Friday, November 30, 2007

Big "Day Off"

I got up early this morning because we had to take our dog Spirit to the vet. She came in from outside last night with a big chunk of her leg missing. That sounds a bit dramatic, doesn't it? Well, she had a big open sore on her leg so we gave her a Tylenol, cleaned it up a bit and tried to wrap it up. But with the shape of her leg and the placement of the wound we couldn't get the wrapping to stay in place. Basically her leg tapers so much that the bandage just kept sliding down. So eventually we put a long-sleeved shirt on her to cover it up and keep her from licking it all night. Anyway, the day started with a visit to the vet who said he would give her some stitches. She spent the day at the vet undergoing surgery. We will pick her up in a few minutes.

Then we went grocery shopping and then we worked on the yoga building some. I painted my door and Kelly painted the awning. I guess that is what you call it. We need to do a second coat but it looks better already. Then I had a great practice with some friends which was mellow even in the hard work. I really enjoyed being in my yoga building and practicing for a nice long time and being with others doing the same thing. It is just one of my favorite things. Moshi got to spend the afternoon with us in the yoga building since he looks so sad without Spirit around.

After we were done with savasana, Moshi got up and walked over to Mandy for some love. And then to Hannah. And then to me. And then to Jeremiah. And then to Mark. He went around to each one of us and got a big dose of love. It was so sweet. I love that dog.

Now I am eating an apple and checking up on some computer-oriented tasks and then we will go to the vet to get our sleepy-slightly-stoned-from-anesthesia-dog.

Immersion tomorrow! Yahoo. Reviewing the loops and fun with Inner and Outer Spiral.

later addition to entry: Here is a picture of Spirit home from the vet with her T-shirt on to keep her from licking her stitches. She is a very sleepy girl tonight.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Big Week

Somehow the week got away from me without writing again and here it is Thursday night, home from the yoga marathon and checking in with my emails and business and winding down. I had a great week of teaching. It was nice to have had a break and it was nice to return to my various classes to connect with everyone again.

Tuesday's flow class was really a blast this week. We actually worked on visvamitrasana, and arm balance in the class which is a bit beyond the range of poses that I usually include in that class but the group was so strong, attentive and ready that I went for it and so many people managed to make progress in the pose, so that was fun.

The Tuesday advanced class worked on twists, forward bending standing poses and arm balances. It was a good strong and fun practice. (And thank God for Alice in the front row with her ever-present enthusiasm. I agree with Jeremiah, we are all in trouble if we lose Alice!)

Wednesday classes in San Marcos were delightful as always. We had several people MIA which I can only assume is due to holidays and the cold/flu thing that seems to be hitting people strongly. One thing I love about The San Marcos School of Yoga is that the room is small and the students are very interested in learning. So I find my demos very effective in this setting and the teaching fun and challenging in a way that is different from what I love about teaching in Austin. Really teaching here and there is the best of both worlds.

The 5:30 class worked on forward bends and had a huge breakthrough in janu sirsasana which was really exciting and the 7:00 class is progressing quite nicely through the beginning syllabus.

I am going to re-work the class syllabi slightly before the next session so that each level is more varied with a few standing poses, a few back bending postures, a few forward bends and so on. It will be minor changes just responding to what I have found in teaching from my original plans now for almost a year.

Tonight's classes were fun also. The 4:30 class was a highlight as it usually is. Lisa came up to me after class and thanked me for picking Austin as a place to move to and teach. It was so sweet the way she said it and I am not sure if I responded in the "right" way (by right meaning the way that best expressed what I felt) but what I felt was a lot of gratitude for the warm welcome I have received here. Really the community that I have joined and that we are all creating together is a pretty exciting thing for me. And now Jesse has rearranged his work schedule to be there at 4:30 so the fun keeps building!

I had a lot of new people at 6:00 and we worked on twists. And at 7:00 we practiced a potpourri of hip openers and standing poses. And the 7:00 class gave me a elcture on football. Evidently there is som big game tonight- Packers and Cowboys. Sounds like it could be a strange kind of reality TV show set in a western town's grocery store. Anwyay... more later.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Monday Night

I had a great time teaching last night after having a week off for Thanksgiving. I definitely felt refreshed and relaxed headed into the evening. The 5:30 class worked on the basic backbends- after a visit to a few standing poses they worked on setu bandhasana, danurasana and ustrasana. A lot of progress was made from the first time I introduced ustrasana to the group which is why it is so great to have these short sessions which emphasize a small handeful of poses- over the course of 6-8 weeks on can really monitor progress quite nicely.

The 7:00 had some folks missing but we had a great time working on parasvakonasana, anjanyeasana nd revolved parsvakonasana. (I mean,I had fun- revolved parsvakonasana is a hard pose and certainly there were moments of un-fun for those working on it!) On the first side of the pose I realized people had been there a while and I said,"Okay, just come on out." My tone must have reflected something else because the students teased me that I sounded more like, "That was terrible, just come on out, you are ruining the pose!" We had a good laugh as they teased me and themselves about the first attempt. But, by the second time the pose had radically improved, as I knew it would.

Last night someone asked me why I do not talk about the breath a lot. I get this question a lot and I must say that first of all, I absolutely instruct with the breath. (This person was not being critical, just curious. He is a good student, likes the class and so on.) I say things all the time about the breath like, "Inhale lift your chest, exhale touch the floor, etc." During sun salutations, I say very little other than inhale/exhale and whatever action is next. So in one way whenever someone says we do not talk about the breath a lot I am like, "Are you listening? How can you miss it?"

But he is right, in one way. In Anusara Yoga, particularly in the beginning we are not so "breath-oriented". (Although on the first night of a beginning series all I do is teach simple action in coordination with the breath- so again- how can you miss this? But I digress.) I explained to him that to me it is like a desktop publishing program. You know how you can import a picture and then you can import text into the document? And then with the push of a button you can move one or the other to the foreground or to the background? So for me when I teach, the biomechanics, the heart qualities and the breath are always getting moved in and out of the foreground.

And in Anusara Yoga once people have great physcial alignment and know what the poses are and what they are supposed to look like and what actions are required to keep the pose alive and advancing, then yes, we bring in a stronger emphasis with the breath. But in the beginning we often put the alignment in a bit more of the foreground. And because we do not have prescribed sequences, the emphasis of breath, body, heart will move around class to class at the teacher's discretion.

Also, you cannot really practice heart qualities without the breath because the breath is the carrier of these deeper aspects of the pose. The breath bridges the domain between intention and action, and is the means by which we join attitude with the posture.
But, like I said, he is right in other ways as well (as are Ansusara Yoga's many critics that say we do not talk about the breath) because- it is not our way to simply describe a pose and then remind you, during the duration of the time you are in the pose, to "focus on the breath." We are saying, Focus on the lift of your leg, the deepening of your groins, the scoop of the tailbone, the remembrance of your heart's deepest longings AND your breath." There are so many important things to give attention to for us- the breath is just one of many.

The other thing that I mut say is that I personally love the breath. Moving with the breath is a delicious thing. I love it and in my personal practice I do a lot of that at times. And for many people, that deliciousness translates to a "yoga zone" that is quite delightful. I, too, love the zone. But the problem with that zone in class is that it is not necessarily a great mindset for learning. It is a great mindset for Being, for worship, for Remembering. But in terms of how to advance, how to refine, how to clarify, the zone is often way to sleepy to be effective. So in a yoga class, my main intention is to TEACH people how to improve their practice, not to simply facilitate a yoga zone. And in order to teach effectively, people need to be alert and the yoga zone, for many, from what I have observed over the years is just not conducive to the kind of clarity I hope people gain from being in my class.

Now the sad thing is many people really prefer the zone over clarity and hate for their flow, their zone, etc. to be disturbed even for the sake of learning something that will provide them with tools for improvement to such a degree that within six months to a year their "flow" their ability and skill will astound them if they just allowed a pause in the flow to actually learn.

And really, the deepest meaning of vinyasa is continuity. The reason why we link postures in a seamless flow is to understand the seamless flow of consciousness that underlies the forms of manifestation. As yogi's we can and should be able to cultivate an awareness of consciousness, an ability to "Stay in the flow" whether we are observing the breath, the muscles of the legs or arms, the purity of the heart and even when feeding the intellect. All those expressions of "yoga" are expressions of the Great Flow itself, which operates in vinyasa- a seamless continuity.

And another thing- I did not learn advanced postures by breathing nor did I learn them "in flow". They were not revealed. They were cultivated and practiced. I learned them by watching lots of demos and by practicing their component parts. When I am balancing on my hands and bringing my feet over to touch my head for scorpion pose (pictured below) I am not thinking about five smooth inhales and exhales- I am thinking "strong arms, soft heart, now melt, melt, melt, melt more, now inner thighs back and now extend through the the balls of the feet but keep inner spiral, now exhale, more melt, now extend, more inner spiral, not enough, more, more, more, still not enough, now there's the feeling in my upper back that tells me I am in position and now that's all I can do, now bend your legs, there is my head, keep the arms strong, claw the floor, breathe." Like that.
So like I said, my students question was not at all loaded (unlike this response!) but the question served as a most excellent springboard for my post this morning. Enjoy the rant, enjoy your day. Love.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving visit with Mom and Dad

The Blue Pearl, my new car.
Mom, waiting for us to buy the car.
Dad, waiting for us to buy the car. Paperwork.
Me and my new car.

Well, it's been a busy week. As already mentioned, we visited Sun City on Monday. Then Tuesday morning we woke up, Kelly and I walked our dogs and then we all went to the Honda dealership for me to buy a car. Here I am pictured with my brand new Honda Fit. I just love it. After car shopping we went to the Outlet Malls. Dad got some great stuff at Under Armour, Mom and I went to Coldwater Creek and Kelly got a few things at Banana Republic.

Wednesday Mom, Kelly and I went on the Glass Bottom boat tour of the San Marcos River and then up into Austin. Dad had an appointment with Craig for acupuncture and the rest of us went to Whole Foods for Gelato and then we met up again at Central Market for shopping and dinner.

On Thursday Anne came down for Thanksgiving and brought her surrogate dog Dylan down with her. Four dogs in the house was pretty exciting. Our two dogs, Mom and Dad's dog and now Dylan! Here is mom with Indy and Dylan.
We had a really nice day. Anne and I practiced yoga, I made a great soup for lunch and then we had a nice light dinner together in the evening. Today Mom and Dad went up to Austin to spend the night there with Anne and they will all go to Waco for a few days after that.

So that was the brief run down of the week. We had a really fun time together. I am a bit tired but in a really good kind of way. There was so much for me to be grateful for this year and so I am left with a feeling of fullness. I enjoy good health, great work, friends all over the globe, and being with my family this year was something to be particularly grateful for. I am really happy that Mom and Dad are planning to move closer to me and Anne and that we will have a chance to spend more time with them in the next few years. Really, the gratitude list is nearly endless this year.

There is plenty more to write about but that is it for tonight.

Monday, November 19, 2007

With Mom and Dad

We spent the day in Georgetown looking at houses in Sun City. Mom's plan is to buy a house there in a year and move either late '08 or early '09. Ithink that is the plan. At least in a rough form anyway. The commnity there looks like it will be afun place for them to be a fun place for me to go visit. I think it is an excellent plan.

Kim Schaefer will be teaching my class at 4:30 tomorrow and Jeremiah will be stepping in for me at 6:00. I will be back teaching next week and I am sure I will be fully refreshed from the time off!

More tomorrow. I have to get some things done and get myself to bed soon. Shopping for houses is tiring! Love to all.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fun with Vicki's Gang

It was really a great weekend in The Woodlands with Vicki and her gang. (Although Mark and Hannah, part of "my gang" came from Austin. Are they part of my gang- or did they allow me to join their gang? Hard to know. And also Jill came who is from Richmond but part "Austin Immersion gang" came as well.) I had a really great time teaching a meeting new people. There was even a woman there named Grace who is taking an Immersion in Berkely with my friends Noah and Sianna. Small world.

I think Friday nights of workshops are always the hardest class to teach. I always make a plan and invariably the plan I make is scrapped within a few moments of the class beginning. Sometimes I plan a too challenging class. Sometimes I plan a too basic class. Sometimes I plan a flow when it is obvious the group needs instruction in the basics first. It is funny because unless I know the group and have taught them before I rarely plan the "right" class.

(As a side note, even though in the 5 or so years that I have been teaching workshops I have rarely planned the "right" Friday night class, I always make a plan anyway. The planning is not so much because I am going to follow it no matter what but because it is an act of preparation, that to me tells the Universe I am willing and open and getting ready so PLEASE HELP ME. Planning is part of my own Adhikara- making myself ready. )

So in Friday night's class I had planned one thing and pretty quickly switched and taught what I thought was a good class, but not the class I written down. And then the rest of the weekend I was able to follow my plan almost exactly because, having met everyone, I could plan accordingly and we were able to build on the Friday night's sequence throughout the weekend.

One thing that was fun for me is that Vicki and I both have some background in Iyengar Yoga. In fact, John Friend was her teacher when he taught Iyengar Yoga. So was George Purvis, another great Texas yogi, who I think is fantastic. I think that perhaps because of that background she and I must teach similarly or she has trained her students to be great students and follow the teacher's lead even if it unfamiliar- because her students were very able to follow my teaching and were responsive to my teaching style.

The students enthusiastically watched demos and were interested in learning and practicing the subtleties of the poses which provided me with a very fertile teaching environment. As a teacher, there is nothing like having students willing to come to how I am teaching as opposed to having students who make me package what I have to say according to their expectations. (Small rant.) But that to me is what makes a good student and a good yogi- not the ability to bend but the ability to be present to learn. And it is a skill that we can cultivate as much as any asana. But I digress-

Vicki has a great group. Eager to learn, funny, open, affectionate with one another and I had a great time. Vicki told me that she would have invited me sooner "if she knew how much fun I was." She told me that she thought I would be much different than how I am based on her impressions of me from the workshops with John we have attended over the years. Hmm... I have actually found that over the years many of the Anusara Yoga practitioners I have met are pretty different one on one than in the big groups with John. I guess I am too. Probably for a lot of reasons. But that is another post for another time.

Anyway- Mom and Dad are on their way here. I still have not found a sub for Tuesday's advanced class so who knows- maybe I will end up seeing some of you this week after all. If I cannot find a sub for that class I may just go ahead and teach at 4:30 also. Anyway- if you follow such things, stay tuned to the blog and also to the YogaYoga schedule where it will be posted.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Advanced Class Sequence

Several people asked me to post the sequence from tonight's class. Here it is:

The basic 12 poses:
Adho Mukha Svanasana
baby cradle
prasarita padottanasana
maricyasana 1
uppavistha konasana

The Basic Twelve twisted and turned:
parsva vajrasana
parivritta balasana
twisted dog
parsva uttanasana
parivritta uttanasana
parivritta utkatasana
baby cradle revolved
eka pada galavasana
parsva prasarita paddotanasana
parivritta prasarita paddotanasana
parivritta trikonasana ( I forgot to do this one in class!)
parivritta parvakonasana
eka pada koundinyasana
maricyasana 3
parsva uppavistha konasana
parivritta uppavistha konasana
parivritta pascimottanasana


We had a great group of people with really awesome energy in class tonight. As everyone was gathering someone remarked, "Wow, it is like a party in here." And yes, it was. People were just so tuned into one another and to the sequence and people's poses were just opening in beautiful ways. when we got into some of the arm balances it was just so awesome to see the majority of the people in the room in the poses. We worked with the theme of "support" in terms of community support and it just felt so true. That class is so regularly attended by such strong practitioners that the class is a real vehicle for support and a real testimony to what consistency and commitment brings. One of my favorite things about teaching yoga is watching community grow. I just really felt that in tonight's class.

The 6:00 class practiced shoulder loop and worked with the theme of "joining". It really occurred to me as I taught that we are, in many ways, "joining" with the ideal forms of the poses by joining ourselves to the principles that inform them. we find our own optimal expression and join ourselves with that. Over and over again. And in the process of joining, in joining ourselves with our practice we are refined and transformed. Really, what a cool thing.

The 7:30 class worked with "tejas" or spiritual lustre. We worked on refining parsvakonasana and preparing for vasithasana. That class is getting some regular people attending it which is really great because we can build on some previous lessons that way.

Thanks to Jeri, Anne, Tabatha, Hannah and Susan for double dipping tonight. Always fun to have people in more than one class.

Off to the Woodlands to teach this weekend. Fun, fun, fun!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wednesday Night Classes

Well we had two great classes tonight here in San Marcos. If you remember, last week I was not here for the Wednesday night classes because I was in Georgia. (And so Kelly made his teaching debut. ) It was great to see folks again and to meet the new folks in the beginning series who I had not met yet.

The Level 2 class worked on Vira 2, suptapadangusthasana 1-4 and janu sirsasana and we worked with the theme svadhyaya, self study. The Beginning/Level 1 class was great. I taught them the chant, the very basics of Anusara Yoga philosophy and we worked on some of the actions that help us draw to the mid line.

And everyone reported that Kelly did a great job teaching, which does not surprise me in the least!

So as an FYI- a few opportunities for practice in the next month...

Mark and Hannah and I have planned to get together here in San Marcos on Friday, November 30 and Friday, December 14 from 12-3:30. We will do a strong practice so please come ready to work and/or happy to modify as appropriate for your ability.

Also- I am planning a Holiday Eye of The Tiger practice and potluck for Sunday December 30. We need at least 4 1/2 hours to get through the sequence so I am thinking 12:00-4:30 and then food. Any takers on this? (Do not let the extra time scare you. Compared to what we have already been practicing, what this gives us time for is more inversions, forward bends and a longer savasana. Well, to be honest, a little more time for the advanced back bends also, but really, do not be afraid. I will help you.)

As usual, suggested donation for the practices is $15.

Okay, kids, stay in touch and let me know if you want to join in any of these practices. Once the new year comes, I have like zero free weekends to make much of anything happen on the weekends , so get while the getting is good.

Oh, and do not forget about Noah's workshop. I have one or two spots left. One person cancelled and two people have yet to pay me so if you want to come, let me know ASAP. Check out his It will be fun. My practice is kind of mediocre compared to his- it should be a blast.

Good Morning!

It is Wednesday morning. Just a brief note before we get on with the day.

Last night's classes were fun. I really missed seeing everybody last week so it was good to be back. We had a nice big group of folks in the 4:30 Flow for a full-spectrum kind of practice. We did sun salutations, standing poses, a few arm balances, back bends and some forward bends and believe it or not, there was even time for savasana.

We had smaller-than-usual group for the advanced class but it was super fun. Mike, Susan, Pamela, Katherine and Susan Snyder all double-dipped and even though some folks were "missing" we had a fun time and worked on ekapadarajakapotasana 1. (For the non-yogi's reading, that is an advanced back bend where you grab your foot behind your head.) See Below:

One of my favorite things about teaching this pose is watching people touch their toes back behind their heads for the first time because it is kind of shocking.Really, when in your life have you felt your toe behind your head? Not that often, right? Lots of folks glimpsed the possibility of the pose. I think this was the third or fourth time I have had Jesse in a class where we practiced this pose and each time he has gotten closer so it was a real thrill when last night he actually got a hold of his foot! And Rusty rose to Mike's challenge, performing a beautiful pose even though his rational mind didn't think it was possible. Soon we will have to bring a camera to this class to record these moments!

I love teaching these advanced poses to such eager and capable students. I am modeling this class after a class I used to take with Desiree. She said that when she was learning advanced poses the only place they were ever taught was in workshops. So she decided she would teach them in an ongoing class. A lot of the advanced poses I learned were taught in that class of hers. So in keeping with that great tradition, I am teaching theses advanced classes like that. Which is good because by the time you get to advanced workshops with John, he does not teach you how to do all this stuff anymore. He just says, "Okay everybody, ekapadarajakapotasana" and 75 people in the room just do it. Now that is a sight to see.

Anyway- I will be teaching all of my classes in Austin on Thursday this week but I have a sub request in for next Tuesday so I can be with my parents while they are visiting. Kim Schaefer will teach the flow class on Tuesday and I will keep you posted about the 6pm.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Monday Night Classes

We had classes here at The San Marcos School of Yoga last night. The Level 3 class learned vasisthasana, thus beginning a foray into arm balances for that group. We are almost finished with the niyamas (not finished with them because we are always to be practicing them, but finished with our discussion of them in class. Oh- For non-yoga readers, the yamas and the niyamas are kind of like the 10 commandments of yoga. The yamas are the things we are not to do- don't harm, don't lie, don't steal, don't misuse your sexuality, do not hoard. The niyamas are those things that we cultivate- cleanliness, contentment, burning zeal, self-study and surrender to the Lord) Last night we used ishvara pranidhana as a theme and talked a bit about the Remembering the Lord Within.

The Level 1 &2 class worked on Vira 1, parsvottanasana and halasana with a discussion of ahimsa (non-violence). In Patanjali's sutra he says that when we are established in ahimsa, all others abandon hostility in our presence. (Think: St. Francis of Assisi who was so peaceful that animals flocked to him knowing no harm would come to them. Or think of your best friend who has no ill will to you and how you immediately relax in their presence. Like that.)

We had a new student, Donna, come level 1&2 class last night. She has moved recently to the Wimberly area from Dallas, where she was student of Randy Just who has an Iyengar Yoga studio there. So that was fun. She said it was so different not to have a teacher who yells all the time. I told her that many of my students actually do think that I yell. She said, "Well compared to Randy you were very sweet!" She was not complaining, she loves Randy and his teaching and she was obviously well-trained (with very precise blanket folding techniques and you all know how much I like that). So anyway, just so you guys know, the yelling could be worse. I am, evidently, sweet by comparison to some...

Anyhoo-- I am going to try to post a bit more often since I found out that my mother checks my blog every morning. (HI MOM!)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Immersion Weekend

Pictures from the weekend- thanks to Ari, our guest photographer.

The group was super attentive and very responsive to the drill sergeant approach to learning the principles (What are the three aspects of muscle energy? the teacher asks. The group shouts back, " Three aspects of muscle energy, sir: 1. hug to the bone, 2. draw to the mid line, 3. move from the periphery to the core. Sir, yes, sir." ) Like that. What fun!

It was also great to talk about Spanda this weekend after the very deep exploration we had with Carlos Pomeda last weekend. It was certainly a bit daunting to try to convey the depth I know exists in the teachings in a general way that was brief yet accurate. Anyway, I think the point got across by the end of the weekend and I enjoyed continuing to play with the theme. And ins ome ways, the Spanda theme is really every theme. More on that another time.

We meet again in 3 weeks for our final session before the two groups combine into one big happy family. In the second section of the Immersion we can look forward to some anatomy classes with Mark and some philosophy lectures with Craig Williamson, both of which I am am looking forward to.

Thanks to everyone who was there this weekend- for the laughter, the smiles and the hard work. Please comment and leave a note with your impressions of the weekend.

Funeral Notes

The Casket The whole family
Mom and The Girls
Dad and The Girls

The Grandchildren/The Cousins
Anne and I arrived back in Austin late Friday night and spent the night at her house in Austin. The weekend was quite remarkable. We had a really great time together as a family, celebrating Grandmartha's life and contributions. We all kept commenting that she would have loved how much fun we were having and she would have been so pleased that we were all together and enjoying one another's company. All in all, it was a rally great time, believe it or not.
This is what I said at the funeral. Each of the four grandchildren spoke and somewhow, without planning it, we each managed to address a slightly different aspect of who Grandmartha was. I think we did a pretty good job.
My mother says that people live on in our memories of them. I have many fond memories of my Grandmother. As a child, whenever we visited she made sure that we had great food to eat and fun activities in which to participate. She made us treats, arranged outings and play dates for us, she taught me how to paint my fingernails and toe nails... I could go on.

As an adult, however, I remember her for different things. I remember her now as a woman of faith who loved her family and her church deeply. She was a woman who honestly, sincerely and tirelessly sought the truth and did her best to abide by her understanding.

In her faith, she did not pray for her life to be made easier. She prayed instead for us. She prayed that she might understand what troubled us. She prayed that she might help us. She prayed that she might be made useful.

I looked up the word useful in the dictionary this morning. It means valuable, beneficial, serviceable and helpful. I know that each one of us- whether we knew March Cheek as a grandparent, a parent, a Sunday school teacher, a friend or a fellow citizen of Lavonia, would agree that through her life and her actions, her deepest prayer- to be made useful- was answered.

Whatever your memories of Martha Cheek are- from Sunday school lessons to pecan pie- I hope that your memories keep her alive as a woman that God used to help, to encourage and to serve others.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Georgia On My Mind

Well, Georgia is on my mind because my body is actually in Georgia. As I was starting my day yesterday, my mom called to tell me that my Grandmother had passed in the night. Grandmartha (what we have always called her) was 91 and had been in a steady decline with Alzheimer's/dementia for quite some time. So while the news was a bit a sad, and expectedly unexpected (like my mom told me on the phone, "Well, I knew it was going to happen, I just didn't know it would be today) in many ways, I feel a certain measure of relief and gratitude as she hasn't really been "Grandmartha" for quite some time.

So Anne and I hopped on a plane together and made our way to Georgia. (Thanks to all who are helping with the subbing and sorry to any who are inconvenienced by my absence. But here is something fun- Kelly is subbing tonight in San Marcos so anyone who wants to come a support him in San Marcos tonight is welcome to drop in to the series tonight ($10) and give him a boost of support for his teaching debut!)

Also- if you need me by email while I am gone, send it to I am having trouble getting my other program to work right now and this one is web-based where my usual address is computer-based.

So back to my Grandmother, who, if I dare to say to say so, was kind of radical. Now this is a family story (and not appropriate to share in the eulogies in rural Georgia) but my Grandmother married her first husband twice. The first ceremony was private. No one knew about it. Then a little later they had the public ceremony which had already been planned. Now, keep in mind that whenever that happened, the social mores about things were really different. Her first husband was the love of her life. So you can fill in the blanks for yourself about why a woman, with a date already set to be married, found it necessary to get married ahead of time without telling anyone. This is great thing to ponder and truly one of the best doorways into who Grandmartha really was- a woman of great passion.

Her first husband died tragically of a brain disease, leaving her widowed with a child, John. She remarried my Mom's father, Dan, who was also widowed with a child, my Mom, Andrea. So back in the mid to late 1940's, they were a step family. We do not think much about that now, but back then, this was quite unusual. So, Grandmartha was a stepmother before this was a common occurrence and I think of her as a kind of a pioneer in this.

Grandmartha also was college-educated. This was quite uncommon at the time as well.

There is a lot more to be said about the specifics (at least I am hoping there is more to be said because I am supposed to say something about her at her funeral and as I have already said, the most interesting story is "inappropriate" to share at a funeral. But certain themes definitely emerge:

1. She was a religious woman whose faith brought her strength in times of adversity and loss. She was a long-standing member of the Lavonia United Methodist church and was a beacon of moral and religious support to the members of that church.

2. She was dedicated to serving others. She made steady efforts to remember what other people liked and enjoyed and to provide that for them. One of my most deeply etched memories of her is Grape Jello. Our family would drive 18 hours from New York to Georgia to visit in the summers and when we arrived, bedraggled and tired, she would set out bowls of Grape Jello with Cool Whip for me and Anne to eat. Now at that time, our family was on a pretty strict budget and things like Cool Whip were not part of our life except at Grandmartha and Granddan's. Very fond memories of this.

3. She was a great cook. Not to get stuck on the food theme but she was such a great cook that once when Dad was visiting Lavonia he ate so much during the trip that he couldn't fit into the pants he brought when it was time to go. So on the day he was supposed to leave, Mom had to let out the seams in his pants so he could fit back into them! (Southern Food is not so "light, nor were we after any visit to Lavonia.)

4. She loved to travel. Grandmartha didn't ask for much. She wasn't raised to be someone who expressed her wants and needs readily but she did tell my Grandfather that she wanted to travel and see the world and so they did. They went everywhere- India, China, Japan, Europe, etc., sometimes begin gone for a month at a time.

5. She practiced Gratitude. Her life brought her lots of loss but she really was not one to complain. More, she was one to pray in Thanksgiving and to recognize her Blessings.

Well, there is more but that is it for now. I am tempted to erase the first story but I figure that while she might be blushing in Heaven somewhere, she would understand that the story about her and her first husband is meant with the utmost respect and celebration. And I figure no one in Lavonia, Georgia who wouldn't see it that way is reading this anyway. (DO NOT WORRY, MOM! I AM NOT GOING TO SAY IT IN THE FUNERAL. I do know better.)

Monday, November 5, 2007


So here are pics from the weekend. I will write some of my impressions soon. But in the meantime, I invite comments and reflections from those of you who were there. Please share!