Friday, August 26, 2016

Summer 2016's Greatest Hits

Just a few days ago, we got a brief and fleeting taste of what is to come: September. Oh, I can't wait. And I know this love of September and the fall season doesn't make me unique, but I'm still anxiously counting down the days. It's funny; I used to love summer. I lived for it. I had no use for a day below 75º and the ubiquitous apple and pumpkin flavors each fall only did so much to endear me to the chillier months.

Now, though? Bring. it. on. Summer is just...harder than it used to be. When you're young, you actually have no responsibility during the summer—or at least, much less than you do during the school year. (Truth, I still consider September the real start of the year, and I likely always will.) Now, though, there's still that feeling of freedom and lessening obligations, but you still have to to all the same stuff you have to do on any Tuesday in October or March. Summer makes me feel incredibly lethargic, but the workload doesn't lighten. Blogs and Instagrammers make us feel like summer has to be THE MOST FUN and we have to do ALL THE THINGS because apparently we can't go outside any other time of the year, and I always feel like I've wasted my summer if I didn't do a ton of epic shit, but the truth is...I'm tired of being sweaty all the time and I want to stay inside until it's below 80º again.

Oh, and forget about it if you're a hot yoga instructor and runner. If you guys read my SS posts, you know that struggle already. And if you don't, you can assume and I don't need to bore you.

But it hasn't been all bad, of course. I've even had a few highlights this summer, if you can believe that. I haven't done a post just chatting about things I dig for a while now, and let's face it—this is a lifestyle blog. I need to hit my quota of "favorites" posts for the year, so here are my favorites of the summer of 2016.

favorite workout
Hot yoga. I know, it sounds ridiculous. But outdoor workouts (running) have been torture, and the lower cardiac demand of yoga has been much kinder and easier to accommodate. Plus, there's so much less self-motivating involved. On a run, I need to motivate myself to run each and every step. At the studio, as soon as I get there, I'm there and the instructor is basically my conscience. And bonus: When you practice in a room between 98–105º, low-90s temperatures don't seem so awful for a little while.

favorite clothing purchase
I live in rompers over the summer when they make me put on real clothes, but I didn't find any worth buying on my un(der)employed budget this summer. I did make a few purchases in the yoga pants department, because when you teach 5 classes a week and try to practice 3 times, and you don't have an in-unit washer and dryer, you need backups. My favorites are from TJMaxx, particularly the 90Degree brand. They're like $16.99, hold up against weekly washings, are comfy and fun, never see-through and so far, no pilling. That's a win.

favorite food
David introduced me to Indian food this summer, and I'm a convert. It wasn't that I didn't want to try it before; it just had only been presented as an option at inopportune moments (such as before a big race or long drive. That's not the time to experiment with new spices.) and I'm not one to seek out strange (to me) cuisines in daily life. As I type this though I'm salivating over the thought of chana masala, and I think I know what's for lunch.

Quick shout-out to ice cream as a secondary winner in this category. My love for ice cream became a full-blown addiction this summer, and if the grocery store would just stop having Ben & Jerry's on sale everything would be fine! But between them and David thinking my ice cream habit is adorable, I'm a lost cause in a sea of enablers.

favorite adventure
Back in July, David and I took our first trip together. It was just a weekend getaway, but it was made all the sweeter by the fact that we went to DC, where he used to live and where my dear friend resides. He got to show me a piece of his life I'd never seen before, and I did too. On top of that, I got to hang with Tracy, which is just an automatic +10 for any weekend!

favorite nail polish
Butler, Please by Essie is one of my all-time favorite polishes, and I've had it on toes and fingers more times this summer than I can count. Blues are fun sometimes.

favorite "jewelry"
Recently I bought myself a gift. It was the white moonstone and amethyst mala, made by Erica Jenkins whose Etsy shop Reid Beads I highly encourage you to explore if malas are your thing. It's beautiful and helpful and important. Bonus, the price feels ludicrously low for such a well-made piece, and the shipping all the way from Canada to NJ was fast and inexpensive.

favorite song

And that's about the size of it. Happy Friday, and happy final days of summer. (Sorry, it's the truth.)

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Dime a Dozen

It's not uncommon for attendance to drop in a hot yoga studio when the region is experiencing a nasty heat wave. It's especially common when the studio itself is a bit of a fledgling, still trying to build a steady following. The studio I teach in on Thursday mornings is like that, and this week has been like that, so yesterday morning I wasn't altogether surprised that only one person showed up to sweat it out on the mat with me. (Considering everyone I know including half my co-teachers are on vacation this week, I definitely wasn't surprised.)

That one person was a woman who I later learned was 31—though I swear, her line-less and bright complexion had me certain she was 22, tops—and having a hard time making herself feel good and happy lately, and having a particularly hard time making use of the yoga class package she had purchased for our studio a few months ago. When she walked in three minutes before class was to begin, I gave her a bit of a warning or opt-out lever and explained that it was looking like it'd be just her today.

"That's fine," she said, when I asked if she minded. "I really need yoga today so it doesn't matter to me."

Teaching one person when they haven't specifically requested (or paid for) a private lesson feels a little awkward. I arrive at the studio every day with a plan for my class, prepared to adjust and tweak here and there as necessary once I see how full or how advanced (or not) my class is. You really never know what kind of room you're looking at until you get there. But when it's one person who is admittedly very far from advanced but not quite a total beginner, it's hard to anticipate what she'll need. So I asked her: Is anything in particular bothering you? Any specific aches and pains, or anything you want to work on? She was a blank slate and ready for anything, though I knew advanced poses and wild transitions weren't on the menu. Adjustments and help were all she asked for.

I guided her through a slow-paced but challenging vinyasa flow that was a loose interpretation of the class I'm teaching all week. I gave her a few extra breaks when I could tell she was ready, I skipped some poses and brought some other ones, and I gave her lots of adjustments, cues, and encouragement when she needed them. I closed class with my typical bow and "Namaste," which literally translates to "I bow to you," but metaphorically translates to "The light in me sees, honors, respects the light in you."

And then I went almost immediately to apologizing for the potential awkwardness of the "class" that comes with an unexpected private lesson and thanking her for being there anyway. I couldn't have anticipated her response, which was to well up (it happens in yoga more than you might think) and thank ME profusely for my specific and personalized instruction.

"I feel like God gave me a blessing this morning with you being my instructor," she said, before explaining that she has been trying to get back to the studio so hard for so long, but had been unsuccessful until that morning. She explained that what my lesson gave her was what she didn't realize she'd been needing. She was grateful I was as committed to teaching that Thursday morning class as she was to taking it. And I became more grateful to her than I have been to any student in a long time.

In this yoga teaching racket, in an area like mine where there is no shortage of studios or teachers, it's easy to feel like teachers are a dime a dozen. Like you're just one of many, and that maybe the people who frequent your class just happen to fit this time slot into their schedule the best. Or maybe your studio just has the best prices. I've had people thank me walking out of class, and I've had some people walk out without a glance. I've had people clap for me after class, and I've had people never return to my yoga room. But I've never had someone tell me that they thought me or my class was a blessing to them from God. Now, I'm not religious, but knowing that someone who is thinks that is enough of a compliment to me.

My thoughtful student surprised me and reminded me of the most important part of all this. I didn't practice for a decade and spend over 200 hours (and more money than I care to tell you) on my yoga practice and teacher training in order to nail an arm balance or backbend. I don't jump at the chance to sub classes or pick up new ones because I want people to adore me or think my sequences are the best. I don't teach because it's a job that earns me a certain lifestyle (because, trust, it doesn't). I wanted to teach yoga because I wanted to give someone, anyone, the experience my first teacher and so many subsequent teachers gave to me. It's an experience I can only describe as, honestly, a blessing.

Before she walked in yesterday morning, I was irritated. I was frustrated that I was sitting there anticipating I'd just lock the door and leave in a few minutes as if I'd never been there, tail between my legs after no one showed up for class on a hot summer morning. I was agitated thinking about all the work I could be doing (or the class I could be attending myself!) if I didn't come down to the studio to wait for no one. And then when I saw her walking toward my door, I got irritated again, cringing at the thought of teaching for one person, and especially one who was new to my class! Damn, am I grateful for the attitude adjustment she gave me, just by showing up.

Some days, it's easy to think everything is for nothing. I'm not getting rich and I'm often getting pissed—what's the point? She's the point. Her experience in my class is the point. The feeling of happiness she floated out of my yoga room with...that's the whole damn point. Let me not forget that ever again.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Ikea Relationship Test

If examined closely enough, it becomes clear that there are PLENTY of things that unite the human race. Things virtually every man, woman, and child has in common, feels the same way about, is affected by. One such thing is, of course, the ability to be seduced by an Ikea display and subsequently infuriated by the purchasing process—not to mention the assembly instructions and the condescending little muppet man who lives therein.

Like any good broke millennial, I own a little of this and a little of that from Ikea. My collection contains, either second-handed (yeah, secondhand IKEA...) or purposefully bought, a few tables, a dresser, a wheeled cart that holds my plants and candles, and a kitchen countertop cart. Compared to the amount of furniture I do have (a lot for such a small apartment, I confess), surprisingly little is from Ikea.

My boyfriend David has his whole bedroom mostly outfitted by Ikea. He's into that hospital room style of creepy minimalism... which is only partially why I don't mind that we spend most of our time together at my place. Anyway, he decided recently that there were still a few pieces of stark white, character-less furniture missing, and so that's how we ended up spending Saturday morning (on our official three-months-together weekend) together at Ikea. (Thanks (or not) to the New York City parking gods, it was impossible to leave my car anywhere near his apartment, so I had to circle the block while he lugged the gear up and left it for later, and no assembly occurred that day.)

That's right, friends. We dove head-first into the Ikea Relationship Test. Of course, I had to make things as scary as possible by Googling the above phrase two days before we went and reading articles like that one and this one. (It started as a joke. I didn't think I'd actually come up with information that would leave me shaking in my flip-flops.)

You guys know I'm a planner. Him, not as much. He's a strategizer, though: he did remind me before our Ikea adventure that we planned out our first few dates via multiple email exchanges with several options for weather-corresponding activity ideas. Last week, I was all "Let's just look online and see what you want so we can go straight to the marketplace and go." He was all "No, it'll be fine, let's take a peruse through the showroom and we'll be in and out." So I was all "That has literally never happened in the history of Ikea." In the end I conceded, because I'm trying to not be the most annoying person on earth 100 percent of the time.

Here exactly is how Ikea tests your relationship: It combines obstacles no one likes to deal with in the first place, places them all under florescent lighting, and slaps them into a space that is meant to make you feel like you're literally trapped and walking in circles.

1. You have to deal with your own financial or home-related shortcomings, because every single display of everything from the cozy living room down to the perfectly-arranged bathroom shelving unit makes your home, in comparison, feel unfit for human occupancy because you don't have enough potted plants, perfectly-tossed throw blankets and pillows, or candle clusters on the right mirrored plates. Why you even bother, you don't know.

2. You have to deal with either clumsily carrying around breakable objects in your arms or in the free-for-all that is the yellow bag, because you didn't remember to grab a cart on your way in because you thought you were going to be in and out. All the while, you have to grab the corresponding cards or take photos of the items you'll need to retrieve in the warehouse, which is a recipe for accidental topples and spills. Conversely, you did remember to get a cart, and now you're trying to navigate it around the packed store without ramming it into tiny humans who appear to be both completely unsupervised and devoid of any education in manners or decent public behavior. Which brings me to...

3. You have to deal with other people. I shouldn't need to elaborate, but for non-curmudgeons who don't understand this frustration, I will. Ahem. Most people are totally unaware of their surroundings, the amount of space they take up, the station and mobility of others and objects around them, and the assault on senses they commit when screeching across the store about whether the Kallax or Expedit will be the better fit for the alcove in the hallway. Honestly, slow-walkers and spatially-unaware people wielding giant, overflowing bags of breakables or carts with (at best) three out of four functioning wheels make EVERYTHING more challenging.

Throw them all together, add in your hangriness because an Ikea excursion is never less than fourteen hours long, and it's a miracle any of us have ever made it out of that place alive.

I had mixed expectations. On the one hand, David and I went into the grocery store a few weeks ago and were in and out in less than 10 minutes. We barely spoke to each other—which is my preference when grocery shopping—and he did not slow me down one bit. No complaints about my speed, no questions about my choices, no comments other than a helpful assist in selecting the check-out line. Oh, it gave me such hope.

But on the other hand, I was nervous about how unconcerned he seemed to be about the whole thing. "We'll be fine," he was certain. "Let's just go and see what jumps out at us," he suggested. Sure, a lovely strategy...for amateurs. And then—oh, and then!—t'was the morning of our adventure when we realized we had completely different ideas about the location of our adventure. There are two Ikeas in driving distance, and we were each thinking we'd visit a different one, and didn't realize this until minutes before we walked out the door. Surprises and unexpected relocations on Ikea day are never a good idea.

But, even despite these obstacles AND my guy's refusal to eat breakfast, ignoring my warnings about the being hangry within an hour, survive Ikea we did, and the relationship did as well. I even managed to get something not-stark-white into the cart! I will proudly take credit for the two fake plants and two red candles that now reside in my guy's apartment, if only for the fact that they're proof that we made it through a day at Ikea without inflicting bodily harm on one another.

That last point is especially a cause for celebration when you learn that you're dating a man with a propensity to turn into Ikea Obstacle #3 when given the chance.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Recent Reads Vol. 10 (+ Books For You!)

I only have two books to report on this month, because reading has not been my priority lately. (What has, you ask? Mainly Seinfeld on Hulu, if I'm totally honest.) Still, I wanted to come to the Show Us Your Books party and share these two reviews, plus a couple of books I want to give away.
Life According to Steph

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I attempted to read this book some years ago—I assume on someone's recommendation, because I have no idea how I got the copy I've apparently owned forever and I know I didn't buy it. It didn't take the first time. After I read and loved and felt incredibly indebted to Big Magic, I decided to give it another shot because of how much BM made me respect and admire Elizabeth Gilbert. I blame the length of time it took me to read this one on my own laziness, not on the book itself. I love that I waited until some of the book's important features (including the 108 passages it's comprised of) made sense to me in my own life, thanks to my own spiritual journey of recent years.

Recommend? — If it sounds like something you'll like, you probably will. If it doesn't, you won't miss it.

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg by  Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
I was on the wait list for this from my library for a while but luckily got a hold of the audiobook. I devoured it. I've admired Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg for years, but there was so much I still didn't know about not just her work but her personal history and the context surrounding her rise to the bench. You all know I'm a feminist (right?) but I do believe this is a must-read for any modern woman and man. There is so much about the wave of feminism that RBG slogged through and used to tear down injustice that you don't learn anywhere else but for an exploration of the intricacies of these cases. RBG is not only a bright and sharp legal mind, but a whip-smart strategist and champion of equality our generation owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to. It's a short audiobook, so do yourself the favor.

Recommend? — I really think everyone should learn more about this amazing lady. Go for it!

Oh, hey, attention down here: FREE(ish) BOOKS! I'm clearing off my shelves and I have a couple of books to give away. If you want any of the titles below, they're yours for the few bucks in shipping. Let me know!

The Color of Water, James McBride
Summer, Edith Wharton
Bodega Dreams, Ernesto Quinonez
Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas, James Patterson
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, Jorge Amada
My Horizontal Life, Chelsea Handler
Atonement, Ian McEwan
The Summer We Read Gatsby, Danielle Ganek
Dom Casmurro, Machado de Assis
BUMPED and THUMPED, Megan McCafferty
Emily Post on Entertaining, Elizabeth L. Post
A History of Philosophy: Late Mediaeval and Renaissance Philosophy, Frederick Copleston (I honestly have no idea how I came to own this...)
Summer, Edith Wharton

Linking up with Steph and Jana. What have you been reading?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Summer Currently

What's New With You

writing: if you can believe it, cover letters—what else is new? Aside from that, I'm trying to make time every day to journal. I do it most mornings, as is the recommendation of The Artist's Way...which I've never actually read myself, but I know people who have and this is the biggest piece of advice it gives that I can glean from other people reading it.

reading: not The Artist's Way, obviously... but maybe I should. I am reading Eat, Pray, Love, for like a frickin' month now. I'm enjoying it; I'm just not prioritizing my reading time.

watching: alternating between The Mindy Project, going to town on a Seinfeld binge from episode 1 (you guys, the first two seasons were really not great. No wonder I don't remember any of those episodes from syndication.) and watching Community for the first time with David. It's officially one of like two shows we can actually agree on.

burning: a whole mix of random candles—a few from Target in summery, flowery scents and a few random finds from TJMaxx. Secretly waiting anxiously to break out Leaves and Sweater Weather.

eating: everything. That's pretty much one of the only things David and I both enjoy doing together. I mean, we have other common interests, but if you know me, you know I don't care much for in-person running partners (unless they're Tracy, who also gets how to run "with" someone without communicating verbally or much at all). Food, though, we can both get on board with. He's an adventurous eater and luckily lives right in Hell's Kitchen, so stepping out his front door is basically heaven for the hungry. (Although, not great for the indecisive.)

listening to: all the podcasts I've been loving on. Including The Armchair Librarians, hosted by Steph and Jana, which you should start listening to immediately if you haven't already. Also This American Life, Fresh Air, Savage Lovecast, and We Have Concerns. I have a hard time loving new podcasts, and often find myself not really loving ones I think I will or that come highly recommended. Such struggles, I know.

sweating: in yoga class more than on the road, and still not as much as I'd like. I've been agonizing over this in my Sunday Sweats posts, but the Cliff's Notes version is that my schedule and the weather don't allow for many runs that don't occur in the mornings...but I hate morning runs. I'll do them (occasionally and lazily) when I have to, but it's not the same as the evening runs I love. Which I can't do much anyway because I teach two evenings a week, am always in the city on one, usually have David plans on another, and practice the morning of another and I am not in shape for two-a-day workouts currently. Sigh.

focusing on: only the good things. Onward, ever. Backward, never.

Linking up with Kristen and Gretchen. What's new with you?