Peace at a Time, a documentary by actor, writer and Austin-resident,Turk Pipkin, is out on DVD this week. If you missed his first film, Nobelity, then run out and get it.  In Nobelity, Pipkin asked Nobel laureates what to do about some of the world’s most pressing problems and their answers are simple and fascinating. A movement grew out of that filming experience and the Pipkin family started an non-profit to help solve some of those problems. Watch both of them back to back; with nine Nobel laureates, great music and Willie Nelson-you won’t be sorry! Or go meet Turk this Friday at the release party at Waterloo Records, if you are in the Austin area!

7 Paragraphs on Worthiness

March 8th, 2010 by Jane

Remember Wayne and Garth, from Wayne’s World on Saturday Night Live? When the lovable rock hards, played by Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey,  would meet their rock heroes they would bow down and wail “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” This was their way of paying homage to people like Alice Cooper and Bruce Springsteen or whomever the musical guests were on SNL. Silly and fun, they still make me laugh.

Worthiness is the topic this week on the blog Ordinary Courage, by the brilliant Brenè Brown. I have mentioned here before, that Brenè is a researcher at the University of Houston who studies shame and authenticity. She has a new DVD of a lecture she gave on the subject of worthiness and as a way to celebrate the release of it, she is hosting a Week of Worthiness. She has asked bloggers to write about worthiness and post to her blog so that readers can join the conversation. She is also giving away several of the DVDs to a few readers, so drop by her site and sign up!

But, back to Wayne and Garth. What makes their unworthiness so humorous is that they say aloud what we are afraid to admit. I’ve yet to meet a person who has never felt “less than” at some point in his or her life. Sometimes, we allow others to make us feel this way and sometimes we don’t need the help, we can make ourselves feel unworthy all by ourselves, thank you very much.

I know several women whose primary job it is to care for small children. As most of us know, this is an all-consuming but virtually invisible job. As long as you keep the children alive and fairly well cared for, no one notices what you have done. Many will see what you haven’t done, like the laundry or cooking, but the thousand little things that make up a day of caretaking go largely unnoticed. These women are relieved when their husbands are traveling because they do not feel they have to justify their existence. Now, not one of these people is married to a Ward Cleaver type, so this may be entirely self-imposed. But there it is, nonetheless.

Last night, America’s Sweetheart, Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for her portrayal of a real-life mother in the movie, The Blind Side. In her acceptance speech she said, with head bowed, “Did I really earn this, or did I just wear y’all down?” It seems even beautiful, rich, funny women don’t feel worthy all the time either. Interesting.

As some of you know, I am a yoga teacher, which is not to say it is my day job, but more accurately, it is the way I try to live my life. On the yoga mat and off of it. This is not easy, but it is more authentic to me than any other way I have tried to live. Yoga is not a religion, but you can use it as a spiritual path, if you choose and I do. One of the main tenets of yoga is to peel away the layers of the ego until you reach your essence, the Self. Easy, huh? Some days, yes. On others, I think to myself, “That’s it, today is the day I will be found out for the fraud that I am!” Luckily, yoga teaches patience and I just try to keep my mouth shut until this feeling goes away. On good days, I realize that feelings of unworthiness are part of the ego I am trying to molt from my Higher Self. Breathing great, deep yoga breaths helps.

Considering the state of the world right now, some people are finding it difficult to feel worthy. When you have a safe, warm home, your health and some means, do you have a right to worthiness when there is suffering on a global scale? I do not have the answers, but I do know that making oneself feel less than does not help anyone: not yourself, not your family, not the people in Haiti, Chile or Turkey. Fully realized, healthy, worthy, whole-hearted people can change the world. One breath at a time.

7 Small Happinesses

February 21st, 2010 by Jane

In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.
– Edith Wharton, pictured above

The above quote is my second favorite quote ever. If I had to choose a personal motto it would be the famous quote from Ghandi about being the change you wish to see in the world and this one.

Really, I think about this a lot. My life, as most, is full of irritations that I could let grow from minor to excruciating and to be honest, on some days I do.  But, as a student of yoga, I have learned to be a little more aware of everything and that means the good stuff as well as the squeaky parts. It is extremely easy for me to focus on the squeaky, because there is a genetic disposition for this in my lineage. I’m trying to stop the cycle, but that’s another post.

I really believe that what you think about informs your behavior and your attitude. Amy says that what you do every day becomes your life. So. Today I thought about how I am happy in small ways, and I have shared a few with you below. Let me know what your small happinesses are, if you want to share!

1. The Olympics
I have been a fan of the Olympics since I watched Mark Spitz win his 7 gold medals in 1972, when I was in second grade. I have not missed watching a summer or winter games since. They are a complete source of joy for me. I wrote an exuberant post in tribute to my love for the Olympic Games and I was ready to publish it on the day of the opening ceremonies. But, I just could not post it when I heard about the death of Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili. I hope that his family know that there are many around the world who are heartbroken about his death.

In spite of the tragedy, I have caught myself standing and cheering, grinning ear to ear when the winners cross the finish line, crying with their parents who are jumping up and down in the bleachers and sobbing when the national anthem is played for each athlete. Two weeks of joy and hope, that’s what it is.

2. Magazines
I have posted about my love of magazines before and that has not dimmed, even as the choices of shiny publications continues to diminish. I got to read a few this weekend.

3. Chocolate
Again, you already know about my love for dark chocolate. I have been cutting back on it lately, so I have been making a few chocolate-covered strawberries a few nights a week to get my fix. I don’t use very much chocolate (in the form of 60% cacao chocolate chips) and I melt them in the microwave. Dip strawberries (washed and dried) into the chocolate, put them on some wax paper and place in the fridge. You get fiber, vitamin C, anti-oxidants and a chocolate fix all in one.

4. Lotion
I am out of my favorite lotion and now I cannot find it anymore.  Any one know anything about TeaSpots Lotion? My favorite was the Chai. I kept the bottle for a while, just to smell it occasionally, but that seemed pathetic.

5. Sensory
Can you name something that makes you happy in each of your senses?. Visually, there are certain colors I just want to live in. Literally, I want to move into the color or painting and take my belongings with me.

Singer songwriters with a way with words and a rasp in their voice make my ears and my brain happy: Bruce Springsteen (you knew that, didn’t you?) Kasey Chambers, Bob Schneider, Jon Dee Graham, plus a few others. The happy sounds of my children drifting from another room, the nightly hooting of the owl that lives on our street, cicadas in the summertime, the sound of my husband’s voice when he is teaching one of the girls something; all good sounds to my ears.

The smell of soup simmering on the stove makes my nose happy. So does the chai lotion mentioned above. The scent of my children when they are clean. The scent of my children when they are dirty. Old roses and fresh herbs. The smell of salsa, pretty much any kind. The peculiar scent of lipstick. The scent of welding flux always reminds me of my dad. The overpowering smell of garlic reminds me of my grandmother, who took garlic pills everyday before you could buy the unscented kind.

I have a lot of tastes that make me happy, but I will narrow it down to one for today. A few days ago, I went to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant and I ordered a Soda Chanh. This is a limeade soda, made fresh to order that has lime, soda, sugar, salt and sometimes mint in it. It is sweet, sour, salty, bitter and bubbly at the same time. Yum.

When I am shopping for clothing, bedding or furniture I am attracted to an item first by its color. But before I buy it, I have to touch it. Nothing that is scratchy comes home with me. My husband has some twenty-year old t-shirts that I like to wear. They are just about right.

6. Writing
I love writing. Really.

7. Little Surprises
This morning, our twins woke us up with a puppet show. Their ten-year old sister got in bed with us and the three of us watched the two of them put on a show at the foot of the bed. Good stuff.

7 Thoughts on Raising Girls

February 10th, 2010 by Jane

I have three daughters, each as different as the next, but all can be called bold and feisty. I recently thought about the ways I parent differently than I expected. Before I had children, when I knew more than I do now, I thought I could provide them with this wonderful, edited atmosphere in which to flourish. Something very much like what Maria Montessori called a “rich environment.”

Indeed, my three lovelies are products of years of Montessori education and my husband and I are very grateful that we could provide that for them. They all attend a very fine public school now and we are glad to be part of our community in this way.

With all of our wonderful intentions to provide a holistic, gender-neutral, organic (food and clothing), television-free environment, the reality is much farther from that than I like to admit. However, our girls are happy, healthy and curious.

I thought about all of my parenting rules that I have broken and I thought about how I would condense my parenting philosophy and it is this: I try my very best to encourage their creativity. I believe that if you give your children enough room to have a creative life then this will positively impact everything: intellect, academics, social skills, and their emotional and mental well-being.

So, here is a list of things I thought I would never do/say/have/allow and a thought or two about each.

1. Pink
As a baby, we dressed my eldest daughter in every color of the rainbow except pink. When she got old enough to have an opinion, around 22months, she started insisting on pinks and purples to wear every day. When I asked her why she liked those colors, she said “Because they are fun and strong colors!” Now her favorite color is black (”It goes with everything, Mom!”) and one twin’s favorite color is orange, the other twin we call “Pinkalicious” because of her affinity for what we refer to as her signature color.

2. Barbies
I really liked Barbie when I was a child. I loved her house that folded up, I loved my Truly Scrumptious limited edition Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Barbie. I loved her clothes and I wished I had some just like them. As a grown up, before I had children, I thought Barbies were evil destroyers of healthy body image. Then various relatives gave my eldest daughter Barbies for her second birthday. Yes, second. And she loved them and I never got around to removing them while she wasn’t looking. So, I bought her some Barbies of different ethnicities, along with the doctor garb and the veterinarian set. My three girls now play super hero with Barbie and her multicultural friends and have them do some girl-on-girl kissing. I think that if I don’t make a big deal about what’s wrong with Barbie, then they will accept girl power and alternative life styles as non-issues.

3. Food
My kids love candy. They also love kale, artichokes, pears, any kind of Mexican food, mangoes and roast chicken. Seems okay to me.

4. Television
I admit that we have struggled with this. All parents of small children will find themselves wishing for an electronic babysitter on bad days. During any given week, my kids might watch Electric Company, Project Runway, The Wonder Pets, or most embarrassingly: The Biggest Loser. A stay at my sister’s got them hooked on this show and now they exercise during the commercials and cheer on their favorites. But. On any given day, they are also likely to: play Super Powers with the boys next door, ride their scooters, bake cookies, draw with chalk pastels or play Chinese Mutant Pirates with aforementioned boys. I figure it evens out.

5. Sleeping
I have one child who still gets in bed with us every night. When I tuck her in her bed each night,she tells me she knows that I miss her and that she will come and cuddle me in the night. I am too exhausted to return her to her bed after she falls asleep next to me. I tell myself that this will not last very long and I will miss it when she doesn’t like me when she is thirteen.

6. Clothing
We do not buy organic cotton clothing. We buy most of our clothes at Target, which are probably made by twelve year olds in some third world country, making pennies per day. I am sorry about that, but I am not sure how to address it. I don’t buy them anything with “Princess” on it, but their grandparents do. However, we make sure that the girls wear age-appropriate clothing. No high heels or skimpy clothes, no smart-alecky t-shirts.  If they cannot run and play in it, then it doesn’t come home with us. And with the rare exception of formal occasions, all of them are allowed to choose what they wear, as long as it is weather-appropriate. This has entertained me and my husband to no end for a decade now.  I highly recommend it. My theory is that if I let them choose what they want to wear now, then when they are fourteen, they will not embarrass me. I’ll keep you posted.

7. Bedrooms
I fantasize about my girls having beautiful Pottery Barn-inspired-little-girl rooms, but my children enjoy living like squirrels, padding their nests with their stuff. I can’t stand it. I was a child who enjoyed order, and while I have let go of a lot of that, the state of their rooms scrambles my brain. I keep trying to organize them and meanwhile, they will congregate in another sister’s bedroom and mess it up. I am trying to come to grips with their lack of interest in order and remember that their rooms belong to them.

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