I started studying Japanese almost two years ago (January).  That is shocking.  I am simultaneously impressed that I stayed with it this long, dismayed at how much time I have put into this essentially useless-to-me hobby, and shocked that I’m not further along by now because wow, Japanese is really hard.

But yeah, I’m still at it.  I love it, this interesting puzzle-solving hobby that has zero stress because it has zero connection to anything else in my life.  I think its like people who do the daily cross-word puzzle in the morning, or play a few round of solitaire to help them get to sleep.  Wani Kani, iKnow, Genki, Imabi, Tae Kim, Textfugu, and Japanese the Manga Way are my Japanese drugs of choice.  (Not all at once!  WaniKani is daily, the rest is in a complex rotation system that not even I fully comprehend.)

Plus this new one:  Ehon Navi.  First, if you click that link, you’re going to get a page full of Japanese except for one little English phrase, “Picture books for happiness!” which I love.  Yes!  A good picture book definitely is a happiness-inducer, isn’t it?  Second, Ehon is Japanese for children’s picture book and Navi I think is connected to navigation.  Basically the site has over a thousand Japanese pictures books scanned in that you can read for free—one time each (no going back!).  You have to register but it isn’t hard, and the reader-app they have is quite usable.  It’s basically having a Japanese children’s library on your laptop.  How cool is that?  And wow, Japanese artists KNOW THEIR CUTE.

I found Ehon Navi via Liana’s Extensive Reading blog.  Extensive Reading is the language learning strategy of, basically, reading a ton in your target language, at or below your fluency level, just gobs and gobs of stuff, casting aside anything you don’t enjoy (and don’t use a dictionary!).  It’s how I learned English so well, so it makes sense to me.  Plus, it’s super fun.  Ehon Navi gives someone who wants to try some Extensive Reading in Japanese, but has a low reading level (raises hand), a chance to level up through access to so many easy books.  Bonuses: gorgeous, funny art and charming stories.  It’s a win-win-win-win, really, with some win on top.

Liana has a walkthrough on how to register, and some clues about how to use the site if you can’t read Japanese well enough to navigate it.  Thanks so much for putting that together, Liana!  I have been enjoying this so much.  It’s been a shot in the arm of my Japanese, studies, really.  I can get lost in the slog sometimes and forget why I’m doing it.  Oh yeah, I like reading Japanese!

Plus, I used to read so many children’s books when the kids were little, and loved it, but I haven’t read picture books in years.  It’s surprisingly delightful to get back to it, even (especially?) in Japanese.  Simple stories, cute pictures, funny jokes.  Highly recommended.  If you’re studying Japanese and can’t read manga yet, maybe get over the fear of all that Japanese by jumping in to picture books.

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It’s surprising to me how motivating a tiny agreement—with someone I only know over the internet—to virtually fist-bump if we met our week’s yoga goals has been.  But yeah, I totally shooed myself on the mat because of that agreement.  Can’t get to week’s end and have to say, sorry, can’t fist bump, I was lame.  So woot.  Go me.  I practiced five times this week, two primary’s to supta konasana, two to navasana, one standing only.  FIST BUMP.

Practice was good, not too stiff.  I can feel that twinge in my hamstring attachment complaining—I think the cold is giving it trouble.  God, I sound like an old woman.  Anyway.

How was your week?

 

…and toast.  So, how was your practice this week?  What are you pondering, struggling with, trying out, avoiding?  Tell me all about it.

 

My daughter Sophie and I had quite a haul in the mailbox yesterday.  For me, my very-first-ever pair of prescription sunglasses, scored from Zenni Optical for $45 bucks, because I finally have had ENOUGH of wearing sunglasses perched precariously on top of my glasses when I go anywhere bright and actually want to see in focus (what a dork I am, I know, I know).

For Sophie, the mailbox contained her very-first-ever grown-up BRA.  As opposed to those cute, cotton bralettes they sell in the “junior” department (basically very short tank-tops), this bra sported adjustable straps, a back closure, and LO! actual cups.  So cute!!!!

So.  Cool Wayfarer stylin with polarized lenses for me, and injection molded foam for wire-free support with a simply gorgeous image of Space emblazoned on the cups for her.  It’s a wonder the mailbox didn’t pour out blinding golden light when we opened it up.

Online shopping is amazing, isn’t it?  On the Zenni site you enter in your prescription and your various desires (lens material, fancy coatings, etc), then you upload a picture of yourself upon which you can “try on” any of their frames. Sweet.  Click order and they send you your glasses in a week, and the prices are jawdroppingly low.  I uploaded a crap-tastic picture of myself, (because I don’t want to have to look good for my glasses, you know what I’m saying?  I want them to make ME look good, not the other way around) and a week later, here I was, mugging in the rear view mirror.

Sidebar: Seriously, I love my eye doctor (who is, I have to say, hot), but at $400+ for a pair of his glasses, I do not see how he can possibly compete with Zenni which gives me the same (or better, because they have a huge selection) glasses for 1/10th the price.  $40 vs $400, there really is no comparison.  Although I seriously pray this boon to me is not coming out of a sweatshop-for-glasses scenario.

Anyway.  Back in the car, Sophie is ripping open her package from Herroom.com, another online wonder, this time a knickers emporium with 100,000 bras to choose from. It even has a sizing page where you enter various measurements, hit calculate, and boom, it gives you your bra size.

What witchery is this?  No older woman “fitting” you for a bra while making veiled snarky comments about your back-fat and trying to sell you a bra that clearly does not fit?  How can local bra shops compete?  I was dubious that a web-applet could produce a proper size—but damn if the bra we purchased (for $9 bucks!) fit Sophie exactly.  Amazing.

$9 bucks!!  My stupid yoga bras are more like $40 and I pass out from sticker shock every time I go to buy one, resulting in me wearing them to tattered rags.  $9 bucks!  Maybe I need to rethink the yoga bras.

Sophie put her new bra on the car as we headed out to do errands.  I sang the Star Wars Theme because it is, after all, the Galaxy Bra.  Seriously! it’s a Maidenform “Softie Contour Bra,” and when we found it on the site, the color options were black, nude, white, or ‘Galaxy’.

“Which do you want?” I asked.

Sophie gave me a look. “Duh.  Galaxy.”

That’s my girl.

“How is it?” I asked, driving through the autumn colors.  Sophie peered down, stretching left and right.  “They both look the same size now.”

I laughed and sang Star Wars some more, the wind blowing my hair back from my new jaunty shades—which are excellent, by the way.  I’ve never been able to see in focus, and without glare, BOTH at the same time.  I can’t believe I waited this long to get these.  “Mom,” Sophie said, “Please.  My boobs do not need a soundtrack.”  Ha!

“Of course they do!  And you know you’re a woman when you discover what yours is.”  We were both cracking up.

galaxy braAnd let me just say, it isn’t just bra-selling technology that blows me away, it’s the bras themselves.  Holy cow, I’ve been wearing my cotton yoga bras forever, and, I have to admit, nursing bras before that, I am WAY behind the times on the high-tech, molded foam, wireless possibilities out there.  The Galaxy Bra is soft, comfortable and according to Sophie, very supportive.  Amazing.  The dang thing is just shy of a levitation device for breasts. On top of all that, it’s dramatically pretty.  My first terrible, horrible, no good, very bad bra was a no-size-fits-anyone disaster that I had to jerk down in the front every time I moved because it rode up constantly—for a year.

In comparison, the Galaxy Bra is a work of art, both engineering and aesthetic.  It’s goddamn beautiful.  (And my little girl!  In a real grown up bra!  I can’t even tell you have astonishing that is.  My life, it’s passing before my very eyes.)

Anyway, what with the sunglasses and the bra, we felt so celebratory (celeBRAtory, heh heh, cough, sorry) we ended up at a coffee shop.  It just happened, I swear.  But online shopping had yielded us life changing treasures!  Clearly we needed sugar to commemorate the moment.

Staring at the bakery case I said, “Should we get a chocolate chip cookie, a cannoli, or tiramisu?”

Sophie gave me a look. “Duh.  Tiramisu.”

That’s my girl.tiramisu

We sat outside in the sparkling fall weather, beneath a juniper tree and a red maple the color of fire, and shared the tiramisu, me with the sun on my face and NOT in my eyes, and her in her secret, fancy underwear.

“This is awesome,” she said, through a mouthful of espresso soaked cake and mascarpone.

“Yep,” I said.

It was.

Later, in the yurt, Luc, 9, said, “So, what the heck IS a Galaxy bra?”

“It’s a bra emblazoned with Hubble deep space photography,” I said.  “It’s lovely.  I want one.”

“But why would you even want a bra with stuff on it?” he said.  “No one is going to see it.”

“Dude.  Fancy underwear can change your whole day.  It makes you feel like a million bucks.  It’s an instant boost.”

“You need therapy.”

“A bra is cheaper.”

Sophie started to lift her shirt. “Want to see it?  It’s really comfortable.”

“NO.  Definitely not.”

how to be a womanWhich brings me to the painfully, wonderfully funny memoir of Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman, in which she says, “The bra is, perhaps, the rudest item of women’s clothing. If you do not doubt this, try this simple test: throw a bra at a nine-year-old boy. He will react as if he has had a live rat winged at his head. He will run, screaming, away from you – like that Vietnamese kid covered in napalm. He cannot handle the rudeness of bras.”

Too true!  And listen, there is so much truth in the chapter on bras alone that I was laughing so hard reading it I fell off my chair at the kid’s aikido class.  Very embarrassing.  Basically I was trying so hard NOT to laugh (aikido being a rather serious endeavor) that my butt just…slipped…and I ended up half-wedged between seats, hanging onto the appalled parent next to me, concerned that Sensei was going to need to bring in a crane to get me out.  Imagine a hilariously funny British stand-up comedian giving you the feminist 101 download on an array of topics from clothes to childbirth to wedding receptions to journalism, all while telling her own life story and making you pee your pants.  I highly, highly recommend.

I also highly recommend Zenni Optical and Herroom.  And bra shopping with your daughter in a way that makes you both laugh.  And tiramisu.  Lots of tiramisu.

Bonus Level!

Overheard just now as I was typing this out:

Sophie: “I’m going into the man cave.”

Luc: “Says the person wearing a Galaxy Bra.”

Sophie, thoughtful: “Maybe you can’t go into a Man Cave in a Galaxy Bra.  Maybe it would cause them both to combust, like matter and anti-matter.”

Luc: “Which one is which?”

Good freaking question.  I have no idea.

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Yep.  I feel like a big dummy.  Went down while walking the dog and now I’m on crutches.  This happened to me once before and I wrote about it one of my favorite posts here on mayaland.  Anyway, I’m propped up on the couch feeling pitiful and delicate—unless I take ibuprophen and then everything is fine fine fine.

Yoga this week: three full primary’s and one half before I lost the ankle.  Really nice practices this week, too, not so stiff, pleasurable.  I wonder if I’ll be able to practice this coming week?  How long will this ankle thing last???  I can’t remember from last time.

On the up side, I asked Luc, 9, what he wanted for Christmas—we were chatting on the sofa, and honestly, I think he was kind of enjoying that I couldn’t keep hopping up to do a million things—and he said, and I quote, “I don’t know.  I already have everything I want.  Except maybe infinite sushi.”  He kind of shrugged a little and went back to what he was doing.

WOW.  When I was nine, I was hungry for a million things, I was starring items in catalogs on the off chance someone somewhere would feel generous, I couldn’t have imagined saying such words.  It really took my breath away, especially the nonchalance he said it with.  Like it was no big deal to be happy.

Does this mean I’m doing something right?  That he feels so full and content?  Can I take any of the credit?  Because seriously, he’s such a cool little guy and he always has been.  Jeez, you know what?  I am definitely buying this kid a shit-ton of sushi.

Oh, wait.  Maybe that was his plan?

Hmmm.  While I ponder that, please feel free to check in with your week’s yoga thoughts, I love hearing them.

And here is Ruth Kobin, talking about doing Pilates at 100 years of age.

A year later Ruth was featured in Pilates Magazine.  She was 101.

 

There’s a reason I don’t currently practice Intermediate Series and it isn’t that I haven’t tried or don’t have a teacher (because when has that ever stopped me).  It’s because I’m freaked out by backbends.  It’s true.  I’m a backbending wuss.  I just…panic.  I can’t explain it.  I’ve talked about it before, I’ve used props and dvds to try to get over it, and I actually have practiced Intermediate at various times (for example, here)—David Swensen’s version from his book and David William’s version—but I always seem to give it up.  It’s all those backbends right out of the gate, hanging my big old heavy head back into space, the mild choking , the disorientation, my cement spine, the fear of falling or somehow…breaking.  I hate it.

Never the less, I have made some backbending progress over the five years of my conservative Ashtanga practice.  And although I have tried all the various things I just mentioned, I really think the main thing that has worked for me is Up Dog and it’s slightly easier cousin, Cobra.

Seriously.  Up Dog.  And lengthening the time I spend in Up Dog.  Three, four, five breaths in Up Dog (or putting the legs down on the floor in cobra) per vinyasa, for all those vinyasas, that adds up to a lot of backbending.

Plus, I like to press into the pose from different angles, try to find different vertebra and put more arch into different sections of my spine.  I play with it, a la Angela Farmer.  And I can’t explain why, but Up Dog and Cobra do not trigger my backbend panic.  So I love them.

Sidebar/ If you haven’t heard of Angela Farmer, she’s amazing.  She studied with Iyengar back before yoga was cool and then went on to do her own thing.  She’s one of the old timers in American yoga, for example, Angela invented the yoga mat!  The story goes that she was teaching a workshop on these slippery floors and just, spur of the moment, cut up some under-carpet-matting, that sticky, rubbery stuff they put under wall-to-wall carpet, and boom.  Yoga mats.  I haven’t seen all her offerings, just a few of the older ones, but she  had a huge impact on me as far as pleasure in the practice, joyful asana, moving in an asana, trusting your body’s sensations, etc.  Terrific stuff, highly recommended.  She is a MASTER and I do not say that lightly.

Here, just found this, one of her old ones, Feminine Unfolding (although, I don’t think it has anything to do with women/men, personally, that feels kind of dated in a way).  This video is a long one, but worth every minute. You will never do a stiff, stagnant asana again. Very inspiring!!  Rocked my yoga world when I first saw it.

Anyhoo, I was thinking today about how little love Up Dog gets, it’s barely mentioned as more than a transition asana sometimes, something that happens on the way to Down Dog.  But I’ve found lingering there, as well as working in plank/chaturunga, these are sometimes the most important parts of a given day’s Primary.  The asana inbetween become fun little side stretches to rest between the WORK of five breath planks, shaky arm chaturangas, and five breath up dogs/cobra (I switch to cobra when my wrists start hurting, another David William’s approach).  Up Dog is not as flashy as  kapotasana, FOR SURE, but still, if you do twenty+ of them in a practice, it adds up.

And they are panic free, at least for me.  WOOT.  I’m all about the Up Dog these days.

Bonus round!

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Finally, Friday’s are yoga-chat open thread days! Please feel free to say hello, check-in, talk about your week’s practice, highs and lows, complain, crow, whatever. Past discussions have been great, aging and yoga, outside exercise and Ashtanga, etc. We’d love to hear from you!

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The Outer Banks are a super thin strip of sandy islands that run along the North Carolina shore.  On the East side of each island is the beach and on the west is the Sound, a saltwater marshy space where the inter-coastal waterway runs.  Here’s a map:

outer banks map

In some places those skinny islands are so skinny, you can walk from surf, across a few dunes and a highway, then through a bit of live oak forest, and be standing in the salty sound, all in a few minutes.  Many are thicker but no more than a mile across.  The island tips, though, are the coolest spots, places where the sound and surf come together in a mingling swirl of sandbars, marsh grass and beach.

Here is the view from the porch of the cottage I was at last week:

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It’s hard to see it in the photo, but the farthest (highest) strip of water in this picture is the breaking waves of the beach itself.  Those distant specks are the 4wd trucks of fishermen pulled right up to the breakers on the tippy-tip of the island.  The green is marsh grass is where the sound is swirling around to meet the surf.  Between the two are sandbars, some with trees, like on the left top, and marsh, all great for birds, fishing, and canoeing.

A huge number of my favorite childhood memories have this very view in them.  The Lassiter’s have been going to this bit of beach for thirty-plus years, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, all piled in, sleeping on sofas, getting up early to walk to the beach or check the net.

In summer, you can swim from the surf to the sound.  Or float in the channel down to the nearest sandbar and explore.  If the tide turns you’ll have too strong a current to swim against, so you’ll have to be picked up.  My Granddaddy used to come get us in his fishing boat, the same fishing boat we had on this trip, still going strong after fifty years, although Granddaddy has been gone a decade now.  Lots of layers of personal history in this particular spot of the world for me.

And tons of adventures to be had.  Canoeing is a favorite.  Here is little Luc between his Great Aunt and Great Uncle…

luc in the canoe

There’s a bazillion treasures to find…

feather on beach

Love the light in this next one!

shell in the water

Everyone’s got to learn to drive the boat…

sophie steering the boat

And the aquarium is not too far of a drive…

aquarium1

aquarium2

Plus there is swimming, yes, even in October!…

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Although, truth, Luc nearly levitated to get back out of that water.  “Too cold!!!!”  Sophie and her aunties swam for a good half-hour though.  Lassiter women are bad-ass like that.  (Not me.  I’m with Luc.  I had to, uh, take the pictures.)

The sky and the colors are always changing.  So beautiful!

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That last one with the crazy Sauron-Is-Coming sky is at the beach proper.  It looks like a desert, but that strip of dark on the horizon is the ocean.  Part of that is a trick of the camera angle, but also, there’s just a ton of sand down at the point, where the ocean keeps depositing the sand picked up from the more northern parts of the island.  The Outer Banks are always in motion.

Here’s another beach-y shot, sand castle construction with another of the Great Aunts (while I took the best nap of my LIFE, I am totally serious):

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The colors!

Of course, a very important part of the recipe for a great beach week:

margharitas

Margaritas!  Hell yeah.

One of my favorite things, though, is the sunsets….

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They’re different every day.

If you get a chance to visit, I highly recommend it, but be super ecologically responsible.  So many parts of this place are delicate and endangered.  Makes me weep.

LOVE.  If there is an inner Maya Landscape, this is it.

outerbanks15

 

I went to the beach this week!  WOOT.  That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.  Excuse for not posting here, and for not doing a damn bit of yoga.  I went whole hog and didn’t write (because the current novel is out to beta readers and I need a BREAK), didn’t do yoga, didn’t study kanji and Japanese, basically didn’t do anything but hang with the kids, walk on the beach, do a few canoe rides, and eat a ton of good food.

Just got back and it’s dive right into PARTY PREP for Luc’s NINE-YEARS-OLD birthday party, O.M.G.  I can not believe he is nine.  Nine is like, the last year of true childhood.  Don’t you think?  Ten is something else altogether, plus, double digits.  Nine is still a little boy….

In the last twenty-four hours I have cleaned the entire yurt (A-MAZING), made two giant pots of chilli, baked and frosted a cake, etc.  Sunday night I’m going to collapse with a big glass of wine.  Monday I’m returning to my life, writing, yoga, kanji, driving the kids to their various activities, blah blah.

SO.  This is the yoga thread where I DON’T TALK ABOUT YOGA.  Ha!  Except maybe how much I miss it.  I guess a break can be a good thing, if it makes you want to practice….

 

I noticed today that it felt good to get into padmasana.  I mean, I got to the end of finishing, those last three lotuses, and it was Ahhhhhh.  Not just for finishing, but for actually bending my legs into that ridiculous, upside down, shape.   You know, that good feeling like stretching first thing in the morning, like you’ve been waiting to do it, and you finally have, and it’s lovely.  That feeling.

“Really?” I asked myself.  “Seriously?”

Yes.  Seriously.  Instead of padmasana aching my hips, or being barely tolerable by my knees, or hurting the top of my left foot (it did that for years), it felt…good.

Just another of those minor asana miracles that happen if you stick with it.  Impossible body positions become old friends.   It’s freaking weird.

Please drop by and leave a comment about your practice this week.  Plus, if you’re new, you might want to look at some of the old Friday Open Thread chats, they’ve been great, lots of discussion of yoga after 40, sticking with it (or not), showing up (or not).  I’m delighted to keep hosting as long as there is interest!

 

Danielle” is a wonderful, beautiful vid showing a young girl aging into an old woman in five minutes.  It happens so slowly, at first you don’t quite realize what you’re seeing—LIKE REAL AGING—and then you get it and wow.  Highly recommended!  And no skipping around!  Don’t cheat!  Watch it straight through for the full effect, watch it in HD, just watch it.

I feel strangely moved by this, by how beautiful she looks at all the ages, by the little girl inside the old woman, by how fast my life is passing before my eyes, like this.  It feels like five minutes ago I was that little girl.

The video was made by Anthony Cerniello    by merging and animating high-def photos of many relatives within a single family.  Here’s the info: Cerniello traveled to his friend Danielle’s family reunion and with still photographer Keith Sirchio shot portraits of her youngest cousins through to her oldest relatives with a Hasselblad medium format camera. Then began the process of scanning each photo with a drum scanner at the U.N. in New York, at which point he carefully edited the photos to select the family members that had the most similar bone structure. Next he brought on animators Nathan Meier and Edmund Earle who worked in After Effects and 3D Studio Max to morph and animate the still photos to make them lifelike as possible. Finally, Nuke (a kind of 3D visual effects software) artist George Cuddy was brought on to smooth out some small details like the eyes and hair.

Obviously, I’m still pondering aging.

Sidenote: my current novel is out with the first round of beta readers.  FINALLY.  It feels very, very bizarre not to be working on it every day.  I’ve been writing it for the last sixteen months, which is really embarrassing.  Why so long???  It isn’t proportionally better a novel than my others, I don’t think.  It just…took longer.  I hope to get it out by the end of the year, but that might be pushing it…..

 
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