Sunday inspired

:: summer weather

:: blooming roses

:: spring and summer sewing

:: summer travel planning

:: friends’ energy and commitment to a community-building event at my son’s school

WIPs

That’s work in progress (WIP). I have a lot of these. Heck, I’m a WIP (but aren’t we all?). My WIPs run the gamut. House, yard, crafts, books, blog posts, travel plans, meals, laundry. I’ll stop there.

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by the WIPs. To feel like a slacker–or worse, a failure–because there are so many of them. To beat oneself up over the accumulation and the lack of completion. I’m generally able to keep my perspective about these WIPs. To remind myself that it will all get done in due time. But every once in a while. Well, let’s be honest. About once a month…I get completely overwhelmed and down on myself and worse yet, Margie. I get frustrated that the house is always a mess, the yard is a jumble of weeds, the kitchen cabinets are only half clean. ARRGHHH.

At times like this, I step back. I figure out what’s really going on. I practice a bit more yoga. I talk to Margie. And it slowly settles back down and things are manageable again. The cycle gets old and I get tired of experiencing it. I like to think I can organize my way out of the cycle–and I can and do to a certain extent. But ultimately, it’s about accepting these temporary feelings. Fully acknowledging them and not beating myself up for having them.

Even this practice is a work in progress.

On exercising mindfully

I ran in the pouring rain this morning. It was the best run I’ve had in a long time. Well, the best run in Sacramento. I’ve been doing a trail running course through Fleet Feet to prepare for a 10-mile trail run in mid-May. I’m loving the trail runs. Street runs, not so much.

This morning was different. I had no expectations. The rain was pouring down. It was still somewhat dark out. Running was on my training schedule. And–most importantly–I wanted to run. My good friend Christine, at Mamasattva talks about bliss workouts. More specifically, only choosing the exercise on any particular day that feels right. For example, if you’re suppose to run, but you’ve woken up with really sore legs or hip, swim or do yoga instead.

I realize that this is hard if  you’re training for something specific. Especially a longer-distance race. But even then, you can still take the time to identify how your body is feeling and respond in some way. Perhaps play with your form a bit while running or cycling, or add some restorative yoga poses to your post-workout stretching.

Anyway, back to my run this morning. I had a smile on my face for most of the run. It felt good. I was happy. Despite leaving 15 minutes later than planned because the children had been up since 4:30am and 5:45am. Despite running a mile less than planned because the breadwinner had to leave for work early today. Despite the pouring rain that had me soaked in the first 10 minutes. I accepted my conditions and moved forward.

Excuses

I went to Easter service at the church I grew up attending. It’s a beautiful, turn-of-the-century brick church. The bricks were locally made, the stain glass windows are gorgeous (re-done in the 1980s), and the bells loud and clear. I have vivid memories of watching the women in the quilting bee, attending co-op preschool, and eating church dinners between its walls. I love this church.

Unfortunately, few people love this church anymore. There were maybe 25 people at the service. Easter service. A service that’s generally busy for most churches. Not this one, anymore.

I grew up in a small town. Just a couple of thousand people. Very Mayberry-ish. In the 1980’s, my home town and all of the small churches were still viable. There was a perfect mix of families with engaged parents and elderly old-timers. Events and activities were well attended and enjoyed.

Then the kids of these active parents left. I was one of them. I couldn’t wait to leave. Some did stay, but most of us left and never went back permanently. My hometown is still—largely—viable. All of the basic amenities are there, which isn’t the case for most small towns. But the churches are dying. And although I’m no longer an active church member anywhere (small churches are dying in Sacramento, too), this makes me sad.

I know I could do something about this. I have a spiritual life, but it’s not with a congregation. I grew up Methodist—a denomination who’s politics I can still largely support (as a gay woman). There’s a definite sense of community that comes from attending church. And I would like my children to have at least a basic understanding of Christianity, regardless of what they ultimately decide to believe and practice. There are always excuses, however. So many excuses. No right or wrong or guilt. Just excuses.

Going home always pulls my heartstrings. Part of me wants nothing more than to move back home. Homestead. Be part of the rebuilding of this community (and not just the church community). But, still, excuses and reasons why not. Again…no right or wrong or guilt. Just excuses.

Sunday inspired

:: trip planning

:: kids excited about a trip and staying in a hotel

:: trail running

:: teaching

:: recognition/acknowledgement of my passions

:: time to nurture my passions

Yoga pose :: reclined butterfly pose

So, if you know me, you know I love yoga asana, which are the poses and physical expression of yoga. I appreciate and practice other parts of the big Yoga, but asana is my most active practice. To help spread and de-mystify yoga a bit, I’m going to try (emphasis on try) to share a yoga pose a week. I plan to explain how to get in and out of the pose, what to do while in the pose, and explain the benefits of the pose a bit. Most of this will come directly from me and what I’ve learned over nearly 15 years of practice and almost 3 years of teaching (which, by the way and as a form of disclaimer, isn’t very long at all). I’ll also provide a link or two with other teachers’ versions of the pose.

Reclined butterfly pose. This is another restorative pose, like last week’s pose. Although, I should note that restorative poses don’t have to be. Any pose that’s labeled a restorative pose can also be held for less time. Anyway…when practiced in a restorative fashion, this can be a great pose for releasing and relaxing tension in the inner thighs, groin, and low back. Here’s the skinny:

Props: Two towels or blankets of equal size or two yoga blocks.

Two rolled up blankets are used here, but towels will also do.

How-to: Evenly and as tightly as you can, roll up the blankets or towels, placing one on either side of you. Place your feet on the floor in front of you—knees bent—and your hands—palm down—behind you. Tuck your chin and slowly lower yourself onto your back. Slowly roll your feet onto their outside edges, bringing the soles of the feet loosely together. The knees fall away from each other as you do this, forming a diamond shape. Reach for the rolled towels/blankets, placing them under your thighs and knees.

Wiggle around a bit to make your back comfortable across the floors. Find the right position for your arms—at your sides, overhead, or with the hands resting on the belly.

Once there: Breathe. Let your back ease into the floor. Allow the natural arch of the back to be. Take a couple of deep breathes into your belly allowing the belly to fully expand. As you exhale invite the inner thighs to soften and the legs to relax a bit more into the support underneath them. Stay for 10-15 minutes.

How to get out: Place your hands on your outer thighs. With an exhale, press your legs together with your hands, bringing the soles of the feet to the floor again. Take a couple of breathes. Bring your knees into  your chest and rock gently side to side. Roll to one side and pause for a few breathes in a fetal position. Slowly press yourself upright.

Benefits: Stretches the inner thighs, increases external rotation in the hips, and calms the nervous system.

When not to do this pose: In my experience, this pose works for everyone with the right modifications. If you’re pregnant, you do not want to fully recline, but rather create an angled wedge on which to recline.

If you have very sensitive and/or injured knees it’s best not to do the pose, or, to create enough support under the knees to keep them safe and pain-free.

Other resources:

Five things to make at home

Brown Thumb Mama recently posted on the five things she thinks folks should make at home rather than buy. Completely inspired by her list, I thought I’d add my two cents and list five things I find easy and worth making.

Granola. So many store bought granolas are full of too much stuff and expensive. Granola is a simple dish and open to all sorts of interpretation. Oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, coconut, maple syrup, honey. I could go on. When you make granola yourself, you know exactly what you’re making and what  you’re putting into your body. My current favorite–that I make a couple of times a month–takes all of 1/2 an hour to make.

Salad dressing. Another refrigerator staple for many of us. Like granola, it’s pricey and often made with unnecessary ingredients. All you need is a jar with a lid (mason/canning jars work great for this), some olive oil, balsamic or red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic. You could also add mustard, herbs, flavored vinegars, lemon juice. Like the granola, totally adjustable to your tastes.

Scratch pads. I don’t do this all the time but it’s super simple and I really should do it more often. My kids love notebooks, scratch pads, journals, and the like. And they use them, which makes buying them really add up. When we have an empty cereal box, I cut it up, saving the two main sections of the box. These become the outside for two new scratch pads.  I fold the cardboard in two and cut some recycled or computer paper to size, inserting it into the folded cardboard. Once the paper is in place, sew down the middle of the book and paper. I have a sewing machine and generally use it, but a needle and thread would work just as well. And voila, a new notebook.

Play-dough. Easy to make and a fun thing to do with your kid, especially if you’re adding some food coloring. One of my favorite reasons for making play-dough, however, is that it doesn’t require me to buy the little plastic containers that commercial play-dough comes in.  There are lots of  recipes out there, but this is one of my favorites.

Toilet bowl cleaner. Baking soda and vinegar. Seriously. You don’t even need to pre-mix it. I generally pore some baking soda in the toilet and then enough vinegar to make the toilet fizz. Let it sit for a few minutes and then scrub away. Cheap. Easy. And no plastic bottle to throw away or recycle when a bottle of commercial brand has been emptied.

I do realize–believe me–that easy doesn’t always mean less time. A lot of time, doing things the old-fashioned way is the more time consuming way (hence the modern and convenient options). But…if you’re trying to save a little money (which was the initial impetus for my decision to start making most of these things), find joy in making things yourself, or are trying to find ways to reduce waste in your house, starting from scratch is a good way to go.

Healthy food :: little league style

It’s little league season. My son is playing for the second year. My partner and I have never been “team players” but we’re completely accepting of his interest in group sports. My son lives with 3 females and we don’t want to deny him the sense of camaraderie, athleticism, team work, etc. that his 6.5-year-old self gets from team sports (or whatever it is that feeds something in him).

My one issue–and I have it with soccer, too–is the snacks. I’m that parent.  I prefer to keep crap that shouldn’t be in food and my children’s bodies, out of their bodies. It’s the basic stuff: high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, food coloring, and too much sugar. Unfortunately, my desire for my kids to eat healthy, whole foods, makes me seem like a food snob in many circles.

I do make exceptions. Grandad’s house. Grammie’s house. The elderly neighbors who are thrilled to give a kid a cookie. So, no, I’m not completely militant about it. But…ball games and practices 2-3 times per week, make me a bit more outspoken.

I just became the “food snob” parent for my son’s baseball team. The coach and the team mom offered to buy all of the snacks for  games at Costco. This is super nice and convenient and I appreciate them for it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t encourage fresh fruits and veggies after games. It encourages pre-packaged food with too much sugar and additives. I don’t like that. So, I told all of the other parents my views. I also backed it up by offering to do the shopping myself, taking full responsibility for my views and outspoken-ness.

I’m not mad at the other parents for their food choices. I get it. Pre-packaged food is easy. And with so many parents working full-time, it’s often the only viable option. And this is what makes me mad: we live in a society that requires so many parents to work full-time and not have the time to feed their kids–and themselves–healthy and whole food. And that food manufacturers and the government encourage this by making the easiest foods the least healthy.

It’s sad and unfortunate, and yes, I’m going to continue to be that parent.