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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dumbledore was right

I guess I should talk a little more about my trip - aside from the hiking, drinking and eating far too much red meat and simple carbs, we also got to see my mom's side of the family. My mom was born and raised in Montana, living the first few years of her life in Red Lodge before moving to Billings. My grandmother and my uncle Bill still live there, along with my great uncle Will and two of my mom's cousins, Tom and Nancy. Tom and his wife Pam have two kids (Caroline and Alison), and Nancy and her husband Theirry have three (Max, Sophie and Jesse).

I really like seeing this part of the family - since our family is pretty small (my parents have one brother each, and my sister and I have only one first cousin), it's fun to see all the cousins and have big dinners and brunches together.... but, as bad as I feel saying this, I really dread seeing my grandmother.

When I say "I'm going to visit my grandma in Montana," most people picture a warm, smiling woman who bakes pies and welcomes her relatives with open arms... not so much my grandmother. Growing up, she was always pretty mean to me and my sister, and even my mom. My most prevelant memory of her growing up involves repeatedly calling me a spoiled brat in the middle of a restaurant and then turning to the table next to us to share her opinion of me and ask if they agreed with her. I (and obviously mom) was totally mortified, and to the best of my knowledge I had done nothing to provoke this. She's also completely racist (when I was 11 she told me to never marry a black man... I think my reaction was something like "Grandma, I'm 11"), and manages to find the cloud in every silver lining.

My sister, my dad and my mom flew out to MT about 4 days ahead of me, and Grandma's first words to my sister when she got off the plane were "I'm so glad fashions have changed these days - they're much more modest, no more belly buttons showing and all that cleavage hanging out. Julianna, what are you gonna do with all your old clothes now? Throw them out?" (Just for reference my sister had never, to my knowledge, dressed that way at ALL... but G-ma thinks that everyone in our generation dresses provocatively and runs around being whorish at crazy parties, even if our actual behavior indicates otherwise. She once made reference to my apparent cleavage-baring ways when I was, at the time, wearing a turtleneck).

Point being - my grandmother is not an easy person to love. She was mean to me, to my sister, and she was never anything resembling loving and nurturing towards my mom. She's been bitter for years, and I know she had a difficult time growing up and a bad marriage but it's difficult to justify turning that bitternes out towards everyone in your life.

I often think about her in comparison to my Grandma Stahl - my dad's mom, who passed away 4 years ago from ovarian cancer. After losing her first husband (my grandfather) to suicide and surviving a second husband who was an abusive alcoholic, she remained the strongest, most loving and graceful person I have ever known. Surely she was dealing with a lot of pain, but she always treated everyone around her with love and compassion. Her kindness extended outside of her family and friends, too - even into her 80's, she continued volunteering at the local hospital until she was physically unable to work any longer.

In "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," Albus Dumbledore wisely states "It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." It's easy for my Montana Grandma to blame her past and her difficult life for her bitterness and behavior towards others - but what excuse does she have when held up against someone like my grandma Stahl, or my friend Lindsey who somehow made it through college as the chipperest, friendliest person on campus while dealing with a zillion different medications for her epillepsy and having 10 siezures a day? These people chose to make the most of their lives, despite their circumstances - because ultimately, we cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our choice to be happy.

So, sometimes, when I think about my Montana Grandma and the way she approaches life, I get angry. Why couldn't she be more loving towards my mom, or towards me and my sister? She knows she is rude and bitter - why doesn't she try to change? I'm afraid of visiting her, mostly because I fear the anger and anxiety that she brings out in me.

The other day at the end of my vinyasa yoga class, my teacher Marta said "now that you have practiced yoga, you are physiologically different than when you walked in here. Different people can make different choices." I thought about my grandmother again, and realized that I can't change her - but I can change myself. I can choose to treat her with kindness and love, and be gracious to her no matter what she says. I can choose to be the person that does not become anxious and afraid, and then she will lose her power to make me uncomfortable.

What is that person or situation in your life that makes you think or act with fear and anger? Are you frustrated because you want them to change, or do you try to accept the way things are and turn inward to change yourself? How do you cope? I'm still learning, but I am getting there.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Blogging Fail

Sorry guys... I was having fun and enjoying the outdoors and totally forgot to write anything or basically use my brain at all for the last several days. I've been in Montana since last mom's side of the family lives there, and my parents, my sister and I visit about once a year. It's usually several days of hiking, eating delicious baked goods at the Red Lodge City Bakery, and generally relaxing and enjoying life.

This year I could only make it out for about 4 days because of work, but we still had an excellent time. My sister and I took a 10 mile hike up to Lost Lake in the Beartooth mountains, and went to our favorite bar the Snow Creek Saloon. Last year, we met a woman named Molly ("with an H" explaination of where the H fits into that name) and her bestest bud, who was a girzzled old biker dude with one leg (he lost the other leg in a biking accident....). Not to mention Mark who had maybe the best 'stache I have ever seen in my life (Pictured right: my sister, Mohlly?...Mholly?...Molhly?, Mark, and myself)

As far as yoga... I learned something which is that it's really hard to plan 30-60 minutes for yourself every day when you're on a group schedule. Tuesday morning before I left, I was still pretty wiped out from the night before so I did a slow warmup, some sun salutations and seated twists and stretches. Wednesday was our hike, which took a good chunk of the day, and afterwards I went to dinner with my family and watched a movie, but I spent 30 minutes on hip openers before bed - my hips are my nemesis, they are REALLY tight...all the time...oh well. Thursday was more unscheduled so I practiced "with" Rodney Yee for an hour in the afternoon, outside by the was heaven :) Friday I did a restorative sequence before bed, and Saturday I did a gentle hatha sequence also before bed. This morning I went to class at One Yoga, which I'll write more about tomorrow.

Until then, I need to work on a presentation and get some sleep before ...Monday... :(
Instead of thinking about Monday, I will think about this pretty lake. You should go ahead and do the same:

Monday, August 16, 2010


I cannot believe how thoroughly my ass has just been kicked.
I went to my normal Monday night class hot vinyasa class, taught by Patrick (another Olaf grad)... and now I feel like I am dying but in a good way. What has gotten into you tonight, crazy yoga teacher man? Why did you feel the need for us to flip from chatturanga to vasisthasana 85,000 times in a row? Or how about the repeated "floating" from half-pigeon into headstand (or at least it was supposed to be floating but in my case was more of an awkward hopping...which is what pigeons do anyways, right...? right? OK moving on...).

Long story short, I am pooped. I am going to sleep now.

G'night :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

If not now, when? ~ The Talmud

I apologize right of the bat - this is a long entry.

Today was the first day of my 365 day yoga challenge - basically, I've promised myself that I am going to practice yoga every day, for at least 30 minutes to one hour, for one whole year.

I feel like I might need to explain this decision a little bit - 30-60 minutes of yoga a day isn't really that big of a deal. It's not like I'm trying to run a marathon or anything, but it seemed like an appropriate goal for the coming year, and it's part of a larger goal for my life to have this be my year of getting to know myself.

I just got engaged this spring, and my fiancee is finishing the last year of his masters in Ohio, while I'm finishing mine here in Minneapolis. Ben is truly my other half - I don't feel quite complete without him, and last year (the first year we were separated), we missed each other a ton. I feel like we spent the entire school year waiting for summer so we could be together... and after we got engaged, I knew this year would be much the same if not worse.

The other night after Ben and I had gone to bed, I had trouble sleeping, and while I was staring up at my ceiling fan I found myself having mixed feelings about the fact that this year will be my last time on my own. My current apartment, which I love, will be the last place I live in that's really just mine - my last chance to have solitary mornings and evenings on the couch with a movie by myself. Even though those things can sometimes be lonely, giving them up is going to be a bittersweet transition.

So I decided that instead of spending the whole year wishing the months away, I would make this my year of self-exploration. I started practicing yoga a little over a year ago and started seeing the benefits right away - I am much more even-keel, focused and accepting of myself and the world around me. For this year, I want to spend every day exploring yoga, and therefore myself, more deeply, making sure to think carefully and set a meaningful intention for each practice instead of going through the motions. I ordered a book on the yoga sutras from Amazon (still hasn't gotten here...what's up with that, Amazon??) and bought a couple of DVDs (Rodney Yee and Sadie Nardini) and downloaded some free podcasts to help me out when I can't get to a class, but one of my other goals is to make it through the entire Ashtanga primary series by myself at least once a month.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Here are my goals for this year:
1) Practice yoga for at least 30-60 minutes every day, with a specific goal for my practice.
2) Read from the sutras each day and study how they can inform my practice.
3) Learn some new asanas... I need to get more specific about this, but I haven't had time to think through it yet.
4) Cook at least one meal from scratch every day... I'm already pretty good about it but I'm trying to cut processed foods from my life almost entirely (except peanut m&m's and gummy worms... I'll never be able to give those up haha)
5) Spend less time goofing around on Facebook, and instead spend that time doing something that will enrich my day - read a book or the Economist, go for a walk or listen to new music.

I'm sure I'll think of more...but those are the main ones. Yoga teaches us to live in the present moment, so that is exactly what I'm going to do - make the most of my present situation :)

Today, my goal was to get to one of Marta's classes. Marta is a fellow St. Olaf graduate, but we were never there at the same time - she would have graduated the year before I started. She friended me on facebook a few months ago, I realized that we have some friends in common and have been meaning to get to a class of hers for a while. This morning she taught at One Yoga at 8:30, and I thought it was the perfect class for my first day of the year (OK so today was completely arbitrary... I just made this the deadline in my head because it's the day that Ben left, but it really could have been tomorrow or yesterday, whatever. I work better with deadlines alright?)

I am so glad I went - the class was fun, the asanas weren't that difficult but the flow was good and I was definitely sweating! I love the studio at One Yoga - I really need to go there more often, it's so calm and peaceful. Marta also helped me get better hang time on my float from down dog into forward fold, so I've been practicing that at home a bit.

Afterwards, we had a really nice chat about life, work, the corporate world (she used to be a bond trader!) and how Olaf's nurturing, loving environment is wonderful when you're there, but does not necessarily prepare you for life after college. Totally agree... although the experience I had at Olaf prepared me for life in so many other ways, but that's another story for another time.

In a crazy random happenstance, she graduated the same year as the woman who owns the shop I bought my wedding dress from (also an Ole) and they know each other. Funny world...which reminds me of the Desikachar quote: "Yoga exists in the world because everything is linked."

Back tomorrow with more :)
~ K

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Some days, I wake up energized and excited to go to my 6am yoga class. The crisp morning air awakens my mind and I bound down Emerson noticing every little detail, excited to start my day.

Today was not one of those days. I snoozed my alarm. Then I turned off my alarm. Then I realized class was starting in 20 minutes and I'd better get my butt out of bed if I wanted to get dressed and make it there in time. My head felt like it was full of cotton but I managed to pull on pants and a t-shirt and shuffle out the door. Working against me was the fact that the sunrise has been noticeably later this week. Working for me was the fact that my fiance, who only moments beforehand had looked sleepy and peaceful still in bed, decided to get up for a run, leaving me less motivation to stay snuggled up under the sheets.

I think I always feel like I should feel super motivated and excited about everything all the time, but if practicing yoga has taught me anything, it's that not every day is our best day - and that's ok. If I'm not feeling super-excited about practicing on a given morning, I can acknowledge that, tell myself it's OK, and work to the best of my ability. And feeling like I would rather stay in bed doesn't mean I shouldn't go to class - it actually means that I really, really should, because maybe my mind needs to work through some stuff.

...and good thing I went to class, because I ran into a friend from school! It probably wasn't my most mentally engaged practice ever, but at least I went, which is the bulk of the battle. Not every day can be my best day.

In a related story regarding general confusion, I also ran into the CEO of the company I'm interning for in the bathroom this morning - I've never met her personally but recognized her from her quarterly update videos. It was also during this bathroom trip that I decided to look in the mirror for the first time that day and realized that my cardigan was askew by one button. Good thing she has no idea who I am.

Enlightenment is the "quiet acceptance of what is". I believe the truly enlightened beings are those who refuse to allow themselves to be distressed over things that simply are the way they are.
- Wayne Dyer
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