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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Alexander Edward MacKenzie

I realize it's been more than three years since I posted in this space. Work, yoga, running and other obligations just took over and I lost the motivation (and time) to keep writing here. Recently though, I've been reading back through old posts and realizing how great it is to be able to read back through recaps of our wedding, honeymoon, my graduation from business school, and even just the everyday memories from a few years ago.

On November 30, 2017 our son Alexander was born. We are both so smitten and head over heels in love with this little pumpkin, and going back over old blog entries made me want to start writing again, so that I can preserve these memories and come back to them over and over. This is really more for me than for anyone else - but if you're here, awesome! Hope you like babies, dogs, cats and yoga ;)

Ben and I found out we were pregnant on April 5, 2017 when we were on vacation in Florida with my parents & my sister (I'll tell that whole story later - it was a fun 5 days of trying to hide the fact that I wasn't drinking...). My pregnancy was generally pretty easy - minimal morning sickness, I continued to practice yoga the entire time and was running until a few weeks into my 3rd trimester (and continued going for long-ish walks after). No swollen ankles and almost no back/hip/joint pain. I know some of that is a total crapshoot, but I also give credit to yoga.

WARNING: DESCRIPTIONS OF BODILY FUNCTIONS FOLLOW. NOTHING TOO GROSS BUT IF THE WORDS 'MUCOUS PLUG' OR 'AMNIOTIC FLUID' MAKE YOU UNCOMFORTABLE YOU MAY WANT TO GLOSS OVER SOME OF THIS.

Going into week 39 I was still feeling pretty good and staying active, just waiting for baby to arrive. I had wrapped up most of my work projects on the Friday after Thanksgiving, so by Monday (the 27th) I was feeling pretty prepared for maternity leave and was able to be there on mostly a consultative basis, and was planning to start working from home on Wednesday the 29th. Starting that Monday, things started to feel different. Baby had dropped at least a week ago, but on Monday the 27th I really started to feel like he was pushing down - almost like I had an anvil strapped to my stomach pulling towards the earth. That night I began having mild contractions that were pretty regular. I started timing them around 11pm and trying to sleep but they were fairly uncomfortable. At about midnight I got up to use the bathroom and discovered that I had *definitely* lost my mucous plug. I won't get into the graphic detail, but for some reason I was thinking it wouldn't be obvious when I lost my plug...it definitely was. I texted my doula with the update (yes at 12:30am...) since she'd said this would be one of the major signs we were getting close. She said it sounded like early labor, but that he could be on his way any time between a day and a week from now.

I went back into the office on Tuesday for the last of what I considered to be critically important project handoffs, thinking we were still several days away from baby time. I also handed out my holiday gifts for my team, knowing that I wouldn't be around for Christmas. Leaving the office that day just felt weird...I had been planning for weeks to work from home from Wednesday onward, but it just felt strange saying this would be my last day in the office for three months. As I was leaving I thought, maybe I'll come in on Friday just because this feels too final. On my way out the door, my boss asked if I could write up a a few things from home the next day, knowing that being remote and thus would be much less likely than he would to be constantly interrupted (our workplace is super collaborative, which is great but can also sometimes mean that it's hard to focus and get things like writing or large reports done). I said of course, talk to you tomorrow, and headed home.

The next morning (Wednesday the 29th), I rolled out of bed, made coffee and for some reason decided to start working at 6:30am. This is one of many pieces of evidence that the body is smart and often knows what's going on before we do. I knocked off three deliverables for a project I was working on, and the write-ups for my boss. He and I are both early risers, but when he saw me firing off emails before 7am he wrote me back to ask if I was OK. "Yep! Totally fine, I'm just paranoid that this baby is coming any second and trying to knock a few things off this morning."

Haha.

At about 8am I shut down my laptop and Ben and I drove the clinic for my 39 week appointment with my OB. I'd been having mild contractions again, on and off throughout the night. They had sort of calmed down as we got ready to leave, but were still coming occasionally. When we got to my appointment, I told the nurse and my doctor that I'd lost my plug and was having mild contractions - all totally normal for 39 weeks btw. I was about 2 cm dialated at my checkup, and even my OB said baby was *very* low but thought it would be at least another week before anything happened. I was skeptical...I didn't exactly thing he was coming that day, but I definitely didn't think it would be another week. On our way home, Ben and I stopped at Target to buy M&M's (because why not) and talked about where we should go for one last date night.

When we got home I logged back into my computer and started catching up on email and Ben left for work. Further evidence that the universe was looking out for us that day: on his way out the door, Ben stopped and said "Oh - by the way! Nicole (his principal) insisted that I give you the office number at school. Reception in my classroom is not great, so if anything happens and you can't reach me on my cell you can call the office number." So he gave me the number and I entered it into my phone.

About 30 minutes later (around 10:30) I decided to start getting lunch ready. I put a pot of rice on the stove, went over to the freezer and bent down to grab something - and as I stood up I felt a gush. Not a huge one, like stereotypical water breaking, but definitely different than anything else that had been going on for the past few days. My first thought was that I was leaking amniotic fluid (aka my waters had broken but not dramatically). I knew this wouldn't be great, because I was Strep B positive and they would want me on antibiotics as soon as my membranes ruptured to avoid infecting baby. My second thought was, did I pee myself? I called my clinic immediately, and when I described what was going on they agreed it might be amniotic fluid and that I should head into the Mother Baby Center to get it checked out. Thinking that it was nothing and that I'd probably be back in a couple of hours, I moved some meetings to later in the day, grabbed my purse and a book and called a Lyft.

Oh but hey, remember that pot of rice I put on the stove? Yeah, it was still cooking. In my panicked rush to get out of the house I had completely forgotten about it. Freaking out, I called my mom who happened to be volunteering about 3 minutes from hour house and has a key. Crisis of burning our home down averted!

When I got to the Mother Baby Center they checked me in and a nurse took me to one of the triage rooms where I put on a gown and sat down on the exam table. The nurse took one look at me and said "...Yeah. I'll do the test but I can pretty much tell you right now that's amniotic fluid. You're sitting in a puddle basically."

"So, I'm not going home today am I?"

"Nope!"

I tried calling Ben's cell but, as I mentioned earlier, he sometimes doesn't get service in his classroom and my call didn't go through. So about one hour after he gave me the office line for his school, I ended up calling it. Poor guy had literally just gotten to school and was about to start his first class of the day when the office manager came in to say "hey, your wife's on the phone, you should probably take this"... Sorry babe! :) Because I really thought I was coming home, I hadn't even grabbed the hospital bag or made arrangements for the pets. Ben stopped by home to get the bag and my mom offered to take the dog and feed the cat. Another crisis averted!

I won't go into too much detail about the labor/delivery process but all told I was in labor for about 16 hours from the time I arrived at the Mother Baby Center until Alexander was born, at about 4:18 AM on November 30th. Aside from the fact that I'd planned on laboring at home for several hours before going in to the hospital (which was shot to hell when my water broke), the delivery went pretty much according to plan! The only thing that really threw me for a loop was back labor, which was pretty awful and almost made me abandon my plan to go drug free. My doula and I thought he might be posterior (when the baby's spine is against your spine) which is often the cause of back labor. We did a ton of Spinning Babies exercises to try to get him to turn, none of which alleviated my back pain at all... so we finally came to the conclusion that this might just be how things were going to go. If you haven't experienced back labor, you really don't want to. Basically by the time I got to late active labor and transition, I felt like my back was going to break in half during every contraction, and following each contraction my low back spasmed with pain to the point where I almost dreaded the end of the contraction more than the contraction itself. Plus the back pain was continuous so there really was no break from the pain between contractions. Honestly I'm not sure how I got through it, except for the constant encouragement from Ben, the nurses, my doula, and the OB on call.

When we got to the pushing stage, I found that the best position to relieve pressure on my back and let gravity help was on my knees with the back of the bed elevated to almost 90 degrees, draping my upper body over the back of the bed. We were all nervous that the OB wouldn't let me deliver in this position and that she would make me continue pushing on my back. Luckily, she was totally on board and even made a diving catch to grab Alex as he came out! Just looking at him during those first few hours was the most amazing thing I'd ever experienced - realizing that this little being was the same one who had been living and growing inside me for the past 9 months just blew my mind. When we first locked eyes, my heart melted. I never, ever want to forget that moment.




The next couple of days were a whirlwind of activity, trying to figure out how to breastfeed, visits from friends and family and deliveries of delicious food. Thank you to everyone who came to see us and brought us meals during those first few days - we are so grateful!




For now, we are just hanging out at home, snuggling Alexander, drinking a lot of tea, watching some great shows on Netflix and gearing up for the holidays. Hope you're all having an amazing holiday season! Back soon with more :)





(^^ I started this post a few weeks ago - I thought about editing it but decided to leave it as-is and just post it now! Given how long it take me to get this post up, I'm obviously not doing so hot at writing more often o_O)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Yoga is like music...

...The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life." RIP BKS Iyengar (1918-2014)



Your contributions to the practice of yoga are truly beyond measure. Light on Yoga is the one book I open every day without fail, and I will continue to reference your unnatural arm length in pretty much all of my classes. Thank you for your greatness, for your knowledge, for inspiring me and so many others. Thank you thank you for everything.

Om sri gurubhyo namaha.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"I learn by going where I have to go" ~ Theodore Roethke

"Ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question: Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use." - Carlos Castaneda

Before you read this I just think you should know - everything I wrote here I basically said out loud in front of everyone in my teacher training last month and I almost completely lost it in front of like 20 people. I am NOT a public crier. I am not an emotionally demonstrative person about stuff like this. Excitement? Yes. Geeking out over something awesome that I love? Yes. Tearing up during a public discussion? Um, no. I was like "oh I'll just share my reasons for wanting to teach" and then suddenly I started choking up and was like WHAT IS HAPPENING I CAN'T CONTROL MY BODY THIS IS NOT ME AT ALL. I will never secretly and internally make fun of public criers again because apparently now I am one. So that happened. 

On the morning of our second-to-last day in LA last month, Noah gave us a short assignment in which we were asked to write about why we felt called to teach. For those of you who know me, you know that I was a teacher for several years - during and right after college I was the music director for a Musical Theater camp in Minneapolis and to this day it was the most rewarding thing I've ever done. I loved it to the point where I felt guilty depositing my paycheck, because I couldn't believe someone would pay me money to have so much fun. Unfortunately, the paycheck I deposited was not large enough to cover all my costs, so I was working part time at a shoe store while also trying to figure out how to make my life more stable.

But, for a lot of reasons we don't need to get into here, I started to feel embarrassed whenever my answer to the classic cocktail party/ high school reunion/ running into my parents friends at the grocery store question "So, what are you doing these days?" was "oh you know...I'm still figuring things out." So I decided to get my shit together and enter the muggle world - I left my awesome job and went back to school for my MBA and somehow ended up in corporate healthcare.

Now, don't get me wrong I think it was the right decision for me at the time. When I interviewed for internships during the winter of my first MBA year, I realized that I just could not get all that jazzed up about consumer packaged goods (which is what I actually thought I wanted to do) and the only interviews where I felt passionate and genuine were those that centered around making people's lives better. 

I interned at a large healthcare company that summer, and accepted an offer to work there full-time after graduation. I wouldn't say I knew immediately that it was the wrong choice, but I definitely had this overwhelming shock of "what am I doing here, how did this happen...?"

At first things were basically fine, but over time it became increasingly clear that this just was not the right place for me to be. It certainly didn't help that we started going through what felt like endless rounds of layoffs and re-orgs during which some mentors and close friends of mine were let go. I tried everything - positive re-framing, changing my attitude, putting in 110% effort, staying positive - but every week my anxiety level just increased. I started having panic attacks in the morning and there were times I totally broke down on my way out the door, or I would turn to Ben while packing my lunch and say "I can't do this anymore."

I'm not trying to be dramatic...I'm really just tryingt to make a point about how you know when something is not the right fit. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a very positive person and that I tried so, so hard to make this work. I have nothing against anyone that I worked with. I got along very well with my boss and she was incredibly supportive of my professional development. My team and my colleagues were all smart, wonderful people and I learned a TON from my time there. But, I was straight up miserable.

Anyway, it was around this time that I started subbing for my friend Laura's class more regularly. I was still kind of on the fence about whether or not I wanted to be a teacher, but I was happy to step in and take over classes while she was out. It didn't take long for me to remember how much I love teaching, and how rewarding it is to receive positive feedback from your students or watch them have an 'a-ha' moment. That was when I decided I need to to do my teacher training sooner rather than later, and signed up for Noah's program in LA. 

Practicing some General Sequence action on my porch


I am having trouble figuring out how to put this into words, but when you've spent literally years in the wrong environment trying to squeeze your round self into a square peg, convincing yourself that you are the problem, it's kind of an otherworldly experience to feel like something just fits. It was like the first hit of air after holding my breath underwater for ages.

Morning hike in LA with YTT friends


Again, that sounded super dramatic. But basically, YTT reminded me what it felt like to be on the right path - and simultaneously, I knew that the path I was currently on with my career was the wrong one. It's not that the path itself is inherently bad - for some people it's a great choice and it's the right thing for them, but I knew that it wasn't right for me. Could I have been successful there in the long term? Sure, maybe. Would I have ever been happy? Definitely not.


Literally the week I returned from teacher training and my little revelation in LA, I was called in to interview for a position I had applied for right before I left town. I'd been looking for a while, but had only applied to a select few positions and had actually turned something down that didn't feel quite right. This position, however, was one that I was so excited about I wouldn't even tell my parents what it was for fear of jinxing it. Not even kidding.

And now it's my job. I'm back in the arts, which is where I always wanted to be. I'm learning how to teach yoga, which I am also extremely passionate about. I just feel very, very fortunate right now.

random shadow because, why not
In Chapter 18 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna that "it is better to engage in one’s own occupation [dharma], even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation [dharma] and perform it perfectly.” (Bg. 18.47). No matter how good it looks on paper, even if you're successful at it, it is never a good idea to travel down a path that is not your own. Unfortunately, it is so easy to convince ourselves to stay on the wrong path - to feel like if we just try harder, or do something differently or change something about ourselves, that we can make it work. But if it's not right for you, it will never work, and sometimes it takes a hit of oxygen to remind us where we have to go.

So I guess all I'm saying is...if you're miserable, if something doesn't feel right to you, don't put that on yourself. Don't be afraid to walk away from something even if it sounds great at cocktail parties. And find a path with a heart.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Don't think about it, just do it

Last Monday at 12:35am PST I boarded a red-eye from LAX to MSP. At 6am CST I landed in Minneapolis, Ben drove me home and I showered, changed and I went into the office and Ben left for a three-day work retreat. Tuesday I had an after-work event, Wednesday I ended up at the doggie urgent care with Sidney until midnight (long story, he is fine), Thursday I worked at an event until 10pm and Friday I had a friend over. I went to Shannon's class on Saturday, and to the advanced practice on Sunday where we did a ton of arm balances and backbends at least 7 urdhva dhaunurasanas (I stopped counting at 5, but I know we did more after that). On Monday I went to Ali's class where we did...more backbends including five urdhvas at the end, with variations. Normally five urdhva dhaunurasanas is not a problem, but last night I was so wiped out that I finally reached that point where the tiredness pushes through some magical barrier to a land where exhaustion no longer matters. I call this point "don't think about it, just do it."

"Don't think about it, just do it" is kind of how I've gotten through the last week and a half, so I am REALLY excited for this weekend so I can put my feet up, marathon some netflix and get caught up on my YTT homework.

ANYWAY.
There is something I've been meaning to say here but haven't gotten the chance - this was probably pretty apparent to anyone who follows me on Instagram or Twitter but I should mention that I left my job about a month ago. I have a LOT more to say on that subject but that's another blog entry for another time. It was tough to leave, but I know deep down it was the right choice.

Since I did make a mention going into the office and working late hours last week, I obviously have a new job and it is AMAZING. Also more to say on that subject, also another entry for another time.

As a friend of mine said to me a few weeks ago, 2014 is apparently my year for shaking it up. Yoga teacher training, new job, all of it. I could not be more excited about where I am right now. So there's my update, hope you are having a great week and I know I say this every time but I REALLY REALLY am going to try to write more. I have so many backlogged entries about YTT and yoga philosophy it's not even funny. So hopefully I'll get around to finishing and posting some of them soon ;) But in the meantime - photos, because everyone likes those.


Early morning run at the lake

Art shopping with new coworkers at Adam Turman's garage sale

MN pride tank - courtesy of Adam Turman Garage Sale

Old yoga studio is now a coffee shop - it's very weird 

Visiting my sis in Chicago

Date night with Benjamin at the MN Orchestra

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book of the Week: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt


"If a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don't think 'oh, I love this picture because it's universal.' 'I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.' That's not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It's a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes, you. An individual heart-shock. Your dream, Welty's dream, Vermeer's dream. You see one painting, I see another, the art book puts it at another remove still, the lady buying the greeting card at the museum gift shop sees something else entire, and that's not even to mention the people separated from us by time -- four hundred years before us, four hundred years after we're gone  -- it'll never strike anybody the same way and the great majority of people it'll never strike in any deep way at all but -- a really great painting is fluid enough to work its way into the mind and heart through all kinds of different angles, in ways that are unique and very particular. Yours, yours. I was painted for you."

Monday, May 19, 2014

Lately...





Well. So. Here is a small sampling of what I've been up to lately.

Teacher training is SO GREAT. It has honestly exceeded my expectations in every possible aspect, and in many ways it has been a much needed wake up call for me. A few months ago, I came across a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that basically says, "If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life thinking that it is stupid." I've spent a lot of time lately trying to climb trees and beating myself up, and within three days at YTT I felt like someone had picked me up and thrown me back into the water.

The week kicked off with a three-day Philosophy intensive with Dr. Douglas Brooks centered around the Mahabharata, one of the two famous epic poems (the other being the Ramayana) from which a lot of yoga mythology originates. The Mahabharata is kind of a crazy text and not necessarily all that accessible. It has six false starts and is fairly non-linear, and there are about one billion characters many of whom have similar names. The central story is a feud between families with a complicated history of betrayal and intrigue, culminating in a massive battle. So in a way it's sort of like a very old Indian version of Game of Thrones. Actually there are a LOT of similarities between the Mahabharata worldview and the Game of Thrones worldview - I was taking notes the entire time and if I ever get it together I will write a massive post on Mahabharata/GoT parallels. In an ideal world.

Anyway... moving on from Game of Thrones for the moment, the lesson that stuck with me the most from Douglas' lectures, and one of the key lessons of the Mahabharata is that we are always in crisis. If you're like me, you spend a lot of time telling yourself you'll do something you really want to do "when everything settles down..." or "maybe when my life is more stable." News flash. Things will never settle down. In the Mahabharata, the moment you think things are settling down is the moment it all goes to hell in a handbasket. But in a way, I think that's kind of freeing - we can stop trying to achieve total stability and holding that up as some sort of ideal standard because that standard just doesn't exist. Something is always moving...something is always changing and we have to readjust.

There are characters in the Mahabharata who try to detach themselves from the craziness of the world - monks, swamis, who retreat in order to achieve stillness and stability rather than engaging in the chaos that is the world we live in. But in the text, these characters are never successful, and usually everything blows up in their face eventually.

So I think the lessons are:
1) The world is chaotic, therefore life is chaotic. Don't expect it to be anything else, and we need to learn how to engage skillfully with the chaos rather than running away from it. That's what yoga is for - our practice helps us build the tools we need in order to live skillfully in the world.
2) Don't say no to opportunities because you are waiting for things to "settle down." Things will never settle down, so say yes and then just figure it out.
3) The world is a crazy place - but maybe our work is to try to leave it a little better than we found it.

MN Contingent at YogaMaze - Philosophy Intensive
Becka, Jen, Me, Billy, Shannon
Awesome lecture times (me with my laptop, taking notes like the giant nerd that I am)


TT - writing pose scripts


 
We also have homework every week - so each week we are given a pose to research, write and record a script for, and we also photograph ourselves in the pose, compare our pose to BKS Iyengar's pose in Light on Yoga (always an exercise in humility), and then identify what needs to be improved and which other poses to practice in order to improve in those areas. Below are some delightful photos Ben took of me in our backyard, in 2 of the 3 stages of Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1)...  so now all of our neighbors probably think I am really weird. So that's fun.

Vira 1 - stage 1


Vira 1 - stage 2
 
Also, our lovely little yoga studio moved. I say 'our' when it's not really mine - but it's the primary studio I practice at and it's where I did my immersion three years ago, so it's come to feel like a second home. We just moved down the street, but it was still tough saying goodbye to the old space. Thankfully we were able to send it off with a great party, food, and friends.

A goodbye party filled with laughter and play - just as it should be


Saying hello to our new home :)

Other things we did... attended a fabulous MN Orchestra concert at the new U of M concert hall - only snafu was that the seats they sold us did not actually exist. Just one of the wrinkles to iron out with the new hall, and we made it work with chairs and a makeshift 'row' so it all worked out in the end and the concert was gorgeous. Afterwards we met my friend Alex (who is a violinist in the orchestra), her husband Karl and Alex's family for dinner.
 


double trouble
 
And here's a selfie of me and my sister because why not.

Sistaaaaaas



So right now, I'm gearing up for the next round of TT in June, going to Chicago next weekend and some other exciting stuff. 2014 is shaping up to be a crazy year, but definitely the good kind of crazy.

Happy Monday :)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring Break & Eating Your (metaphorical) Vegetables

So, during the summer of 2012 I did this program with Desiree Rumbaugh and Cate Stillman called the Eat Green Challenge. The Challenge was essentially 30 days on a low-fat (almost non-fat) vegan diet, but the purpose was really to stuff as many fruits and vegetables into your diet as possible. During those 30 days I learned three very important things:

1) Fruit and leafy greens are REALLY expensive. My grocery bill doubled at least...plus it didn't help that I became pretty addicted to cherries during this time. Those babies are not cheap.

2) ...I would not make it on a raw vegan low fat diet. I was hungry ALL THE TIME. I ate so many bananas, and still I was hungry. So, so many bananas.

3) But - and this is probably the most important piece - I learned that we really do not need all the things we think we need. I love fruits and vegetables...they taste great, and they make me feel great. I also love junk food, but sometimes junk food does not make me feel great. What I found was that, when I made a concerted effort to eat a certain number of fruit and veggie servings in a day, I just had less room for the other stuff. It's not that I don't like cheeseburgers or M&M's, but when you prioritize the things you really need, there's just less space left for the things you don't.

I've decided to take a similar sort of approach to the rest of my life. I'm just going to keep piling on the greenery - things I love, that are good for my soul - and eventually I'll either go completely insane, or I'll run out of room and something will have to go. And whatever goes, that's the thing I know I do not really need.

Ben and I will probably be living in a box in the woods in two months.

Not really.

Moving on...

In related news I am finally doing my damn yoga teacher training. Long story short (long story forthcoming in a separate post probably) I'm flying to LA on Thursday night for our first training module and I have soooo much work to do to get ready for this thing. So much. Endless pose scripts and shape studies, and somehow I need to get my hands on a copy of the Mahabarata. I don't know.  BUT. I am so excited.... like, way more excited than I've been for anything in a long time. It's going to be great.

Oh hey, also I was in Florida this last week, and while I was there Minneapolis received 12 inches of snow. Here are some photos of not snow.

Blue on blue


I live for this view
...and some from my instagram that I'm too lazy to upload.






Anyway, I will try to post before I leave on Thursday but given my schedule this week it seems unlikely. I can see this going one of two ways:

1) I hunker down like a responsible human and get all of my work done (work-wise and yoga-wise) while still maintaining a somewhat reasonable sleep schedule. In this case, you definitely won't hear from me.

2) I end up doing so much work that it cuts into my already reduced sleep schedule, at which point I'll just say fuck it it and not go to bed ever. In this case, I will be blogging at 2am while making a seven layer cake and/or scrubbing the shower because at this point, why not.

Talk to you soon provided we all survive Monday.
Yes.
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