Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Finding My Way Back...

For quite a while, I've been having an internal battle about my hair. Almost six years ago, I decided to take the plunge and lock it up. I needed something new, something different, something to help me in my healing and my intent to let go. Dreadlocks have been a challenge, a journey, a learning process.  Giving myself over to the process of locking my hair allowed me to take a break from being in control, and taught me to be witness to the magic instead of trying to be master of it.

For the life of my locks, my care routine was very low maintenance. I generally just washed and let my hair air dry, and would pull my roots apart every few washes. Then, about a year ago, as my hormone-driven hair loss ceased, I suddenly had a huge amount of new growth coming in, and fuzz everywhere on my head. I began to start trying to tuck and sew and crochet those little wild strands in, and then went through a "I'm going to cut them!" phase about seven months ago. I decided against it, and had a friend do some serious maintenance and cleaning up, and my head looked much tidier. Still, I haven't regained the total love I once had for my locks, and since last summer, I've trying to figure out what change I need. I've thought of cutting them off, trimming them shorter, going all in and having a huge maintenance session to make them smooth and fuzz free... So many options, but none seems quite right to me.

Aside from how my locks appear, there’s the cultural aspect to consider as well. For a while now, I’ve wondered if I am being socially and culturally responsible with my hairstyle choice. Yes, it’s so much more than a style to me, but is that evident to everyone who crosses my path, and more importantly, does that matter? What impact am I having by wearing my hair this way? Those are tough questions, with tough answers. I have been fortunate that I’ve only had one negative reaction to my hair in all my years of wearing dreadlocks, and countless positive interactions. My hair has sparked conversation with people I otherwise would have very little in common with at first glance. But still, I feel a social responsibility to consider what statement I may be making, regardless of what my intent may be. This sense of duty has weighed heavily in my exploration of change as well.

I'm so scared to cut them. My strength, my healing, my energy is contained in my hair, and lobbing it off seems like it would be traumatic. This is without a doubt the most flattering hair style I've ever had, but that's a tiny piece of the puzzle. They are so much more than just my hair style. My children don't know me without this hair. Many of my friends don’t know me without this hair. My locks have become a part of my identity, and I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of that identity. Cutting them seems so impulsive, so permanent, but I am exhausted of feeling less than satisfied, so I'm pushing myself to really explore what comes next.

I've been pouring over Pinterest, looking at what "styles" of dreadlocks and loose hair I'm attracted to, and the truth is, I've just lost my path. Again and again I come back to photos of loose hair surrounding natural, personality-filled locks. I was low maintenance for so long, and I've let go of that, somehow veering off the path and trying to cultivate these perfect locks with no loose hair. That's just not the spirit of the journey I started on. So now, I find my way back to that path, letting my hair be my hair, and just taking care of it. Being witness to, not master of, my locks.

Yesterday I cut a handful of gum bands out of my roots, and today my scalp feels loose and a bit fuzzy. I have a little halo of hairs that are already working their way out of locks, and I expect in the next few weeks I'll find a lot more loose hair intermingling. I've been pulling out ends that I blunted a while back, and reversing maintenance that doesn't align with the journey. I’m brushing the little loose hairs to discourage locking up, and I’m already choosing my favorite and least favorite locks to keep or allow to loosen.

Already, I’m finding contentment in allowing my hair to find itself without trying to sew it in, wrap it in, tuck it in. Letting the loose mingle with the locked. Perhaps this is the start of a journey back to loose hair - I’m not sure. It’s too early to tell. Maybe I’ll panic in a few months and frantically hook all the loose hairs into new locks. Maybe I’ll get inspired and take the plunge to loosen all my locks.  Perhaps I’ll be perfectly content the way they are. I’m not sure what will happen down the road, and truthfully, that’s the way it supposed to be.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Yoga Meets Us Where We Are

A friend recently commented that “yoga meets us where we are,” and though I’ve heard it before, I was struck by how that has proven true for me again and again on my journey.
In college, I took a core yoga class at the gym and my favorite part -in fact, the only part I enjoyed- was the end when we would lie on the floor beside our stability ball, and the instructor would talk us through breathing the tension out of each part of our body. The class was early in the day, and I would often be almost asleep by the end of the relaxation. Before I even knew the lingo, I was “only there for the Savasana.”

Over the next decade, I would dip my toes into yoga, but the habit never really stuck. When I was pregnant with E, I tried some prenatal yoga DVDs because I knew how good they would be for me - making labor easier, keeping my body healthier. In truth, I usually only got about fifteen minutes in before the sticky sweet “soothing” voice of the instructor would send me running for the hills.
When E was a toddler, a new yoga studio opened a half hour from home. Some of my friends started going to classes, and I wanted desperately to join, but there were so many reasons I couldn’t. Thinking about care for E was daunting – with travel time, the investment would have been several hours each time I went to a class. Finances were a concern. And honestly, a part of me was scared of yoga, partly because I had tried it and hadn’t been ready for it, partly because the fairly recent trauma I was still (and am still) overcoming was looming over my head. Yoga had gotten tangled up in that trauma and the resulting stress, and thinking about practicing yoga gave me some anxiety. I knew yoga could be another avenue to emotional healing, but what if the trauma link actually made the anxiety worse?

As I witnessed the positive changes in the people around me who were practicing, I knew I had to give it a go. I was in need of some healing, and yoga seemed to be invading my consciousness. From the emotional safety and comfort of our house, I cruised YouTube and found some beginner flows. I felt empowered by those first few home sessions, and before long I was creeping out of bed early to get a little practice in. I was happy with that home practice, but it didn’t feel like enough. I wasn’t digging deep emotionally – I wasn’t even touching the trauma link I had with yoga. And then suddenly, yoga rose up to meet me.

At this point, little e was very little, and very attached. I had never left her for more than about an hour, so travelling thirty minutes for a two hour yoga class was out of the question. And then, a whisper came. A new studio, eight minutes from my front door. Led by someone who was an emotional safe zone for me, who understood my complex trauma link with the practice. I threw myself into the preparation of the space. I got to know the walls and the floor and the energy of the space intimately before I ever rolled out my mat. I made it my yoga home. And for nearly a year, I took in everything I could about yoga, going beyond the poses and into the breathe, the philosophy, the energy and the quiet. And for nearly a year, I was happy. I had broken down that trauma link. I had made yoga my own. But then, it didn’t feel like enough. I wanted to squeeze every detail out of classes. I wanted to know why things were put in a certain order, what did all the Sanskrit mean, what more did the practice hold for me.

I started to explore the option of yoga teacher training, which everyone says is the best way to get to the meat of yoga. But I knew before I started that teacher training wasn’t an option for me. The time investment, the financial investment – both were immense. There was no way to juggle two children (one who still sticks to me like glue) into care for a whole weekend every month for eight months. An intensive training, which amounts to yoga twenty-four hours a day for a short period of time, posed similar problems, with the added hurdle that many are in exotic locations. That thought spurred me to the resignation that in a year or two, when little e was less like glue, and finances were not as tight, I would meet my mom somewhere exotic and throw myself into yoga while she threw herself into the beach with my children all day every day. That was the best I could do for myself – the promise that the training would happen eventually, when the timing was right. I tried to make my peace with it, when suddenly yoga rose up once again.

Lying in bed one night, I clicked through an article about yoga – I can’t even remember the topic. I was reflecting on my practice a few days before, when we were repeating the mantra “I can, I will, I am.” The words were so positive, and I remember my heart hurting a little during the class as I focused on these words, and tried not to add “someday” to the end of the mantra. As I brought those words up again, I saw a link to a distance learning teacher training. I had clicked on these before, so I wasn’t excited. At least a thousand dollars and nothing but a piece of paper to show at the end. “Yoga in a Box” is a gimmick, capitalizing on yoga’s popularity, and I wanted my teacher training to mean something, I wanted to be able to join an organization and get liability insurance. I had searched and searched and nothing fit my criteria, so I wasn’t very hopeful when I clicked through to the website.

But suddenly, there it was. A distance training option with a school that was Yoga Alliance certified. The ability to get personal insurance with the credentials the school gives. A self-led, immersive training that was run by instructors who also grant the industry standard credential – the RYT200. This distance option wouldn’t give me the same credentials as an in-person training, but it would satisfy my need to learn more, go further, squeeze more out of yoga. And the course was in my budget. Many other distance learning programs had priced me out before I even got a chance to look at the curriculum.

Once again yoga has found a way to meet me where I am. After a few months of planning and soul searching and penny saving, I am diving in. And though it’s only been a few weeks, this new chapter in my journey has been exciting and fulfilling. I am stuffing my brain with new ideas and remembering why I love learning. Yoga has so much to offer me, and its first lesson has been to trust it. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Signs of A Legacy

Recently, I've really begun to look at ways to improve myself, better my life experiences, enrich my existence, and get the most out of what the world has to offer. I'm hesitant to call it this, but in essence, I've been addressing my "bucket list." There are many things on my list, but certain ones seem to step forward and really take hold of my heart. For this season of my life, it is learning ASL.

Many of my readers may know that I grew up with a basic understanding of the deaf community, and a very basic understanding of American Sign Language. Some may not know that my grandfather was deaf and my grandmother has hearing loss. They met in the deaf community, and although they have eight hearing children, and (nearly) countless hearing grandchildren and great-grandchildren, signing was a part of our family culture.

Some in my family may say that learning ASL now, a full year and a half after my grandfather's death, is too little too late. And I have to say, in some ways I agree. I think back on the last few times I saw him, how I was so busy chasing after a toddler, my sign vocabulary was so out of use, our visits were so short... The list of excuses goes on and on, and it hurts my heart to know I'll not ever be able to have a full conversation with Pap. But I also know he is smiling down on this new chapter in my learning, and I hope he knows that part of learning ASL now is to honor his legacy.

I want my children to grow up with an understanding of deaf community. I want them to seek out those who sign, and help bridge the gap between the hearing world and the deaf world. I want them to be free of the misconceptions that are so rampant in our ignorant hearing world. I want them to be bilingual, and have a useful skill for their future.

I want them to know the joy of meeting a deaf person in a public place and being able to communicate. Baby sign is wonderful, but there's not much call for talking about animals or food using ASL unless you frequent the zoo.

I remember a moment just weeks after Pap died when a man approached me in a fabric store and asked about my pregnancy. He was so delighted with the very limited signing I provided, and proceeded to chatter with me for about ten minutes. Those moments sealed themselves in my heart, and wintered away in the snows of e's infancy, the season of transition we experienced last fall. Then, early this spring, as e's signing vocabulary started to expand, and E's interest in signing again exploded, that little seed started to blossom. I've found myself pouring over ASL distance learning courses, and I've found a wonderful, affordable course that has short lessons, building on the skills I already have. I'm excited about this journey!

"Hi! My name is Kristin. I am learning ASL to communicate with the deaf community and other people who sign. #whyisign #myasljourney"

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Appearances Are Often Just Illusions

This morning our world seems a study in illusions. From our nest, cozy and snug inside our double hung windows, the world seems to have that classic snow-muffled hush. The trees are iced and the ground is white. 

But the moment we swung open the door, the cacophony descended. The heavy drips from tree branches. The mad twitter of hungry winter birds. The crunch of melting ice, and snow sliding from the rooftop. The snow plow, the neighbor scraping a windshield. Even the cat is making more noise than usual, her footsteps echoing with a crunch as her paws warm the ground and her weight breaks the surface. 

And it's not just the ear that is deceived. The eye also has much to take in - what we see at first isn't the truth. 

To the east, we see the grey fog and heavy cloud cover of yesterday. 

To the west, clear blue skies and the hope of a warming trend. 

In just a few hours, the evidence of this winter storm will melt away. Today will end as a warm, muddy day, and we will barely remember the bone chilling cold that made us miserable just a few days ago. Today we will emerge from our warm den, shake off our cabin fever, and embrace the sunlight. Even as I write, the icing is dripping into wet heavy pools on the already saturated ground, reminding me that late winter storms never leave their mark for long. And as the tops of my daffodils begin to peek out of the melting snow, I'm reminded that spring will envelope us in a few short weeks, and I am comforted. 

Monday, February 15, 2016


On January 11, I embarked a new journey with my health and wellness. For the first time in my adult life, I started a thirty day gut cleanse and body restoration protocol. I researched the protocol for safety, and felt really comfortable with it because it's quite gentle. The protocol includes three ten day cycles - the first being a preparation period, which includes herbal support for the filtering organs and digestive system. Many people pair this cleanse with a very strict dietary guideline, but I decided on just limiting white - refined sugar and salt, flour, and grains. I wanted to be able to be successful, and was afraid a very restrictive diet would sabotage my success. 

I'm accustomed to taking supplements, but this is just the morning capsules! 

The first two days, I was hungry all the time. This is the usual state of affairs, but unlike usual, I was being forced to make better food choices, instead of grabbing the first crunchy snack I could find. I woke on the third day and wasn't really craving my morning cup of decaf. I didn't feel as hungry throughout the day.
This was the quote in my Passion Planner during week 1.
It's surprising to me how often there is a bit of magic - a bit of kismet - in my planner quotes.

My first real revelation was on day 7, when I ate sweet potato pancakes with honey on top, and the honey was almost too sweet to eat. By a week in, I had started to notice some other things too. The low sugar, low gluten diet was positively affecting E's behavior, or my reaction to it. I seemed to have more patience, and he seemed to have more capacity to regulate his emotions and avoid a meltdown. 
Sweet potatoes were a staple during the cleanse - we ate them at least twice a week!
Salads are always a part of my diet, but I bet
I ate a cubic ton of greens during my cleanse!

Day 11 marked my first day with the GI cleansing agent. I was nervous to start this one, because so many people report having issues with it. Thankfully, I had only a little bit of cramping, and no other detox symptoms, such as headache, irritability, rash, fatigue, or upset stomach.
DH made sweet potato fries one night for dinner, and I GORGED myself !

The end of January brought some challenges - we had little e's birthday party and served some sweets, but I allowed myself a small amount, and didn't feel bad about it. Our grocery budget was woefully small for the last week of the cleanse, but I managed to stay creative and not fall off the wagon.
Smoothies are always a part of my diet, but during the cleanse
they were a great way to beat the mid-afternoon munchies! 

By the last week, I was feeling really good. My mood was good and I'd lost some inches and some pounds. But mostly, I had gained. I had gained better control of my sweet tooth. I had gained a healthy respect for my body. I had gained some insight into my "food triggers," the circumstances that cause me to make poor food choices.

ALL the salads. I took so many pictures of my food
during the cleanse, because healthy food is beautiful!
I'm excited to do this again next year, and hopefully it will be my New Year's ritual for a long time. In cleansing my body, I also cleansed my mind and my soul, and I found a lot of room for growth!

Eggs were a staple as well, and I filled them with
whatever was left over from the night before
These sweet potato and black bean burgers were SO good - they
will be a part of our dinner rotation from now on!
Just another beautiful meal!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

One Trip Around The Sun

Today we celebrate one year of Etta, who tries and tests me every day, who forces me to grow in order to be the mama she needs. She came into this world on her terms, and she lives every day on her terms. She is bright beyond belief, and keeps us on our toes in every moment of her life. She's engaging and friendly, and she loves to study what makes people tick.

She's the perfect compliment to her brother, and she makes our family whole. She represents a turning point in our relationship. She is the living example of healing in so many ways. She is exactly what we can handle, exactly what we needed, and exactly perfect for us.

Many people will say, "I can't believe she's one! Where has the time gone?" But I'm not feeling that so much today. I know exactly where the time has gone. It has gone into these two souls with whom we've been entrusted. It's gone into the ordinary daily life, into the adventures, into the love and the stress and tantrums and the cuddle puddles. It's gone into the making of us.

Today will be a "regular" Wednesday, except it's a snow day and we are headed out on one of our favorite small adventures. We will have a little cake tonight after dinner, and we will reflect on our first hours with our sweet girl. But mostly, we will be us.

enjoying cake at home on her birthday

birthday party with friends and family

Monday, December 28, 2015


Today my sweet son turns five. Last night as we joked that we might cancel his birthday, and he would stay four forever, he very firmly said, "You can't cancel my birthday, I'll be five anyway." And he's right - as much as we might like them to stay little longer, time just keeps moving, babies keep growing, and children get bigger and wiser.

This morning, I am up early -just as I am many mornings- trying to get a head start on the day, and catch a few minutes to myself. But this morning is different than many mornings. The early morning hours of E's birthday always remind me of the early morning hours of his birthing day, a time when we were losing ground in our fight to preserve our birth experience. This day of celebration always begins with me remembering the powerlessness, the victimization I felt. I'm thankful for these few minutes alone early in the day, when he's not awake yet, to acknowledge those feelings, and ask them to keep moving. This day is our birthing day, but mostly it's his birthday, and it's a joyous day.

Today I have rebel snacks to make, and galactic playdough to create. Today I have a little boy who wants a "real party" with friends and cupcakes and games. Today my son will be FIVE. So today I will take a few minutes for myself, and then I'll get to work. And when the rest of my house awakens, we will celebrate this beautiful, bright, silly soul. DH will give me a squeeze, reminding me that he remembers too, and then we will begin cooking birthday breakfast. It's not every day you turn five, and I intend to make it the happiest of days.