I've had several people ask me what the studio looked like before we decided to take it on. I'd love to show you how the studio has transformed and tell you a bit about its story.
In March, 2017 just 7 months after relocating here and after teaching classes out of my house for a few months, I began looking for a public studio space. I wanted a beautiful space where a yoga community could blossom and offer playful healing, friendship and genuine connection. I did not know at that time what it would take to make this vision a reality, which is generally a good thing. I believe that if I had known I might have backed off but true to my nature I went head first into the fire. This quality of jumping before my parachute is strapped on has served me well and really bitten me in the butt throughout my life. Anyways, looking for studio space, I came upon this one in Shannon Corp's building.
I immediately saw the potential but was turned off by...well, everything; the long fluorescent lights, the crazy wiring to the right, the strange re-bars that were apparently holding the building up, the long silver air duct right down the center of the space. The row of windows look like beady little eyes with the contrast of white walls and dark carpet. All of it was sucking the light right out of the room. And that's just the front of the room. Check out the side.
A fire exit would certainly be nice to have, but what's up with that big red push bar? And can I relocate the big red fire extinguisher? Again, check out those re-bars and the lights. I walked away. And then I had a few appointments in the building and each time I came, the doors to the space were wide open. Every time I came in, I could see the studio more and more. If I just got ride of the grey carpet, changed the color on the wall, took out the lights, etc. I brought my 9 year old daughter in once and told her about my vision. She looked around and said, "Mama, I don't think this is going to work out. I know you are good at remodeling our house, but I don't think you can't make this space look nice." Ah, the honesty of a nine year old, and the challenge.
We had a very small budget. At the time, I was scheduled to return to my MFA program in Creative Writing. Realizing that the cost to remodel and start this business would cost the same as a semester of my MFA program, my husband and I decided that I would get a much better education doing this while offering something valuable to the town. So we went for it.
I signed the lease on the space exactly one year after we had come to Los Alamos for Mark to interview for the job at LANL. April 18th. Let me tell you about signing a lease on a new business. The weeks and days before, my mind was so full of potential, so full of the idea of it all that I walked around in a half dream state at all times. I couldn't sleep at night. I was as eager as a child before Christmas day. I knew this was meant to be and I was going to help make it happen.
On the other hand, the day I signed the lease, I went home with such self-loathing and fear. I questioned everything that had previously seemed like a good idea. I wondered about all the things I didn't yet know about and how I would figure it out once it came. I worried that I was pissing away my families finances. I anticipated failure and how I would feel on the other side of it. My previous bravery seemed nothing short of mere stupidity. The emotional space of the day before and the day after signing was like a marathon; one I had never trained for.
As has been true throughout my marriage, I am the one who forges fiercely into the unknown; new towns, new jobs, new homes, new house projects. Initially, I make everything happen and then when the details roll in, I bonk. I literally fall off the radar because the overwhelm is too much. And then Mark who is not fond of change, hesitates each time I offer a new idea, is reluctant to pursue and push beyond idea stage, suddenly is in it one hundred percent. I have never seen him so excited to take on a project as he was with the yoga studio. Our first job was to pull out the carpet. Our friend, Tony came and helped. While I'd like to say I helped, it was mostly Mark and Tony pulling, scraping, pulling, scraping then dragging it down the stairs to the dumpster. It took a day and a half. Here's my wonderful husband with his favorite toy in the soon to be yoga space.
We tried several colors. We spent a few hours putting up a small set of string lights only to realize they definitely wouldn't work and we needed to take them down again. I finally picked two paint colors for the walls, and a color for the door. We spent a couple of days painting which was our first step towards what felt like nurturing the space. And then the big day came when we had to lay down floors.
Thank God for friends.
There is no way we could have done this on our own.
Thank you Tony Stidham, David Todd Harmon, Nikki Stevens, Robert Lane, Jolene Lane for taking the a heap of kids to the park. Thank you Danna Pelland for standing around with me trying to find a way to help out, and for being a good friend. Through Danna's yogi eyes I could see the excitement of the project without all the fear and anxiety of the outcome. Thank you to Tera and Zandree for lending out their husbands for the day. And of course, thank you Mark Allen for everything. Many of these folks have never and will never do a lick of yoga. They just have big hearts.
Even with everyone's help, it took the whole day. The floor, as is typical in old buildings, wasn't perfectly level and this support beam you see here was a puzzle.
But we managed. And then the door was either going to be green or orange. Or rather, it was going to be one of a thousand shades of green or orange.
After everyone left, we still had baseboards to put in. Without the baseboards, it still didn't look fabulous. Sure I could tell the floor was nice. The paint colors were working with the floor. But our drop rags, ladders, tools were in the space and the base of the walls were raw. I again fell into a space of doubting. It might not turn out the way I had hoped. I was trying to accept that it might turn out looking just okay.
Mark wanted to install the baseboards on his own. We painted them together. He put them in and then was meticulous about spot painting over the nails and any other imperfection. It was around this time I was saying, "it's good enough" and he was saying, "no way, I can do better." But the baseboards, they made it all come together like magic. And again, thanks to David Todd Harmon for suggesting we put in painted wood baseboards as opposed to the plastic ones I had picked out from Home Depot.
Where did all our furniture come from? We had purchased the shelving when we lived in a cavernous house in Kuwait that seemed impossible to fill. I used the shelves for craft supplies for my kids and I. Later they were used for holding shoes at the front entry. Later they were used to hold our games. And now, they are holding props. Thank you, Ikea of Kuwait.
The other furniture is from Cost Plus World Market and Wayfair. The string lights (a major budget saver) are off of Amazon. That pillow came over in a suitcase with me from a writer's conference in San Miguel de Allende many years ago. And we took our time picking out a sweet stereo so that our classes could rock out.
Thanks to my kids who found this time consuming project boring. They would have much rather been on a different kind of adventure.
At this point, the studio has been through a few more changes. We took the furniture out to make space for larger classes.
We moved the shelving around to create a defined front entry and allow more wall space for putting our legs up.
Now we have extra tables and chairs available to set up for writer's groups. It's constantly evolving, as it should. I'm humbled by the honor to create this space and watch it change, knowing that it will serve so many people in different ways and by different people:
By taking time to rest and restore.
To practice seeing the world from a new perspective.
To play with friends.
By crafting together.
And sharing our stories.
Don't forget to read an intention card from the basket. It might say exactly what you need to hear.
I am thankful for the vision and courage to take on this challenge. I'm thankful for all the friends and family who have supported me and the studio along the way. I'm thankful to God for being my guide everyday. I'm so thankful for my students, many who seem to bring the sunshine in with them to class. I'm especially thankful to the students who have become my friends and inspired me with their many gifts, including the gifts of encouragement and kindness. I'm thankful to my landlord, Shannon DeBaca, who I have not always seen eye to eye with but without her, none of this would have been possible. I'm incredibly thankful to Mark for his whole hearted continuous support and encouragement, on good days and bad.
I wish I had counted from day one how many people praise the space. It has been a sanctuary for many of us. The beauty adds to whatever is happening in the space. Was it worth it? It was so worth it.