Monday, December 18, 2017

A Parting (sort of) Gift - Meditation and More from Karma Kids Yoga!

Happy December!  We are officially more than halfway through the craziest and most joy-filled month of the year, and I am officially two days away from reuniting with my sister and her crazy and joy-filled family.

To share in the spirit of giving this holiday season, my last post of 2017 is a gift to you!  Karma Kids Yoga's YouTube channel is packed with such a wide variety of yoga goodness - it really has something for everyone.  Yoga love for shoulders & upper back, which every grown-up can use, a great arm workout, family yoga, a surprise visit from Frozen's own Anna and Elsa, and tons more!

Specifically, I want to share with you a meditation I contributed to KKY's page.  It's directed toward mama's to be, so please share with any you may know, but the basic principles of it can be relaxing, grounding, and useful for anyone who needs to just sit and get quiet during this busy time of year.

Subscribe to our channel, check out all the fun, and enjoy this meditation!  May 2018 be less crazy and more joyful than 2017.  See you then.

Monday, December 11, 2017


Wednesday I turn 33, and I started out the week with the most wonderful celebration with wonderful people, and 33 candles on a huge chocolate cake.

There's a lot wrong in the world, but that is not one of them.

Monday, December 4, 2017

December Mantra

Happy December, the month where New Yorkers attempt to fit 50 pounds of fun and parties into a 10 pound bag!  There are certainly far worse things in life, but I come out of every December usually feeling absolutely wrecked - partied out, overstuffed, drained, and exhausted.  My birthday is the 13th, Marc's is the 15th (our sweet nephew Kai turned 2 on the 2nd!), and Christmas parties and plays abound.

To get through the year with a modicum of peace and energy, I'm making it my goal to infuse the mantra slow down into this month as much as I can.  Especially, for my hardcore hippies out there, with Mercury being in retrograde starting yesterday and up until December 22nd, "slow down" is exceptionally good advice.

So at work, at home, making plans, or even at that party where you're reflexively and thoughtlessly reaching for the chips for the 500th time (or is that just me?), try to remind yourself to slow down.  Enjoy what you're doing.  Pause and breathe in what you're doing.  There's lots of joy and celebrations and madness, but there should also be peace this season.  Find it and infuse it wherever you can - even if only in your own mind.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Music Share - Tom Waits

No matter how much I love my job, I always have major melancholy coming back to work after time away with family.  This past five days with my in-laws and husband have been wonderful, and coming back means not only the usual "back to reality" but entering the absolute madhouse that is December in New York City.  Parties every five minutes, our birthdays, Christmas cards and presents, shows, until finally we board a plane in 23 days to take us to an entirely different form of madness - my sister's house!

Marc's been reminding me to take it a day at a time, though, and to take advantage of the quiet when it happens and enjoy the madness when I'm in it.

In that vein, I'm taking it easy on this blog today and sharing some of the music that provided the soundtrack to family time (and family sing-a-longs) this weekend - Marc's all time favorite singer/songwriter, Tom Waits.  Here are 14 of my favorites of his, spanning from 1973 to 2009.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 20, 2017

The advantage of the obstacles

I was pretty stressed out this week.  Some of the reasons were obvious, but there were also days I just felt gripped with an anxiety that I couldn't explain, that came seemingly out of nowhere.  In those times, it's almost always tempting to move away from meditation, yoga, writing - things that will actually help me - and toward zoning out, numbing behavior, reloading my Instagram feed 40 times, or never having a moment of quiet.  The breakthrough comes - for me, at least - when you ignore the immediate desire to just space out and get numb and distracted and actually pay deep attention to the problem, to the stress, even to the anxiety that seems to have absolutely no logical reason behind it.  Sometimes that involves talking really honestly about it, sometimes that involves doing some gentle yoga and going to bed early.

I did the latter on Friday night with my favorite PM practice that I know I've shared on here before, but I can't share it enough times.  I've done it off and on for over nine years now (!) and it still does the trick.

It wasn't until I did this practice for the 4,000th time that it really hammered home how I ought to be putting a deeper focus and attention on my negative emotions.  Jason Crandell says several different versions of this in his practice, that the obstacles - the tight hips or the really intense physical sensations - give us something to direct our breath toward and give us an opportunity to pay deep attention.  In that sense, the restriction or the obstacle, he says, becomes a big asset to the practice.

It's the same in life.  If we don't struggle, we don't grow.  If we don't fail, we don't learn.  If everything is easy all the time, life gets incredibly boring and void of any sense of satisfaction of achievement.

So, in this most joyful and most stressful time of the year, make sure you're taking time to get quiet and reflective and restorative.  And do this class before bed.

Monday, November 13, 2017


It's been eight years today since I've been with the love of my life.

A few months from five years married (Costa Rica, here we come).

Eight years and a couple months since living in the city.

Seven years of Friendsgivings in NYC with my chosen family.

Seven years of Karma Kids Yoga - more chosen family and buckets of kids.

Ten years since college; fourteen of the friendships.

One picked-clean, no leftovers turkey last night.  A table of desserts.

And in ten days we do it again with family.

This morning I'm tired, still full, and grateful.

December 15th, 2009.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Faith in Humanity

The oft-quoted Kathrine Switzer, long distance female trailblazer, once wrote, "If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon."

New Yorkers, doing what we do
Marathon Sunday is always one of my favorite days of the year in New York City.  I've spent these Sunday's over the last eight years that I've been here as a spectator and cheerleader, both in person and on the couch in my boot nursing my injury last year, I've been a volunteer, I went down with other marathoners and marathon volunteers to Staten Island after Sandy in 2012 after the race was canceled - and I've spent the last two years fighting to qualify for it.
Malcom, Laura's corgi, displaying her
arsenal of runner support

Next year will be my year, along with my 'sole sister' (I'm making it happen) and work wife Laura, so this year was another year spent being absolutely inspired beyond measure cheering on the sidelines.  Seeing the heart, the raw emotion, the joy, the pain, the absolute love from the sidelines and from the runners is awe inspiring.  Yesterday was dreary with relentless drizzle, but the city's heart was still out in full force for the runners.

The worst of humanity, unfortunately, occurred yesterday as well, although I confess I didn't read about it until this morning.  A domestic abuser who somehow had access to a gun because - America - murdered 26 people for doing nothing more than coming together to worship in their church on a Sunday in a small Texas town.  With victims ranging from 5 to 72 years old, the loss of the pastor's 14-year-old daughter, and the complete senseless agony of's pretty damn hard to keep your head up and your heart open.

One of the reasons the marathon is so emotionally intense is because so many of those running are running for causes or for people rooted in deep suffering and pain - running is a form of catharsis, a means of fundraising to fight disease and help the disenfranchised, and a way to honor loved ones who can't run for whatever reason.  My incredible friend Lu blew past her fundraising goal for Fred's Team, which raises money for Memorial Sloan Kettering, the hospital that helped save her life.  A family we encountered yesterday were cheering on family who were running for the NYPD and in honor of a family member who had died this year.  I can't even type that sentence without crying at the memory of them holding their marathoner as he came to the sidelines to embrace them and all of them weeping together.  Then he rolled out his quads with The Stick (see pic above), grabbed a Twizzler, and went off to conquer that Queensboro Bridge and the rest of the course.  The raw emotion and strength is unbelievable.

We're also coming up on a year since the nastiest, most devastating, most divisive, and unfortunately the most consequential election in our nation's history.  It's been a year of civil rights being decimated, casual, cruel, and constant racism & sexism, lies, and incompetence.  It's been a year of echo chambers, of not listening to each other, of a lack of civility (to say the least) in our discourse.

It's been a hard and violent year.

Shalane Flanagan, the first American woman to
win NYC since 1977, making me weep
But there is also still so much goodness - in this city, resilient as ever after last week's deadly terrorist attack in lower Manhattan, in this country, in this world.  Sometimes you just have to go out and seek it directly and soak in every last moment of it before retreating back to what sometimes seems like the relentless drudgery of the every day.  So - go out and seek it.  Cheer for runners in a race, big or small.  Play dress up with children (Karma Kids Yoga's special events are another great way to rekindle your joy).  Practice gratitude.

That's my intention for this month - the month leading to my favorite holiday.  Practice gratitude, every day, as many times a day as humanly possible.  Practice gratitude for the obvious, for the mundane, for things that don't feel at all like things for which to be grateful.  Be grateful anyway, and see what happens.  It's one of the best ways I can think of to cultivate joy and resilience in this truly crazy - in the best and worst sense of the word - world.

"Don't Give Up...Don't EVER Give Up"
Photo by the amazing Michael Pauley

Monday, October 30, 2017

Music Share - Fall + Love

I've resisted the onset of fall really hard this year because, as always, summer went by way too fast with far too little beach time.  Now, however, I am all in.  The wind, the leaves, the football - I'm eating it all up.

This is the season when I moved to New York eight years ago, and it's the season I fell in love with Marc eight years ago.  I'm a strangely seasonal person when it comes to music - Joni Mitchell in the spring, Janis Joplin in the summer, Mumford & Sons as summer hangs on tight before fall.

Today I'm sharing a playlist based on new and old fall favorites, some with a special significance of being songs listened to on repeat by either me or Marc (or both) as we fell in love eight years ago.  Wild is the Wind and Picture in a Frame for him; Make You Feel My Love and Can't Help Falling in Love for me (although full disclosure, I most often listened to the Elvis version.  Ingrid is just too pretty not to win the playlist war).  And we spent many a goofy night dancing to You and I in his old Steinway apartment.

One of my all-time favorite songs to listen to in the fall is Mystery by The Indigo Girls.  Some of the most gorgeous lyrics and harmonies ever, as only they can do.

Plus, new-to-me-music!  Thanks to one of the most heartfelt, emotional, beautiful, and flat-out fun weddings we've ever been to - our fantastic Philly friends who got hitched two weeks ago - I'm now unable to stop listening to Tom Petty's Wildflowers.  (Yes, I'm terrible and didn't know it before.  RIP, sir)  

Check it out and enjoy.  Pairs well with a home yoga practice, windy walks through the city or the country, and mugs of the hot drink of your choice.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Report: Dangerous Boobies

Yes, you read that right.  Boobies.  As in - boobs.  Breasts.

Caitlyn Brodnick's book Dangerous Boobies:  Breaking Up with my Time-Bomb Breasts is a funny, relatable, compulsively readable memoir of her relationship with her breasts, cancer, and cancer prevention via a preventative double mastectomy.

Personally, I wasn't touched by cancer too much as a child.  I had grandparents suffer from it, but as a child I sort of viewed it as a consequence of smoking (as most of these cancers were) and something reserved just for very old people.  I wasn't touched very much by people closer in age to me or to my parents going through it.  As I've gotten older, though, it has struck more and more in my circle - and younger and younger victims.  Family, friends, grandparents, parents, children - you name it.

Caitlyn Brodnick's experience of cancer, though, began before she was even born.  Her father's entire immediate family had been struck down by the disease in various forms, and she grew up in fear and hatred of this disease that had taken so many important people in her life.  When she finally got herself tested to see if she was a carrier of the breast & ovarian cancer gene (which Angelina Jolie brought into the public conversation back in 2013) and saw that she was, she was faced with choices - none of them particularly fun, easy, or appealing.

Given the intensely serious subject matter, you wouldn't think 'fun' and 'appealing' would be words that describe this book, but they absolutely do.  Brodnick is a comedian living in my very own neighborhood here in NYC, and a friend of one of our fabulous Astoria Book Club members.  We had the opportunity to not just read this wonderful book but to meet and have an author talk back with her in our 'hood last week.  Her voice in the book is just as she is in person - self-deprecating but very knowledgeable, vulnerable but grounded and courageous.

October is, as we have all seen by the fact that everything is spray-painted pink, breast cancer awareness month.  What better time to buy this book and share it with all the women you know?  It's an amazing read no matter what your relationship with cancer, and as packed as it is with humor and silliness, it's also incredibly moving and incredibly informative.  She balances it all with seeming ease and at the same time, creating a space for a conversation about health, prevention and choice at an age where many of us still think we're going to live forever.

Buy the book here and share it with your mom, your sister, and your friend.

I mean, come on.  It's called Dangerous Boobies.  You know you're curious.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Shared Humanity

Funnily enough, it was while watching Titan Theatre Company's fantastic and bloody Richard III this past Friday night that led me to start thinking about compassion and the fact that we as humans always have far more in common with each other than we think.

There is a scene between three of the powerhouse women in the show where enemies realize their mutual grief binds them together and puts them as members of the same club.  They don't exactly put their differences (or, you know, blood feuds) behind them and become best friends, but they relate to each other as fellow human beings.  It's an amazing scene of grief, reluctantly shared humanity, shared desire for vengeance, and ultimately human connection.

The idea that people on such polar opposite ends of a spectrum - again, blood feud - could have a moment of commonality is always striking.  These days, we all too often are ready to be divided amongst ourselves and to disconnect from others on the opposite side of a debate.

The current controversy about people kneeling during the anthem is a great example - folks on the right claim that kneeling dishonors our troops.  Folks on the left claim a huge part of the reason our service men and women fight in the first place is to protect our right to peaceful protest and freedom of speech, and that the kneeling is a protest of racial inequality, not targeted toward soldiers.

As for the troops themselves?  They don't all hold the same opinion about the subject.  Many have spoken out saying they view it as highly disrespectful.  Many have also come out to say they fought to live in a country where people can't be legally forced to stand for the anthem - and that there are far more substantive ways to respect or disrespect the troops than what you do during the anthem at a football game.

I don't bring this up to get into that specific debate, but merely to illustrate the point that within this one issue we have "other'ing" happening - for example, the "patriots versus the non-patriots."  There's also an attempt to lump one entire group of people together and assume you know the mind of each and every one of them - "the troops."

It's just as misguided to assume that someone who views the issue differently than you is a terrible person as it is to assume all people are the same because they belong to a particular group.  Apply that to...women, black people, hispanic people, men, yoga teachers, liberals, Christians, doctors, Muslims - you name it.  There is always been and will always be a massive amount of diversity within any easily categorized group of people.

The Internet makes "other'ing" and lumping groups of people together (I really need a one word name for that) all too easy to do.  When you're forced to have an actual face-to-face conversation about an issue, though, and are thoughtful about what you're saying and feeling instead of being reactive and assuming, it's much easier to develop understanding and empathy of another person's differing viewpoint.  The meeting last year between Colin Kaepernick and Green Beret Nate Boyer is a an example of two people discussing their differences in person and each coming out with a greater understanding of the other.

It all makes me think of a quote from Maya Angelou that I've long wanted to write about but never quite known what to say about it.  I believe it to be true, but at the same time - I don't want it to be true.

"We are all human; therefore, nothing human can be alien to us."

Any emotion or thought or action any other human being in the world may feel or think or do - if it exists in one person, it has the potential to exist in every person.

This quote makes me more than a little nauseous.  It's not pleasant to think of my shared humanity with, say, Hitler.  Or Kim Jon Un.  Or any of the perpetrators of mass shootings.  Or Donald Trump.  Or your every day sociopath.  Or the asshole who shoved past you on the subway the other day.  Or the man catcalling you on the street.

It's more comfortable to call them monsters, to think of them as villains, and to demonize them than to think of them as fellow human beings, who just happen to possess a darkness that I do could potentially possess. Sort of a "there but for the grace of God go I" situation.

I think the point of the quote, aside from attempting to demonstrate compassion and understanding instead of judgement and blame for those different from us, is to keep us humble.  Innate biases mean that we always think better of ourselves than we perhaps deserve (unless you have cataclysmically low self esteem).  But we are all possessed of flaws and darkness too.

Conclusions are my weak point as a writer - always have been.  This is a big bunch of ideas I've been marinating in my head for quite awhile as the country's divisions have widened and widened over the past years and I've tried harder and harder to live a more spiritually connected life in the midst of it.  I don't have a flash of wisdom to tie this all up into a bow - but that quote keeps coming up in my head and forcing me to look at things in a less black-and-white, less comfortable, less easy way.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Monday Mantra

My favorite meditation technique has always been, without question, the use of a mantra.  In life, I'm pretty much always talking, reading, or writing.  I love words, and they have a much more powerful effect on me than trying to focus on a visualization or reflect on an idea.  In addition to (or in place of, sometimes) New Year's Resolutions, I like to find one word or phrase to use to help shape my thoughts, goals, and actions.

So - I have a lot of mantras floating around in my head.  Some are just handy reminders that I can think of during a stressful time, and some are more like life mottos for myself.

Recently, this one popped into my head:

"Everything is a blessing."

After a day which had started out easy and peaceful and dissolved into, I believe the technical term is, a bit of a shit show, I made it through a last minute change in plans which I had allowed to stress me out unnecessarily (which I sadly do all the time), I thought to myself that things had actually worked out fine and that perhaps the change in plans was a "blessing in disguise."

It immediately occurred to me, though, that what I assign as a "blessing" is just a matter of perspective and what I choose to focus on.  It's easy to see a pay raise, a new relationship, or getting something we want or need as a blessing, but the things that challenge us or even hurt us always bring at least some benefits along with them - they're just hidden more deeply, and usually take a longer time to reveal themselves or for us to have the ability to see them.  If what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, then what doesn't kill us blesses us.

I realize the term "everything happens for a reason" does not sit well with a lot of people - and I can see where this "everything is a blessing" won't, either.  If you're dealing with something truly tragic - a family member with a terminal illness, suffering from a natural disaster or senseless violence - I 100% acknowledge that these sentiments can seem not just useless but insulting.  If you're still in survival mode or shock or true despair, this can seem wildly trivializing.

If it does work for you, though - it can really work for you.  Life is cruel and unfair and does not discriminate (thank you Hamilton) against who it can kick in the ass from day to day.  All we have is how we respond and how we see things.  If you can step back, take a second, and choose this as your thought, instead of "Why me?" or "This sucks," it can make a world of difference in how you perceive your challenges.

It doesn't mean you don't feel frustrated, experience suffering, or still fall into what may be lifelong habits of losing your temper or playing the victim (or both! yay!), but a mantra is a powerful technique of perspective change.  Embracing the use of mantra as a tool to help you choose a different internal and external response to challenge has the power to make you not just happier but healthier by reducing inner drama and stress.  It can shift your focus from the negative event to what positive things can come out of it, even if those positive things will take a little while to materialize.

So - try it.  When the week throws curveballs your way, when the news makes you want to pull your hair out (for me, that's the hardest area to apply this one!), when you fall into a usual trap of road or subway rage or judgement, repeat this in your mind until you can believe it:

Everything is a blessing.

And as they say in the South - have a blessed day, y'all.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Laura Runs & Eats

Happy October!  Even though it's already been fall for a couple of weeks, it hasn't really felt like it i NYC.  After this stunner of a weekend, though, and the turn of the calendar along with the turning of the leaves, it definitely feels like fall is here.  Fall is, for me, the best running season of all.  The cool, crisp temperatures, the gorgeous leaves, the blessed reprieve from humidity, the slow and steady breakout of colder weather clothing - in honor of it all, today's entry is totally running-focused!

I've had a bit of a stop-and-start start to my 5K training.  I'm continually paranoid about re-injuring myself, yet also tend to be inflexible toward altering my running schedule.  I'm doing my best to force the former side to overrule the latter, so I've had a few days where I've skipped a run and replaced it with swimming or biking at the gym, or just strength work incorporated with some jump rope and hated burpees.  It's a constant challenge to actually listen to my body and let go of my ego.

I also got new shoes which I unfortunately realized too late were really not the best pair for me, so a new pair better suited to plantar fasciitis sufferers is in the mail!  I hope to be back on a regular roll soon, and this weekend's wonderful long run with my best friend Laura was a great start to that.

Laura and I have been friends for over ten years.  She's always been supportive of my running goals, and then got into running herself a little over two years ago now and has fallen just as deeply in love with it as I have.  She has turned into my Brooklyn Half partner in crime and my running wife, and I could not have possibly asked for a more encouraging, generous, and steadfast pillar of strength and support during my injury last year.  I am forever indebted to her for that.

Laura is an actress, and has a larger than life personality (which if you've ever met her, you don't need me to tell you).  She's been blending her on-camera skills, huge personality, and passion for running in her hilarious and inspiring YouTube Channel, Laura Runs and Eats which you should immediately go subscribe to.  She's training for the Goofy Challenge at the Disney World Marathon Weekend this January - which is the half marathon one morning followed by the full the next day!

I've been watching her videos from the beginning and she's now at the halfway point of her training where mileage kicks up considerably.  It's something I always know I can turn to if there's a point in my week where I'm feeling blah or stressed or down - it's guaranteed to cheer me up and inspire me.

Laura also just recently was the featured guest in a podcast she introduced me to - the Team Shenanigans Podcast, the podcast for a nationwide running club of which she's a member.  The fact that she's gone from fan to taking over an episode is just so her - and the episode is hilarious.  Check it out here to learn about the intersection of yoga, Pilates, and running - and lots of pelvic floor talk!

Her most recent video is below - where she recruits her husband Lenny to taste test Gu's as she starts to plan for mid-run fueling in her training.  Remember to subscribe - Lenny will train for & run a half marathon if she hits 200 subscribers!  And happy running, or happy yoga-ing, or happy pumpkin spice latte - happy whatever your fall-happy-place is!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Book Report - The Four Tendencies

I have loved every one of Gretchen Rubin's book since I first read The Happiness Project about seven years ago.  She's a meticulously detailed writer and researcher with a very easy-to-read style that's a cross between research paper and personal diary.  Her work on becoming happier and habit change has been profoundly influential in my life, and in a way that feels much more realistic and accessible than some of the slightly more extreme books out there, such as The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  (Good luck getting us to purge that much)

In her book Better than Before, Rubin unearths four tendencies - a somewhat looser term than "personality type" - a framework that identifies people based on how they respond to both inner expectations (like keeping a New Year's Resolution) and outer expectations (like meeting deadlines at work or school).  I was not at all shocked to learn that I, like Rubin, am an Upholder - and apparently we are a very percentage of the general population, which now that I think about it makes total sense.

The Four Tendencies are, briefly:

Upholders - Readily meet inner & outer expectations

Obligers - Struggles to meet inner / Readily meets outer expectations (the majority of people are obligers)

Questioners - Readily meets an expectation if it makes sense to them, and will ask lots of questions to get to that justification

Rebels - Struggles to meet inner and outer expectations - values freedom and will meet expectations that they determine align with their identity

If reading that you still feel like you have no idea what you might be, there's a handy little quiz you can take that will tell you.

One thing Rubin points out is that there is a ton of variation within each tendency.  This only tells us one big, broad thing about ourselves - how we respond to expectations.  It doesn't touch on any details such as our level of patience, kindness, anxiety, work ethic, intro/extroversion, or temperament.

But while it's not a big, comprehensive personality framework a la Myers-Briggs, it can have a huge effect on your life when you learn more about what motivates you, what de-motivates you, and how to work with your tendency - as well as the tendencies of those around you - to help yourself meet the expectations that you have to and want to meet.

This was also really helpful for me because, while it may seem like I've got it made as an Upholder because we are the "get shit done" tendency, one of our downsides is that we can be pretty judgmental of others who struggle with expectations that we ourselves don't.  We have a harder time putting ourselves in someone else's shoes, and this book helps you to see the perspectives of those who react differently than you in given situations.  It also helped illustrate why some of my weaknesses are my weaknesses - a paralyzing fear of mistakes and failure, occasional difficulty delegating, a tendency to be inflexible and to get rattled when plans change, and a clinging to habit or rule just for its own sake, even if it no longer serves me.

The book breaks down strengths and weaknesses of each tendency, how to understand and deal with each tendency, and puts it into different contexts of personal relationships, family, work, and even health and self care.

My only complaint about this book was that I wanted more of it.  I preordered it and absolutely devoured it.  It's short and a lightening-fast read.  It pairs well with its predecessor, Better than Before, which is the book that first helped Rubin discover these four categories of personality, which you should definitely read if this book also leaves you wanting more.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Transition (a search)

Whether or not you have a hard time falling asleep, I'm sure you've heard the same advice many times over the years since electronic devices have taken over our lives - no screens for an hour before bedtime.  It's a rare human being that actually is able to follow this, in my experience, but we all get why we should be doing it.

So many people who have a hard time winding down for bed, or who have a hard time transitioning their mental/stress state from work to home, struggle because there is no clear divide or boundary anymore between the different facets of our lives.  Work, the news, engagement with others via text and social media, all permeate any and all attempts at setting boundaries and divides between the two of them - but these boundaries and divides are crucial for our mental health.

During last weekend's amazing Brain Gym course, I noticed a lot of little things about myself that I wanted to adjust or improve or get help with, and one of them was a seeming inability to shift gears between work mode and home mode.  I set such a massive premium on being productive, busy, and fast, that my days off get overscheduled (even if they're scheduled with activities I love!), and I find myself absurdly powerwalking around my apartment like I'm trying to get past slow walkers on the way to the subway.

As a result of that noticing, and realizing that, although I am quite lucky and blessed that I usually fall asleep okay, I often feel myself with an unnecessary level of anxiety when I'm at home, on my own time, working on (or playing!) my own personal priorities.

The goal, then - to slow down.  Calm down.  And to figure out a way to make clear the transition between the fast-paced, chaotic outside world of the city and shift that energy when I'm at home.

This would be a truly excellent blog post if I could tell you that I figured out exactly how to do that, but I'm only just now thinking about it and wondering how best to do it.  When I wake up in the morning, I have a lovely ritual I do to transition me from sleep mode into a peaceful start to the day, but taking the power-walking energy out of the equation at home - and at work, where it's certainly not always necessary or helpful - is a little trickier.

I'm curious if others, especially those who have a hard time calming down for sleep, and especially especially parents who are still "at work" when they're at home doing the work of keeping their kids alive and healthy, have anything that works for them to help transition into a state of letting go of the day, letting go of the rush, and being okay with settling into a slower, calmer state.

Anyone?  Bueller?

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Magic of Brain Gym

Fart Neck Pose.
Would you do this with your boss?
I cannot believe I haven't blogged about Brain Gym yet!  That is absolutely bananas, and also sort of great because after a few years of incorporating the little bits and pieces I learned from Shari (founder & director of Karma Kids Yoga and the only boss I've ever had with whom I've also done crazy things like the pose on the right, which she named "fart neck"), I finally took the "Brain Gym 101" course this past weekend to learn more in depth about the what's and wherefore's.

Brain Gym is a lot of things, but what it is primarily is a way to facilitate better learning through movement.  Although it started in the field of education and helping children learn better, everyone can benefit from it.  You may be reading and writing just fine, but do you have a situation where you struggle to communicate your needs clearly to a partner, a friend, a co-worker?  Do you struggle with random bouts of unexplained anxiety that you struggle to release?  Or maybe you just want improved handwriting or fine motor skills (piano playing, knitting, etc).

Everybody has external and internal challenges in how they relate to themselves, others, and the world, and Brain Gym offers a simple, movement-based platform to help optimize our brain function, calm and ground our bodies, and prepare ourselves to learn new information or repattern old habits.

The foundation of the program is PACE - an acronym for Positive, Active, Clear, and Energetic.  We all learn at our own pace.  There are four actions/movements performed before beginning any Brain Gym session to help activate the body's electrical system (by drinking water), stimulate the reflex points of the eyes to find our visual center, activating both sides of the body to fire neural pathways in both the right and left hemispheres by crossing the midline of the body, and activating the vestibular system and balance related muscles, which helps to draw blood and attention from our periphery to our midfield to access our higher-order thinking and decision making.

Adorable illustration of PACE
Shari had shown me the movements of PACE and a brief overview of why we do it / how it works quite awhile ago, and I incorporated the movements into my morning routine simply trusting that, in a general way, it was helpful.  It made me feel more alert, awake, and focused, but I would always move through it in a rote, automatic, way - counting things out and doing it for the same time and in the same way, no matter how I was feeling physically or emotionally that particular morning.

My focus was drawn to a lot of my patterns and tendencies that I'd rather change this past weekend, and funnily enough, one was rushing through things and doing them just to do it - because it's on my list.  It felt wonderful to slow down, understand more, and listen to my body and be present for this movement I've been going through for ages and have a deeper understanding of it.

Our instructor, Mari Miyoshi, was lovely, kind, clear, and patient.  Having worked as an OT for many years, she had so many anecdotes to share about children (and adults!) who were helped through Brain Gym.  It was even more powerful to experience in real time the changes we all as a group and individuals experienced.

The best part is that the movements are ridiculously simple.  How many times have you tried to barrel through a frustrating task, only to easily accomplish it after walking away for a few minutes, getting some water, maybe talking to someone else and shifting your focus?  For me, I always know the only way to move through certain bad moods is to, as I call it, "Shake myself out of myself" through some sort of movement, change of scenery, or distraction.  That's what Brain Gym offers - a full toolkit to set you up for success, and to rebalance and reorganize your nervous system when the inevitable obstacles of life and work come up.

Brain Gym obviously doesn't turn us into perfectly functioning, neurologically balanced robots.  As Mari said, the course was the easy part - now the fun part and the hard part comes in with applying it to everyday life and to our teaching.  Like yoga, like with anything - the more you practice it with intention and consistency, the more benefit you receive.

This weekend was absolutely perfect to help support my goals and intentions for this upcoming "school year" - to cultivate calm, to stop overreacting or catastrophizing solvable problems, to engage more in stillness, to monotask over multitasking, and to truly pause and listen to myself.

Karma Kids Yoga will be hosting Brain Gym again next spring, and in the meantime, I highly recommend visiting their website for more information.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Monday, September 4, 2017

In which I blog about blogging

Everyone's been asked this question at some point - "What did you do for fun as a kid?"  Often the question is asked in an attempt for you to find your one true passion so that you can follow your bliss for your job and "never work a day in your life."  Or it's sometimes just asked to help guide you toward a valuable hobby that will bring you joy.

For me, the top answer that springs to mind is always writing.  Yes, I also had a deep and abiding obsession with movies, and I could spend hours playing with Barbies, but writing has been a consistent love and passion for as long as I've been able to do it.  I loved coming up with my own original stories, creating fanfiction before I even know the word, writing movie reviews (my former dream job, before the Internet made the profession way less common, important, and relevant), and even just straight up transcribing things I loved just for the pleasure of typing it and recreating it.  I've kept a journal my whole life, too, ever since my mom gave me my first one with the promise that it would always be for my eyes only, and one memorable semester in college I took three writing-intensive courses in one semester.  (That was not smart)

So it made a lot of sense to me to start this blog (far from my first, and God help me if my college livejournal is ever discovered) over seven years ago when I was new to the city and fresh out of my 200-hour yoga teacher training.  It would be a place to explore and discover all my new exciting yoga knowledge and inevitable spiritual breakthroughs.

Over the years I've been consistent with it, sometimes more consistent than others.  But over the years it's also become more of a chore, a self-imposed have to rather than a want to.  I'm an upholder, so if I commit to doing something, I'll keep that commitment even sometimes past the point of it being useful, enjoyable, or even practical just because I said I would, dammit.  With this blog, for instance - if I stopped posting, I'm pretty sure no one would notice or much care.  I don't say that to solicit cries of support or fish for a compliment - it's just a fact.  The Internet is not lacking for blogs or things to read, and like everyone else, I am not lacking for a platform to express myself on it.

And this brings me back to that question - What did you do for fun as a kid?  Well, I wrote.  It's so ingrained in me that I formed this weekly commitment to myself to write something worthy of sharing with others...yet it's become a source of stress (this isn't good/deep/interesting/insightful/funny enough!) and "have-to" (it's almost Saturday and I haven't posted for the week and I'll break my streak!).

Writing brings me joy - but only when I approach it that way.  Writing does help me through struggles.  I sometimes feel hampered in blogging because often when a lot is going on that isn't appropriate to share with the world for to respect peoples' privacy, or is more political in nature (aka almost every single thing I've wanted to write about since the current President announced his bid to run by calling Mexicans rapists).  I also feel tied to the self-imposed idea that this is just a yoga blog.  Which is stupid.  I'm literally only doing this for myself - I can make it whatever I want.  Also, you can tie pretty much anything to yoga, albeit sometimes with the thinnest of threads.

What I'm trying to say through all this self-reflective yammering is - if I want to change how I feel about this, I have to change my approach.  I literally do not have to write.  I get to write.  I love to write.  Writing is a deeply spiritual practice for me and it always has been, even as a kid when I would've had no idea what that meant.  It's something in which I can get lost in that ever-elusive, ever magical flow - when you're so immersed in an activity you lose track and sense of time and the usual mental chatter fades effortlessly into the background.  I think sometimes my resistance to writing actually comes from a resistance to allowing myself to escape that mental chatter that we're all so masochistically attached to and get into that state of flow.

So, I'm changing my approach and giving the practice of writing the reverence it deserves.  Even if the quality of my writing doesn't change at all or even diminishes, I can choose how rewarding the time spent is for me.  Don't turn a blessing into a chore - how blessed I am to even be wondering about this epically first world problem.  I have the freedom of speech, the education to write and express myself, and the time in which to do it.  What a tragic waste it would be to do anything other than enjoy it in complete and utter humility and gratitude.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Book Report: It Starts with Food (Whole30, Round 5)

I've written several times on this blog before about the Whole30 program - it's 30 days in which you only eat vegetables, fruit, meat, seafood, eggs and nuts.  No dairy, grains, legumes, alcohol, and most importantly, no added sugar of any kind.  Yep, that includes honey.  And agave.  And stevia.

Why would someone who has a deep and abiding love for all of the foods on the "no" list voluntarily do this, you (understandably) ask?

Having done it four times already, and being literally in the middle, on Day 15 of this Whole30, I can tell you - because it feels so. damn. good. after thirty days.  Well, it starts to feel good before you get to the thirty day mark, but the first week can be quite rough as you detox from the sugar addiction.

I can tell you that my skin (I suffer from eczema) clears up, my bloat goes away, my energy levels increase and stay level throughout the day, I sleep better, I feel good in my own skin, and most importantly for me, my mental/emotional/psychological crap I carry around me when it comes to food caaaalms down.  I find other ways of treating and rewarding and comforting myself besides food, and I take all that mental energy that's usually occupied all day long by negotiating and debating what foods I "can" and "should" have (i.e., all forms of chocolate at every meal, cheese, tortilla chips) and put it towards other things of actual value to me.

It doesn't mean that the food I eat on Whole30 can't be comforting, rewarding, insanely delicious, or considered a treat, but it's so far removed from the emotional medicine that it usually is.

We're nearing the end of a summer where health and mortality have been frequent topics in our household and among our friends and family, so it feels like no better time to focus on the number one thing I can control that can support my good health - the food I eat.

This round of Whole30 has been somewhat spontaneous for me.  I usually plan these things out well in advance, and am always mindful not to do a Whole30 during events where I know I will definitely want to drink wine, or definitely want to eat my sister's fried chicken or my mother-in-law's beef stroganoff.

I was getting to a place this summer where my craving for foods that I know make me less healthy (for example - I'm allergic to corn, which I can eat, but which I know aggravates my eczema and gives me a headache...but popcorn and tortilla chips!!!) were getting a little out of hand, my energy was lagging (hello 3:30 energy crash),  and I just wasn't feeling good in my skin.  Having done it previously, I know going back to the Whole30 would be a great way to cut the mental chatter, cut the crap, and go back to consciously and deliberately choosing only foods that I know will make me more healthy.  Basically, it's the best way to force me to eat a lot more vegetables.  And as a bonus, my mom just finished another round - what better support person to have than your mom?

So after mulling a Whole30 for a day and looking at events on my calendar (cause y'all know I'm going to be drinking celebratory wine at opening night of Marc's show), I realized that the best time for me to start was basically in two days.  I not only rearranged my plans so I could spend a day in the kitchen prepping the week's food and some kitchen staples, but I took the first book written by the Whole30 team, It Starts with Food, off the shelf and read it a second time.

This book is fascinating.  Even if you're a vegan or someone who just doesn't give that much thought to the food you eat (is there such a person in this country??), even if you have zero interest in ever doing a Whole30, I think it's so worth reading.  It gives so much insight as to how much and in how many ways the food we eat affects us.  In this country, we tend to focus on one or two nutrition facts in a food (milk has calcium!  carrots have Vitamin A! whole grains have fiber!) without looking at the bigger picture.  What else does the food contain, and how does it interact with your digestive system, with your hormones, with the level of inflammation in your body?

We can be forgiven for viewing food in this piecemeal way - the food/advertising industries together has created many powerful, almost unconscious at this point, associations and perceptions of certain foods.

It Starts with Food can get pretty heavy and overwhelming on the science and the detail, especially for a reader like me who was never so great in science class (and for whom it's been a long time since my last science class!)

The book starts be detailing what they consider the "Good Food Standards."  In Dallas and Melissa Hartwigs' view, the food you eat should promote the following:

1. A healthy psychological response
2. A healthy hormonal response
3. A healthy gut
4. Healthy immune function, while minimizing inflammation

After delving in to what exactly they mean by all of that, they then detail the foods they categorize as "less healthy" and the foods that they categorize as "more healthy," and then into the details of putting their recommendations into practice for 30 squeaky-clean days of eating (including some great recipes).

Despite the detailed science-y portions, this book is so accessible and down-to-earth.  They're not about finding the perfect or morally good/right way to eat - simply about promoting better health.  The Whole30 is a tool, an experiment of one, a reset - not a way of life (unless that works for you - personally, I would never give up wine, cheese, and chocolate for the rest of my life).  Although there are foods they put into the "less healthy" category that you probably eat every single day, and with great pleasure, there's no moral "badness" associated to them, nor are they saying that each person is affected by them in the exact same way.

When your Whole30 is over, you reintroduce the foods that you missed in a methodical, deliberate fashion, paying close attention to how it affects you.  With that information, you then know - either it doesn't affect you at all, or if it does, you can decide when it's "worth it."  For example, my boss avoids gluten for personal health reasons, but sometimes certain things - such as focaccia from Eataly - are worth the belly ache and bloat for her, just like sometimes the red wine is worth a less great night's sleep for me.

Eating and life shouldn't be about deprivation, but about knowing ourselves as best as we can, and keeping our decisions deliberate and informed.  It's a process, not a quick fix.  There's no such thing as a quick fix, and there's no such thing as perfection - to this perfectionists' dismay.

That's one of the things I love so much about the Whole30 - you learn about yourself, you feel amazing, life moves on, and if one day you find yourself somewhat off the rails again or just not feeling good, it's always there for you to go back to.  I find each time that I do, its easier, I feel better, and I'm enjoying my food without obsessing over it.  Even though I definitely spend way more time in the kitchen, I feel so good about it knowing that I'm doing something good for myself.  And despite that time, I almost always find that I have more energy to give to things that aren't food.  And for this sugar addict, that freedom feels amazing.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Redemption Run

On August 16th, 2016, I went for a run after taking two weeks off, in hopes the pain in my left heel that had been plaguing me for months would heal itself.  The run was, as I remember and wrote in my journal later that day, amazing.  It felt so great to be back out, I pushed myself, I had new music (President Obama's Summer 2016 Spotify Playlist - sigh!), and I got good and sweaty.  The only downside to that amazing run was that right afterward, my foot pain increased a lot from where it had ever been before.

And of course, two days later at an appointment where I was hoping for a cortisone shot and to be sent on my merry running way, I discovered the pain was due to a torn plantar fascia and was sentenced to six weeks on crutches.  Which of course turned out to be longer than six weeks and would include a long recovery period which led to me not running again until February 5th, 2017.

That weekend of my injury I was supposed to run the France 8K, which would've been my second-to-last race to complete in order to guarantee entry into the 2017 Marathon.  Champagne, French stuff  everywhere, plus everything I love about a NYRR Central Park race.  I got the shirt and the bib (since I picked them up before my podiatrist) but alas, never got to earn them by running.

This past week I've been reflecting a lot at what I've learned about myself the last year, going from injury to recovery to running to the Brooklyn Half and then pulling back to shorter distances again.

I was already moving toward emphasizing cross and strength training before the injury, so I've continued to move hard in that direction, but much more importantly I've learned about forcing myself to stop when my body is giving me signals.  That it's okay to change your plan mid-run - or mid-whatever it is in life you're doing - when being obstinate and sticking to the plan just for the plan's sake would do more harm than good.

I finally ran that 8K this weekend, with my running wife and steadfast cheerleader by my side.  The weather was stunningly beautiful, we did a run/walk ratio of 5:1, and being on Whole30, I skipped the champagne (which wasn't even at the finish line!  We'd have go to hunting for it at the after party...) but I wouldn't have needed it anyway.  The satisfaction of conquering last year's race I was unable to run was more than enough for me.

It was also great running the 8K knowing I've got a plan in place for my next big running goal - running a 5K as fast as I can.  I've got my goal time set (more on that in a future entry!) and I have a training plan set to start on Sunday, September 3rd.

In the meantime, I've decided to take two self-imposed weeks off running.  No running at all until the start of my training period - I'll still work out hard and stay in good shape, but I can feel little twinges here and there in my body that are talking to me, and out of deference, respect, and an abundance of caution, I'm going to do the hard thing, the thing I don't want to do, and listen.  This time last year I wasn't running because I wasn't physically capable - this year, I'm choosing not to because I can feel my body asking me for a break.

I miss it already, but if there's one thing I learned from last year, it's the importance of listening to your body - and then giving it what it requires.  It's almost never easy and almost never in line with what your heart and brain want to do, but we only get one body in this lifetime, and the longer I live the more I learn how important it is to respect it.

Finally, in my Timehop last week, I came across an image that Laura sent me when she was giving me a pep talk when I was feeling down about my clipped wing.  She was a steadfast source of strength, and seeing this right before knowing we were going to run that race together gave me the biggest, most ridiculous smile.  It's a simple sentiment and absolutely true.

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!

Resurrection of a blog (and a hip)

One year ago today - on a much cloudier, much colder, and quite frankly very hungover morning - I went out to run.  My goal was either 4 mil...