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How do you know when it’s the end?

Kurt Vonnegut opined in his play Happy Birthday Wanda June that heaven is a giant shuffleboard game. I think of my father sending a disc gliding down the court and then leaning on his cue, sipping a heavenly cocktail, and gazing down at us periodically. He would be especially proud of his grandchildren, two Harvard men (my nephews), Fourteen, a budding novelist, and Seventeen, who shows every indication of moving toward finance but who has been writing front-page articles for his school newspaper since the first week of school (Grinnell’s newspaper is The Scarlet and Black).

Seventeen’s grandfather found his early writing roots in journalism. His father, Seventeen’s great grandfather, was a newspaperman. My brother is an editor for Field and Stream. My grandmother wrote children’s stories and women’s fiction before there was chicklit. Writing is in our blood. From his early journalism exposure, my father never finished a manuscript without centering at least one # at the end. I can still see his desk, which is now mine, covered with piles of thin bond, Xs crossing out the mistakes, his unmistakable handwriting annotating his drafts. Somehow, my father always knew when he was at the end. It must have been such a victory to type those pound/number/hashtag signs at the bottom of the page.

I mean to ask Seventeen if he submits his electronic stories replete with ### at the end or if there is a new convention now that submissions present in digital form. It was less conventional for my father to end his novels that way, but he never typed “the end.” For years I copied him, until one of my college professors circled the ### on the last page of my paper and swirled them away as unnecessary with a delete symbol. Curious, I do a little searching. According to the Internet, it was all the way back in 2007 when the # got repurposed by the tech world. It wasn’t on my radar in its hashtag capacity until much more recently, and while I’ve been known to “hashtag” a phrase or two, I’m enough of a traditionalist that I still think of it as the number or pound sign first.

“Punctuation,” I tell my writing mentee, “makes meaning.” I am incredibly fond of punctuation for this reason. Beyond knowing when and how to employ the squiggles and dots that pepper the keyboard, I marvel how in each unique application punctuation eases the workload for words, adding just the right finish to a polished sentence.

Period. The end. But how do you know?

To finish something, we have to anticipate the end. Early this year I met with my accountant: “I don’t think I’m going to renew the studio lease,” I told her. “After five years, this is going to be it.” And after five years of cheering me on, meeting with me at every turn, soothing and comforting me when obstacles threatened to derail my progress, my accountant simply agreed, “It’s time.”

Full of the promise of possibilities, eager to show my children that their mother could create something amazing, ready to give up the life of a road yogi teaching at as many as seven different places in a given week, it was six years ago when I started writing the chapter that would become Radiant Om Yoga. There were lots of firsts on the journey—from legal explorations like becoming the proud owner of an LLC and a trademark to learning QuickBooks and small-business banking to getting the key to my first leased commercial space. What I didn’t know when I started about running a business, in spite of being self-employed for much of my adult life, I learned to the best of my abilities, marveling at just how different each day could be.

On the fifth anniversary of the very first class I ever taught at Radiant Om Yoga, with the help of three women I am lucky to count as friends and supporters of my yoga journey, we picked up the floor, the last big task to closing the space. That night, Wednesday, I taught my first class in a new space, a yoga cooperative where my community kindly followed me, and the yoga that night reminded us that the practice allows us to adapt.

Thursday it took two car trips to load the tiles into my garage. I made a pile so high that, as Fourteen said, “The floor reaches the ceiling.” The rest of my garage looks very much like a jumble sale; somehow the contents of the studio will find new purpose in my house or move on to new homes.

With nothing left but the garbage cans and a couple of resin chairs I was leaving behind (they were there when I got there), the studio felt like a shell. For five years I was the self-appointed steward of the space. Sitting on the floor one last time, I could see vast improvement to the interior of the building in spite of how hard as it often was: how many times did I curse my leasing company (indeed, at one point when they were fully in breach of contract I was one chess move away from rolling up my mat and taking them to court); how often did I arrive to find leakage from the roof, pest infestations, freezing temps because the furnace was out, snow under the door, broken plumbing, or humidity buckling my flooring; how frequently did my heart sink because just as I struggled to keep the place afloat another yoga studio would announce their grand opening in town? But then again, how many times did I teach in that sanctuary and find ease and joy in my whole being?

Sitting on the cruddy subfloor, I lit the candle and some sage and thanked the building, out loud, for the many, many gifts. Beyond everything I learned about business, beyond all of the yoga delights and revelations, beyond all of the healing, beyond the professional approbations and the personal friendships, the space was my sanctuary too, my healing place as I made the transition out of married life, as I forged ahead into and then out of an intense romance, as friendships deepened and I became ever clearer about who I am and what’s important to me. To mark the end, I rang the tingsha, three times, blew out the candle and knew … it was time to go. For the last time ever, I locked the door, patted the building, and got into my car. So much of the good continues with me, but the chapter, the chapter is truly and really over.img_7361




With a new moon, new beginnings. Looking forward to writing the next chapter, xoR


The keeper of the keys no more … later today I’ll drop this pile at the leasing office. 


Go Ask Alice

Go Ask Alice

Who needs Wonderland?


Thirteen, a Cheshire Cat in the recent junior high production of Alice in Wonderland


One school year we left the farm and moved into town—my parents rented a ranch house on a little-traveled street in a neighborhood where I had school friends within walking distance. The house showed every sign of being a flower child, complete with a car port, shag carpet and avocado green appliances. That year, one of my prized possessions was a plastic record player, orange, that I could carry around when it was folded like a brief case. I would set it up, plug it in, and play full-sized LPs, either Terry Jacks’ Seasons in the Sun or a complete recording of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The latter was four records, the unabridged text, and took about three hours to listen to all the way through. I listened over and over until I could recite the story line-for-line from just about any starting point in the book.

Alice was one of my childhood heroines, more friend than literary character. Just as I felt with Dorothy’s Oz, I never fully bought into the “it was all a dream” framework of the story. Wonderland was real to me, the intro and ending added, I was certain, to appease adult sensibilities.

A few years later my seventh grade Language Arts teacher, Mrs. Ostrem, would forbid us from ending our work with any intimation that the foregoing had been a dream. It was, she instructed, an authorial cop out. If we asked her about Dorothy or Alice, I don’t remember her response. But hers was one of those lessons that taught me to compartmentalize—I loved the stories I had always loved even as I worked to discern the literary merit of crafting a fantasy world that held sway without the dream device.

At the end of her romp through Wonderland, Alice—grown back to her right size that is enormous in comparison to the creatures who wish her beheaded—stands up to them all and asserts, “You’re nothing but a pack of cards.” In the traditional John Tenniel illustration of this moment, Alice stands sideways, her head ducking, her hands raised against a flurry of playing cards that are ineffectually leaping at her even as a menagerie of animals scurries out from under her feet. In the next moments her sister is brushing leaves from Alice’s hair saying, “My, what a long sleep you’ve had!”

That illustration came to mind again and again as February, launched by a broken ignition coil, turned into March: the barrage of pesky cards kept flying at me. While I refuse to complete a financial tally, by the time the injured-reserve list included the washer, a toppled pine in the backyard, the vacuum, the radon-abatement system, and Cooper the squirrel, we had also been derailed by stomach flu, bronchitis, and worrisome maladies in the extended family.

In the depth of it all, even though I could barely catch my breath to do so, the time arrived to share the news with the Radiant Om Yoga community that ROY will close this year. There is no good time to deliver disappointing news, and with life already spinning through an unpleasant Wonderland, the timing felt destabilizing at best. The email (click here if you’d like to read it) went out and another barrage of reaction ensued. Holding space for everyone to respond, I thought: Who needs Wonderland?

And then the answer came: I do. Because making a point of attending Alice in Wonderland in which my Thirteen played one of a chorus of Cheshire Cats, once for dress rehearsal with my mother and again on closing night, being able to make painted-rose cupcakes for the IMG_6059concession stand, having the wherewithal to remember to purchase real roses for my actress, and being granted the escape of a couple of hours of live theater are what it’s all about. As there were junior high students at the production helm, they chose to blast “Welcome to Wonderland” before and after the show. My ears picked up just enough of the gist: Welcome to Wonderland/This is your new address/You’ll love it more or less/…Everyday it’s something new/Problems up the old wazoo/…Life can be fantastic every minute/For as long as you can just stay in it/…Welcome to Wonderland. And I thought, Yup. Theme song, and added it to my playlist. And no, I’d like to tell Mrs. Ostrem, none of it—not the weird, worrisome, disappointing, nor delightful—has been a dream.

Happy full moon—can it be spring already? Wishing March is marching along with gusto wherever this finds you. Thanks, as ever, for reading, xoR

Owner-(of the)-Ship

Whose rights are they, anyway?

The chair of my graduate school thesis, Professor Paul Diehl, opined in class one day that if he were ever to be some sort of lawyer or legal expert, he would take up copyright law. It was the end of the eighties, a decade that has come to be both celebrated and castigated in a way I find unnerving since it was the decade in which I became an adult. By the time I was enrolled in Professor Diehl’s class, big hair and leg warmers had given way to rolled-up jeans and rap music, a genre that left me behind, and I was studying creative nonfiction.

Copyright law was changing with the infiltration of computers and the “publish or perish” mentality at research universities. Under the construct of “educational fair use,” my fellow graduate instructors and I all-too frequently created dittos of favorite essays and foisted them upon our students. We were admonished by our department and textbook publishers, and many of us worked around the issue by customizing print-on-demand style reading packets available from some of the major textbook publishers.

Ever since, I have tried to walk a careful line and give credit whenever it’s due; I insisted my children learn MLA-style citations long before their teachers required them to include their source notes in school projects. As an editor I check carefully my client’s footnotes, endnotes and works cited lists, sometimes following hyperlinks for many pages and other times querying “indicate source?” in the margins of their work. I’m aware that when a play is performed, even by a group of high schoolers, or when the artistic director of the local ballet company chooses music for his dancers, the producers must secure permissions if tickets to the performance will be sold.

Nonetheless, I was startled awake by a recent article sent out by Yoga Alliance. Yoga Alliance is the governing body through which yoga instructors register; their newsletter is usually full of information about their business of yoga conference and partnership deals for discounts on yoga pants.

The headline, “Legal Risks of Playing Music in Yoga Class” (Yoga Alliance e-newsletter, August 28, 2014), caught my attention. As a studio owner, I am so often taken aback by a legal risk or wrinkle about which I knew nothing that I should be used to it by now. Not only am I not, but I tend to freak out when I see things like:

You have a few choices for legally playing music in your classes:

Pay the licensing fee to the PRO [Performing Rights Organization] that is requesting payment. You could also decide not to pay the fee, but that would entail a significant risk. While it is rare for the PROs to actually bring an action for infringing on a copyright owner’s public performance right, … the fine under the Copyright Act for a public performance violation can be as high as $150,000 per occurrence (i.e., per song played). (, accessed 10.21.14)

With concern, I read the article, clicked and followed the links and thought about which of my trusted advisors I might consult. Since I had a meeting already set up with my accountant, I started with her. It made sense to me, since at bottom line—whether or not Radiant Om Yoga should pay for music licensing—was in part a financial consideration. I thought she might help. She’s amazingly versatile and promised she would share the issue with a copyright attorney/friend. His reply was instructive if not precisely definitive:

It is advisable for your client to get licenses from ASCAP and/or BMI. Those are the two biggest licensing associations. Unfortunately, there are overlapping artists in both associations, so getting a license for both may be somewhat duplicative; but getting a license for only one would mean there are some artists your client would technically not be able to play on a CD or MP3.

For a small business owner it is difficult to determine just what songs you can play in your studio (although there are radio licenses too), so I find that a lot of people are not as concerned as your client is; they just decide to bet on the proposition that ASCAP or BMI would not approach them for licensing royalties. The problem with doing this is that ASCAP and BMI end up wanting past royalties, which can be expensive for a small business.

Generally, ASCAP or BMI is more likely to pursue your client based on the number of customers she has, but they have a bad reputation for being pretty ruthless when it comes to seeking royalties. If there are not many people in her yoga classes, then she might not even be “publicly performing” the work, and in such a case it might not make business sense for her to obtain licenses. (personal email, 9.23.14)

How small is small for class size? Who are these organizations? How do I know what’s playable? If I pay them, how do the musicians actually get their piece of the pie? Radiant Om Yoga’s third birthday came along and I put aside the music quandary for a bit. Then I had an appointment to discuss all things yoga with a trusted friend who is also a teacher and a studio owner, and I pulled together my online research to show her and discuss our options.

As I understood it, my options were: shut up and pay the license fees, move to some sort of music provider like Sirius that has a legal avenue for business to play music at their locations, wholesale with license to play a few CDs, or take the stereo out of the studio and cease playing music all together.

That was on a Friday. The very next Tuesday I got an unsolicited email from ASCAP (The American Society for Composers, Authors, and Publishers) offering to save me tremendous time and effort if I would just please sign the contract to license music-playing in my studio and send them a check.

I remain suspicious that Big Brother Internet somehow reported my searching, but the ASCAP rep I spoke to on the phone, after more consultations with the lawyer, insisted that they are researching and contacting every yoga studio, that her region was Des Moines. Okay, I asked her, just how do the musicians make money from the sum I’m paying you?

“I don’t really know that,” she answered. “I do know you’re paying the reduced rate for yoga studios,” this negotiated on our behalf by Yoga Alliance. I asked for a few other changes in the contract, corrected their spelling of Windsor Heights, and asked her to send me a new file. Radiant Om Yoga would toe inside this particular legal line, alongside taking the fire extinguisher to be officially tagged each year and having an ADA-compliant ramp, the engineering of which nearly drove the landlord’s central contractor insane.

Writing the check, signing and copying the contract, and putting the whole mess in the mail (and to bed), I couldn’t help thinking about how many knotty problems I deal with on a regular but never routine basis—all of the issues that come up when you’re the captain of your own small business. Some days I handle it with ease; far more often I struggle through the nuts and bolts and work hard to come down on just the right decision. At those moments, I think it might be a huge relief to let someone else take on the burdens—just have a job where I show up, work and leave. Then again, at that fantasy workplace I might not be able to get away with wearing legwarmers and the silver hoop earrings I bought in the eighties.

Legwarmers and hoop earrings, ready to wear

Legwarmers and hoop earrings, ready to wear

Wherever you are and whatever you’re wrestling with, the new moon plus a partial solar eclipse give us new inspiration. Maybe hunt up your favorite wardrobe embellishment and toss it on, connecting your past self with your present enthusiasms and future creative energies. And thank you, as always, for coming along with me on my journey. In gratitude and with love, Rxo

Linked In

Linked In

What kind of yoga do you teach?

I spent the night of September 23, 2011, with a team of volunteers unpacking more than 400 two-foot square three-eighth-inch thick brown puzzle-pieces. This was the flooring I found for my yoga studio after an exhaustive search for something that would separate yogis on their mats from the cement subflooring, cushion their restorative poses, and still be firm enough for balance work. In the newly repaired and painted room, with a ceiling that soars to a peak of some twenty-two feet, it took us six hours to piece the floor together, starting in one corner and working in rows. I would not let anyone cut-to-fit the exterior pieces—that was a job I came back to a couple of days later and completed all on my own. The floor is one of the most remarked upon aspects of the space, where people have been coming to practice nearly every day for three years.

Indeed, Radiant Om Yoga, ROY, turns three on Sunday. Every three-year-old enjoys a party, and ROY will celebrate all weekend with free classes and new tank tops and discounts for fall. And Sunday after special morning classes, we’ll share a bite and toast where we have been and where we are going.

The studio space really is lovely, but what makes the studio spectacular is the people who find their way through the doors, both to teach and to practice. Each class has a crowd of regulars such that in my mind Monday at 5:30 pm is quite different from Thursday at six in the morning, gently shaped by the energies and expectations of the people who arrive. The entire studio is on a drop-in basis; however, and that means we have new encounters just about every day, and it’s delightful to experience the studio and the practice through fresh eyes.

New people often ask questions like how long we’ve been open. I get phone messages on the answering machine asking if our yoga is heated or whether we offer Pilates. It’s when I meet people for the first time, because they’ve stopped by to check out ROY or we’ve met in another venue and they find out I’m a yoga instructor that they ask: What kind of yoga do you teach?

Teaching for eight years, my answers have ranged from the standard, “Hatha or Asana-based yoga with an emphasis on alignment,” to a longer-winded, “I started as an Iyengar yogi, trained with an Anusara-inspired teacher and then did my 200-hour RYT (registered yoga teacher training) in Power yoga,” to the sassy, “boutique yoga.” None of these are wrong, but nor do they adequately describe what I do: I cull from a number of sources, influences, and yoga experiences, from teachers I trust, from articles and books that I read, from living in my almost fifty-year-old body, and I run all of that through a filtering process and offer this ancient practice, of which I consider myself to be a custodian, as a tool for living in the twenty-first century. While I may be late to the buzz, may be picking up on the tail end of a naming trend that is over-used and thus has lost its luster, in thinking today about all things Radiant Om Yoga, I came to a new conclusion. What I teach, what all of the amazing, wonderful, talented teachers at ROY offer, is artisan yoga. (And, of course, artisan Nia, taught by the lovely Moira who is due back at the studio in time for our birthday weekend with a brand new black belt, the next step in her amazing Nia journey.)

Yoga has been around for upwards of 5000 years. It’s only in recent history that yogis could learn yoga via printed text, the Internet, magazines … long before there was spandex, yoga was passed from teacher to student. In the practice we honor lineages, so my teachers and their teachers are my students’ teachers too. It’s one of the longest chain letters on the planet, and while some modern practices and contemporary clothing might make historical yoga gurus gasp, my Dharma (duty/nature/purpose) is to be a link in the chain, a link that both understands where yoga comes from and pulls it where it will do the most for the people who practice with me. That means every class, every private session, every time I practice, I am crafting an experience that draws upon the tools of yoga without being tethered by them.

I am very fortunate that I get to do this work at ROY. Four years ago, if you had told me there would be days when I would miss driving myself around to six different teaching sites, I might have looked at you like you were crazy. I wanted to land once and for all in a studio home. Teaching is the part of the whole enchilada that I like the best. But as a teacher I was a journey(wo)man, not challenged to be an artisan in the medieval sense of one who owns a business. So even on the days when owning a brick and mortar is really, really hard, I can remember that Radiant Om Yoga is a labor of love, a small batch of yoga hand-crafted and delivered with gratitude, creativity, and joy.

Thanks ever-so for joining me on this journey. We launch year four with a new season, a new moon, and a renewed appreciation for all things yoga. Happy Birthday to the whole ROY community, Rxo3

Write to My Heart

Have you written about Zephyr yet?

Writing partners who know how to put their heads down and write, the tip-tap of the keyboard blending into the rush of cars, natural sounds and conversation snippets on the Starbucks patio, are treasures. I’m lucky to have several delightful companions; I got especially lucky this summer when my peeps and I spent time together every week, writing.

Earbuds in his ears, Fifteen writes with a focused intensity that belies any writer’s block or other stalling, although from conversation I know he has experienced great pauses in his production. Nevertheless, he started out in March writing a short story in honor of his sister’s spelling challenge victory. After six years of getting every word right in her elementary school’s spelling challenge, Twelve faced her final year with the hardest list available. Learning the list in just two weeks, she correctly spelled all fifty of her words and earned pledge dollars for her school. Her reward from her brother was the promise of a story, featuring all of the words she had to learn to spell.

What he didn’t count on is that the compelling characters he would invent to use such unrelated words as cordillera, multiculturalism, and pancreas would take off on an adventure that includes time travel across 200 years, a small town in Minnesota, and colonizing alien creatures. He also didn’t know that the story would grow and grow and grow until it morphed into a novella.

But morph it did and with it came a number of lessons about writing. The first is that writing quickly becomes something of an addiction. When it’s going well, it calls to you. Come. Sit down. Put words on the page. Ignore whatever requires doing because the next idea, the one that’s swirling just out of focus in your brain, will be the one. It’ll be the idea that moves the story, that cinches the plot, that lets you know your work is the most lively, engaging, creative piece ever.

He learned, too, that writing can offer intense challenges; he kept at it in spite of the frustrations. He learned that time spent in the chair is the best way to overcome the times when the plot doesn’t turn as the writer intended or, worse, something simply doesn’t work.

My son learned the value of working with an editor, even if she is his mother. With my support, he was able to navigate the distance from first draft through developmental editing through line editing, to see the importance of each of these stages, and to understand that a part of writing well is incorporating distance into the process. Each successive draft gained in authority, even as the cuts both benefitted the plot and made the author cringe.

Fifteen, the author, learned that he could invent a life for his fictitious characters in a real town, and with a fait accompli, visit the town himself and see that his imagination hadn’t been far off, and the town as it actually exists fits nicely with his imagined form. Our summer stop in Milaca, Minnesota, was an unexpected joy. The cover of Fifteen’s book is fashioned from a photo he took outside the town’s history museum.

Of course, he’s not the only one who learned things. I learned, from watching him, that I can be every bit as proud of something he writes as I can of things I write. I learned that it’s not hard to format a book for Smashwords and that I really ought to bite the bullet and put my book out in the eworld too. I learned that an afternoon spent together, side-by-side, formatting his book and proofreading the line-edits and finding the discrepancies (when is a truck a car? in this book, after editing, never), was one of my favorite days of the summer.

And so I learned something else: My peeps are easy to promote. They’re clever and academic, funny and attractive. They can move, dance, sing, laugh and hold forth a conversation; they are emotive and swiftly empathetic. We go through a lot together every day, and I have nothing but the best intentions and wishes for them. Their successes are theirs, while I have the privilege of watching them thrive. As their mother, I understand something about mothers, that unquestioning, unwavering support my mother always gave me, even if she didn’t always understand my choices. Props are something I can give my peeps easily and frequently and whole-heartedly. And I do. Just like this:

Twelve’s Garnet Granola, delicious homemade granola she sells at my yoga studio, will be featured (spoiler alert) at the third birthday brunch for the studio at the end of September. Most days you can stop by and purchase a bag, and I bet she would do a batch mail order if someone were interested. She also makes and occasionally caters delicious brownies and the family chocodot pumpkin cake recipe. I feel certain future forays into entrepreneurial adventures are in her future and thus, yours. Fifteen is available in our neighborhood for watering and pet sitting jobs. He’s responsible and reliable. And then there’s this: Today, I’m delighted to suggest that you purchase his book. Right now. Go to Smashwords and download Zephyr’s Crossing.

Purchase your very own copy of Zephyr's Crossing at

Purchase your very own copy of Zephyr’s Crossing at

If enough people do (like 100,000), he’ll be able to put himself through four years of college. But when even a few people do (at post time he had sold 16), I can see the light in his eyes and the wheels turning—how many more sales until he receives his first-ever royalty check? That’s up to you.

The last of the summer super moons shines over this week. Enjoy the full moon energy. Enjoy Zephyr’s Crossing. Enjoy the spectacular young people in your world. As ever, you have my love & gratitude, Rxo

Parking Ticket

Did you enjoy your class?

Parking tickets in downtown Iowa City when I was growing up were two dollars. To pay the ticket, the driver inserted the money into the envelope that the ticket written on and dropped it in a street-side payment box near the courthouse. Parking tickets were an irritation, but not of great consequence.

When the rate doubled to four dollars, akin to about $24 in today’s economy, I remember the pushback among the grown-ups. Going downtown became less desirable, a boon for the newly opened suburban mall with its free parking. Over time the pain wore off, and Iowa City’s citizens resumed tucking their fines into the ticket envelopes and thinking little of it.

My mother, Eighty-Nine, has long ascribed unexpected financial annoyances as “today’s parking ticket.” Lose a library book and have to replace it? It’s a parking ticket. Break the cable on your headphones? A parking ticket. Pay the Visa after the deadline? A more expensive parking ticket, but ultimately a parking ticket just the same.

Some parking tickets hurt way more than others, though. In the category of expensive but replaceable, I’ve had two car stereos stolen from parked cars in New York City, items lifted from my dorm room freshman year, my first bike purchased when I was 27 removed from my garage, and $8 belonging to my daughter taken from our bulletin board by a child invited into our house. In each case, I felt dishonored by the crime and powerless to restore my losses.

During those same years that parking tickets cost four dollars, we belonged to a dairy where we bought milk, eggs, butter, and cream so thick I could turn the bottle over with no lid on and the cream wouldn’t pour out. Everything at Moss’s Dairy was on the honor system—we were members, paying a lifetime membership fee about equivalent to one parking ticket. Eldon Moss or his wife might be in the dairy barn when we drove in, but the place might be entirely deserted as well. We would select our items, write a list and the prices of what we were taking on the sales pad, and put the money on the counter, making our own change. If we didn’t have enough cash one day, we could write the total debt on the calendar on the wall and crossed it off next time.

Community classes at Radiant Om Yoga are modeled after Moss’s Dairy. It’s just five dollars to drop in for an hour of yoga or Nia or forty minutes of our newly added meditation practice. There’s a basket and participants are invited to make their own change. Of the twenty classes on our weekly schedule, more than a quarter are designated for people to have a studio experience without paying studio prices.

The first time you walk through the studio doors, your class, whichever one you have chosen, will be free. So it was that at the beginning of May I told a mother attending community yoga with her grown son that their class that evening was on the house, a gift from the studio because I was glad they were there.

She directed toward her son the folded up twenty she had been starting to hand to me, and before he could stretch his hand over to take it, softly shook her head and crumpled the money into her fist. I directed them up the ramp and into the studio, after indicating where they could leave their shoes, and mentioned what props they would need for the practice. A few minutes and several nearly late arrivals later, we were under way.

About twenty-five minutes into class, the son—tall with a thick head of dark hair and what looked like full-arm tattoos emerging from under his shirt, stopped practicing. He sat tall on his mat, feet together, knees out, holding his ankles. His mother on the mat next to him struggled with the poses, looking lost as students new to my teaching style sometimes are. Ten minutes later, the son rose, crossed the room without looking left or right, collected his personal belongings, and left the studio. I did not hear the door to the street close.

When a student leaves class, a yoga teacher’s first concern is that he may have suffered an injury. At the moment he departed, I was mid-pose and couldn’t extract myself easily to follow him. It was a few minutes after when I did look to see if he was waiting for his mother in reception and I found no one there. Then I was unsettled—because of course I took his departure as a critique of my class. But it’s important to stay present for the students who are on the mat, so I shook off the incident as best as I could.

After class, two students came up to chatter with me and a third made a point of crossing the studio to welcome the mother. With a big smile I heard him ask, “Did you enjoy the class?” Her worried look diminished and she smiled back as they spoke amiably. She seemed in no hurry to follow her son out the door. Then the conversations subsided and I finally made my way from the studio to reception; the crowd had thinned to just a couple of students and the teacher for the next class. And then I gasped: The money from the Community Yoga basket was gone.

At this moment in the drafting of this piece, my cat elected to barf newly eaten food. I can’t think of a more perfect response to the events that I’m narrating. I did not, however, barf when it happened. Nor did I call the police, as one person suggested I do. Nor did I use the intake forms of mother and son to contact them. I could not be 100% certain that someone hadn’t whispered open the door and swept the basket clean, and I did not like to accuse or even stir the pot, there was so much weirdness there. I did look around to see if anything else was missing and found to my great relief that my purse, keys, computer, inventory, and cash box were all unruffled. Beyond notifying the teachers at the studio, there was nothing else to do.parking meter

I called the loss a parking ticket. I learned I have to put the money away before heading in to teach class. And I mourn the time before it happened when I could be a joyful host, welcoming in anyone without misgivings.

It’s a new moon & I’m ready for new tidings. This happened three weeks ago, and I’m sorry to say the events that followed haven’t been much better. I hope things are happy where you are, and I wish that we might all move into a lighter summer mood together. With thanks, as always, for your love & support on the journey, Rxo

Accounting Basics

What’s the take-away?

Before I opened Radiant Om Yoga, I started saving money. All the income I earned teaching private yoga lessons in my house and teaching community classes in the back of a church sanctuary and on the beautiful but hard cement floor of a local events center went into a savings account earmarked for the studio. As my vision of the studio b

Tools of a very different trade than mine.

Tools of a very different trade than mine.

ecame clearer, I enrolled in an online accounting class.

I never imagined that I would do my own accounting, but I wanted to be sure I understood enough so I’d be able to understand my accountant. I worked through double entry accounting 101 online in good time and I remember this: whatever figure is on the debit side of the accounting square has to equal a figure on the credit side.

At the studio we keep a hand-written ledger of sales broken into categories—class sales, merchandise and sales tax—on a fairly regular basis I enter all of the data into QuickBooks, which balances the columns for me. If I’m off, once a quarter the lovely and talented Trisha arrives at the studio for our two-hour accounting appointment and she deftly repairs any errors or oversights I may have created. The system works.

At tax time Trisha provides me with a tax planner, and all I have to do is fill in the numbers and organize my data. However, I too often find myself behind in my data entry, so taxes require a marathon of QuickBooks work, invoice corralling, and mileage calculations. To my delight, prepping for 2013 taxes was easier than 2012, and it’s no surprise that I determined 2014 would be better still.

When I mentioned this to my business confident, the lovely and talented Susan—a photographer with whom
I meet regularly to discuss small business life—she commiserated. She, too, has tons of financial upkeep with her business and she, too, often lets it slide in favor of just about anything else. We decided that we can support each other by setting aside time to meet at her house and do our financial duties together.

It is one of the truths of a small business owner that there’s a heap of work that needs to get done and usually it’s all accomplished alone. In owning a yoga studio, teaching classes, and writing and editing, I’m holding others accountable, but who’s keeping me in line? Sometimes it’s really hard to be my best self, to remember why I do what I do and to find the joy in it when all I see is a list of things to do. Sometimes that list looks not like work but like drudgery, a one-way energy drain. When I’m feeling that way, like it’s really hard to be the boss, to be in charge all the time, and to feel like there’s no one who’s looking over my shoulder, I tend to long for the days of being a student when my work was assigned, due, delivered and evaluated. My teachers were my authorities, giving me opportunities to learn with the comfortable rubric of the classroom setting. In the various jobs I had with bosses, whether or not I agreed with company policy, someone else was making the rules. And there’s a comfort in that—a place in the natural order of things.

At our first meeting, sitting with Susan another company CEO (chief everything officer) and doing our bookkeeping together, drinking lovingly frothed chai in her pleasant open kitchen, the entire experience was painless. We could quip to one another about the things that we were discovering, the systems we have or don’t have in place, and the way the numbers make our eyes blur. In spite of the chatter, we marched through a significant amount of work in two hours’ time. We have another date for more of the same next week.

Self-employed for fifteen years, I’ve come to live with the morass on some level. I’ve also learned that I’m not an island and I continue to rely on compatible authority figures. My authority figures may not be directly above me in the traditional sense, but seeking out and putting people into positions of authority is essential. I have not always understood that there are two sides to that equation—that the person in the position of authority is gaining as much as giving. But every healthy relationship has give and take on both sides, energy exchanging from one person to another. Susan shapes time and hosts me in her kitchen where we both can work, and Trisha literally hold me accountable to my bookkeeping. In return, I hold space and time for Susan and I pay Trisha monthly. The debits and credits are balanced.

Wishing you many lovely May flowers and balanced books in this full flower moon. Thanks, as ever, for reading, Rxo


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