I’ve tried to get into meditation for decades and generally failed to enjoy or stick with it because…well, I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m a novelist and am just generally fascinated by my own thoughts (or maybe I’m a novelist BECAUSE I’m fascinated by my own thoughts…) but yeah.  Meditation has failed to become a part of me.  I get bored.  I want the bennies but I just can’t put in the time on the meditation cushion to get them.

But!  I’ve had a chance to play around with a borrowed Muse Brain Sensing Headband for about a month now and I’ve got to say, it’s pretty cool.  It might be something that could get me to meditate regularly.  At least, I’ve been at it for a month now and still enjoying the experience.  So…go Muse!

muse meditation 1

So what is it?  It’s basically a portable, home, EEG machine. The narrow strip with the sensors goes on your forehead and the flappies go behind your ears.  Surprising that such a tiny, non-wired (it uses bluetooth to send data and probably some form of magic to read your thoughts) senses your brainwaves and gives you real time feedback via audio cues about whether you are focusing on your breath or wandering off and thinking about a million other things.  That’s right, it cues you when your mind wanders. Like, “YO, MAYA!  You’re drifting off again!  Get back on the breath already!  Sheesh…”

Okay, it doesn’t shout.  Actually it makes stormy weather sounds and my mission, should I choose to accept it, is to calm that weather down by focusing. Biofeedback with your brain.  Gamification of meditation.  Mindfulness training wheels. If focusing your brain on one thing is mindfulness.  (Is it?  Any longtime meditators want to comment on that?)

Anyway, after your session, you can look at a graph to see how well you did.  The goal is to keep your wavy line down in the “calm” zone, something like this:

muse meditation 2 Look at me meditate!  Here we have seven minutes of my brain being super chill.   I actually have no idea how I did it that day because this is more typical for me: muse meditation 3Some up, some down.  Some all around town.

It feels oddly revealing to show the world these wavy lines!  As if I’m a little more naked now….  Don’t judge my brain!

The Muse fits around my head easily, makes contact with all its sensors in a couple of seconds, and has given me zero problems.  You have to do this little calibrating thing at first where you think of various things (fruit, tv shows, colors, etc) as prompted by the app, for maybe a minute, then you’re good to go.  I’ve been quite impressed with the hardwear end of things.

But I have, of course, been experimenting.  I mean, when I first tried it I was all, “how the heck do I know it’s doing anything?  That wavy line could be the stock price of ice cream in Mongolia.”  So I tried messing with it.  For example, I’d try to be “calm” for five minutes and then I’d THINK REALLY HARD for a minute.  Or I’d have the kids sneak up on me at a predetermined moment and shout at me.  Or I wear it walking around and talking, or holding my breath, or watching Fail Videos.  I want to try Musing while sleeping, but that will need an assistant and some planning, just haven’t gotten to it yet.  But I will.

Turns out I can predictably make that wavy line jump like a mofo.  Look:

muse meditation 4

See the sharp spike into the “active” zone at about the five minute mark?  That’s me doing math problems.  See the three or four peaks in the “active” zone around the 15 minute mark?  That’s Luc asking me for some breakfast.  (See how I didn’t finish out the 20 minutes?  That’s me going to make said breakfast.)  More on that middle bumpy section in a minute

But WTF?  What goes on in the black box of my skull is supposed to be private. Yet somehow this science fiction-looking device KNOWS.  It knows.

If I get arrested any time soon, you’ll know why.

After a while of reliably popping up spikes in the line, I started trying different meditation techniques.  Three, actually: the classic count-the-breath to ten then repeat,  keeping awareness on the breath (no counting), and focusing on a mantra.  (Anyone have others I should try?)

Subjectively, pre-Muse, I have  preferred the mantra approach because it feels somehow more free, less yoked.  The focus-on-the-breath thing (either counting or awareness) feels more like my brain is shackled down, more effortful. Counting the breath will even give me this focused intensity in my forehead, as if I’m drawing my eyebrows together to focus harder (I’m not actually moving my face).  Maybe I’m trying too hard?  Mantra-focus doesn’t do any of that.  Plus my breath is freaking boring.

But check it:  the Muse could totally pick up on all this.  Look at that last graph.  The first six or seven minutes I was doing count-the-breath (except for the bit where I was doing math) and my friend, the Wavy Line, stays mostly down in the “calm” and lower half of “neutral”.  Then from about seven minutes to twelve minutes I was doing mantra meditation and the line is mostly in “neutral” with some dips into “calm” and some into “active”.  Then I went back to count-the-breath  for a minute or two (before Luc showed up) and the line dropped to noticeably more “calm” again.  Mantra meditation produced more “calm” than just freewheeling thinking, but clearly it IS less “yoked” than breath-counting, just as I’d experienced, if by “yoked” I mean “calm” or vice-versus.  It’s all right there on the graph.

Does this mean mantra meditation is less effective?  Or does it just mean it’s less effective at whatever the Muse is reporting?  Is that focused, effortful feeling the goal?  Or would that effort-feeling pass, possibly, as I got better at it?  If so, could I get to the same “goal” with the mantra method, only slower?  Or something?  It’s all very interesting.

I love doing experiments like this!  Totally takes the boring out of meditation for me.  I loves me some graphs!  Give me some data, I’m all happy camper.  Give me a private black box and yeah, I’m off to the races, but it ain’t meditation.

It only takes a second of drifting off for the Muse’s aural “weather” to respond and get rough.  I can look at these graphs afterwards and pin point, that bumpy stretch was where I was thinking about Agents of SHIELD, and that spike was when the dog jumped on the bed, and that calm bit was when I dropped out of the world for five whole seconds.

The Muse people claim that continued practice will result in measurable improvement.  I’ve only been at it for a month and no noticeable improvement yet, as far as increasing % “calm” but I’m still at it.  I wouldn’t really expect “results” after only a month.  Maybe six months?  I feel like I have to say “results” in quotes because I’m not really sure what the “result” of keeping the line in the “calm” section will be.  Do really seasoned meditators put on the Muse and just flatline that puppy?  Or is there something else going on here?

I wish I knew more about what the line actually is.  There is this write-up at the Muse site.  And this TED talk by the founder of the company, Ariel Garten.  It seems like they came up with this portable, wearable EEG machine and then tried to think of a way to turn it into a product…and decided the meditation angle was the way to go (in the talk she mentions video games, turning on/off lights and appliances, and a levitating chair, I want to see the levitating chair!).  I’m down with that, monetizing is the way of the world, but there’s this vagueness about what meditation is (there are many kinds, of course, with different goals, but still) and what the Muse is telling me with its graph.  It definitely picks up on when I’m 1) thinking, startled, open-eyed and talking, doing math, remembering the plot to Age of Ultron, versus when I’m 2) counting my breaths, or being aware of my breath, or silently reciting a mantra.  I don’t know, I just want to know more from their materials.  More detail, less fluff, less marketing-speak.

Perhaps towards that end, I’m reading a couple of books on the neuroscience of meditation. Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson, and Waking, Dreaming Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy by Evan Thompson.  Although I’m wary of the desire of many authors to grasp new science and graft its terminology onto existing new age paradigms to try to give them legitimacy.  I’m not saying these books do that, just…I’m a bit loath to jump on anyone’s bandwagon.  But anyway, I started reading these books, we’ll see how far I get.  My attention span is shit.

Maybe the Muse can help me with that!  If I can just keep yoking my brain to my boring breath for 20 minutes a day, maybe the Almighty Wavy Line will take pity on me and start drifting downward, like a graceful feather, to land in the lake of calm and samadhi promised by so many mediators.  We shall see.

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I met a gal at a kid birthday party a couple of months ago who was about to go run a marathon.  I was impressed, while she was totally blase about it—until I started asking her more questions (people love to find something to talk about at parties), and she lit up and begin to tell me about Jeff Galloway. Turns out this gal had killed her knee ten years back, requiring surgery, and had thought she would never run again…but had managed to get into it—including this, her seventh marathon—four years ago, using Jeff Galloway’s “run/walk/run” method with, get this, zero pain and zero injuries.

I ran in high school and liked it, but gave it up.  Getting back to it has proved, up to now, impossible, as any time I tried my knees complained bitterly.  But something about this gal’s story got my interest going and I looked up Galloway.  Turns out he was an Olympic runner back in the 70s and has written a bunch of books about training gently and building up super slowly.  He has a website and an app. It all looked absurdly easy, simple intervals essentially, like, starting out you run for a fifteen seconds out of each minute, working up to one minute running/one minute walking and beyond, but never completely giving up the walking.  Ten minutes total to start, building up to an hour of run/walk/run.

Ten minutes, shit.  I could do that.

All casual-like I asked the yurt at large if anyone wanted to play with the app with me.  To my surprise, SuperHubby and Sophie (my 11 year old) both said they’d give it a shot.  In the app, Jeff himself comes on to tell you when to run and when to walk and you can play your tunes in the background.  Nice layout, nice timer features.  Total running handholding.  And that is how we came to be the 3x/week runners for the past month.

That’s right, I’m five weeks in and no knee pain.  My biggest concern is anything that might mess up my yoga practice, so I’ve been ready to drop the experiment in a hot minute.  But so far, so good.

In the app, Jeff has us up to 30 minute run/walks now.  He promises to get us to a 5k if we keep it up.  Me? Run a 5k?  C’est impossible!

Sidestory: He gives these little bite-sized coaching slogans (you can turn it off if you want) as you plod along.  For some reason Sophie (who is 80 lbs of muscle) kept getting messages about fat burning and watching out for over-snacking—odd since I haven’t gotten a one of those.  Instead, Jeff if always telling me how great I am.  Daw, thanks, Jeff.

All while he mocks Sophie in his strong southern accent: “Munch, munch, munch.”

“We don’t talk about that!” jokes Sophie, indignant.

Heh.

Ooo, I know, maybe if we actually do a 5k, we’ll get matching t-shirts!  The Lassiter Running Club!  I’ve always wanted to (pretend to) be an athlete!  I just voiced that thought and Sophie rolled her eyes at me.  “What?” said I.  To which she answered, “Nothing.  I just had a powerful urge to look at the ceiling.”

Oh hardy har.

Stay tuned.

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My best loved grandma passed away last week.  She was 91.  The last few years had been pretty hard for her, but Lassiter women are tough and she kept hanging in there, past when it even seemed possible.  One of twelve siblings, born on a tiny rural farm, she married at seventeen, had three babies, went back to school for a nursing degree, stayed married for 70 years.  She was also captain of her high school basketball team, loved to dance, traveled the world on a budget—Paris, Scotland, Switzerland, Alaska, she walked the Great Wall of China in her 70s!—delivered Meals-on-Wheels, was a devoted fashionista, sang in her choir for twenty-five years, wrote and published poetry.  I can’t even begin to sum up her life in a silly blog post.

But she conveyed to me, powerfully, through her actions, that if you want to do something, you go do it.  Full stop.

Sophie and I went to visit at the beginning of the week when she was pretty much gone, then went back a few days later for the funeral.  Her daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and spouses-of-same, discovered that Granddaddy’s vault (where some of his ashes are) was full of water, so the day after the funeral there was vault repair, and we put Grandma in there with him then in these glass jars.  The weather was gorgeous, the cemetery, this old place full of graves from the 1700s including a bunch of Lassiters, was lovely, all graceful spring trees, flowers, and gentle breezes.  That was a good morning.

Back at her house we found a litter of feral kittens in Granddaddy’s old boat barn.  Sophie caught one and my cousin caught another.  What the heck, we brought the little guy home.  Kitten therapy.

Here is Mr. Fluffbutton getting his first bath:Fluffbutton 4

Those ears! Mr. Fluffbutton

And here he is all fluffy and cute:

Fluffbutton 2

Fluffbutton 3

fluffbutton 1

When my Grandma was twenty she met a vivacious redhead named Iris who would go on to be Grandma’s dear friend for the next seventy years despite living hundreds of miles apart.  They visited and wrote long letters, and grew old together long distance.

We got a call the day after Grandma died letting us know that Iris had also died, ON THE SAME DAY.  Its just as if they  decided they were doing this next thing together, just like they did all the rest of it together.  Makes all the hairs stand up on my neck, makes me cry.

Here is my beautiful Grandma, Marginette.  I hope she and Iris are cutting up, having a grand time!

grandma 500

 

 

I just looked up my old Vivofit review (with Ashtanga Primary heartrate chart! very cool) and realized almost a year has gone by since I got the thing. Wow, that was absurdly fast.  But the point is, the Vivofit has been on my wrist this whole time, and I’m about to replace it.  So, the burning question that I’m sure must be on everyone‘s mind: what turned out to be the best feature of the Vivofit (and therefore possibly, something to look for in future devices) that kept me using it for a whole year?

Was it the fancy heartrate monitoring?  Was it the sleek design?  Was it the accuracy of the algorithms?

Nope.  It was the battery life.  And being waterproof.

I did not expect that.

Basically, the history of my use of the Vivofit has been a progressively diminishing giving-a-shit about what the Vivofit can do.  Let me explain.  First I gave up on sleep tracking (no actionable data).  That only took a week.  Next I tossed the distance and calorie burns, because distance was too meta, and calorie burn was always pretty much the same: I’m a creature of habit, apparently.  My metabolism is boring.

Next—and this surprised me—I tossed the heart-rate strap, and therefore all the “work-out event” monitoring.

Wait, what?!  Heart-rate monitoring was why I bought the damn thing in the first place!

But it turns out I’m really annoyed by my heart-rate strap.  Especially in the winter (it’s cold when you put it on!) and besides that, it’s uncomfortable (especially when doing yoga).  I probably only used the heart-rate tracking for a month (maybe two?) before I quit.

Man, I should have just gotten a pedometer.

But tossing the heart-rate monitoring meant the app pretty much went by the wayside, too.  Not enough left to track to bother, and I was never into the whole competitive aspect of leader boards and such.

Which left steps.

Oh, and the watch.

But step-awareness, yeah, that has become a part of my life.  Kind of funny, really, because that was the thing I was least invested in to begin with…but it’s the thing I’m still doing.  Life is weird.  But yeah, I park the car in the furthest part of the lot so I can get some steps.  It takes about ten steps from a cold start to get the Viviofit to register, and so I have this idiotic behavior now where I add  a couple of steps (walking past the target and doubling back if needed) to get to ten or eleven when I’m moving around the yurt, or grocery shopping, or whatever.  I walk in wavy lines to get more steps when taking Henry down the drive for a quick pee (cheating? or genius?)(Henry hates this).  I also now know it’s 100 steps to the end of the drive, 100 more to the neighbor’s drive, 400 to the pond, 500 to the big creek, 1400 to the big tree and back.  And an all important 12 from the bed to the fridge.  It’s a game—or at least a mini-game—and I’m playing it.  Still.

And, as part of this, surprisingly, I do still try to get that red bar off the screen.  It’s the last remaining feature of the Vivofit that I still engage with. At least once a day I find myself pacing around or taking Henry out, just to clear that stupid red bar.  And it seemed like a silly gimme at the beginning, the least important feature.  (Besides the watch.  Which I’ve gotten used to having on my wrist now.  Never worn a watch before.  It’s actually kind of handy.)  Stupid red bar is stupidly effective all these months later.  Go figure.

But the reason I’m still wearing the Vivofit and counting steps and clearing the red bar?  It’s because the battery needs no charging, plus I can wear the dang thing in the bath.  Which means I never have to take it off or do anything to it.  Zero effort.

Zero effort turns out to be the Vivofit’s killer feature.

In fact, it’s more effort to take it off than it is to leave it on and keep using it.   Which I’m certain is why I still am.

The battery life seemed like a nice extra when I bought it.  Yet it’s turned out to be the most important thing.

But…..the label started peeling up last week.  And yeah, I’ve got a hard on for the Apple Watch even though I have no idea why or what I’d use it for—I don’t even have an iPhone so I couldn’t even use it if I got one.  But looking at the Applewatch led me to looking around at the State Of The Wearable Market and I found that the whole optical wrist heart-rate tracking thing has improved in the last year and…it makes me want to upgrade.  Not to the Applewatch (too expensive! too ridiculous!).  But something, maybe.  I like this game, I do. But it’s got to be something that requires no cold plastic thing strapped on under my boobs.

Anyway, thank you Vivofit for hanging out with me for a year and getting me to walk more, including my standing desk and running (jogging, really) a few times a week, and parking in the far corner at the grocery store.  It’s been fun.  Really.  It’s me, not you.

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Ta da!Ghost Fugue Cover 400

It’s real!  It’s coming soon!  Probably June.  I’m super excited!

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It’s raining on the yurt roof (loud!) and thank goodness because we have been drowning in pollen.  Seriously, look at this:

pollen car 1

That’s from ONE NIGHT.  Take a closer look:

pollen car 2

That thick layer of yellow has been on everything.  I come in from walking Henry and the cuffs of my yoga pants are covered in it.  Hubby came in from working outside and when I patted him on the back, poofs of pollen came off him.  Driving down the road, you look into a yellow haze, seriously!  We leave footprints in it, it is so deep.

pollen footprint

But now this rain will wash it away, or at least some of it.  Our breathing systems can go back to the normally high levels of pollen of  NC spring and not this crazy onslaught.  Spring is on fast forward this year.

You know what, I was just flipping through my camera to get those pollen pics and look, Sophie’s gorgeous hair after our semi-annual Henna Party.  My cousin and I, and sometimes my sister, and now my daughter, we all have this crazy red hair now.  It’s a Thing.

sophie henna

So pretty! She likes to torment me by talking about cutting it all off.  Sob.

Ooo, and look at this, an amazing sushi feast we had a couple of weeks ago:

sushi feast

DELICIOUS. I had to take a picture.

Isn’t going through the camera fun?  I don’t miss the days of film.

And in my final news of the day, the new book has a title!  Ghost Fugue.  It is out with the second round of beta readers at the moment.  The cover is in the works, and I have booked my copyeditor to do the final typo, cleaning and formatting, hopefully in May.  Aiming for a June release.  I’ll do a fancy shmancy cover reveal as soon as it is done. I’m super excited about this book!

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Everything at our house is breaking.  I think we might be cursed.

The clothes washer stopped spinning (replacement, $200 from Craigslist).

The ipad started randomly typing things, opening apps, going to websites all on its own (demon exorcism, free but it didn’t work, bye-bye ipad, sob).

The dishwasher started making the dishes MORE dirty (SuperCoolHubby was able to fix it, YAY)(isn’t it funny how, as you get older, different things start to be totally hot in a guy?).

I’m zipping down the road at 60 mph and the car just turns off.  I had to coast to the road side with barely any brakes.  Scary! (Fuel distributor, $700 [passes out]).

The sound part of the remote stopped working (you now have to literally get up to change the volume, its a nightmare).

Car breaks down AGAIN, (catalytic converter, will be $700 AGAIN but we’re considering getting a different car because it also needs brakes, $600, and two tires $500 [passes out AGAIN]).

The hot water heater exploded (replacement, $550 [fall into a coma from all the head injuries from passing out so many times]). Just got that fixed yesterday, washed two loads of laundry in the new (used) machine, did two loads of dishes (in the old, fixed machine), and took two baths (sweet jesus I needed that).

For heaven’s sake!  This has all been in the last SIX WEEKS.  I am afraid to get out of bed!  What is going to break next??? Thank goodness I got some cash for my birthday, which saved our patooties, but even so, our finances are wrecked.  (Plus, I didn’t get to spend it on fun birthday presents.  Booooo.)  Please!  No more, no more!  Uncle!  I can’t take the stress!

This just happens sometimes, right?  All the bulbs in the house go at once.  It’s not like any of these things are serious.  We aren’t ill.  No one is bombing our city.  We have plenty to eat.  It’s not so bad, right?

Still.  Maybe I’ll just lie here quietly under the covers and wait for the dark star I am under to pass.

UPDATE: So, just when I thought maybe we were good…a loose connection on the new hot water heater caused a short, tripping the main circuit breaker…and it broke.  Meaning we couldn’t turn the power back on.  Cost to get an electrician out here and install a new one?  $520.

I had an honest to god panic attack, my face went numb, difficulty breathing, the works.  For heaven’s sake, right?  I need an evil eye deflector or something!  This kind of bad luck can’t be naturally occurring.

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The fact that this is even a question shows just how sex-negative our culture is, don’t you think?  I mean, no one is out there writing articles on “how to talk to your kids about rhinoceroses.”  And look, I’m not putting myself out there as an expert—if my kids hit twenty and can chime in and say, yeah mom, you did all right, then I’ll say I’m an expert.  But after hearing some moms the other day talking about pussyfooting around, feeling awkward, leaving books on their tween daughter’s beds, etc—especially when I know these same women chat with each other about sex—I feel like I might have something to say about this.

Short answer:  you never DON’T talk about sex with them.  Just like you don’t not talk about rhinoceroses.  When it comes up, it’s in the discussion for a bit, and then the conversation moves on.  As all conversations do.  This way sex is never a THING and you never have A TALK.  It’s just…normal.

Longer answer.  Little kids ask great questions.  When we used to take our goats on “dates” with a local stud (his name was Cowboy, no seriously, it was) little Sophie would go along and one day she asked me, “What does licking and climbing on have to do with getting pregnant?”  I gave her a short answer that included the guy getting his sperm/DNA in contact with the girl’s egg/DNA (because we’d just watched a Hulk episode about DNA and had talked about it, so I could piggy back a little) in order to get the whole recipe for making that particular baby into the mom, who cooked the baby until it was ready to be born.  Plus it feels good.  She said, “oh.”  It was maybe two minutes.  The conversation moved on.  That was the start.  Or, ha, I remember little Luc asking me at some point—and I can’t for the life of me remember the context! curses!—“wait, you mean sex feels good?”  Great questions, right?

My point is, in the beginning, kids are not embarrassed.  They ask the right questions.  It’s up to the parents not to mess that up.

So, for those who want a how-to LIST:

1) No embarrassment.  Straight-face.  Laugh.  Give good information.  Never hedge. Never lie or cover up. That way you retain your reputation as a Source of Good Information when they really need it.

2) Start when they are little, with their very first questions.  There is no “when you’re older” or “you’re too young to talk about that.” If you turn them away once, they may never ask you again, like when they are teenagers and need birth control.  You want them to still be asking when they are teenagers and need birth control!

3) At the same time, answer their questions exactly to the degree that they want information and not one syllable beyond that.  Don’t be Over Sharing Mom.  Four year old Sophie did not want Anais Nin to fill her in on the details of goat babies.  (Sixteen or eighteen or twenty-four year old Sophie might need the Anais Nin version–I hope we’re still talking as openly at that point!  THAT is the goal here.)  Pay attention to their cues.  Stop talking before they are bored or uncomfortable.

4) When sexuality crosses you and your kid’s paths (songs, jokes, ads, tv, life, etc, because it’s everywhere),  just naturally discuss whatever comes up.  Movies and tv are great for this, but it can be whatever.  Things that have to do with sex in some way come up all the time.  Don’t avoid them.

Bonus round: The car is a great place for this sort of stuff, because no one is looking at anyone and there is comfortable room for long silences.  But anywhere is fine, getting at it in the moment rather than waiting for A Talk is the best.  Don’t let talking about sexuality get a weird mojo around it.

That’s the basics.

Luc is nine.  Right now he hates anything to do with romance, or sex, or ugh, god, KISSING.  He says, “Don’t say that word!  Say ‘the S word’!”  I respect that.

Sophie is a mature eleven.  She watches anime which is sometimes full of fan service (usually panty shots and boobs, occasionally dream-boat bishounen) and often very strange ideas about gender roles.  We talk about feminism, and portrayal of women, the jokes about wood, body image, “that’s what she said” type jokes, and the strong possibility that those two guy characters are secretly dating.  I remember being eleven, I was trying stuff out on my own, I was interested. The hormones were there.  They’re there for her, too. And I want to be a resource for her, to whatever degree she wants me to be–and not in some awkward, formal “if you have any questions” way, but in a “we just talk about this, it’s normal” way.  Which means lots of little interactions when it isn’t high-stakes (low stakes: not about her, high stakes: about her).  Much easier to talk about tv show characters and hypotheticals (low stakes!) and build up the ease and trust that way.  It’s ridiculously hard if we’ve never talked about it and she’s sixteen and worried she’s got an std.  Don’t wait till then because its too late.

There is a moment when I say something out-loud for the first time that feels a little heart-pounding to me—me who was raised in a home where We Do Not Talk About Sex—and that moment is so important.  It takes whatever it is out of Taboo Land and puts it in Topics Up For Discussion territory.  I have to push through the taboo in myself, just to get the words spoken.  It’s like deflating balloons, though, because once I’ve said it, the weirdness in myself goes away really quickly.

For example.  The three of us were getting ready for bed the other night, brushing our teeth, finding pjs, etc and Luc asked me what I did that day while they were visiting their aunt.  I hesitated.   Because what I did was fuck my husband stupid.  So I was faced with a choice.  I could lie, I could cover, because I felt nervous (throwback to my childhood)—but why do that?  Why lie?  If I do, I’ve installed a taboo, which means maybe in six, or four, or eight years, when Luc has a girlfriend or a boyfriend and he’s getting it on, or thinking about getting it on, he probably will think he can’t tell me about it.  Because I will have set the precedent that We Don’t Talk About When We Have Sex.

So I said, “Your dad and I had some awesome, um, S-Word.”

He made a face.  “Why?” As in, why would you willingly participate in something so GROSS?!

I said, “Because we like each other!  And it’s fun.”

Sophie laughed.  “They are a couple.  It’s what they do.”

Which I was glad to hear, her easy laughing, the normality of her response.

“Whatever,” said Luc.  “I don’t get it.”  And the conversation moved on.

A tiny interaction.  But now it’s in the mix. It could come up again, more easily now that it’s on the table. It’s not a big mysterious secret that Dad and Mom are doing…things.  So maybe it doesn’t have to be a secret when they start, either.

Lots of little interactions where sex isn’t A SECRET build up to sex being just another topic.  If you want it to be easy and normal to talk about sex when they are teenagers, you have to normalize it all along.

Boom.  And that’s how you talk WITH (not TO) your kids about sex.

Sidebar:  I do have a couple of books around, books that I’ve pointed out to them and said, “Hey, I got this book, I think it’s pretty informative and not stupid.  Feel free to look at it if you want.”  They’re usually, “whatever,” and I drop it.  But the books are there, a curated collection, rather than Random Shit Off The Internet.  Sometimes you want info but you want it in private, and you don’t want to have to ask your mom.  That’s cool.  Books are good for that.

So, in case you’re interested, S.E.X. by Heather Corinna is great, with lots of discussion about tricky topics like consent, feelings, choices, plus in depth on physiology, birth control, sti’s, based on solid science.  From the creator of the excellent site Scarlateen.com, which I also recommend.  Another one that is shorter is Sex: a book for teens by Nikol Hassler. Good, more basic than the other one, more of a how-to with information about birth control, safe sex, etc. and less of the psychological.  Plus it’s funny and a bit less of a commitment because it looks small, with not too many pages, and has cows humping on the cover.  No really, it does.

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Short version: Hell yeah, the title says it all, doesn’t it?

Long version: back in my twenties I used to take this Tribal Belly Dance class based on Fat Chance Belly Dance troupe, which was just getting going over in San Fran at the time.  It was terrific, full of muscle locks and precision movements that resulted in a sweat soaked but very fun workout. Tribal is not flowing, floaty belly dance with chiffon scarves; it is muscle isolation and drills and yeah, it kicked my butt, but in that good way that lets you know you’re alive.  Not that I was ever any good at it, but who cares.

Fast forward twenty *cough* years [faints] and I’m, okay, well, I’m old.  And I’ve been having some trouble with wrist pain from Too Much Typing, so I made a standing desk with ergonomic keyboard, yada yada.  I’m standing here typing on it right now, this very post.  Anyway, as I result, I spend a lot more time standing now, doing my thang….

And it’s boring.  I mean, seriously.  My body gets bored.  I guess when I’m sitting, I just forget my body altogether, but standing, it stays…activated.   It starts moving around, shifting this way or that, pelvis this way, that way, scoop, slide, stretch…and suddenly I find I’m doing long forgotten tribal belly dance moves, like, unconsciously, while I type.  Figure eights, hip slides, scoops, belly rolls, up eights, down eights, clockwise, counter clockwise, locks, shimmies.  And yeah, I look like a flaming idiot.

BUT.  After a couple of months of this, my abs are freaking CUT.

TOTALLY UNEXPECTED SIDE EFFECT.  I had no plan whatsoever to get a six-pack at my standing desk.  But how cool is that?  Accidental Abs.

Unexpected Bummer to go with it: apparently having cut abs does not in any way mean that my jumpback will be improved.  And while I do notice an improvement in my posture, I notice no observable change in actual abdominal strength during my yoga practice. In other words: I still totally suck at navasana.  And I can’t do a decent jump back to save my life.  I am ashamed.

Is it the c-section—my secret theory—that keeps me forever from attaining this ashtanga basic, the all-mighty jumpback?  Have I just not poured enough sweat in (even after 5+ years of working it)?  It is physically impossible for me VS. am I lazy: these are the two basic options, with a possible side dish of “give it time” but I’ve done that and nada.  Humph.

I’m okay with this, usually.  I’ve come to peace with my smear-back and my walk-through.  But man, I would have thought carving your core would have translated into freaking LEVITATION.

Nope.

I think I have that affliction where stated goals are never attained, but you get all this other great stuff along the way.

Most days, I’m okay with that.

No, there will be no photo of my new amazing abs on the internet.  So forget about it.  I support you in the process of feeling your loss.  There, there.  But if you want some abs of your own, I highly recommend an hour or two of tribal belly dance every day while you use your computer.  Shockingly effective.

I’ll leave you with the amazing Rachel Brice, tribal belly dancer extraordinaire.  She is a GODDESS.  (Hey, I wonder if she has a standing desk?)

 

Back in the middle of all that snow at the end of February, I turned 44 and on the same day, Sophie turned 11.  Some nice number palindromes there, plus I was exactly four times her age.  We had to postpone our party twice due to snow, but we finally got some friends and family together to celebrate, yay!  Luc and I baked the cake—he is becoming quite the baker, studying with the master, his Great Aunt Carroll.  Here’s my girl and I, plus Luc’s cake:

birthday 44 and 11

After the party, for fun we took a picture of Sophie in one of my old baby carriers.  I was totally into carrying my babies and had a ton of wraps, I’ve gotten rid of most of them, but some I just can’t part with… and I can still do it!  For a few minutes anyway.

sophie in carrier 44 and 11Isn’t she cute???  So HUGE.  For comparison, here we are ten years ago:

sophie in carrier 1 and 35I’m super preggo with Luc in that one.  We were just about to move into the yurt.  I had just finished my first novel.  It’s gone by so fast.

In another ten years maybe we’ll take a picture of Sophie carrying me in the wrap!

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