Match.con

So, I've recently re-entered the lair/playground/shit-show of dating. In my mid 30's. I've been on so many goddamn dates now, I can't keep them all straight. I recently sent a Peruvian vacation Groupon to one dude referencing a conversation I had with someone else weeks earlier; the guy who texted me, "You're hot on tv!" after watching my web-series, and then never wrote again. Next there was the man who called/texted/wrote me several times every day with lovely intros such as "Hey hot stuff" or, "What's happening beautiful?" Almost tricked me into thinking this was normal after meeting someone twice. It wasn't until he questioned me via text message if I was only dating to, "Get over a bad relationship" that I woke up to our incompatibility.

I had a bartender pick me up while one of my dates was in the bathroom. Went out with said bartender a few weeks later, and it turns out he's twentyfuckingfour. A few fun cocktailed-hours spent telling me how he liked older women, left me thinking, "This might be an interesting summer, Mrs. Robinson." Needless to say, that text he promised to send? Never came.

Dated one guy for about a month until I uncovered a lie he told me to my face on his facebook page. I don't know if it bothered me more that he lied, or that he was dumb enough to leave it on facebook.

I've been on 3 different dating sites. I'm so beyond mortified about this that I don't even mind anymore. I imagine it's like when a woman is giving birth; you know the point she's so far beyond caring that everyone in the room has seen her fucking vagina and is aware that she just shit the table.

The problem is, I've started to ask myself, "What's wrong with me?"

I'm not the hottest little catch by any means, but I don't think I'm scary enough to warrant the deficit of kind, stable, single men that I'm currently experiencing. Maybe I'm hanging out in the wrong places. Maybe I should find a job where I have even mild exposure to straight men. Maybe the all-female choir wasn't the best choice. Maybe West-coasters, like Bassett Hounds, are just too chill to make a move. Perhaps Portland really is short on men that own more than one set of sheets. Or, is it my profile? I've become brazen enough to send "winks" and messages with wild abandon. Each one in vain.

Truth is, I've spent way too long trying to morph myself into someone I wasn't so other people would like me. Litany of passive-aggressive disasters behind me, I've vowed to do the only think I can do and ever truly do well; be myself.

But as it turns out, a lot of people, most in fact, don't resonate with that. I suppose I should look at this with a positive attitude; it does indeed save me a lot of time going out with dudes with whom it would never work anyway. But I've discovered, it's a lot more painful being rejected without the protective artifice of my co-dependent candy-shell.

Last weekend I went on a date I thought was finally really promising. He was covered in tattoos and had a purple hair. I decided I didn't care that he couldn't spell; in fact, he probably did it on purpose. We had a nice conversation and he was very open and kind. I convinced myself that his alternative approach to life meant that surely he would accept me and be open to whatever it must be that the rest of the dating community can't get into. I don't own even the tiniest tattoo, but I aspire to be an open-minded and loving person; willing to see where a relationship with someone my parents would consider a carnie, would go.

I took a long walk before our second date and thought about how my Portland integration would finally be complete. Aqua vintage Craigslist bike for commuting: check. Funky hipster frames picked out by awesome gay dude at locally owned eye-glass store: check. Sweet, subversive, counter-culture boyfriend with mohawk and tattoo sleeves: awesome.

I thought about how cool it would be to date someone really different; how people at the farmers markets would admire that two people so opposite on the outside could fall in love. How he would teach me how to fix my bicycle and I would introduce him to fancy cheese. How we'd decide never to marry because we were way too progressive for that mainstream bullshit. He would be happy to stay home with the kids, and I would go to work.

But, just like the guy who never wrote again after watching my show or the baby-bartender, or the half-dozen other guys who asked me out and then just disappeared; the texts after our second date - vanished.

So, disappointed and crushed once again, this pariah, had to backthefuckup and ask herself, "What's The Deal?"

And I now see two things: 1. That my old habit of changing what I'm attracted to just to be with someone had once again snuck in, and 2. I had to face the fact that this keeps happening because my core belief is that it's never going to happen for me; that there just isn't a dude on this planet, let alone Portland, Oregon, that will adore me, As Is, that I will be mutually crazy about. And until I dig out the roots of this belief, I'm continually going to desire to bestow my love of cheese on any guy who seems an almost-but-not-quite match.

I wish I had some awesome conclusion here, but I don't yet. That's the catch about faith and trust - you just gotta keep moving forward. And know that the all these sad and hilarious encounters aside, the only real tragedy would be to never realize that the only one holding me back, is me. The biggest con here, is the one I've been telling myself.

the secret to life

Quick recap.

Saw GI. It's IBS. No LOL.

There's nothing funny about this. And I mean really, it's embarrassing enough as it is... couldn't they have called it something even a littlemore charming so that the millions of us didn't have to be extra-mortified? Something like - Acute Intestinal Paranoia (sounds more serious and possibly other-worldly), Curious Gastric Malfunctioning (certainly a more civilized conversation piece), or my personal favorite, What-The-Fuck-Is-Wrong-With-Me-And-Why-Am-I-So-Bloated-All-The-Time (because this at least feels a little more accurate - my bowel isn't just irritated, it's hating me).

I follow this news with yet another shift in diet; the ditching of too many raw foods, upping fiber, probiotics etc. and things are better at first. After less than a week though, it's all back.

I'm in a panic. I am so unhappy, so at a loss, soooo desperate. I am talking to a friend about my situation (read: therapist) and finally, after two years of bowel hell, all this yoga and living and loving and eating it clicks.

The Pause.

Yes my dear friends, the answer is, was, and always will be in the pause. In interrupting and creating space between the mindlessness and the mindless action. The answer is awareness. I don't need more willpower, or discipline, or juice, or exercise. I need to STOP. Before I put something in my mouth, send a nasty email, or let someone cut off all my hair - I must pause to see what is really lurking there.

I believe that AIP/CGM/IBS is really our bodies SCREAMING at us to pay attention. To listen. To please please please stop and see what we are really feeling, needing, wanting. And in this way, if we can learn to work with it, it is indeed an enormous gift. I'm about 75% better in a week. And I've eaten pizza, turkey sandwiches and dairy yogurt.

I can have whatever I want, provided it's what I really really really want.

To croissants, cheese, cherry pie and the space in between them...

Alex

orgasmic meditation

June has been a month full of love and travel (and my 33rd birthday!!), and obviously empty of blog posts. I have a few ideas tumbling through what currently feels like the vast expanse of my head - but I am currently too busy falling in love with and in Germany to organize any of them.

So once again here is the latest gem from YogaCity.

Congrats to one of my oldest and greatest friends Jordan who's beautiful wedding I attended in Michigan last weekend.

Ah June...

Fraulein Alex

The following is my personal account the One Taste workshop and does not intend to express the views of YogaCityNYC. I thought long and hard before writing this, and kept coming back to the idea that our stories are only useful to the extent in which they may help someone else.

I have a lot of walls around my sexuality. Social, familial, personal, historical… and they’ve keep it all contained in a rather neat and tidy package. I recognize that this might not be the most expressive way to enjoy one’s body; and when offered the opportunity to cover the Mindful Sexuality and Orgasmic Meditation weekend at Reflections Yoga, I accepted with excited terror. If I had any clue what I was in for, I most likely would have chickened out.

We began Saturday morning at 10am, after signing a lengthy waiver. Led by Robert Kandell and Cristina Berkley, we were welcomed into a “clean well-lit room to talk about sex and pleasure”. Robert explained that usually such conversations take place in the dark and dirty places, and as such carry with them the need to be hidden - bars, the internet, glossy magazines, porn. By turning this on its head, we open sex up and are able to lay it out on the table. No hiding, no darkness, no shame.

What most of us seem to be missing most from our sexual lives is real intimacy, connection, and communication which is difficult to achieve in the shadows. One Taste, based in San Francisco, seeks to provide people with a forum and the tools to fill this huge void.

The group is comprised of 6 men and women, straight and gay. Half of us are not from this country and only two of us live in NYC. Some are sexually expressive and adventurous, some shy and reserved, some curious but afraid.

Cristina describes to our motley group the way in which mindful sex is related to the “slow” movement by explaining its 6 core principles: 1) Slow: which means that we are present enough to what feels really good and have an awareness that this will change every time; 2) Conscious/Mindfulness: where we put all the attention on the present moment; 3) Whole: we integrate all parts ourselves so that we are the most real versions of who we are; 4) Local: having the direct experience yourself (vs. over the internet, tv, phone); 5) Simple: all there is in the experience is sensation and connection (there is so much there if we don’t hide it); 6) Connected: we all want the same thing, to love and be loved, to see and be seen for who we are.

And this makes sense; I am completely on board with all “slow” movements. Mindfulness and presence are what I have been working on with each yoga class. It’s what we do.

We then discuss the different parts of our brain and how they directly affect our experiences. Our cortex, or thinking part, Robert offers, is rarely in concert with our limbic, or sensing and feeling part (the lower portion of the brain). He instructs us to each do a private improv speaking from both and we set up two chairs facing each other. For 20 minutes we debate an important topic in our lives with ourselves by flipping back and forth between the chairs. This exercise seemed unending. I became rather frustrated during the battle between my sensible, organized controlling self vs. my wild and uninhibited emotions. But I stuck with it and with each switch became more dexterous at thinking and speaking from that particular center.

I’m surprised to discover that it’s my feeling side that is more afraid of my thinking than vice versa. In order to not have my better sense cortex keep me from living passionately and freely, I tend to make impulsive and rash limbic decisions.

Learning from my mistakes (such as getting involved too quickly or ignoring red flags) has often been painful however, and in many cases could have been avoided had I married the two even a tiny bit more. We are given the exercise over lunch to spend 45 minutes making decisions from the cortex, and 45 from our limbic – so if we feel the need to do anything crazy we must allow it.

Lunch passes rather uneventfully, as most of us decide to relax and the craziest thing I feel like doing is rolling up my pants to sunbathe without SPF. I found it interesting when given the freedom to go wild, I didn’t care to. The freedom, Robert explains, gives us the space to take care of ourselves and listen to our needs and desires.

Fed, rested, and vitamin D infused; we return to the task of speaking about our relationship to our sexuality for 2 minutes. Panic sets in. I let a couple people go before I find the courage, which is more likely simply the need to get it over with.

Limbic brain engaged, I spew my sexual history with little regard to the fact that I know none of these people. Unfortunately, my tale begins with sexual abuse as a child. As the abuser was my cousin, it was decided that the best course of action was to never mention it again so as not to upset our grandparents. And let me just say, that the shame and guilt in a child’s mind from something that can’t be talked about builds exponentially with each passing day. Full of confusion and self-hate, the list of inappropriate and harmful choices I made navigating my sexual self… is long.

In this clean well-lit room with two sex counselors and five attentive strangers I feel some relief through my tears. Maybe healing really can be retroactive. Maybe I can finally find the freedom to knock down some of these walls and consciously enter into a deep and connected intimate relationship. And maybe, just maybe… I’ll learn to forgive myself for some of my more disastrous choices.

Sunday is devoted to Orgasmic Meditation; a practice I naively assume entails finding some type of blissful Samadhi on a cushion. I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

It is a technique designed to create the greatest possible amount of sensation with the littlest amount of story; meaning history, baggage and relationship. It is practiced between friends, strangers and lovers in weekly meetings. The pairings can and do consist of partners from every sexual orientation, but as it’s taught in relation to one male and one female, I will simply relay the information in this article as it was described to me.

A woman has 8,000 nerve endings in the upper left quadrant of her clitoris. Through a very specific set of almost scientific instructions, the male uses his left index finger to stimulate sensation in this area. The purpose here is to feel the exchange of energy between these two points. It isn’t about our goal-oriented “masculine” understanding of orgasm, but purely a practice used to create deeper sensitivity, sensation and connection between two people. Over time, we learn how to let go of more and more layers, become better at giving instructions, asking questions, and reading Meta messages; what is said beneath words through body language and energy. When we then move ourselves to “the bedroom” we find an increased ability to be present, vulnerable and real.

Before lunch, Robert and Cristina give a demo. A couple more people have joined us today, including 3 or 4 seasoned Orgasmic Meditators, or OMers, for support. Cristina takes off her clothes and lies on a massage table in goddess pose as Robert begins the 15-minute “meditation” practice. I’m horrified. I’ve never seen anything like this and immediately I am sure I’ve landed in the middle of some cultish practice. In the same instant, I recognize that my tightly wound upper-middle class WASP background has hardly produced a satisfied sexual being. My mind is blown. I don’t know right from wrong, good from bad, back from front.

The whole group is charged up. We’re angry, suspicious, excited, scared, and curious. We know in a couple more hours it will be our turn. We come back from lunch and Robert leads us through partnered exercises. I like them. We explore communicating as the men touch our arms. Relaxing music is played. We look into each other’s eyes and breathe. Some of us cry.

There were only two rules for the weekend. 1) That everything said here would remain confidential, and 2) that no one would do anything they didn’t feel comfortable doing. Allowing myself the freedom to change my mind, I was pretty clear from the get-go that I wouldn’t be OMing. For better or worse, as connected as I feel to my wonderful group, I am as yet unable to separate the desire to be touched only by a man that I feel extremely close to. Participating in the lab would have, for me, been more abusive than liberating.

I am allowed to stay and watch as the 5 brave pairs set up. I don’t think I’ve ever had such the variety of emotions running through my body as I sat there that Sunday afternoon. I’m scared, jealous, excited, suspicious and embarrassed. As some of the women, naked from the waist down, begin to vocally express sensations of pleasure, I wonder if this scene might not have been so uncommon in some ancient matriarchal societies.

As I am flooded with images of goddesses; a huge paradigm shift takes place. My earlier horror is replaced with the sensations I am getting from the room that these men are here purely to learn to connect with women, not dominate them. And the women in all their glory are expressing their willingness to be connected to through sounds of pleasure and vocal instruction. I am witnessing the communication of yin & yang energy before my very eyes.

It’s safe to say that this practice will not appeal to most of us. It’s also safe to say, that most of us have some potential opening to do around the topic of sexuality and what it means to be a sexual being. I feel strongly about the need to communicate about sex; I know that stuffing my own pain for 27 years hasn’t resulted in the freedom I am so desperate for. If we actually had safe spaces to explore these issues, to speak openly and freely, and to unleash some of the horror that some of us through no fault of our own are forced to experience – I wonder if we would also find peace. If the incidence of rape, incest, child abuse and adultery in modern society is any indication of our inappropriate relationship to our collective sexuality, I’d say we’re desperate for palaces of clean and well-lit rooms.

I consider myself lucky to have been unaware enough to happen upon the workshop; the universe does work in mysterious ways. I have more tools, I have a plan, and most importantly I have an unwavering desire to have this be my turning point. And now, the only wall I am concerned with… is the one I want to be thrown up against.

maha life

It's prolly safe to say I am currently obsessed with expansion. The bottle of red wine I joyfully drank last night (alcohol is very expansive) is a lovely example of this.

I had the most intense acupuncture session with Carrie yesterday. I've been having a lot of pain and heat in my lower legs, apparently along my stomach and spleen meridians and caused by excessive dampness in my body. Think hot, wet, heavy - it feels very tight and contracted.

Carrie does her thing, a few of the needles were pretty painful, and then some more of that magical cranio-sacral work. I can feel so much energy moving - it's undeniable that we are pure energy & that this is a completely viable and important healing modality.

I have the distinct feeling towards the end that this body I am trying to heal and clear is simply and profoundly the vehicle for this energy to move through this life. And wouldn't it be nice to finally unite my physical body, my mind and an awareness of this energy with which to live it.

My right kidney is killing me today. I know this might sound insane if you haven't experienced it - but I can't move so well and there is a big red spot on my back; kidney height. As energy moves and clears suddenly other places of holding begin to free themselves up as well. The body is really incredible.

You see, we can't really move on fully into expansion until we clear out the old. Sometimes, oftentimes, it hurts like hell... but I'm okay with that as I know it's part of the process. I'm currently sucking the most exciting things into my life - I believe because of all this (sometimes painful) housekeeping. If finding THE pair of jeans I've been eying in exactly my size laying on top of the rack (waiting for me) yesterday for $20 on sale from $150 isn't a clue, I don't know what is.

We're meant to expand. We're meant to go out and live our own maha (sanskrit for great/big) lives. Lives that we love, created and manifested by ourselves - and to do this we have to be big! And bold and brave and maybe even deal with the pain of clearing our old energies, thoughts, and emotions... in the many forms they present themselves, which can oftentimes be through the non-expanded views of others.

As the session was over, Carrie stayed as I lay there (she normally doesn't) and I had the sense that she was holding space for what had occurred. I began to cry a little, then laugh (it's interesting for me to note here that I've found my joy is always held underneath my sadness). Apparently my "dampness" had been holding some of both...

In EXPANSION,

Maha Alex

P.S. I'm (obviously) kidding about the jeans being so important. Sort of.

ahhhhhruyveda

I spent the past weekend attending a workshop on Mindful Sexuality and Orgasmic Meditation and my mind is completely consumed with writing this new article for YogaCity. So lame as it may be, I am once again posting an oldie. This was my second article for YogaCity last fall on Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, and it's sorta cute. Enjoy.

Let’s just cut to the chase.I don’t feel good. During any given week at some point I feel foggy, low energy, lazy, anxious and not regular. And it kind of freaks me out. I eat well, I go to yoga about five - six times per week, have been sleeping okay and have made my pursuit of true happiness the most important thing. So what is the deal? I have tried acupuncture, Chinese herbs, probioitics, digestive enzymes, exercise, copious amounts of kombucha, vitamins, teas, massage, cleanses, giving up dairy, meat, alcohol and even sweets. I have tried eating blended raw spinach for breakfast and spent most of last winter giving myself enemas. So why is my health, or lack thereof, still an issue?

I know, of course, the most important thing is working on my mind; anxiety, fear, and insecurity can’t possible lead to healthy body. But it is a catch 22 because how can I quiet the mind when I sorta feel like crap?

I was introduced to Ayurveda at yoga school recently and I decided it was worth a shot (since I am currently without health insurance – maybe even my only hope.) Ayurveda means “science of life” in Sanskrit. It was developed over 5000 years ago in India by the great rishis who organized the basic fundamentals of life into a system that uses five elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether) to describe the composition of all things. The three vital energies, or doshas, are each made up of two of these elements and are what are used to diagnose our constitution. Vatta is air and ether; pitta is fire and water; and kapha, water and earth.

A quick search lists a few places that offer Ayurvedic consultations and healing treatments. I found my way to Bioticare in midtown because I’m impressed that the practitioners Dr. Naina Marballi and Ms. Amita Banerjee have been practicing for 32 and 28 years respectively and was excited by the idea of having this information passed to me from someone trained in India.

I sit down in Amita’s office and she begins by drawing two parallel lines, explaining that these are the two paths that we are following in our lives. The Spiritual one is always connected to and leading back to the Divine, and the other - our Wooly one - represents our ambitions, dreams, achievements, homes, careers, and relationships etc. In order to travel these paths we are given a body, mind and spirit as vehicle. The purpose of Ayurveda is to balance these so that we are working at our optimum as we move along the road to one-day join again with the Divine.

Amita then asks me a series of questions to diagnose my dosha and pinpoint my vikruti or the way in which I go out of balance. I tell her about my health, my parents health, my divorce (at which point I burst into tears), my erratic sleep, my current relationship, my living situation, my diet, my exercise, my work. She looks in my eyes, at my tongue, and checks my pulse.

I would have bet money that I was vatta. Made up of air and ether, vatta is changeable, scattered, moving, insecure and anxious. I am shocked by my constitution - I am pitta-kapha which means that I am mostly fire and water, with some earth. My pitta nature makes me ambitious, transformative, passionate, and perceptive. The kapha part manifests in my need for grounding and strongly bonded relationships.

So it turns out my dosha is pitta-kapha, with a HUGE vatta imbalance. And it hits me then that I have been living for years completely out of balance. I used to be ambitious and productive and competitive (pitta), but the older I have gotten the more it seems I have been wandering aimlessly moving about once a year and learning how to be more easy going and flexible. Which is great in a way, but not if it means completely living out of alignment with your true nature. I suspect the cause of this may be twofold – keeping depression and boredom at bay, and my image that being “vatta” is much “cooler”. I think at some point I decided that artists are really much more free, mutable, creative, open (overall more vatta) than I was. It is almost as if I willed my way into a vattic lifestyle – leading of course to poor health and an overall dissatisfaction in my wooly life.

She gives me a plan for a 7 day detox that consists of ginger and detox tea and kitcheri, a one pot dish of vegetables, grain, and spices that you blend so it’s easily digested. On the seventh day you return for marma abhyanga, a 90-minute massage that works on 107 vital pressure points and helps to complete the detoxing. I am also to implement some dietary guidelines that she gives me for pitta constitution such as staying away from hot spicy dishes as well as greasy and fatty foods. What I love immediately about Ayurveda is that it gives me the tools to change things myself. I don’t have to take a bunch of weird things, I don’t have to go back once a week, and I don’t have to invest a ton of money.

Even though we may share some characteristics in a particular dosha, each person’s constitution is as unique as a fingerprint. Similar to a yoga practice, Ayurveda requires us to each become our own teacher by paying more attention to ourselves. And not in a self centered way. The whole purpose of figuring out who and what you are is so that you can stop thinking about it and commit more fully to taking your vehicle down your two paths.

I asked Amita what each of the doshas can do as we move through vatta season (fall to early winter) coming into kapha season. She says all the doshas need to not bring more cold into the body by eating too much raw or cold food. We need to lessen our activity but exercise daily for warmth (she suggests dancing), and eat often and yet not too much. Pittas who are naturally warm, must not brave the cold without enough layers therefore exposing themselves to sickness. Kaphas, who become more lethargic during the colder months, need to be sure to get some activity every day to not become slower. Vattas who are usually cold need to take care to stay extra warm.

I am excited by all this new information, but also a bit overwhelmed. It does make a lot of sense, but it can be confusing as well. For instance a buildup of ama or toxins in the body can made all constitutions feel dull, foggy and constipated, as they aren’t receiving the nutrients from their food. Usually connected to increased vatta (the colon is the seat of vatta) constipation can also occur from an imbalance in pitta because it causes dry stool, and kapha because it creates mucus in the intestines. It isn’t the overnight solution that I am of course desperate for but I really like Ayurveda’s simplicity and alignment with what is natural. I commit myself to giving it try.

It wasn’t until later that I realized I had misunderstood Amita. In describing our two parallel paths, she had actually said worldly, not wooly – which makes more sense. Or does it? Because the truth is, my worldly path has felt pretty wooly at best sometimes, and I am sure I am not alone. I think this is the very thing we are all looking for - whether we know it yet or not: tools to bring us into balance so that we can remove some of the wool. Ayurveda allows us to pull it from our own eyes.

epilogue

I found something very interesting today that I wanted to share with everyone. 2 falls ago, I came back from Europe extremely unwell, due to many emotional and physical factors, one of which was my addiction to xanax or klonapin to sleep. I dropped out of Grad school, and entitled that fall "The Fall of Healing" - one of my main goals was to kick that tranquilizers for good. And I did. It was one completely sleepless week and a lot of physical pain, but I haven't taken one in over 1.5 years now. I have since been out of my tree anxious at times... but somehow struggle through it.

Today I woke up so calm, and have remained so all day, it is as if I am on xanax. Or had a cocktail. I am astounded by how calm and peaceful I am, and a bit worried that I might go out and buy some patchouli.

In Macrobiotics they call this expansion or yin, when we eat foods that expand us it makes us feel spacey and far out and coooool. I have never experienced the power of food in this way, but believe me, it is real.

I found it interesting that the quest I started that fall has led me back to the same feeling, in a totally different way. We have so much power by choosing what we put in our mouth it is astounding.

Much love an gratitude to: Cyndie Suarez www.lytnyt.com, Carrie Cegelis www.radical-wellness.com, and www.BluePrintCleanse.com

Love peace and (maybe not) chicken grease

xx

that's all folks

I FUCKING MADE IT!! Maybe not the most appropriate opening sentence...
Or is it?

Yes my friends, I am officially done guzzling juice and nothing but juice for 5 days. It has been one helluva ride I must say. I feel like I have put myself through some sort of rehab as I look forward and realize that tomorrow is really the first day. Going on this cleanse has been such an internal journey that I recognize that I have really been through something - it actually isn't unlike the 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat I did coincidentally the same time last year. Coming out the other side of challenges like these makes me feel proud and capable and maybe even a little bit more confident.

I feel pretty clear as well that my time cleansing is done for now. I was hungrier today than I've been all week, and my ability to survive in a concrete jungle this expanded is wearing thin. I can smell everything (not usually what one aspires to do in NYC) and I feel like I could burst into tears a bit too easily. That being said, I am also nervous to begin eating again. I plan a slow transition that will include more greens and less of the things that don't really make me feel great. I was shocked when I realized that I haven't craved coffee or sugar AT ALL.

It's a dance. An ever evolving, shifting, changing dialogue with ourselves and our bodies. One of the points of my doing this was to be able to hear the subtle (and sometimes not so) pleas that I have often ignored. Knowing I have lived for 5 days without food makes me feel like there might be a lot of other things I can do that I might not know about.

It's a celebration for sure.

I want to thank all of you for stopping by, for your well-wishing, inquiries, and support. It's been a sweet ride.

Dreaming of avocados
xxx

+ + +

Gotta say, today went off without a hitch. I had some extra trouble spelling while writing an article this morning, and was a bit tired after rehearsal this afternoon, but that was about it. Oddly enough I've noticed some pain & sensitivity in places where I have had injuries before, namely my appendix (or lack there of), my inguinal hernia (which I still need to get fixed :P) and my right front tooth which I bashed when I was about four years old. Weird. Last night I awoke again at 3:30 am, and was pretty achy. Laid there for hours, until finally I got up to take an epsom salt & peroxide bath at about 7am. But while lying there for 3.5 hours, I thought about this:
We all just want to be happy. Find joy, freedom, love, a purpose etc etc etc. If these positive feelings and emotions vibrate at a higher frequency, then by clearing out old stuff and replacing it with higher vibrating substances (plant based foods) we are literally changing the frequency at which we vibrate. Now I realize that we can also do this by thinking more positive thoughts, which most likely has an even more profound effect - but my point is, there is more than one way to skin a cat (I don't really ever ever care to skin anything). And if we are having a hard time changing our thinking, maybe working from another direction, the body, can help us move in the overall direction of happiness.

Food for thought.

Ciao amici
xx

the rain is gone

Hump day behind me, I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Today wasn't too bad juice-wise, but my mid-cleanse colonic was rather intense. Juicing acts as a scrubbing brush and soap in the colon. I hear it has to do with the high vibrational energy of fresh raw foods that pull out toxins and clear waste. I found out today first-hand about those gas pockets or walls that trap matter behind them. And when a great therapist can help release them, you can feel it moving. I was pretty nauseous afterwards to be honest. Cyndie says that by cleansing we actually make the environments in our bodies completely different. I love this.
I also today discovered why I have such a difficult time accepting criticism. There is this belief that if I don't do things perfectly that it is all over; I'm dumped, fired, ruined and totally screwed for the trajectory in which I wish my life to go. Leaving such little room for error makes it very difficult for me to keep the desire to go forward and try new things. Mistakes are human and, of course, inevitable - and I'm willing to bet all really smart, successful, creative, interesting people fuck up too.

I would like to think that 3 days of fasting helped me to see this so clearly. Today there was much clarity.

I'm tired so will keep this short; I have been waking up at 3 and sweating. FUN!

It was like 107 degrees in NYC today... the trees in Prospect Park are in bloom and the air is full of possibility.

Sleep well
xx

awake and sing

Ah yes, the moment we've all been waiting for... end of day one!

I must say it has been rather fascinating and surprising too. Green juice, is well, very green. It tastes not so different from some natural cleansers. Not that I taste those. But if I did, I imagine it would be similar. It seems clean is what I am trying to say.

Bear with me I think I am a bit slap-happy.

Funny how much more time we have when we aren't having to figure out what to eat! It also amazes me how little food we actually do need. I have had what seemed to be hunger pangs about 3 times, and they lasted for about 4 seconds.

I've alternated from being very cold (cold juice not helping this) to very hot, almost fevery.

I've also alternated from being very positive to feeling downright despondent, close to tears. At one point, whilst watching a frisbee game, I was so overwhelmed by how alone I felt, how much I envied one friends beautiful yoga practice, and another's gorgeous legs I actually did shed a few.

After work I was so down I came home and went straight to Prospect Park and walked and thought about how cleansing is really about personal responsibility. Responsibility for all the stuff you have eaten & done to your body, and also for all of the stuff that you are thinking and doing on rote that is keeping you miserable. Because it all comes up with nowhere to hide.

I reminded myself of an ol' story of myself. Back in, well when I was 19 - I had an internship here in NYC with a casting director. She was auditioning understudies for a Broadway musical and asked if I sang as I was the same height and look of one of the actresses.
"Not very well" I replied.

And the point isn't whether I did I didn't or do or don't - but that I undercut myself before even trying. It's safer... it's easier... and I think it is also what keeps me playing at a sub-whereAlexandrawantstobe level in my life. And envious of yoga practices and legs and people playing frisbee with friends. Because I don't think any of these things would matter if I was, well, really living.

I was so relaxed after that walk I though about circling it for the rest of the summer.
Happy Easter Monday my friends. Thank you for reading and for all of your well-wishing.

Alex

P.S. if anyone knows how in the hell it is possible for one's teeth to feel fuzzy when not eating - please let me know.

rising from the dead

Things are starting to shake up here! Last night I woke up with a mild headache behind my right eye - I have no idea if it is related but I know that the liver meridian ends behind the eyes - the liver obviously being our major detoxing organ. Made a green smoothie for breakie (spinach, banana, frozen mixed berries) they are actually really good. More fruit for lunch... mildly lightheaded today & feel low grade fever perhaps.

Went and had the first of 3 colonics that I have scheduled for the cleanse with Cyndie Suarez at LYT. (www.lytnyc.com) Now colonics aren't my absolute favorite pass time (surprising I know), but she was super cool and gave me tons of new information. I am grateful to have support over there to work with through this. She offered that I might experience some headaches as I detox the ol' stuff out. Sweet.

Picked up my HUGE box of 18 juices for the next 3 days. They're very green.

veg for dinner...

I'd love some chocolate. Or a sandwich. Perhaps a chocolate sandwich.

I do think it is rather poetic to be doing this around Easter. And not because I want chocolate eggs.

Peace & Peeps

A

it takes a village

It's a gorgeous Saturday. Afternoon. I'm still in my pajamas complete with bunny slippers. Yesterday I went to see Carrie Cegelis (www.radical-wellness.com), an acupuncturist, massage therapist and basically magical healer. She knows a lot about cleansing and I though it would be smart to see her a few times around this whole thing. She did acupuncture to help my body prepare for cleansing, and also some cranio-sacral massage - which was this awesome energy work that works with the fluids and ancient rhythms of the body so that it can heal. She really is awesome.
The closer I get the more I realize that this is actually some serious shit. (NPI)

In preparation for the cleansing, you have to give up coffee, sugar, alcohol, animal products, milk and start a "bulking diet" which consists of fruit and veg. And I am already starting to crack. You see food is a coping mechanism... even if I am coping with organic dark chocolate, and oatmeal - taking it all away has left me feeling like a raw nerve.

During detox all of the crap loosens off of our intestines, and we go through feeling bad until it moves. This is apparently what cravings actually are - your body's desperate plea to have more of the good stuff so that everything stays in place and we don't feel bad. Craving bread or coffee or meat is therefore the same as craving a cigarette. The only foods that pass through us without adding any toxins are fruits and veg.

My roommate/boyfriend moved out & a great friend moved to Portland yesterday - but the unbearable loneliness I feel is due to something much deeper. I am terrified to find out, but the desire to move past it has surpassed the terror. Or so I am hoping. Where the emotional toxins stored in my gut end and the putrefied food begins, I don't know - and I don't even think it matters. I have a hypothesis that I can't clear out my body physically without also clearing out my mind, energetic body, spirit etc.

Anyway, I have to get out of the house. I will most likely be posting daily for a bit - they won't all be perky I am guessing, but if anyone out there is interested - I'll be here.

Happy Easter Weekend

xx

hello, goodbye

It's time for some spring cleaning. There is LOTS of change happening - positive - health care passed, I've been cast in a really great and exciting pilot www.PioneerOne.tv, and it's beautiful here in Brooklyn.

There is also some letting go - my membership at Yoga High has expired, I've decided to put my yoga teaching career on hold to (once again) pursue acting, and my dear friend (read: ex-boyfriend) and roommate is moving out.

I'm thinking about getting a cat. To keep the loneliness at bay.

To help the process of moving on, mentally and physically, and hopefully finally heal some of the crazy digestive things I have been dealing with over the past couple years, I am doing a 5 day green juice fast. I'm terrified. And thrilled. At the same time.

My most recent theme seems to be that nothing is black and white. Health care isn't perfect, sometimes you have to give up one love to pursue another, you will miss dearly the people you can't live with, and saving a cat is selfish.

Sometimes you have to to through some shit (or quite literally get rid of it) to feel better and get to the other side.

I'll keep you posted here on the spring cleaning, I am sure I'll be crawling the walls around day two.

10 days to go!

Meow

remedial awakening

So tonight I would like to discuss spirituality and all the hoopla around consciousness and awakening and the like. Because you know what? Although I do believe becoming conscious is where we're going, I feel that some of the messages on how to get there have taken a twisted route. Let me just say, I feel a helluva lotta pressure to meditate. To raise my consciousness, find stillness, and commune with the Universe. And I don't. Not regularly. I can't. And before youz all get "you have to try harder" and "don't say can't" - I offer this:
A few years back, in undergrad, (okay - a LOT of years back) I was in a body movement class. And I was learning about chakras and moving and rolling around on the floor and creating dance pieces about Halloween candy. And I tried so hard, I felt so silly and totally out of water, but I was giving it my all. MY all being the operative here. So naturally I was crushed at the end of the semester when I got a B - the teacher saying something to the effect that I hadn't let myself totally get into it.

6 months ago, when applying to Yoga School, I came up against a similar thing when I was looking at applying to a couple schools that required a handstand practice. At the time - I didn't have one - because I was terrified of them. And I thought - no one knows what injury or trauma, fear or holding that I have in my body that might be preventing me from flipping onto my hands. And how can anyone say that my inability to do it wouldn't make me a good teacher?

Why does some rule or another's perception of where our bodies are hold us back from where we are trying to go - when it's clearly toward opening - RIGHT FROM WHERE WE ARE. Our bodies are so personal and our expression in them so completely individual that in reality one can never really know anyone else's true experience. There are similarities of course, but that isn't the same thing.

And you know what? In the world of physicality - I am in the remedial group. I am. But I'm trying like hell, and maybe even more than most because I know I am so behind. I'm working on letting go of trauma and fear with an almost reckless abandon - but it is still a process.

You see, I think there has become a standard set of rules that have been applied to what gets you and A, into some yoga programs, and makes a serious spiritual practice. And I'm here to call bullshit.

Maybe we could step back to see that some people need a bit of 101 to get to a place where then can do a handstand, swing their hips freely, and sit in a daily meditation. I think someday when I've learned to calm my anxiety through a variety of techniques which I now employ other than tranquilizers, I will happily sit on a cushion.

Until then?

My 5 second handstand practice at the wall rocks the house.

Totally an A.

xx

the freedom sandwich

And then sometimes - the non-nightshade eating, refined carb-o-phobe vegan NEEDS a turkey sandwich. With cheese. And sun-dried tomatoes. On a bagel. With a coke. I had such an attack the other night - and have been out of control since.
It. Feels. Awesome.

I have dedicated so much time to health and healing and learning and cleansing and yoga and eating greens and brown rice and juicing and I finally hit the proverbial wall. My health has passed the point of balance and is sweeping into the territory of doing what is "good" and "correct" and "perfect" - which inevitably for me is also followed by extreme guilt, anxiety and panic.

This is not to say that I don't believe in eating a mostly vegetarian, organic, whole foods based diet. Aside from the fact that I personally feel better eating clean beautiful food, there is too much evidence out there which points to the fact that our Standard American Diet is making us sick. If you haven't read Fast Food Nation, The China Study, Food and Healing, or seen Food Inc., check them out. The point here is not meat vs. vegan, processed vs. whole or even Secret vs. baking soda - let's be clear.

The point here, is freedom.

The first thing that came into my mind during my turkey sandwich extravaganza (OK, maybe second as the first was mostly just "HELL YES") was something I read in Food and Healing by Annemaire Colbin. On page 33, she describes 7 universal laws of how things work. Here are 3:

Everything changes: Nothing remains the static. Energy moves constantly, within and among systems. Thus, the diet that heals us must change as we change.

Everything has an opposite: Everything has a front and a back. Opposites are complementary, connected like two ends of a stick or two sides of a coin, and separated by degrees. Opposites may change into one another, and often do, either gradually or suddenly.

Energy moves in a pendulum swing, between opposites: All motion is the result of expansion and contraction, to and fro, in rhythmic alternation. When the swing arrives at its extreme position, it reverses direction and heads the opposite way. Day turns into night, winter into summer, the in-breath into the out-breath.

So I feel that A) I can't be surprised after months of kale that I would find myself in a almost desperate state for turkey, B) the key to any real health, healing or balance is to learn to listen to what it is we really need - it's a constantly changing ever-evolving living and breathing dance, and C) the most important thing is my right to exercise the freedom to choose for myself, and only for myself, what is right for me at any given time. Not because Macrobiotics say I shouldn't eat spinach, the colonic guy says I should drink juice for breakfast, or my dear father thinks I'm an idiot cause I don't eat steak.

We can only find real balance in the freedom, and there is soooo much freedom in balance.

Off in search of rainbow sprinkles...

xxx

the art of love

It's been a crazy week, what with all the Valentine's Day shenanigans. On account of my apparent laziness and chocolate induced stupor I am merely going to post my latest article. What you don't see is that I actually attended this workshop in the middle of November. Due to the need for some serious editing and my inability to want to see it again for awhile - it has taken 3 months to publish. I think it makes some pretty interesting points, I would love to hear all of your comments. I actually spent over an hour Skyping with Hari Nam about a month ago to get more clarification; I highly recommend his workshops if you can get to one. Anyway, without further ado...

The Art of Love

One divorce and two post divorce breakups under my belt, and I am ready to admit that I haven’t got this relationship thing figured out. The definition of insanity, after all, is doing the same thing over expecting a different result.

I recognize that my yoga practice has been the only thing for the past year that has kept me sane. Realizing this, I wondered if yoga might also help in my dark relationship corner and signed up for a lecture at Kundalini Yoga Park Slope titled The Art of Love.

Keep in mind that at this point - I know very little about Kundalini yoga. So I had a nice dinner and headed out into the night; imagining how the awakening of my spinal energy might finally bring me everlasting love.

Kundalini Yoga Park Slope is located in a brownstone on a gorgeous block near Prospect Park. Everything inside is white, and it is maybe the most serene place I have ever been. The lecture was led by Hari Nam Singh Khalsa, a 30 plus year kundalini yoga teacher and couples counselor based in Portland. Extremely chatty and open, I discover he too has been through divorce. He is also a lawyer. As it is my first Kundalini experience, Hari Nam kindly offers to teach a bit of yoga before the discussion. Note to self – don’t eat dinner 15 minutes before kundalini. We started with breath of fire, and moved through about 30 minutes of abdominal exercises and squats – awakening my happily digesting dinner energy. The fantasy that kundalini yoga was sitting in lotus pose feeling the energy move up my spine? Shattered.

Hari Nam travels the world giving these lectures because he believes strongly in congruency; he sees a deep disconnect between peoples’ spiritual lives and personal lives, pointing out that we are working on merging with the infinite but not with the person we are sleeping next to. Yoga is practiced for personal and spiritual development, and in Hari Nam’s eyes our intimate relationships are the best watermark for this progress - “a person’s spiritual evolution is related to their ability to function in a healthy relationship with another human”. It turns out that in the kundalini yoga tradition, the highest spiritual path is one of a householder; a regular person with a family and a job living with a certain level of consciousness. That impressed me. I do think in many ways it would be easier to be a nun than in a relationship; at least some of mine.

“The problem today, is that everyone is lonely” Hari Nam begins after the exercises. In a desperate attempt to soothe ourselves we turn to alcohol, food, stuff and relationships to fill our deep loneliness. The truth of it is, he says, is that life is a lonely journey. We are an intimate group, three women and the co-director of the center Sat Jagat Singh. It is funny that we are all attracted to the workshop as one of us is divorced, one single, and one married. We are all searching despite our relationship status. The reason for this becomes clear as Hari Nam explains the only relationships we can really ever count on are the one we have with the divine, and the one we have with ourselves. And now I realize that I am in a bit of a pickle, because myself and I are barely acquainted, at best. I wonder if the other women agree.

Hari explains the real key here, is to know yourself. If one really knows and accepts who they are, the desperate need for something or someone to complete us fades. Yoga helps us to become more intimate with ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually; which is paramount if we are to ever become truly intimate with another. I always did think that part of Jerry McGuire was a bit over the top. Why can’t we see the rest of the movie, where he sick of being completed? I know from personal experience that after time the nagging desire for me to complete myself, once again, rears its ugly head. This is usually the point where I start trying to change my partner. I mean really, if he could just spend some more quality time with me, stop being so angry and leave the toilet seat down, everything would be fine. Right?

Sat Jagat Singh warns, “don’t think you can change anyone else. You can only change yourself to accept your partner exactly as they are”. Woops. He also offers that it is through satsang and discipline that we begin to know ourselves. It is the commitment to this practice of yoga, of knowing ourselves, that changes all of our relationships. It is rather poetic to me that a yoga practice and a relationship both require the C word. This type of discipline takes patience and perseverance I think, two qualities that are antithetical to our culture. It is no wonder we are becoming more and more lonely, and more and more desperate to fill up with the fleeting shiny promises of whiter teeth, an iPhone or a new boyfriend. I have even gotten a bit sneaker about it, thinking I really need a new yoga mat. Hiding my emptiness by wrapping it up in a “something for my spiritual development” package.

Hari Nam talks a lot about marriage, and I pay attention. He says marriage is the highest form of yoga and that there are really only two good reasons to get married. The first being coziness; it can be cruel and cold out there, and there is nothing wrong with finding a partner to create a beautiful safe home with. The second reason is to help one another on our spiritual paths. This union is not as easy because this partner will challenge as well as support us. A really spectacular marriage however, is one where there is a spiritual component; two individuals come together in a union, which has a bigger purpose. He says that if we’re not in a relationship for either of these reasons, then we are just there to get our emotional needs met because we aren’t whole ourselves. Gulp. Shel Silverstein images of me rolling around looking for my missing piece flash before me. Smashing all sorts of shapes into the nice pie-sized opening.

I believe on some level though, every relationship is walking a spiritual path – whether we are conscious of it or not. Each experience makes us either more aware or more miserable which then can lead us to desiring the awareness. Choosing to be in a relationship consciously is really taking it to the next level, and I realize that is what I’ve been looking for. True love is fearless, courageous and therefore not easy Hari says, because it requires us to be so vulnerable. “Divorce didn’t kill me.We can survive it, the sky is still blue.” When we are this fearless incredible strength is discovered, knowing that we can never really be hurt. My does this sounds nice after the past year in fetal position.

We end the evening with some delicious chai and the idea that you need to “be that which you want to find in a relationship”. Considering that I don’t want to date anyone that is jaded, suspicious, and makes me jump through hoops to prove I won’t hurt them and can thoroughly clean the bathroom, it’s safe to say that I have some work to do here.

I am extremely grateful to Hari Nam, and the co-directors Guru Surya and Sat Jagat Singh. I left this workshop with a lot more insight and maybe even a little hope that I too might someday have a real partnership not based on mutual emotional-need fulfilling. And this safe, warm temple is a great place to, sigh, get to know myself better.

For more information about Kundalini Yoga Park Slope please visit www.kundaliniyogaparkslope.com. Hari Nam Singh Khalsa can be reached at www.yogaheaven.com and www.spiritualcounselor.org.

laughter yoga

Last week I was luck enough to attend a Laughter Yoga class as part of an article I was writing for Yoga City NYC. Due to my long-windedness, part of it had to be edited out, so I am going to put the full version here... I rather liked it. Check it out and if you can make it to a class, I recommend it! In Laughter and Love,

Alexxx

It’s Tuesday night, and I am heading to my first experience at the Laughter Yoga Salon. It’s cold out, I’m really tired, fairly cranky and pretty sad. I don’t know how I’m going to be pleasant enough to get through a laughing class. It isn’t long before I realize however, that this is the whole point.

“There’s nothing funny about Laughter Yoga” says laughter coach Francine Shore. It’s true. Laughter Yoga, created in the mid 1990’s by Dr. Madan Kataria doesn’t contain a humor component. Based on the ideas that laughter is the best medicine and humor is subjective, Dr. Kateria created a series of exercises, which basically trick the body. Our bodies can’t tell the difference between spontaneous and simulated laughter, yet we reap all the benefits either way. Benefits that we all could seriously use: increases in our immune system and endorphins, and decreases in cortisol levels, blood pressure, arthritis, asthma, depression and anxiety. Laughter Yoga has also helped people suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s; who report less intense tremors after the laughter therapy. Laughter Yoga may also be the greatest tool in dealing with our often stressful lives.

Francine grew up in what she calls a “laughing family” that always used humor to get through hard times. She learned to cope with sadness and depression, dyslexia and body image dysmorphia by being the class clown. It wasn’t until she took the Laugher Training with Dr. Kataria eight years ago however, that her life really began to turn around. More than just laughter, this yoga also trains us to change how we can respond to the painful situations we encounter. Many of the exercises mock things such as breaking a treasured vase, getting a ticket, or loosing all your money while you laugh through it. This trains us that we have other options in dealing with stressful situations.

Back in class, I find myself feeling a bit ridiculous as I play little improv games and pretend to laugh with four other grown women. The exercises are broken into three categories: playful, yogic (mostly pranayama based) and value based; exercise that help us in letting go. Eye contact is the most important part. It is key that we connect with each other as we dance around the room. Each exercise lasts only a few minutes. Some are more wild and aerobic, others are movements to deep breathing followed by heart opening laughter. My favorites were where we pretended to see ourselves in fun mirrors and when we paired up and made lion faces. I am not unfamiliar with some of this work; I’ve seen a lot of similar games in my 10 plus years training as an actor. But this time it is different. As the class progresses, I have some sense that these women are really fighting for something. There is a commitment and an honesty that I have never seen in an acting class. At some point it dawns on me, that we’re really here fighting for something. For our health, our happiness, our lives.

After a seated, guided meditation Francine does a little touch-base with each of us. She is a counselor in addition to coach. I am touched by each woman’s honesty and openness. They all say that the yoga has helped them to deal with stress; it has been an amazing benefit not only in their health, but also as a tool to get through hard times. One woman shared that now instead of getting down on herself for perceived mistakes or failure, she is able to just laugh it off. Another woman said that she has used some of the exercises with her high-school students which results in a completely different and positive energy in the class. I myself share that before class I was tired and stressed, and after I was still tired, but relaxed. Francine explains that this is the key; our situations, problems and tiredness don’t go away, but the yoga puts us in a different place to deal with them. Aside from the physical release such as the one I felt, over time the yoga trains us that we have another option; laughter. It allows us to feel better, see things differently, and move forward in a more positive mind-set. “We all have adversity,” she says, “It is just how you deal with it.”

“Laughter Yoga is really intimate,” I say to Francine after class, and she agrees. There is a bonding and connecting that happens when you laugh with someone. It’s true. I feel a greater heart opening tonight than I ever have from wheel or camel. I feel a fierce connection with these strangers, and I want them to find peace and happiness as much as I want to find my own. Make no mistake, Laughter Yoga isn’t easy - you burn 300 – 400 calories an hour dancing and hopping around. The harder part was getting over my ego and letting myself play and feel silly. It wasn’t until we were pretending to smoke a joint and I started eating Captain Crunch that I realized it was really okay to be free and creative; I was the only one holding myself back. Francine says that as children we laugh 400 times per day because we live in our hearts. As adults stuck in our heads we laugh a mere 12 times per day. And I wonder if maybe even less in this high-stress over-achieving city of New York. There are only about two other Laughter Coaches here, but 6,000 worldwide. Yet I can’t think of a better, faster way to alleviate some of the tension now in our unemployed, uninsured, and uninspired climate. Apparently companies that wouldn’t give her the time of day before are now calling up and saying “We need you.”

And with good reason. Aside from being one of only 3 coaches in the city, Francine is one of the most beautiful people I have met. She told me how for five years she didn’t date because she had gained weight and felt horrible about herself. Through the yoga however she has been able to find self-acceptance and love. She now feels sexy and beautiful as a plus-size woman; her confidence radiating from within. More than anything, it is her compassion that is palpable. Synchronistically, walking to a coffee shop to continue the interview, Francine and I run into one of her students who couldn’t make class due to a minor emergency. Happy to see her safe and okay, Francine pauses for a moment on the corner of 6th avenue and 23rd street to laugh with her.

Laughter Yoga is the union of people laughing; a movement of world peace through laughter. “It would be pretty difficult to aim if you were laughing so hard your couldn’t shoot straight” she says. And I wonder if even more importantly, our hearts would be so open that we wouldn’t pick up the gun in the first place.

Come out and laugh with Francine at her annual post Valentines soiree for women on February 16th. For more information please visit www.GrabbaGiraffe.com