Saturday, September 28, 2013

Laugh the Pain Away

Ma came to visit me for the first time this semester. Sometimes I joke about my mom being my best friend and the only person who enjoys hanging out with me, like it's a sad thing. But I'm actually glad that we're so close. We've endured a lot of pain together that has drawn us closer. No one understands what we've gone through like we do.
Even amidst unthinkable suffering, people sometimes day, "One day we're going to laugh about this." Today, Ma and I did. Over 10 years have passed and we are able to laugh at those painful memories and the causes of our mutual suffering that still live on today. It's not that it doesn't hurt anymore. It's just that we've been sufficiently removed from those hard times so that we can now look back at what happened, accept what it was, and laugh in its face.
Maybe one day, if we keep laughing, there will be no pain left to feel. Maybe, just like how circumstances and certain people have made us feel small, we can whittle the pain down with our laugter. Whittle it down until it withers and fades,  until it dims and dwindles, folding into itself and eventually disappearing. Leaving nothing behind but light hearts and peace of mind.
Until then Ma and I continue forward, laughing together along the way.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Knick Knack, Paddy Whack, Give a Dog a Home.

I went to orientation this past Saturday, but today was my first official day as a volunteer at Capital Area Humane Society. Why help at an animal shelter, you ask? While I was in Japan, one of my senseis asked me what causes I really care about. "Animals" was the first thing that popped into my head. "And what do you do to help animals?" Well... nothing. So then I decided that very day that once I returned to the States and school started again, I'd start volunteering at an animal shelter. And that's what I've done.

My volunteer t-shirt and my elephant earrings
I have always loved animals, and I owe that in part to my parents who let me have pets when I was a child. They didn't want me to have any large, furry animals (I didn't get my dog until I was 10), so they let me have frogs, toads, and turtles instead. Yes, while other little girls in elementary school were fawning over their fluffy puppies, kitties, and bunnies, I spent my time looking after amphibians and reptiles. And I wasn't disappointed about it at all; I was just happy to have a pet. Now that I've started at CAHS, I recognize how valuable that experience has been to me. I am fully convinced that letting your child have a pet is one of the best things you can do for them. They learn about self-worth, about organization, responsibility, and most of all, they learn to care for creatures other than themselves. And those lessons stay with them as they grow up.

For my first day at the shelter: I walked 2 dogs, started to walk a 3rd dog but had to put her back because she was too energetic for me, spent some TLC time with a 4th dog, then tried playing with cats for 20 minutes.

My injuries: I was nipped at a couple times, got a mosquito bite on the back of my neck, and received a scratch on my thigh from a kitty who was a little too excited to meet me.

In short: My first day volunteering at CAHS was fantastic. I can't wait to go back!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Night Walk 3

I cross campus heading west. A girl talks on her phone while walking with a pair of friends: "I wish I was being more social."
At least you have friends to walk with you at night while you're being insufficiently social.

Near the campus hotel.  A guy passes me, phone attached to ear, who apparently hadn't watched the game today: "Are we winning? Wait... what? They won? Are you serious? Ohmygod..."
So much for an undefeated season.

I exit campus, turn a corner, wander down a street heading back east. This is the Avenue of Gaieties, Wasted Money and Well-Spent Time.

A quick stop at a popular spot, known for its cloudy and slightly sweet tea of Taiwanese origin. Young white employees work with laid-back dispositions. The music playing in the background challenges all customers present, "I've been getting money, where the f*ck you been?"

In the front corner of this popular tea spot, a girl assures her three friends over a game of Apples to Apples, "Divorce isn't so bad, really."
Yes, I suppose there are worse things.
"My mom has been divorced twice."
Guess people don't always learn the first time.

L1C4 even in EL

I went down to the caf this evening and was already excited enough about the mushroom filled/flavored foods on the menu. But THEN I went to the fruit station, where a caf worker dude took one look at the red UofL shirt I was wearing, threw up the "L", and yelled "GO CARDS!"

Day. made.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Night Walk 2

I pass the library, which is looming yet empty. The fountains in front of it perform a duet as their waters go slapping away. It is as if their droplets and waves are playing a children's hand-clapping game with each other.

From outside the music building I hear a tuba playing upstairs. Inside, first floor, a bass. Downstairs and down the halls, an alto sax, then a piano, then a clarinet, then a violin. Each in their own rooms, playing music quickly then softly, slowly then loudly. Making mistakes and stopping to collect themselves, making mistakes and continuing on, making no mistakes at all.

I leave the building and keep walking, turn a few corners, go the wrong way, turn around. A guy and a girl are dancing near some bike racks. In the moonlight/streetlight, jumping and spinning and gyrating to some "hit" song that no one will remember in 3 years. They see me coming, watching them. But they are joyous and are thus in no hurry to regain their composure as they shuffle out of my away.

Heading "home", I cross paths with a group of friends retreating from the Avenue of Gaieties, Wasted Money and Well-Spent Time. A girl yells at one of her guy friends, "No, Kyle! I will NOT marry you!"

Friday, September 13, 2013

REO Town Art Attack!

To start off, I apologize for not writing about this event until a week after the fact, but as it happens every year, schoolhasdevouredmylife. Anyway, last Saturday I went to a really cool event in Lansing called REO Town Art Attack! It's a small but lively art festival whose aim is not only to celebrate art, but to bring art and the local community together. Vendors from various local art and wellness-related shops were there, along with artists from all over Michigan. A number of bands and musicians also performed.

My favorite, the TV head
The real spectacle of the festival, however, was the art competition. A group of artists had 9 hours to take items of junk from a wagon and make art out of it. Creating beauty from rubbish was their mission, you could say. But this wasn't you're ordinary timed create-something competition. All the participants were so chill about it. There was no rush. There were no competitive vibes. And coolest of all, these artists weren't off limits. You could stand by and watch, or you could go up and talk to them. Some would even let you help them with their work. The whole thing was fascinating. It was hard to tell who was involved in the competition because there were multiple projects going on alongside each other and artists kept moving around between them. But in all there were three beauty-from-rubbish projects, four graffiti projects, one paint (cityscape) project, and a couple airbrush (portrait) projects.

Just B Yoga also had tent space at Art Attack!. I was the studio's marketing intern for all of a week (don't ask), and my first and last big project was to walk around the festival and take pictures of people doing yoga poses as a prelude to an upcoming yoga-art project. Sounds pretty cool right? It was definitely more fun than I'd expected. B said she needed me to be aggressive and as extroverted as possible, and that's what I was. I usually don't talk to people I don't know, but I went up to complete strangers with no problem. I introduced myself, told them who I was with and what we were doing, and you know what? I actually convinced people to do yoga poses for photos! Some of these people had never done yoga before and I had to show them what to do, but they were still willing to do it! It was awesome. We got a total of 20-30 photos that day. Meanwhile, B and Tara were doing yoga on the sidewalk to attract people. They also caught a couple photos of me.

It's funny, though. As soon as everybody from Just B packed up and left, and my job was over I returned to my regular self. Walking around the festival, minding my own business, trying to stay out of people's way, not trying to talk to too many people. It was like there had been a switch inside of me; I switched on for the task at hand, but once that was over I switched off  and was back to normal. Just like that. Now that I think about it I probably do that to some extent everyday, but it has never been as striking to me as it was on Saturday.

To be honest I hadn't been excited about having to spend 3-4 hours of my Saturday at this festival I'd never heard of before. But I really had a great time at Art Attack!. So many beautiful creations, and beautiful people. A little rain, and much more sunshine. And all the while, a bunch of folks with good attitudes who just wanted to enjoy the day.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Nothing Else You Can Do About It.

Every now and then things happen and I just have to say to myself, "You know what, I'm still alive aren't I? And isn't that enough? That's more than enough." All things end up working out anyway.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Do the Yoga: Red Lotus Yoga

I said a while ago that I'd write about my secondary home studio, and now's the time. Last Saturday was my last day practicing at Red Lotus Yoga before going back to school. I practiced here before and after I went to Japan this summer.

I like this gem a lot, but in a different way than I like my first gem.

Red Lotus Yoga
1900 S. Livernois #A
Rochester Hills, MI

Red Lotus Yoga is a huge studio, or at least the biggest I've ever been in. It's beautifully furnished, impeccably clean, and houses two studio rooms: a smaller Studio A, and a much larger Studio B.

Studio A
As far as pricing goes, you can pay by month or by series of classes. Walk-in prices ranges from $10-$16. (Their website says $16, but lately I've only had to pay $10, so I'm not sure which price is more accurate.)

Studio B

"Where Yoga Comes to Life"
Red Lotus's slogan is "Where Yoga Comes to Life". One of the things I appreciate most about the place is how some of the instructors often include personal facts or stories about themselves that help students to apply the concepts expressed in class to their own lives. Lynne, the Yin Yoga instructor whom I've quoted every now and then, is particularly skilled at this. Nick (Slow Flow, Slow Flow Vinyasa) doesn't say much about himself, but he always plays a couple soothing melodies on his guitar while we lay in corpse pose at the end of his class. Other instructors I've had are Brian (the owner; Slow Flow Vinyasa), Julie (Slow Flow), Megan (Slow Flow), and Fred (Slow Flow).

As you can see, most of the classes at Red Lotus are Slow Flow and Vinyasa. But the studio also offers Basic Yoga, Gentle Yoga, Yin, Rise & Shine, Short Form Ashtanga, Hot Vinyasa, and Loving Kindness Yoga classes. RLY also runs its own yoga school, The Red Lotus School of Yoga, through which people can learn more about yoga and wellness in addition to becoming certified yoga teachers.

If I had to say one negative thing about the place, it would be that I'm a little confused about Red Lotus Yoga's message. It calls itself a community and maintains that yoga is for every body, as many yoga studios do. RLY is certainly a welcoming place, but I wonder to what extent it can actually be considered a community. If you mean "community" in terms of a place where the staff and instructors are nice-enough, fellow students are polite-enough, and teachers are helpful and do their best to attend to students' needs, then RLY is surely that. But if you mean "community" in terms of  a place whose people feel connected to each other, whose membership isn't socioeconomically exclusive, and whose students and staff usually have conversations that go significantly beyond first names, common pleasantries and yoga-related topics, then not so much. I'm learning that professing a "community" while lacking it in practice is a common issue for yoga studios, so I do not mean to single RLY out. It's just that because I'd gotten accustomed to a pretty non-traditional studio, seeing how a larger and more established studio in an affluent area works has come with certain observations and slight disappointments, that's all.

Again, I'm not knocking the place. Red Lotus Yoga is great, and I love going there! Everyone has those days where you want to just do you and not be bothered. So if you want to go to a studio with reasonable prices, check-in, not have to talk to folks too much if you don't want to, do work on your mat, pack up, and leave feeling amazing, then this place is awesome. If you want a studio that feels a little more homey, where it's easier to get to know people, then RLY might not meet that expectation.

Overall, Red Lotus Yoga is a pretty cool place to practice. I don't look anything like the white, middle to upper class majority of people who also practice at Red Lotus Yoga. However, whether teacher or student, I've never received any words, looks, gestures, or vibes from anyone that sent the message,  "You shouldn't be here." And as business-like as it might feel, Red Lotus's people are pleasant and it's hard to beat the quality of physical and life lessons one gains from the studio. You not only move your body, but you feel and learn. If you're ever in the Rochester Hills area, check this place out!

"Detroit, Jazz, and You!"

I decided to go home for this Labor Day weekend, and yesterday Ma and I went to the Detroit Jazz Festival (DJF)! Neither of us had been before, but I'm glad that we finally got out of the house and decided to go this year. We had a great time!

Michael Weiss Quintent
Mack Avenue SuperBand

The three acts we were able to see were Michael Weiss Quintet, Mack Avenue SuperBand, and The Delfeayo Marsalis Octet. The Quintet was alright, the Octet was better, but Mack Avenue SuperBand? Those men were on fire! I didn't catch the beginning of their set, but once I found them I stood for nearly an hour listening to the rest. The eight-member, highly-skilled SuperBand features famed saxophonist Kirk Whalum and legendary vibraphonist Gary Burton. A variety of pieces were played, some by well-known composers and some that were composed by individual members of the band. Whalum being a preacher's kid, the band also played its own versions of two gospel songs: Donnie McClurkin's "Speak to My Heart" and the classic "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me". These men were so much fun to listen to! The way they played, it was like they were having a conversation with you via the music; putting a fire in your chest, heightening your senses. But then again, that's what I think jazz does. It invigorates people.

Delfeayo Marsalis Octet
Unfortunately, I don't have any video from today because I was enjoying the music too much to try  shooting anything decent. I had taken my video camera with me, but I figured juggling that and my photo camera would be a hassle, so I didn't bother. I don't yet have that knack for jumping on opportunities and pulling my camera out to film things just as they go down or get good. Basically, I just  need to stop being lazy, get out more often, and shoot things! I've been thinking that I might use my video camera just when I travel anyway, but that's neither here nor there.

DJF continues through Monday September 2nd, so if you happen to be in town, head to Hart Plaza to join in on the fun!