Another birthday survived

I did it. I made it through another birthday. For once, I didn’t cry. It’s all Mom’s fault. She did this Queen for a Day thing where I woke up with my bed covered with gifts, went to school wearing something new, got to eat whatever I wanted and always had a family gathering with cake and more presents. She set a precedent. Now I want every birthday to be like that. As an adult, I got in the habit of taking off for the day to the coast, the woods, or a historical site. But I always knew we’d be celebrating in the evening. Except for the year my dear husband misunderstood and didn’t get me a cake because he thought I was on a diet. Diets do not include your birthday. Never.

Now, however, I live up here in Oregon’s coastal forest with my dog Annie. The dog does not do birthdays. She wants to play keep-away with the stick, go for walks, sleep on my lap, eat lots of “cookies” and chase invisible invaders in the dark.

I have had some lonely birthdays up here, and I thought this might be the loneliest. But no. I dragged my slightly older body to yoga class, where I proved to myself that I’m in darned good shape for my age. At the end of class, a friend asked what I was doing for my birthday. “Not much,” I said. “Well, how about if we go out for dinner?” she asked. So we did. She brought her husband, and another yoga couple met us at the Noodle House on Newport’s Bayfront. Great food, great conversation, a great ocean view, and they even gave me presents. No cake. But we did have these interesting cinnamon noodle rolls with a candle in the middle of the plate.

When you do yoga together, you create a bond. How can you not be friends when you stick your rear end up in the air in downward-facing dog, fall down trying to balance on one foot, and twist your arms and legs in ways they never intended to go?

Thank you, Lin, Jackson, Fran and Bill. It was great.

P.S. Don’t let me drink champagne next time.


It’s a right-handed world

Having my right hand in a splint (one more week) means doing almost everything left-handed. Technically I am left-handed, but I do a lot of things with my right hand, and I’m beginning to realize why. Not only was I raised by right-handed parents, but the world is set up for right-handers. I get into my car, and the ignition is on the right side of the steering column. I have to twist around like a Slinky to turn it left-handed. Of course, the gearshift and parking brake are on the right side, too.

When I get home, I discover I have been unlocking the door with my right hand all these years. I stand there like an idiot trying to figure out which way to turn the key. In the kitchen, every jar or bottle is meant to be twisted by a right-hander. I almost had to get the neighbor to open a childproof-capped pill bottle for me. You should have seen me trying to chop vegetables. Cauliflower flying everywhere. Next time I may just pick up the whole thing and gnaw at it.

Opening any kind of package is a major challenge, and getting dressed leaves me breathless and aching. Now I know why my husband used to have so much trouble unhooking my bra. He’s left-handed. My zippers and buttons are on the wrong side,too and just tieing a shoe hurts.

I’m learning that elbows, teeth and feet can be very handy. Actually I’m very lucky. It’s only a sprained wrist. Lots of people have much worse problems. This is just a temporary challenge. I can already type two-handed again, and I can play piano very carefully. The doctor says I need one more week in the splint. Then I can start moving the wrist. Carefully. By Thanksgiving I should be doing pushups again, he says. I didn’t tell him I couldn’t do them before. 🙂 But I do look forward to being able to do all my yoga postures again. For now, I’ll be doing a lot of child’s pose and corpse pose. No plows or downward-facing dogs. Speaking of which, I was doing modified yoga yesterday, and I swear my black dog Chico was trying to do yoga, too. There he was on his back with his feet in the air . . .

Some folks are still telling me I have to get rid of the dogs. But others, including my doctor, think I’m better off with their company. I think the pups and I can reach an understanding. They’re 20 months old today. They’ll slow down eventually. I have.

Hot yoga

Location: Waldport, on the Oregon Coast

Inside an old building that looks from the outside like half of a tin can, we gathered in a circle with our yoga mats and blankets. It was hot in there, the lights turned down, red lamps glowing off a molded ceiling that looked as if it were carpeted. It reminded me of an Indian sweat lodge.

Two yoga teachers were offering a special “restorative yoga” class to help us de-stress during the holidays. We drove through the rain to meet late on a Sunday afternoon. Although I have been doing yoga off and on since my teens and seriously for the last couple of years, this was big league yoga. Several of the students were yoga teachers, and I could tell by the way they immediately settled into deep meditation that I might not be able to keep up.

But I did. With Indian music purring in the background, the teachers, Ursula Adler from Switzerland and Brigitte Herold from Germany, led us through long, long periods of meditation, followed by rapid-fire asanas (yoga postures). I could do them, but as I looked around, I couldn’t believe how flexible some of these men and women were. Where I could barely touch my ankles, they could reach far beyond their feet. But yoga is not a competitive sport. You work from where you’re at. I must have tried too hard because I’m still sore.

The second half had us holding various poses for at least five minutes at a time. Many seemed easy enough, stretching out over a folded blanket on our fronts, backs and sides. There was chanting and soft talking as Brigitte quoted a sage who said that when we accept that the life we have is the only one we get and stop worrying about what other lives we might have led, we will stop suffering.

I keep thinking about that as I deal with various challenges ranging from stove troubles to family members and friends who are terminally ill. Couple that with last night’s sermon at Sacred Heart where we met for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. When God asks us to do something, do we say yes, like Mary? How many times do we say no to what God wants us to do because we’re busy or it seems too hard?

Back in the sweat lodge, the teacher instructed us to surrender into the poses. “You have nothing else to do,” she said. What a thought. You have nothing else to do. Not just in yoga, but in whatever we do, if we live in the moment and enjoy the one thing we’re doing, how much happier we might be.

I didn’t come here to sermonize. I just want you to picture this circle of people lying completely still, breathing softly into gray wool blankets, feeling the warmth of their breath on their own faces, red light glowing overhead, music playing softly, and this sweetly accented voice saying, “You have nothing else to do.”

Think about it.

Today a book called Doga arrived in my mailbox. After all this serious yoga, it is truly delightful. It’s a collection of photos of dogs doing yoga postures and explaining them to us stiff-bodied humans. Yoga comes to them naturally, and we have much to learn from our friends the dogis (pronounced DOH-gees, as in yogis). Every page makes me smile. I bought it used on You can, too. Sometimes what you have to do in this moment is laugh.


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