Make it a half dozen

Yesterday marked the six year anniversary of training with ABADA-Capoeira San Francisco. It also marks a year since I last wrote here, but no matter. The idea is that you stick with it, right?

Well, I’d like to think I am a bit more dedicated to capoeira than I am to this blog. But the reason I am writing this is that I want to express my love and gratitude for the people and the place where I can always find what I need to feed my body and soul and more.


Here are a few things that I love about it, in no particular order:

  1. I never leave class regretting that I went. Even on the days that I drag myself there because I am tired or just defeated by work or life, it always makes me feel better mentally and physically.
  2. I probably don’t have to worry about being tended to if I get injured as there is likely a doctor around. There might even be a scientist, a teacher, a lawyer, an artist, or a programmer should I need one. There’s a lot of knowledge and talent in one room.
  3. I’m almost as likely to hear Spanish, Japanese, Hebrew or French in addition to English or Portuguese. It’s an lovely linguistic melody.
  4. I now have friends and acquaintances in many different places throughout the world because of capoeira. I may even take some of them up on their offer to stay at their homes some day. Watch out.
  5. I’m always finding new layers of things to learn and appreciate about capoeira, and it only gets richer and deeper as I continue to train. Be it the aspects of capoeira’s history, martial arts, music, etc., each time I think I know something, I find that there is something deeper to uncover behind it.

Obrigada capoeira.


Fifth anniversary


Yesterday was the day of Iemanja, the mother of all orixas in Umbanda and Yoruba cultures, and more specifically, the patron saint of fishermen, but also women.

It also marked the fifth anniversary of the day that I started training with ABADA. The fifth anniversary is wood. This picture seems fitting to cover both.

In the past five years, ABADA has remained the one constant in my life. It’s seen me through death, break-ups, job changes, and more. The people who inhabit the space on a regular basis, including everyone from Mestra Marcia to new students, inspire me not only to train, but to keep pushing through even when I am not feeling great.

In class, I have sang my lungs out, laughed hysterically, and even cried, both from joy and from sadness. When everything is aligned right, how I feel in my mind and body, combined with the energy from those around me, there is a levity and a positivity that I don’t experience anywhere else. At the bare minimum, I’ve never walked into the studio and trained, and then went home regretting it.

I’m not sure how long my lungs and limbs will cooperate enough with me to continue training, but I will see how far they will take me. Continue reading


Everyone posts how great their days are, and sometimes it’s puke-inducing, but I do appreciate my life, some days more than others…so prepare your bags. This morning I woke up after a deep sleep induced by yesterday’s capoeira class followed by a 26.2 mile bike ride (yup, still training), then today I shopped at the farmer’s market, received a sweet text from my traveling love, worked in my yard, trained capoeira, participated in the street roda, visited briefly with my brother, sister-in-law and a wonderful friend of mine, sang, enjoyed the smiles of my friends, warmed myself in the sun and came home to a peaceful neighborhood and the wagging tail of my dog. Some days I am so lucky, and I know it.


But oh wait, I have to do my taxes now…





Second anniversary

Unlike most Saturday mornings when I’d be stretching my quads as I get ready to train at ACSF, instead I am sitting in bed drinking lots of hot liquid, blasting the humidifier, hoping this cold doesn’t get worse.

So I’m taking the time to look back on my second year of capoeira, Maybe I should go buy myself a new workout shirt now. The gift for second anniversaries is cotton.Image

Maybe my goals for the previous year were ambitious, but  I didn’t expect things to go the way they did. I started working full time again, and had a number of physical accidents of vary degrees, one  for which I am still going through physical therapy.

I have not learned to play the berimbau, though I have started to understand better the subtleties of playing one. I also realized I need to learn the pandeiro and the atabaque, with the other challenge for me of playing percussion and singing at the same time!

I am learning more songs, but am still too shy to lead one on my own, but that is still a goal.

My Portuguese has improved, though I am not speaking it as often as I was when I had time to take classes twice a week, but I was able to understand a lot of what was said during our training in December with Mestre Camisa. Plus, wow, I would have never expected training with him to be so fun, in addition to enlightening and educational.

I am playing more in the roda, but still could get in there more.

Floreiras like the basic parada are still an issue for me, but I am starting to understand better how to “stack” my muscles. Handstand classes and yoga help.

Unfortunately I can’t look back and say, wow, what a super awesome job you did meeting your goals, but I see now that as good as these goals are, I either have to accept why they didn’t happen, be it things like injuries, or better adapt to these challenges and figure out new ways to meet these goals so that I can accomplish some, if not all, this year.

What do I want to do this year? I still think the goals above are worth working for, even if I don’t do these all in the next year, especially now that I realize what is necessary to reach these goals. I’ll add another–going to Brazil in August for training. That would make me happy.

My next goal? Getting through this cold.


I’m not sorry

One of the best things that I read in this article about Mestrand Cigarra  is this quote: “Women are too careful with each other. It’s like, I’m sorry? There’s no sorry! You get out of the way. That’s the challenge, for women not to think about it so much.”

In my quest to be kind, to make a better world, or at least make mine a little easier on myself, I’ve been apologetic about how I behave, but why? I’m not sorry.

I’m not sorry that I haven’t written in months. I did write, but nothing I felt like posting here. Sometimes I don’t write when I am trying to sort out what is going on in my head. It’s a mish-mosh of things that make no sense to me, let alone anyone who reads it.

I’m not sorry that I don’t like large consumer corporations, like Disney or Walmart. Why should I support companies that sell cheap goods made by slave labor?

I’m not sorry that I am not skinny. Even when I was at my thinnest, I was never skinny. With muscular soccer built thighs, and Irish hips, there’s never been anything delicate about me. Not that I haven’t ever envied my thinner friends, I just knew that I was born with what I had, and there’s no changing that.

I’m not sorry that I am an introvert. I like reading a book on vacation and taking long walks in solitude. I live in a metropolitan area. I need a break from the noise. It refuels me for later.

I’m not sorry that I don’t want to hang out with a big group of people I don’t know, but instead want to spend it in a meaningful way with a small group or just one person that I cherish.

I’m not sorry that I won’t smile at the baloney that people talk. Are they just mad at me because I know that they are full of it? Why should I pretend?

I’m not sorry that I don’t take medication for my anxiety and depression. Instead I’ve chosen to be work it out physically and sometimes retreat from the noise, as mentioned above, so I can still feel like myself. Not that I think that medications are wrong (wait, that’s not an apology), but for me, I choose not to be medicated into a state that suits other people’s needs, but not necessarily my own.

I’m not sorry that when someone asks me how I feel, that I answer honestly, instead of just saying “fine.” Don’t ask me if you really don’t want to know. I’d prefer to have an honest exchange.

I’m not sorry that I wrote this. It’s how I feel.

What do you not feel sorry about?

Hottest ticket in town

In my totally bias opinion, it’s Spirit of Brazil!

I’ve been watching the rehearsals and can confidently say, even if you want to watch baseball playoff games, there’s enough time to watch both. From October 18-21, ABADÁ-Capoeira San Francisco (ACSF) presents the SPIRIT OF BRASIL: “Mar de Tradições” (Sea of Traditions), at the ODC Theater in San Francisco.

Because I am a little lazy, here’s the scoop from the website: “ACSF’s performance troupe teams up with visiting Brazilian artists, Professores Mobília, Goma and Yara, as well as local talents, master percussionist Gamo da Paz and his group Quimbanda, musician Alfie Macias and choreographer/dancer Raffaella Falchi, and SAMBAXÉ Dance. The performances explore the evolution of Capoeira and Maculelê, from the post-slavery era to modern-day Brazil, and trace their movement from the northeastern state of Bahia to cosmopolitan Rio de Janeiro.”

I’m going. So should you!

Where the white women at?

According to a retired navy guy that I met today, they shouldn’t live in West Oakland (Blazing Saddles reference in case you are curious).

Trying to confirm the destination of the ferry today, I asked a group of people if they were waiting in line for the boat to Oakland. They responded “yes, but why do you want to go there?” I enthusiastically said “because I live there.”

Surprised at my answer, I asked them where they lived, and they told me Sacramento. Then the old white man looked at the black woman next to me and motioned for me to go to the other side of the gangway so he could chat with me there. He went on to tell me he lived in Oakland in the 50s and 60s, “when it was nice.” I’m not sure what the point of him sharing this information, but I responded that there are nice areas in  Oakland, and the city is changing again, etc., but I didn’t go too far into this conversation.

It’s the kind of conspiratorial conversation you get as a white person, when people think you are sympathetic to their prejudice. But what make it stick out more to me today was that it happened as I was coming off the high of training capoeira. I was even still wearing my capoeira shirt, so if he would have had any idea about what capoeira is, he might have figured out that I wasn’t into hearing generalizations, let alone racist statements, about black people, or anyone else for that matter.

Maybe sensing my feelings, he toned it down, and said that he knows some nice black people, even lives near some, but “they” bring “riff-raff” into Oakland, which in itself isn’t a strong statement, but the subtext was there.

But there’s no way I’m going to school a man in his late 80s about being a bigot. So I reminded him that there are good and bad people of all kinds and they live everywhere. I took the opportunity of people knocking on the gangway door to excuse myself from the conversation and walked away.

It wasn’t any great stand for racial equality. It wasn’t any political statement. Just another day in the land of the free.

8 weeks, 3 days and 16 hours

That’s the amount of time in between the last time I went into the roda and today’s class. I’ve been training for the past two weeks since I’ve felt well enough, but I haven’t been able to make it all the way through class and not have to sit out at least part of it due to pain and discomfort.

But today I could and that meant it was time to go back into the roda. I could hardly wait to go back in, but I waited until it felt right. I wasn’t good, but I made it through.

As I stepped out of the roda, I started crying, almost sobbing. After eight weeks of trying to get back into a physical place where I could go back in, I made it. As much as I felt relieved and not embarrassed to cry about my accomplishment, in theory, I wasn’t sure I wanted anyone to see it without being able to explain it to them.

But as I was taking in that moment, I heard Mestranda start to sing “Parabens” to a fellow capoerista who turned 50 today. My focus shifted to joy for someone who was celebrating his own achievements.

I hope to continue with my own accomplishments as I move towards my next birthday. I’m sure you’ll see me cry, but I hope it’s with joy.

Networking is not a dirty word

I used to hate the term “networking.”  I still do in some sense, but when I think about what it does mean, I’m not opposed to it. In essence, it’s about building a community of people who you can call upon if you need something, but also that you are prepared to help these same people when they need something, too.

I’ve always had a community, my family, which is pretty darn big. I’m lucky in the fact that they are all people who I can go to for anything, and I will be there for them. I have friends, too, but my threshold for nonsense is lower with those who are not blood related, so there are some people I’ve cut out of my life when things got bad. I may be right, I may be wrong, but it has happened.

In the past I thought it was enough to have my family and friends, but now I’ve found myself connecting to other communities around me.  Some of it is because I am more open to reaching out to others around me, but I’ve also sought out people to whom I know I could commit my time and energy because it makes sense for my life.

Now I’ve got the people I train capoeira with, my co-workers at a job that I love (never thought I’d say that!), and a new set of friends that I’ve made because of shared interests (writing, art, etc.). I have all these new circles revolving around me, and I am part of others’ circles. I feel better because of it.

To point out the obvious, “com” means “with.”  “Community”, “commit” and “communicate” all have “com” at the root of each word.  And that’s where I am going with this–wanting to explore my life with others, sharing, and being there for them as they are for me.  Seeing what doors these relationships open in my life, and taking pride and pleasure in how I can change or make things better for them, and having my life enriched by it all, the discussions, the turmoils, the fun. Some selfish, yes, but I do want to be good to others, too.

Despite the fact that I don’t go with this quote word for word, this bit of wisdom from John Donne‘s about how “no man is an island” overall makes sense for me:

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Even if I am not a person with a legend that will live on for generations, my daily actions will affect others, and theirs affect me.  Why not take advantage of this and make the best of these connections while I am alive?

Am I cheesy?  Perhaps, but I love my communities.


Que pena!

I dislike attention. I dislike being on display. I dislike presenting in front of people.  But this year I pushed myself and participated in Carnaval in San Francisco so I could get past some of my shyness. P.S. Can I say “I” and “dislike” more?  Yes, I can!

But the thing is, I adore Carnaval.  I’ve loved it since I was a kid.  No, I never went to Brazil until I was an adult, but I was always fascinated by the spectacle and the energy.  And because of that, upon invitation of a very sweet Baiana friend of mine that I met in my 20s, I went to and was enchanted immediately by the event in Salvador, and have therefore danced in Carnaval in Bahia a handful of times (anyone can do it). So I it’s a “No, duh!” for me to be part of it in my home base.

For the past few months I’ve been rehearsing every Sunday. For skilled performers, the choreography isn’t complicated, but for a newbie performer like me, I needed practice.  LOTS of practice. And up to today, I could have still used more practice, but I committed to it, and that’s all there is to it.

So, earlier today as I drove to our capoeira studio, I commented on how the streets could pose a challenge because they were uneven due to construction (Tucanare, do you recall?).

Now I’m sitting here with an ice pack on my ankle that took a nice roll into the asphalt.

To the following questions I answer yes: Could something worse have happened? Am I frustrated and pissed?  Do I want to try it again?

It’s put a fire in me to give it another go; if not Carnaval, to performing, to practicing, to anything that pushes me out in front of people.  Not because I need accolades, per se, just to prove it to myself that I can do it.

All I can say is, I went out running and dancing with all of my energy, and in that, there can be no regrets.