30 January 2012

valley between the dolls

When I started Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga six weeks ago, here were certain poses I was unable to do, mostly owing to a lack of upper arm and core strength. But now, it's been almost two months and I'm doing yoga 3+ hours a week (the class is scheduled for an hour and a half, but sometimes it goes over. Last week it ran two hours!) and those poses are becoming easier, stronger. I can do The Wheel now and even a Supported Shoulder Stand.

When I started, Plow was one of those poses. Say what? You want me to roll back? Like, all the way over? And then just kinda hang out in that position? Riiiiiiight. And what's this business about dropping my knees to my ear? And then you want me to do Full Lotus while hanging out flipped over? Good one. No, really. You are freaking hysterical, oh dear instructor of mine.

Six weeks ago: Impossible. Now: Possible. Or at least it might have been had it not been for two not-so-small things. Last week I was able to roll back into the position but had my chest sitting directly on my throat and could not breathe. And then it happened again in the following Tuesday morning class. Sure, while my instructor and I joked about it, her telling me "That's what happens when you have a nice rack," I was annoyed and frustrated. Here was this pose that was physically impossible just a few weeks ago because I just wasn't strong enough and now it's physically impossible because of my boobs?!

So I started searching for solutions and, along the way, found Curvy Yoga, which might be one of my new favorite blogs. I don't know why, but I was honestly surprised at how many other women had this issue. But, again, I don't know why. I shouldn't be. We have big breasts. They get in the way. For some, like me, it's in Plow. For others, like Anna at Curvy Yoga, it was Bridge. So we adapt. It's nothing new: I've required a bra since I was about twelve and even then it was probably close to a C. You learn to deal with them and you learn to get creative.

For me, it meant going into my closet. While one of the other instructors at my studio suggested duct tape, I wasn't that desperate. Yet. Instead, I decided to wear a minimizing bra under my sports bra. It didn't look like it had done much, but I could tell a huge difference during my first Down Dog: instead of staring into my cleavage, I was staring at the wall behind me. Those babies were packed on down and rolling back into Plow I breathed a sigh of relief because I could actually breathe.

In just six weeks, I've come so far and it makes me excited to go to each class, to see how I'll surprise myself this week. It makes me optimistic to know that, yes, one day I will be able to do Firefly. I've lost a total of 59.2 pounds (1/2lb this week) and my entire attitude and relationship with food and myself has changed. Over the weekend I made a (vegetarian) pepperoni pizza with a cauliflower crust and didn't even miss the dough. My weekly Tuesday post-yoga latte is non-fat & sugar free, something I would have scoffed at in the past, in a what's the point? kind of way, but it's a ritual I look forward to.

The fact that I posted pictures in my last post is monumental. I'm more of the sort to hide behind my words, but I'm proud of where I am and how far I've come and like to think the confidence radiates. Make no mistake, for all the healthy changes I've made in my life, I still have a lot more weight to lose and am still very much a Fat Girl. Just because I can do Wheel now doesn't mean I get to stop, as there are plenty of poses still left to conquer. But the key is repetition and courage. Every time I go to the mat, I have to at least try. Even if that means making an ass of myself and falling over. I mean, hello: if I can figure out how to do Plow and still breathe, I can eventually figure out something as simple as a supported headstand.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

29 January 2012

we're all going mod here

Last week I got a text from a friend asking if I'd like to going to the Western Reserve Historical Society's annual fundraiser event as one of her friends (who I've met before) had an extra ticket. Second weekend in a row spent at a Cleveland benefit? Just call me High Society Girl.

The event was '60s themed, complete with appropriately-themed music, food, decorations. There were also some Silent Auction and Raffle items, some of which fit into the theme (like the VW Beetle advertising poster I had my eye on) and some that didn't (like the Hale Farm & Village gift basket). Oh, and cocktails. Like Blue Hawaiians. Which I might have had two of.

Dressing up was optional, and while I originally told Lisa I wouldn't, with some magic in my closet and a couple of YouTube make-up videos, I managed to pull together an outfit partially inspired by Edie Sedgwick. (Let me tell you: I used to think I wore a lot of eye makeup, but that's nothing compared to what I was rockin' last night.)

Bonus: I now know how to throw together an Adele Halloween costume if I ever so choose.

My friend ended up winning Best Costume, but looking at that sweet blue dress it's not hard to see why.

By the end of the evening, our group had decided it would be fun to throw a '60s themed dinner party and game night. Good thing I have that ol' fondue pot of mine.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

26 January 2012

too fond of books

As a librarian and a writer I, naturally, am also a reader. I was that weird kid who spent her recesses holed up in the school library and over Christmas break would take full advantage of the fact that we were allowed to check out something, like, 25 books instead of the normal 2. My living room is "Alice in Wonderland" themed, "Gone With the Wind" has been an obsession favorite of mine since I first read it at 13 and I tackled "Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix" in a single night (true story).

In school I always read ahead, even when we were told not to, and then I'd sit there in class, nodding smugly as the teacher hinted at things to come in later chapters.

I read "Macbeth" for the first time in 8th grade. For fun. (Although that might go a long way in explaining why, of all the Bard's plays, I chose to adapt that one.)

I spent years with my nose literally in a book. If I wasn't reading said book than I was writing it.

That obnoxious girl you hated 'cause she was a total teachers pet in English class? That'd be me.

Being an adult, finding the time to read as much as I did when I was a kid has proved difficult, although I do benefit from having the luxury of a job that essentially pays me to do just that. So I decided to sign up for the GoodReads 2012 Reading challenge, setting myself a goal of 50 books. I'm probably selling myself short on that one, as I think I was close to 60 last year. But, on the other hand, in 2010 I only read 25. It all just depends.

However, I did decide that just a set number wasn't enough. See, over the past few years, I've come to realize that I have a habit when it comes to picking out books. Specifically, I don't read enough non-fiction and I read way too much contemporary fiction.

So I decided to take the challenge a step more by issuing two very simple rules that I would have to adhere to throughout the year:

1) Half of the books I read must be non-fiction (my plan is to alternate).

2) Of the other half of [fiction] books, half of those have to have been published at least 50 years ago, so before 1962. (I realize that doesn't seem that long ago, but for me it sadly is when it comes to literature.)

Easy enough, right?

Actually, I'm off to a very good start: The first book of the year was "Neverwhere" (a birthday gift from Lindy Loo who proved how well she knows me since I adored this book) is fiction. That was followed by the biography "A Beautiful Mind" and right now I'm re-reading "Jane Eyre."

Of course, this is where you come in Dear Readers, as I am in need of suggestions. Another habit I have is that I tend to re-read the same books over and over again. The way I see it, life is too short to spend it on bad writing. Despite the fancy degree in library & information science, I am not the type to walk into a library and pick a book out based on the synopsis on the dust jacket. If it's not by a beloved author or part of a familiar series or came recommended by someone I trust, then chances are good I won't ever read it.

But, see, I trust all of you which is why I am asking you to suggest books for me. While I do perhaps limit what I read, I don't limit what I'd like to read. That is: fiction, non-fiction, biography, historical, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, whatever, I really do like it all, so lay 'em on me!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

25 January 2012

January Craft Show DIY Project: Decoupauged Vases

For this month's Craft Show DIY Project, I decided to show you the unique jewelry busts I made. I'm planning on having a black table cloth at the craft show and didn't want to use traditional busts because they might blend and are, uh, traditional. And I'm not. The trick was finding something that is very Me, economical, original, and won't detract from the actual pieces.

So I decided to decoupage vases with pages from classic novels. Because I'm awesome like that.

For this project you will need Mod Podge, Scissors or an Xacto Knife (mine is hot pink! It was also pretty cheap, but I'm just cutting pages from a book), a paint brush, a book, a magazine, and, of course, a vase. Size and shape of the vase is entirely up to you. I bought mine at Pat Catan's for $1.98 each. I needed something with a deep curve at the top since it needs to be similar to the curve of the neck. As for books, I went with The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies, and The Grapes of Wrath. All of the copies were found at my local thrift store and purchased for about $2.00 total.

First thing you want to do is set up the work space. I usually just spread out old magazine pages as the Mod Podge can drip if you aren't careful and I don't want the vase getting stuck to my table.

Use your scissors or xacto to cut up pages from your book. I do a mix of big and small pieces to help work around the round shape of the vase.

Next! Time to decoupage! I usually put a small spot of the stuff directly on the vase to help hold the piece of paper down then do a thin layer on top. Once I'm satisfied with one, I grab another piece and overlap it just a bit and once again brush a thin layer of Mod Podge over it. I rotate the paper cut outs into whatever position fits best for that spot, so some are right side up, some are upside down, sideways, etc.

Some of the corners may be stubborn about laying flat on the vase because of weird angles and curves, but I can usually just overlap another piece to help.

After your whole vase is covered (I don't bother doing the bottom) let it sit out and dry overnight. Don't worry about the white drops, the glue dries clear.

Because it's decopauged on the outside, you can still fill it with water and use it as a vase. You could maybe even use it as a sweet candle hurricane and the light would shine through the pages. Or if you're a crafter like me, it's cheap, easy, and original jewelry bust.

What do you think? Would this make you take a closer look at the jewelry I'll have on sale?

Next month's Craft Show DIY Project: Pendant Packaging

23 January 2012

where soul meets body

One year ago, I signed up for Weight Watchers again. It was my third attempt and, like they say, third times a charm. The new Points Plus program just fits me and my lifestyle in a way that none of the other programs ever did and the personal and physical transformation I've had over the past year has been magnanimous. The butterfly has truly come free of her cocoon.

I opted to do the program online, so food tracking has been on my computer or through the iPhone app and I weigh in at home. It takes self-motivation and accountability and I weighed in every single week for an entire year. I weighed in while on vacation. I weighed in even when I knew I had gained. Every. Single. Week. I was on that scale.

So, here we go: One year later and I've lost a total of 58.6 lbs.

Yeah, I only lost 1/2 a lb this week. But on Thursday there was the dinner at the gala, then on Friday we went out to eat for my Dad's birthday, and Saturday was the family soup supper. For someone who plans every meal down to the exact number of pretzels she eats as a snack, three meals in one weekend right before weigh in is an obstacle.

Like I said though, this has been both a physical and personal journey. And nothing proves greater evidence of that than my yoga class.

From the very first pose in this past Saturday's class, I knew it was going to be a good session. I felt flexible and free, strong and self-confident. But I still was completely caught off-guard when I managed to do The Wheel for the first time. It was the strangest sensation: on my back, legs and arms bent. I had a moment where I told myself "Let's do this shit," and I pressed into the mat and was up, the crown of my head on the mat, and in a split second there was this physical pop and all of a sudden I was up and completely off the ground.

Once up, I didn't want to come down because I wasn't sure I'd be able to get back up. We do it three times: up for five breaths, down for three, up for five, down for three, up for five. I stayed up through the first two and then came down and, sure enough, when I tried it for the final count I couldn't do it. But later I wondered if it was just a question of mind over matter. If because I told myself I wouldn't be able to get back up, I didn't. Maybe I just need to trust myself and my abilities just a bit more.

A few poses later, with a little help from my instructor, I was able to roll back into Plow for the first time, too. Normally I can't do any of the shoulder stands or roll backs, but on Saturday the momentum was there and I was up and over.

Of course, I couldn't stay flipped for the entire duration because, well, there was some serious boob suffocation going on. I mean, hello, did you see the picture of me from the aquarium gala? I flip over and suddenly all of that fabulous bustageness presses down directly on my throat. But that's okay, because I have built up enough strength and endurance to do not one but two poses that were physically impossible when I started Ashtanga five weeks ago.

And I also know it's okay if I am unable to do them again at tomorrow morning's class. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow of the poses. Some days you'll have them, other days you won't. But it's called a yoga practice for a reason and practice makes perfect.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

22 January 2012

"this is gonna be epic"

It's such an absurdly simple concept that starts with a group of people and a grocery-sized brown paper bag. One at a time, you bend over and attempt to pick up the bag with your mouth. Only your mouth. If you fall over, you're out. If you use your hands, you're out. If any part of your body other than your feet touch the ground, you're out.

Oh yeah, one more thing: At the end of each completed round, an inch of the bag is cut off. The longer the game goes, the smaller that bag becomes and the farther you have to bend over.

But first, let me back up a bit.

Last night was my family's annual soup supper. I come from a pretty large extended family and, luckily, many of us live in relatively close proximity, which makes it easy to have such gatherings. Although, considering how packed the house was this evening, it's crazy to think this was only a fraction of all of us.

Held at my parents' house for the past few years, this evening of food and family is also a competition. All of the soups are voted on and a winner is named at the end of the evening. This year I rocked the Tortilla Soup from Appetite for Reduction and while I didn't crack the top three, I got a peek at the scoring sheet and definitely had some votes. Bonus: I had the perfect amount of leftovers for dinner for the week. Win.

It was actually a soup supper and game night and a bunch of people brought board games and my mom found some of our old ones in the basement, including an ancient version of Clue that I totally brought back home with me. So the plan was to eat some soup and play some games.

Except, see, during dinner, some of my cousins started talking about this brown bag game they had played at New Years. The more they talked about it, the more the rest of us wanted to play. So, after dinner, nine of us grabbed a paper bag, a pair of scissors and headed into the open space of the living room.

It sounds easy, but it's not. It requires balance and flexibility and mind over matter. With each round, as that bag got smaller and smaller, the challenge grew exponentially. Something as silly as jeans seemed to add another obstacle, as you can't move as easily or fluidly in denim versus, say, sweatpants. But I did pretty decent, ending up somewhere in the middle overall. There was, seriously, only about an inch of bag left before I fell over. I know I can thank my twice-weekly yoga classes for how far I did manage to get.

Our laughter and holler got the attention of everyone else, so the entryway of the living room was soon full of spectators. The littler kids (that is, the generation after mine: my cousin's kids) wanted to be like the big kids and watch the craziness as we attempted to pick up this paper bag with our mouths. Some, like my cousin Claudine's oldest, also enjoyed providing commentary, such as the title of this post. One of my other cousin's kids would mimic each of us during our turns: try the pose we were trying and bend over, his little mouth open as if to bite an invisible bag. When we let him take a turn, he was clearly trying out all of the moves he had seen us doing and even came up with one of his own. And, of course, some of the young girls had way more flexibility than should be allowed.

After watching one of my cousins take an effortless turn, my aunt just stared at her and said "You'll have no problems finding a husband with moves like that."

Ah. There really is nothing quite like quality family time.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

20 January 2012

just add water

Last night was the Opening Gala for the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Yesterday was also my dad, Papa G.'s, birthday, and his involvement in the aquarium was so big that after all of the speeches, he was given a cupcake with a candle and the whole room sang Happy Birthday to him.

Sissy, Papa G. and Moi

The First Energy Powerhouse was packed with people for the gala and the response to the aquarium seemed pretty positive. Having spent many, many childhood years at the Powerhouse in the old days, it was so weird walking through knowing where the old PowerPlay arcade used to be or Howl at the Moon Saloon. Of course, like an idiot, I didn't take any pictures inside although there are some pretty cool ones here. The rays really do swim over the top of the SeaTube like that (pic 5/9) and it's fascinating to watch. The tube is so incredibly clear, it's crazy.

In one of the rooms upstairs there was a silent auction going on (that's where my pins were being sold), and there was one item for you and some friends to spend the night in the aquarium. Um, yeah, if I had an extra $3K+ hanging around in my bank account, I totes would have bid.

The event itself was pretty swanky and I love any excuse to dress up all fancy-schmancy. I'm talking waiters handing out champagne and hors d'oeuvres as we walked through the aquarium swanky. The dinner was held in one of the Windows banquet rooms, buffet style. Of course, I the vegetarian had to laugh when I was offered not just beef, but salmon and lobster at dinner.

Oh, the sweet, sweet irony.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

19 January 2012

under the sea

Tonight is the opening gala for the brand new Greater Cleveland Aquarium, which has been the pet project of my dad, Papa G., for years. I've been inside the aquarium a few times now, although the place was still in the being-built phase, so I'm looking forward to tonight and seeing the finished product. Sissy is coming in from out-of-town to also attend and I'm getting a chance to once again wear the leopard print dress I wore for my 30th birthday, although I will most likely freeze my ass off during the five minute walk from my apartment to the aquarium, as the dress was purchased for Vegas in November and this is now Cleveland in January.

Although, to be honest, that five minute walk thing isn't entirely accurate. It's probably more like a three minute walk, but I'll be in heels.

Papa G. is also a big supporter of my Etsy shop Tudor Rose Designs, so when he asked if I would be willing to make some items that would be sold at the gala to benefit the Ronald McDonald House, I wasn't going to say no. I decided to make pins in the shape of a Clown Fish, Starfish and a Shark. This is the first time my items will be on display, so I'm both very nervous and excited.

Of course, I couldn't let an opportunity pass and ended up making a pendant just for myself to go with my dress. That is, of course, one of the benefits to designing jewelry. Need a necklace? Make one!

Today is also Papa G.'s birthday. So, on the off chance that you will be in attendance at the Opening Gala, if you happen to meet him be sure to say Happy Birthday and tell him I sent you.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

17 January 2012

the write way to say goodbye

Last week I finished writing my screenplay. I have the cover letter, the two page synopsis, my resume, and the first five pages of the script all ready to be sent to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Of course, the application process doesn't even open for another month but I like being prepared.

It's been, well, quite a long time since I finished any piece of writing, let alone something of this magnitude. 104 pages and months of work. Years, really. Some of these characters, like Scottie, Mac, and Giovanni (although he was originally named White), have been with me since my sophomore year of college. For those keeping track, that's was a decade ago. Ten years of carrying these characters around, listening to their chatter in my head. Ten years of planning, of thinking. Ten years of imagining what they look like, of drafting their back stories, of hoping for their future.

I know these character so well. They are me. I am them. I know things about them that never make it anywhere near the script, but they are there, layered beneath the story all the same.

Ten years, and now their stories have been told. And my job as a writer is complete.

I mean, yes, this is just a rough draft. There is still editing to do. And, of course, if I get accepted into the Sundance Lab it's a workshop. Which means I will spend five days working on the script. After that, well who knows where it may go. And even if I don't get in, it's not like I'm going to take this script and shove it into a box and forget about it.

But in typing those finite words "The End," I closed one part of the journey. The most exciting part, if you ask me. Because for months I got to delve into this magical world that I had created and watch these characters come to life. If you don't write, it may be hard to explain that I don't always know what they are going to do. I don't have complete control over them and I take the greatest satisfaction as a writer in those moments when my characters have become so completely whole that they surprise even me with their actions and reactions. There is one particular scene that left me so horrified, I couldn't look at the script for three days. I just didn't see it coming. And while I hated writing it, I had to be honest to these characters that I had created. Even if that means allowing them to do terrible things or standing by and watch terrible things being inflicted upon them.

It's all done now. Even when I approach the script for editing purposes, it won't be the same. I know how the story ends. The story did end. I know, I wrote it. Although, to be honest, I'm pretty sure that's why it took me nearly two months to write the final battle scene. I knew that in doing so, I would be forced to say goodbye.

It's been so long since I finished anything, I had forgotten what it feels like to say goodbye. I had forgotten this profound sense of loss. It's this insane hole in my heart that I don't ever remember having before with any piece of writing. Maybe it's because no other piece of writing has gotten under my skin quite like this has. It's practically imbedded into my bones. Maybe it's because Scottie has always been my most beloved character. Variations of her pop up in almost everything I write.

Truth is, Scottie was not the original Scottie. That is, I created a character many, many moons ago named March Adams. I was in college then: shy, quiet. Introverted and unsure. March was my polar opposite. This was a woman who was confident and self-assured. She didn't take shit from anyone and she fought for what she believed in. She knew who she was and lived the hell out of it, making no apologies for herself.

A few months later, when I began drafting a story set in Cleveland in the 1920s, I wanted a memorable female speakeasy owner who was just as cool and confident, just as brash and bold. And thus, Scottie was born.

At 20, March and Scottie were the type of woman I wanted to be.

At 30, March and Scottie are the type of woman I have become.

Maybe that's the difficulty I'm having with all of this. It's not that I'm saying goodbye to this story or a fictional character, I'm saying goodbye to me. I'm saying goodbye to the ugly duckling twenty year old and saying hello to the graceful thirty year old swan. Maybe, just maybe, this particular chapter in my personal book is finally finished.

Regardless of who I am saying goodbye to, at least I can be assured that I gave her a brilliant and fitting send-off.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

16 January 2012

the weight white whale

After realizing that I am way more focused on having cute toes since starting yoga (you try staring at your toes and feet for a few hours a week and see if you don't have the same reaction), I decided it might be kind of fun to get a manicure and pedicure when I lose 60 lbs.

Why 60? Well, that's kind of my new White Whale.

See, for years it was 50 lbs. That elusive number I just could not hit. The last two times I did Weight Watchers, I'd hit a wall around 45 and I couldn't break through to the other side. A few set backs, a few frustrations, and I'd just give up and quit and gain all the weight back (plus some, which is how I ended up at 311).

I hit 50 about two months ago and, thanks to the holidays, haven't yet hit 60. But, instead of getting frustrated, I dug deep and recommitted. It's the very reason I started doing yoga. I knew this was a mental block, not a physical one, so I needed a form of exercise, a physical outlet, where soul met body.

As of today, I've lost all the weight I gained over the holidays plus some. As of today, I have lost a total of 58.2 lbs.

That's huge. Literally. It's 18% of my starting weight, and as a means of keeping myself accountable, of really sharing my progress with y'all, I put my numbers on my sidebar: Starting Weight, Current Weight, Goal Weight. Scary? Not really. It is what it is. Yes, at one point I weighed over 300 lbs and was a sloth with a terrible diet. But not anymore. Today I weigh nearly 60 pounds less, exercise a few times a week, and have a pretty healthy diet. And that is what matters. For all the focus on the scale, the numbers, the truth is it's the healthy lifestyle part that should matter.

If I'm going to take notice of my progress then I need to celebrate the milestones along the way. Especially if I'm at that critical point where my White Whale is in view. So, as an extra bit of motivation for the next few pounds and the pounds after that, I decided to set some, well, not rewards but incentives.

-60 lbs: Manicure & Pedicure.

-75 lbs: Massage

-100 lbs: New tattoo, design TBD

Onederland (Weight <200 lbs): New bathing suit

-136 lbs (Goal Weight of 175): Trip to Florida to visit Disney World, Universal Studios and, most importantly, the Wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

I have to admit, the last one just came to me over the weekend as I was drafting this post. I honestly had no idea how to celebrate or commemorate that, the idea of actually reaching goal still seems so... not impossible, but I think I'm struggling with accepting the idea that I can do it. Not soon. Probably not even this year. But I can do it and I will do it.

But it's a fitting end celebration, since that's what started this whole journey: Exactly one year ago today (I still have the email), Sissy told me that she and my parents were concerned about me because of my weight and health. Now, in the past I would have not responded well to such an email. I would get a little, shall we say, defensive. But this time I knew they were right and when I finally got it out of her, the truth was that my parents were planning on taking the family to HP World for my 30th birthday and were worried that we would travel all the way there and I wouldn't fit onto any of the rides.

See, a few years ago I went to Cedar Point with family and I had to sit out one of the roller coasters because I was too fat to fit into the seat. I know, right? Mortifying, but there you have it.

In the end, we went to Las Vegas for my 30th birthday and I still haven't made it down to Florida. Which is why I think hitting my goal weight is the perfect reason to go.

As for my selection of goal weight -- which is about 25 lbs over what the BMI chart says I "should" weigh -- well, first off the BMI chart is antiquated and stupid. There, I said it. More than that, I want a weight I can actually maintain. Losing is only half the battle and I'm honestly not sure I could stay at 150 let alone the ridiculous 120. Plus? I like being voluptuous. I like the curves, the hips, the boobs and I don't want to lose them.

I'd just, y'know, like to maybe be a bit less curvy.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

P.S. The Moby Dick cover is from Matt Roeser's tumbler, New Cover. It's one of the most amazing feeds ever. I mean, hello, how fabulous is this? Or any of his George R.R. Martin ones? If I ever have a book published I am so getting Matt to design the cover.

14 January 2012

warrior one

Today marked one month of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga at The Studio Cleveland. In that month I have attended ten classes and fallen into a schedule of twice a week: the Tuesday 6am and the Saturday 10am, all with the same instructor, whom I absolutely adore. While it would, of course, be cheaper to attend just once a week, the energies at the two classes are different and I don't want to lose either one.

After the various yoga classes I have tried over the years, I do believe that there is one practice for everyone. It might take some experimentation, but it's just a matter of finding the right practice and the right instructor. What I like about Ashtanga is that it's a set series. Each class we do the same poses from start to finish and while that might sound tedious, it's actually fabulous because you can physically mark your progress. Little by little, my heels are getting closer to the ground during Downward Facing Dog and in just a few classes I know I'll have it. My reach is elongating and while I still need a strap for some of the binds around the body, my fingers are closing in on each other.

I still can't do Wheel or a Headstand, nor am I able to do anything that requires shoulder support, like Plow. But the beauty of Ashtanga is it doesn't matter. I do what I can. I go as far as I can go or I modify. It's called a practice for a reason. It's all just a matter of continuing to work, continuing to challenge yourself. And some days you'll have it, some you won't. You might hit a pose one day and the next class not be able to. And that's all okay. Just have to keep going, and with enough time it'll happen eventually.

After class today I was talking to my instructor, J., and she told me that I have definitely started to lose weight since I started a month ago. While I haven't lost weight (hello holidays), I have lost inches. Just in getting dressed this morning I noticed a much slimmer silhouette in the mirror (then again, aside from the neon-pink sports bra, I wear all black). While the number on the scale is important enough for me to post my progress on the blog's sidebar, inches are equally important. I'm wearing clothes in sizes I shouldn't yet and I know that's because of the inches lost.

But more than the external changes, there are internal ones, too. More self-awareness and self-confidence. The belief that I can do anything. Pride when I achieve it, forgiveness when I can't. I come out of yoga feeling like I can take over the world and it makes me want to respect and honor my body. To treat it well. To get enough sleep, to not push it past its breaking point but not rely on old crutches of doubt either and hold it back. It's changed how I view food and what I put into my body. I mean, I already watch what I eat but now I really pay close attention and am more aware of the food choices I make. Let's face it: I spent most of my life not taking care, not paying attention. Now, at 30, I need to start.

Of course, considering yoga is done barefoot, it is perhaps unsurprising that I have also developed a deeper awareness of my pedicure. Or, specifically, lack-there-of. Good thing I bought some new OPI colors a few weeks ago. We can consider that respecting the feet, right?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

13 January 2012

wizard of odd

In May, my Etsy shop Tudor Rose Designs will be appearing at its first craft show! I selected to make my craft show debut at Oddmall: Emporium of the Weird in Hudson, Ohio and I've spent the past few months being a very little busy bee getting all my ducks in a row.

Since it's my first craft show, there's so much to do aside from just building up inventory. So many little details! I signed up for a Square device so I can take credit cards on my iPhone and have applied for a vendors license so I can start purchasing many of my supplies at wholesale cost. (Plus, if I keep doing craft shows some of them require you to provide proof of license, so I figured might as well do it now.) I also ordered some brown kraft bags to put purchases in and I'm going to make stickers to put on the front of the bags so they can act as walking advertisement after someone has purchased from me!

But the biggest bulk of my time has been figuring out displays. I have been having a really, really hard time figuring out how to display my figurines. For the ornaments I bought a small artifical Christmas tree, but I've been creating a lot of other-holiday figurines that aren't in my Etsy shop. They can't hang from the tree and I don't want them just sitting on the table as one of the number rules of craft show displays is to build height. But I don't just want them sitting on boring ol' boxes, either.

The other day I was at Jo-Ann Fabrics and, while wandering, came across some really fabulous planter trays that if flipped upside down have a flat base perfect for what I needed. Bonus: they were cheap and the colors perfectly matched some frames I had painted for jewelry displays. Sold.

But it was while thinking about those frames of mine that I decided it might be fun to do some posts about all of the DIY projects I've been working on for the craft show. I'm usually not a DIY girl, let alone one to blog about it, but this craft show has brought out the creative forces in me and the projects have been fun and easy. So starting next week sometime, each month between now and May I'm going to pick one of my projects to blog about. Complete with instructions and pictures, a couple of the projects can be used in your home, too, not just craft shows.

Thing is, doing all this DIY stuff has made me want to do more so who knows what sorts of crazy things I'll come up with for my apartment.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

11 January 2012

The one where Ron Paul makes me question my political party

Don't worry: I haven't gone rogue and turned Republican. I mean, I haven't gone crazy here.

But, see, I was listening to NPR this morning and they were talking about how when Ron Paul attended his post-primary-party last night, he walked on stage with the Imperial March from Star Wars playing.

You know. The Darth Vader one.

Dun dun dun dundundun dundundun...

Now, look. I don't care who you are or what your party affiliation is. That is fucking awesome. And for about a split second it made Ron Paul seem almost cool.

Until I remembered that he's the former OBGYN and very, very anti-abortion. Which would be fine, I mean, y'know, believe what you want to believe, except he's also very, very personal liberty and free society. And while he's figured out a way to explain how the two are related, I personally have a hard time understanding how someone can "champion personal liberties" but then say women have to carry to term. I'm not saying he's wrong, I just cannot process the logic.

But that's just me.

Back to NPR.

While discussing Ron Paul, they also talked about his Presidential bid in 1988 when he ran on the Libertarian ticket. And I thought, Y'know, for all that I've heard about the Libertarian party I don't really know that much about it so I briefly read a couple of quick things and had a moment of Well, now, hang on here....

So I, the registered Democrat, took a few quizzes.

First, Political Compass.

That red dot? That's me. According to them, I'm not that far off from Gandhi or The Dalahi Lama. Good to know.

Next up, Advocates for Self Government.

Well, now, hell. I mean, c'mon.

The Advocates quiz is ten questions and it's the same one the Libertarian Party uses and while, yes, I realize these are just Internet quizzes, when I actually took the time to read through the issues and platforms and explore the Libertarian Party of Ohio site, the more things started to make sense. Kind of like when I read my first Existential text as an undergrad and it was like this whole big unknown world opened up to me. A world that fit into my worldview.

Like, okay, take this sentence from the Libertarian Party's Platform: Individuals should be free to make choices for themselves and to accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make. That, right there, that single line sums up the entire core of Sartre's Existentialism.

Oh, and the fact that they mention "library records" in the section of Personal Privacy?


Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

10 January 2012

child's pose

For all the poses I can do in yoga, there are just as many that I can't. Two in particular that I always have trouble with are:

The Wheel

and Supported Headstand

The thing is, I used to be able to do both of these. I took dance for five years in elementary school and, c'mon, what eight year old girl doesn't love to show off her limited gymnastic skills to friends? Hell, I once got reprimanded in kindergarten for cartwheeling across the classroom floor.

But attempting both of these poses as an adult has proved to be, well, challenging. Backbending up like that when you have virtually no upper arm strength and are rocking a pair of DDs is so not happening and let's not even talk about the whole upside down for twenty-five breaths part of a headstand, supported or not.

It's not just yoga, though. As we move from child to adult, it's not just our bodies that struggle to keep up. The harsh realities of being a grown-up changes us as we move forward, eyes wide open, and I'm seeing this more and more as I've moved out of my twenties and into my thirties. We go from believing in the good of mankind to treating everyone with skepticism. Marriage stops being about using a pillowcase for a veil and pecking the unfortunate friend picked to be your groom when its end becomes a sad statistic. Politicians stop being the people who run the country and, instead, become the men and women who swindled and lied their way into office. Children are taught the importance of tolerance and acceptance but witness the adults around them openly mock the different choices and beliefs in others.

We tell kids that they can be anything they want to be, including President of the United States of America. But would any kid really want to be POTUS if they knew that no matter what they do, no matter what choices they make, at least half of the country will spend four to eight years hating them?

Politics is like high-school all over again. In one ring you have the Romneys, with wife Ann constantly playing up the high-school sweetheart angle, like they are the King and Queen of Prom. By doing so, she's purposely comparing her marriage to that of the Gingrichs, essentially calling Newt that bad boy with the motorcycle who smokes behind the bleachers and making former-mistress-now-third-wife Callista the trashy cheerleader everyone gossips about.

Some of my very good friends are people I ideologically have nothing in common with. I'm a liberal agnostic and my mix of friends is, well, just that: a mix. I believe one thing and they believe another and we all live happily ever after because, when it comes down to it, our differences don't really matter. Granted, I might not agree with them, but it works both ways. My ex in Kentucky was what I like to refer to as an "angry atheist." He's that guy who would go on and on about how atheists are constantly vilified and anyone who subscribes to any kind of religious organization is a right-wing wacko out to get us non-believers. Y'know what? Really kind of arrogant to expect someone to accept and support your beliefs when you aren't willing to do the same for them.

Respect? It's a two-way street.

That being said: as much as I enjoy talking about politics and social and religious issues (I actually surprised Sissy over Christmas with how informed I was on Mormonism), if it turns into a competition of I'm Right and You're Wrong, that's when I turn a little angry myself. Because no matter how strong our convictions, believing in something doesn't automatically make it true or right. For instance, I'm pro-choice. I use Planned Parenthood for my annual exam and support late-term abortions. But why should that particular belief of mine automatically make me superior to someone who is pro-life? Why is my opinion more "correct" than theirs? Because I and everyone who agrees with me says so? Yeah, that doesn't sound biased at all.

This is one reason I went from agnostic to atheist back to agnostic. In Greek, agnostic means without knowledge and, let's face it, while I may not believe in a Higher Power, the fact of the matter is I just really cannot say with absolute guaranteed satisfaction that He or She does not exist. Nobody can. That's why those who do believe or trust in the existence of God call it faith.

But its the perceived differences that can surprise you: Stereotypes and labels are dangerous as well as the assumptions that come with them. And it's hard to avoid the trap of Well, if you identify as X than you must believe Y. Just last week I received a lovely email from a friend about a topic that we had never talked about because I had just naïvely assumed that we were on opposite sides. But it turns out my assumptions were incorrect and she and I have more in common than I had thought.

Don't forget, as much as you can believe in gravity, it is still just a theory. But I have to admit that when I'm on my yoga mat attempting to stick both of my legs up in the air it's sort of hard to remember that little factoid.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

09 January 2012

bowling without waffles

Saturday night was the 35th birthday party for a friend. Surprise birthday party, actually. Her girlfriend arranged the whole thing and it was held at a super sweet old-school bowling alley in Lakewood. I'm talking scoring by hand, people. Which I haven't done since high-school when I did the bowling class as part of P.E. (seriously: that was our final test for that particular activity).

Me, trying to tell the ball to swing left. Picture courtesy of DuVi

I couldn't even tell you the last time I went bowling, and while I scored a strike my first time up, the rest of my game was only about average. But that's alright. Not really the point of the whole evening, was it? Instead, it was about celebrating the life of a fabulous woman while in the company of equally fabulous people and yummy food (and a conversation with a member of the Birthday Girl's band led to the title of this post). Me, I brought a taco dip while Lindy baked one of her oh-so-awesome vegan cakes.

After DuVi posted the above picture on Facebook, she commented that yoga has certainly paid off, and it has: I weigh-in on Mondays and today I'm down 4.8 for a total of 55.4 (since January 24, 2011). While that sounds like a lot to lose in one week -- and it is -- it's not quite what I gained over the holidays. But I'm super close to where I was before Christmas and back on track.

After skipping yoga class on Thursday, I went back Saturday morning and had the most amazing session. I was strong and fierce. I was able to feel the progress my body has made in the past three weeks. It was incredible and one of the best classes I've had since starting. The instructor also told the class that I have amazing flexibility in my Butterfly pose and probably do it in my sleep. Well thank you, thankyouverymuch.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

07 January 2012

and the sundance kid

Despite the unseasonably warm temperatures we've been having here in the Land of Cleves, it is still very much winter. But spring isn't too far away, which means it's almost time for my favorite week in March: The Cleveland International Film Festival. I attended my first festival in 1998 when I was 16. My dad, Papa G., took me and it's an annual tradition that still continues. I missed a few post-college, so 2012 will be my tenth CIFF. I will be a volunteer for the second year in a row and for the first time ever I got to be on the Selection Committee.

Don't let the fact that it's in Cleveland fool you -- this is a huge fucking event, showcasing amazing films from all over the world. Case in point: a little over ten years ago I got to see Christopher Nolan's Memento at CIFF months before it had its wide screen release.

But the granddaddy (in notoriety only: CIFF has been around longer) of film festivals is Sundance. Held every January, Papa G. and I have been talking about going just about as long as we've been going to CIFF but we haven't yet made it out to Utah.

So, despite my very obvious love for films, it's still somewhat surprising that it took me until I was 29 to start writing screenplays.

For the past six months or so I've been working on a screenplay titled "Inverness". Set in Cleveland in the 1920s, it's a retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth with a crime family twist. It's an idea I've had in my head since college, but only now have I felt inspired enough to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as it were). Truthfully, it started as a novel first. But when that didn't work I decided to try and write it as a stageplay, calling back to its roots. But when that still wasn't working, I wondered how hard it would be to write a screenplay.

Honestly? Not that difficult. Although, I should say that while I'm entirely self-taught in this medium, I have enjoyed reading screenplays over the years and have had two stage plays produced. So, really, it was just a matter of figuring out the details of format. Storytelling I can do and do well.

It turns out, though, that I really, really enjoy writing screenplays. While working on "Inverness" I heard about the Jameson First Shot competition and within a few days had a short screenplay that I submitted to that. Crazy? Bat shit. But what's the worst that can happen? They say no and I get to say that Kevin Spacey read my screenplay? I mean, can that really be considered a downside?

Somewhere along the line I also came across the Sundance Screenwriter's Lab. Although, to be honest, I do recall in 8th grade having gotten a copy of the application so I must have been aware of it then, too. The application process for the 2013 lab opens in February and ends in May, so I have about four months to finish the script, write my cover letter, resume, and two-page synopsis (which is proving to be more difficult than writing the 100+ page screenplay).

Sure. I have no industry experience and a bit of a dark horse. Again: what's the worse that can happen? They say no and I'm out the $35 application fee? Um, okay? These characters have been in my head and my heart for over a decade and I'm not going to let something as silly as odds stop me.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

05 January 2012


I set my alarm for 5am with the full intention of going to this morning's yoga class. I even took a shower last night and went to bed early in anticipation of having to be awake. But as soon as the dulcet tones of my iPhone went off, I knew there was no way in hell I would be Downward Facing Dog in an hour. My recovering-from-a-cold body just wasn't up to it and I wasn't going to force it, knowing I'd be back on the mat in two days.

This is something I'm struggling with, actually. Finding the right yoga schedule for me. While I like the idea of attending three classes a week, in reality, once my 60 day Unlimited Introductory Pass is up in mid-February, I won't be able to afford to go that often. But, more than anything, a pattern is being set: Tuesdays I feel energized, Thursdays I feel exhausted. I think that, right there, is all I need to know about sticking to a Tuesday/Saturday yoga practice.

So it was that this morning I decided to opt out of yoga. But, having gone to bed early, I wasn't going back to sleep, either. Instead, I decided to go out for breakfast.

Breakfast is, without a doubt, my favorite meal of the day. Well, okay, actually, Brunch is probably my favorite meal but Breakfast is a close second. I love it so much I will happily spend a good majority of my daily Weight Watchers points on breakfast. Eating out for lunch or dinner is frequent but eating out for breakfast is a rare and delightful treat.

It's amazing how spending an hour in a coffee shop with a book and a breakfast sandwich can transform the start of the day. It's not that I normally feel rushed or hurried in the morning. I'm the type to set out clothes and pack a lunch the night before. But I don't exactly go out of my way to pause and appreciate the silence of daybreak, either. Especially when I'm getting over a cold and feel sluggish. But this morning, I was able to watch the dark sky brighten to day while sipping a latte.

These are the moments I want more of. The moments of shanti, of peace. These are the moments that meet my resolution to live in and appreciate the small moments that make up the present. And it was a surprisingly easy moment to capture. Just a matter of stopping and smelling the caffeine.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

04 January 2012

sun salutations

About two and a half weeks ago I signed up for an Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga class at a studio about a mile from my apartment. I'd done yoga before -- even asking my Sissy to go with me to one when we were in Vegas for my birthday -- but I had yet to find a local yoga studio and instructor that offered me the right... energy.

And then I found The Studio.

I cannot effectively put into words the transformation this particular class has had on my life. So let me just say that Tuesday's class was the seventh session I have attended since December 17th. These are 90 minute classes often held at totally obscene hours, like 6am. In fact: four of those seven sessions have been the 6am classes, including Tuesday. And not only did I wake my ass up yesterday at 5am (much to the chagrin of my cat Linus who was glaring at me with a Do you have any idea what time it is look?), I went to an hour and a half long yoga session, then came home and had enough time to get ready, get gas in my car, get a non-fat, sugar free vanilla latte and get to work early.

Ah. Endorphins. You really are magical.

Now. Over the course of the past year -- originally spurned by an out-of-the-blue email from Sissy -- I started a weight loss journey that has, thus far, resulted in me losing 50lbs. But I still weigh 260 and while I am fairly flexible, there are certain poses I can't do and won't be able to do for a long time and with lots and lots of practice.

But one pose that I can totally rock is the above-pictured Butterfly. In fact, I'm pretty sure my Butterfly pose has been called "beautiful!" by my yoga instructor during every class. Because I am fucking awesome at it.

It was only the other day, though, that I was really thinking about the fact that of all the poses I have been able to ace from Day One it's the Butterfly. It's not so much the pose itself, but the name of said pose. Because a butterfly represents change. Represents transformation, renovation, and revolution.

I turned 30 back in mid-November, making me a Scorpio. Aside from being the sign that is ruled by our genitals, we are also the only member of the Zodiac to have three symbols. There is, of course, the scorpion: vindictive, destructive, and dangerous. However, with a bit of determination (which we also have in plenty), a Scorpio can rise above to become the intelligent and powerful Eagle.

But the most coveted position, and the most rare to achieve, is that of the mythical Phoenix. Born of flame, the Phoenix rises from the ashes, reborn and renewed, much like a Butterfly, who moves from dark cocoon to flying free spirit.

I titled this blog The Year of the Phoenix because that is my intention. Not in a By December 31st way, but in the daily moments that make up a year, all five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred of them. As I enter my thirties and leave behind the baggage of my teenage and twentysomething years, I want to focus not on what I don't have but what I do. I want to deepen my friendships, channel my creativity in new ways, watch my body grow stronger as it slims down. I want to awaken my senses and everyday find mental, emotional and spiritual (but not religious) happiness. I want this Year to become Every Year as each morning I rise to new challenges.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus
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