It is tough to come back into the world after being on a retreat. During the transition phase, I can imagine I am practicing in St. Giorgio’s church in Assisi.
I am being unfaithful to my blog at the moment as I am creating a blog of my week in Assisi (that’s where I am, physically, at the moment). If you just can’t live with out my great wisdoms this week, feel free to pop over to the Assisi blog. Once I recover from the trip, I’ll come back with photos of cute babies and more wisdoms…
I kind of skipped May and most of June here. That stomach virus I had way back in April, well, it was just the beginning of a particularly unpleasant few months. Long story short, I am never going to eat gluten (intentionally) again. There is a HUGE story behind that, but this isn’t yet the medium to go into it. I will, most likely be posting stuff about the Yoga of gluten-free living though.
In the mean time, the girls and I are on our personally designed retreat at Oma and Opa’s house. After such a rough time, I needed to be taken care of a bit. I highly recommend the Oma treatment. I have had far too much time with the kids, but I haven’t had to clean or cook in over a week, and I have gotten some rest. Matthias, on the other hand, is immensely enjoying having the house to himself and the rare gift of silence!
Just to clean off the dust on the blog a bit, here are a few photos from the last month. I don’t think I’ll get to posting videos tonight, but I have a great one of Clair that needs to go here soon. You can see all of this month’s photos on the Flickr page.
Before we ran away to Oma, I took the girls out strawberry picking with Penny and Micha. Lily basically sat in the field and ate like a kilo all by herself; her friend Callum probably took another kilo as well. Clair picked a few and spent most of the time talking and hoping around and squishing the plants.
Once we got to Oma’s, we also had to watch a lot of fussball because it’s the European cup and Germany has made it to the semifinals (where it is sure to lose again Italy). Lily has the Deutschland shirt. It is a bit tight, but it fits good enough considering she has slept through every game.
In Oma’s neighborhood, the “Eiermann” (literally ‘egg man’) comes a couple of times a week with fresh produce, meats, dairy and of course, eggs. It’s just like the ice cream man when I was a kid, just not as fun.
So, I know i mostly post about the kids these days, but there really are some other things happening. Some of them are even kind of interesting.
1) Sick! (OK, not really so interesting)
After two weeks of barely sleeping thanks to two sick kids, I finally caught one of the multiple viruses floating around here and it took me DOWN! At first, it was just a regular cold. By Wednesday (or was it Tuesday?) afternoon, I found that I was way to cold to even get out of bed with my two blankets over me, much less pick Clair up from Kindergarten or stop Lily from destroying the bedroom. It must have been the 39 Degree fever (that’s 102 for you Americans).
Thank God, my friend Penny called me in the afternoon to see how I was doing AND offered to pick up Clair and bring her to my door (before I even had to ask – I was prepared to beg). THANK YOU, THANK YOU, Penny! Matthias, who couldn’t get out of some afternoon appointments got home shortly after and took the children away so I could suffer alone. The fever carried on into the evening but it dropped a bit.
I figured things would get better quickly after that. Well, it’s Saturday, and I still needed a few hours in bed today, but I have to say that tonight, I am doing decidedly better. Matthias, being the loving spouse he is, decided to join me for the ride, and is about a day behind me in this cold. He got to skip the horrible fever and body aches though. We were quite the pair of pathetic parents today, switching back and forth between the kids and bed. Luckily, the girls were really great and handling the boredom.
Let’s hope this distraction is coming to an end.
So, Matthias created an App. He taught himself the language and came up with a nice tool for engineers interested in filtering signals. That sounds a lot simpler than it was, but it kept him entertained for many evening and weekends. It has been many years since he learned a new programing language, and come to find out, he really likes that kind of thing.
So, I designed and put up the website, and he published it last year. I am completely impressed by the whole thing!! It has been really fun to create a product and put it out there. Which leads me to…
3) more Apps
So inspired, we are now working together on a new App idea! This one is a lot more complicated, but we are doing it together from the beginning. He is pushing is boundaries with the coding, and I am pushing my boundaries with some content development and also web design. Well, if I ever got more than two minutes in front of a computer with a coherent thought (has not been happening a lot lately).
it should be a nice challenge, and maybe we will even get a cool App put there. In the mean time, I need to figure out how servers work. Here, all this time, I just used a server for storing files (like these blog posts). it turns out, servers can talk to other servers and share data and stuff!! Who knew? I wonder how a server talks….. I have a lot of work to do.
4) Speaking of work..
So, I have taught six Yoga classes recently. It has been wonderful to get back to teaching again, and I was happy to see that my teaching has improved a bit despite the time away. I think I am finding a style that works for me, and that helps tremendously.
I also decided to take the plunge and rent a room for the entire year, which means that I need to plan more Yoga classes in the coming year. I think starting late April/early May, I will do a ten class series on Yoga cleansing as a celebration of spring/summer. I haven’t decided what to do after that, though I have at least one idea for a Yoga workshop.
Also in the Yoga teaching area, I bought my plane ticket to Italy for September when I’ll be assisting one of my teachers in a workshop she offers in Assisi. It is a fantastic retreat, and I am so grateful not only to get to go back but to help run it and even teach! I also promised to lead an evening of astronomy and star gazing, which I haven’t done in years! I am looking forward to it.
A few other things are bubbling up with Yoga teaching as well, but they aren’t as well developed yet. It all seems to come at once, which is quite alright with me!
aside from that, we are trying to plan some travel for the coming year. Which means, we may actually travel this year! The trip to the US was the reawakening of the Travel bug. We need to check out flights tomorrow, but if things work out, we are going to meet up with friends in Sardinia in August! Then, we need to sort out end of the year in the US plans. We were thinking a lay over in DC for a couple of days could make the trip a bit easier, and also give us a chance to show the kids our favorite museums (and see an awesome friend, of course, Brian).
OK, that is the laundry list of life outside of the cuteness of our adorable children. It may sound exciting written on a blog, but really, it all looked very much like me being trapped at home with sick kids and a sick self for a few weeks now. Really need to get out of the house. Let’s hope the wheezing is finished tomorrow!
I keep thinking of great, funny things to post. Then, life happens and I haven’t posted that great post before something else interesting happens, and then I get a bit muddled trying to keep track of my ideas. Then, I just forget about it and move on. I think a great blog post is becoming my white whale.
Anyway, so here is a not so great blog post about a bunch of stuff that could have potentially made interesting posts all on their own if I could ever make the space in my life to blog properly.
1) I made a bit of a leap recently regarding my cultural orientation here in Germany. Being a foreigner gives one the feeling of constantly being slightly confused.
My new revelation came while I was starting to compose a post about how the Germans were all trying to shop while I was shopping last week. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I hate shopping, generally. I do it because that is part of my job as a grown up, but I generally try to do it with good company (Hi, Sarah) and at times when many other people do not like to shop.
Last week, there were people all over my shopping! I couldn’t get my parking spaces and there were lines everywhere. I thought, really, is it ALREADY Christmas shopping season here? Then, my friend Micha pointed out that last week was the fall school break!
So, what I learned was a new thing about how Germans spend their time during the fall break. I already knew that spring break was mostly for the last ski runs, summer break is to go to Spain or Italy (mostly, as far as I can tell). Now, I’ve learned that fall break is for shopping! I was wondering why the stores were going nuts with the Christmas stuff, but apparently, that is when people get started on the Christmas plan. I mean, what else are you going to do stuck with your kids at home for a week? Well, honestly, I can think of about a thousand things I would rather do than drag them to a crowded shopping center, but that is just me, apparently.
2) I have awesome friends! My friend Jentry, who is super enthusiastic and awesome, was thoughtful enough to send out a message like last April seeing if anyone was interested in a spa weekend. After trying to coordinate ten women, the soonest date we could do it was in November!
She booked the rooms, and last weekend, me and nine of my closest friends headed to a spa for a fancy slumber party (OK, technically, I never met one of them before, but she fit right in)! It was just over night, but it was a blast. It was a spa in the Czech Republic, which is less than 2 hours from us. We were the youngest (and loudest) guests several years and a few decibels. Seriously, you could hear us cackling from anywhere in the place. It was awesome.
Plus, there was drinking and giggling without ANY children for over 24 hours! Sarah was my roommate, and it was a great match because we both prioritized sleeping in over breakfast. Oh, sleepy mornings. How I miss you.
There was almost no picture taking on my part because that would have required work and focus. Both of which were forbidden on this trip in my mind.
We all gathered in the spa’s library just before leaving, and I found my friend monet enjoying the interesting selection:
Is this the kind of thing they have in all Czech spas?
3) Hacking more furniture
Since we have just over a week before our big trip (!!!), I suddenly had an urge to procrastinate from preparing. So, what do we need more than anything? Why a standing desk, of course!
After checking out what IKEA and amazon had to offer in this area and being shocked by the 600 Euro sticker price, I decided that I could hack up something for about 25 Euros. Plus, the ones I saw that electronically raised and lowered looked like great finger pinchers, and we are trying to avoid chopping of our kids fingers, generally. They all also looked like they were a bit unstable for having a three year old climb up them, which is bound to happen.
So, I built a couple of stilts for the desk today. I still need to clean up the space around it, but that can wait until we get back.
I am standing at it as I post this, and I LOVE it! I am kind of surprised at how awesome it feels. Admittedly, part of my motivation behind it is that I simply cannot sit at a computer when both kids are here. It is like they have a sensor that goes off if I try to sit down. They are in my lap before I can blink or pulling me out of the seat. If I am standing, they seem to suddenly be able to entertain themselves for longer periods of time.
Yoga Thought of the Day: What is Important
It’s coming upon 14 years since I started practicing Yoga. This is the only thing I have stuck with this long so far, and I cannot imagine my life moving forward without it. I can list a lot of details of the positive benefits I have from returning to my Yoga practice regularly, but they are all kind of side effects of what I think is the bigger result of this kind of inner work.
Yoga has given me a way to ask myself, everyday, “What is important?” The profound impact of this question is becoming more apparent with time. Thinking about this everyday can have a detrimental effect on the unimportant things, but it also having a powerful effect on the important things.
Although Yoga helps one ask the question, it doesn’t provide the answer. All of the answers are already there just waiting to be seen, if you ask me.
As for my personal journey, I am finding that as I grow, my life is generally moving in a direction that supports what is important to me. What is important changes with time and experience, but I am developing a deeper respect for the choices I make and faith in the direction that these choices are taking me. As a result, I feel much more comfortable in my own skin no matter where I am.
When was the last time you asked yourself, “What is important? How are my actions today supporting this? How are they working against what is important to me?”
You can see the value of ritual in any spiritual tradition. There are ceremonies for important events in all religious traditions because ritual helps of create something sacred out of the mundane and for some, helps one connect with the Divine. It is no accident that spiritual traditions use this tool regardless of the origins of the faith. It is an ancient tool to connect the heart to God and, in theory, cultivate clarity.
I created some special rituals for myself this week in addition to my regular practice to help recognize an important event. Some have made me laugh, and some have made me cry (when I needed to cry). With each practice, my heart is a little lighter.
When your heart feels heavy, reflect upon those rituals or traditions in your life that make your heart feel light. The smell of an candle or of a favorite food can help trigger the mind to remember the rituals. It doesn’t have to be something from a specific religious tradition. It can be a candle like the one your mom lit on special occasions, the smell of that one food that you share with your friends every New Years, or that song that you sang with your sister when you were kids. It can be the sound of a bell or a even a gesture from a long forgotten tradition (“big mac, fillet of fish, quarter pounder, french fries, icy coke, thick shakes, sundaes and Apple pie!!” – that one is for all of the American girls my age out there who remember the ‘ancient’ hand gestures of our generation. Tell me that doesn’t make you smile; I am not advocating reciting a McDonald’s menu as a regular part of your Yoga practice, but you get the idea).
If you have something that works for you, bring it out when times are tough. You can create your own rituals as needed as well. When you struggle, make the moment meaningful with ritual. Create a Sacred space for yourself to carry you through.
I wish you all the chance to try it for yourself if you should need it.
Yoga Thought of the Day: Memory (or lack there of) of discipline
I am cleaning out my Inbox tonight, and I came across a message the reminded me of the power of journaling. I have a few journals now that I have kept in the context of my Yoga practices. I approach my practice like an experiment, and anyone who has ever performed a lot of experiments knows to write EVERYTHING down just in case you do something right.
Anyway, I saw an email from a mentor during my yoga training while organizing my messages, and it was just a smiley face in response to an email I sent. I started reading the message below, and having just quickly looked at the message, I thought she had written it. To my surprise, when I got to the end, it was my own words that I was reading and moved by! There is something in these words that connect with the focus of my practice, which has lately been on cultivating the discipline to keep returning to it every day.
So, in memory of my lack of ever having constructed these deep thoughts, I present them to you as a description of what it means to me to keep moving forward along this Yoga path. They are from February 2010, and they were sent to some of the people with whom I have practiced very intensely.
Hey ladies (and a few gents),
I don’t have many big realizations in my practice. Actually, I have some good ones, but they come and are quickly absorbed and feel as if they were never realizations at all but have always been a part of my knowing. However, once in a while, I write something down when it comes to me. Somehow it sticks better that way and feels more profound. And even more rarely, I really feel the need to share something that I have discovered while digging around inside my own mind.
For the first 40 days of the new year, I did a Sadhana, which I had set out for myself. It was a way of bringing something sacred into the arbitrary system of the Calendar year, and it was intended to help me reconnect with my practice.
On the 40th day, I sat down to practice, and this is what I wrote in my journal:
“I thought of lighting candles and doing a long involved practice to mark the 40th day. However, once again, it is just me, here, living up to this obligation. It may not be as profound as I build it up to be in my head, but with each effort in my years of Yoga practice, the seemingly mundane becomes more profound. The candle in my heart burns strongly, even if the one in the room remains unlit.”
Of course, after I looked at the passage I just wrote, I got up, set out my Yoga accoutrements (including a lit candle) and had a lovely practice.
Thinking of you all.
Yoga Thought(s) of the Day: Random Thoughts on Clair-ity and Truth
In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there is a concept called the ‘eight-limbed path’ to Yoga. Basically, there are eight things to be mastered in the journey toward liberation. The first of the eight mentioned in the sutras is a list of things that we must practice with regard to how we treat others. They are called, the Yamas, and they are Ahimsa (non-harming), Satya (Tuthfullness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (Moderating the senses), and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
This stuff is the kind of Yoga we can all practice everyday. Satya, or Truth, is one that has been a deep part of my practice for many years. It can be taken to, literally mean, truthfulness as in, telling things like they are or not lying (as opposed to ‘truthiness’ ). It can also be interpreted as TRUTH (note the caps), as in the ‘great truth.’ One of the translations passed on to my teacher was “If you chose to speak, speak only of God.” In this way, Truth is seen as a bit of the antithesis of gossip. My friend Ravyn recently wrote a nice post where she posed three questions to ask yourself before you speak:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary?
3. Is it kind?
I find that when I practice this kind of thoughtfulness with my words, I pretty much don’t say anything. It’s getting past step 2 that seems to be the problem for me.
I read an article recently summarizing some research on lying and personality types (I can’t find the link at the moment because I can’t remember where I read it). It basically found that two types of personalities tend to lie the most, the manipulative person (AKA – a person we could all peg as someone who lies a lot) and the kind of person who is very concerned about other people’s opinions. So, someone who cares too much about themselves or others, tends to need to lie more often to get through the day. It always seems to come back to the middle ground, doesn’t it?
This idea of respecting Truth with others came again to me this week as I was informed, by a dear friend, that I am, in fact, very bad at gossip. I can’t say that it has always been so with me. I think I was better at gossip many years ago, and I am definitely still guilty of gossip, but gossip has become more compassionate over the years….and I hope that is what my friend sees in me.
I’ve also noticed the conundrum of Truth versus Non-harming in the context of child rearing lately. I try not to lie to my children, but sometimes it is inevitable when some things are beyond their understanding at the moment. However, I am working on being honest about the simple things. I have seen parents lie to their kids to get them to do what they want or to avoid emotional meltdowns. That last one is really tempting and totally understandable! However, I try to be honest and let Clair experience the negative emotions that come from sometimes knowing that mommy just popped the cool balloon that the doctor gave her five minutes ago (and she can’t go back for another) or that she has to lie in her bed all alone until she calms down (and I probably won’t be back until she is asleep). I hope that respecting Truth with her now, will help her respect Truth with me later on. I’ll let you know how that turns out In every other way, she mimics me so I am trying to give her something good to copy.
So, why does Truth hit me so much right now? My little embodiment of Clear Truth (Clair Satya) has been around for almost three years now. Tomorrow morning, I have a 5:00 AM practice scheduled to reflect on what clarity and truth I have found in the past three years. if nothing else, I have become, apparently, a very bad gossip. I can live with that.
So Clair is officially in Kindergarten (or preschool as they call it in the States). Her first day was Friday. She was really excited to go and was bouncing off the walls when we got there, but once she realized that I was going to be leaving her there, she wasn’t very happy. She cried a bit, but the care giver said that once they finished lunch and began to play, she was happy and laughing.
I am surprised how stressful I find it. In her daycare, the group sizes where much smaller, and they really guided the kids. In the kindergarten, the kids are more independent as far as sorting themselves out when they arrive (with mom and dad’s help, of course). The kids don’t get as much cuddling attention as at our old daycare, but I observed their attentiveness today. Clair was sitting at a table with another girl who is having trouble saying good bye to her mom. A boy came over and wanted to sit at their table. The one care giver, apparently, already has a sense of this boy’s personality. He very gently but firmly asked the boy to move to another table because he was already starting to direct his energy toward Clair. I like that her respected the different personalities of the kids but also didn’t just let them totally sort it out when Clair was struggling.
This morning, two of Clair’s friends, Nathan and Luca, were also there. Nathan is a ‘big kid’ and ran over and gave us a hug! Luca is Clair’s age and came over to show me his shoes and talked non-stop about something or other. I hope it made Clair feel a little easier. It made me feel better to see them in the mass of strangers!
All that being said, I have five hours a day without a three year old taking over my life!!!! It will take some adjustment to get used to the new schedule. She goes in the afternoons, which is really not optimal for me, but it was the only times they had free. So far, I have been having quiet mornings at home (which is really boring) so she can save her energy for dealing with the afternoon. Once she gets used to things, then I will have to figure out how to schedule the day when all of my colleagues (in motherhood) have their mornings free rather than their afternoons.
Here are a couple of shots of her new place and her groovy backpack:
Mean while, I have this other kid! I am kind of forced to forget about her here and there because of the energy required to protect her from Clair. Lily has been having some nice quiet time without the looming threat of a big sister coming over to take her toys or knock her over (have I mentioned Clair has been demonstrating some jealousy?). It is lovely just to be able to play quietly with her and really see how much she is changing. She is SOO close to crawling. She is at the point of taking a lot of head dives when she reaches too far. She has managed to spin in a circle on her belly, but linear motion is still lacking.
Here is a rather long video of Lily working out on her belly. I’ve also included a video of Clair trying on her Darth Vader Halloween helmet and mask for the firs time because it is awesome and I forgot to upload it before.
Yoga Thought of the Day: the art of non-doing
Sometimes, I need to stop and do nothing. I NEED this in my life sometimes, but I have somehow absorbed an external idea that one should always be doing ‘something.’ And, if one is not doing something, then one is ‘lazy,’ ‘unproductive,’ etc. I have a hard time with the term lazy, myself, so I resist my need to stop.
One big part of my practice these days to to remove the judgement I have created on the concept of doing less when I need it. Basically, that has to do with learning to respect my own judgement about when I really need to stop and when I am, in fact, just being lazy.
This lesson hits home the most when I have an illness coming on. I have been in this body long enough to know that if I feel lethargic one day, my body is fighting something or healing. If I don’t allow myself to rest on the days wen I need it, inevitably, the illness hits hard the following day.
This happened yesterday, leading to a rough night, which is why it comes to me today. If I had rested yesterday, told Matthias that I needed time off from the kids for a day, would I have been as sick last night? Who knows. But if I did rest more yesterday, then, at least I would have gotten to rest more, which is a gift in and off itself.
So, my Yoga thought for the day – ‘do nothing more.’
The month is flying by. I think I learned a valuable lesson about life with two kids – do less! I tried to do a lot with the kids at the beginning of the month, and instead of wearing them out, I made them overly tired and crazy while wearing myself out. So, we slowed down, spent more time at or near home or lounging at my friend Micha’s place. MUCH better time in the last two weeks as a result!
I have been really bad about taking photos and uploading photos. I finally uploaded a few more photos from July here. I also know that there are some fabulous photos of the girls and me on some friends’ cameras out there, so if I ever see them, I’ll post them too.
Until yesterday, the weather had been very warm and summery. We spent a lot of time outside. We live across the street from a pool, so we were there quite a few times. Plus, we went to throw stones at the Weltenburg Cloister again with friends. Clair got her first wasp sting there. The wasps have been crazy here this year! Luckily, one of the mothers near us carried an onion (which, supposedly helps suck out the poison when applied topically), so Clair stuck an onion on her cheek for about an hour, and by that time, an ice cream completed the cure.
I’ve had to start shopping with both girls more often since they are both with me this month (for one more week then kindergarten begins!!). Luckily, Lily is now big enough to sit up so big sister showed her how to ride in the little car they have on some of the shopping carts. I think this photo is adorable!
I mentioned Clair’s Darth Vader mask in the previous post. Here she is trying it on. Lily still doesn’t know what to make of it.
Here is Clair on a break from a bike ride during one of the warm days. She loves to sit at this spot and throw stones in the river with her daddy after he gets home from work.
And, of course, the big news at the moment is the Herbst Dult!! It’s the local beer fest that is about 200 meters from are apartment (fortunately, across a river and behind many trees). We drive by it anytime we leave the house, so Clair has been talking about it non stop since they started constructing it a few weeks ago. Once she realized that is started on Friday, she put on her Dirndl and awaited Matthias’ arrival from work. We had to go out immediately and partake of the Bavarian goodness (in case you are wondering, that is Apple juice in the beer glass).
In some not so fun news, I had some skin cancer removed this week. Fortunately, is is Basel cell carcinoma, so it is relatively harmless as cancers go. I had to get some removed after both pregnancies as the hormones seem to have triggered some cell growth. I have had this procedure done a few times now thanks to growing up with my skin in a sunny desert, but this time it was a bit tricky because it was on my nose. I went to a plastic surgeon who, I think, did a good job of putting my nose back together after removing the cancer. He was really good about letting me document the procedure with my iphone and even took a great shot of the hole in my nose for me. I still have stitches at the moment (and a residual black eye and puffiness), I will certainly have a rather unpleasant scar for some time, but I think it will heal well. I am just glad it is over. Getting needles in my nose is not something I would like to do again. I’ll save you the gory ‘before’ shots and just show you my bandaged face.
On a totally unrelated topic, I have gotten some blogging inspiration from my friend and fellow Yogi, Ravyn who recently started adding a Yoga thought of the day to the end of her posts accompanied by a nice photo of her doing something in her practice. She is better at taking photos than I am, but I LOVE the thought of adding some thing that go deeper than the surface on my blog. I spend a lot of time thinking and practicing Yoga, so it is probably best to share what few insights I have with someone outside of the infinite space of my own mind. I don’t teach these days, so it needs to get out somewhere. Lord knows Matthias is tired of hearing all of my ‘wisdoms.’
So, without further ado:
Yoga Thought of the Day
(this may take some practice)……….
(I must have something deep to share, right?)…….
The eyes have it: I have been neglecting a very important part of my body. Actually, think it would be more accurate to call it abuse rather than neglect. Since I have been practicing Yoga regularly, I have become more compassionate with my body. I tend to take better care of it, and as a result, I injure it less often and tend to get sick less often. However, there is one very big exception, my eyes. I did a lot of computer time in my life. At the moment, two little needy people don’t give me a lot of time to waste sitting in front of an illuminated screen, but, still I spend my fair share of time in front of a screen. I have learned to support my back, neck, shoulders, etc. that suffer from sitting for so long, but I have done very little to understand and support my eyes to do the kind of work they are not designed to do.
I have gone on assuming that my eyes would always serve me in the way I need them to. As I get older, however, they are reminding me that they need to be cared for as well. Simple glasses are no longer as affective at correcting the distortion in my lenses as they once were, so I thought it might be high time to give my eyes a little attention and see what I can do to help them become stronger and more resilient. I have a little practice with vision therapy, so we’ll see where it goes.
Is there a forgotten piece of you that needs some extra attention these days? If so, what is stopping you from attending to it?