Days 2 and 3: The comforts of home

There are two sounds that I love to hear: my husband making coffee and my pets snoring.  Let me explain.  My husband is a firefighter and works 24 hours on and then has 24 hours off.  He leaves for work at 6 in the morning and doesn’t come home until 6:30 am the following morning.  I’m a late-ish sleeper and don’t get up that early so when I hear that coffee brewing from the comforts of my cozy bed, I am filled with thankfulness that he made it home.

The other sound that I find so comforting is when my pets snore at night.  Because we share our room with two cats and a dog, there’s usually someone or something snoring.  The sound of the cats or dog snoring is a little thing that brings a smile to my face because I know that they’re sleeping soundly.  For some reason, the knowledge that the pets are sound asleep makes me relax and it’s easier for me to fall asleep.

scout sleeping

Scout has taken over the entire couch!

simon sleeping

Simon asleep. Love the back feet!

 

Forgive my typos and terseness, I was up all night listening to he sounds of snoring pets.

The little things…366 to be exact.

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I’m in the home stretch; in a week (give or take), our family will have gained its newest addition!  After nearly 40 weeks of hanging out in my belly, our fabulous little girl will be joining us earth side.  I’d like to commemorate the event, and honor the littlest thing in our family, by taking note of the little things that I appreciate, am grateful for, or just want to acknowledge on a daily basis.

Today, day 1, I am grateful that I live in a climate where I can wear flip flops ALL YEAR LONG!  For some reason, I hate wearing shoes and socks and I woke up today realizing that I haven’t worn socks for months.  Yesterday at the gym, I overheard someone say “I wish I could wear my capris again.  I’m ready for warmer weather.”  I was like “Lady–you CAN wear capris.  It’s 70 degrees today!”  Well, that’s what I said in my head anyway.  But her comment got me thinking about perspective (that, and the fact that it is currently -6 in St. Paul Minnesota where my sister and her family recently relocated to).

One of my goals as I embark on this journey of #366littlethings is to become more mindful of how the littlest moment, blessing, event, or interaction can alter our perspectives, attitudes, and beliefs.

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Ahhh…Flip flops all the year long!

Photo by Rawich

 

Why I am not walking out

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Today is (Inter)National Adjunct Walkout Day and I am not walking out because I’ve already left the building.

I have spent the past 15 years of my professional career as an educator, researcher, and student.  I have taught 7th grade through University level.  And although I never went into teaching for the pay, I always believed I could make a living doing what I loved.

I recently had to leave teaching because as an adjunct I had no benefits, no office, no yearly contract, and no connections with the college I was teaching at.  I taught my class and I went home.  I couldn’t meet with students unless I was willing to meet in the one room where all the adjunct faculty congregated.  I didn’t even know the other faculty who were teaching in my department.  My contract changed at the end of the semester which would have decreased my annual salary of $14,000 for teaching 3 semester classes, to $10,000 for teaching 2.  Because I don’t have a PhD (I have 2 master’s degrees), I have little hope of securing a full-time teaching position anywhere.

Adjuncts typically make between $20,000 and $25,000 for teaching a full teaching load (which in my experience is not sustainable) by teaching at multiple colleges.  Because there are policies in place that restrict the number of classes adjuncts can teach (never enough for full time), adjuncts are often found teaching at several colleges and commuting long distances to do so.  One semester, I taught 4 classes and commuted 3 hours a day on a city bus to one job.  I was making okay money and had benefits, but teaching 4 classes was not something that I could do long term as my schedule involved teaching for most of the day and then spending evenings and nights grading, planning, and catching up on work.  All for barely enough money to pay the bills.

I guess the problem I have with the whole system is the philosophy that adjuncts are seen as less valuable than full-time faculty, administrators, and university staff.  In many cases, adjuncts will never be able to teach full time and will never have the benefits that full time faculty receive (like reduced faculty housing on campus that only full time faculty can apply for).  In one place I taught, adjuncts made up nearly 75% of the teaching force but had no union, no benefits, and no personal office space (which means I carted all my documents, books, notes, & student papers for my classes to every class every time I taught and I met with students in the hallway for office hours).

Finally, adjuncts are usually the ones who teach lower-division classes.  We interact with large numbers of first-year students.  If the university really cared about student retention, they should also be very concerned about the plight of the adjunct as large adjunct turn overs affect the quality of the first-year student educational experience.

On this national adjunct walkout day, we should also remember those who left teaching not because they didn’t love it, but because they couldn’t survive economically by doing it.  I hope that the future of adjuncts improves and I’m sorry I couldn’t stick around to fight the good fight; I’ve got a family to support and student loans to pay off.

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A change in perspective…how hard can that be?

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Before I tell you how I want 2015 to be the year my blog changes a little piece of the world, I have to tell you a story.

This morning I woke up after a 10 hour epic sleep and had one of those “ah-ha!” moments.  Now, this moment has been a long time coming.  I’ve spent months praying, struggling, giving in to anxiety and panic, and all the while listening for the voice of God but hearing only crickets.

Let me back up: in the past few months, I’ve gotten pregnant and had a miscarriage, moved out of state, started a new job, quit the job, applied for jobs, interviewed for jobs, not gotten jobs, driven the kids back and forth from school, gone to the emergency room, had several panic attacks, gave up date night (no babysitter and too expensive), convinced myself that all was lost and that we never should have moved, gained weight, stopped walking, and laid on the couch watching countless reruns of Modern Family.

Needless to say, I’ve been feeling sorry for myself.  But this morning, I woke up with, dare I say it, a NEW ATTITUDE!  On my walk last night, some ideas began percolating around in the old brain and manifested themselves this morning: 1) I’ve been feeling sorry for myself for too long; 2) There is beauty in the desert–you just have to look; 3) Sometimes we get what we ask (pray) for.

You see, moving from the beaches of Northern California to the desert of Southern Arizona requires a new attitude, a different perspective.  On my walks by the beach, I saw pelicans, sea lions, dophins, and, of course, the ocean.  Now on my walks in the desert (usually through my neighborhood) I believed I saw nothing.  No animals, nothing majestic like redwoods or the crashing ocean.

And during my time in Northern California, I remember thinking that I wanted to live somewhere that was a little harder, that asked a little more from me.  Let’s face it, I had it pretty good living in my little beach town.  I had a wonderful babysitter, I could walk to and from work and look at the ocean daily.  I lived by the grandfather’s house from The Lost Boys.

The Lost Boys house (and me).

The Lost Boys house (and me).

I could walk 2 blocks to the quaint downtown or a mile to the beach.  Everywhere you turned there was another natural foods store or organic clothing store.  Plus, I went on weekly date nights with my husband.  But life was too easy.  I felt like I was moving through it without really thinking about how to live it.  I remember praying about this and saying something like “I want to live in a place that asks more of me.”

I had conveniently forgotten about that little prayer until this morning when God reminded me through the squawking of the woodpecker who visits my backyard every day.  So here I am, in the desert where I’m being asked to slow down and notice how the desert has a rhythm, a life, that doesn’t just throw itself at you.  You have to get in it, and stay in it for a while.  You might be hot, you may have the driest skin you’ve ever had and have to rub oil on your hands every night, you might even have to drive your car (or ride your bike) for long distances, but if you pay attention, and slow down, you will see that there is life pulsating around you.  It may be small, like that weird lizard without a tail I always see, or it may be puffed out, like all those fluffy birds feeding in my backyard, often it is prickly, like the saguaro with its myraid arms.

Not a Saguaro, but still cute.

Not a Saguaro, but still cute.

So what change do I want my little blog to make in 2015?  I’d like us to feel comfortable slowing down and take the time to get to know ourselves and those around us.  This year, my hope for this blog is to zero in on what we often take for granted.  I’d like this to be a place where we can share ideas, be vulnerable and honest, and challenge ourselves to see the beauty in the littlest (or driest) of places.

Forgive my typos and terseness, I have been cultivating a new attitude!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Be the Change.”

Bad yoga on the mat

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I recently went to one of the worst yoga classes EVER!  Before I share my story, I should say that everybody has different tastes, styles, preferences, abilities, comfort levels regarding yoga and yoga classes.  Unfortunately for me, all the things I hate about yoga classes coalesced into one awful class.

Image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

First, the class was taught by two teachers.  I have never had a good experience with a teaching duo.  Unless they are obviously teaching very different styles, like YIN and VINYASA or something, I say do away with co-teaching.

Second, there were partner yoga poses.  Not just one or two but four.  I can handle one, maybe two, partner poses with someone I don’t know, but ask me to do four different and fairly intimate poses, and you’re asking a bit too much from me.

Third, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the sequencing of poses.  In my teacher training, we were taught to build up to the peak pose through a series of relevant poses.  In this class, it seemed like we were all over the place.  At one point, we were crawling around the floor dragging our feet on blankets!

Fourth, during savasana, or final resting pose, one of the teachers was walking over students for some reason.  When she walked over me, she kicked me in the chest.  Her response, to laugh about it like it was the funniest thing.  WTF?!?

Fifth, the class opened with the instructor telling a long, drawn out Hindu mythology story.  I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing during this; should I be meditating or listening intently?  It was strange and uncomfortable.

And while I agree mostly with this article on dangerous yoga classes, I do think that it’s fair to say that some classes are really just bad.

Forgive my typos and terseness, I was recovering from a kick to the chest during my yoga class.

Life off the mat

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“Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life,

where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit broken pieces together.”

― B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. I’ve been living in some pretty intense ways: moving out of state, having a miscarriage, preparing for a new job. All in the space of two weeks.

In the swampiness, and sometimes darkness, of these past two weeks, I’ve had a hard time reading, writing, practicing yoga, sleeping, and doing things that make me feel alive–that make me feel a little bit more like me.

Instead I’ve been laying on the couch watching old Sex and the City episodes plus the two Sex and the City Movies. (That second movie was baaaaaaddddd!). Don’t laugh, but there was something about the ridiculousness of the story lines and the shallowness of the characters’ problems that really soothed me. I found comfort in trying to remember how certain relationships would turn out–how would Carrie and Aiden break up or how do Charlotte and Harry get together?

Having watched this series when it first came out in my mid 20s, nearly 15 years ago, provided me with just enough content to remember who I was back then: hopeful.

So I harnessed some of that hopefulness from my former 20-something-year-old self and got back on the mat yesterday. Hopeful that my body would be strong enough, hopeful that I wouldn’t break down in tears, hopeful that I would be able to feel healthy and alive, I unrolled the mat and did a few sun salutations.  Luckily, my home yoga studio is hot (we’re in the desert after all) so the tears that did fall mixed with the copious amounts of sweat pouring off my head.

Saguaro you today?

Saguaro you today?

I’m not a cryer but it felt good to cry. Recently, my sister and I had a conversation about miscarriages and pregnancy and we were trying to come up with a term that could capture the relief and sadness you feel all at once, in overwhelming waves, throughout the day.

As I breathed and moved my body that had days before expelled the “evidence of conception” (what a weird, clinical term), I cried because I was heartbroken. My 1st baby was gone, for good, for ever. But I also cried because I was so relieved that my body had done what it was supposed to do: gotten rid of a pregnancy that was not viable. Everything about the miscarriage was easier and harder than I ever thought–through it all though, my body, this 39 year old machine, chugged along, contracting, cramping, pushing out what no longer was alive. The relief I felt and still feel at the innate wisdom of my body brought me solace. And I cried for the times I judged myself and my body and thought it wasn’t strong enough or skinny enough or whatever enough.

I cried because I got to experience my body doing what it needed to do, perfectly. As I finished my yoga practice that night, I wanted to give myself a hug, a high five, or hold my own hand. I wanted to pat myself on the back for a job well done. I had not only gone through the most physically and emotionally exhausting experience of my life so far, but I had come through it with grace (ha, ha) and an awareness of the preciousness of our bodies, of our health.

Getting on the mat this time was a way for me to honor my body, even if I just sat there and cried. Now, as I start my practice again, I will stretch my body with an awareness that wasn’t there before: this body held a life inside of it, held the light of another being. No miscarriage can ever take that away.

Namaste.

Please excuse all typos and terseness: I was experiencing technical difficulties.

*This post is in memory of B.K.S Iyengar who passed away today, August 20th 2014, at the age of 95!

A handmade pregnancy

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My husband and I have been trying to conceive for the past 10 years.  In fact, most of my 30’s was spent in infertility land.  Over the years, people asked if we had or would try any medical intervention or testing to find out what was wrong.  Early on, we had decided not to go the Western medical route; thinking instead that if it was meant to be, it would happen.  I was not interested in getting hormones injected or other invasive procedures.  I had resigned myself to the reality that we might never have a bio kid.  We have two adopted children and maybe this was it for us.

My thinking stems from an overall perspective I have about handmade objects: I love the imperfections that I see in the handmade gifts my children, friends, and family make.  There is love there within those jagged, crooked edges, those misshapen clay mugs, the slightly off center cards, pictures.  There is energy living in these handmade objects that do not exist in mass market, factory produced junk that we fill our homes with.

So although I don’t criticize or judge anyone who gets IVFs, IUIs, or other medical procedures to facilitate pregnancy, I felt convicted that I wanted our pregnancy to be knit together in my womb by “hand” so to speak.  I didn’t want my pregnancy to be the result of technology or machines, I wanted it to be traditional. Homemade.

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So when I found out last month that I was pregnant, I was overjoyed.  Shocked, but elated. I took several prenatal yoga classes and explained at the beginning of my first class that I was only 5 1/2 weeks along, but I had wanted to do this for 10 years!  Everyone was kind and supportive and I felt elated to finally be part of the “club.”

Unfortunately, at my last two ultrasounds, we couldn’t detect a heartbeat and the embryo had stopped developing.  You can read more about this whole experience here.

Now, I am confronted with the option of having medical intervention to facilitate a miscarriage.  Or do I wait for my body to do it naturally?  In all the years of trying to get pregnant, I never prepared myself for this reality.

There are some things you can’t hide

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“The things other people have put into my head, at any rate, do not fit together nicely, are often useless and ugly, are out of proportion with one another, are out of proportion with life as it really is outside my head.”
― Kurt VonnegutBreakfast of Champions

One of the reasons I practice yoga and meditation is to gain some sort of awareness of my own thoughts.  Coming to the mat and sitting still gives me the opportunity to press pause, to focus in on the constant internal chatter, and to observe my thoughts.  This is the hardest part of yoga (although squeezing into my ever shrinking yoga pants and sports bra is a close second) — to sit still and just observe.

Flickr-Scott Schumacher

Flickr-Scott Schumacher

Mostly what I’ve observed is that my thoughts are all over the place–seriously.

Within any 30 second time frame I’ve no doubt thought about what to make for dinner, what I should be doing instead of sitting here, when am I going to the grocery store, who will pick up the kids from camp today, I need to take the dog for a walk, I should start packing for our upcoming move, I need to take my vitamin, I must make sure to drink a veggie smoothie today, I have to write more, exercise more, read more, Get off Facebook, I need to read more blogs, what am I going to write about today, my hip hurts, I should almost be done with this meditation, right? Right?

I can barely handle my own thoughts–which are often useless and ugly reflections of who I think I need to be–so why would I want to know what other people are thinking?

Am I the only one who has no desire to know what you are thinking when I’m talking to you?  Would you want to know what others are thinking when you’re talking to them?

 

 

What’s that smell?

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The other day, during a yoga class, I noticed the not so subtle smell of body odor beginning to settle into the room.  Surreptitiously smelling my own pits during down dog, I was thankful it wasn’t me infusing the room with the smells of summer.

I live in a beach town.  It’s a mix of aging hippies, wealthy liberals & conservatives, college students, the low- & middle-income, the homeless, the druggies, and “the tourist.”

Serenity now...

Serenity now…

The smells of pot, cigarette smoke, saltwater, greasy food infuse my town as summer rolls in like the fog.  Like the fog, the smells of summer seem to hover over and around as my city becomes overrun with tourists and the 19-year-old-travelling-dreadlocked-psuedo hippie-homeless and their dogs.

Sometimes all of these people, and their smells, practice together in various yoga studios.  Maybe not the druggies, they have better things to do.  Like leave syringes all over the beach so people can step on them.

Anyway…

I know I’m supposed to be working on being less judgmental of myself and others, judge not lest ye be judged and all that, but come on people!  Please wear deodorant or at least take a shower before practicing yoga in a public studio.

It's probably not okay to do this during yoga practice, right?

It’s probably not okay to do this during yoga practice, right?

 

Please excuse all typos and terseness: I was trying to balance my root chakra.

Namaste.

 

Sleeping on (or off) the mat

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“You can’t stay married in a situation where you are afraid to go to sleep in case your wife might cut your throat.”

Mike Tyson

 Uhhh…thanks for the advice?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about sleep.

Luckily, not for the same reasons as Mike Tyson.

I haven’t been sleeping well at all: tossing and turning, too hot, too cold, weird dreams…etc.  Plus it doesn’t help that one of my cats takes up 1/3 of the bed and I’m sandwiched between her and my husband—who happens to fall asleep in less than 30 seconds.  Jerk.

One of my cats who thinks our bed is really just for her.  Plus she's like 20 lbs of dead weight and will not be moved during the night.  Thanks cat.

One of my cats who thinks our bed is really just for her. Plus she’s like 20 lbs of dead weight and will not be moved during the night. Thanks cat.

Because I have had trouble sleeping, I wanted to spend some time this morning writing about sleep and the relationship between overall health and lack of sleep.  There’s a positive, strong correlation.  Even though “correlation does not equal causation” there are robust findings from several major sleep studies that show that lack of sleep does cause immediate health problems and can contribute to long-term health issues as well.  This may explain why I’m so weird–my sleep deprived brain isn’t working right!

One of the first articles I read today on sleep had the cheery quote:“Lose sleep, Lose your mind and health.” If that doesn’t convince you that getting good sleep is important, I don’t know what will.

According to the article, some of the outcomes of long term sleep deprivation (like fewer than 6 hours of sleep a night) are certain cancers, obesity, or stroke.

Plus, I just read this article where a guy from China died from a stroke after staying up for 48 hours to watch the World Cup.  Crazy!

Okay, so I get that sleep is super important but what’s frustrating is knowing how valuable sleep is but not being able to sleep well. In the hopes of trying to get better sleep, and keep myself from going crazy from lack thereof, I will embark on a sleep journey where I try out the following for the next 30 days:

1. No technology before bed.

It seems like the artificial light could have something to do with the lack of release of melatonin – which is supposed to help us sleep.  Okay, I’ll buy into this idea.  I know that when I go camping and have no screen time I tend to sleep fairly deeply.  But that could be because, while camping, I drink copious amounts of alcohol…

2. Change my diet: no sugar, alcohol, caffeine, or gluten

This one study found that people who sleep fewer than 6 hours a night drank less water and ate more carbs than people who slept longer. These “long sleepers” (more than 9 hours a night) also drank more alcohol than other groups of sleepers.  I think that’s called passing out.  But what do I know?  The study also found that normal sleepers (people who sleep 7-8 hours a night) tend to consume a large amount of calories with a wide variety of food choices.  This is getting complicated!

3. Get into bed earlier

This quote pretty much sums up all my prior attempts at going to bed earlier: “ ‘I made sure I had no plans tonight so that I can just turn in at 10 and get some serious rest,’ said the poor, naive fool who despite having a laptop next to his bed, four different shows he needs to catch up on, and a proclivity for wasting hours at a time on social media sites is genuinely convinced that he will be asleep at a reasonable hour.”

When I told my husband I would be going to bed by 8:30, he laughed and laughed.  What a jerk!  Okay, maybe he has a point.  Challenge accepted—I will be in bed before my husband every night for the next 30 days!

4. Get up early

This is another topic my husband thinks is so funny.  Every few weeks or so, I say “I’m going to start getting up early.  You know, so I can write and do yoga and ‘greet the day’ without the kids, the dog, the cats annoying the hell out of me.”  My life partner, my soul mate, my husband just looks at me and laughs.  “You love to sleep in,” he always says, like what does he know?  Oh wait, he’s been sleeping next to me for 14 years so I guess he does have a point.  I also think I can count on one hand the times I’ve been up before him.  Touche.

Getting up early usually doesn’t end up working out for me because I say stupid things like “I’m going to get up at 5:30 and go running.”  This is pure foolishness!  First of all, I don’t run anymore because no sports bra in existence seems to work me.  Second of all, I feel like a stuffed sausage in my running pants, plus I think my cellulite-y thighs are mocking me by having no muscle tone to speak of.

I will, however, use the advice of people who seem to have this getting up early thing under control: I’ll get up 10 minutes earlier until I reach my goal wake up time.  But I won’t use this time to be productive and get a start on my day—who am I, Oprah?  Instead, I’ll read, drink a non-caffeinated fake coffee drink without sugar (see #2), write, and maybe do some yoga.

5. No naps

I heard that napping can be problematic if you have trouble getting and staying asleep.  So I consulted a napping “no-no” website to get more information.  While I got some good advice, like the importance of a routine, and yawning twice means it’s time for bed, and don’t eat before a nap, I realized that I was looking at a baby website and that the Baby Whisperer’s advice was probably not going to help me out in the long run.  The pictures of babies sleeping sure were cute though—if only I looked that cute dozing off…

Hey! We have the same jammies.

Hey! We have the same jammies.

6. Yoga before bed

I totally believe that certain yoga asanas will help get your body and mind ready for bed.  I looked over this article for a refresher on just which poses I should do before bed. But before the poses were even mentioned there were like 15 other steps to take first: keep a journal, give yourself a massage, breathe, eat a little bit but not too much and it has to be just the right food otherwise you’ve screwed yourself and might as well stay up all night praying you haven’t wrought irreparable damage to your brain and body.

And so on.  Yikes! I had a mini panic attack wondering how I would get this pre-bed ritual in before actually going to sleep. I’ll just stick to some forward folds and legs up the wall.

I think I’m ready to tackle this sleeping issue – I have hope that I’ll be able to sleep soundly and peacefully soon.   That is until one of my kids wakes me up saying “Mama, I’m having a blow out.” Or until the cat throws up on my bed.  Or until the dog starts barking.

Please forgive all typos and terseness: I didn’t get much sleep last night.

Namaste.