Blogus interruptus

Thanks to dirty rotten thieves last week, I have been deprived of a computer at home for the better part of a week. Blogging will recommence shortly.

I'm working on my tango post from last week now - can't wait to publish!


Tango lesson 9

Three huge developments last week:

1) I now have enough skills now that I think I can get through a tango (with someone other than my usual partners) without embarassing myself.

2) Now when I listen to tango music, I want to dance.

3) And finally, a good piece of advice from Bulent: "If you feel the energy pulling you forward, then just go forward. Instead of hesitating, it's better to just go and make a mistake. That's the only way you'll learn."

I cannot wait for next week's class...


About the future

In the Pisces horoscope for the week of March 26, Rob Brezsny writes that my fish friends and I will:

...take a semi-magical excursion into the future via a vivid dream or meditative vision, where you'll get a clear idea of what would ultimately work and not work about your current experiments in happiness.

I generally don't put much stock in horoscopes, but I do like Brezsny's writings because they reflect a Buddhist-like wisdom and compassion that (obviously) appeals to me. This week's horoscope made me smile, because I have been working on my future happiness for the last three months or so. It's hard work - and I love the thought of being touched by a vision that would make this work less difficult.

Foto flashback:
The parentals - Serafino and Maria. Probably taken in 1963, shortly before or after their marriage.


Learning Anatomy

I think I've already mentioned that in preparation for yoga teacher training, I've been learning more about anatomy with the aid of Anatomy Trains and Barron's Anatomy Flash Cards. In fact, I called a social moratorium this past weekend and spent both days immersed in my studies.

It felt as if my brain was lit up. With each page read, the flame grew. I know that what I am learning is nothing new - but it's new to me. I'm loving this so much - I wish I could eat the pages so that the information they contain would stay with me always.

First, there is the poetry of our bodies. Muscles with names like soleus and sartoris. In the foot one finds bones called cuneiforms. In the pelvis, one finds the sacrum and the ischium, ringing in my ears as more likely referring to a priest's ritual object and a Greek island.

And then there's the ingenious way in which our bodies function. Mechanisms and collaborations that we are never aware of and mostly take for granted. For example:

The gastrocnemious (superficial muscles of the calf) reaches up and around the hamstring tendons to insert onto the femur. The hamstrings reach down and around the gastrocnemii to attach to the tibia and fibula. As long as the knee is bent, these two units go their own way. As the knee extends, the two units tighten and function together as if they were two pairs of hands gripping at the wrist.

Both muscle groups must work together to successfully flex your knee. Think about that next time you lean over to pick up dropped car keys. Or the next time you melt into this asana.


Tango lesson 8

So I'm doing okay! I'm measuring this on two criteria: (1) I feel good and (2) less intervention from the teachers. The crossover is seriously testing me, but I should survive.

My only notable observation from this week's lesson is: I'm not really listening to the music. And I should be.

I appear to be too absorbed by what's happening in my body and with my partner. The music is like a distant sound creating a soft background. I'm not actively listening to the tempo so as to move with greater purpose.

So my challenge over the next weeks is to:

(1) Listen to more tango music especially when I'm not in the studio. I listen to some at work - as recommended by many - but I need to listen more... and more attentively.

(2) Not rely on my partner so much to set the tempo.

(3) Try to better understand the role of music in tango.

So much to learn - but so exciting.



In preparation for yoga teacher training, I've been reading a lot about science, anatomy and other things outside my ken. Despite my fears to the contrary, careful attention to the words on the page, handy reference resources and friends willing to answer questions about neural cells are helping me to learn the material.

Vague memories of secondary three science with Mr. Karwatsky are also proving to be useful.

Here are the three most interesting things I've learned this week:
  • In an article about the social life of plants, science reporter Carol Kaesuk Yoon writes: The sea rocket, researchers report, can distinguish between plants that are related to it and those that are not. And not only does this plant recognize its kin, but it also gives them preferential treatment.
  • In Anatomy Trains, author Thomas Myer writes: Muscle is elastic, fascia is plastic. Stretched, a muscle will attempt to recoil back to its resting length. ... Fascia does not 'snap back' - although over time and given the opportunity, it will lay down new fibers which will rebind the area.
  • To attract females, the male Australian bowerbird (thanks g :) builds a bower with a variety of collected objects. The bird spends hours sorting and arranging his collection of shells, leaves, flowers, feathers and stones. No two bowers are the same, and each reflects the personal taste of each bird.
You don't have to understand anything about plants or muscles to grasp this one thing: nature has equipped all of us with what we need. Plants protect their own. Our bodies know how to compensate and heal. Birds know what it takes to attract a mate.

And yet, as humans we doubt ourselves all the time. We second-guess everything. Will my brother and I reconcile? Will I finally lose those last ten pounds? Does he like me? We spend too much time worrying about the things that we cannot predict and not enough time trusting in our inherent ability to thrive and survive.

We cannot know the answers to any of those questions. We cannot predict the feelings of others or how situations will ultimately play themselves out. We can however trust in what nature gave us.

You know that you want to reconcile with your sibling because you recognize the importance of family.
You know that you can lose the weight because if you help it along, your body will know what to do.
You know how you feel about him because he builds beautiful "bowers" of actions and words that make you smile.

So just do it. Pick up the phone. Throw your arms around his neck. Drop the cupcake. And just trust that nature will provide.


How I find stuff

There's a little saying I have: "If you want to find something in a Palanca house, then you have to think like a Palanca".

Thankfully, I'm fully qualified.

So when I was unable to locate the cling wrap this evening, I began searching in all unlikely places.  Part of me would like to pretend that I keep cling wrap in the bathroom as part of some esoteric and sexy beauty secret, but the truth is, I probably wandered in there with the cling wrap in hand and unconsciously switched it for something else that seemed more important at the time.

My suspicion is, I'll soon find my deodorant in the pantry next to the rice.

Petal, it should be noted, did not utter a word of criticism when I found the cling wrap. Bless her wooden heart. 


Food hangover

Wow-o-wow do I feel yucky today. Mild headache. Lack of energy. Sun stings my eyes. A little bloaty. When I blink slowly, I can hear the blood rushing in my ears. Big pimple on my eyebrow. And I attribute it solely to the wild day of eating I enjoyed yesterday (oh, so good!)

Yesterday started with a late breakfast with Gillian. In the short (yet sweet) two hours we spent together, Gillian and I shared a big pot of coffee (which I hardly ever consume) laced with cream, three superb pastries, juice and a box of strawberries.

By noon, since the day had started off so well, I decided that I might as well make a day of it. Sure, I went to yoga and attended a three-hour workshop about ayurvedic detoxes, but they were tiny blips in my day of gluttony. I would not be deterred!

At seven, I went to a mass potluck at a friend's house in NDG. The first few hours were like an orgy. Margaritas, beer, homemade guacamole and salsa, asparagus dip, and a seemingly endless supply of corn chips (my Waterloo, damn you Tostitos!). Lime wedges everywhere... Then came the fajitas for dinner, followed by apple crumble pie and (did I imagine it?) Creamsicle-flavoured ice cream.

No foodstuff was safe. Everyone left looking a little dishevelled and ashamed when they left. I tried to stay up a little later to digest but to no avail...

So now I have a food hangover. I know I'm supposed to vow that I'll never do it again - but seriously? Who would believe me?


Salle de rédaction III

ML: Adrienne, il faut que je me prend en main!
AP: Martino, I'm sorry but that sounds dirty.
ML: Non, Adrienne, ça serait plutôt "la prendre dans sa main".


Tango lesson 7 - Beginners II

So Wednesday is the new Tuesday - Beginners II is on a new day and at a new time (8.30-10.00pm). Tonight's class was very satisfying and as I walked home, I started to worry about a subject for this post.

"What did I learn tonight?"

No answer in mind, I came home and started reading the backlog of unread posts in my Google Reader account. And that's when I read this in MsHedgeHog:
I want to express myself musically, without making a big performance of it. I want to interact with men, and other women, in a way that gives me joy and doesn't weigh me down with burdens. I want to get all dolled up, once or twice a week, and feel graceful, and sensual, and fun-loving. I want a reason to wear pretty clothes and shoes. I want to do something with my body, and delight in it, and have it appreciated by other people. I want to do all this as well as I can, but without an obligation to anyone but me.
And then I realised the miracle that tango has produced in my life (or has h
elped produce in my life). Quite suddenly - and without advance notice - I'm starting to like my legs.

This is the part where I explain.

Every woman has (at least) one part of their body that they would gladly exchange in a heartbeat - for me, it's my legs. Although I had a very nice calf and strong feet, everything above the knee and up to the hip brings me no joy. I have been blessed with many good features, but gams... I don't got.

But during class - somehow - my legs feel longer, more sensual, more worthy of admiration. I feel like I could suddenly seduce with one s-sweep of the ankle.

I'm not questioning how. I'm just grateful. Thank you, tango!

Thanks to the power of the Google search engine, I find myself now welcomed into a community of tango bloggers whose passion for tango is bone-deep and for life. To meet some inspiring tangueras, drop in on MsHedgeHog, but there's also Elizabeth at Working Artist - Tango, Art, Life and our friend Mtnhighmama at Sweetest of Things. There are more - I just haven't gotten to all of them yet!

I found a whole new tango shoe company called Nueva Epoca. Their website is the source of today's footwear selection.


Yoga and space

What? You thought with all the shiny-newness of tango, I would put aside my beloved yoga? Never! Palanca's got time for everything, mwahahaha!

In fact, I'm made some startling progress with the yoga lately, thanks in large part to my ability to maintain a schedule of three practices per week.

So you already know that you don't breathe to improve your yoga practice, instead you practice yoga to improve your breathing. This is accomplished by creating space. Through the asana, you create space within your body so that the breath (prana) can circulate with greater ease. Similarly, through the breath, you create the space you need to "melt into" each pose.

I understand that the space is already there, that it's just a matter of opening it. The amazing thing I just realised (I can hear your applause already) is that this space is not just opened during the practice. Once you've made the space, over time, that space stays open and is always available to you.

Or more plainly said: The door is always there. You have to learn how to open it. And once you've learned how to open it, it always stays a little open to welcome you in. You don't have to keep twisting that knob so hard.

All I have to do is breathe and suddenly, janu sirsasana C is within my grasp (I can rotate the hip and my knee feels cosy - I just can't reach forward yet). It's very surprising sometimes to find myself in new places - but I just keep breathing.

Just keep breathing.


36 years

I just called my mother.

Me: Hello! I was just born.
Ma: [laughing]
Me: I figured since I kept you up 36 years ago, I might keep you awake tonight too.

It was a short conversation because she's 70 now and likes to go to bed early. She told me the story of how she cried when I was born. How the nurse asked her, "Mrs. Palanca, first you were crying because of the pain. Why are you crying now?"

"Because I have a daughter," she said.

I used to roll my eyes through that story-heard-too-often, but now I listen attentively. And smile. I told her that I couldn't talk long because I had some things to do. So she told me that she loves me more than a nest of mice and bid me tonight.

It's been a very good birthday. A very good 36 years. Thanks to all who contributed to this important effort!


Blogging no-nos

Like speaking French, showing good judgment is something that becomes easier the more you practice. The exercise of said good judgment is especially important when you blog. Although blogs are a personal arena for public expression, you are still bound by certain laws.

As some bloggers however, find it difficult to draw the line between "notable" and "too much information", let's review some guidelines!

Don't get too close for comfort
If one of your friends has a quirk or character flaw that drives you crazy, it's best to not rant about it on your blog - especially if you want to keep said friend. You might tell yourself, "ah, she never reads my blog!", but karma has teeth, kids. Chances are, if you publish disparaging commentary about a friend who (say) behaves badly with wait staff in a restaurant, that will be the same day that she decides to "check the blog you're always talking about". Being the self-centered humans we are, we tend to think everything is about us, so not only will she call you in tears, but a few others may also call wondering if the rudie-rudnik in question is them.

  • Make it general ("Don't you hate it when...")
  • Going to mention the friend anyway? Ask yourself "Is this something I would say to her face?"
  • All of this also applies to clients you may have. Don't let your blog be bad for business.
Don't use your blog to exact revenge on your ex
Do not - I repeat DO NOT - use your blog to exact revenge upon exes, family members, friends, business associates, etc. Your comments are thinly veiled. Like rice-paper thin! Your readers may not know who you are referring to, but it just makes you look petty and it weakens your credibility.

  • Take your anger elsewhere. Join a boxing gym so you can punch stuff and not so much the keyboard.
  • I don't know... maybe address your comments to the party in question? Privately?
  • All of this also applies to FB status lines. For example: "Malkin is disappointed in his so called friends." I may not know all of Malkin's friends, but it still seems kind of childish to be putting that out on FB.
More will follow, undoubtedly.


I know... it's too big. But just click on it to see the full cartoon. It's about pirates!


Tango lesson 6

It was very good cold in Montreal on Tuesday. Like 17 degrees below zero. I arrived at the studio with frozen earlobes and a runny nose, desperately needing to feel the blood moving through my veins again. And it did.

There is only one thing I learned in tango yesterday night: I am finally making progress in reading cues - no matter who my partner is. In fact, I am now better able to tell the difference between muddy cues and clear cues.

Partner X: Why are you still waiting with your ankles crossed?
Me: Because you haven't told me where to move yet.
PX: I haven't?
Me: Nope. I'm looking at your shoulders right now and they're pretty quiet. So are the arms.
PX: I think I was using my hands...
Me: Let's try again!

On occasion, I become very worried that I'll miss a cue. Every sense is listening (too) attentively for the tell-tale tip of the arm, the unmistakeable opening of the shoulder, but in those moments, I find myself becoming distracted by the colour of my partner's shirt, what other people were doing, whether the instructors were watching, etc.

If I'm not focussed, my senses take in too much, everything starts to feel like a cue and I make false starts. Last night I understood how easy it is to identify the cues when you let your mind dwell only in the circle of your arms. And in the circle of your partner's arms.

It's like another form of meditation. But in heels!

The fun part is - my partners are also better able to identify my cues. We're still baby chicks, but at least now we can help each other improve.


Don't be so shallow about sex

This isn't dirty, I swear.

It's just that Powell and I were having that conversation again - that conversation about the importance of sexual attraction in a relationship - and whether or not our answer makes us shallow.

You see, Powell and I concur that sexual attraction is indeed important for the long-term survival of any relationship. But we also feel (are made to feel?) guilty about holding this opinion.

Why? Because most people fail to make the very important distinction between:
(1) needing to feel a sexual connection with someone, and
(2) only being able to feel a connection with someone who fulfills a very limited physical description.

Sexual attraction should not be confused with physical beauty.

The truth is, the men I have dated fall into all kinds of categories. Short, tall, skinny, fat, hairy, bald. Some of them had movie-star looks and bodies, while others had obviously spent too many hours in the library being fried by the bad lighting. But the truth is, I thought all of them were gorgeous, sexy creatures.

That sexual attraction was mostly the invisible workings of 'chemistry', but it was also based on word play, sense of humour, the ability to banter, and their willingness to explain new things. Who they were contributed to that sexual attraction as much as their kind eyes, the size and shape of their hands, their thighs, etc.

Sexual attraction is far more complex than most think. I know people who have very limited guidelines when it comes to a mate: "I need a guy who's at least six feet tall", "I can't date a girl who weighs more than 120lbs", "If he doesn't make at least 50K a year, I won't even talk to him". 

Not only is this mindset narrow and unrealistic, but it doesn't take into account that some people don't find Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie remotely attractive. If sexual attraction was really that cut and dry, then wouldn't I too be swooning over Brangelina? Why is it that I find Clive Owen more appealing? Or Kate Winslet?

Sexual attraction should not be mistaken for lust-at-first-sight either.

And let's face it - sexual attraction isn't immediate either. Upon meeting one man years ago, I immediately thought, "Thank God, I don't find him attractive, there's no danger here," only to find myself wholly smitten four hours later. Smitten. Like a kitten. Meow!

You've known this since your youth, remember? In the classic tale, Beauty falls for the Beast not because the Beast harped incessantly on her good Catholic guilt until she caved. She falls in love with - becomes sexually attracted to - the Beast because of his kindness. The attraction wasn't there initially, but if it had not developed, there would be no story.

Without sexual attraction, there would be no reproduction, so don't knock it. And if someone tells you, "I'm just not feeling it", they are just not feeling it. Don't take it too personally.

If they say, "Hey Beanpole, why don't you come back when you've grown a butt worth grabbing," then I admit that may be a wee shallow.

But enough of me and my opinions - which side of the bed do you fall on?


Fabric softener

Have you ever read the label on fabric softener? Neither had I... until I bought a new fragrance on Saturday afternoon.

Click on the photo and read the first warning. If you can't see it, the warning reads:

Do not use this product:
  • On children's sleepwear or garments labeled as flame resistant as it can reduce flame resistance.
  • On garments made with fluffier fabrics containing cotton (such as fleece or terry cloth) as it may increase the flammability of these fabrics.
On a positive note, my clothes smell fantastic.