About Us, Family Fun

July Adventures!

Oh, wow! Where did July go? It has been a busy, fun month for us, with all that we could ever hope for summer to include. As I am getting ready for the back-to-school professional development next week, I thought I would take a break and update y’all on our adventures!

The Fourth (and Our First Time Hosting Since the Plague!)

When we first got married, we lived on a lake. We spent our time hanging out with two other couples, and on the fourth of July, we always invited them over to watch fireworks on the boat with us.

Yes, that is the lake that no longer exists, since the earth dam broke last spring.

The problem is that one couple is not in the picture, which is okay, because they have moved to Texas as well and we took a picture of them this year on the fourth!

We found a good anchorage on the bay and grilled up our dinner. Then this interesting-looking barge anchored disconcertingly close to us…

We realized that they would be shooting the fireworks from that barge. We wanted a front row seat, but we didn’t want to be so close that we had to worry about a hole being burned into to top of our boat! We moved back a little bit, and still got to be right underneath the fireworks.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening!

Summer Camp!

Two days after the fourth, it was time for Iliana and me to take a road trip. Our destination? Camp Blessing Texas!

Ili made a grand entrance, with all the staff cheering for her!

At camp, Ili met Baily, her high school buddy who hung out with her all week, and the two of them went to the cabin to get settled in.

While Ili was away on her adventure, the camp posted daily pictures, so we could follow along!

Days 1 and 2

Days 3 and 4

And then it was time to pick her up! Ili had a great time, and made a lot of friends.

Camp Blessing is located in the same town as Camp for All, so of course we had to stop at Freezy Frenzy on the way home! This time, Iliana drew a picture to put on their wall.

20 Years!

While Iliana was at camp, Rob and I had our own adventure. You see, 20 years ago, on July 7, 2021, this happened:

I decided to begin our celebration with a cake!

Rob approved…

Since Rob had the next two days off, we left early in the morning for an adventure in San Antonio. We got permission to park at our Air BNB early, so that we could explore the town on bikes. We started with tacos for lunch…

…And had lots of fun exploring the River Walk!

We then enjoyed our stay in a beautiful apartment in a cute neighborhood on the Riverwalk.

The next day we arrived at home in time for a beautiful sunset!

Iliana Stays Busy!

Once we got home, Iliana realized that she loves spending time at the marina, and she has been exploring the water in her new kayak.

She also has been having fun with black-and-white film photography. Stay tuned for some of her prints, once she finishes her roll of film!

And tonight she joined us on a bike ride to the food park in Clear Lake Shores. We ate at Okies, which, hands-down, has the best Shirley Temples in town! (I’ve introduced Ili to the joy of the Shirley T!)

And yes, Rob rode his penny farthing, but you will have to wait for Ili’s prints to see that!

Back to School

Not long after our return from San Antonio, I had my first meeting regarding our return to school. I am one of the special education department leads starting this year, so I will be helping to lead a training starting on Monday, and from there on it’s back to career-woman-mode for me! I will still update y’all on my adventures and thoughts, but it will probably only be once or twice a month. I will also aim to check in with everyone else’s blogs that frequently as well.

I hope everyone has had a fun, “normal” summer!

Health, Philosophy

My Thoughts on Body Positivity

Like most women, I have spent a large portion of my life hating how I look. When I was a teenager and my weight got into the triple digits, I decided I must be huge and that everything would fall into place if I just lost weight.

I obsessed over dieting for a few years, certain that getting skinnier would solve all of my life’s problems. Of course I was tiny already, but I thought my very muscular thighs were too fat. And of course my roundy face was too roundy.

Me in seventh grade!

In high school I started eating like any other teenager, which got me up to a healthy weight. And then it kept climbing. I tried a few diets here and there, usually ending up back at a healthy weight whenever I used the South Beach diet.

The only time I was really happy with my body during that time was when I was pregnant. I felt gorgeous with my big baby belly!

Then it was back to the same, gaining then doing South Beach and losing, but never losing enough to really be happy with how I looked. As things grew worse in my career, the dieting stopped and the medicating with food started. I hated how I looked, and that only seemed to make me want more ice cream.

So I get it. When people say they are done with diet culture and hating on themselves, I absolutely get it. When I was miserable with my job and my life in general, the last thing I wanted to do was give up the only comfort I had. And standing in front of the mirror, looking at how awful I looked, only increased that misery.

If I had not started to see my beauty when I was at my heaviest, I think the cycle would have continued indefinitely.

But in seeing my beauty and learning to love that person, inside and out, I began to realize that I was medicating with food because I was miserable. Of course I took steps to make my life less miserable first, and that was the hardest part. But in loving myself, I saw that I was not feeling my best when I was overeating in order to escape. I was not feeling my best when I was caught in an addiction.

That is what led me to my therapist and dietician. If I were eating only when I was hungry and making food choices that led me to feel my best, it would not have mattered that I was the size I was. But the truth was, I no longer experienced the feeling of being hungry. I was so out of touch with my own body that I no longer recognized hunger.

Once I learned to recognize and honor my hunger and fullness, I realized that I wanted to make food choices that made me feel better. Pizza is so comforting, but when I eat it to fullness, I feel yucky and tired. I enjoy treats still, but I have learned that I feel better when I enjoy them in moderation.

And finally, my weight was a problem. I love running, doing yoga, and otherwise being active, and my weight was causing my knees to hurt to the point where I couldn’t climb stairs normally. Heart problems and diabetes run in my family, and taking care of my health was a part of loving myself.

I worked on being more informed about my food choices. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have treats, but it does mean that I practice moderation with some foods.

So while there are some aspects of “body positivity” that I definitely agree with, there are some areas where my opinion differs from some of the prevailing ideology.

Here are the thoughts I have on body positivity:

1. I had to see myself as beautiful before I could make changes.

I was never able to hate myself into thinness. I had to accept and love the person in the mirror, as she was. Even now, I have been happy with my appearance at every weight. I am trying to lose my pandemic pounds, because I gained them from binge eating. If I just naturally ended up at this weight through healthy eating, that would be fine.

2. For me, having some structure helps me be mindful.

I loved the book Intuitive Eating. In fact, I highly recommend it to anyone. However, I need a little more structure and information at this point. I monitor my weight, because it helps me understand my body better. I know that I tend to gain more water weight at different points during the month, for example. I also know that if the overall trend is toward weight gain, then I need to look at my patterns. When I am overeating, it is not long until my overall mental health takes a nosedive.

Tracking what I eat is also helpful for me, because it helps me see my patterns. I don’t obsess over calories, but when I go out of my Smartpoints range, it usually means that I am emotionally eating. Tracking also helps me to eat more of the foods that make me feel better: fruits, vegetables and lean protein.

3. I eat when I am hungry.

Always. I carry snacks with me and eat them when I am hungry. Yes, they are zero or low Smartpoint snacks, but that also helps me to gauge when I am actually hungry, as opposed to emotional eating.

4. Exercise is not punishment.

I went to a bootcamp class once. We worked really hard for the entire hour, and I could not do half of the exercises. I didn’t go back.

Instead, I focus on having an active lifestyle with activities I enjoy. I like running, because I have kind of a competitive streak. Yoga is my spiritual practice, and I never need to motivate myself to go to class. In fact, I need a good reason not to go, if I miss. I love walking, especially in the woods. And bike riding instead of driving is a special treat!

I don’t exercise to burn the fat. I am active because it feels good, and it improves my mood significantly.

5. I eat donuts.

There is a donut shop next to my yoga studio. They have a cream filled chocolate donut. They are delicious. I eat one every Saturday.

6. Everyone’s journey is different.

I don’t sit around, judging everyone who weighs more or less that I do! In fact, I barely notice and really don’t care. We are all at different places, and we are all doing our best. I just think the important thing to remember is that we need to do what works for us, rather than trying to follow a philosophy 100%.

Family Fun, Health

Vacation Adventures (and One Misadventure)

An Early Start!

On the day that the calendar for Elijah’s Retreat opened, it filled up. I was not able to get us our usual spring break adventure, but I did book a few days for us in June.

Usually, we leave right after Rob gets out of work, make the 3 hour drive, and arrive late in the evening. This time, however, Rob had Thursday, the day we were scheduled to arrive, off of work. We decided to leave Wednesday night and stay at an Air BNB in Conroe, which would put us on the other side of Houston for the drive the next day.

We found the most elegant garage apartment I have ever seen!

Ili, of course, had to do her algebra class in the morning.

Off to Elijah’s!

As soon as algebra was over, we made the drive to Elijah’s. Rob and Ili flew balsa wood airplanes in the field by our cabin.

Iliana test drove a couple bikes.

Dinner was hot dogs over the campfire.

And of course I took a walk down my favorite trail!

Friday morning meant one more algebra class. Ili needed to go to the activity barn for wifi, so she settled in, in the sensory room.

Animal feeding time, of course, was a favorite!

It was, of course, beautiful everyday!

Saturday meant feeding the animals again.

Later on that day, Iliana treated us to her baked s’mores!

It was definitely different visiting this time, with Ili getting older. Iliana noticed that she didn’t get as excited about some of the activities, but she talked to Miss Cheryl, who showed her how to lead the horse and told her she can be a volunteer next time we visit, and help the other kids while they are horseback riding. Ili was excited about that and didn’t want to leave on Sunday.

And the Misadventure

We had a few misadventures during this trip as well. I enjoyed having the time to walk and get lots of steps in, and I did a lot of this walking while exploring the woods. After doing some exploring away from Elijah’s property, I came home and took a shower, only to find a tick on my belly. Disgustingly, ticks love my fatty skin, and they always freak me out. I have a lot of moles, but I always look very carefully for ticks. This one blended in surprisingly well and I almost missed it.

So yuck, but Rob was the hero and removed the gross, black bug. It looked like it had just gotten there, which was a good thing.

Then there were my eyes. On Friday at some point, my left eye got really itchy and red. By Saturday they were both red. I figured it was allergies and bought eye drops. They helped a little, then by the time we got home, my eyes were red and angry. I Googled it and decided they must be sunburned. They cleared after a couple days once I was home, although they stayed light sensitive and itchy.

Then there was the heat exhaustion. I have gotten heat exhaustion every year we have been in Texas, and my sore, sore muscles and inability to regulate my body temperature told me that I had done it again. However, this time was worse, as a day of rest did nothing to help. By Wednesday, after we were home, I was beyond exhausted. Wondering if I was dehydrated, I drank Poweraide, which helped a little. I went to bed early and still woke up tired and sore.

And still the allergies! I had the worst sinus headache.

The last straw was the ringworm. On my left hip was an angry red bump, with the telltale white circle and red circle around it. I bought some cream, and in the morning the outer circle was less red, the bump was brighter and angry, and the outer rash had grown a quarter of an inch larger. I put more ointment on it, because it had to be ringworm, right? Nothing else looks like it. How many other rashes look just like a…target?

Oh crap.

Over on my tummy, the tick bite had swollen up, looking just like the angry red bump in the middle of the “ringworm.” And a red circle was starting to spread around the bite.

After a text conversation with a dial-a-doc, complete with pictures sent, I had a prescription for 20 days’ worth of Doxycycline, which, interestingly enough, is also what our dog is taking for her heartworm treatment. So I will not have heartworms and the dog will not have Lyme disease!

Yes, Lyme can be every bit as scary as the Rona, however it has the wonderful feature of being treatable, especially early on. In fact, we will never know if it is Lyme or STARI, which is spread by the lone star tick and not nearly as dangerous. Whatever it is, it is getting nuked by the antibiotics before we even have time to see what it is!

So today I have had my first two doses, and I actually have the energy to write a blog post for the first time since we got home! I even did the dishes and took out the trash, which also had not happened. The angry bumps are less angry, and the bullseyes are barely there anymore.

I have decided to create a new drink, called “The 2021.” It will be a glass of Corona with a lime in it…

Family Fun

Summertime Fun!

In case you don’t live in Texas, I will tell you that you are looking at an armadillo. Our neighborhood is home to the most adorable armadillo family, and they like to greet us on most of our evening walks.

In addition to our new animal friends, we have more adventures to share with you this month:

Birthday Ceramic Painting

When I was pregnant, I didn’t want to find out the baby’s gender until they were born. My friend Jocelyn, however, had a dream that I had to leave her daughter’s second birthday party because I went into labor and had a baby girl.

I never made it to the birthday party, but our daughters do share a birthday! They have always been good friends, and we decided to take them out to paint ceramics shortly after their birthday.

Our adventures included shopping, and I found yet another pain of blingy jeans!

Iliana decided to end the day by baking some cookies, using the teenager cookbook my mom got her for her birthday.

One Last Ronavax Encounter

Okay, we’re a little done with rona in this house! Iliana got her last dose of Ronavax this month, so none of us have to worry about that virus eating our brain, ever again…

It wasn’t a school day, but she wanted to wear her school uniform anyway. I loved her choice of mask!

Iliana made sure to wear her Pride month visor that she made at camp back in April!

When we got home, we found a lazar tag set from her Uncle Chris and Aunt Kelly!

Shopping Trip and Another New Neighbor!

After meeting the armadillos, our dog, Jasmine, was happy to meet another friend on her walk.

Yes, Rob snuck a picture of me into the series!

Iliana has been formulating her own sense of style, especially in the summer when she does not have to wear her school uniform. She and I decided a trip to the mall was in order!

Ili decided that I could go to Forever 21, since I had been good! I found a peasant cropped top that made her roll her eyes…

Otherwise, Iliana is keeping herself busy with her summer algebra bridge class, which she is taking over Zoom. (Since she is going to be taking algebra for high school credit next year, she has to take this class over the summer). Luckily, she enjoys it!

And of course there is more cooking…

And trips to the dog park!

Alligator Camping!

Sometimes armadillos and turtles aren’t enough. Then it is time to spend a weekend at Brazos Bend State Park. Their mascot is an alligator, and the park map contains a section titled, “Alligator Etiquette.”

My parents joined us, in their new camper!

We had our usual accommodations…

I started my day with my usual celery juice.

And we had lots of adventures!

Iliana met a baby alligator and a snake.

We saw a poster explaining that a Jeep running over an armadillo is a part of the carbon cycle.

Oh, and did I mention that it was gorgeous?

So those were our adventures this past week! This next week will bring us a trip to Elijah’s Retreat, which will definitely be fun, relaxing, and welcome.

I hope you all are having a wonderful summer as well!

Health, Philosophy

Navigating the New, New Normal

There are some people who never think about social norms. They just instinctively know what to do in various situations, and they are always in tune with the “unwritten rules” of the situation, without even being aware that there are unwritten rules. For them, it’s just what you do.

I am not one of those people.

I have to study the human race as if I am an anthropologist. I have often been assigned to teach social skills classes throughout my teaching career and I love it because it is an opportunity for my students and me to compare notes and learn together! And moving from rural, Northern Michigan to the Houston/Galveston area has provided my brain with plenty of social skills learning opportunities.

For example:

In Michigan, if you are on time, you are late. Down here, it completely depends on the situation. You get to yoga at least 15 minutes early. You arrive at work on time, on the dot. Leisure activities have a lot more flexibility.

In Michigan, you get straight to the point in your interactions. Down here, if you don’t chat a little bit (but not too much), you are rude.

In both places, if you are hosting, your guests will appreciate it if you ask about their specific dietary needs. In Michigan your guests will tell you (and they will have specific needs). Down here, they will tell you that they have no special eating needs (even though they do!).

In Michigan, you do not talk about race–to do so would be rude. Down here, using race as a descriptive characteristic or in other flattering (or at least non-offensive) ways is perfectly acceptable.

In Michigan, students make a sign language “t” for “toilet” when they need to use the facilities, which are called the “bathroom.” Down here, students sign “r” for “restroom” and refer to the facilities by the same name.

In both places, if you meet someone with differing political views, you both talk about how you deviate from your preferred party and try to find common ground.

In both states, the first person to the door, opens it. And it is always a race to be that person!

We have successfully crashed parties in both locations. Just bring something to share!

Rona Norms

So, enter the Rona.

Right away, we were faced with some new, emerging unwritten rules. Some people were extremely cautious from the beginning, and wanted absolutely nothing to do with this weird virus that humankind had never before experienced. Some people were comfortable retaining the risk and just wanted to live their lives as normally as possible. The rest of us fell somewhere in the middle.

Texas reopened very quickly, with in-person classes available at every school, so I re-entered pandemic society more quickly than people in other areas. But of course during all of this, people still spanned the spectrum with their comfort levels. I have friends who are just starting to leave their homes now, friends who we hugging and going maskless a year ago, and the rest of us, in the middle.

Here were some of the unwritten rules that evolved during the Rona:

Follow the lead of the most cautious person in the engagement. My friends who were going to indoor restaurants would eat outdoors with me. And I would meet for Facetime chats or quick parking lot gift exchanges with friends who preferred that.

Ask before hugging, and don’t take it personally if the answer is, “Sorry, no.”

Wear your mask by default, but it is okay to take it off (if you want) if everyone else isn’t wearing theirs.

Put on your mask if someone comes into the room wearing theirs.

Wear your mask while in indoor public places.

Socially distance, whether your mask is on or not.

Post-Rona Rules?

The rules all made sense, and then we got Ronavax…

Schools are very cut-and-dry about the rules for masks. On our campus, they were required for the rest of the 2020-21 school year, then optional starting June 4. Most businesses have also made masks optional. If there is a sign on the door stating otherwise, we always make sure to wear ours when we first walk through the door, then we take them off if other people are not wearing theirs.

The confusing part is when there is no sign. I was recently reprimanded for not wearing a mask into a store with not visible sign. This was more embarrassing for me than it should have been, because I felt like I should have known the rules when I clearly did not.

Well, at any rate, this will be a new, interesting chapter in the stories we tell our grandchildren one day!

Family Fun

Ronavax for Ili, End of the School Year, and 14 Years of Awesomeness!

More Ronavax!

Ili is going to summer camp in July, and we received an email recently that said every camper needed to have either a positive antibody test, proof of vaccination, or a negative Rona test a week before attending camp. We thought it would be great to avoid the hassle of subjecting Ili to a nose test the week before camp, so we decided to take the easy route and do the antibody test. It was April, and all three of us had had the Rona back in March. Easy peasy, right?

Some research online indicated that CVS had antibody testing available, and the nearest place listed was in Friendswood, 20 minutes away. I scheduled an appointment with plenty of time to spare before yoga class that night, and we made the drive. After arriving early and killing time in the dollar store, we checked in, only to be told that the computer system was down so testing was not available that day.

After some online research and calling around, I learned that the CVS next to the school where I work (which is MUCH closer to home than Friendswood) offered testing, had a functioning computer system, and had an appointment available in 20 minutes. With just enough time to make the drive we arrived at the store.

After an uncomfortable finger prick, we filled the nurse in on Ili’s history while we waited for the test results. If you remember, Rob and I tested positive at the end of February. Ili tested negative on February 28, but a few days later she started showing mild symptoms (very low grade fever, muscle aches, fatigue). We called the school nurse, who said that it was our choice whether to get a test, but that a positive test would not change her required quarantine days or return date. We decided not to get a test but just assumed she had the virus. So she snuggled with us and we all chilled together.

Well, it turns out that Ili’s symptoms could have been caused by many things…but definitely not Covid.

The nurse said that there was absolutely no way she had Covid back in March, if her antibody test was negative so soon after. So back to the drawing board.

Luckily, I received an email two weeks ago, that vaccine appointments were available for kids ages 12 and up, and that slots were set aside for students at our school that very afternoon. Ili is usually fine with shots, but during that surprise appointment, it took three nurses to accomplish the mission. Now we’re good until dose #2 on Thursday.

End of the School Year

Well, we made it through the year of craziness! This was an especially emotional end of the year for a lot of the kids.

Iliana kept busy. She shared a poem during her class’s poetry slam, and she danced to “Bang” in the school talent show. Here she is, doing some sun salutations to warm up!

The end of the school year, of course, meant state testing. This year, it has been emphasized that the testing is mostly for our information, so that we can see how much students have fallen behind, due to the pandemic.

Well.

One morning, my boss couldn’t wait to talk to me, because Ili’s scores had come in. She had aced the math test, which was no surprise, because she has never not aced the math test. However, she also aced the reading test! So next year Iliana will be taking algebra and pre-AP English. We are very proud of her!

Iliana Turns 14!

The year Iliana was born, I worked right up to the last day of school, then went to the hospital the next evening (she was born 22 hours later!). So that means that every year, her birthday is always right before or right after the last day of school. This year, it was the day after.

We decorated our apartment for the occasion…

Iliana’s big present was Mario Kart Home edition!

And of course, we had to set the Roomba loose on the track!

Instead of a party, Ili wanted to do a weekend get-away at a hotel with a pool. So I found us a suite in the Energy Corridor. We swam, I went thrift shopping, and our high point was playing the Oregon trail card game!

But then of course this happened….

So happy summer everyone! I hope you are having a fun, dysentery-free Memorial weekend!

Philosophy

Ascending the Mountain

I have a friend who taught a yoga nidra class that I attended. One of my favorite scripts that she read was a visualization of climbing a mountain. It began at the base of the mountain and described our ascent as we traveled with a guide.

In the beginning, the guide that I visualized was a generic-looking outdoorsman with a dark beard and a camera. As I approached the summit in my mind, however, I realized that my guide had become an older, stronger version of myself.

When I told my friend about this after class, she said, “Bethany, don’t you realize that you are supposed to be the guide by the end of the meditation?”

Last summer, during the shutdown, I knew that I was going through a difficult but transformational time in my journey. As I came through it and learned and grew, I was able to see how the journey up the mountain was a perfect metaphor for my own path. And I saw that while many people walked with me on the journey, there were definitely four people who filled the role of “guide.”

This is my story of their influence on my climb.

2012: The Path at the Base of the Mountain

Guide: Kyle

Let’s begin this story in the fall of 2012. I had just returned from a 93-day sailing trip on the Great Lakes, and I felt a yearning for something more than life in my neighborhood in Harrison, Michigan could offer. I felt more and more out of synch with my teaching job that I had once loved. Returning to “reality” made me restless, and I coped with it by writing on my old blog, Journey to Ithaca.

At that time I was just beginning to embrace the minimalist lifestyle, and I quit Facebook for the first time. I reached out to a number of other bloggers through email, including one I will refer to as “Kyle,” who wrote a blog about mindfulness and meditation. Kyle got my attention when he commented on one of my blog posts, recommending the book Linchpin by Seth Godin and saying that I should read it, because it really applies to me.

I always loved it when friends recommended books, and I would always email them with my thoughts (and general commentary) when I had finished the book. This book, however, completely blew my mind. The information in the book, coupled with the idea that Kyle had said that I was a “linchpin” and capable of accomplishing great things, was mentally overwhelming. I began to realize that every assumption I had held about myself was likely false. I saw that I had been holding a negative identity of myself, and that my beliefs about myself were holding me back.

Kyle encouraged me in this redefining process and recommended more books for me to read about brain research, Zen, and positive thinking. At times during this process, I felt like I was losing my mind, and my emailing habits became quite excessive. Kyle had his own challenges, and while our interactions were purely platonic, I don’t know that they were necessarily “healthy.” However, he did lead me to the mountain that I would climb. He introduced me to ideas that would become the mainstay of my journey.

As I was reading and studying, my situation at my job only became worse. I was unhappy with it, and I wanted to see more and do more. The work that I had done allowed me to understand that I was in control of my situation, and that led me to make the choice to travel with my family across the country and start a new life. I saw that we could create something new, although I was terrified of repeating the same play on a new stage.

Eventually, I had made it as far as Kyle could lead me, and our paths split into different directions. We lost contact, which seemed to be for the best. Still, I am grateful for what I learned and the beginning of my journey.

2013-2016: The Beginning of the Ascent

Guide: Ewa

I had started working with an online life coach before I moved to Texas, but I really did not commit to the process until a few months after I had moved. I had been introduced to the idea of redefining limiting beliefs by Kyle, but with Ewa, I went through boot camp!

Through our emails, Ewa taught me techniques for calming my very overactive fight-or-flight response, then guided me through a questioning process to uncover and replace all the assumptions I had been holding. I realized that I had a constant verbally abusive commentary running through my head, and I was able to stop it rather early in our work together.

My new job was not working out as wonderfully as I thought it would, and for awhile I had multiple email exchanges with Ewa over the course of a day. With her guiding me through the redefining process, I was able to change my perception of myself, which in turn, helped to improve my situation. After two years, I was moved into a much better-suited position at work.

Near the end of my time working with Ewa, I asked her to train me in her method, and I began working with coaching clients. I loved being able to help others in the way that I had been helped, and I was able to see that everyone is vulnerable and everyone faces fear. While I eventually stopped doing coaching (because I quickly burned out on the marketing aspect of running a side hustle), working with clients was an important step in my journey.

It was through my work with redefining, that I first experienced what I referred to as “the place of love”–the state of mind that lies beyond fear, assumption, and identity. It was fleeting, but it was very real.

It was while I was working with Ewa that I discovered yoga. I saw my overeating as a response to being in fight-or-flight and an effort to ground myself, so I joined a gym to try and adopt some healthier habits. This gym had a yoga class, and one of my friends in Michigan always talked about how much she loved yoga. (I wrote more about my yoga journey here).

I wrote to Ewa after my first few classes, discouraged because my body was so inflexible and there were 20-year-olds in class doing handstands. Ewa’s response was: “But what yoga really teaches you is that you can’t compare, that the only journey is your own. That each time you stand at the top of your mat, you bring your focus onto the tip of your nose and your breathing, cultivating your sense of awareness in a practice that is different every day, even if you do the same postures over and over.”

By then, I was living on a boat with very comfortable living space, working in a job that was okay, and looking for a new place to practice yoga. Ewa was looking to make a career change, when I emailed her and said I had found a new yoga studio that I loved, and I joked that I had a “girl crush” on the instructor, who would become guide #3.

Ewa and I have kept in touch through our new adventures, with a few emails throughout the year.

2016-2020: The Steep Approach to the Summit

Guide: Cass

My yoga teacher, Cass, says that 3 is the number of completion, so it is very fitting that she was the third guide on my journey.

I have written before about my yoga practice and the lessons I have learned from Cass, but I think it is important to note that I could not have learned and grown as much as I did, if I had not done the groundwork prior to the day I found Moonlight Yoga. The steepest climb on the mountain happened during my time working with Cass, but I had to climb up to that point before I could begin to traverse the rockiest part of the path.

It was during this leg of my journey that I began to see the full extent of the damage done by my lack of self-value. My work situation had become abusive, I spent my time with friends who did not lead me to become my best self, I drank way too much, and my binge eating was completely out of control.

Yes, I knew how to redefine, but I often would not do it on my own, because I was too angry at myself. I considered everyone to be a potential threat, and I did not know how to even begin to self-advocate without being passive-aggressive.

I enlisted the help of a therapist and later, a dietician as well. Therapy helped me to process my emotions as I faced the challenges and made the necessary life changes during this time.

But yoga was my mainstay and my path back to myself. And Cass was the one who helped me access it.

It was Cass who helped me to find my voice and showed me that it is okay to speak up and address issues directly. It was Cass who encouraged me during 6 am classes while I was going through my last year at my old job. It was Cass who told me with absolute confidence that her role was to show me my value and told me that I was beautiful when I was at my heaviest. It was Cass who was my biggest cheerleader when I decided to go back to teaching full time.

She was the first person I told when I was offered my dream job.

Cass taught me that I can create a new reality, and, most importantly, that I am deserving my dreams. Yoga has led me to create a life better than I ever imagined was possible. It is because of yoga that I look in the mirror and see a beautiful person looking back.

Yoga taught me patience. My body has consistently become more flexible, but it has been very slow, steady progress. I have learned that if this is okay with me, then this is okay. And I have learned to see and appreciate the slow, steady progress that I have made throughout my life, with my mind and with my habits.

Cass never told me what to do, but she always supports me in reaching the goals that I have set for myself. From day 1, her words and actions have been leading me closer to my fourth guide, the one who will accompany me to the top of the mountain.

2020-Present: Approaching the Top and Watching the Sunrise

Guide: Bethany

Now the drama is (mostly) gone, and I am finding that I can take risks as I reach toward my dreams. My dreams themselves have grown, and I understand that failure only happens if I give up. I realize that if something is okay with me, then it is okay. I no longer feel the need to seek approval or validation (although I do like to brag about my accomplishments!).

This does not mean that I am perfect. I still have crabby days and days of self-doubt. And I understand that being okay with those is also a part of the process.

The best part is that as I have made peace with myself, I have become more understanding of those around me. I have had the confidence to step into more roles where I can give back, and I believe in myself enough to take chances and make a difference.

My yoga practice is still very much a part of all of this, and Cass is still a very significant mentor in my life. However, there has definitely been a shift, and I am definitely the guide on this leg of the journey.

The yoga nidra that my friend led years ago, ends with you and the guide reaching the top of the mountain and watching the sun rise over the city and valley below. I am not to the peak yet, but when I get there, I will definitely share pictures of the beautiful sunrise.

Family Fun

Yes, We Are Still Alive!

Happy weekend, everyone!

I know it has been two weeks since we last checked in. The end of the school year is always crazy, and the pandemic has added extra craziness this year.

Oh, and Ili and I went to camp last weekend!

This was our first time returning to camp since the beginning of the pandemic. Things were definitely different, but it was fun to be back!

As always, our adventure began with the bonfire. We had to socially distance, but there were s’mores involved!

Because of Covid, each family had their own cabin. Ili and I chose bunkbeds on opposite sides, and we made the most of our space!

In the morning, we had (socially distanced) energizers, and then we got to meet our group.

And guess which activity Ili and I got to do first…

Thanks to yoga, I scaled the rock wall in record time. My hip range of motion has definitely increased–noticeably!

After the rock wall and zip line, it was time for the giant swing. This was new at Camp Be An Angel, but it had been one of Iliana’s favorite activities at summer camp two years ago.

And, of course, I took a turn as well!

After we recovered, Ili surprised me by knowing how to steer a canoe.

Fishing was next, and Iliana persisted in spite of the bait-stealing turtles. She caught fish after fish, and was the last to leave when it was time for lunch.

Lunch was a time for Ili to draw and relax. Due to social distancing, each family had their own table in the dining hall.

After lunch, it was time for horseback riding! Much to my surprise, I could move my leg the right way to dismount correctly. More yoga magic, I suppose!

Then it was time to see the barnyard animals. Unfortunately, Dali the Llama is now “retired.” (I suspect he is taking selfies in the big farm in the sky.)

After that it was time for some disc golf.

We definitely worked up an appetite by the time we arrived at the dining hall!

Previous years, we have gone swimming Saturday evening, or if the weather was too cold, we would have a dance. This year, they told us to gather in the dining hall to get ready for an activity.

This activity involved having each family carry one glow stick to the “Star Place” on the opposite side of the camp. The staff would be walking around with flash lights, and if they shined one on us, we had to freeze. If we moved or talked, they would take our glow stick and we would have to go back to the dining hall to get a new one. The game was surprisingly a lot of fun! And Ili and I made it on the first try.

Morning brought us breakfast and our picture from the day before. I bought us matching Camp for All shirts (and a coffee mug) from the camp store.

Previously, Sunday was a very low-key day at camp. We would have free time in the morning, with an optional church service, followed by the talent show.

This year, however, the day was filled with even more activities! We began our day with arts and crafts.

Ili and I always went to the “Tree House” during our free time on Sunday, and this year we had just enough time between arts and crafts and the next activity. Feeling too cool for this tradition, my 13-year-old reluctantly indulged my nostalgia.

After that, it was time to visit the reptiles and go on a nature walk/scavenger hunt.

Our walk ended at the archery range! With the smaller groups, Iliana and I both got some individualized help from the staff. By the end of our time there, we were both hitting the target consistently. We felt like Katniss Everdeen!

Ili was not excited when they sang the tear-jerking song at lunch (they have replaced “The World’s Greatest” with an equally tear-jerking song!), but she was happy to stop at Freezy Frenzy on the way home. Clearly, she does not share her mother’s enthusiasm for taking selfies, however.

So that was our adventure! We were both a bit wiped out after the busy weekend, and Iliana developed a fever and aches for a day and had to stay home from school on Monday. However, it was completely worth it.

We are now looking forward to more adventures! Iliana will turn 14 the day after school gets out, and we will need to celebrate. June will bring a camping trip with my parents, as well as a visit to Elijah’s Retreat. In July, Iliana will spend a week at Camp Blessing. And I plan to order my new lipstick for the fourth of July!

P.S. Rob and I finally ate at a restaurant tonight! Like indoors, at a table. It was crowded, with music and craziness. Normalcy approaches…

Philosophy

Why I Stopped Preparing for the Worst

When I was in sixth grade, I ran for student council vice president. After a crazy month of covering the hallways in campaign signs, it was time to hear the results of the vote count. As we sat in the principal’s office waiting to hear the results, a teacher cautioned us, “Prepare to lose.”

At the time this seemed like sensible advice. Statistically speaking, most of us were going to lose. Better to be expecting disappointment and possibly be pleasantly surprised right? So although I was disappointed that I had not won, I felt like I had done the best thing I could to mentally prepare myself for this.

I lived much of my adult life with this mindset. I interviewed for a job where they told me that there would likely be a job offer, but I was prepared for the possibility of it falling through. I tempered the emotional high that I would have felt if it were a sure thing, and I was happy that I had a backup plan when things didn’t go as expected.

At this new job, things went wonderfully, but I was always looking ahead for things that might go wrong, not allowing myself to get too comfortable. So when those things actually happened, I was not as disappointed as I could have been.

My career continued in this fashion, preparing for the worst, then not being overly surprised when it happened. I learned to keep my expectations “realistic.” But at the same time, I found that my focus on the worst case scenario kept my confidence low. I didn’t take many risks, because I was focused on the possibility of losing my income.

The turning point happened during the pandemic. I was constantly stockpiling food, in case there were a survival situation where we were unable to get more. I soaked up doomsday stories, preparing for every possible bad outcome. When I went back to work, I was so, so careful, wearing and N95 all day and changing and showering as soon as I got home. I was fixated on the worst case scenario–that I would get very sick from the virus and spread it to others.

Long before I actually caught the virus, I encountered an opportunity at work. I had been working as a teaching assistant, and the teacher in charge of our team unexpectedly resigned. I applied for the position, then began my usual process of preparing for it not to happen. Maybe someone has a friend who is going to get the position. Maybe nobody sees me or would even consider me. Maybe my past trauma from my previous job would be a reason not to hire me. All of these scenarios were far fetched, but as I fixated on them, I began to feel as if they had happened. And this, of course, made me very angry, because it would be horrible if any of those scenarios were true.

Then I stopped. I was so tired of worrying and fixating on negativity. I was so tired of giving all of my energy to horrible things that had not happened. I was tired to never celebrating until something was perfectly safe and secure.

And so I celebrated. Of course I would get the job. I was a special education teacher with 15 years experience. It is very rare for someone to last that long in this field. I am likable and excellent at leading a team. And this opportunity was too perfect. It was my dream job, set right in my lap. It was a God thing, a Universe thing. Whatever you want to call it, it was meant to be.

I let myself fully experience the feelings of joy over returning to teaching and landing the perfect job. I told my friends, and I knew that the traumatic experience I had been through at my old job, did not define me. I foolishly refused to consider any other outcome.

One morning I felt the urge to check my email before I left for work, and I saw that an interview was scheduled for that day. I knew that getting the job was a sure thing, and this was just a chance for me to demonstrate my knowledge and experience, and for the team to see what I already saw–that I was the perfect fit.

The interview went flawlessly, and I was authentically me. The next Monday, I woke up feeling grateful and sent a text to one of my friends, reflecting on how far I had come over the past 5 years. Shortly after I arrived at work, I was offered the new position, and I excitedly accepted.

Of course, the inevitable question is, what if I had not been offered the position? Wouldn’t it have been better to have been prepared for that?

My answer is that if I had “prepared” for the worst, I would have mentally gone through the scenarios where the worst could have happened, and most of those involve doubting my worthiness or expecting unfairness. I did consider the unlikely chance that someone more qualified that I would get the position, but I knew that was unlikely so I did not dwell on it. I would learn a lot from such a person, so it was still a win-win.

Fixating on the worst and not allowing the celebration from the beginning, led me to fixate on my unworthiness and to expect unfairness. Celebrating early on helped me to see my value and to see the universe as a whole in a rosier light.

Given the choice, I will always try to see the rosy light from now on.