Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Charlottesville. Thoughts and Feelings.

I have two other blog post topics rarin' to go - I've started my fifth round of Whole30 and reread the book that started it all, and I've come up on a very important injury-a-verysary which is leading to a redemption run this weekend.  This explosion of things to write about is rare, as I'm often scraping the bottom of the mental barrel for inspiration week-to-week.

It's amazing how something can feel so vitally and urgently important and meaningful one day, and beyond trivial the next.  It just keeps happening during this national emergency known as the Trump presidency.

Each day that goes by since this weekend, it's hitting me harder and harder, and in quiet moments when I'm not working or busy or filling my head with podcasts, I just want to cry.  I'm so deeply afraid to live in a country where the President falsely equivocates racists storming a city with the people who stand on the side of racial equality.  When he has to be practically forced to denounce hate groups by name, and then turns around and tell us all what he really wanted to say in the first place.

The absolute worst part of it is - it's not surprising.  It's who he's shown himself to be all along.  And yet he was still elected to hold the highest office in the land.

I'm a Virginian and a southerner and proud to be both.

And I've started and re-started the next several sentences to follow that a billion times.

I don't tend to get political on this blog (or at least not since the election), although I am extremely passionate about my political beliefs.  I could write a book about my complicated history and feelings about the south and the Confederacy and how I understand people who say, "Heritage not hate"  - because I used to be one of them, and I'm related to plenty.  It is a really intense, complicated issue for a southern liberal, and this isn't the place to hash it out.

You know what's not a complicated issue?

People identifying as Nazis, as the Ku Klux Klan, as White Nationalists, as whatever they call themselves, storming a town and spreading a violent message of "cleansing" this melting pot that is our country are on the wrong side of history.  It is wrong.  And it's terrifying.  And if it doesn't terrify you, you need a good, long, hard look in the mirror, a more diverse group of friends, and therapy.

Counter-protesters defending their city from the scourge of these hateful men (and they did all seem to be men, didn't they?) are in no way EVER to be equivocated to them.  It's beyond apples and oranges.  One person likened it to cancer and chemotherapy - yes, they're both aggressive.  But they are not the same.  One is a force for good, and fighting for good means defending yourself.

It's so far beyond politics.  And I'm so fearful for citizens of this country who are not evil people but whose worldview is shaped by such radically warped media that they believe the false equivocation.  That they actually believe the Black Lives Matter movement and activists are violent when nothing could be further from the truth - the aim is to stop systemic violence and promote equality.  Donald Trump has absolutely convinced himself that his beliefs are true, because he wants them to be true.  So do thousands - and God help us, it's probably millions - of his supporters.  This is not a new problem in America.  It's the oldest problem we've got.  But the side of "white power" just got a hell of a lot louder and more emboldened.

This frightens me down to my core.  I'm so afraid of what this is leading to.

So what to do?  How to cope?  What to say?  What to think?

Standing up to racism every single day when we encounter it is a start.  Speaking up and out.  Asking how to help and be of service and showing up to rallies and volunteering your time and energy and ear is a start.

In the short time - I want to share some words that have been helpful and comforting to me in hopes that they're helpful and comforting to you.

"It's strange to be in Europe while horrible terrorism occurs in your home state.  It's even more surreal when in Berlin, where so much Nazi hate and power rose.
The same question keeps ringing in my ears, reverberating in my heart, and weighing like a fetter with every step I take through this extraordinary city's history:  Why haven't we learned?
There is no freedom in ignorance, there is no power in walls, and there is no safety in accusing others as the guilty ones.  The lesser ones.  Those not worthy of life.
Focusing on the speck of sawdust in the eye of a scapegoat when that speck came from the spiteful sawing of the log in one's own eye is the farthest thing from what any loving God would condone.
And the Germans would be the first to tell you that."
Lisa Helmi Johanson, Actress, Musician, Best Friend, Soup Sister, Excellent Human Being

"Us good spirited human beings have a responsibility to use our superpowers to spread joy and kindness and stand up to hate.  Joy-makers unite!"
Joshua Holden, Creator and Star of The Joshua Show, Puppeteer, Joy-Maker, Friend, Excellent Human Being

"We hate the President, we hate the south, we hate the ignorant, we hate the people who don't have the same views.  See the pattern?  Hate begets hate, rage begets rage.  Hate is still hate, even if our hate is standing on the right side of history.  See, when we see ourselves as right in our hatred, we don't see how we are also poison ourselves.  What would happen if you stopped hating Donald Trump and started putting love into action?"
Laura Frye, Actress, Yoga Teacher, Best Friend, Work/Running Wife, Excellent Human Being

And Laura nicely segues into the most important person whose words have given me catharsis and comfort - a woman among the most deeply, profoundly, and permanently affected by this weekend's events, and by the lack of a leader who in any other world would have been present at her daughter's memorial - or at the very by-God least, said her name out loud.

Heather Heyer's last post online before she was murdered in an act of domestic terrorism were, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."  She was right.

Let's feel what we feel.  Let's channel and fuel our righteous and self-righteous anger and outrage and fear and frustration into loving action.  Let's let it go and fill our hearts with love, otherwise that anger and outrage and fear and frustration is going to live in us and marinate in us and harden our hearts - and that self poisoning, that hatred that can't help but make you bitter and hateful is exactly the kind of thing we're fighting against.  That's what makes us on the right side of history.  That's the difference.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Music Share - Mumford for Yoga & Running

My mother-in-law is really really into music.  In her next life, she will be the next Freddie Mercury.  Her passion for music is infectious and always leads to incredibly fun times, dance parties, and sing-a-longs at the LeVasseur's.

In 2013, the year Marc and I got married, she got me into Mumford & Sons.  (This is how out of touch I am with my own generation's music)  I had heard their big hits, of course, but one day when my in-laws were visiting she brought their concert DVD, The Road to Red Rocks.  Seeing them live absolutely floored me and I appreciated their lyrics, musicality, and energy in a way I never had before.

I listened to them a ton during that incredibly emotional, change-filled year, and I always associate it with that time, with our honeymoon, and I always crave it when I'm about to take off on a plane, during late summer, and when life generally has me reaching out for comfort, consoling, and spirituality.

So - I've been in a Mumford place recently.  Luckily two of my favorite activities, running and yoga, lend themselves quite well to their style of music, so I have two playlists for each.  Enjoy, give into the banjo, and maybe receive some comfort and inspiration.

For running, when the relentless build keeps you going (and the slower times signal a walk break!)  Strictly Mumford.

For yoga, mixed in with a couple of other wonderful artists and some instrumental.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Simple meditation

It's been a week.  Marc finally returned home in the wee hours last night from his crazy week-long adventure to Pennsylvania and Seattle to see two wonderful friends from two different parts of his life.

It's been a week of gaining perspective, sending prayers and good thoughts to those in need, and being forced to surrender to what is, when "what is" is no respecter of what you or anyone wants.

So here's what I did this morning, and I hope it can help you too.  Set a timer (with a gentle chime) for as long as you like, or just sit for as long as you like.

Sit comfortably with your back against the wall.

Find something to fix your gaze upon - a candle works well for this.

Keep your eyes open but soft.

Bring your attention to your breath without trying to alter it.

Notice how you feel in your body.  Release any tension that can be released - the eyes, the jaw, the neck, the shoulders, the abdomen, the hips, the legs.

Notice if any emotions are creating physical sensations in your body.  Breathe into those sensations without trying to change anything.

Open your heart to what is, without judgement.

Open your heart to what is.

Open your heart to what is.

Imagine a warming, comforting light around your heart.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Running with Lady-Friends

One of the many things I love about running is that it's usually a great source of alone time.  As an introvert, I prize alone time.  As much as I love working at a place where I get to meet an interact with so many families, kids, and amazing teachers, too much time around people really drains my batteries.  Running solo - especially with no headphones! - is a great way for me to hit the re-set button.

However, there is seriously something to be said for running with other people.  Cribbed from my all time favorite running (and life) podcast, Two Gomers Run for Their Lives which you should listen to immediately from start to finish, whenever Marc and I run together we make a date of it - it's a Romance Run!  It's a great opportunity for us to catch up with each other, especially since our schedules are usually opposite and we don't get a ton of time together during the week.  Also, his long legs almost always push my pace, which is great for me in my new quest to work on my speed! More on that next week...

Today's entry, though, is really about honoring my running lady-friends.  (Sorry, Marcus!)

Laura, Luisa, me, & Lisa.
I didn't get the "L" name memo...
There are four exceptional ladies who are also integral sources of inspiration in my running life.  We don't usually run together as much as I'd like, although Laura and I went through most of our respective 9:1 journey running together and had an amazing run this morning, but knowing they are out there crushing it always gives me more motivation and more heart.

Soup Sisters!
My best friend Lisa is probably the person who's most responsible for my turn toward living a healthier life that I took after college - although I'm not sure if she knows it.  After graduation, I really wasn't sure what to do with my life, but I knew I could do four things - 1. Start running (because I secretly always wanted to even though I always used asthma to get out of it) 2. Do more yoga (I was just starting to really fall in love with it) 3. Join a gym and 4. Eat vegetables sometimes  (And maybe stop eating chicken nuggets multiple times a week)  Without even meaning to, Lisa showed me a stellar example of how to take care of yourself and value health and the one body that you get in this life.  We almost never get to run together, and our busy lives never intersect as much as we want, but running the women's only mini-10K together was an amazing experience that I will always treasure.  It was the longest race she had ever done, which blows my mind because her seemingly effortless commitment to healthy living has always made her an inspiration to me.

Laura has taught me the art of
race pictures.  Bk Half, 2016
My running wife (I think it's official now) and work wife and partner in multiple crimes Laura did track & field in high school, but didn't run much (or at all, I think!) when we first became friends ten (!!!) years ago.  When I started getting into the half marathon & marathon distance, she joined the chorus of many people who were amazed and claimed they could never do it.  Fast forward, and she has run probably more half marathons than I have at this point, and is training for the Goofy Challenge - the Disney half marathon and then the very next day, the Disney Marathon!  The girl has become a running machine and was one of my biggest supporters and cheerleaders during my injury and my subsequent return to running.  We've run the Brooklyn Half twice together and I am so beyond happy she has discovered her passion for running.

You can check out her chronicles on the Road to the Goofy Challenge on her awesome YouTube channel, Laura Runs and Eats.  Subscribe!  She's hilarious and awesome.

Lu crushing this year's Brooklyn Half.
My lovely friend Luisa was a runner and overall ridiculously healthy person when I met her three years ago.  Vegetarian, meditator, non-smoker, runner - all the boxes were checked.  Unfortunately, cancer didn't seem to give a damn about any of that when she was diagnosed last July.

Inspirational isn't a strong enough word, and I can't do justice in describing what she went through with her diagnosis, her treatment, and her long, hard road to remission and recovery.  Today, she is cancer free (YAHOO!) and getting stronger and stronger.  She was a runner before cancer changed her life, and now she is running to help others afflicted by it.  Lu is running the 2017 NYC Marathon (!!!!!) with Fred's Team, raising money to support leukemia research at Sloan-Kettering which provided her with truly life-saving care.  Please please please click here to donate to her fundraising effort!  She already crushed her original goal of $3,500 and is now stepping it up to $5,000.  I'm pretty sure she'll be able to step it up one more time before November...just sayin' . Let's get here there!  And while you're at it, read her blog.  She's an incredible writer, and you need to read what she has to say.

At the marathon. Best sister ever.
Finally, I would be totally remiss not to mention my sister and very first running partner, Megan.  She started running very shortly after I did, and always having been the natural athlete between the two of us, really took off.  We ran our first race distances together - first 5K in Williamsburg, VA (I thought I was going to die), first 10K in Charleston, SC (also thought I was going to die), and our very first half marathon in Myrtle Beach, SC (funnily enough, that one felt fantastic!).  We planned to run our first marathon together at Disney, but fetal Atlas & Zoe got in the way of her plans.  She has always been there for me, commiserating over our struggles to eat healthy vs. eat everything because running gives you a great excuse to do that, sharing tips when we were running together, and providing tons of support when I've been running and she hasn't been able to - which has been the dynamic for the past three and a half years.  We haven't run together since a 2014 Turkey Trot - which we took easy, since she had just found out she was pregnant (with, we assumed, one baby...ah, the innocent old days).

Luckily for her, she found a phenomenal surgeon who has helped her get through the considerable challenges that having two back-to-back pregnancies had left her with.  I wrote last week about how she's been recovering beautifully, and her recovery gets more impressive every week.  She finally has a functional core again, and the more time that goes by the closer she'll be to fully recovered.  There's a laundry list of reasons why this surgery has been amazing for her, but I have to say I'm so excited about my most selfish reason - we can finally run together again.  We always have good conversations when we run, and considering our last running conversation was all about anticipation of her first baby...we have a lot to talk about on our next one!

April of 2008, after our very first 10K...who are these people???

Friday, July 21, 2017

Home is Where the Heart is

One of the most cloyingly saccharine cliches of all time?  Yes.  True?  Also yes.  Sort of.

It's been an incredibly eventful three weeks.  At the end of June, my sister underwent major abdominal surgery to repair a major diastasis caused by two back-to-back large pregnancies.  On that same day Marc and I headed up on the Megabus to Massachusetts for a fun long July 4th weekend of family (including our two delicious little LeVasseur nephews!), wine, fun, and going through endless boxes of nostalgia from his childhood as his parents prepare to put their gorgeous house on the market.  The baby pictures!  The metric tons of books! The middle school poetry!  Oh, the earnest and terrible middle school poetry...

Then last weekend, I flew to SC for a whirlwind celebration of the twins' third birthday with family (third!!!), helping out my sister, who is recovering beautifully in every sense of the word.  Just shy of three days of nonstop work, play, and extreme highs and lows of overstimulated and excited toddlers.  Coming back, I snapped immediately back into doula-mode and helped a fantastic couple as they brought their tiny new daughter into the world.

Also, I've powered through three Harry Potter books in the last 3 1/2 weeks.  That has had no less of an emotional/nostalgic effect on me...Plus all kinds of other things I won't get into that various friends/family are going through - health challenges, emotional upheavals, big changes.

So, there's been a lot going on, and there's been a lot to say about what's going on, but I haven't been able to distill any of it into a blog-worthy 'lesson' or phrase or clean, clear tie to yoga.

The one thing that does come to mind as I struggle to articulate the aftermath of all of this dusting up of old memories is actually something that happened in a kids' yoga class I taught last week (which feels like ten years ago now!).  We were sharing a big fuzzy ball with our feet (cause hands are just too easy!) and taking turns sharing our name / age / and something else about ourselves.  That last is usually "favorite color" or "favorite flavor ice cream," but if a kid has another idea, I'm always up for it.  (One kid wanted everyone to share what our favorite pairs of pants were) . This particular little girl said we should share, "the favorite house in our family."

I was sort of surprised with the force with which that hit me.  I thought about the LeVasseur home in Mass., and how it's been Marc's home since he was 7 years old and where we celebrated his brother's wedding and ours.

I thought about how my family moved around more in my childhood, and I loved my home in Virginia that I spent my middle & high school years in - but my mom had to sell it to care for my Granddaddy my freshman year of college, so I had to say goodbye to it long ago.  Which of course makes me think of my grandmother's house, which up until 5 years ago was my biggest definition of home or a home base.

There's also my sister's home, which I think she moved into maybe five and a half or six years ago now - maybe longer?  That's definitely my new home base, along with the LeVasseur house, my brother-in-law's house in Jersey, and though we can't afford to go there often, the Costa Rica house!  My mom is going to be moving, after many years, into a place of her own, and I could not possibly be more excited about gaining a new home base and more importantly, for her gaining a new home base.

And our own apartment, of course - I love this place more than any other place that's been "mine," but no apartment lasts forever in this city, unfortunately - especially as everyone keeps figuring out how awesome Astoria is and making it more expensive.  I'd love it to be our place for years to come, but there's just no certainty.

When it was my turn to share and answer my young student's question, I said my favorite house in my family was my sister's, because it was where my niece and two of my nephews live.  There was a bittersweetness - the bitter of having not just one solid nostalgic childhood home of my own, of thinking of those homes that are no longer in my life, but also the sweetness in having so many scattered beautiful pockets of homes in our family to choose from.

So back to the saccharine title of this blog.  If home is where the heart is, what is the heart?  Is it where we are, wherever we are?  The people we love?  Our blood family, our chosen family?  I think it's all of it.  My mom always tells me, particularly in the years after she moved when I was in college and I was struggling to handle the change in a home base, that my home is wherever she is.  It is that, and it's where my sister, my in-laws, Atlas, Zoe, Caleb, Kai, and Lucas are.  My home is always wherever Marc is.

Now more than ever, I'm bitterly and sweetly aware that the only constant in life is change.  Babies turn into kids who turn into grown-ups.  People move.  Homes are sold, apartments lost.  Relationships change. Home where we feel a pull to return and where we feel a drive to start anew, and wherever there are those who love us.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Yoga Love for the Neck, Shoulders, & Upper Back, by Karma Kids Yoga!

My upper back & shoulders have been bugging me all week - I strongly suspect it's due to reading 200 pages of the fifth Harry Potter book at the beach on Sunday.  (And yes, I deserve the world's tiniest violin for that.  Biggest first world problem in human history)  I've been doing a little self-massage with doTERRA's Deep Blue Rub (which is basically like magic in a tube), but have needed a little bit more to loosen things up.

By total coincidence, my wonderful boss, Shari Vilchez-Blatt (founder & director of Karma Kids Yoga) was inspired this week to share some of her favorite neck, shoulder, and upper back releases after talking with some lovely women at her daughter's school.  Like so many people, they work at desks and computers all day and suffer from the eternal hunched-over-a-keyboard posture.  New moms suffer from this too, from holding and feeding their babies all the time.

So many of us could benefit from taking some time out to give our shoulders some love - and this video is only 8 minutes!!  Check it out, share, and subscribe to our amazing YouTube page!  We've got videos for kids and grown-ups.  Learn more about Karma Kids Yoga by visiting our website.

With two flights in two days coming up this weekend as I take a whirlwind trip down south for Atlas & Zoe's birthday party, I know I'll be doing this video again very soon!

Namaste, y'all!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Music Share: Paul Simon & Other Cool Cats

Doing a little bit of a cheat this week as the clock runs down on this blogging week - I have a lot more to say about last weekend (and will have tons to say about next weekend when my firstborn niece & nephew turn THREE!!) but for now, I'm just going to get this one up.

In honor of my in-laws and the incredible memories I have around their fire pit and in the living room  with endless glasses of wine, jamming to Simon & Garfunkel (among many others), are my Paul Simon (and friends) playlists.  The first one is 64 minutes, a good-ish yoga class length, and curated to start slow, build, and end slow.  The second is an hour and 42 and in no particular order.

Paul Simon always makes me think of happy sunny summer days and my amazing in-laws.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

9 : 1 and DONE

This past weekend, I finally did what I set out to do last year - I finished the 9:1 program with New York Road Runners.  Run in 9 races and volunteer in 1- and you qualify to run the following year's New York City Marathon.

After I got injured last August with just two races to go (just two!), and found absolutely no mercy or help within NYRR to offer me a chance to get those credits back, my running wife and cheerleader Laura sent me a sweet little meme that simply said, "Injury makes the comeback sweeter."  It feels so amazing to be on the other side of that journey and to feel that...yep.  Yep, that's true.

Would I have preferred not to have gotten injured and to have done it all in one go last year?  110% YES.  But it didn't work out that way, and I definitely felt ten times more emotional crossing that final stepping-stone finish line yesterday than I would have had I been able to achieve it last year.

These last two races were particularly meaningful just on their own.  The Pride race is one I've always wanted to participate in, but my Saturday morning classes always conflicted.  The turnout was low this weekend due to the crazy downpour of rain in the morning, but miraculously as soon as the clock struck 8:30 and it was time to start, it stopped.  By the end of the race, the sky was almost completely clear and the sun was blazing.  The spirits of everyone who made it out weren't dampened a bit, though - they even had cheerleaders on the sidelines for us!  My personal favorite was the guy who started singing "Turn the Beat Around" at the top of his lungs while struggling through the hills alongside me.

The Achilles race - Sunday's race, and race #9 - is one I've done about four or so times now, and is absolutely amazing.  It honors the Achilles organization which pairs disabled athletes - whether they are a veteran missing a limb or someone with special needs, a wheelchair athlete or a blind athlete - with guides to help see them through a race.  Seeing folks push through obstacles far worse than any I've ever had to face is always a humbling and heart-opening experience.  I usually spend half the race in tears, and yesterday was no exception.  Having Laura by my side - and it was her final qualifying race too! - made it a thousand times better.

Now we don't have another one on the docket until August's France Run (which I was so sad I didn't get to do last year), and we're both eagerly looking ahead to the Abbott 5K Dash to the Finish in November, the day before I'll be cheering on my friend Lu in the NYC Marathon (check out and donate to her fundraising page here!).  It'll be the first time I train for a 5K since my very first 5K over nine years ago, when 3.1 miles seemed an insurmountable distance.  This time, I'm training for speed and efficiency.  It'll be good for my body to have a race on the horizon to train for that's a shorter distance - I know it makes my physical therapist happy!  The rest of the summer I'm focusing on getting stronger - and running stronger.

Just shy of seventy weeks until the 2018 New York City Marathon.  I can't wait.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Discipline of Restraint

I try to live my life as a disciplined person.  I have certain habits I work to maintain, I'm disciplined about my running, and try to be disciplined in my work.  I always think of discipline as more, harder, faster.  Working harder and longer, pushing yourself past your limits, going to that place of being uncomfortable and challenged.

This week, I discovered the discipline of restraint.  It took me much longer to get back to full health post-virus than I imagined - and truthfully, I'm still not eating 100% normally for fear of my body revolting.  As soon as my body gave an inch of recovery, I wanted to take a mile in jumping back into my normal routine.  I was desperate to go for a run again, especially since I have my final two qualifying races this weekend to gain entry into the 2018 NYC Marathon.  After last year's injury and coming so close - two races away, in fact - and not meeting my long-awaited goal of making this year's marathon, I am chomping at the bit to get these under my belt.

But - I needed a different kind of discipline this week to keep me from racing out of the gate and doing too much too soon, like I did on Friday night which led to a terrible setback...and then another setback on Monday morning.

I felt better - and then waited.  Rested.  Did the gentlest 15-minute YogaGlo possible instead of the strength-building workout I really wanted.  I wanted so badly to be better again, I wasn't giving myself the chance to get better again.

I'm thrilled to report that my self-imposed short leash has worked, and although absolutely wiped out from a 5-class day, I'm feeling so much better and stronger and like my normal self again.  I'm more than ready to tackle a busy weekend - races, family, a Moana-themed birthday party at Karma Kids, and hopefully - fingers crossed - a little wine?

Discipline is not always about pushing yourself.  Sometimes it's about knowing when to hold yourself back - and sometimes that's even harder to do.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Too Much Too Soon / Child's Pose

Nothing humbles you like a stomach virus.  Except maybe forgetting how humbled you were the first time, overdoing it on food and wine (I know!) the second you feel normal, and then getting the humbling smackdown again.  "Too much too soon" is basically my middle name after every single illness or injury I ever have.  You'd think I'd learn.

Physical illness, mental illness, grief, pregnancy, existential stress at the state of the news (and as always, there's so much to rail against) and so much more can shake you off your foundation.  Luckily, yoga is infinitely adaptable - it's not all sweaty vinyasa classes in lululemons.

Meditation, restorative yoga, and my all-time favorite, Child's Pose, are just what the doctor ordered when the doctor has you in a humble ball on the floor.  And it's there for you when you're ready to - slowly - build back up.

So - child's pose today.  Back to the resistance next week.