Sunday, January 8, 2017

A New Cup...

Many moons ago, when I worked for Grinnell College, I got this cup...

I love this cup. It's large. It's heavy. It's red. It's a shape that feels good cradled in my hands. Everyone in my family knows this is Mom's cup.

When we moved to Carlisle, this simple cup served as my daily comfort and connection to a place I had so loved. To a time in my life when I learned so much about myself and what truly nurtures my soul. Over the years it has become somewhat of a security blanket. My security cup.

Santa left me a new cup in my stocking this year...

My kids at school love books by Mo Willems. Mo's books are silly, and witty, and his Elephant & Piggie series are some of my favorite read aloud books. This cup makes me smile every time I pick it up. I have grown to love my little school library space, and although it can be frustrating and exhausting at times,  I'm glad to have a job to go to that I feel makes a positive impact on the students entrusted to my care there.

Admittedly, I have a bit of a thing for coffee cups, so event though we have more than plenty in our cupboard, I could not resist adding this cup to our collection when I randomly ran across it at Marshalls a few days after Christmas...

While different in shape, both of these cups are large, and weighty, and feel good when cradled in my hands. Since being added to our collection, these two cups have spent very little time in the cupboard as the frigid temps of Iowa winter ha required many warm drinks.

It seems fitting that new cups of comfort have made their way into my hands as of late as I have also felt a bit of the fog that has hung over my heart for the past few years starting to lift. During one of the darkest parts of the year, a time when the air is cold, the nights are long, and my inner grizzly wants to hibernate until spring, I've been feeling quite sunny.

I'm sure a lot of people in my life want to roll their eyes and tell me to just "get over it" when I say I don't know that I have ever really found my sunny side since we moved 6.5 years ago. Yes, I know, it's been 6.5 years. I SHOULD just move on and get over it. Trust me, I'd LOVE it if my heart found it to be just that simple. That doesn't mean that I haven't had sunny days. Life has continued to be lived. Some great memories have been made. Lovely people have been added to our tribe. New passions have been discovered. Life goes on, even on cloudy, foggy days.

Two and a half years I ago I stopped trying to "tough it out", realized I wasn't going to be able to just "choose to be happy", and admitted I needed some help dealing with the depression that had been unraveling the comfortably knitted warmth of my life. Clouds had taken over my inner environment, and I needed some help finding the sun. For about a year, I was experiencing brighter days on a pretty regular basis. Talking to close friends about needing some extra support, and getting a little pharmaceutical help in keeping my serotonin levels balanced, helped me to keep a better perspective on life. It helped me more fully enjoy the sunny days, and remember that when clouds blew in, they wouldn't being hanging around forever.

Then in August 2016 a BIG storm rolled in on a very scary, very surreal night I never expected to experience as a parent. For weeks we were in emergency clean-up mode. As is the case with any rebuilding after a major storm, recovery takes time. Sometimes there are set backs. It was a rough, rough, LONG year and my inner emotional environment did not fair well through it all.

(I have not written much about this particular struggle mainly out of respect for the fact it is not only my story. In fact, I feel a bit uncomfortable talking about here because I don't want to give the impression that the storm, and the after math, were about me. I only mention it because of how the events of that 6-9 months have affected my own mental/emotional well-being.)

There are a lot of areas of life when struggle and failure does not bother me for very long. As confident as I can be going into just about any adventure I decide to take on, failure does not surprise me. Self sabotage much? Yeah, probably. I will own up to that. And when it comes to most failures in my life, I'll own up to those too.

Failed business? I could have done more to promote my services.

Failed friendships? I'm sure I said something or did something to push the other person away. (I mean I even think I'd be exhausting to be friends with!)

Financial struggles? Yep, probably largely my fault as the keeper of the budget and payer of the bills.

That being said, I think I've always been able to accept my weaknesses and failures because there's one area of my life where I've generally felt like I totally have my shit together...being a mom. So when something happens that makes you question every decision you've ever made related to something you felt like you generally really do pretty well, your world kinda falls apart. In my case, a huge dark cloud hung over my inner world for a very long time. A cloud full of sadness and frustration and anger and worry. In hind sight, I should have probably been a bit more responsible for taking care of my own emotional needs as we worked on making repairs in the structure of our family. I should have probably participated in some counseling to help me find some peace, and keep perspective, with all that was going on.

Slowly over the past few months, that dark cloud has been lifting a bit. With time, we've been able to repair much of the initial damage created by that storm. There will always be scars, but life has gone on to find a more comfortable rhythm again. The general mood in our family environment, the center of my life, the holder of the dearest parts of my heart, is lighter. I'm starting to remember what it's like to have more sunshine in my life. Part of welcoming those sunnier days is simply accepting what has happened in the past is the past. Those events can not be changed and lessons have been learned. What we can look forward to is the potential of the future of finding a new place of comfort in the present.

It's kinda like being open to adding the comfort of a new favorite cup, or two, to the cupboard.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016


I've been thinking a lot lately about silence.

  • As an introvert, silence can be a healing hug when the world is overwhelming me.
  • As a conflict avoider, silence can be a place of safety and comfort.
  • As someone who hopes to offer well informed, thoughtful contributions, silence is often a space holder to allow me to gather more information before joining a conversation.
  • As a teacher of children, silence is often needed to hear the real problem or feeling a student is trying to communicate during a time of distress.
  • As a yogi, silence is the place that allows my body and spirit to speak, hear, and understands its needs and truths.

So much good can come from simply observing silence in life.

Since November 8th, I've been thinking a lot more about the other side of silence. About the unintended messages silence can send in times of distress or conflict. About the darker side of what silence represents.

  • I've been thinking about all the times that I've used silence as a safe, comfortable option to avoid facing conflict, only to feel as though I have fallen short of honoring the beliefs held near and dear to my heart.
  • I've been thinking about when I've interpreted another's silence as disinterest or apathy at a time when I've needed suppor or explanation.
  • I've been thinking about how choosing to stay silent can send a much stronger message about who we are as individuals than words that are intentionally spoken to craft an image of us as a person. 

 Since November 8th, I have consumed more politically based information than I think I have the entirety of the rest of my life. I've read mainstream news. I've read information produced by liberal outlets. I've read information produced by conservative outlets. I've read the blogs and words of well known individuals, as well as those who are not so well known. I have read information covering general issues. I have read information addressing specific issues. I have read information that left me feeling angry. I've read information that has left me in tears. I've read information that has lifted my spirits and confirmed my belief that there is so much good in the world.

As I have considered why I have this sudden obsession for consuming information in an area I normally avoid like the plague, I can only come up with 1 explanation: I'm trying to make sense of, and find comfort for, the feelings I have felt since waking up on Wednesday, November 9th in a country that elected Donald J. Trump for president.




These are my true and honest feelings when faced with the reality of America's decision. Feelings I have sat with in silence to observe to be sure they are pure and true.

Feelings not tied to policy ideals or to party alliances, as some who are happy with the outcome of the election would suggest.

Feelings that are FAR from me simply being a sore loser.

Feelings that are an honest response and representation of my inability to support or respect the man who will soon be stepping into one of the most influential and visible offices in the world.

Feelings that align with my disgust for him, not because of a difference in opinion on policy, but because of his bullish behavior and frequently demonstrated lack of respect for the diversity of his fellow human beings.

As a woman, a mother of daughters, and an ally to several women who are survivors of sexual assault, it turns my stomach that a man who has been accused of sexual assault, and who has frequently demonstrated a total lack of respect for women, will lead our country as our next president.

I am sad and worried for those in my life who are gay; for those whose families are a dynamic mixture of nationalities; for those who, like myself, choose to practice a spiritual belief system outside of Christianity, and for the uncertainty that lies ahead in terms of individual safety and freedoms.

I am not naive enough to lump everyone who supports the selection of our next president to his elected office into a group of misogynistic, racist, homophobes, though we can not deny that a number of those very hateful type of individuals have been awfully vocal about their support for Trump. But what I have a much harder time wrapping my brain around is how the silence of those who supported him through this process, how the choice NOT to speak out against such comments and actions, sends a clear message of acceptance of said behaviors. I can't get over how, in the end, maintaining an alliance with party policy beliefs was more important for a large number of our population, including some of own family and friends, than common human decency.

It's a terrible feeling to think people who you love and care for could so easily set aside the safety and respect for certain populations of our fellow humans in support of political policy. Yet, that is our reality. Period.

So for me, as uncomfortable as it may be at times, this election has made me realize that I can no longer choose the safety and comfort of silence at the expense of speaking up about and supporting causes that I feel are important.

  • I will no longer be silent when acquaintances "jokingly" make comments about women. Or about gays. Or about people of color. Or about religious traditions different from his/her own. (It happens more than I'd like to admit.)
  • I will no longer choose to silently support causes important to me because I know there are others in my social circle who disagree with me on hot button topics. I will support them fully, proudly, openly, and without apology so that those who need the support of an ally know they can find a safe place in my presence.
  • I will not silence my intention to create an environment in my home, and a community through my work, that is inclusive, supportive, and respectful.

I will continue to turn to silence for recovery, for reflection, and to recharge, but no longer will I be silent about issues in our society that promote hate, discrimination, and the possibility of the loss of freedoms. No longer will I allow my own fear of discomfort unintentionally send the message that my silence is because of acceptance or apathy.


P.S. After writing this post today, I read this opinion piece in The New York Times, which I thought was brilliant and also features the word silence. I also loved the passion of this piece by John Pavlovitz. And because her writing feels like home to me, I have to share Barbara Kingsolver's words as well. Happy reading.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


If you are a parent, or even a pet parent, you can relate to the fact that while you always love your kids, there are times in life when you don't like them very much for the choices and actions they make. You spend incredible amounts of energy worrying about them because your heart wants the very best for them always and you know how poor choices can prevent that from happening. Yet as much as you want to protect them, there comes a point where you can't make every decision for them, and you simply have to give them some space to learn on their own the consequences of their actions and choices, good or bad. But through it all, you love them always.

That's exactly how I feel about our country and this shit show of an election cycle we are currently experiencing. I will always be thankful for the blessing of being born in a prosperous, (mostly) safe, and (mostly) free country. Even as a woman, despite the very real existence of glass ceilings, double standards, and general sexism, my life is so much easier than so many other women around the world. But I am far from proud of what is happening across our country in recent days. I do not like America very much right now. It seems that so many have forgotten how to treat their fellow humans, regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation, with basic decency and respect. People have apparently lost sight of the fact that we CAN actually have differing opinions, even about major issues, and still peacefully and respectfully coexist.

I'm honestly scared of what November will bring. Not only am I worried about WHO will represent our country to the REST of the world (you know, that large planet thing we live on where BILLIONS of other people from other countries also exist), about WHO will be helping to make decisions that will impact our future, but also what our choice of leaders will say about our nation as a society. About how the outcome of this one BIG decision could further divide our citizens on hot button topics such as military involvements, race/gender/sexuality rights, and true religious freedoms. I am appalled by the fact our corrupt political party system has reached a point where the candidates offered as qualified choices to represent our nation are FAR from being examples of the best of what America has to offer to the rest of the world.

I will always love the land of my birth, just as I will always love the places from which my ancestors came outside of this country, but right now I am ashamed of our nation and the character we are displaying to the world around us about what it (apparently) means to be an American.


Monday, July 11, 2016

This body...

This body went to the gym today for the first time since early April. Today was once again Day 1.

This body has lost much, if not all, of the strength and endurance I had worked to gain throughout this past winter. As a result this body weighed in heavier today than Day 1 back in October, which shouldn't surprise me since I'm also wearing a size larger than I was at that point.

This body is what a 227 pound size 18 looks like on my 5 foot 7.5 inch 41 year-old skeleton. This body has weighed less as an adult. It has also weighed more as an adult. Since having kids (because that's a game changer people) it has worn every size from 12 to 24, though I'm most comfortable in it when it can comfortably wear a size 14 and the scale consistently hovers in the 175-185 range.

This body had to participate in an annual wellness screening for our insurance this spring and didn't score too well in a few of the areas. It has a great resting heart rate, maintains a healthy level of blood pressure, and does a good job of regulating it's blood sugar levels. It carries too much fat, having consistently measured at an overweight to obese level for pretty much its whole adult life, and tends to have an elevated cholesterol level regardless of what I feed it or how much I do or do not move it on a regular basis.

This body has allowed me to do some pretty amazing things. It carried and birthed our 2 amazing daughters. It's peddled hundreds of miles all over the state of Iowa. It has helped me make a living as a fitness professional helping others care for their own bodies. It has allowed me to practice and teach thousands of hours of yoga. It has hiked me many, many miles through the beauty of nature. It has helped me build things and garden and create crafty things. It has many, many times helped me dance the night away. It has loved, and been loved, by the most dear people. It has been both the recipient, and the giver, of an uncountable number of hugs. It has done everything I've ever asked it to do, taken lots of abuse in the process, and despite the aches and pains that are a result of all that doing, it willingly continues to carry me into whatever next adventure my little brain decides should be tackled next.

So why, why when I know all the amazing things my body has allowed me to experience and knowing all that it is capable of if I take the time to care for it properly, why can't I just regularly keep up with the work that I know I need to do to be comfortable in my own skin? Why do I have to get to a point of being so uncomfortable and frustrated with what my body is NOT able to do before I start to pick up the pieces to start to work back to a more comfortable place? Why, when I support so whole-heartedly the work being done by so many good people (like here, and here, and here and here and here) to promote body acceptance and health at all ages and sizes, why can't I myself make my health and love for my own body a top priority? How can I teach my daughters about healthy self care and having a self-loving inner dialogue when I can't consistently practice what I hope to teach?

I realize the answers to these questions are not simple or 1 dimensional. They are not just about exercising more and eating less. They are influenced by my genes; by my mental and emotional health; by the roller coaster of exercise and dietary habits I've observed through my 41 years of life; by the fact my body is changing with age in ways that require me to re-learn how to best care for it; by the activities cycle a modern mid-western family experiences during the stage of life we're currently living; by all the internal dialogue that is a constant stream of noise that runs through my head about what I should or should not be doing "at my age", or how people may or may not perceive me, or how much of a failure I am at practicing a healthy, active lifestyle when both my education and experience in the wellness field affords me an advantage not many who struggle with finding comfort in their own bodies have.

I find it GREATLY frustrating that after so many years of doing work, physically and emotionally, to live and promote health focused lifestyles, I still find myself on days like today uncomfortably huffing and puffing through a very basic workout while fighting back tears of mental frustration and disappointment. It is hard for me not to be angry with myself. It would be really easy to pass the blame on the stresses of life and the influences of my environment for my current state of discomfort with my health and fitness level. I will admit that sometimes I take the easy way out and use those excuses as justification for my less than healthy habits, but when it comes down to it, deep down I know it is in large part due to personal choices and how those choices can support or sabotage my body's own natural genetic tendencies. My body naturally wants to be a little on the fluffy side. It's naturally a little lazy. It tends to be a little depressed and hormonally out of whack. But this body also likes to feel challenged. It's strong and it actually likes sweat. It feels the most free, the most naturally content, when it's moving.

As frustrated and disappointed in myself as I am today, I still have hope. And passion. And I'm super stubborn. (Or so I have been told.) I know that I can choose differently with my health in mind. I have the physical ability. I have the moral support. I have the access and the knowledge. And at 41, I have the perspective to know this work is not about the number on the scale or the size on my swimsuit. It's about being the healthiest, most comfortable I can be in this 1 body that I have been given to experience all that life has to offer...for as long as I am a living soul on this planet.

This body did Day 1 at the gym again today and is going to get reacquainted with my favorite yoga mat again tomorrow. Regardless of how frustrated I am today, change can't happen without a Day 1.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Slowly Summer...

We are almost a full 3 weeks into summer. It is taking me a bit longer than normal to find my summer groove this year. I seem to have misplaced my motivation to tackle my normal summer project list. Our relocated garden boxes remain un-planted. The backyard flowerpots have been filled with simple combinations of inexpensive, easy to care for annuals. Weeds have been pulled, or not, depending on the location. Plans for building new wooden chairs for our deck have been read, and re-read, but no building has been done. While I'm trying to be gentle with myself as I know beating myself up over what I'm NOT accomplishing is going to do any good towards getting SOMETHING accomplished this summer, it seems our more casual weeks of summer are moving at a quicker pace than ever this year. If I don't get off my ass and get some shit done, I'm going to run out of time!

Just before the end of the school year, a dear friend asked if I would be willing to tackle a knitting project for her, these cute sheep themed hats that she hopes to gift to her sheep showing daughters this coming Christmas. Even though I have never done stranded color work before, I decided maybe the challenge of learning something new might help me loose the funk that's been hanging around for far too long this past year. Once we FINALLY decided on a color scheme (who knew that was going to take 2 crafters so long to determine) I ordered the yarn. It arrived on my doorstep last Friday and I cast-on on Monday. (I took supplies with me to possibly cast on over the weekend while we did some camping, but it was HOT, and so is wool.) I'm almost to the end of the ribbed band and ready to join in the second color to start building the snowy, sheepy scene. As nervous as I am at the thought of keeping, at times, 3 different working strands of yarn in order, I'm also really excited to watch the sheep grow a little with each round of work. We are getting ready for a road trip and I am hoping to have at least 1 finished hat by the time we return home and a good start on the second thanks to the miles and miles of familiar Iowa and Nebraska countryside that we will be driving through on some of the longest daylight days of the year.

Speaking of camping, we have become travel trailer camper owners. As much as I wanted to remain a die hard tent camper, I have to admit the ease and comfort of the camper has already gotten us out to camp more in the past 6 weeks than in all the YEARS we have lived in Carlisle and have talked about doing more camping as a family. And it has been great! Having our oldest child getting ready to make the transition to high school in the fall has kinda smacked us in the face with the realization that the number of "somedays" are very quickly decreasing. It's become very clear that if we don't stop putting things off until we have more time/more money/less stress, the opportunity to enjoy some of the experiences we wish to share as a family before our kids are grown will be past us! We have taken Campy (what we have lovingly named our little 18 foot bunkhouse camper) out 3 times already this spring and are so, so, SOOOOO glad we made the decision to purchase him. He's small, and now that we've had him out a couple of things we will choose differently with our next camper, but he does the job and is a great first camper to have for these camper owning newbies. In addition to adding Campy to our lives, my family gifted me "permission" to purchase a kayak or standup paddle board for Mother's Day. I have been window shopping them on the internet for quite a while having so enjoyed the paddling experiences I've had over the past several years. I decided to get a tandem sit on top kayak so that I could enjoy my love of quietly gliding across the water with my family (and friends) instead of always going out alone. While I am still eyeing standup paddle boards everywhere I go and know I will be adding on to my toy chest in the future, I am glad that for now we went with Stella our yak. We were finally able to get her in the water this past weekend, and it was a perfect afternoon of sharing some paddle time with each of my loves.

My house...not clean. A small building project I decided to start last week...slowly, slowly making progress. Working to promote my Perfectly Posh business...not happening. But I've gotten a start on finding my happier, more inspired summer self, and that is a positive not to be overlooked!