Gratitude + News from NYC

Lately I find my heart flooded with gratitude. The first thought in my head upon waking up is thankfulness for another day of life. When I draw up a budget, I’m thankful that I have enough to provide not only for my needs, but even for all my “wants.” When I dance or play capoeira, I’m thankful that I’m healthy and able to enjoy these activities. When the stress starts to escalate at work, I’m thankful that I work with people who are understanding and dependable. Even things that seem like they should be annoying are reasons to be thankful: the other day when I was on my way to work and realized that I’d forgotten my wallet so I had to go back, I was thankful that I discovered it while just 2 blocks from my apartment rather than 10!

I don’t know what it is that’s making me feel this way, but it’s wonderful.

Here are the latest goings-on:

Work & Money

My job is still great; I’ve gotten to be involved in some really cool projects, and I’m learning a lot. August will be a lighter month for some of my other responsibilities, so I’ll be able to devote more time to the writing and web stuff that I love.

I’ve come up with a budget. It’s a good budget. This will be the test month to see how closely my expenses correspond to the amounts I’ve estimated. I don’t have the problem of overspending; instead I tend to err on the side of oversaving and being too tight-fisted. So a budget actually liberates me to spend without feeling guilty about it.

The other day I was talking with someone about my (sometimes hyper-)frugality, and he joked, “I won’t even say anything about you being Jewish.” *pause* …it took me a second to get it. Then it hit me like a slap in the face – Oh right. Jews are stereotyped as greedy, stingy bargain-hunters. I think that’s the first time someone has referred to my Jewishness as an explanation for some negative trait. I mean, thank God that I live in a country where that’s the worst that’s happened to me, but still – I dunno, maybe I’m being hypersensitive, but – if someone was telling me about how they don’t have much education and struggle to pay attention in school, there’s no way I’d insinuate that it’s because they’re black – even in jest!

Anyway. Lately I’ve gotten a lot of people who say I’m “so lucky” that I spend so little for rent and have ample savings, enough spending money to do pretty much everything I want, and no credit card debt. How many times do I have to say it? It’s not luck, it’s priorities. It’s not luck, it’s priorities.

Luck has nothing to do with my choice to live with roommates in a relatively small apartment, thus saving me about $500/month. Luck has nothing to do with the fact that I worked year-round throughout my college years and avoided frivolous expenses like buying loads of alcohol every week and a new wardrobe every semester. Luck definitely has nothing to do with my decision to pay off my credit card balance in full every month, never spending money that I don’t yet have. I save up for things I want; I don’t buy them NOW NOW NOW and figure I’ll pay for it someday…

I know I’ve written about this before, but it just amazes me how little everyone understands it. I am living quite comfortably in a very expensive city on a salary that is, well, at the bottom of the totem pole. All it takes is conscious and wise financial planning.


Still training with FICA New York, and still loving it! We have two instructors who have different styles of teaching and playing, but are both very skilled. I love the fact that the group leadership is shared, and everyone’s input is valued. I love the range of experience levels in the group, from complete beginners to angoleiros pushing a decade. I fall right in the middle of that, so I can really learn from everybody: the “older” students challenge me and also put me back in line when I get too folgada (cheeky) for my own good, and the “younger” students help me learn the skills I’ll need for teaching someday.

Random thought: a couple weeks ago I was watching someone who was very new to the berimbau. I’d forgotten how difficult it is at first: the instrument is a foreign object, clutched awkwardly in your hand at the cost of great pain to your left pinky finger. It takes all your concentration just to keep it from tipping over, and you can’t imagine when you’ll ever be able to balance the darn thing, much less produce that elusive buzz note or grasp the complexities of an entire rhythm. No matter how you hit it, all you can manage is a weak and tinny sound.

But then you practice… and practice… and then one day five years down the road you wake up and realize that the berimbau has become part of your body. You can move it as deliberately and easily as an arm or a leg, and (thanks to the permanent callous on your pinky) you can play for hours at a time and when you do, the rhythm runs throughout your body and you cannot sit still. The notes echo in your head and ring in your ears, and your muscles tense at the strained high tones and relax at the rich low tones. The baqueta is not something separate that you are holding but an extension of your own fingers, and the sound seems to be coming not from the cabaca but from your hand cupped around it. You are not producing music on an instrument; you feel as though you are the instrument.

And to think that, in the beginning, I didn’t even like capoeira music!

New Stuff

Every once in a while it’s good to take up something new. With capoeira I’ve been in it so long that I’ve become comfortable and even cocky, so it’s healthy to return to the necessary humility of being a complete beginner at something. So I decided to try breakdancing and African dance. So far I’ve only taken a few classes of each, but they’re really fun… I could see myself getting hooked!

Capoeira both helps and hurts me in breaking. The strength I’ve developed is an advantage, and also the techniques to maintain mobility and speed like keeping your hips up while doing groundwork and always staying on the balls of your feet (and even the balls of your hands – that hurts when you’re not used to it). However, in the very similar moves found in both arts – like baby freeze/queda de rins and tornado/role – I automatically do it the capoeira way until someone points out the difference.

Unlike in capoeira, where you do move to the music but only in a more “general” sense, in breaking everything you do has to be on beat. I also didn’t realize how fast you have to be. Probably it’s just that my body hasn’t yet assimilated the movements, so there’s a split-second delay as the thought makes its way through my nerve endings to my muscles. When I get my toprock feeling as comfortable and natural as my ginga, then I’ll be in good shape.

African dance is all about movement. In contrast to European dance, where the body is generally treated as a ‘whole,’ in African dance the body is segmented into various centers of moving – so your feet will be doing one thing and your arms something totally different. It can be challenging to keep track of everything, but it’s just a matter of re-training the body. One of the keys is to hear the music and understand the movements with your body, not your mind.

The class I take is done to live drumming, and there’s an awesome relationship between the music and the dance. I read somewhere that in some African languages, there’s no distinction between “music” and “dance” – the same word serves for both; they are considered two parts of a single thing. Not only does the dancer dance to the music, but the drummers will see and predict the dancer’s movements and play rhythms to accentuate them. It’s a very subtle communication, but the effect is amazing!


First of all, I’m happy that I’m finally in a stage of life where I can think about pursuing a relationship (i.e. I won’t be moving to another city/country within the foreseeable future). I’ve been on a few dates here and there… nice guys, but no real possibility of a romantic relationship. I’ve discovered I’m not really a fan of the “dating” model – it feels really artificial. I’d rather get to know someone as a friend, discover that we share some interests in common and that our personalities click, and then sort of naturally move towards a romance.

Having been single for far more time than I’ve been in a relationship, I don’t feel “incomplete” without a significant other. So although I’d like to have a boyfriend, the lack of one isn’t causing me to fret during the day or lose sleep at night :-p I get the feeling that someone will probably drop into my life when I’m least expecting him. Until that happens, I’m keeping myself busy enjoying everything else life has to offer!