Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2015-03-10

Florida Keys: Paddleboard Yoga as a Paddleboard Novice Fatty

To escape the brutalities of New York City Winter and Seasonal Depression, I asked my mom to give me cash instead of a present for Christmas and my birthday this year. I parlayed that into a pretty cheap vacation to the Florida Keys (her gift was enough to cover my $180 round trip flight, share of our $130 car rental and 3 nights at our cabin). Part of the way this gift helped me combat seasonal depression was putting a lot of time into researching our vacation. I went down the internet and you tube rabbit holes about things to do in the Florida Keys many Winter nights. (The FloridaKeysTV you tube channel is a treasure trove, btw.)

IMG957561All photos in this post are by Tara McCabe, who lets the class send themselves the photos she takes during the class from her phone when you return to the marina!

It was a you tube video that brought me to Paddleboard Yoga! As soon as we saw it, Dara and I decided this was a top priority vacation activity.

I’ve been doing yoga off and on for six years but I’ve never been on a paddleboard. If I want to scoot around on water I prefer a kayak, where I can sit and enjoy the water while paddling. The idea of doing yoga on a paddleboard seemed scary in a fun way–I have a hard enough time with balance in the studio! Dara had never been paddleboarding, either, and she is not a huge fan of yoga but was totally sold on the adventure.

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We made a reservation with Lazy Dog Paddle Yoga (the studio? paddleboard rental place? featured in the video) and drove down to Key West from our cabin on Big Pine Key. The marina is not in the main tourist part of Key West and is right off the only highway through the Keys, the Overseas Highway, a 2 lane affair with breathtaking views.

We arrived 10 minutes before the class just in time for our instructor Tara McCabe, who founded the Paddleboard Yoga classes with Lazy Dog owner Sue Cooper, to give a paddleboarding basics class to those of us who are new to paddleboarding. A lot of the paddle mechanics were similar to kayaking but the positioning of the arms was different and I felt like I needed to have a lot more control over the paddle given that I was going to be standing up for travel. Tara mentioned we could kneel on the paddleboard while we were first getting used to how the paddle worked to navigate, which was really helpful.

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Since we were traveling from the marina to a little inlet off the canal nearby, where the yoga class would be held, we launched in groups of 3 or so from the boat ramp. As the rest of the class was getting outfitted with their boards and paddles Dara and I signed extensive waivers and paid the $30 each for the 9:30-11AM class. We could bring a towel and a water bottle with us strapped by a bungee to our board. I did some last-minute additional sunscreen application and left the rest of our bags inside the Lazy Dog shack.

We were handed one paddle each, sized to our height, and got on our knees to be shoved off into the marina. Dara went much faster than I did and I slogged along, getting used to the way the board moved. I followed Tara’s advice and waited until we were out in the canal and had made our hard right turn before I stood up on the paddleboard and began using the paddle in the correct holding from the top form.

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Being among last to arrive in the group, and the slowest paddleboarder, I felt okay about it. One of the lessons I learned early on in my yoga practice is that there is no way to “suck” at yoga, you just got at your own pace, paying attention to your own body and where your limit is. Running my own race instead of worrying about where my skills, physical ability and flexibility fits into the rubric of the class helps me just enjoy and settle in. I am often the least bendy yogi in a class but it doesn’t make me any less capable of getting all the benefits of the class and the practice. So when I was solidly holding up the rear of the paddleboard group coming into the alcove I was already fine with it.

Once in the alcove everyone dropped their anchors (these little heavy circles of some kind of metal that were clipped to the bungees on our boards) where Tara told us. She had a good sense of where the boards would drift and where folks would be best placed so as not to bump into one another. A couple of people chose to hug the mangroves for more access to shade. Mangroves are trees that line virtually every shore in the keys, with spindly roots that poke out of the water like stilts holding up the trees–mangroves are essential to the Florida Keys as they help secure land and prevent erosion. Dara was next to them during the class and said that sometimes the mangroves tickled her as she drifted into them on her board but it felt really nice.

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I intentionally wore a fatkini to the class. I sometimes am fat in public in a political way and sometimes I think showing skin is important to be like, I’m fat, I love my body and this is how I feel comfortable. But lots of people in the class, including some guys, were wearing clothes over their suits or wearing water clothing or something that you would buy in a surf shop.

Tara (pronounced with a long A) was an incredible instructor from start to finish. I loved learning paddleboarding from her, as she delivered the lesson with the patience and sweetness of a good yoga instructor. She made sure at the beginning of the class, when we all settled into our spots, that folks were reminded that yoga is not a competition and to run their own race. I know this already, but it is always nice to have a new-to-me instructor reinforce it as a class culture.

She provided great modifications to all of the poses and reminded everyone it was an all levels class. I tried to put myself into harder poses and would sense my limit and settle into wherever that was. Being in the middle of the board by the handle was the most helpful spot for balance. When preparing for this class Dara and I anticipated that one of us would fall into the water, and it turned out to be me while getting into modified Warrior 2. I don’t even know what happened or how but suddenly I was in the water. I was the first in the class to fall. (The only other person who fell toppled during a handstand and I think that was pretty badass.) Since where we were was very shallow it was really easy for me to hop back onto my board. And it did cool me off!

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I loved the sway of being on the board during poses. I loved the moments where she had us do a pose and stick a foot or a hand or arm into the water. I actually really enjoyed doing it on the board versus a mat, because I felt like there was more cushion on my board than a traditional mat (I think this was because of the type of board I happened to be on). I also found downward facing dog much easier on the board for that reason–I was most worried about falling

Tara’s meditations were great, too! At the beginning of the class she called out the full moon we were experiencing, letting go of the junk from the Winter and opening up to the coming Spring. What she was saying was definitely right-on for me. During our shavasana/end of class corpse pose, she suggested we put a towel over our head if we wanted to (which I did, it helped with shade) and put our hands out into the water. While floating there she said, “Bevin, I need you to pull your hand up,” so I did, very used to surrender during yoga to an instructor. I kind of thought she was paddling by me as she floated among the class a bit while teaching.

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It turned out there was a tiny snake that was slithering by and heading for my hand. The raise gave him enough startle that he headed in a different direction, into the mangroves. Tara said she was glad I didn’t ask why so that she didn’t startle the class with news of the snake during the shavasana.

And then before we opened our eyes she serenaded us with a ukelele version of “I Can See Clearly Now,” which was so profound, being in that beautiful, warm place with no clouds in the sky and melting away the agita of a long, cold Winter.

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My sunscreen game was NOT on point for this adventure. Next time I am going to load up on sport sunblock SPF 80+ and reapply right before shavasana. (I was using Neutrogena dry touch waterproof SPF 55.) I got a really odd burn in parts of my body (especially my knees, which from being on the board rubbed off the sunblock and then got burnt during shavasana).

After we all grabbed our anchors and delivered them to Tara’s board before we headed back to the marina, we stood up and paddled back. I was in the back of the pack, again this time on purpose to visit with Tara. She would warn us when boats passed about what kind of wake we were in for. Unfortunately, in a deep part of the channel one of the wake waves really got me and I kind of toppled to the side and fell from my standing position. It took a lot of work for me to get back on my board. Being a fatty, it can be hard to pull yourself back up onto a board or into a floating vessel, depending on your upper body strength. (I have some but not a lot.) Tara was ready with another modification for me, this time having me try to get back on the board not from the side but from the back. That part worked, with some patience and some wiggling like a seal on a surfboard. I made it back to the marina by staying mostly sitting on my board. It was faster when I was standing but I wasn’t ready to chance it again. Also, standing required a lot of tension in my thighs to hold myself balanced and they were kind of exhausted by the end of all of that paddleboarding and yoga.

Paddleboard yoga was a total trip highlight! Dara and I had so much fun and felt so peaceful afterwards. I was super achy later, mostly my arms because I hadn’t done any serious paddling like that in a long time. I would highly recommend Lazy Dog for all of your paddleboard and paddleboard yoga needs, and Tara for yoga! She teaches at Shakti in Key West, leads guided paddleboard meditations through Lazy Dog, runs Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga training and founded the Paddleboard Yoga at Lazy Dog!

Next time we go to the Florida Keys, Dara and I intend to try doing it twice during our trip as well as a meditation!

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2014-11-20

Post Chemo California Road Trip Part One: San Francisco, Santa Cruz, the East Bay and I-5

Our post-chemo trip was postponed a few months, but we made up for it in October during an epic ten day Southern and Northern California road trip exploring new places and visiting familiar stomping grounds for this California native. I chronicle the trip in these blog posts. Check out the post chemo road trip tag for all of the posts!

When Dara was ending chemo we were supposed to celebrate with a family vacation to Southern California in June. It happened that her family was going to be staying in the same Southern California town that my family immigrated to from Canada in 1962 (how random/fated that they picked Oxnard for their trip, though technically my family is in Camarillo, too) and we were going to maybe get them to meet. We had enough airline miles to make the trip free. All the plans were set and we were traveling just as soon as we possibly could after Dara’s last chemo treatment.

Except that post-chemo trip got canceled because Dara’s father passed away very suddenly and we went to Las Vegas instead. The miles tickets were able to be postponed, but we couldn’t change the destination. We had a trip via LAX to take within the next year, and decided that in the Fall we would finally take that post-chemo trip, only by now Dara would have hair and we wouldn’t need to obsessively clean the airplane seats and tray tables with antibacterial wipes. (Chemo would make her immune-compromised for at least a month following her last infusion.)

14806615819_1c38c0932b_oSo many pro con lists were incorporated in figuring out exactly how to plan this epic journey.

When we conceived the new incarnation of this trip we decided that Dara would buy a cheap ticket to Las Vegas a couple of days before I left in order to get her dad’s car so we could save on a rental car. Mercury was retrograde, so our trip was really difficult to pin down. We adjusted dates of where we were going to be a few different times as curve balls came at us and hoped we didn’t annoy our friends too much with furtive texts like, “Oh shit, our cabin trip got changed to Big Bear so now we’re moving things forward two days.” Camping became cabin, destinations were shifted, etc…

The thing about being from California and knowing lots of people from my adult life in California, is that anytime I am there I can see about 2% of the amount of people I want to see. And if I’m there for a holiday, which I usually am, it’s even more difficult to see friends since they tend to be out of town or busy. I try to trust my gut about who is on my mind and hope everyone understands.

Dara had a few work meetings (she’s a consultant in education research, action planning and grant writing) we had to schedule around, and I wanted to make sure we squeezed in as much adventure and relaxation as possible. We’re never going to have a post-chemo road trip again and I wanted it to be fun and meaningful.

15796314336_2223a44853_zDara in her work meeting outfit during our drive up I-5. She’s so cute dressed up for work!

Our first stop after my 11PM arrival to LAX was to Lebec, CA—we were driving up to San Francisco for Dara to have a work meeting early the next evening so we needed to get out of the way of LA traffic. We stayed in a kind of crappy Motel 6 with weird tasting water and had a Denny’s kind of breakfast. A true road trip meal.

I deeply wanted to stop at Harris Ranch for steak but there wasn’t time. I love that place and recall fondly many trips with my mom driving down I-5 to visit my Southern CA family and stopping at Harris Ranch for her to get steak and eggs. (I never liked steak until my late twenties.)

15200027324_724da6cec1_zSidewalk colors in San Francisco.

This time around Dara and I also postponed a trip to the Madonna Inn, which I used to stare at longingly when mom and I would take the 101. I didn’t even know what that gorgeous, huge, white building was on the inside until I was an adult. Staying at one of Madonna Inn‘s gorgeous theme rooms is on my bucket list and I was really sad when timing meant we had to drop it from the itinerary.

Making very swift trips from Southern to Northern CA was a trade-off for how much fun we had in both places. We drove through the East Bay from I-5. We were in a rush, but since Dara got confused by my mention of my home town, Castro Valley, and the neighborhood we were staying in San Francisco, The Castro, I decided she needed to have a trip down the main drag. I’ll save the distinctions for another blog post, but trust me. Castro Valley is not The Castro.

20141015_170248I made this bouquet at a place in the Richmond district of SF called Intention Flowers, which is just woo enough to be perfect. I love arranging flowers.

We were in San Francisco for a day and a half and hit up some of my favorite haunts and explored a few new spots.

While Dara was at her work meeting, I went to Burma Superstar with my friend Sophie Spinelle of Shameless Photography. Shamless just turned five years old! My shoot was one of her first. I adore her and really appreciate friendships where not seeing one another for months or years you still pick back up where you left off.

15371294390_1487444fb6_oI saw Sophie’s adorable apartment and she has a real working land line! So retro!

Burma Superstar has incredible food. Their Tea Leaf Salad is so savory and delicious–it won an award in Sunset Magazine which says a lot. I also had the Basil Chili Pork Belly at the recommendation of the super helpful waiter. FYI they will absolutely lie to you about the wait, though. When they said 20 minutes they should have said an hour or more. But the extra time with Sophie was so wonderful.

The next morning I headed out solo to meet up with my friend Megan Beene at Tartine, my favorite bakery in the whole world. Their croissants are magnificent and totally worth the stomach ache for this gluten intolerant fat femme. Megan got stuck in Bay Bridge traffic so we had fifteen minutes to catch-up before work but the hug was worth it! The Tartine line is always out the door because it is no secret to tourists.

15837592472_49d3c4c004_zWith Jess and California gas prices in The Castro.

I met back up with Jess and Dara (we were staying with Jess and Claire in the Mistro, the area above Dolores Park that is both the Mission and Castro) and we went exploring. I fell so in love with Best in Show a newish pet store with a very well curated selection of dog outfits and accessories. Macy would love this owl sweater.

20141016_223822I also fell in love with Wilbur Milli, their adorable rescue pup who is blind and bumps into a lot of things with his nose. This could also be the trip called other people’s puppies as we hung out with lots of dogs everywhere we went.

Jess introduced us to her favorite store, Local Take. What a treasure trove! Another well-curated store of local artists’ wares, from home goods to clothing. Dara bought a wooden tie that has received much acclaim. I checked in on Yelp and scored us a free stainless steel water bottle which we take everywhere now.

15796337576_f0fbe8b5a6_zDara’s wooden tie!

15634592188_e01d373689_zWe made it a game to take the cutest/cheesiest couple photos during our whole trip. I loved this one in the dressing room at Local Take.

We had lunch at Orphan Andy’s, a charming super gay diner where I tried a pork belly omelette. It was pretty good pork belly, but kind of a weird flavor combination within the omelette.

That afternoon Dara and I took off solo to Twin Peaks to catch the view. I love it up there. Another place that is tourist-central for a reason. So many good photo opportunities.

15820017925_376b5facc3_zStandard Twin Peaks stunning view.

15200576703_e9e5aa5207_zStandard Twin Peaks “I can hold Market Street with my hand” photo.

15634609388_7c9e79de15_zI wanted to sit in the dirt on the cliff to look at the view for a bit. Even a few steps away from the tour busses was more peaceful.

We stopped at Bi-Rite Creamery for ice cream and since it was a cold cold day in San Francisco it was deserted and we got to try many of their flavors without the pressure of the typical line behind us.

That night I stayed in to play Settlers of Catan with Jess and Claire while Dara had another work meeting.

15812384366_1565142e34_zCute Castro Kiss.

We hit the road pretty early the next day to have lunch with my mom and see her classroom (she is a high school teacher and changed schools within the last couple of years) on the way to another of Dara’s work connections in Santa Cruz. Mom took us to the best Mexican place ever, La Piñata in Hayward near the San Lorenzo border. If you’re ever in the East Bay I highly recommend it.

I basically never eat Mexican on the East Coast because the food at La Piñata is what I think of when I think of Mexican and nothing holds a candle to the delicious soupy refried beans covered in cheese and perfect enchiladas I remember from my youth. If any ex-Californians have restaurants they recommend in NYC for Mexican, let me know.

15635185790_3e1e34b821_zOne of our cute couple photo attempts from Twin Peaks.

Dara was meeting my mom for the first time, which meant I picked her outfit. I needn’t have feared, though, since Mom and Dara basically talked education policy the whole time and got along famously.

In Santa Cruz, Dara had an afternoon meeting with a former work colleague and I was going to meet up with a friend of mine at the beach. We could have taken 280 but I am definitely a backroads kind of girl and knew I had to defy google’s directions to sit in traffic on a boring suburban freeway and head through the mountains and to the Pacific Coast Highway. Basically, when in doubt, I take the scenic route and it makes life infinitely better.

15804445536_4986450a6f_zThis is way cuter on the side of the highway than a cement wall and strip malls.

15829649952_3ecedee57b_zTaking a five minute let’s look at the view on the side of the road break.

I met up with Jen Hollywood at Rio Del Mar State Beach. We spent forever trying to find each other because we each went to different spots but it was a wonderful hour long catch-up. We even saw a seal pop its head out of the water! California magic!

20141017_162917Jen Hollywood and dogs!

15642269619_1e17757198_zI did not catch the seal head but that’s where it was, right in the water under the pier! If I lived in Aptos I’d drive the 5 minutes to the beach every day for the sunset.

That evening we stayed with Dara’s lovely former boss and her husband and had an amazing conversation. Their house is gorgeous and basically straight out of a renovation photo from Sunset Magazine, my favorite CA travel and lifestyle magazine. As someone who aspires to be a late in life minimalist, I had to resist the urge to take a ton of photos to put in my vision book. (I try not to scare people I’ve just met by introducing them to my tendency to relentlessly document everything.) Imagine having enough kitchen cabinets that everything goes away and you just have acres of counter space? I am a total city dweller that dreams of pantry space and walk-in closets. Also there is a backyard writer’s house. Dream home!

When I was a teenager I had a couple of friends who lived in Santa Cruz and I have always adored staying there… this just made me even more set on coming back. The forest and the ocean meet-up in this beautiful, peaceful, hippie, woo, place full of birds, hybrid cars and great coffee.

I’ll continue our journey in another blog post about our post-cancer cabin trip to Big Bear!

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