a day.

IMG_0405

This is the only photo I took during the day today. (And Mrs. Crappy won’t be happy to see this one.)

It wasn’t for a lack of opportunities. On the surface, this was an amazing day, mostly because Mrs. Crappy had a rare Sunday off and I was able to spend the entire day with her: outdoor yoga, outdoor lunch, pool time and a party on the Mon Wharf with friends, cold beer and a few of our favorite food trucks.

But life is rarely that simple, right?

I know I’m not the only person who got really angry yesterday as I took in everything that happened in Virginia (I’m confident that I’m not betraying any standards of journalism ethics when I say I find white supremacists of any variety abhorrent). And although Mrs. Crappy and I had a terrific night by a backyard campfire last night, I woke up under the same dark clouds I allowed to build the day before.

And when I let those clouds to gather, they tend to hang around. I can’t say my shitty mood this morning was responsible for everything that happened today, but I think it’s probably tough to separate all of these things from the negative energy I was oozing this morning:

  • Charlie knocking over a giant cup of cold brew coffee — full of sticky half and half — on the living room floor.
  • Noticing a mouse that seemed to be in distress lying in our driveway.
  • Noticing that the mouse had died in the same spot by the time we returned.
  • Sort of losing my wallet as we tried to depart for the pool.
  • Mrs. Crappy getting stung on the toe by a bee as we walked back to our umbrella after our first dip in the pool.

Was any of this a direct consequence of my shitty mood this morning? No. But:

Ashley, one of my two favorite yoga teachers, has been touching on the four yamas in the last month; they’re at the start of Patanjali’s eight limbs of the broader Yoga, and they serve as a guide for ethical conduct for those following the yogic path. The fourth yama is Brahmacharya, literally, behavior that leads to Brahman, or the highest divinity. Patanjali’s definition of Brahmacharya is pretty narrow and pretty specific to his time: Celibacy.

Yes, that’s since been reinterpreted. Ashley has talked about tailoring our actions towards the divine — definitely a goal worth pursuing. But an interpretation that is perhaps more accessible is this: The right use of energy.

And wow, that goes a long way towards explaining how today unfolded. I am a news guy; I was that way before I chose this as a profession. I’ll never be able to step away completely from what I see, read and cover — it’s part of who I am, and it always will be. And this weekend was tough. I’m a veteran and I think I’m pretty patriotic … and seeing this garbage happen in my country is deeply offensive, to the point where it feels like a physical wound.

But here’s the thing: it feels that way because I let it feel that way. When something like this happens — and, I’m afraid, it’s going to happen a lot in the next couple years — I’m always going to feel the way I felt this weekend, at least initially. After that impulse, though, I can control my reaction … and I didn’t do that today.

Not at first, anyway. When Kelly got stung, she shouted — and that sort of snapped me out of all of the other crap that had been cluttering my brain all day. We got her some ice (thanks to the kids at the Avonworth pool for their help) and pretty quickly she felt better enough to take a nap in the warm, late afternoon sun.

I knew later that my mental clouds had passed, when I realized that I had to walk back to my car to grab my regular glasses that I forgot to bring to the wharf party. If I’m in a bad mood, that’s the kind of dumb little thing that can spoil a day for me; this afternoon, it did not. I recognized that I was in a cool space, among friends, and the walk back to the parking garage was insignificant.

I need to find that more, because that’s the right use of energy.

I’m now at home. I’ve had a stunning bottle of beer.

IMG_0406

I’ve hung out a bit with my cat.

IMG_0407

And, thankfully, I didn’t let at shitty start to the day — and all of the weirdness that followed — get in the way of a great Sunday.

Advertisements

yogaversary.

IMG_5991

Two years ago Sunday, I walked down the hill in Grandview Park on Mount Washington, accompanied by some pretty significant misgivings, for my first yoga class. In spite of my nerves, that morning was close to perfect: sunny and warm, but not at all uncomfortable.

Two years later — on Sunday morning — I walked down same hill under a stack of gray, drizzling clouds, and headed for the bandstand, which would shelter us from the rain that was starting to strengthen. And feeling none of the apprehension I had in 2014.

***

I’ve written before about what I felt before that first class, and how it translated to a mental block I had constructed for myself over the last year. I wrapped up the workshop weekend feeling confident that I was going to work through that block — the one about doing shoulder stand — but at that point, I hadn’t done it yet.

Here’s what happened since: I did it. With a lot of help.

One of my teachers, Holly, definitely read the part of the wrap-up post where I said I needed to have a stronger core; in the very next class I had with her, she hammered us with core work — and then stood over my mat while explaining that that’s probably what I should expect when I wrote about needed more core work. I’m almost positive that I could hear her smirking while she spoke … but I don’t know for sure because I had too much sweat dripping in my eyes.

Starting the Saturday after Chrissy Carter was in town, my other teacher, Ashley, started a three-week series of classes built to prep her Saturday Morning Yoga Party students for … wait for it … shoulder stand.

The coincidence is incredible, right?

This involved a more core work, plus extra time opening shoulders so we’d have a strong platform to build from. On the second Saturday, Ashley hauled out the chairs — backless versions of the basic metal folding chairs we all know — for prep work for the Week Three climax. Part of this was using the chairs to help us into halasana, a pretty common jumping-off point for shoulder stand.

chrissy chairAnd that’s when it changed. Ashley was sitting right next to me, ready to help swing my legs all the way over my head; as I started, I said, out loud, “I don’t think I’ll be able to do this” … as I tucked my legs into my chest and then straightened them out to the seat of the chair behind my head.

I could have done shoulder stand right then, but I was so surprised at myself and the strength I didn’t know I had that I sort of forgot what I was doing.

But I didn’t forget the following Saturday.  when Ashley brought out the chairs again, I did what Chrissy demonstrated in her workshop. I even felt like I could have held it for a while.

The fear was gone, replaced by the strength I needed to really do the pose for the first time. Another thing had vanished, as well: the voice in my head that tries to convince me that I can’t do the thing I’m trying to do. There were two best parts about this process of the last month: the first is being able to set aside that voice — even if only for a little while — and doing what I wanted to do.

The other best part? If you guessed it was getting shoulder stand, you’re incorrect. The other best part is that my two teachers took it upon themselves to help me get there. I’ve mentioned this before: this is my yoga family. For some reason, the universe took me up to Mount Washington for that first outdoor class two years ago. It also took me up that long flight of stairs to BYS the following August. That’s where I was supposed to be; these are the people — all the teachers and all the people I practice with — I am supposed to accompany as we all walk this path together.

This is home.

***

After we wrapped up Sunday’s class under the bandstand, I told Ashley and Kristi that I wanted a picture with the two of them, to commemorate my second anniversary.

FullSizeRender

As is often the case with these people, I got more; I wasn’t the only one celebrating an anniversary. As the director at BYS, Kristi was one of the first to offer outdoor classes in Pittsburgh, now a pretty common thing here through the summer. Ashley walked into her first class at BYS ten years ago this week. And Ashley’s mom, Dee, started with an outdoor class a few years before I did.

So I got a photo with four yogis, and four anniversaries. And I got a final bit of wisdom from Kristi:

IMG_6001

Always take the jumping pic. Always. See?

Happy anniversary, yoga family. And thank you, so much.

showtime.

IMG_5345.JPG

That’s Chrissy.

IMG_5346.JPG
If you need proof that I was there, check out the guy in the blue bandana.

And this is the pose — a variation of it, anyway — that caused me to freak out a bit while trying to decide whether to attend Chrissy’s workshop this weekend.

Here’s your spoiler alert: I am so happy I did.

My yoga workshop weekend, Day Two:

I knew going in that I didn’t have the core strength to hold a full version of shoulder stand on my own. But that’s not really what I wanted to accomplish anyway. In a class about a year ago, we did some inversion kind of stuff at the wall; I remember leaving that class feeling that inversions were something attainable. But in the time since, I lost that confidence and enthusiasm, and more importantly, I lost a sense of how inversions felt. In my regular classes we occasionally do a block-supported thing kind of similar to shoulder stand, but my legs feel like I’m treading water in a swimming pool. Without feeling the weight, I didn’t have a feel for how the pose should work. I wanted to recover that, and I wanted to remove the barriers I had constructed in my head.

As we packed up to head home after Saturday’s second session, I spoke with Chrissy a bit about being excited and nervous about the shoulder stand class. That was the right thing to do; she made a point of checking on me as she got us warmed up and explained out our options for the pose. They included doing shoulder stand from a chair — that’s the demonstration above — which I am (now, after the fact) dying to try.

I opted to approach from bridge pose — one I’m comfortable with — set up on the wall. That was a great way to do it; I could still feel how the full pose plays with gravity — the weight in my shoulders and upper arms, and the strength I’ll need in my core to hold my legs in place — while in the relative security of the modified pose.

And that was the successful end of our two-hour trip. Listening to someone talk in detail about how the pose works removed the mystery behind it; getting my legs in the air gave me back my sense of how the pose should feel. I still need to do the core work, and I will. I’m excited to keep trying, because of the workshop.

And that’s the point, right? For me, this wasn’t just about the pose (although I would be lying if I tried to tell you that eventually getting to shoulder stand isn’t a thing for me), it’s about understanding the pieces of shoulder stand and then getting back a sense of how the pose feel. Mysteries dispelled, fears dissipated.

And the best thing: taking a step outside of my comfort zone and — with the support of my teachers and friends — trusting that it would work.

It did. It was amazing. And I’m grateful that I had the chance.

a learning experience.

IMG_5313

My yoga workshop weekend, Day One:

  • I got better in crow and learned some tweaks with my hands and arms that will help as I move toward other arm balances.
  • My core needs to be stronger.
  • Practicing with my teachers is inspiring — they are strong and fearless — and reassuring — they struggle with some of this stuff too.
  • I have a pretty good idea of where to not to go for a quick lunch on Carson Street. A slow lunch might be OK, though; I’ll let you know as soon as my food shows up.
  • I realized in this afternoon’s discussion of the yoga sutras — kind of the philosophy behind a complete yoga practice, rather than just the physical postures — exactly how much the mental side of the practice has helped me, especially in the last few weeks.
  • I’m still scared and excited and scared about tomorrow’s shoulderstand session.
  • I love my studio and my yoga family is awesome.
  • And so is Chrissy Carter.

See you back there tomorrow, yinz guys.

nerves.

first yoga

I took that shot as I awaited the start of my very first real yoga class.

I was nervous. Nervous enough that I almost didn’t get seated in the grass. Nervous enough that I almost left.

I had been through a couple of demonstration classes at Venture Outdoors Fest two weeks before; I did those with a friend, and I enjoyed them enough that I talked myself into following up with a studio. I met a woman who owned a studio in Bellevue, just a few minutes from my house at the festival, and geography made that choice a natural one. But I also picked up a flier for a summer-long series of classes — at Grandview Park on Mount Washington and in the little park at South Side Works — and those sounded interesting too.

They were interesting enough, in fact, that that’s where I headed for my first yoga class.

And I was fine with that decision. Until I got there.

I parked and walked up the crest of a hill in the park, the one you have to walk over to really get a look at the stunning view of Pittsburgh over there on the other side of the Mon.

I should have noticed the downtown skyline; what I noticed instead was all of the athletic-looking people — mostly women, and all at least 20 years younger than me — walking over the hill with me.

“I do not belong here,” I thought as I slowed my pace up the hill to a shuffle. “I am too old to start this. And I should just go home.”

I froze on the top of the hill, seconds away from turning around, chucking my brand new mat in the back of my car and heading to Carson Street to find a breakfast suitable for a fat old guy.

What kept me from leaving? I met the guy who was signing people in for the class, an instructor at BYS who appeared to be about my age and then seeing two friends who had already unrolled their mats and were waiting for the class to begin.

Seeing friends there was good. Seeing someone there who reminded me of, well, me — and a yoga teacher, no less — was even better. I was still nervous. But I stayed.

It’s been nearly two years since that class. There were more that summer, and more after than in the studio. Yoga — both in the broad sense and specifically with my teachers and my friends at what has become, without question, my studio — is now a pretty important part of my life.

And, oddly, as I approach this weekend, I’m feeling a little bit like I did when I walked up to that first class on June 1, 2014.

I’m signed up for three workshops with a visiting teacher on Saturday and Sunday. And I’m nervous about it.

The situation is a little different this time. Before that first class, I really had no idea what we would be doing. But I know pretty much exactly what’s coming in two of the three sessions, and one of those — Sunday’s shoulderstand workshop — is massively intimidating.

I know how this is going to go — we’ll break down poses into their component pieces, and I’ll be ready to do them or not — and this isn’t the same kind of doubt I felt two years ago. Part of what I’m feeling is excitement. But for the first time in a long time, I’m also feeling a little anxious about going to the studio as well.

No, I’m not going to turn around before I get to the top of the stairs at BYS. I’m not going to skip out on the workshop for a breakfast at Piper’s. Even if I’m feeling like a new guy again.

1. hey.

yogurt

I used to do this as a matter of course.

But it’s been years since I’ve regularly written stuff here, much less successfully completed a National Blog Posting Month month. I’m not sure why I’ve neglected a tool that I used to appreciate so much — perhaps it’s because my jobs came to too closely resemble what I used to do here — but over the last several years, that’s what’s happened.

So I’m going to try to have some fun with Uncle Crappy — the blog — this month. NaBloPoMo used to be a thing I did regularly; I even remember approaching that first November with some trepidation about mustering one post a day for an entire month … and then coming up with something like 36 posts in the course of a month.

NaBloPoMo_2015I have no idea whether I have 36 posts in me this month. I have no idea whether I have 30 posts in me this month. And, frankly, I have no idea whether NaBloPoMo is even still a thing these days. (If you read this and you’re doing it too, leave me a comment, willya?)

But I’m going to give this a try.

Folks who have been reading here for a long time will know some of this stuff. For the rest of you: By way of an introduction, here are 10 things you might read about during the course of the month.

Weather. I’m kind of a freak about the weather. And we’re solidly in the middle of my favorite time of year, weather(and other)wise.

Diabetes. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, this is a new development. I’m doing pretty well with my goal of not letting diabetes define who I am, but there are moments of frustration, like the one I experienced today: Hungry, standing in a Sheetz in eastern Ohio and understanding that there is basically nothing in the entire building that I can eat. I get that from time to time; in other instances, I’m able to convince myself that a bowl of raspberries and plain Greek yogurt is every bit as good as a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Of note this month: As we approach the holidays, the diabeetus is going to make things interesting.

Food. No, I’m not trying to be funny. I love cooking. I love eating. And the fun part of my diagnosis has been searching for healthier alternatives to replace some of the crap I can no longer get away with eating. My favorite so far: Whole wheat flatbread pizza with onions and turkey pepperoni.

Beer. This is also a challenge, given the diabeetus, because I still need to keep up with my professional obligations. On my own time, the solution is easy: Drink much less, but drink much better.

Yoga. If there’s something on this list that should define me, it’s this. It’s been a tough fall, because work and our trips to Columbus have really taken away from the time I would spend in the studio, and I notice the absence, physically and — especially — mentally and emotionally. That’ll get better this month, because we travel only two weekends … and man, I need it. I am a different person now than I was 18 months ago because of yoga and the things that come with it, and I can’t wait to really jump back in.

Football. Mrs. Crappy and I are Ohio State football season ticket holders and in the fall, traveling back and forth to Columbus kind of overshadows everything else. We love it — especially the tailgate parties, which we manage for my folks — but by this point of the season, it can be exhausting. You may also hear about my long-tortured existence as a Cleveland Browns fan. My mostly successful plan for enjoying the current NFL season: Caring less means more fun.

Football (other). I had a brief flirtation with Aston Villa a few years ago, but that was based on common ownership with the Browns … so, naturally, that turned out to be a disaster. Over the past two years, I’ve undergone a more organic Premier League selection process, which has reached this final, carved-in-stone conclusion: Liverpool. On the domestic side, this process has been much easier: Columbus ’til I die.

Music. I can’t overstate the importance of music in my life, from the chill stuff that Kristi plays in her yoga classes to the hippie music that has occupied a huge portion of my life since, uh, junior high school. Coming this month: bluegrass, Johnny Rotten, the annual return of Christmas music and a buildup to a Keller Williams show in early December.

Pittsburgh. I grumble about Pittsburgh during football season, but the secret is that I love being here: the places, the social life and especially all of you. And here’s a not-so-closely-held secret: Pittsburgh during the holiday season is magical.

Mrs. Crappy. I saved the best one for last.