Saturday, June 11, 2016

We Met at Size 8: My adventures in Europe, Part VII

The palace grounds were filling up, and the police officer who informed us of the event, also shared how to keep our personal items safe. Pick pocketing is a profession in this area, and unsuspecting visitors are the prime target. We needed to be aware of our bodies and personal possessions.  OK, I could do that...I'm always on high alert in new settings, so this was not going to be a problem.

The waiting seemed to take forever. Tourists were leaving their purses behind them on the ledges, letting their kids run around unsupervised, making me nervous for each of them. Thankfully, two beautiful children, along with their mom, came to talk to us. Just talking with them grounded me and centered my attention on what was important.

I could feel the air shift and my anticipation grew. The electricity in the air was palpable. We could see the mounted guards circling the streets surrounding the palace. For Londoners, I'm sure this event becomes part of the landscape. We seem to acclimate so very easily to our surroundings that we forget what is truly spectacular. Well, this to me was spectacular. Watching YouTube videos of this does not do it justice.

The Mounted Sentries were beginning to enter the grounds, and I got chills! I wish I had the words to describe this experience...utter awe barely touches it. However, as soon as it started, it seemed to be over. What we didn't anticipate was that we had to wait to cross the road (Buckingham Gate) until the ceremony was completely over. We had so much more to see, and so little time to see it in! Again, I cannot tell you the order in which we saw everything, but Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London were what I remember most vividly. The Abbey breathtakingly beautiful...the Tower of London...well, more about that next time.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

We Met at Size 8: My adventures in Europe, Part VI

On the day of the Irish Pub and beautiful weather, Becky and I had the town to ourselves. We had no tour guide (Chris and Erika were not there on that day), so we were our own tour guides. We had the London Pass and the Oyster Card to travel the Underground. So let me stop here. Do I sound like I know what I'm talking about? Come on...if you've read this far you already know the answer to that.

So armed with our 'stuff' we got to travel from place to place using the underground railway system. Erika assured us we could do it. Becky was braver than I, but I pulled up my big-girl britches and was ready to go. First stop? Again, I don't know! But we made it--wherever our destination lead us. 

But what I do remember (again vividly--because this is connected with my heart) was the breathtaking site of the palace. It stopped me short. (We didn't realize, however, that we weren't able to tour the palace--that happens in summer--but we saw so many people standing around looking at the palace. I figured this must be customary for tourists to do that. And maybe it is. But, in my heart I knew that there was a reason everyone was standing around. After a bit of gently nudging Becky, we decided to stay for an hour. 

We approached a police officer walking among the crowd, and we asked him what they were all waiting for. The reason? We were going to see the Changing of the Guard!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

We Met at Size 8: My adventures in Europe, Part V

Why is it I remember the inconsequential things? I don't know...I should be talking about the beautiful architecture, the wonderful shops, the palace (wait, I WILL talk about that...just not right now), right? But knowing who I am, I have embraced that part of me. It took years for me to understand why so many people labeled me as sensitive. I used to take that as an insult, but I know now, through all my life experiences, that my sensitivity has made me into a strong and loving person. I wouldn't change that for the world.

So, why do I remember that London has no bathrooms (unless you go into a restaurant?) WHAT? I'm sure they do, but my sister and I couldn't seem to find any on our day trip together on a beautiful day in London. As a tourist, I'm sure I just didn't have a guide to help me in that department; had I, I wouldn't be sharing this funny story right least to me.

We found a pub that was basically empty because it was between lunch and dinner, but I knew they would have to have a bathroom. So here's the dilemma: I'm gluten free, and this is an Irish pub that basically has no gluten-free options for me. But at this point I couldn't hold it any longer! So, we ordered 'chips'' (deliciously wicked French fries) and pops. I felt incredibly embarrassed by having to to do this just to use the bathroom, but the lovely gentlemen (who were old enough to be my sons) made the stop so worthwhile. They absolutely enjoyed our company as we did theirs, and I got to use the bathroom. Twice.

Monday, May 23, 2016

We Met at Size 8: My adventures in Europe, Part IV

I completely underestimated London's weather. I didn't pack the right amount of clothes or the type. I was openly frustrated trying to figure out what to wear. The rain was insane. Hyperbole? Not even a little bit. Sight-seeing in horizontally-pelting rain is an adventure...not a fun one...but an adventure nonetheless. Don't plan on experiencing that again, either, mind you. Oh, and to top it all off, my beautiful polka-dot umbrella met its demise in London. Now that was bittersweet.

Our trek from Cambridge to London is lost on me. Again, I'm sure I became so overwhelmed with the travel, I shut down. If my sister ever wants to chime in with a comment to correct any of my errors, I'd be grateful. Have at it, Becky! But here's what I do remember vividly: The conversation with one of our taxi drivers en route to someplace. Can't remember where. But here is my caveat: I will not participate in political banter here or on any other social media outlet, so if my prose leaves a lot to the imagination, then great!

He, our taxi driver, was more than happy to share his opinion of the political climate in the states (which I found out later in our trip, was consistent among a few Londoners who were brave enough to share their opinions). His biggest fear? WWIII. ! ! ! ! !

This sure made this seemingly huge world (in my perspective) very, very small. Here were people openly sharing their views and doing it with as much gusto as any American. What I did do was listen. And listen. And listen. I rarely make my political opinion known publicly, and I won't now. But my eyes were utterly blown wide open....

Friday, May 20, 2016

We Met at Size 8: My adventures in Europe, Part III

What I remember vividly is checking into our first hotel in Cambridge, England. My brother and his wife live there, so I knew we were going to get crème de la crème tour guides. OK, I lie, I don't remember the hotel name, but I do remember trying to figure out why my adapter that I bought for Europe wouldn't fit in the hotel's outlet. My sister, Becky, had bought this amazing adapter and was going to try it. After all, it cost upwards of $30 and was supposedly the best. To test it out, she plugged in her hairdryer and the strip adapter sparked and seemed to explode. Yikes! So much for money "well spent". We contacted the front desk and a nice man brought up a few UK adapters, (not European!) and explained that US hairdryers and UK outlets don't mix. Ours were obviously way too powerful. Thank goodness they had a hairdryer there. Our first logistical lesson. 

Cambridge is a beautifully quaint city. The architecture is nothing like here in America. My pictures of Cambridge are skewed, so I won't post the buildings per se, but here are a few that told about the famous pub, The Eagle, the site of take a look: 

Wow DNA discovered in a pub in Cambridge...well not in the pub, mind you, but you get the idea. 

The other place that I just loved was a quaint shop called Nomad. The owner, Fin, is a Deadhead and we had a lot to talk about. He even threw in an extra bundle of incense, because, that's just what Deadheads do. More to come!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

We Met at Size 8: My adventures in Europe, Part II

As we flew into Heathrow Airport, London, I saw a most magnificent city! The London Eye was unmistakably awesome! Taking all this in on the airplane was much easier for me than I knew it would be on the ground. Here it was safe and not so terribly overwhelming. I'm not sure how many times I grabbed my sister's hand and said, "I can't believe we're here!" My sister is one of a kind. She takes it all in, and adds a snarky comment occasionally to keep me guessing. She is not one to pour her feelings takes quite a bit for her to choose to do that...she's told me it doesn't come naturally to her. I, on the other hand, will gush...sometimes ad nauseum. My sister is much more reserved on that front. But I digress...

I cannot remember the next couple of hours after landing. When I get overwhelmed, I shut down. The first overwhelming aspect of our trip was DRIVING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD! OK, I know that in England this is the way they do things, but actually doing it...well, it's quite an experience. OK, public service announcement here: I cannot for the life of me remember hotel names, restaurants, minor excursions, brain doesn't work that way. I know that taking the time to write things down or save memorabilia would be helpful, but that's not my way either. I'm an in-the-moment kind of gal when it comes to vacations or day excursions. I may take lots of pictures, but then may have no idea what they are of; thank God for the location device on my iPhone. It takes care of that for me. So basically, if you are looking for a "tour" of my trip, you won't get one. This is a journey into my mind, heart, soul, and all the other parts of me that make up who I am. So if this is not for you, you may stop reading. I won't mind. Hell, I won't even know who reads my stuff other than the comments I receive on Facebook.

So all that said, I hope you are enjoying your neck of the woods this weekend--cold and wet where I'm at--but I hope no matter the weather, you are all shining inside or appreciating your moment. More to come. Namaste.

Friday, April 29, 2016

We Met at Size 8: My adventures in Europe, Part I

The planning began two years ago. My sister and I were sitting in her small den off her bedroom. After a glass of wine, she told me that to celebrate my 50th birthday, she was going to take me on an all-expense paid trip to anywhere I wanted to go in the world. She knew she needed to give me two years to digest this. For those of you who read my blog, you know that I am not a willing traveler. Being away from home for extended periods of time (especially out of state) is way out of my comfort zone.  Honestly, I would have been happy going to a contiguous US state. She insisted it needed to be out of the country. How could I be away from my family for that long? What if they found out that they didn't need me anymore? Writing this, I can see how crazy this sounds, but in my heart, those fears are real.

Originally, we had decided that the Caribbean would be a nice place to relax for a week and a half. I wasn't married to this place, hell, I wasn't married to even going! But this place was the closest to my home. I wanted to be able to leave at a moment's notice should there be a problem. Basically, I was picking a destination for its proximity, not as a perfect destination.

Our minds were made up when my brother married a beautiful Spanish woman who lives in Cambridge, England. They came to the US to marry, so I was able to meet her (on the day of the wedding) and I immediately knew my brother was one lucky dude. We had to visit them in England! This was the first time in the past two years that I had started to feel excitement rather than dread. My sister planned the trip leaving no arrangement (car service, train ride...) left to chance. Our itinerary? Cambridge, London, Barcelona! We had invited our brother and his wife to join us in Barcelona. Unfortunately, my brother's visa hadn't been updated to allow him to travel outside of England--a topic my brother has little good to say about. But that didn't stop his wife from joining us.

The weeks approaching this once-in-a-lifetime trip seemed to drag by. Each day was long, and the weeks even longer. And surprising to say, my attitude was improving and my fear abating. I would be spending my 50th birthday celebration in Europe!

Friday, September 18, 2015

My Yoga Present to Myself: Sukhava Bodhe 2015

My planning for my 50th birthday retreat seemed to go on forever, but my trans-formative weekend went by in a flash. Planning is one thing, but the experience is something completely different. What surprised me was my full immersion in the weekend. So much of my planning time was spent worrying about being away from my family. My kids would tell you that they were thrilled I was leaving! This left them the entire weekend to do guy things. Had I allowed myself to really think on that, it may have stung, but I know that they, too, need time, just like me, to rejuvenate, explore, and just have fun.

Our cozy yurt
This is exactly what I got. My retreat, Sukhava Bodhe, was amazing. The yurt my friend Jen Vincent and I stayed in was delightfully cozy: right smack-dab in the middle of the festival. We had people stop by and talk with us, and a couple of people even sat and shared food with us. The atmosphere was one of complete trust with all of the people there. I have never experienced so much of that concentrated in one place before! We were asked to trust the practice of yoga, each other, our space, and we didn't even have a key to our yurt. I was assured that the people at the retreat were all good/trustworthy people. Jen and I even left our windows open when we slept. Anyone could have peeked in, but I doubt there was enough light to see us tucked in and snoozing. Truly this comfort and trust was remarkable for me. What I found out about myself surprised me. I had anticipated becoming completely altered after this retreat, and that frightened me, but I had a wonderful conversation with an instructor (one of the people that stopped by and shared watermelon I had on our picnic table) that changed my thinking about this. He said roughly this: Yoga doesn't necessarily have to change you, it allows you to release and let go of all the accumulated stuff that sits in our bodies and minds. How right he was. And the pictures below illustrate this concept perfectly for me. My yoga practice looked very different compared to those pictures below. I have used words in my discussions with people about my body's limitations. No longer! I used those words with an instructor saying, "My knees won't do that." Her response, "Not yet!" How true. I learned that my mind can be my biggest enemy or my greatest gift. I learned to trust that a base can hold me up. That I can hold up a flyer! Even a 190 lb. one! I learned that I can do an inversion. While I haven't (yet) stuck a handstand without assistance, I will. I will. I experienced Kundalini yoga for the first time. What an experience that was. I had what some might refer to as a Kundalini awakening. It was a bit frightening, but I was assured this is perfectly natural and expected in the beginning. I have now begun to incorporate some of the Kundalini teachings into my own practice. Little by little, starting my 50th decade (November), I'm filled with hope and excitement for more trans-formative experiences. I am open to what is coming my way. AND I just may return to Sukhava Bodhe next Labor Day weekend. Who knows? I'm keeping my options open!

Jen and me

Me as a flyer
Ready for lift off

Great stretch...
Flying again with a wonderful base

Jen taking Paddle board Yoga (SUPyo)

Getting ready to go into supported handstand...didn't quite make it!

Me as a base

Me as a base
We were without an instructor, so we just played

Me flying in throne...Now this was exciting!
Slacklining...this was fun!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Gift of Yoga: Thoughts about my Upcoming Retreat

Labor Day weekend is coming. My planned yoga retreat is just around the corner, and I am filled with so many mixed emotions. This is the first time ever that I have given a present to myself on this scale. Celebrating my 50th year, I knew I had give myself a gift that supports my belief of the importance of self-care and healthy living. I had the idea of splurging most likely in 2013. The thoughts of turning 50 seemed daunting at the time, but if I chose to, I could celebrate rather than mourn my changing body and passing years. So I put it down in writing, maybe just to set an intention, or maybe just to remind myself that each year, each day offers us something new if we are willing to open our minds and hearts. Looking back at this post, Present to Myself, I can see that it did the trick. Setting that intention gave me the direction I needed to keep that dream alive.

The emotions I'm feeling seem to be normal, but I can't help compare myself to those who are able to give to themselves much easier than I am able to. My sister, for example, travels often for business and pleasure. She travels with her family and takes trips with her friends. I honestly don't know how she does it. The part of me who is excited about this retreat is also feeling guilty for giving myself this. While this is not necessarily an expensive trip, it is more than I am comfortable spending. I have saved for this, but I can't help wondering if this money would be better spent elsewhere...and that's when I stop myself.  A good friend of mine said something to me years ago that has stuck with me ever since. My oldest son was 9 months old at the time, and I had been having severe lower back pain. My doctor had ordered physical therapy, but I didn't want to be away from my son any longer than was necessary. My friend knew how I was struggling with the pain, and she said this: Two hours a week taking care of yourself will make you a better mother. You are doing your son no good when you are in pain. So how does this relate? This weekend has the potential to give my mind, body, and soul a rejuvenating lift to make me a better person all around. This link will take you to the festival. The line-up is quite impressive. Sukhava Bodhe Yoga Music Festival 

My Dream Yoga Retreat is almost here. I hope my enthusiasm will outweigh my guilty feelings of going. The connections I am sure to make both personally and socially are sure to have  a profound affect on me. I hope you all are enjoying life in your neck of the woods. Namaste.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Rebooting: Mind, Body, Soul

Hopefully, in your neck of the woods, spring is in the air. Here in Northern Illinois, sometimes it's spring, sometimes not...ahhh, Midwest either love it, hate it, or accept it. But after a relatively long winter, it's time to open up the windows, breathe in the clean fresh air, and re-energize your mind, body, and soul. For me, that means so many things.

Spring time is proof that dormancy is a must. It gives the creatures and plants of this world time to rest. If you're like me, I tend to view the last month of winter as God's joke. Are we being put to the test to see if we have what it takes to get through? Or is this a reminder that we still need our rest before we begin the re-awakening of life. Sometimes I animals feel cranky at having to slow down? Or do they appreciate the break? Humans do not have that luxury to shut down in the winter. We work, pay bills, all to keep our families healthy and safe. Is it OK to not feel guilty that we do not have the energy needed during these months? I'm learning to appreciate the battening down the hatches of winter. This past winter, for me, has been one of the best in recent memory. I allowed myself that time to rest, and now that spring is here, I feel ready to move on to the next big thing. Whatever that may be.

Although I do not get this right on a daily basis, and I do not want to give the impression that I always practice what I preach, I do know, however, that I have tools to reboot. Here is my list:

  • Start the morning with my yoga practice, reminding myself that yoga is not a regimented practice, but a where-you-are-at-at-any-given-moment practice, giving myself permission to have slow days and vigorous days. 
  • Reflect on my past, pray for strength for the day, and give thanks for all I have (I do this while I drive to work).
  • Greet each person with respect, even those you feel do not deserve it. Because by acting respectful, you are filling your higher purpose. I need to be able to look in the mirror at the end of the day and know that I did the best I could (which many times is way less than perfect).
  • Remind myself that hardships are temporary, as is ease and happiness. Be grateful for all experiences...they make up who we are--and aren't we all complicated?
  •  Practicing mindfulness in all aspects of my life. How I choose to act is in my control. Being reactionary is self-destructive. Difficulties in relationships happen. It's how you choose to respond that defines who you are.
  • Garden! I can't get enough. What a way to reboot! Getting my hands in the dirt and planting, weeding, pruning, gives my mind, body, and soul the lift it needs. In fact, I just planted kale and cauliflower. I'm sure looking forward to fresh salads from my organic garden.
  • Biking! I got a new recumbent bike that I love! The back support gives me the pain-free ride my body needs. And exercising outside! What could be better?!
  • Walking! Love it! Enough said.
  • Spending as much quality time with my family as possible. As a mom and a wife, I sure do make's how we move on and accept ourselves as we are, and love each other...warts an all.
  • Reading. That is something I do all year long. Especially in the winter. It refuels me at so many levels.
  • Creating. I make jewelry, crochet, and dabble in soap making--though this hasn't happened in a few years...maybe it's time to get back to that. To me, being able to create something with my hands allows me the meditative experience needed to keep me grounded. And what an expression of your soul.

I sure could go on and on. Maybe on those days where just getting out of bed is a chore, I will read this list and remember: practice. Life is an ever changing adventure. Nothing stays the same! Enjoy spring! Namaste.