Friday, October 31, 2014

Thirty Days Hath Newvember

Well, wow, THANK YOU.  This blog is still alive and well-- thanks to its amazing, and loyal, and thoughtful, and encouraging, WONDERFUL readers. You humble me.

So, November is National Novel Writing Month. I always attempt it, even though I know that I won't "win" it because I just don't write that fast.  So, I think I'm going to do my own version of that. I don't know if I mentioned that I have begun my book about my journey through chronic pain. It's been fermenting for a long time now and one day, I read this post by artist Jennie de Groot (BLOG READER) and when I read this: "I just did it. Because every time I painted a totally crap painting, it was still 100% better than not painting at all," I decided to just, well, start writing. Because any writing was better than NO writing. I'd been fighting with myself over the shape of the book and whether it was interesting enough and was it too narcissistic and... and then I started writing and the shape appeared. Anyway, I've been trying, with various degrees of success, to write a little bit every day. My November goal will be to write 200 words per day.  I have this theory that it's like yoga -- if I tell myself to go get on my mat for five minutes, it inevitably turns into at least 30. But it's the constancy that I'm looking for, because as Sri Dharma Mittra says, "It takes constant practice."

November is a particularly joyful month for me.  It holds my favorite holiday (Thanksgiving) and it marks the anniversary of my first yoga class on my journey back to health. (November 3.) If you wanted to join me by setting one small daily goal for yourself, I bet by the end of the month, we'd have created enough positive, disciplined energy to change the world for the better, just a little bit.

Who's in?

And excerpt from the book in progress:
Here’s the thing: I believe our natural state is one of radiant health.  We are DESIGNED for radiant health.

 I have a story.  It’s a story of disassociation from my body, a long chronic pain episode, and then finding my way out of that, and back to radiant health. It is a story of triumph and valiance, and also despair and depression.  But mostly the former. It is my biggest hope that telling my story might spur you to write your own story, with an ending that you get to choose.  I remember the despair of chronic excruciating pain.  I remember thinking that I couldn’t seem to explain it to the people around me; that no one could possibly understand how bad it was. I remember thinking that I should just either kill myself or shut up already.

 I remember. You are not alone.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ten Years of Blogging

I know I haven't been updating the blog very much recently, and I probably only have about three readers left, but today is my ten year blogging anniversary.

I've been thinking about my blog a lot recently because one of my favorite bloggers, Mrs. G, is shuttering her long-time blog, Derfwad Manor, and I needed to do a little soul searching about my own blog and the usefulness of it.

I haven't had much time for writing lately, and there have been a lot of tender things that I haven't felt I could write about, which makes me feel vaguely dishonest.  But not all stories are mine to tell, and this blog has always been more about the highlights (and sometimes lowlights!) of my personal journey.  I started blogging in earnest after my foot surgery in 2007, and that has been a wild, twisty path. I am so grateful to be where I am, and interested in what's next.

In the end, I decided I'm not willing or ready to give it up.  For one thing, I've met some amazing people through this blog, people I call my friends now. And I'm about to hit a milestone birthday in February when I turn 50, and I'm sure I will have a lot to say about that. But mostly, I feel like I haven't said all that I'm supposed to about living with chronic pain, and finding one's way out of it.

So, thanks for your patience with me over the past few years, and thanks for sticking around.

Some of us have changed more than others in the last ten years.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


We've truly reached the dog days of summer here in Austin.  The temperature hovers right around 99 degrees, sometimes a few degrees hotter, but never less, it seems. (Yes, this is a mild summer for us.) The plants I planted in containers on my patio have all but given up and I'm starting to wonder if I should just let them die, rather than prolonging their agony. 

But just now, I went out to check on some plants we planted in the ground before our trip to Europe and I found THIS.  Two of them. Sego palms, grown from the seeds we removed from a very large Sego when we trimmed it up, and then planted, with absolutely no hope that they would take root and grow. 

Sometimes life happens in the most inhospitable of circumstances. I'm so grateful.  It seems like a message from the Universe that we can grow and thrive here, too.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Detox: The Reality and Aftermath

I've finished the 10-Day Detox.

I'm not going to lie.  Some of it was really hard.

I just had no idea I was so addicted to sugar. I'm vegan, I eat really healthy, my BMI is healthy, I'm a good weight. (I mean, I want to lose ten pounds, but after all my body has been through, I'm not focused on THAT.) I'm active, my blood work is phenomenal, I feel pretty good most of the time.

But see, that's the kicker: I feel PRETTY GOOD.

I know what it's like to feel FANTASTIC, though --to experience radiant health --and that's what I'm looking for. When I went through my yoga teacher training in 2013, I lived on raw vegan cold-pressed juices and the occasional side of roasted sweet potatoes for ten straight days.  During those ten days, we did an average of six hours of physical yoga practice per day (some days more) and about ten hours of spiritual practice and I was never hungry, never out of energy and I felt...y'all, I felt like I could FLY.  I've never felt so well.

So, anyway, I embarked on this detox with the goal of finding my way back to radiant health. I won't say I met that goal, but I made some significant movement toward it.

This particular detox plan isn't exactly the plan for me. I think it's harder because I'm vegan, so a lot of the lean, accessible protein isn't an option for me. I ate a lot of tofu, and I don't really LIKE tofu! And my body doesn't really like soy. But also?  It was hard because I was addicted to high-glycemic carbs. And breaking that addiction took discipline and determination. The first 2.5 days were really tough.  I almost gave up. By the end of the third day, I'd started to come back to life. By day four, I started feeling pretty dang good.

Once the detox was over, I ate some high-glycemic food and immediately felt TERRIBLE.  So, I think going back is not an option.  What I'm trying to figure out now is how to move forward, incorporating all of the new information I've learned into the way I eat going forward. I've been researching the effects of sugar in its various forms (from the worst of all--high fructose corn syrup --to the naturally occurring sugars in fruits and veggies) on the body.

I'll keep you posted if you are interested.  I'm thinking about starting a health blog, because I'm looking to collect stories of people battling their ways back to health for my next book. Would you be interested in something like that? I always find reading other people's stories of triumph so inspirational.

Let me know.  I've tentatively reserved this spot for a new blog: Teetotaling, Gluten Free Vegan. I hope it'll be funny and compelling once I figure it out.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Detox Just to Retox*

*Little Fallout Boy reference because I am THAT hip.

I have so much to write about, but this will be a quick post because I'm hoping you'll decide to join me in a 10-Day Detox effort.

WAIT, don't go yet!  Seriously, I think this has the potential to be life changing.

If you've followed my story at all, you'll remember that after my chronic pain years ended, I made a lot of changes in my diet and they had a profound effect on my quality of life. 

Then I watched this, and it was like everything I'd accidentally stumbled on came together.  There is SCIENCE behind it!

So, then we went on vacation for two weeks (more on that in another blog post.) I had some down time on the trip and I read Dr. Mark Hyman's book The Blood Sugar Solution 10 Day Detox Diet. I decided to do the 10-day detox when I get back from vacation to give myself a little jumpstart--I've gotten to be a really lazy vegan and I've gained ten (12) pounds in the last year. Like Dr. Hyman says, "Diet coke and chips are a vegan diet."  I want to get back to smart eating, curbing the cravings for things that my body reacts against, and finding my way back to radiant health. When I was there, I couldn't even believe how great I felt. I want that feeling back!

If you'd like to join me on the detox, I'd LOVE the company. I set up a Facebook group, but I'm planning on documenting what I'm doing on the blog here, too. I think we can all start when we're ready and just post updates.  I'll probably start on Sunday, July 27.

If you decide to join me, you'll need some time to prepare--read the book (it's $15 on the Kindle or maybe you can find it in your library) and then assemble the supplements if you're doing that. (He makes an excellent case for them.) I'm doing a vegan version of the detox, but you should do what feels right to you. 

Let me know if you're in and when you think you can start. I'm pretty excited about this, so in the event that you DON'T want to join me, you might want to block me for the next couple of weeks!


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cognitive Dissonance

I moved to Austin originally in 1983 to attend the University of Texas.  I lived here for 24 years and then moved to Long Island (New York) for five-and-a-half years.

Then we moved back to Austin.

Except, we didn't move BACK, really, because Austin is a completely different place.

I mean, things are more or less in the same LOCATION that they always were, but everything else is different now.

I realized on a few weeks ago as I endured the total nightmare of traffic, crowds, dogs, drunks and pedi cabs in order to pick my daughter up from Blues On The Green, that this Austin is just a different place.

And the cognitive dissonance I have is that it still kind of LOOKS the same.

I had a small breakdown as I was trying to find Katherine. I got yelled at by a policeman and some pedestrians, narrowing avoided running over a dog who jumped out into the street in front of me, drove right past my daughter twice because I couldn't stop, found myself in the wrong lane and unable to get was just chaotic and frenzied and there were SO MANY people. I felt blind-sided.  It was kind of like thinking I was going to the local Farmer's Market and ending up in the middle of Times Square.

I don't do well in those kinds of situations.  I function a lot better if I know what to expect.

Which, or course, started me thinking about how much suffering is caused by my holding on to notions of how things SHOULD BE, rather than surrendering to the reality of how things ARE. 

I can think of all kinds of examples of this, especially regarding my children. Their childhoods look like my own in a lot of ways, but really, they are completely different.  Different parents, different world, and they are vastly different people. I keep wanting to manage their childhoods so they can avoid the things I feel were mistakes in my own. And over and over again, it turns out to be a self-defeating theory of action--the very thing I seek to avoid happens anyway. It's kind of like when you're trying to avoid a pothole in the road and you inevitably drive right over it.  (Okay, maybe that's just me.) And it's exhausting and disheartening and depressing.

And, you know, it's also damaging to my relationships with them.

That's a really big pothole. That's a pothole I could spend YEARS crawling out of.

I'm pretty sure the answer is to let them go with grace. The reality is, my kids are getting input and guidance from a lot of sources and I am just one of those. My expectations are out of alignment with reality.

But how to be okay with that? How to be unattached to the results, how to recognize that their paths are their own and that all I can do is be there for them and model health--mental, physical, and spiritual health--and then let them fly free? I can offer guidance, but the trick is to not take their rejection of that guidance personally. I see so many people who are unhealthily enmeshed with their children --who see their children as extensions of themselves, rather than thinking, feeling individuals. I don't want that. I don't want to weigh my kids down with my expectations for them. I want to revel in the reality of who they are--they are amazing people!

During my yoga teacher training, someone asked Sri Dharma Mittra about the dog that is his constant companion, Baxter. "We had this friend who lived with us for a while named Dov.  Baxter is his dog. But when he moved out, he couldn't take Baxter with him because his landlord didn't accept pets, so the dog stayed behind."

Dov is his son.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Valiant Human Body

Last weekend, I was driving out of downtown Austin after one of my older daughter's acoustic brunch gigs on a Sunday afternoon when I stopped to let some pedestrians cross the road. Two women, dressed for church, one of whom was significantly overweight --more than one hundred pounds overweight. I watched her struggle to walk across the road, perched on these high heels, and I don't know...I was just filled with compassion for her and awed by how valiantly her body was trying to do what she'd asked of it. Because the body's all, like, "We can do this.  We can move this body across the street if that's what you're asking, and for bonus points, we're going to do it balanced on tiny stilts. We've got this."

Understand me: as a woman who battled with her weight for a long time (decades,) I was not sitting in judgment. We're all on our own paths and at different places on them. We all have our coping mechanisms for dealing with this world, we all have addictions, and we all make choices that are not aligned with our best interests. And maybe that woman has NONE of those issues. Maybe she just has a sluggish metabolism and a physical condition that prevents her from taking the weight off.  It happens. No judgment from me.

Because I wasn't even feeling judgmental. What I was feeling was admiration for how hard her body was trying to do its job, despite its circumstances. I thought back to my own situation when I logged hundreds of miles as a runner, despite the fact that my foot couldn't bend because of the abnormal bone configuration in it. My body was all, like, "Well, okay then.  Running it is.  Off we go."

Until, you know, we couldn't go anymore. Until I'd worn away so much bone that I couldn't even walk on that foot. And then after the reconstructive surgery when my body had to raise its voice to shout at me that something was really, really WRONG, in order for me to hear it. Because that's what pain is --a signal that something is wrong. That's what illness IS. That's what bunions ARE. All of it, messages from our bodies that something needs some attention, needs addressing, needs some freaking compassion.

It's so hard for us, though, to extend that compassion to ourselves.  When the doctor first x-rayed my foot, he said that I had broken it four or five times. I never noticed. I mean, I remember feeling some annoying pain that maybe slowed me down for a couple of days, but I never went to the doctor or, God forbid, rested. I just expected my body to keep going, broken or not, because I HAD THINGS TO DO. Things that seemed more important than being kind to my poor body, my poor SELF.

Plus, it gets all messed up with our brains sending messages about what kindness looks like when we are being kind to ourselves.  Raise your hand if you've ever thought, "I deserve this cookie because of what I just went through at the DMV." "I'm going to have a margarita the size of Brazil now that I'm done with finals." "I deserve this entire cheesecake because I just ran a marathon."  So, we get all tied up in what we think we deserve, without thinking about what would really be kind to our bodies. We don't listen, most of us, to what our bodies really NEED.  We aren't really interested in what would REALLY reward ourselves. Rest, healthy green vegetables, cool clean water --that's not sexy. That doesn't feel like a reward! I used to take my high-school final exams fueled by raw cookie dough--because nothing says "mental clarity and balance" like a stressed-out, sleep-deprived teenager strung out on massive amounts of refined sugar. I thought I deserved to eat something totally decadent as a reward for withstanding all that stress.  It would have been so much kinder to fuel up with something healthy.

I'm trying to break this cycle, and I think I've made a lot of progress. I've learned to set aside the mind's craving for highly-sugared desserts and excessive amounts of chocolate, in order to check in with my body about what it's really hungry for. I'm not always consistent in this, but it's more of a default state of being than it ever was. It feels right to me.  It feels kind.

Also, I'm becoming more aware of what I ask my body to do on a daily basis, and how I make that either easier or harder. I'm starting to admire my body for it's endless capacity to heal and evolve, and for how valiantly it tries to do what I ask of it.

I wonder what it would look like if we all started celebrating all the stuff the body does for us-- that it does without complaining, and in high heels even? I wonder what our choices would look like if we started applying a little compassion to our aches and pains, instead of getting annoyed and pushing through? If you saw a kid struggling to carry one hundred pounds across a street, what would you do? If you saw a neighbor limping along the sidewalk, what would you say?  If your sister started every day hungover and suffering, what would you want to tell her?

Why is it so much easier to extend compassion to other people, and so hard to feel it for our own valiant selves?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Thirty Day Challenge: Good Things Are Happening!

I'm keeping up with my five minute habits, as part of my Thirty Day Challenge. You should join me--I'm four days in and already, good things are happening.

For one thing, I gave up caffeine again.  I'd been tapering off and then went cold turkey on Saturday. Instead of the ten day SufferFest I had the last time, I really only felt "off" for two days, and then by Monday, I felt FANTASTIC.  Which reminded me why I want to live in alignment with myself in the first place --because it feels really true and right and good. Because I am patient and loving and kind.  There's this...expansiveness of goodness that happens when I'm not feeling rotten as a result of doing things that don't serve me.

I think it's interesting that the things I struggle with the most (especially meditation) are the ones I want the most.

Anyway, I have a big post in the works--actually, I have, like, SEVENTEEN posts in the works --but wanted to pop in for a quick update.  I hope you are feeling fantastic, too, and these little five minute challenges are helping you find your own alignment.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Thirty Day Challenge: Day One

I'm on a challenge to get back to living my truth, five minutes at a time, for 30 days.  Join me!

My cleanse didn't quite work out as I had planned.  Because I hated it.  Well, okay, I hated the first juice of the day.  I don't really like savory juices --and this was all greens and some lemon.  I added the juice of two pears to get it down.  But then I had to take Jane to get a hair cut in the afternoon and afterward she was starving, so we went out to eat.  I decided that spending time with Jane was more important than finishing a juice cleanse. It's getting very hard to get any time with her these days. Will be doing the juice attempt again tomorrow, but will probably concoct my own juices!

As for the five minute Challenge:
  • For the next 30 days, I'm going to do my own yoga practice every day.  I did a 45 minute Power Yoga practice.  I was feeling sort of weak (maybe because it was my first day completely off of caffeine) so I just did it until I was ready to stop.
  • For the next 30 days, I'm going to find at least five minutes per day to sit in stillness, reconnecting with my breath and working on my meditation. Did this after yoga.  It was amazingly hard to sit still, even for five minutes.
  • For the next 30 days, I'm going to play my guitar for at least five minutes every day. I made it a little longer than five minutes, but not much.  Still, it's more than I did yesterday!
  • I'm going to write for at least five minutes every day for the next 30 days. Am doing this now! It is surprisingly hard to write right now. I've been a writer since I could hold a pencil, but I guess it's like  any skill.  You have to use it or you lose it. Or maybe something else is going on here, I don't know. Will think about this a bit more.
  • I'm going to spend at least five minutes in spiritual study, every day for 30 days. I've been doing this on and off all day. That's been the best thing about today, actually.
So, today was also my first day off of caffeine again.  I tapered off of it until I was down to just 4oz. of coffee and then today was Quitsville.  Tapering was a much better solution that just going cold-turkey like I did last time.  I had a little headache but not THE HEADACHE OF DEATH. And instead of spending three days hating everyone on this planet, I only needed to do about three HOURS in that stage.  Then I lost the will to live briefly, and now I feel pretty normal.  Not like I need to scratch my skin from the inside, like last time.

So, all in all, progress was made!  It's never pretty, you know, to start wrenching yourself out of the ruts and back into alignment.  I was thinking a lot today about how it's a lot like planting a garden. It's a lot of freaking hard work to till up the soil and augment it with good growing material and then sprig tiny seeds into it.  But at some point, the seeds grow and they fulfill your vision of what you knew they could be.  More about that tomorrow.

Tell me how your first day went.  Or if this was just a planning day, tell me how that went.  or if you're just cheering the rest of us on this time around, do that.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Thirty Day Challenge, Five Minutes At A Time

I've been really struggling.

REALLY struggling.  Like, yelling-at-people-in-traffic struggling. Disconnected-with-myself struggling. NOT-WANTING-TO-PRACTICE-YOGA struggling. I don't feel well --I've been eating things that don't agree with me (vegan things, but too much chocolate is too much chocolate, even if it's vegan.) I've been finding myself irritated by people--sort of in general.

That's not me when I am living my truth.

I think I allowed the world to set my agenda there for a while. There were a lot of stressful things that happened all together and I let it derail me. I lost my Yoga practice--the big Y yoga practice --in trying to serve as many people as I could, helping them find their own yoga practices.  I lost my breathing, I lost my mindfulness, I lost my meditative nature. I gained some weight and was amazed at how my old thought patterns and self-destructive voice just came roaring back. I lost myself.

I think that's what happens when I'm not living in true alignment with my values.
Well, okay, I don't want to overstate. Let's just say I backslid. I lost some ground. Nothing is gone forever, and the beauty of Yoga is that it meets us where we are, exactly at that moment.

Anyway, I was wallowing around in a bit of despair for while and then, I started, very slowly, gearing up to take myself back.

I got out my Life of a Yogi teacher training manual and reread it.

I'm almost off caffeine again.

I'm mostly off of refined sugar.

And today?  Well, today, I was ready to take action.

I talked to a Life Coach, Christy Diane Farr,  and am going to begin sessions with her. She's wonderful.  I've never done one-on-one coaching with her, but her energy is amazing and very healing for me.  She's very direct, she understands exactly who I am, and she calls me on anything that's out of kilter with that. You'd like her.

I bought the ingredients for a one-day juice cleanse. (It's new to me, so if I like it, I'll extend for a three day cleanse.)

And here's what I'm resolving:

  • For the next 30 days, I'm going to do my own yoga practice every day.  In addition to my teaching, I'm going to do at least five minutes of my own practice every day. I hope this will end up being a full Power Yoga practice every day, but my resolution is just to go to my mat and rediscover my love for my own practice.
  • For the next 30 days, I'm going to find at least five minutes per day to sit in stillness, reconnecting with my breath and working on my meditation.
  • For the next 30 days, I'm going to play my guitar for at least five minutes every day.
  • I'm going to write for at least five minutes every day for the next 30 days.
  • I'm going to spend at least five minutes in spiritual study, every day for 30 days.

So, if I do the bare minimum, that's only 25 minutes out of every day. Dudes, 25 minutes! I spend more time than that making lunches for my kids!

I'm inviting you to join me.

Here's what you do: You don't have to do MY list--you probably have a list of your own of things you know need your attention --things that fulfill you and bring you into alignment with your values. Things that center you. Maybe it's knitting or quilting or reading or cooking... find what you love to do that you're neglecting. And then throw in one or two things that you do that further your goals, but that you don't exactly LOVE.  Like, I really want to play the guitar.  Right now, I'm just very terrible at it.  But I am enough of a musician that I KNOW I'm terrible and it kind of hurts me to hear myself practice. I'm bringing my self-discipline to bear here, knowing that if I persevere, I'll be further down the road after 30 days.  And then throw something in that feeds your hungry soul --something spiritual. It doesn't have to be religious--it can be wherever you find something bigger than yourself: walks in nature, putting your hands in dirt, walking by the ocean.

I'm going to chronicle my progress--good and bad-- right here on this blog. You can, too.

Want in? It's only 30 days; what have you got to lose?

Friday, January 31, 2014

And the Universe Weighs In

There are a lot of stressful things happening around me right now. Nothing I can say too much about --they are private stories and not mine to share. But they affect me nonetheless; some of them deeply.  I am trying to be a lighthouse in the midst of all of these storms. Steadfast and constant and a little beacon of positive energy.

It's hard. I am not always successful.

Yesterday, I went to do my yoga practice and realized, as I stepped on the mat, that I was just awash in anxiety. I said the Mantra for Purification about five times before I felt steady enough to begin. And then, as I began to move, my mind settled into acceptance that most of the things I am worried about are completely out of my control. They will resolve, or not, exactly according to some plan that I know nothing about. I just have to stay the course: walking my walk and breathing through the hard places.

Right about that time, I noticed something on the floor in front of me. It was a strand of my hair, curled in the shape of a heart.

Oh, Universe, you're GOOOODDD.
It's kind of hard to see.  You have to be looking for it. :)

(Please keep my people and me in your thoughts. This world is not for sissies.)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why I'm Not A Food Blogger

Well, okay, being a teetotaling, vegan, mostly wheat-free, largely raw food foodie is PART of the reason.

But the biggest reason I am not a food blogger is because I cook exactly like I think.  Nothing is according to recipe, nothing is duplicatable, and when I'm successful, there are never any pictures.

Take today, for example.  I made the best soup. SO good.

And I don't think I can tell you how I did it.

It went something like this.

"I'm going to make that fantastic Chipotle Sweet Potato soup I made before."

"I'll just sauté this chopped white onion in some olive oil while I try to find the recipe."

"No, that's not it.  That's not it. That's not it. Okay, well, I can improvise."

"Except these are butternut squash chunks.  And I should really use them before they go bad.  Well, you know, butternut squash makes a FINE soup, and I still get to eat that color.  Win/win."

"Let me just add a dollop of garlic to the onion, stir that around some. Add the butternut squash, stir that around some. Add some veggie broth. Let that simmer..."

"Uh oh. Where did my chipotle peppers in adobo sauce go? Not in the fridge, not in the freezer, not in the back freezer... No can in the pantry. Still not in the freezers.  No, really, NOT IN THE FREEZER."


"Well, I have this can of diced tomatoes with green chiles.  I'll just add that for some heat.  I mean, how bad could that turn out?  There's a lot of squash and only this little can... okay, I'll do that."

"Everything is simmering along nicely. In fact, I think the squash is getting soft. I'll use the stick blender now--gosh, I LOVE this thing."

"That looks pretty good, actually. I'll add some almond milk to make it creamy... oops, the kind in the refrigerator is vanilla.  But I have an emergency carton in the pantry, so I'll use that."

"Only *I* could pour almond milk into soup and get it in my hair."

"That looks good, but maybe a little watery from all that liquid?  I know!  I know! I'll add some cashew butter.  Look at me thickening up my vegan soup like a vegan pro. Starting to be able to speak the vegan food language. Maybe."

"  That's good.  Needs a little more blending.  WOW! That's REALLY good. little white pepper."

"Okay, that's done and it's really good.  I should share it with people, except I'm not sure what the recipe is now that my Chipotle Sweet Potato soup turned into Butternut Squash, Tomato, and Green Chiles soup."

"I'll just post a picture on Facebook."