Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Messages from the Universe

The first page of my journal, dated last fall, contains a message I believed I had received from the universe:

buckwheat groats, chia seeds, and hemp seed cereal

Why, you must be thinking, would that be a message from the universe? Of all the things to transmit, why cereal? I don't know why. All I know is, the universe spoke and I was listening. The message wasn't that I needed to buy cereal, it was that I was on the right path. This was shortly before I left for Bali.

I used to believe that if the universe spoke, it would be some sort of grand gesture about a monumental life changing event. Should I go to that college/job/relationship? If so, show me a burning bush or some sky writing or something. I thought that such messages would only come about during those pivotal moments, and I was kind of disappointed never to get one.

Now I believe differently. And in the past week I've seen enough strange, subtle signs in the form of the simplest of objects, including but not limited to:

- a bathrobe
- not one, not two, but three new calendars

Who would have ever thought that such ordinary, everyday objects would symbolize a deeper meaning, a synchronicity, an answered prayer? Not me.

But during the past year, I have learned a valuable lesson about letting go and receiving. Letting go of the illusion of control and instead being receptive to messages from the divine and my inner voice. Letting go of thoughts, places, jobs, and people that do not serve me. (I don't mean serve in the sense of "cater to," I mean it in the sense of "being good for my soul.") At first I was terrified. I used to plan EVERYthing ...but when I really did some self examination and soul searching, I realized I was miserable even with all of the things I always thought I would need to be happy. My yoga training taught me how to follow my heart, and it told me how to trust the universe, which I suppose is another name for God.

So, even though I was afraid, I took a step away from things that were bad for me, even though I had thought they were the things that made me secure. I didn't know what I was walking toward, but hoped and trusted that if I showed I had faith, good things would happen eventually. I didn't like twisting in the wind, not knowing when I'd find another job, where I'd live or how I'd move forward in other areas of my life. But I allowed myself to just trust. And wait. And watch the birds chase each other and the flowers bloom.

And beautiful things happened.  Friendships blossomed. My health improved. Even on days that felt like the worst of my life, I learned more about who I am, what I truly want, and how much strength I have. And I consciously tried to sit with my feelings, notice them, but try not to attach to them and let them define me, and in so doing, I believe I tuned in just a tiny bit closer with nature and with God in a way that has made me a tiny bit more aware and present in each moment. That, in turn, has made it easier to sense and receive messages from the universe, aka nudges from God.

I may never get some clear answer from the sky about where I'm going next or what I should be doing next. I think those answers will come from deep inside of me. But when I put a simple, tiny wish out into the universe and it's answered in ways I can't ignore, I know that means that if the small, insignificant things (like a bathrobe) are taken care of, then the bigger, heartfelt things are in God's hands too.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Things I Miss

I've lived in the wilderness for about 3 weeks now and reality is starting to sink in:

There's nowhere to get a pedicure.

At first I was in denial. After all, I'm still in the US, and even though I'm in the wilderness, I live on a resort with a lot of modern conveniences. I have a delicious, custom made Eskimo Kiss mocha every morning (soy, 1/2 the white chocolate, no drizzle). This has lulled me into a false sense of complacency about my situation.

I thought there must be a nail salon in Talkeetna. I pushed my way into the general store, asked a lady stocking the fridge where to go for a mani/pedi, and the look on her face after I asked was not encouraging.

She looked at another lady, and that person said, well, there is a place at the end of the spur road. I asked if that was within walking distance. She said no, it would be a pretty far walk. I said, that would defeat the purpose of my pedicure, then wouldn't it?

I did manage to buy a jar of Nutella that wasn't too horribly marked up at the general store, thus it wasn't a complete loss.

So, once I came to grips with the idea that I'm roughing it and will be for the next few months, I decided I would have to do the unthinkable and paint my own toenails. One problem: there is no place to buy nail polish. No CVS. No Walgreens. Not even a lousy dollar store.

How do people survive like this??

I have these faint, lingering memories of what it was like to be in a mall. The bright, shiny things available for purchase. The smell of new clothes mingling with hot buttered pretzels and maybe even the whiff of coffee from a Starbucks. I can't even think about Teavana...the memories of hundreds of loose-leaf teas for the tasting are too painful. Aahhhh. Right now I'd even settle for stepping foot inside a Wal Mart, just to see all of the things, to hold them and touch them. It's not that I want to buy lots of things, I just miss knowing that I could if I wanted to.

I confessed to one of my friends that I miss the smell of a mall. She said, we're only two and a half weeks in, pace yourself.


Friday, May 16, 2014


Watching people on vacation is so interesting.

Some people are lost in their phones, not present. Some people are harried and rushed and over-scheduled. Some sit down, munching on an ice cream cone and take in the view with a huge smile on their face. (I like that guy.) Some can do nothing but rant about every little thing. I wonder if that guy has ever truly enjoyed a day in his entire life. Some, like a 70 year old man, learn how to make s'mores for the first time ever. He was told how to set up his graham cracker, place a chocolate square on top of it, put the marshmallows into the fire, then squeeze the marshmallows in between the crackers. I had as much fun watching as he did making his s'more.

I also watched this today:

Watching the river is fun...till a spider crawls up your leg.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Welcome to Week 2!

It's the last day before the lodge opens! It feels like I've been here much longer than a week because the days have been so full. I can't even imagine how much crazier it's going to get once guests start showing up by the busload.

Yesterday I got to go on a staff tour of Talkeetna, the closest town to the lodge at about an hour away, which is notable for a variety of reasons including being the starting off point for those climbing Mt. McKinley, a training ground for Iditarod dogs, the town that the town in Northern Exposure was based upon...and quite possibly the craziest place I have ever been.

I can't really explain exactly why it's so crazy, but maybe this picture of me with the mayor will help give you a clue:

Craziness aside, words can't even describe how nice it was to get out of the lodge for a few hours into something that vaguely resembles civilization. I don't think I fully appreciated before I got here how truly isolated I would be from modern conveniences like, say, a grocery store. I went to the general store in Talkeetna and it was stocked with groceries purchased at a Safeway (probably in Anchorage) and marked up at exorbitant rates. A tub of mixed nuts cost $15. The store had a lot of things, but not many of the same thing, and a lot of the merchandise was covered in dust. I did indulge in one splurge: I bought two containers of berries -- raspberries and blueberries. Even though they were expensive, even though I have no fridge in my room to keep them cold...I had to have them. They were sooo good and such a nice treat on the bus ride home and this morning in my oatmeal. The only fruit they serve in the employee cafeteria in the morning is canned peaches and pineapple swimming in artificial juices...bleck!

I also got to have a wonderful meal at the Denali Brewing Company. It was so nice to have real, quality food and not the mass-produced stuff they serve in our cafeteria. My roommie and I had craft-brewed beers and although I really wanted to try the "I Can See Russia" burger, I went with a hummus and veggie sandwich with a cup of roasted red pepper soup.

the roommie and I enjoying some sunshine and cold ones at the Denali Brewing Co.

As lodge employees, we got to enjoy many discounts in Talkeetna at the restaurants and gift shops, plus I got a free cookie at the Talkeetna Road House. I will definitely be recommending those cookies to my guests!

Today I got more fun freebies at the lodge. I got to be a guinea pig for the Grizzly Bar, one of the lodge's restaurants. That means I got a delicious free lunch.

I went with a seared salmon salad (delicious!) and a white chocolate raspberry cheesecake (perfection!)

Today was also dress rehearsal day plus my first day to really get cracking at my special duties as a roomer--the person who assigns people to their rooms-- and let me tell you that doing this at a place with 22 guest buildings and 460 rooms is far more complicated than I realized! I also feel that I wield enormous power as I decide who gets the primo rooms. I was stress-eating Starburst by the handful, and it's only day 1 of this job. I'm going to need to pace myself. At least I have some government oversight.

Another perk to this day was that the gift shop opened up for employees. I purchased the following:
Above-the-knee moose socks (perfect for those cold summer nights), a mug (so the food and beverage people won't get mad at me--again--for taking a mug out of the cafeteria), cute postcards, glacier pearl earrings that match my uniform, and a keychain with an igloo, forget-me-not (state flower), and the Alaska state flag on it so I won't lose my room key.

Bye from Alaska!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Hi from Alaska!

Welcome to my first blog post from Alaska!

I meant to write sooner, but due to so many factors like getting settled in, all day trainings, not being able to figure out the wireless in my room, my body still thinking it's in Texas and being exhausted all the time, I just haven't felt like blogging. So let me catch you up.

First, YES, Alaska is beautiful. Even though there's still patches of snow on the ground and the trees look dead and I'm in the middle of not so much a lodge as a resort (think wilderness Disney) ... it's gorgeous. The mountain view is breathtaking. You can't help but be happy when you look at it. The air is so fresh and crisp and smells faintly of pine. It doesn't get dark till after 10:30 and next month it will be later than that.

Second, on a human level, this experience has been so enriching already. You know the people that we usually think are invisible? The maids, the busboys, the dishwashers, the fry cooks, the servers, yes, *cough*, even the front desk clerks. I'm not proud to say I've gone through most of my whole life not giving any of these people a second glance, much less a second thought. It's almost like when you see them, they're not even there. Well now that's changed. Here, when I'm by myself thousands of miles away from home, they're my neighbors, my coworkers, and my friends. I haven't met a single unfriendly person since I've been here and it's been an important lesson in looking past someone's title to their beautiful spirit underneath.

One of the first people I met as we were waiting for the shuttle in Anchorage to take us to our resort was a middle aged man who will be working the early shift as a cook...the guy who makes your scrambled eggs and bacon in the morning. He's so nice and always has a friendly word when he sees me -- except for the day I wore my A&M sweatshirt, but that's another story.

I love the servers. They're cool and outgoing and have such interesting backstories coupled with an edgy attitude.

But there's a tie for the most adorable people I've met here so far: first up is the Jersey couple, a ridiculously good looking pair, probably in their early 20s, who are here on their first big adventure. The male of the couple has an enthusiasm that's contagious, is just so happy to be alive, and is nice to every single person he meets. The female of the pair is much more shy but every bit as sweet. Their jobs? To strip linens off the beds after guests leave. Glamorous? No. But it doesn't stand in their way of having a good time no matter where they are.

Also in the running for the most adorable pair isn't a couple in the romantic sense, but a pair of young guys, also in their early 20's, who I met this morning on the walk to breakfast. I had stopped to take a picture and they fell in step beside me, also with huge grins on their faces, and we started talking. They're from Bulgaria, college students here on an exchange program, and seemed just so happy to be alive. Their jobs? Dishwashers. Probably the dirtiest, crappiest, most thankless jobs in a restaurant, yet they just radiated enthusiasm and excitement.

Then there's me and my fellow front desk friends. Today we were issued our uniforms. Who would have ever thought I'd be wearing a hotel services uniform??? Not me! But when the four of us ladies were in the bathroom trying them on and laughing hysterically because of how we looked and how we all wanted to tie our scarves in different--and not company approved--ways, it was once again a reminder that you can have fun no matter what your job is or what you're doing as long as you have the right attitude.

If you're wondering, I had tied my scarf in a huge bow around my neck.

This was my boss's reaction when she saw it:
Her: You look so...
Me: Dapper?
Her: Clownish.

And then we all got free ice cream from the espresso stand. :)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Thank you

Today is the day of my last yoga class before I leave for Alaska for four months. I'm filled with so many emotions: I'm nervous, excited, scared, sad to leave and most of all overwhelmingly grateful.

So much has happened in my life in the four months since I started teaching yoga classes in Sonora.

- I fulfilled my dream of starting a yoga business and had a grand opening launch party that was everything I hoped it would be and more. (Many thanks to Debra, one of the most generous souls I know, and my parents for helping set everything up, then take it down 2 days later when we realized we'd need a bigger space.)

- I reconnected with friends I didn't even know I had. I didn't really expect to have much of a social life when I moved back to Sonora but have been so happy to have friends to go to lunch with, have margaritas with, go walking with, go to campaign rallies with (!), co-host nutrition and yoga seminars with, and do big city shopping in San Angelo with. (Target, nails, HEB, Starbucks -- in that order.)

- I replaced bad memories with good ones. It's kind of an open secret I didn't always have a great experience growing up here. For too long I let bad memories haunt me and define the way I viewed this town. Now, instead of thinking of how much I hated living here (let's not count how many years ago, but it was more than a decade) I feel how lucky I am to have this cocoon of a small town to live in. I love the slower pace of life compared to the city, I like walking on Eaton hill and feeling sunshine, seeing flowers and hearing the birds, and I like seeing friendly, familiar faces wherever I go.

I also love the super nachos at the Steakhouse (no meat, jalepenos on the side).

- There have been other changes too, but I wanted this post to be about YOU, the people I am honored to call my students, and not me, so we can talk about the other stuff over a cup of coffee or glass of wine later. :)

What I want to say is this:

Whether you came to one class or twenty classes, you made my dream of being a yoga teacher come true. I couldn't have done it without you. I finally know what it feels like to have a job that is so much fun and so gratifying it doesn't feel like work.

I've seen your practices blossom and grow from the first day you stepped on the mat to weeks later when you were steady and solid and knowing what you were doing! The credit for that goes to YOU, for showing up to your mat even when it was hard, being present, and pushing yourself.

Remember this: any sense of peace or well-being you may have felt in yoga class was in you all along and is still with you...you just have to be still and present, and you can tap into it anytime you want.

And this: we call it a yoga practice, not a yoga perfect. Even if you can't do a certain pose as well as you wish you could - yet- ...keep at it. Yoga is not a competition with anyone else or even with yourself. You bring what you have to your mat, do your practice, and all is coming.

And finally this: My all-time favorite song for savasana. Listen to this any time you need a little peace and relaxation. ~bring me a higher love~

Thank you all for sharing your practice with me.