Sunday, December 30, 2012

PRANA practice

One of my favorite old Nia routines created by Debbie Rosas was Prana.

I have always felt connected to the culture of the Native Americans. I resonate very strongly with their natural connection to the earth and to their beliefs that nature is sacred.  The music of Prana is a blend of traditional Native American music and chants with modern dance beats and languid string instrumentation.  The result is something so musically unique and powerful.

The focus of the routine is on the breath and breathing and finding power, relaxation, grounding and centering all through the use of our breath. It can be a scary thing for many people to explore, but this routine gives a safe place for exploring and experimenting.

I recently decided to take this routine out of my closet, dust it off and present it to other Nia teachers. Many new teachers have come onto the scene since Prana has been officially discontinued by Nia.  And I feel like it is a valuable addition to any teachers repertoire.

Whenever I workout, I record myself. I learn by being my own coach. So I have a lot of footage of myself working out. When I practice my Nia routines, that's no exception. I don't make any videos of official Nia routines, but I'll share some clips from my workout on YouTube.

So, that said, here a video I posted on YouTube.  This is an example of me practicing Prana at home. I'm offering this glimpse for the purpose of showing you the quality and style you can expect in the routine and to encourage you to go out and find a teacher teaching this routine and enjoy it!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Routines from the Vault: PRANA

Many years ago, Debbie Rosas created a delicious routine called Prana. The focus was on using the breath and the music was all from a single album called Sacred Spirits. I learned this routine at the time and have learned SO much about using breath as a means to access stability, strength, balance and ease. 

The music is a gorgeous blend of Native American music, string instrumentation and modern techno beats. And the movements are simple, graceful and powerful.  The used CD can be purchased on Amazon.com for less than $5. 

In the movements, a lot of attention is given to balancing on one leg and using the exhale to find support. I love how this routine can really amp up but then it really slows down right in the middle to offer a truly dynamic experience of being connected to our center.

The routine was retired to the vault many years ago and is no longer available as an option for teachers, but it is still enjoyed immensely by those teachers who were around back then, and their lucky students.

Now I’m bringing Prana out of the vault to be enjoyed by Seattle Nia dancers one more time. 

The class will be held at 1pm - 2pm in the Century Ballroom East Hall on Sunday, January 27.

The Century Ballroom is located on Capitol Hill in the Oddfellows building:

915 E Pine St. second floor


I’m thrilled to be re-introducing this old classic routine to the Seattle Nia community.  Come and do the Prana routine with me as I lead my first Nia class in Seattle for the year 2013. There aren't many opportunities to do Nia with Seattle's First Nia Teacher, so I hope you can make this one.  There is really no other routine quite like it. 

COST: $10 at the door
 
Everyone is welcome, please invite your friends, loved ones and your teachers and students. Everyone will get something from this very powerful, important and unique routine. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Routines From the Vault


I’ve been teaching Nia for 16 years now. And most of those years, I’ve gotten four new routines from Nia. That comes out to over 60 routines over the years. I’ve also created quite a few of my own routines. And along the way, certain routines have fallen out of favor for one reason or another. 

For example, a great routine called Commitments, which uses the music from the soundtrack to the movie of the same name, is one of my first ones. I learned that routine so long ago that I have the music on cassette tape and I watched the routine on VHS. It has been retired “To the Vault” for many years. Ditto for routines called Genesis, Roots and Adagio.

Some routines have been taken apart and used to build other routines. For example I took all of the Angelique Kidjo songs from the classic, Agolo, and put together a routine using only songs from her album, Aye (which means "LIFE" and is the name of the routine as well.)  I split up the songs from the repetitive routine Firedance (music from the Broadway show, Riverdance) and now they can be found as part of my Celtic themed Ceili routine, and other routines I put together like Alphaville and Fire and Ice use songs from Firedance as well. 

Many routines I have been teaching for over ten years and still teach the way they were originally presented because they are so perfect in my mind. Routines like Trance Vision, Mantra, Sanctuary, Mandala and AO fall into this category. 

Routines like Miracle and Fantasia have simply fallen off my radar because I have the music on cassette tape.  It would be simple to get digital copies of the playlists, but I just simply never have because I’m satisfied with the routines I do have. 

And then there are the routines that I have completely built from the ground up, like Millenium, Bond Girls and Rockin. 

So when all the smoke clears there is a list of about 30 routines that I consider to be in current rotation. Teaching one of these routines each week, it takes over six months to go through the list. Many of my students get the impression that I never teach the same routine twice because by the time they see a routine repeat, they’ve been doing Nia with me for six months and have had so many different experiences that they may have forgotten the specifics of each particular one. 

I recently had a great, fun idea. I want to teach the routine from my Vault to teachers, so that they are still available for the new generation of Nia teachers and students. 

So, once a month, I’ll get one out and dust it off and break it down to any teacher who’s interested in adding it to their repertoire. Here’s how I see it working.

The first night, we could have a music appreciation get-together. I envision possibly having a pot-luck style dinner together while we passively listen to the playlist a couple of times through. After eating, I would present each student with a copy of my 8BCs for the routine, and we’d go actively through each song and begin the process of flowering the bars. We could discuss the music and I will point out the important music cues.Then, I’ll send the students home with their bars and a copy of the music so they can practice more at home if they like.

Then, the next morning, I’d teach the routine to the group of teachers. After class we would spend about three hours breaking down the moves, the katas, the music cues and the routine. We will really immerse in the experience of the routine. By the end of this second day, we will divvy up the songs among the teachers present and each of them will teach those songs at a Nia Jam the next day.  The teacher/students will have all night to prepare for their debut the next day.

On the third day, we are offering a Nia Jam to the public. We will team teach the routine to the best of our ability. It will be fun and no pressure. I’ll always be up in the front of the room, moving along with the teachers, so just in case they get lost, they can give the “safe word” and I’ll take over teaching until they are able to take over again. Each teacher will be able to teach a song or two, depending on how many teachers and songs we have. 

I’ll be offering a new Routine From the Vault each month. 

Classic Nia logo circa 1996
As I’m still in the planning stages of this format, I invite any teacher, student or know-it-all type person to give me feedback and input regarding the playshop template I’ve laid out. Any comments or suggestions, including which routines you'd like to see come out of the vault, are invited and encouraged while I’m still in the embryonic stage of development. 

Thanks for reading this, and I hope to see you in the Vault. 

I’m planning to teach my first Vault Session in January, and I’m looking at a venue in West Seattle. Stay tuned for more info. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Meet Thumper


For about a year I’ve been toying with the idea of buying or renting an RV, or buying  or renting a towing vehicle and buying or renting a trailer, or buying or renting a car that I can sleep in, or buying or renting a small, fun car and staying in hotels or campsites. Obviously, that’s a lot of options to weigh and balance and choose from.

Well, it has all finally come to a temporary end.  Meet Thumper.



I recently inherited part of my Uncle Dickie’s estate, since my father is dead and Dickie was never married. I always felt very connected to him. In some ways I felt more akin to him than my own father, who I didn’t relate to easily. Dickie was a silk screen artist and sign maker by trade. And he raised chinchillas on the side. And he loved racing speedboats. He enjoyed life and its adventure and didn’t feel tied to anything. At one point, he was in the Guinness Book of World Records holding the land-speed record on water. He owned and crashed and bought and sold many speedboats, and most of them were named Thumper. (Thumper 1, Thumper 2, Thumper 9, etc.) When he died, his ‘estate’ was no more than his house and his car and what was in his garage and meager savings account.

But what I inherited was enough to put some away and still make a fun, extravagant purchase in honor of my uncle. 

So, my Thumper is a Mini Cooper Countryman S in Brilliant Copper with white roof, white side mirrors and white racing stripes on the boot and the bonnet. (That’s the hood and trunk for you yanks.) You can see that it’s got a sun/moon roof and grey wheels with all-season tires. But you can’t tell that it’s got a turbo charged engine and an automatic transmission. Inside there’s a bench seat in the back that folds down one at a time, if I want more storage in the already sufficient cargo space. The interior is mostly black, with a few panels of checkerboard in the dashboard.  It’s technologically connected with Sirius, Twitter, GPS, and iPhone integration. It’s also got the deluxe Hardon/Karmon 10-speaker sound system and a feature that recognizes when I’m approaching the car and automatically unlocks the door before I even take the key out of my pocket. It’s got dynamic stability and traction control and can change from normal to sport suspension at the push of a button. The headlights come on when it’s dark out, and the windshield wipers know when it’s raining. 

I have ordered it from the factory and it is due to arrive anywhere from between 5 to 8 weeks. My salesman, Jay Hammond at Seattle Mini has promised to send me updates on the progress of Thumper as it’s being built and shipped. 

River and I hope to be taking the first of many road trips in Thumper in April 2013. I’m thinking of taking Highway 101 from Port Townsend to San Diego and stopping at many places in between. If you’re along that route, maybe you’ll see us!

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Long Trek Home

I stayed up late last night. Partially because I was packing up the car to prepare for a quick getaway in the morning, but also partially because I was so excited about the events I had planned. 

I woke up early and took River out for his morning constitutional. I skipped my coffee, and headed for the Reach Center. We had a killer group of Rockin Nia students and we started off the day in one of the best ways I know how: with a high-spirited, fun-filled, energetic Nia workout.

Eugene was so welcoming and enthusiastic about my work. It was a thrill to present it to them. And we’re already talking about my return. (In fact, I’m putting together great big ideas for a full west coast tour this spring)

After class Amy Palatnick treated me to breakfast at a dog friendly cafe with outdoor seating. This made me realize I’ve been missing out on a whole experience of the towns I visit. I just happened to find a cafe in Anacortes where River could lie on the ground as I ate, but it didn’t dawn on me to actively pursue this possibility in each new town. So now I’m going to start inquiring wherever I go about dog-friendly outdoor-seating cafes. 

Another student joined us for breakfast and generously gave me a big, thick dijon mustard-color sweater that was a gesture of pure inspiration. Since I had packed lightly, and all of my warm clothes had been worn post Nia class, they were a bit, um, sweaty. It was so nice to put on something clean and warm for a change. She was fostering a troubled dog so the three of us spent most of breakfast talking about my experiences with turning River’s life around and what I learned from dealing with his issues. 

After breakfast, I rushed back to the hotel to sneak in a shower before my 12:30 checkout. And then, I put River in the passenger seat and we hit the scenic route for home. 

It was an ambitious goal, but I wanted to see the whole Oregon coast by sundown. I had a feeling I wouldn’t be able to do it. The nearest I figured was we’d hit Seaside Oregon at sunset. As it turns out, it was sooner than that, but I was still so glad I made the effort. It took about an hour to get from Eugene to Florence, where we could get onto 101. As soon as I caught a glimpse of the waves of the Pacific Ocean, I got a surge of feeling that made the whole day worth it. 

As I was pulling into a gas station convenience store in Florence, I suddenly got this feeling that I was back in California. I could energetically feel and smell the Pacific ocean. I was pulling into a gas station / convenience store! And my rental car even had California license plates. I was torn momentarily out of that dream as I was paying for my gas, when I was reminded that “she will be pumping my gas.” But it was fairly brief moment of reality. I guess I just haven’t wrapped my head around being in Oregon, on Highway 101 near the ocean. Because I spent all of my formative years in California, on Highway 101 near the ocean. Add to the mix, the fact that I was wearing purple trousers and a dijon sweater and grey Vans, which is a total throwback to the colorful way I used to dress when I lived in California. 

The experience of driving up the coast is too profound to do justice to in writing. Suffice it to say that I was filled with gratitude for the ability to drive through this work of art. And I wondered why anyone would drive any other road. I also made a promise to myself to take this drive again when I had more time to stop and do it leisurely. 

River didn’t like it as much. He had a hard time with all the changing of speed and direction. He took it like a trouper, though, and by working together we did it without a single mishap. I watched him carefully. He would usually sit up and watch out the front window for what I call his phase one (getting bearings).  That would typically last ten to twenty minutes. And then he’d lie down for a while, resting his chin on his paws for phase two: (resting). He’d do that for another ten or twenty minutes. The third phase is when he’d curl up and sleep. And that phase was usually good for about 20 to 30 minutes. The fourth phase is one we wanted to avoid: this is the one when he sits back up and stares at nothing, continually smacking his mouth. 

Eventually, I learned that my goal was to pull off the road and take a driving break while we were still in phase three. More and more often, we were seeing a fifth phase. This is a good one, too. I would call it phase 3A, because rather than progressing from phase 3 (sleeping) onto phase four (we need to pull over), instead he sits up and casually looks around, maybe occasionally smacking his mouth, but not rhythmic or excessive at all. It is very similar to phase one, only a lot more grounded and settled. I’ve noticed, too, that when we’re driving in the dark, phase 3A quickly turns back into phase 3 (curled up sleeping) because there’s nothing to see. But in the daytime, he’ll stand and watch for a while in phase 3A before lying down for phase 2. 

Can you tell I had a lot of time to think about this on the road?  LOL

Before leaving Eugene, I googled directions from Florence (the west-coast town closest to Eugene) to Astoria (the northernmost town on the Oregon coast). I was driving from one coastal town to another.  And unbelievably, one of the options googlemaps suggested, was to drive all the way back to Eugene to get on I5 up to Longview, Washington and then come back over the mountain again to Astoria.  Even going two hours out of the way, the trip took the same amount of time. I thought that was amazing.  

But after taking the trip, it’s quite obvious why that is. I5 is a 70 MPH straightaway, while US101 is 55 MPH when you’re lucky. Every few minutes, you’re slowed down to anywhere from 25 - 45 MPH to go through curves safely. And 101, rather than offer Rest Areas, just drives right through small towns and becomes Main St., complete with stop lights, pedestrian crossing and cars pulling in and out of parking spots and side roads. 

I had no complaints. During the first part of the drive, in the central coast area, I relished the permission to slow down and take it all in. I felt like driving 55 MPH through this wonderland would have prevented me from seeing it. 

River and I stopped at a couple of places along the way. About every 45 minutes, I’d stop for about 15 minutes of running, sniffing, walking or playing. 

However, the fun stopped in Tillamook when the sun went down. Suddenly I couldn’t see the scenery and instead, headlights were glaring in my eyes from oncoming traffic and in my mirror from behind. It was then I decided to hop over to Portland. I had a friend there who was willing to let us stay the night there, but I wanted to see if we could push it all the way up to Seattle that night. River had a really good sleep going, since the darkness settled in. 

I had a scary moment when we hit about 1500 feet elevation on the trip from the coast to Portland. We hit some really heavy fog and I had to slow way down because I couldn’t see the turns in the road. Fortunately that cleared up after we got over the mountain. 

Once we hit Portland, I stopped and woke River up to take an urban walk. I pulled off the highway and parked in the first convenient place. Once I got out of the car and got my bearings, I realized that, probably because of my history with Portland, I had unconsciously parked only ten blocks from Nia Headquarters. So, I walked River from Tenth and Clay to Ninth and Yamhill and up the three flights of stairs to NiaHQ, but it was locked. Then, we went up another flight to StudioNia where the hallway lights were still on but it was quiet and the studio door was closed. I was able to take River all the way down the hallway to look at the pictures of the trainers on the wall and to the big, glowing Nia swoosh by the door to the studio. I noticed on the schedule that Debbie’s class would have ended at 6:45. It was now shortly after 7:30pm and the place was deserted, but somehow still abuzz. 
When I was there in the Pythian Building, it dawned on me that I have a longer relationship with this building than I have or have had with any other building in my life. I’ve been coming back to this place for 17 years now. I’ve never been associated with any job, house, school or any other brick and mortar structure for anywhere near as long. The second closest place would probably be the apartment in New York, which was home for eleven years. 

River slept all the way from Portland to Olympia, where we stopped for gas and a pee break. It had been raining really hard as soon as we entered Washington, so instead of a walk break, I parked and undid his harness so he could climb over and sit in my lap in the driver’s seat. I rolled my window down halfway and we sat together in quiet motionless rest, watching the rain. He then slept all the way from Olympia to Seattle, where we pulled in a bit after midnight.

Twelve hours on the road today!! As I said, it was totally worth it and I don’t regret a thing. But in the end, it’s not a comfortable day. I like to keep our driving days to under four hours max.  But the good news is: River can do it if we need to. 





Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Willamette National Forest and Rockin in Eugene

We slept in to after ten this morning. Am I reverting to my teenage years?

After breakfast and a stroll, I made my makeshift coffee again. The maid came by while we were eating, but I told her not to come in today. I didn’t want her to see the purple towels. (I actually told them about it at the front desk, and they didn’t seem to care. They told me they bleach them to death anyway.)

I wanted to take River on another road trip. We went south yesterday and tomorrow we’ll head for home via the coast, so today we headed east.  My vague plan was to see how far we could get into the Willamette National Forest. 

Highway 126 goes right from the business district of Eugene up into the forest, so we took that road all the way. I wish I could describe the beauty of this drive. I couldn’t even capture in with my camera. But there were so many different shades of green trees and a copper/rust blanket of foliage on the ground. And certain points, I could see trees at higher elevations that were still covered with snow. It looked like a flocked Christmas tree yard. 

We drove for about 45 minutes and then I found a nice clearing to pull over and let River get out. He hopped out of the car and immediately started walking. He had such a determination about him that he doesn’t usually have. Typically he’ll hop out of the car and wait for me. So I decided to let him lead. He walked out to the street and I looked both ways. It was clear so I let him cross it. He was walking directly towards something and I was curious to learn what it was. He actually reached the end of his 30 foot leash, which is rare. I started jogging to take up the slack because I didn’t want to interrupt his mission. Finally he came to tree stump in the corner of someone’s driveway and lifted his leg for a long pee. 

No sooner did he lower his leg than he turned around and headed back towards the car. Again, I followed. But he didn’t stop at the car. He acknowledge it as we passed, but kept going into a grass covered area. I followed him across the grass, all the way to the end where the patch of ivy began. He walked into the ivy and turned around and walked back out. Just as he emerged from the ivy, he squatted and pooped. 

As if it were all perfectly normal, he then immediately headed back towards the car. This time he led us around to the passenger side and stopped and looked at the door. I opened it, and he went back in.

Having the blankets on the car seat really makes all the difference in how comfortable he seems to feel. He’ll settle right into the seat when I have them there, and he hesitates to do anything but stand if I don’t. 

I checked the map and I noticed that we were right on the edge of the Willamette National Forest.  So we continued east. The sights were breathtaking. At one point I thought to myself, “We are so lucky to be able to be doing this.”
you can't see because of the glare, but in the background is a forest of gorgeous, snow-covered pine trees

I continued driving east as far as I could. We reached an elevation of 2000 feet and soon after that I noticed lots of signs saying “Chains Required” and I saw that there were chunks of snow on the road. So we turned around and headed back. 

Here's how far we got before hitting snow
On the way back, we stopped a boat launch that I spotted the first time we passed it. It was a great opportunity for access to the MacKenzie River. There was also a restaurant that was closed for the season. After a bit of frolicking in the mud and rocks and feeling the icy MacKenzie, River led us to the restaurant and stood at the door as if our next stop was inside. 

I looked in the window and there was no one in there. The sign outside said “See you in April” so I don’t think anyone had been there in a while. But River was certain that we were supposed to go inside. I took him all around the building, which was right on the river and had a spectacular view of it from inside. Once we made it all the way around the place, I said, “”Let’s Go!” and we ran back to the car. 

I was getting bold and I gave River a few bites of my carrot. We drove all the way back without incident. At one point, he was making a hacking, huffing sound, but he just hocked a loogey on the dashboard and was fine. (Mental note: Bring towels next time.) After that, he curled up and slept the whole way home, which was about 45 more minutes. 

I had lunch and took a shower and headed to the studio. We had a full house in a brand new movement space called Denbaya Drum and Dance. Tonight we got to do the entire routine and I was soaking wet with sweat by the end. 

Hours after class, as I ate dinner back in my motel room, I was still feeling the buzz. I wonder if I’ll come down. Amy Palatnick, who is my producer in Eugene, said that even more people were coming to the morning class. Will I be able to sleep tonight? Will I still be buzzed when we do it again in the morning?

After class tomorrow, my plan is to come back to the room and shower and then hit the road. I’ll take River on a drive up the Oregon coast. The scenic route home. 


Hiking and Rockin' in Oregon


I feel asleep to the sounds of I-5 traffic, and woke up to the same, but it didn’t hinder my sleep in the slightest. 

We woke up and took a morning walk, and got to the lobby in enough time for my cup of Motel 6 coffee. I also had an idea: I took a cup of hot water (for tea) and when I got back to the room, I filled it with a tablespoon of coffee grounds. I held the coffee filter over my mug and poured it all into the filter. It dripped into the mug and made me a delicious cup of dark roasted, organic, fair trade coffee. I compared it with the Motel 6 brew, which stood up remarkably well. In all fairness, I didn’t use enough of my beans to make it how I like. I’ll do the same thing tomorrow, but add twice as much coffee to the water. 

Last night, Katie Strong reminded me how easy and important it is to soak raw almonds overnight before eating them. So I put a handful in some water before going to bed, and this morning, I slid the skins off and ate about ten of them with my hard boiled egg. They really do taste better that way. They’re easier to chew and swallow, and reportedly, easier to digest and absorb nutrients from. 

I wanted to take a road trip and go hiking or something like that. Katie pointed me in the direction of the Umpqua National Forest. So after getting gas (did you know that in Oregon all gas stations are full-service; you cannot pump your own gas in the whole state) we headed south. 

I had no real plan. I just knew which direction the forest was and about how far I wanted to go. We’re pretty easy to please with this kind of stuff.  As long as there is unspoiled nature, we’re happy. I’m partial to rivers and waterfalls, but River is keen to just about anything. He’d be happy with a pile of leaves in a rock quarry. Which is pretty much what we ended up with, but still had a great time.

We drove south to Cottage Grove and then headed east into the forest. After driving for about half an hour, we found a trailhead that was easily accessible. So I pulled off and parked at Culp Creek. This webpage describes just exactly how exciting the area was. 

I hooked one end of the 30 foot leash to River and put the handle around my wrist and put my hands in my pockets. I was practicing a hands off approach to guiding him around. He never once reached the end of the leash. He stuck pretty nearby. On occasion, he’d lag behind to really sniff something thoroughly, but he’d alway catch up to me before I was thirty feet out in front. 

Even when dogs were barking at us from the houses across the road, River looked at them, but didn’t react. I was so proud. At one point, I wanted to cross the road because the creek was on the other side, so I just turned off the trail and headed for the asphalt. River followed suit. When we got the edge of the road, I said, “wait.” And he stood still. I looked both ways and when I determined it was clear, i said, “OK.” and we both started walking at the same time. He was just as obedient when we crossed the road again to head back to the trail.  

I have long fantasized about being one of those dog owners who doesn’t need to use a leash. I don’t think I’d ever actually do that, but it’s nice to know that River has it in him.

We played on the trail for about half an hour and then I wiped off his feet and got him back in the car. I took a lot of time. I sat down on the car floor as he was settling into the car seat, and for a change, he was already settled and lying down before I reached for the seatbelt to strap him in.  Not only did he not shiver, but i didn’t see that panic look in his eyes, either. Not even when I walked around the car to get into the drivers side. 

I sat down and no sooner did I say, “Well that was fun.” than I heard raindrops hitting the roof of the car. As I started the engine, the rain got harder and we were pelted all the way back to the motel. Perfect timing, I’d say. 

I had lunch, reheating some of the stuff I cooked at Katie’s house the night before.  I showered, shaved and dressed and reviewed my music for tonight’s class.  

River and I got to the facility about an hour early and I took him for a run in the parking lot. We explored all around the outside of the building and found that there was a big fat river running in the back.  So we played by the river. River was fascinated by the ducks. 

Before class, there was a bit of a technical problem. We didn’t have a cord to connect my iPod to the stereo. One of the students had one at home and she lived four blocks away, so she went to get one. In the meantime, they outfitted me with my microphone and I started talking about Nia and myself and the history of the Rockin routine and also going over some of the movements we would be doing in the routine. Then it dawned on me, since I was hearing myself so loud on the speakers through the microphone, why don’t I just put the iPhone next to the microphone. It worked!  I just put them on a chair and we did class that way. 

Although, we had lost about twenty minutes, before figuring out what to do, so I had to do a condensed version. They didn’t get to do Rock N Roll Hootchie Koo, Immigrant Song, or We Will Rock You. But I think they got a good dose of Rockin Nia!

After showering and eating, I met up with a kind soul who let me use his washer and dryer. So I get to teach in clean pants tomorrow!  Actually my pants were quite clean today and dry. 


I haven’t decided what we’ll do tomorrow.  If I could find a suit that fits, I might go take Katie Strongs Water exercise class. She said River would be welcome to be poolside if he stayed in his crate, which he doesn’t mind at all, as long as he can be with us. And then we might go hiking again, or walk around in town. In the evening, we're going into Eugene to ROCK once again.



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Crossing the Columbia

Today was a driving day. We plan to drive over the Columbia River, which is the border between Washington and Oregon. It would mark River's very first time in the state of Oregon, so it was quite an auspicious occasion.

We got up early so we could take our time on the road and get to our destination before dark. I also got my free cup of Motel 6 coffee on our morning walk.

River was excited because a gorgeous golden was checking in as I was getting my coffee in the lobby. It seems the word is out about Motel 6 being the dog friendly motel. There were dogs everywhere. It wasn't the first dog he met in the lobby. But with this Golden, River made fast friends.

And it turns out, they were checking into the room two doors down from ours, so while we were loading out, taking trips from the room to the car, they were loading in. River was loving it.
It took me about an hour to get everything packed and out of the room, into the car. And it was about noon when we finally pushed off. (Whew. checkout time is at noon; we just made it!)

We took I-5 the whole way. River started out shaky, but eventually settled down and slept. I stopped at every Rest Area along the way. It was actually a lot of fun. They're like little parks. One of them had a trail with 52 trees, one for each state (including a tree for Guam and Puerto Rico). Another was right up next to a river so we ran along the shore for a bit of exercise. It was good for both of us to stop so often, even though if it were just me, I'd have gone straight through. It was only supposed to be three hours, but it ended up being more like five.

Each time we stopped, we'd get out and run and play and then get back in and start driving again. And each time we did, he relaxed sooner and sooner. By the end, he was sitting up right in the seat and looking out the windshield like a human passenger. And then he'd curl up on the seat and I'd throw a blanket over him and he slept.

He was so konked out that I decided to skip the last Rest Area. It was only 20 minutes from Eugene and he was dead asleep. But still, after all the fun we'd been having at Rest Areas, I found it almost reflexive to veer off the highway when I saw that blue sign. But we made it to the motel with no issues.

The first thing I noticed about this room is that I can hear the traffic on I-5 like they're right in the room with me. I was tempted to go back to the office and ask for another room, but seeing as how I had asked for such a specific room (non-smoking, pet-friendly, with a refrigerator, downstairs) I figured she probably put me in the only one they could. Especially considering it was the only room with a handicapped placard on the door; I think they'd probably typically not use this room unless they needed to. And I'm a sound sleeper, so I don't think it'll be an issue.  I guess we'll find out tonight.

Once we got settled into the room and I ate my dinner, we took one more little trip. My friend, Katie Strong, who lives in Eugene, said we could come over and River could visit while I cooked up the meat I had gotten the night before. It was great to catch up and see Katie again. And it was amazing to see her son, Ethan. There's such a huge change that happens in a man between the age of 16 and 18.

It has been a long time since River had done this, but he reacted to Ethan. Upon seeing him, he immediately growled and his hackles fluffed up. He was not comfortable around him at all. And Ethan is such a calm, loving energy, I can't imagine why River would decide not to trust him. The only thing that I see happening, that I could call a common thread between all of the people he doesn't allow to get near him, is that they all have 'ginger' hair. And Ethan has a bright, glorious head of red hair. Katie also thought that his imposing 6'4" might have something to do with it.

We all sat on the floor and tried for a few minutes to re-assure River that Ethan was no threat to him, but he was determined to go with his instincts. We thought that perhaps the person who owned him before I found him had ginger hair, and obviously wasn't very nice to him.

Tomorrow, we're planning a short day trip to Umpqua National Forest. We love the national forests!

And then, in the evening, we're back in town so I can teach Rockin Nia to Janet Hollander's group at Willamalane Adult Activity Center in Springfield. I'm so excited, I finally get to say,


A Day in Olympia

As was the case in the RV, River doesn’t seem to want to stay in his crate over night. He jumps up on the bed with me pretty much as soon as I turn out the lights. I’m sure I could demand that he get down and go back into his crate, but the truth is, I sort of like having him there. 

When he did it in the RV, I was worried that he’d carry the habit home with him, but when we got home, he didn’t even hint that he wanted to come up on the bed. So I’m hoping again that he understands this is just road rules.

The shade on the windows in the Motel 6 does an excellent job at keeping out the light. I slept until about ten am and the room was still dark. 

I ate an egg. We took a nice, long morning walk. So long, in fact, that when I swung by the lobby to get my free cup of mediocre coffee, it was gone! So I put River in the car and drove to the Starbucks drive thru to get my morning fix. 

I spent most of the day in the hotel room. I was writing and going over my music and notes for the afternoon’s workshop.  I didn’t get maid service today. I saw them passing by as I was working. I also had lunch.

At about 2:30 we headed to the studio. I was distressed to see that River has now taken to starting to shiver (indication stress) even before we get into the car. As soon as I led him to the door and opened it, he reacted. So I took some extra time getting him comfortable, and sitting in the car with him before starting it. Once we got going, he seemed to relax a bit. And the studio was only a ten minute drive from the motel, so there were no mishaps. 

River LOVED being in Waves Studio.  He enjoyed the attention and the love and strokes and scratches from the students there. He loved running along the big beautiful dance floor and chasing his rope and playing tug with me.  We played before and after the class.  I think eventually, he’ll learn to stay inside the crate without my having to close the door, but today, after I told him to “Go Home” he came back out as Julia Annis was introducing me. Then I told him, “You get one more chance to stay in there or I’m going to close the door.”  And he came out again, so I sent him back inside and closed the door. And during the class, he slept in his crate.

The Super Human Strength session is so exciting to me. I love introducing people to these concepts.  And I love to see the look on their faces when they can suddenly do a pushup, or when they can jump out of a squat with seemingly no effort. 

And then, to follow up that workshop with a Nia class really brings so much energy to the routine, that I find myself saying things like “WOW.” or “Oh my God” in between songs. 

Later that night, back in the motel room, I found a person who was willing to do some grocery shopping for me. I placed an ad on Craig’s List offering a half hour massage in exchange for doing the errand, and fortunately, someone was interested. Well, in fact, a lot of people were interested, but I was only able to accommodate one person.  I went to bed with a fridge full of fresh vegetables and some chicken and pork. He also got me some almonds and blueberries. 

my purple pants
I realized, as I was getting ready for class today that I forgot to pack my shorts. I only have two pairs of pants, my purple pants and some black ones that Lululemon makes. Fortunately, even though I usually wear them as street clothes, the lululemon pants were made for exercise, so I wore them to teach class. But I didn't know what I was going to do for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I couldn't wear the same pants for four classes!  Not if I wanted the students to stay in the same room with me for the whole hour. So, after class tonight, I kept my clothes on as I got in the shower. I learned this trick from Helen Terry. I washed, with soap, with my clothes on and stripped in the shower and then washed my skin. I squeezed out the excess water and will let them drip dry. This is Sunday night; they should be ready to go by Tuesday evening, when I teach next. 

I still don't know how I'm going to handle three consecutive days of teaching. Especially when one is Wednesday night and then the Thursday morning class is at 9am. Using the Helen Terry technique, they'd still be wet in the morning. 

my Lululemon pants, hanging to dry in the shower
I'll sleep on it...



Saturday, December 8, 2012

Day Trip to Port Townsend


Today I woke up early. The plan was to get in a quick road trip in the morning and get back in time to feed River at a decent hour.

Waking up early, sometimes, isn’t enough... I had to shower and eat and pack up the car and clean up the motel room enough so that the maid could come in and not be shocked. I also took River on his morning stroll to relieve himself. On the way back we stopped in the Motel 6 lobby to pick up my complimentary cup of coffee. 

I had taken the time to grind out enough of my special, incredibly dark roasted, organic, fair trade coffee beans to last me a week. But, alas, there is no coffee maker in the room. Almost all of the budget hotels usually just put a coffee maker in the room and some packets of terrible coffee grounds. I was prepared to have a rich, dark delicious cup of my witches brew. The Motel 6 lobby coffee, though, wasn’t that bad.  And I’m a big coffee snob, so I’d say so if I didn’t think it was up to snuff. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t organic, though (nor fairly traded.)

ANYWAY, so we finally got on the road a bit after 10am.  My plan was to drive two hours up highway 101, along the eastern edge of the Olympic Peninsula to Port Townsend. I was hoping to meet up with some colleagues up there and see their town and their studio. 

The drive is gorgeous. I love the winding, mountain roads surrounded by lakes and rivers and forest. And it was an especially nice touch to be driving right towards the Olympic mountains. Their white peaks were a compelling background image for my ride up. 

River wasn’t settling in. He was smacking a lot and drooling like a fiend. We were about 45 minutes into the ride when I heard his rhythm change. On these mountain roads, there were pull-outs for slow traffic all along the way, so it was easy to pull off the road, get out and swing around to let River out of the passenger side door. He was making his sour face by the time I got to his door, but he stoically held it all in while I fussed with the seatbelt trying to free him. Once he was leashed, he hopped out of the car and took a few steps and let her rip.  Arrrrrrph!  Much to my surprise..... apples again!

I had given him a few bites of the apple that I had as a late night snack, but I also remembered giving him some banana with peanut butter on it at the same time. There was no sign of anything but big chunks of apples. I had always thought of them as so watery and easily digested, but now I guess I’ll see them in a different light. 

And, alas, no more late night snack for River on the eve of traveling days. 

We got back in the car and on the road and, once again, post vomit, River curled right up into the seat and enjoyed the rest of the ride (another hour and twenty minutes) in peace. 

We arrived in Port Townsend and met Allison Dey at Madrona MindBody Institute. Her and her partner, Aletia Alvarez are bringing life back into this great big old space that used to be a basketball court and I guess locker rooms for a military dormitory campus. The space reminded me of an old school building. The dorms have long since been retired but the buildings and the grounds remain just as there were and is now preserved as Fort Worden State Park.

While Aletia was busy preparing the space for the next dance event, Allison showed me around her sancuary-like retreat center. In the middle of the tour as we found ourselves sitting on the very inviting sprung wood floor, she suggested I come and teach some of my stuff there someday. So we made tentative plans. We made plans to make plans. I look forward to returning to Port Townsend and Madrona to teach in the near future.

Then, Allison took River and I on a nice, long walk along the beach. We walked for about an hour and in that hour Allison ran into three different groups of people that she knew. So it was quite a social stroll.

I had River on a 30 foot leash so he was free to run and play without my worrying that he’s ‘off leash’. The leash is more of a precaution, which I rarely ever have to even use.  But considering his breed, I’d rather err on the side of caution and be able to quickly extract him from a situation if need be.  The good news is, usually I just call him and he comes running.  In fact, while we were getting the tour of Madrona MindBody Institute, Allison suggested I could let him off leash to run free. He loved that. At one point, he had gotten out of sight and we were about to head into a different section of the enormous building, so Allison called him, and he came happily running to us from wherever he had been. I was impressed, especially because she had only met River not ten minutes earlier. 

The end of the beach walk dropped us off downtown where we met another colleague and fellow Nia teacher, David Conklin. The four of us stopped into a local shop and got some incredible chipotle sweet potato soup. I also got a ham and cheese croissant that was as good as the croissants from New Orleans. David held onto River’s leash as we went in, and reported to me that there was no crying or fussing. (yay)

After eating near an outdoor fountain, we hugged our good-byes and set our intentions for my return. 

River settled into the car seat pretty quickly on the way home. There was an uncomfortable, drooling, smacking period, and then he did a strange thing; he twisted around a few times, tightly wrapping the harness around himself and then attempted to lie down.  But the tension he created by wrapping it around himself, prevented the seatbelt mechanism from releasing him, so he laid his head on it and swung there like a hammock.

I was on a treacherous bit of road, so I could do anything right away, but it seemed like he was willing to just hang there and fall asleep. It was only a few minutes before I was able to spot a pull-off where I could untangle him. I took off my fleece jacket and balled it up for him to use as a pillow and he slept all the way home. He was snoring at one point. He only opened his eyes halfway when I got off the freeway, but was wide awake by the time we pulled into the motel parking lot. 

My trip home wasn’t as relaxing as his. I was having a devil of a time staying alert. (I blame the croissant!) In the two hour drive, I counted a total of eleven times that I feel like I was technically asleep for a split second. Most of those eleven times resulted in my hearing the “THUMTHUMTHUMTHUMTHUM” of those life-saving, textured boundaries on the edge and center divider. 

River was HUNGRY when we got home. It was about six pm and the first thing he'd had to eat all day. (Usually I feed him throughout the day.) So, I fed him a big meal and he crawled into his crate to sleep off his exciting, fun-filled day of road-tripping. 

Tomorrow I’m scheduled to teach my ROCKIN Nia class at three. If I wake up and get my act together in enough time, I’ll take River on a drive in the morning. 

Rockin with River - A Road Trip through Washington and Oregon


Today is the day I take River on a week-long road trip. I have reserved a cheap car rental and have reservations at Motel 6 in Olympia, WA and Eugene, OR. I’ve also got some classes and workshops set up along the way.

My goal is to find a way to travel all over the country and teach my classes and see my clients without leaving River at home. He’s a medium sized dog (45 pounds) so he’s not going to fit under the seat in front of me in an airplane. I suppose some people put their dogs in the cargo area of an airplane. But so much can go wrong, and the dog can be fairly well traumatized by the experience, so I’m not considering that an option. Likewise with train travel.

A few months ago I experimented with traveling in a motor home. It was awesome and so much fun, but in the end, I determined that it was more like a vacation and less like a lifestyle. It was far too expensive and the vehicle itself was so cumbersome that it didn’t make sense for a long-term solution.

So this time I’ve got a little car. I packed the trunk with three days worth of food in a cooler, my clothes and River’s paraphernalia. He sits in the room with me when I’m teaching class, so I brought his crate with us. I also brought an assortment of leashes and harnesses so we can walk, run, ride in the car or do whatever we want while remaining safe and legal. 

Motel 6 is surprisingly pet-friendly.  They claim to be the very first chain that advertised as such, and they have pet-friendly rooms in almost all of their lodgings. They also have the best prices of any chain I have seen. (Or any individual hotel or motel, for that matter.)

So this morning, I woke up in Seattle and took River for his morning walk. I usually feed him a meal at this time, but because we were going to be driving today, and he gets car sick, I only gave him a few bites of my apple. I figured he’d be able to digest that quickly and have an empty stomach for the car ride.

After the walk, I set him up with one of his play toys with peanut butter smeared on the inside to keep him occupied while I went to the airport to pick up the rental car. Two hours later, I returned with the Ford Focus. 

Packing up the car was more of an ‘event’ than it seems like it should have been. It could be because I’m not quite used to it yet, but it didn’t seem like something that I would want to do on a regular basis. In my mind, I had the notion that having a car was going to be my ticket to freedom. I figured any time I wanted to go somewhere, I’d just throw River in the passenger seat and go.  But now that I’m in the midst of it, it turns out, it’s not quite that simple.

One of my main concerns is eating.  Since it’s just me and the dog, I can’t really stop at restaurants or grocery stores, and I don’t eat the types of foods one usually can find at drive-thrus. So my solution was to cook up a few days worth of food and store it in an ice chest. Then I’d only have to worry about shopping and cooking every three or four days rather than every time I was hungry. 

I spent a couple hours last night, baking three sweet potatoes and roasting a butternut squash. I sauteed a pork chop and two chicken breasts and hard boiled four eggs. I loaded the cooler with that and also fresh broccoli, kale, lettuce and celery. Then I filled the top section of the cooler with four apples, four pears, four bananas, two avocados and a bag of cashews. I also brought some peanut butter and a few granola bars for snacking. Of course I had to bring my special coffee beans and pack River's food, too. It seemed like a lot of work at the time, and I was beginning to have second thoughts about the validity of the whole idea. 

But eventually, I got the car all packed.  I worked up quite a sweat doing so.  So I had to take a quick shower before finally getting in the car and out of the garage. I mistimed my departure perfectly so that I’d be sitting in the maximum afternoon rush hour traffic.

River gets better in the passenger seat every time we drive. He seems more at ease with the situation, even though he does still get queasy. After driving for about half an hour, I pulled off the highway into a parking lot so we could get out of the car and walk around a little. And then we ran a little bit. I let him sniff all over the grass and the parking lot dumpster and we checked out what appeared to be the spot where the employees from the restaurant we were behind took their smoking breaks. After a few minutes of that, we got back on the road. We drove for another ten minutes before he started making that rhythmic smacking sound that I know so well. And he gets this sour expression on his face that lets me know “I’m gonna hurl”.  I told him, “River, that’s the whole reason we pulled off the road back there.”  But it didn’t make any difference. He lost his apples. (Curiously, even though I had fed him the apples five or six hours earlier, they looked practically unchewed and undigested.)

The good news is, once he barfed, he was able to relax and he actually fell asleep for the rest of the ride to Olympia. 

We checked into the hotel and went on a nice long fun walk around the grounds and around the block. I was able to feed him on this walk. We ran into a lot of hotel guests and he was very popular, making new friends all along the way. 

I was surprised and delighted to find that there is a microwave oven in the room, so I didn’t have to have cold chicken for dinner. I heated up a chicken breast and some squash and kale and cut and ate half an avocado with it. Then I had an apple and half of a granola bar for dessert. I washed my plate in the bathroom sink. 

So, I guess the first day went pretty well. I can’t complain about a little barfing, which was really the only thing that didn’t go ideally today.  I’m settled into the room now. River is sleeping in his crate. At first it seemed like he wasn’t going to be into it.  He kept asking to come up on the bed with me, but I didn’t let him.  I sat on the floor and cuddled with him for a while, until he got sleepy and went into his crate. 

Tomorrow we’ll take a nice long drive to the Olympic Penninsula and meet some new friends in Port Townsend. Getting an early start and not eating anything before hand will help River have a more enjoyable ride.