Thursday, March 20, 2014

Shout Out to the Big Bad Wolf ...

When did it happen that Good News was no longer “Good?” That success stories weren’t brilliant but dull? When did we canonize The Big Bad Wolf?

Think about it …. When you turn on the nightly news, what are you tuning in to hear? When you pick up the newspaper, where do you focus your attention? When you scan Facebook, do you look for photos of your friends’ kids or polarizing discussions about world events?

Good News isn’t where it’s “at” anymore. Not in our society. What inquiring people want to know is what’s gone wrong … that sells papers. That makes news. That sparks ratings.

If you think about it, the Three Little Pigs owe The Big Bad Wolf big time for their moment in the spotlight. Who would have taken the time to read about three brothers who built single-family homes in town using three different types of materials? That’s not even news. Ho hum. Yawn. Big deal.

What’s news is the huffing and puffing. What’s News is that a Wolf’s powerful evil breath blew two houses down and destroyed thousands of dollars in furniture and household goods, forcing two local residents into the wintery streets with nothing but the clothes on their backs. What’s news is that this wolf stalked and terrorized these two innocent residents, who just happened to be related to a well-established construction icon. News is that the Wolf developed third-degree burns and was rushed to a local animal hospital after trying to break into a famous construction icon’s home through his chimney … Yes … that’s news. That interest us. That keeps us tuning in for more.

Little Red Riding Hood owes a shout out to the Wolf too. Yep ... her acclaim is another credit to the Big Bad Wolf -- the cousin of the one that terrorized the Pigs. (I knew that family was no good, the neighbor was known to say in his interview on 20/20.)  

Little Girl Takes Treats to Sick Grandmother wouldn’t even make the Community page. Grandmother Eaten by Wolf moves to Section A. Grandmother Found Alive After Eaten By Wolf gets the front page … with a graphically gruesome picture to accompany it. That would be the lead off story for the Nightly News as well. Can’t you just see it now … Hunter Cuts Still Alive Grandma from Wolf, saving local little girl who will most likely require some serious counseling after all she’s been through – stalked and brutalized while delivering home-made treats to a sick relative. This wolf has long been long-known for terrorizing our community ... part of a local family with ties to organized crime … Film at 11.

Little Red was only a young girl visiting her Grandmother until the Wolf crossed her path. Then she became somebody. No one cares about the do-gooder until the big bad enters the scene.

The Three Pigs just built houses and wanted a simple life. Along comes the Wolf and a tale is structured that few can forget.

The Brothers Grimm knew what people wanted to read. Along with Walt Disney, they immortalized Sleeping Beauty after Maleficent coerced her to prick her finger on a spindle and “die.” They made Snow White important not because she cleaned houses but because she ate an apple poisoned by her evil stepmother (there's a messed up family unit if I ever saw one), fell into a deep sleep and was brought back to life! (The fact that she co-habitated with seven little men in the process gives her one heckuva backstory!)

Good News doesn’t sell. After the recent Oscars, the talk turned not to the winners and their brilliant gifts to film. Long-time notable bad-boy Matthew McConaughey didn't make the top articles after his nice, normal speech where he gave a very honorable mention to God for his role in the actor's achievements. That's nice, but it doesn't spark news cycles. No ... the day after Oscar focus settled predominantly on John Travolta for mispronouncing Idina Menzel’s name. The spotlight turned on the actresses wearing the dresses that shouldn’t have made it to the red carpet … not the ones that stunned and shone.

Happy Marriages and Lives don’t a successful TV soap opera make. It can take a week (or more) for a break up to begin and conclude on General Hospital and fans will watch every destructive moment -- a death can draw out to a month and people still tune in. Popular shows like Dallas would never have been revived if Bobby and JR mended fences in the 80’s. If JR had repented from his wicked ways after the Who Shot JR Season, the program would have drifted from prime time into the litany of non-memorable. But the fact that Sue Ellen Ewing still hasn't kicked her alcoholic ways and now delves into blackmailing her own son ... wow ... that draws ratings and attention.

Our nightly news occasionally wraps up with a human interest story … if it’s a slow news night. But it never leads with one.  We much prefer scandal and disasters. We’re morbidly drawn to the shooting of Jay Gatsby … by the speculation of how he made his fortune … by his wild parties and the intrigue surrounding his life. We don’t want to hear about the pretty ... about his love for Daisy and his loss of innocence. That doesn’t sell.

Scarlett settles down with Rhett. Aw ... how nice. Well, if That had happened, Gone With The Wind would have been 300 pages shorter and never made it to the silver screen.

What does this say about our society? Our country is fascinated by gossip and drama, obsessed with what went wrong, and drawn to stories structured by illicit activity, loss, controversy, criticism, rumor and speculation. We tune in to the news to hear about company closures, wars and world-wide crisis. We criticize our leaders and mock their choices. Around us everything is dark and messed up and falling apart and doomed. And that’s what we focus on. That’s what we care about. That's the story what we crave. And, for some crazy reason, we seem to like it this way....

Country in Great Shape would never sell papers. So instead, we hear all about what’s wrong with our leadership … what’s corrupt in Washington DC. It’s no wonder we’re afraid to allow our kids to walk to school … crime and child abductions are all over the news. It’s a wonder we even walk outside.

Big Bad Wolf Eats Local Granny … Young Girl Terrorized in the Woods … Area Hunter Cuts Grandmother From Wolf Stomach and Grandmother Survives to Tell All ….

Good news isn’t interesting. It doesn’t score the front page of the newspaper. It isn’t what people are talking about. In fact, Good News isn’t what people want to hear.

No one wants to know if you are Fine. You’re not news if life is peachy keen. But get stalked by a Wolf and they will remember you forever. You’ll have a story of your own and film at 11 ...

                                                                                                                           -- Jenni

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Out of the Mouths of Babes ...

This week, I let life get to me.

Yep. All the talk about staying calm, maintaining your focus and embracing your authentic nature and still in the midst of unexpected gunk I shattered like a crystal wine glass dropped on a cobblestone walkway. Messy. Sharp pieces everywhere. Completely done in.

Life is like that sometimes. Too much. It sends waves of "stuff" your way. In Maslow's hierarchy, you travel up and down the levels like Frozen Free Fall. You field it like a tennis player as it comes fast and furiously. Oh, you've done all the prep possible. You are strong and you have it all together. You think you are prepared and grounded and ready for anything but wham ... red wine and glass stains the ground beneath your feet.

It doesn't matter what it is or was that breaks us down. It's what we do next. How we gather up the pieces and reshape ourselves.

I have been told that the real "yoga" begins when you leave class. That what a yoga class does is prepare you with poses that reflect what's going to come your way so that when you walk out the door after a class you can find the strength you need whenever you need it. You learn that you can stand strong even when you are shaking. You discover that you can hold any pose even when your muscles and mind are screaming. You realize you have what it takes to fold down, twist and reach up all at the same time to open a depth within yourself. You find awe in that moment where you can maintain balance on one leg with your other arm raised high above your head.

But ... you also are told that when it's too much, you don't have to allow yourself to panic or feel frustrated. That you might not be able to do every single thing during class. That child's pose is available whenever you need it. That sometimes, you need to back off.

That's what life is. Finding strength when you find yourself immersed in a place or conversation that puts you outside your comfort zone. Holding your ground and maintaining your inner peace when challenged or criticized. Adapting when unexpected twists occur. Finding balance amidst the many aspects and occurrences that you have to handle -- whether you like them or not.  Learning to show yourself compassion and honor who you are ... no matter what circumstances might demand.

And, learning to back off and find child's pose if it becomes too much.

I am lucky, I guess. When life gets to me ... like it did this week ... I mix up a little blend of retreat and reflection -- once in a while I have a knee-jerk reaction which never bodes well. But eventually when I'm ready, I move out of child's pose and reach out to unique mix of individuals whom I treasure. My own "Rat Pack," as I like to think of them. They typically offer a different perspective and help me find my way back on track.

But this morning, out of the mouth of my daughter, I found an amazing wisdom that I took to my yoga class and blessed me in ways I cannot even articulate ...

She took my hand, looked at me with those beautiful, innocent loving blue eyes and told me that a friend of hers had criticized her for being a "goody-goody." A friend didn't want to hang out with her because she was a "goody-goody." My sweet nine-year old girls eyes were a bit misty as she told me this.

But then ... and she prefaced this by telling me she wasn't sure she wanted to tell me the rest ... that she didn't want me to be upset or disappointed. She said that this girl wanted to help her become a "bady-bady." That once that was accomplished, she would then be her friend.  

Now, my daughter had a rough week herself. She had some friends "dump" her, leave her little but very important "club", and tell her that they didn't want to sit with her at lunch. I think each of us can remember those school days and how hard they were.

My daughter told me .... "Mommy, I thought about it. But I don't want to be a bady-bady. I like who I am and if others don't like me this way, I guess that's too bad. I'll find friends who do ... I want friends who don't need to fix or change me to like me."

Amidst life happening to her this week, my daughter found strength, found balance and a depth to herself that empowered her to embrace who she is when challenged by "gunk."

It reminded me of a time in college when I had just been dumped, by a boyfriend and a friend of mine walked in with the wisdom of a sage and spoke words I have never ever forgotten. "Well, you don't want him if he doesn't want you ..."

My daughter had figured that out all by herself. And embraced her own beauty and self even if that wasn't enough to earn her this girl's friendship. She didn't want to be in a friendship where her inner light had to be dimmed in order to earn acceptance.

Neither do I. No matter what life tosses out I will eventually find what I need to shine through it all.  Life can take you on a crazy river ride. And occasionally you may need a life vest when you hit the rapids.

When life happens (and it will!), you can find what you need inside and from people who love you and know you for all your glitter and gunk.  (Um, for the friend who threw the life-vest that hit me on the head, well, ouch! But thanks for that extra bit of perspective. Guess I needed it!)

And there is joy beyond words when you find wisdom out of the mouths of babes ...

                                                                                                         -- Jenni



Wednesday, March 5, 2014

40 Days in the Desert? Nope ... Choosing Another Option

The revelry of Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday rest behind us. I love the festivity of that celebration. But today is Ash Wednesday and a different feeling is in the air. Oh, some may nurse a hangover, which induces a quiet reflection of its own. But because it's Ash Wednesday, the curiouser and curiouser Alice in me has been thinking ...

Not being Catholic, I wasn't raised eliminating meat from my diet, eating Fish on Fridays or giving something up for the Lenten season. Many of my friends did. However, lately, my views have changed.

But ... since it's me ... they have taken a unique turn. (Not surprised, are ya?)

During Lent, the Christian message reminds us of the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us. And we recall the 40 days of denial he experienced in the wilderness. Now ... and I know I may lose some of you here, I look at that 40 day desert trip as allegorical and then take it into my own reality. Meaning, it matters not to me whether Jesus literally walked around starving in the desert for 40 days. I get the idea and the lesson that passage in scripture teaches. Jesus did a lot of things for me ... made a lot of sacrifices to show love. And that ... not the literal definition of 40 days in the desert ... is what I bring to my Lenten Experience.

Here's what I see as the message: Make a sacrifice & Show some love.

The traditional Lenten challenge is to give something up that is important to you. Chocolate springs quickly to mind as the most popular denial.  Candy ... that's a bit more extreme since not all candy is chocolate and by giving up chocolate only, you can secure a loophole.

You can give up Wine or Beer ... or Alcohol as a whole ... or more specifically, drinking before 5pm. Did that once. Come on ... am I the only person here who enjoys a drink before 5pm???  Be honest ... If you are a stay-at-home mom, look deep and tell me you didn't need/want/have  a glass of wine at 4 or 4:30. Before noon ... that might be another story. But hey, to each his own.

I know someone who gave up Facebook. The  current toxic aspect of this site might make that a healthy choice. Sometimes when I go there, I feel like I'm stalking my friends ... spying on them to find out what is new. A phone call would save me the trouble of scrolling thru pages of inane stuff. Give up Facebook and find a different way to connect with the significant circle in your life.

Anyway, you get the point. The spotlight is always on giving things up. Sacrifice. If you choose one and move forward with a 40-day Sacrifice, bravo. The choice is personal and optional from where I stand.

But ... here's what I want to throw out to you as a Lenten Challenge. Something new and unique. Whether or not you choose to give something up, what about initiating a Change. Doing Something Different. That's right. Enough about giving something up. What about making a choice to DO SOMETHING during Lent.

Perhaps it's writing a letter a day ... not an email or text or an instant message. A LETTER. You need to address, stamp and send it too. You'd be surprised what an impact that might make.

Perhaps it's trying a new recipe once a day. Or reading a new book a week -- maybe alternating fiction and nonfiction. Perhaps you make a craft project for a friend ... or make something for yourself using a pattern that challenges you. Perhaps you opt for something more spiritual ... a Bible Study or Yoga Challenge. Perhaps your health and spirit together might suggest 40 days at the gym or on a yoga mat. It might be a home-project that you need discipline to complete and this commitment does that for you. 

Maybe, for you, that change could be mental ... a decision to behave differently when certain cues arise. An attitude adjustment.

Whatever it is, look at Lent as a time of transformation. In the traditional way, change occurred through some type of sacrifice. But stopping something doesn't add anything new to the equation. I mean,  give up candy but come Easter Morning you're gonna dig into the kids' candy basket for those Reeses Eggs ... Right? But by adding something ... doing something ... modifying something that you do, that changes us inside.

So, here's my Lenten Challenge for you. This year ... for the next 40 days ... choose to do something. Pick something important to you, write it down, and you may be surprised at the results.

Yes, I gave something up. And yes, I'm doing something.  That's how I meet my own personal Lenten Challenge. I'm accountable to no one but myself. And I don't tell so don't ask.

But, I'll let you know in 40 days how it all turns out. Would love to hear what you choose to do ... and not do. Comment ... email ... share.

You don't have to go to the desert to experience the Love that came thru Lent. See you at the Empty Tomb in 40 days!
                                                                                                                     -- Jenni

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Wrong Class?

Last week I went to the wrong yoga class.

How, you may ask, could such a thing happen? How could there be a "wrong" yoga class?

Well, not all yoga classes are created equal, believe it or not. Since beginning my yoga journey 18 months ago, I have discovered the subtle differences in the classes offered. There are Fusion, Yoga Rocks and Slow Flow classes held at the Royal Oak Yoga Shelter. Every now and than there are Yin Classes and special workshops. Other studios offer different variations with different names. A friend of mine is devoted to her Bikram Yoga. So, no, not all Yoga Classes are the same.

So, there I was at the Thursday 5:45pm class ... stretching and setting my intention like I do before each session begins. I'm not chatty before class. I get on my mat and look inward. But then the music started. The poses began. And I quickly realized this wasn't my Slow Flow Class ... this was Yoga Rocks. I'd never attended a Yoga Rocks session ... I'd been curious and considered it, but had not yet taken the challenge. Until that fateful Thursday night. I truly had no idea what to expect. 

It started with the stretching and short, faster movements. My thoughts began to race as I made the discovery. And I was faced with the question ... was I gonna fish or cut bait?

There is no judgement in a yoga class. So I could have picked up my mat and walked out without anyone thinking less of me. But then, I thought about the "intention" I had set before the session began and I decided to breathe and keep flowing.

For those of you familiar with my blog, you will remember that yoga classes typically begin with the yogi asking us to set an intention. When I first began yoga, I had no idea what that meant. I thought of yoga as simply a new variation of my exercise regime. But I quickly discovered that yoga provides the invitation to take you deeper ... if you choose to take the journey. It is a mind, body and spiritual discipline. You get out of it whatever you choose. Find what you seek. You offer up your best ... and that is always enough.

Well, as I prepared for class that evening, my "Intention" was to find a sense of calm in the presence of the storm. Peace amidst emotion. Steadiness when I felt my world quaking. I was looking for inner strength and the ability to rise above the challenges of the day ... of life. To find a stronger, less volatile perspective as "life happened."

And that's what I found.

See, as I was flowing poses faster than I ever had and guiding my own vinyasa, I realized that I wasn't in the wrong class at all. I was exactly where I needed to be to achieve what I'd hoped to achieve. I was finding calm amidst flowing poses without a guide. I was sweating and moving and smiling and centered and still breathing. Just me, the heat, the music and the mat.

If I'd looked more carefully at the schedule, I would have selected the 7:15pm class: The Slow Flow Class.  But, on this particular night, the Universe guided me to Yoga Rocks to find Calm in the Challenge ... Strength of Spirit immersed in the Unknown and Unexpected. I was seeking and actually finding Balance and Inner Poise while my spirit and body was shaking. In those early moments as I pondered whether I could do this and then decided "Yes, I can," I found acceptance even when I didn't flow the moves exactly as the yogi had stated. I found Strength inside ... I chose to be Brave when a part of me considered running for the door. 

And it was an exhilarating, amazing, self-actualizing experience.

I didn't do the moves exactly in order. I don't know if others did. I never look around during yoga. I'm very introverted on the mat. But I found a senses of joy as I created my own flow at my own pace. At every moment, I knew that all I had to do was offer the best of myself. How others view me or my best ... well, I can't control that. But in the storms of life, if I offer the best of myself, I will make it through. Just like I did that night.

Do you ever find yourself in the "wrong class?" Maybe, like me, you aren't in the wrong place at all. Maybe you are exactly where you are supposed to be in order to achieve or discover something you otherwise might miss or pass right by.

The question isn't whether you are in what you deem as "the wrong place" but what you will do while you are there. Can you suspend expectation, inner judgement and whatever holds you back from offering your best? Can you strip bare the facade and look deeper to embrace what the Universe wants to share with you? Can you look with your heart and cease wrestling with the reason in your head? Can you find the joy within discomfort? Can you hold on for a moment more? 

Can the wrong place actually be the right place?
                                                                                                            -- Jenni