Tuesday, May 28, 2013

ドラマ (Dorama) Time!

These are the dramas I've been watching to help me brush up on my Japanese before takeoff.

最高の離婚 (Saikou no Rikon/The Great Divorce) - Fuji TV/2013

'Saikou no Rikon' is about the complexities of marriage and relationships, focusing on two couples connected with an impulsive divorce, a fake marriage, infidelity, and a possible mate swap. Basically, the message is that there's no formula for a successful relationship, and to some extent no one really knows what they're doing. People learn to love and accept each other through trial and error, and it's okay if they change their minds about what they want and what they'll put up with. I started watching this drama for Eita (the husband of one of my favorite Japanese singers Kimura Kaela, far left), and even more so for Ono Machiko (second from left). But all the actors in this drama are wonderful. This show portrays love, pain, and disagreement in a hilarious and realistic manner, which is why I've kept watching.

第二楽章 (Daini Gakusho/Second Movement) - NHK/2013

'Daini Gakusho' is about holding onto old passions and testing the parameters of friendship. Two talented violinists become best friends and eventually join the same orchestra. One beats (or cheats?) the other out of a soloist position and becomes world-renowned. The other starts a family and quits the violin. They reunite 16 years later and though all seems well, it is clear that tension and jealousy remain between them. In their adulthood they are both unfulfilled and want what the other has, and uncovered secrets reveal that they've felt this way about each other for many years. Now they must make peace with the past and salvage their friendship. I started watching this drama because it's the only music-related J-drama I found worth watching this season.

鴨、京都へ行く。(Kamo, Kyoto e Iku/Bitter Sweet Home Kyoto) - Fuji TV/2013

'Kamo, Kyoto e Iku' is about returning to your roots and fulfilling family legacies. The lead character's name is Kamo, which the show title uses as a play on both the Kamo River in Kyoto, and the Japanese word kamo which means "maybe". Once Kamo left what she considered to be her dated and backward hometown of Kyoto, she swore she'd never look back. But upon her mother's passing she leaves her job with the finance department in Tokyo to take over the family ryokan (inn). Despite doubt from her staff in her ability to manage the place and pressure from businessmen to just sell it and move on, Kamo is determined to prove that she can turn the inn around. But she has to learn a few lessons in humility first. This show provides an interesting look into the traditional character of Kyoto and the important customs and subtleties that go into operating a successful ryokan. People attach a lot of memories and meaning to places, and as such a ryokan is much more than just a business. The only reason I gave this drama a chance was because my favorite Japanese singer, Shiina Ringo, sings its theme song "いろはねほへと" ("Irohanehoheto"). I have to admit that I've been pleasantly surprised by this thoughtful show.

Most Japanese dramas I've come across are really well-written and only run about 11 episodes, so if you have some time check these ones out!

The weary young man who told me his life story in less than 5 minutes.

Ma and I are on the way back to Michigan, and as usual we stop at a particular gas station in Ohio which we consider to be the halfway point in our journey. Ma reaches the women's restroom first so I have to wait in line in front of the refrigerated beverage section. A kid walks in. Actually, lets call him a young man, since he's my age. And let's say his name is Tristan. Tristan walks up and stands unnecessarily close to me as I explain to him that the men's restroom is occupied too. Contrary to what I'd hoped, my explanation doesn't get him to back up, and he just stands there looking at my face for a couple of seconds before speaking. Turns out Tristan has a soft voice and a lot of troubles.

"How you have you been?"

How you have you been?? Have I met you before? "Um, fine. How are you?"


What followed either came straight from his mouth or I had to surmise it from the tone of his words. This is the gist of his story:

Just before walking in Tristan had a conversation with his dad who revealed that he's having an affair on his mother. Also, his grandparents aren't in good shape, which means his family will have to take care of them or take them in. Either way this means even more stress for the family, and a potential move to some other place in Ohio which Tristan assumes I am familiar with. On top of that, he might have to leave college to support the family, which he doesn't want to do because he's only been attending for 1 1/2 years and he really wants to finish.

FINALLY the women's restroom opens up. As I go in I offer, "Well I hope things get better for you."

"Oh, it's fine. Good luck!"

"Same to you."

What in the world was that?! We are strangers. In the middle of the middle-of-nowhere in the representative of all nowhere states. In a gas station. Waiting for the toilets to free up. Why are you telling me your life story? And what am I supposed to say? What am I supposed to do? A person can only feign so much empathy, and can only say "Wow..." and "I'm sorry to hear that" so many times. I'm sure you just needed someone to talk to, and I'm sure you didn't want empty condolences in response. Now that I think about it, I really wish I could have said something better. But when you put a stranger on the spot like that, that's usually the best you're going to get.

On one hand, I was sad because I felt for Tristan and wanted to do something for him. Poor thing. On the other, I was annoyed because I was caught unawares and felt like I was expected to solve his issues. My own load is heavy enough.

I still wonder if a joke was played on me, a joke that was too real to be funny. At the same time, I feel like I just took a pop quiz in humanity and failed. A stranger was desperate enough to tell me about his pain, and all I could give him were empty words.

I made these tonight.

Kentucky Derby Pie Cupcakes


Friday, May 24, 2013

Happens Every Time.

Every time I really want to do something, I'm extremely excited about the idea at first. Then when the time comes, I get nervous (or frightened) and say that I don't want to do it, that I don't think I'm ready, that I'm not cut out for it, etc. One thing I can say about myself, however, is that I always go through with it. If it's something I've set my heart on doing I never chicken out, even when I really want to, which is most of the time.

Doing or getting something you've always wanted is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. I've wanted to go to Japan for 6 years now, and there's no way I'm not getting on that plane next week. But I have a hard time adjusting to changes, and because I don't know what to expect, I'm not sure how I'll handle all the change and newness that will come with this experience.

My best friend called me today and said, "You know, this is only the beginning. After this you'll go on many trips to all kinds of different places, and it won't even make you nervous because you'll be used to it. You won't even have to think about it." I know that I'll get to that point eventually. And I know in my head that I'll be okay this time around, because I always end up okay. I guess I'm just... being myself. Same old habit of nervousness. Happens every time.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dogs have healing powers?

This afternoon I got a terrible headache, so I decided to lie down on the couch and take a nap. I trained my dog Madison to interpret lying or sitting down as a sign for her to come near, so she came up against the couch to lay down under where I was lying. I started rubbing her tummy softly and slowly, since close contact with her always makes me feel better when I'm troubled. What happened next was extraordinary.

Usually whenever I start rubbing her tummy she thinks it's playtime and gets really excited, jerking and wiggling and growling on her back. But this time, she remained completely still and silent as if she understood that I wasn't feeling well. Once I fell asleep with my hand still on her tummy, I was filled with warmth. Not heat, but warmth. A warmth so intense at times that I felt nausea too. But not a nervous nausea, a nausea more like butterflies, as if something phenomenal was about to happen. During my nap I kept shifting and going in and out of consciousness, but I always had my hand on Madison's tummy or lower abdomen, and I continued to feel that warmth within me. Every time I moved she looked up to check if I was still sleeping, then she'd lay her head back down and continue being still. As crazy as it sounds, I felt like she was communicating with me. And it was good... until Ma came home and Madison rushed off to greet her. Because even though she's a terrible guard dog and apparently only has so much therapy potential, my dog is an awesome greeter.

Anyway, the moment was over. But you know what? When I got up I felt so much better. My headache was fainter, and I felt lighter, calmer, relieved. I don't know much about the healing power of dogs, but I'm pretty sure Madison had something to do with what happened to me today.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blowout to Bantu Knot-out

Since I can't get a comb through my hair when it's dry, I figured that I could only style it when wet. But I just discovered the wonders of a good blowout, and a whole new world of possibilities has opened up for me! I've tried doing bantu knots once before on wet hair, but I underestimated how much time my hair needed to dry and it didn't turn out well. This beautiful bantu knot-out I've just done has convinced me that I should consider more dry styling in the future!

Yesterday I had a consultation with a lady who's going to put kinky twists in my hair before I go to Japan. In preparation, I'd blown my hair out and put it in a puff on Sunday evening. After I came back from the consultation yesterday, I was looking at my  hair and thought, I always wear my hair in a puff and I want need to try something different! How can I take advantage of this freshly-stretched hair of mine? Hmm...bantu knots! Let's try this again!

So I put 16 or 17 knots in my hair using Design Essentials Natural Curl Stretching Cream to soften and lengthen each small section, and then I sealed the ends with Eco Styler Krystal.  I left them in overnight (finished putting them in just after 8pm and took them out just after 1pm, so about 17 hours). And now I'm in love! I'm going to try to keep this up for as long as possible. This weekend I'll be going to see my family for the last time before I leave, and it'll be fun to see what they have to say!

*UPDATE (5/22): This hairdo got frizzy and only lasted two days due to humidity and sweat. Still, kudos to me for trying something new. At least I get to wear a nice bun for the next few days.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Two More Weeks!

Today's the beginning of my last two weeks in America. Two weeks from today I will be taking off for 日本!

Ma and I started shopping for this trip on Friday, and today we went to the bookstore to buy a map of Japan. It's funny, on the way there I was complaining about how all these people I know from high school and college are already in their respective study abroad destinations, while I'm still here in Michigan lazing around the house. Everyone else's adventures have already started, and I still have to wait two more weeks for mine. I wish I could go now!

Then a curious thing happened once we got to the bookstore. As I approached the travel section I started getting major butterflies! I even had to take a deep breath to calm myself down. And when I selected the map that I was going to buy, I panicked. My tune changed so quickly. I'm scared. I'm not ready. Ma please don't make me go, Idon'twannago!

Of course Ma wasn't trying to hear it, but this really was a significant moment for me. Even after going to my study abroad program's orientation, looking through photos on Facebook that my friends who are already in Japan uploaded, and coming across the ONIGIRI van, I didn't really feel anything. But as soon as I touched that map in the bookstore today BAM! it hit me. I AM GOING TO JAPAN! I'm flying thousands of miles away, and I can't just go home to Ma at the end of the day when it stops being fun or when I don't want to be bothered with people anymore.  I'll be stuck. And I can't just get by hardly talking like I do here. I'll have to communicate to survive!

Welp, there's no turning back now. Let's just hope and pray that excitement will outweigh intimidation by the time I board my flight. Because I am all kinds of nervous right now.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

On Repeat: "God is Real/Hare Ram"

This song came on during my yoga class today, and I cried. I was overcome with the spirit and I cried.

The instructor had us on the floor bent over in Pigeon Pose* and I was resting my forehead on a foam block. The whole time before this she had been playing songs sung in Sanskrit, but then she played "God is Real/Hare Ram" by Krishna Das, which is in both English and Sanskrit. At first when I heard the English lyrics I just smiled, but once she had us down in Pigeon I really listened to the them and something powerful came over me. I just kept crying and mouthing "Hallelujah. Thank you Jesus." By the time she had us come out of that pose my block was soaked. Yes God is real, for He has washed and made me whole... I have found a way to live in the presence of the Lord.

Absolutely beautiful. Om shanti. Amen.

*Maybe it was Swan? I learned it to be Pigeon. But at this new studio I've heard "swan" and "pigeon" referring to what I believe is the same pose, so I'm not completely sure. There's a big difference between a pigeon and a swan in real life, but it's not so easy to distinguish their respective poses. But that's neither here nor there.

Yoga Inspiration for Non-Skinny People

In my previous post I wanted to find a picture of  a black person/other person of color demonstrating what puppy pose is supposed to look like, but I couldn't find one. You rarely find images of black people doing yoga anywhere, and that includes the internet. However, I did come across this image on a tumblr page called Black Yogis. It reminds me so much of myself. I know I don't look like I can do much, and I am limited by my size and weight. But every time I go to a class, the instructor seems to be surprised by what I can to do; I even surprise myself sometimes. One of things that instructors compliment me on most is my flexibility. Whether that means "Wow, you're really flexible" or "Wow, you're really flexible for a fat girl", doesn't matter to me. It's the truth and it's a well-deserved compliment, so I'll take it. This tumblr post is just affirmation that I shouldn't be fooled by my looks. I can do this; yoga is for me too. 

 "Extended Standing Leg Stretch  
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana

One of the biggest myths about flexibilty I keep hearing is that one has to be skinny to be flexible…well…that’s NOT true."

Madison in Extended Puppy Pose

This is what happens when I massage her dewlap too well. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

I made these today.

Baked Zucchini Sticks


I went to pick up a pizza today and while I was backing out of my parking space, I spotted this. I probably only find this funny because I study Japanese. But something about this was also curious to me. Of all things to choose for a license plate, why "ONIGIRI"? And why did I happen across this today?

For those of you not familiar with Japanese food, onigiri (おにぎり) are rice balls that are stuffed with something salty or sour and wrapped in seaweed (海苔/nori). They are shaped in ovals or triangles and are often decorated to look cute or resemble cartoon characters. I've never eaten onigiri before.
 This could merely be a coincidence, but it's too eerie to just be that if you ask me. Considering that I am actually going to Japan, and that before I left the house I'd just talked to my best friend about not being prepared to go yet, I can't help but believe that this was a sign alluding to my upcoming trip. Maybe this was a sign suggesting one of the foods I should try in Japan. Maybe it's just a sign that I need to get cracking with preparations. Maybe it's both.  I guess it's time to stop stalling and begin shopping and packing. I'll start with my "To Taste" list.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Long Hair Don't Care? Not this chick.

My name is Deela, and  I'm still attached to the long hair ideal. I thought going natural would put me beyond it, but it hasn't.

In the beginning, I figured going natural would unleash continuous and uninhibited growth. Many natural women never had very long hair before, but after the big chop, some time, and good careSURPRISE! Hair down to their butts. I hoped my hair would grow the same way.

And my hair did grow, outward and upward. My hair is fuller and shinier than it ever was before, and I have to admit that it is a little longer than it was when I had a perm. However it's not there yet. Granted, I've never actively tried to grow my hair super long. I'd just figured that with minimal intervention, healthy methods, and positive thoughts, it would happen.

But  while looking at my straightened hair in the mirror yesterday I couldn't help thinking, My hair is so short; it's been stuck at my shoulders for the past year.  My hair will never reach my butt. My hair will probably never even pass my collarbones. To be honest, I was really disappointed and felt like I'd failed. And then I realized something else, I'm just as obsessed with the long-haired standard of beauty as all the permheads and weaveheads out there. I'm no different. I'm not as mature and secure in this natural hair journey as I thought.

Wow. I still have a lot of learning and loving to do, short hair and all.

Movie on Mother's Day

Today was Mother's Day and I couldn't think of anything to do or find anything to buy that was special enough for my mom. So I just bought her a nice card and took her out for dinner and a movie. I was pretty excited to see this film. F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel of the same name had touched me so when I read it for the first time in 10th grade, so I had high hopes. Plus, I paid for the tickets and I wanted my money's worth! I can't say that I was completely disappointed. But oh, what this movie could've been.

Seen Sunday May 12: The Great Gatsby

Read the book. That's all the summary you'll get from me on this one.

What I really like about this movie: This film is stunning. The colors, the lights, the people, the hair, the clothes, the mansions, and the furniture are all beautiful. Even the snuffed-out cigars, the sweat, the fog, and "the valley of ashes" are beautiful. This movie is so wonderfully shot, designed and styled that there was nothing in it that didn't please my eyes. I only wish that I hadn't watched it in 3D. I felt like I was watching a cartoon and my eyes got so irritated trying to focus that my head hurt.

This song. This song right here. I wasn't crazy  about most of the music choices made, as I will discuss in the next section. But when "Young and Beautiful" by Lana del Ray started playing, I was in awe. Will you still love me when I'm no longer young and beautiful? Not wanting to age even though you know it can't be avoided; longing to have what you once had while trying to hold onto the current moment; hoping to please your lover, make them understand, make them stay; wanting to believe that you still and always will have a place in that person's heart. As they should, the themes in this song connect directly to the complicated relationship of main characters Gatsby and Daisy. "Young and Beautiful" is dripping with love and sorrow, and I love it.

What I don't like about this movie: There wasn't anything about this movie that completely threw me off. There were just numerous little things that unnerved me. The music did it the most. While I would appreciate not having to see and hear Jay-Z and Beyoncé everywhere and all the time, I appreciate them as artists. It's a wonderful accomplishment for Jay-Z to have been executive producer of this film and its soundtrack. That being said, I expected to hear something new and refreshing. Refreshing! Not echoes of "No Church in the Wild", "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)", and "Empire State of Mind". Not an annoyingly tame cover of "Crazy in Love". Not a butchered, mechanical, space alien cover of Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black", which shouldn't have been meddled with in the first place. You had scenes set in the 1920s, framed with a mix of jazz and hip-hop music to make this film resonate more with 21st century ears. Pretty cool, right? Chaos and confusion are prevalent features of the novel and this film, and the multiplicity of sounds matched this at the appropriate moments. But there was a little too much noise, and a little too much of what I've heard before. It was distracting.

Overall, I wish I could say that I loved 'The Great Gatsby'. I really do. But this movie felt so empty and simple to me. It is visually beautiful, but something is just... missing. There is no soul in this film. It stays true to the book, and many important symbols like the green light and Dr. T.J. Eckleburg's eyes are included. The problem is that it tells the story without the substance. I think it's ironic that this film embodies exactly what Fitzgerald critiqued in his novel: excessive beauty and richness that's fast-paced and enthralling, yet shallow and careless. I'm sure this wasn't intentional. What I'm not sure of is whether this is the film's great failure, or its backward, inadvertent achievement.

Would I recommend it?: Sure.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Straight Hair Again

It's been about 3 months since the last time, so today I got my hair straightened and trimmed. Let's see how long this lasts. I've gone as long as 9 days before, but I sweat really easily and all this exercise I've been doing lately is not conducive to maintaining straightened hair. Not that I'll be heartbroken about the curls coming back; getting your hair done is expensive, and I just don't want to waste Ma's money. But I'll enjoy it while it lasts. If all else fails, I always have my turban.

BOOKS! (Better than Good Hair)

In the natural hair industry and blogosphere, Nikki Walton is regarded as an expert, if not THE expert. Ever since I got my last perm ever and started transitioning, I've visited her website Curly Nikki everyday. So when I found out that she wrote a book, I bought it right away! However, in true Deela fashion, I didn't read it right away because schooldevouredmylife. Anyway, I finally got to it and I finished it the other day.

Better than Good Hair: The Curly Girl Guide to Healthy, Gorgeous, Natural Hair! by Nikki Walton

This was a nice little read. Nikki tried to cover the main stages of having natural hair, from deciding to going natural to growing it out to even raising curly babies. It got boring at some points because not all of the sections apply to me right now. The book does read like something that's mostly for newbies. And some of the instructions for styling or hair-loving techniques sounded a little unrealistic to me; too involved and too time-consuming. But at least I have some ideas and encouragement to try something new. And I'll have a resource to return to if my hair ever reaches my butt, or if I get tired of it and decide to cut it all off again, or if I have children, etc.The main reason I ordered this book was because even though I'm proud of my hair and the progress I've made, I've been in a styling rut for the past year or so because schooldevouredmylife. So I'll definitely revisit this book in the future and make myself commit more time to experimenting with my hair. Thanks and congratulations, Nikki!

Favorite quotes:
"Why apologize for coming into your own, no matter what path you choose?" (p. 23)
"This is the hair God gave you, so therefore it is beautiful." (p. 27) 


Look what I found during my morning bike ride! Isn't that cool? Rode almost 5 miles AND I got to see a snail?! Today is already a great day!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Badonkadonk Pride/Subway Sucks

This is totally random, but I resent Subway using the "badonkadonk butt" in their new commericals as an example of the bad things people will gain if they don't eat their subs. I fail to understand how having a badonkadonk is a bad thing. In fact, I know that it's not. Having a big butt is a beautiful thing, and nothing to be ashamed of. Why do we still have all these women getting surgery to plump up their rears, doing zumba and squats, and shimmying around in these new wannabe "hip-hop" and "latin" exercise videos? Because even if they don't want to admit it, we big-butted girls have something that many women want! So Subway I'm gonna need you to have a seat and do better, because playing on people's insecurities and trying to shame our beautiful behinds is unacceptable. It's not our fault your food is bland and you need more sales. Now you're just being silly.
When I posted this statement on FB, someone commented with a predictable "They were targeting unhealthy badonkadonks, they didn't mean to offend anyone, they're only just trying to encourage a healthier living standard...." Blahdeblahdeblah. I get that, but Subway's way of presenting that is horrible. And who's to say whose badonkadonk is unhealthy? I think most people who have these "problems" naturally or acquired them through certain habits are aware of it and are reminded of it enough, everywhere they go. The message is clear, "There's something wrong with how you look. This is your fault. You should be ashamed of yourself." They don't need more of that from a company that's supposed to help them reach that healthier standard. Subway's been using this angle in their commercials for at least 6 years, and it's not encouraging at all; nor is it amusing or clever in the least. I stopped eating Subway two years ago because I couldn't stand the blandness anymore, and these commercials just gave me another reason to keep on keepin' on.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Getting by on Two Wheels

Recommenced one of my favorite activities today.... biking!

Did 4.5 miles after doing no cardio in over a year, and though I'm wheezing a little bit I feel no pain! Not bad, huh?

My clingy best friend.

Friday, May 3, 2013

BOOKS! (Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman + The Bridegroom)

I started reading at age 3 and ever since then it's been one of my favorite things to do. When I was in elementary school my nickname was "Bookworm" because I always had a book with me; I used to read 3 or 4 books at a time. In fact, I still carry at least 1 book around with me. I'm writing all of this to say that I love books! Here are a couple that I've read recently.

I had planned to read both of these during spring break, one on my way to Arizona and the other on my way back. But I only got through the first one. Since they're both short story collections by Asian writers, I wanted to write about them together, so I waited until I finished the other one. Today I finally did that! Took me long enough.

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Murakami Haruki*
*Murakami is Japanese, in case you didn't know

Murakami can write pretty mind-bending stuff, dealing with common themes like loneliness while weaving in some fantasy and the surreal. I usually appreciate that, but I don't need a brain teaser when I'm only reading short stories. I love his full-length novels, but the short stories in this book were hit or miss for me. Most of them I liked and finished them thinking, I LOVE this story! So good! But some of them I finished and thought Huh? What did I just read?? What was I supposed to get out of that??

My favorite story was "A Shinagawa Monkey". Mysteriously, a woman struggles to remember her name and then she forgets it completely. Turns out a talking monkey stole it! He steals names that he likes, and takes both good and bad memories attached to that name with it.
I thought this story was really clever. As the last story in the book I read it just before I flew back to Michigan, and what a coincidence that I read such a striking story about names just after listening to a sermon about the importance of names (Proverbs 22:1) a few days before!

Favorite quote:
"Once you make up your mind to get rid of something, there's very little you can't discard. No─not very little. Once you put your mind to it, there's nothing you can't get rid of. And once you start tossing things out, you find yourself wanting to get rid of everything. It's as if you'd gambled away almost all your money and decided, What the hell, I'll bet what's left. Too much trouble to cling to the rest" (from "Man-Eating Cats", p. 121)

The Bridegroom by Ha Jin*
*Jin is Chinese, in case you didn't know

Jin's stories were much easier to read, which made this book easier to get through. Plus, there are only 12 stories (the other book has 24).When reading Murakami's book I always felt like he was testing me, as if each story was a riddle whose real meaning I had to either decipher or let go over my head. Granted, both men are completely different writers, so it isn't fair to compare them based on just one of their works or because they're both Asian. But this book is definitely more what I'd call easy reading. Funny and interesting stories that each have a particular critique of social and political problems in China.

My favorite was "Broken". Apparently in China being "broken" is a euphemism for losing your virginity, similar to how we Americans refer to someone getting their cherry "popped". I had always figured since China's government seems to be very conservative and takes a rigid attitude toward sex and public discussions of it, Chinese people must be the same way. So it was really shocking to read about this story's characters talking about sex bluntly and engaging in sexual activities in a secret yet bold manner. I learned so much through this story. Like did you know having an affair is illegal in China? And did you know that if a man seduces a woman and they both get in trouble for the act, she's the slut and not him? Well maybe you did know that. It seems to be the rule everywhere. Anyway Ha Jin is aware of this hypocrisy and the lack of support women have for embracing their sexuality, and he addresses this issue in a blunt, amusing, yet saddening way.

Favorite quote:
"You let a devil into your house, he'll get into your bed" (from "After Cowboy Chicken Came to Town", p. 185)
I love a good story, and I would recommend both these collections of short ones to anybody!

Something That's Mine

Here's a clue about the studio...
Today I went to my new home studio for the first time. I'll be practicing here for the next month until I leave for Japan, and I'll write about this place later. Right now I just want to talk about some revelations that came to me today.

A friend of mine whom I've known since kindergarten and is a yoga instructor recommended this place to me. I've gone to her with yoga-related questions before, and I trust her opinion. But going to a new studio can be scary for a newbie like me. I've been going to the same small, intimate, diverse, and accepting studio for the past 4 months, and now I have to recreate that atmosphere back home, where even fewer people resemble me in size and color. I was excited but oh so nervous!

I'm glad to say that as usual, I had nothing to worry about. It was a little overwhelming because the studio is so HUGE and has so many rooms! But the staff is really nice, the other students are pleasant, and my instructor this evening was beyond wonderful.

However, even if that hadn't been the case, I realized that it doesn't matter where you practice or if the people there with you are snooty. As I was sweating and keeping up with the flow and remembering how amazing my body is, I kept hearing in my head Your practice is yours. You carry it with you, inside of you everywhere you go. I'm good at this and I love it; yoga makes me feel like myself. So I have every right to go wherever it is I decide to practice.

Other than biking and swimming, yoga is the only form of exercise that actually makes me feel good about myself afterward. When I was going to a gym I never felt like I was doing enough. Next time I need to push myself harder. Next time I need to sweat more. But during our class, the instructor Meagan kept talking about finding patience, enjoying the in-between moments, and finding joy in the journey. That's so real. So when I walk into a new studio I don't need to be ashamed or feel like I'm trespassing just because my body's a little wider and softer than everyone else's. For the first time in my life, I feel like I've found something that is mine. Wholly and genuinely, deeply and unchangeably mine. My yoga practice belongs to me. God gave it to me.

So I will practice where I please, thank you very much. And I'm glad I chose this place.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Finals Week Faith (Day 4)

God is good. I'm alive and at home. The weather is beautiful. I'm finally free from this school year and all the negative things that came with it. And 1 month from today I'll be flying to the other side of the planet. God is good. As you can probably tell, I'm back to light today. Haha.

Psalm 36:9 and Songs to make your spirit happy

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light (NIV)/
For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light (KJV)

I'd planned on only sharing one song a day, but I was feeling so good today. And while I was listening to Lansing's gospel radio station before my exam, these songs came on right after one another and I just got so happy! God was speaking to me through that radio! Now the semester is over and I've made it through finals week. It's time for celebration, and I just have to share these songs with y'all.

William Murphy- "In Your Hands"

"I don't know how I made it here, but I know it was by the grace of God" (That's the line I remember most. The announcer didn't say who sang this song and after hours of searching the internet, I still couldn't find anything. But when I do, this song will be added here as well!)

*UPDATE 9/22/14* That song is R.A. Vernon- "I Made It"

J. Moss- "Good Day"

Anthony Brown and Group Therapy- "I Will Be"

I was sitting in my car having a moment when these songs came on. I was overcome by the spirit, and I wasn't expecting that. But once I stepped outside into the sun to go take my exam, I just felt so light and calm and happy. In his light we see light.  I saw, I felt, that everything was going to be okay.

This whole Finals Week Faith thing was a good idea, I think. It was a spur of the moment decision and I just figured it'd be something fun and different to do. More than that, however, it really helped me focus and have a positive mindset throughout this week. I hope you were blessed by this short little series as much as I was. I need to do this every semester!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Young and Dumb

Dude on this bus is planning on proposing to his girlfriend of 10 months. Says he's been thinking about it for the past 5 months already (really??) and his buddies are being complete "yes" men. Nevermind that this is a bad idea. Nevermind that he hasn't even graduated yet. Nevermind that he has his own plans to join the Marines and she has her own plans to move to D.C. Just... nevermind.

Finals Week Faith (Day 3)

Today was my most nerve-wrecking exam period of the week. Even though class usually starts at 10:20am, get there at 7:45am. Turn in your portfolio containing ALL the work you did this semester, including your notes. Turn in the master copy of your group research project. Then do a presentation for that project and get grilled by Professor B, who is never impressed by anything. To be fair, seeing as how we didn't have an actual exam, none of this was unreasonable. It was just a lot to do all at once. But hey, I did and it's behind me, and that's enough. 2 down, 1 to go!

Today I'm switching from light to dark as I talk about enemies. If you couldn't tell by some of my other posts, I've been thinking about enemies and how to deal with them a lot during this year.

Psalm 35:4 and "Ready Aim"

May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay  (NIV) /
Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt (KJV)

When reading this verse I thought of "Ready Aim" by Mali Music. To be honest, I wasn't feeling this song when I first heard it. But after listening to it more and reading the lyrics, I realized that this song is beyond relevant to my life right now. In it Mali talks about spiritual warfare, and standing up to the powers that seek to move us away from our purpose and destroy us. These powers are not just obstacles or other people (haters, enemies, snakes, etc.). Sometimes they are thoughts, words, and emotions that we even use against ourselves. Whatever that force is and wherever it's coming from, be aware of it and don't be afraid. Mali's attitude is Fine, have at it. Because in the end, you can't stop me.

Wow. Imagine how powerful we'd be if we were that bold.

With that said, bring on Exam #3! I might not care about this class at all and I probably won't remember much of the material after tomorrow. But I have grades to earn and a home to return to, so prepare to be dominated.

Do the Yoga: Just B Yoga

Today I took my last class at Just B Yoga until August. I've been coming here since I took my very first yoga class ever, back on January 11th of this year. In reminiscing on how much this place means to me and what it has done for me this semester, I am reminded of when I first started. People tend to have this conception of yoga as something that only thin white women do. I am a woman of color, and I am definitely not a skinny minnie. So at first I was afraid to try yoga because I assumed it wasn't meant for me. I'm so glad that I faced my fear and came to this place anyway.

Since I'll be travelling and continuing my practice in other places,  I want to share the gems I find along the way, starting with Just B. If for whatever reason you are apprehensive or afraid of trying yoga, hopefully this will assure you that there are studios out there that will welcome you.

Just B Yoga
106 Island Avenue, Lansing, MI

About Just B
Just B Yoga was founded by Belinda Thurston, who owns, operates, and teaches classes at this studio.  I don't know the exact year that it started. I do know that Belinda originally began teaching classes here and there like at Shabazz Academy, a local public charter school. She got such a positive response and demand that she opened a studio, and Just B Yoga has been in its current location for about 3 or 4 years.  It's small but vibrant, and the atmosphere is very open and laid back. The instructors and students are very kind and tend not to take themselves too seriously. You will especially enjoy this place if you have a good sense of humor and are willing to try something crazy and look crazy while doing it.

From the side

From the front door
Inside the studio

From the back door


Just B's slogan: "Community Based, Donation Driven"
"Community Based" means that their mission is to make healing arts (yoga, tai chi, mediation, and massages)  accessible to everyone. They also want to make sure that Just B is not just a yoga studio but a kind of community center for the Lansing area. This isn't just a business, but a place that belongs to everybody. They run a community garden behind the building, and do a lot of series, workshops, events, and partnerships with other experts and organizations to promote healthy living and body image/self-love. Just B also offers some unique and interesting classes for people who are concerned about fitting in or just want to try something different. There's a free Community Yoga class on Wednesday evenings, a 2eXceL class for big and tall people on Thursday nights, a Hip Hop Power Hour on Friday afternoons, and they just started an LGBTQ Yoga Flow class on Saturday afternoons.

"Donation Driven" means that there are no set fees. The suggested donation is $8, but you can pay more or less than that. Or not at all. But I'd say most people who come here benefit so much from it that they're eager to show their appreciation by paying. And Ma wouldn't abide by me taking advantage of someone's services for free anyway, so I pay too.

Me and Tara

I love this place and I'm glad that  I started my yoga practice here. I've been taking their softest classes all semester: Yoga Basics (taught by Belinda on Friday mornings) and  Yin and Ying Yoga  (taught by Tara on Monday evenings). Let me emphasize that "soft" does not always mean "easy". And the Empower Yoga class that I tried today was anything but easy. But I can say that every class I have taken here was rewarding.

Belinda and Me
I'm really sad to be leaving this safe place with kind people, but I will be back in August! In the meantime, I highly recommend that you check this place out!