Thursday, December 16, 2010

She Wore Blue Velvet

I love to Polka! And I’m proud of it!

By now, if you have been reading along, you know that I’m very proud of my Polish heritage. My father was a first generation Polish American. It is family lore that my Babci (grandmother) came to America, alone on a ship, when she was 13 years old. I have always admired the strength that must have taken. She met my Dziadek (grandfather) when she got here. They married and had 9 boys, the youngest of which was my father.

He went to a Polish Catholic school, St. Mary’s of Czsetochowa in Middletown, CT. It is still in existence to this day although the Polish heritage is dying out. My father spoke fluent Polish but he never taught us any. He wanted us to only speak English considering the ridicule he received growing up. Our parents wanted us to be ‘American’. This makes me so sad that so much of my heritage has been lost in order to be more ‘American’, whatever that means.

Before both of my sisters were married, Sundays were family dinner days. I remember vividly all of us sitting in the dining room, trying to eat my mother’s horrific pot roast, and listening to the Polish radio station. My father would put it on, sing or whistle along, and listen to the dj speaking his language. I would ask him what they were talking about and sometimes to tease me he would answer my question in Polish.

The thing about this memory that always makes me smile is the fact that, even if we were driving in the car on a Sunday, my father had a knack for turning on the radio and finding a Polish station. Even in other states. This became a running family joke. I’m sure this drove my Sicilian mother insane….

At every wedding or dinner dance to which my parents dragged me, I would dance the Polka with my father. Including when I was in high school and we would go to the Father-Daughter Dances. He would count out loud, “1, 2, 3…1, 2, 3…1, 2, 3…” until I found the beat. So it was only natural that at my wedding I would dance the Polka with my father. We only danced two dances together that night, ‘The Beer Barrel Polka’ (not my favorite) and ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’. It was the last time we ever danced together.

When you are Polish in America you are required to love Bobby Vinton, the Polish Prince. He’s a famous singer known for ‘She Wore Blue Velvet’, ‘Mr. Lonely’, ‘Santa Must Be Polish’, and ‘My Melody of Love’. I love Bobby Vinton. I can sing along and do with fervor. For many years, no matter where my husband and I went on vacation, it seemed that Bobby Vinton had been in concert there the week before. This became our running joke until one year when we planned an anniversary getaway in Atlantic City the same weekend when Bobby was performing.

So my husband, being a good sport, got us tickets. We had dinner, got dressed up and headed to the old convention center on the boardwalk where they used to crown Miss America. And there we were, the youngest couple in a the place. Me, standing up singing my heart out, and my poor Asian husband, surrounded by 2,000 Poles. He really is a good sport and I know he suffered through this concert because it meant so much to me. Although, he did admit that he knew almost every song…

On occasion you may find me driving down the road listening to the Polish station out of Bridgeport. The dj speaks English but the beat remains the same, 1, 2, 3…1, 2, 3…1, 2, 3… There are a few lyrics I understand. Thanks to Bobby Vinton I understand the most important ones.

"Moja droga jacie kocham...means that I love you so!
Kocham ciebie calem serce, love you with all my heart!"

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fuck Yoga

Yeah, I said it. FUCK YOGA.

Actually this was a website I saw the other day. This made me laugh out loud! This guy, angry at his ex-wife's obsession with Yoga, started making t-shirts and other items that just say 'Fuck Yoga'. He's making tons of money off of this.

Part of me, when reading his story said, "Fuck YOU!". I thought to myself that his wife was most likely obsessed with Yoga because this guy is probably a total ass. But then part of me said, "Yeah! Fuck Yoga!" At least, "Fuck what we have done to Yoga in the West."

We were in New York City on Thanksgiving morning and as we were driving towards the Lincoln Tunnel we passed several swanky, modern Yoga studios. They looked so amazing from the outside. Sleek. Provocative. The posters of contorted yoginis in expensive Yoga clothes adorning the walls, both inside and out. Part of me wants so badly to go into one of these places one day. Take some classes and really see what it is all about. Part of me is so curious: Do I have the chops to teach in a place like this?

But then again, would I really want to?

My students are primarily average sized, middle-aged and show up in exercise clothes they bought at WalMart. I love them. They are real. They don't expect Yoga to turn them into something they are not. Most of them know that enlightenment hardly ever comes without the work. They know that any class, even in the basement of the library or the community room at a church, can be just as good as an over-priced, pimped out studio in Manhattan.

But my fears of inadequacy remain... Am I good enough to hold my own in one of these places?

My practice has changed so much since I began teaching 5 and a half years ago. I've slowed down with injury, illness and basic fatigue. I was told by a local, haughty teacher that my teaching style is rudimentary. Well, considering the fact that the most increasing number of chiropractic patients are Yoga students, maybe we need more rudimentary teachers and classes. You can't stand on your head before you can stand up.

There are even 'Yoga Competitions' now. I mean, really? Fuck that! Yoga is about being in your body and learning to not compete with the person next to you. "Eyes on your own mat, students."

I like to think that if I ever had the chance to teach in one of these places that the same kind of students that come to my class now would come then. The real folks in real bodies. The ones who can laugh at me when I don't know my right foot from my left hand. The ones who can cry in class and we all cry along with them. The ones who come for themselves not to compete with the person next to them.


If you want to go for the exercise and need to wear pants that cost $100 with a $200 mat, then head into a big city. But just know that if you're not sure how to line up your feet parallel to each other then you probably just wasted $300.....

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Favorite Christmas Memory

It was completely humiliating at the time.

When I was 16 years old I drove a powder blue '77 Plymouth Scamp. My license plates said 'KK-10'. Everyone in a 25 mile radius knew my car. I loved that car and many of you reading this probably did too, hehehe....but I digress.

During that time, my eldest sister and her husband owned a group home for mentally ill adults. Every year my sister would ask my father to dress up like Santa and hand out the gifts at the resident party. He usually would change into his Santa suit in the garage and then go in and hand out the presents. Well this one year in particular, he decided to dress up at home and have me drive him from Cromwell to Haddam, in my car.

See where I'm going with this?

So there we were, just the two of us again, driving down Route 9. Me driving. Daddy in the passenger seat. Dressed in full Santa regalia. Ugh.

He had a bell in one hand and his cassette player in the other. (He had made a mix tape of Christmas songs to play while handing out the gifts. This was high tech back then, kiddies!) He was waving to anyone and everyone as we drove the 25 minutes from our house to the group home, ringing his bell the entire time. He was laughing and 'ho-ho-ing' the whole way, really getting into his part. People were beeping their horns and waving as they passed us. I was trying to shrink down in my seat as low as I could.

I was humiliated and amused at the same time. I don't think any of my 'cool' friends ever saw us. Thank goodness...

Although I thought this was the most embarrassing thing ever to happen to me at the time, it has remained my favorite Christmas memory. I can still hear my father laughing, having the time of his life. I would be humiliated all over again to see him that joyful just one more time. If only I could.


And yes, Kristina, there really is a Santa Claus.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Time Out?

It might be time for a change.

I'm exhausted. My body is in pain. Yoga is the only thing that makes me feel better. But I'm so tired. How can I possibly keep teaching?

Don't be scared, dear students. I'm not walking away anytime soon and if I do, knowing me, it won't be for long. It's just that I am so, so very tired. My body and my brain need to rest. I'm so tired that I feel unmotivated. I'm in so much pain that I can only think of my own body. I'm so overworked that I have virtually no time for my own practice. If I can't offer myself the benefits of Yoga, how can I offer it to you?

I use as much energy as possible when I teach and on those days, I kind of prepare energetically all day for class. Those students who are brave enough to join me on Friday mornings understand how truly tired I am. It is on Friday morning that I am the most exhausted. Even though I probably have just woken up, I haven't had anytime to store up energy for class. There are many times when I am sitting on my mat praying before the start of class, when I am not praying to be guided through movement, but I am praying not to break down in tears of exhaustion.

And in my own defense, I think I do okay most classes. I still surprise myself sometimes at what comes out during a class flow. Many of you, I'm quite sure, know me well enough to know when I am not on top of my game. So for this, I apologize. Just know that I still continue to give my all, every single class.

So, although I am not making a decision right now, I will probably be making one in the near future. I need to take some time off to rest and recharge. I need to heal my body. I need to find some new inspiration for movement. I need to focus on my own practice.

I love my students so much. I promise I won't be gone for long. I just need to hibernate for a bit.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Daddy's Little Girl (part 4)

My father was my first Guru.

When my Dad had his first heart attack I was about 5 years old. At that time, when you had a heart attack you got to stay in the hospital for a week or more and then you were allowed to stay out of work for six weeks. While my father was recuperating, he and I palled around. Just the two of us.

I remember a lot of that time we spent together. I'm not sure why it made such a huge impression on me except that there was probably much discussion in our home then about his near-death experience. I remember him vividly telling me about seeing his body on the table and how he was removed from his body. He felt like he was falling through a deep crevasse that was bright blue. I had never heard such concepts before in my limited years. The thoughts of, not only my father's near death, but also of the idea that the body and spirit were separate terrified and fascinated me at the same time.

During his weeks of recuperation, he took me all over. We visited the nuclear power plant in Haddam. (Back then you could actually go on tours to learn about nuclear energy!) We went to the Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill. He told me the family-famous story of how the day they announced on the news that fossils had been discovered near our home, he snuck over there under the cover of night and dug through the dirt until he found fossils to bring home to my sisters.

It was just the two of us on these day trips. Two adventurers, content in each other's company.

The most vivid memory I have of this precious time together was a discussion about the universe. Although I was quite young, my father spoke to me like I was his peer. I'm sure he used child friendly terms in this conversation but I was able to receive the advanced information and it stayed with me to this day. He explained to me that the universe has no end. This sentence blows my adult mind now just as much as it blew my tiny mind then. I remember asking him if it was possible that the earth was just a molecule in a glass of water in God's house. He said yes. We both pondered that thought for some time.

The strange thing that I am discovering now is, in exploring 'Course in Miracles', the thought I had over 35 years ago, may actually be true.

This one conversation with my father about the universe was the spark of my consciousness expansion. Not only was my father able to stretch my thinking, but as a devoted Catholic he showed me how to love God. He was a living demonstration that a man, a strong, intelligent and great man, could be Christ-like. He was graceful, happy, strong and loving.

During the end of my Dad's working years he was a janitor at St. Mary's of Czestochowa school in Middletown, CT. He often had to assist the priest with tasks at the church. One day the priest needed his help in the sanctuary. A new crucifix was being installed over the altar and the priest needed my father to take the old one down. I remember him feeling so emotional over carrying the 'body of Christ'. He had cradled this statue in his arms with such reverence. Just listening to him talk about it that day left me with an incredible feeling of Grace. It was something that I had never felt before at that point in my life.

Although his death was quick and unexpected, he knew he was going to die. He knew it was coming and he accepted it. This has angered not only me but both my mother and my sister's as well. We didn't know this until after he was gone and my mother was able to speak with his doctor. But now 15 years later, I think I have finally found peace.

I actually had a clue that he knew it was coming the Christmas right after his death. The Christmas before I had given him a book called 'Dad, Share Your Life With Me'. It was a 365 page book with a life question for each day. After he died, my mother found this book on his desk. He had worked on it all year to give back to me. He worked on more than one page per day. He finished it 3 weeks before he died.

And in the quintessential style of my father, on the last page he traced his hand. Next to his hand he signed it, 'Dad, 62 years young'.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Daddy's Little Girl (part 3)

I was probably 12 years old when I learned my father's real first name.

My father was the youngest of 9 boys of an immigrant Polish family. 9 boys! Wow! Many days I silently ask my Babci to send me inspiration. I only have 2 kids and some days I can barely manage. But years ago things were different. Because my father was so young, he was frequently forgotten about and had to take care of himself. I think that was what made him into the great man that he turned out to be.

Well, back in those post depression days, if you had a lot of sons the church basically expected you to send one into the priesthood. (A lot of families generously did this because it would mean one less mouth to feed.) None of my uncles had been 'called' and so many of them ended up drafted into WWII that it seemed my father would be the one to go. So I think the whole family started to prepare for Daddy to enter the priesthood and in this process my father attained a nickname: 'Rev', as in reverend.....

He never did end up in the priesthood, obviously. He met my mother on a blind date and as they say, the rest is history. But he kept his nickname.

He called himself 'Rev' and so did everyone else, including my mother. All of my cousins called him 'Uncle Rev'. It was all I ever knew as his name. It was one of the things that made him so unique. Everyone knew Rev. When he bought his long dreamed of 30 foot cabin cruiser my sisters and I begged him to name it 'Rev It Up!'. He was a humble man and very grateful to my mother for allowing him to have such a luxury as a boat so he ended up naming it after her, much to our chagrin.


Rev was every one's friend. People seemed to flock to him and he always had a smile on his face. In fact he smiled so much that, while he lay in his coffin, people at his wake mused that even in death he was smiling.

It's not to say that he didn't have a temper. My mother would tell you that he used to bottle everything up until he exploded but after his first heart attack in his early 40's, he just let it all hang out. A couple of his temper incidents have grown into family lore. During the 1970's gas crisis, Daddy waited patiently in line to get gasoline. During that time you could only get gas on certain days based on the last number on your license plate. And even then you frequently had to wait in crazy long lines. So as Daddy waited in line one day, a much younger man quickly pulled in and cut in front of my father. Daddy got out of his car and calmly asked the guy, "Are you prepared to go to the hospital today?".......

Another time, my parents had taken my best childhood friend, Debbie, and I to a dinner theater to see my favorite play, Brigadoon, for our 8th grade graduation gift. The dinner theater was tiered so you would be sitting below the table above you. The man at the table above us had taken his shoes off and we were eating dinner. My father was so offended by the smell emanating down to us that he started to try to get the guy's attention. "SIR! SIR! SIR! Would you MIND putting your shoes on???!!!" As humiliated as we were then, the memory makes me laugh to this day!


He was such a blessing to so many people but I was lucky enough to have this man as my father. My goal is to smile as much in my lifetime as he did in his. If that's the only legacy I can leave behind then it will be a fitting tribute to the man who raised me.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My Buried Life

What do you want to do before you die?

Yeah, I'm addicted to this MTV show, 'The Buried Life'. Can't get enough of these 4 young men working on crossing things off their bucket list. It makes me want to formalize my own. Sure, we all have things we want to do but how many of us actually write them down and cross them off?

Here goes. It's a work in progress, so bear with me.

~Cruise the Greek Isles
~Visit Poland and the hometown of my grandparents
~Visit Sicily with my mother and visit the hometown of my other grandparents
~Hold a koala bear
~Swim with dolphins
~See Klimt's 'The Kiss' in person
~Own and drive an old school, dark green Jaguar
~Own a cottage at the beach, any beach
~Live in an ecologically friendly log home
~Have an outside shower at my home
~Snorkel in Belize
~See Tahiti
~Take my daughter to the Bob Marley museum in Jamaica
~Fantasy Fest
~Have lunch with James Delaney Buffett
~See Pink in concert
~See Natalie Merchant in concert
~See Bruce Springsteen in concert

So, there's only a few extravagances on this list and there's probably more I'll add at some point. I think there's an importance to writing it down. In Yoga it's called sankalpa; planting a seed of intention. Where attention goes, energy flows. Then maybe the seed will grow...

So, what do you want to do before you die?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Daddy's Little Girl (part two)

The following is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Ok, gentlemen! Trivia time! (Ladies, if you know this, give yourself an extra 100 points!) What is the part on an electric drill that holds the bit to the drill called??? Take your time. I'll wait....

Last spring, I was driving the kids to school one morning. We were listening to some random radio station that was having a weird trivia contest and that was the question. Before the dj even had the words out of her mouth I started screaming, "Chuck! CHUCK! It's called a CHUCK!"

I know this because my father invented it.
My father worked for Jacob's Manufacturing for most of my childhood and teen years. He was a self taught engineer. He never graduated high school but received his GED after he married my mother. He was a genius without an education, but he never let that stop him or ruin his confidence.

When he was hired by Jacob's, he had to sign an agreement that anything he may invent at work was property of the company and in return he would receive a cash bonus. His cash bonus for inventing something that everyone has in their home today was about $40. So he never made his million but it was one of his claims to fame.

My father was truly blessed with many gifts. He could sing and loved to dance. He was a talented painter, carpenter, and mechanic, among other things. All of his skills were self taught by way of survival. He was the youngest of 9 boys of an immigrant Polish family. They were their own baseball team.

Being the youngest of this family was not an easy life. He had nothing but hand-me-downs until he married my mother at age 18. His feet were damaged by frostbite from wearing shoes that were too small. The worst of his youth was when, at age 14, he found his own father after he had hanged himself. This story has only been told to me once by my mother on the evening after Daddy's funeral. After his own father had committed suicide, my grandmother remarried. She remarried a man with children of his own and my father was pushed to the bottom of this entire totem pole. So now, not only did he get the hand-me-downs, the step children resented my father and the one or two of his brother's that still lived at home. My father was frequently locked out of the house at night by one of them, forced to sleep in a cold barn.
He never had his own bed until he was married.

The fact that he had such a hard life was never forced down our throats. He would give us glimpses into his childhood but it was more of the fun stories he liked to tell. Like the time his brothers wouldn't let him tag along with the older boys, so in retaliation he smeared manure on their bike seats...

The story that always stuck with me was the time he had saved up to buy his own pair of brand new dungarees only to get to the store to find that the price had gone up from $1.25 to $1.50. It breaks my heart even now to think of his disappointment.

His hardships growing up only created a man who loved life more than anyone I've ever met. Here was a man who loved to fly on an airplane because they fed him in the sky. And he didn't care if it was only a bag of peanuts!

The only book he ever kept next to his bed was 'How to Make Friends and Influence People'. People loved this man. His best friend, Cesar, looked to him as a father figure in his own life. Cesar was so distraught when Daddy died that he insisted in riding in the front seat of the hearse. I saw more grown men cry at my father's funeral than I can remember. He was a man of integrity and grace and people respected him.

Women would line up to dance with him whenever he and my mother went to a dinner dance or wedding. One year, when my sisters were at Mercy High School he took them to the Father/Daughter Dance. Daddy ended up dancing with one of the nuns. The very next day she quit the convent.

True story.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Daddy's Little Girl (part one)

~Louis James Kmietek ~
June 30, 1933 - November 8, 1995
15 years. 15 long years.

My father was my hero. He could walk on water and I was in love with him. I know it sounds silly, but there are many days, still, after 15 years, that I forget that my father is dead.

He had the death he prayed for. He died on the golf course after teeing off the 4th hole. He hit the ball and said to his buddies, "Boy, that was a good one." They all turned to get back in their golf carts and he was gone. Just like that.

The week preceding his untimely death was full of premonitions. Exactly one week, to the minute, before his death, I had a doctor's appointment with a new doctor. As she was getting all of my medical info, she asked me if both of my parents were still alive. I said yes, but a voice in my head said, "Not for long." The doctor drew two, upward facing arrows next to "mother" & "father", as if to show they weren't six feet under. When I heard the voice in my head and saw those arrows, I became immediately nauseous.

A few days later I spoke on the phone with him for the last time. I was at work at night. We were talking and an employee needed me right away. After I hung up the phone and went to assist my staff, I felt two hands on my back push me. My feet went out from under me and I fell hard. No one had actually pushed me but I had the strong urge to call my father back. But I never did.

The day he died was the absolute worst day of my life and I can remember it vividly. The premonitions were acute that morning. I had grabbed a small pink rosary and stuffed it into my suit pocket before heading off to a meeting that I was feeling extremely nervous about. This was behavior that was strange to me then. It was unseasonably cold for mid-November. The wind was like a sharp whip that day. I was at a general manager's meeting in Middletown, New York. When I reached into my purse to grab change for the toll, a photo of my father fell out of my wallet. I was wearing a raspberry colored suit with a black blouse. I can remember every, single, minute detail of that day.

We had no cell phones then and when my husband finally got a hold of me and told me, I went into immediate shock. One of my employees had to bear-hug me up and carry me back to my office from which I had wandered out of. I called my boss to come and take me home. When he walked me into my apartment, like a rabid dog I tore apart the garbage in my kitchen. I still had my suit on and my boss stood there, awkward in my home, staring at me acting like an animal. I had a vague recollection of throwing out a note that my father had sent me. And sure enough, after pawing through the trash, I found the last note he ever wrote me in his distinctive handwriting.

The following days were brutal. I was 26 years old and my beloved father was dead. When my husband told me that Daddy had died, I couldn't remember what he looked like. It took me years to get over that weird guilt, even though I had read that that was a common grief effect. But these days, I can remember him like I saw him yesterday.

So as I prepare to celebrate the 15th anniversary of his passing, I will start to document what I can remember here. The good and the bad. The happy and the sad. My biggest regret in life is that he never knew my children and they never knew him. Maybe, here, I can find a way to let them know what an amazing man their Poppy was.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Recovery Boys

"Hi. My name is Kristina and I'm a friend of Bill's."

Almost two years ago I met a student who changed my life. He wandered in aimlessly off the street not really knowing why he was there. And that's the way it is with Yoga. The saying is, "The teacher appears when the student is ready" and in his life he was ready.

I remember the evening vividly because I was giving a free demo on 'How to Use a Neti Pot' right after my class was finished. Only a few folks stayed and this student was one of them. It's hard to imagine but I met one of the most important people in my life while I was demonstrating how to pour water through your sinus canal. Welcome to my life.

It was a fast friendship, the best kind. We found we had so much in common that we were always talking after class. He immediately wanted to help me grow the studio, something that no student had ever offered before. So I went to another networking group per his request, and listened to this novice yogi's thoughts on building a yoga business. Yeah, ok.

But one day, he snuck something into our conversation that I wasn't prepared for. He mentioned that he had perused the recent Kripalu catalog and noticed interesting classes for men. I, of course, said how wonderful Kripalu was and he should definitely go for a program. But that wasn't what he meant.

In an effort to correct me, he offered in full disclosure that he was in recovery. I'm quite sure he noticed my naivete and went into further detail. Recovery from addiction. Oh.... His thought was that I should offer a class for Men in Recovery. Oh... Totally not qualified for this..... But my type A personality jumped all over this opportunity!

Next thing I knew I had several men in recovery signed up and an 8 week lesson plan completed. I was scared shitless. I was not, by any means, qualified to lead a group of men in recovery. (I mean, seriously. I'm having a cocktail while I'm writing this.) I enjoy a lot of life, and I know that addiction runs in my family, but I've never felt like I was addicted to anything. Except maybe Yoga...

That first night was a living hell. Even though I had a lesson plan all detailed out, I felt like a bug on a pin. They looked at me like I was crazy and I was sweating. But they kept showing up. Week after week. And after the 8 weeks was over, a couple of them kept coming to class, regularly.

They turned out to be some the most wonderful men in my life. They pushed me out of my comfort zone. They forced me to use what I know to help an otherwise left out population. They continue to be guiding forces in my life, whether they know it or not, and I love them with my whole heart.

One of them has become my beloved, surrogate big brother. Someone who has my back. Someone whom I can trust.

The one who 'forced' me into leading our recovery class is the reason I write this blog as well as the reason I have filmed my class for YogaVibes.

I never had people believe in me like these men. I am grateful.

And here's the kicker: we're all addicted to something. I'm admitting it here for the first time. I can't sleep without my favorite stuffed monkey. His name is Sluggo. And I'm an addict.

Goo Roo. Ben & Jerry's latest flavor!

A Course In Miracles. (part two)

Yep. I'm one of those people. One of those 'yogis'. You know, them.

I have a living Guru.

And just so you know, I absolutely despise that word. Guru.

Westerners have bastardized that word so much. I could vomit when I hear Matt Lauer introduce some idiot on The Today Show as a 'tech guru' or even worse, a 'fashion guru'. CALL. ME. HURL. Ugh.

Guru. Gu = darkness. Ru = Light. So 'guru' is the energy that transforms you from darkness into Light. And when it is used to describe an enlightened master it means 'Teacher', just like when the disciples called Jesus 'Rabbi'.

So I am one of the very few lucky people to have found my teacher, my spiritual mother, and She is in human form. I'm truly blessed and some day I will dedicate an entire chapter to Her. She is Goddess on earth. I do pranam to Her lotus feet, as weird as that sounds. And in finding Her, or She finding me, I have found salvation. It is kind of like a kid jumping to grab the string of an enormous balloon before it flies away. Once you finally manage to grab the string, the balloon takes you and you fly away with it.

But living with an enlightened master as your teacher isn't always easy, especially when you are a householder. I mean, who wouldn't, in this crazy world we live in, rather live in a monastery or cave just meditating and practicing asana all day every day? But this incarnation chose to be a mother, wife, employer, employee, etc, etc, etc.... So for the last couple of years, although I am a devoted disciple of my Guru, I have been praying in earnest for a spiritual mentor. Someone who is also a householder. Someone who can help me find balance between my spiritual lifestyle and my householding ways.

Be careful what you wish for, Kristina.


A couple of years ago a student wandered into the studio. Right from the start my partners and I all knew this man was a shaman in his own right. Here was this mysterious gentleman who only revealed parts of himself to us that he knew we were ready to have revealed. This man was Grace personified and we all fell in love with him immediately. He was healing us more that we could ever heal him. And here's the thing; he felt the same way about us as we felt about him. And from the time he wandered in til now he has been a constant presence in our lives.

More recently, since about last spring, I started to realize he was the mentor that I had been praying for. The more I listened when he spoke, the more Truth I was hearing. He had been mentoring me right along. I just didn't notice. I wasn't listening.

One day he started to tell me that he was leading a group through A Course In Miracles. The more he talked the more I knew my prayers had been answered. After a few conversations we had our own group set up. Private, of course, for us divas. What else would you expect?

We have met now twice as a group of Miracle seekers. And miracles are happening! Perceptions are shifting. Forgiveness is taking place. Weight is being lifted. Prayers are being answered.

So have faith, fellow householders! Your prayer may just be waiting to be answered but you have to listen for it. Listen closely. Sometime the Universe whispers at first. Pretend like when you were a kid and it was the middle of summer. No matter what you were doing, no matter where you were, as soon as the ice cream man rang his bell you could hear it.

Now go running.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Son of Shiva (part 1)

Elijah Louis Berano. The love of my life. My son. Primo.

He'll be ten years old in less than two months. This is really hard for me to swallow, especially since it took nearly seven years to conceive him.

He is smart, handsome, funny and clever. He is so smart that frequently he intimidates his teachers at school. He has read hundreds of books. He is not a jock, much to the dismay of his father. He is a book worm. And I love that about him.

He could speak in complete sentences at 18 months old. I knew then that we were in trouble. We weren't the kind of parents that forced that Baby Mozart crap down his throat. We just exposed him to a lot of life. My goal was and is to create a well-rounded man not a genius.

His extensive vocabulary has shocked me since he was about 22 months old. I had just bathed both kids, dressed them in jammies and put Marley in her crib. Elijah was sitting up with me for a few minutes in bed cuddling. I was relishing in how wonderful he smelled post bath when all of a sudden I heard a loud noise come from his behind. Grouchy that I might have to change this clean baby, I said, "Elijah, did you just poop?!?" He grabbed his bottom, looked at me, leaned in and whispered, "No, Momma. There's a dinosaur in my bottom!"

A short time after that, again he and I were in bed cuddling. I was watching one of the Hollywood awards shows. The show was paying a tribute to Mickey Rooney and asked him to stand up. Elijah yelled out, " I LOVE MICKEY ROONEY!" I said, "You doooo??????" And he said, "Yes! I love Mickey Rooney and cheese!"

Since then, I often have waited with baited breath to see what will come out of my son's mouth. He learned quickly that if Mom was having a bad morning the best way to turn it around was with humor. So I started to award meaningless 'points' to whomever could make me laugh on the way to school. Elijah is usually the winner.

Now that he's older, his humor has matured as well. A few weeks ago we were on the way to dropping him at school. There were hundreds of seagulls on one of the high school fields. I said aloud, "What are all those seagulls doing there?" Without missing a beat, he replied, "They're having an away game."

I love this boy. He brings out the best in me. He makes me so happy. He brings joy and laughter to our lives. But I still never know what he's going to say....


Yesterday he came home from school and said, "Mom, I wanna get one of those really cool hats Jewish people wear!"

Oy vey!

I'm in love with Shiva (aka The God of Destruction)

"Now, Shiva's like this: consciousness and bliss. But He's crazy when He's angry so don't get him pissed....."

When I first starting practicing Yoga and educating myself about Hinduism, I inadvertently fell in love with Shiva. If I meditated on His lithe form in padmasana and luxurious, long, dark locks, I would quiver in ecstasy. Just the sound of His name on my tongue was like rolling a warm liqueur around in my mouth. And it wasn't some weird perverse fascination. This was intense Love. Love for a profound energy of the Divine. But here's the thing; I had no idea of the energy behind the form. Uh oh.....

So here I was, this novice yogini, praying fervently to an energy I didn't understand. This can be dangerous. Especially with Shiva.

I would find myself in these feelings of Love and would be praying to Him all the time and during this time the shit hit the fan. It seemed as if everything in my life was literally on fire. Everything I touched disintegrated. I became so frustrated and angry that I didn't know what to do with myself or my life. I was depressed. And not just with the blues. I was clinically depressed. For a very long time. Everything I thought was true in my life came into question. Everything I worked years for fell apart. Then it finally dawned on me. It was Shiva working His magic. And there were times when I felt like He was laughing at me from the cosmos.

Ok. So I knew what had caused this destruction in my life, now what?

Well, it's taken me several years to come to terms with the fact that I kind of brought this on myself. And I have had to learn more about Shiva and have a better relationship with His energy. But here is how it boils down:

Although I sort of activated His energy in my life, it was ready and waiting for me for all my life. And even though He is the "God of Destruction", He is really the energy of TRANSFORMATION. This incarnation, known as "me", was ready to change. He would have started to work His magic whether I prayed to Him or not. Whether I even knew who Shiva was, He would have started to work when I was ready.

The most important thing to understand about this Big Guy is that he really isn't enjoying watching you suffer. It's just that He understands that we create our own suffering and that kind of amuses Him. The more we want to change for the better the more He offers us options to facilitate that change. While we want to change and develop into higher vibrational creatures, our egos fight us every step of the way. This is where Shiva just shakes His head and chuckles. He doesn't want us to suffer but He does want to destroy our egos. That's His job and He does His job quite well.

There have been times in my life when I have actually had to tell Him to put the brakes on and He listens. I can only develop so much at a time. I'm kind of like that bumper sticker: Be patient with me. God isn't finished with me yet.
Remember, when the caterpillar enters his cocoon he doesn't know that he isn't going to die. And if he doesn't suffer through opening his own cocoon he most surely will die. He must facilitate his own transformation.
And then, only then when his transformation is complete, can he fly.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

They're real and they're fabulous!

"Where is she from?" (insert awkward "Um, we're from Connecticut."

My children are mine. They are not adopted. I have the stretch marks to prove it, just in case you were wondering.

They are biracial and multi-ethnic. Their father is from the Philippines and that makes them half Pacific Islander. I am American with roots in Poland and Sicily so they are also half Caucasian.

I never gave it another thought until well after they were born. I would be out with them alone and I would catch looks from folks who just assumed they were adopted. Then every once in a while someone will say something. I know that these folks who actually have the nerve to say something are probably well-meaning but it's hard to swallow some days. Even a pediatrician, upon meeting us, made some comment that sent me into a tizzy. I assumed she was probably trying to figure us out for medical reasons, but it ruffled my feathers all the same.

I continue to struggle with this even though I know it's all ego based. I mean, after you have duplicated yourself, what's more appealing for your ego than when someone says, "Ooh! She's the spitting image of you!"? I forget that they don't look like me until I see photos of us together. When I look at my kids, I see myself. Elijah looks more like me than Marley but there are days when her hair is wild and she has a certain twinkle in her eye and she looks like me. My son has my father's head shape and has since he was about a year old. He has the classic Polish large forehead, just like me. And we are so alike on the inside that there is no mistaking he's my son. My daughter was born with a blond streak in her very dark hair, another gift from my Polish heritage. She is starting to develop a more defined nose line....sooo hoping she doesn't end up with my ski slope!

It's when I look at photos that I start to see what other's must see. Here is this fair, blue eyed woman with two dark skinned, dark haired and dark eyed children. They can't possibly be hers... It's not my business to care what other's think until they open their mouths, especially now that my daughter is starting to notice how she looks and understands when someone comments on her appearance.

We've never hidden the fact from them that they are different than most kids in their school. We live in an extremely un-diverse community and try to expose them to as much of the world as possible. For the most part, they don't feel the discrimination that I am hyper sensitive to. But there is a fine line with discrimination and most people who don't approve of our multi-racial home know how to dance on that line.

When my son was in first grade, there were a few multi-racial boys in his class. They were typically lumped together as a group and often were held back from activities and such until the rest of the class had gone first. Both kids have been called by the name of another of the few "brown" kids in school. Apparently, to us white folk, all the brown kids look alike.

And I know that I may seem overly sensitive, it's just that it's not my kids' faults that they are different. It kills me to see them on the receiving end of such callousness. The worst and one of our most memorable experiences was last summer at a gift shop near the beach where we vacation. My daughter bought herself a hat with her own money. The clerk looked at her, then at me and said, "She's beautiful! Where is she from?" I know it was meant as a compliment but on the receiving end it hurt, especially for a 7 year old girl.

I wonder when this world will catch up. It's 2010. When I had to fill out the demographic forms for school last week, I had to "Pick One" from the "Race" box for them. So what do I pick? Asian (which is easier for most people to understand)? Pacific Islander? Caucasian? There is no "multi-racial" box, even in 2010.

It helps that we are light hearted about it. The kids like to sing to their father "Secret Asian Man".... When they see a lot of kids that look like them they'll refer to it as an Asian Invasion.... And it eases the tension that they don't even care that they are different. The best was when I took them to the Polish Deli a few months back. We had a good laugh at all the Poles who couldn't help but stare at these two kids who were so excited to see all the food their great-Babci used to cook.

So we pray for Grace as a family to use these experiences as learning tools. We continually try to raise them as good citizens of the world. They make me laugh. They keep me on my toes. They are my teachers. I pranam in deference to their divine lights.

I am grateful every day that they both chose me for their earthbound mother.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Issues in my Tissues

I got beat up on the school bus by a boy in the 8th grade.

Yep. It's out there. I said it. Now you know why I'm so fucked up. I'd love to post his name but I think I'm above that. Not above by much but above nonetheless.

The reason for this incident is still unclear to me and doesn't really matter at all. It's the aftermath that has scarred me for my entire life. The physical and emotional bruising. The fact that no one, including the male bus driver, came to help me. How I was completely ostracized after the incident.....

Here's how the aftermath played out:
  • Had to go home and tell my parents that I was refusing to ride the bus to school ever again.
  • Had to tell my parents what happened and who did it to me.
  • Begged my father not to call the kid's father.
  • He called anyway.
  • The kid was popular, so after he got in trouble he managed to turn everyone else against me, including my two cousins who lived next door to me. I haven't spoken to either of them since this incident, which divided the family.
  • Someone scratched an adjective on my locker and I had to look at it everyday til graduation.
  • My mother had to adjust her work schedule so that she could take me to school which resulted in daily fights for nearly a year.
  • I lied to my parents that I was riding the bus home, when in actuality I walked home everyday, in every kind of weather, nearly 3 miles until school was over.
  • I refused to go to the brand new high school in our town; insisting that I went to the same private Catholic high school that my sisters attended. Again, the issue of much fighting.
  • Went to said Catholic high school. Our town paid for busing the first year. After that, we had to pay for busing.
  • Parents so angry over the cost of busing ($300), I was forced to get a job so that I could buy a car to drive myself to school. Mother actually combed the newspapers to find me a job, drove me to the interview on my 16th birthday and told me not to come out until I had a job.
  • Worked 40 hours per week through the rest of high school which caused my grades to suffer terribly. I was originally in all first track classes but my grades slipped much that they bumped me down to second track. This 'move down' got me labeled the dumb kid in my social group even though I was as smart as the rest of the kids I hung out with.
  • Because my grades had slipped and I got bumped down, I couldn't get into a upper echelon college. Because I was middle track there was no guidance counseling. Guidance was reserved for first and third track students.
  • I ended up at what would be considered a "trade college".....
  • And so it goes...

I could go on and on but I think I've made myself clear.

I just got back from an energy healing certification course. Sometimes when you are on a spiritual journey, past issues are brought directly to the surface. This came right to the surface this week. The very first night of our class the subject of love came up. The specific topic was allowing people to love us and how many of us don't. We pull you in with one hand and then push you away with the other hand. I can't help but reflect that this incident, at such a vulnerable time in my life as well as the years of aftermath, had such a deep impact on my developing psyche. I mean, think back to when you were 13 years old. Didn't you want to be one of the popluar kids? ("Love me!") Then I got hurt by one of these popular kids. ("Love me, but don't hurt me.") You can't hurt me if I keep you at bay......

So this is what I am working on clearing and healing. Through the Integrated Energy Therapy class I attended, we learned to energetically heal the "issues in the tissues". Cells remember. Unfortunately. The exploration of this memory has answered a lot of questions for me about why I am the way I am.

I'm going to try to let this memory heal. I know it won't be easy. I'll never forget what happened but I am praying to find grace in forgiveness. And it doesn't hurt that, shortly after we got married, my husband promised me that if he ever sees this guy he'll fucking kill him.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


A Course in Miracles.

A few years back I was working in the office at another yoga center and a group used to meet there to do "A Course in Miracles". I didn't know what it was, had never heard of it and wasn't interested in finding out. But that brief encounter with that group was enough to put "The Course" on my radar.

Then a few months back, one of my favorite students mentioned that he leads groups through the Course. He started talking about it and everything that he said about the Course was Truth. And everything he said was passion filled belief. Since then It has been like an angel sitting on my shoulder whispering to me.

And so it goes on the spiritual path. This is how you get called. The Truth calls you and once Truth calls, you MUST respond. This is how I was called to teach Yoga. This is how I am being called to focus on healing. And this is how I am being called to change my life.

So once I recognized that this (taking the Course) was what I must do, my ego has been having a freaking field day! "I mean, really now! What the hell do you want with that? Why do you want to put yourself through this? You don't need this." And on and on that bitch will chide me. I even went to several bookstores trying to get the book but could never walk out with one. But I know that I must follow through. So I emailed my favorite student and said, "I'm ready". But he already knew that.

I went by to see him today and he wanted to let me borrow one of his copies until I can get my own. Yeah, I couldn't escape. I tried, trust me. So I left his light-filled presence and came home with the Course. And just having it near me is like a magnet. It is a heavy book of probably 1,000 pages. It feels like a bible and is in many ways. I opened to the preface tonight and already I can feel the shift happening. I haven't even started the lessons yet.

I can't begin to imagine the outcome of this chapter of my life, but I know that I need it, desperately. I am an Aries but when I had my birth chart done, the astrologist told me I was more Pisces than Aries. I asked her if that's why I always feel like I'm drowning.... The Course feels like a lifeline.

"Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists." A Course in Miracles
"Asato ma sad gamaya.
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya.
Mrtyor ma amrtam gamaya." The Upanishads
(Lead me from the unreal to the Real.
Lead me from darkness to Light.
Lead me from death to Immortality.)


ps- ALL my students are my favorites!

ps/ps - If you don't know what "A Course in Miracles" is just stay tuned.....

Monday, August 23, 2010

Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

"TIIIIIME is on my side. Yes it is." That's what you think, Mick.

"If I could turn back time. If I could find a way." If you only knew, Cher.

"Tomorrow's right around the corner. I'll get there somehow. But I'm stuck in the meantime and I love the Now." Ok, now that's what I'm talking about, Jimmy!

A few months ago my daughter, Marley, became obsessed with time. She would tell me how many minutes until her favorite tv show came on. She would give us a constant commentary of how many minutes ago we left the store and included a stream of questions about how many minutes until we got home. At first I thought she was just learning about time in school and tried to humor her as best I could. Then I realized this fascination was beginning to consume her every thought. I finally said to her one day, "Honey, do you know that there is no such thing as time?" She looked at me like I had ten heads! "Marley, time is a man made concept. There is no such thing." (I amaze myself when I come out with these motherly gems!) After she marinated on that one, her obsession seemed to lessen.

So if time is a man made concept, why are we humans so utterly controlled by it?

My husband is from a tropical island and he lives on "island time all the time". We have been so late so many times and embarrassed by his perpetual tardiness so often that two things have happened. First of all, I almost always tell him that we have to be somewhere at least 30 minutes earlier than the actual time. It's not really lying. It's more of a self-preservation technique to keep this family moving. (My favorite saying is that he'll be late for his own funeral.) And secondly, I have swung completely in the opposite direction and am constantly ordering everyone around so that we can get somewhere early or at least on time.

It frequently seems that I never have enough time to get anything done. And its not that I'm disorganized. I just don't know where the time goes. Everyone feels like this from time to time, no pun intended. Kind of like when you've been cruising around 'face book' and you look up to see that hours have passed and you don't know where the time went. How about the old saying, "Time flies when you're having fun."

Then there is the opposite. Like when you're sitting in a meeting and all you can think about is what you're doing after work. Time drags. What's worse? Time flying or time dragging?

Are there ways to control time?

I'm a certified Medicinal Aromatherapist and one of the essences that I love and have been working with a lot is Palo Santo. This is a very powerful essence often used by Native Americans. She allows for a very deep meditation. But her most amazing quality is that she warps time. Yep, you read that right. She has the ability to slow time down and bend it. I never would have believed it myself if I hadn't experienced it firsthand.

Recently I had an event that I didn't want to end and I wanted to be present for every moment. I took out my beloved 'Palo' and applied her to my third eye, asking her to do just what I needed her to do. And she did. Time seemed to slow and maybe even disappear. I was grateful for her divine grace.

Last night I was watching a show on the Discovery Channel about Time Travel and how scientists are starting to prove that it is possible. I can barely get my mind to even listen to some of these concepts but I was so fascinated that I couldn't turn away! When they talk about space and time as the same thing, my mind goes crazy trying to understand! I can't possibly comprehend most of these mathematical space/time concepts. Still, why am I so obsessed?

Maybe it is because I wish I could go back in time and change my own mind. How do I know I haven't already whispered into my own 17 year old ear and helped her with a decision? Haven't we all wished we could do at least one thing differently in our lives and wondered how a different decision would have molded the rest of our lives? Have you ever thought about one sweet moment in your life so much that you felt like you were actually reliving it? I can remember the moment my son was born like it happened yesterday. Or the last memory of my father alive. The last thing we ever did together was swim in the ocean. When I miss him dearly, I conjure up that memory and can still feel how cool the water was and hear his laugh mixed with the waves. Isn't that a sort of time travel?

Yoga teaches us that the only reality is the present and that even the present is a veil of illusion. Science is teaching us that the past, present and future exist all at the same time. Somehow, when I wrap my time-warped mind around it, both seem possible.

Now if I can just get the damn Delorean up to 88 miles per hour......