A lesson from Elwood: don’t give up on him, or me

Elwood 1.jpg_mediumNose to glass, eyes pleading, tail wagging, Elwood used every attention-getting tactic he could muster to get me to stop, notice, and give him another chance. The young black pit bull at the animal rescue (Main Line Animal Rescue) I volunteer at surely remembered the past several times I chose to walk past his dog run in search of an easier, calmer pup to collar and leash up for a glorious field trip outside.

I remembered too. The last time I attempted to get Elwood out (a week ago, two weeks ago, perhaps), I gave up. Twenty minutes sequestered in his run dancing around like a crazy woman trying to get his collar on while he jumped, leaped, taunted, nipped on the leash, and challenged every last shred of patience in me, I gave up. On him. On me.

As I walked past his run this morning, however, it hit me: walk past him again, and he spends another hour, maybe two, maybe three, cooped up until a more patient volunteer chooses to stop. Walk past him again, and I develop that icky feeling I always get when throwing in the towel too soon. That feeling of allowing fear, frustration, and self-pity to sabotage my growth.

Caving too soon keeps us stuck. And at 45, I don’t want to feel stuck or middle-aged. It’s why I practice handstands every day and accept that flipping over is just part of the process. It’s why I practice the new training skills I’m learning from awesome trainer extraordinaire Gretchen Knittel on the rescue dogs, even when my hand cues are wrong and sometimes leave the dogs more confused than when they started. Why I attend annual week-long yoga training immersions that leave me sore for weeks afterward. To grow. To learn. To develop courage, patience, knowledge.

Today I went in. Spent 30 minutes instead of twenty, and got Elwood out to the glorious field. He ran, fetched the ball, settled in the shade by my side, and reminded me, with those adoring eyes, to not give up.

On him. Or on myself.


What a ten PM concert did for me

Beck“Ten o’clock? You mean he doesn’t even take the stage until ten o’clock? On a Sunday??” Before even considering how cool it would be to see one of my favorite artists perform live the tunes I keep repeating on my iPhone, I resisted. Attending the weekend-long  XPoNential Music Festival just seemed like a big ole hassle rife with logistical challenges and unknowns.

Too late. Too far. Too unfamiliar.

xpn1 xpn2But my sweet man already bought tickets, had been dancing around the condo in his festival T-shirt, and circled a handful of ‘gotta see’ bands on the schedule so to flat out refuse would make me a world-class killjoy. Plus Beck was on the schedule..my current favorite artist.

But ten o’clock. On a Sunday. With big storms predicted. Upon learning of this new addition to our calendar, I immediately launched into a litany of resisting thoughts:

I-76 is hell on wheels (and not in a good way) – do we really want to schlep out and back both days and nights to see a bunch of obscure bands I’ve never heard of?

I’ve subbed out my Sunday morning class too much already – will my students understand?

Lawn seating and sunny skies for this Irish girl mean lathering up in an irritating concoction of bug killer and SPF 1000 to avoid epidermal disaster. 

I’d rather pass.

But I knew I couldn’t possibly. After practicing yoga for several years and surviving a few devastating life experiences, I am keenly aware of my natural instinct to resist. And this music festival experience, looked at another way, was in fact a fantastic opportunity to work through that resistance and discover how amazing life can be when we simply surrender vs. resist.

Another night at our favorite Philly Hotel (Palomar) solved the I-76 to-and-fro nightmare concern. Ditching the guilt of asking for help allowed me to surrender my Sunday class and give a fellow teacher some extra cash for subbing it. And my sweet man could lead any pack of boy scouts – always prepared with SPF, bug spray, blanket, snacks, and garbage bags, which we giddily covered ourselves in as we sloshed through the monsoon that awaited us at Penn’s Landing to reach our car after the Beck concert…

Which began promptly at Ten PM. And without any resistance blocking my spirit, lasted late into an evening I never wanted to end.

So yogis…stop resisting and see what you discover this week.




What the dogs are teaching me this week: stop talking

DollyIt’s Wednesday, and I’m midway through a week of teaching yoga and running around with Niko, Dolly and Astro at Main Line Animal Rescue. Not too different from any other week of late. Except that talking, listening to others talk, and thinking about what to talk about next is starting to grate.

Finally. Yea, finally. I’m getting how cool life can be, how present we can be, how creative and inspiring we can be, when we simply stop talking.

It’s hard. As a yoga teacher I want so much for my students to know why the outer blade of their back foot roots down into the mat while their front knee stays over the ankle while the pit of their belly draws in and up while the face softens while the arms reach up and fingers radiate energy out in Warrior One pose.  Are you still with me? Of course not. Who can absorb and integrate all that??

It’s hard to listen to so-called experts slug it out on ‘news’ channels over whatever issue triggers the meanest string of viewer feedback, lacing their comments with personal jabs at each other and calling it analysis. Hard listening to the one-way conversation between Mr. Know-It-All-I’m-The-Top-Producer-This-Month and his silent captive table mate looking for an escape at my local Starbucks (note to self: ear buds next time).

Hard to have a ready-made answer when the random person I’ve just met insists hearing how I could possibly be a vegan. (Sir/ma’am – I barely know you. I’d rather not talk about it.)

Spending three days in a row this week with my dog pals has been a glorious respite from empty talk. I didn’t need to tell Niko I was missing my family in Seattle like crazy. He crinkled his forehead (that bit of German Shepard in him used to beautiful effect), looked me in the eye, and snuggled in close to provide some comfort. Astro didn’t need to speak a word to convey how much he wanted to please me in Petiquette class – after successfully lying down on command, he licked my face and wagged his tail before I had a chance to reward him with a treat. And Dolly let it be known, without words, that there was simply no point in rushing her anywhere. This older girl was on dog-time, not Shannon-time.

Now here’s my work: taking all that I’ve noticed and learned in these few days into class tomorrow. Allowing my yogis to find the sweetness of Warrior One pose without a bunch of words. I’m pretty sure they’ll appreciate the verbal break.


Happy Hour Evolved…

clockI seldom wear a watch anymore, and when I do, it’s more to spice up my go-to ensemble of varying shades of grey. But at least once a day, I always check the time – noting the hour inside the blingy circle of diamonds on my wrist or the readout on my iPhone. Because when 5 PM strikes, I smile. It’s Happy Hour time. 

Lest you envision me racing to find the nearest fifth of 50 proof or a stool at the corner pub offering a 3-buck beer Happy Hour special, I’ll clarify: Happy Hour for me is about pausing, appreciating, and savoring the current moment in this beautiful life I’ve been given. Yes a few margaritas over the years have certainly added some ‘happy’ to this wonderful hour, but upon reflection of past happy hours, I’ve come to realize that the simple act of being fully present during this hour is what has made it so special to me:

1. Family time. My mom and step-dad, in between owning and operating an antiques showroom and design business that required frequent trips overseas to Europe and Asia, made time to settle three antsy adolescents down to nightly happy hour when they were home. When not abroad foraging for a finely crafted gilt bronzed antique mirror or a beautifully painted French provincial chest of drawers, they rounded us up every evening to settle into the library my step-father built on top of what was once a concrete slab masquerading as a deck. They dressed for the occasion – mama’s long skirts and dangling earrings, papa’s perfectly pressed trousers – poured a splash of scotch on ice into elaborately etched crystal tumblers (also discovered on a buying trip), and offered up something fizzy and fabulous for us kids. 7uP was anything but when poured into a crystal tumbler that traveled thousands of miles to arrive at our Seattle home. Pretzel sticks and unsalted peanuts rounded out the hour, along with a run-down of each member’s day (brother hit two doubles for the team; sister got an A on her Chem exam; I tore another piece of skin off the palm of my hand after too many spins on the monkey bars) before settling down to dinner.

2. Party time. 7up gave way to stronger spirits during college years – especially the summers in between. Happy Hour meant searching high and low for the best boozy deals – local bars offering the strongest, cheapest drinks rounded out with good-looking fellows to admire. Bonus points for outdoor decks, heat lamps, and jello shooters. Thankfully I quickly outgrew this phase before too long.

3. Training time. Endurance endeavors took center stage in my 20s and 30s. With a full-time corporate gig, Happy Hour libations meant electrolytes chased down with a ten-mile run or 25-mile ride depending on the current cardio obsession of  choice. Sitting most of the day fantasizing about what it would be like to make movement my career made these happy hours feel especially precious.

4. The present time. These days Happy Hour might mean a glass of wine with my honey. Or a stroll around the neighborhood, slow enough to notice the bright red cardinal whizzing by. Or splattering ingredients all over my spring roll recipe print-out in an attempt to create party-worthy bites for tomorrow’s shindig.

Clearly, Happy Hour has been a constant throughout my life. And at the same time, changing through the decades. Kinda like life. So here’s to 5 PM – my favorite hour.