Monday, April 30, 2018

Middle Schoolers on a Rampage


This past weekend I chaperoned 49 seventh and eighth graders to San Francisco for a choir competition. It was an epic weekend for the kids, but for the parents too. There were six of us chaperones and one teacher. I got my share of eye rolls and a few nasty talk-backs, but mostly I left the weekend filled with pure joy.

Remember when you didn't know things? Like that dancing on the pier with wild abandon in the wind was kind of crazy? Like that wearing shorts in 55 degree windy weather was going to be uncomfortable?

Remember when you didn't know if you had to take your shoes off at security? When you weren't sure how or what to order in a restaurant? When budgeting $80 felt like a possibly insurmountable task?

Remember the first time you went on a boat? A plane? Remember the first time you stayed in a hotel? When you stayed in a hotel or anywhere without your parents?

Remember when you made a new friend, an intensely close new friend that felt like a forever bestie in the period of thirty-six hours? When you could stay up way beyond exhaustion just for the challenge of it? Just to spend a few more moments talking to that new bestie?

I didn't have any of those experiences over the weekend, but I soaked up the glow of that energy for three days straight and it made me ecstatically happy. It was magnificent to watch the excitement of these kids as they celebrated their independence on the streets of San Francisco. It was heart-wrenching to see them bite their nails and cross their arms with nerves as they waited to be called up to perform their set. And it brought me close to tears to see the pure joy that coursed through the veins and out through the limbs of forty-nine 12, 13 and 14 year-olds when the heard the announcement that they'd won first place for their performance.

We forget as we move into adulthood, then middle age, then older age, what it felt like to be so excited and surprised by the new-ness of life. It's one of the great joys of being a parent--- the reminder of those days past. Being a witness of that time in life reminds me to make room for what's new and different and exciting, even as I approach 50.

There's no going back to middle school. Those days are gone and I'm happy to be where I am now. But I can't get those forty-nine faces out of my mind. It was a true gift I received-- to see the joy, the excitement, and the thrill of these kids doing so many things for the first time. I'll cherish it and I think it will keep me giddy for a good long while.

When I drove my daughter Lucia to school this morning she said, "Mom, that was the best experience I've had in my entire life." Do you remember when you had the best experience of your entire life? I don't. There are so many experiences wandering around in my tired, old brain; I couldn't begin to find that one magical moment.  But right now I am keenly aware of the importance of finding moments of wonder and discovery in my own life. In the meantime, I'll revel in the slideshow of images from watching my daughter's middle school choir live it up in the city by the bay.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Intuition. It's Real.

Last week Nancy and I went to Mexico for a grown up getaway. We'd both been burning it with work and life obligations and I was deperately feeling the need for a decompressing getaway. We went to Isla Holbox, a remote island in the Yucatan that neither of us had been to. To get there, we'd fly to Cancun, take a car two hours north, and then get on a ferry to the Holbox.

We'd hired a car with the hotel and were expecting to see a placard with our names on it when we exited the airport. It was a madhouse and we couldn't find anyone who looked like they were coming to get us. A nice man in a uniform asked me if he'd like me to call our hotel and find out where our car was. I speak Spanish which is always helpful when traveling in Mexico. I generally feel pretty confident in my communication. "That's strangely nice." I thought to myself as he started dialing. But then I felt a little tug in my belly and I had the thought, "This is weird."

That's where my suspicions started. "Let me see the phone screen," I said and he showed me the number he'd dialed. It matched that of our hotel. I heard the man talking in Spanish to someone on the other line. He was talking about our ride, where was it, what was happening. Then the nice man looked at us and said, "Your ride says the van broke down and you should take a cab."

"Let me talk to the person you're talking to," I said. My suspicions that this was a scam were mounting.

I talked to the person on the phone who confirmed that the van had broken down and that we should take a taxi and save the receipt. The hotel would pay once we arrived. The guy in the uniform waited patiently while I finished the phone call and then led us to an area where we would meet the "taxi." It seemed odd that he took us to a more secluded area of the airport parking lot where no one could see us. I asked him to call our hotel again. He did and I again confirmed the plan with the person on the end of the line.

Finally a van came and we got in. Nancy is much more easy-going than I am and she's very trusting. I, on the other hand and borderline clinically anxious and I'm a skeptic. As we climbed into the van, I felt a surge of panic. "Nancy!" I practically screamed as I half stood in the van, "this is not right. We need to get out of this van." At this point our luggage was in the back and we were getting ready to make our way to a cash machine to take out the $320 (!!!!) we'd need to pay the driver.

"Laura," Nancy coaxed in the voice she so often uses to calm me down, "It's okay. This is just a change." I took a deep breath, sat back in my seat, and hoped for the best.

We did make it to the ferry. When we got there I asked the driver to call our hotel and tell them were we catching the ferry to the other side. He called and then reported back to us in Spanish, "The hotel said they were waiting for you at the airport for two hours but you never showed up. I just wanted you to know that they're saying they sent a car."

It was a scam. When we finally got to our hotel, we confirmed it. Those guys at the airport had a fine-tuned, well-honed plan to "help" tourists like us. Once we settled in I had the realization that we were really lucky to have gotten to our destination at all. We had prepaid the $320 and they really didn't need to drive us 100 miles north. I also had the realization that I knew the whole time that we were being swindled and I didn't listen to my gut. I was mad at myself for ignoring that voice and I was mad at Nancy for shutting it down.

I spent a good 48 hours feeling really mad-- at Nancy. And at myself. Countless times, as I sat stewing in my lounge chair under a palapa in paradise, Nancy would lean over and say things like, "Laura, I am so sorry I didn't listen to your intuition." After about the tenth apology I was finally able to engage in a conversation.

Nancy and I are different. I operate on an almost purely gut level all the time. I very rarely make pros and cons lists, do cost-benefit analyses, or take time to really look at the rationale behind my decisions. Nancy, on the other hand, is very analytical, a thorough processor.  Neither way of being in the world is right or wrong or better or worse. They are just different ways of being in the world. The experience at the Cancun airport highlighted the importance of making space for all ways.  Because I'm so anxious, Nancy and I both dismissed the strong gut feelings I was having. If we'd listened, separated the anxiety from the intuition, the outcome would have been different. We would have slowed down, called the hotel on our own phones, gone back inside the airport and regrouped.

In the end we were safe. We had a wonderful vacation and an important conversation. I'm not mad anymore. The next time my intuition rears strongly like it did last week I'll listen to it. And I think Nancy will too.

Monday, April 2, 2018

It wasn't so bad.

A few years ago when I went to New Orleans for a week, the yoga studio sprinkler system went haywire and we had a flood. A big one. It took us two weeks of being closed with industrial sized fans to dry out the place.

Yesterday morning, while I was in Chicago celebrating Passover with stepmother, my four siblings and our families, I received a phone call in the middle of the night from the Seattle Police Department that someone had broken into The SweatBox. I didn't get the message until I woke up in the morning, four hours after the incident. The message said that someone had broken in and done damage. They needed someone to identify what items had been stolen. I was in Chicago, twelve hours away from my 8pm flight time that night.

I panicked right away because that's how I roll. Panic first, think later.  I called Nancy who was home in Seattle but she didn't answer. Then I called Seth who was teaching that morning and asked if he could go a bit early and assess the damage. I was deep into a melt down imagining the computer gone, our modest cash box depleted.  I didn't stop to think that there really wasn't much to steal from a yoga studio......

Eventually I got a hold of Nancy who met Seth and the police at the studio. Between the two of them they managed to get the full scoop from the police, clean up the place and get students ready for Seth's 8am class.

They assessed that the burglar, who the police actually caught, had taken nothing. He had, however caused significant damage. In addition to the front lobby window he broke through, he smashed one of our bathroom toilets and, in an attempt to escape police, actually kicked through a wall in the men's dressing room into the main area of our building.

Once I got the story from Nancy and talked to the officer on duty, I was able to take a breath. A patron at Neumos, the night club down the street had seen the guy break the window at 2:30am and called the cops which ultimately resulted in his arrest.

No one was hurt. Students checked in while the police took the report and classes would continue as normal all day long, despite the broken toilet and demolished wall.  I hung up the phone, took a deep breath and went on to enjoy my last hours with my siblings and their kids before flying back to Seattle.

When I arrived to the studio today, tired from a midnight arrival last night and very little sleep for the worry I was holding over the repairs to be done to the studio, I was pleasantly surprised. It was the same. Yes, the front window was boarded up, but as I walked in at 7:30am, greeting the 6am students who were leaving and the 8am students who were just arriving, it was as if none of it had happened. The energy was the same as it always is. People were laughing and chatting and sweating. I shared the bits and pieces of the burglar's escapades with people and we all laughed imagining someone escaping by kicking through an actual wall!!!

By the time I left today the toilet had been replaced, the men's dressing room wall had a preliminary sheetrock patch, and all of the glass shards were safely in the belly of the shop vac. The insurance claim was filed and it felt like business as usual. Just like that.  I felt actual happiness, joy even for the fact that it all worked out.

I'm not surprised that our studio was broken into. Times are desperate. So many people are struggling-- with poverty, addiction, anger and despair. Maybe the guy who did this was just pissed at the world and needed a place to rage. Maybe he really thought he'd get some cash from a little yoga studio. I'm not glad this happened. It will cost me money and it caused a great deal of stress for me and many other people, but it also renewed my sense of community, of gratitude for the connections we have in our little village of Capitol Hill in our growing city of Seattle. The SweatBox is open and ready to serve. All are welcome.


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