Every year I take the kids down to Florida to visit my Mom and Dad.  In anticipation of our visit, Mom always goes shopping and has gifts waiting for us.  A few years back she was extra excited about the gift she’d bought me.  “Wait ‘til you see,” she said, her gold bangles jangling. “You’ll love them.”

Following my mother’s instructions I went into the guest room to find a pair of Lilly Pulitzer pants lying on the bed – blue and white with a pattern of palm trees and ocean scenes.

Mom came up behind me.  “Do you love them?” she asked.  I looked down at my black yoga pants and t-shirt – my uniform. “Well, um, thanks, but they’re not really my usual style.”
reflectionsMom pushed through the doorway.  “Not your style?” she said holding the pants up in front of her.  “They’ll be darling on you.  Try them on.”

I held them up in front of me and turned toward the mirror, Mom looking over my shoulder.  “I really won’t wear them,” I said.

Mom was hurt.  She took the pants and walked out the door.  “I can’t believe you don’t like them,” she said.  “I thought you’d love them.”

“They’re cute,” I called after her, fingering the beaded choker on my neck, “just not on me.”

And with that my mother and the pants were gone, upstairs to her bedroom.

And yet, hours later the discussion continued. This time with Dad.

“So I heard you don’t like those pants your mother got you,” he said, putting his hand on my shoulder.

I looked up from my book. “They’re not really my style, Dad.”

“Well, maybe you should work on your style,” he said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”  I asked, dropping my book on the table.

“Well, I just think you could spruce up your look a bit.” He took a step away from me.  “Maybe add some color. Get rid of some of those dark, baggy clothes you’re always wearing.”

And with that, I was 13 again.

“Thanks, Dad,” I said and picked up my book, and then because I couldn’t stop myself, I motioned to his madras Bermuda shorts and shoeless loafers. “I’ve always counted on you for fashion advice.”

It wasn’t but a week later; we were home from Florida, getting ready for a special assembly at the kid’s school.

“There’s a new dress on your bed for you,” I told Andie. “You’ll love it.”

A few minutes later I found her sitting on the edge of her bed, still in her pjs. “What are you doing?” I asked.  “We gotta get going.”

“I don’t like that dress,” Andie said.

“What do you mean you don’t like that dress?  That dress is gorgeous.”  I held it up and motioned for her to come stand in front of the mirror. “Look how pretty that looks,” I said, holding the dress up in front of her.

“Lee, come see how pretty Andie’s dress is.”  My husband came in the room and stood behind me, so we were all three standing in a row in front of the mirror. Lee told her how nice the dress would look on her.

“It’s not the kind of dress I like,” she said softly, wiping a tear off her cheek.

And then I saw what was happening.  Lee looked up and met my eyes in the mirror.  He saw too.  He kissed the top of Andie’s head and said, “Sweetie, wear whatever you like.” I left the dress on the bed and we both walked out of her room shaking our heads.

And there she was, not five minutes later, standing in the kitchen wearing the exact dress she’d been crying over.  Lee and I exchanged looks.  “I actually do like this dress,” she said.  I wanted to tell her how beautiful she looked.  I wanted to jump for joy at the sight of my daughter out of her usual sweat pants and t-shirt.  Instead, I hid my smile, took her hand in mine and walked out the door.

Maybe I should take another look at those Lilly Pulitzer pants.

Welcome Home

The other day in yoga class, my teacher posed the question, “What is yoga to you?”  She wasn’t looking for any raised hands. The question was more of an offering, something to meditate upon throughout our practice.

As I began bending and twisting, I thought that yoga, to me, was simply moving my body. Keeping it limber and flexible – stretching in response to tennis and skiing and shoveling snow.

As I kept moving, more bends and twists, my breaths grew deeper and fuller, and I could feel myself letting go. Letting go of everything I’d carried in with me to class.

And then, as I continued to bend and twist and breathe even more deeply, I felt me return to me. I felt myself remember who I was.  I felt the real me, deep inside of myself, awaken and smile up at me.

I was reminded of the first time I’d experienced that sensation. It was several years ago during a yoga class at Kripalu I was about half way through class when suddenly it was like a mirror on my inside was reflecting out.  I remember wanting to reach out and touch my own imaginary light reflection. I remember whispering, “Hi, there.  I remember you.”

Because most of the time I forget.  I forget the deep me hidden away inside.  I’m just a busy body doing whatever it is I do.  Too busy to stop and say hello to that inner me.

So by the end of class I had found my answer. To me yoga is simply… returning to me.

I didn’t raise my hand or share my answer with anyone else. Instead, I rolled up my mat, took my own hand in the other and walked the whole me out of class, fully ready to begin my day.

walcottLove After Love 
by Derek Walcott

The time will come

when, with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

Yoga, Celebrities, and God

Screen-Shot-2013-01-12-at-11.20.34-AMEarlier this year, my sister and I went for a weekend of retreat and renewal at Kripalu, a yoga center in the Berkshires. I’d been to Kripalu several times, but it was Libbie’s first, and I couldn’t wait to experience the newness of my favorite place through her eyes.

We arrived on Friday afternoon, just in time to catch the 4:15 yoga class and enjoy a leisurely dinner. As we sampled off of each other’s plates, ooh and ahhing over every delicious concoction, a man with a head of grey hair and a beard to match walked past. “Celebrity watch, Michael McDonald,” Libbie said.

“Doobie Brothers, Michael McDonald? Are you sure?”

She laughed and explained that “Celebrity Watch” was a game that she and her husband played – looking for ordinary folk who resemble celebrities. “Gwyneth Paltrow,” she said as a blond waif of a woman floated past. A tall man entering the dining room looked familiar, maybe like someone I’d seen in a movie or tv, but I wasn’t sure.

Lib continued to play all weekend. Between our 6:30 am yoga classes, inspirational lectures, walks to the lake and labyrinth, and our repeated trips to the bookstore, she’d spot someone. “Paul Reiser,” she whispered in my ear as we browsed the bookstore shelves. “Who?” I whispered back, but knew she meant the actor from the tv show Mad About You when I followed her gaze.  “Totally,” I agreed, and we continued to leaf through books.

“Did you ever watch that show Joan of Arcadia?” I asked. I’d recently borrowed the dvd series from the library and couldn’t get enough of it. She hadn’t. I explained the premise, about a young high school girl who can see God. “God appears in every episode taking on the form of some human character. He/She’s been a school janitor, a bus driver, a dog walker, a flight attendant…” I followed Lib to the cookbook section.  “Anyway, God always has some assignment for Joan that ultimately influences and impacts the lives of others. It’s like the curtain is pulled back and you see how there’s some divine plan we’re all a part of.”

“Cool.” Lib said, picking up a vegetarian cookbook. “Jennifer Aniston, by the yoga pants.”

By noon on Sunday we’d reluctantly packed and prepared for our departure. We stood in the doorway, just outside the dining hall, willing ourselves to head to the exit. That tall, possible celeb I’d seen when we first arrived walked through the door.  It was my last chance, and as he passed I blurted, “Are you…?”  He stopped and smiled. We had to crane our necks to look up at him.  “Yup, I’m that guy,” he said.  “TV?” I asked.  “Some” he said. “More movies and theatre.”  We coaxed a few names out of him and Goodfellas was one I recognized.
celeb1When my sister asked, “Did you eat the hot pepper in Dumb and Dumber?” his face lit up.

“That was me,” he said, standing a little taller.

We stood in the doorway for almost a half hour as he entertained us with stories from his weekend course Big Guy Yoga, and tales of growing up in Brooklyn with a bunch of brothers and life on a movie set with Jim Carrey.  By the time we said goodbye, we’d exchanged hugs and email addresses.

“Leave it to you to take celebrity watch to a whole new level,” my sister said as we walked toward the parking lot.

I thought about him several times on the drive home.  There was something so familiar about him.

That night after tucking the kids into bed, curiosity got the best of me. When I typed Mike Starr into Google, pages of movies and theatre credits appeared on the screen.  “Holy smokes,” I said aloud, as I took in all the titles.  The last page had a long list of his tv roles.  I scanned the list and felt my fingers tingle when my eyes stopped on the show Joan of Arcadia.

Then I remembered.  He was God.

I sat back in my chair and a shiver went through my entire body.  Divine plan indeed. celeb2

Then I called out to my husband.  “Hey, Leebo, you’ll never guess who I met at Kripalu.”

Clean Laundry, Clear Mind

laundry1Today I folded laundry… with mindfulness.

I didn’t rush. I didn’t complain. I didn’t have a phone balanced between my ear and my shoulder. I just folded laundry.

And I noticed. I became aware. As I folded my husband’s white work t-shirts, I pictured his broad chest beneath the smooth, cotton fabric. I could smell his morning shampoo. As I folded my daughter’s prized Taylor Swift t-shirt, I smiled at her pre-adolescent innocence and joy. Folding her clean, white winter tank tops, I remembered her little toddler body scampering away from me as I tried to get her dressed.

Tucker’s gray t-shirts with the Burton logo’s and skateboard company names and scary looking men dressed in shapeless baggy clothes, reminded me of the day when he was three years old and stood high on the back of our living room couch, a homemade cardboard snowboard beneath his feet and screamed, “Watch this, Mom!”

As I folded my new white bras, I thought Oprah would be so proud that I went to a “bra-fitting specialist,” to have them sized correctly, but that the sales clerk would be disappointed they’d gone in the dryer after she’d specifically told me they shouldn’t.

As I gathered up all the lone socks, I thought of Meg, our loyal English Mastiff, always greeting us at the door, with a single sock hanging from her mouth.

And then, just like that, all the laundry was folded.

And I was so glad that I’d gone to that mindful place, so that when I put my daughter’s pajamas in her bottom drawer and saw that the cat had pooped underneath, I could just breathe (not too deeply), get a plastic bag, cleaning spray and remind myself to remind her to clean the litter box.

And I was so glad to be in that mindful state so that when I put my husband’s t-shirts on top of his dresser and found his mountain bike clothes in a sweaty heap on the floor, I could just breathe (again, not too deeply) and move them to the hamper.

And when I went to put my son’s clothes in his closet and saw… that he had made his bed (!!!!), I could truly take a deep breath and choose to overlook the dried up, black banana peel stuck to his writing desk.