All you can do blog

On the daily....all you can do is what you can do. - Betsy Poos

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Earlier this year I stepped away from blogging.  Instead, I picked up pen and paper and began filling my journal.  I wrote every single day for a bit.  And then I wrote less until I wasn’t writing at all.  It is easy to say life got in the way or that my priorities shifted, but it is deeper.  I felt tied.  My thoughts, my hands, my heart.  I stalled.

Blow back to end of 2015 I got “out.”  I sold my yoga studio and took on my second pregnancy and Luna’s newborn months without too many commitments outside of teaching a few yoga classes a week and being momma.  I really, really wanted to be content.  But it just wouldn’t stick.  As an introvert I feel comfort in solitude and falling to the background, but my equally matched pitta (fiery nature) tugs me to lean in. 

I was given the opportunity to jump back into our local business community and started as Executive Director to CHAMPS, Capitol Hill’s Chamber of Commerce when Luna was three months old.  Similar to a startup, I’m the single employee and am responsible for the wins and the losses.  I love that this job pulls and challenges me to contribute deeply to our neighborhood.  Being around local and small business owners on a daily basis is inspiring.  These are the people you want to know.  They have risked much to start a business and follow their purpose.  Local business owners are betting on all of us to spend our time and dollars in our neighborhood – to love where we live. 

In fact the inspiration I found from my CHAMPS members was so great that it sort of, kind of, very likely caused my stall.  My daily journals were filled with new business ideas along with the pros and cons for each.  It was all fun and fueled my day-job, but as I watched my former business shift the words stopped.  I didn’t want to process my feelings. 

I’d heard whispers that Capitol Hill Yoga would soon be sold or closed.  I had continued to teach a weekly class there.  The energy had changed and it literally hurt my soul to see it, to feel it.  I cried the day in mid April that I told my students I would no longer teach at Capitol Hill Yoga.  I really, really thought I was fully walking away and tried to be content in doing so.  With the words stopped, I meditated every danged day.  It wasn’t a goal or a mission.  Meditation was something I had to do.  My mantra was akin to; Calm the chatter.  Be content.

And then came word that the studio was closing followed very shortly by an offer to open a new yoga studio at the same location.  It almost didn’t feel like a choice.  I was back “in.” I am still looking for the right words to explain why I was willing to dive back into owning a local service business and be a part of a business partnership.  This article from The Atlantic is focused on my partnership with Realignment Studio Founder Alyson Shade and gets to some of it. 

You want in business to make practical choices and decisions based on solid plans and budgeting, and while we’ve done our homework on those pieces my jump was from the heart.  My heart wanted a home once again in our Capitol Hill neighborhood for practice and community.  And my heart ached to build a space for my girls.  A space that is as much theirs as it is mine.  A space that honors kindness, embraces community, and uplifts everyone.  Last week we held Realignment Studio’s grand opening and I felt all the feels.  I’m glad I followed my heart on this business decision.

Life is still perfectly mixed up.  I am no longer trying to be content.  That’s not my mojo.  But I am still working hard to find my balance.  This month Jason and I did our first serious cleanse.  Seven days with lots of kitchen prep, green smoothies and turmeric tonics.  No caffeine, alcohol, meat, or dairy.  Can’t say I’ll do it again.  I didn’t see the amazing benefits (and I just don’t love cooking), but I am happily going strong keeping a green smoothie in my daily diet. 

Last week I suffered a few days with my worst migraine ever.  Not good.  But coming through the backside of that migraine is what made me want to begin blogging again.   There is still some gunk below the lotus to work through.

Here’s to being back “in.”  The journey continues.

 

 

 

From Boob to Bottle

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New Years Eve was a messy, rainy D.C. day, but we were determined to do something to mark the occasion for Stella.  Yards Park was holding a Noon Day Eve balloon drop.  It was muddy, windy, and very crowded. After stumbling through the crowds for an hour Stella scored a balloon, which was enough to call the event a success.  We headed indoors for lunch.

 

I ordered a thai iced tea and then fumbled through the diaper bag to find the bottle, water, and powder formula I’d packed.  Luna readily drank the bottle and later sucked on a cucumber as Stella, Jason and I enjoyed fried rice and panang curry.  A totally normal family lunch, and yet it wasn’t.  That thai iced tea contained the first dairy I’d had in about six months, and the bottle I prepared Luna was the first formula bottle she’d ever had in public.

 

I’d often and easily breastfed in public.  Sometimes I’d use a cover, usually not.  No embarrassment.  No shame.  But there I sat feeling guilty as I fed Luna her bottle while my breasts were achingly full.  I stopped breastfeeding the day prior – a few weeks shy of Luna’s six-month birthday.

 

I was doing pretty good with my decision, but there I sat wondering if others in the restaurant were judging me.  It’s doubtful anyone else noticed and even more likely that absolutely nobody cared.

 

My New Year’s Resolution is to make choices from a place of kindness.  Seems easy enough, but on a day to day level it gets a little tricky.  And being kind to self is my first (and hardest) aim.

 

There is of course a longer story as to why I quit breastfeeding.  A story as to why it is the kindest choice for Luna and for me.

 

When Luna was first born I had told Jason I wouldn’t breastfeed past the first year.  He was happy to hear that.  I had nursed our first daughter Stella for about two years.  The sweet connection and the ease I had nursing Stella had been a saving grace as a new mother.  I needed the love and reassurance from this new life we’d created, and she of course needed the nutrition and the comfort.  But in as many ways it made everything else much harder.  Stella never took a bottle and was unhappy in anyone arms but mine…for two years!  I didn’t want a repeat.

 

Nursing Luna was a rocky road.  From her NICU days working to establish breastfeeding while she had a feeding tube up her nose, clogged ducts here and there, and her sensitive tummy providing plenty of colic storms, it just wasn’t a dreamy relationship.  By about two months old we’d figured out Luna’s biggest triggers were dairy and gluten in my diet.  At first the change in diet was kind of fun.  The gluten free diet gave me more energy and I felt I couldn’t complain about the healthy switch.

 

A few months in the diet was all consuming.  Luna would scream her head off for two days anytime I slipped up any little bit.  It was stressful and led me to often not eat enough.  I was always worried I was going to eat something that would trigger Luna.  My supply was going down and I started getting really bad stomachaches.  Luna was struggling.  I was struggling.  I started giving Luna a formula bottle before bed each night.  From night one she calmed easily and began sleeping for longer stretches.

 

After putting Luna to bed that first night with the bottle I came back downstairs and told Jason it felt like freedom.  It took the doctor scheduling me a abdomen CT Scan for me to finally say uncle.  It’s the best choice.  Luna has started eating some solids, loves her bottles, and is learning more and more how to comfort herself away from momma’s boob. 

 

As for me I should apologize to colleagues and yoga students who might have found me jittery in the past week.  I’m training my body back to caffeine after a good year and a half away.  And while the new year is a popular time to jump on the healthy eating bandwagon I’ve purposely indulged in all things gluten, dairy and alcoholic.  And wouldn’t you know my stomach pains went away.  It’s been a good year and half since I got to make the choice, be it good or bad, about how I treated my body.

 

Just a little reminder that this motherhood is real.  We do exactly all that we can do.  No judgment.  And for the record, the kindest thing I’ve done in 2017 has been to eat pizza and drink beer.

 

 

 

Second Time Around

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My biggest fear surrounding baby number two was repeating my cycle of postpartum depression.  It was the black cloud that loomed over our decision whether or not to have a second child.

 

When Stella was about two I started to emerge from the fog to consider a second child.  It felt like what I was supposed to do.  For one month I was all in, but after sobbing at a meet the midwives session and having such glorious relief when my cycle arrived, I came to my senses and hit pause.  I was not ready.  And for a few years both Jason and I settled into that pause being a stop. 

 

It was early 2015 when I began telling Jason I wanted to consider a second child again.  It took me quite a few months to convince him I was serious.   We had everything and we were on solid ground.  Did we really want to rock the boat? 

 

I tested my “I’m ready” theory by enrolling in a course to become a Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher.  I figured if I could be immersed in the study of pregnancy and babies for a full season I really was ready.  The training gave me a place to talk about my past depression.  It was amazingly healing.  I completed the course in October and became pregnant that same month.

 

Though I knew it wasn’t fully under my control, I methodically plotted the ways in which this second time around would be different.  The biggest change factor was my career.  The voice in my head nagged long before I would listen, but finally I sold my half of the yoga studio.  I knew any other changes would be futile if I didn’t remove the struggle between caring for my family and caring for my business.

 

After selling, my ego mourned.   How would others view me?  Did I still matter in our community?  Mostly though, I was just happy.  I stopped having to play the yoga studio owner and lo and behold I became.  I became more present to life.  I carried less stress in my pregnancy, and teaching yoga again became a joy and not just a job.

 

That big change was offset by lots of now I know better type changes. 

  •  I trusted without judgment Luna’s birth and first week in the NICU. 
  • I took my placenta capsules daily for the first month.  It’s said to help soften the baby blues and lead to increased energy.  Whether it is a placebo effect or more it worked for me.
  • Sorry environment, but this little girl is in disposable diapers.  I am focused on the easiest path for me. 
  • Family and friends had to wait a bit to meet Luna. I needed time for just our little family of four.
  • And since we emerged from that solitary week at home, I have handed off the baby whenever possible.  No more attachment parenting here.

 

All those pre-planned changes had an enormous impact during my immediate postpartum weeks.  Yes I sobbed quietly at times in the hospital and even wailed uncontrollably twice in the shower.  And that’s the point.  I felt real emotion and still held on. 

 

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Luna is almost 12 weeks old now.  She sleeps pretty well, and as a breastfeeding mom I’ve now sufficiently switched my diet to agree with her belly.  The cool thing is that Luna’s mandated dairy and gluten free diet made it easier to lose the baby weight and has for sure boosted my energy.  I never knew how much bread was weighing me down!

 

And with a decent night’s rest and boosted energy I’ve made exercise a priority.  My belly will likely always bare reminders of my pregnancies.  I’m still working on accepting that.  But whether I wear a bikini again or not, my daughters are darn sure to grow up with a strong, fit mommy – outside and in.

 

It’s still no fairytale.  Everyday includes plenty of fussiness (and not just from the baby).  It is just that this time it all feels perfectly manageable. 

Luna's Birth Story

As Saturday evening melted into the early morning hours of Sunday, July 17th I was soaking in the bath breathing through contractions.  The contractions were nothing new, having come and gone for the last month, but with Luna’s due date upon us I was hopeful this was the real deal. 

 

Jason and Stella woke later that morning and I eagerly ushered us out the door for a hot summer morning walk to Eastern Market.  As we noshed on my favorite chocolate croissant, fresh fruit samples, and icy cold lemonade the contractions stayed mild yet steady at 8-10 minutes apart. 

 

I called my midwife team at 11am with the early heads up and took the next few hours to nod off between contractions.  I had learned to be open and be patient after labor with Stella had clocked in at 50 hours.  

 

This labor was our little secret.  We didn’t call our family and I did my best to hide my strain as we ran across friends and neighbors throughout the day.  

 

After dropping off an excited big sister for a sleepover with her best friend, Jason and I walked to dinner and home again. 

 

By midnight I started questioning my decision for a second drug free labor and delivery. I could certainly just tell Jason to head to the hospital for an epidural.  But even as I said that I repeated my mantra, “I can do hard things.”  I dug deep and labored at home for the next several hours. 

 

At 3:30am I called go time and we set the wheels in motion to meet my birth team at the Birth Care Birth Center in Alexandria, VA at 4:30am.  My midwives Marsha and Annie as well as my birth assistant Holly met us there.

 

Soon enough it was time to push, but as I did it was clear even after my waters broke, I wasn’t making much progress. 

 

Through the fog I heard Annie say the baby was posterior and she would be working to turn her through the next contractions.  Right then I felt defeated.  Stella had been posterior.  The trauma of her birth flooded me.  I began crying and told my team I just couldn’t do it.  But as soon as I said it Marsha and Annie coached me to get low in my voice and show them my strength.  Holly reminded me this was not Stella’s birth as Jason repeated over and over you can do this.  I needed each and every reminder. 

 

Luna was born at 7:38am on July 18th, and at 7:50am she was taken by ambulance with Jason to nearby Alexandria INOVA hospital. 

 

Luna was breathing upon birth, but lacked muscle tone, that rosy baby color, or the characteristic first cries.  Everyone promised me she was going to be fine as I lay in shock seeing her leave with the paramedics.  And so her first skin to skin was with dad in the bumpy ambulance ride and the first time I held her to my breast was over an hour later when I was able to arrive at the hospital.

 

The hospital team first told us Luna was stable and would be going home with us right away.  We just needed to wait a little bit for the blood tests to come back.  So as we waited I was able to nurse and cuddle with her.   We each called our parents to rejoice in Luna’s arrival. 

 

The blood tests threw another loop in our journey.  Luna’s bilirubin level was high and more significantly her glucose (blood sugar) level was low.  She would have to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).  And here came the nurse to take her away.

 

I hit pause.  I couldn’t let Luna go again.  Over the next hour we negotiated for Luna to be admitted to a mom and baby recovery room on the third floor.  If further testing showed she wasn’t improving she would move to the NICU on the fourth floor.  That is the way it went. 

 

By Monday afternoon Luna was in the NICU.  Seeing her there under the phototherapy lights, with the monitors and IV, was heart wrenching.  Early on I pulled her off the lights crying that I just had to hold my baby. 

 

As Luna’s stay continued Jason and I found a sort of rhythm.  I was there for every feeding from 8am to midnight while pumping in between each three-hour interval.  The hospital allowed us to stay in the recovery room the first two nights and we managed back and forth from home the last part of the week. 

 

Stella visited Luna daily as well.  I needed to hug her, to kiss her, and laugh as Stella told her sister the imaginary tales of The Hundred Hospital Babies.  The escaping babies stories must have worked.  Luna chewed out her IV Thursday morning and rather than re-sticking her the nurse waited for the next testing round to see if Luna had turned the corner.  And she had. 

 

From that point forward Luna “passed” everything asked of her.  Luna was released Friday afternoon and the four of us drove home together for the first time. 

 

In the weeks since coming home Luna has kicked off her sluggish start to let us know she will be just as fierce as sister Stella.  It must be her Welton gene shining out.  We hardly take the easy road, and we always make a mark.

And I pray. I pray for all.

I sat down to write a blog post many times in the past month.  Each time I abandoned the post.  Each time resigned that I didn’t have the right words.  Each time knowing that whatever felt difficult in my life did not even register on the negative scale of real life hardships.  And each time not sure how a sweet, funny or heartwarming story about the new life I’ll soon bring into the world will contribute to the dialogue.

 

What can I as a straight white woman with a white husband and white children say? 

 

I am saddened by our international tragedies - the terrorist attacks in Istanbul, Bangladesh, and Baghdad – that left more than 300 dead in the past week. 

 

My heart continues to ache for the nonsense of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.  This one is close to my soul as the child of a gay father who found refuge, happiness, and acceptance within gay bars.  In my early twenties my dad asked me to come with him to his favorite bar.  I went.  Everyone welcomed me by name and hugged me.  The bar was about friendship.  He wanted me to see him happy.  I am angry that a shooter filled with hatred stripped that safety and joy from so many. 

 

This week...  A black man is killed by a police officer in Minnesota.  A black man is killed by a police officer in Louisiana.  Five police officers are killed and seven more injured in Dallas.  The Dallas ambush was reportedly executed in retaliation for law enforcement abuse of power.  Sickening injustice in every case. 

 

And then there is my day to day.  I live one block from two public housing complexes and corner parks where black (mostly) men gather morning, noon and night.  We walk by daily to go to the grocery store, the metro, a friend’s house, etc.  I smile and say hello as I pass, often these days exchanging funny or congratulatory banter about my pregnant belly.  But there is a divide much larger than the color of our skin. 

 

Gunshots and violence are too normal on this block.  I am sometimes fearful.  In early June there were four gunshot incidents along that one block, and yet we must carefully monitor police reports to get an inklings of what happened or what is being done.  When the crime is a black man shooting another black man nothing is reported.  We all suffer from this.

 

The root is deep.  The solution is deeper.  All of this is wrong, so wrong.  I do not regularly join the dialogue online, but I thank those who do post.  I read.  I take it in.  I consider what I can do. 

 

I am asking myself why there isn’t more outrage for the terror attacks in Muslim countries.  I am asking myself how can I change the minds of those who do not welcome the LGBT community.  And I am asking myself to look honestly and deeply at my thoughts and actions about race. 

 

Thus far my answers rest with my family.  I am responsible for having regular and honest conversations at home with Jason, Stella and the new baby we will welcome any day now.  I am responsible for having the conversation with my extended family and my friends.  What is going on?  How can we be a force of change, peace, compassion, understanding, and positivity?

 

In talking to my mom recently she reminded me of the guiding light from her mom to always ‘look for the good’ in others and let that lead your way. 

 

May I look for the good in every neighbor and teach my children the same.  May it make a difference.  May all beings be safe and free from suffering.

 

And I pray.  I pray for all.

May: My Spotlight Month

 

The month of May has come to mark many threshold steps in my life.  Growing up May was full of happiness and celebration.  It’s my birthday month and always marked the end of the school year. 

 

In my twenties May meant the start of beach house season.  Many a relationship would make or break as we crammed 15 friends each summer weekend into a Bethany beach cottage for sun by day and Dewey craziness by night. 

 

Somehow Jason and I emerged from the wacky beach days to now celebrate a May wedding anniversary and Mother’s Day.

 

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So much abundance, yet the nucleus of my May reflections now square on May 26, 2013, the day my dad died.  I recall passing May 2014 in a fog, and last year I was depressed and mad much of the month.  How could I celebrate the joys of this month when I knew it was going to end with such sadness of loss?

 

This year, the third anniversary of his passing, I’m different.  Dad is still top of my mind and tears will cross my cheeks plenty this month, but I have let go of the anger and am making way for the good stuff. 

 

There was this ridiculous moment last Saturday when Jason and I were out celebrating our wedding anniversary.  We stuffed ourselves with sushi and double dessert (bread pudding and peanut butter pie) then walked through the city enjoying the rare moment for just us two out of the house.  And then as we made our way home I ate a bug.  It flew right into my mouth.  At first I coughed, then choked, and finally full on puked on the sidewalk.  It was not pretty.  I made it home, quickly chugged a full glass of water, put on my pjs and laughed at the whole thing. 

 

It’s just like me to turn an endearing moment into something awkward.  A good reminder that there is no perfect moment and that the good stuff in life is built by experiencing the highs and the lows. May puts it all in a spotlight and this turn around the sun, as I grow our new baby girl from within, I’m delighted for the ride.

 

 

The Emotional Second Pregnancy

According to my Baby Bump app I have 90 more days with this pregnancy.  I stopped running a few weeks ago and haven’t been to my boot camp class in a month.  I’ve replaced both with a bit more walking and yoga, but mostly I resigned to doing less physical exercise.  I heard myself telling friends it was all getting too hard and it just wasn’t worth it.

 

News flash to self.  It is worth it!  Here in lays my promise to get back on the bandwagon.  I need to change my workouts, not stop them.  I workout not necessarily because I like it, but because it makes my life better.  Workout endorphins, just like pregnancy hormones, are no joke and I need more of the good stuff. 

 

From the outside looking in this pregnancy has been easier than my first, but I’m still an emotional work in progress.  This go round I picked up a load of body image stress.  With Stella, Jason and I happily documented my growing bump in pictures week after week.  I was simply stunned with the process.  I struggled with morning sickness throughout and troublesome rib and sacral pain as baby grew, and yet I felt constantly happy and honored to carry this new life. 

 

This time has been different.  I’ve felt somewhat ashamed of the growing bump.  I know the shame is not rational.  I know that I am honored to carry a new life into our spinning world once again.  In the last couple of weeks I’ve posted a few pregnancy pictures on social media, working hard to show the emotional me that this shame is useless. 

 

Maybe this is too much of my sleepless night talking, but it just feels hard.  It’s not always the roses and daises.  But I'm working on it.  For the next 90 days I will nourish my body through good, appropriate exercise and clean eating.  I will nourish my mind by being real about my emotions and creating more positive self-talk.  I will nourish my soul through good books and meditation. 

 

My yoga practice has provided me with such wonderful tools for the journey of pregnancy (and life).  I just need to pull them out and use them even more often now.  Time to google “home pregnancy workouts. “ 

Neighborhood Crime – Zero Tolerance

Tenth Street, SE between G & E Streets is a quintessential Capitol Hill block lined with historic row homes.  Every morning the block is bustling with kids headed to school, neighbors waving hello, and suits headed into the office.

 

Tuesday morning I dropped Stella at school and proceeded down the block.  I smiled at the group of four teenagers laughing together as they approached my direction.  I could tell by their uniforms they were students at Cesar Chavez Public Charter School located just two blocks over at 12th & G Streets, SE.

 

But as we passed the lone boy in the group jumped at me and hollered as if he was going to punch me.  One girl filmed the incident on her phone and they all rolled in laughter.  I was shaken and realized their earlier laughter was also at my expense.  They planned the moment to intimidate and harass me.

 

A man walking his dog saw the incident and quickly crossed the street to scold the teens.  They sauntered on with more reward from his outrage.

 

I came to the end of the block and decided to take action.  This incident was not a police matter, but it required consequences.  I headed to their school.  The Cesar Chavez school administrators work to provide safe passage for the community and students before and after school, but more must continue to happen.

 

The three girls and one boy approached their school just ahead of me.  The security guard held them in the reception hallway as I spoke to the Vice Principal.  I don’t know what consequences were handed down to the youths, but they did shrink.  No more laughter. I hope this small incident curbs a more dangerous path.

 

Our neighborhood is a victim to increased crime, most often from juvenile offenders.  What begins as intimidation may quickly escalate.

 

As the day wore on I became saddened and incensed at the three teen girls who encouraged the boy.  His action was not for or about me.  It was meant to impress the girls.  And by their filming and laughter it did. 

 

We must teach our daughters as much as our sons that no amount of intimidation, harassment, or violence will be tolerated.  None of it is harmless.  Crime prevention cannot begin on the streets.  It must be taught in our homes, our schools, and every thread of our community.

 

Too many people have been touched by violence in our community. 

 

I pledge to:

·      Stay vigilant

·      Take action

·      Be a voice in the conversation

·      Be an example of zero tolerance

·      Parent with respect and non violence

·      Foster self worth for myself and others through the teachings of yoga

 

What will you do?

Snow Joy

As I watched the snow fall this past weekend I was moved with joy. The depth of the blizzard, a big one at over 20 inches, magnified the sacrifices I’d made for my small business in the prior years.JasonStellaSnow My old scenario would have me cursing the weather report days ahead of snow and ice. And then the day would come. School would inevitably be closed, but mom and dad still needed to work. Jason’s west coast clients don’t exactly stop during an east coast storm. So I’d wake up early to walk to the studio and shovel the walk and teach class all the while worrying about how Jason and Stella were doing at home. Was she letting him get any work done? How would I negotiate juggling snowed in teachers with eager students wanting classes the rest of the snow day(s)? It was an endless stressful cycle to keep the doors open. A cycle that left me drained, and my daughter pretty low on the totem pole.

I had grown to despise the snow. It served only to fully tip my already inequitably balanced life. Jason would duck and cover (only perhaps jokingly) when having to relay a school closing or delay. There was no joy in the beauty of the falling snow and sadly little delight in the moments I did make it to see Stella make snow angels and slide down snow mountains. I was just checking the box. Played in the snow. Smiled. Done.

Leading up to the past few years snow had played the starring role in many of the best moments of my life. The best of all – meeting my husband! Jason and I met when mutual friends gathered for snow football, card games, and plenty of drinking and eating during the President’s Day Blizzard of 2003. It took us a few more months to get to the first kiss, but the white powder started something.

Free of my studio demands I knew from the start this storm would be different. School was delayed Thursday and closed Friday. No biggie. We stocked up on groceries and waited for the snow to fall. I smiled peacefully as I kissed my husband and daughter goodnight. I was once again thankful for the beauty, the gaiety, and wonderment of the white stuff.

Saturday and Sunday I couldn’t have been happier to be snowed in. We shoveled the sidewalks and laughed with neighbors we hadn’t seen in all the cold weather weeks’ prior. And Stella was the top of my priority list. We made snow angels, met up with friends, went sledding (on a very small hill), watched movies, played dollies, and got out every game, puzzle, and craft project we owned. With school closed Monday and Tuesday we declared pajama days and did more of the same.

Last night as DC announced school would be open Wednesday, I looked at Jason and said wow I only lost my temper twice in the past five snow days. I mean I am still me plus pregnant and hormonal, but the point being I was present and fully invested in family. It’s pretty rad…and my snow days also included lots of stuff just for me like yoga, meditation, reading, hot baths, and sweaty workouts.

Snowflakes, snowflakes, come again any day.

One End. One Beginning.

Where do I even start? Was it back in January 2015 when I declared my year’s intention as tortilla soup? I wanted a little of everything, including some spice. I mean what does that really set me up for anyway? That was a sign of my mixed up year for certain, though I know it’s too simple to say it began there. So instead of picking the beginning I’ll choose one ending. As of January 1, 2016, I am no longer the co-owner of Capitol Hill Yoga. After seven years as a small business owner, I decided I needed this change. I love my CHY community and will continue to be a part as both yoga student and teacher. But it has to end there because I need ME more now.

When I first began talking to family and friends about the possibility of this change every single person told me I needed to hold onto the business. That they hated to see me lose something that I poured my heart and soul into. That I couldn’t give up my passion. For a while it seemed like a done deal – I was keeping it. And I almost gave in all the way. I almost listened. I’d wake up in the morning sure that I was going to fight for the business. Then I’d journal, read, ponder and change my mind all afternoon. In the evening I’d welcome students in the studio and feel just as sure as when I woke up that I couldn’t let it go. How could I disappoint everyone?

But something I just could not ignore was the constant sickness I felt during all this confusion. Stress laid on top of first trimester pregnancy (yep you read that right) is not a welcome combination. We are expecting a second child in July. The few clear moments I had in the past two months were in considering the opportunity and limitless possibility that comes with change.

As a person dedicated to service, this was an incredibly difficult decision. I started to see that in fully honoring what I needed I would serve myself and in turn serve others more fully. I so often quote Gandhi’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

This is my change for a low stress pregnancy. This is my action to have a qualified, full maternity leave! This is my way to release my fears of a repeated postpartum depression. This is one change to be a wife and mother (and yoga teacher) more fully present in each moment.   This is my new beginning to be a woman more whole to love this life. Time to see what happens.

Someday Your Story Will Change

Deep in the Heart of TexasAs I repeated “I’m not a backbender” for the millionth time to a friend and yoga teacher colleague a few months back she turned to me and said “Betsy that may be your story, but it is not your truth.” It was a casual response, but it hit deep in my soul. Over the past few years I have worked diligently to improve my physical yoga practice in respect to backbends and yet I would continue to preface any work with those same words - I am not a backbender. Here I was taking action with my physical body to change my story and yet my head and heart were still holding on to my old pattern for dear life. No more. I was laying down the line and rewriting this book inside and out.

The great yogi K. Pattabhi Jois has said yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory. For this particular story it was time to turn to the theory. My regular practice had indeed improved my backbends, but my story persisted because I still didn't like backbends. So what gives? It’s that whole heart opener thing. It seems so extroverted…so vunerable…so available…so not me. Well at least anytime I’m in my thinking mind. Aha back to the work of yoga, to quiet the mind.

And so I’ve been quiet on my blog since returning from my summer in Texas as I’ve needed to quiet the mind and tap instead more into my heart day by day. Doing that makes for a bumpy ride, but it’s been worth taking. I’m not ready to say “I’m a backbender” quite yet, but what I can say is that I smile in backbends now and I do savasana with my palms open by my side more often than closed over my chest these days. Those are the little things and I know there are some big things on the horizon that are all very consciously rewriting my story to a deeper truth.

Don't Get Stuck

stuckOn this day last year I hopped on Amtrak to NYC and joined my mom for 24 hours. At lunch that day I told her I wanted to spend a good chunk of next summer in my home state of Texas. I knew some D.C. families that would ‘summer’ away and that just sounded perfect. I wanted to see Stella jump into her Grandmere and Papa’s arms and run wild with her cousins for days on end. It was said with a lightness and as a cheerful dream. But in the preceding months this trip became not a lover’s dream, but a charged reality of something that I MUST do! And so as I packed my bags the night before Jason, Stella and I embarked on our three weeks in Texas I was apprehensive of what the time would unveil. In a world of sharing happy status updates I was engulfed in a season of anxiety, stress, and unhappiness. It’s these seasons that being a self aware yogi really sucks. I was stuck and though I know it’s necessary to toil there before the lotus blossom, it still felt really crappy.

So that’s a lot to say our trip to Texas became a very necessary time to step away from what got all too muddy in D.C. My time spent with my family really was all I’d hoped it would be. First we spent a relaxing week at the lake where we bobbed in the water with a joyous Stella. I stayed up late every night talking to my favorite counselor (mom), and Jason and I even had a day to ourselves walking down my college memory lane in Austin.

After a week in the hill country, we headed to Arlington. First up, are we up to a physical task in the Texas heat? Yes! Jason and I finished our first triathlon, and our time in Arlington was looking good. As the days wore on, my fitbit steps were paltry, but we enjoyed lots of pool time, great food and fun with family. We even took an afternoon to explore houses in the area (I could totally live in the funky house on the canal). Was it time to relocate? Was Texas the cure to my unhappiness?

The first day we arrived in Texas we had learned that Jason’s aunt had passed away. So on the eve of week three, Jason returned to D.C. to attend the memorial service and get back to his day to day. I made the tough decision to forgo the service. I needed more time to unstick.

Sunday morning Stella and I headed to church with everyone. The pastor asked us to play a word association game. “What’s the first word you think of when you hear Jesus?”  This one was simple - love!  And I think that's what the pastor meant in his sermon, but as I listened I felt conflicted and sad in its delivery.  When everyone stood at the end to give praise through song I just wasn't there.

I relayed my church experience to my stepdad the next day and owe him credit for putting things back in perspective. He reminded me to take away just what I needed.  It was then I realized, I do still want my life in D.C. - the place that I've called home for over 16 years.  There is no escape to tough seasons.  There is sadness and joy in all locations and I must continue to look within for freedom, acceptance, and love.

Stella and I enjoyed the little pleasures of Arlington for the remainder of the week. I saw childhood friends (and their kiddos!), played putt putt, sugared up on snow cones, found indoor playgrounds to beat the heat, devoured Shipley’s do-nuts, enjoyed a girls shopping trip, and even got to watch my nephews play soccer and act in a play.

I want to ‘summer’ in Texas again next year too. I already miss my family a ton, but right now I'm happy to be back in D.C.  It is time to put the car in park for days on end and laugh with my yogis.  The season will change and my lotus will bloom again.  It's from within that I will unstick, not in one city or another.

Equality

HRCThis morning as I walked to the yoga studio two young interns were walking hot on my heels lamenting how the boss had said the staff could go to watch history be made outside the Supreme Court, but one must be left behind to answer phones.  And at that moment I jerked back my first tear of the day.  Yep that's what so many gay americans have felt for decades - left behind.  I hope those two young girls convinced the boss not to leave anyone in the office today so that those interns so full of hope, love and promise were there as the ruling was announced. The Supreme Court of the United States decided in Obergefell vs. Hodges and three related cases that the Constitution gaurantees a right to same-sex marriage.  This is a victory for all Americans.  This is a victory for all people who believe in love, in family, and in the institution of marriage.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the 5 to 4 ruling, saying gay and lesbian couples have a fundamental right to marry.  "It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage,” Justice Kennedy said of the couples challenging state bans on same-sex marriage. “Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

My friend and fellow yoga teacher Katie first shared the news with me about the ruling as I finished teaching this morning.  And for the second time today tears began to well deep inside.  Tears of joy for this progress and yet tears of sadness that it has taken this long and that so many gay and straight people have lived and died with intollerance.

It has been just two years since I lost my dad to AIDS and two years prior to that he lost his partner Darrell to AIDS.  I'm sorry they struggled.  I'm sorry that they lived in a generation where following their true north was often surrounded by (self) hatred, ridicule, and wrong actions.  I've ached so often knowing so much would have been different had my Dad never had to feel shame over who he was at his deepest core or who he chose to love.  One can never turn back time, but I do hope my Dad and Darrell are celebrating together today.

We continue to see racism in our society at every step, but I am hopeful that today's ruling provides a place for more dialogue and more equality for all.  We've come a long way, but we have further to go.  As it stands today I rest with tears of joy that my daughter will grow up knowing only that all people have the right to marry.

Evolve

I'm making some changes to my family and professional routine this summer.  My students will most notice that I'm letting go of my long held Saturday morning classes at my studio come September.  From the outside this change may seem abrupt, but the decision to change has been painstakingly slow.  I've groveled, debated and struggled quite a bit over this, and then today I looked up the definition of evolve.  Evolve is a verb meaning to develop gradually. And there it was - my sign that this is going to work.  For me the word evolve is such a big magnanimous thing.  A thing that can feel untouchable, and to think this slow process I've been churning through for change is me evolving is pretty cool.

In so many ways the reflection of my Saturday morning yoga classes is a reflection of my life.  When we opened the studio I felt small and insecure as a teacher, as if only (self imposed) nepotism had me holding down this precious primetime teaching gig.  Over the first year I took a hard look at my reflection, and lets say I walked into the light as a confident yoga teacher and small business owner.

And then Stella came along and I struggled endlessly every Saturday morning to leave my family for two hours to teach.  I almost gave up then, but I didn't and I am better for it.  I have continously taught the Saturday morning yogis at our studio for more than 6 years.  So to make a change that affects my beloved students is just plain difficult.

My favorite quote has long been Gandhi's "Be the change you wish to see in the world."  The change I need at this moment is to alter the tide in my business and family relationships.  I am creating space to evolve to my best self.

The Original Gap Khakis

Khaki PantsAs I was taking off my favorite pair of khaki pants Monday evening I realized just how thin the threads were along the seat. And then I almost teared up thinking I might have to retire them soon. I dare count back exactly, but I purchased my Gap khakis at least 12 years ago. I remember well that I found the pants on sale at the end of the season for under ten dollars. I first bought one pair and then walked into a few other stores before returning and buying the same pants in three more shades. I bought the pants during a trip home to Texas, and when I showed my mom the bargain finds she was outright worried my funky fashion sense was deteriorating in buttoned down Washington, D.C. Probably a little too true.

The day I walked into the store I was just so happy I could still sneak (very snuggly) into the size two pants. Applause to Gap for making a girl feel good at a time when my long work hours, fast food habit, and drinking nights out with girlfriends left me with some extra pounds.

But with my trusty khakis by my side I soon fell full into my happily ever. The next year the pants no longer crinkled around my bum and thighs and instead began to lightly brush the ground and fray the end seam with each step. Proof that I had shed some excess pounds…and excess stress.

I would give a little ceremonial kiss to them every year as fall turned to winter and all were retired to the top shelf for a few months before I rushed to grab them on the first spring like day of the next year.

When I slipped on my khakis for the first time in 2011 they were so loose I could almost pull them down my hips without unbuttoning. My daughter had been born a few months prior and I remember it being that first light bulb of acknowledging post partum depression in myself. Between caring for my daughter around the clock, breast feeding, running my business, and sweating away a few too many calories without great nutrition I was worn too thin is so many ways.

I vowed to myself that day to get my pants back to that happily ever when they would just brush the ground enough to sometimes catch between my flip flop and my foot.

That happily just smartly frayed place happened on Monday. And so today I celebrated with my favorite kind of self-care splurge, a bargain hunting shopping trip. My mom will be proud as I replaced my well worn, boring khakis with a pair of funky pants that will surely only be fashionable for a single season.

Tile Floors

The house I grew up in had tile floors in the living room which made for the perfect dance floor.  Every evening as I returned home from dance class I'd request - no insist - that my mom, brother, and stepfather have a seat to watch the new steps I'd learned that day.  I worked tirelessly to improve my dance technique and performance quality.  The precision and expertise of each step were important and translated into confidence in my art form.  I hoped my work could bring joy to others, most of all my family.  And I think it did. When I began practicing yoga in 1999 it was a very different journey.  The work really was all for me, and even as I began to share yoga as a teacher the process was still quite personal.  This was theraputic and necessary, but in the past few years I noticed I was holding myself back in not stepping into my full resume.  This journey is a lifelong one, but it's neccessary to stand on that tile floor on a daily basis to share my gifts.

From October 2014 to February 2015 Stacey and I taught and mentored an inspiring group of women through our 200 hour yoga teacher training program.  This was the second of its kind at the studio, but for the first time I did not hesitate to know I do indeed have a great deal of knowledge and expertise in my field as a hatha yoga teacher of over a decade.  I am excited to watch and continue to mentor these women.  It's an amazing accomplishment for me to feel confident that I have the tools, the wisdom, and the compassion to continuing offering them more.

I joked with the group during the training that I was happy to have apprentices in my class, but it was usually a short stay.  The under skin of that being that I wasn't sure what they had to gain from me.  No longer - please stay and learn.  I have so much to share.

A work in progress

GaneshaEvery December I get a little giddy about the coming opportunity to replace my kitchen wall calendar.  In 2014 we were greeted each morning with Stella's Disney Princess calendar which added a certain whimsical quality to enjoy coffee and cereal with Ariel, Belle, Tiana or Aurora each morning.  But this year we've returned to the requisite Yoga Dogs calendar ~ because it is the perfect gift for a yogi, dog owner like myself.  In any case the act of changing out the calendar to 2015 had me a little aprehensive. I tend to make just about everything a competition, with others (they are mostly unaware of this) and especially with myself.  And to boil it down very quickly 2014 was a big year on top for me.  2014 brought game, set, match on my resolves to manage my daily schedule, to train for and run a marathon, and to study and become a certified yogahour teacher.  Each resolve was a win in its own right and put in perspective with the muddle of the three years prior I had really come up roses.  And too top it off our studio is thriving more than ever.  So stepping into 2015 felt scary.  I wasn't sure how I was going to top myself this time when my soul was quite possibly asking for a little less.

I spent New Year's Day 2015 just as I had the year before, in our studio packed with yogis gathered to create and embody his or her sankalpa (heartfelt desire) for the new year.  I'd walked into the studio that day with a sankalpa that read I am 3/4 full, but in voicing it to my workshop partner I knew that wasn't quite right.  My sankalpa couldn't just be to stop doing grandious things, or do a little less of them.  That's not who I am.  I am 3/4 full revealed my trepidation about stepping out of a really good year without embodying the rich opportunity to build upon the good.  And so out goes that sankalpa.

It's now January 29th and as I've fished around for the right sankalpa I am still feeling uneasy.  My going statement is I am tortilla soup.  For me this means I am full, I am spicy and all the right ingrediants are in order for a delicious day.  But I'm having a hard time fully owning this one.  Something is still not quite right for what I am looking for this year.  Could it be that nothing is abreast?  Could it be that I just need to back off myself for awhile?  Or is it such a splash that my subconscious is not letting me go there yet?

Within this vunerable state I have found one strong focus for January to reclaim a couple of old habits.  I have dedicated five minutes a day for meditation and twenty minutes a day for reading.  The five minutes of meditation is perhaps what is leaving me so hungry to claim my aim, my mantra, my guide for the year.  It's just enough dip each day to know I need more time.  So maybe for February I'll make it 10 minutes a day and see what churns up for me - always a work in progress.  Jai Ganesha.  Open my way for 2015.

 

My Stella

birthIt's 9:30pm. Four years ago at this time my midwife told me to have a big glass of wine in hopes of slowing labor so I could get some sleep before what was sure to be the day I'd give birth to my daughter Stella. Twenty six hours earlier Jason and I were leaving the movie theater when I'd told him we should go home and call our midwife because I was in early labor. We were planning a home birth and so we spent those early evening hours prepping all the last minute home details. We defrosted the quiche, lasagna and cake I'd baked earlier in the week so to have delicious food for our birthing team. We were ready.

Our midwife asked us to get as much sleep as possible as the contractions were far apart, but there was nothing I could do to sleep that first night. I was about to have a baby! By morning I was in active, but manageable labor. It was clear that I wasn't getting any rest Jason and I spent much of the day going on very slow walks around the neighborhood stopping at many a neighbor's front fence to brace for contractions. All four grandparents were in the house playing cards and trying not to act nervous about our whole home birth process.

And so again we speed to about 9:30pm, 26 hours of labor and 26 hours without sleep. "Drink the wine Betsy. Work to slow labor again and please get some sleep. You'll need it for the road ahead," said Alice. Well I drank the wine, but the contractions did not lose any intensity. By the early morning hours the pain of labor had really kicked in. My birth team insisted Jason lay down for a bit and they took over keeping me hydrated and as strong and comfortable as possible minute by minute.

I don't recall the details of the 24 hours leading up to Stella's birth, but I do know me and baby stayed safe throughout labor, though it was very painful. I'm stubborn and sure of my convictions and had long dreamed of a drug free home birth, but as the hours ticked on Jason and my midwives began suggesting we head to the hospital for an epidural. I'd been in active labor for 49 hours when I finally agreed to go to the hospital.

What I didn't know was that the heavens must have been waiting for that moment. As Jason drove the few miles to the hospital my contractions just compounded one on top of the next. In the end we never had time for that epideral and I did have a drug free birth within 30 minutes of our arrival at the hospital on November 29, 2010. Our baby girl needed pediatric support in her first hour and being in the hospital was her very best birth.  She knew it all along and was just waiting for me to get on board.

And now four years later I still get lost in the smell of her hair and her every loving touch. The 50 hour labor was just a preview of what sometimes feels like an impossible journey, though one that is every bit worth it and brings me purpose, love and compassion at the end of each day.

Happy Birthday to our star.  Our awesomely silly, stubborn, sweet, smart and stunning Stella.  And happy birthing day to me!

Run a Marathon. Change Your Life. True Statement.

MCMFinishers2014On December 1, 2014 I watched my brother Spencer become an Ironman in Cozumel, Mexico. The race starts with a 2.4 mile swim and transitions into a 112 mile bicycle ride before ending with a full marathon run of 26.2 miles. Every inch of me radiated with inspiration watching my brother and thousands of others compete in this endurance challenge and by the time Spence came around for the first loop of the run portion I had told my husband Jason I was going to run a marathon in 2014. I told Spencer that day I wanted to run a marathon and he promised to help me each step of the way and run alongside me on race day. I never looked back. We set our eyes on the Marine Corps Marathon. MCM is held each Fall here in our nation's capitol. My Christmas list was a runner's dream from Newton running shoes to cold weather gear and inspirational books. Those first few chilly months I passed mileage goal after goal. I'd never run more than 6.2 miles and can remember the moments I passed 7 miles and gradually worked into double digit mile runs. I was often tired and my muscles and joints suffered in the beginning as I built strength, but I never doubted my goal. I would hobble down the stairs, but when I strapped on my shoes and winter layers I could run strong for 60, 75, then 90 and up to 120 minutes. I began to feel like a super star not only in my Newtons, but in every avenue of my life.

Finally April rolled around and it was time for the MCM lottery. Spencer received a spot, but I did not. I was crushed and began looking at other races, but it was MCM that we wanted. I began searching the charity team options and a day later received an email from an organization my studio supports called Yokid! Yokid brings yoga to underserved children in my area. It was a perfect match. I joined the team, raised money as I logged miles and solidified a second contribution to my running plan.

Running is often a very solitary sport and in fact I trained 95% of the time on my own, but the rewards of running filled my life this year. Spencer and I have lived 1500 miles apart for most of the last 15 years and though our sibling love could never faulter our bond had waned.  As I ran circles around Washington, D.C. those 1500 miles got very small. Spence and I would text, email, and chat on the phone several times a week.  He was my coach and my motivator and my awesome big brother that I could share it all with.

And so when race day rolled around I was ready, nervous and excited.  I managed to get some sleep the night before and tried to settle my nerves over toast and orange jucie at 4:30am.  When the starting gun sounded at 7:55am tears rolled as my feet started running.  We were really doing this together - siblings unite.  The first 4-5 miles of MCM are a bit hilly.  Between my emotions and the extra cardiovascular stress of running uphill I had a stomach cramp at mile two.  O boy I thought, this is not looking pretty.  But Spence talked me into a groove and by the time we headed down M Street in Georgetown I was finding my way and was able to pick up the pace some along the long stretch of Rock Creek Parkway.  The crowds of runners and spectators was intense for me - not exactly my scene - and I had to keep calming my nerves.  I had trouble throughout the race finding a steady groove.  MCM is an emotional run.  From the highs of having Marines had ME water & cheer for ME to seeing the pictures of fallen soilders along the way reminding us of what great freedom and ability I have simply to run this race.

MCMFinishLine2014Seeing Jason, Stella, my mom and friends at mile 16 had me crying tears of joy once again.  I gave Stella a big hug and grabbed a new water bottle before heading down the National Mall to the US Capitol Building.  Spencer reminded me this was a stretch I'd run 100 times before.  Mile 16-19 felt great.  I was easily on pace for under 4 hours and I was confident I would finish strong all the way to the end.  But then we hit the 14th street bridge at mile 20 and that next one to two miles felt like they stretched on for days.  Everyone and I mean everyone around us began walking and for once in my life I wanted to join them rather than surpass them.  And so I did.  A few miles later the 4 hour pacer passed me and for what tears I had left I let them flow, but I couldn't keep up.  Somewhere along the way I mustered every bit of determination I could find and ran - more like sprinted - the last quarter to half mile to the finish.  Spence and I crossed the finish hand in hand in victory.  It hurt and it hurt bad, but we did it.  My time was 4 hours and 10 minutes.  From a field of 30,000 runners I finished 209th in my division, 1316 female finisher, and 4630 overall. What a race.

Training and completing the marathon became everything I'd always heard.  It was exteremely difficult, rigorous, demanding, and time consuming.  Yes my joints hurt at times and yes I suffered injury during training.  But I'm healthier for all of it.  The act of training for and running the Marine Corps Marathon did wholly change my life for the better.

Each mile was like shedding a layer and walking into a whole me.  I was back on my feet and every other goal I set for myself in 2014 I've met and exceeded because of the passion and drive I found in running.  Will I do it again some day - absolutely!  I'm a runner now.

Nickname

Stacey, Darren, BetsyDarren Rhodes, Stacey and I had just spent four full days together leading our studio's teacher training program. As I drove Darren back to the airport the last morning he asked me if I liked nicknames. I do. My legal name of Elizabeth is a family name and therefore my parents endowed me also with my nickname - Betsy - from the beginning. These days I especially treasure that my mom gave me the name of her grandmother and in the same breath gave me my own unique presence with my nickname.

Nicknames show a depth of knowing and love, so yes I like them, and it meant a lot to me for Darren to say hey I think Bet-surya-sy (bet surya see) fits you. A sure bet. Supreme Sun. Intuitive.

Jason and I have often joked that if my yoga gig drys up my next career will be that of private investigator. I am intuitive and a good read of people, and to further that I know when I am straying and not playing into my intuition. Those are the moments that come back to bite.

I've had a few of those bite me moments when it comes to yoga. The you can bet on me piece of that nickname is a great spin to say I'm pretty darn solid and direct. One aim of my yoga practice is to be as soft as I am hard. The aim to unite and balance sun and moon energy within me - Hatha Yoga indeed. In retrospect each time I weigh heavy towards the moon I get burned. Now I've learned that to showcase my sun does indeed strike the right balance and more authentically dial in the moon.

So here's Darren endearing to me that these are the qualities within me that he sees and that he favors. That conversation was held more than a month ago and I've reflected back on it often. The nickname tells me Darren has my back. He is not just teaching. He is intently listening. Thank you D. I work with this daily.