60 Days On the Mat — Day 35: Age Is Just a Number, Isn’t It?

What do you think about freezing your eggs?

Huh??

You know, freezing your eggs for the future.  Marriage is the furthest thing from mind right now — my friends and I were discussing this the other day.  Just curious, have you ever known anyone to do this?

Apparently what constitutes polite cocktail party conversation topics with virtual strangers has changed …

I found this random question odd because she knew nothing about my situation, as she had literally just met me.  It was just small talk at a party — like she was taking a poll about whether or not to freeze her eggs.  She was 29, just finished her International MBA and was ready to take on the world.  I sincerely hope she does.

Oh, to be 29 again.  Not. at. all.

I simply told her had I known at 29 what I know now, I probably would have made such a choice.  I recommended talking to her doctor about it.  Maybe she will take my advice to heart and at least have a conversation with a professional — or maybe not.

My other piece of advice was to find the first decent looking man she sees and marry him.

Kidding.  Really kidding.

The whole conversation was somewhat surreal.  Life puts things you are focused on in your path somehow.  One of the reasons I decided to talk openly about this was to bring an awareness to women in her exact age group.   I was not overtly proselytizing as I thought I might be if given this opportunity.  I think it’s because I am at peace with the path we are on, and I do not want egg donation to seem like a “less than” option — especially since I am in the middle of it.

The restorative yoga at home had been good for me the past two days.  I was really feeling open in my low back and hips, taller even.  When I went to the mat at noon, the nausea was mild, but still lingering.  No, I’m not pregnant.  It’s the birth control pills and now an additional medication I am on called Lupron, which continues to sync my cycle with the egg donor by suppressing my ovaries.

I also think my eat-whatever-anyone-puts-in-front-of-you diet has been a factor — which is about to end.  Fortunately, I have gained no weight because of the yoga, but I don’t have as much energy as I do when I eat things like vegetables and fruit on a regular basis.

By the time I pushed back into the first downward facing dog the mild nausea had started to subside.  I was feeling strong.  Ellen always does a lot more holding of poses and balancing in the level 2 class than the quicker flow of the more advanced classes, and I needed this today.

As I was in side angle pose I started to think about the previous evening’s conversation. My age has been coming up for me a lot.  If I’m lucky enough to get pregnant this year, I will be 44-years old when I deliver our baby.  When the baby is my age, I’ll be 88 (if I’m lucky enough to get to 88).  This does give me some pause, but not enough to keep me from wanting to be a mother more than anything else.

My parents were so young when I was born, and because of that, I had this huge gift of time with my grandparents when they were young, especially Mawmaw.  Jonathan and I are lucky to have all of our parents, and even my step-parents (which to me are just bonus parents!).  They’re not as young as my grandparents were when I was born, but they’re all here and all healthy.  For this we feel incredibly blessed.

Age is just a number.

I can feel the intercostal muscles between my ribs stretching as I am twisting open in each pose.  Mine are all jacked up, especially on my left side — which seems to be where I need the most “unwinding” in my body.  Ellen says it takes years for these muscles to let go.  This does not discourage me.  I plan on doing yoga for the rest of my life, so I have years to work on it.

Even though we will be older parents, I think we will be better parents.  For me, I know I will be a lot more patient, a lot more present — and hopefully a lot more fun than I would have been ten years ago.  The next twenty plus years are going to be full of taking care of our children and our parents, but honestly, I would not have it any other way.  For me, my family is the most important thing.

As we are in bridge pose, Ellen starts to talk about new year’s resolutions and how she does not make them because they set you up for failure almost immediately.  Which is true, they do.  Instead she thinks about what she would like to have ‘more of’ in her life — whether it’s health, energy, calm, love — whatever those things are, focus on those things you want to ADD to your life, and the things you want to get rid of will start to dissipate to make room for those things you’re adding.

I like this.  The best reason is it requires no official list, but rather a shift in focus.

In shavasana I covered up from head to toe with a blanket.  I know the rest of the country will laugh, but it has been downright cold in Los Angeles.  I think back to one of my first yoga teachers.  She was always talking about living to be 108 — the age of the yogini – three dasas.  I honestly have no idea exactly what that means, perhaps I should do some reading before I go writing about it?

As I am lying there, I decide that seems like a good thing to strive for, living to be the age of the yogini — 108 … and then I let that thought float on past.  It’s a noble goal, but the pressure!

Age is really just a number, isn’t it?

Instead I decide I’m going to live simply — just get up every day, live life and hope I’m granted enough time here to do everything I was brought here to do.  That’s the most we can hope for, I think.

Happy New Year’s Eve, Y’all!

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 34: In Memory of Charles Scott Turner

Charles Scott TurnerJune 22, 1968 - December 27, 2012

Charles Scott Turner
June 22, 1968 – December 27, 2012

It was late afternoon when I first read the news; I had just completed day two of restorative yoga at home because of this pesky nausea.

He left the world on December 27th from an asthma attack.

An asthma attack.

We were not friends on Facebook.  I did not even know he was on Facebook; but I knew that sweet smile the minute I saw his face scroll through my newsfeed.  The postings were full of condolences, remembrances, shock and sadness for one of my many childhood friendships from Young Junior High School, Charles Scott Turner.

My heart sank.

He could change the energy of an entire room with his generous spirit; offering his hand in friendship to anyone who needed it.

He knew no strangers, only friends he had not met yet.

That is how I remember him.

My friend Kelly writes, “I just wonder if Charles Scott Turner knew how many lives he touched with his kindness & joyful soul. In my mind I can see him so clearly, walking with a bounce in his step and smiling that big beautiful smile.”

Me too.

And my friend Caren writes, “I will miss my sweet friend, Charles Scott Turner, whom I’ve known since jr high. He was a true testament to how one should live their life … Full of love & joy, always positive and completely fearless … just to name a few.  A true blessing to all he came in touch with …”

Yes, he was.

People like that do not realize what a gift they were born with in their ability to make everyone feel welcome and accepted.  As someone who could be painfully shy at that age, I always admired that skill in my friends who possessed it.  My personality is one that soaks up the energy of the room, not change it, so I was forever seeking out the Scott Turner’s of the world.  They brought out the very best in those around them — he always helped my light shine a little bit brighter.

I know it’s easy to say fine sentiments like this about people when they are no longer here on earth, but in Charles Scott Turner’s case it was all true.  I didn’t know him at 44, but I knew him at an age when we were forming the type of adults we would be.  The core of who you are does not change all that much between 12 and 44.  The way I see it, most of the people who greeted everyone with a joyful smile at 12, are still doing it at 44.

As I read all of the sentiments from his adult friends, it does not seem the sweet, gentle boy from Young Junior High changed all that much at all.

Yes, I went to the mat, but the ultimate goal of yoga is to bring your practice with you into the world.  To be present, opening your heart and seeing the beauty in those around you, so today I write not about my life, but in honor of a life cut short.

Today I did think about my time at Dunn – Young Junior High – Arlington High – all of my friends from CATS and I feel such immense gratitude.  I have so many adult friends who run away from that period of their lives, and I embrace it now more than I ever have because I realize what a gift it was.  I am blessed to know a lot of Charles Scott Turners’, and many of them grew up in Arlington, Texas.  There is not one person I would not want to meet for a drink or a quick hello if the opportunity arose (ok, well, maybe there is one), and that says a lot about where we came from.

That says a lot about who we were then and who we are now.

Today I cried for a life cut short; a shining light the world will miss.

As someone who has seen many lights go out too soon, I do know the very best way to keep it shining is to remember it.  Talk about it.  Share it.

And thank you, Facebook, for allowing us to do that.

We will never forget you, Charles Scott Turner.

I was listening to the radio as I typed this, and These Are My People came humming though my speakers.  It made me think about all the people I knew who also knew Charles Scott Turner (many better than I did) — and I smiled and thought, yeah, these ARE my people.  

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 33: Tall Terry From Texas

The Minnesota State Fair 1992.  The cow and me

The Minnesota State Fair 1992.
The cow and me

I’m not sure if it was anxiety nausea, actual nausea or that nausea you get when you reach a breaking point.

Today, after well over a year of going to my fertility clinic, I finally had to tell them to stop.

Please stop calling me Teressa.

My actual doctor always calls me Terry, but the rest of the staff does not.

It’s not their fault, it is my name on all the paperwork.  It’s my name, LEGALLY on my birth certificate, license, passport — but it’s not my name.  I don’t answer to it, I’ve never used it (except for a few months in my 20’s when I thought I wanted to take on my French ancestry–by changing my name to Teressa De’Merrill–in an attempt to escape my Griswold-Clampett-esque roots).  Not even I could buy into this.

It drives me nuts when ANYONE uses it but my mother. And she only uses it when she is mad at me followed by Louise — so you can see how it’s use might send me into a different sort of place.  No one calls me just Teressa.  No one.

So today, I finally said something (in a nice way) and then I felt guilty about it.  Knowing me, this could have caused the nausea.  I have a sensitive stomach like that.

I was not well enough to go to my yoga session with Ellen this afternoon because we were supposed to work on more advanced jump backs and balances.  Instead, I opted to get on my mat and do a full 75-minute static stretch for my back and hips and a short 10-minute meditation.

When I was younger, I would put on Barbra Streisand’s Broadway Album and hold a stretch for one entire song — sort of like restorative yoga.  I did this for the full album.

Spring at Minnesota State Fair -- 1992

Spring at Minnesota State Fair — 1992
There are so many things I love about this picture.
Especially the fanny pack.

Putting It Together starts playing and it immediately takes me to The Boston Conservatory of Music (BCM) where I went to college.  I know I have been rambling on about country music for more than a month, but there was a time when I would only listen to show tunes.  My static stretch sessions with Barbra were part of this period in my life.

I started on my left side because it hurts the most.  As I’m holding a twist I unwind back to one of my very first days of college.  It was 1987.  We were a small class.  Really small. We sat in a circle where we had to tell a story about ourselves and give a description to our name.

The name I gave myself in that circle has stuck with me to this day.

It’s my turn and I said, “I’m Tall Terry from Texas.” 

My story was about Buffy the cow.  I proceeded to tell everyone about how the baby cow’s mama had died and when Mawmaw brought her to the barn, I named her Buffy (I named everything Buffy when I was little).  The first night the baby was alone in the barn, I was beside myself with worry about this motherless baby cow.  I literally couldn’t sleep.  I waited until Mawmaw was asleep, got my flashlight and went out to the barn with a blanket and crawled in the hay with Buffy.  Mawmaw was a light sleeper, so I know I couldn’t possibly have been in there all night.  However, it was long enough to make her “see red”.  This was her term for being mad.  And, oh, was she mad.

Shannon and MeAugust 12, 2007

Shannon and Me
August 12, 2007

Not as mad as the time when I decided to go for a SWIM in the cow pond.  She was checking me for ticks (among other things) for a week.

I drove from Milwaukee to Minneapolis to see my friend Spring from BCM in Bye Bye Birdie in 1992, we went to the state fair and made sure to take a picture of me petting a cow.  I have no idea why we went to the state fair.

Adelaide’s Lament comes on about half-way through my restorative session.  At this point I was stretching my IT Band … always a fun stretch. I can’t hear this song without thinking about my dear friend, Shannon.  She played Adelaide in Guys and Dolls at BCM.  We were roommates and now friends for 24 years. Wow.

After decorating our kitchen with a black and white linoleum tile floor and buying red curtains — we decided it would be a GOOD idea to buy a chimp.  Yes, a chimpanzee.  I don’t know whether we had watched Bedtime for Bonzo (which I can’t imagine that was it, Shannon would never willingly watch a Ronald Reagan film) or we had just decided chimps were cute.

The exact origin of our desire to co-mother a chimp will always be a mystery to us.

Luckily for us and the chimp, he cost $1900.  We found ways to come up with the $200 to decorate the kitchen, but the chimp was way out of our price range.

As I fold back into plow pose Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man comes on, and I think about Jonathan.  All the duds I had to wade through.  All the mistakes.  And I just laugh, again.  I do a lot of that these days.

Those “mistakes” were my life.  I think about how all the “mistakes” connect to the things that were absolutely not mistakes … suddenly it turns the mistakes into miracles.

The more you try to wrap life up with a presentable bow, the less presentable it becomes to you or anyone else.

With each passing day of this journey, I realize this more deeply.

The final song for shavasana was Somewhere.  It was the perfect ending to my restorative practice today.  Afterwards I did a 10-minunte-ish meditation session.  I ended it when Boomer got in my lap.

We got the schedule for the egg donor cycle today.

Everything is a go, and if all goes according to plan, they’ll be taking out the Girl Who Likes Chicken n’ Dumpling’s eggs on Day 60.

A complete coincidence.  I like it.

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 32: If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away

When I woke up this morning, this was in my inbox:

Willie Nelson PICNIC–NOT a parade.  Willie could have never stood up on July 4th long enough to have a parade.  

And not a picnic as in baskets and checkered table cloths–we are talking a Cotton Bowl-sized crowd wallowing around in a cow pasture picnic listening to hours and hours–and several hours more–of the best Outlaw Country of the Day.  A weekend extravaganza.  No “facilities” per se–sometimes a bank of 8′ plywood sheets leaned up against fence posts for “privacy”.  Truly an experience, but in living life forward, not one I ever had any desire to repeat.  Ask your dad–I am sure he has a few vivid memories of the occasion as well …
 
Mom

And I thought she never read my blog.

There was another line at the end there, but this is my story so I have edited it to protect the reputation of those not here to defend themselves (Dad).  Actually, I had already changed parade to picnic before I read her email.  I always reread the posts in the morning after I have some sleep.  When I saw the word parade, I laughed.  A Willie Nelson parade?  There is no visual for that.

I met Willie once … but I’ll save that for another blog.

My Gran Gran died seven years ago today.  He was 83.  It does not seem like only yesterday, but it also doesn’t feel like seven years.  My grandfather had a very dry wit.  I loved it when he would say something completely unassuming and then I would look at him and catch the sheepish grin come across his face.  This was especially funny to me when no one caught it except us — most especially when the joke was about Memom.  She never shut-up, making her an easy target.  He knew he was funny.  I knew he was funny.

I have a little bit of that in me, I think.

GranGran Reading to me

The paneling. The sofa. The retro high-chair.
One of the houses that built me.

I know my stories often seem like a sappy slice of the perfect idyllic childhood; if you’re thinking of a childhood right out of a Griswold-Clampett-esque painting.  If you’re Mawmaw wore a pink cowboy hat while driving a John Deere tractor, or your uncle accidentally spilled LSD on his poor Siamese cat (who was NEVER the same, by the way) while your Ward Cleaver-esque Gran Gran (see picture above) made your not-at-all June Cleaver-esque Memom breakfast in bed — you know exactly what kind of painting I’m talking about.

And now for the last sentence of my Mom’s email:

… or maybe not, as he and Willie did share a great love of the wacky weed.  

Sorry, Dad.  Never cut funny.  It’s funny.  I love how my Mom tries to pretend she went to the middle of a cow pasture for a picnic hosted by Willie Nelson–in the 70’s–and listened to Outlaw Country music for a WEEKEND, but only Willie and my Dad LOVED “wacky weed”.

Mom, seriously, I’m 43 now.

It was the 70’s, folks.  Don’t judge us.  We’re all lucky we made it out alive.

After yoga, I went directly to a juice bar.  I had to prove to my body I still knew what a fresh vegetable was.  It was so good, I almost ordered two.

When I got to Ellen’s class this afternoon I was a little nauseous.  I think it’s Erik’s peanut butter crunch cookies.  They’re addicting.  Also, they should not be eaten as lunch.

I really need to find the nearest wagon and get on it.  January 1st is right around the corner.

We started on our backs.  I tried to focus on moving and breathing through my nausea. By the time we went into our first forward bend I was feeling some relief.  I cut the jumping today, which helped.  My tight spots all live on my left side now.  I can feel it all releasing, but it didn’t get that way overnight, so it won’t completely release overnight. Once you start to feel the opening, you want it to go faster — but there is always a retreat after the opening, and the next time it opens a little more.

When I was in tree pose, I thought about Gran Gran.  I was losing my balance and I heard him say, C’mon, Tootles, you can do it.  And, I did.  I held all the balances today.  I know he wasn’t really talking to me, but sometimes it helps to hear their voice in your head. It’s comforting; like they’re still here.

My other grandfather died three months before I was born.  I look at pictures of him (he went by the initials RW) and I wish I could hear his voice.  I wonder what would he have called me?

All my grandparents had pet names for me:  Tootles, Tige, Miss. T.  Uncle David and Aunt Paula just calls me Toots.

Physical, genetic resemblance’s are easy to see when I look at pictures — but I am so curious if those other things that make you like your parents and grandparents are learned by being with them and copying them?  When I watched a video of the egg donor child (which I included in this post), she talks about looking nothing like her Mom, but having all of her mannerisms.

I think about my Mom; I have so many of her mannerisms; likes and dislikes, I don’t even know where to start; I am her not-so-mini me — I stand like my father; more social like my father; anxious getting to the airport like my father — I laugh at you when you think I should be serious (completely pissing you off), just like Mawmaw; I sneeze loud, just like Mawmaw (drives Jonathan nuts); I am spontaneous and impractical, just like Mawmaw — I have Gran Gran’s wit, I’ll be sitting there and you think I’m not listening or I’m bored and then suddenly I’ll have you on the floor laughing with one sentence  — I laugh just like my uncle  — I answer the telephone like Memom; I can be nosy, like Memom; I like my tea black with lemon, just like Memom; I like breakfast in bed, like Memom … but I think that’s because Gran Gran would serve both of us that way when I slept over.

Is the milk addiction genetic, or did they just give me a lot of milk?

These are questions that I wonder about, but do not keep me up at night.

When I think about all of these things, it makes me smile.  I know that our child–I will hopefully carry via egg donation–will be just as much a part of me as I am of my Mom, my Dad, Mawmaw, Gran Gran, Uncle David, Memom.  My major childhood influences; in that order, I think.

They do say it’s 70% environment and 30% genetics.  I know this is on my mind, as I get ready for my doctor’s appointment in the morning.  Despite my desire NOT to over think it — I am.  At least now it is from an excited place and not an anxious one.

In our final floor stretch sequence, my hips were starting to let go.  I thought about Gran Gran’s last email to me.  I had sent him some CSI DVD sets that I had received for free when I was working at G4TV.

Thank you very much little Tootles.  Gee, it’s so nice to have a granddaughter working in Hollywood who can get all sorts of things like this.  It is very useful to me, helping me to enjoy my waking up hours.  I enjoy watching CSI.  In fact, I enjoy watching almost anything, not everything, but anything.

It sure was nice having you visit with us recently.  We were in Hawaii when you were born and I took you on several trips during the two weeks we remained.  I believe you liked going out with me.  You would lay there asleep, seldom did you fuss, but when you did I had a bottle ready for you.  

Well, big girl.  Thanks again for the years pictures of CSI NY.  I’ll see you again someday.  Love, Gran Gran.  

He died almost two months to the day after that email was written.  Two days after writing this, he got a urinary tract infection and, basically, lost his mind.  This is the only time he ever signed an email see you again someday … he wrote me emails all the time, never did he get sentimental about my birth.  I think he knew his body was shutting down.

Two days before Memom died she told me Gran Gran and Aunt Marie had visited her in dreams that week.

Mawmaw died after my Mom hugged her and told her it was ok to go … and she went while my Mom was out of town.

I miss them all every day, even the one I didn’t get to meet.

Oh, if Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away.

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 31: Meaningful Happiness

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert — Eat, Pray, Love

Chaz read this quote at the end of class today.  I love the quote and it’s a nice beginning to the second half of this journey.  I loved the book; hated the movie. I think a lot of people felt that way.  Our imagination is so much better sometimes; this was one of those times.  It was not the actors (I enjoyed Julia Roberts) as much as the choices — it got corny, especially in Bali.  Bali was not corny.  I was irritated I had that to compete with my own mind.  Javier Bardem was the only person better than my imagination.

The flow was good today.  I felt heavy after days of eating carbs, licking bowls and grazing from one end of the day to the other.  My self-led practices were noble, but I was in need of some physical discipline.

There is no longer the awkward moment when I run into him at yoga; today I gave him a hug.  My fertility doctor — I actually love that he’s a yogi; the whole image is not very doctor-y (whatever that means, but you know what I mean, right?).  The first time we were at the same yoga class, I thought to myself — I’m taking yoga with someone who knows more about my uterus and ovaries than me or my husband …

We started in child’s pose.  I have a mild case of the post-Christmas blues which comes up when I begin to relax my upper thoracic spine and let go.  Nothing serious, but you build to this DAY and then it’s over.  It was a great day.  I’m glad we did it, but I’m ready to take the tree down on Sunday and start a new year.  Live life forward.

Chaz announces she is winging the class.  She has done no preparation.  I thought to myself, I have been winging my life for the past 30-days (or 43 years, depending on who you ask … ), this should tie in perfectly.  

The winging was good.  Ellen had just told me last week that potatoes and tomatoes affect balance.  I’ve been eating lots of potatoes.  She was right because I could not hold anything today, and to say I had a few carbs over the past several days is an understatement.  I could feel crow pose.  I could not do it. I am so ready to start my juice cleanse with Ellen on January 7th.

We do lots of deep twists throughout class and my hips are screaming at me, especially the left.

We signed the official contract between us and the actual egg donor today.  We’re completely ready for this process financially, emotionally — all of it.  We’re excited to move forward.  However, there is that small part of me whispering, If I do not get pregnant in 2013 … I’m going to start swaddling Boomer.  Wait.  I already swaddle Boomer.  

Actually, Jonathan swaddles Boomer.  I’m not even going to try to figure out what that means.  It means this cat is a lucky bastard.  I type this as he sits next to me fully swaddled and snoring.

When we move to the floor the twists deepen.  That lump in my mid-back starts grabbing. It does not want to let go.  I breathe.  It loosens slightly.  We move into seated forward bend — Chaz massages my upper spine to mid-back area; I think she can sense the spot (or she just felt like giving my back a rub down).  Either way, it worked.  After she was done, it finally begins to dissipate.

When I come down from plow it is practically gone.  This moment of release is why I do yoga.

I have my first appointment for the egg donor cycle on Friday.  If all goes well, I think the donor will start the medications next week and off we go.

When Chaz reads the quote about happiness, I think back to where I was before the yoga retreat a month ago and where I am today.  I didn’t set out seeking happiness.  In fact, I did not intentionally set out seeking anything at all — but I am deliciously happy and only moderately anxious about what lies ahead.

I finally sat still breathing long enough to open.  I opened my eyes to my life.  The life I had.  The life I have.  The life I want.  All three serve a purpose in getting us to where we want to go.  You have to pack the important things, leave the meaningless things and strive for a meaningful life.  And like happiness, once you find it, you must never become lax about maintaining it.

A meaningful life is a happy one, I think.

On my way home tonight I was listening to the oldie country station … and on comes Luckenbach Texas.  Everything about this song, the album cover, all of it — riding with my Mom in her white stingray corvette.  I have no deep thoughts about it … but I know my Texas friends will love it.

I wish Willie Nelson still had his 4th of July PICNIC in Luckenbach.  I would go just to say I had been.

Enjoy a little Texas nostalgia … and keep in mind there were NO music videos in the 70’s.

… my hot pink alarm clock is set and ready to begin Day 32 tomorrow.

 

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 30: Christmas Day and I’m Half Way!

I woke up at 8:00am and went into the living room for a few sun salutations.  That was the only mat that would happen until I found myself doing some twists and stretching in the bedroom before I started to write.  I can’t wait until Day 31, so I can get back to a real class.  I’m a pretty easy teacher and my house is very distracting, especially when there is so much to be done.

Since my yoga practice was so modified, I decided to practice maintaining calm at all times throughout the day — even when I wasn’t.

I looked at my list; I almost hyper-ventiliated.  I had already made the Cornbread-Biscuit Dressing, the base of the sweet potatoes for the Ginger Snap Sweet Potatoes and the Ambrosia.  All I had to do was bake a ham, the Swiss-Squash Casserole, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and peas.  My mother-in-law was bringing the ham sauce, the gravy, the cornbread and the cranberry salad mold.  No problem.

I collapse over into forward fold in the kitchen.  I am still feeling tight.

Jonathan wakes up and we have our Christmas.  I’m not going to go into the gift exchange except to say this:  He went to Chico’s, worked with a personal shopper and got me something more than presentable to wear for Christmas — with a necklace.  For this I was grateful because I need clothes desperately; especially winter ones.

Have I mentioned we’re buying some eggs?

Now about the clock.  I asked for the clock that was sitting on Mawmaw’s nightstand … of course, he has no idea what I am talking about, so he gives me a very basic hot pink alarm clock.  I love it because it was so absolutely NOT what was in my head, but honestly, how is he supposed to know what is in my head?  It is a very basic, easy to set alarm clock.  I just need a Hello, Kitty sticker to put on it and I’m all set.

Seriously, if he tried to take it back I wouldn’t let him, because the hot pink alarm clock makes a great story and I will chuckle every time I look at it.

It’s like the hamburger press my Dad put in my Mom’s stocking when they were first married.  She still uses that hamburger press and if she ever does anything with it but give it to me she’s going to get an earful — I think that one is pretty safe, though.  It’s survived this long … and it’s a good hamburger press, apparently.

By the time everyone arrived at around 5:30, I was in good shape.  Our friends Erik and Becky brought great wine — complete with homemade crocheted wine sleeves.  Having read of my ornament dilemma on Facebook, Becky made us a memory ornament for the tree.  This is a clear ornament with memories written on strands and placed inside; it is beautiful, and I can’t wait to read all of the memories.  Erik also made some awesome peanut butter crunch cookies.

My in-laws arrived with Duff and we all enjoyed wine and hors d’oeuvres.  And yes, I did get three casseroles and a ham all warm at the same time.  I did not get a picture, but I was relived to officially know that I was not going to be a Mom that sucked.  My mother-in-law liked the Cornbread-Biscuit Dressing so much that I am officially in charge of the Thanksgiving dressing next year.  I consider this a high honor, because honestly, that is her meal.

I did break a snowman platter by placing it in the oven to warm the ham … apparently, this is NOT a warming platter.  I’m sure Mamaw Wines was laughing at me.

As I was cleaning up, Jonathan came up from behind me and kissed me.  He said thank you, he loved all of it, even the squash — which I forgot to add salt and pepper to before pouring the sauce over it.  It was ok, but the no salt on a bland vegetable like squash is a big miss.  I’ll eat the leftovers anyway, and won’t forget next time I make it.  Everyone was full.  So full, they could barely move and took dessert home with them.

I didn’t sweat anything.  I just kept breathing.

Before getting in bed to type,  I did some stretching and winding down on the mat.

As I was lying there in forward fold, I thought about all of my favorite Christmas memories.

Here are the top ten:

1.)  Decorating the tree every year — literally begging to get it put up so I could decorate it.

2.) My Night Before Christmas pop-up book — reading it every year

3.) Opening my yearly ornament

4.) Icing Christmas cookies

5.) Leaving milk and cookies for Santa

6.) Trying to stay awake to meet Santa

7.) The year I finally realized there was no Santa

8.) The Grinch, Charlie Brown, Rudolph, Frosty — I still cry when Frosty melts …

9.) Asking, Can I just open one? every night until she said yes

10.) Tonight, the first Christmas Dinner I ever cooked.

Looking at this list — I realize how much all the holiday memories for kids revolve around the traditions and the rituals.  The presents actually have so little to do with it.  Of course, if they weren’t there, they would remember that!

Jonathan and I may or may not remember that I got him the softest robe ever and he got me a Christmas dinner outfit … but I am always going to remember this hot pink clock.  It is one of a kind awesome and it is on my nightstand ready to wake me up tomorrow.

As I go to bed tonight and get ready to enter the second half of this 60 Day journey — I simply say (in the words of the fabulous, Scarlett), Surprise me!

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 29: Christmas Eve

Christmas Even 2012

Today there was no class to attend, so once again I found myself in a self-led practice while there was food in the oven.

I woke up on Christmas Eve with a very small list of things to accomplish outside of my house.  The first thing I learned was this: Never go to Cost Plus World Market on Christmas Eve.  It was enough to make your head spin.  Go to Pier One.  You’ll pay a ridiculous amount more for whatever you need, but you won’t wait in line for an hour.  I wish I was exaggerating … it was at least 30 people long.  People take those $10 off coupons that expire on December 24th very seriously.  Of course, there will be a new one in the paper on December 26th …

I had to run into Petco to get Boomer water filters for his water machine … I know, it’s ridiculous.  He likes for his water to flow.  He drinks more that way.  He’s an almost eighteen-year old cat with one tooth who starts to purr every time he hears my voice.  Not even my husband does that.  The least I can do is keep his water properly filtered and flowing.  While I was there I bought my in-laws dog, Sir Duff, a Christmas Gingerbread Man toy.

After that I decided I needed to get home before I bought some obnoxious Christmas sweater that jingled and embarrassed the whole family.

I came home and stared at my list.  For a brief moment I thought perhaps I should call in sick for this Christmas Race, but instead I put the sweet potatoes in the oven to bake for my Ginger Snap Sweet Potato casserole.  I had at least an hour before they would be done.

I changed and rolled out my mat while Jonathan was out shopping for me.  I could only begin to imagine what I was going to end up with — neither one of us are very good gift givers for the other.  He is so picky, I get paralyzed in the store trying to purchase anything.  I have long arms and long legs; clothes off the rack rarely fit me … so I’m tough, too.  We’re also both really practical — maybe too practical.  I want diamond earrings someday, but right now we’re buying an egg donor, so I’ll settle for an alarm clock.  Let’s see how he does.  Whatever he gets, I’ll love it.  I always do.

I started my practice with 12 sun salutations series B.  I tried to just focus on my breath … but my first thought was, if you can’t handle a little Christmas dinner for six people you are going to suck as a mother.  This made me laugh, because honestly, if you’re from the south and you can’t make a minimum of three casseroles lathered with cream of fill-in blank soup all warm at the same time, you do suck as a mother.

Once my sun salutations were complete, the aroma from the sweet potatoes was beginning to fill the room.  I love that smell.

I decide to hold some deep twists on the mat before ending my Christmas Eve practice and heading into the kitchen.  My mind starts wandering to kitchen memories from when I was a little girl.  I think it’s funny how we have these very distinct memories that play in our heads like a mini-movie of ourselves.  The movie would be meaningless to anyone else, but me, I can watch that movie all day long sometimes and laugh at all the same jokes.  Literally.

Mamaw, I’m going to make chocolate pudding, I said at the age of six (or possibly seven).

Ok, Sugar, do you know what you’re doing?  — My great-gradmother, Mamaw Wines replied.

Yes. 

I proceeded to go into Mawmaw’s kitchen (Mawmaw was on a tractor in some field … ) in Arkansas and pull a box of instant chocolate pudding off the shelf.  I measured the milk and poured it into the pudding.

Mamaw, can you bring me a mixer? 

Do you know how to use a mixer?

Yes.

Maybe you should just stir it up and let it set?

I shake my head no.  She plugs in the mixer and goes about her business with Kathie in the next room.  I mixed the pudding, alright.  I mixed it up and poured it into little cups and put it in the refrigerator for dessert that evening.

I have always been ready for dessert.

When I was finished, I went into Mamaw Wines beaming with pride that I had made dessert.  From the minute she saw me she couldn’t help but start laughing, and I had no idea why.  As I brought her into the kitchen, she was staring at the ceiling above my mixing area.

Oh, Lord have mercy child, you mixed the puddin’ all over this kitchen and all over you!  

Mamaw Wines cleaned the entire kitchen and then she took me back into Mawmaw’s sunken tub and cleaned me.  I never asked her for a mixer again, but I’m pretty sure that request would have been denied.  She did let me pick green beans in the garden and hold the nail bucket to fix fence.  So, I was not totally useless.

At the age of 43, I still have mixer accidents, though I can now mix pudding without dirtying the ceiling.

I went into camel pose for a few breaths and then laid down for final resting pose.  Shavasana is hard at home because there are so many distractions, like sweet potatoes baking.  Willie Nelson came on singing White Christmas and I was out like a light.  I didn’t wake up until Dolly started singing Hard Candy Christmas — I have no idea what was in between.

As I went into the kitchen and pulled the sweet potatoes out of the oven, I thought about all the other people across the country and around the world getting ready for their Christmas and I was glad I had decided to participate — even if I was still not sure I could get a ham and three casseroles warm at the same time …

Merry Christmas Eve, Y’all.

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 28: Happy Birthday, Mark.

December 23rd:  Today Jonathan’s brother, Mark, would have turned 49.  He passed away suddenly on May 1st of this year.

Mark’s passing is why 2012 is year we would all like to put behind us.  I don’t have any brothers or sisters, so I have no idea what it is like to lose a sibling — but I do know it has forever changed my husband.  If I could take any of the pain on for him, I would, but I know I can’t.  This is hard for a woman who likes to fix things.

I went to the mat at noon and when Ellen talked about setting intentions for our practice; I decided to dedicate my practice to Mark.  I have so few memories with him because he lived in Maryland, but in honor of his 49th birthday — I wanted to remember him.

The beginning of practice was hard.  My back had a really difficult pain in it and I almost thought I was going to have to leave, or spend the whole class in child’s pose.  After a few rounds of plank into downward facing dog, my kinks started to loosen.  My shoulders cracked; the mid-back pain began to dissipate.

My mind went back to the morning of May 1st.  It was such an awful memory; watching my entire family unravel in the chaos of sudden death.  You feel hopeless because there is literally nothing you can do.  You cannot fix it.  Grief is so personal and felt in so many stages — and everyone has a unique process.  All you can do is be available and open.

As we went into our first lunge, I thought about the first time I met Mark.  He was like a bolt of lightning.  Literally.  He and Jonathan were so very different; yet alike in important ways.  We spent the day at Six Flags — he wore a fanny pack and goofy shorts.  Jonathan would not have been caught wearing any of it, ever.  I honestly think Jonathan would walk around stark naked first.  He was laughing at his brother’s fanny pack and white sneakers all day.

He did look like a tourist from central casting — but his energy was infectious.

We road every roller-coaster over and over and over.  Jonathan would quit and Mark and I were still going.  Every time Mark and I were alone, he would say something like, “You’re perfect for Jonathan.  When are you getting married?”  He asked every little detail about my life, my childhood, my parents — everything.

As I was in side angle pose staring at the ceiling, I realized that is how Jonathan and Mark were exactly alike.  They could both talk to anyone, and they were inquisitive.  They were both sentimental.  They were both so sweet.  As I’m thinking about all of these things, I start to cry.  The tears just stroll down my cheek.  I don’t even try to wipe them away anymore — I just keep moving and eventually they move through me.

All I really wanted to get Jonathan for Christmas was more time with his brother.  I wished my in-laws did not have to bury their oldest son.  No one should bury a child, whether they are 8 or 48.  My sister-in-law should not be a window at 42.  It’s not the natural order of things.  I was angry that is was the order of things for my family.

I was angry that is was the order of things for so many families in Connecticut this Christmas.

We go to the wall for headstand.  This is always a good pose to reset me.  After the crying and the bouts of anger, I needed resetting.  Headstand is fairly easy for me, so I was able to stay up for a long time.  When I came down we went to the mat for bridge pose.

I went back to the second to last time I saw Mark.  It was in September 2009.  I spent the night with him and my sister-in-law, Debbie.  It was the first and last time I ever spent time completely alone with both of them together.  I will cherish it always.  The three of us talked well into the morning — and I met a side of Mark I had never seen before, and if he were here, I think he would say the same thing about me.  I wish we had had more nights like that one.  It was a really good night.

I push myself up into wheel and I chuckle a little.  Mark and Debbie were much more religious than we are.  When I first met him, he was pretty extreme; but by the time I was at their house in 2009 we were eating Baja Fresh burritos together.  They had loosened.  I wondered what he would think of me bringing back the Wilcox Christmas?  I actually think if he can see anything that is going on from heaven — I like to think he’s getting a kick out of it.

I briefly wonder if he had the same attachment to the clay bell ornaments Jonathan did?

When I got home from yoga the Fast of Tevet 10 popped up on my calendar.  This is a Jewish observance.  I put them all in my calendar just to try to learn them — there are a lot of holidays and observances.

The 10th of Tevet is observed as a day of fasting, mourning and repentance. We refrain from food and drink from daybreak to nightfall, and add selichot and other special supplements to our prayers. More recently, 10 Tevet was chosen to also serve as a “general kaddish day” for the victims of the Holocaust, many of whose day of martyrdom is unknown.

After reading the day of fasting from food and drink sentence, I realize I have already failed to observe properly.  No fretting here — I opted to have a Dr. Pepper and toast Mark alone.  He loved Dr. Pepper.  We did have that in common.

In the evening we went to my in-laws and shared dinner in honor of Mark. One of many things I love about my Wilcox family is that even in mourning and overwhelming sadness, they do live life forward.  I gain a lot of strength from that.  I know not a day goes by when they don’t think about Mark and wish he was still with us, but since he isn’t — the best way to honor him is to remember all the good times.  Tell his stories.

As I stare at a Mark Wilcox original in our hallway, I vow to make sure when we have children they will know everything I can tell them about their Uncle Mark and what a wonderful artist he was.  And most importantly, what a big heart he had.

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 27: Look Beyond the Backyard

December 22nd:  You can’t plan Christmas without making lists.  So today I broke down and made a very long one for the store.  I then went to the store and bought it all and threw said list in the trash can at the store.  This is what lists are meant to do, I think — not sit all over the house for weeks on end unaccomplished.

I woke up late and missed my regular Saturday yoga class with Ellen.  I was not distressed, I opted for a noon class with another teacher.  It was a solid class.  I love Ellen’s classes because she tells stories and antidotes which often bring life into yoga.  The teacher today just spoke yoga.  It was great for my technique, but my mind thought of little beyond arm positions and abdominal control during the beginning of class.

As I pushed back into my first downward facing dog, I was trying not to think about what was in front of me.  The dinner.  The presents.  This Christmas I had decided to create was a lot of work.

I know why people get frustrated and quit Christmas, but I was trying to make peace with this fact:  the rushing around to get to the day is part of it.  Just breathe.  Almost everyone does it; some better than others.  Try to be one of the ones that does it better.

I want to be part of the group that does it with a smile and the spirit of the season, not the grumpy group.  This became increasingly difficult as I was rammed twice with a cart at Target by mindless irritated shoppers, but even then I smiled and said, Merry Christmas!  The second cart rammer stopped and returned the sentiment with a rather embarrassed look on his face.

Overall, class today was very deliberate.  The flow was not as quick.  I became methodical in moving through it.  The clear mind, created by the type of practice this teacher was leading, put me in a completely different place.  I felt more like an athlete preparing for a big race.

The Christmas Race.

We held pigeon pose for a long time, and as I was lying there I went back to my childhood Christmas traditions.  A lot of it was complete mayhem, and often we were getting each other lots of junk no one needed or wanted.  Not every present was like that, of course, but there was a lot of excess (it was the 80’s).

As I start to think about how we want to celebrate holidays, I’m also thinking about those things I’ll gladly leave behind.  The mindless spending.  The mindless giving.  Less is generally more, if you think about it.  For me, it’s more about the festivities and the gathering of friends and family.  Presents are nice, but honestly, my ornament friends and my snowmen are just as meaningful.

My favorite quote recently is from my friend Gwyn’s little girl Scarlett.  She asked her what she was going to tell Santa she wanted for Christmas and Scarlett replied, “Surprise me.”

That’s how I feel.  Surprise me.  Though I will confess, I did ask Jonathan for a new alarm clock.  The old-fashioned ringing kind — not the kind that charges everything but forgets to wake you up.

We opened into V stretch with the legs.  As they are becoming stronger and more present in my practice, I am really starting to feel how the abdominal muscles connect everything. The inner thighs, the mid-back … it all changes with the strength of the abdominals. Mine still have a long way to go, but I’m grateful I am starting to feel the connection.

Everything is connected.

I came home after class and going to the store, and systematically started to plan our Christmas.  Yes, a list was involved — but just one.  I pulled out our china, our glasses, our linens and all the other things I was waiting to use someday and began to create a schedule.

About midway through the afternoon, Jonathan turned on Wizard of Oz.  I stopped and watched the whole thing.  All the way to my favorite quote:

” … if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”  ~ Dorothy

Despite the fact that I was still crying (I know, I’m ridiculous … when she says goodbye to the Scarecrow I’m a mess!) — I saw the ending with a whole new set of eyes.  For the first time in a very, very long time I was grateful I had looked well beyond my own backyard.  I was glad I went to Boston Conservatory.  I was glad I went to Milwaukee Repertory Theater.  I was glad I move to New York City and Long Island.  I was glad I went back to Texas and worked with my Aunt Bridget for almost a year.  I was glad I had roamed all over the place.

And most of all, I was glad I moved to Los Angeles.  I was glad I worked at Celebrity Connection.  Because without Los Angeles and Celebrity Connection, there would be no Jonathan in my life.

Tonight, December 22nd, is the 10-year anniversary of our first date.  The date where we went to see Lord of the Rings in the Cinerama Dome at the ArcLight in Hollywood.  The date where he pretended to like ranch dressing and shared my salad.  He made me warm homemade bread, and he has been warming my heart ever since.  (Though he has yet to make me anymore bread …)

I always knew (even when I thought I didn’t ) I was able to roam all over the place because my backyard, in some form or another, was always there waiting for me.  And it was.

So, sometimes when we go looking for our heart’s desire, we do, in fact, find it outside our own backyard.  Hopefully, as we build a new backyard, we can bring some of what we loved about the old one along with us.

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 26: Stories, Stories, Stories

While the pumpkin pie baked in the oven, I did a gentle flow on the mat.  My music mix was eclectic, everything from James Taylor to Willie Nelson to the Beatles.  The music kept me focused, and occasionally singing on the mat.  The challenge of a self-led practice is not getting distracted.  I set the timer for 45-minutes for the pie and mentally set my practice to be the same length.

“This house was my grandparent’s house.  I bought it back from total strangers,” he said.

“Did you ever live here?”

“No, I just loved that it was once a part of my family and wanted to raise my kids here,” he said while staring at the mantle of his most beloved childhood Christmas decorations. He was almost weepy with sentiment.

After baking cookies, brownies and pumpkin pie we went to a Christmas dinner party. Throughout the course of the evening, everyone spoke about their childhood Christmas memories.

Once I began to notice this, it became my own personal human behavior experiment.  I did not go to the party expecting to do anything but enjoy the delicious meal and company, but as everyone started to talk — out came the stories.

I’ve always known that everyone’s favorite topic is themselves.  Not in a completely narcissistic way, but because we are our reference point for everything, so it makes sense we use lots of self-examples to express our worldview or relay our understanding of something.  It was interesting how everyone became almost childlike in their storytelling around the season — even my husband chimed in with a story about about putting lights on the Christmas tree with his Dad.

“I didn’t appreciate it at the time,” she said, “going to my great-grandmother’s house seemed like a chore.  I would give anything to go back there today and see it all through my eyes now.  I can still see everything about the house, and the smells coming from the kitchen.”

My mind wandered back to Mamaw Wine’s upstairs.  My great-grandmother lived Henrietta, Texas.  Driving by as an adult, the house seems much smaller, but as a child I loved exploring the attic rooms — which I pretended were haunted.  I would go into the cellar until she would bark at me to get out of there.  I remember the table of pictures.  Everyone was on it, even the crazy ones that didn’t come around anymore.

I have a picture table today because of Mamaw Wines.  I don’t have any crazies on it that don’t come around anymore, though.

“I have ornaments that have to be on the tree every year.  My wife and kids try to make these designer trees and tell me there is no place for my ornaments, but it is non-negotiable.  They may be in the back, but they are on the tree,” he said.

I talk about my Dad’s music tree.  He and Sandy had a tree that was themed with musical instruments and only those ornaments were on it.  It was beautiful, but my favorite tree was the other one.  It had all the ornaments that felt like familiar old friends.  I would stare at it every year and make sure all of my ornament friends had made it out of the box and back on the tree.

I’m not Martha Stewart, so we’ll never have more than one tree or a themed tree — and since Jonathan and I are both pretty sentimental, we’ll always have the ornaments that feel like old friends.

“I was so cold in Minnesota.  I remember my mother bundling us up to play in the snow and we could barely walk in the snowsuits.  We were literally sweating inside.  Every winter break, we played like that,” she said.

I thought about going to Mawmaw’s house and bundling up with all kinds of layers when we would go out and feed the cows in the snow.  I didn’t go every day, but when I did, I remember the chill and the goofy hats she would bundle me up in.  I remember feeding the baby cows in the barn who had lost their mother.  I got so attached to one of the cows I named her Buffy and tried to go sleep with her in the middle of the night; I was sad that she did not have a Mama.  Mawmaw nearly killed me.  Apparently sleeping with cows is unsanitary.

Everyone had a moment where their story was heard, and you could almost see the childlike quality in the eyes of everyone as they went back, even if only for a moment, to those memories that built them.

We all have our specific stories that define us one way or another — some good, some not so good — but last night was the first time I really took it all in while it was happening.  I know many of my parents childhood stories, and my step-mother’s — my husbands, my in-laws.  I even know some from both of my grandmother’s and great-grandmothers.

These memories all make-up the stories of us.  They may not all be written down, but they are part of our unabridged autobiographies.

I gave GranGran a book one year for Christmas called, To Our Children’s Children — it was a book of questions about your life to answer and pass on. He filled it out as best he could for me and it is one of my greatest treasures.  Memom never did it, but she told me enough stories as she scratched my back — I could probably fill a lot of it out for her.  I never gave it to Mawmaw because I knew she wouldn’t do it.  My Mom has a copy, we’ll see how that goes.  I think she is trying to fill it out.

I have always loved stories and the ways they define families.  I can’t wait to make our ancestry wall with pictures from across time.  If I am ever going to have a Martha Stewart project, I guess this would be it.  I’ve been collecting pictures of everyone I can find pictures of — Ancestry.com has even provided me with some.  I can’t wait to get back to working on it again in the new year.

Jonathan’s great-grandfather was named James Knox Polk Wilcox.  He was named after James K. Polk the president, who was from Tennessee.  I just love that.

I know I am thinking about all of these things because I’m focused on motherhood and wondering what kind of a Mom I will be, or want to be?  What kind of parents we will be? When it takes so long for it to happen, you have a lot more time to over-think it, I suppose.

I know one thing, they will have a lot of stories to tell.  Hopefully, we can make most of them good ones.

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 25: Don’t Over Think It

Ice skating in Los Angeles.  Yes, we went ice skating in Los Angeles — in full winter wardrobe.  I was an excellent roller skater; never a good ice skater — but tonight, we were spinning around that mall parking lot skating rink like this was something we did on a regular basis.

“Jill and Norm invited us ice skating tonight.  Do you want to go?” Jonathan asked.

“Sure, but I have sushi with Heidi at 6:30 — we can go afterwards or I can meet you.”  I replied.

We had been talking about going skating in that silly mall parking lot since we moved into this house more than three years ago.  Tonight we finally did it.  My husband always says, we have time to do everything we want to do, we just have to make the time.  Don’t over think it.  

This exact phrase is one I am constantly focusing on because it’s something I struggle with daily.   I always over think it.  Always.  I’m not sure if I was waiting for the perfect winter scene to appear with a frozen lake or what — but tonight the mall parking lot seemed like a great option.  We both acknowledged the music was awful; it did not stop the joy — Jonathan wants to come back in the afternoon when they play Christmas music for the ‘old people’.

Apparently in ice skating rink demographics, we are the old people.  I do not let this distress me.

I constantly put work before joy.  Or future babies before joy.  Or fill in blank before joy.  Joy seems like such a complete indulgence.   In an effort to combat my personal war on joy, I bought a Christmas tree skirt that says JOY on it at Rite Aid —  just so I can remember to try to have a little.

I arrived at yoga late today which put me in a completely different part of the room.  It was so strange to not be in a corner or against the wall.  I was right out there in the middle of everything.  I had been running around all day saying to myself — we have time for everything we really want to do.  Don’t over think it.  It was actually calming down my rushing and I got a lot done — even managing to eat lunch.

I owe this fine calming technique to my husband, the self-help guru.

Today’s practice was completely different from yesterday.  I actually like the lighting better in the Tarzana studios, or maybe it’s the wall colors?  I hadn’t really put my finger on it before today — but I realized as the flow started that I am much calmer in this location.  However, class was different beyond the ambiance.  I was different.

Ellen helped me to place my arms correctly so I could flow more easily between chaturanga and upward facing dog.  This was a huge physical breakthrough for me.  Once I feel something in my body, it’s easier for me to come back to it.

I wasn’t over thinking — I was feeling it.

I am not a person that thinks life should be lived on how you’re ‘feeling’ every moment, because that would probably make most of us appear CRAZY — hence, that uneasiness you get when you see a grown adult act out in public with an inappropriate emotional outburst.  It happens to the best of us; I know.

First thing this morning we got the contract from the lawyer for the egg donation.  It’s an odd sounding sort of contract from a Family Planning Law Center, but it all makes perfect sense.  Both parties need this protection.  If all goes well, it’s our first order of business in 2013.  Literally.

2012 has not been a great year  — so we are both actually relieved it is happening in 2013.

As I am signing it, whatever fears or worries I had about it have all disappeared.  I’m excited.  We’re excited.

During bridge pose James Taylor starts singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  This made me so happy.  I’ve seen James Taylor live now more times than I can count.  JT definitely brought a little joy into my practice today.

Driving to meet Heidi for sushi, I’m sitting at a stoplight and Miranda Lambert starts singing House That Built Me.  I have heard this song a hundred times.  For some reason, today I just burst into tears at the stoplight.  When she sang the lyrics, If I could just come in, I swear I’ll leave ... I just broke down.

It was flashes of houses, really.

My footprints are in the backyard at Memom and GranGran’s house.

I think about Mawmaw’s house and the kitchen table — it was a great table.  So retro.  And her alarm clock — I loved that it was just a clock that rang, loudly.  My current alarm clock does just about everything but freaking wake me up.

When I was in Arlington earlier this month I drove by my old house on Ridgedale where I spent most of my childhood; the garage door was open and there was a man working there.  I almost asked if I could come in and see my room.  It’s the house I accidentally drove a car through the garage wall when I was learning to drive — my Mom got a bigger kitchen as a result.  I always loved our sunken dining room and the backyard.  We had a great backyard.

My Dad and Sandy’s house has an amazing backyard.  They’ve been there 30 years.  My favorite color when they moved in was peach — it’s still reflected in my room, where my tap shoes sit on the shelf and my childhood Winnie-the-Pooh.

If I could just come in, I swear I’ll leave                

Won’t take nothing but a memory

From the house that built me

I think about all of the things we all have and try to hang on to — sometimes there is so much, you lose sight of what you actually want to hang on to.  Jonathan’s Mom never knew he loved the clay bells; and trust me, he’s way over it already — especially since I told him how absolutely cool the pinecone gnomes that she did find are.  They are really cool!

The same thing happened when I told my Mom I wanted to frame a blown-up picture of Mawmaw’s farm that they had taken from their plane.  She had thrown it out!

“Terry, we have a million pictures of that farm,” she said.

NOT FROM A PLANE! I cried.

I had never told anyone I loved that picture.  I honestly don’t think I had ever thought about it until she sold the farm, and then I wanted it more than anything.  Jonathan had probably never thought about the clay bells until we had an ornament-less Christmas tree.

Sometimes you just don’t know until something is no longer there that it meant anything to you at all.  Our things ebb and flow just like our life.  We can just hope that we end up with enough meaningful ‘stuff’ to fill in the story of us.

As I sit in bed and type this — Jonathan and Boomer are asleep on the couch.  I’m grateful for the day we had together.  It’s well after midnight on December 21, 2012 — we’re still here, so I’m glad I went ahead and decorated the Christmas tree.

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 24: History In the Making

They left Troy Aikman, one Winnie-the-Pooh, Big Bird, the Batmobile, Jonathan’s commemorative Pete Wilson ornaments from when he worked in the governor’s office in the 90’s  — and the Reagan Library commemorative ornaments from when they were his client.

Apparently they were a democrat Jets fan who liked Superman and Oscar the Grouch … just a wild guess.

Boomer’s Boomer Esiason (his namesake) ornament is no more.  Winnie-the-Pooh snow globe gone.  Oscar the Grouch gone.  All the rest of the ornaments I collected in adulthood gone.  They did leave my menorah napkin rings.

At first I was really upset.  Here I was trying to make Christmas and then this happens.  It was almost hilarious.  Had they not left the empty boxes, I would have thought we lost them all in the move or something.  Isn’t that odd?  Taking a snow globe out of a box?  Ransacking Christmas ornaments? I hope wherever they are tonight, someone is enjoying them — especially the snow globe.

I head to the mat late in the afternoon with a half-lit, basically ornament-less Christmas tree.  I needed to watch Charlie Brown Christmas for some inspiration, but instead I went into my first forward fold and collapsed.

I hadn’t eaten again.  Not one bite.  Not one morsel.  I literally did not remember that I had not eaten until I try to hold my first one-legged plank.  I immediately determine I am starving.

Chaz mentions the end of the world on Friday, and I think, maybe I should wait to buy those Christmas ornaments in case the world does end?  And then I think, if it does end, none of it will matter anyway — and you’ll get to enjoy a fully decorated tree for one day.  I decide to go with thought number two.

I can’t hold tree pose.  This is usually fairly easy for me, but I just let it go.  I was worked up enough today without beating myself up in yoga.  The left side is better.

Don’t worry, let’s go get my ornaments from when I was a kid.  We had clay bells,  Jonathan says, trying to console me.

I head over to my in-laws where my father-in-law and I go through every closet in the house — no clay bells.  But my mother-in-law did give us three beautiful Waterford ornaments that were meaningful to her — she had been saving them.  Now they will have a beautiful home on our tree.  I’m so happy to have ornaments with a story!

The flow is easy, but given my nutrient-deficient body — I am almost sloth-like in my movements today.  I’m trying to focus on the breath and the poses, but my mind keeps wandering back to Christmas.

My Mom would get me an ornament every year as a kid; it was always the first thing she let me open when we put up the tree.  Luckily, most of those are in boxes in Hot Springs Village with her and not with my ornament collection from adulthood.  I have stuff at my Dad’s in Colorado.  We have tons of wedding presents and our homemade Huppah quilt at my in-laws — which I saw today.  Our wedding ketubah is rolled up waiting to be framed.  Our beautiful mezuzah is waiting for a door (and it is gorgeous!)

Our history is spread out all over the place waiting to come home.

We get to crow pose.  Nada.  No crow today.  No handstand today.  I begin to think the lack of food and the residual anxiety from the day are dragging me down.  I am feeling an excessive gravitational pull to the earth.  Rare at this point in class.

Perhaps I just need a sandwich and a nap?

As I pull myself up into bird of paradise pose — something changes.  There was a huge opening across my left shoulder.  I don’t want to leave the pose.  Same thing on the other side.  I could feel the muscle fibers releasing.  There is still a long way to go.  My shoulders are pretty messed up from years of slouching.

My mind wanders to how I am going to get it all done.  I push it away.

In shavasana, I put a towel on my face and just let it all go.  I try to push all the business out of my brain.  I am not fully successful until it is almost over.  I really hate it when that happens.  I cheat myself of the best part.  One day at a time.

After dinner I drive to Target.  It was the land of the misfit ornaments.  Nothing is lonelier than the Christmas ornaments left 6 days before Christmas.  I buy a few ornaments which include a Darth Vader for Jonatan and a W —  and head the 99 Cent Store where I buy lots of cheap glass balls.  I’m not feeling satisfied.  This is not how this was supposed to go.

I start my car and the first song on the radio is Darius Rucker singing History in the Making.  I’m telling you, in moments like this, I do believe someone is talking to me through the radio.

Not every moment is a part of the official historical record — but if you’re not paying attention you might miss something.  If you’re all wrapped up in the missing ornaments you’ll miss something much more important.  The present.  You’ll forget the fact that you put up the Target/99 Cent/Rite Aid Christmas tree and shared hot tamales and red vines on the couch.

Now that we have the tree … it just needs a few presents.  Just a few.

Wilcox Christmas Tree 2012

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 23: Empty and Mundane

Today my mind was empty.  I mean literally empty.  I think perhaps I was so in the video editing moment all day, I simply had no observations about anything prior to heading to the mat.  Or the entire day was so mind numbingly mundane I was on auto pilot.  Ultimately, I believe I was simply in the mind numbingly mundane moment.

Sometimes being fully present means being fully present for those moments in life you would rather fast-forward through.  Today was one of those days.  There is a newsletter I need to get out that is sitting between my shoulder blades taunting me.

I went to Ellen’s class in late afternoon.  My arms and my abs are aching from all of the intense strength work since returning from Texas.  As I am lying in the opening pose flat on my back the aches in my arms take me back to our honeymoon.  I know what you’re thinking — no it was not bedroom acrobatics.  I wish it had been bedroom acrobatics, that might make more sense for a honeymoon.  I would go so far as to say this particular life choice rendered both of us immobile upon our return that evening.

Unlike most newlyweds who do something completely relaxing like go to a beach — we decided to climb Half Dome.  If you don’t know what Half Dome is — well, it’s this:

Half Dome -- Yosemite

I actually got so absorbed in transporting myself back to Half Dome that I had absolutely no idea what Ellen was doing.  Am I supposed to be on blocks or off blocks?

I finally get back in sync with everyone and as I raise my arms over my head; my entire upper thoracic spine cracks into place.  I love this.  Who needs a chiropractor?

As a wedding present, Jonathan and I received a very generous gift from one of his friends to spend five nights at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite.  I thought we would go on a few hikes, ride our bikes, relax … had I known what I was in for I might have prepared myself by hiring a personal  trainer prior to our honeymoon.

As we’re balancing in tree pose I fall over, but get back up.  I can feel the strength pushing through my legs.  I wish I had had this sort of strength that day.

The one thing I can tell you about the day — we never would have done it had we known what we were getting ourselves into.  The real hard core Half Dome climbers get up and start before dawn.  Oh, no — we set out at 8:30am.  This is why after walking seventeen miles, we ended our hike in pitch black at a bus stop, barely able to move.  Literally.  I felt like the Tin Man; I was convinced I needed an oil can to get back to our room.  Had I energy to cry, I would have.

I hold crow pose for roughly three seconds.  My legs were slipping off of my arms.  I still think I need more abdominal strength or nerve.  Perhaps a little of both.

I have my hiking stick and fill my CamelBak backpack with water and snacks.  Jonathan attaches two water bottles to his backpack … we do not come home with the water bottles (more on that later).  As we set out on the hike, neither one of us have any idea what we are about to do.  About five miles in, we pick up this heavy set fellow and his heavy set kid wearing what appear to be pajamas.  I take one look at them and think, of course we can do this.

I jump back into chaturanga and my elbow smarts, but not enough to keep me from doing it again.  We do an intense series of abdominal work, my entire stomach is burning.  I think about the burning from that day.

We finally get to where we can see the top of Half Dome.  From the distance it looks like a little stream of ants climbing the mountain.  There was what seemed like hours of switchbacks and steps.  I was not prepared for this, but my stubborn streak forced me to pretend I was completely in control.  Jonathan was ahead of me, which was fine.  He pulls me ahead and I keep bringing him back down — generally speaking, we make a good match.

I relax into pigeon pose on my back and do thread the needle.  My left hip is aching.  I’m not really sure why.  Perhaps it’s all the rain, or all the stretching or just the mere thought of Half Dome?

I finally reach the last 300 yards of the climb.  It looks like this:

We do not climb on the outside -- we climb inside where the planks are.

We do not climb on the outside — we climb inside where the planks are.

There is a giant pile of gloves at the base because you need the gloves to grab hold of the cables.  Apparently, there are many people who start doing this without any idea what the heck they are getting themselves into.

I grab a pair of gloves and begin my climb.  Jonathan is several planks in front of me.  I am having to stop every couple of planks because of lack of arm strength.  Climbing Half Dome means you are literally pulling your body weight for 300 yards up the side of a boulder that is almost completely vertical.

We get up from thread the needle and relax into double pigeon pose in a forward fold.  I can feel my body start to let go.  This is always the moment when the breath sneaks into all the tight spots and blows on them, coaxing them into a relaxed submission.

Jonathan is waiting for me several planks up and he can see I am struggling with strength and crippling fear.  After all, people fell off of this rock and DIED.  What the hell was I doing?  I hear the first water bottle fall off of his backpack and clink down the boulder to a place where I am sure many water bottles go to die.

Jonathan walks down to my plank and says, “Hang on to me, I’ll pull you up.  Let me help you.”

And I said, like any good wife on her honeymoon would say to her most adoring husband coming to her rescue, “Get the fuck away from me!”

He is startled.  We have been married less than a week.  A man comes up behind me and says, “Ma’am, do you need some help?”  

Poor Jonathan was humiliated.   This man was trying to rescue his wife from him.  I felt like such a bitch — but I was literally scared to death.

We switch to double pigeon on the other side.  I finally make it to the top of Half Dome where Jonathan is waiting for me with open arms.  The sensation was similar to double pigeon.  My relief was so great once I finally got up there, I just let go.

Jonathan and meTop of Half DomeAugust, 2007

Jonathan and me
Top of Half Dome
August, 2007

I did it and the only thing we lost was one water bottle going up and the other one coming down.  I learned to never put Jonathan in charge of the water bottles — or me in charge of the CamelBak.  He lost the bottles and I drank all of the water.  The heavy set father and son who climbed Half Dome without incident, helped us get rehydrated before hiking back down to the bus stop.

We open our legs to a V stretch and I start to think about trust.  I can feel my hips start to melt in their sockets.  I think about those who have broken my trust.  I think about those I have let down as well.  I think about how many times I have trusted against my better judgment.  I think about ways I can be more trustworthy; more honorable.  More willing to trust the unknown; not always placing some previous life moment on the present one.

I want to mean yes when I say yes and be able to say no more often so I can mean yes when I say yes.  Sometimes I think the mundane obligations you sign up for in passing become spirit crushers.

As I work my way through this 60 days it has become very apparent to me that we always make time for the stuff we love to do (which is why I am up past midnight writing this and why I leave for yoga in the midst of chaos at my desk).  It’s been a long time since something has kept me up past my bedtime or been able to drag me away from an overburdened desk.

And as I am lying in shavasana, I think about a beach vacation.  Like the one we took in Hawaii for our fifth anniversary this year.  Momentarily, I think, perhaps we’ll hike something huge for our tenth wedding anniversary?  I let that thought drift on.

I fall asleep.

I come home to an email from a woman considering egg donation who said she was moved by the honesty of my posts.  This makes me feel good, because writing about yourself is a rather narcissistic undertaking.  It’s nice to know there are moments to be gleaned by others from all the rambling — hopefully, even on a day like today when I wake up on empty and mundane.

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 22: Don’t Wait To Live

Jonathan and meAugust 12, 2007Pine, Colorado

Jonathan and me
August 12, 2007
Pine, Colorado

Today I was having what might be deemed a temper tantrum.  I’m glad no one was around to see it, except my husband who got a momentary glimpse into my state of mind when I snapped at him.  When I snap he does not snap — this is what is called “good balance.”  Instead he whimpered out of the room.  I felt horrible.

I wake up to a face covered in acne; I look like a pimply-faced teenager — except when I was a teenager I barely had acne.  So I look like some OTHER pimply-faced teenager.  I even have zits on my freaking eyebrows!  It’s insane.  It looks like I have chicken pox  — except even when I had chicken pox, I only got about seven pox —  none of which were on my face.  I have never had a face that looks like this and it is distressing me.  It has been happening for a week or so, but today it seemed like they erupted everywhere.  I briefly think this is happening because we enjoyed pork on the last night of Hanukkah.

On top of my vanity crisis, I am suffocating from my work load.  So after six non-stop hours at my desk, I let go of the mouse, stare at my computer screen and bawl.

This is momentary.  I did not go to Taco Bell or drink a Dr. Pepper — I just breathe, take a walk around the block in the drizzle, make a cup of tea — and return to the suffocating work load that feels like it might never end.  Perhaps stress in causing my acne?  How can I be stressed doing this much yoga?  I stop trying to figure it out and and resume editing videos.

About an hour before yoga my husband walks in the door with flowers and a big kiss.  I should have been getting him flowers (or something else …) — but the gesture of ignoring my morning behavior and bringing me roses was enough to erase all that was wrong with the first part of my day.  I’m convinced marriages where each partner is capable of ignoring the other one at their worst are a match made in heaven.  The fact that he does this regularly is a good sign for our future.  The fact that he could kiss a woman with a face that looks like mine does today just proves he is either a very good actor or he must love something else about me besides my face.

He’s not a very good actor, but he is one hell of a guy —  if you can live with me through this infertility roller coaster — you should be sainted or knighted or something really fabulous like that … trust me.

I go to the mat in a much better state than I started the morning.  I really needed it.  Chaz momentarily takes us back to the darkness of Connecticut (which I had been trying to avoid all day) and encourages us to shine our light.

It was all a bit esoteric for me as we started the flow, but with each pose I began to feel more open.  I imagined a light peeking through all the dark, closed corners of my body — the places I had clamped down over the weekend as I mourned so much unexplainable loss and devastation.

One of the greatest gifts of practicing yoga every day has obviously been the physical changes.  I look at my thighs sometimes and I can’t believe they actually belong to me because the shape is so foreign.  However, the real gift has been the mental changes.  The ability to bring myself back to the present whether I am sitting at my desk freaking out about zits or wallowing in the troubles of the world.  It has never been more crystal clear to me that the moment we are in right now is the only one where we can affect change.  It really is the only one that matters.

The flow was sweaty and I tried to just focus on my breath.  When we got to crow pose I fell over.  I think my body is physically exhausted, so I don’t force it.  I start to relax more into the flow and not push as hard as I normally do.

In side plank I feel only slightly shaky, but mostly I just feel open and present.  I was right there in the room not thinking forwards or backwards.  My only thought was on opening and shining my light.  By this point, I had transitioned out of the esoteric and right into the moment.

Once the flow has stopped and the only effort I am experiencing is the release, the thoughts begin to float in, casually.  I love this part of the class.  It brings all the sweating and pushing and flowing to a close, but in many ways your body is just starting to reverberate open.

While I am in shoulder stand, I begin to question —  how do we move forward in our lives just enough to be productive, but not so much that we are frozen?  For me, I can get so caught up in the vision for the future, that I forgo the present.

I was at a party last night and one of the women there had recently lost her mother.  She said something I had actually thought about before, but had never heard anyone say out loud.

“The one thing I can tell you from having to go through my mother’s stuff — use the soaps, use the lotions, use the perfumes, use the good china, wear the expensive clothes and shoes because there is nothing worse than packing up a life waiting to be lived.”  

It really struck me.  A life waiting to be lived.

My thoughts float back to all the things I had been waiting to do until we start our family — I was basically stopping my life.  I have never used our china.  I was living life not in motion, but in limbo.  I was trying to run through all of these present moments as quickly as possible —  in and effort to get to a future I had all mapped out in my head.

Perhaps the ultimate lesson of this infertility journey has been to show me that nothing is worse than waiting  to fully live.  Perhaps I’ll be an even better mother because I’m not just waiting, I’m living.

If you’re perpetually unsatisfied with the moment you are in, well, you’re never satisfied.  You’re body is there, but your mind is always someplace else.  And if you’re like me, you’ve mastered the art of politely pretending to be present — making the self-deception much more difficult to pinpoint.  After all, you’re FINE.

Tonight I came home and we went to buy our first Christmas tree together.  It’s not decorated yet, but we have it.  It’s the first time in a very long time that I went to do something I had been shutting myself off from until we had a family.  The truth is, I have a family.  I have more family than I know what to do with sometimes and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  Not a one.  Not even the one I thought I might want to trade that one time.

As I finish typing this I am staring at the beautiful roses he bought for me today — and just briefly, I think, maybe I’ll buy some mistletoe tomorrow.  Or maybe I’ll just give him a big good morning kiss. 

Tonight I am immensely grateful we picked each other, and that he can put up with me at my worst — even with zits covering my face.

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 21: Traditions

I woke up this morning and read an article about a mother who has a 13-year old son she believes has a personality disorder that could allow him to become a mass murderer without the proper support.  I read about the brave teacher, Vicki Soto.  How many parents are lucky enough to be hugging their children because of her bravery?  I then read that the shooter’s mother taught him how to shoot, knowing he had a personality disorder.  What!?!  I stopped reading after that.

I was crying again for all the children and the innocents.

Petitions.  National Sympathy Cards.  It’s all streaming down my news feed.  I really am too sensitive; I’ve been told this more times than I can count.  I determine I can’t absorb anymore news.

I’m still searching for grace, but anything short of Superman flying back in time and returning all of these people to the lives they had Friday morning seems empty to me.  I feel helpless.  I want to solve the problems of the world, but as I wipe my eyes and shut down the computer, all I can think is — It’s Sunday, just give me more coffee.  

The Breakfast Club is on.  I escape and snuggle with Boomer.

I went to the mat at noon.  My intention today was to just be present.  The further you push back in a pose puts you in the past; the further you push forward in a pose puts you in the future.  I was trying to find that place between.  The present.  The now.  I know this is actually the only moment that matters.

Ellen talks about kindness and humanity.  I decide these are good words to focus on.  I just breathe.

Before I left for class, I said to my husband, “I’m going to cook Christmas dinner.”  He asks me what I am going to cook.  To know my husband is to know that yes, he is worrying about the menu for December 25th on December 16th.  I mumble something about a ham and squash casserole.  I know he’s not thrilled about the squash, alarms are going off in his head.  He forgets the last time I cooked Christmas dinner in 2006, his Dad loved the squash casserole.  It’s staying on the currently two item menu, but I don’t say anything.  I walk out the door, leaving it for him to ponder.  I’m sure he was back on football before the car started.

I had a lot of energy today.  When the practice is very physical, it’s very easy to empty the mind.  I’m more focused on the physical and less on the emotional.  This is a good place to be considering where I have been the past few days.

I’m trying to balance in tree pose.  I can do it, but my high arches keep my feet from grabbing the earth.  I momentarily question if this is why I am always tripping?  Is it because I have never been grounded in the first place?  Fleeting thoughts.  I push my foot harder into my thigh and the balance stabilizes.  I do it again on the other side.

Yesterday was the last night of Hanukkah.  We had baby back ribs, corn pudding, cole slaw and apple pie.  It was awesome. My in-laws have a very loose interpretation of Jewish dietary laws.  Since I love bacon, this makes me happy.   Jonathan lit the candles and said the prayers.  We practice so little Judaism at our house; but I love it when we do.  I love ritual.  I love family.  I momentarily realize how much I had pulled away from these moments over the past several years.  How all of this holiday stuff seemed so meaningless without our own family.  Last night it did not feel empty, it felt magnificent.

When we come down to the mat and start holding pigeon Turn To Stone comes on.  It surprised me because Ellen had changed most of the playlist.  It was not the same, yet here was my song.   I decided to breathe deeply and let it all float.

I can’t remember the last time I loved Christmas.  It was some time in the 90’s I think.  For awhile I had Christmas parties in Los Angeles.  In fact, I think Jonathan and I planned our first date at one of my Christmas parties ten years ago this month.  He says I asked him out.  Maybe I did.  We had known each other so long when we finally went out, it’s all sort of a blur.  Things had started to change a week or so before my party at another event.  I do know our first date was Lord of the Rings at the Arc Light in Hollywood.  He pretended to like ranch dressing;  he hates ranch dressing — He has never pretended again.  He also never let me pick the movie again.  I am fine with this.  He picks great movies.

We switch sides in pigeon and as I release into it — I decide I am going to get a Christmas tree on the way home.  Yes, I know I converted to Judaism.  You can read about this conflict here.  We were not religious growing up, but like every other not religious family in America — we had a Christmas tree.

Ever since we stopped having Christmas at Mawmaw’s house in Arkansas — the whole season has sort of lost it’s meaning.  It became a time of year I just wanted to get through.  Plow through actually.  I always thought, when I have kids I can sort out all this holiday crap.

I let go in the left hip and rise up smiling and go into forward fold.  More holiday thoughts come into my mind.  I have been waiting for my family to arrive and the perfect house and the perfect dog and the perfect this and that and that and this … and as all this mishegoss is swirling out of my brain, I simply say to myself, this year we are having a Merry Christmas.  Jonathan, Boomer, Duff and my in-laws — we are having Christmas.

Kids or no kids.  Whatever the future holds, I have no idea — but Christmas we will share.  If I can’t resolve my own inner religious/holiday conflicts for what our traditions and rituals will be — what our Christmas/Hanukkah will be — there is definitely no hope for world peace.  I know the religious on both sides will take issue with all of it, but at the end of the day I have to follow whatever is in my heart.   I have to trust that this way of going about it can’t be all bad.

Peace starts inside each of us.  Kindness and humanity starts inside of us.  These thoughts are floating as I put the bolster under my knees for our final pose.  My mind is empty.

In shavasana I almost fall asleep.  This is always a good sign.

After class I head to Target to get a pre-lit tree.  Of course Target is already half way ready to put out Valentine’s candy … nothing.  I find one at Home Depot.  I bring it home.  Jonathan is mortified that I bought a fake tree.  I realize I forgot to ask him what kind of Christmas he wanted.  What kind of tree he wanted.  Well, I found my answer as I loaded the tree back in the car and took it back to Home Depot.

We will go and get a real tree.  As a kid he always had real trees.  He wants to smell the pine.  I started to say I would get a pine candle, but then I stopped myself.  I was glad he had an opinion.  This is OUR tradition, not MY tradition.

I briefly flashback to Arkansas and remember going out and cutting down the tree in a pasture.  We had real trees sometimes, too.

And so it goes.  After the Wilcox’s put away their menorah (which they sadly did not even get out at our house this year) they will find a beautiful pine tree to decorate.  This not so religious Jew and this not so religious convert will try to discover what our holidays look like together; creating our own holiday traditions, and hopefully, one day — we’ll pass them on.

Merry Christmas!

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 20: Before We Turn To Stone

Yes, it’s a song.  Ellen plays it often in yoga — Turn to Stone by Ingrid Michaelson.

It was just under 18-hours since I last got up from the mat.  I was back down; yesterday’s events still lingering.  My heart is more open.  I’m ready for the day.

My mother-in-law is cooking tonight, so that’s one worry off my plate.  I haven’t seen my in-laws since I returned from Texas.  I am more than ready for our traditional Hanukkah dinner of baby back ribs — did I mention how much I love my in-laws?

I picked my Saturday spot at the front of the class.  Yesterday was passive; today I was ready to work. I needed to let go of that which I could not control.

My news feed rhetoric was getting political before I left for class.  Gun control petitions. More God in schools. Parents be more responsible. Teachers should have guns. Principals should have guns.  Metal detectors at schools.  We all should have guns.  No one should have guns.  Video games did it.  Drugs did it.  Lack of drugs did it.

It’s more than I want to take in.

I shut down the computer and breathe.  Everyone is processing the unexplainable; sometimes the easiest way to do that is blame and rant, I guess.  I don’t see the point.  I just want to hug someone; I pick up Boomer.  He’s always good for a hug.  I listen to Turn to Stone before getting in my car.

I go into my first standing forward bend — still no pedicure.  Who cares?  I don’t.  I push back into a really long downward facing dog.  My arms ache.  All the thoughts are stuck in my shoulders, just below my neck.  I drop down, push back again and breathe.

Turn to Stone was not played until about an hour into class, but it was on my mind way before the first note was heard.  I knew the playlist hadn’t changed since Thursday.  I know the lyrics by heart.

The flow was harder today, or perhaps my muscles are more tired than I want to admit?  I work through the physical trying to empty my mind.  I focus on the breathing through my poses more than usual.  I like the serene moments when the only thing I can hear is the sound of my own breath; my mind is empty.

We go to the wall for handstand.  I get both heels to the wall twice.  This was hardly a hold of the pose, but I know I am almost there.  I didn’t even attempt side crow.  I just sat there and pretended to try.  I was scared I would sweat on the mat of the person next to me.  I’m nothing if not polite — usually.  I try to be.

As we bring our mats back from the wall, the familiar piano intro starts and the montage starts playing in my mind.  No, not the Grey’s Anatomy montage which made this song famous, but my own montage.  It’s just images of my life really.  My parents may not have been married for very long, but no matter where I was I have always felt their love — even when I thought maybe I didn’t.  They both gave me so much — humor; intelligence; perseverance; and a very long rope from which to swing.  I knew home was always there waiting for me as I moved from one time zone to the next looking for I don’t know what exactly.

I suppose I found it, I am basically content now — except for that ache for someone to call me Mom.  I just breathe.

Images keep flashing from all eras of my life.  I wish everyone I love lived closer.  Sometimes I wish America was the size of Finland.  I think a country half the size of Texas is a good size.  We wouldn’t have so far to drive to be with the people we love.

But then, I selfishly think, where would Texas go?

When I was little I would dream of a place where everyone I love lived.  You could always walk down the street and they would be there.  My Mom could always make the chicken n’ dumplings and my Dad could always make the chocolate chip cookies.  It was my own little protective bubble, I guess.  Even at 43, I dream of a place like that.  Especially when you realize how tenuous life is.

I know, “magical thinking” – but what’s life without a little magic in it?

Let’s take a better look
beyond a story book
And learn our souls are all we own
before we turn to stone

Let’s go to sleep with clearer heads
and hearts too big to fit our beds
And maybe we won’t feel so alone
before we turn to stone

The opening verse starts a full minute into the song after the piano.  I’m flat on my back.  I am breathing deeply, and I think, Are we turning to stone?  We haven’t lost our humanity, have we?  Perhaps a bit of humility (or a lot of humility!), but not our humanity?  Right?

I know as sure as I am lying there in a room full of people who woke up today to go to yoga that we have not.  Even amidst the chaos and the crazy there is love and connection.  We are not stone.  We may all have different positions, but most of us really want the same outcomes.  We just see different ways of getting there.  Lots of roads can lead to the same place.

I know that I am nothing new
There’s so much more than me and you
But brother, how we must atone
before we turn to stone

And brother, how we must atone
before we turn to stone

And my last thoughts as I am lying in corpse pose go the future.

Our children will never know stone; this is a promise.

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60 Days On the Mat — Day 19: In Search Of Grace

Days like to today — the world makes no sense.  No sense at all.

I got in the car and headed for the mat.  I opted for a Yin Yoga class — it’s basically restorative yoga and I was in need of restoring — of letting go.  Today the silliness of yesterday was gone.  I was not feeling open and the very last thing on my mind was cooking anything for anyone ever.

The stories coming out of Connecticut shook me.  I tried to ignore it at first.  I’m good at denial when I want to be.  Aren’t we all? Mid-morning I was still pondering what I would cook someday for children I do not have.  Cake batter seemed an easier topic to digest.  I worked for several hours in a forced state of ignorance and just before lunch I decided to allow it all into my psyche.

As I started reading the news, I flashed back to a quote I saw in my Facebook news feed earlier, “On days like today the number of people who believe in hell increases.” 

20 children pronounced dead.

27 innocent human lives —  gone.

I thought about all of the parents who sent their children to school this morning in the sleepy town of Newtown, Connecticut.  I’ve been to Newtown.  Had you stumbled through it, you would barely notice it amid all the quaint Connecticut towns. I’m sure they would prefer to be barely noticed like yesterday.  Yesterday — the day before they went from sleepy to sensational.  Tonight too many families are suffering an unimaginable pain; a pain so dark and horrific it can only to be experienced by parents mourning their children on this 7th night of Hanukkah –11 days before Christmas.

I lie back on my bolster and the thoughts are swarming through my mind.  The goal of yoga is to empty the mind, but sometimes the thoughts must swirl around before they can exit.

It’s days like this when even the most faithful among us question God, and those of us who do not believe are more convinced than ever they are right.  How is it even possible for this to be allowed to happen?  Religious leaders will tell me something about free will and how bad things can happen to good people.  I try to find solace in the public statements of well-meaning and honorable public servants across all political parties quoting the Bible, the Torah and other spiritual rhetoric — telling me how all of these beautiful souls are now with God.  Blah. Blah. Blah.

I want to believe.  I know we will never understand.  I am in search of grace.  Where is God’s grace?  These were not just beautiful souls — these were children.  Children sitting in kindergarten.  No one woke up this morning wanting to go be with God, certainly not anyone carrying a juice box in their backpack.

Tears roll from my eyes for the parents not hugging their children tonight.  I try to breathe.

I go into Thread the Needle and my hip smarts.  I can feel the tension grabbing my pelvis, unable to let go.  My mind wanders to guns.  Your mind should never wander to guns on a yoga mat.  I know the easiest culprit to blame is guns.  I wish I could believe banning guns would end gun violence.  If banning guns will keep days like to today from ever happening, I’m all for it.  If locking every crazy person up from now until the end of time will keep days like today from ever happening, again, I am all for it.  Of course, neither of those things is realistic or even possible.  Criminals are criminals because they do not care about laws; the law abiding members of society will always have to contend with them.  What to do with the mentally ill?  This question is so complicated, I can hardly begin to imagine an answer.  It is way over my pay grade.

I can feel my hips opening.  The instructor gently touches my shoulders and I drop them, realizing I was thinking too much.

I wish we lived in a world where we could all raise our weapons and the hatred compelling people to use those weapons — all types of weapons … Oh, how I wish we could all simultaneously put them down and walk away.  To live in that world, I would give anything.

At my core, I cannot help but believe people who want to do bad things figure out ways to do bad things.  We’re surrounded by so much gratuitous virtual violence in video games, on television, in movies, on YouTube — it’s everywhere.  We beat each other up over electronics in stores and store parking lots.  Banning things that many people use responsibly is not the answer, but what is?  What is the answer? How desensitized do we need to become before too many of us are completely void of empathy for our fellow humans?

Why all the hate?

As I move into a deeper stretching of my IT Band, I think about another picture that came across my news feed.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’  To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

My thoughts go to my Aunt Paula who is a nurse at the Danbury Hospital where many of the victims were brought, too many pronounced dead.  I want to focus on the goodness in the world, the helpers out there trying to hold it together as the town of Newtown is thrown into their own personal hell; a nation mourns; mothers and fathers hold their children tighter tonight — and those among us who can, pray (even when we don’t think anyone could possibly be listening) that there is still grace in this world.

As I am lying in our final resting pose, my mind wanders lightly to my personal fears.  The racing is gone, but thoughts are now floating aimlessly.  What if I never have children?  Would it be so bad, given the world we live in?  I would spare myself from ever having to live a nightmare like the parents of Newtown, Connecticut.  But I would also never know the kind of selfless love only parents know.

I breathe in and think, I’ll take my chances.  Knowing a deeper sort of love has to be worth it.  Love is always worth it.  I know this to be true.  If it’s not, then why are we here?

In the twilight of shavasana I think simply — God, help the people in Connecticut find grace again someday. 

As I drive home, George Strait is singing Breath You Take on the radio.  I know it seems like songs are always making it into my posts.  It’s because (and I am fully aware this will make me sound crazy) — I believe one of the ways that which I cannot see or fully understand communicates with me is through songs.  It’s why I don’t listen to iPod playlists in my car.  I want to listen to what is whispering to my heart through the radio.

But life’s not the breath you take — The breathing in and out  — That gets you through the day — Ain’t what it’s all about
You just might miss the point — Trying to win the race — Life’s not the breaths you take — But the moments that take your breath away

And there, coming through the car speakers was a little grace just for me when I so desperately needed it.

I know I am bearing my soul as I go through the ups and downs of my infertility —  and the chance of the egg donor cycle not succeeding is still right out there in front of me.  Now it is in front of a few more people than just my immediate circle.  As today has so shockingly demonstrated, there are no guarantees in life.  There is a solid chance I will have to go through a much more public pain if it is a bust.

Perhaps I should retreat at Day 19 and throw in the mat?

Yet, I know I cannot do that because the unimaginable joy (and grace) of Jonathan and I becoming parents and starting our family so far outweighs the possibility of another failure.  Sharing the joy trumps being consoled in the pain.  And so I will continue to unroll the mat and write, even in the face of a fear and emptiness I refuse to imagine in this moment.

Even on a day like today when the world makes no sense.

For now, I will try to stay present and keep getting on my mat to do it.

As I pull into my driveway, I’m smiling as I think back to one of the last face to face meetings with my reproductive endocrinologist (RE).

“There are women who would kill for your uterus,” he says.

“You must say that to all 43-year old women with old eggs,” I replied.

He assured me he didn’t.  I do trust him.

So, even today, when I lose a little faith in humanity ~ I drive home from yoga clinging to the helpers, the hope, the grace ~ wanting to live a life that takes my breath away often.

And, I also try to have a little faith in my uterus.

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60 Days On the Mat – Day 18: My Children Will Starve

My first thought today in yoga happened when I went into my first forward bend and stared at my feet.  I thought, your feet look like Mamaw Wines feet when she was 80.  Please get a pedicure.

My second thought came when Ellen mentioned the word marinate.  This time I actually went directly to food and I thought, you can’t cook; your children will starve.    

Both of these things are true.  I will get a pedicure tomorrow.

Unless a child can exist on vegetable soup, tacos/fajitas, banana pudding and biscuits — we are in very big trouble.  I have friends on Facebook who make their own baby food.  Are you serious?  Make baby food?

Oh, and I can make spaghetti sauce and have recently added a fantastic broccolini pasta (gluten free!).

Will this recipe list feed an infant?

Yes, I am 43 years old and I have never had to cook.  People have always cooked for me.  Or they fed me vienna sausages and Mountain Dew, made macaroni and cheese out of the blue box or made bologna sandwiches on Wonder bread with Miracle Whip.

Memom even attempted to feed me Spam.  Luckily, I did not understand it.

Mawmaw always said, How can you run a household without peanut butter?  She had a point.

None of these things were fed to me by my mother; she’ll kill me if I do not clarify that.  Except peanut butter.

Even now that I am married, my favorite restaurant is my in-laws.  My husband loves to declare that I am, the WORST housewife ever.  I really can’t argue with him.  I never hid the fact that I barely passed Mrs. Swilley’s Home Economics class (I actually got an A, but I don’t remember anything).  I prefer low expectations in this department.  This way every time I cook it is an event.

When we don’t know what to do for dinner I always ask, Have you called your mother?  I love to go to my in-laws for dinner.

As long as he still prefers his mother’s meatloaf over mine — we’re good.  His aunt’s Savory Rice over mine — we’re good.  The fact that we will be bringing my in-laws along if we move to Texas (WHEN we move to Texas) — brings me some peace of mind.  I’m not sure we could eat if they weren’t nearby.

I can follow a recipe.  When I started this blog I wrote about cooking here, and here, and here — and finally here.  At the time, I was still optimistic about getting pregnant on my own — I was nesting on pure optimism.  I thought, I should learn how to cook and maybe blog about it … we can see how that held my interest.  All of these things I made were very good.  I CAN follow a recipe, generally.  Not always.  Ask my Mom about the orzo pasta.

Note to self: Your mother-in-law should always make the orzo.  Always.

There was a lot of balancing in class today.  Work-Life-Balance popped into my head.  What is that exactly?  Do I have it?  How do I apply for it?  I work in my house, I live in my house — do I really need to cook in my house?  What is wrong with a file of take-out menus?

I AM the worst housewife ever, but I do make my bed every single day.  In fact, I literally cannot function if the bed is not made.  The rest of Rome may be burning, but my pillows are fluffed.

I wish I could explain how much I opened across my chest today.  I could feel it, like a flower blooming.  It felt amazing.  I’ve never felt that across my shoulders in quite this way.  As a result, I was in an open and pretty playful mood.  I didn’t take anything too seriously; my only thought was: open more.  I did.

I also thought about dinner. What am I going to make for dinner?  I knew that was going to be Jonathan’s first question when I called him.  I would push to go out.  He would resist.  I would push to bring home take out.  He would resist.

I was in shoulder stand and I started thinking about my favorite meals as a kid.  Chicken n’ Dumplings.  Spaghetti.  Chicken Spaghetti.  Chicken Fried Steak.  Macaroni and Cheese.  Cake Batter.  Pie.  Strawberry anything.

Surely I can figure out how to cook a list of things kids will eat.  Since I’m not pregnant yet, I’ve got some time.  Maybe we’ll even add a few vegetables.  I liked mashed potatoes and peas.  And squash.  I still love squash.

In the meantime I had to figure out something to feed my big kid at home tonight.

It was broccolini pasta.  He loved it.  I CAN cook.

I am NOT putting baby food in ice cube trays.  Or will I?

Never say never, I say.

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60 Days On the Mat – Day 17: Move Over Fear

Aunt Kathie -- December 2010

Aunt Kathie — December 2010

Today marked one week since starting the birth control pills with the woman who likes chicken n’ dumplings.  I couldn’t help but wonder how she was doing.  Is she taking care of herself?  Is she doing everything she is supposed to do to have the best possible cycle next month?  I guess these questions are bound to enter any control freak’s mind, though I am trying to let go of that – I have 43 more days.

I couldn’t go to my usual class today, so I took a Cardio Flow class.  It was only an hour long, but a good class.  I don’t generally like classes that are only an hour — not enough time to marinate in anything, but I did like the cardio aspect of it.  It was definitely a great workout.

My Aunt Kathie was on my mind as I drove to class this afternoon.  She is my mother’s mentally and physically disabled sister.  She has grand mal seizures — though they are milder and controlled now that she is older.  Her picture popped up on my screen saver right before class and it got me to thinking about some things.  I have always wondered if I was an only child because my mother thought I was “perfect” and didn’t want to take any chances (this “perfect” claim is highly debatable, especially when I was about 16).

My mother has always said she thought I was perfect and didn’t want to have any more kids.  She never elaborated beyond that, and I never asked.

Mawmaw’s life was not an easy one, especially after Kathie was born — actually none of their lives were easy after Kathie was born.  It was 1949.  There were no schools for kids like Kathie.  No assimilation.  My Mom was only 16-months old; she was still a baby herself.  By the time my Aunt Ann came along in 1954 things were in a groove, but still not easy.

We started the class standing up; not something I’m used to.  I’m not sure if I liked it or not, but I did like speed and immediacy of the flow.  I hadn’t eaten all day.  It wasn’t on purpose, but I do that sometimes when I am busy.  Forget to eat.  As a result, I was a little shaky.

Kathie and I fought like sisters when I was a kid.  I wrote about this in The Red Panty Distraction of 1978 a couple of years ago.  I spent almost all of my summers there for weeks at a time from the time I was about five or six.  Kathie was my buddy.  I would spend hours trying to teach her to read and write; it took me awhile to realize that was never going to happen.  When I was a kid she could still walk and run and compete in the Special Olympics.  Today she is in a wheelchair.

I was trying to lean into side crow today;  I’m still too scared to do this.  I can hold crow for a bit now, but side crow — still not strong enough.  I certainly wasn’t strong enough after no food.  If the truth be told, I actually think it is more fear than strength.  Most things are for me.  I wondered how much fear my grandmother had in 1949?  If you knew Mawmaw you’d think — not much.

Mawmaw tried to take care of Kathie at home until she was almost 80 years old — she was her baby — but it eventually became impossible for her to do.  Kathie lives in a nursing home near my Mom’s house in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas.  My Mom is her primary caretaker now and looks in on her 4-5 times a week.  None of us can imagine a life without Kathie in it.  She has brought an enormous amount of joy to all of our lives.  She loves bingo; and loves buying junk with her bingo winnings.  She has an elephant memory, so don’t tell her you are going to do something unless you are actually going to do it. Her smile can light up an entire room.

In our final twisting pose, I begin to wonder what kind of a mother I would be if Kathie were my child.  My grandfather and Mawmaw had no choice in 1949.  Mawmaw always told me she was born normal.  She did not have her first grand mal seizure until the night of her first vaccination shots.  As a result, my grandmother never put much stock in conventional medicine or what doctor’s told her to do.  Her house was full of Julian Whitaker supplement catalogs.  I guess we’ll never really know the answer to her suspicions.

Because I have always had Kathie in my life; I can’t imagine making any other choice than raising the child God gives you.  I always just pray that at 44 years old He does not give us more than we can handle.

I almost went up into handstand today.  It shocked me.  Perhaps before Christmas I’ll get there.  I know it’s all fear.

We all fear something, I suppose.

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60 Days On the Mat – Day 16: Aunt Viola’s Shoes

Kulpmont, PA 1980

Aunt Marie and me
Kulpmont, PA 1980

I was so completely ready for Ellen’s class.  It was like coming to my yoga home.  The place it all started, really.  I would not be doing this at all had her classes and support not moved me through some of the most emotionally challenging months of my life.  I truly believe yoga has saved me from myself — and since this journey is nowhere near over, I hope it keeps up the good work.

Even my favorite spot was waiting for me. I was quiet today — a bit withdrawn.  No particular reason.  Mostly from all the work waiting for me to finish before the holidays.

That afternoon I slid into them like they were Cinderella’s glass slippers.  Aunt Viola’s shoes.  Memom’s favorite aunt was Aunt Viola.  She was her everything — her cheerleader, her Fairy Godmother.  The shoes are at least 75-years old; they fit me like a glove.  My cousin Lesley had given them to me when I was in Austin because they were too little for her.

I unpacked them and slipped them on my feet; I was taller.  I never wear heels; they felt great.  Aunt Viola was always single.  No children.  From what I remember, she was a pretty feisty broad.  I know why Memom was drawn to her.  Memom was nothing if not feisty.

The flow was hard today.  It was slow, long holds — I felt my strength waver a few times, but tried to push through it.

My mind wanders to Aunt Viola on the mat.  How strong she was to call her own shots, make her own money — live life on her own terms. I wonder if she was single and childless by choice?  I now wish I could go back to our one meeting in 1980 and ask her.  I was only ten so none of these thoughts were crossing my mind at the time.

I’m glad I have the shoes; I wish I had the story.

The flow was harder than I had remembered, perhaps because I had been doing the repetitive Bikram.  I know why people get addicted to Bikram, but vinyasa flow is a much deeper practice, at least for me.  We went down to the mat and did core work.  This was something that was missing all across Texas.  No class I went to focused on the core; Ellen always does.  I could feel the absence.

As I marinated in pigeon pose, my mind wandered to legacy.  I am so wrapped up in the only possible legacy being through children, yet many women choose completely different paths and have legacies equally as rich.  Did Aunt Viola have any idea that her great-nieces were going to dance around in her shoes across Texas and now California decades later?  I’m sure she didn’t.

Memom kept Aunt Viola’s legacy alive through stories.  She had no children, but she changed my grandmother’s life.  In fact, she changed it so drastically that I might not even be here today had she not intervened.  Memom was working in a bra factory right out of high school.  Her parents would not let her go to nursing school until she saved the money; Aunt Viola gave her the money.  Aunt Viola told her to “go, fly, see” — had she not done that, Memom never would have met GranGran in New York City in 1944.

It’s an amazing thought, but my father’s entire family owes our existence to Aunt Viola.  The strong woman with the awesome shoes who never had children — yet helped to give birth to generations of Merrills through her love and support of my grandmother.  I’m sure Aunt Viola never thought about this.  I had never thought about this until I got to the mat.

It’s amazing where your mind can wander on the mat as you are marinating in poses.

When I got home,  I dug through several boxes of old pictures looking for the picture I had taken with Aunt Viola that day.  I know it’s here — someday I will add it to the post.  All I could find today is the one of Aunt Marie (Memom’s younger sister) and me.  It was taken the same day.  They had dressed me up in some sort of fur coat, hat and a knitted purse.  I loved it.  Even at 10, I was taller than all of them.

After dinner I slipped on Aunt Viola’s shoes again.  I wore them around the house looking at all of the pictures of my family and Jonathan’s family.  My great-great-grandmother’s punch bowl sits in my windowsill.  I never met her, but a part of her lives on in my house.  The monkey pod salad bowl set my parents got in Hawaii when I was born is my favorite salad set.  They have been divorced longer than they were ever married, yet all of these things and stories and memories live on in me.

Today began the second quarter of 60 Days On the Mat.  Every day I wake up scared nothing will come. I try to wait until after I take yoga to even think about what I might write.  Sometimes my whole day comes out, sometimes the unexpected comes out — whatever it ends up being, I try not to think about how anything will unfold until I leave the mat.

My whole life the creative process of doing anything has never been this organic or unexpected.  Even when it was organic, beneath the surface I was always trying to be somebody or get somewhere or prove something.  For the first time, it’s not about any of that.  I already am the only person I can be — me, I’ve gotten many places — some more exciting than others, and the only things I have left to prove are to myself.  I’m grateful for the few dozen readers out there, but even if they were not there — the journey would still be worth taking.

I think it’s a good place to be when you are gearing up to embark on parenthood.  At least I hope.

I fell asleep on the couch after dinner.  My body was so tired I could feel the repair start to take place; I needed the ten hours of sleep.  As I drifted off, Aunt Viola’s shoes slipped off my feet.  I’m sure she never thought she would be a blog subject of her great-niece in 2012.  And the story goes on.

 

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60 Days On the Mat – Day 15: Chapter Closed

When I saw Jonathan I was beaming.  I couldn’t tell him everything fast enough.  We walked in the door and he had cleaned, vacuumed and organized the entire house.

He did miss me.  I truly do love this man.

I went into my office and sitting on my desk was the notice that I had to have an online defensive driving course taken by December 11th.  I knew this before I left for Texas, but since I’m not making any lists, I forgot.  Not that I would have remembered with a list.

Reality bites.  It was 3:00pm on December 10th.

How was I going to take six hours and forty minutes worth of online instruction before they will even let me take the test?

I rolled out my mat in the familiar room at Chaz’s class.  I had done two hours of defensive driving instruction online before I left the house and showed Jonathan how to continue the course as me.  I was not sure if he would have the desire to do it; and it’s not his responsibility.  Regardless, I had to get to yoga.

It was nice to be back in a familiar vinyasa flow class.

We opened in child’s pose; my mind began wandering back to that day I got the ticket.

So even when in the midst of the most consuming temper tantrum, try to step back from your all-encompassing emotions and recognize you have a problem. Either fix the problem or don’t drive.

As I read this section of the defensive driving course, I thought, that was some advice I could have used that day.  It had been two days since my second failed ivf.  I knew when they put the embryo back in that it was a complete crap shoot — most likely would not succeed. It was one lonely embryo of poor quality.

As the flow began to heat up, all of the tensions of the plane ride, the defensive driving course, the bills, the work — started to release.  But I kept thinking about the day I got the ticket.  I had absolutely no business being on the road.

I most definitely had not stepped back from my all-encompassing emotions.

Ma’am, you were speeding, you were following too close and performing reckless lane changes, the officer said sternly.  Very sternly.

The officer was right.  I was just sitting in the car sobbing; shaking so hard I could barely get out my license and registration.  The best thing in that exact moment would have probably been to lock me up somewhere.  I was not stable.

What is going on with you?, he asked even more sternly.

I just lost a member of my family, I blurted out.  This was, of course, insane.  A poor quality embryo that had yet to implant was not a member of my family — but there is always the expectation that it will be.  You carry around this picture of the embryo they give you hoping you’ll be able to show it to your child someday when they are grown.  How many kids know what they looked like as a ball of cells?

And then I think, Terry, please come back from the looney planet you are living on.  You swore you would never become one of those women.  You are now one of those women — the women on the fertility message boards you think have lost their minds.  Earth to Terry.  

I’m sure lots of women go into this not wanting to be one of those women.

I took that failed cycle extremely hard.  I was mourning the expectation I had told myself not to have — there is always expectation, no matter what you tell yourself. I’m not sure why all of this this emotion consumed me on the 101 Freeway that afternoon.

I was hoping the officer would not ask who I lost; I am a terrible liar.  I would sound completely nuts telling the truth.  Luckily, he didn’t ask.

As he walked away with my license and registration I just sat in the car and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed until I could no longer cry.  Then I sat there in a comatose trance waiting for my punishment.

I thought there was a strong chance I was going to jail.  I should have gone to jail.  I could have killed someone.

The officer had mercy.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps he could tell these were not crocodile tears.  This was actually a woman having a nervous breakdown.  He cited me for the reckless lane changes.  Not the speeding.  Not the following too close.

I did not get back on the freeway that day.  I drove home slowly on the side streets, stunned at my behavior.  Grateful to the officer.

As I went down for yet another chaturanga I could feel all of the strength I had gained doing yoga across Texas.  It felt good, despite the brief bout of insanity that day playing out in my mind.

The great part was, the unstable woman on the freeway was gone.  I was not sad.  I had no regrets.  I was no longer mourning anything.

Chaz played Gangnam Style for our dance song.  She is not a fan of the song, but added it to the playlist on a dare.  Most of the class loved it.  Not my thing, but I danced anyway.  I was glad to be home, ready to live forward.

I drove home and picked up Italian for dinner.  When I walked in the door, Jonathan had stayed home from the gym and taken my lessons to kill time on the clock.  By the time I got home, I only had 2 1/2 hours of instruction left before I could take the test.  What a guy.  Did I say how much I truly do love this man?

When I finally took the test, I got 47 out of 50.  Mission accomplished.  The emotional breakdown on the freeway chapter was officially closed.

We snuggled on the couch, caught up on our shows — Boomer was curled up next to me purring.  And yes, I was really, really, really happy to see them.

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60 Days On the Mat – Day 14: Looking Back Laughing

Yesterday I went to the mat early, after staying up and writing until almost 3am the night before. I finally had to switch my writing schedule around — sleep was beckoning. I have been staying up writing past 2am almost every night, my body finally called uncle. I gave in like a 4-year old fighting a nap. The iPad was still in bed with me.

I moved through all 26 Bikram poses in Arlington, Texas. Still no frozen water, but I did manage to get a bottle full of Sonic Ice. This worked almost as well. When you do yoga in your hometown for the first time ever, your entire life is bound to flash before your eyes. I was trying not to let it. It didn’t work.

Sweat is pouring off of me. I fall over. I get up again. I know I am exhausted.

I’m focused on my Memom. The night before class I had cried in front of their house, and I could hear her telling me to “go, fly, see.” So many memories in that house. I’m not sure my cousins, my father or aunt and uncle got the same Memom I got. In fact, I know they didn’t. I was the oldest grandchild by six years. She tossed out guilt trips to everyone else without a second thought of how it would affect them. Not me. Never once. I’m not sure if this was conscious or she thought I wouldn’t listen anyway. Probably a little of both.

I know life can’t be lived backwards, but sometimes I wish you could know when the last time your grandmother was going to scratch your head and back until you fell asleep — even when you’re almost 40. I would have tried to savor it more.

Perhaps the blessing God gives us is that we don’t know. I would have never gotten up from the bed and lived my life had I known.

It’s her birthday today, she would have been 89. Her name was Terry; really it was Alma, but she went by Terry. I think my Mom knew what she was doing when she named me after her. I was named after both grandmothers (Teressa Louise), but I think her name being first was good for her ego. After all, my Gran Gran ended up with three offspring named after him. She had me.

She left home and lived in New York to become a nurse. She moved far away from her family in Kulpmont, Pennsylvania to build a life with my Gran Gran in Fort Worth. A lot like me.

My grandparents got married during WWII in New York City at The Little Church Around the Corner. When I lived in the city I would always go to that church and sit there when I was between appointments, or had time to kill. I say I was never that religious, but I always found myself in churches lighting candles and praying about something.

As I was wringing it all out in spine-twisting pose for the final time before heading home — I didn’t cry. I laughed and thought how damn lucky am I that I had grandparents whose love I can literally feel from heaven right now. Gran Gran taking me to the circus — Memom helping me sew my choir dress — sitting on Gran Gran’s lap even when I was too big to be there — Memom telling me to “go, fly, see, Miss. T.”

I did.

After class I went to a three hour lunch with my friend Missy. I hadn’t seen her in more than 20 years. It was amazing. When you haven’t seen someone since high school and you sit down at 43 and it was like no time passed — what a gift. You have a shared history, shared friendships. You’ve been “getting” each other since your were 9 so somehow 43 doesn’t seem all that different.

I had a heart to heart phone call with my cousin Jenny while sitting in a Sonic parking lot drinking a diet cherry limeade. When she was born I would make a tent on my aunt and uncle’s water bed and change her clothes like she was a doll, 59 times in two hours. She loved it. Today she made me cry. She’s always looked up to me and despite being ten years younger, she manages to have just the right words. It’s like she channels Memom — “go, fly, see — you are a beautiful butterfly.”

The night ended at my friend Stacy’s. Again, it was like no time had passed. Yesterday we were riding our bikes to Grandy’s and eating Pu Pu Platters; today we were filling each other in on the past 20 years. It was the same. We even said one sentence at the exact same time. A little older, a lot wiser.

I would never go back, but I do look back on my childhood and feel so blessed. Yes, there was crap and stuff that sucked, but overall I would not trade it for anything. I look at my Facebook friend pics and I think, “I’ve known so many of these people since my biggest worry was please don’t pick me last for kickball. How cool is that?”

The plane is flying west towards Los Angeles. Home. One thing I learned on this 10 day work-live sabbatical: life is lived forward. I want Texas to be home again very soon, but today my home is where my husband and my cat reside; I can’t wait to see them. This plane can’t fly fast enough.

I married a truly wonderful man. Maybe it was a little late for my ovaries, but it was just perfect for us. I wouldn’t trade any of it, not one day — and so it goes. I hope we can make a home that some kids miss so much they cry in front of it when they’re 43.

I hope he knows how much I love him. He pushed me to go and stay and do — this was all I needed for Hanukkah.

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60 Days On the Mat – Day 13: Then You Stand, Yes.

I love this song.  I drove from Austin to Arlington today which is roughly a three hour drive and passes through three radio zones.  I started on an Austin station and heard Stand.  As I moved into the Waco market, within three songs I heard Stand.  And finally I rode into the Dallas/Ft. Worth market, and again, Stand.

I decided to pay attention to Stand.  Someone was obviously trying to tell me something. What are the odds of that?  It’s not a new song.

I found a vinyasa flow class before leaving Austin.

I think I know how drug addicts feel now.  I’m glad my drug is yoga.  My body is physically changing; I’ve never been this strong.  My clothes don’t fit.  I have real abs.  It’s as if it all just appeared.  I’ve been working at it for months, but it seems as though I woke up a few days ago and someone had taken my old body.

Today I was completely focused on the physical.  There were no flashbacks, no memories, no dreams — nothing.  Nada.  It was all technique.  My mind was empty.  There was a laser focus on strength.  I was rolling through chaturangas into upward facing dog without pause; I was one with the mat.  If there had been another class afterwards, I probably would have gone again just to avoid.  I say there was nothing in that brain of mine, but there was — dread.

I was dreading the drive to Arlington.  Not because I didn’t want to see anyone, but I felt homeless.  I was going home to no home.  There was no place to go and have my head scratched in the back bedroom.  Where was I going to hang my hat for the night?  My uncle’s house in McKinney was too far because I had to be back in Arlington early.  I was lost in a town I lived in for 18 years.

After yoga, I set the Hertz Never Lost for my grandparents house in Arlington — I didn’t need the guide; it was more symbolic, I guess.  They don’t live there anymore.  My GranGran died in 2005 and Memom died in 2009.  But it was the only address I knew, so I headed there.

I drove up.  They had removed the tree.  The door was red.  My family has fixed it up to sell it.  I couldn’t get in — so I just sat in my car and cried.  I wanted to go in and hear the door creak; see GranGran in his chair and kiss him hello as I walked back to Memom’s bed.  I wanted my head scratched with the thickest nails in the world.  Could someone give me that one more time?

No.

I called my husband and he was laughing it me.  He said, “You guys act like that place is Southfork.” 

I said, “It’s better than Southfork.”  And for me it was.  Both my grandparents homes in Arlington and Arkansas were complete constants in my life. They never changed.  They are still some of the only telephone numbers I know by heart.  Of course, they no longer call anyone I know.

My husband has never had to lose a constant.  We still go there every week for dinner. He’ll know what I mean one day.

I pulled myself together and drove to the Hyatt Place.  My home away from home.

The first thing I did when I walked in the room was play Stand again and dance.  I know it sounds insane. This whole journey is almost like an out of body experience — even though I’ve never been so in my body.

Chaz always makes us dance for several minutes in the middle of class.  When I first did it I hated it.  I would do anything to not dance, but here I was dancing alone in a hotel room. I have no idea.  I’ve stopped trying to explain myself.  I’m over 40 now, it’s the only excuse I can come up with for my bizarre behavior.

I decided to check-in on Facebook and see if anyone was around.  Within minutes an ovarian cancer survivor, Ang, who I have known virtually for years, responds.

I’m so excited!  We’re been trying to connect for YEARS and tonight we did it.  She picked me up and we went to a bar nearby and the evening was such an unexpected surprise.

About 15 minutes into our Shiner Bock (I only had one tonight) — she proceeds to tell me how much I have meant to her during her cancer fight with tears in her eyes.  She tells me that I don’t even know what I do for people with kindness and support.

I am in tears.  I make cancer videos — I had never had anyone say this to me.  I was so touched.  You honestly never know how you are impacting the people around you.  She gives me a glass Christmas ornament filled with sand, with Hope written on the outside and a feather painted on it.

The feather has a story.

We originally connected through this fantastic women, Lauren, who fought breast cancer valiantly.  I talked to her several times on the phone, but never met her face to face.  I loved Lauren because she was a bullshit free zone.  She called it exactly how she saw it.  She and Ang were really close; Lauren told her before she died she was going to haunt her with feathers. She does.

Tonight I felt like Lauren was there with us.

Ang and I talked for several hours; like we had known each other forever.  She told me how Lauren always said, “Everyone has their cancer.  It may or may not be cancer, but everyone has that life-altering event.  Something that changes them.  It’s their cancer.” 

It was in this moment, I knew why Stand was the song of the day.

 

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60 Days On the Mat – Day 12: We’ll Always Have Amsterdam

“Can you tell me how to get his schlong off of my Skype?” she asked me.

If I had had something to spit up I would have, but I was driving so all I could do was try to keep from killing us.

I really can’t believe she just said that — but then again, I can.  Women can be so crude when they are alone, and we were alone.  Before we even enter the restaurant she yanks out her iPad and asks me to remove  the avatar picture of the well-endowed fellow trying to connect with her on Skype.  The picture was something to behold — I see stuff like that and I know I am not crazy.  Good grief.

Somehow hitting delete was lost on her.  I know she secretly just wanted to show it to me. I would’ve done the same thing had this particular avatar been trying to Skype me. You could not help but laugh like you were 12.  We did.

I’m not sure why this scenario from a recent dinner kept cracking me up on the mat today. When I get over-tired, I get silly.  It was a very silly day.

Remember when I said hormones change like the weather?  Last week I retreated a bit, questioning everything, tonight I’m ready to go home and jump my husband.   Part of this is the fact I am on night eight away from home.  Hopefully  my hormones will help keep the remaining 48 days interesting enough, especially for my friend who reads this while drinking coffee.

I was back at Bikram this morning. It was the only studio with a class early enough to fit into my day.  Since Bikram is always the same, it’s easy to wander off in your mind, trying to distract yourself from the heat and sweat pouring off of your body.

As I was trying to do toe stand I thought about the night we were in Amsterdam.  We went to a coffee house.  If you can’t put two and two together on that one, then just know we had some really good coffee.  Neither one of us had ever been to such a place.  We finally found it by walking down the street using Google maps.  I will never forget that night because I do not think I have ever, ever, ever, ever (to quote the eloquent Taylor Swift) laughed so much.  Those poor Asian guys in the elevator.

For that night to come up in toe stand — it’s no wonder I couldn’t hold it.

I try to get all the laughs in with her that I can, even when she is jumping up and down on my very last nerve.  It’s easy for her to do.  We are as alike as we are different.  She is the only person in my life besides my husband that I can say, I’m having a meltdown right now, please don’t take this personally (insert rant here) and she doesn’t.

We’re heading to the coffee house and I’m dressed like a college kid and she is clomping down the cobblestone street in heels.  We finally arrive and she says, “We’re the oldest people here.” I said, “No, you’re the oldest person here.  You look like Jackie-o, I look like everyone else in here.”

Needless to say — as a unit, we stood out.  She can’t order food in a restaurant without a full inquisition, so you can only imagine a foreign “coffee house.”  Just the ordering was a comedy.  “We don’t want to go to sleep, we don’t want to be wired.  Definitely not asleep.  What’s in the middle?”  I just let her do the ordering.

Her cancer is metastatic, though you would never know it by looking at her.  I try not to think about that, instead I think about schlong Avatars and Amsterdam.  I think about how completely different my life would be without her in it.  I try to smile.  She’s fighting, so I fight — and today I laugh.

We’ll always have Amsterdam.

By the time yoga was over I had traveled around the world in my mind.  No babies. No ovaries.  Just exhausted silly.

When I think about her and all of the unknowns it puts a lot in perspective.  I cry, usually alone, because when I’m with her she talks about her mortality like the weather and I just slap her to keep from crying.

My sixth SABCS came to a close this afternoon and I headed back north to Austin.

Tonight I’m spending the night with my step-sister, her husband and my nephews.  The oldest is at a sleep-over but the 5-year old has let me have his bed.  They are adorable. Tomorrow we’ll have breakfast and hang out before I drive on to see old friends.

This closes day 12.  Monday night I’ll be back with Chaz in Westlake and home with my husband.  I really, really, really can’t wait to see him!

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60 Days On the Mat – Day 11: Forgiveness

Today I started the day on the mat with Rodney Yee.  I knew there was no way to get to a class given my insane schedule here in San Antonio  — so I fell out of bed at 6:00am and got on the mat.  I was exhausted in every possible away — physically, mentally, emotionally.

I thought — great, I am hitting a wall.  It’s day 11 and here I am at the wall already.

I decided, for once, not to beat myself up about it.

My practice was easy physically, but emotionally I was wrenched with this heavy, icky guilt.  Guilt is really a useless f!?king emotion.

Someone wrote me and asked if I was infertile because I had cancer.  I was taken aback by the question, but then I realized I work in cancer — one might assume I had had cancer. It was an innocent enough question.

For a moment, I felt guilty for not having cancer as my excuse for my infertility.  How ridiculous is that?

My “excuse” for my infertility is I never thought it would happen to me so I went for help too late.  It was just too late.  My eggs were done.  My ovaries had given all they could give.

I started a business at 36.  I got married at 38.  I just assumed it would all happen and when it didn’t I still kept thinking it would.  So, that is my excuse.  My life is my excuse.  I was living my life.

Today I was not crying on the mat — I was angry.  I was angry because I felt like I had to justify my choices.  My life was somehow flawed because I got going at this a little later than the national average.

I have never been average.

Thank God I was alone.

I went into headstand and held it for a long time, basically until all of the blood was in my brain.  I needed to shake things up; I had to reset this channel I woke up on.  Inversions are good for that.

When I came down, I went into rabbit pose for awhile and I tried to think about this from the perspective of the child I do not have yet.  Do I think our child would ever want to hear that their existence was a last resort — the end of some line because I have rotten eggs?

No, I don’t.

That sort of talk is completely out of alignment with what I’m feeling inside — I’m not ashamed to be using a younger woman’s eggs to make our family.  I’m not ashamed at all. However this all shakes out and whatever happens in the end, that child will grow in me and be nourished by me and loved more than even I can possibly imagine as I type this.

As I let myself relax in shavasana I knew the most important thing I needed to do was forgive.  I have to forgive myself for whatever it is I think I did wrong by simply living my life — that is my roadblock.

I knew the best thing that happened on the mat today was facing this.  I needed to start by changing the story I was telling myself.

People build their family in all types of ways, and this is how we are choosing to start ours.  The key word is choosing.

Our child would not be whoever they turn out to be without coming into existence this exact way.  That is a miracle.  A different kind of miracle than perhaps we would have had a decade ago when we met; but still a miracle.

One of the greatest forms of healing the soul is through stories — at least for me. Not therapy.  Not programs.  Just sharing stories.  We are all on an unique journey — it’s all ours, and with it comes our story.  Stories can provide windows into life  — past, present and future — unlike  anything else.

I came back from the conference this evening and a Fed-ex was waiting for me in my room.  I started the birth control pills and somewhere the young woman who likes chicken n’ dumplings is starting hers too.

My husband and I (along with an egg donor) are possibly starting our child’s story as we embark on this journey — it’s important that we make it a positive one; a nurturing one.

Tonight as I lie in bed typing this, my mind is not swirling.  I’m at peace — it’s an exhausted peace, but peace nonetheless.

I am grateful to have so many positive responses from friends, family and a few of you struggling with infertility as well.  I hope that by trying to share my story as honestly as I can, it might help someone else feeling alone and searching the internet for some magic egg juice.

Lord knows, I have!

 

 

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