Yogaholic

It was when Maher and I lived in Lebanon that I started to attend yoga classes on a regular basis. It went from 1 session a week, to 3, then 5, and eventually up to 7 or 8.

I started at the Sivananda Centre, two doors down from my flat in Gemmayze. It was interesting, and gave my knees and ankles a break; it seemed to strengthen and balance out the damage that my other physical activities were causing. But the Sivananda didn’t manage to captivate my wandering, hyper-active mind and body.

A few months later, I heard about a 4 day Jivamukti workshop hosted at the Sivananda Centre. It was taught by a couple of teachers from New York. I managed to get into the last session. The room was packed. The yoga was HARD. Halfway through the two hours, my clothes were soaked in sweat. The teachers talked about alignment, the flow of breath and movement. We did related postures in sequences that reminded me of dance; and played with some of the wilder poses. I was challenged. And immediately hooked.

It turned out that the woman who organised the workshop was one of their students, and that she’d just moved back to Beirut from NY. So that’s how I met Dani Abisaab. One of my first teachers. It took me a few more months to get to one of her classes, but once I did, I stalked her around Beirut. She beamed me a smile every time I entered the room. I was welcome in her space. I focused on every word she said, and I paced my countless after-class questions so as not to annoy her! She was never phased. Always calm. Under control. I was sure she could hear my mad inner thoughts screaming and running around.

Much later, Dani started a Sunday evening class at the Sivananda Centre. Of course, I was there every weekend.

My Mondays were no longer as daunting as they’d been all my life.

That’s when on some days of the week, I took 2 classes a day. I kept up with some Sivananda, and even some Ashtanga Vinyasa with different teachers.

When I left Lebanon at the beginning of 2006, to join Maher who’d already moved to China a few months prior, I made a pit stop in Mysore. By then I’d already decided to focus on Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.

Dani’s challenging, well-prepared, interesting and informative Vinyasa classes were a solid base both for that, and for my Teacher Training later that year.

After years of being out of touch, we’ve recently discovered each others blogs. Check out hers: Yogaholic. http://danielleabisaab.blog.com

While she is back in NY attending yet another Teacher Training, she’s kindly hosting one of my posts: “Jet-Lagged in Montreal”. http://danielleabisaab.blog.com/2012/01/18/jet-lagged-in-montreal-2/

Three Cheers for Family: A Guest Post by Maro Adjemian

As part of the series : A Monday Morning Guest Post in Multicultural Mothering

Maro: I speak English, French, Spanish (although it’s getting rusty), and not as much Italian as I should. I grew up in small towns not far from Ottawa, first on the Quebec side and then on the Ontario side, but my background and extended family reach from Armenia to Hawaii. My husband, Eric, was born in Montreal to Italian parents. He speaks English, French, Italian (although he denies it, since he doesn’t think his grandparents’ dialect counts), and a bit of Spanish.

We have a baby girl, Myriam, who was born in March 2011. She’s working on her consonants these days- baba, dada, ida, lida, nana… but I’m not sure which language, exactly. I’m not sure she knows, either.

Three Cheers for Family

Yesterday, Myriam and I went to visit her Nonno (grandfather in Italian).  He came to the door to let us in, and immediately bent down to see M in her stroller.

“Myriam! Come stai?”

She beamed and waved her arms in excitement.

He plucked her out of her stroller and peeled her snowsuit off of her, tossed her up in the air a few times while she shrieked with joy, and then handed her an orange to play with. She was delighted.  As an afterthought, he said, “Hi, Maro, how are you?”  M didn’t even look at me. She was engrossed in her orange.

My father-in-law retired this year, just in time to become an eager and available babysitter.  He took fine arts in University once upon a time, and used to do ceramics. He still has his potter’s wheel and equipment, and a couple of years ago he gave me pottery lessons at my request. Now, we go and visit once a week. M hangs out with her Nonno, and I work on my pottery. It’s a win-win-win arrangement. I’m not sure who enjoys their time together more: M or Nonno. And I treasure the couple of hours a week I have to spin a wheel and get lost in my thoughts without worrying about my baby. It’s nice to have an opportunity to zone out and completely lose track of time in the way artistic creation allows you to do.

I grew up 5000 kilometers away from all four of my grandparents, so I never had the sort of relationship with them that my daughter has with hers. We wrote letters to them, and spoke on the phone, and once a year they came and visited us or we went and visited them. I always felt close to my extended family. I never really thought about what a difference it would make if we lived close by.

I never really expected my kids to live close to their grandparents, either. As a child, I used to proudly tell people that on my father’s side of the family there had been one immigration per generation for the past four generations. People would ask me, “And will you continue the trend and be the fifth generation to emigrate somewhere?” and I would reply, “probably”.  I used to flip through my parents’ National Geographic collection and dream about all the places I could go.  When we were little, my brother and I played a game with our globe. We took turns spinning it as fast as we could, and then letting one finger drag on its surface as it turned. Wherever that finger landed when the globe stopped spinning is where we would live.  Often, of course, we ended up living in the Pacific Ocean. But many other possibilities also presented themselves.

A decade or so later I went to University and studied International Development, and then Geography. I assumed I would end up living somewhere in Africa or Latin America, at least for a few years. It’s funny how life happens to you. You take one step after another as they present themselves, and you often end up somewhere very different from where you expected to find yourself. I read somewhere once that life is like “stepping stones in the fog”. You only see one at a time, and you step forward not knowing where the trail of stepping stones will lead you in the end.

And so here I am, living in a Canadian city where I have spent most of the past twelve years, surrounded by extended family. Almost all of E’s family lives in Montreal, and in the past couple of years my parents and two sisters moved here. Myriam sees her entire extended family on a very regular basis and she’s only 8 months old. And I think it’s great. It’s convenient and wonderful to have excited and available family members around who can babysit when I need to do something or go somewhere baby-less. After Myriam was born they filled up our fridge with good food and helped clean our apartment. When we visit them, they play with her and give E and I a chance to eat dinner uninterrupted. The traditional family support system makes a lot of sense.

When I thought about being the fifth generation of immigration in my family, I thought mostly about the benefits of living in another part of the world. The richness of leaning different languages and getting to know other people and cultures, as many of you guest posters have talked about.  I didn’t think about the richness of living surrounded by family in a familiar place and culture. Right now I’m happy to be here, both for the extra help and support it gives us, and because of the relationship my little one can have with her doting extended family.

“If you are happy, be happy. If you are angry, be angry.”

Here’s a piece of a blog-entry: “Gratitude, Shmatitude”, by jmlindy of Snide Reply. She’s a mum, a teacher, and a writer, among other things. The post is a good read, and her blog a good one to bookmark.

Check it out here: http://jlwrite.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/gratitude-schmatitude/
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One Christmas, my mother gave my siblings and me really nice fleece sweaters from Land’s End. Each sweater had a surprise in the pocket…a crisp large denomination bill. I decided to use my mom’s idea for my son. I found a cozy shearling-lined hoodie that I knew he’d like. I put a large denomination gift card in the pocket. I put it under the tree. He loved it. He looked for other presents. There were none. “That’s it?” he asked, “a hoodie?”

“It’s nice hoodie,” I said.

“It’s a hoodie,” he said. “I got a hoodie.”

“Put it on,” I said.

“Mom, it’s a hoodie. It’ll fit.”

“Just put it on. It was expensive. I want to see if it looks good on you.”

“Fine,” he said. I figured he’d put his hands in the pockets, the way everyone does when they try on a hoodie. He stood in front of me, arms limp at his sides, disappointment draining from his pores.

“There,” he said. “It’s on. It’s a hoodie.”

“Look in the freaking pockets,” I said.

Some Music for the Birthday Girl

My little cousin turned 23 yesterday. Here are a couple of YouTube videos (that’s I’m accessing via the proxy server),for you Saloni.

The first is a Talvin Singh electronic piece, Jaan, with beautiful vocals. I travel through enchanted worlds of love when I listen to it. I discovered it in 1998; when I was in Chennai taking dance lessons.

And the second is a TV5 show, again of Talvin Singh, but this time improvising with Angelique Kidjo. I found it today on YouTube, randomly.

Jaan because of Chennai, electronic music, and the vocals. And then, the Angelique Kidjo one because you know, strong female African performer!

Hope you enjoy it.

http://onolisa.tumblr.com Saloni’s blog: Everytime I visit, I dream big, I travel far, I’m beautiful inside and out, I’m hip, alive, and connected.

It’s no small feat, not only to be all that, but also to inspire those around you to feel it!

Thanks

Mum Connections

(First posted at How Do You Do It? http://www.hdydi.com as part of the “Food, Cooking, and Eating” Theme week.

A month ago, we had dinner at the Calgary Airport. What better restaurant to have our last meal in oil and beef-heaven than at a steakhouse?

The waitress greets us with a cheery smile, asks us how many we are. “Four adults, two children,” I answer, pointing out L and R. My parents are sending us off before they head to Montreal the next day. As the waitress walks us to a booth, she asks if I prefer high-chairs or booster-seats for the children.

“What are booster-seats?” I ask, fully aware of my ignorance. “Little seats that you can move around. They add height to any other regular seat,” she replies, without a hint of condescension.

The booster-seats sound perfect. My kids hate high-chairs.

“Great! Come on over this way. I’ll get the brown paper laid out first, and then bring out the crayons.” She smiles as she walks away in her black pants, and black t-shirt; her blond pony-tail bobbing along behind her.

“Here’s the crayons, and some menus. You need anything else, give me a shout. I’ll be back for the order in a few minutes,” she assures us. How wonderful! L and R sit at the table happily, unrestricted; and they draw pictures with my parents.

When she returns, Maher asks if she can suggest any vegetarian options for my mum. She pulls her pen out of her apron and uses it as a pointer, “There’s the garden salad, the coleslaw, there’s a veggie fajita, and we can do most any of the starters’ vegetarian. You just ask me, and I’ll request it in the kitchen.”

“Fantastic!” he replies.

“One chicken fajita should be enough for the two children right?” I ask her.

“Plenty. Portion’s big here.”

We place the rest of the order, and just before she turns around to leave, she asks if we want the fries out first. Maher and I looked at each other and then up at her. She understands. “Yes please, and the guacamole, and anything that’s ready. They’re hungry.” We didn’t mention that they won’t stay put for very long.

She smiles, winks, and asks, “They twins?”
“Yes, 23 months old,” I reply.
“I have three kids. A four year-old, and two year-old twins. All boys.” She says with a gleam in her eyes.
“Really? That’s wonderful. So you know!” I sigh with a sense of relief that sweeps across me.

I don’t usually stress out about being at a restaurant with my toddlers. In China it’s easy. Children are welcome everywhere, easy-going restaurants for sure, fancy places are no exception. The hosts, even the guests happily chat and play with them. That’s not to say that I’ve had any criticism in Canada over the last 3 weeks, neither in Montreal nor in Calgary; but it’s on my mind that they have to behave a bit differently. I do my best to keep the situation as much under-control as possible, without making a big deal out of it. And with my parents there to help, at least we’ll all get to eat. But the mess we leave is always bigger than at the other tables, and our sweet waitress is the one who’s got to take care of it.

My stress dissipates after she hangs out longer, and after she tells us about her children. I feel a connection with her just for being a Mum of Twins. It’s not rational. But she understands what it’s like to be at a restaurant with excited twin toddlers. She’s not fazed by their loud chatter, their need to switch seats as they spill the water, and their desire to reach for the knives.

Part way through the meal, L needs a change of diaper. As we walk back from the washroom, the appropriately positioned toy store – right across from the restaurant — with a large poster of a crocodile eating a monkey, sucks Leila in. Before long, Rahul and two adults in our group join her. 15 minutes into the discovery, and a number of different dynamics later, I am back at the restaurant finishing up my meal, with my mum. I pick at the colourful bell peppers and onions from the children’s fajita, after I’m done with my own dish. It’s time to go though; time to say goodbye to my parents. I ask for the bill.

While I pay, the sweet waitress and I have a little chat. She’s the kind of woman who calls you honey. Not in a patronising sense.

“Who helps you with the kids?” I ask.

“My husband. He takes care of them in the day while I’m here, and he works at night. I was just talking to my co-worker over there,” she tilts her head towards another waitress, “Was just tellin’ her it’s been a week since I saw him. ‘N’ we live in the same house.”

“Man, that’s not easy,” I sympathise. She looks up at me, shrugs her shoulders and smiles. That’s when I notice the dark circles around her eyes.

“Have a good flight!” She waves.

“Thanks, and good luck with it all,” I pat her shoulder, and push our over-packed stroller out of the restaurant.

My mum and I walk over to the crocodile and monkey toy shop to pick up the rest of the gang. We slowly make our way to the security check.

Just this morning, L and R talked about a crocodile eating a monkey.

Have you had random mum connections that you still remember?
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I had Desi of Valentine4:Living Each Day, in mind, the moment I was done writing this one. It’s for her. I read her most recent post, “Cry to Heaven,” last night, and felt helpless as she despairs. Sending her love. http://thevalentine4.com/2011/10/21/cry-to-heaven/

Pancakes, Chocolate Milk, and an Award.

I got an award. The Versatile Blogger Award. The last time I was awarded anything I was 16. So man was I shocked, and ecstatic! And it’s for my blogging. I only started doing this a few months ago. I’m a novice. It’s encouraging to know that someone is reading this stuff though, and even liking it.

The blogger who awarded it to me, whose blog, The Valentine 4 you have to check out, is a good, spirited writer. I stumbled upon it from a comment she made at another blog I was reading. I was immediately hooked to her strong, sensitive, and honest, writing style. So I subscribed.

She has two children, runs a household, runs a home daycare, runs races as a triathlete, does yoga, reads, writes both thought-provoking and thoughtful posts…Wow!

So back to the award. I told M immediately. I smiled, and thought of cart-wheeling, jumping up and down, and running around the house. Maybe I should have, but that morning R and L were doing enough damage.

The chocolate milk that was accidentally knocked off the table turned into on-purpose spilling. I cleaned it up while discussing the Zambian elections with my parents on Skype. Every time they said anything L sang a loud song in my ears.

I was also chatting with a friend in NY. He still had a few more hours in the evening to go, while we had just woken up. I grew up hanging out with him, in Zambia. He hoped the democratic process would win. In other news, he told me that a mutual friend and his wife would have twins soon. I was even more excited. R tapped the keyboard. Strange boxes appeared on the screen.

The computer crashed.

I was clearly trying too hard. And the whining and crying that went on a lot of the night, was worse. It was getting to me.

What we all needed was Savasana.

I walked into the kitchen where M was making pancakes. “I can’t handle it today. I’m going crazy….” I said this to him, almost shaking.

Our ayi (nanny) walked into the apartment at the same time.

“What do you want to do?” he asked.

“My Pranayama.” I replied.

“Ask xiao He (ayi) to give them a bath. Do your Pranayama in the spare room. Close the door. I’ll take them out for a walk,” he replied.

I was proud of myself for talking to him right then. For asking for help. Grateful for his response.

As I was doing my breath-work practice, R burst into the room naked from his bath. I froze. I didn’t want to erupt, not again today. Not now.

He gave me a sweet, long hug.

I melted.

Maher walked in, asked Rahul if he wanted to make R, L, and N shaped pancakes with him. Rahul rushed out of the room.

—-

A few days on, a little more calm, probably just because I’m the only one up in the house at this hour, I’m showing off my award!

The “award rules” state: Thank and link the blogger who awarded it to you. State 7 random things about yourself. Award it to 15 newly discovered blogs you enjoy. And let them know.

Here are my 7 things:

1. I used to be a classical Indian Bharatanatyam dancer. I went to Chennai, India right after high school for a three-month stint at a renowned dance school. I Chose to go to uni in Canada instead of continuing seriously with dance.

2. I was at an all girls dorm for my first year in uni. I was scared shit-less because it was the first time I would have to “deal” with girls. I have two brothers, a male cousin I used to hang out with, and mainly guy friends. Despite listening to the other girls on my floor whining about their boyfriend issues, and to my screaming neighbour if anyone woke her up after she went to bed at 8pm, she and others became some of my closest friends.

3. The last time I went “home,” to Zambia, was over 8 years ago.

4. I started to drive when I was 15 My brothers were even younger. I stopped at 17, when I left Zambia. I’ve changed many wheels, and fixed other basic car stuff. Now I don’t can’t drive or do any car related things.

5. I’ve bungee jumped off a 110m high bridge in Livingstone, and jumped out of a plane. With a parachute! And an experienced teacher.

6. I saw a psychic in Calgary.

7. I was under 5 years old when the car my dad was driving in the middle of the night, at high-speed, on an unlit highway from Lusaka to Livingstone over-turned. I was in the back seat. A family friend was next to my dad. I don’t know if I had my seat belt on. None of us were hurt.

And now, finally to the best part. Here are the 15 bloggers who get The Versatility Award:

OnoLisa
Tuesday2
Hedvig’s Permaculture Adventures

Momma Be Thy Name

Seana Smith
Peaches and Curry

Balance Yoga Wellness
Pakistani Ashtangi

Culinary Adventures


The next two are young cousins of mine who trusted me enough to start blogs!

Anu Madrid
Catawampus Kid

The next four are twin mum blogs that I have only occasionally dipped into, either because I have very recently discovered them, have two toddlers running around all day and up often at night, or because of the internet censorship with certain blog carriers like blogspot here in China.

Goddess in Progress
Double the Fun

Life Not Finished
Little Grovers

Thanks for reading, taking the time to comment and discuss, even like posts on my blog.

If you’re on this list, pass on the love.

Raksha bandan – bond of protection

When I lived in Zambia my family celebrated Raksha Bandan, a North Indian festival that honours the love between sisters’ and brothers’. It falls on a full moon in August every year.

My parents, aunts and uncles took a day off work, we a day off school. We dressed in traditional Indian clothes and jewelery, and gathered at one of the family homes.

My mum, aunts and I picked out beautiful rakhi’s weeks in advance. There is a range of choice, from simple threads to more extravagant ones with mirrors and gold fringes. A few years ago there was one that even played a popular Bollywood song. This year the fashionable rakhi’s have green, red, and shiny diamond-like stones on them. I usually chose the simplest threads and tied one around each of my brother’s and “cousin-brother’s” wrists. This gesture was to symbolise my love for them. In return my brothers’ had the duty of protecting me. From what I wasn’t always sure!

After I tied the rakhi, we hugged each other. I always whispered an awkward, “What are we doing guys? Do we need this string to symbolise our feelings?” I was the pain-in-the-ass, no fun girl who wasn’t into rituals, or Bollywood kitsch for that matter because it was over-done and the dances were corrupted versions of classical dances. So after the hugging, we fed each other sweets that my mum and aunts had prepared over the last week or two. My brothers’ then proudly offered me envelopes packed with notes.

Then it was my mum and aunts’ turn. They would tie rakhi’s around their “cousin-brother’s” wrist. He was the only one in Lusaka. They sent the others to India by mail, without fail.

My dad received his two rakhi’s in the mail, usually in good time. Since his sisters lived elsewhere it was my job to tie them. I got two envelopes from him as well.

Once it was all done, we’d have a big meal together, and spend the rest of the day together.

When I left Z at 16, I forgot all about it. One July, my mum called to remind me about it. She asked if I’d sent all the boys a rakhi.  I replied that I hadn’t so she quickly bought some on my behalf.

On the day, she called to say that my little brother refused to wear it since it was my mum’s choice, and not my initiative. I was taken-aback. I had no idea that this really meant anything to him, or to any of them.

I immediately apologised and ever since, I’ve made a special effort. I don’t always send them a rakhi in the mail, but I call or at least email.

This year, my mum only “reminded” me about it yesterday. There is no way I can get them rakhi’s in time. Phone calls will be in order, and a promise of more planning and organising for the years to come.

In my mum’s typically thoughtful and unimposing manner, she says “I’ve sent you a rakhi that L can tie around R’s wrist, if you guys want to do that of course.” I can’t wait to see the mini-rakhi!

My brothers, (cousins and brothers-in-law), are dearer to me than I can express. I do in fact feel safe, supported and strong when they are around. So why not have a special day that celebrates the bond between sisters and brothers?

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Links I came across:

How to make a rakhi
Buy a rakhi on-line!

That friend

Do you have that friend, who no matter what you do, is better at it than you?

She has been in China half as long as me. She speaks and writes Chinese fluently. Mine has regressed to the point where I ask our ayi (nanny) to “Please help me find the thing that is next to that other thing over there.”

Her baby slept through the night at three months. She listens, reacts swiftly and appropriately. She’s always a step ahead. Mine are up all night, jealous, fussing, drinking, and peeing. I have to keep reminding myself to listen, to be really present. (some yogi!)

Her writing flows, it’s alive and interesting. I feel this from the short stories that she emails. I started this blog a few months ago and man do I struggle with many of my posts. Framing the words and sentences into what I really mean to say takes time.

Bring up any topic from parenting to computers to the environment and she has intelligent, interesting opinions. I’ve always been a little disconnected.

She’s a genuinely nice person. She takes care of those who are close to her. She spent the evening with my parents because I had stuff to do. Nuff said.

Of course, our friendship isn’t as simple as a comparison. We share mutual respect, and love.

I am grateful for that friend who keeps me real.

Yoga and coconuts in Samui

Our week in Samui is zooming, blue skies, sunshine, and swims in the sea. Lots of yoga and coconuts.

Maher drives us to Yoga Thailand every morning. I practice while he plays with the children in the “Kids club.” Sean and Dylan’s out-grown toys and mini playground are more than enough to keep L and R occupied for the two hours I get to breathe and move at my pace.

It’s been two and half years since I did six days in a row of mysore (self -practice). Half-way there now. It’s wonderful that I have this opportunity and I am grateful to Maher for it.  I’m beginning to trust my body and its ability again. The softness is slowly seeping in from the energy in the shala (room), the sincere practitioners, and experienced teachers around us. The practice is becoming natural. I’ve almost regained my all of it, posture-wise. I am still doing half the jump-back, jump-through vinyasa’s and not planning to add them back in yet. Even the drop-backs are back. Assisted of course.
Slowly, slowly… The practice reminds me of this if I slip.

This morning I was running out of steam. Three days in a row after a month of every other day at best, is quite a jump. No matter how hard I tried today, all the jumps back and through were steps, Chataranga (Plank pose) vinyasa’s to Up-dog were with knees down, and the focus was wavering. It’s really no use pushing too hard.
Again, pole pole as Nanu would say.

Since we got to Samui, the children have woken up at least four times each, every night. Tonight they are sleeping well and I am up surfing the web, Facebook, YouTube, blogging. Not exactly prudent. Back to the sleep story though. We were down to one or two wakings a night. Recently they’ve gone through some crazy separation anxiety for both “mama” and “papa”. It can hit around eighteen months I read. They are twenty months now. Close enough. Travel, new beds, a different routine and probably dehydration from playing in the sun all day add up. They wake up to drink, and then to pee!

I wake up to a cold coconut every morning. Maher bought three bags from the Tesco in Lamai the other day. He drinks one in the morning, one at YT, and one after his run or practice. Me? Don’t ask. I claim sustenance on them. I have no case studies to back this up. Well, a Canadian friend Steve, also of some Indian heritage was doing just that when we met in Mysore. I’m not sure how long he went, but he was on a self-imposed satvic (balanced and pure) diet. Yogi’s are meant to eat healthily, neither too much nor too little, not only one kind of food either. So I’m not sure where he got it from. I wonder if it works as a detox though, if done for a short period?

Coconuts are certainly perfect thirst quenchers, and the one’s in Koh Samui are particularly good. Coconut juice is abundant in minerals. It is Maher’s natural sports drink. A lot of the food here is also coconut based. The research as to the health benefits of eating and drinking coconuts is on.

If you’ve got any thoughts and ideas on this please share!

Related articles: Health benefits of coconut oil, water, and more