Sunday, September 25, 2005

Last hurrah at the Beer Garden

It was a big birthday for MoJo and since we were in California on his actual birthday spending time with MY family, the NY celebration got postponed to this weekend.

Here's the group at the Bohemian Beer Garden. A nice crowd came to celebrate, including his two brothers (can you see them standing in the back??). I suppose since the majority of these folks are engineers I found myself to be one of the three women in the group. *sigh* Such a male dominated profession... Anyway! Joe's friends are a great group of people and are all characters in their own special way. Several pitchers of beer and plates of kielbasa were consumed with a round or two of Uno played!

MoJo's friends and couple, El Biólogo & La Ingeniera recently took a trip to Peru and brought back a gift for him. It was an Andean hat!!! And apparently, El Biólogo & La Ingeniera say that it's not just any Andean hat, it's the one especially reserved for el jefe, the boss. Doesn't he look maniacal?? I'm just thrilled because I have a more colorful Andean hat that I got from Peru two years ago so I can't wait to walk down the street together and match (somewhat)!!!

My intention was to have a cake at the Beer Garden but apparently no outside food is allowed. So they confiscated my chocolate cake for several hours until we were left. Thankfully, MoJo lived nearby so the party moved over to his apartment where a nice rendition of happy birthday was sung and cake was sliced. We even took in an episode of the Simpsons. En route to his apartment, you'll see the only low point of the evening for MoJo. I'm not sure if he is scared of the dark or if his helium ballons were blowing too hard in the wind but he doesn't look so happy in this picture. Aaaaaww!

A lively poker game ensued after candle blowing. MoJo won the largest portion of the pot. Hooray!! Happy birthday honey!!!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Gentle Variations & Dinner with MoJoShowBiz's Famiglia

Today, my "regular" yoga teacher came back to teach the usual Saturday morning class. It was great to see B again as she had taken several weeks off to complete her finals for classes in her Masters program. I told her about my new discovery last week with the triangle pose causing the old back pain to return so she taught me really good and gentle variations for the triangle and reverse triangle poses. They worked great since I do not feel any back pain tonight!!

MoJoShowBiz's parents took the family out to dinner at Agnanti, a nice Greek restaurant by Astoria Park for a belated celebration of Joe's birthday. There were 8 of us all together: MoJoShowBiz's parents, grandparents, his youngest brother and her girlfriend, and us. His middle brother was missing -- off playing at one of his gigs. The restaurant was a nice family restaurant; they provided dessert and coffee on the house. Can you believe they offered it to us for free?? Says a lot about this place, right? The thing is though...I can't remeber its name!

Thursday, September 22, 2005



The Bronx Bombers are ahead of Boston by a 1/2 a game. All I have to say is: Bring it on Boston!! Bring it on!! 'Nuff said.

For up to date info, check out the NY Yankees's official website or the NY Daily News or NY Newsday.

Work it Randy!!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Back pain

Damn!! Last Saturday's triangle pose caught up with me. I'm feeling the usual pain in the right side of my back. Talked to The Trainer today about. Nor more positions that involve great torque-ing, he told me. Is that even a word? It's The Trainer's, not mine. Basically, I have to lay off the spinal twists. This stinks!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Fr. S's Birthday

Celebrated Fr. S's birthday today with friends. I took this action shot -- doesn't it speak volumes to the fun we had?!?!?

My mom & I got to know Fr. S back in 1993 when he served as a priest in our former parish. Even though my mom and I were always close, we had our rough patches especially during my teenage years when I challenged her and exerted my sense of independence all the time. It's the normal stuff we all go through as teenagers with our parents. Anyway, Fr. S met us at that point and because of his warmth and vivacious personality, we developed a friendship with him and let him into our lives. He was so helpful to me & my mom as we went through our typical growing pains! He kept reminding me to be loving and patient with my mom and he kept reminding my mom to let me go.

When he returned to Nigeria in 1996, we lost touch (back then, email was a brand new concept) although I had an snail address for him. Our daily lives were just so full that there simply was no more time to write. Mom and I never knew what happened to one of our favorite priests.

Then last September, our pastor announced a new priest in our parish. Mom and I couldn't believe what we were hearing!! The very same Fr. S who we loved and last saw 9 years ago was back in our midst again?!?!?! He had been in the borough for several years and was recently transfered to our church. We had no idea!!! When we surprised him with a visit to the rectory after Mass, the three of us were completely overwhelmed with joy at the reunion. The look on Fr. S's face, upon recognizing old friends re-entering his life, was so indescrible that I can only say it looked like a perfect Kodak moment. We hugged, laughed, cried, and relayed milestone events from the past 9 years. The joy I felt was truly incredible: I don't think I've ever felt it before. It was not connected to material wealth or accomplishment; it was simply because it came from love.

I believe that nothing in life is serendipitious. God brought us together, separated us, and brought us back together for a reason although such reasons may not be revealed to us at that very moment or even ever. But I take these beautiful moments with humility and gratitude.

Mom and I have opened our hearts to him and welcomed him into our family especially since he does not have any here. And I know he has done the same for us. We love you Fr. S! Thank you for being a wonderful friend and spiritual advisor to us! May God continue to bless you on your birthday and always. We thank God for bringing you into the world, for the special gifts He bestowed upon you, and for the light you bring to our lives. Happy Birthday!!!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Eureka: it was the triangle pose!

About a year ago, I injured myself in a yoga class. Guess I pushed myself too far past the edge while doing a reverse warrior pose (see left) and then kabam! I felt my back snap. When it happened, I knew I did something wrong. The back injury lead to pain not only in my back but immediately to my glutes, my bands, my hips, and my hamstrings as well. I was a complete mess! I couldn't sit or even lie down without pain shooting in these areas. My mom kept wagging her finger telling me that I shouldn't have pushed myself so hard. But yoga was so awesome, I responded.

I went to see a doctor who told me I injured my back because of really weak ab muscles. Apparently, muscles in the back, abs, and quads are all kept in a happy balance by the pelvis. When one area is weak, the other areas compensate. And in the case of strenuous stretching like yoga, my back was overcompensating for the weak ab muscles and decided it had enough. A yoga teacher once told me that the body was one big muscle. I finally understood what he was talking about. So off to 8 weeks of physical therapy. It helped somewhat but the pain didn't completely go away.

I lived in intermittent pain throughout the year. I tried to go back to yoga after a few months, but the pain came back. Then I started seeing The Trainer last May. He has been a godsend!!! He's a marathon runner, a master trainer, and works at my personal gym. My employer hired him to provide orientation sessions in our newly re-furbished office gym and he opened up his training services to me and other colleagues. I see him weekly! He is such an expert on the body and muscles that I trust him like I would my doctor! He said he would help me work through my pain and I eagerly said, "yes, please!"

He's taught me excellent stretches that I do first thing in the morning and another time in the day, he's encouraged me to drink 90 ounces of water a day (that's 3 Nalgene bottles folks) which forces me to get out of my chair and run to the bathroom, and he's really showed me the importance of daily cardiovascular exercise (3x/week: a brisk 4-mile walk in Central Park with colleagues in 1hr 10 min, 3x/week: an hour in a spin class or on the elliptical, 1x/week: weight training with Mark, 1x yoga: to stretch and meditate) to get fresh, oxygenated blood into my system and for a healthy heart. Although I am not 100% recovered, I am on the mend. I feel more stiffness than pain these days and I've gone back to gentle yoga (nothing too intense yet).

Thanks to to a high protein, low-carb diet ('cuz you need carbs to do intense cardio) and daily exercise, I've also lost more than 10 lbs and have gone down 3 dress sizes. My mom says that I've disappeared. But I feel great and healthier than ever, even more than I did when I was on the crew team in college.

Today's gentle yoga class consisted of some standing postures including that dreaded reverse warrior pose. But I didn't push myself and I really forced myself to breathe. From reverse warrior, we transitioned to triangle pose (see right), and it was when my teacher came to help me adjust my lower hip forward did I feel the twinge in my bands...the old injury!!! So that's how I aggrevated these muscles! I eased off and did a variation.

Awareness is key. Immediately after class, I stretched my bands the way Mark showed me and I did some other back stretches. It all helped. I feel okay this evening. Phew!

You know, at first I was really upset that I caused all these injuries to myself. But I see now my injuries as a part of me and have accepted them as so. Regardless of whether or not they heal completely, it is because of them that I have become so aware of my body and conscious of the importance of exercise and a healthy diet. If it were not for the pain, I wouldn't have started walking or weight training nor would I have taken the time to stretch properly. Suffering is a part of life and there is great cleansing and healing through the process of suffering -- I always believed that on a spiritual level. Now I see that it is true also on a physical level.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Rejected by Prof D

There was an email in my inbox basically saying that I didn't make the cut for the Anthropology of Violence class. Guess Hobbes, Nietzche, and the remaining clan are shelved for this semester.

Sent an email to The MA Advisor to see if she'll let me into her Principles of Anthropology course even though at first, I requested to place out of it because I felt it would be redundant for me when in fact, I wanted to be available to take the Violence class. I got rejected.

Logistically, I want both my classes to meet on the same day so that I only have to travel to CU once a week from work. The only class that could support this original plan is to take the Principles class. Sometimes, you just have to come crawling back...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

First Day of Class, My 2nd Semester

Although I was dredding the first day of class, I suprised myself at how much I actually enjoyed it. See, I'm an official bonafide geek who just loves the first days of school as I tote around new school supplies and shop for unweathered and unmarked books. I'm also a true Aries who always loves the feel of new beginnings.

I signed up again for two classes since it's all I can handle as I work full-time. Four more semesters of part-time classes and full-time work. The end seems like an eternity away.

My 1st class, The Anthropology of Violence, was gravely overcrowded. Thirty students showed up and the professor hoped only for 15. He should've put a limit on the class during registration but he didn't; now he has to figure out which 15 he wants to keep. So now I wait for word. We all had to write down our year, the program we were in, and our background in social theory. This class is heavily inundated with the modern (defined by Prof D as post-Descartes) Western philosophers such as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hegel, Nietzche, Foucault. I'm a little intimated since I've had minimal exposure to their writings and this class is a lot of work. But I'm up for the challenge. I'm planning to no longer have a life any longer this semester anyway.

I await to see if I made the "cut". If not, there won't be any love lost. I've already got another class as a back-up.

My 2nd class, Race & the Articulation of Difference, was rockin'. So much correlation between the events in New Orleans and the readings we are assigned. I really look forward to this class.

MoJo has already waved good-bye to me since he knows how busy I can get. I will try to be better about managing my time. I am committed to eating healthy and exercising daily. I am committed to having down time especially with my family, friends, and MoJo.

Keep your fingers crossed that I don't lose my sanity!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

California Dreamin'

School starts tomorrow and before my life gets sucked into the world of books and papers, I thought a 10 day vacation would be a good idea. California is always my fall back vacation since I love the dang state and I've got friends to stay with in LA & San Fran. MoJo & I went for our very first "faraway, get-there-by-plane" vacation. The plan: 10 days from LA via the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway 1) to San Fran with pit stops in Santa Barbara, SLO (San Luis Obispo), San Simeon, Big Sur, Salinas, and Gilroy.

Here we are in Muscle Beach in Venice. Check out our hairdos!

We stayed with Angelito in LA. It was good to see him and catch up! Drama and gossip were exchanged at record speeds since there was much to tell. I miss him since his departure from NYC but I have a feeling he'll be back.

Visits to other friends and family occured including one at a chinese buffet with the A clan on MoJo's big birthday!! He seemed a little sad at turning a big number but I know he will come to embrace his wise age. I love you honey!! Old man or not! Just kidding. LOL :) We also got to see friends that I consider family. Three G brothers were present with their spouses/significant others; unfortunately the eldest and dad were missing from the group. Fun times and tons of laughter were had by all.

Up to Santa Barbara we went where we were greeted by amazing weather typical of Southern California minus the glitz and facade of Los Angeles. Rosemary and lavender were growing in bushes along the sidewalk and in spite of its touristy feel, Santa Barbara still felt quaint and provinical. MoJo & I thought it would be a nice place to retire.

On the right is a picture of Mission Santa Barbara, one of the many missions built by Franciscans in CA all forming a chain in the state. These missions were similar to the ones I saw in Argentina.

North of Santa Barbara, we stayed in SLO (as the locals call it) as our home base for exploring Hearst Castle in San Simeon. En route to San Simeon, we drove by a sign pointing towards the town of Harmony, so of course I had to take a picture and pose somehow in relation to the town's name (I have other pictures of me at The Gap, AZ and Paradox, NY. A little quirk of mine, I know) so here I am doing a variation on Vrksasana (Tree Pose); I am one with the earth. Ommm....

A trip to the central coast is incomplete without a visit to Hearst Castle. Worth a look if you're in the area.

Next stop Big Sur for 2 days of hiking and enjoying the striking beauty of the jagged coastline. Too bad it was foggy the whole time. The sun evaded the coast but was found a bit inland. I had done this trip 5 years ago and the weather was perfect. I was sorely disappointed this time since it wasn't how I hoped it would be especially since MoJo had not done this drive before. If visibility is really good, you can see miles ahead of you and perfect sunsets too. When you drive the windy roads, it's just you and the road along the edge of a huge cliff with the ocean to one side and the cliff on the other. We did not see sunsets nor stars. The plus side was that we stayed at Kirk Creek Campground, a first-come, first-serve campground of only 35 sites that is located at the top of a cliff right by the ocean. It was still really nice nonetheless. And sweet MoJo reassured me that the drive, in spite of the fog, was still spectacular. "Mysterious" was how he described it.

The next day, we were off to the north for SF. Unlike other tourists who probably would've gone to Monterrey and Carmel, we decided to go a different route and head towards Salinas where Nobel Prize winning writer John Steinbeck was born and raised. We visited the Steinbeck Museum and I come away with a whole new appreciation for Steinbeck. I read Of Mice and Men and The Red Pony in HS (on the left is me on the red pony...maybe I should send it to my HS English teacher?) but never really liked his work. I think it was because I couldn't really relate to the people in his stories (the farmers, the migrant laborers) and therefore couldn't fully imagine the story in my head. Now, I am looking forward to re-visiting Steinbeck and reading The Grapes of Wrath, The Pearl, The Winter of Our Discontent, or even his non-fiction books like Travels with Charley or America and Americans. *sigh* So many little time.

One gallery at the museum had a traveling exibit called "The Graceful Envelope". The Smithsonian's Postal Museum encouraged artists and calligraphers to decorate envelopes and mail it to the Smithsonian for entry into an annual contest. Each year, the contest may have a different theme like this one on the left, which was "Pushing the Envelope". You see Paul Bunyan in the top envelope (don't forget to look closely at the stamp) and another equally good entry on the bottom. Quite ingenious and beautiful were many of these graceful envelopes.

With our tummies growling, we headed 20 miles northeast to Gilroy, the "Garlic Capital of the World". You can tell by the smell in the air when you drive into town. Since MoJo & I are huge garlic lovers, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to sample heavenly, garlicky dishes. Below is MoJo enjoying a delicious Gilroy Garlicky Chicken dish at Mama Mia's. I had the winning 2005 Garlic Festival Cook-Off dish, Basil and Garlic-Stuffed Sea Scallops Wrapped in Prosciutto. We even had a chance to sample garlic ice cream. Amazing!!!

Before (see his look of anticipation) & After (see his sad yet satiated look)

The final stop after Gilroy was San Francisco! We stayed with friends I had met 2 years ago at this time while hiking the Inca Trail. The Acupuncturist in Training & The Journalist (see our picture in my previous entry) were, like Angelito, the best hosts. They were welcoming and generous with their time, their food, and their space. Their little bungalow in Oakland was so cozy and we were happy to call it home for the next several days.

MoJo & I ate our way through the Bay Area, taking in Ethiopian, Vietanamese, Japanese, and oh, the heavenly Mexican food. Yum. I don't know what it is out west, but the Mexican food is sooo much better than home.

We schlepped the hills of San Fran to visit Chinatown, North Beach, the downtown area, and we even stumbled upon Little Saigon! We visited Alcatraz and imagined what it would be like to be a prisoner. And after a trip to just two Sonoma vineyards for some wine-tasting, we came away with 4 bottles of wine. Now MoJo has begun to discern the different nuances of wine and can move beyond his usual, "it's fruity" description. All in all, a wonderful trip which already seems like a distant memory.