The Personal Touch at Wegmans

Lolly is my favorite checker at Wegmans. She speaks in a friendly, conspiratorial tone, kind of out-of-the-side-of-her-mouth. Her voice has a very peculiar timbre, too. Something between foghorn and an oboe. It intrigues me.

But the thing I really like about her, and why I will wait in her line even if there’s a faster one, …well, there are a few things.

First, she’s is just a great checker. She looks down the belt and checks out the lay of the land, quickly assesses my stuff, and then starts to mentally group things for bagging.

Bagging is a fine art. Lolly knows how to sort and how to bag. She’s one of those Tetris kinds of baggers, but she will never sacrifice fragility for spatial symmetry. 

For example, she would never just shove my loaf of raisin bread into the corner of a bag, even if the space seemed custom designed for it. Oh no. Food before form. Always.

She’s not particularly chatty. But I feel she’s there for me. She sees me. 

Today a group of three women were in line ahead of me. I overheard them talking to Lolly about how hard it was to raise 3 kids as a single parent. Lolly said she understood because she had been a single parent, too.

When they finished and it was my turn, Lolly said to me: “It’s a lot like being a bartender here. People tell you everything.” And laughed.

I corrected her. “No,” I said. They tell YOU everything. It’s because of how you are.”

She just shrugged and went back to efficiently scanning and weighing and bagging my stuff.

All the way home I tried to nail down just what it is about Lolly that makes me cruise all the checkers first, to see if she’s working, and then stand in her line even when there are way faster ones.

She’s not particularly smiley or chatty.  That’s not it.

She’s just present

She seems to care about my groceries, yes, but I also feel she she sees me as a person, too. I’m not just the next customer to process. I feel a human connection with her, and apparently, I’m not the only one. People tell her things. Intimate things about their lives.

As more and more grocery chains add self-scanners, the human checkers are going to be phased out, I’m afraid, and for the most part, good riddance to them, because frankly, most of them they act like robots now, anyway.

But it makes me sad to think that someday there won’t be any more people like Lolly; people who you don’t know personally, but who make you feel more like a person for having interacted with them.

Tooth of Doom

My tooth of doom. Number 15. Upper left, all the way in the back. My periodontist has been “worried” about this tooth for years. Every time I go he says, “I’m worried about this tooth.”

Every time he says that I think to myself: “I’m gonna die with this goddamn tooth, Buster.” He’s cute, but a little bit of an Eeyore, my periodontist. When he talks to me with his dental loupes on, I can’t figure out where to look.

Too many eyes to worry about.

Dentist wearing loupes

I’m pretty sure he doesn’t stay up at night worried about my tooth number 15.

But last night I was up worried about tooth number 15. In the last week or so I have been feeling a little, what? Nudgie back there? I opened my mouth to eat one day and there was some TMJ-ish kinda ouchy. But it went away. Then last night I woke up with a mean headache behind my left eye. Tooth of Doom acting up?

Dr. Eeyore  found a little inflammation in tooth 15, and also in my fang (tooth 11) so he squirted some antibiotic in both of those gum areas and I’m to call him in a week with a report. We shall see.

On the food front, I am still craving coffee, and especially so this morning when I woke tired from fractured sleep. I eyed my Verismo with longing and could practically smell the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.


I am going to have to talk to Jennifer about this.

I then drove to Culligan to pick up water for home and the studio. The spunky dude who loaded my car with the water read my bumper sticker and said, “I don’t get it.”

I said, “It’s sarcastic.”

My bumper sticker says: “At least the war on the environment is going well.”

I thought of trying to explain it to him. But no.

Today was Day 2 of my attempted yoga streak. I practiced with my late class and that totally counts, even though I feel guilty practicing with them. Better that than letting my practice die.

So I’m all set in my Fundies today.

Another day.


Help is on the way

Day 3 of this no coffee, no sugar, no alcohol torture. It’s not the alcohol or the sugar I miss, it’s the coffee.  I do feel a little better today, and that’s because help is on the way. Last night I got this text from my friend Jennifer Ness Schmid:

“Hi, You should not have to got through caffeine withdrawal without adrenal support! Your body doesn’t have the inner juice yet to heal your eye, but you’re on the right track. I have a few ideas..will you do a free phone session with me? Xoxox”

I love her. She must have read my post from yesterday and thought “Uh-oh, Kath’s in trouble” and immediately sent this offer. Yeah, she will help me with “adrenal support” but the support that really warmed my heart last night was her caring concern.

Ever since I broke off with my naturopath I have felt a little out at sea. Fortunately, I am in really good health other than this nuisance eczema,  When these nuisance things do come up though, I get both obsessed and frustrated with my inability to figure them out.  My old naturopath couldn’t figure it out either, and we worked on it for 2 years.

But Jennifer is wicked good at what she does, and in addition I really love her as a person, so I am looking forward to collaborating with her in getting to the bottom of this.  I totally trust her and I can really talk to her.

She used to live here, but moved to California a number of years ago and has recently set up her own business, Oasis Wellness. We met when she started coming to my yoga classes as a new mother. She was funny, smart, beautiful and she ground her own wheat to make bread! What??

She left class one day saying that she had to go home and soak her lentils. I couldn’t imagine how a young mother with a baby and 2 other small children was finding time to grind wheat and soak lentils. But she did, and as as I got to know her better, I found that she lived the lifestyle she promoted, and is in total integrity. I love and admire that about her.

After I got that text last night I thought: How lucky am I to know such really pro people who have mad-crazy skills and are willing to support me in my hour of need?

I hope she agrees to work with me and become my new naturopath. We are going to talk on Monday.

I feel so much better already.

Thanks, Jennifer!

Learn it, Live it, Give it

One of the people who really inspire me is James Altucher. He is a bit of a goofball, and sometimes I wish he would stop talking so much, but he is so adorable and he is so audacious in the questions he asks in his podcasts, that he totally disarms his guests, and I am sure they are startled at their own degree of self-disclosure afterwards.

I mostly  listen to podcasts when I am working in the kitchen. Yesterday I made a batch of kitchari because I always need kitchari when I am alone, and I am going to be alone for the next 10 days while G is down south with her team.

So while I measured out the coriander and the fennel seeds and the cumin and the turmeric and the black mustard seed; and while I minced the ginger and rinsed the mung dal and scooped out the ghee and measured the basmati, I listened. And every once in a while put down the wooden spoon to takes notes from this really good podcast James did with Jairek Robbins who is the son of Tony Robbins.

Robbins just wrote a book called, Live It!  (which I promptly ordered), in which he describes how he operates s as a coach. He says , first you have to learn whatever you are going to teach or coach (duh).  And then you have to “live it.” He said he never coaches anyone on anything he doesn’t actually live himself.

Ding! “Yep,” I thought. Yepper.

None of that “faking it till you make it” bullshit. If you are going to tell someone they aught to be doing something, you better be doing it yourself.

If everyone operated like that, (with integrity) we would be surrounded by such paragons of authenticity, that we couldn’t help but be inspired to go out and live exemplary lives ourselves.

But instead, we tend look at advice-givers with a hairy eyeball. That’s because doctors who are fat are telling us to lose weight; and yoga teachers who smoke (god forbid) are telling us that the breath is paramount; and school teachers who haven’t cracked a serious book in a decade are telling us to read more.

So first: learn how to do it, then, live it, and after that, GIVE IT.

Yeah. Give it away. And give it without seeking or expecting credit or thanks.  Once it becomes clear that nothing is “our idea” anyway but just a reworking of someone else’s idea,  then we are happy to open source everything, so that good ideas can continue to grow and morph into great ones.




Today did not go AT ALL the way I thought it would.

I walked into the gym expecting an hour of sit-ups, pull-ups, squats and other torture at the hands of my handsome and wise trainer, but instead found myself in deep dialogue. Today we worked out together. Today’s workout was to understand and articulate. Today’s workout was to hoist aloft fear and disappointment and failure and look at it. Today we both attempted to  deadlift our body’s weight in vulnerability and empathy.

He challenged, I answered. I challenged, he answered. On and on, over and over, set after set, first high reps and low weight, then high weights and low reps. He daring me to to pick up heavier and heavier things: pain, suffering, happiness, disappointment, despair. Me daring him to watch and deal.

At the end, we were both crouched on the black gym floor, eye to eye, and I held his head in my hands, and offered everything. And took everything.

We had spent an hour and a half grappling the only thing worth grappling: life and its endless conundrums. There was no winner. Winning was never the point. Artistry was. And friendship., And deep abiding respect.

As I left, the cruel, cold February sun flooded the space..

He sat happily spooning gobs of pumpkin pie into his mouth. I floated out humming Boddhisatva by Steely Dan.

Survival Concerns

I started this day reading Oliver Sack’s moving piece about his terminal cancer diagnosis.

This part:

“Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.”

While still reflecting deeply on this, I gulped the last of my coffee and headed out to the gym in 9 degree weather to workout with my personal trainer, who said he woke up imagining hearing people eulogize him. He is thirty-something. Death, for him, is still an interesting daydream.

After an intense session of squats and pull-ups and other exercises, I dashed to the studio for a session with my private client who is doubling-down on his yoga this month to get in shape for a golf trip to the south in 2 weeks.

While he was doing hamstring stretches with a strap, I read him Sack’s piece. This led to us sitting on the wood floor, under the skylight in the yoga room, talking about death, what it means to live, and what it means to be happy.

There was no yoga today.

Afterwards, I stopped at the bank’s drive-thru window,  made a deposit, and then headed home to make a crock-pot lasagna, and walk Boomer in the painful cold.

When it is as cold as it has been for as long as it has been and there is no relief in the scrollable future on my weather app, I start to feel afraid. Not for me, but for animals and birds, and all things that live outside. As I was refilling the bird feeders, I noticed little paw prints under the porch.

Last spring we found a dead cat curled under our dryer vent.

Oliver Sack’s generation is going over the cliff. To be followed by the next generation and then mine, and then the next and the next and eventually, even my handsome personal trainer’s.

We are all going over the cliff sometime. So now is the time, as Sack’s says, to live with audacity, clarity and plain speaking.

Tonight, it is predicted to be 38 degrees below zero with the wind chills. This is the season of survival concerns. Let us all find warmth wherever we can and remember that there will be spring..

Putting Your Body Where Your Beliefs Are

I had a great conversation in my Yoga Lounge tonight after the Gentle Stretch class.

One of my students, Frank, told me that after watching a particularly distasteful video of a policeman spraying a woman in the face with pepper spray in NYC at the Occupy Wall St. demonstration, he decided that he had to go there. He is taking a half day off of work on Friday, and he and his wife will spend the whole day at the demonstration on Saturday.

(Good job, cop.  Way to inspire the masses to action!)

So many people are getting excited about this. So many people  are waking up and saying NO MORE! Enough!

(And police brutality? Really??? This simply will not stand. I am old enough to remember Kent State.  Let’s hope it will not have to come to that.)

And Frank.  The kindest, gentlest, most generous man I may have ever met, is taking a day off work, driving a long way, and staying in a hotel, just to put his body where his beliefs are; to stand in solidarity with people who don’t have a job, or health care, or who are drowning in debt as a direct result of the corrupt practices of of Wall St.

Sometimes you just have to decide: enough is enough, and take a stand.

Thanks, Frank.  Way to represent.  Godspeed.

When was the last time you put your body where your beliefs are?  Hmm?