A Perfect Evening?

It’s 10:00 on a Monday, and for the first time in a long time, I’m in the bed. I made dinner. Folded laundry. Finished up a few things from the office. Did yoga. I’m trying to figure out what went right so that I can repeat it. I have a feeling this was a fluke.

Mini Me finished her homework in record time. There was enough chicken left over from yesterday’s dinner for today. Both kids went to bed on time.

I want to credit expert planning, but that’s a joke. Having kids, especially a toddler, means that planning is often an exercise in futility.

If I figure out the formula for what made this evening so great, I’ll let you know.

 

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Explaining Michael Brown to My Nine Year Old

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My parents never sat me down for a talk on racism. They taught me through in-the-moment training. The first lesson came when I was six or seven years old. My mother pulled her blue 1975 Chevy Nova into a parking space marked with a wheelchair.

I noticed after we got out of the car. “Momma,” I said while pointing to the sign.  “This is a handicapped space.” (Handicapped was an acceptable term in the early ’80s.)

“Black people are handicapped.” She grabbed my arm and pulled me toward our destination.

Her words replayed and gained meaning over the years as I experienced prejudice and racism on my own. I heard them whenever my achievements were credited to affirmative action instead of my abilities. They whispered from the aisles of department stores when cashiers followed me while those with fairer skin slipped merchandise into their bags. They rode on the tail end of every racially charged insult and hovered in the atmosphere whenever I was the only person present with brown skin.

Black people are handicapped.

I’ve struggled with the when and how of sharing this message with my children. Mini Me was due to start fourth grade last week. The death of Michael Brown and subsequent protests have directly impacted her. The start of the school year was postponed for at least another week.

I’m good with the delay. That the world is not all that different from the one my mother described to me 33 years ago, and I hope the protests in Ferguson will help bring about change. Mini Me wouldn’t understand. Our dialogue on racism needed to start now.

Before I talked with her, I needed to decide how much information to share. At nine years old, Mini Me walks the line between little girl and preteen. Certain concepts require more age and experience for comprehension. Plus she’s deeply sensitive. Her capacity for empathy will place Mike Brown on her heart for weeks. She’ll lose sleep. Just when I think the moment has passed, she’ll ask a new question and begin the process anew.

I opted to build up details over time. I told her that school was cancelled for the rest of the week. She started to cry. I told her that school administrators were concerned for students’ safety.

“Why?” she asked.

I told her Mike Brown was killed by a police officer. I explained many people, including me, were upset about it. Some expressed their frustration by protesting around the city. But when those involved, citizens and police alike, are angry and scared, more bad things could happen.

“Why is everyone so mad?” she asked.

“There are people in with world who think we aren’t as important because of our brown skin, so they treat us differently.” I braced myself for tears, but I got anger instead.

“We’re no different than anyone else!” she yelled.

“No, you aren’t.” I said. “And that’s what the protests in Ferguson are about. People are speaking out against what they think is wrong.”

“Do you think I can change things when I grow up?” she asked.

“Yes.” I said. The road to change is long, complex, and painful, but I figured we talked enough for one day. Plus, it was close to bed time.

I don’t know if I waited too long to talk to her about this. I don’t know if I told her too much or not enough. The only thing I know for sure is that I can’t stop talking.

 

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Leaning Into Yoga

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I love yoga, but my actions aren’t consistent with my emotions. I can practice faithfully for weeks, and then one missed session will lead to eons of slacking.

Yoga is a journey. I just wish I stayed on the road more consistently. Some days, I feel as if I’m in the same place as I was five years ago. In other words, I’m stuck.

My desire to advance my practice is no longer a fleeting thought. It’s an imperative. At-home practice is good, but I need help climbing out of my yoga rut. I need to take my butt back to class. The fact that I haven’t been able to make time for it has me frustrated to no end.

I tried to explain my feelings to Hubs. As an example, I told him about a cousin who recently started yoga and learned to do a headstand.

“Why are you comparing yourself to her?” he asked. “Do you even want to do a headstand?”

“The headstand isn’t the point,” I said. “The point is that she has been consistently practicing with an instructor, so she has improved. I need to go to class more, and I can’t figure out how to make that work with our schedules.”

“You don’t think you’re getting better?” he asked. “I don’t believe that. Aren’t you working out at home?”

I told him I can’t see myself to correct the poses. And there are some moves I can’t figure out how to do on my own. He suggested that I photograph myself and make corrections.

I don’t think he got it. I’m certain that when he’s ready to return to martial arts, he won’t requalify for his black belt by practicing alone and recording sparring matches with a punching bag.

But, I digress.

My stuckness made me tentative on the rare occasions I attended a class. I wouldn’t push. I internally cited a bum knee or lack of flexibility as a reason to avoid more advanced poses. I applauded myself for listening to my body.

This week, I snapped out of it. I took Thursday off to shuttle my dad to eye surgery, but it was cancelled at the last minute. So I took advantage of the free time to read Lean In, a book I’ve renewed four times from the library without cracking a page.

You can read a synopsis or review of the book on any number of sites, so I won’t get into that. I’ll just tell you what I’ve learned after reading about half of it.

I need to give myself more credit. I need to push for what I want, or I won’t get it. I need to speak up for my good work.

With that in mind, I signed up for an evening yoga session. At the onset of class, the instructor asked us each to set an intention. I wanted to work on a lot that night, but I tried to keep it simple.

Stop being afraid. Breathe. Reach.

The instructor, Angie, suggested we “play” after stretching our legs in half pigeon pose. I eyed her suspiciously as she lifted her straightened leg, bound her foot in a strap, and pulled the strap over her shoulder.

My intentions drowned out my hesitance.

Stop being afraid. Breathe. Reach.

I grabbed the strap and wrapped it over my foot. As I pulled the strap over my shoulders, I waited for my knee to protest. It didn’t. I took a deep breath and sank as far into the pose as my body would allow. Leaning in, or in this case, sinking in, felt right. The pose was easier to hold once I trusted my ability.

“You all look so beautiful!” Angie cried. “I’m taking a picture.”

The above pic is the one she took. I like who I see here. Strong. Confident. Focused.

I need to lean in more often.

 

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My Hairstylist Quit Me

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After nearly 21 years, my hairstylist quit me.

Even though I somewhat expected it, I was still caught off guard. L hand me an envelope and a bag of product samples at the end of our last appointment.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“You can open it later,” she said.

Later was while I was sitting in my car on the parking lot.

The envelope held a handwritten note. L started by thanking me for my years of support. She went on to explain that she is taking a break from hairstyling. She recently took on a new job that is highly demanding, and it was increasingly difficult to manage both responsibilities.

I understood, but that note was a kick in the stomach. I went through the five stages of grief in unexpected order. Before I drove off the lot, I picked up my phone and contacted two friends for the names of their stylists.  (Acceptance is the last stage of grief.)

Then I got mad. She dumped me with a note? We’d been together for 21 years! There is no other person on the planet that I trust to touch my hair. How did I not get a face-to-face conversation and a little notice? (Anger is the second stage of grief.)

I reminded myself of what I’ve learned of L during the past 21 years. She is caring and extremely sensitive. Saying goodbye, even if in the short term, was something she just could not do.

I drove to the nearest Ulta Beauty and filled a basket with non-needed cosmetics. I caught a glimpse of my eyebrows as I was testing out lipgloss. I had forgotten to ask L to shape them. I put everything back and asked the consultant at the beauty bar for help. She complimented me on my hair, and I nearly started to cry. I told her my hairstylist had just quit, and she tried to console me as she ripped wax strips from my brow. (Depression is the fourth stage of grief.)

I spent the next six weeks believing L’s new job would ease up so that she could come back. I hoped she would decide to take on a few customers at a reduced schedule. As my color grew out and my ends showed signs of needing a trim, I continued to ignore the stylists recommendations I had requested. (Bargaining and denial are stages one and three.)

I wised up about a week ago after realizing that my mom has had not one, but two appointments with a new stylist. If she could move on, so could I. I scheduled a consolation with T, someone who came highly recommended by three good friends. She’s doing my hair tomorrow.

I won’t lie. I like her, but I’m scared. I remember feeling the same way 21 years ago, and that worked out just fine. This probably will too.

 

Wedding Day Emergency Kit

Not too long before my wedding, a coworker handed me a large cosmetic bag. It was filled with things a bride might need in a pinch, like hair pins and stain remover. It even had crayons and an miniature activity book for my daughter.

I honestly can’t remember everything she gave me, but the gift went a long way in helping me feel at ease on my big day. There are a million things that could go awry during a wedding, but with my emergency kit, I was prepared for a lot of them. Plus, the cosmetic bag itself was awesome. I still use it for travel. It was by far the one of the most thoughtful wedding gifts I received.

Since that time, I’d taken the idea and tweaked it for birthdays and baby showers. But I had yet to return to the original concept.

I took the opportunity to do so for a coworker who is getting married soon. Because I blanked on what was in my kit from five years ago, I did a little digging online for suggestions on what to include. It turns out you can purchase pre-made kits for anywhere from $16 – $100. I wasn’t really impressed, so I stuck with the decision make my own.

Before I go through my list, here are few things to keep in mind.

Make a list first. This will keep you from going overboard in the travel aisle.

Check your personal stash. Even with a list, a visit to the travel aisle can get pricey. So it’s good to start by seeing what you already have. You probably don’t need to put 100 bobby pins in the kit. Ten or so will do. Also take a look at any miniature freebies you may have collected from travels. Those little vanity or dental kits are perfect for this type of thing. Samples and cosmetic bags from beauty gifts with purchase are great too.

Keep an eye out for sales. This past winter, I raided clearance sections for deeply discounted stocking stuffers, like manicure sets and mini nail polishes. (Those mani kits were 25 cents each!)

Get creative with packaging. I have countless little envelopes and baggies from spare buttons. Those are just the right size for hair pins or earring backs. You can also attach bobby and safety pins to a strip of ribbon.

A fancy cosmetic bag is cool, but not necessary. An organza gift bag or even a plastic zip-top one work just as well.

Here’s what I assembled for the bride-to-be:

General Healthcare
Tissue
Pain reliever
Bandages
Breath mints
Dental floss
Cotton pads
Cotton swabs

Clothing Repair
Sewing kit
Safety pins
Stain remover
Lint roller
Wrinkle release
Fashion tape (I found this after I gave her the kit…BUMMER!)

Hand and Nail Care
Hand cream
Nail clippers
Emory board
Clear polish
Polish remover wipes

Hair
Hair pins
Bobby pins
Hair spray (I forgot this too.)

Misc
Earring backs

If you decide to make one of these, I’d love to hear how you customized it!

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