My family thinks I'm a spaz

Why do I always end up looking like a spaz in front of my family?

I like to think that I'm a capable person with resources enough to resolve most situations and smarts enough to call for help when I need it. I rarely lose things or have a *really* messy house. I'm good with navigation, a trustworthy person to loan stuff too, and fairly punctual.

I do okay, you know?

But every time the Palancas gather, I end up feeling like the village idiot. I'm late, I forget stuff... and end up giving my parents and brother more fodder for teasing me.

On Saturday, I was late to the big family dinner. When I slipped behind the wheel, I was "delighted" to discover that my car wasn't starting. I called my brother and he picked me up on the way to the resto.

After dinner, we all went back to my house. My father and brother wanted to see if they could boost the car. That's when the laughter began:
  • In my haste, I had left the car keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked. Who cares if no one could make off with it, "Adria! Did you leave the keys in here to save time?"
  • My mother, while in my house, noticed that my fridge was empty-ish. Who cares if Sunday is grocery day, "Adria! Why don't you have food? You ate enough at dinner - is that supposed to last you all week?
And on, and on, and on... BLURGH! How do they do that??


What you already know

Yogis at Ashtanga Yoga Montreal know that class with Allison always begins with a short talk explaining a yogic concept. She often uses real-life examples to illustrate what she means and likes to ask us questions to encourage our participation.

This Saturday, she asked, "Why do we chant?"

So I cast my mind back over the numerous readings we did during teacher training, and skimmed memories of past lectures in search of an answer. Nothing rose to the surface. In the meanwhile, another student responded with a personal experience.

Although I didn't quite understand the context of the story being told, Allison nodded her head, "Yes, what you are saying is, we chant to quiet the discursive mind."

The thing is, I knew that... I was just looking in the wrong place. I learned Ashtanga's opening chant while trying to mend a broken heart. One line every day - or every two days - depending on how hard the pronunciation.

Whenever I started to think about the man in question and obsessively go over all the ways in which he had betrayed me, I would sing the increasingly familiar syllables of the chant (in my head) until my mind became less fevered. No matter how many times my monkey brain wanted to enumerate all his sins, I would gently steer it away with vande gurunam.

Our experiences are an important part of our knowledge. We sometimes wish to clear our memories of bad experiences and past upsets, but they are valuable moments in time that can be added to our future wisdom. I have a tendency to rely on my intellectual side to provide answers to difficult questions, but sometimes (as I was reminded yesterday) my heart is equally capable of answering.


Wordpress templates - Help!

So I'm finally migrating to Wordpress. I've started browsing blog templates and I'm a little stuck.

My criteria:
  • Minimalist, preferably with a white background to draw out the colours of any fotos
  • Widget-friendly
  • Room for growth
So far the frontrunner is Wu-Wei, although I keep getting drawn back to Apricot. Feedback? Suggestions? Recommendations?

Ready, set, go!


The writing life

As you may have previously read in this space, I am now working a three-day week. Today was my first full day at home -- and besides taking snaps of the last roses of the season -- it has been a very productive day.

I did the laundry while moving sentences around in my head.
I wrote the middle of the short story long-hand.
I walked downtown while organizing the verbal movements of hands in a broom closet.
I took a lunch-time yoga class.
I wrote the end of the short story long-hand.
I napped.
And now I'm blogging.

The short story is no where near being finished. It's a skeleton to which I must add -- over the next few days -- muscle, tendon, and skin. And yet I couldn't be more satisfied with my day because I was fully immersed in the writing life.

The writing life is about time. So much needs to happen in your head before you put the words down. A writer needs time to let the ideas sit, evolve and change. Adjectives must be weighed. Scenarios played out to every possible denouement. Then when you're ready, you need the time to find the words that most accurately describe your vision.

Good, satisfying work, that's what I did today.


When your clients don't respect you

What to do? What to do?

Lately, I've heard from several friends who are freelancers and who are dealing with clients who consistently show no respect for the expertise and talents of the person they hired.

It's a situation I know all too well from my freelance days.

In almost every case, the client is demanding changes that do not jive with the original briefing, the overall purpose of the page, and/or the existing content.

It's like wanting to add the large image of a purple poodle to a Web page that addresses how to plant bulbs for spring. It may complement the overall look of the page, but it dilutes the quality content, it detracts from the user experience and it could ultimately deter the site user from returning.

In situations such as these, you follow the usual protocols:
  • Reviewing documentation to make sure you didn't miss anything about purple poodles
  • Offering alternative suggestions that bridge the gap between their demands and your professional prerogative
  • Sending all recommendations by email, so that there's proof of your efforts
Sometimes, because of your due diligence, the client will become more open to discussion. But some clients consistently demand that you execute their orders, no arguments, thank you.

Clients are not obliged to take every piece of advice that you give them of course, but if you're starting to feel like a monkey rather than a valued collaborator, what do you do?

Jeffrey Tang
suggests asking the following question: If all my clients were like this, could I still run a successful business?” If the answer is no, it may be time to cut that client loose – even if it hurts to do so. It’ll be worth it in the long run.

For a freelancer, cutting the client loose is an especially scary step because of how precarious the freelance life can oftentimes be. But if your professional pride is suffering as a result of this client relationship - if how you view yourself is changing because of this situation - then a hard decision needs to be made.

Bref: Getting new clients is all about selling yourself and your abilities. Consequently, clients that cut down your confidence may in fact be preventing you from gaining new clients.

So when do you draw the line?


Letter to my teenage self

I warn you now - this week is all about the memes :)

Today's meme comes from Bram @ Connect to the Sky, who got the idea from Perez Hilton. The idea is not only to reflect on how the intervening years have shaped who you are, but also to see if any of the advice you offer your teenage self could be relevant to you right now.

Dear Adriana, age 16,

It's probably making you a little nervous to be reading this, but don't worry, I won't reveal any of the events that filled the 20-year gap between us. That would defeat the purpose of experiencing it all firsthand, no?

Rest assured that many things have happened. Some wonderful. Some terrible. But all important. All yours. You may be tempted to want to erase things from your mind, to pretend they never happened, but just let them be. They have no real power over you.

First of all, you have turned into an extraordinary woman. Don't lift your eyebrows at me, missy, I wouldn't lie to you about these things. You may not feel extraordinary right now, but be patient, you'll find your way, I promise. Just remember these words when the going gets tough.

Some words of comfort from me to you:
  • You're swimming against the current. You're making decisions that are unpopular with your parents and friends. You will continue to do this for many years to come, so don't turn back - just become a better swimmer.
  • That feeling you have of always being a late bloomer, of always being behind? You're a slow burning flame, baby. Don't rush what can't be rushed and just savour the journey.
  • There will be plenty of boys, stop worrying.
  • Stop the comparisons. No one has it better than you, or worse. We're all in this beautiful mess together.
  • Let yourself be surprised. I know it's not a strength of yours, but it's a lovely experience that you don't want to miss out on.
  • One day, you will love your body. It won't be perfect, but you're going to love it nonetheless.
  • Your mother isn't going to change. Love her anyway.
  • And lastly, words words words words words.
Some of this stuff is hard, I know, and most of it doesn't even make sense right now. I'm still battling with some of it. Important thing to remember is, you're here so make the best of it.

Or should I say, we're here, let's make the best of it...

Love, Adriana, age 36

Foto from flickr.com/photos/postcardsfromhome


When not to do yoga

During yoga teacher training, we were given a detailled list of when not to practice yoga:

* if injured
* if menstruating (opt for a gentle restorative practice instead)
* if you have a head cold
* if suffering from disabilities, severe, acute or chronic medical conditions (unless your doc says okay)

But I would also add:

*when your body and mind do not want it

Let me explain.

Yes, it's true that left to its own devices, your body will always opt for another hour in bed or one more episode of Twin Peaks on DVD.

And yes, yoga (as does most exercise) will give you a lift to get past your anger, stress, etc.

But if you have a fairly disciplined practice already, you probably also have a very intuitive understanding of your body and its cues. And there are moments, when the messages coming from your body are asking you to not practice yoga.

Maybe you're sleep deprived.
Maybe a cold or migraine is coming on.
Maybe you feel mentally tired from all the demands put on you recently.

In such cases, I'm all for taking a day off. Sleep. Or meditate instead to quiet your mind. Spend a quiet afternoon on the couch with a good book. Have a good, healthy meal.

Although it does not happen often, I have moments like that. Had one this past Saturday. In the past, on such days, I dragged myself to yoga, only to muscle my way through the practice and end up feeling even more disconnected from my body.

I find, however, on those days when I make the conscious decision to feed some other need, I return to the practice with a little more joy and a little more focus because the foundation of my practice - my body - is more stable.

Lack of sleep and poor nutrition is just as disabling as an injury. Despite its many lauded benefits, yoga is not the cure to all maladies - it is merely one tool towards greater well-being.

Throwing yourself into the practice when you are not physically open to it could even lead to injury. So if your body and mind are saying "not today", maybe you should give it some attention before slipping on those yoga pants.

Photo by Jacques.


Girl geek? Or Web weary?

Some days I think I'm fed up with the Web and I just want to cuddle with an old-school notebook and pencil.

And other days, I'm downloading new desktop tools, grovelling for a GoogleWave invite and troubleshooting basic html.

As much as I love negotiating language and playing with words all day, I'm exhausted by the constant stream of activity and information. Between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the other social media I come across at work, I feel as if I never have a moment to myself. Someone is always talking and like the compulsive communicator that I am, I am always answering.

This is a hard feeling to deal with because the Web has allowed me to connect with people and communities. I have found (and been found) by yogis, tangueras, bloggers, artists and writers of all varieties. For this, I am truly grateful. But I'm still ambivalent about some aspects.

What I love about Facebook: the dialogues launched by great status lines, birthday reminders, photo albums

I've been limiting my Facebook time over the last two weeks because the "What type of monkey/era/sandwich/cartoon shoe are you?" quizzes are driving me crazy. I don't take quizzes anymore, I don't add applications, I don't join causes, and I don't want any puppy plants on my page. It's not because I'm a mean-spirited person. I just don't like clutter and excessive busyness.

Also, I don't need to know everything about my friends all the time. I like to leave some fodder for discussion when I actually see you. Crazy, I know!

What I love about blogging: It allows me to be a writer of creative non-fiction

Stretching that part of my brain helps me be a better copywriter and a better fiction writer. However, in order to be a successful blogger, you must have a niche or an angle that sets you apart from the rest.

The only thing that's special about my blog is my worldview. I don't want to be a famous yogi or a famous tango dancer or even a top book critic. I just want to have experiences and write about them. This, understandably, is a hard thing to sell.

What I *like* about Twitter: sharing articles and links of interest, letting my friends help me make discoveries, none of the upkeep of Facebook

Why I haven't progressed to "love" with Twitter: I haven't entirely figured out how it can be of use to me. Of course the big irony is, I'll probably be posting this link on Twitter/Facebook to incite you all to read and comment on this post. Does this make me a hypcrite? Or a masochist?

Mostly, it makes me curious and determined. The Web is an undeniable part of our present - and our future. And as I truly am a compulsive communicator, I will continue to experiment/play with these platforms until I find a happy medium between my needs and how they can benefit those needs.