Thursday, November 29, 2012

Edible Animals Win at Hide-and-Seek

A while ago I went to a yogi pot-luck. Knowing the group was full of specialized eaters, I brought a little label for my salsa: Gluten-free, Vegan, Raw, Organic. To my surprise, a fellow guest made the comment, "Isn't all salsa vegan?"

For all of you who may think that it is; no. No, it is not. In fact, the first salsa recipe I ever committed to memory was simmered for 15 minutes in chicken stock. That's pretty common for traditional salsas.

The recipe was my father's and when I last visited, he had made a huge vat of the salsa, knowing I love the enchiladas he makes smothered in the stuff. When I reluctantly admitted that I really wasn't going to eat the salsa he was befuddled. "Why? There isn't any meat in it."he retorted. "The stock, Dad." His face contorted into a grimace as if the recollection of adding the stock had been a repressed memory, now back to traumatize him.

I felt horrible and it reminded me of a gluten-free friend (she wasn't gf as a 'thing.' She could literally die from eating gluten) who was invited to a boyfriend's house for dinner. Knowing the restrictions, the mother carefully selected a soup to serve for dinner. The soup remained gluten-free right up until a moment before it hit the table when the mother noticed the soup was a bit thin and, without thinking, threw in a handfull of flour. Poor Rose watched in horror as the flour left the quick-flinging woman's hand, leaving Rose in the awkward position of not eating her specially prepared supper.

I won't die from eating meat, heck, I have even been so desperate to try a food that I will pick around chunks of bacon, pretending that animal fats stay on their relegated pieces, much like smoke knows to stay in the smoking section of restaurants. Still, I like knowing what I'm eating in an almost obsessive way. Here are a few foods you might* be surprised to know have meat in them:

Salsa: We just covered this, beware of the cooked ones, they can be simmered in stock. Likewise, simmer-sauces can contain meat.

McDonalds French Fries & Hash Browns: "In 2002, McDonald’s agreed to donate $10 million to Hindu and other groups in the U.S. to settle lawsuits that accused the chain of mislabeling french fries and hash browns as vegetarian. The vegetable oil used to prepare the fries and hash browns had contained traces of beef for flavoring purposes." — The Washington Post. To be fair, I am not sure if they still use the 'seasoned' oil. I don't really care either. McyD's is known for using a scary number of ingredients in foods. Take a look at the Oatmeal they've been advertising as 'grown.' Grown my left butt-cheek; the list is 21 items long. Last I checked, sodium stearoyl lactylate did not sprout from a branch.

Refried Beans: Not really a shocker because there are cans labeled, "vegetarian." The ones that are not have bacon-fat in them. Be careful when eating out. The really wonderful greasy-spoons are more traditional and traditional means animal fat.

French Onion Soup: Beef base flavors this otherwise veggie caramelized goodness.

Cows are good at hide and seek

Cheese Soups, like Broccoli: If it's not one, it's the other: chicken base.

Packaged Side-Dishes: Rice, beans and pastas often have lard (animal fat) or animal stock in them.

I will touch on only one not-really-vegan food for this post. As far as I can tell, animal derivatives are in everything. I couldn't eat this keyboard and claim it vegan (For real. There is more cat hair in it than there is on my cat.).

Stout Beer: Not vegan. To be a "stout" the beer has to be filtered through a fish bladder.** Sorry all you hipster-vegans. Party's over.

But let's end on a good note. One surprisingly VEGAN food:
Bac-os®: They are made from soy!

* If you are a passive meat-avoider. Strict vegetarians will already know this.
** I had originally stated that it was a fish-bone. Thank you, Baleeteen (on reddit) for the correction!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Homeless or Yogi

Yesterday I did a yogathon. A yogathon is when you do all the classes offered at your studio in a single day. Yesterday there were 5 classes.

Knowing from past experience I would be brain-dead I planned on taking the bus home. After waiting for 20 minutes I realized the bus I wanted had stopped running. I started walking home, in the rain, when I made the realization that walking 4 miles after 7.5 hours of yoga was tipping the scales from crazy to insane. So I called The Boy to pick me up at the nearby grocery store.

An urgent hunger hit me so I ducked into the grocery store to grab some pineapple for the wait.

There was no seating outside of the rain so I hunkered down under an overhang to munch on my sweet prize. I ate that pineapple with such relish that it took a gasp from a customer exiting the store to realize that I looked like a gollum creature; slightly damp, feasting on a hastily opened pack of pineapple, juice dripping down my hands and face.

No, I did not spend weeks illustrating this. The shot is from LOTR.

Eh. Pride. Who needs it? I didn't move until the pineapple was gone.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Humble Bumble

A few years ago I had the privilege of attending a seminar led by Mary Jarvis with my fellow yogis, Jen, Borislava and Bryant. My teacher and few of my yoga-idols were also in attendance. This made for a very nice stage for what may have been my most apparently self-aggrandizing moment ever.

Mary had me demonstrate a pose at one point (Don't think that means I'm 'all that and a bag of chips,' a LOT of people demonstrated poses). I'm no longer sure what the pose was. The specifics of that moment are lost to time. The moments that followed, however, those moments I remember clear as a plexi-display case.

I remember trying really hard to conceal the grin that plagues me when I get nervous. When I get emotionally overwhelmed one of two things happen, A) my eyes water and my face flushes, giving the appearance that I will burst in tears at any moment or B) I grin. The grin may seem like the preferable of the two options. Let me assure you it is not. At least my near-tears may be interpreted as nearly the correct emotion. The dumb-grin that spreads across my face, nearly meeting in the back of my head, leads to the general impression I am having a ball. It shows nothing of the horror going on in my brain. Sometimes there is even inappropriate laughter, which can be mortifying.

After the demonstration, I sat back down on my matt and all eyes were back where they belonged, Mary. Then a student asked a question that put eyes back on me, "Is she humble?"

I felt the red run to my face; this could be either tears or a grin, neither of which would work well. PLEASE be the tears, I thought. I put my head down to mask whatever was coming and especially not to feel all those eyes looking for signs of vanity. A million things rushed through my head. First of which was a very offended, "What the F*CK sort of a question is that!?!"

I quickly analyzed that thought and decided that what they were really pointing to was the mind-body connection, that the physical aspects are only half the posture. In that moment I may have messed up. Bad.

I am to this day terrified that I may have actually nodded to my own internal approval of the question. I can't be sure if my head actually did bob or not, but I do remember the terror of thinking it did. I froze realizing what the rest of the seminar had possibly just seen:
"Yes, but is she humble?" The class turns to see me, grinning like a cheshire cat, head bowed in apparent mock-humbleness, then I give a nod as if to answer the question myself. "Yes, of course I am humble, look at me, I even bow my head!"
Mary tactfully answered the question saying she trusted that my trainer judged that I was. The seminar continued. I may have been grinning/crying the whole rest of the day had my body not gone into massive detox, giving me a headache that knocked out any chance at self-evaluation.

Since then I have attempted to determine what being humble means to me. Am I humble and could I ever be a humble person?

If I were to ask anyone familiar with me I am sure they would say no. I mean, really, I have none of the outward affectations of someone who is humble. I am loud, I am outspoken and I am particularly talented at taking charge (-10 humble-points for narcissism).

I've asked myself if a person like that can be humble? Do all humble people contemplate sullenly in baggy robes or is there room among their ranks for the boisterous? And is modesty by necessity self-effacing? Is it better to be modest even if it means sacrificing potential?*

It's been two years since that seminar and I still don't know what being humble means to me but I'm thinking about it and that's got to get me somewhere.

* I encountered this question in the book, Pillars of the Earth. It was posed to Prior Phillip, a very humble man capable of great leadership who nearly missed his life's calling because he thought it too ostentatious. It opened a new perspective on humbleness for me. I am still not sure how I feel about it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Don't Wrestle with Trust. Fly with It.

Yesterday I learned how to fly. Not in a plane, I already took lessons for that and I suck at it. Frankly, although it altered the course of my adult life to much bemoaned mediocrity, I think they were probably right to tell me, "No, you really do need to understand the basic principals of flight before we give you the helm of an F-15." Pshaw. Whatever.

Yesterday, I took a lesson on the flying trapeze. It. Was. Awesome. I was allowed three goes at the bar and each flight had it's own oddly endearing goofy quality. I was trying to mimic the graceful curvature of an arc with swanlike agility, but the reality was part, 'flailing goose' and part 'badly drawn squiggle.' All the same, the endorphins were released en-masse and I came out of the experience being able to say that I did a flip dismount (never mind the un-intended flip to belly-flop as I hit the net), a leg-hang, and a hand-off.

Before we started, the head instructor informed us all that trapeze was not so much about upper body-strength as it was about timing. "Timing is EVERYTHING." he claimed. I see what he means. If timing is right you become weightless and it doesn't matter how much body-weight you have, you aren't actually carrying any of it. It is gone, as is the gravitational pull that causes it.

After each stint on the trapeze the coach gave me a brief coaching session outlining where improvements could be made. To his credit he never gave over-arching commentary that would have been hard to achieve, like, "try not to be so confused while the whole world has flipped upside-down and you are watching the ground swiftly shift beneath you." He focused on small, attainable goals like, "Don't swing your legs quite so much."

That was hugely important because the whole experience goes by so fast that I can only describe my reactions as mechanical. He yelled, "arms up" and I moved my arms up. Which was good because at exactly the moment I managed to get my hands up, back arched, reaching outward, there was another pair of hands clutching my wrists. My reaction, much to the surprise of the 10+ year trapeze veteran who would be swinging me off my bar and transferring me safely to the net, was, "Oh. Hi!"

Yup. I had a fraction of one second to process what was going on and my reaction was the summarized equivalent of, "Well, hello, fine sir. Pleased to make your acquaintance. I am thrilled to be flying with you today. Would you be so kind as to deposit me safely into the net directly below us? I bid you adiu and fond wishes to the family. Tata!" I suppose there is never too little time for niceties.

She flies through the air with the greatest of...Oh CRAP! Oh Crap! Oh Crap!

I will make one and only one contention with everything I learned (because as flyer of one day, I am naturally in a position to take contention with the knowledge of seasoned vetrans) -- "Timing is everything."

My biggest challenge and subsequent high of the whole evening wasn't the small hop into the void, the remarkably shaky ladder leading to the platform (which seems very large until you have three people on it), or the wicked-cool flip that you do to dismount the net. It was the moment before I hopped.

That fantastic moment I was staring two stories down, grabbing onto an unreasonably heavy bar that threatened to pull me off the platform, hips forward, my weight being supported only by my left hand on the platform and a gentleman who's hand was shoved into my safety-belt. Then, the gentleman coached me to move my other hand onto the bar and every cell in my body started screaming, "Excuse me, but no!" He intentionally yanked a little on the belt and casually said, "Don't worry, I have you by the belt. Do you feel that?" And my body loosened, "Yes."

And I let go. It felt wonderful.

The stranger holding me onto the platform, the coach leading me, and the man swinging like a gay* monkey on a parellel bar 20 feet away, all wanted me to have the time of my life. All I had to do was trust them.

There is a study I read about in the book, "The Geography of Bliss" and have since heard cited in numerous shows on NPR (It is safe to say that I blindly find anything on NPR credible). The study says that the single greatest factor in determining if we are happy is not wealth**, it is our ability to trust others. I believe them. How many wonderful experiences would I have passed up had I not trusted others? I couldn't have flown, I never would have kicked into a handstand at the urging of my yoga teachers, I wouldn't have painted out half a canvas to start over at the urging of my professer who, rightly, promised a greater lesson would lie in the tear-filled hours ahead as I re-painted the scene.

May we all find happiness in that moment before the jump, the ability to let go and trust our fellow humans.  Hup! Hup!

* As in, "happy." I may talk like a grandma sometimes but I never talk like a bigot.

** Wealth does make us happier, but only up to a surprisingly small income. Something like $20,000 per year in the US and it ceases to be a determining factor in our happiness quotient.

A special, "Thank you" to Dancing J (Juliana) who first piqued my interest in trapeze through her blog, Lock the Knee!. I have been nursing the idea since she posted in March!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Yoga in Feathers, Scales and Gloves

I hope everyone had a fantastic Halloween! This year I consolidated and only did two costumes:

  1. Marie Curie, the physicist/chemist who won multiple nobel prizes for her research in radioactivity.  She loved the soft glow of radium and polonium, both of which she discovered, and as such, she wore a radioactive necklace and kept radiant rocks by her bedside. While we are not sure if it was her choice of nightlight or jewelry that killed her, we are sure she died from radiation poisoning. My outfit consisted of a full French-Victorian gown, complete with bustle* and a necklace with a glow-stick charm. I coated my face in talc powder, underlined my eyes in grey and lined my lids with red, in mimicry of radiation poisoning. I looked ill. Really ill. I realized I overdid it and cut back on the make-up for the second party. 
  2. Wonder Woman, my yoga costume! I painted little white stars on my pair of blue yoga shorts and sewed a red taffeta cape to pin to my yoga top. I also had a thick gold choker, which I forgot to put back on for the pictures. It occurs to me that most super-hero women are clad in bikram-yoga outfits with capes and irresponsibly tall boots.** I may have to dig into my geek repertoire for next year too.

My yoga costumes are quickly becoming a favorite tradition of mine. This is my third Halloween as a yogi and therefore, third costume. Year one I was yoga-ninja. Year two I was Gianna, a favorite teacher of mine. Year one was just me and the teacher in costume. Same with year two.

This year, year three, I attended the 4:30 class and was thrilled when my good friend Tony, a huge advocate of adult play (he's writing his dissertation on it), showed up in full garb! He wore a hooded cape, sunglasses and gloves and a shirt with a human skeleton printed on it! The clever man even had an explanation, "look at how healthy my spine is!"

This was genius. He changed into orange shorts (for a black and orange ensamble) and we did the entire class in costume. My cape posed only slight problems; I can now tell you definitively what it is like to practice under a wet blanket.

After class, the 6:30 class started filtering in. I could have cried big, fat, wet, sloppy tears of joy.

Costumes everywhere! I felt like I was witnessing a magical unicorn convention! Ballerinas, fish, peacocks, (OMG, I just realized TWO of those are poses! *SQUEEE of JOY!*) and wizards paraded past the front desk. To my utter adoration none of them disrobed before class.

I was so excited I almost took a double to join them. Almost. Okay, not almost, but I totally thought about thinking about it.

UPDATE: Here is a photo of Tony (We call him Avo, short for Avocado. He eats them every morning) and I. If I can get a photo of the fish, peacock, ballerina and wizard I will post that too!
We both heard there would be candy.

* Which I am selling should anyone happen to need such a gown. Suggested situations perfect for this ensable include: dancing with chimney sweeps, riding a penny-farthing, or swooning.

**  This bolsters my argument that yogis would make excellent crime-fighters.