My Yellow Crested Firebird

I recently read The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker’s Guide to Extraordinary Living by Stephen Cope for my book club. This was my second time to read it. I read it once before when we first moved to California about six and a half years ago. That was a pivotal time in my life as I moved away from practicing law and politics and began to move more towards my current role as a mom and a maker of home coziness. As I read it again and discussed it last night with the book club parts of it keep going round in my head as I think more and more about them and how they apply to me and my life.

The one thing that really sticks out to me is the story the author tells of the quest for the firebird and how:

“our unconsicious ideals cause us to sacrifice our true lives to a beautiful chimera, a haunting dream, a compelling
illusion. Imagine a bird hunter on the loose in a magnificent rain forest, searching for the mythical Yellow-Crested Firebird. The hunter is relentless in his search for this bird, a mythic bird that, unfortunately, exists only in pictures, and in our own supercharged imaginations.”

For as long as I can remember I wanted to have a successful career. When I was younger, I wanted that career to be in politics or law. I felt that there was something inside me that was wonderful and that I could save the world just a bit with it. I went to law school, hated it, but endured it anyway because I thought it would give me a leg up in the political world. After law school, I worked on the Kerry campaign and then moved to DC. I knew only a handful of people when I arrived, but I networked and managed to keep myself mostly employed for the three and a half years I was there. But every job ended and I just couldn’t seem to excel in whatever I was doing. There was always something tripping me up. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I worked or what I did, it was wrong. I was miserable. I kept hitting my head against a wall, but I would pick myself up and keep trying and trying.

While I was in DC, I also met someone else, Alex. He supported me through my many job searches emotionally and paid all the rent when I couldn’t pay my share. Then he got a wonderful opportunity: move to California and work for Google. He wasn’t sure he wanted to go, to leave his family and his friends, but I knew it was what he needed and we went. I left my law job happily assuming that I would take the bar in California and eventually start practicing again.

Before I took the bar that first time, I had a unique opportunity, several months to do whatever I wanted. I was a bit nervous about what to do with all that free time and worried that I would become bored and lonely. I didn’t really though. I took the chance to do more yoga, to run more, to learn to garden, to cook ridiculously, and generally do things that made Alex and my life nice. It turned out I was good at these activities and I felt happy in them.

Then I entered a phase of almost a year where I studied for and took the California bar twice. It was horrendous. In the end I failed it both times just barely. It messed with my self-esteem terribly and I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t pass it. However, it also gave me some freedom, I didn’t have to continue along the same path that I had in DC because I couldn’t. I had to do something else. So I got a retail job at Lucy and sold yoga clothes for a year. It was retail, it wasn’t always fun, but it wasn’t horrible either. The upside was that I had a great closet full of yoga clothes! During that time, I got pregnant with Walter and standing on your feet all day does not work with being pregnant so I quit and became a mother.

While I was pregnant, I did my 200 hour yoga teacher training. After Walter was born, I started teaching a class of mom and baby yoga and then I started teaching just a vinyasa flow class. I taught that class all the way up til the week before Ella was born. I enjoyed teaching it and delighted in watching my students progress in their practice. However, yet again, it was not meant to be and I lost the class during my maternity leave with Ella because my subs numbers were better than mine. So it got me thinking about me and me working again and wondering why I keep trying to do it. Then I read this book and realized it was my yellow crested firebird. I have this wonderful idea of what it would be like to have a successful career and how it would make me feel. However, it just doesn’t match my reality of what working looks like for me. While I am spending all this time and energy chasing after my firebird, I am missing what is right in front of me. What I am actually quite good at doing. I am good at running our household. I like to cook and I like to feed people. It warms me. I like to make our house a home.

So now I think my challenge is to let go my quest for my firebird and realize what is right in front of me that is quite lovely. I also need to mourn my ideal of career and let it go as it no longer serves me.  Please let the universe grant me the ability to do this!

A Traveling Practice

Our family recently spent the month traveling to see family. It was a wonderful trip. It was also a change in pace for my daily yoga practice. I practice 6 days a week and I am one of those people that does moderation badly. In order to maintain my practice I really enjoy doing it all the way. That means I get up and practice every morning at 5 a.m. pretty much regardless of what is going on in my life at that moment. I really enjoy the continuity of the practice and the chance to greet the day on my own terms. It is a chance for me to center and achieve a sense of calm before the chaos of the day descends on me.

This daily practice becomes particularly tricky when I travel. Throw in the current requirement that I pump before I practice so my breasts aren’t uncomfortable and you have quite a bit of a quandry.

First things first – you have to pack properly in order to practice. I always pack three changes of yoga clothes, any less and you are constantly worrying about doing laundry, a travel mat (Manduka makes one that fits nicely in a suitcase even if it is a bit thin) and my super special rug from Mysore that has KPJAYI on it so if I drop into a studio people know that I am for super serious! ;)

We were gone for a month and stayed in 4 different places while we were gone. This meant that I needed to develop 4 different morning routines to ensure that my practice happened in the morning. The basic requirements were: a place to pump that was not in the same room as where people were sleeping (waking up Ella or Walter would just be bad), a place to put out my mat where I had enough room to move about it and extend my arms outside the perimeter of the mat, additionally this room needed to be hopefully somewhere I could turn on music on my phone because solo practice is more fun to the tunes of MC Yogi, bonus points can be won if the room has an adjustable termastat that I can change to make it warm, and finally I tend to prefer wood floors to concrete because my travel mat is rather thin.

First stop was Berekely Springs, WV. We were meeting up with some friends at a cabin in the woods. I scouted out the cabin and there was an extra room that I could pump in the mornings. However, the room was carpeted and carpet is a no go for practicing on. Luckily there was a huge living room with floor to ceiling windows and hardwood floors. The drawbacks were that the room was cold and it was close to other bedrooms so no music. The pluses were the beautiful trees outside those big windows that I was able to watch the sun rise through. Gives actual meaning to sun salutations.

Second stop was my in-laws just outside of Washington DC. They have a lovely huge house there with a basement which seemed the natural place to practice. The furnance was downstairs so it was nice and toasty in the morning. The drawback was that it was concrete flooring so it was a bit hard, but it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. One day my sister even came down and did some of her practice with me which was wonderful!

Third stop was my parents place in Blanco, Texas which is about an hour outside of Austin. They have 10 acres out in the Hill Country there and impressively live in a very small one bedroom cabin. They have built another structure that has two rooms on top of each other and an overhang to park their travel trailer. We stayed in the bottom room so the top room was a natural place for me to pump and practice. It had concrete floors, but a thermostat I could control myself! I had my most ridiculous practice there of the trip. We arrive quite late and so I didn’t have anything unpacked when I woke up the next morning to practice. So I just grabbed my mat and practiced in the bathroom in my underwear and a long sleeve shirt. It was a bit close quarters! Also bras are nice.

Our fourth stop was a hotel in Houston, Texas to visit one of my best friends from college and her family. I hadn’t seen her in forever so I was quite excited to see them! I have to say that I was pretty impressed with my sheer determination and ability to find a place here. The first day we were there, Walter went down for a nap and Alex fell asleep too. However, Ella had no intention of sleeping. So I took her and decided to scout out practice places. The most obvious place would be the workout room or by the pool. However, the workout room didn’t have enough clear floor for a mat to go down and the pool had very bumpy looking tile around it. So I resigned myself to a not very comfortable practice by the pool and took Ella to find a place to lay her down so she could kick. I found a nice empty hallway by some conference rooms, laid out a blanket and put her down. As I played with her, I began to wonder if maybe the conference rooms might serve as a practice space. I wandered in and low and behold there was one of those movable dance floors set up for a wedding – bingo! I was set. I ended up pumping on the floor of the bathroom in our room and then going down to practice. It was a bit cold and I think I freaked out the kitchen staff, but it worked!

After all that, it was so lovely to come home and walk into the studio lay down my nice cushy mat and practice in a warm room with a teacher who would help me with my difficult poses.

Two practices and two kids: a lesson in routines

I find comfort in routines.  I enjoy knowing what will happen next in my day.  On the days that I am just completely zonked, I like being able to just ride the flow of my routines and know that thinking really isn’t required.  Morning routines are especially important in our family.  On a good day, we have two yoga practices to accomplish, a Walter to get to school, an Alex to get to work and a mommy and Ella to get back home before Ella just can’t deal with the car one minute more.  Before Ella was born the routine had been honed to a fine art of perfection.

My alarm goes off at 5 a.m.  I jump out of bed (jumping is quite a helpful tactic that early in the morning to assure that you don’t just roll over and go back to sleep!), get dressed and bike to the yoga studio.  I practice between 6-7:30 a.m. and then about 7:35 a.m. Alex and Walter would show up in the car and Alex and I would swap.  He would start his practice and Walter and I would either head to take him to school or home to begin our day.  Alex finishes practice around 9ish and bikes to work to begin his day around 10 a.m.

There are two things that have thrown a wrench into this perfectly orchestrated dance: Ella and Alex’s early morning meetings.  Ella does not like the car nor does she like to drink from a bottle.  Both of these cause large problems when trying to get everyone out the door in the morning.  Alex is working with a team in London and because of lovely time changes, the best time for them to meet is 9 a.m. – double yuck!  Between the two of these, we are having a really hard time of settling into a routine which is driving me a wee bit crazy.

We keep trying new things (switching off practice days, me practicing at home, different feeding times and ways to convince Ella that bottles aren’t the end of the world), but nothing really seems to be taking hold and working.  Logically, I know that eventually this all will pass, but right now it is hard to be constantly trying to change things and make something else work. In the chaos that is having a newborn, I long for the routines of life before.  I miss being able to schedule something and know that I could get there on time. I miss the simple ability of getting in the car and going somewhere without bracing myself for the continual crying that is sure to occur.

When all these thought begin to overwhelm me, Ella will just start smiling at me and chatting in her little baby way (also referred to as dispensing the baby crack in our household) and I will find myself smiling back and the horribleness is held at bay for just a bit longer.

Inside the crazy mind of a woman attempting to get pregnant

Alex and I want to have another child.  We are actively trying to make this happen and it is making me crazy and oddly enough no one really seems to talk about this.  It seems to be discussed in hushed tones of “we are trying”  or “we would like to have another child, but it hasn’t happened yet” However, I need to talk about it in the hopes that it will make the  voices in my head SHUT UP!  The first couple of months of trying is fun.  I didn’t really expect it to happen right away and the sex life of parents with young children tends to be rather non-existent since the last thing you have energy for at the end of a long day is attempting to be sexy, so it was fun to focus on it again.  Then after a couple of months, my type A personality starts to kick in and I begin thinking, “What is going on? Why is this not happening?”  With Walter, that was about the time I actually got pregnant, so they craziness was minimal.  However, this time around, that has not happened so the craziness seems to get a wee bit worse every month.  I should say for about two weeks every month because that is the time between when you ovulate and the time when you get your period and find out whether you are pregnant or not.  I think for the first two weeks of my cycle, I am pretty normal.  I can drink, I eat sushi and I don’t worry if my bind in D is going to somehow cause me to miscarry.

This month has reached monumental craziness because of one single fact: with Walter, I missed my period, took a pregnancy test, it was negative, but lo and behold and I was still pregnant which I figured out about two months later.  Luckily the extra wine I drank during that time doesn’t seem to have affected Walter much!  I thought it was a fluke – somehow I did the pregnancy test wrong last time or something.  So this last month, Alex and I do a bang up job of having sex at all the right times.  Then around day 20, I start bleeding and do so for three days.  I scour the internet trying to figure out how to differentiate between an actual period and implantation bleeding which, as it turns out, not really much different.  So I am not sure what to think.  Then on day 24 I start feeling nauseated and just generally yucky.  I hit a wall in my practice when I hit floor poses and despite my attempts to just push through, I just don’t have enough energy.  The nauseousness disappears as I take the first bites of lunch and I realize that I am starving.  These are all similar signs of pregnancy to what happened to me when I was pregnant with Walter.  So I wait a couple more days until what would have been the first day of my period, and take a pregnancy test, it is negative.  Then I wait another three days, til this morning.  Take the pregnancy test at 2 a.m. cause I am awake and cannot sleep.  It is negative.  I give up on sleeping and just go work on my computer.  I finally fall back asleep only to have Walter decide it is time to get up.  Oh and I am still feeling nauseated today.  Do you see how this can make a person crazy?  Basically either I am just making all of this up or I am actually pregnant and the tests are lying.  So at 4 a.m. I emailed my ObGyn and asked if there was anyway I could get a blood test done with the hope that it will be more accurate and end all the craziness going around in my head.

Logically this is all ridiculous.  I have to laugh at myself because I spent a good part of my high school and college years (and honestly even into law school) having nightmares where I was pregnant and I hadn’t actually done anything to get pregnant!  I didn’t want children then and was pretty convinced that having one would ruin my career and my life.  I think I must have taken all that abstinence only sex education that our lovely Texas schools taught quite seriously!  Well it turns out that life changes and as it changes, I changed too.  Having a child at a reasonable age with a partner I love is a whole different idea than randomly getting pregnant at 19.  It also helps that as far as I am concerned, working doesn’t agree with me and I enjoy life much more when I am my own boss at home (weeeelll, Walter would disagree with that, but I need to hold onto some of my delusions!).  However, as it turns out having children has nothing to do with logic and everything to do with emotions, so if you see me just keep this in mind.  I can’t promise I will be more sane once I am actually pregnant, you can ask Alex what I was like last time.  Thank you very kindly for listening to my rant.

Walter playing on the playground at the beach

Tim Miller and Encinitas

We spent a lovely Labor Day weekend in San Diego with my two sisters and my fantastic brother-in-law (read 5 adults to one toddler makes for a fantastic ratio for all involved. Walter gets someone to constantly play with and no adult gets too tired. I just realized that it takes the energy of 5 adults to keep up with one toddler comfortably, oh my goooooodness).  Then we headed slightly north to Encinitas to hang out at the beach and practice with Tim Miller.  Did you know that the beach has a fantastic playground?  Walter was stoked!

Continue reading Tim Miller and Encinitas

On going back to work from a Stay at Home Mom

I feel like there has been a lot of back and forth lately about women and their choices around when they go back to work after having kids.  I just read another article The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In by Judith Warner.  These women aren’t quite my peers, but are about 10 years ahead of myself.  Judith goes back and profiles 10 women who all dropped out of high powered jobs in order to be stay at home moms.  Now for varying reasons most of them are trying to re-enter the workplace and it doesn’t seem to be easy for them.  A good chunk of them are taking pay cuts, but working in fields that mean something more to them than their previous jobs did.

Continue reading On going back to work from a Stay at Home Mom

Blueberry Muffins

Cooking without a Kitchen

We are quickly working our way through week four of this kitchen remodel.  There are times when I feel quite zen about the whole thing and other times when I am completely convinced that it is absolutely never, ever going to be finished (insert very dramatic music here)!!  Sometimes, I feel both things in the same day.  The last couple of weeks it feels like such a monumental task to do the slightest thing that involved cooking.  We currently have most of the kitchen kind of set up in Walter’s bedroom (his bed is currently at the end of ours because he refuses to sleep by himself, but that is another post…) along with a coleman stove on the patio next to my grill.  As I type this, it sounds not that bad, I have some basics, so it seems I SHOULD (oh the “shoulds”) be able to whip something up.  The problem comes when I attempt to find anything.  The kitchen is in Walter’s room, but most of the time I have only a vague idea of which box it might be in.

Continue reading Cooking without a Kitchen

Rocket ship for Walter!

Kitchen Destruction!

It started out simply enough.  The tile has been coming up in our kitchen since the day we bought the house.  So when our tax return came back, I decided it was time to replace it.  It was also white and white is just an awful color for a kitchen, especially one that a toddler and dog use every day.  I could clean it constantly and it would never actually stay clean.  But I digress….So this re-tile…I called the contractor we used for our previous bathroom remodel; he came over; gave me a price and told me it would be simple and take 3 days. It seemed so easy, that I felt like dusting off my hands and calling it day. Continue reading Kitchen Destruction!

My continuing obsessions with food: both eating and not eating it

I have been trying to start a new way of eating.  The problem is that every time I try to change my eating patterns, it forces me to examine all my past choices and then deal with how I am going to go forward.  I have two parts of me: the part that wants to eat and cook every delicious thing out there to the point of being quite a larger person (it is very hard for me to moderate) and then there is the person that wants to stay healthy and active and likes to look good in a pair of skinny jeans.  I should add that there is a third food personality in there too: the Ashtangi.  I didn’t realize it when I started doing Ashtanga, but you can very easily become obsessed with food in Ashtanga.  There are all these rules as to how a proper yogi/Ahstangi behaves and they seem to involve a lot of “no.”  No meat, no booze, no eating after 5 p.m. or if you are really good, no dinner at all.  Yogis are supposed to eat lightly. There is a saying that goes something like this, “A yogi eats once a day, a bogi (non-yogi) eat twice a day, and if you eat three times a day you need to find yourself a cemetery plot.”  I make fun, but it is all in the quest for a better practice in the morning.  I have never really bought into the Ashtangi side of it too much, until we were in India and it was so hot that eating too much was just uncomfortable.  Not to mention that when it is 90°, the electricity goes out and your fan stops working eating just sounds like a bad idea.  I did notice by eating less the night before, my practice was better in the morning.  I just felt lighter and not as heavy.  This led to some of my favorite type of practices; the ones where it just feels all sparkly and magical.  Those practices are a bit of a drug and they lead you to want to create more of them.

I came back from Mysore with the idea that I would try to impliment some of the ways of eating, that had served us so well in India, here.  Did I mention Alex lost something ridiculous like 12 pounds while we were there? He was the thinest he had been since high school or something crazy like that.  The first main idea is that we would eat a larger lunch and start to scale back dinner.  This is significantly harder to do than I thought.  You see, this smaller lunch, larger dinner is rather ingrained in our culture and in my stomach.  My stomach is perfectly happy to eat that larger lunch, but then it is not happy when I attempt to give it a smoothie or salad for dinner.  It protests loudly that it would like some proper dinner thank you very much!

The second part is that when we were in Mysore, I went to a lovely woman named Angelika.  She is an intuitive nutritionist amongst other things.  She did a reading of sorts where she went through almost every food that she could think of and a couple of other things that I eat regularly and asked the universe if it was in my best interest to continue eating it. The large overarching themes were that I needed more protein (animal and vegetable), more raw or lightly cooked veggies, less fruit and then to cut out dairy, soy, white flour, sugar and avocado oil.  Oh and no chai, to drink coffee instead.  I came out of meeting with her a bit crushed.  It seemed like an impossible task to give up so many things that I really loved.  When we got back I tried to follow the instructions when I could, but didn’t work at it too hard.  I had my sister’s wedding coming up and the prep that went with that, then my parents were here for two wonderful weeks after that and my father loves to put tasty things in the fridge that I just don’t want to not eat.  Surprisingly, I was able to give up most of the dairy rather easily and I have felt a marked change with that.  So that brings us to last week when I had promised myself I would start and I did kinda, but I just got all cranky and was having a devil of a time getting myself to buckle down and behave.  Which led to my current state of trying to figure out if this is one of those things that I need to apply strong will to and DO or if perhaps I am just asking too much of myself right (for whatever reason).  I am fairly strong willed and have perfectionist tendencies.  This causes me often to push on something to the point where it blows up in my face and causes me a lot of anxiety and insecurity.  I am much more aware of this now, but I still don’t have a good idea generally what is good enough so I tend to push myself too much.  In this particular situation, I don’t have a good answer to it and so I think I will just have to sit with it over the next couple of days and see how things go.  Somehow I need to find the moderation.

Mayo in the food processor

Mayonnaise

We are slowly making the transition back from India.  It is funny how we had an incredibly hard time there at first and then we found our feet and now we are having trouble adjusting to being back home.  Alex and I have developed an acute need for coconuts!  Part of our readjusting is getting the house back in order and running smoothly again.  A big part of that is restocking my fridge and pantry with all my essentials.  I cleaned out the fridge completely before we left.  It felt good to get all the crap out and start clean when we arrived home.  So now, one of those things the fridge needed was mayonnaise.  Mayonnaise seems to have developed a bad rap over the years.  No one likes it.  If you only eat the crap that they sell in the store, I don’t blame you.  However, I use mayonnaise for a surprisingly large number of things; its current most important function is a necessary ingredient in my homemade vinaigrette (I have to confess that I use America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe.  They are like crack for cooks, just start with their recipes you will never ever stop and then when you do use another recipe you will be mad that it does not measure up to the same precision and wonderfulness that theirs does, but I digress….).  It really just pulls it together and makes it a tasty dressing for my salads.  I would argue that it is one of those fantastic kitchen staples that takes no time to make and it is just too delicious to ever buy store bought again! I admit to possibly liking the spatula when it doesn’t all fit into the designated jar.  So on that note, here we go!

Continue reading Mayonnaise