Still Leaning Into Yoga


The above picture is from March. Mini Me took it while I was in my yoga rut.

Whenever I crawled into downward dog, I felt stiff and awkward. I could say that Lil Ma camping underneath me didn’t help, but it’s not her fault. This was my standard pose.

When Hubs suggested I take pictures of my poses and compare them to ones from a trusted yoga source, I gave him some serious side eye, but he wasn’t totally off base. What he didn’t know is that I had tried that, and I couldn’t always figure out how to adjust my poses. I needed help from a certified yoga instructor.

I got three.

The first was my former colleague-now-full-time-yogi, Becky. She saw my tragic downward dog pic on Facebook and offered advice on keeping my shoulders down and stretching my spine. “Breathe and think loooooong spine,” she wrote.

My second and third instructors, Angie and Karen, are from a local yoga studio, Om Turtle Yoga. They too encouraged me to stop hunching my shoulders and to lift my rear-end, or “cupcake,” to lengthen the pose. In every class, Karen dutifully and gently adjusted my pose to get me to lengthen and lift.

I took the advice home every week. I pressed and pulled and lifted to try for a better down dog. None of them felt right.

Last week, I noticed that Karen took a deep breath as she adjusted my pose. It made me think about Becky’s advice again.

“Breathe and think loooooong spine.”

Breathe. Think.

Sure, I was breathing. Actually, I was huffing and puffing. I was thinking too, but I was thinking about how much I didn’t like the pose. What I wasn’t doing was connecting my breath, my movements, and my thoughts. This connection is a yoga fundamental, and it’s really hard to do. (At least for me it is.) 

Instead of worrying about what my down dog looked like, I started paying attention to how it felt.  I appreciated the strength of my hands as they pressed into the mat. I took in full, deep breaths that were both relaxing and energizing. And when I remembered to lift my cupcake, my back got a great stretch. Down dog felt really good. Who knew?

Turns out, the change in focus improved my pose too.  Here’s my latest yoga selfie. More soon!





A Perfect Evening?

It’s 10:00 on a Monday, and for the first time in a long time, I’m in the bed. I made dinner. Folded laundry. Finished up a few things from the office. Did yoga. I’m trying to figure out what went right so that I can repeat it. I have a feeling this was a fluke.

Mini Me finished her homework in record time. There was enough chicken left over from yesterday’s dinner for today. Both kids went to bed on time.

I want to credit expert planning, but that’s a joke. Having kids, especially a toddler, means that planning is often an exercise in futility.

If I figure out the formula for what made this evening so great, I’ll let you know.


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We Don’t Need a F*&^%@# Balloon


If you’ve ever had to take a toddler out in public, then you’ve experienced something similar to this.

Your two year old is in the middle of a full-scale meltdown while you push an overfilled cart of groceries down the paper products aisle. Your refrigerator is empty, so completion of this trip is essential. Your kid, however, doesn’t understand. All she knows is that she wants to open a bag of frozen peas, and you’ve taken them away.

Just as you’re about to shush your child for what seems like the millionth time, a well-meaning stranger with a bright smile and a phony falsetto comes your way.

“Sweetie, what’s wrong?”

You child mumbles something unintelligible, and the stranger nods with understanding.

“It’s ok, cutie! You don’t have to cry.”

By the end of the exchange, your toddler is smiling, and you’re scowling as you stuff a jumbo pack of toilet paper underneath your cart.

This person didn’t do you or your kid any favors. If anything, this person showed your kid that she gets attention when she acts out.

My kid figured this out a while ago. With a cherub face, big brown eyes, and the ability to break glass with her screams, Lil’ Ma is an expert at getting attention. There are very few locations in the city that we’ve attended without incident. Restaurants and grocery stores are the worst.

I know she’s loud. I know it’s embarrassing. I know for the five seconds you are passing us in the cereal aisle that we are bothering you.  I’ll admit that when Lil’ Ma throws a public tantrum, my first instinct is to give in. But I have to teach her how to act when things aren’t going her way, and that means we’re taking the hard road. Your assistance, while it may seem necessary, is not required. I got this.

“This” may mean I have to leave the dining area, abandon my cart of groceries, or let her scream for a whole five minutes. I’m ok with that. You should be too. Her throwing a tantrum is not an indication of my ability to handle said tantrum.

Last week, Lil’ Ma decided at a restaurant that my plate of food looked better than hers. After three failed attempts to take it, she started screaming and tried to stand up in her booster seat. I held her in place to keep her from toppling over. My dad asked if he should take her outside. Even though the restaurant was very noisy and I doubted that she was disturbing anyone, I agreed.

Our waitress appeared before he could get out of his seat.

“Oh, somebody’s upset!” she said. “Can she have a balloon?”

My father nodded his head yes. The waitress smiled.

“Absolutely not.” I said.  The waitress took a step back. Her smile faded.

“I thought it would…”  I narrowed my eyes and shook my head as I mouthed the word “no.” She turned on her heels and walked away.

“Ok lady,” I said to Lil’ Ma as I continued to hold her in the seat. “You can eat or not, but you will sit.”

She cried for a moment more, and then she sat down. A few minutes later, the once offensive plate of food was deemed acceptable, and she began to eat.

The waitress came back to our table just as Lil’ Ma finished her meal.

“Now,” I said, “she can have a balloon.”

The woman’s face registered understanding. She gave Lil’ Ma a red balloon.

Dealing with a toddler is no easy feat, and there are some situations in which a parent could use an extra hand. Just try to make sure the one you offer is more help than harm.

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Explaining Michael Brown to My Nine Year Old


My parents never sat me down for a talk on racism. They taught me through in-the-moment training. The first lesson came when I was six or seven years old. My mother pulled her blue 1975 Chevy Nova into a parking space marked with a wheelchair.

I noticed after we got out of the car. “Momma,” I said while pointing to the sign.  “This is a handicapped space.” (Handicapped was an acceptable term in the early ’80s.)

“Black people are handicapped.” She grabbed my arm and pulled me toward our destination.

Her words replayed and gained meaning over the years as I experienced prejudice and racism on my own. I heard them whenever my achievements were credited to affirmative action instead of my abilities. They whispered from the aisles of department stores when cashiers followed me while those with fairer skin slipped merchandise into their bags. They rode on the tail end of every racially charged insult and hovered in the atmosphere whenever I was the only person present with brown skin.

Black people are handicapped.

I’ve struggled with the when and how of sharing this message with my children. Mini Me was due to start fourth grade last week. The death of Michael Brown and subsequent protests have directly impacted her. The start of the school year was postponed for at least another week.

I’m good with the delay. That the world is not all that different from the one my mother described to me 33 years ago, and I hope the protests in Ferguson will help bring about change. Mini Me wouldn’t understand. Our dialogue on racism needed to start now.

Before I talked with her, I needed to decide how much information to share. At nine years old, Mini Me walks the line between little girl and preteen. Certain concepts require more age and experience for comprehension. Plus she’s deeply sensitive. Her capacity for empathy will place Mike Brown on her heart for weeks. She’ll lose sleep. Just when I think the moment has passed, she’ll ask a new question and begin the process anew.

I opted to build up details over time. I told her that school was cancelled for the rest of the week. She started to cry. I told her that school administrators were concerned for students’ safety.

“Why?” she asked.

I told her Mike Brown was killed by a police officer. I explained many people, including me, were upset about it. Some expressed their frustration by protesting around the city. But when those involved, citizens and police alike, are angry and scared, more bad things could happen.

“Why is everyone so mad?” she asked.

“There are people in with world who think we aren’t as important because of our brown skin, so they treat us differently.” I braced myself for tears, but I got anger instead.

“We’re no different than anyone else!” she yelled.

“No, you aren’t.” I said. “And that’s what the protests in Ferguson are about. People are speaking out against what they think is wrong.”

“Do you think I can change things when I grow up?” she asked.

“Yes.” I said. The road to change is long, complex, and painful, but I figured we talked enough for one day. Plus, it was close to bed time.

I don’t know if I waited too long to talk to her about this. I don’t know if I told her too much or not enough. The only thing I know for sure is that I can’t stop talking.


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Leaning Into Yoga


I love yoga, but my actions aren’t consistent with my emotions. I can practice faithfully for weeks, and then one missed session will lead to eons of slacking.

Yoga is a journey. I just wish I stayed on the road more consistently. Some days, I feel as if I’m in the same place as I was five years ago. In other words, I’m stuck.

My desire to advance my practice is no longer a fleeting thought. It’s an imperative. At-home practice is good, but I need help climbing out of my yoga rut. I need to take my butt back to class. The fact that I haven’t been able to make time for it has me frustrated to no end.

I tried to explain my feelings to Hubs. As an example, I told him about a cousin who recently started yoga and learned to do a headstand.

“Why are you comparing yourself to her?” he asked. “Do you even want to do a headstand?”

“The headstand isn’t the point,” I said. “The point is that she has been consistently practicing with an instructor, so she has improved. I need to go to class more, and I can’t figure out how to make that work with our schedules.”

“You don’t think you’re getting better?” he asked. “I don’t believe that. Aren’t you working out at home?”

I told him I can’t see myself to correct the poses. And there are some moves I can’t figure out how to do on my own. He suggested that I photograph myself and make corrections.

I don’t think he got it. I’m certain that when he’s ready to return to martial arts, he won’t requalify for his black belt by practicing alone and recording sparring matches with a punching bag.

But, I digress.

My stuckness made me tentative on the rare occasions I attended a class. I wouldn’t push. I internally cited a bum knee or lack of flexibility as a reason to avoid more advanced poses. I applauded myself for listening to my body.

This week, I snapped out of it. I took Thursday off to shuttle my dad to eye surgery, but it was cancelled at the last minute. So I took advantage of the free time to read Lean In, a book I’ve renewed four times from the library without cracking a page.

You can read a synopsis or review of the book on any number of sites, so I won’t get into that. I’ll just tell you what I’ve learned after reading about half of it.

I need to give myself more credit. I need to push for what I want, or I won’t get it. I need to speak up for my good work.

With that in mind, I signed up for an evening yoga session. At the onset of class, the instructor asked us each to set an intention. I wanted to work on a lot that night, but I tried to keep it simple.

Stop being afraid. Breathe. Reach.

The instructor, Angie, suggested we “play” after stretching our legs in half pigeon pose. I eyed her suspiciously as she lifted her straightened leg, bound her foot in a strap, and pulled the strap over her shoulder.

My intentions drowned out my hesitance.

Stop being afraid. Breathe. Reach.

I grabbed the strap and wrapped it over my foot. As I pulled the strap over my shoulders, I waited for my knee to protest. It didn’t. I took a deep breath and sank as far into the pose as my body would allow. Leaning in, or in this case, sinking in, felt right. The pose was easier to hold once I trusted my ability.

“You all look so beautiful!” Angie cried. “I’m taking a picture.”

The above pic is the one she took. I like who I see here. Strong. Confident. Focused.

I need to lean in more often.


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