5 Minute Zen Featured in Om Boston!

Well lookie here! My piece, “5 Minute Zen, Put A Ring On It”, a no-nonsense and practical article about meditation for today’s busy people, was published in the online yoga and wellness resource Om Boston! Read it here. “5 Minute Zen, Put A Ring On It”, was originally published on my blog, Practice Imperfect.

I approach yoga and meditation with a kind of playfulness and humor that aims to make mindfulness more accessible to regular folks like you and me. Please stay tuned for my upcoming series, “Yamas and Niyamas are Way Cool”, where I’ll begin 2014 by exploring a different principal of yoga’s ethical guide to living. First stop, January, the month of Ahimsa, or nonviolence.

What the heck is a yama or niyama? Why should I care? Here’s a great article to start off with.

 

Keep calm and om on,

Alyssa

Practice Imperfect

One of the things I loved about Kripalu was that the day flowed in a rhythm. The activities varied from day to day but most days were book-ended by a morning and afternoon sadnah, or spiritual practice.

I loved framing my day that way. Dragging my ass out of bed at 6AM for morning sadah was a challenge, for sure, but it helped me begin my day with a mindful outlook. Same with afternoon. After doing posture clinics in 98 degree heat all day, the last thing I wanted to do was another 90 minutes of vigorous yoga. But the challenge always left me feeling centered, energized, empowered. It was in those morning and afternoon sadnahs that I truly began to explore and cultivate respect for my body. I had to accept that I’m still not a morning person, and some days just being on my mat in child’s pose at the crack of dawn was a victory. Other days I felt invincible. Throughout, I listened to my body. It never let me down.

So naturally, I expected to cultivate a similar routine once I returned home. Why not? I thought. It’s summer vacation! I’ve got nothing else to do! This should be easy!  I cleared out the dining room. I created an alter for meditation and a permanent spot for my yoga mat. I was going to continue doing two hours of yoga a day and meditate twice daily too. It was going to be awesome! I was going to feel just like I felt at Kripalu! My middle name was serenity!

Then I started a summer class.

Then I wanted to stay up late watching Adventure Time with Mr. Apple.

Then I started to clean out all my closets in an effort to make my home even more zen by minimizing.

Then I wanted to start reconnecting with all the friends I haven’t seen in over a month.

Then Mr. Apple and I stayed out all night dancing.

You see where I’m going with this.

The other day as I was lying on my mat in the dining room, listening to the sound of a truck backing up outside, my neighbor’s dog barking, the sound of Mr. Apple typing quietly in the next room, I had the distinct feeling that I had spoiled something.

“This doesn’t feel like sadnah. I can’t tune all this stuff out enough to practice.”, I pouted to myself. I contemplated getting up and shutting the window or asking Mr. Apple to take his laptop to the other room. Then I realized that I’d be disrupting my relaxation even more by getting up and moving around. It was a no win situation.

Then a new thought took shape. This is the practice. Dogs barking, keyboards clacking and all, this is the practice. It isn’t about shutting out the entire world, its about being present it it, riding the wave, finding a still center at the core of my being even when the world around me is chaotic. I don’t need to be sitting up on a mountaintop to listen to my witness conscious, it’s always with me.

I smiled and laid back down, listening to the dog barking and watching my belly slowly fill and empty in deep, dirgha breaths.

There have been other times in my life when I’ve made promises to focus on my wellness. All these promises involved carving out vast chunks of my life to meditate and then feeling frustrated and helpless when I couldn’t maintain it. Feeling as if my practice was incomplete, that I was a failure for some reason. Now I understand that my whole life is a practice. It never stops. Even when it’s fleeting or incomplete, no matter how imperfect, it is perfect for me, and it is right where I need to be at that particular moment in time.

My mindfulness practice will survive within me this time because it is now inseparable from who I am. It is within me everywhere I go.

It can be kind of scary to live life being present in each moment, allowing my heart to be open even thought I know everyone I meet on the pathway right now may not be as gentle with it as other yogis would be. For me now though, there really is no other choice. Whatever wave flows my way, I will ride it.

Building my entire life into a retreat isn’t the answer.  Living with the questions is. This is where the real journey begins.

Namaste Kids,

Apple

Re-Entry

“I am a pilgrim on the path of love.”

~ Swami Kripalu

“I am a traveler of both time and space”

~ Led Zeppelin

Those of you who know me in real life know I took a big step this summer… I participated in the 200 Hour Yoga Teacher training at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. Yep, I’m a yoga teacher!

I have never been prouder of myself in my whole life.

This was by far the biggest emotional and personal risk I’ve ever taken.

I kind of don’t know what to do with myself at the moment.

All I know is that I’ll be feeling the ripple effects of this experience in large and small ways through the rest of my life.

I know, whoa.

It isn’t a coincidence that Kripalu folks refer to going home after a retreat as, “reentry”. It feels like coming home from a different planet. I haven’t had this surreal of a homecoming since back in college when I returned from a semester abroad in the Netherlands. I remember standing in the streets of Boston, people rushing past me, and being aghast at the fact that they were all speaking English. For the first time in months, I could walk outside and overhear people’s conversations. I could read signs in public without having to struggle. There weren’t Stroopwaffles in the supermarket. Nobody in stores said alstublieft to me anymore. Instead of finding my way in and out of every train station in Europe, learning and absorbing everything new I could get my hands on with an insatiable hunger, I was sitting in my parents’ basement watching cable TV. I was so, so happy to see my friends and family again, to sleep in my own bed, to wear clothes that weren’t the same clothes that hadn’t been rolled up in a backpack for the last four months. But I felt lost, homesick.

Now I’m back from Kripalu. People don’t make eye contact the same way at home. Nobody says jai bhagwan to me anymore. Now when we om at the beginning of yoga classes, it isn’t the warm, healing om of my sangha around me, my community, 64 people from all walks of life joined together in unconditional love; it’s the om of a bunch of strangers I’ll part ways with after class. I am so, so happy to come home to the warm hug of my partner every day. I am so, so happy to be wearing clothes that aren’t made of lycra. I am so, so happy to be able to drink a glass of wine with dinner again. But I’m homesick, I’m lost, I miss my sangha.

I am profoundly different, the same, yet not the same, back in my “old” life again, unable to unsee the things I saw this past month or unlearn the things I’ve learned. I feel like I’m walking around in a museum of somebody else’s life, picking things up, pondering them, putting them back down again. Nothing quite feels like it fits. I was so eager to get back into the swing of things, but suddenly, the swing of things doesn’t quite fit me anymore.

There’s a lot of things I love about my life. There’s a lot of things that aren’t quite healthy. I’m trying to figure out what’s what right now… and it feels weird.

The point is, that I built my life around one idea of myself— and now that idea of self has expanded, widened, redefined. Who I was isn’t who I am anymore. I’ve stepped back into a life that was built by a woman who had a different sense of herself. And somehow that sense was smaller, narrower, restricted. It was a life built for someone who had accepted that her passions had to be in the periphery of her life, that big dreams were for other people, that health and self care came second to performing her “duties”. A woman who always felt like she needed to, prove herself and never quite felt like she measured up.

I know now that all of these ideas are false. I know now that there is nothing standing in my way. I know now that I deserve to follow my dreams. There is no need to compromise unless I create one out of fear. I know now what it feels like to be truly, deeply, completely happy. It doesn’t come from landing a hot job or a big promotion, or applause from people I thought were important, or even getting myself into that asana I’ve been chasing for years. It comes from knowing that I am enough, just the way I am, and I always will be. It comes from knowing that I don’t need things or approval to be complete.

So in the immortal words of David Byrne… how did I get here?

Yoga has always been a touchstone in my life, but before this summer I always thought being a yoga teacher was for other people. People who were more flexible than I am. People with killer abs, people who drink more Kombucha, people who don’t swear when they’re stuck in traffic. I didn’t tell many people that I was going to a training program. When folks asked what I’d be doing this summer I’d say, “I’m going to a yoga retreat in the Berkshires.” That way if I flunked out— if I couldn’t handle it— nobody would know that I was a failure.

Yeah, I know. Way to set the bar low.

I was terrified on my way there. I was coming off of a draining school year that had very nearly broken my spirit. My heart pounded the entire way on my drive out to Kripalu. I thought of a million excuses why I didn’t belong there. Now isn’t the right time, maybe in a year. I really just needed to prove to myself that I could get in. I’m not really that good at yoga in the first place. I’ll go, I’ll try it. If I don’t like it I can go home.

Within the first 24 hours of being there I knew that not only had I made the right decision, I had made the best decision of my entire life.

There’s not really a blog entry, or even a series of blog entries that can really sum up the experience. Later I’ll do a less rambling, philisophical entry on what the training experience was like for those who are curious but basically, in a nutshell, besides all of the asanas and yoga philisophy and technique, which I’ll post about another day, this is what I’ve come away with:

Body Respect: I used to walk around feeling physically inadequate, detached, uncoordinated, but I have discovered a profound respect for my own body. No matter how flawed or imperfect it is, the human body is literally a miracle, my own body included. My body is fucking awesome. It guided me through the experience of yoga teacher training and never once let me down. I am so much stronger than I thought I was. I have never felt healthier or more complete. I will never ever hate on my body ever again. I will never go back to self abuse in any form, be it stress, dieting, sleep deprivation, what have you.  This is huge for me.

Self Respect and Compassion: Swami Kripalu said that compassionate self awareness without judgement is the highest spiritual practice. This shit used to be really hard for me. Like really, really hard. If I’m not critical of myself, how will I grow and improve!? How will my lazy ass psyche get her proverbial slacker ass off the metaphorical couch and DO something with herself, y’know? I have learned to motivate myself with love instead of hate. Fear of failure is no longer my diesel fuel. My heart mind is now my guide, my compass in life. Again, huge.

Spiritual Connection: I’ve always been kinda meh about organized religion, and I still am. But I realized that I’m constantly looking for a connection to something larger than myself, to experience the infinite, to slow down and appreciate each moment in life, and that those simple things make me SO damn happy and grateful to be alive. Meditation is super cool. Meditation in motion is even cooler. Sharing a ritual with other like minded people is awesome too. I’m trying to find a way to make room for this in my life in a way that is authentic to who I am.

Taking Risks is worth it: All kinds of risks. I have vowed to make this the year that I will take more risks in every aspect of my life, creatively, personally, the whole nine. Doing what you love, expressing who you are, is always worth it. Even if you fall flat on your face it’s a learning experience.

Love and gratitude are where it’s at: Another tough one. I tend to hyper focus on the stuff I don’t like about my life. Who doesn’t? When I stop and think about what I’m grateful for in life, it’s kind of overwhelming. Like, if I really stopped and recognized all the stuff I love in my life, it’d be overwhelming. I’d be crying all the time. (And boy howdy, did I cry a lot at Kripalu!) And that’s kind of fucking awesome. Learn to find the diamonds in the rough. Today sucked but I love the way the puffy clouds look in the sky. I love that I live in a place where I can even see the sky. Sometimes my job is thankless, but when I think about all the students I have that blow my mind with how kind, creative, curious they are, I feel so goddamn humbled to have them in my life. Gratitude isn’t about perfection. It isn’t about settling for accepting the stuff in your life that’s crappy either. Love is big and small at the same time. Sometimes there’s one tiny nugget in your day, a smile, a small kindness, sometimes it’s overwhelming. I’ll take all the love that crosses my path. All of it is a miracle. That’s right, I used the M word. Try and stop me.

Your authentic self doesn’t have to impress anyone: My value doesn’t lie in my ability to entertain, educate or impress everyone I meet. Guess what? Everyone doesn’t have to like me. It’s not my job to make them like me either. Some people won’t dig me no matter how hard I try but you know what? Most people will. It’s not my job to sweat the ten percent of people I meet that don’t get me. I don’t need to change myself so that I’m marketable to every friend, co worker or student I meet. What am I, a breakfast cereal? I don’t need to protect myself by being snarky all the time either. I love a good snark, but I hate what a steady diet of it does to my insides. Is it so bad to just be genuine, to admit what I love, to share a conviction, to state a goal, without worrying that I’ll seem foolish to somebody else? What an exhausting way to live. I’m done with it.

So… what now?

I’ve made a commitment to live in a way that is true to myself, but I’m not quite sure what it looks like in my life yet. Some stuff will change, some stuff will grow and get bigger. Some stuff will probably stay the same. The most important thing is to listen to my heart, to not tune myself out when stuff gets overwhelming. So that’s where the writing about it comes in. The blog is back in action.  You’ve been warned.

Namaste,

Ms. Apple

A Yoga Mix That Doesn’t Suck

I am so excited for Halloween Yoga tonight!

I’ll let you know how the whole yoga costume thing goes.

In the mean time, I’ve put together a yoga mix that does not involve Enya. Don’t get me wrong, chanting and new wave stuff is cool and all, but sometimes I just want to rock out on my yoga mat. I put together a mix for myself that incorporates some of my favorite bands. Sometimes it’s inspiring to hear something unexpected on the mat. I’ll let you how it goes after my next practice.

Check out my playlist… and the videos. Especially the vid for Thought Balloon, by one of my favorite local bands, Freezepop. It’s just the sweetest thing I’ve seen all day.

Arriving on the mat/ Breath work:

Lazy Lover ~ Brazilian Girls

Golden Age ~ Beck

Visions of Johanna ~ Bob Dylan

 

Warm-up / Sun Salutations:

Spooky Girlfriend ~ Elvis Costello

Do You Realize?? ~ Flaming Lips

Such Great Heights ~ Vitamin String Quartet

 

Twists/ Balancing Poses:

Thought Balloon ~ Freezepop

I Think I Need A New Heart

Air ~ Sexy Boy

Just Like Honey ~ The Jesus and Mary Chain

Midnight in A Perfect World ~ DJ Shadow

 

Stretching/ Inversions:

The Rain Song ~ Led Zeppelin

Hallelujah ~ Jeff Buckley

Whir ~ The Smashing Pumpkins

Asleep ~ The Smiths

 

Transition to Savasanah:

Headphones ~ Bjork

Do you like to practice yoga with music?

 

 

5 Minute Zen: Put A Ring On It

“Tension is who you think you need to be. Relaxation is who you are.”

~ Chinese proverb

Meditation for busy people with limited attention spans. I can’t be the only one, right?

Look, I am by no means a zen master. Latte fueled disaster on wheels, yes. Zen master? No. I have the attention span of a ten-year old high on jelly beans. I’ve been known to get up and walk out of movies, classes, lectures, etc. in the first 5 minutes because I was bored. I hate sitting still. I hate sitting still. Especially if it’s sitting still cross-legged. So why the flip am I about to tell you how awesome meditation is? How did I even get myself to sit still enough to do it in the first place? The answer is simple. Put a ring on it.

No. Not that kind of ring. This kind of ring. Your iPhone ring, an egg timer, anything that goes ding after a set period of time. Preferably something that dings with a pleasant noise.

Why even bother? The short answer is that meditation makes me feel like less of a disaster. I’m happier when I mediate. I’m less hard on myself. If I’ve been meditating regularly it’s easier to look at stressful situations and say, “Pssshhh… I got this one.” And get this, it’s kinda fun. When I open up my eyes after meditating, even after only a few minutes. The world looks shiny and new. No matter how shit-tastical the everything around me happens to be at the moment, I enjoy being alive a little more.

OK, so enough with this hippy crap. You people have places to be. How do you do it?

(Disclaimer: I am not a yoga teacher, a meditation teacher or a medical professional of any kind. I’m just reconstituting stuff I’ve learned from other people and repackaged for my own practice in the hope it will benefit somebody else.)

1) Grab your iPhone or other timing device.

2) Step two, find a comfortable, semi-quiet place. Sometimes even locking yourself in the bathroom will do in a pinch. I also do this in my car a lot. (With the car parked, thank you very much!)

3) Find a comfortable position to sit in. You do not need to sit yogi style to do this. All that really matters is that your body is relaxed and your spine is straight. If you are sitting in a chair, uncross your legs and put your feet flat on the floor. If you are sitting on the floor you can stick a cushion or a yoga block under your butt and just straddle it if your hips are tight.

4) Start your timer. Start with 5 minutes, 3 if you’re real antsy.

5) Close your eyes, take some deep breaths. Count your breaths back from 100 on each exhale. If your mind wanders too much doing that, start with sets of 10. The key is not to not have any thoughts. (I think that’s the biggest misconception about meditation.) The key is to be able to release the thoughts that you do have. I like to imagine blowing them away on a puffy cloud. If I’m starting to worry about my to-do list I tell myself that all that crap will be there after the timer goes off, this is my me time, my mini-vaca, whatever you want to call it. Having that timer going allows me to focus on relaxation instead of wondering how much time has gone by. This is especially useful if you have limited time and don’t want to be late.

6) Different people use different ways of staying in the moment. Some people focus on the feeling of the breath leaving the mouth during an exhale. Some people have a relaxing mental picture in their brains. Instead of trying to tune out all noise, I try to notice it but not  hold onto it. The ambient noises around me whether it’s crickets, a car passing in the distance, whatever, help me remain in the moment and release my worries about the future. If I start to think too much I remind myself to lie back and let my mind be “cradled” by the practice. In other words, you’re not forcing your brain to do any work, you’re letting it lie back and be supported like a newborn baby.

Aaaannnd…. that’s it.

Work yourself up from 5 minutes to however long you want. Or if you’re pressed for time… just stick with 5 minutes.

Variations:

I do this in my car in the parking lot at work before I go in for the day.

If I have free time right before my most difficult class, I spend 3-5 minutes meditating right before they come in. It helps me handle the behavioral challenges. I totally do not find anything wrong with a teacher finding 5 minutes during the day to hide somewhere and meditate. As long as you’re not in class or in a meeting then why not? During lunch or prep, turn the lights off in your classroom and lock the door for 5 minutes. Or find a deserted corridor somewhere. (The kids know where all of the good ones are.) It’s just 5 minutes. The kids aren’t going to spontaneously combust. You can return your boss’ email later. The world will not implode. You’ll be a better teacher for it… I promise!

What if I don’t even have 5 minutes?

OK, so unless you are an air traffic controller, everybody has time in their day to just stop and take 3, 5 or 10 deep breaths. If I find myself getting stressed I stop myself and take a few long, slow, inhales and exhales. That usually puts me right back on track.

What if I am an air traffic controller?

Just don’t forget to breathe.

At the heart of all this, you need to believe that this is worth doing. You need to believe that you deserve less stress. You need to understand that stress doesn’t have to be the motivating factor in your success. You can have success without being stressed.  In fact, meditation can help you be better at your job if that’s what you want. Most of all, trust yourself. 5 minutes a day of meditation is not going to turn you into some spaced out moon child…I promise.

So… what do you do to bust YOUR stress?

The Lady Was A Champ

As some of my readers already know, this year I lost someone very special to me, my grandmother, Rose. It was my distinct honor to be able to give the eulogy at her funeral. I’ve wanted to share it with others for a while but until now the feelings were just too fresh. After getting together last night with my ladyfriends to honor some of the awesome women in all of our lives, suddenly the time seemed perfect.

So here goes…
Recently a friend asked me, “What kind of woman was your grandmother?” Believe it or not, I had trouble answering. She was so many things to me, and I know she was so many things to all of you too as evident in all the different names we’ve had for her over the years. To some of you she is mother, sister, to others she’s Auntie Rose, or Big Nana, or simply Rose. To me she was nana, but as I explained to my friend, she was more than just my grandma, she was my Special Little Lady, my hero, my friend.

So what kind of woman was Rose? I’ll let the lessons she taught me speak for themselves:

Lesson Number 1)    Your sister is your best friend: Many of my nana’s stories began with the words, “We were four girls.” Rose and her sisters Mary, Carmie and Josephine shared everything. Growing up on Marion St. in East Boston during the great depression they even shared beds. I’ll always treasure those afternoons my sister and I spent around the kitchen table with nana and her sisters drinking coffee and laughing and telling stories. I loved hearing about how when Mary was born she was so tiny that they had to put her in the stove to keep her warm, how Carmie got stuck on the Nahant Ferry with a handsome young man who looked like Errol Flynn, and of course, how Rosie got a dashing young man named Ollie to notice her by pretending to drown at the beach at Wood Island Park.

Even though they were poor, they never lacked anything because they had each other. The way they grew up always sounded like so much fun to me. Growing up with nothing they had to make their own fun. There were amateur theatricals in the backyard of the triple decker they lived in, great grandfather’s storytelling, and of course the seemingly endless parties and dances and dates with the neighborhood friends they they’d remain close with for the rest of their lives.

The Giardolo sisters had the reputation of being some of the most stylish girls in the neighborhood, a tradition that my sister Kay and I more than live up to, if I do say so myself.  So how did they stay looking sharp? As my nana put it, anytime one of the sisters needed something, they’d just make it or borrow it from one another. They took care of each other. Nana once told me that as a teenager when she didn’t have a job, one of her sisters was always there to spot her with pocket money to go out on the town or to borrow a dress from. As an adult I’ve realized that the close relationship I have with my sister was no accident, I grew up with the most powerful examples of sisterhood I possibly could have had, my nana and her sisters. I was raised to believe that having a sister was a gift, more than a gift, a treasure that I should hold dear. My nana and her sisters taught me that lesson.

Lesson number 2)    Live your life with a positive attitude:  Rose was simply one of the most optimistic and open minded people I have ever met.  To her the glass was not just half full, it was always joyfully overflowing. This wasn’t because her life was easy, far from it. For most of her adult life she struggled with MS, a disease that left her weak and fatigued. Did she let this slow her down? Well, maybe a little. But she refused to sit out of life, there were parties to throw, trips to Florida to have, grandchildren to cuddle and friends to visit far and wide. Rosie just kept on shuffling along at her own pace, determined to make the most of life. I never once heard her complain about her condition. Rather, she always had a wise saying to bouy herself along, “You do the best with what you’ve got”, or, “Que sera que sera”, were words of wisdom I frequently heard from my nana. The message was clear, when life gets tough, you don’t give up.

Never in my life did I ever hear my grandmother speak ill of anyone or be judgemental of anybody elses’ life choices. Why? Because Rose understood what was important in life. When asking my sister and I about our lives she would say, “Are you healthy? Are you happy? Well then that’s all that matters.” And she truly believed those words, she lived her life by them.

Rose’s open mindedness didn’t come from any social or political agenda. She wasn’t out to change the world or fight a battle, she simply understood what matters in life. People matter, relationships matter, love matters. She spent her entire life bringing people closer together. Whether it was through holidays and family reunions held at Nana and Papa’s big old house in Lincoln, a house, I suspect that was designed with the purpose of entertaining their beloved extended family, or simply sitting around the kitchen table laughing and telling stories. Rose brought people together. She brought generations together.

As I grew up I came to regard her as more than just a grandmother, she was also a dear friend and someone I look up to and strive to be like. It was Rose that made me realize that a 21st century woman like myself could have so much in common with her octagenarian grandmother and aunties. We all love laughter and storytelling, entertaining, fashion and a good joke. After hearing about all the backyard theatricals, sewing, drawing and costuming that her and her sisters did I know exactly where Kay and I got our artsy genes from.

She loved hearing what was going on in me and my sister’s lives whether it was our exploits teaching art and drama, my latest play, or our nights out on the town seeing live music and going to parties (the PG-13 version, of course). And she loved seeing pictures of it all on our iphones. Another thing Rose was open minded about was technology. “Did you ever think you’d live to see the day when you could send a picture through the phone?” She’d say. She was delighted by it and genuinely interested in everything her grandaughters were up to, no matter how unconventional. She was supportive of all our endeavors whether it was my sister’s trip to do volunteer work in Nicaragua or my choice to move in with my boyfriend (now fiancee) gasp… before we were married. While my mother worried, my grandmother simply shrugged her shoulders and said, “Are they healthy? Are they happy? Que sera sera.”

Lesson number 3) As one of the greatest bands of all time, the Beatles said, all you need is love. If my grandmother had been born a generation later I’m sure she would have agreed with that statement. She had so much love to give and continued giving, all the way until the end. Even when she moved to the nursing home she continued to reach out to everyone she met and make new friends. She told everybody she interacted with there, from her fellow  residents to the nurses and orderlies that she loved them, and they always replied, “We love you too, Rose.” She is living proof that you get what you give in life.

Last year, shortly after my grandfather passed away, I was on the phone with nana. She asked me, “Are you going to do a reading at the party for papa?” “What party?” I asked, then I realized that she was talking about my granfather’s funeral. I don’t think that she used the word party just because it was too difficult to say the word funeral. I think she chose the word party because she wanted to view the funeral as a gathering of loved ones, something positive instead of something depressing.

And now, although our hearts are heavy, I invite us all to celebrate my grandmother’s life the same way she lived it, with acts of love. Anytime I choose a positive outlook instead of giving up in the face of adversity, I am honoring my grandmother, when I open my arms and accept others instead of being quick to judge, I know that she will be right there with me. And I invite you to do the same, gather your loved ones together, tell stories, spread laughter and choose to see life as a celebration. This is the greatest legacy that Rose will leave us blessed with, a legacy of love.

You Don’t Get To Call Me Cutie, Cutie

The night is oppressive and dark

A tall, muscular man gives me a predatory glance as he drags off his cigarette, “Hey baby”

As natural as clearing his throat

If this were Harvard Square in the middle of the day I’d spit; “My name isn’t baby”

But it’s dark and the streets are empty and I don’t have the luxury of a b-line to the safety of my car

So I grit my teeth and walk on

He stands uncorrected of the fact that he doesn’t get to call me baby

Baby is for my nearest and dearest; my lover, my mother

Not this stranger on this street

On come the teenage boys, three or four of them, fourteen, maybe fifteen at the oldest,

They say it again, “Hey baby”

The skinny one in the stringy boy-beater tank says, “Hey cutie”

I could read their vibe, good kids just messing around, they aren’t bigger than me and don’t seem a threat so I stop and say, “Hey, is that how you talk to women?”

Skinny one is incredulous that I’ve rebuffed his compliment, “I called you cutie, what am I supposed to do? Call you ugly?”

How often do the girls talk back?

I wasn’t supposed to have a voice

The world is your oyster, you’re a boy with a cock

This boy might as well be my student. In fact, I often wonder when a young boy will sexually harass me on the street, look up from my breasts to my face and see I’m his teacher

“First of all, I’m old enough to be your mother, second of all, you should have some more respect for women.”

They walk on.

You don’t get to call me cutie. I should be calling you, cutie.

All 98 pounds of you soaking wet, all of fourteen or 15 years old,

you don’t get to assert your dominance over me, and adult woman.

Women are not objects for your perusal; for you to pick up, comment on and reject at your leisure.

I can take it from some old perv,

but I can’t stand that another generation of young men is growing up learning that any woman

is theirs to comment on, to infantalize, to sample and to toss away.

You don’t get an opinion on whether or not I’m cute.

You are a child.

The bus stop, finally.

A tall, heavyset geek approaches

I brace myself for what he will say

He mashes in his earbuds and ignores me

I fumble for my phone and call Mr. Apple

To tell him I’m at the bus stop. To tell him I’m on my way home,

So if perchance something happens to me he’ll know enough to come looking for me

I hate that I have to do this

Me, “Miss Independence”

That I have to call and tell the benevolent male in my life that I’ll be home in time for curfew

That I drive when I go places at night by myself even though I’d rather ride a bike

That I lock all the doors when I’m home alone

If god forbid something were to happen

“He can’t give you a compliment?”

“What’s wrong with calling you cutie?”

“Well, why were you dressed like that?”

(In a tank top? In the summer? How am I supposed to dress?)

Ever seen that Episode of Buffy, where she temporarily loses her powers?

For one lousy episode she can’t kick the ass of every tool who sexually harasses her

So she just has to ignore it

That’s what it feels to be a chick in the city, every fucking day

If I could get in the personal space of a stranger on the street,

If people had to ignore me starting with them because they weren’t sure if telling me to stuff it would get them beaten up or raped

If I had that power, would I use it?

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