Through Baby Eyes

Every morning, it’s a whole new world, fresh with possibilities! For some, that’s a literal statement.

This morning, as a cool wind blew through sun-dappled palm fronds in my yard, I held a 10-day-old baby. June, my adorable little neighbor with a fluffy tuff of brown hair and big blue eyes, actually isn’t even the youngest baby on the block. That honor goes to the family that lives in between June and me. They just had a little boy, and I haven’t held him yet.

I still smell that soft baby smell – and I’m not talking about the inevitable stinkiness. A baby, in general, is just a poop machine. And they don’t work for nobody but you. Sorry about the ear worm there.

Am I the only one who thinks maybe I might accidently break the baby? I do not have any babies of

June and me. Note how her cute little leg is dangling awkwardly. Good news! I did not break this baby.
June and me. Note how her cute little leg is dangling awkwardly. Good news! I did not break this baby.

my own, so I have limited experience with holding beings that so small. June’s mama Aubrey says, “You want to hold her?” And of course I do because babies are super-cute and little, and there’s something amazing about life that new.

Do you remember what it’s like to look through the world with a child’s eye? Think of your earliest memory. My grandfather once said that is indicative of your personality. (My aunt wrote an inspiring memoir about my grandfather with his earliest memory as the title.)

No one really remembers what it’s like having a baby mind. (Research says life memories are repressed before age 3, like dropping baby teeth but with memories.) Baby mind probably goes a little like this: Eat! Poop! Sleep! Love me! (and repeat).

Life is so simple! As we grow, things seem to get more difficult. This is on my to-watch list, by the way.

But really, I love the idea of viewing the world like a baby – well, I guess really a child, since I do need to pay rent somehow. In Yoga classes, I love teaching the concept of viewing the world through child’s eyes. This is especially important when you’re attempting difficult new poses, and I refer both to the physically and the mentally difficult asanas. Can you imagine a child saying, “Oh, geez. I can’t walk! No way! I’ll hurt myself!” She’d never learn to walk.

Homework: Ananda balasana

For babies, life is even more simple. Want the answer to the obesity epidemic in our nation? How about recognizing and honoring the physical sensation of “No, thank you. I am no longer hungry”? Imagine if everyone expressed an honest and real need for love. Or even slept as much as their body needed.

Penelope the cat
Penelope the cat

The problem with living the life of a baby is that one is completely dependent on the world to meet one’s needs. Is this good or bad? My cat is fairly dependent on me for love and food, and she sleeps all the time. But Penelope will be the subject of a future blog post.

Author’s Note: I am not a fan of the phrase “fur baby.” That is all.

June sure was cute! I brought over a vegan baked ziti and a couple tie-dyed onesies that my friend Steve made with love. They loved ‘em, Steve! And I’ll visit the other neighbors soon. Plus, congratulations to Melinda and Brandon, other friends who just had their baby this morning! Is there something in the Martin County water table?

So friendly and cuddly -- until you feed him after dark! Evil Dewey!
So friendly and cuddly — until you feed him after dark! Evil Dewey!

Yikes! Can you imagine the crazy world where somehow an evil mastermind could make women get pregnant through the water supply? There goes feminism.

I am old enough that the vast majority of my peers have had their children or are actively having children. And then some of my friends proclaim that they are not “breeders.” I am in limbo in between extremes. I’m, how do you say, practicing.

The other thing that June liked to do? Stare at random things. So chapter 3 of my new book, Living The Baby Way: A guide to the perfect weight, love and healthy bowel movements (Amazon link forthcoming), I guess should focus on being mesmerized.

As I’m writing this, the wind is blowing my bamboo wind chime, and I can’t help but looking out the window for a moment. Indeed, the now is an amazing moment – and my world is full of possibilities. I don’t need to be a baby to recognize that.

Post-Detox Digest

So my man and I embarked on a weekend detox, and we lived to tell the tale.

“Why?” you may ask. I asked myself that same question!

It’s not like I’m funneling tons of toxins in my body. As faithful blog readers know, I’ve been abstaining from sugar during Lent in a pseudo-Christian attempt at being contrite. That’s been going pretty well, actually. I found that I actually don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so it hasn’t been much of a struggle to say no to those dark-chocolate covered almonds that are sitting in my pantry. It’s been a matter of evaluating my habits (and luxuriating in a single medjool date on occasion). I stopped putting sugar in my coffee a while ago.

Whoa! Coffee! I can see your index finger wagging in the air, righteously. OK, so there’s a toxin, I guess. Although some studies suggest that coffee is actually good for you. I drink a cup or two of

People act like they will become homicidal without coffee. Chill out.
People act like they will become homicidal without coffee. Chill out.

organic, freshly ground French press-made coffee a day. But I’m not like some, cough cough, ex-boyfriends I know who are completely miserable when they don’t have a cup. When I get enough sleep and am not expected to be super-perky in the morning, I don’t need it. But I enjoy it.

And, hey, if you know me, you know I also drink alcohol, but not a crazy amount. I’m petite. There’s not too much I can really drink without it being a problem anyway. Plus it’s stupidly caloric and you wake up feeling like crap. So while I may enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a high-quality craft beer in the evenings, I don’t really feel like that’s much of a problem either.

I eat mostly vegan, whole, organic foods, so it’s not like I’m shoving fast food down my gullet. Ugh, I remember when I was living in New York City and was waiting for my train at Penn Station (this song

Eww.
Eww.

pops in my head). There was a guy next to me unwrapping a Wendy’s burger, and it was the complete opposite of what you see in the commercials. It was a little like this, but way worse. Flat, sloppy, smelly, smooshed … it was, simply, revolting. I knew I’d never order one ever again.

So, what the heck, right? How malfunctioning can my internal organs be? And yours? I mean, how do you know when your liver isn’t operating as smoothly as it should? How does it feel to have your colon not optimal? I really don’t know. Every once in a while, I find myself at GMC or some place, staring at those boxes that promise cleansing, and sometimes I even buy it and use it. And I never really feel that much better at the end – sometimes I feel worse! I tried Advocare, and that made my stomach sour. But chill out, Advocult – I’m happy it works for you.

When my boyfriend announced his interest in a detox, I suggested this one. It’s a weekend, no-fast detox from … wait for it, Vegetarian Times! Golly, what pile of magazines did I find that in? There was actually a benefit to keeping those 14 years of publications, I swear.

The detox involved a lot of bitter greens and lemon water, as well as relaxing, dry brushing and

This is the salad we ate. And ate. And ate.
This is the salad we ate. And ate. And ate.

sweating. We were in. We purchased all organic vegetables and embarked. Saturday morning, I had a Yoga class to teach, so I left him to make the salad and steam vegetables for breakfast. (Man making salad = sexy!) When I returned, we ate, walked on the beach, read, watched a movie and slept early. On Sunday, I taught a SUP Yoga class, so we did that, then ate, napped and went sailing. By then, we were kind of over the bitter greens. I even smelled peanuts on my boyfriend’s breath. Busted!

The first day, he suffered from a caffeine withdraw headache, but that passed. I must say I didn’t feel any different, besides being a little hungry and low energy from the limited caloric intake. We decided for Sunday dinner to relax and eat some chickpea eggplant stew we had for leftovers.

I know, not much of a detox. But I did lose a half pound. That’s good, right?

So, what is the point? I think it’s good to work toward efficient, ideal use of our bodies. It’s good to

This is not my Italian grandmother, but this is approximately the size of meatballs that my mother used to make.
This is not my Italian grandmother, but this is approximately the size of meatballs that my mother used to make.

have a break from substances that we rely on, if only to remember that happiness doesn’t originate from a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, even though it may seem like it is our salvation when we desperately want it. It’s good to remember that we need way fewer calories than we normally consume in America. We get hung up on intake.

Last weekend was a great opportunity to slow down and stop feeling the need to fuel up so I can accomplish more more more. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our value is in our being, not our doing. Happiness comes from within, not from anything on our plate or our cup.

That’s a tough lesson for me, an Italian from a “there’s more in the kitchen” family. In our heads and our hearts, we often connect foods with love. It feels simpler than accepting that all the love we need is right inside our hearts all along.

Besides, there’s a much bigger toxin than poor food and drink choices: stress. Stress is the biggest toxin around. When we realize that the world can provide everything we need – that abundance is all around us – then there’s really nothing to stress about. And that’s better than wine, coffee or burgers could ever make me feel.

Beautiful people encounters

By Suzanne Wentley

One of the best parts of being human, I believe, is sharing smiles with the people around you. But so often, I walk down the sidewalk or into a building and the folks around me are looking down with furrowed brows. They’re closed and, well, maybe a little angry. Or scared. I don’t know. All I know is that I want to say hello to them and smile, but they’re not interested.

We’ve all had those “don’t bother me” days, and I honor the introspective time, even though generally I’m super-do-not-disturb5outgoing and enjoy meeting new people. But often, it seems, it’s not so much a one-time bad mood I’m seeing in others; instead, it’s a bad habit. People keep their hearts closed.

Here’s a soundtrack to this blog post.

Sometimes, the complete opposite occurs. Sometimes, I’m the one with my head down, stuck inside my own head. I’m busy checking things off my to-do list, running errands and thinking only of myself. And then, an angel appears.

This happened recently at Publix, when I was shopping for groceries. I engaged in a conversation with the bag boy, which is a strange title but is what I tend to call those adults who work at Publix and bag up my groceries. More preciously, he engaged me in conversation.

“I’m so tired today!” he exclaimed as he pushed my cart out to my car. “I was up late reading my Hardy Boys book. Then I woke up early to feed my dog and have coffee before I came in.”

This man, I would guess, was in his late 40s, but was clearly a little developmentally delayed. That didn’t stop him from being friendly and yammering on about how he makes a better cup of joe than Publix. I nodded politely.

“And I can’t believe I’m going to miss Paw Patrol today. Have you ever watched Paw Patrol?” he asked, hopefully. I don’t own a TV, nor do I have cable, and even if I did I would never in a million years watch this Nick Jr. show. I shook my head, thinking about my to-do list.

paw-patrol-post-2          “Oh, it’s great,” he continued. “There’s Rubble, he’s an English bulldog who has a skateboard. There’s Zuma, who’s a chocolate Lab with a hovercraft, and Chase, he’s a German shepherd who has a police car. Marshall is a Dalmatian. I bet you can guess what he drives!”

I was starting to zone out, trying to think of an exit strategy, when he ended with a zinger:

“You should watch it sometime. It’ll make you feel like a kid again!”

That stopped me. This was it. This is the problem with so many adults – we rack up so much hurt and mistrust and disappointments from our own and others’ behavior that we stay in, stay closed. Kids never have that problem. They’re stoked to talk about cartoons and Hardy Boys mysteries with anyone who will listen. Life is so amazing, and there’s no reason to stop being amazed.

The trick is being open and engage in life around you. A few weeks after I shared a smile with my new friend at Publix, I was at a high school for work. A few teen boys came up to me and asked if I needed any help. They were wearing matching purple shirts, clearly part of a group. I asked them about it.

“We help out wherever we can,” one said to me. “It’s really great. It feels good when you go home at night to know that you helped out your community.”

“Yeah,” another said. “You don’t even have to get paid. It’s just the right thing to do.”

Yes! At what point as we age do we forget this? I hope I never do. When I was in elementary school, I helpmeandtrashed organize recycling programs. In middle school, I picked up trash. In high school, I helped paint porches of people who couldn’t afford the upkeep of their home. And today, I still volunteer to do these things.

But being a positive, active part of our community is even simpler than that: Simply smile. See, there’s a very easy way to keep your heart open to the world of beauty around you. All you have to do is chose to open your heart. Need a little more help? Check out Michael A. Singer’s book, “The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself.”

You’ll thank yourself for feeling like a kid again!

Burn, baby, burn!

So a few weeks ago, over some cheap tequila-based margaritas, which I SWEAR I am not going to ever order again based on the fog that entrenches my head the following day, I was telling my friend Dacia about my divestment strategy.

IMG_7263 I’d already given away and/or sold piles and piles of clothes, books, kitchen appliances and, sigh, yes, Vegetarian Times. But I had found a cache of letters, notes and photos from ex-boyfriends – those who had done me really, really wrong, those who done me kinda wrong and those who did me a little wrong. But wrong. Wrong enough for the whole, you know, “ex” in front of their title.

I really didn’t need to be keeping this stuff, but it was hard to part with it. I looked at my little paper stash and was reminded of the love in my life, the times when these men were thoughtful and expressed their love. Before the yelling, the slammed doors, the hole punched in the wall, the squealed tires … before I demanded they get their stuff and get out of my life. Before I knew all that would happen.

Who wouldn’t want to hang on to those good memories, when life was seen though rose-colored glasses? Well, sometimes that view is surprisingly similar to the view after some cheap tequila. It hurts. It hurts because, while those things reminded me that, yes, there was love there, it also made clear that I was ignoring red flags with the simple hope of happiness with a partner. It was time to part with this stuff, and Dacia agreed.

“You need to just burn it,” she said.

And what better way that in a ceremony at the beach? Beach bonfire, baby! Oh, yes! So she found a bunch of pallets to burn, and I got busy compiling all flammable items I didn’t need.

Besides those letters and photos, I also had things that made me happy, too. I kept three files labeled, “Nice Things People Say.” Yes, when you send me an email or letter and compliment me, there’s a little fuzzy warmth that builds in the back of my head, my cheeks flush with joy and I tuck your nicety away in a folder. If it’s via email and it was during my last few jobs, I evidently printed it out and added it to a folder – which then sat in a box in the back of my closet. Although those things made me feel good to re-read, I didn’t need them anymore.

Here is a list of everything I burned in the bonfire on the beach last weekend:

  1. A broken peacock feather (I live in Rio, home of wild peacocks, so I have lots of feathers. But the broken one was sad.)
  2. Dried lavender from my garden that I’ve hung in a doorway of my kitchen for years. I think I was going to make satchels with it.
  3. FullSizeRender-2Three bouquets of dried roses from various gentlemen. One was white, from a recent Valentine’s Day. One was especially thorny, much like that relationship.
  4. Two dried leis of frangipani flowers created by my dear friend Sunita. Love you Sunita!
  5. Last Sunday’s New York Times
  6. Empty boxes that once contained a French press, kitty litter and a lava lamp
  7. Worn and gray Tibetan flags, which were replaced recently with brightly colored ones that hang in my carport
  8. Notes, letters and photos from past love
  9. The Nice Things People Say folders
  10. Pictures of my old house
  11. An awesome, oversized thank you card “From My Neighbors” after we passed the Children’s Services Council referendum. I took a picture of that!FullSizeRender
  12. My 2014 vision board. What a great year that was – it was everything I envisioned.
  13. A few paintings I did on brown paper bags and of scenes that reminded me of trying times
  14. A ton of old incense – where did I get all of it? It smelled old and faded.
  15. Some papers hung on my refrigerator, which was getting a little overrun
  16. Words that I had taped to my mirror in my bathroom that read, “Think long term, big picture: You are beautiful just the way you are!”
  17. FullSizeRenderA bundle of dried sage, a braid of sweet grass and a stick of palo santo wood

Man, it felt so good to get rid of all that, and in such a beautiful way, too. My friends helped start the fire by wadding up the papers to use as kindling, and everything was quickly up in flames. Our little fire pit was perfect, and so was the wind, which was present but gentle. Watching the smoke waft toward the sunset as the golden hour brought a warm haze over the beach and almost felt a little like looking through rosy glasses.IMG_7257

We sat around the fire until it became glowing embers (and wished we brought a couple potatoes to cook for dinner), as the waxing moon and Jupiter shone down over the waters. Then we covered the ashes with sand, gathered our blankets and left – like it never happened.

When I woke the next morning, I was anything but foggy. It was a brand new day, and I had the space to invite all the love, beauty and friendship of it in.