Why I Love Yoga

I’m not kidding. I loooooove yoga. If I was a polygamist I would so marry it.

When I think about it, I realize my journey to health began with yoga, although I didn’t know it at the time. A little over two years ago, I signed Tim and myself up for a beginner’s class at a studio up the street called Wake Up Yoga. (Fellow Phillyites, Wake Up has three studios througout the city and they’re all awesome.)

Quick backstory: I used to be a runner, but a neck injury from a car accident knocked me out of running commission indefinitely. So for two years prior to the date of my first yoga class, the only exercise I could manage, other than walking, was the eliptical machine. Satisfying? Not so much. I had heard that yoga was a healing exercise, so I figured why not? Couldn’t hurt to try it.

I still remember the day of our first class. Tim and I had very recently gotten engaged. I was elated, but also stressed. The budgetary concerns of a wedding were already in the forefront of our minds. As we walked to the studio, Tim and I were arguing and I got so upset that I started crying. I actually had to take a few minutes to collect myself before I opened the door. I remember wondering if it had been a mistake to sign up for the class. Why was I adding another thing to my plate when it was already so full?

Not only was my emotional stress level high at that time, but physically I wasn’t at my best. I wouldn’t say I was fat, but I definitely weighed on the heavier end of my lifetime weight spectrum. The last two years of limited mobility had taken its toll. I was in pain every day from my neck injury and completely out of shape.

For the first few classes, there were a lot of poses I couldn’t do. I was scared of tweaking my neck and I was completely inflexible. Also, the whole experience just felt awkward to me. There was gaggy incense in the room, hokey decorations everywhere and sometimes we chanted weird sanskrit phrases. Those things were for granola-loving hippies. Not me. Please.

But at the end of each class, the instructor always said, “Think about how you feel now. Do you feel different than in the beginning of class?” And no matter what poses I could or couldn’t do, or what variety of incense was burning, I always felt different. My body felt warm and stretched. It felt alive. And I felt calmer.

By the end of the series, I had mastered some of those poses I couldn’t do at the beginning. I lost weight. I felt my body working again like it hadn’t in years. There were times in every class when I sweated like crazy and my entire leg or arm or whatever was shaking. And I loved it. After class, I would go home and sleep like a baby. In just eight weeks, I was hooked.

Two years later, I am in love. Not only is yoga an amazing, full-body workout, but it focuses on the mind-body connection in a way that no other form of exercise (at least exercise that I’ve tried) does. Yoga makes me feel centered and quiet. It forces me to live in the present moment, to feel grateful for my body and the things it can do.

Throughout everything that has happened these last couple of years, yoga has been a mainstay. It is a safe haven for me, something I know I’ll always have in my back pocket when the rest of the world gets too stressful. Because of yoga, I have deepened my relationship to myself, as well as my relationship to others. I’ve become a more spiritual person. Yes, I’m sounding dramatic here, but I believe every word of what I’m writing.

For real: yoga changed my life.

And guess what? I don’t even mind the hokeyness anymore. Last Saturday I took a four-hour yoga class. At the beginning of the class, the instructor handed out bindis for everyone. You know, those decorative dot things that some people wear between their eyes? I didn’t even blink. I stuck one to my forehead and wore that thing with pride.

So, yeah, maybe I’m a granola-loving-hippie-yoga-freak now. But I really like the person I’ve become.

Seeing Green

I try to be super positive on this blog. I want this space to be about health and hope. But I also want to be honest. And if I’m being honest right now, I’d say that I’m having a crappy day. So this is where I’ll issue a warning: if you don’t want to read a Debbie Downer post, halt!

I’ve always been an envious person. Of all the seven deadly sins, I’ve got that one on lock. I am not at all proud of it, but there it is: my biggest fault. Now that I’m so keen to have a baby, and it hasn’t happened for me right away, I’ve been trying hard to keep this bad tendency in check. I mean, there’s always going to be someone I know who’s pregnant. And there’s always going to be someone I know who got pregnant in the first month of trying. I could drive myself straight into the nuthouse if I let myself be envious of every pregnant woman in the universe. Usually, I do a good job of containing these feelings. I am, after all, truly happy for the women I know who are having babies. And I do believe that it will happen for me too at some point.

But today, I don’t know. Blah.

A few people I’m acquainted with, in the blog world and otherwise, have had babies in the last few days. Baby extravaganza! And as I’m sharing in their excitement, I’m listening carefully to what they’re saying. Sometimes they say things like “I didn’t really know love until I held my child,” or something along those lines. A cliché, yes, but all clichés are rooted in some truth. And while I do not begrudge these new mothers their joy, I can’t help but feel envious of it. The green-eyed monster is like, oh, hello.

And if it’s at all true that one does not really know love until they’ve held their child, then where does that leave me? And where does that leave the women who can’t have children? While I’m sure none of us are loveless, are we missing out on some elemental part of life?

It’s these thoughts, my friends, that are bringing me down.

Ciao, Caffeine! Mwah!

The final cup. (Don't even think about making fun of my Tinkerbell mug.)

Next up on the chopping block: caffeine. As a matter of fact I’m drinking my last cup of coffee…now.

Lest you start thinking, ‘Seriously? You’re cutting out something else awesome? What is with you?’ I will share why. Number one, caffeine makes me feel like crap. I get the jitters, big time. Even just one cup of half-caff (which is what I’ve been drinking these days) makes me all keyed up and anxious. And I’m already anxious enough, thank you very much.

I’ve tried to give up caffeine before for this reason and failed. But now that I’ve successfully ditched alcohol (one month and counting), I’m feeling pretty cocky. Me against caffeine? I’m totally winning that fight. Boom!

Plus, if I proclaim on this blog that I’m going to do something, I pretty much have to do it. Otherwise, I’ll feel like an idiot.

Reason number two: fertility. Just as there have been studies saying alcohol negatively effects fertility, there have been the same studies for caffeine. And just like with the alcohol studies, there are also studies saying that caffeine has no effect. But why chance it? Especially if I know it makes me feel bad anyway.

I think this one might be a little trickier to navigate than alcohol, though, because caffeine is in lots of stuff, including chocolate. I may not cut out chocolate completely. Even I’m not that crazy. I’ll have to ponder it some more. But I’m going to attempt to keep chocolate to a minimum, since I’m trying to chill with the amount of sugar I eat anyway. But coffee is definitely out, as well as caffeinated tea and any type of soda.

So there you have it. My next step on the road to health. This has been a fun journey so far. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Get Out Of Town

Beautiful Vermont, the home of my heart.

Tim and I drove to Vermont on Saturday to stay at the inn where we got married. We could not have asked for a sweeter fall weekend. Leaves were at their peak of color, pumpkins and mums dotted every windowsill and doorway, and the sky was the most brilliant shade of cloudless blue.

We stopped at a country store:

We rode bikes:

We discovered a secret apple orchard in the woods:

We pretended to play tennis:

We even watched It’s A Wonderful Life:

But still. Even with all of that awesomeness, it was a bittersweet weekend. The last time we were at the inn we experienced crazy amounts of joy. And while there are still plenty of things to be joyful about, I couldn’t help but notice the contrast between then and now.

I still thought about my mom all weekend. I still obsessed about the fact that I hadn’t ovulated yet this cycle. I still worried about a lot of things. The cares of my daily life were there, but they were muted just enough to allow me to enjoy the scenery and appreciate my time with Tim.

One of the last things we did before leaving was to trek out to the meadow where we held our wedding ceremony.

Hurricane Irene gave Vermont a serious beat-down, so much of the land around the inn was damaged. The bridge leading to the meadow was gone, forcing us to take a roundabout route.

It wasn’t much of a meadow anymore, but it was still there.

So we stood on the approximate spot where we tied the knot last August and said our vows to each other again.

And although our one-year anniversary has come and gone, I’d like to raise a cranberry and club soda in toast. A toast to another 50 years of marriage. A toast to the hope that most of those years will be less bumpy than the first. A toast to the wild, wonderful children we will have. And, finally, a toast to my mom, who will love the crap out of those crazy-ass children for many years to come.


The Vows:
I will make you laugh when you’re sad.
I will take care of you when you’re sick.
I will support your dreams.
I will be your lifelong teammate, yet never lose sight of your individuality.
I will be the ear that listens to you, the shoulder you cry on.
I will be a stable force in your life, your shelter from the world.
I will always be kind.
I will be loyal, faithful and true.
I will love you to the end of this life and beyond.
Because of you, I am the luckiest person on earth.


Thank you all for the outpouring of thoughts and prayers. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to ask you to keep them going a little while longer.

It turns out my mom’s cancer is stage IV. Let’s just say that’s pretty much the opposite of what we were hoping for. Surgery is not an option. Our best bet is to keep the cancer from spreading, which means my mom will need chemo treatments for the rest of her life. Not ideal, but my mom insists it’s not going to cramp her style.

I will say I definitely picked an interesting time to quit drinking. I may or may not have had multiple red velvet cupcakes last night, but I did not have a drink. And as much as I want one, I’m not going to do it. I not only owe it to myself and Baby-Best-Yet-To-Be to stay as healthy as possible, but I now I owe it to my mother as well.

As my mom said last night, “We need to widen Hope Street into a freeway.” So that is what we’ll do. Because there is nowhere to go but onward.

Calling All Thoughts, Prayers and Other Niceties

I got a call from my mom today at 5 p.m. sharp. I knew a phone call at the exact minute I was due to leave work could only be bad news. Unfortunately, I was right.

My mother’s cancer is back. Bam! That tricky-slick disease totally sucker punched us.

We don’t know what stage the cancer is in. We don’t know how good or bad the prognosis is. We don’t know anything, really. She has a PET scan tomorrow to determine all of these things. We’re hoping to have answers within 24 hours of the test.

For now, we wait. Speaking as someone who has gone through this before, my mother says this initial waiting is the hardest part.

While we are waiting, I would love it if you all could keep her in your thoughts. If you’re the praying kind, those would be great, too. If her cancer is local, we’re golden. Chances are she’ll need surgery and then she’s all set. No further action required. If it’s not local, well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

So, please, keep your fingers, thoughts and prayers crossed that we hear that magic word…local.

My mother survived her last round of cancer like a champ, managing to maintain a level of optimism and grace along the way that was inspiring. She is feisty, stubborn and incorrigible. If you try to tell her no, forget about it. You do not, and I repeat, do not, want to mess with her. Quite frankly, I’m surprised Mr. Cancer dared show his face around her again. Clearly, he must be a little slow on the uptake.

My mother told me tonight that she’ll be fine. You may not know this about her, but she is always right. My father and I often acknowledge this fact by calling her Mrs. Rightwood. So listen, if Rightwood says she’s going to be fine, then she will be. End of story.

But I bet she’d still like to know that you have her back. Send some positive energy her way. It would mean more to her (and me) than you’ll ever know.

Two Weeks Down, ?? Left To Go

One easy way to avoid alcohol: hang out with pregnant chicks.

First things first, a huge thanks to all of you who commented on my post about giving up alcohol. I felt some serious love and support from you guys. And I love you all right back.

I want to give a special shout-out to my friend Zac, who offered to abstain from alcohol until I get pregnant. For those of you who don’t already know Zac: he will actually do this. That’s just the kind of guy he is. For your sake, Zac, I hope I get pregnant soon!

It’s been two weeks and a day since I’ve had a drink. And guess what? It’s totally fine. So far. I made it through a concert. I made it through a wedding. I even made it through a visit with my brother, who might be my favorite drinking buddy on the planet.

I’ve been sitting here for the past few minutes trying to figure out why it has been fairly easy for me to drop something that was such a huge part of my life. I’m guessing it has much to do with the fact that every time I’ve had a drink for the past month or two I felt guilty about it. I felt bad about myself when I was drinking and even worse the next morning. I wasn’t listening to the voice telling me I needed to stop and I knew it. So I think finally quitting was a relief. No more guilt! No more nagging inner voice being like, “Dude, what are you doing?”

Do I feel amazing and more energetic than I have in years? Nah. I feel pretty much the same, physically. Although, not having a hangover is definitely nice. Mostly the changes I’ve noticed have been mental. I feel more at peace. Finally – after months of hemming and hawing – I had the courage to make a major, healthier change for myself. And that feels pretty darn good.

I doubt every day will be as easy as these first two weeks. Of course not. This could just be the honeymoon period, right? But seeing as I have my end goal in mind and a wealth of support from all of you, I believe I’ll be just fine.

A sober (and happy) me in Pumpkin Land.