Friday Five: Namaste

Is it stereotypical that I love yoga? I write, read, love to cook with fresh ingredients, eat avocados with a spoon… Maybe. But it fits me. I used to dance quite a bit, so traditional endurance or strength training exercise bores me, and peppy aerobics classes are fun on occasion but get rather annoying with frequent repetition. So, I do yoga.
     My brand of yoga is a blend between Hatha and Vinyasa, but I really don’t categorize. If I find something that I like, I incorporate it, regardless of the school. That being said, I do still have a spiritual connection with yoga (how can you not?) and different poses inspire different feelings and meanings.

1) Lotus (Padmasana)

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The lotus pose is my preferred meditation pose. ClichĂ©? Sure, but it works. It also is a pose I am naturally inclined to — I have always been quite flexible, and the lotus came easily for me, which I am very grateful for.

2) Warrior II (Virabhadra)

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There is so much strength in all of the warrior poses, but in this one I feel the most like a tribal woman warrior, in tune with my own body and self-assured, ready to conquer whatever comes my way. I especially like the visual of flattening myself in between two panels of glass, becoming a perfectly straight, thin line. The alignment in this pose makes me feel very focused and invigorated.

3) The Crane (Bakasana)

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The crane is my current challenge. It was only introduced to me tonight, and I have taken it upon myself to perfect it. I have never had much upper body strength so it will be difficult, but I have faith. This pose, to me, is a dream that I know I can realize, and dreams like that are so integral to self-development.

4) Tree pose (Vrishka-asana)

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Speaking of challenges, for all of my dance experience, I still seem to have more difficulty with most with balance. Just ask my friends, I’m a klutz. The tree pose represents an ongoing challenge I face with my body, that I may never completely overcome, but that I can still disguise with grace (in yoga if not real life!).

5) Shoulder stand (Salamba Sarvangasana)

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There is something beautiful about a world turned upside down. The first time I attempted a shoulder stand, I was struck at how far above my head my feet were, although they weren’t even as far as they were from my eyes normally! I love the shoulder stand because it forces my body to act and my mind to look at the world differently (and it’s not as hard as an actual headstand!).

My yoga may be simplistic — I know very well that I’m not an expert — but I am happy where I am because I know I am moving forward. With yoga, I will never be stuck in a rut. There is always room for improvement, always something new to learn, and always a smile at the end of each practice. Namaste!

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Friday Five: What Are You an Expert In?

I have read a couple Malcolm Gladwell books and although he has been often under supreme scrutiny, I found the general ideas and concepts presented entrancingly insightful. Gladwell has taught me that a good first impression goes beyond the smile on someone’s face and that sometimes, it is actually better to trust your gut. It’s why I’ve become such a good test taker. I’m no disciple of his by any means, but he must be an incredibly interesting individual.
The other day in class, one of my professors briefly mentioned Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hour rule” from his book Outliers, which states that in order to become an expert in a field you must spend about 10,000 hours doing it, equivalent to approximately 1.15 years or 20 hours per week for 10 years. This got me thinking in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, something along the lines of, “What have I inadvertently become an expert in?” Breathing, sleeping, and other generally normal functions aside, I have compiled a list of five things which, according to my professor and Mr. Gladwell, I have probably an expert in without realizing.

1) Playing with my hair.
This one might be a stretch, but it is legitimate. Ask any of my friends — one of my main nervous habits is messing with my hair, and this is documented as far back as third grade presentations. This will only get worse because I recently stopped biting my nails. I think it’s safe to say that no one is as good as nervously playing with their hair as I am. 

2) Writing.
There is no question that, after all the journal entries, essays, scribbled poems, and notes taken, I have become an expert in writing. Too bad most of those expert hours were spent while my brain was still developing, or I just may be a rhetorical genius by now.

2) Singing.
From kindergarten through twelfth grade, I was in a choir. Through 5th grade the choirs only met once or twice per week, but then from 6th through 12th I imagine there were days that I spent four or five hours engaged in vocalizing. And this tally doesn’t even take into account the singing in the car, in the shower, the voice lessons, or the just-because-I-can singing. I believe it’s safe to say I am a Gladwell expert in singing.

3) Thinking.
Okay, yes, this is a bit of a general function, but when I say thinking, I mean the type of thinking that is completely absorbing, pulling you inside your own mind — the type of thinking people get lost in. Sometimes I think about serious matters, sometimes I am worrying, sometimes I can daydream for an hour about a clothespin, but it’s all thinking.

5) Smiling.
I smile at just about anything. I probably spend about 7 hours per day with a smile on my face, and I think it’s safe to say that the one subject area I have best obtained the level of Gladwell expert would be smiling. And there’s not a darn thing wrong with that! 🙂

Friday Five: Favorite Literary Classics

I was an avid reader throughout grade school, but from sheer mental exhaustion in college my book consumption waned. When I attempted pick up my prior reading habits this summer, I realized something: most contemporary fiction doesn’t agree with me anymore. So, I spent this summer primarily reading two genres: contemporary nonfiction (see Michael Pollan), and classic fiction.
     When I say classic fiction, I mean literary classics that are fictional, however, these particular works of literary merit have something else in common: they are depictions of society in a time where cell phones and the internet didn’t exist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to abandon society and go live in the mountains, but it is so intriguing to me to see the way people interacted without instantaneous social facilitation provided by the internet. In the five literary classics I’m about to present, the characters are so much better developed than in contemporary fiction books I have read, the descriptions more elaborate, eloquent, and precise, and the stories so much more meaningful even though they may not deal with such dramatic topics as are popular today. This may or may not have anything to do with the absence or presence of the internet during the time of their conception, but there is no question they are all excellent works. Warning: I am prone to geek out about these titles, so devouring this post in one sitting is not for the faint of heart.

1) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Source. “Wealth is certainly a most desirable thing, but poverty has its sunny side, and one of the sweet uses of adversity is the genuine satisfaction which comes from hearty work of head or hand.”

I attempted to read this book when I was about 10 and didn’t make much sense of it. Now I see that it was really only the reading level that was over my head, the stories would so benefit a girl going into her teenage years. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are like my own sisters, and my heart rose and fell with them throughout their struggles. I always identified best with Meg. She and I are both eldest sisters and natural homemakers. I foresee myself running into the same tribulations as she when I first set up my own home. Alcott’s characters are unforgettable and easy to relate to, and I would have to say that out of these five she probably did the best job of creating a family that welcomes each and every reader with open arms.

2) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Source. “These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume. “

I love Romeo and Juliet because it opened my eyes to the wonderful world that is Shakespeare. I first read this play for my high school freshman English class, and nothing more endears a high school freshman to a novel than sexual innuendos, which Shakespeare is riddled with. I became infatuated with finding the double meanings in Shakespeare’s words, which, as my love for Shakespeare matured, went beyond sexual puns and jokes into the larger, complicated picture and interpersonal dynamics Shakespeare weaves. Romeo and Juliet isn’t my favorite Shakespearean work (in all honesty, I couldn’t choose, but Midsummer and Twelfth Night, and Othello and Hamlet, are all up there), but it is, I guess, my gateway drug that began this marvelous addiction.

3) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Source. “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment.”

Okay, yes, maybe this one is expected, but there is a reason this book is still widely admired today. There is much to love about P&P: the characters, the romance, the irony, but for me, Austen’s voice is the best part of the novel. I love the sarcastic tone she takes when describing some of her more  frivolous characters, like Mrs. Bennet, which speaks volumes to me about her own views of their society, as does the nature of Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship. Society expected each to fall in love with completely different people, and the fact that Mr. Bennet is the only one who isn’t upset by Elizabeth’s intentions only proves to me that Ms. Austen and I agree: he the only sane supporting character in the whole novel.

4) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Source. “It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment.”

The Great Gatsby didn’t particularly hit home with me until the second reading. The first reading was in school, and I think we may have picked it apart so much it ruined my enjoyment of the novel (or maybe enhanced it for the second reading?). This book is transitional, in the heart of the roaring 20s, and moral conflict is rampant, especially in Tom, who both openly has a paramour and resents the idea of his wife doing the same. Nick, the narrator, is a huge reason I love this book. Through Nick, Fitzgerald is able to show a wide scope of reactions to his other characters because Nick is both opinionated and observant. Nick not only sees the rise of the dynamic Gatsby but the circumstances of his downfall as well — and how it was all related.

5) The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Source. “No insect hangs its nest on threads as frail as that which will support the weight of human vanity.”

Lily Bart, the protagonist of this 1900s novel, is a character to whom many women of this generation can relate. She is headstrong, idealistic, and opportunistic. If she were born in 1980, she would have easily risen to the top of whatever industry she chose, fallen in love, and lived happily ever after following the high-class social circles. Instead she lives in a society where her sole job is to get married, and the only conquest she fell in love with wouldn’t have been able to support her social status. There was no division between the marital world and the economic world, so Lily keeps foiling her own attempts for financial bliss because of her feelings, which most women simply ignored. Out of the five books I’ve mentioned, this one by far has the best descriptions of human feeling. When Lily and Selden had their one moment of romantic bliss, I was so excited that I had to put the book down and take a break to contain myself. I felt Lily’s shock at her aunt’s unprecedented betrayal and her frustration that she couldn’t hold down a decent job. Yes, this book is long, but it’s worth every word.

Announcement

Okay, I’m done with trying to do Friday Fives during the summer. My days go so quickly that before I’ve choked out one (yes, sometimes they actually are difficult), it’s time to dredge up ideas for another, and I really despise turning out crap. Since no one is holding my foot to the fire, I think I’m going to call off summertime Friday Fives.
     I know you’re all horribly upset, that your lives are ruined, but honestly, not a whole lot goes on in my life or in my mind during the summer. I’ll take a hiatus and resume when school does. In the meantime, I’ll post whenever the muse inspires. Have a great summer!

"Friday" Five: Inspiration from a Teacher

This afternoon I had to come to terms with the fact that I’m nowhere near ready to move completely out of my parents’ house just yet. The simple truth is that I have too much stuff to cart around, taking everything to school with me would just be impractical. I’ve spent several hours trying to streamline my boxes of memories, but with little success. This afternoon I whiled away the time going through these stubborn boxes once again, categorizing and piling and tossing out, and I came across a letter from my high school theater teacher to the kids in my class when we graduated.
     My graduating class was the first class she had followed through all four years of teaching, and I must admit she did leave an impact. For most of us she was the only teacher to be an active part of our lives from freshman through senior year, and although she began as a teacher eventually she became more of a friend. I wasn’t ever BFFs with her but we did get along well and had a few laughs along the way. More importantly, I grew to respect her as more than just a teacher, but as a person.
     The letter she gave us was double-sided. On the front was a few simply typed paragraphs directed solely to our class, but on the reverse was a bulleted list of pieces of advice she had given to last year’s graduates that she liked so much she wanted to make sure she shared it with us, too. I remember reading the list and laughing with everyone else (because it is very humorous), but after my first year of college is under my belt I see exactly how right she was about so many things. Here are my top five favorites for you to enjoy and pass on the wisdom.

5) “Enjoy the fact that you are not really in the ‘real world’ yet, just the semi-real one.”
To me, college feels like what I wanted high school to be. Laid back, lots of liberties, lots of friends, less drama, etc. Sure, we may be doing some adult things and living on our own, but contemporary dorm life feels more like an extension of high school than anything else. Like a boarding school. For some reasons I really dislike this, but for others, well… let’s just say I heeded my teacher’s advice!

4) “Sit in the front of the class. It will make you pay attention, which means you won’t really have to study that much. Unless you are taking something ridiculous like Organic Chemistry, in which case — best of luck.”
Paying attention in class saved me hours of studying. As in, if I paid attention in a class and actively participated in note taking or class discussions, I rarely had to study. 

3) “If you start (or continue) smoking cigarettes, figure out how to stop before you graduate college so you don’t become a gross smoker forever. Somehow it’s not as gross in college. But it still is, really, so nevermind.”
I’ve heard rumors that my campus is the smokiest college campus in the U.S. I don’t like to admit it, but I have to say it’s true.

2) “When something bad happens, ask yourself how much it will bother you ten years from now. If the answer is ‘not at all’, then it’s probably not that important.”
I’m kind of a catastrophist. When something bad happens (especially if it deals with money), I immediately catastrophize and lose my head. I have to calm myself, and several times I found myself doing as my teacher said, asking myself if it will matter in 10 years. Generally, the answer is that it won’t, and I can move on with my life.

And last but not least…

1) “Wear sunscreen.”
 My teacher is a pale redhead, and I’m a pale blonde, so I’m pretty sure her words didn’t ring truer with anyone else in the class!

Friday Five: The Prophet

A week or so ago one of my good friends recommended I read a book called The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. I had never heard of it before, but that doesn’t surprise me, I haven’t heard of a great many things.

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Gibran was an author, painter, and philosopher who was born in Lebanon and spent much of his life in the U.S. and traveling abroad. According to a 2008 article from The New Yorker, Gibran is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao-tzu, and he owes this popularity entirely to The Prophet.

“The Prophet” started fast—it sold out its first printing in a month—and then it got faster, until, in the nineteen-sixties, its sales sometimes reached five thousand copies a week. It was the Bible of that decade.

And I can see why it was. After reading it twice (it’s a very short book), I thought I would share my five favorite quotes from this collection of essays with a bit of commentary apiece.

1) “When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.”
Frankly, love hurts, and there will always be difficulties. No relationship (whether between lovers or friends or parents) will ever be entirely easy, and if it is it’s not worth it. When you love someone else and they love you in return, go for it, and don’t let your fear of getting hurt get in the way.

2) “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
Gibran goes on to say that parents aren’t the ones who aim the arrows, that is God. Parents are only the tools God uses to mold children, and parents need to remember that ultimately it is not they who decide who their children will grow up to be.

3)  “You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.”
I particularly like this philosophy because I hate being idle. I need to be actively involved in a project and moving forward in order to feel like I am living my life to the fullest, and Gibran’s ideas only concrete this characteristic in me.

4) “When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
How true. When someone is upset, it is always connected to the loss of or the hindrance of what has made them happy, and when someone is happy it is always related to what once upset them. Joy and sorrow are never far apart.

5) “And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”
Enough said. 

Friday Five: Things I Want To Do This Summer

Okay, so my fun vacation’s over, work doesn’t start until June,  and I have nothing to do between then and now. It’s really quite sad. I haven’t posted at all this week, and that’s because when I have nothing to do I become a grade-A lazy-ass. No joke. I sit here at home, doing nothing, thinking about the things I want to do, not getting out and doing them because “it’s too hot,” “it’s not worth the gas,” or some other equally lame excuse. I did, however, check out Wifey from the local library yesterday and as soon as I finish my current read, a Joyce Carol Oates book, I plan to devour it. Maybe I’ll even write a book review about each one of these books, just to keep my mind sharp. Anyways, I discovered that blogging about the books I want to read is keeping me semi-accountable, so I thought it’d be a good idea to blog about the things I want to do as well, so I’ll actually get off my ass and do them.

5) Buy a new cell phone.

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My cell phones have always been sub-par, and that’s putting it gently. I had my first phone, a Nokia brick, for 3 years, and then I bought my current phone, a cheap Motorola Razr knockoff, if it’s possible to have knockoffs within the same brand. The reason I’ve always had crap-tastic phones is because my mom decided early on that cell phone plans were not for us. We had Tracfone (minute-by-minute prepaid), then I got annoyed and jumped to Straighttalk (unlimited prepaid), and now we’re all scattered across the board and I’m considering switching to Virgin Mobile so I can actually use the unlimited data I’m paying for. I could rant for forever about how much the Straighttalk phones suck, but I won’t. I like Virgin Mobile’s phone selection because it’s closer to what big-name providers like Sprint and T-mobile offer. I have yet to decide on a phone, it’s difficult because in the back of my mind I know that what I’m really shooting for is an iPhone.

4) Take my younger sister out for sushi.

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After I raved to my little sister about eating sushi with my cousin in DC, she admitted to me that she wanted to try it. This is a huge step for us, because we were raised in a household of bland tastes. My dad appreciates more exotic flavors, but he was rarely the dinnertime cook. Before becoming more health-conscious, my mom was known on my dad’s side of the family for being the queen of casseroles. Mango is too exotic for her to handle. When I took her to an awesome Thai hole-in-the-wall in my college town she complained the place was too “sketchy.” So, now, my timid sister admitting she wants to sample sushi is a huge step in culinary awakening, and I want to foster that as much as possible even if she does only start out with a Cali roll. Plus, I haven’t tried any sushi places in my hometown area yet (most of them are kind of expensive) and I’m really excited to have an excuse.

3) Sew a skirt. 

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While visiting my cousin I got to spend some time in Old Town Alexandria, an adorable district right over the water, and I stumbled into a vintage clothing store. There, I purchased a really cute rose-print skirt from the seventies for about $20, and upon close examination later that day I decided it had been handmade, and pretty simply, too. I’ve never been much of a seamstress — for some reason I just can’t handle a sewing machine very well — but I’m pretty good at designing patterns that work well and I’d like the opportunity to practice. So, sooner or later I’m going to trot down to Hancock fabrics, pick out a pretty print and sew myself a flouncy skirt.

2) Henna-rinse my hair.

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My hair has always been an awesome dirty blonde with natural highlights that are almost platinum and and underside that is almost brunette, so I’ve always been wary of dying my hair. Recently I’ve started noticing some really awesome strawberry tones as well, and so I started looking into henna as a conditioner and a way to bring the strawberry out of my strawberry blonde. I’m not going for Lucille Ball red, but I’ve found several recipes for a henna rinse or gloss that will only tint my hair instead of full-on dye it, so this summer I plan to get a girlfriend and some henna and test it out!

1) Get a manicure.

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 Never before in my life have I gotten a manicure. I guess it’s not that unusual, especially since I bite my nails, but I would really like to have french tips at least once in my life. Before the end of summer I’m going to try and let my nails grow just a bit and, if I can do that, I’ll reward myself with a $20 mani.