Irony and other poses

Muddy me…

My app was acting up so I wasn’t able to post this the day of. This is a picture of irony, because I had tried so hard to stop the dog from diving head first into the mud puddle and succeeded. And I was trying to avoid it. But the “stable” bank of the puddle was… not.

There was a dog look of “Why’d *you* get to jump in the puddle??”


Last day of yoga module 2 tomorrow so I’m studying what we learned (really, I am – see…)

Warm ups

We’ll be doing oral review tomorrow and probably some practice teaching, I think. It has been a good week, really interesting to analyse the poses. I really can’t believe tomorrow is my last day! Well, until the fall. Ack!

Interesting list

I was just doing a quick flip through of some of the blogs I follow (it’s a mish-mash – I’m not going to lie), and I came upon a follow-up post to a previous post that intrigued me.  It was written by Leo Babauta on his mnmlist blog entitled “things I don’t have that many do“.  I don’t always read that far down on my blog list because often I’m surfing when I could be doing one of many other things.  But today I had a day off from yoga teacher training because my yoga teacher had to do something for his day job, so I’ve been pretty busy.  My boyfriend was in need of a shelf and I was looking to cull through some of the things in my studio, so these interests coincided.  So I spent the day in my studio, going through my boxes and reducing six banker boxes to three, and emptying a DVD box and two CD boxes at the same time.  It’s interesting what one hangs onto when one isn’t looking at things.  Today will be made up in September, just before our last session.

But, back to the intriguing list.  If you’ve perused his list, you will have noticed why his blog is called mnmlist or minimalist… But I think I can make a similar observation.

Things I don’t have that many do:

  • television
  • video game console
  • cable / satellite / whatever TV subscription
  • meat in my diet (I can’t claim the milk or eggs)
  • car loan (I have a car and car insurance though)
  • debt
  • mortgage / house (I do have renter’s insurance which is sort of like house insurance)
  • gym membership
  • magazines or newspapers
  • Instagram or Pintrest, Flickr, etc…

Not as impressive of a list, but interesting.  He doesn’t have “a lot of clothes” and I can’t claim that.  I don’t think I have a tonne of clothes, but I do have work clothes, casual clothes, comfy clothes, yoga/workout clothes and dressed up clothes.  I have way more shoes than I realized (or thought possible for someone who hates shopping).  I have some kitchen gadgets, but they’re getting pared down (next to go is the bread maker I haven’t touched in almost a year – I prefer to hand pound my bread and use my stoneware loaf pans).  I have a lot of recipe books but they could probably be culled a bit – there are really only a couple I use a lot, and I mostly make up my recipes from my head anyway.  I have a lot of reading books that I need to get through (part of the reason I’m tracking my reading on this blog – to see if I’m able to do more reading this year).  

But, what do I have instead?

  • an easel and canvases to paint
  • sketchbooks
  • a kickass gaming computer
  • moleskines to write in
  • other arts and crafts supplies (including yarn)
  • an electric piano
  • a guitar
  • a dog to walk
  • a cat to pet
  • evenings free from shows I *have* to watch
  • a yoga mat
  • a comparative theology library
  • time to imagine, create and dream
  • time to have deep, philosophical discussions with my boyfriend
  • time to cook yummy meals
  • time to see, talk to and/or help family and friends

I’m not a minimalist, but I’ve never really been driven to buy things.  Most of my “possessions” have been gifts, inheritances, or hand-me-downs.  I’ve bought a few things, including my pots and pans, my dishes, my bed, my bedroom furniture (which is starting to degrade), some of my curtains and one of my couches.  But even my microwave is an inheritance.  My air conditioner is a hand-me-down.

I can’t claim to have no junk food, but my boyfriend and I have agreed that we need to lay off the chips.  I do have processed veggie things in the freezer and a couple of boxes of KD in the cupboard.  Heck, I even have Kr@ft peanut butter in the cupboard (smooth, not crunchy – ick).  But I also pack my fridge full of fresh veggies and use beans in my meals.

I found my overlap with some of Leo Babauta’s list interesting because I don’t have a TV not to be minimalist, but because… I don’t need one.  I don’t have a debt because I’m fortunate, not because I’ve gone out of my way to be debt free.  Granted, perhaps not having crazy buying habits has helped with that.  I don’t have a mortgage because I’m not ready to buy a house yet.  There are a lot of different reasons why I don’t have certain things, and there are a lot of different reasons why I have the things I have.  I’m more interested in being creative than in watching TV.  I’m more interested in making food than being quick in the kitchen.

Anyway, just an interesting list.  Back to yoga tomorrow.

Day 3, Yoga module 2

So this week in yoga teacher training, we’re learning about the poses.  But not just what the poses are and how to do them, but where the risks are, what cues to give, how to modify them.  A little bit on sequencing but not that much yet.  That will probably be Thursday.  He’s working us hard – we are practice teaching on each other.  Some poses I’m comfortable with, others less so.  I did a not-too-bad job on wide angle forward bend today, but kind of awkwardly lead my classmate through a stilted garland pose.  We both avoided crow pose because, well, neither one of us can do it yet.  You really don’t want to try to teach something you can’t do.  Which is why any students I have won’t be trying Bound Half Lotus Forward Bend yet…  

Physical demoing is worth a thousand words, but going all the way into a pose won’t help if you’re teaching beginners who are super stiff or people with injuries.  That’s why he’s making us learn how to say it out loud.  It’s good.

I can see the intelligence in this system of yoga as well.  It categorizes the poses differently than what is usually taught.  Whereas other systems will teach standing, seated, and supine poses, etc., this system recognizes them by their energetics.  Forward bends – whether standing, seated or supine; extension poses as a group, and so on.  It does make sense and I can see how this will help me build an intelligent class, by following what actions I’m stringing together like beads.  I’ll be able to see the flow of the class and know if there are poses that just shouldn’t follow each other.

Oh, but my body is sore again from all the yoga.  And from sitting on the floor almost all day.  And the studio plants have a little gnat infestation or something and two days in a row the stupid things have tried to fly or crawl up my nose while I’m trying to focus in a meditation.  Hmph.  It’s not very yogic (ahimsa), but both times I hoped I squished them when I reached up to stop them.


A vignette from a previous day:

Walking through a wet and overgrown path, looking up to find little snails hanging from the undersides of the short trees leaves.  Silent running, except for the jingle of the city tag, rabies tag, other tags on my dog’s collar.

I smell human skin and the alcohol he’s saturated himself with before I see him, sitting a little ways from the path at the base of a tree, drinking.  I see him, say nothing, continue on across the groomed walking/bike path through the middle of the park and into the forest on the other side.  I cannot help him.  I continue, walking the humid, recently rained upon forest paths with my dog.


Just a few snippets today.  It’s a post that I’ve been partly writing in my head for most of this week.


I went to my friend’s wake yesterday.  It apparently hadn’t sunk in yet until I pulled into a parking spot.  I had to sit in the car, waiting for my crying face to calm down before I went in.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t finished my crying and I kind of lost it by the time I got to my friend’s husband.  He said, “It’s okay.  It’s really sad.”

Also, I have to say this for the record – I love my friend and I love her family because they were a part of what shaped her into who she was but… I absolutely *hate* open caskets.  I’m sorry.  I really do.


I went to my friend’s funeral today.  I wasn’t sure I was going to – I thought it might be awkward.  Usually I think of the funeral as being for the family, to help them with the grief.  A ritual to say goodbye.  But then I figured I would probably regret not going, so I woke up this morning, planned what I was going to wear, and then went into the studio.  I worked a bit more on one of my recent canvases.  Remembering that I wanted to rearrange some of the small ones I have up, I grabbed my tube of Polyfila, pulled pictures down, pulled nails out and fixed the nail holes in my wall.

The service was good.  Her husband made an amazing eulogy about who she was – he was so brave to stand up there and speak.  Their daughter, I think, had a better idea of what was going on today.  There were a lot of people in the church.  I sat between two of my old colleagues, which was good.  I gave one of them Kleenex.  Score one for me on the Mom Test.

I did my measuring, leveling, and hammering after I got home.  So now I have room for more canvases.


Let’s rewind in history and switch countries for a moment.  A vignette I wanted to write about Galway.

I was walking down Quay Street in Galway, just after having my dinner at The Malt House and my pint of Guinness at The King’s Head.  I had just watched an extremely inebriated man be “escorted” out of the establishment (yes, even in Ireland, someone gets tossed from a pub when he’s too drunk).  He was wearing sunglasses and very slowly still “finishing his pint”, trying to stave off the inevitable.

I was following these two men down the street, just trying to keep my head up and eyes open.  I was walking alone through an unknown city around 10pm – just being smart.  I watched them as they drifted together, linked fingers, and then drifted apart again.  Together and apart, holding hands and then not.  My heart ached – the unlinking of the hands usually coincided with someone being passed or someone approaching.  I wanted to go up to them and give them a hug.  I can’t believe how much that must hurt – to not feel like you can express yourself in public.  Perhaps not feeling safe enough to.


Also on Quay St, on my way to The King’s Head pub, I passed a man and a woman walking the opposite way.

“Oh yeah, there’s a McDon@ld’s back here.  I need a Mc-Something…” says the man.

In my head, I say, “Why??  You’re in Galway!”



Sad news

I found out yesterday that one of my friends died on the weekend.  She was 36.

She was an amazing and vibrant woman, one of those people who really shows you what it means to live every single moment of your life rather than just existing.  I looked up to her because she seemed so brave.  She was the one who told me, “Life is too short to put up with shit.  If you don’t like something, change it.”  I don’t know if this was her personal philosophy because of her personality or because of her brain tumour.

Yes, she lived with a brain tumour, probably since she was a teen.  They found it in her twenties when she finally, in order to humour a friend, went to an optometrist to get her eyes checked, after years of headaches and other things.  The optometrist barred her from leaving her office until she had made an appointment to get an MRI, and that’s when they found her tumour.  Oligodendroglioma.

The other details of her story I won’t relate here.  It’s not my story and she shared it sparingly.  It wasn’t who she was, it was something she had to deal with.  She married her best friend (and partner in crime, I’m sure).  They got their black belts in karate.  They partied and *lived*.  They had a lovely, kick-ass daughter.

In recent years, she had been fighting the brain tumour more, as the pregnancy hormones had not done any favours for it.  When I heard she was going in for brain surgery to try to remove part of it, I started a painting, inspired by her.

I finished that painting on Monday, June 17th.  Something kicked me in the butt and made me take each of the unfinished paintings off the wall, grab a new palette, mix the specific colours necessary and just finish-them-already.  They’re all signed now, and hanging.  I finished “Phoenix Reborn” and contacted our mutual friend to see if she’d gotten any news on how she was doing and whether I would be able to see her to give her the painting.

She had died on June 16th after having spent her last months in palliative care.  A part of me would like to think that it was her spirit who kicked me in the butt, and that was her final gift to me.  Another push past a bit of lethargy and inertia.  She was like that.


Phoenix Reborn, 2013, J.Gibson



Flying time

Wow, I can’t believe that I’m in my second last week of my leave.  The last week of my unstructured time.  And then I’m into my second unit of my yoga teacher training starting Saturday.

I got out my yoga books today and they’ve moved from the kitchen table to the coffee table, with good intentions.  But I also played some Diablo 3 (my monk is now in Nightmare level, and my barbarian is in Caldeum).  And I finished off all the little “I just have to do such-and-such” details on all the paintings that I have hanging in my apartment and signed them (a real sign that they are Done).  Now, all I have to do is work on new ones (and Sharpie the painting name, date and my name on the backs of the canvases, once they’re dry).  Actually, it just occurred to me that I have another canvas just waiting for a final detail on one of my shelves.  I’ll have to pull that out.  I’m not sure it has a hanger on it yet.

But yes, I have an actually-in-progress painting on my easel right now, plus a sketched in concept on my wall (on the biggest canvas I’ve ever painted to date – 30″ x 40″).  And I just tapped in a hanger on the back on my next canvas, which will be another space scene.  I’m tempted to go pick up a couple more 22 x 28 canvases, and I will be downtown on Wednesday… We’ll see if I can manage it.  I’d like to sketch in a concept for a series of paintings that I’ve been wanting to do for ages.

I have my one Nanowrimo novel open behind this browser (on page 148).  I started to re-read what I’d last written, but then I realized that I’d also planned on doing a blog post this morning (at 7am while walking the dog).  So here it is.

Time is flying.  And it really flies when you plan activities to fill the time.  For goodness sake’s – I didn’t really have nine weeks off.  Well, I did.  I had nine weeks that I didn’t have to go to work.  I didn’t have to balance work and all these interesting things.  But let’s face it – I planned a lot of things for these nine weeks.

Two weeks were dedicated to school.  Twenty days were dedicated to travel.  As of tomorrow, I will have had seven days taken up by contractors coming in to my house to do work on my bathroom fan (a project long anticipated).  Two afternoons involved me happily volunteering to help two of my friends by using my skills – in photography, and then doing country/gardening work.  I’m hoping to add a second day for the country/gardening work, but I have to see how the contractor work goes tomorrow…  Plus there were appointments – for me, the car and for the pets.  And I got to take in some of Westfest one night – my boyfriend and I wandered over to see one of my favourite bands – Elliott Brood.  (Here’s a taste – Elliott Brood – Second Son).  There have been dinner dates, long philosophical talks and hand-holding walks with my boyfriend, family time and some friend time.  Not nearly as much time in “my local” pub as I’d expected.

But I’ve taken so many photos during my travels.  And I’ve painted quite a bit.  And I’ve written a little – not as much as I’d hoped.  Maybe I can catch up on that this week.  I didn’t go have lunch with friends nearly as much as I thought I would.

There is still time, and my wandering won’t end at the beginning of July.  I’ll be back at work, but I still have projects and plans.  I still have another week of yoga teacher training to be done in the autumn.  The adventure continues!

The Breeders – Drivin’ On 9  (just because I started humming it as I finished up this post – it has also been ages since I listened to this album!)


What if we all just said no?

Seriously.  What if we all just said no?

I have been called more frequently by telemarketers than by friends and family on my landline.  (Fair warning, friends and family, I’m about to jettison the landline).

The one that really stands out in my mind (besides the “Hi, I’m [Name] from Microsoft calling you about your computer – it sent me a message…” to which I recently replied, “Oh?  Indeed… [icy]”  “Yes, ma’am, indeed.”  “I’m going to hang up now, scammer.”) (which in retrospect, I should have gotten his call back number so I could give it to the police – Microsoft will never call you directly – that’s your job to call for tech support) is the one I received because I apparently entered a draw at a “recent convention I had attended” to win a cruise and I had! (…imagine that…)  Now, I basically never enter contests because it’s all a scam.  I’m sure someone actually wins the contest – don’t get me wrong.  But otherwise, that’s a whole load of free information they just received.  And you gave it to them willingly – thinking that it would only be used in a raffle.  But how do they profit from that?  First they’ll put you on their mailing list and phone list because you must be interested in them (since you gave them your contact information), and then they might share (for a fee) your information with other companies who are looking for an audience.

Why is it that I *have* to say “Yes” to certain companies doing what they wish with my information (including providing it to third party companies that they think I’d be interested in… uh huh…) in order to access their services?  Basically, they say if I want to “play” with them, I have to let them give/sell my information to someone.

But what if I said no?  Then I wouldn’t be able to access their services.  My loss.  Or is it?  Their “choice” means that they lose a customer.  What if we all said, “No, you can’t share my information”?  Then they would stop the practice, because they would be losing many more customers.  We would be going with the companies that say, “Hey, we respect your privacy and we don’t share your info with anyone – promise!  We know that we’re the special company that you chose specifically, and maybe we don’t know what third party companies you’d also like so we won’t assume.”

Not enough people care, though.  Some will argue that this is how the commercial world works.  You give up a bit of your privacy for better services.  You give up your information so that companies can better advertise to you.

That assumes we want to be advertised to though.  Oh wait, do we have a choice in that matter?

One of the fathers of modern advertising was Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew, who employed not only Freud’s but also Gustave LeBon, Wilfred Trotter, and Ivan Pavlov’s psychological principles to propaganda and public relations (which was what propaganda was rebranded as, after the Nazis used that word too much).  The goal was the engineering of consent in “public persuasion” campaigns.

So let’s take a step back – do we really want that new gadget/luxury car/huge princess wedding, or are we being psychologically manipulated to think that we will feel more fulfilled/our lives will be better/the happily ever after ending will come if we put ourselves into debt to buy it?  And yet we all look at those with “simpler” lives who are happy and we envy them their simple life.  We envy those who don’t have a huge credit card balance to pay off, plus a mortgage, plus a car payment, plus the boatload of bills that are hitting our mailboxes every month for all the services we’ve subscribed to.  But we must be supremely happy because we have the huge house with the hot tub, the luxury cars (his and hers, of course), the remodelled kitchen and bathrooms, the 1500 thread count sheet sets and HD satellite for the HD TV…

What if we all said no?  This applies to lifestyle as well.  I had a moment of “Uh……?” when I was in my first module of yoga and we were discussing attachment.  I asked if my yoga teacher considered my vegetarianism to be attachment and he did not hesitate before he said, “Absolutely.”

The labels, the image that we portray to the outside world – “This is who I am!  You can recognize it because I resemble this, or I have this label!”  This is something that my boyfriend and I discuss occasionally, because for simplicity’s sake, I tend to characterize myself as “vegetarian” etc.  But really, I choose to eat a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet – I’m not ‘a vegetarian.’  I practice yoga – I’m not ‘a yogini.’  I paint – I am not ‘a painter.’  It’s easier to describe yourself with labels, but what of your personal uniqueness do you gloss over when you take a broad label for yourself?  You can have a small child, paint with oils, play cello, ride a cruising motorcycle, build Shaker style furniture and like to read sci-fi novels – or you can be a mother, artist, musician, biker, carpenter and nerd.  Which is the more honest interaction?  The one where you describe yourself, or the one where you take broad labels and people can assume who you are from there?

This ties in with the advertising rant above – advertising tries to makes us want the labels rather than encouraging us to really think about who we are and what we enjoy doing or experiencing.  A person who is supremely content with making their own furniture and walking to work is a poor consumer for Ikea and BMW.  But a person who wants the image and label that they are selling (as he muses in Fight Club – “What kind of dining set defines me as a person?”) will keep coming back to upgrade their image.  That’s brand loyalty, or customer loyalty.  But what about loyalty to yourself?  At what point do we stop recognizing that all this noise is drowning out our own voice inside that is trying to tell us that we’re unhappy, and that we’re not being true to ourselves?  That what we’re trying to fill this void of unhappiness with is exactly what’s making us unhappy?

When I was travelling in Ireland, I was watching my B&B owners’ children running around and playing outside, and I realized that what I do for fun now is very similar to what I did as a child.  I write fiction stories.  I sketch and paint.  I pack a bag with snacks and go exploring (granted, there are fewer trees being climbed, but there are definitely better pictures being taken).  As a child, I would pack up my two “kids” (Pansy and Bridget – my Cabbage Patch dolls), some “food supplies” (imaginary stew), light (the glow in the dark parts from my Construx spaceship building set), blankets and writing materials and my sister and I would go “hiking and exploring in the rainforest” (or basement…), to camp “overnight” (“Zzz… *yawn* Time to get up!”) and find new species.  I was about 8 or 9, I think, and I was playing at being a field biologist.

I actually feel better about my choices when I realize this, because it seems purer to who I am when I choose to entertain myself this way.  It also makes me think I haven’t lost who I am in becoming an adult.

So I return to my question – what if we all just said no?  What if we all remembered who we were and stopped buying in to the advertising?  What if we stopped sacrificing ourselves to play the game, and instead started honouring ourselves and playing the games that feed our souls?

I think it was this Construx set to make spaceships and other space exploration machines. Borrowed image from (Because I don’t have a picture of it.)

And back again

It was a lovely trip to Quebec City. We arrived in a torrential downpour and sadly resembled drowned rats upon our entry to the Chateau Frontenac. We walked the ramparts, watched as two locals tried to catch their ramparts-hunting cats, got to meet a nervous rampart chipmunk, looked at rampart graffiti and walked in the cold rampart rain.

Chateau Frontenac entryway. My sister has a similar photo – I was trying to block the wind that whips through there when she was taking it because she was shivering. It didn’t work, apparently.

We ate Paris style sandwiches and real macarons in a little cafe and then found warmer jackets because we could see our breath. I received dress advice from a shop girl and now I have a unique, Quebec City dress for L’s wedding. We walked probably for 10 km all told yesterday. We were directed to a vegetarian restaurant that we suspect went out of business, then walked all the way back to a restaurant I’d found that would be okay for all of us. My sister’s poor feet did survive the walk in her “fast flats” because her alternative was sandals. Then we went to the cool St. Laurent bar in the Chateau Frontenac where we had signature cocktails invented by the Fairmont bartenders and sat beside Newt Gingrinch and his wife (who had amazing hair). People asked to take pictures with him – we didn’t.

And now we’re on our respective rides home. And it’s June. Craziness.

Hello, Montreal.