All posts by mich1320

From Child’s Pose in Church Basements to Handstands on Instagram: How Social Media and an Exploding Industry Have Changed My Experience as a Yogi

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The first yoga class I ever attended was at a community farm, in a small room with a linoleum floor that they used mostly for kids’ education classes, and the second class I attended was in a huge, lofty, multipurpose room at a Unitarian Church. Soon after those initial yoga experiences, I was lured in to the two chains of hot power yoga studios that were all the rage in the Boston area at the time. Throwing down chaturanga after chaturanga and grunting my way into big backbends I wasn’t ready for, in a 95 plus degree room with upwards of 40 other yogis was quite a shock to my system, after only having experienced hatha yoga in intimate settings. But my 23 year old body could handle it, and I loved the euphoric rush that accompanied the practice. So, it served me for a while, and it felt authentic to me in my early days as a yogi.

Fast forward a few years to when I had just started teaching yoga, and studios were starting to spring up like Starbucks. While there wasn’t quite one on every block, my options for taking classes outside of my home base studio where I did my training were plentiful, and my options for places to teach were starting to expand. My relationship with yoga had changed significantly from those first few classes on the farm and at the church; and with the onslaught of new studios popping up in almost every urban and suburban neighborhood, as well as the rise of social media, it would only continue to change.

I didn’t have a Facebook account for the first several months of my teaching career–I’m a late adopter to all things technology. I just jumped on board the Snapchat train this year, and you still won’t catch me giving commands to “Alexa” on one of those Amazon Echoes–and in many ways, I was happier without it, both as a practitioner and a teacher. And also as a human being in general. I was less distracted, more focused, and less competitive with others and with myself. When I finally caved to the pressures of social media, I found it, like many people, to be a double-edged sword. I could connect with a broad network of yoga teachers and students and feel like part of a bigger community. I could reach out to other teachers and ask them questions or just see when they were teaching special classes, workshops, or trainings. I could forge more personal connections with my students, which felt great, strengthened my teaching, and led to some great friendships over the years. The benefits of using social media as a yoga teacher were many, but I also let the drawbacks and pitfalls make a not-so-positive impact on me.

For a while, I became bogged down by feelings of jealousy and inadequacy when I compared myself to other teachers. I got sucked in by the gossip machine that social media often generates (yes, there can be just as much gossip and drama at yoga studios as there can at any other workplace), and I felt mentally and emotionally unhealthy as a yogi. Thankfully, I’ve gotten to a place where I can enjoy the benefits of social media without going too far down that spiral of envy, criticism, and negativity. Much like a practice of asana or meditation, it took a fair amount of self-reflection and discipline to get to where I am in terms of my relationship with social media as a yogi and as a person, and it’s still very much a work in progress. This almost constant state of interconnectedness and being plugged in to the thoughts, joys, hardships, political views, selfies, and rants of fellow teachers and students has radically changed my experience as a yogi. But rather than fighting it or abandoning it altogether, I’ve decided to go mindfully with the current; because, love it or hate it, social media is here to stay.

In addition to the rise of social media, I’ve witnessed the rise of “yoga as group fitness” and the “corporatization” of yoga over the years- another far cry from my early days of yoga at the farm. Like social media, this was something I allowed to get under my skin, and it’s something that doesn’t bother me nearly as much anymore. Yoga is a business, just like anything else that involves the exchange of money. There will always be studios that compensate teachers fairly and generously for the work they do, just like there will always be studios that take advantage of their teaching staff with unfair pay, cutting classes, micromanagement, and even instituting things like “mandatory” unpaid staff meetings. I’ve been around long enough to have seen a slew of injustices in the world of yoga teaching, and at this point I just say “no thank you” to studios that start teachers at $30 per class, or that pay $5 per student, or that find other means to make teaching a more laborious, stressful, and less rewarding experience. I’m grateful to have found a few studios who treat me well, pay me generously, and value my contributions to the community, and that’s what matters.

I also say “no thank you” to studios that seem to place an emphasis on “yoga as group fitness.” I practice yoga mostly for its healing, grounding, and meditative benefits, and while I love to strengthen my core and pop up into the occasional crow or forearm balance, I don’t practice or teach with things like “fitness” or, god forbid, “cardio” in mind. While I personally cringe at “yoga” class descriptions that include the use of weights or “cardio” work and at studios that seem to value the “harder, faster, more” philosophy of vinyasa yoga, I say, ”to each their own.” If you like flowing through sun salutations with weights, adding burpees to your sequences, and cramming in as many poses as possible to a 60 minute class, then rock on with your bad self. I’ve just decided that those types of classes and studios are not for me. Yoga means something different to each one of the millions of people around the world who practice it, and now that it has largely moved away from being taught in intimate settings like church basements and has exploded into a multimillion dollar industry, it’s up to us to be smart consumers, practitioners, and teachers, and connect with yoga in a way that feels real to us.

“It’s Gotta Be Sunny Somewhere:” a Review of Juliana Hatfield’s “Pussycat”

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I didn’t expect Donald Trump to win the 2016 election, and I didn’t expect Juliana Hatfield, one of my all-time favorite musicians, to release an intensely politically-fueled album, just as Trump neared the end of his first 100 days in office. While Hatfield’s songs have always been deeply introspective and pretty provocative–she’s never been one to shy away from uncomfortable topics such as gender oppression, body image, and drug abuse, just to name a few–and while she’s also no stranger to railing against the establishment in general, I was still surprised that she decided to go full-throttle anti-Trump on this latest collection of 14 songs, her first proper solo album in six years.

I got my first taste of these songs when she performed a few of them for the first time at the benefit concert, “Boston Stands for the ACLU” in March. My ears immediately perked up as she lit into her scathing attacks on the president for his animalistic, sexually assaultive ways in “When You’re A Star,” whose chorus, “You can do what you want/Whatever you want to do, when you’re a star,” references the infamous Billy Bush tapes. She also debuted another of the album’s standout tracks that night, “Touch You Again,” a straight up, post-punk-style rocker in the vein of early Pretenders that fires off lines like “He’s never gonna show you off/Like a shiny object that he bought,” that seem to be aimed directly at a certain real estate mogul/reality show host turned president. And then, of course, there was the highly anticipated track I had recently read about, whose name says it all, “Kellyanne.” It beautifully captures the shock, disgust and dismay this alternative fact-slinging woman seems to have on Hatfield, along with many other like-minded and truth-seeking Americans.

Almost every one of the 14 tracks on the aptly named “Pussycat” appears to be a direct response to Trump’s divisive, controversial campaign and his unexpected rise to power. But among all the rage, revolt, and confusion that colors her lyrics, Hatfield offers listeners a couple of hopeful moments and a nostalgic look back at simpler times. “Impossible Song” tackles the seemingly impossible notion that an especially divided America can work to find at least some common ground, and “Sunny Somewhere” yearns for bright spots and a breath of fresh air in the murky political and environmental landscape we’re living in. The sweetly nostalgic “Wonder Why,” which appears shortly after the halfway point in the album, is its most palpable and enjoyable moment of reprieve from all the lyrical heaviness. It showcases Hatfield’s full vocal range, soaring harmonic choruses and synthesized strings, and it finds her wistfully looking back upon various features of her childhood home (“I wonder why the kitchen was an avocado green/And the upstairs bathroom was peach) and fond childhood memories (“The Northern Lights/We saw them in Vermont one night from a car”). In a world that seems to bombard us with the latest flare up in the raging dumpster-fire that is the Trump presidency, it can feel truly therapeutic to retreat to the naive, wondrous, and largely apolitical mindset of childhood. So thanks for this moment of escapism, Juliana. And thanks for putting this brave body of work out there into a world that needs this kind of art more than ever.

Self-Care and Sanity in the Age of Trump

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Practicing adequate self-care and staying grounded is challenging enough with the everyday pressures and demands we face as we juggle our careers, family, and personal lives, along with the various stressors that try to throw us off our path. But with an administration in power who are making policies that will hurt so many people nationwide, including ourselves, our friends, and family members, it’s becoming an increasingly difficult practice. As much as we may try to put away our phones or turn off our TVs, we can’t really escape the deluge of stories and tweets related to our Narcissist-in-Chief or the conversations that he’ll inevitably pop up in. And that’s actually a good thing, to a certain extent. It’s equally dangerous to bury your head in the sand as it is to remain constantly on high alert and obsessively plugged into the comically tragic reality show that is the White House, circa 2017. The big question is, how can we strike some kind of balance, in order to stay informed and politically active (If I were a younger Millennial, I’d probably use the expression “stay woke,” but that phrase just rubs me the wrong way) but not overwhelmed, so we don’t drown in the ever expanding political swamp that Trump promised to drain?

I’d like to say that the following list offers six simple ways to stay grounded and sane during this era that has been causing us to feel anything but those two qualities. However, self-care in the age of Trump is not such a simple practice. It takes a great deal of patience, dedication, self-awareness, and informed decision making. We must remember that even though feelings of frustration, anger, and despair may rise to the surface as we’re doing this work, it’s important now more than ever to have an arsenal of healthy, positive self-care practices that help us balance out those dark emotions and keep them mostly at bay for the next (God forbid) four years.

1) Find an outlet to channel your frustration, fear, or other dark emotions into something more positive.

There are so many outlets out there, and so many like-minded people to connect with in order to enact positive change. Attend a town hall meeting run by one of your senators or representatives (check townhallproject.com to find one in your area). Join the local chapter of an Indivisible group (indivisibleguide.com). Go to a march or another peaceful protest. Download the apps, “5 Calls” and “Alder” for simple, daily actions you can take from home. Volunteer for or donate to one of the many organizations that are doing work to counteract the Trump administration’s damaging policies: immigrant rights organizations, the ACLU, the NRDC, Planned Parenthood, the list goes on. So, rather than firing off that tenth angry Facebook rant of the day or simply sharing article after article, put your money where your mouth is and find a way to get more actively involved. And rather than feeling constrained to operate within the realm of political activism, simply be of service in any way you can. Help feed the homeless, volunteer at your church or temple, donate your time and energy to working with senior citizens and children in need, or walk dogs at a local animal shelter. Because honestly, what bad situation can’t be made at least partially better by cute animals?

2) Tap into your creativity

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “creative type,” you’ll benefit greatly from channeling your energy and emotions into some kind of project, whether it’s fine arts, knitting, writing, music, yoga, gardening, taking a community education class, or starting a project around the house. It’ll get you away from the TV, the laptop, and the phone, and into something that will actually feel therapeutic and rewarding.

3) Reconnect to your roots

As a yoga teacher who studies the chakras (major energy centers in the body), this is a big one for me in terms of staying grounded. By reconnecting to nature, you recharge and balance your root chakra, which is probably the best and most simple war to stay grounded. Just today, I found myself engaging just a bit too much in Trumpy Twitter shenanigans, and I made a conscious decision to walk some local trails before I became hopelessly sucked into a rabbit hole of never ending tweets and articles. It honestly made me feel at least 50% more grounded and sane. Try it. It really works.

4) Laughter- it really is the best medicine

Seriously. I don’t know where I’d be without Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Jon Lovett of the amazing podcast/comedy hour that is “Lovett Or Leave It,” and pretty much the entire cast of SNL (especially the now adjunct cast members, Melissa McCarthy and Alec Baldwin). They are all true rays of sunshine in these pretty dark times. If there’s one positive thing to emerge from the raging dumpster fire that is the Trump administration, it’s all the amazingly high quality satire that’s out there. So go check it out. You’ll laugh until your face turns orange…I mean, red.

5) Attempt to find some common ground with people on “the other side”

To paraphrase the wise words of Joni Mitchell, “[look] at life from from both sides now…” This one has definitely been the most challenging for me to put into practice, and it’s something I need to get better at. While we’d all prefer to stay inside our comfortable bubble of like-minded people and publications that validate our feelings and ideologies, its important to hear what the other side has to say and at least attempt to find some common ground. Now I’m not advocating that you become a Fox News junkie or an avid Breitbart reader, but maybe check out more “mindful” conservative publications like The American Conservative, The Wall Street Journal, or The Economist every now and then. And perhaps even try having a mindful, respectful conversation with a co-worker who may lean more to the right. Be open to truly listening what they have to say and why they have certain beliefs, without attempting to change their minds or convince them that you’re right. This is a whole lot easier to do with Trump voters versus Trump fans, and there is definitely a distinction between those two camps. I’ve also been listening to podcasts that highlight speakers whose politics aren’t always so left-leaning. Politico’s “Off Message” and Ana Marie Cox’s “With Friends Like These,” which is all about uncomfortable conversations, are both great choices.

6) Know When To Disengage

Speaking of uncomfortable conversations, I’ve had more than a few of those since November 8, and I’ve learned when to just disengage. Some of these conversations have derailed into anger and stubbornness on both sides; I’ll admit I’ve allowed myself to become heated, defensive, and even slightly combative while engaging with a few Fox News aficionados and Trumpeters of the “Lock Her Up!” variety on Twitter. And I’ve come to realize that those “conversations” will never lead to any shred of compassion, understanding, or common ground. But I have had a few genuine conversations with (mostly reluctant) Trump voters that have actually been more “comfortably uncomfortable” and somewhat eye-opening. I think it’s important to at least try to establish some common ground with relatives, co-workers, and acquaintances whose political views are different from yours, but if that quest to find shared values proves to be too much of an uphill battle, it’s best to just politely disengage. It’s perfectly healthy to block and report those unhinged, alt-right Twitter trolls you may have encountered, or to delete those super Trumpy Facebook “friends,” who still share “Hillary For Prison” memes and who you probably didn’t even like before the election, all in the name of staying sane. It’s also perfectly healthy to avoid seeing family members with whom you’ve failed to find any common ground after having made honest attempts to do so.

7) Keep practicing your tried and true self-care methods

Now I’m not talking about drinking wine, which, if I’m being honest, is my #2 go-to self-care practice. Yoga is #1 of course, and stress eating is #3 😉 I’m talking about those simple, everyday things we do to take care of ourselves that are genuinely healthy and therapeutic: getting outside, going for walks, soaking up some sun, going to the beach or going on hikes or bike rides, taking bubble baths, making sure you get a decent amount of sleep every night, listening to your favorite music (Joni Mitchell has been even more of a staple in my musical diet since November 8), or sustaining a mind-body practice like yoga or meditation (I highly recommend the Headspace meditation app).

And yes, maybe even drinking a glass or two of wine. Because with Donald Trump in the White House, we’ll need all the wine we can get!

Confessions of a Jaded Yoga Teacher (or, Why I Quit The Full Time Yoga Game)

(originally published in 2014)

Somewhere amid the endless stream of asana selfies, the preachy social media posts about self-care, ahimsa, and various other “yogic principles,” the desperate pleas to get someone to sub one of my weekend classes when I was ill or had an important family event to attend, the hours spent in traffic, praying I’d make it to the studio on time for class, and the uncertainty of whether my next paycheck from X studio would actually cover this month’s rent, I came to realize that this career I had chosen and had relied upon as a source of stability and purpose would ultimately lead me toward burnout and frustration if I kept it going the way it was. Almost six years after I began teaching my first public class, teaching yoga full time was not only no longer paying the bills; it was also no longer fulfilling me on a personal level like it did during the first few years. When you have to teach more than 14 classes a week and put countless miles on the odometer to make ends meet, it starts to wear on you and leads you to question whether you can keep doing this at 35, 40…or, god forbid, 50.

Don’t get me wrong, I still sincerely love teaching yoga. Like any job, some days and some classes feel better than others, but I love the overall sense of spontaneity and variety that’s inherent to the job. As much as I’ve bitched and moaned about having to drive 20 miles in rush hour traffic to teach some of my weekly classes, I deeply appreciate the diverse communities of strong, interesting people that I’ve been lucky enough to meet by teaching at many different studios throughout the greater Boston area. I also appreciate the downtime that my job has given me over the years. It’s pretty awesome to be able to enjoy a leisurely lunch or coffee talk session midday with a friend, to take a yoga class at noon during the week, go for a midday run, or even better, take a midday nap, which is something I became a real pro at. These are all things that I would definitely not have the luxury to enjoy if I worked a traditional 9-5 type of job.

But with great freedom comes great responsibility. And responsibility is something I’ve always struggled with. It became challenging for me to remain consistent with my class schedule. Certain time slots and studios just didn’t work out, and I’d find myself subbing out or dropping classes, and in many cases leaving studios altogether. As yoga teachers we definitely have a responsibility to our students who show up faithfully, and this can honestly be hard to uphold when you commute 45 minutes each way into the city to teach a 90 minute class with 3 students that ends up paying you $15. Yes, we can spend our time, energy and money marketing ourselves, taking countless trainings to improve and refine our teaching, and be patient, faithful lapdogs, hoping that studio owners will notice our loyalty and reward us with more classes on the schedule, or better yet, that coveted, ever elusive “full time” status at their elite, big city studio. But frankly, I didn’t have that kind of patience, loyalty, or desire, and I realized I was never going to be that skinny, effervescent, but slightly icy, fancy fashionista prototype of a teacher that sadly seems to prevail at those elite studios at which I tried to teach. Full disclosure: I did sort of have a full time gig at an “assembly line” chain of studios for about two years and I quit before they could fire me because it didn’t feel authentic for me to teach in a formulaic way or to uphold their shiny, fluffy, new age BS agenda.

It shocks many of my non-yoga friends that the evils of the corporate world definitely still permeate the yoga world and the business of yoga; they’re just oftentimes hidden beneath a thin veneer of new agey bullshit and “yoga speak,” which I feel is worse in some ways. I wish I could find a career that’s completely free from bullshit, but alas, unless I’m missing out on some kind of miracle out there, such a job doesn’t really exist. And if I’m gonna have to ingest bullshit, I’d rather have it served to me in a no-frills, upfront manner, instead of hidden in some kind of kombucha, kale smoothie concoction in a mason jar that has the word namaste printed on it over the image of a lotus flower. Don’t tell me to “be myself and shine my light and teach from my heart” and then tear apart my class because I “talked too much” or didn’t teach the “required” number of sun salutations. And don’t talk to me about yogic principles like speaking with integrity, avoiding gossip, and being humble when you’re a studio owner who exudes the bitterness, pettiness and competition of a middle school girl with all your social media posts. Talk about not practicing what you preach. If I knew I was going to end up work with a bunch of catty, bitter women in a gossip mill of a studio I would have kept my job as a teacher’s aide at an elementary school, where at least the bullshit was served in more of a tell-it-like-it-is kind of way.

I do realize that it’s possible to move beyond the drudgery and drama that accompanies a full time schedule of studio classes by “advancing” or branching out in the field of yoga teaching, just as it is in pretty much every career path. I’ve had friends and colleagues go on to open studios, start successful teacher training and mentorship programs, or broaden their horizons to incorporate teaching practices like ayurveda. Those are all lovely, lucrative directions that I’m sure I could venture into if I had the passion or inclination, but the truth is, I just don’t. I’m not a super spiritual, philosophical person, I’m not an “anatomy geek,” a “health freak” or an entrepreneurial type. I’m more of a bookish, music and pop culture geek, writer type who was drawn to teaching yoga after a rather failed attempt at elementary school classroom teaching. I love the art of teaching, whether it’s leading an art lesson to a group of third graders, teaching a workshop to a group of after school professionals about how to bring yoga into the classroom, or teaching a group of 15-30 adults a 60 minute vinyasa yoga class at a local studio. I think I will always maintain a love of teaching no matter what the discipline or where life takes me, but I think it’s time to drop to part time status with the vinyasa yoga after having led a group of type-A, high energy suburbanites in an overheated room through the 10,000th sun salutation of my career. Teaching warrior 1 and warrior 2 over and over again, day after day, just doesn’t have the same allure it did a few years ago.

I love deconstructing the warrior postures just as much as the next yoga teacher, and I love speaking to the benefits of the practice that extend beyond the physical postures in ways that aren’t super technical or esoteric. The practice of yoga asana has been invaluable in helping my legit ADD self to slow down and find ways to ground, calm, and be still. It has also helped my sometimes over analytical self connect to a more light hearted, carefree way of being. Perhaps most importantly, it has allowed my shy, reticent, uncertain self to find a little more human connection and confidence. But that’s about as far as it’s gone. I’ve barely even dabbled in meditation, yogic philosophy, or ayurveda, and quite frankly, I’m not finding those things to be interesting or relevant right now. I haven’t done a lot of work to market or sell myself as a yoga teacher or to carve out a niche that makes me “stand out” and gets droves of students to flock to my “sold out” classes. I don’t wear lululemon (I don’t even like the company and can’t justify spending upwards of $100 on fancy yoga pants, but that’s a whole other article), and I don’t feel the need to cram my instagram account with pictures of me in such fancy clothes, or worse, in my undies, doing scorpion pose and crazy contorted backbends (shapes my body can’t really assume safely at this point anyway). Those sorts of things just aren’t my cup of caffeine free organic green tea. And I prefer a strong cup of black coffee to be completely honest.

I guess my point is that I don’t really enjoy “selling” the so called yogic lifestyle, either in a superficial or a super serious way. I like teaching group classes on a part time basis, I love the feeling of taking a nice deep, slow, challenging flow class as a student, but I don’t like having to walk the walk and talk the talk in all its different ways in order to market myself as a yoga teacher. My sense of humor is often sarcastic and sophomoric, I have a penchant for the dark side (as opposed to a bunch of love, light, namastes, and flowery emoticons), and I love to indulge in a fair amount of unhealthy foods, alcoholic beverages, loud rock concerts and trashy TV. I realize those things are considered to be rather out of alignment with the yogic lifestyle, and I’m also okay with their presence in my life. For me, it’s not a “guilty pleasure” to have a glass of red wine late at night, to see a band play until 1AM, or to polish off half a bag of chips while watching back to back episodes of “Supernatural.” It’s a normal part of my everyday life that I accept. I also realize that it’s not a requirement that all “serious” yoga teachers exist on a steady diet of quinoa, kale and green smoothies, along with daily mediation, readings of hindu texts, and instagram posts of themselves in a bra and panties doing fancy handstands in their kitchen. I just realize that after years of trying to embrace a more so called modern yogic lifestyle, it just wasn’t something that was resonating with me or something that I could do with integrity. I’d rather have a slightly more 9 to 5-y type of job that actually pays the bills, teach a few classes a week as more of a hobby, and go home and enjoy my TV watching, junk food eating, wine drinking, pop culture, punk rock lifestyle in a carefree, unattached way.

Prius Owner Purchases 23rd Bumper Sticker

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-Somerville, MA

As soon as 38-year-old farmer’s market enthusiast Becky Newman laid eyes upon a clever kale-themed bumper sticker for sale at her favorite booth, she knew she had to purchase it. She simply couldn’t resist the sticker’s playful pun, “Oh, Kale Yeah!” and the clever way in which the letters were formed with kale leaves. But upon leaving the booth and heading back to the parking lot to pack the trunk of her 2007 Prius with the 5 bags of organic produce she had just purchased, she began to experience a bit of buyer’s remorse. “Well, I already have bumper stickers that say: ‘Eat More Kale’ and ‘Under The Influence of Kale,” but this one was just too punny to pass up (get it?) And besides, if there are two things you can never have enough of, it’s leafy greens and cute bumper stickers, right?” she said with a wink.

Then, as Newman began to search for an empty spot on the tail end of her hybrid hatchback to strategically place the sticker, she started to think that maybe you can indeed have enough bumper stickers. And at whopping total of 22, she had way more than enough. “I remember it all started with an Obama ’08 sticker, right on the lower left corner of the bumper, then an NPR one on the other side to balance it out, and I guess I kinda went a little crazy after that. Oh, well,” she said with a giggle.

Her colorful display of stickers ranges from the spiritual, “Coexist” and “Namaste,” to the feminist, “In Goddess We Trust,” to the occasional piece of cutesy humor, “Don’t Like My Cattitude? Call 1-800-Get-A-Dog.” And since finally giving up dairy products and eggs 6 months ago after many failed attempts, Newman has started to build upon the newest subsection of her sticker collection: veganism. “Yeah, I guess people already get the point that I’m a vegan and an animal rights advocate when they see my other kale stickers and my personal favorite that says ‘Eat Your Veggies, Not Your Friends,” but seriously, how badass would my little Prius look if it said ‘Oh, Kale Yeah!’?” Newman asked. “So to answer your question, am I really gonna put this bumper sticker on my car? Oh, kale yeah, I am!” she snickered, as she proceeded to stuff a handful of raw goji berries in her mouth.

After arriving home and stocking the fridge in her studio apartment with enough organic fruits and veggies to feed a family of five for two weeks, Newman was spotted trying to peel off her “Obama ’08” sticker. “I did seriously consider just slapping the new one somewhere near the gas tank, but I didn’t want to become one of those people who covers their entire car with stickers,” she said. “So to compromise, I decided that the old Obama one can go. I mean, I do have an Obama 2012, and I got a Hilary 2016 one as soon as they were released. So, out with the old, in with the new, I guess!”

“Forgot Namaste”- A Yoga-Themed Parody of “Forgot About Dre”

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(Mad props to my friend Sandy Kalik, the Snoop to my Dre, who was my co-writer on this)

Y’all know me
Still the same yogi
But I been O.D.-in’
Bestin’ most of these other yogis
Who can’t do no crows, no planks, no bows
No wheels, no trees, no boats
No handstands and no sun B’s

Mad at me cause I can finally afford to provide my booty with some Lulu luxury.
Got a spot in the front and I’m already in plank
10 minutes in, my form will tank
Chaturanga with my shoulders sank and my low back tweaked

Y’all think I’m gonna let my flow go meek?
Ho, please! You better do plow on both knees, who you think taught you to do tree?
Who you think brought you the O.G’s, the up D’s, Warriors
Half-lotus trees and downward D-O-double-G’s
And a flow that said “motherfuck the sun C’s”

Give me a class full of core, please
To bump when I wanna hit the beach
And when my flexibility ain’t givin’ me reach
Who’s that teacher that makes me drop my knees?

Y’all better listen up closely
All you yogis that said I turned lame
It’s a damn shame
Y’all are the reason “namaste” ain’t gettin’ enough play
So fuck y’all, all y’all
If y’all don’t like me, outflow me
Y’all gonna keep fuckin’ around with me, turn me back to a basic yogi

Nowadays all these yogis wanna flow
Like they got somethin’ to prove
But nothin’ comes up they open their hips
Just a bunch of tightness
And muthafuckas act like they forgot “Namaste”

So now what do you say to a teacher you hate
Tryin’ to bring gentle poses your way
Wanna resolve things in a more intense way
Just study your Power Yoga DVD
One day I was practicin’, gettin’ my handstand on
When I caught a bitch givin’ me a jealous eye
And I laughed at her lame attempt to try
She went three inches high
I don’t give a fuck if I strain my wrist
I’m harder than me tryna scorpion
When I’m hot as fuck
Right next to a humongous dude in a downward dog
Stressin’ out with his tight hamstrings
Tryin’ to loosen up
Fuck you man, go to the back row
I’mma kill you and your loud-ass muthafuckin’ grunts and moans
Just take a child’s pose
And get your ass to a level one class
With a big stack of blocks and a pile of blankets
You can go easy
While the rest of us take Vinyasa 3
Which is just for the superstar yogis
Who are still loco enough to chinstand after every plank pose

My guru, hotter then a pair of new Lulus
In a slim size 4 with the cute hiney
When the temp goes up to the mid-90’s
60 percent humid, teach, yo that shit crazy
There’s no way you can breathe ujaiyi,
It’s okay, leave the room, go pee.

Nowadays all these yogis wanna flow
Like they got somethin’ to prove
But nothin’ comes up they open their hips
Just a bunch of tightness
And muthafuckas act like they forgot “Namaste”

If it was up to me, you motherfuckers would stop drippin’ sweat on me
With your hands out and your core weak in warrior 3
When your lower back gave out, you went and blamed the teach
But now that I got this real strong belly
Everybody wanna watch my pose so they can copy
But you won’t do a plank like me
Cause I’m from the school of Crossfit
I told y’all, all y’all lame ass yogis
How you think I got so swole
Now you wanna warrior 2 showin’ off your guns, but you ain’t got none
What you think I been practicin’ to stay so buff?
And all I get is haters who say Crossfit’s too tough
What? Cause I been in the gym with a torn hamstring
Cause I just can’t get enough?
I ain’t stoppin’ this til I pull my groin or strain my wrist
Gettin’ injured makes me so fuckin’ pissed
So give me one more set of reps, and fuck rest
I wanna be the best
So where the Crossfit yogis at?
It’s like a sauna in this habitat
But all y’all on your mats
Know that I can do drop backs
Unlike all you other phony-ass hacks

Nowadays all these yogis wanna flow
Like they got somethin’ to prove
But nothin’ comes up they open their hips
Just a bunch of tightness
And muthafuckas act like they forgot “Namaste”

Fifth Grader Unsure Of Which Bubble To Fill In On Standardized Test

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Springtime brings an air of excitement and wonder to students at the Jackson Elementary School. Recess is typically a little warmer and longer, there’s more space to play after all the snow melts, and there are more exciting field trips and outdoor events for students of all ages. Unfortunately, springtime also brings on a soul-crushing series of statewide standardized tests for all students in grades 3-5. And on this particular Wednesday morning, a fifth grader named Abigail Williams was currently frozen with anxiety and self-doubt as she struggled to determine which bubble to fill in for question 5 on the multiple choice reading comprehension session.

“I know it can’t be A) because that’s just obviously, like, SO wrong. I mean, even my sister who’s in second grade would know that,” she said as she erased a stray mark she had mistakenly made in the bubble. “And I guess it could be B) or C) cause they both kind of express the main character’s feelings. It’s just, like SO hard to choose between them. So now I’m thinking it must be D) which says “Both B) and C).” She sighed. “But seriously, this crap shouldn’t be this hard for me. I mean, I read at a tenth grade level, I’ve gotten perfect scores on my report card every semester since Kindergarten, and I just passed my private middle school test and interview with flying colors. UGH.”

As Williams started to shade in the D) bubble with an intensity and ferocity she usually saves for swimming the 50 meter backstroke for her town’s swim team, where she proudly holds the record for fastest girl in her age group, she became plagued by sharp pangs of doubt and mistrust and immediately put down her pencil.

“The idiots who made this test are probably trying to trick us into thinking it’s both B) and C). They want us to choose D). Well, I’ve got news for you, test makers, I’m on to your little tricks and I won’t let one silly question fool me into running my perfect academic record. I’m going to Harvard just like my dad did, and I refuse to let a wrong answer on this dumb fifth grade test jinx me into getting A-Minuses now instead of straight A’s, ” Williams said with a self-righteous smirk as she thoroughly erased her previous answer and carefully shaded every last square millimeter of the previous bubble.

After re-reading the passage for the third time, Williams determined that the main character of the story was more “hopeful” than “optimistic,” and after quadruple-checking her answer, she handed her test to her teacher, Ms. Silverstein, with a smile that exuded perhaps a bit too much confidence and self-assuredness.

As Williams then took her seat and pulled out the latest 800 page novel she was in the middle of reading, she began to rethink her answer. “Dammit. The character was totally both hopeful and optimistic. Maybe they weren’t really trying to trick us after all.” She then asked Ms. Silverstein if she could have her test back to fix one of her answers but was met with a firm “No” from the especially stern, veteran fifth grade teacher of 13 years.

“I just hope that my new private middle school doesn’t see the results of this meaningless little public school test,” Williams muttered as she began worrying about how this one small question might impact her PSAT/SAT scores, her chance at being named a National Merit Scholar in 2021, and her dreams of running for president some time in the 2050’s.

Area Man Haunted By Image Of Ugly Baby

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As 26-year-old Seth Martin idly scrolled through his Facebook newsfeed during a moment of procrastination at work last Friday, he saw something frightening enough to elicit a gasp that could be heard throughout the surrounding cubicles. It wasn’t a hideous selfie or an especially scandalous piece of news, but rather a picture of what Martin was sure was hands down the ugliest baby he had ever laid eyes on. And it wasn’t just any random child from one of his 1,157 “friends”, it was his cousin Stacy’s firstborn son, Kiefer. “Picture the scariest looking cast member of American Horror Story: Freakshow, put their face on a baby’s body, and you kind of get the idea,” he replied when asked to describe his new first cousin, once-removed.

The young medical records assistant expressed great dismay for his decision to even open up Facebook, “I mean, I hadn’t gone on in weeks or posted anything since, like Christmas. I was thinking of just deleting the damn thing cause all I ever see these days are complaints about the weather, stupid memes and political rants from people I hated in high school. And I can kind of stomach those things, but this…this is a whole new level of vomit-inducing.”

To make matters worse, Martin accidentally clicked “like” below the photo, blaming it on a moment of absent-mindedness. “I don’t know, I was just distracted or something. Or I did it out of habit. I didn’t really mean to “like” it,” he said. And perhaps out of familial obligation or guilt for not having congratulated his cousin earlier on this momentous event in her life, he then proceeded to comment on the photo, writing something about how “adorable” little Kiefer is and how he “can’t wait to meet him.” “Those things couldn’t be further from the truth. Good thing Stacy lives on the opposite coast and my mom and aunt don’t really get along. I hope to God I never have to lay eyes on that hideous thing. I don’t know how I’d react,” Martin said, shaking his head.

The last time Martin recalls seeing Stacy was at their grandfather’s funeral, six years ago, when they were both sophomores in college. Because they were never close as children and hadn’t really spoken since a rather disastrous family reunion in 2004, they exchanged condolences and a few awkward words, and that was the extent of their interaction. “I’m pretty sure the next time I see her will probably be when Grandma dies, which I’m sure won’t be for a while, and by that point, maybe Kiefer will have outgrown his ugliness?” he said with just a touch of skepticism.

Until then, Martin has decided to deactivate his Facebook page; he has decided to stick with Twitter as his singular social media platform because he knows none of his family members have accounts, at least for now. “Dealing with annoying comments from my mom and getting millions of invitations to events I never want to go to was one thing, but dealing with the possibility of ugly babies haunting my dreams is where I draw the line,” Martin said as he live tweeted a co-worker’s comical struggle with the copy machine.

What Makes Work Worth Doing

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The most poignant moment on the recently-aired series finale of NBC’s Parks and Recreation was when the show’s protagonist, Leslie Knope, reflected on her career at the Pawnee Parks department by saying, “What makes work worth doing is getting to do it with people that you love.” Her words resonated strongly with me and led me to reflect a little deeper on the career I’ve tried to build for myself and the many people who have drifted in and out of my working life.

I’ve taught at a public afterschool program for the past five years alongside an eclectic cast of characters who have always reminded me just a bit of the cast of Parks and Recreation. There many not be anyone among us who’s nearly as materialistic and image conscious as Tom Haverford or as lovingly simple-minded and childlike as Andy Dwyer, but nonetheless, we are a quirky bunch who have remained a close knit team. We’ve even formed some unlikely but delightful friendships, some that I would have never thought possible. I had originally envisioned my position there as temporary, a stepping stone to whatever might be next. But I think it was my deep appreciation for my coworkers, some of whom became my friends and some of whom I clashed with at times, that kept me coming back year after year.

We all combine our strengths and personalities to deliver a program of activities to a diverse population of children ranging from 5 to 11 years old. And while none of us are quite as amazing or as magical as Johnny Karate, the children’s television character played so masterfully by Chris Pratt on the show’s final season, I like to think that we’re a pretty talented bunch. We’ve organized everything from an annual talent show that includes breakdancing and drumming acts to an arts and crafts sale to raise money to build a brand new playground. These huge efforts were successful only because each staff member was able to contribute meaningful, valuable work to provide for the greater good of the team and the children.

Unfortunately, the work we do is not always so valued by the larger community. Various shifts in school budgets and staffing have left us scrambling for adequate space and time to plan and run our program. And the part-time nature of the job, coupled with an hourly wage that, while generous compared to many similar programs, leaves a little to be desired, leads to high staff turnover. Over the past five years, we’ve had to weather a few major changes in staffing and have been forced to spread ourselves a little thinner. Our core staff; the Leslie, Ron, Tom, Donna and April of the program; if you will, has mostly stayed intact. But we’ve seen several major and minor characters come and go; some departures have been especially bittersweet, while others have been a huge sigh of relief.

This particular school year has been the most challenging one yet for the program. Aside from a record number of school cancellations due to an especially snowy winter, there has been a general decline in staff morale and teamwork that has left the program feeling frayed and tattered. We lost four especially talented, enthusiastic, hard-working staff members at the end of the last academic year, and their replacements have been lackluster to say the least. A program like ours can only run successfully if everyone on the team is willing to work together and to demonstrate passion, creativity, and consistency on a daily basis. We’ve thrived on these things for the past several years, but I feel like I’m part of a crumbling empire or a coldly dysfunctional family these days. Our invaluable former teachers who had the work ethic and heart of Ann Perkins and Chris Traeger have been replaced by newbies who sometimes display behaviors as challenging and counterproductive as Jean-Ralphio Saperstein and Jeremy Jamm, and it can be frustrating to see eye to eye with them or to get them to pull their weight. Adding to the problem is the fact that our “deputy director,” or our male version of Leslie Knope, is not always getting the support or the creative freedom he needs from our female Ron Swanson of a director in order to make changes, unify the staff, and make his vision a reality. In short, I know in my heart that the work I do matters, but it doesn’t feel as worth doing anymore because I’m no longer working with a team of people I love.

So, while it saddens me to say this, I’ve decided that the last day of this school year will be the series finale for my career at this program. Just as TV series should bow out before they become stale, I feel that I should close the curtain on this part of my career before I allow myself to become stagnant, frustrated, or bitter. I’ll always look back on the days I spent working with my friends with almost the same fondness I feel when I re-watch old episodes of Parks and Recreation. And I can only hope that wherever I land next, I’ll find another group of co-workers worthy of comparisons to my favorite citizens of Pawnee, Indiana.

Gentrifiers of the World…Unite and Take Over

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After receiving our respective master’s degrees in Holistic Psychology and Viticulture & Enology from Stanford University, my common-law wife Sage and I are looking to purchase our first luxury condo in an up-and-coming, revitalized urban neighborhood. So we crafted this carefully curated list of essential features to seek out in order to locate our dream locale.

1.) A Whole Foods with a wine shop; an organic, fair-trade, French press-only cafe; a sushi bar; a kale bar and, most importantly a juice bar within easy walking distance (But we’ll probably just drive there anyway. Who wants to schlep all those groceries the whole 0.2 miles home?)

2.) The condo must be in a converted historic building that’s also as “green”/eco-friendly as possible, because we’re looking to reduce our carbon footprint

3.) Easy access to the city’s bike share program as well as public transportation (see #2)

4.) 2 off-street parking spots large enough for our full-sized luxury SUVs

5.) The following types of fitness studios must be within a one mile radius of our condo:

*yoga

*pilates/TRX hybrid workouts

*yogalates (mommy and me yogalates classes would be a bonus)

*“Spin-sanity” Indoor Cycling/Extreme Interval Fitness

*Hot cardio barre bootcamp

*X-treme Crossfit

6.) A Main Street with at least six of the following businesses:

* an artisan cheese, olive, pickle, and himalayan crystal salts shop

* an organic/vegan/gluten free/non-GMO/paleo bakery

* a vegan, naturally-sweetened, make-your-own fro-yo bar

* a farm-to-table small plates French Fusion bistro whose dishes include nothing but meat, dairy and gluten

* a doggy and kitty massage and acupuncture parlor

* a massage/acunpuncture wellness center for people that specializes in baby massage, crystal therapy and shamanic healing

* a vintage-style barber shop that’s just for mustache grooming and waxing

* a fair trade-only cafe that roasts its own beans, specializes in vegan savory pastries and also sells a carefully curated selection of vinyl, vintage clothing items and locally handcrafted soaps

* a brew-your-own craft beer bar that hosts weekly local folk music performances, paint nights, poetry readings and literary salons

7.) A Target, Home Depot, Costco, and several other big box stores located just one town over because we need them for convenience’s sake, but we certainly don’t want them in OUR backyard

8.) A breast milk bank for those times that we’re just too busy or lazy to pump or actually feed our twins, Wyatt and Beckett

9.) A bilingual French-English co-op preschool for them to attend before we move to a suburb that has one of the top 3 school systems in the state

10.) A greenway with running trails, biking trails, and a state-of-the-art dog park that hosts several doggy play groups. Namely, one that’s exclusively for toy group purebreds like our precious little Maltese, Bentley. We really don’t want him associating with lesser breeds or (G-d forbid) mutts.