Choose Happiness

As Beyonce owned the stage—and the world for a moment—at last Sunday’s Superbowl, I got to thinking about leather, lace, awesomeness, and choices. I am light years from the fierce triple threat, but I too had a moment of Superbowl greatness. Some know the story and others (my very best!) were right there beside me in 1985 as the San Francisco 49ers battled the Miami Dolphins for the title at Superbowl XIX. I was 16 in a torn sweatshirt, nude nylon tights, Reebok high tops, and a ponytail higher than Bob Marley on the Devil’s lettuce. With heavy blue eye shadow and an abundance of sass we danced to a Flashdance mashup at frigid Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto as gusts shot from the north off the Bay piercing though our polyester leotards. Our high school dance team had faired well at state competition that year and we were asked to join an ensemble of dancers in some wholesome choreography sans pyrotechnics, indigo floor lighting with springing trap doors and larger than life video imaging. A diva-inspired power outage was incomprehensible.

I had no business being anywhere near the likes of Joe Montana, Dwight Clark or Dan Marino for that matter. My offensive lineman boyfriend at the time could barely contain his jealousy! We were young and fresh and blissfully unaware of our good fortune. To this day my children love to watch the halftime show with me and snidely comment about how I could have been a fly girl, or at least a back up dancer for Madonna, because “she’s really old”.  Ahhh, coulda, shoulda….

Truth is, I seriously considered studying and building a career in dance. And for all of you snivelers, my aspirations did not include a pole! I have no vocal talent so I would have struggled to find a life better than that of a troubadour in a traveling circus. My parents were pretty definitive about NOT sending me to UC Santa Barbara—the greatest party school on the west coast—to….dance. So, I chose to study Communications and English Literature. Could I have been a Laker girl like Paula or a fly girl on In Living Color like JLo? Doubtful. I do know that I wouldn’t have worked as an English teacher in South San Jose, or a writer in Silicon Valley or a fitness instructor, yoga teacher and trainer. I made a choice and I’m pretty sure it was the right one. Read more of this post

Expectation…Resolution…Action

By: Julie Manriquez

Expectation

My 12-year-old son expected an Xbox 360 for Christmas. Instead he received an emphatic “not gonna happen, Kid!” He persevered with the drive and optimism of a skilled closer, spouting assumptive comments like, “When I have my Xbox, you can use it to make sure I do my homework and my chores.” Wait a minute, isn’t it the JOB of every 12-year-old to—uhhh—do his homework and chores? After discussing with friends their discontent with the game and their kids’ effective behavior, the hubby and I stuck to our guns and kept the “kid crack” out of our home.

Just to clarify, we don’t have a problem with gaming, even the violent or adult varieties. And anyone who knows us knows we are certainly not big on censorship. The kid watched Gladiator at the age of eight at the hubby’s suggestion to get “pumped” for his basketball playoff game!  We simply do not wish to sabotage our kids’ sometimes limited focus on school and their chosen activities; but, even more importantly, we do not wish to rob them of the gift of pure, unadulterated boredom, which every child needs to expend physical energy, inspire creativity, innovation, and passion for something (anything!) larger than they are.

We proudly stood united and much to his chagrin no Xbox miraculously arrived beneath our rather odd left-leaning Christmas tree. Read more of this post

9/12/2011: Practice Forgiveness for Better Health

As I wrapped Halloween goodie bags for the elderly at a National Charity League meeting on 9/11 with my 13-year-old daughter, she asked if we’d have time to attend mass that evening. We are hardly model churchgoers and—as I’ve mentioned (See Recipe for Change- Less Everyday) —I consider myself at best a “Recovering Catholic” open to the tenets of several faiths. Our children are the product of this open-minded spirituality regardless of their more formal exposure to Catholic teachings their first nine years. For me it is a gift to see them reach for their own spiritual lifeline when it comes to navigating their way through difficult times.

Over the past week we have discussed the 9/11 of ten years ago, when my son and daughter were just two and three; and, as I answered questions and cried tears as I recounted the day—the moment—that we all personally own, I realized that they too need to personally mourn this piece of history that defines their generation. Read more of this post

Ode to Dino: Happy Father’s Day to All You Nerdy Dads!

My dad is 79-years-old and currently traveling through his ancestral home town—Castelvetere— in Northern Italy. My mom, who struggles with arthritis pain and heart issues, decided to take a pass on Dad’s latest inspiration to find his parents’ childhood homes. He found the ancient housing structures still standing on Google Maps and the wheels started spinning. Mom decided to take advantage of a week free from her groovy retired life with Dad and travel with her sister to world-renown Rancho La Puerta Spa in Tecate, Mexico to work on her mind/body/spirit connection and give vegetarian living a whirl. Having my two (dare I say it?) “elderly” parents on different continents is…unsettling. Because of iPhones and time zones my sisters and I have been in touch with Auntie and Mom, but until today, day five, Dad has been incommunicado.

Armed with his brand new iPad, I anticipated at least a quick message on Dad’s first day or two. Turns out the iPad is rendered useless in the mountainous province of Benevento (which translated means “good wind,” significance to come later in this piece) and he’s had to resort to archaic methods to communicate, including dial-up. That’s what my dad gets for jetting off to remote Italian towns in search of Antonellis, Morettis, DiPieros and LaMarcas (yes, I am 100% Italian!). Thinking of my dad farther away than a tap on my Favorites list got me thinking about…me and Dad, back in the day, back at MY ancestral home in Saratoga,CA. Read more of this post

Schock Your Abs into Summer Shape (and yes, I know how to spell shock!)

By: Julie Manriquez (jamwritingservices@gmail.com)

Congressman Aaron Schock's abs on the cover of June's Men's Health

Last week freshman congressman, Aaron Schock, opened his shirt for the cover of the June issue of Men’s Health. Holy House of Representatives, Batman! There’s no denying that even with the airbrushing and Photoshop® removal of every bodily hair, this 8-pack (yes, with the transverse abdominus, it’s an 8-pack) is worthy of some superhero Spandex. But, Mr. Schock is 29-years-old and a Republican, which means that gravity is currently working in his favor and he enjoys sporting at least a couple of guns at all times (I’m pretty sure I see them under the shirt sleeves!). Some of my best pals are Republicans and occasionally I find myself wavering in a moderate or even (gasp!) right hand direction on issues, but these conservative abs and hyper-masculine peacocking are simply not enough to urge this mostly leftwingin’ mother of two to inch my pinkie toe across the aisle. Mr. Schock’s stance on women’s rights (he voted to defund Planned Parenthood) and global warming (opposes the reduction of coal and oil usage and believes there is little, if any, evidence of global warming and it’s effects) does not fall in line with his reported desire to reach out to the MTV generation.

Not much makes me waver from my usual news sources (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central, and Chelsea Lately on E!), but this kind of hypocrisy offers the kind of intrigue that even the most credible installment of TMZ might miss. Read more of this post

Recipe for Change: Less Everyday

Last week, a friend asked what I’d given up for Lent. Well, since I am more of a “Recovering Catholic” than a Catholic, “I suppose I have given up GUILT this year,” I responded. So far it feels pretty good to not worry about a stray chocolate chip (the year I gave up chocolate), a slipped F-bomb (the year I gave up cussing), or being bitchy (the entire 40 days that I refrained from caffeine).

I’m already solid with workouts since I teach six classes per week and do my best to practice Bikram yoga (http://bikramyogalajolla.com) when possible. I generally eat well and don’t have too nasty of a potty mouth (though some may disagree!). So, in recent years, Lent has been purely about guilt for me, which I suppose is ultimately the objective. I would set my sights too high and invariably fail. Technically, Lent is the 6-week preparation period from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday when Christians ready themselves for Holy Week and Easter with prayer, almsgiving, repentance and self-denial. But, for many of us, the religious aspect is lost and Lent is simply relegated to an incentive program to get us moving on a new exercise regimen, diet, or unrealistic deprivation, literally guilting those of us raised on tabernacle wafers and watered down box wine to get to mass, skip the caffeine or sweet-tasting mouthful, and to exclaim “oh, shizer” instead of “oh, shit.” Read more of this post

127 Hours LATER

Early this week (or last week, depending on when you are reading this), Julie Manriquez, one of my esteemed guest posters, wrote a fantastic post, called One Hour or 127 Hours: BE in Every Moment.  Julie is a deep thinker, dedicated to daily work toward personal growth and enlightenment, as well as humble (she’s much more talented in so many areas than she’ll ever admit) service to others.  And like is often the case, her message was one that was needed.  Not only by me, but by many others, evidenced by the tremendous response and appreciation she received from other readers.

Her message was pretty simple.  Be in every moment.  Stop making excuses not to fully participate in life. Stop asking for a “hall pass” so you can skip the learning lesson that goes on every day of your life if you’ll just reach out to those who are more than happy to teach.  She went so far as to even dare us to be an active participant in our lives. And if you know me, I never saw a dare I didn’t like. Read more of this post