The Yoga of Experience – Native Language

sb2

You never forget your first language(s).

I got back from California two weeks ago. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get back to the typewriter, so to speak. If I had to pick a reason – OK, if I had to pick two reasons, they would be:
1. Craft ADD. I love making stuff. With my hands. It’s fun. Sewing, knitting, crochet, making products to use on your beautiful skin. It’s in my blood, making things. Just ask my Dad. So I’ve been busy making stuff.
2. Fear of creative expression. Weird for someone who claims to be a writer, right? And even though I’ll be the first person to demand that the definition of “being human” includes the words “creative expression is one of the core tenets of being human,” it’s sometimes is easier to ignore this and just binge watch Cheers, than to put myself out there and let the inside out.
And sometimes, it’s just hard to find the right words.

I had a fantastic time during my three-week SoCal vacation. Duh! I practiced yoga in Long Beach. I read a PG Wodehouse book (among others). I walked on the beach (a lot). I ate sushi, I bought Vans, and I drank a lot of coffee. I enjoyed doing things and visiting with people, and I enjoyed doing absolutely nothing other than feeling the sunshine on my bare skin. Oh man, I love that place so much.
Even though I’ve been gone a looooooong time, Southern California still feels like home when I’m there. Everything just seems so relaxed, and there’s pretty much at least one of every kind of person you can imagine – everything goes. So it’s really easy to feel like I fit in. Especially in Sunset Beach. I can’t even imagine how much money you would need to actually live there these days, but nonetheless, the atmosphere is relaxed and unpretentious.
When I arrive at the beach, I fall into a wonderful sort of familiarity that feels so natural. I don’t have to try to do or be anything. It all just is, and it’s always exactly as it should be. The waves keep coming, the sun sets over Rancho Palos Verdes, the cargo ships wait their turn to dock in San Pedro. My grandmother’s house still stands – empty now, but still full of memories tucked into every corner.

On this trip, I really connected with Seal Beach, too. It’s sooo cute! I love it there. My Dad told me that he and my Mom were living in Seal Beach when I was born. They rented a house, because my Dad had gotten a teaching job nearby. I didn’t really know that before; my Mom never told me much about her time with my dad. But realizing they lived there together, in that cute, cute place…no wonder I love it there too. No wonder it’s so familiar, somehow.
I will buy a house there someday. It might end up being a teeny tiny house, but it will happen. I’ll have a short walk to the beach, and a short walk to Main Street where I can meet my friends and have a coffee and watch the tourists. You can come visit anytime.

seal beach pier
seal beach pier

I started and ended my trip to SoCal with a visit at my Dad’s house, in the foothills of La Crescenta. It’s kind of a nice way to bookend the trip – a way to acclimate. When I first get to California, a visit with family makes the transition to the culture a little easier. And on the way back home, it’s a good transition back to reality. Because if I had to leave Sunset Beach and drive straight to LAX to get on a plane back to Tulsa, I would cry for three straight weeks.
And of course, it’s also nice to see my Dad.
After years and years of living with women, my Dad has gotten pretty good at listening, without necessarily offering solutions. Occasionally a logical (to him) solution does pop out – and that’s ok – but he’s a good listener. It’s really nice to be able to talk to him about things that I’m learning or discovering or working on. He knows my language, he understands what I’m saying. And one thing he does do, without fail, is call me on my shit.
He listens so closely, that he challenges me when I speak in opposition to who I am working on becoming (he’ll probably have an issue with how I worded that just now, but I can’t think of any other way to say it, sorry Dad!). He challenges me when I express doubt or negativity, after declaring that I am no longer going to express doubt or negativity. He requires me to clarify my thoughts and intentions. He knows my language, because I am his daughter. No one else is left on this earth who can know me like that. There’s a sense of familiarity between us that I sometimes still marvel at to this day, since we didn’t spend much time together when I was growing up.

So as I understand the language of Southern California, so does my Dad understand the language that is me. I am fluent in Californian, I am fluent in Neil. Perhaps they are the same? Either way, I will craft something good out of this language, and it will be amazing, and it will be mine, and my Dad will love it.

ace and dad
ace and dad
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The Yoga of Experience – The Vacation Inside the Vacation

Practicing My Quiet Skillz

vacation inside the vacation

Today marks the beginning of my third week of vacation.
I have never had a three-week vacation before, not counting summers off from school. Which was about a million years ago, anyway.
But earlier this year, I decided that if I was going to make the effort to come out to SoCal and soak up the sunny vibes, then I was going to do it HARDCORE and make it a 3-week affair – for better or worse. As a self-employed person, “paid vacations” are a just an enviable concept, and so when you are someone who still relies on trading hours of your life for money, not working for a while has its, well, shall we say, disadvantages. So I am toughing it out here by the seaside. Thank goodness for Trader Joe’s and the Ralph’s Rewards Card.

My companions have gone home, and I have the next few days to myself before I head inland to my Dad’s, to spend some time with him before heading back to Oklahoma. A vacation inside the vacation, as it were. So here I am at the beach, listening to the waves. All by myself.

Being at the seaside is, to me, the best place to be. As an (extreme) introvert, always looking for potential escape routes or opportunities to extricate myself from possible mayhem, the seaside offers unique opportunities to feel very much on the outside of everything. I am at the edge here. There is one whole side of my view that has NO ONE IN IT and part of me really likes that. The ocean seems to go on forever, offering endless possibilities for emptiness… ah… Add in the salty smell, the sound of the waves, the sunsets over the water (and the surfers), and you have the fixins for My Favorite Place.

I cherish the time I spend here at the beach by myself. There is no stereo, no TV, no wifi, and for the next few days, very few people to talk to. A mini-vacation inside my vacation.
As I sit here, I can hear the waves, and see some kite surfing gear floating in the sky above the top of my grandmother’s house. I am staying in the apartment above the garage. And while it doesn’t have an actual ocean view, it is close enough. Plus, it’s been remodeled, and therefore has a few more modern amenities, such as a stove made in this century and newer plumbing. Since it’s on the second floor, there’s plenty of afternoon light coming in, and it’s truly one of the most pleasant spaces I’ve had the privilege of spending time in.
I stay up here because it’s comfy, but also because I’m hesitant to stay in the main house, my Grandma’s house. She passed away several years ago, but hasn’t lived here for maybe close to 15 years. The property belongs to a family member, who plans to keep the house as close to its original condition as possible (it’s one of the last remaining original structures here on the beach, with unique architectural features, as well as a whole lot of family and neighborhood history. I am dreaming of writing a book on the history of the Neil family and of Sunset Beach…)
I was here a lot as a child, and some of my happiest memories are of spending time here, with my Grandma. And so you might be wondering why I would be hesitant to stay downstairs, in her house…

While the house is definitely habitable, it’s just not… the same. Which is fine – it would be unreasonable to expect thigs to remain the same. But still…
Most of my Grandma’s personal effects are in storage, as the house will eventually be renovated. There is so much history and love and stories in those walls, but for the past few years the energy has felt “in flux.” It’s as if the house misses her. Only once have I felt her presence here – I think she is having a grand time traveling all over the universe, seeing all the sights she dreamt about when she was human, and is too busy to come back here to the beach. But the house is missing her.

I love it here, and I often can’t wait to be alone here. But once I am alone, and it’s just me and the wind and the waves and the setting sun, something akin to loneliness comes up, especially in the evenings and at night. Even us extreme introverts have our limits! Everything in life is all about balance, after all. Tip the scales too far, and we need to find ways to get back to center.

In my ever-increasing wisdom, I realize that this loneliness or emptiness is just a feeling, and once acknowledged, and with a little practice, it can be exchanged for thoughts that are more pleasant. Maybe that’s why I’m here – so I can practice that. There is no one to talk to, no music, no commercials, just me, and… me. So often we try to fill all the empty spaces. Sometimes facing the quiet – and ourselves – can be difficult. But what a great opportunity to practice making it easier.

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2015 SCT – Day 12 – The Last Day.

The last day… So I was about to run out of Q-Tips so I decided that I may as well head home. But seriously… Time to go home and get back to it.
The thing was – what would I be getting back to? I’m currently between writing assignments, and while there are some really exciting projects to get started on, there is nothing that I have to get back and “do,” save a dentist appointment. And I managed to reschedule that for another month out…
On the last day of my Day Job, I received my first freelance assignment. I worked towards the deadline of finishing that project, and then I worked towards going on my business / research trip to Texas. Now both of those are done and I don’t know what comes next…
So I realized I had probably some sort of unconscious block towards heading home.
Right before I woke up Tuesday morning, I had a dream about my Grandma’s house, on the beach. It’s a recurring dream, where huge storms of strong winds and high waves pummel the house, and the house always stays intact, the large living room windows never yielding. I am always safe inside. This time, though, a storm blew through and the house flooded. And eventually collapsed. I tried to go through what was left in the house (in the sunshine, because the rain stopped and the clouds disappeared as soon as the house fell), but I realized that I didn’t really need to take anything with me. It turns out you don’t need much stuff.
I woke up. I packed, had breakfast, and started home.
IMG_3594I did make one detour though – back to Coffee Slingers in OKC. I had to make sure the great latte I’d had on the way down wasn’t a fluke, you know? And by jove, it wasn’t. It was in the Top 3 of the entire trip. The Boss chick was there again and she was roasting beans! I had to talk to her. So we chatted for a while and it turns out her name is Melody, and she owns the shop. A woman! Owns the shop! And roasts her own beans! I had been lamenting the seeming lack of women involved in the coffee culture. She said that yes, women were definitely in the minority and she thought maybe this was because women were intimidated by the machinery. Well, she isn’t. She is Boss. I actually hope to interview her one day soon…

I’ll probably post a few more observations from the trip over the next few days – I drank a lot of coffee and met a lot of cool people, and the whole thing was so much fun. I hope to do more coffee tours in the future, too.

But for now – I am back home. What is next?

 

cslastday

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2015 SCT Day 11 – Davis Street Espresso, FTW!!

Monday, April 6 – my last full day of “vacation.”

I drove over to Love Field and had lunch with Dayl. She works for Southwest, and she signed me into the Compound so I could check it out and eat lunch with her in their cafeteria. Southwest seems like a pretty cool place to work! If I had worked for a company that had a “People Department” and encouraged everyone to treat everyone else as part of a big family, and had common areas for employees to interact or just “hang out” with each other, instead of tracking everywhere I went on the internet (and then sending the list to my managers) and only allowing “7 pieces of flare” on people’s desks – I might have enjoyed Korporate Amerika a little more. I experienced the same thing when I was in Austin, and went to visit the company I’d been contracted to write for. It’s nice to see that some companies encourage a little actual diversity and creativity. So nice job, Southwest!

dayl and ace at southwest
dayl and ace at southwest

After lunch, I drove over to visit my last stop on the Texas leg of the Spring Coffee Tour. I had read a few articles, and tried to choose my location wisely… I chose Davis Street Espresso on – you guessed it – Davis Street, in what seems to be referred to as the Tyler-Davis neighborhood. The shop is the retail space for Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters. Their main business is roasting beans, but the Davis Street space is amazing and a great stand-alone coffee shop. As soon as I walked in I got chills and that semi-giddy feeling knowing I was about to have a great cup of coffee…
Two very pleasant people helped me with ordering a latte and picking out some freshly roasted beans to take home with me. Then I watched the barista make my latte on their super fancy Bosco espresso machine. Boscos are lever espresso machines – you pull a shot by literally pulling a long lever. There are no automatic functions on the machine – it’s completely manual. Meaning of course, you really need to know what you’re doing to make a good espresso. Bosco machines are made in Italy and this one looked beautiful! And so did my latte, when it arrived, completely filled to the brim of a lovely blue cup on a lovely blue saucer. I was in heaven already.

oooooooooohhhhh
oooooooooohhhhh

I did the obligatory photo taking, then sat down and stared at my coffee for a few minutes. Again – savoring the anticipation. I really enjoy that feeling… I took a sip. It did not disappoint. At all.

oooooooooohhhhh some more
oooooooooohhhhh some more

I did a little people-watching and note-taking while I slowly drank my latte. It was So. Freakin. Good. Nice and smooth, a little nutty, no sour or bitter aftertaste. OMG. After I finished, I went to talk to the barista. I asked him about the machine, and I asked him how many grams of coffee they dosed for their shots. He said about 18 (and oh dear I can’t remember how many grams he said the resulting shot was). I couldn’t believe it! It was the same amount of coffee that Shift used but the taste was completely different. Of course some of this was because of the beans but I’ll wager a good deal of the difference was the machine. I am somewhat curious about those things but in the end – a fantastic cup of coffee is a fantastic cup of coffee. I’d wager to say that this was the best latte I had in the DFW area. I cursed all the way back to Dayl’s house. Goddam, that was effing fantastic!

The afternoon was spent writing and jumping on a business call, and the evening was spent with my wonderful Fort Worth hostess Dayl. She is a super generous person and makes everyone feel welcome in her home. Thank you Dayl!

The last full day of the trip: a success.

did i mention they also had a custom kees van der westen??
did i mention they also had a custom kees van der westen??
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2015 SCT, Day 10 – Easter in Forth Worth

Easter Sunday – April 5, 2015
I spent the day in Fort Worth with a bunch of Australians. I’m finally getting used to the accent and can, for the most part, understand almost everything everyone is saying. Almost.
After a delicious Easter Breakfast of Dayls’ now famous Eggs Benedict, some of the Aussies went off for some sightseeing while Dayl, Cheryl and I stayed behind. We did, however, make it out for a quick trip to World Market. I know, I know, shopping on Easter? Well, none of us are particularly religious. We did watch Oprah interview Pema Chodron though, so I think that counts…
I had to go to World Market. I’m on a limited budget on this trip, but I had gotten requests to purchase a few things:

  • 3 beachwood spatulas
  • Austrian-made Manner wafer cookies, lemon and hazelnut flavors
  • Ritter Sport dark chocolate covered Marzipan

I was in luck that they had all 3 requests! Plus so much more. Usually I find at least a few interesting coffee paraphenalia at World Market, and today was no exception. As I got closer to the area in the store where they keep that stuff, I could feel the anticipation building… and I turned the corner and saw… a display of Aeropresses! Oh yes, I could so totally rationalize buying one of those…
You really can rationalize anything, for or against, positive or negative, yes or no… it’s really pretty easy. And one thing I’ve learned over the years that if you need a little extra nudge in trying to rationalize something, just call Dayl. I showed her the display. An Aeropress landed in my basket.
Of course I had to try it out right after lunch (the purpose of which was simply to get some food in my stomach so I could have a coffee).
Now, since I’m not at home, I was lacking some necessary equipment for making proper pour over coffee – like a scale and a conical burr grinder. I love Dayl but all she has is a blade grinder, and those don’t cut the mustard, so to speak. You don’t get even-sized pieces of beans. They just keep “grinding” beans finer and finer, and you get some larger chunks and some very fine particles (known as “fines”). This produces an uneven extraction which can make the coffee bitter. You won’t get the proper flavors from the coffee beans. A burr grinder gives you a better chance of having evenly-ground coffee. Also I’d prefer to weigh my beans and water, so I can (re)produce consistently good coffee. So sorry Dayl, if I sound like an ungrateful house guest… I used the scoop to measure out the beans, and did the best I could with the blade grinder.
I made everyone a cup of Aeropress coffee with the Cuvee coffee beans I’d brought from Austin. Each cup tasted different, and since the brewing method was essentially the same (with some variation, as the Aeropress is COMPLICATED at first, sheesh!), I can only guess that the inconsistency came from grinding the beans. I think there’s real potential with the Aeropress, as people really rave about them, but I’ll have to wait until I get home to try it out with the Proper Equipment. Even so, it was fun!
IMG_3570             IMG_3574
That evening, Dayl made sure Cheryl caught her plane back to Sydney (which she had missed the day before, hence her stopping by for a day). Nice to meet you, Cheryl!
The rest of us watched Chef – a “cute” movie that was fairly predictable but nicely done. It left me feeling really hungry.

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