Blog – thoughts on yoga & life

A Fairly Charmed Life

It’s not Thanksgiving, or even the month of November; the season when we typically see people expressing thankfulness for the abundance that we have in this life. But I have some thoughts to share on gratitude, anyway….because gratitude is something we can practice all year long.

A few years ago, I was introduced to the concept of a gratitude journal. It’s a fairly simple concept, one that can easily be implemented into your daily life, regardless how busy you are: write down 3 things you’re thankful for each day.  That’s it.  They can be big things or small things. You don’t have to elaborate on them, or you can. It can literally be 3 words. Or maybe you want to just jot down 1 thing….or 5. We’re adults….we can do what we want here. 😉 it’s YOUR practice. And for something that you really don’t have to invest much time in, the results can be pretty fantastic. I’ve discovered, or maybe have just been reminded, that I lead a fairly charmed life. I invite you to try it out and see what happens.

Here are some of the things I’m grateful for, in no particular order….

  • running water
  • a supportive and loving spouse
  • causes I feel passionate about
  • the smell of spring
  • the ebb and flow of life
  • this next breath
  • days with perfect temperatures
  • my sister’s service to so many things: her home church, the broader church, her school kids, her family, those in need
  • the ancient, rejuvenating, practice of yoga
  • financial security
  • the moments that humble me
  • hellos…..and goodbyes
  • bread
  • sore muscles that remind me that I worked really hard on something
  • communities of support you find in so many different places
  • independence
  • the sun when you need it, the shade when you need it, a lovely breeze, or the lack thereof
  • modern medicine
  • a really nice glass of red
  • Dad being a ‘Worker Man’ and always willing to help
  • a really good hug
  • ancient wisdom
  • the healing that comes with a good night’s sleep: mind, body, and soul
  • warmth in the winter
  • new eyes to appreciate naked trees in the winter
  • visiting children who are out in the world, making their own way
  • the freedom to control my own schedule
  • the feet to carry me through the Narrows (and life), regardless of the pain they experience
  • a peaceful home
  • a good meal
  • my clothes….that aren’t very trendy and don’t always fit me well
  • a faith in and awe of something bigger than myself
  • parents who may think I’m crazy at times but love and support me anyway
  • the strength of body to build with the Habitat Women Build for 2 weeks straight ( and any other time I get out there)
  • fun times with great friends
  • the equalization of the breath
  • the understanding that we all have our own gifts to contribute to the world….I don’t have to be good at everything and neither do you
  • my niece’s faith and compassion for others
  • the eyes to see past things that sometimes derail others
  • considering what others are going through in any given moment, I rarely have anything to complain about
  • campfires
  • the way the body attempts to heal itself.  without our knowledge or awareness and the way it does this until our last breath
  • my tribe
  • the rebirth of spring
  • my mom’s desire to care for others
  • relativity
  • people who have taught me both how to act and how not to act
  • my son’s wit
  • the undying love of a dog
  • adventures
  • friends I’ve known since way back when I was in that awkward stage
  • compost
  • unconditional love
  • touch love
  • the comfort of my own bed
  • dark chocolate
  • my husband’s ability to figure the things out that frustrate me and cause me to give up
  • memories
  • my bike
  • that I’m not afraid of dying
  • the good, the bad, and the ugly of my past experiences – what I’m proud of and what I’m ashamed of….many lessons were learned and continue to be learned
  • my daughter’s balance of fun loving and hard working
  • new friends who you can just tell will be around for a long time
  • softball….the game, the ability to play just for fun, and the many hours of fun and sometimes group therapy that happens in the parking lot after the game
  • my kids’ friends
  • the difference a new layer of paint can make
  • proper gear/tools

I know.  It’s a long list and you’re bored now. But I could seriously go on and on…..what are you thankful for? I invite you to open your eyes, drink in the abundance you will find all around you. In the words of Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Much gratitude for you all,


How do you move?

It sounds like a weird question….what do you mean, ‘how do you move?’.  I just do it. I don’t have to think about it…my body just responds by moving when I need to get to the other side of the room. It’s not complicated.  right? Usually, we’re blissfully unaware of the movements of our bodies until something stops working. You have an injury or soreness from a workout or maybe your joints just ache.  Then you notice it, don’t you? This lack of awareness of how we move could be the single biggest contributing factor to how you feel day in and day out.

The snow that’s falling outside my door (in April!) reminds me that I have to slow down long enough to think about how I move.  When it’s icy or the snow needs shoveled (hopefully we don’t see that much fall today), it’s sooooo easy to injure yourself.  It happens before you even know it. If I go out there and just start slinging a shovel around, I’m bound to pay mightily for it later. But, if I really take notice as I’m moving and take care to follow proper form, all I get is a good workout, not a broken back.

This is true not just when I’m shoveling snow. Every time I get in or out of a chair, as I sit, as I stand.  The more aware I become of my form, the more control I keep, and the more my form starts to work for me, instead of against me. I simply feel better in the day to day activities. This is a big part of what we do on our mats when we practice yoga: we become aware of our bodies.  We think about how we stand, sit, move. We notice. We practice movements that nourish, heal, and restore our bodies. The more often we do that on our mats, the more we begin to subconsciously do that off of our mats.

There’s a spot just below the navel that I remember a yoga teacher referring to in a class…an inch or so down. Think of this spot as the origin of all of your movement.  Draw it in toward the spine and maybe up a little….anchor there first.  Then move.  Do it every time you move (or even while you sit or stand) just for today, and see if you notice a difference. I’d love to hear about your experience. What, if anything, changes for you? Where do you notice a difference? How does your body respond?  Share with me in the comments below!

Move intentionally, friends.  ~Namaste~

Fine China & Silver

We downsized just over a year ago. We moved from a 4-bedroom house with over 2,600 SF to a 2-bedroom house with exactly 1,008 SF. This was Step 1 in a long-term plan to simplify our life. To have less to maintain and more time and money to travel the country…and even the world. I realize I have a bit of an inner gypsy who is dying to get out and so far, my husband’s OK with that.

The big house was more than what we needed after the kids moved out. It had served us well over the years and provided a place for the kids to hang out with friends and for us to host treasured family gatherings.  We have many great memories of that big house on Wickens Street…full of the space we needed for that time in our lives. The first floor was a mostly open space…the Living Room opened into the Dining Room, separated only by a half wall. This space flowed into the Dining Room and then a large, dream kitchen with an abundance of space in the cabinets and pantry. Abundance. That is what we had. We were fortunate to have enough room to be able to keep everything I brought from my kitchen and everything my new husband Jim brought from his! Abundance.

Fast Forward several years to when the Tiny House bug first bit me and Jim saw the excitement in my eyes: his first response was something like “uuummmm…..we have 3 colanders….let’s just start there.  Which colander would go into the Tiny?”  As I thought about that question for a bit, I realized the answer was “none of them….we don’t own a colander that would be right for a tiny house”. The colanders I had brought with me to our marriage were old, cheap, and plastic.  They were used for different purposes but either one of them would take up too much precious space in a tiny house. The colander Jim brought is a beautiful stainless steel model that I love….but, again, too big for tiny. This is the only colander that would make it through the downsize. We took only the one that was beautiful and well made. I’m still trying to figure out what kind of colander we will need for the Tiny but beauty, function, and quality are the most important things to consider for any ‘stuff’ that deserves a place in our lives.

As a part of the move into a much smaller kitchen, there were many decisions to be made along the way. Some were easy. Some were hard. Some hit me in the gut like a pro boxer.  So much of what filled that big house was super easy for me to let go of. In general, ‘stuff’ has a tendency to make me feel a bit claustrophobic. However, I was shocked at the physiological reaction I had to the idea of giving up some of our things. The two big ones in the kitchen were the fine china and the silver. Both given to me by women who I loved deeply and had been very important parts of my life. I realized that I was more attached to my feelings for these women than I was to the this fine china and silver that I had rarely, if ever, used. I knew that intellectually. I knew through my practice of Aparigraha (a Sanskrit word that translates to non-attachment) that holding on to things can actually cause suffering. But the gut punch I felt when I considered giving these particular things away was more than I could handle. On the other hand, I had no room to store this stuff at the new house. What was I going to do? The only times I had used the fine china Granny Annie had given me were during those family gatherings when there were only as many people coming as I had place settings for. And I couldn’t remember ever once using the silver my Grandma Lil had given me over 20 years ago. I knew we had no room for things used this infrequently. But how could I part with them. Major. Gut. Punch.

Then I remembered how my other grandma always put her new things up and save them for “good”. While she puttered around the house in her ratty nightgowns, there were several brand new ones with tags on them she had saved  for “Good”. For “Good”…..what is that, anyway??? I’ve never seen “Good” on a calendar and I’m not sure when she thought it would arrive. She died with gift boxes under her bed and in her closet of nice, new things that she was always saving for some other time. I remember thinking it was kind of crazy that she had never enjoyed these gifts her loved ones had bought for her…they just took up space in her house. And for what? “Good”? When is this “Good” time coming that she would use them? For her, it seems as if it never came.  So, if I thought she was crazy for not using these nice things…..aren’t I also crazy for not using the fine china?

And so it was: we got rid of the regular dishes…we got rid of the regular silverware. And for the past year, my husband and I have been using fine china and silver for every meal. I absolutely love it!  I think fondly of Harriet Ann and my Grandma Lil when I eat….and, surprisingly, also when I do the chore of washing these precious gifts. What a bonus that has been. Weaving memories of these important women into a time that used to feel like work has been especially transformative for me. We’ve only broken one dish….and only had to polished the silver one time in that year, so I’d say the down side to regular has been fairly negligible. I also love that it makes every meal feel a little more special. Because, in the end, each meal with a loved one is quite special….and is, in fact, “Good”.

I’d like you to consider what it is that you’ve got tucked away for “Good”. Think about unpacking it and enjoying it today.


Vegas, Stink bate, & Moonwalking

Friends and family of Harriet Ann Hyde (aka Granny Annie) gathered today to celebrate her life.  To remember her fun-loving spirit and to comfort each other as we grieve. I read this letter to Granny at the service and I’d love to share it with you. She was quite the character and I’m so fortunate to have had her in my life.

Dear Granny,

You told me years ago that you wanted me to speak at your funeral. Way before you started telling me that you weren’t “long for this world”, you unofficially appointed me to be in charge of your eulogy. You joked that your girls probably wouldn’t have anything nice to say about you. I tried to convince you otherwise but, as with any time you made your mind up, I couldn’t. It is my honor to be able to share a snapshot of who you were and what you mean to me.

I remember the first day I met you.  I was on the 8th grade cheer team with Kris and she hosted a practice for the squad.  We started out at on the lawn of the church across the street. After we practiced for a while, we went to the house, came through the back door and I stepped into the carpeted dining room while Kris was introducing us all to you.  I will never forget that moment. I will never forget your first words to me. You said ‘Girl. I will beat you like a red-headed step-child if you don’t get those shoes off my carpet right now’. I was terrified.  I wanted to go home.  I had no idea what was happening and wasn’t sure if you were serious or joking. At my house we wore our shoes inside and never really HAD to take them off inside, unless they were muddy or wet.  But apparently that was the rule in your house and you were pretty serious about it.

It would be several years later by the time I really got to know you.  Kris and I moved in together the summer after Freshman year of college and you became a regular part of my life. You were always so much fun…always the life of the party. Your quick wit…your spunk….and your sass. All of Kris’s friends loved being around you…and Kim’s too, I’m sure. You had just become a grandma and were loving the time with Lacey and your new name, ‘Granny Annie’….which my kids would eventually come  to know you as, a few years later.

Kris and I lived at several different places over the next few years, and we eventually landed at your house. It took a bit of time to adjust to living with you. There were more rules in your house than I had had growing up, or certainly ever had living with Krissie Jo.  You liked things neat and tidy at your house…super neat and super tidy. And once I figured that out, we actually had a lot of fun under that roof. And you became a mom to me…we became family.

I’m grateful for the many great memories I have of that time in my life. Memories~~like a pile of unorganized pictures within my heart. Snapshots and snippets…..we all have those of each other. Snapshots that offer a glimpse of what it was like to know you:

One of those snapshots shows a hard-working single mom… of the hardest working people I’ve ever known. Often working multiple jobs, physical jobs, to make sure the bills were paid and that your family had everything they needed and even wanted. Kris says she didn’t even know you were poor until she got to jr. high school. Paying your bills and keeping your high credit score was always important to you. It said to the world that you could be trusted…that you would pay your debts and fulfill your obligations. It said to the world that you knew how to take care of business. I took that with me into my own life and I carry that snapshot of you with me still today.

One of those snapshots shows an amazing cook and baker. You were someone who only believed in cooking from scratch and you loved to feed people. You taught me how to make chicken and noodles, apple pie, green beans and new potatoes (when I had never even heard of jowl bacon before). You taught me how to make deviled eggs (with just a BAM of sugar), potato salad, and biscuits and gravy (Bs&Gs). Your Bs&Gs were the best. You used a lot of pepper in your Bs&Gs and my kids actually refused to eat them…..not because they didn’t like pepper, though. They were convinced there were cigarette ashes in your Bs&Gs. More for the rest of us! I carry your love of cooking real food with me…and finding pleasure in feeding my ‘loved ones’. When I make your dishes for the holidays, everyone gets to enjoy a little piece of you.

Another snapshot…..maybe this one is actually several…..shows someone who loved to have fun, wherever you were.  You had fun at work, at home doing chores, or hanging out with friends and family. A snapshot of our fishing ‘tournaments’ where we bet a dollar to see who would catch the most fish….when you made homemade catfish stink bait that was apparently even too stinky for the fish! A snapshot of playing cards, when you’d lick the back of your Ace-in-the-hole, your right bower, and stick it to your forehead, right after you had warned us that it was ‘roaches last meal’…the way you would encourage your partner to call trump by saying ‘hey, Columbus took a chance’. Snapshots of birthday parties, weddings….trips to various taverns around town. Our trip to Vegas…where you had “saved your lunch money” for months so you could lose it all (and maybe even some more) in just a few days.  You had the time of your life and no regrets as you came home with empty pockets.

Mooning people was a favorite pastime for you…even teaching your granddaughter to ‘moom’ people. The students at ISU even got to see your moon from time to time (your boss had to explain why that wasn’t appropriate in that setting).

There were times when you drank too much and that wasn’t always fun for the rest of us. We would call you “Pete and Repeat” when you had too much and would tell us the same stories over and over. I remember the ketchup fight….that lead to the bleach fight…how one of us didn’t end up blind that day, I have no idea. I remember the time you dropped the cherry from your cigarette into your purse and started to yell ‘fire in the hole….fire in the hole”. I learned that drinking Regular Coke (not Diet Coke, not Sprite, not Root Beer) was the best defense against a hangover.

As you got older and less mobile, you found your enjoyment watching fishing shows and westerns on TV, speculating who would win the Voice this season, working puzzles for hours on end, and most recently, playing games on your 2 tablets….one always charging and at the ready for when the other one ran out of juice. I learned that through it all, that regardless of what’s going on, we can have a lot of fun in this life….and I take that snapshot with me.

Another snapshot shows a strong woman; a woman made out of steel. A woman who didn’t take sh*t from anybody (pardon my French). You wouldn’t let your kids, your friends or family, co-workers, or even at times your boss, give you any crap if you knew you didn’t deserve it. You knew how to stand up for yourself. You weren’t shy about letting us know when you disagreed with us or thought we shouldn’t have done what we did. “UUUUUTTTTTT”, you would say. And when you were really mad, we all knew to get the hell out of your way. Your life story contains tragedies that would impact you greatly…your strength allowed you to keep going, even as you carried the weight of heavy sadness with you. The heartbreak of some of those tragedies would never leave you.

A snapshot of a woman who loved your daughters and your grandkids dearly (although I’m not sure the same could be said about your grand-dogs). You wanted the best for your Kim, Kris, Lacey, and Deven. And you tried to instill in them the things you found important. You didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but I always knew there was an underlying deep love. I carry that snapshot of unconditional love with me.

For me, I find solace in the trees. I came across a bench in the woods the day you died. The first line of the plaque on the bench read “Peace shall fall upon you today”….so it was for you that day….and so I pray it is for all those who loved you. On more than one occasion, we talked about your faith…we talked about heaven and hell. We talked about Jesus and God…we talked about forgiving others and being forgiven. You were at peace. You were ready to leave this world behind and meet your maker. That helps us all be at peace.

I can see you mooning us all as you go.  I can see you moonwalking your way right through those pearly gates….dancing your way into eternal life, without the burden of this earthly body. I celebrate that today…I’m so glad you’re no longer suffering. Ram Dass, a spiritual teacher and author, is quoted as saying “we are all just walking each other home”. I’m so grateful I got to walk (and sometimes even moonwalk) with you, for a time.

Much love to you, Granny…you will be missed.

When Inspiration Hits

There are a few times that I’ve felt this lately….most recently in developing yoga workshops. One came while doing my own private practice at home. An idea seemed to jump on my back and somehow enter into my bones. My body seemed to take over in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. It knew what I needed to do next and showed me the way.

The idea became my yoga teacher and guide that day.

I know that my regular private practice of yoga is important not only to me but to how well I’m able to facilitate the classes I lead. I know that it helps me become a more refined practitioner and teacher. And yet, I struggle making the time to do the physical practices of yoga when there is no one there to tell me what to do next. When I have to think about what I should do next. What I love about attending someone else’s class is that they’ve already figured that out….they know the sequence and guide me through it.

I don’t have to think about it…I only have to do what comes next.

And on this day of inspiration, this idea I had WAS my teacher and led me through the movements in such a lovely way. Being on my mat was a signal to the idea that I was open and ready to receive. And it was EASY!!!!  So different than wrestling with an idea that I want to have but perhaps just isn’t really my inspiration. Not that there won’t be some struggle in my creative process but it feels so right when it’s not there. When I have enough space in my life/day/physical space to be open and to receive.

For someone who has always worked by schedules and timelines and to-do lists, I must make space in my calendar for just being. And to greedily protect that time against all the distractions that I find myself being pulled away to. It feels as if this would be a luxury and part of me feels guilty for scheduling time for what may look like nothing…..and what may some days feel like nothing. For there is so much more to do in this world. So much more work to be done and people to see and activities to do.

But what if…..what if……just for a time, I dedicate myself to this open space.

What if….