11 March 2018

My First Yin Yoga Class AND Yoga Teacher Training

Life...sometimes it doesn't cooperate with what we have planned.  So I haven't been here in a while.  Sometimes post ideas pop into my head but when I'm sitting at a computer I lack the energy or motivation to write.

This past week I went to my first ever Yin class.  I had no idea what it was and...WOW! Instant love-hate. I could tell right away that it was going to be super challenging for me to be still for several minutes with nothing but my thoughts (I can sit still for hours while reading a book but not if I'm not "doing" anything).

If you don't know what Yin yoga is, basically you put yourself into a pose and then hold it for several minutes.  There's no movement, no flow, just holding.  The benefits were clear pretty quickly but it was a real struggle. It's definitely something I need to work into regular practice.

This weekend I spent in yoga teacher training.  It was a great, supportive, group of yogis and that's a connection and community that I've not found here yet.  It felt really good although I will admit that I'm not great with the "fluff" parts of teaching yet.  What's "fluff?"  Things like, "Opening your chest allows you to let in positivity."  I'm an engineer and my brain sees things in very logical ways.  I get the physical aspects of poses and my cueing tends to be very instructional and less emotional.

I've already signed up for the next course in a couple months.  I look forward to adding to my knowledge, expanding my practice and making more connections.

23 November 2017

My Thanksgiving Dilema

I don't celebrate or observe thanksgiving for several reasons.  But I acknowledge that others do and I know that living abroad can be difficult for some during such holidays; especially if they don't have any family here with them.  The USO offered a thanksgiving lunch today and asked for people to donate food.  I offered to make some vegan dishes because I know vegans are rarely catered to on such a day and I wanted to make sure there was something for them to eat.  I'm sure we've all experienced a meal where even the green beans have bacon in them :(

So I roasted some squash, sweet potatoes and carrots and added some sage vegan butter.  I also made my famous red wine-ginger-cranberry sauce.  When I went to pick up my pan and bowl, a lady came out and said, "You're the one with the vegan dish?"

I told her I was and she said she loved it and her husband loved it.  Then she told me how her husband normally won't eat sweet potatoes unless they have this much sugar <holds fingers half an inch apart> on top.  She wanted to know how I made mine.  When I explained it was simply the roasted veggies with some melted vegan butter and fresh sage she said, "That's a much better alternative. I'm going to make it your way!"

So even if there weren't any vegans there today (I don't know because I wasn't there for the meal) and even if no one really cared one way or another whether the food was vegan or not, I showed one person that vegan cooking and be super yummy!

23 September 2017


I haven't posted anything in a while.  Honestly, it's been rough.  One dog diagnosed with three kinds of cancer, back pain, losing another dog...I've had a hard time taking good care of myself.

This sweet girl...who blessed me with her love for over 13 years (she was 21 years old and had an amazingly long life), moved over 15,000 miles with me back and forth across the ocean, and saw me through love and heart break and joy and pain...her loss is tremendously painful both to me and to the other dog.

Every time I think I'm back on track something derails me. 

Yeah...pretty much what it feels like right now.

Half the time I can't even get on track. But I can't pin point what's wrong.  Sometimes it's emotions. Sometimes it's physical pain. Sometimes it's boredom with what seems like the same meals mixed and matched over and over.  Lately I don't feel like preparing food but when I don't I eat crap and feel tired and headachy (oh, really bad migraines have also been a thing lately).  When I do prepare food I end up not wanting whatever it is that I prepared.  Then I feel guilty for wasting food.  I'm just struggling.
I've struggled before but this seems to be a particularly funky funk.  I'd love to go for a run which used to be great for shaking the cobwebs out of my brain but back pain has eliminated that option.  I wish I had some exciting new recipes to try or ... I don't know...*something* 

What do you do to shake off a funk? 

15 July 2017

Self Care

At this point, we all know that self care is important...whether we practice it like we should or not.

Self care might be getting to a yoga class or meeting a friend for coffee or getting a massage.  It could be going for a hike, soaking in a bath while someone else watches the kids or a glass of wine. 

Meet yourself where you are right now.
This is something I tell the class when I teach yoga.  This isn't necessarily where you want to be or where you thought you were going to be.  You might show up to class feeling like you're ready to tackle all the difficult poses but then find yourself spending the entire class in child's pose.  Great.  It is very important to understand what you need and give yourself permission to do that.  I'm not saying you shouldn't challenge yourself or push through a funk.  Of course, sometimes you get to the gym feeling tired and lethargic only to leave feeling energized because you dug deep and found your mojo.

I went to Greece for a few days while waiting for the dog's CT results.  I wondered if going away when I didn't know if or how sick he was was a good idea.  It was.  I needed a break.

Right now...I'm sitting on the couch with a pizza.  Don't judge me for eating a whole pizza.  Italian pizzas are smaller than American pizzas.  But even if they weren't, you still shouldn't judge.  Last Saturday I learned that my dog has 3 kinds of cancer.  Despite that news, I managed to eat well and take care of myself.  Well, I did spend one night not really sleeping because I was so upset.  But other than that I managed to get through the week and yesterday went to the vet and picked up his new medications.

He now has 5:

  • One he has to have before meals to coat his stomach so that the other meds don't upset it. Which means I have to remember to give it to him when I first wake up so that I can feed him before I leave for work.  Same when I get home.  Otherwise he gets fed late.  It has to be squirted into his mouth.  He hates it and fights against it.  I obviously don't want to stress him but I also want to make sure he gets what he needs.  It stresses me.
  • One he gets every morning.
  • One he gets every other morning.
  • One he gets every afternoon.
  • One he gets every other evening.
  • I have to salt his food so that he drinks more water to flush one of the meds out of his bladder because it can cause bleeding. 
  • I have to make sure he gets out to pee more frequently.  I had to hire someone to come during the day and take him out while I'm at work.
  • Two are toxic and I'm not supposed to touch them.
  • One is dangerous to kids and pregnant women.  I live in a 2-unit house.  The owners live upstairs and their grandkids are here quite often.  So I've taken the dog out of the yard a half-dozen times to pee today so that there's no chance one of the kids might come into contact with his urine (say they're running around in sandals...it can be absorbed through their skin). The owner is being awesome and fencing off part of the yard for the dog (the entire property is already fenced) so that he has room to pee but the grandkids won't be at risk.
I have to make a chart to remember what day it is and what I'm supposed to give him when.  It's overwhelming. 

He doesn't seem at all bothered by any of it; which is good.  Hopefully he continues to feel good and comfortable.

So I'm eating a pizza.  I'm not beating myself up or feeling guilty.  I'm accepting where I am right now and right now, I need yummy food that doesn't take any of my effort.  I'm mentally exhausted and emotionally drained.  Tomorrow I'll make meals for the week that don't involve pizza.   Tonight, though, I'm caring for myself in the way I need.

What's your go-to self care?

25 June 2017

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces - Read This Book!

I read (devoured) Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero while riding a train from Switzerland back to Italy.  Then I promptly reread it because the author gave Gabi, the main character, so many good lines that I needed to make note of some of them. 


Gabi is a high school senior and the story deals with lots of things high schoolers deal with...sex, school, relationships, looks...but Gabi is overweight (the book doesn't say how overweight she is but Gabi considers herself to be fat).  She thinks about and talks a lot about food and it's this relationship that I found so relatable - although I think the way Gabi is brought up believing that even thinking about sex makes her a bad girl is probably relatable to many.

The first line that struck a chord with me was:

" My baby brother is different. He doesn't say much, but he feels a lot of anger and sadness, and he can't scream it out loud or eat through it like I do."
My "little" brother is really tall and super skinny and can't gain weight if he tries.  He doesn't eat his feelings (he eats tons but not to drown feelings...he has other unhealthy ways of doing that) like I'm prone to do.

Gabi often turns to food to deal with her feelings:

"I tried not to cry. And was able to wait until I got into my room and shut the door.  I pulled some Kit-Kats from my underwear drawer and chewed my heartache away."
And she gets excited about food:

"However, I did say something like, "Oh my God, Martin! It'd be cool to work on poetry with someone else. And I have some really good beef jerky we can snack on!" Which now that I think about it, sounds pretty awkward and creepy.  Who gets excited about snacking on beef jerky, no matter how good it is?  Me, that's who.  And only me."
Being a vegetarian, I don't get excited about beef jerky but I do completely understand being super excited about a food item which, to most, would not be something about which to get super excited.

Anyone who struggles with using food to deal with feelings will relate to this one:

"I have to do something to feel better. Right now though, this box of Thin Mints will have to do."
And Thin Mints are vegan!!  Not that there aren't many, many, many reasons not to eat them but...

Like many people to struggle with weight and body image issues, Gabi seems to think that her weight dictates parts of her life that really have nothing to do with the number on the scale.  Like her intelligence.  As if fat girls aren't just as smart as skinny ones:

"Me. The Mexican fat girl. Accepted to Berkeley!"

Almost anyone who truly enjoys food has felt something similar to this about some food item...be it really good dark chocolate or tacos or, if you're one of those people, roasted Brussel sprouts :)

"Tacos are like what the voices of a hundred angels singing Bob Dylan while sitting on rainbows and playing banjos would taste like if that sound were edible."

Moderation is not something everyone is good at (whether your vice is food or alcohol or running or whatever it might be):

"Not only did I have seconds but also thirds, they were so good.  I immediately regretted eating all of that gordita goodness after I spoke with Cindy on the phone.  She called to see if I wanted to go prom-dress shopping with her this weekend because it was getting close, and she didn't have any idea what she would be wearing. How am I supposed to fit into any sort of non-muumuu dress after all that food? Ugh!"

I love her description of clothing sizes.  Most of us don't fit the exact standards to which clothes are designed.  Some of us are super short but not super slim while others are exactly as tall as a size 10 jeans but have chunky legs or extra booty or whatever it is.  Clothes shopping is super frustrating for almost everyone I know.

"None of the dresses I liked were available in plus sizes: they only came in "I-limit-myself-to-only-one-gordita" or "I-only-eat-lettuce" sizes.  That's the main reason I hate shopping."

Even when we try to do what we know is "better" for us, sometimes our old comfort habits are still what make us feel the best:

"Went for a run, but the ice cram I ate afterwards helped a lot more."

I don't consider myself to be the "fat girl."  I carry a few more pounds than I would like but regardless, YES to this...yes, yes, yes:

"Never ask the fat girl if she is hungry.  She's always hungry.  Even if she's not, she is, because food is safe and controllable and soothing and salty and sweet, and it doesn't scream at you or make you feel bad unless you are trying on clothes."

So many people struggle with the enemy of the mirror thanks to society's constant bombardment of "perfect" images and what we need to do to be "perfect" and why we're failing at being "perfect."  Ever left the house thinking everything was good and then caught a glimpse of yourself in a mirror or window and had an avalanche of terribly self-negative thoughts crash into your head?

"How would that be.  I don't think I want him to see me naked, I mean, eww gross.  Sometimes I don't want to see myself naked. Sometimes the mirror is my enemy."

Ahhh....if only we all felt this way most, if not all, of the time! If only we felt like it was okay to be happy being ourselves.  If only we didn't feel like we always have to be striving for that impossible perfect.

"At that moment I wasn't too fat, I wasn't too white, I wasn't bad, I was just me."

I absolutely LOVE that she wants her brain's vacation to include eating pizza!!

"This is the thing with me: as soon as I start thinking about something, I can't let it go.  It's exhausting. I wish I could just turn my brain off and let it take a small vacation - near the beach, drinking lemonade and eating pizza."

A world without cheese...

"The thing about being a fat girl is that bathing suits are at the top of your list of nightmares--along with diabetes, too-small leggings, pants that give you camel toe, underwires in a bra and a world without cheese."

Body image issues can overwhelm a person...sometimes to the point of them not leaving the house or always sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else enjoy themselves.  If I wear pants I'll be uncomfortable because it's too hot.  If I wear shorts I'll be uncomfortable because my thighs rub together. Being comfortable should not be difficult. 

Maybe you won't get in the pool with your kids because you don't want to wear a bathing suit and listen to people call you Olive Oil and ask if your boyfriend likes spinach.

Or maybe you don't fly to your sister's wedding in Hawaii because you don't want the embarrassment of asking for the seat belt extender. 

Perhaps you just had a baby and feel like you haven't lost enough of the baby weight and none of your clothes fit right. 

It might be that your finances don't allow you to buy new clothes and you don't want to be judged for wearing outdated fashions. 

Could be that you tried giving yourself a new hair color and it turned out all wrong and you can't stand the thought of anyone seeing it.

There are so many reasons why we judge ourselves and assume others are judging us.  It's often difficult to feel comfortable in our own skin.  It can be hard not to watch our coworker eat French fries every day and be jealous of the fact that she stays so slim without working out.  Or to see someone walk into a store, buy a pair of pants off the rack and have them fit perfectly without having to pay an extra $8 per pair to get them hemmed shorter.  For my brother, it's frustrating for him when people pick on him for being so skinny that his ribs and hip bones stick out. 

"The other thing about being fat is that you spend too much damn time worrying about being fat and that takes time away from having fun."
I'm working on getting out there and having fun and without worrying about whether I have on the right outfit (I probably don't but I rarely go shopping (because I hate it) and don't think I have much of a fashion-sense anyway) or feeling like I should be foregoing the gelato or the chocolate or the pasta or whatever it is.  I need to be me, as I am right now; not as I think I "should" be.

This book dealt with a lot of things that weren't food-related and I think a lot of people (it's a YA book but I believe adults can connect with it as I did) will have things in common with Gabi. It's a really fast read and I think Quintero did a great job making Gabi such a relatable character with real flaws and real struggles and even if the ending was a tiny bit cheesy (of course they both got accepted and will go together even though chances are they won't stay together long because it's college and people change a lot) I loved the book and it will probably end up being one of the few books I read over and over and over.

21 June 2017

A Little Chat

I did REALLY well giving up sugar for 6 weeks.  Insanely surprisingly well!!  I've never had such an easy time and I wish I knew what made it so easy this time.  I even lost weight and that almost never happens.  I got a little off track with a month-long visit from the family and some other things (dog had to have emergency surgery last week and that affected the whole week's schedule and routine) but this week I really thought I could get back on track.

I was passing by a friend's office the other day (I'm doing some work in the building where she works) and her door was open so I stuck my head in to say hello.  She greeted me by holding up her green smoothie.  I said I was also drinking smoothies this week because it's really dang hot and the idea of cooking or eating something hot is too much.  She mentioned better eating and I said I had done really well for 6 weeks.  Anyway, just that little 5-minute chat was enough to help me power through some stress and exhaustion (hello unexpected )11 hour work day without grabbing some junk to eat. 

Sometimes it doesn't take much to get or keep yourself on plan.  I mean, let's face it, sometimes  you need an ocean between you and the stuff you want to stay away from.  But sometimes just a very small thing can be all you need to keep your motivation up.  YAY for small victories!

Today is International Day of Yoga.  The plan was to attend an event downtown but it starts at 1930 and ends at 2030 and I'm usually crawling into bed about that time.  So as much as I want to go, I think I do some mental yoga as I attempt to wrap my brain around my Italian lesson :)  Happy International Day of Yoga!

08 April 2017

Let Your Pit Hair Grow...Or Not

It amazes me that people get so freaked out about body hair.  As if it's some sort of aberration that it dares to grow where it was biologically programmed to grow.  What is the big deal?!?!

Back in college I stepped into an elevator and, before looking up, saw a set of very hairy legs (dark hair on pale legs).  When I looked up and realized they were attached to a female (who lived on my floor in the dorm) I thought, "I wish I was brave enough to grow out my leg hair like that."

A few years later I went to Ghana, West Africa, to do two years of Peace Corps service.  Given the scarcity of water and how easy it was to pick up small infections that could turn deadly, I knew I wasn't going to shave my legs while I was there (even little shaving nicks or ingrown hairs could become host to infections).  I haven't shaved them since.  It's been 16 years and I've never looked back or felt like I owed it to anyone to do something I didn't want to do with my own body.  Nor do I hide my unshaven legs or armpits.  If someone doesn't like it that's their problem. 

Brava to this young lady for accepting herself in such a bold and proud way. 
body hair positivity post bc i’d never let misogynistic opinions dictate what i do with my body 💕  — lalonie (@SLAYLONIE)

Of course, she got plenty of nasty comments and, thankfully, lots of supportive ones as well.  Women and girls are under so much pressure to be perfect, look perfect...why can't we just be ourselves? I'm not suggesting that everyone has to let their hair grow.  To each her own.  I'm just saying that I really don't see why anyone else cares whether there's hair on my legs or not. 

My hair is really light blond so it's hard to see but it's there!  This was about 5 years ago in Amsterdam.