Basically, this is a space for a bit of chatting, check-in, commiserating, and celebrating about our practice, particularly for home practitioners who don’t have all this already at a shala, but everyone is welcome.  Great for motivation and all ’round fun.  Last week I posted a similar open thread and got some nice replies.  Hi, gals!  I hope you  drop back by, and I hope some new folks stop in to say hello.  Let’s keep the conversation rolling. I’ll keep posting them as long as there is a bit of interest.

[click the tag weekly yoga check in at the bottom for past check-in posts]

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This post is kind of a ‘part 2′ of my previous rant about aging and makeup, a flip side post, if you will, to all my complaining.  Or possibly a status report.

But wait, isn’t this a writing, yoga, unschooling blog?  Wtf?  Well, yes, it is those things.  But first and formost it is an ADVENTURE BLOG!  And this week’s adventure is makeup.

Because yes, I have continued to step away from the natural, organic, face care  you can get at Whole Foods (often greasy with dullish colors, I’m sorry Dr. Haushka, it’s true) and have bravely sallied forth into the wide world of mainstream skin care.  And WOW.  How things have changed since I last was buying drugstore makeup.

For example, when did primers become a Thing?  Now you prime your lids, your face, your under-eyes…

And what’s this business with contouring?  I thought only drag queens did that?  Which is totally not a put down on drag queens who I have long felt were the masters of makeup, if anyone is.  Indeed, when I was a short-order cook, I used to work with this gal, Stephanie, born a man, six feet tall, blond hair down her back, she would work the line in full-face glam, I’m talking false lashes, lip-liner, glitter, the works.  She looked way better than I ever did in makeup.  She could contour like she was freaking DaVinci. And now everyone is contouring!  The times they have a-changed.

Plus there are so many new terrific textures.  Mouses, lightweight liquids, creamy, non-drying, silky, non-caking, vanishing into your skin concoctions, so much nicer than the stuff they had twenty years ago when I gave all this up.  Mostly gave up.  I’ve been a sunscreen, eyeliner, lip balm gal for years.  Min-i-mal.  As if there was some moral high ground in having only three products on my face.  Where did that idea even come from?  I can’t remember.

And the colors out there now!  They are to die for!  It’s kind of like when I first started knitting and would step into the yarn store and start twitching and frothing at all the yummy yarn.  Lay out the yarn and let me roll around naked on it! I’ve always had a thing for color.

Anyway, Sophie, 10, agreed to be my companion (or possibly a security teddy-bear for me to clutch, she’s so much braver than I am) on my maiden voyage to Sephora where we oooed and ahhhed at all the colors, packaging, and price-tags, oh la la.  Madeline was the makeup artist who helped us.  She had gorgeous, graphic winged eyeliner, and super red lips, plus a utility belt of makeup brushes, sponges, que-tips, and squirt bottles, like Batman only better.  I bought a light-reflective concealer (boring, but apparently this light-reflective business is the new normal for under-the-eyes) and a red lipstick like Madeline’s (dare I?).  Sophie picked out a little tub of gold dust, which she has worn alternately on her pretty little eyelids, and on her cheekbones, so lovely.

Confession, the concealer is a big fail, as far as I can tell, because no matter what I do (moisturize first, apply with brush, apply with fingers, use less, use more, etc) it looks like a crinkly, creasey, light-reflective mess that is certainly no better than the dark circles I started with.  I think this may be an age thing.  The lipstick is better, but I’m, uh, still hammering out the details.  Such as how to keep a matte lipstick from drying out and adhering in clumps after an hour or two?  This is a mystery.  Which I will crack.

From the drugstore (and for a hellofvalot cheaper) I have picked up several little pots of shimmery cream eye-shadows (Mabelline Color Tattoo Cream Gel) and a blending brush (a dupe for the Mac 217) (see me use fancy jargon! watch me go!) and have been having better luck with them as they seem to be a bit more fool-proof.  Which is good because despite twenty-five years of wearing makeup I feel like a complete NOVICE.

Plus, I had thought that hooded eyes and eyeshadow didn’t mix because what’s the point?  If you have hooded eyes you can’t see any of the eyeshadow anyway, it’s all covered up with skin.  But this not completely true: my eyelids are visible when I blink.

Thus the discovery of peekaboo eyeshadow!  For hooded lids only!  You do a normal, neutral eye, matte browns or taupes, or whatever, except on the lid.  Where the lid is hidden by the hood, you smack some outrageous color, purple! lime green! solid gold! or maybe some crazy sparkle like the pixie-vamp you are.  When you’re done, eyes open you look plain jane. But when you blink, BAM!  Party on my eyelid!

Supercoolhusband says, “Do you have your peekaboo rainbow sprinkles on today?”  And I say, “Why yes, I do,” and I bat my eyes at him, so coquettish.  I’m coquettish!  Who would have thought.

Another discovery: the Brave New World of exfoliants, which are like chemical resurfacing agents, only they really work.  Seriously, I am impressed.  Last I checked, exfoliants were scrubs with grit in them that you used to scrape off the top layer of your face.  Yuck.  But no longer.  Now they are leave-on treatments of AHA and BHA (Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids like glycolic acid or salicylic acid, which all sounds very acid-y, doesn’t it? isn’t acid bad? turns out, no) designed to take off those dead skin cells and scrub out your pores while you go about your business.  I’ve been trying samples of both (not at the same time!) from Paula’s Choice and I kid you not: my skin has not been so smooth, light, or pimple-free in twenty years.  This stuff is amazing!  I mean,  the bags or the deep grooves are here to stay, I accept that, but seriously, brown spots, fine lines, just dull sagginess, it’s all GONE.

[cue hallelujah chorus]

One more discovery: DIY cleaning balms.  Sophie hates the feeling washing with soap leaves (you know that sort of tacky, oil-less feeling? I associate it with “clean” but she just says it’s sticky).  So, after learning about fancy “cleansing balms” where you massage and clean your face with assortments of oils and then sit under a hot, wet towel for a few minutes (divine), we decided to make our own.

We didn’t even have to do a supply run.  I was reading ingredients on some of the fancy ones, organic shea butter, organic castor oil, organic jojoba oil, organic sweet almond oil, various essential oils like rose, orange, or lavender, virgin coconut oil…and I thought, shoot, I’ve got all this stuff.  Let’s do this thing!

So we poured boiling water into some empty mint tins to clean them out and then melted together various combinations of the above mentioned ingredients and poured them into the tins.  We love playing mad scientist in the kitchen (only usually it involves more chocolate).  We ended up with one tin that smelled like orange sherbert (sweet orange and vanilla, fabulous as a lip balm), one that had rose and sandlewood (gorgeous, luxurious), and one with tea-tree oil (anti-bacterial, possibly anti-pimple and could be a deodorant?)  The shea butter hardens up at room temp and you get this tin of luxe goop you can apply just about anywhere you want a bit of moisture and good smell.

And to wash your face with it, scoop out a bit, rub it all over your face, give yourself a nice massage, then lean back in the tub and drape a hot, wet cloth over your face and let it steam.  When it cools down, use the cloth to wipe off the oils and boom, you’ve got soft, clean skin.  It’s fantastic.  (And okay, this is pretty hippy-ish.  What can I say, I’m not abandoning my roots.)

I’m even learning how to do a badass smokey eye, get back.  I love this tutorial by SkyDivaMegan, Rage Against the Machine, Black Smokey Eye in BROAD DAY.  Stick it to the man with your black smokey eye, who says you can’t wear your makeup however you want, whenever you want?  I love her, flouter of makeup rules: “What the hell.  Who are you to tell me when I can wear what eye makeup?  It’s eight o’clock on Saturday morning right now.  I’m about to walk to dog, outside, in broad daylight, wearing the black smokey eye!”  Haha!  She the one who brought the whole peekaboo eyeshadow trick to my attention.  Game changer!

Here’s one more smokey eye, a brown one, very quick and simple, from A-list makeup artist Lisa Eldridge, whom I blame for all of this.  It’s all your fault, Lisa!

(Mystery #2: how to get the stuff you put on the lower lid to not drift down over the day, making you look bruised and haggard?  Is this primer thing again?  Am I over-moisturizing or something?  And whoa: people wear lower-lid shadow now!  That used to be a no-no (“it’s aging!”) but now it’s a go-to look.)

All right, that’s my makeup revelations, from the all-natural-girl who is finally, at forty-three, learning something about the girly arts of makeup.  It’s surprisingly fun (actually, why am I surprised?)  And, I have to say, being a beginner with Sophie who is just starting to be interested in such things, is superfun, too.  I remember being her age and watching my Dad’s girlfriend sit at her vanity and apply red lipstick with a little brush and being so intrigued by the feminine mystery of it all.  Now I’m her!

Sort of.  Okay, not really, my Dad would never in a million years date a hippy chick.  Which I am.  Only now with cream eyeshadow.

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The lovely fellow home-ashtangi Rebecca, in a comment here, had the great idea to host a space for a bit of chatting, check-in, commiserating, and celebrating about our practice, particularly for home practitioners who don’t have all of this already at a shala.  I said, cool, let’s do it.  The plan is to put up a post like this one, maybe on Fridays, an open discussion thread where folks can drop by and chat about their week’s practice.  Great for motivation if you know you’re going to have to confess your skip days.  I hope y’all will join me.  It’ll just take a few regulars to make it worth our while….

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strange-weather-in-tokyo-bookI can’t stop saying wonderful things about this delicate, moving, sweet, quiet, sad, lovely novel. Grimmly, if you see this, thanks so much for the recommendation, you made my night.  I loved this book, though it made me cry and, unbeknownst to me, my mascara ran everywhere, startling Luc, 8, who said I looked like a melted demon. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a quirky, sad-sweet love story.  Which this is.  The way “Starry Night” is a a painting of the night sky.

Indeed, Strange Weather in Tokyo is a slow-simmering romance between a fiercely independent, 37 year old, never-married, Tokyo office lady (what the Japanese call female office workers) and her 30-years-her-senior high school Japanese teacher, someone she hasn’t seen in twenty years.  They run into each other in a bar and get to chatting over sake and amazing food.  Friendship ignites.  Prickly, quirky, funny, independent people finding connection is one of my favorite sub-genres…and Strange Weather has got to be one of my favorite examples it, and one of the best, and most masterfully told.

Atmospheric, beautifully written and translated, the story, and their relationship, advances slowly, sideways, indirectly.  They argue about baseball.  They go mushroom hunting.  They drink endless beer and sake.  They wonder through Tokyo, see shops, museums, bars.  They play pachinko.  They eat, oh how they eat.  Briefcase Cover 1The descriptions of Japanese food alone are worth the price of admission.  They struggle to connect, or to stay away from each other.  For what can pierce our defenses when we have become perfectly comfortable with our own loneliness?  I felt like my own jaded heart was being sneaked up on by this book.  I would find myself moved by subtle descriptions and not even know why.  The plot, such as it is, might seem the world of romcom, but the telling is gorgeous, subtle, and deeply felt.

The title is Sensei no Kaban in Japanese, which might be translated as the Teacher’s Briefcase (or, since ‘sensei’ is written in katakana instead of kanji—giving it an odd emphasis, perhaps making it a name instead of a job—Sensei’s Briefcase), and simply The Briefcase in the US.  It comes highly recommended by me, but if that isn’t enough, it’s won multiple literary awards.  A short novel, quickly read if you want to push through, but I suggest savoring it, or reading it twice, back to back, as I found myself doing.  I adore these characters with their idiosyncratic flaws and sweet vulnerabilities.  Maybe it just hit home for me.  Grim, how did you know???

I also adore the cover photo on the UK edition, pictured below, which captures the emotion and magic of the story for me, a surprising floating feeling found in a prosaic Japanese bar.  The photo is by Natsumi Hayashi, and is of herself.  She photographs herself levitating all over Tokyo (link to her blog), so please go check out her delightful work.  (She uses a timer or an assistant and jumps to capture the images.  I love that.)


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When I started this post, I thought it was going to be about the hippy chick (me) wearing mainstream make-up.  But the post morphed.

It started like this: Sophie and I were watching youtube speedpaints and I clicked on a vid in the sidebar about how Marilyn Monroe wore her make-up…because, duh, Marilyn.  (Did you know she covered her face in vaseline as a first layer? Yuck.).  Which led, clicky clicky, to watching several of Lisa Eldgridge’s make-up tutorials, and I realized, I’ve never really learned how to do make-up.  I’ve been wearing the stuff for twenty-five years, mostly eye-liner (“I can’t go out, my eyes are naked!”) and I have no idea what I’m doing.  I probably suck at it.  Maybe it was time to learn.

But here’s the thing: I’m 43, my skin was semi-decent until 40, and then BOOM it all collapsed, wrinkled, spotty, crepe-y, bags, dark circles, the horror.  Philosophically, I’m fine with this.  My face shows my story, and I’ve quite liked my story.  But then I look in the mirror, and jesus, under my eyes there has been a mudslide.  Over my eyes, the hoods sit on my eyelashes like plump, uninvited guests.  The brownish spots—are they sun damage or perimenopausal acne footprints, you know what, I don’t care.  It’s just…ugh.  It’s all ugh.  Which is not a good feeling to have about one’s own face.

I love the first chapter of Margurite Duras’s amazing novel, The Lover.  In it she says,  “My aging was very sudden.  I saw it spread over my features one by one, changing the relationships between them, making the eyes larger, the expression sadder, the mouth more final, leaving great creases in the forehead….But instead of being dismayed, I watched this process with the same sort of interest I might have taken in the reading of a book….And I’ve kept it ever since, the new face I had then.  It has been my face.  It’s scored with deep, dry wrinkles, the skin is cracked.  But my face hasn’t collapsed, as some with fine features have done.  It’s kept the same contours, but its substance has been laid waste.  I have a face laid waste.”

Yes, that’s it exactly.  My face is laid waste by my life.

I was awkward and goofy until my mid-twenties when things started to look up, and after so long feeling like the ugly duckling, it was kind of marvelous to feel pretty for a few years.  I peaked in my mid-thirties, right around the time I had Sophie.  Full disclosure: my bio-photo over there on the right?  It’s ten years old now.  In it I’m thirty-three and preggo and happy on the beach, does it get better than that?  In fairness to me, when I started this blog and posted that picture, it was only five years old, and it still felt present-me enough to use.  Now it feels like ancient history (but watch me not taking it down, not yet).  I’m glad I had even that short time of being a girl that could turn heads.  But I’m aware that that era is gone.  At least, for that sort of head turning.

Like Duras says, so much aging can happen in such a short time.

Well, philosophically, I may be fine with it, but inside I’m still twenty, or at least thirty, and I want to wear winged eye-liner, sparkles, red lipstick, and henna my hair—but then, none of that stuff looks the way it did on my thirty year old self, and I think, maybe I should stop.  Maybe I’m embarrassing myself.

Which really, really pisses me off.  For a number of reasons.

1- I’ve been in a bit of a marathon the last few days, branching out from Lisa Eldridge, whom I find delightful, to all sorts of make-up artists and their looks (it’s a bit of a revelation, really), and I find I get really annoyed-verging-to-furious with these gorgeous girls with gorgeous skin, efforting mightily to cover imperceptible flaws and complaining about their loveliness.  I want to shout at them to knock it off.  Of course, my best friend, fifteen years older than I am, tells me that at 43, I’m a baby still, and she wants to yell at me to knock it off already with my complaints about my 43 year old skin.  “You have no idea,” she says.  “Enjoy it while it lasts.”  All right, all right.

2- Along similar lines, however, I get pissed at the vids with tips for “hooded eyes” on gals who don’t have hooded eyes, or on how to apply under eye concealer on “dark circles” that I can’t see, even in HD.  These vids aren’t helping, okay?

3- I feel pissed that, in some ways, I missed my window…I was shy and awkward when I had great skin.  Now I want winged eye-liner and I it doesn’t work on my eyes because the hoods cover it up.  If only I’d had more confidence back then!  If I hadn’t been obsessing over imperceptible flaws and efforting to cover my gorgeousness back when I had a little more of it!

4- Conversely I get seriously pissed at the “make up for after 40″ type articles that tell women with “mature skin” not to do this or that, (don’t wear red lip stick!  Don’t wear mini-skirts! Boring beiges are for you!) and it just feels like they’re saying, “Know your place.  You aren’t pretty any more so stop trying to act like it.  Tone it down with more “flattering” neutrals and be glad we aren’t locking you in the closet.”

Basically, it’s a mess in my head, this mix of societal expectations of middle aged women, rebellion against same, plus the realities of middle-aged skin, all conflicting with the desire to express how I really feel (creative, goofy, sexy, playful, shameless!).

On the one hand, there are older women I see who are working so hard to look younger until they end up seeming a bit monstrous, a bit scary (I feel very unkind saying that), but I wonder if I’m not doing that, like when I wear the black eye-liner that I love.  Remember that scene in the wonderful Bette Midler’s “Stella” where she thinks she’s being so awesome at the beach resort but everyone is laughing at her, and her daughter is all ashamed?  Shit, that’s like, my worst nightmare.  Even though it’s terribly judgmental and mean to Bette’s character—I mean, what a bunch of assholes to be putting her down, Stella was totally cool.  A hero with terrible self-esteem.

On the other hand, there are older women I see who are simply killing it wearing exactly what they please, red lipstick and all, and I want to be one of these women when I grow up….

Here, watch this, it will change your whole day, it’s the trailer for the documentary, “Advanced Style”, and it’s only one minute.  Watch!

See what I mean?  (For more from these wonderful folks, see the blog, Advanced Style ).  GAH, these gals are so awesome.  I need some of that moxy, that confidence.  They’re certainly not worried if they will look silly in red lipstick.

“Red lipstick?” my husband says.  “You don’t need red lipstick.”

And bless him because he thinks I look hot in his old sweatshirt, no make-up, and dirty hair.  He even calls my various face-creams “Husband Repellent” because they taste bad when he kisses me.  Daw.

“Maybe this is my mid-life crisis,” I say. “A $5 tube of red lipstick.  If I can’t have winged eye-liner, maybe I should go for red lips.”

“Well,” he concedes.  “At least it’s affordable.”

Overhearing this, Sophie, 10, drew me this picture of when my eyebags become so large, I can use them as prehensile appendages.    bags

Oh, she’s freaking hilarious.

Then yesterday I went into the local natural foods co-op and there were a half dozen women of various ages coming and going, some I knew, some I didn’t, these lovely hippy chicks who don’t wear a bit of make-up on their beautiful, wrinkled faces, wearing tank tops and long hair after fifty (how gauche!) with muscles and verve—and they just looked great.

I’ve wanted to be one of them when I grow up, too, but I love my eye-liner.  Is it clear skin and thick hair that makes that no-make-up look work?  I’ve never had either.

But wait, what do I mean by “work”?  Closer to an ideal of “beauty”?  That isn’t what those Advanced Style women are going for.  They aren’t aiming at a societal (or biological?) ideal, but at what they love, what’s fun.  And the reality is, if I try aiming at the ideal at this point, I’ve already lost.  I’ve got to find another way to feel fabulous or I’m going to walk around feeling ugly, or thinking I need plastic surgery, or going to weird lengths to have a face that isn’t my face at all.

From the other end of the time-line, teen-aged fashion mogul Tavi Gevinson said in this interview that she realized that fashion could be about fun and self-expression and not about being pretty.   I like that.  I like that here is a 15 year old saying some of the same things as the 85 year olds in “Advanced Style.”  It’s not about age!

I think what she means by “pretty” is that beauty ideal.  Tavi goes on to say that she later thought she would like to be pretty (“I entered high school.”) but wondered if that desire was selling-out her feminism.  She doesn’t think so, that people are multi-facted, but I understand her conflict.  How to disattach from the judgement that will inevitably reflect badly on oneself at times (more and more as you get older) in order to have self-expression and self-esteem…but also accept one’s desire to be pretty?  Do you have to give up one for the other?

I’ve had two, older, second wave feminist friends (rock on!) who have staunchly rejected such things as make-up and leg shaving…. but, honestly, both of them were gorgeous with invisible peach-fuzz blond leg hairs, super thick black lashes, and perfect skin.  So I couldn’t help but feel (quite pettily) that their choice wasn’t much of a statement.  And that pissed me off, too, especially when they encouraged me to give up shaving and eye-liner.  We wouldn’t be making the same sacrifice, now would we?  Society does look at you differently the further you are from the ideal, but it would be looking at me more harshly than them.  Or so I thought.  Plus, I wanted to be “pretty,” too.  Ah, the webs we weave.

Not that I think feminists don’t wear make-up in general (1- I’m a feminist and 2-that was just my two friends) or that they shouldn’t. Or should.  Feminism for me is being able to do what you want, gender irrelevant, including wearing make-up and staying home with my kids.  Ahem.  Choice is kind of the point.

Anyway, my compromise between my desire to look like one of those glowing-skin, make-up-free, hippy-chicks, and my desire to be “pretty” has been to be a natural products sort of make-up wearer.  Dr. Haushka and homebrew herbal recipes, you know the drill.  I’d wear a little make-up (eye-liner!) and try to accept the face I’ve got.

But yeah, lately, it’s not feeling like enough.  So, I’ve been experimenting.  The world of mainstream make-up is a vast pile-up  of magic potions and astonishing packaging and price tags, but Lisa Eldridge has gotten me to buy my first high-end make-up at none other than Sephora, the place where all good make-up junkies go after they die, and all bad make-up junkie’s go after they get paid.  It was a store I had never set foot in before (too embarrassed, too overwhelmed, sheesh, there must be five thousand products in there) but that trip is probably it’s own blog post.  Still, why not, right?  The face is just another canvas, make-up is just another paint, and I am just another artist.  Sort of.

Sidebar/ Dear Dr. Haushka, you are an amazing brand (although pricey in this country) and I love your products (Rose Cream is pure heaven) but your marketing and how-to vids annoy the crap out of me and here is why.  You take the most gorgeous, flawless looking women to put your products on—products that are designed to produce a make-up-free look—and yeah, these gals look great wearing your stuff, but so what.  It wasn’t the products that made it happen.  Great genetics is not the same as concealer that actually works.  In fact, these ads and vids make me feel like I have to be a goddess to wear your products in the first place.  And I’m not—at least, not that kind of goddess.  Don’t dangle the impossible in front of me!  I can’t even look at these ads sometimes, they annoy me off so much.  (I’m being petty again.  Sorry.) /end rant.

Bigger picture: aging poorly is really a First World problem isn’t it?  I don’t have to worry about starving or having my city bombed like the woman doctor I met yesterday, visiting the university here from Iraq, who told me not a day went by back at home when a bomb didn’t impact her life, going off where she had just been, or where she was headed, or where her family were, so terrifying.  And here I am, with that extra space in my head left over from not having to worry about bombs, spending a little time wrestling with aging-skin concerns and an afternoon binging on make-up tutorials.  I feel like I should try contributing to world peace, or at least take the kids out to a museum or something. This whole thing feels ridiculously self involved.

On the other hand, every woman I know (an admittedly small sample) feels variations of semi-irrational outrage and vulnerable hopelessness that yes, aging is happening to her, too.  Plus the fact that middle-aged women are portrayed largely as jokes, or as helpless, or as invisible (that is, not portrayed at all), in the world around us.  We all have to come to some strategy—rebellion, submission, denial, [other]—to deal with it.  We all have to find some way to be comfortable in our own changing faces.  (Or not.)

I love the line from the Advanced Style vid, “I never wanted to look young.  I wanted to look good.”

Maybe I need to celebrate my eyebags and eyelid hoods.  Glue rhinestones to them or something.  Like, hell yeah, my face is laid waste and I’m goddamn beautiful.

I enjoyed this make-up tutorial by forty-five year old, pink haired Cecily Kellogg.  Here’s the teaser image from the post:


And I’ll leave you with a picture of my forty-three year old lips (plus my little mole, which I’ve always said proves I’m really a witch), wearing the holy grail of red lipsticks, MAC’s Ruby Woo. I’m still pondering these things.  I’ll let you know if I figure anything out.

ruby woo lips

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As a home yoga practitioner, keeping my motivation high (or at least medium) is super important because with no shala, I’ve got no one else to show up for, and it is soooo easy to just skip and get on with my day.  So I’ve always felt that the crucial thing is just to get to the mat, and whatever works to achieve that goal on any given day is awesome.  Just show up and I’m a freaking hero.  Whatever I do once I’m there is gravy.

Okay, maybe my standards are a little low.

On the other hand, the majority of the time if I can knock out a couple of surys, I’m probably going to be doing a whole Primary—or at least a half—because it just feels so good once I get going.  So “just get to the mat” is a bit of a psych-trick on myself.  Ashtanga practice, with it’s (mostly) fixed series, can be like falling down a hill after those first few surys, one asana leading right into the next, so if I can show up with a promise of “just a few minutes” then there’s a good chance I’ll stay for more.  Plus, David Williams says the acceptable minimum dose is 3 sury As, 3 sury Bs, and the final 3 lotuses and you’re good.  No guilt.  So it’s okay to quit after ten minutes.  I just rarely do.

Afterwards, I always wonder why, when it feels so good, do I struggle so much to get started?

I’ve written a little about motivation before: In 2010 I was using Asana Envy to get myself on the mat.  In 2012 I was going back and forth between Lazy Ashtanga and Heroic Ashtanga and found they are differently motivating. I wrote a surprisingly popular 2012 post on How to start a home practice and stay with it when I was three years into my home practice.  And in 2013, I did my most shameful post on the topic, getting on the mat for all the worst possible reasons.  A few days later, I tried to redeem myself with a better reason.  I don’t know if the redemption took hold….

Today I’m going to tell you one more motivator.


Sidebar/ We are not punishers around here.  We never did ‘time-outs’ with the kids or removal of privileges or, I don’t know, beatings.  It’s not my style and I think it sucks as a motivator for several reasons, a main one being that, while you might be able to get the behavior you want, you can never affect the reasons why the behavior is done.  And more likely you just end up creating a culture of lying and hiding the evidence.

beatings will continue

But I’ve had trouble with my motivation to practice this year.  This is my fifth year of Ashtanga home practice, I am forty-three, and I have had three injuries in the last twelve months (top of my right foot (1), high hamstring (2), right knee (3) see below for a few links if you’re curious about my saga [cue violins]).  I don’t know what is correlation and what is causation, but I suspect a vicious circle.  And possibly I’ve been cursed under a blood moon by a demonic faction.  Either one.

Anyway, bemoaning my lack of get-to-it-ness the other morning, Sophie suggested that she could punish me if I didn’t practice.  Would that help?

Uh, what?

“Like, spank me or something?” I said from under the covers.

“I was thinking I could make you watch something awful.  Like, My Little Pony.  Or Caillou. ”

Oh god, the girl was bringing out the big guns.  Those shows make me start bleeding from my ears.

i'd rather throw myself off the balcony

I’d rather throw myself off the balcony

“Seriously?  You think that would work?”  It sounded so…extrinsically motivational.  Aren”t I supposed to do things, especially yoga, for their intrinsic value?

“I don’t know.  It’d be fun to be the Yoga Police though.”

A carrot and stick approach?  Which reminded me of Tim Ferris talking about where you put your money where your mouth is and sign contracts that say such things as, “if I don’t [fulfill x goal by y date] I will pay a $1000 to the Republican Party.” Or something else you really hate.  And you don’t get your money back if you don’t meet your goal.  Boom.  Maybe a carrot/stick approach can work if you choose your own goals?  Unlike parents who punish/reward trying to shape the behavior of the kid to match the parents goal.  Doing yoga is definitely my own goal.  Could this work?

“Okay,” I said, flinging off the blankets.  “Let’s try it.”

“I’m really going do it if you don’t practice,” she warned.  “I’m not kidding around.”

“I’m counting on it.  I’m going to go put on my yoga clothes right now.”


So, Sophie has been gleefully threatening me with Netflix, bringing the ipad queued up with an episode at ten o’clock at night if I happened to oh-so-accidentally skip that morning….and I hustle out the mat to at least do some sury’s and avoid inflicting probably permanent suffering on myself.  Those Pony songs get stuck in your head like they are made of radioactive glue.

Her threats have been surprisingly effective.

And then this happened: I actually considered lying to her.  The shame of it.  I knew I could get away with it because she’d slept late.  I could have plausibly done yoga before she got up.  It could happen.  And I really didn’t want to throw down on the mat but seriously, I was not going to watch freaking My Little Pony, no way.

See what I mean?  If you’re doing something to get a reward or avoid a punishment, you start being willing to do whatever to get the actual goal (the reward or the punishment-avoidance) rather than the pretend goal (the yoga, in this case).  But it was too late now.  It was like that guy in the Stephen King story who contracts with the mob to help him stop smoking.  If he cheats, they cut off one of his wife’s fingers.  And they won’t let you out of the contract.  Yikes.

Okay, after about a minute I came to my senses.  What kind of person would I be if I lied to my daughter about practicing yoga in order to avoid watching crappy kids tv?  For heaven’s sake, that would just be pathetic.

I didn’t do the yoga.

She only made me watch about ten minutes.  Merciful goddess above.

It was enough.

Sheesh, this whole set up is  too hard core!  What have I done?!  Now I have no wiggle room.  If I wanted to join the army and have a drill sergeant I would.  (Not that they would take me.  And not that I would ever, ever do that.  Besides, they don’t do yoga in the army.  Wait, I feel like I’ve drifted off topic….)  Anyway, it’s been a week.  I’m aiming at five practices a week and I did four.  We’ll see how next week goes.

Maybe she’ll grow tired of it.

There have been times in the last five years where I have been super stoked to practice, have had no problem getting on the mat, have organized my life around it.  Right now…not so much.  I’m tired.  I don’t know why.  But I figure I ride this period out by whatever means necessary (even My Little Pony!  Such is my dedication!) and there will be another wave of enthusiasm after a while.  I’m not giving up, that’s for damn sure.


Injuries.  Bleg.

1- The foot cleared up with a couple months break from all padmasana which stretched it too much.  I’ve been back in full lotus for a while now, and the top of my foot seems to be staying A-Ok.  So I think that one is done.  Maybe my hips opened enough in the interim so that there is less torque now on the foot.

2- The hamstring took about a year to be right again.  A YEAR.  This was the third time I’ve injured it, and the worst.  (First time in 2009 with some info about trigger point therapy, second time in 2010 with follow ups, third time in 2013 and how I got into cycling as a way to deal.)  I can now do all of primary now with just an occasional twinge, but I still baby it.  A forth time seems inevitable at this point.

3- the right knee came from the cycling.  It made it so I couldn’t compress the knee when weight-bearing, as in a squat like Pashasana or getting stuff out of the bottom shelf in the fridge.  I’m still on the mend from that, maybe 70% better.

A note to say that none of these injuries happened on the mat.  But I think yoga can be destabilizing to the body, especially right after practice.  I’m super careful during my practice, but then I dart after Luc to give him his hoodie, or ride too long on my bike in a hard gear, or do some whacky move during sex, ahem, and bam, something breaks.

Practicing while injured is a drag.  It really, really messes with motivation because you don’t get that sparkly high as a reward when you’re practicing at half steam, plus you lose progress.  I just have to be super careful, I guess.  My parts are less durable than they once were.

/end sob story

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Did you know that you can rent the full version of Photoshop now for $20 a month?  Photoshop used to be, what, like a thousand bucks or something impossible, so basically, a forget it proposition, but now…shoot, when I heard about this, that first $20 practically flew out of my wallet.  Sophie (10) is a budding digital artist and Photoshop is where it’s at, so, yeah.  That was a no-brainer.

But after a month or two of fiddling, she’d only unpacked a little of what the amazing speedpainters on Youtube can do and Photoshop was languishing.  We chatted about it and decided we’d spend a month learning how to really utilize Photoshop’s paint capabilities, or else, cancel our subscription.  Because $20/month is cheap, but not if you aren’t using it.

So…where do financially-challenged homeschoolers go when they want to learn something?  YOUTUBE!  The Education Of The Future(tm).  (It isn’t really trademarked, I made that up.)  Seriously, you can learn anything on Youtube.

Quick clarification of terms:  Photoshop is largely known for photo-manipulation, so much so that “to photoshop” has become a verb we all know and use.  But Photoshop is also a powerful paint program, allowing an artist to build up an image from scratch.  That’s what we were focusing on.

Where to start?  Here is the first episode of Lazedified’s absolute beginners guide to Photoshop.  This was the first thing we landed on.  He does a series, actually, and it’s a little confusing because he started updating from CS5 to CS6 (that’s Adobe Creative Suite, of which Photoshop is one part) but hasn’t gotten far…so we watched the CS6 (the link I gave you) versions as far as they went and then switched to the CS5 series.  After that, he does a digital painting series, about five eps that cover basic shading, color blending, brush selection.  We found these to be a great starting place.  They are kind of homemade in feel but we enjoyed his humor, his accent, his make-it-easy style, and definitely got a lot of the basics from the series.  Thanks Lazed!

Here is a preview for his digital painting series that has some WAAAAAY over the top music, haha, especially considering one of the big selling points for us was the friendly, funny, down-to-earth vibe of the vids.  But it will lead you to a playlist of his other vids, and give you a glimpse at what he covers.

An aside: I’m saying “we” here a lot, because it was Sophie and me, sitting in front of the computer, selecting and watching vids, and then trying what we’d learned out in Photoshop.  She was the one who wanted to learn digital painting, but I was (1) interested enough to be engaged and (2) tech-support for when she got stuck, so I needed to know as much as she did.  Besides, learning together is way more fun than hacking away at it on your own.

Back to our trek through the wilds of Youtube.  Next we wanted to know about blending modes, because what they heck, they are the most obtusely named functions ever and very mysterious.  What does “Multiply” do?  We wanted to find out.  We found this series of videos by Chris Legaspi on rendering (adding shading, coloring, and textures) using layers and modes, which was super helpful for that, but also for just setting up a process in going from line art, to shaded art, to colored art.

Here is the first ep.  He’s colors in this swamp-thing critter.  Lots of detail and explanation over the course of several eps, plus creating a palette layer, and using other paintings to select a limited palette.

One more source we used that goes from raw beginner through the basic skills is Matt Kohr at his site, Ctrl+Paint.  A good series of vids!  Some are more art related, some are more software related.  We haven’t watched them all, maybe half, and after the first set (some nice tricks on using the eraser tool as a brush for painting by carving out your shape in those), we’ve skipped around, looking for vids on topics Sophie is interested in (for example, she’s been watching the color theory section, which, yes, is relevant to all painting, not just digital painting).

Finally, Concept Cookie taught us how to turn a scanned pencil sketch into a digital painting that is, turn a pencil sketch into a photoshop image that is translucent and separate from the background, meaning the lines themselves are their own layer, not “attached” to the white of the paper.  Which I wouldn’t have realized is so useful until we watched the above videos.  But it is. Sophie loves to sketch on paper, but says the coloring process is much more fun on Photoshop, so, perfect.  Now we can scan in her sketches and make them digital-paint-ready.

For me, one of the most amazing things about painting on Photoshop is the bottomless tubes of virtual supplies.  Have you been in an art supply story lately?  One tube of paint is my entire budget.  You can’t do a lot with one tube of paint.  Something you do need to buy for digital painting, however (besides a computer), is a drawing tablet.  We got a Wacom Intuos tablet, which has been awesome.  Tablet + photoshop = endless painting supplies, Yay!  No stress about “wasting” supplies or running out, which is SO FANTASTIC (speaking as a former hoarder of art supplies because $$$, and what good is paint that stays in the tube?).  Plus a tablet can be set up to be pressure sensitive, just like a pencil is—press harder and you get darker lines.  Very cool.

On the traditional media side, last night Sophie somehow got some weird setting going on the brush tool and couldn’t figure it out, and while we struggled for a few minutes to learn how to reset the tool (right click on the icon of the tool in the upper left corner for the reset menu) she said, “this is one reason I love paper.  You can’t break it.”  So there is that.  There are pros and cons to both.

Anyhoo, at this point in our video watching, she was already able to really get in there and do some work. It didn’t take long to get the info.  Next comes the practice to really make the tools her own.

Cool result: watching speedpaints, we can now usually see how the artists are creating their images—where it used to be this mystery, how are they doing that?!? Plus, when there is something we don’t get, we can pause, forward a second at a time to see the menus drop down, and parse it out, using the basic knowledge we already have.

For example, one of Sophie’s favorite speedpainters (because she does some of the kind of work that Sophie likes to do herself right now, manga-style characters) 10chnessa does all kinds of fun stuff with her lines, changing the line-color, the thickness, etc.   So we watched some of her speedpaints and reverse engineered her “change the line color” tricks.  (Select the layer the line art is on, then go to Image –> Adjustments –> Hue/Saturation and play with the sliders till you’re happy.)  Or another trick: do one eye, then copy and flip for the other eye, use the transform tool for perspective.  Also, compressing layers, etc.  Lots of tricks to learn now that it isn’t all an opaque skillset we do not have.

10chnessa has also done a tutorial that is sort of hilariously vague.  But it still gave us some pointers for how to copy her style…and copying the work of better artists is a time-honored tradition in learning to find your own style.  Here’s that tutorial:

Xia Taptara is another digital artist we’ve watched several tutorials from.  He’s a little slow sometimes, but there are some great tips to be gleaned.  A more American comic book style of art (big boobs), vs. 10chinessa’s Japanese style (big eyes).

Here’s one of his we watched when Sophie wanted to learn more about using Photoshop layers in a landscape.

I am not even scratching the surface of what is available as far as digital painting tutorials, there are 1000s of videos out there on this.  But these are the vids we watched to get up and running, starting from zero.  There is still plenty to learn, but Sophie’s got enough now to learn on the fly—getting over that initial learning curve to where you can actually do some stuff is hard.  Adding tricks to what you already know is easier.

Finally, if you’re curious about speed paints, check out CreativeStation, a fantastic source for consistently high-quality speedpaints—but now that there are a ton of others, mostly artists posting their own work, but having several artists in one place is interesting.

Here’s a cool one from them, Lara Croft painted by Jenai Kemel. It’s a great example of going from a blank canvas to an extremely detailed and lovely illustration using digital paints.

Speedpaints are what got us into all this. Thanks to all the artists who are putting their work, as well as their process, out there!

And I want to put one of Sophie’s characters here, she’s working on a cat-girl right now, but she hasn’t decided on one yet, so maybe I’ll add it later.  Check back!

Just ran across this on the webs. TOO FUNNY.


Do you ever have one of those days where you just can’t stop thinking about sex?  You assault your spouse or [romantic euphemism here] until they tell you to back away from the box of condoms and just go freaking make dinner already?  You cook sausages and bananas and don’t think it’s weird?  You rub one out and it just doesn’t help?  If anything it makes it worse?  You need to focus, but you keep thinking how much that sounds like “fuck us” and you think, yes, I need to fuck all y’all, get in my pants, and then you realize you’ve missed your exit.  Again.  What the heck.  Is it hormonal?  Stars aligning?   Look, sex-brain, I’ve got, like, things to do.  Leave me alone already.

Of course it’s probably just that I am mere pages from finishing this draft of the current novel.  Yeah, it’s DISTRACTION.  Let’s be honest.

But this novel, it’s like peeing molasses.  I started back in 2013 and I’m just on the second (third?) draft (shoot me now), but hey, I am writing the FINAL CHAPTER, so that’s something.  It freaking is, so shut up. Yes, I know, after this draft, it’s beta readers, then another draft, then my editor, then another draft, then more beta readers, then final tweaks (because hopefully by then I’m getting mostly thumbs up from my betas), and THEN its done.  So yeah, that’s a fuck-load more work, really, isn’t it.  But still, I’m closing in on the second draft and that feels like a completion!  Yeah!  GIMME SOME FUCKING CAKE.  Or a couple dozen orgasms would be good, too….

Listen up, Lassiter!  The goal is to get this book out by the end of the year!  Quit this fooling around and get to work!

Oh yeah, the drill sergeant approach, that will totally work.  Because I nail all my self-imposed deadlines, like the thirty or so that I’ve already blown past on this novel alone.  And now I’m thinking about nailing drill sergeants.

Anyway, I’ve been not so much with the blogging because there is this momentum at the end of a novel that takes me over and I abandon my family, my yoga practice, my sleep, and my BLOG because I just can’t stop sneaking away to try to get a few more words in and I can’t think about anything else.  Except sex.

Which I think is just a smoke screen, don’t you?  This muse chick is just messing with me.  Maybe it’s a metaphor for the creative process heating up or something.  Maybe I need to end the novel with a big orgy scene.  All the great novels end with a big orgy scene, don’t they?

Jesus, what have I been reading.

Am I like this at the end of all my novels?

You know what?  It doesn’t matter.  Back to work.

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