Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Holidays

Today is my uncle's birthday, the one uncle I talk to anyway. I agonized over what to get him because two days later will be my mother's 60th birthday, making this the most expensive holiday season of my life thus far. I told Dad that after Mom's birthday I am done doing nice things for people. That's it. I'm spending all further money on me. Take that! Oh right. I have two weddings coming up. So much for that idea.

So, I picked out this really fabulous winter jacket for my uncle but the price was too steep. I figured that if I have really good gear, I should spread the wealth to my family. I bought Mom a winter parka for an obscene price last week and looked at the one for him but walked away. Today my parents and I shopped at a couple places but couldn't find anything good. The one I originally liked was sold out. I was mad at myself for not going for it. I couldn't think of what in the world to get him, especially since I know he needs a winter coat more than anything.

I brooded over this but Mom said that I should just get him gloves. That has got to be the most completely lame gift compared to a winter coat. I left the store, but came back for the gloves in defeat. I couldn't show up empty handed and I was out of ideas and time. We got a lame cake at Whole Foods since I didn't have time to bake either and I got there upset. Lame, lame.

Uncle came home from the gym and was surprised to see us waiting for him with cake. He had done nothing fun for his birthday today, and had in fact spent the day taking Grandma to Costco and Jewel. Super fun. He goes to the gym everyday so nothing exciting there either.

After he blew out the candle on the cake and told us that he wished for all our health, I handed him the tiny box. It's funny how much I wished to be giving something grander. When you think about it gloves are an extremely useful present. People always lose one glove, get holes in them, or maybe they aren't warm enough or water resistant enough. I've given plenty of gloves as gifts in the past thinking they were a decent present, but I hoped I could do better for him.

He was absolutely thrilled. I'd never have thought I could make someone that happy over a pair of gloves, but he went on and on about how much he needed them. He recalled all the helpful things I got him over the years and said that the other truck drivers at work jeer him sometimes for having brand merchandise. He tells them that someone really cares about him and that's why he has nice stuff.

I felt moved. A simple gift made his boring day into his birthday. We all talked for a while and I could tell he really enjoyed our company. It seemed like he didn't want me to leave, and we all had a nice time for once. In the end I could have given him a sock or a water bottle or a paperweight or a paper airplane and it wouldn't have mattered at all. Thank goodness some people remind us that the thought really counts.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Tom

What I learned about Thanksgiving this year:

It takes at least 6 hours to make

20 minutes to eat

And there is no one to talk to when dinner is over

I don't know what people without families do during the holidays. I feel that I don't have one, even though I do. The four others that constitute my family are people I can barely stand being around. Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday but now I just hate them all. I even believe that the family put on a show for my benefit all these years and can't stand being around each other at all. My grandmother and uncle decided to eat out today even though I made the whole meal at my parent's place, and they live downstairs. At first I was hurt and then I realized that if they don't care, nor should I. I am so sick and tired of all their crap that I just need to scrub the family and their value system and all this disappointment right off my skin.

Since I stupidly did everything for the dinner today; here is the plan should I ever make this meal again:

make dessert. be sure to make sweet potato pie because it is my favorite and I didn't have time to make it today. (huge bummer)

peel, chop, and soak everything. make cranberry sauce

put it all together and maybe even make a cocktail.

Lessons learned:

- roasted root veggies are way better than pan fried. thyme is key.
- use less butter if possible
- milk that goes into mashed potatoes needs to be warm or room temp.
- the turkey is supposed to measure 180 degrees in the thigh when finished
- allspice goes nicely in the cranberry sauce
- gravy is unnecessary
- vegetarian stuffing is the way to go: apples and currants are a must. don't forget a little melted butter, and preferably unsalted croutons; salted is overpowering
- make sure someone can help you with the dishes. my god, half the day is washing. my hands are killing me
- less is more
- and if you get invited to a friend's home for this holiday forget this mess and just go, which is exactly what I should have done. Bless L for remembering me today. I shall not decline next time.

Things I am thankful for in no particular order:

- a heated place to live
- enough money for food and bills
- my health
- Bell's Best Brown Ale
- love
- finding the ability to hold my own
- yoga
- writing
- good friends that call with funny stories or take me salsa dancing
- The Moth
- The Hyde Park Art Center
- purple nail polish
- having opportunities and choices
- silk pajamas

Monday, November 15, 2010

Emotional Landscapes

Every Monday I work with kids and this particular week I was apprehensive about going in. Normally I work with one girl every time but since more kids joined our program I had to facilitate more group work. It was ok for a little while. We managed to do reader's theatre games and counting card games together. But last week disaster struck.

I'll call her Laquishia, which is the girl's name with a different first letter. Laquishia and I have been working together for three months and she sort of picked me. Initially I worked with a younger girl in kindergarten but then L grabbed my hand one day and that was that. We're buddies. We laugh all the time and when she doesn't concentrate I tell her she is having too much fun. She loves that! She uses it back at me all the time whenever I laugh, and she even wags her finger when she says it. L is in 2nd grade but is advanced and well beyond the homework she is assigned. Often I think that all she needs from me is encouragement and attention, rather than help with the work.

Since working with L, her sister Katiana has been jealous and complains that I should be with her. K is sadly behind and was kept in 4th grade for two years. She is embarrassed of her reading ability and will take any moment possible to avoid focusing. Their brother, Daquis is the class clown. He is always yelling, acting out, doing gymnastics out of nowhere, etc. Daquis however, is extremely advanced and never has a problem with homework. He just can't sit still or have quiet. It's ok. I've never had any issue with his behavior. Until that day.

What happened was that L wasn't paying attention and playing around a little too much. She said she was upset because every time she comes in she wants to color on the board, but never gets to. I told her she can if she finishes her work. K was drawing on the board and started writing notes to L on it to disrupt us. For example, K wrote: "Be Quiet L!" So L would grab a paper and write: "You Be Quiet!" The woman working with K had to call a truce and I tried to bring L back to addition problems. Once we got to the subtraction, five more kids walked in.

One of the girls, Marlinda is the same age as L, but not the same level. She needs more help but really tries to do her best. M came to sit with us and claimed not to have any homework. I found her a dry-erase board with addition and subtraction problems on them, exactly like the ones L was working on. I figured, this should be perfect. But no.

M is really calm and quiet, unlike the three siblings. L immediately was annoyed that I gave her a board like the one she wanted to color on. I explained that it was a math board not a coloring board and that I'd like her to finish her problems. She looked over at what M was doing and started shouting out the answers to make M feel stupid. I was shocked. I told L to let M try her problems and let's go back and finish ours, but she yelled at me! She said: "How are you going to help us both?" I told her not to worry.

She became withdrawn. She asked me why I gave her 2 stars for the day a long time ago instead of three. I said because she had given up on working that day and fought with her brother. I reminded her that if she continued working she would receive her three stars for the day today, but it didn't work. She started filling in the wrong answers on purpose. Then she started to cry.

I decided that I wasn't going there. I was not indulging this, I had to maintain strength. I went over some of the subtraction reasoning we did earlier and kept talking and addressing them both. I thought by continuing on she might snap out of it. Nope!

Daquis saw her crying and came over to find out what happened. D doesn't speak unless he is screaming, so this was bad. He asked her what happened and then interrupted everyone.


Daquis, I can't give her the answers. I think L doesn't want to share her time and she is just having a moment.


The site facilitator had to jump in and scold him for yelling at me but he continued on and on. SHE'S NOT HELPING. SHE'S NOT HELPING. SHE'S NOT HELPING. SHE'S NOT HELPING.SHE'S NOT HELPING.SHE'S NOT HELPING. SHE'S NOT HELPING. SHE'S NOT HELPING.

And then Laquishia started absolutely wailing. The entire staff stopped what they were doing and stared at me. I couldn't believe how quickly I lost control. By that point another staff member took over the project with Marlinda because I had lost her too.

The siblings grabbed their things and left early. My attitude about the incident was that kids are kids. Sometimes they're brats. What can you do? But when the session was over the staff questioned me wanting to know what went wrong. I said nothing, she just didn't want to share her time and got emotional. Then they asked what I had done about it and what did I feel and how did it start and what did I do and so on. What the hell? Were they going to make me feel bad too? I left feeling extremely shaken and not knowing if I should work with L again. Maybe she grew too attached.

When I came today, I talked to the coordinator about working with another child. She said that we would see how things happened. I assumed L didn't want to work with me anyway, but when she came in she grabbed my hand again and said, "You're with me, right?"

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Well It's A Marvelous Night For A.....

My boss decided we need to get in touch with our inner goddesses, so she signed up the staff for a pole dancing lesson. Yes, you read that sentence correctly.

We went to S Factor and I admit that I was terribly nervous. I figured it would be a tough workout and worried that I wouldn't be strong enough for it. There was another major component involved that I neglected to consider. Luckily, despite thinking it merely a workout, I remembered not to put my mother down as an emergency contact. It's a conversation I'd like to avoid should I fall and break something while pole dancing.

The beginning of an intro to pole class has warm up movements similar to yoga, except the language used is quite different.


Sit in a cross legged position on the floor with your hands gently resting on your knees. Take a deep breath in and slowly open up your chest by leading forward with the heart. Push your shoulders back and take a slight arch in your low back. After a breath or two, curve the belly inward and round the back pulling your chin to your chest. Let's do this a few more times working with your breath.


Sit on your mat in a cross legged position. Reach your arms high into the sky and let them fall slowly down your body, taking forever. Feel every inch of your curves as your hands glide down your face and neck and chest and hips to your inner thigh and down to your knees. Push your breasts out and let them lead you down slowly for a stretch over your legs. Push your upper body toward your right hip then curl your way to the back and over to the left. Once you reach forward again you want to do this a few more times, faster each time. Feel that groin muscle dig into the floor and let the breasts guide you around your body.


Let's all lay on our backs and come into Happy Baby pose. Grab your feet with your hands and try to pull your knees towards your armpits. It's ok if it doesn't go that far. Rock gently side to side to open that low back. Open one leg at a time if you're able. Stretch it high into the air and hold there for a few breaths. If you feel like pushing out towards a V you can do that now but remember not to strain. Hold your legs up by the hamstring or hold your hips down, whichever is comfortable.


Let's lay on our backs now and float our legs into the air. Let one leg slowly pull toward the chest, with toes pointed then back down to the floor. Let the other leg do the same and just take forever with these circles. If you want you can lean over to one side and let the leg curl a little behind you. This is similar to the Cat Pounce we'll be going over later. Let your hands run through your hair and glide down your curves. The next time your left leg is up, bring your right to meet it and open them wide. That's it ladies, feel yourself opening wide. Lift your chest and take your hands over to the right foot as far as you can. Slowly touch every inch of your leg as you pull your body back down. You can roll your shoulders one at a time to give your breasts movement here. Caress your calf and your knee and your thigh and then just touch it ladies. Just touch yourself. Now over to the left.


We're going into a modified sun salutation. Let's take a seated position on our knees, resting the sacrum on our ankles. We're going to rise the body up to the knees, pull the arms in a large circle way above the head and look towards the sky, leading with the heart. Shoulders are relaxed. On our way back down we'll bring our hands down to the earth and back into prayer position by the chest. Let's do this three more times moving with the breath.


Ok ladies I want you to sit down on your knees, but have them spread wide apart. Toes should touch behind you. We're going to pull our body up, letting the arms float up, and move our ass up and down, but only hovering above the legs. Don't sit back down completely. Let's do this a few more times. Does this remind you of anything ladies? What if we picked up the pace? Faster! More more more! Yes! Good! Let your hands glide over your curves. Touch your breasts, put your hands on your hips and feel them rise and fall. Flip your hair everywhere! Faster! Oh yes! Reach your arms behind you and stick out that pelvis!

This was where each of us busted out laughing. I had the naive impression that we were in for a strength training course. To be making such a motion in the company of my co-workers is not exactly your average Friday.

We did a "drunk girl walk," and several other dance-type moves that were supposed to be sexy. We learned a stretch to do when you want attention from your mate, which is certainly now in my bag of tricks. I won't explain what it looks like but I will say it's pretty much ass in the air. No yoga equivalent that I know of for that one .

Eventually we spun around the pole which was extremely challenging. I managed a few decent twirls but the instructor said she was a stickler for the way in which you finish the spin. She said you can't just squat and then stand up. You must give some booty action on your way up. Like so:

And yes that is my booty. The studio is dimly lit so women are more comfortable to do all manner of dirty filthy things without anyone really seeing it. I didn't unleash my wild child because I was just too timid and giggly about the whole experience. Since then there is definitely a little more pep in my step and I have found myself doing utterly ridiculous things in front of the mirror.

The next time I saw my co-workers we all greeted each other with an exaggerated hip sway and hair toss. It opened up a lot of conversation about the way we carry ourselves and what we are willing to let go of, or be open to. I guess you could say we got our goddess on after all. We unanimously decided to do this again.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I've Made a Huge Mistake

I've been suffering from stupid pains in the arches of my feet again. This was a huge problem a couple years ago but has since relaxed. Out of nowhere it flared up and nearly had me crying the other day. It was time to get a massage.

Everyone at work talks about the benefits of massage but I always considered it a luxurious experience, only to be had when money is abundant or it's your birthday. The last time I had one was when I pulled something in my neck and couldn't move for 3 days. I broke down after work one day and found a chair massage place that wasn't expensive. She worked out whatever was trying to kill me and I felt much better.

I didn't want a chair massage this time though. It needed to be the real deal. Besides the stupid feet I have been achy for a couple weeks and always carry a great deal of tension in my low back. I called around a few places for a last minute appointment but no one answered. The prices were a bit scary anyway. There was a listing online for a suburban massage place with the word, "Heavenly" in the title. I immediately thought that was a bad sign but checked out the site anyway. (mistake #1) Their prices were much lower than the other places and they were a chain so I was fairly convinced they weren't sex workers.

I called and told them I had an injury that was giving me trouble and asked if they could help. They seemed confident that they could and all I had to to was talk to the masseuse when I got there. They were open until 11 and could take me anytime. They asked if I preferred a male or female and I said it didn't matter. (mistake #2) I got there by 8.

Upon arrival they had me fill out the "I won't sue" form and mark down whatever my ailments were. Plantar Fasciitis was not an option so I stupidly wrote it in thinking they would know what it is. Nope. Three front desk people asked me countless questions and I was just like, "Um. My feet ache. That's it. Some calf pain, some low back. It's no big deal."

They asked if I spoke Russian so I could explain the problem to my massage guy. "Oh dear. I'm afraid I don't." The guy, Uri, came out to talk to me and seemed to understand that my feet hurt and I had some general tension. He motioned for me to follow him back and told me to take off my clothes and get into the sheets. (mistake #3)

Um, like everything? Take off? Um. Everything? (I motioned with my hands to express that I wasn't sure about the undies)

Yes, every. Take. Ok? I back in minuutes.

I didn't take off the undies. Bra was obviously coming off but undies? What the fuck. No. I can be something of an exhibitionist but not with the lower section. (not a mistake)

Uri came back and did an "assessment" of sorts where he basically rubbed my back for a couple minutes and asked if pressure was too strong.

When he got to the lower back, it was to my great shock that he pulled the undies down himself. Holy shit. My entire body tensed up, including my toes. It's not like he pulled them all the way down, but whoa. I was not expecting that.

Lower back has it very much tension. You not doing exercises?

I exercise.

Not enough physical activity. You need it physical activity. (rubbing my tailbone and hips)

I do yoga and I walk on a tread mill.

Is nothing. You vatching tehlevision?


You sit down all day and zen vatching tehlevision? Yes.

Oh. Uh. No. I barely watch tv.

Tread mill is a nothink. Is not enough. Better for you valking outside.

Ok. Sure.

Zis is it big tension. You're not enough valking. Computer?


You computer?

Uh I guess so.

I feel it computer. You sitting.

Oh. I see.

Uri didn't get my name properly and kept calling me Tatiana. He wanted to know where I was from and I said here. He asked if anyone from my family was from the Ukraine and I got annoyed. This was not at all the relaxing experience I hoped for. Uri moved on to the right foot and spent way too much time there.

Tatiana, why you telling front desk about injury?

Well I was hoping to get the feet worked on a little. And calves. And back.

You vas in car accident or somethink?

No. It's just strained.

You have it medical problem? See doctor?

No. It's been fine for a long time. Just um. Hurts now.

Tatiana, front desk they not knowing these things. No reason telling them, only tell Uri. I know it what's vrong by touching body. They not touch body, they not knowing.

Oh. I just thought that I should mention it.

You only telling me. I know it these problems.

They asked if I wanted deep tissue or Swedish and I thought I would ask about the injury...

Front desk not knowing. Only Uri knows. Next time you only telling them you vant talk to Uri and problem solve. Ok?


He moved up to the leg and also spent too much time there. He explained that he was using a reflexology technique on me but I got nervous. It seemed like he made that up just to lift my leg up in the air. All I could focus on was the hope that my cotton sliver of underwear still covered the goods.

After finishing the legs he pulled up both sheets and asked me to turn around.

You mean, you want me to lay on my back? Why?

I doing reflexology. You need stretching low back.

He stood there looking right at my face and expected me to flip over, completely exposing the boobs. I couldn't believe it. Shouldn't he have left one sheet down? Or both? Or looked at the back wall? There really was no graceful way for me to turn over and and remain hidden. I tried to maneuver my arms/hands to cover the girls but they moved without my consent. Boobs were definitely seen by Uri. (mistake #4)

He put his arm under my low back and showed me a bridge stretch, which I do all the time. I explained to him that I already did it in yoga, but he assured me that it isn't yoga at all and I need to do it 15 times a day. I expected him to do more massage with my neck and back, especially considering that the foot and leg massage made me cringe but he said time was up. I asked if he was sure because my neck was really stiff, and he got insulted. He leaned in very close to me and told me to leave.

Tatiana, is late. You go.

Oh ok. Um. When I called they said something about a steam shower? Where is that?

Tatiana, you have it shower at home?

Are you asking if I have a shower?

I think regular shower is fine for you. Next time. Come earlier. Ask for Uri.

I haven't felt that humiliated in a long time. I dressed quickly and stopped by the front desk to pay. I gave a lousy tip and tried to hurry out the door. The lady asked why I didn't take the steam shower, so I explained that Uri told me not to. She said he wasn't one of their best people and gave me a bunch of coupons.

Lesson learned.