Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My Life Behind Bars: Solitude

The sound of the road fades into the rhythm of pedal strokes. It's been three hours on a November afternoon since I've said a word to anyone. Three group rides went by and today I am happy to not be among them. Not today.

People ride for speed, for competition, for companionship. People ride for endless reasons and it's easy to lose sight of what it means to each of us. It's racing, it's climbing insane hills, it's following the unwritten rule of matching a saddle to bar tape. To me, riding my bike is all about saving lives.

My friends and family have helped me raise over $5,000 for AIDS/Lifecycle so far, blowing right past target goals that I had set when I first decided to participate. This money along with the fundraising efforts of other cyclists will go directly to HIV/AIDS research, treatment and prevention. I ride for the comfort of habit, the fitness, the speed, the sense of belonging or a place I can go to alone depending on the day. But most importantly, the reason is ride is for every beautiful soul who has been infected by AIDS/HIV and for the millions of new infections that will occur if I chose to sit around and do nothing. 

This afternoon feels arctic compared to the warmer weather we had only a week ago. My son is in school and today I am out cycling. I stop when I want to. I talk when I want to. Turn around or keep going...it doesn't matter. A rider passes me in a full sprint on a straight away. The reflex is to gear up and pedal harder but I shut it down.

As much as I enjoy group rides, I enjoy the solitude of being alone just as much. I ride to be my own companion, my own friend, my own enemy. I break down the walls in my head and heart that I have spent years building. How come I am always a better person, in my head at least, when I'm riding?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

My Life Behind Bars: The Group Ride

Up before the sun
When I started cycling, a ride was simple. I'd get ready when I wanted to, leave when I wanted to and head toward the bicycle path to avoid as much traffic as possible. At the time I didn't go very far, had few friends who cycled and I was learning the ropes so being alone saved me from embarrassment. Fortunately, times have changed.

It's 6:00AM and I'm awake, feeding the dogs, getting some coffee and checking email. There are thoughts running through my head: I need 30 minutes to get to the location of the ride. It will take me double that to shower, apply sunscreen, apply chamois butter and suit up. I forgot to check the air pressure in my tires but I did it a few days ago and there is now no time. No more time for distractions. I can't be late.

Luckily when I arrive I have time to spare to check my tire pressure. There's a lot of banter and I am offered a donut. I eat my energy bar instead and stuff another one into my pocket. I stand around while other people check their air pressure, someone else fixes a cleat and another finishes their coffee.

It is funny that now I can spend as much time getting ready to ride as I actually spend doing it. Maybe cycling was a lot simpler when I first started but maybe this AIDS/Lifecycle community is becoming the real reason I ride my bike....for the shared donuts, the pointless chatter and the friendships I have forged along the way. These are things to truly be thankful for.

Route map failed so it's time to check our phone's GPS

Hydrate and selfies at Noah's Bagels

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

When One Has Filthy Hair, a Hat is a Good Accessory

This is probably the biggest take-away since breaking my right wrist. My mom is coming for a visit starting next week and she has no idea yet her job will be blow drying my hair...but this is not what this post is about. 
What it is about is because of the generous donations of my AIDS/Lifecycle sponsors for pushing my fundraising over $500 in August, I qualified for one of these three cool cycling caps! I don’t think ever in my life have so many people been directly responsible for me being so very, very grateful.

Even though I will be wearing this cap, this cap is not mine. This cap belongs to the nine individuals and couples who have dedicated their financial resources and shared in such an important cause. They are also the ones who are helping me achieve this lofty goal of cycling 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles. All cyclists are required to have a minimum of $3,000 in their fundraising account by Orientation Day in order to ride in AIDS/Lifecycle so thank you for bringing me over 30% of the way there but obviously I still have a ways to go! 
I ask you to give what you can by making a tax-deductible donation today. Any amount helps! You can make your donation in instalments or make it all at once. They make giving easy!
Once again, thank you for your contributions!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Learning Beyond the Book

(My dominant hand still remains in a great deal of pain and rather useless so I am resurrecting an old blog post with some new updates. It is also that time of year where even unschoolers are gearing up for the new school year so it also seems fitting to bring this one back....)
Bome Bell's at Tinkering School.
Alternative education must be catching on. A few weeks ago we were asked to submit our re-enrollment packet to Cedar Life Academy (the Private School Satellite Program that we "hire" to provide paperwork assistance and homeschool mentoring) early because they are wait listed!

Part of the enrollment process is submitting a Course of Study for the school year. Different from a curriculum written by someone who doesn't know my child and knows nothing of the kind of parent I want to be, Bome Bell and I collectively design a description using our local requirements based on natural learning.

In a discussion between celebrity unschooler mom, Pam Sorooshian and educator and activist, Marion Brady, Brady said that a school curriculum:
A. has no clear, overarching aim 
B. does not respect the brain's need for order and organization 
C. neglects important fields of study 
D. disregards the inherent seamlessness of knowledge 
E. fails to move students through ever-increasing levels of complexity 
F does not distinguish between degrees of importance of content 
G. insufficiently relates to real-world experience 
H. neglects higher-order thought processes 
J. unduly emphasizes symbol manipulation skills 
K. has no built-in self-renewing capability 
L. is overly dependent on extrinsic motivation 
M. makes unreasonable demands on memory 
N. lacks a comprehensive vocabulary shared by all educators 
O. assigns students an unnatural, passive role 
P. fails to put specialized studies in holistic perspective 
Q. does not encourage novel, creative thought 
R. penalizes rather than capitalizes on student variability 
S. encourages simplistic methods of evaluation 
T. neglects the basic knowledge-creating process 
U. fails to address ethical and moral issues
Pam responded by saying;
"all of this matters a lot for designing a curriculum that is going to be "used on" students who are required to be "in school". What a great world it would be, if this kind of thinking about schooling was pervasive. But the only one that really matters to unschoolers is "O"...assigns students an unnatural, passive role. Unschooling could almost be defined as the opposite of that...it is allowing children their "natural, active roll" in their own learning. If we do that well, all the rest of Brady's points would take care of themselves."
At Chez Collier, we believe that life is not compartmentalized into subjects and neither should education be. All subjects overlap and are inherently intertwined, however, for the purpose of California State Department of Education, we have included ten subjects below and how we believe they will be learned as The Feral Child enters eighth (GASP!) grade!

English: Improving reading skills through various novels and short stories; types of poetry; biography and autobiography; listening skills; refining dictionary skill; spelling

Social Sciences: Lands and people of the world; yesterday and today current events; contemporary problems and issues; the environment; world geography and map skills

Foreign Language: Hayden will have the opportunity to develop an understanding, speaking, reading and writing skills in Spanish and French.

Physical Education: Swim lessons with the probability of joining a team; continuation of jujitsu with the probability of earning his purple belt; youth workshops at Coach 2 Edify; health and physical education will be fully integrated as part of daily living skills.

Science: Heredity and genetics; effects of weather and climate; rocks, soil and minerals; ecology and environment; conservation; laws of motion; energy

Math: Order of operation; ratios, proportions and percentages; basic geometry concepts and terms; elementary business math; use of calculators and computers; maintaining his own debit card with attached account

Fine Arts: Painting, drawing and creating at home and at classes held at Learn Beyond the Book; attending theater and musical events; attending community events; learning about artists and composers.

Applied Arts: Consumer and homemaker education will be offered in a variety of ways including general business education and agriculture.

Career Technical Education: Game design and programming classes will be offered at Learn Beyond the Book and include such topics as game design, interactive experience design, game design and game play, gaming algorithms, interactive design concepts, logic and representation and game scripting.

Health: Shopping and preparing food, discuss healthy diet and nutrition, participate in emergency preparedness, develop good hygiene.

The above areas of study will be offered yet if Bome Bell chooses to learn something else, that is acceptable. I still will make all subjects available. Understand, this is only a guideline for the school year and things can be added or removed as needed. The Course of Study does not only keep me in compliance but also helps me look at what we want to accomplish. I review this list monthly, as part of my personal homeschooling assessment, and update it at any time I choose.

There are no tests. I am able to assess Bome Bell on a daily basis, as I watch him discover new things, and observe his skills improving. I have the privilege of being “on the spot” when “a light turns on” and he makes a new discovery. I don’t have a timetable for when he will learn each new skill, and trust that he will learn everything he needs for his life in his own time. Consequently, there is no need to assess or compare him to others. I keep this blog about our family’s learning. We also keep nearly everything he produces.

It may not seem as such to the "schooly mind" but Bome Bell's education is very important and I believe he is learning no matter what activity he is engaged in. Therefore, he is learning (or being taught) all his waking hours. It would be very difficult to separate when he is learning, from when he is not. I believe living and learning are inextricably linked. 

Our weeks are filled with interesting activities, which provide an exceptionally rich education. Our days are structured around ordinary routines though there are never two days the same. Every day I am committed to Bome Bell’s well-being and education, and endeavor to provide him with a memorable and excellent foundation for his future.

We are always learning, and have read some excellent resources on home education, and how children learn. We make great use of the internet in learning new information, challenging assumptions, and assessing our course of study.

Our routine is changeable...I see this as a positive thing...being adaptable to the needs of my child. My love for Bome Bell is not, however, and what is best for him is always at the forefront of my mind. I am very proud of this guy. I already have four years of his college tuition saved up and I plan to help him have the very best education he can possibly have doing what he is passionate about.

I sincerely hope this helps those who have asked me questions about homeschooling/unschooling and how we do it. If you reside in California and have more questions, please contact Karen Taylor at Cedar Life Academy (cedarlifeacademy@gmail.com) Karen also provides homeschooling information on FacebookPinterest and her blog.

Friday, July 10, 2015

That's How I Roll

If you've ever experienced a sports related injury, you're probably familiar with that sinking feeling after hearing a POP followed by a sharp pain. Your mind races as you consider recovery time and the impact it will have on your physical goals. The stress and frustration from being a very physical person to not even being able to dress yourself can make you feel like a caged animal resulting in hopelessness and depression. 

Cast Affirmations
This is exactly what I've been feeling since my Rollerblading accident resulting in a fracture of both the radial and ulna bones on my right wrist. When it happened I immediately thought about my commitment to riding in next year's AIDS/Lifecycle charity ride and how much time would it take to recover. As the week and numerous appointments with the orthopedist wore on, I became susceptible to depression, anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks to the accident, feeling like I've let my personal trainer down, irritability and low self-esteem.

I came to exercise as a way of moderating depression. Now that I am injured, I not only have to deal with the pain and stress of being injured but I have lost my primary coping strategy. To couple that with a delay in my ALC training, you can imagine what a blow this is.

The good news is that today I decided the pessimism is getting old and boring and I needed something else to go over. So, I started thinking about what I have to be thankful for. What I came to was that I will recover and even with eight weeks in a cast and six weeks of physical therapy (providing no surgery), I still have plenty of time to train like a badass. I have a husband that worked from home this week to help me all the while taking a heap load of my shit and who still loves and supports me. I have a mom whose care and concern showed through the 7,000 miles that separate us. A personal trainer who sent me affirmations every day and came over with some helpful alternative pain management therapy to the vicodin that makes me sick and several others who offered their support and good vibrations.

For me, the psychological part is the first step to recovery and in a few months I'll be back to being awesome!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

S.O.S. & Rose Yoga Personal Development: The Perfect Pair

"Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open."- B.K.S. Iyengar
Self-Optimization Sanctuary (AKA SOS), is the practice of the mind, body and spirit. It is a path toward the union of the human spirit with the divine consciousness. It can align us with our true self. SOS has the power to change, heal and transform.

Rose Yoga is a system of reviewing, rebalancing and replacing to achieve results so that you can identify, remove and replace any blocks that are holding you back from achieving your goals. Together with SOS, Rose Yoga is transforming my health, body-image and relationships.

My Self-Optimization Sanctuary (SOS)
In my private training sessions with SOS focus at Coach 2 Edify along with one-on-one sessions with my Rose Yoga mentor, Carly, I have begun to notice changes not just physically but also in my thought patterns. Both have freed me from the chains of depression and pain, transforming me into the Phoenix rising from the ashes. Improvement in my self-esteem has been my reward. SOS and Rose Yoga have lifted me out of darkness and delivered me into the light. They have liberated me from fears and revealed a new world of freedom and possibility. They allow me to transcend the limits of the physical mind, to access higher levels of consciousness and awareness. They have energetically shifted my life forever and allowed me to step into my true self.

Simply put, SOS and Rose Yoga are changing everything.

I feel my life unfolding. New opportunities have risen. I accept more challenges. I cry through meditation as I feel my estranged sister's hand in mine, healing from the wounds we have inflicted upon each other.

My eating disorder has become something that I can work through with breath, consciousness and the new-found courage that my SOS practice gives me.

Here I am, 1 1/2 months into my SOS training and two weeks into my apprenticeship with Rose Yoga Personal Development, already with the hope, strength, love and power that only these two could have given me. I have the tools to not only face life with my head up but also to carve the life I choose to live. I can recover, I can heal. I can connect. I am capable of anything.

These are the lessons my SOS practice and coaching continue to teach me every day:

1. Every Day is an Opportunity for a New Beginning: My SOS practice is different every day. Weights and movements that are hard one day are manageable or even easy on another. I just have to accept what is happening on the mat for me that day. I appreciate what I have on each given day...and I know I can start again tomorrow.

2. The Value of Pause: A friend once described me as a mosquito....quick thinking, fast talking, having a million-miles-an-hour-mind. It has had its perks but when that chatter becomes destructive, it's hard to stop the snowball effect. Both SOS and Rose Yoga have taught me to pause and be still. I appreciate nothing more than those golden moments when I am moving, fluidly, in a dream-like state, aware only of the flow of my own breath. Finally, my mind gives it a rest and I become free from its bondage.

3. Expression of My Soul: The OmGym "cocoon" has become an amazing opportunity for an encounter with my true self. Seated meditation is still a challenge for me but in the cocoon I connect with my soul. I don't think but things come to me...insights into myself and I am left in awe of what is in my heart.

4. Fear Paralyzes: Challenging movements teach me that my fears and doubts paralyze me. When I doubt, I fall out and when I'm scared to fall, fail or get hurt, I just don't do anything. It's my strategy in life, too. So now I fall, I get hurt and I get up...because it's SO important to DO something and when it doesn't work out the way I planned, It's never as significant as I thought it would be.

5. Love Thy Body: The way my SOS time has me seeing my body is that we're a team. All my organs, cells, glands and me....we have a little support group going on. I look after them and they look after me. We chat and listen and I learn so much from all of them because this "God Pod" knows endlessly more than I could ever fathom. We heal each other every day.

6. Acceptance: My SOS practice and Rose Yoga coaching teaches me to be at peace with what is even if it's not how I had envisioned it. I will be on a mission to conquer an Animal Flow movement, without progress to get excited about, when suddenly, without warning, I will get another movement down. Just like that! For every movement that has eluded me, I am given another just as lovely instead.

7. My Endless Potential: I have expanded my mind and body in ways that have me realize how much more there is to me. It's a journey during which I am expanding my potential and my understanding of the limitlessness of being human.

8. Physical Body Improvements: I will be 45 in November but I'm in better physical shape than I was in my 20's. I am strong and healthy! No diet, no starvation, no extremes...just me and my "tribe" doing the work as a team!

9. Happiness: SOS time has made me happy. I get an intense sense of joy when I roll out my purple mat, write down my intentions for this workout and get into my first downward facing dog. When I am finished, I am centered and peaceful...and happy. I am being with what is. I am.

My personal trainer, Mayra. (photo courtesy of Deborah Kolb Photography)
My Rose Yoga Personal Development Coach, Carly. (Photo courtesy of Takahiro Watanabe Photography)
I've learned a lot of amazing things on my mat with incredible teachers such as Mayra and Carly. These women are inspiring, sharing and being authentic in the quest for wholeheartedness and vulnerability. Yes, vulnerability....it's something most people let shame them, yet on our mats we sweat out more than just toxic substances in our bodies. We sweat them out of our hearts and minds.

OmGym Time!!!
As Carly says, "Imagine what your life would feel like two years from now if you did nothing and stayed the same". I wonder what would have happened had I fallen in love with yoga, weight training, OmGym, Animal Flow and cycling instead of an eating disorder or codependent relationships? Is this why I crave my SOS time? Even when it makes me want to puke or cry, it can also make me laugh, depending on the day. It's accountability at its finest, most physical reminder. Binging and purging does not get along well with planking but when I don't do it, planking feels fantastic!! I guess I've been asleep in my core for a long time and this waking up is a sort of deliciousness that has nothing to do with chips and guacamole.

...and I love it!

"I feel a shyness and a building of confidence. After the cleanse you will step into a place where you feel more powerful and confident. Because letting go of that critical voice shadow, you will stop striving for perfection but remember again you are perfect." - Reading from intuitive, Malika Love
I AM authentic, strong and healthy. What are you?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Having My Cake But Not Stuffing My Face with It

Veganism is a health-conscious diet that requires discipline and nutritional knowledge but for me, it took a turn toward an obsession. After a thirteen year struggle with bulimia and seven years of anorexia prior, I used the vegan diet as an excuse that drove me to an even greater unhealthy relationship with food and an increasingly restrictive diet. 

No matter how hard I tried to be *perfect*, I would ultimately fail, either by having some *toxic* non-dairy creamer in my *anti-Christ* coffee or by polishing off the last of Bome Bell's *evil* Kraft macaroni and cheese. This lead me to self-loathing, purging and unhealthy attitudes toward food. 

I confided about my latest binge last week to my personal trainer. I had never felt so relieved and so terrified about something at the same time. I had already known that I had developed many fears surrounding food and it was clear to me after our discussions that by my ever-growing list of restricted foods, my habits and binging around it worsened. It was the breakthrough I had been looking for!

In the days that have followed I have come to terms with the fact that changes in my restrictive diet needed to be made. I have reintroduced fish and chicken back into my diet and have loosened the reigns on dairy and wheat. My friend Gretchen over at Veggie Grettie had death threats from hardcore vegans (some of which I know personally) when she renounced her vegan card but time away from proselytizing veganism may give me a leg up from the death threats. 

How I am Coping After My Breathrough
  1. Avoid categorizing foods as good or safe -vs- bad or dangerous. Balanced diets are key to health
  2. Trash the idea that a particular diet, weight or body size will automatically lead to happiness and fulfillment
  3. Stop judging others and especially YOURSELF based on the types of food they / you eat or body shape or weight they / you are. Negativity only breeds self-hate and insecurity, which lay the foundation for eating disorders

It is definitely strange going against the principles I have so fiercely defended but I feel like a weight has been lifted. I feel strong, healthy and have more endurance not just in my workouts but in day-to-day living. Even carnivores know the way to better health is to eat more plants and less crap!

To be clear, I still love all the plant-based doctors and their studies. I have enjoyed the education I have received in eCornell's Plant-Based Certification Program. It all has a great deal of merit. I also know that this "dogma" doesn't work for me no matter how hard I try.