In Search of the Right Combination


A lot of people are constantly in search of the right combination of medication. Which prescription will keep them level? What can they take that will help them be the people they want to be?

I’m not a fan of medication of any kind, you don’t have to know me for very long to learn that. I will admit that a fear of mine is discovering some ailment I might have that would require me to join in the search for the best medication combination.

I realized something the other day, however. I am already searching for the best combination for me. I just choose a different form of medication. Right now, my combination consists of Bikram Yoga, hooping, and reading books and blog posts to better understand myself.

I tweak my combination regularly, because it never seems quite right. I also occasionally add running, counting calories, and eating less sugar, all of which are helpful, yet I keep searching. With my current combination, I can get almost to where I need to be, but I always feel just on the other side of that “healthy” fence. The most recent form of healing I’m seeking is called Rolfing.

Rolfing is also called Structural Integration. It’s similar to massage, however, the focus of Rolfing is to realign your body in relation to gravity by manipulating deep facial tissue.

I LOVE massages, professional and amateur alike. But what I’ve always wanted out of a massage is to find out what is causing the tension. I’ve known for a while that just because my shoulders are tight, it doesn’t necessarily mean the issue is in my shoulders. I’ve gotten massages from a few people who are able to track and locate the actual root of the issue, but those people are very hard to find. Finding the root of the issue is the central focus of Rolfing.

I also believe that emotions are stored in our muscles, and I’m hopeful that Rolfing will help me access emotions I have difficulty accessing on my own. So far, my journey to self-help has largely been without professional assistance. I’m interested to see what comes up when I involve someone trained to notice the things I take for granted and therefore may have never worked on independently.

My goal in combining these different “medications” is bringing my whole body into alignment with my mind, so that the two do not conflict. I think everybody, regardless of whether or not they are seeing a professional or doing their own personal research, is looking for the right combination to help them on their way to their own personal goals. What do you think your combination involves?

In other news, a quick update on what I’ve been up to since falling off the face of the earth: I got a new job, I got interviews from some awesome people, and I got engaged. All of which I’ll discuss in the coming weeks!

My Favorite Hoops I Have EVER Made!

After a drought of hoop orders, I suddenly got five orders all around the same time. All of them needed new tape, so I had to place a HUGE tape order before I could get to the fun part of actually MAKING them.

The tape arrived on Monday and I was like a child on Christmas day. After giggling happily, tearing open the box and examining every roll of the largest hoop tape order I’ve ever gotten to make, I set about taping and spent the rest of the day making hoops. I made four hoops, and I got to do something new and unique with all of them.

It was the happiest and most productive I’ve felt in a while. I truly, genuinely adore the process of making hoops. But these were a particular blast to make, because they had each been special requests, and I loved making them knowing that these hoops were each unique to the people who would soon own them. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the process of creating something special for very special people. I really hope I get to do this more often, because this kind of customization filled me with an incredible sense of joy and fulfillment.

Since I’m the type of person who will leave the mashed potatoes on my plate for last because they are my favorite, I’m going to present these hoops to you in the same way. I love all of them, but I’m saving my favorite for last.

New Something #1: New color combination and a collapsible hoop with only one connector

I was excited about this color combination from the moment it was originally suggested. Blue, green, and brown. Normally, if I heard these colors suggested for a hoop, I’d go for the blue or the green as the shiny colors and the brown would be a grip.

However, my tape supply was dwindling and I had to work with what I had. Luckily for me, I had a gorgeous metallic brown that I don’t get to use very often, so I suggested the brown be the shiny and the blue and green be the grips.

The result, I think, came out GORGEOUSLY (Is that a legitimate adverb? Because it is now.). As soon as I snapped pictures of it, I named it “Electric Chocolate”, because that’s what it looks like to me. Delicious chocolate infused with a zap of bright, electric color.

Again, thanks to dwindling supplies, I had only one connector for a collapsible hoop. My original plan was to go ahead and make the hoop using the one connector (because I was having so much fun making hoops and I didn’t want to let a silly thing like lacking connectors stop me), then when I got more, I would cut the hoop for the new connector, put it in, then trim the edges.

But after I’d finished taping, I remembered seeing a hoop one of my friends had that collapsed with only one connector and I decided to see if it would work with this hoop.

IT DOES. This is incredibly exciting to me, because in my opinion, it makes the hoop look nicer since it’s not broken up in two places, and it also will help keep the collapsible hoops from forming a more oblong shape (as opposed to the circle they are supposed to be). Not only that, but I wouldn’t have to wait for more connectors to deliver the hoop. It could be delivered as-is!

New Something #2: Using two tapes I’ve never used before, but have eyed forever, on the same hoop

One of my friends and favorite clients came up to me at the weekly spin gathering we attend to ask me if I could make her a new hoop. She’d previously purchased the black and yellow hoop from this batch, named it Bumblebee, and proceeded to love it into a beautiful battered pulp. She wanted a new hoop, something special, pretty, slightly bigger, something shiny she could love and enjoy, a hoop to indulge in.

I showed her my sample tape book, which has not only tapes I presently own, but also tapes that I can order if someone wants them. Among those tapes was a jaw-droppingly opulent holographic tape called “Fire Opal”. In the sun, it refracts in the most incredible shades of pink, blue, magenta and orange. (The pictures of it on the hoops above DO NOT do this tape justice.) I’ve seen it on other hoops and have been dying to use it myself for ages, but it’s a pretty pricey roll of tape.

She saw it and immediately said, “That one. I have to have that one.” She then proceeded to point a tape with little hearts on it, slightly raised from the metallic surface. “And that one.”

I don’t normally make hoops with double shinies. And when I do, they don’t usually have two super-special-fancy tapes like that.

Nine times out of ten, when someone is ordering a hoop from me, they will pick a tape they like and when I tell them I’ll have to order it, they drop it and work with what I have. They want their hoops quickly, and I don’t blame them.

Not this girl. I told her I’d have to order her chosen, and she said, “That’s fine!” She also decided she wanted another hoop, with a different grip accent, for her friend.

When I got the tape, I spent a while just staring at it. Then I took a picture of the tapes and sent it to her. I knew she’d be just as excited as I was about it, and she did not disappoint. When I finally got to deliver the hoop to her, she was literally bouncing around with joy. THAT is exactly why I love making hoops for others. She knew exactly what she wanted and I was able to provide it to her. Happiness. :)

New Something #3: Drawing inspiration from something special to the owner; new taping techniques

I got a message on Facebook that said, “A little bird told me you make hoops.” She then went on to tell me she wanted a hoop to match her favorite pipe. I’ve never created a hoop design from something specific before, and I immediately jumped at the challenge of doing so. I asked her to send me a picture of the pipe, and she sent me an image of one of the coolest piece of glasswork I’ve ever seen:

Piece by Mike Fro

My initial instinct involved using metallic tapes for the colors and white and black for the grips. After mulling it over more, however, I remembered that the company I order my tape from had sent me samples of a high-gloss vinyl tape in solid colors. Colors that are bright, but also slick and shiny, like…GLASS.

I was so excited about this idea that I went ahead and ordered a roll of tape in every color. I also wanted to capture the way the pipe had swirls, stripes, and solid chunks of black. I decided to try something I’d seen on other hoops but never tried before myself, making stripes of colors.

The hoop that I produced from this inspiration source, tape, and design technique is easily the hoop I am most proud of to date:

New Something #4: Making a big hoop/minis matching set

The same day I got my tape, I also got a message from the girl who ordered the pipe hoop asking if I could also make her a set of minis in the same design theme. I said OF COURSE. I’ve never gotten to make a big hoop/minis matching set before! I made them the next day.

When she came to pick up her hoops, she saw them and said, “Oh wow, they look just like my pipe!” I heard that and knew I’d done my job. Creating these hoops using a unique and creative inspiration, and attempting to make them look like the source material while still utilizing classic hoop designs, I felt like I got to truly be an artist. It may sound strange, given the limitation of having a specific model to work from. But that was oddly freeing. I could create the hoop however I wanted to, and the process of coming to the final result is the most fun I have ever had making something for someone else.

I hope that this is not the last project I get to do that way. In fact, it would be thrilling to do nothing but super exclusive, incredibly customized orders from now on (though I love making hoops regardless of the amount of customization involved). I loved the uniqueness of this hoop, and more than that, it was a rush to know that it would be all the more special to the person that ordered it.

Creating for others is a fantastic feeling. I think there is an extra thrill in making something as simple as a plastic circle into a magical work of art that lights up people’s faces.

You’re Allowed To Change

This weekend was Hoop Path Dallas, a hooping workshop with Johnathan Baxter, my favorite hoop instructor, right in my neck of the woods. This is a dream that I’ve been pushing toward for a year now, and it was worth each second of effort.

Photo courtesy of Sassy Hoops

In every single class or workshops of Baxter’s I take, I have what I call a Moment (with a capital “M”). A Moment is when something Bax says or some concept he presents to us moves me so deeply that it pulls up an emotional release in the form of tears. I have Moments even when I go into his workshops thinking I feel great and I’ve heard it all before and I’m just here for a refresher course to rejuvenate my spirit. I always end up powerfully resonating with something. Sometimes it’s at the end after two hours of intense hooping, sometimes it’s in the middle of a blindfolded exercise, sometimes it’s just when Baxter is talking about life.

This time, it happened on day one, right at the beginning in opening circle. I was happy and smiling and looking around at this group of people here to take the workshop, more than half of whom I consider dear friends, sneaking surreptitious glances at their faces as they hear Baxter speak for the first time (and there is nothing like hearing Baxter speak for the first time). I felt in it and outside of it simultaneously. Then Bax asked who among us had lost friends since we started hooping. I raised my hand and a few other people did, too. And Bax proceeded to talk about how he used to be a waiter, and he used to be cynical, and he had these friends who had known him for a decade or more that came to visit after he found hooping and dropped some of the cynicism. Those friends were wanting to hang out with Mean Baxter, the one with whom they could sit around and make fun of people.

And that’s where I had my Moment. I had to drop my head and let a quick rivulet of tears come out. And it’s not like I hadn’t heard Baxter tell this story before. He told it two years ago, at the very first Hoop Path Retreat I attended.

That’s me at Hoop Path Retreat 3, hearing Baxter speak for the first time.
Photo by Serena Scaglione

I think this particular story triggered my Moment yesterday because I’ve recently been dealing with the concept that I am a malleable creature, that no part of me is guaranteed to be truth forever, and that it is not a self-betrayal to change my mind about something. Especially ideas that I’ve internalized so much that I feel they define me. And here’s Baxter, talking about how he changed something that he and his friends felt defined him for years.

Everybody has stuff like this. Things you feel so deeply that you know you’ll always feel that way. And then when the time comes and that knowledge is challenged, it’s scary. For me, these intense bits of “knowledge” have ranged from something as seemingly trivial as “I’m never cutting my hair”, to a more emotionally burdensome “I’ll be with him forever“.

It’s anything we internalize so deeply that it becomes a part of us. These things can be tremendously difficult to let go of. And we can go years firmly believing that we’ll never want to let go of them.

But then something might happen. Something that starts to pull back the curtain of your “identity”, that makes you question how you really feel, what you really believe. And then you’re flung into this huge, swirling vat of confusion. Why do I feel this way, when I’ve always been the sort of person who doesn’t feel that way? It can seem as though you’re betraying something core. You worry about what your friends and family will think, these people who have known you for years as the person who does “X”. What would they say if they saw you now denouncing “X”?

Remember, it can be anything. I swore all through high school that N’Sync sucked and I would never enjoy anything that any of the members of that band would ever be involved in. And then Justin Timberlake went and put out “My Love” (the bastard) and I had to face the fact that I actually liked the song.

Look at him. Smug as hell. What a jerk.

This is a simple example. But the emotional confusion caused by having to change my opinion about it still made me question who I was and what I believed. Imagine the internal barriers that had to break down for me to then go out and buy the entire Justin Timberlake album.

The longer we hold onto these internalizations of self, the harder they can be to let go of. But even the most deeply held conviction can get questioned. And nine times out of ten, the scary part isn’t finding out what your friends and family will say if you change. The truly scary part is realizing that you might want to change, that you might not be the person you thought you were. How do you go about making that change? How do you even begin to incorporate this new you into the world you’ve built for yourself up to this point?

Sometimes you don’t need to know how to do it. Sometimes you just need to know it’s okay to do it.

And it is. It’s okay to change. It’s normal to change. You, whoever you are and whatever path you are on, are allowed to change, to make big, sweeping, scary changes to any aspect of yourself you like. You’re allowed to cut that hair, watch that movie, take that trip, move to that town, switch from that political party, try that experience, anything.


Sometimes, during the blindfolded exercises, Baxter will chant, very simply, “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay.” He may not even know exactly what he’s allowing, but he doesn’t need to. The point is, you may have not actually heard someone tell you it’s okay. Whatever’s coming up under that blindfold that needs forgiveness, he’s giving you permission to forgive yourself.

So make the changes. Forgive yourself. Let go of the pain and open up to the freedom of change and newness.

It’s okay.

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Driving vs. Flying

This week, I had an amazing opportunity to drive out of town to teach a private hoop dance lesson. A woman contacted me from a town three hours away, asking if she could set up a lesson. We decided to meet in the middle in a town an hour and a half away from both of us.

It consumed my day, driving out to meet her, working with her, and driving back home. I loved every friggen’ minute of it. I can’t believe how lucky I am that I get to do this, to meet incredible people with incredible stories, to see the joy on their faces when I help them nail something they’ve been struggling with, and that thanks to the Internet, people outside of my hometown find me and ASK for my help. It’s a wonderful feeling!

It might seem odd that I’d be willing to drive an hour and a half out of my way just to give one hoop lesson. But I love driving. In the past two and a half years, I’ve driven to Colorado, to California, to North Carolina, and a number of shorter distances in the name of hoop dance. When I first started planning these trips, I got plenty of odd looks from friends and co-workers. “You’re driving? Why don’t you just fly?”

The truth is, it never even occurs to me to fly when I plan trips. Growing up, my mother did not enjoy flying, so my family opted to drive when we traveled, even on long trips. My dad’s parents lived in Missouri (about a day’s drive), and my mom’s parents lived in Ohio (a two or three day’s drive, depending on how often we stopped). When it came time to pay them visits, they would pull out the back seat of the minivan and lay down foam padding and blankets for me, and later my sister. I’d bring books, games, my portable cd player, and settle into my cozy little nook for the duration of the trip.

My cousin and I, all tucked into the minivan for a trip to grandma’s.

My parents might be able to say for sure, but I don’t ever remember being one of those kids that constantly asks, “Are we there, yet?” I loved the journey. I liked watching the scenery change as we traveled from state to state. I liked watching for the signs that said, “Welcome to Oklahoma!” “Welcome to Tennessee!” “Welcome to Kentucky!” It gave me an awareness of the size of my country.

As I got older, these road trips became special to my mother and I. We’d drive to Ohio every year to visit Cedar Point, and the journey was just as much fun as actually arriving. We had our own special landmarks along the way (like our favorite town, Bucksnort, TN), inside jokes (while driving through Effingham, IL, we’d say, “Dang it, are we having effing HAM for dinner again??”), and travel rituals (everyone gets to listen to their iPod for one hour, then we switch).

For ten years, I didn’t get on an airplane, but did plenty of traveling.

Then, a few years ago, one of my best friends was getting married in South Carolina. I had a day job and limited vacation time. Ah, “vacation time”, a concept I had a difficult time adjusting to. I will never forget how stunned I was when I told this new company that my mom and I were going on our yearly vacation, and they responded, “Oh, that won’t work, somebody else is going on vacation! We won’t be able to approve that!” I couldn’t believe that somebody could actually tell me I couldn’t go out of town with my mother. Madness.

Anyway, I decided to fly to my friend’s wedding rather than drive. It would save time, as all of my coworkers pointed out, so that I didn’t use up all of my vacation time. So I bought my plane ticket and prepared for the trip.

The last time I’d been in an airport was before 9/11. I knew I didn’t want to check any luggage, but I hated having to pick and choose what to pack so it would all fit in my carry on. I disliked having to wake someone else up to drive me to the airport at asscrack AM. I felt herded through the security checks. When I finally got on the plane, I realized I’d either forgotten how small the seats are, or grown quite a bit. (It was probably a combination of both.) Sure, the trip was short, but I was stuck in my seat between a window with one constant view of the sky, and a person I didn’t particularly want to interact with.

When I finally arrived at my destination, I had chosen to rent a car, and I found out that rent-a-car places feel that everyone in the whole world drives automatics these days. I missed my 5-speed with the hand-crank windows and manual locks, panicking the entire time that I might accidentally wreck this weird, unfamiliar car I’d been given and end up having to pay out the ass for it. (I didn’t.)

What I found, at the end of that trip, was that the time saved taking a plane didn’t make up for what I missed from driving. I missed watching the country pass by. I missed being able to stop when I needed to for food, gas and bathroom breaks. I missed the feeling of sailing down a highway in a new state, singing along to my music blaring at top volume. Driving equaled freedom. Driving made me feel connected to the space I was traveling through. Driving made me feel human, alive.

And that’s why I found great joy driving to meet my new student the other day. I drove through towns I’d never seen before, I got to see beautiful buildings and gorgeous scenery, and at the end of my trip, I got to share the joy of hoop dance with a new friend. I am in love with that feeling, and I can’t wait until the next time!