yoga with pets

What a Gardener Taught Me About Letting Go

I’ve lived in condos and apartments all my life, so I’ve never had my own garden. But the properties I lived at required upkeep, and on Fridays, the strident music of machines and the pungent smell of freshly cut grass would invade my open windows.

I have great respect for those who can care for the earth in such a way that it responds. I was thinking about this the other day when I was walking down the happening street in my neighborhood. Two women were pulling weeds out of the sweet urban garden in front of a Yoga studio, expertly yanking this and that to cultivate life.

There were two stories I was obsessed with growing up, and they both involved gardens.

the secret garden hardcover

As a little girl, I used to save my allowance and lunch money (yes, by going hungry) so I could go to the mall. I usually made a beeline for the bookstore, and one day, a gorgeous hardcover of The Secret Garden was perched on top of a shelf.

I happily spent all of my money on it. And I read it over and over again, never tiring of the magical story.

Then, there was the movie Edward Scissorhands. My grandmother was actually an Avon lady, so it was entertaining to see the way they weaved that comedic occupation into the storyline.

However, I couldn’t understand why more people didn’t create art the way Edward Scissorhands did with the shrubs and trees. I still don’t. Imagine how incredible it would be to walk down a street with green unicorns, dinosaurs, giraffes, swans, and children inhabiting every yard.

I guess it all comes down to losing our sense of awe as we get older. Whimsical things are pushed aside, and the acceptable “adult” things take precedence. Because the guy with the shrub safari in his front yard would be pretty ballsy, am I right?

I’m not over-the-hill in my thirties, I understand this. What’s tricky about your thirties is that you’re an adult now. When you’re in your twenties, you don’t know what the hell’s going on, but you play along and pretend you’re figuring things out even when you’re lost as shit.

In your thirties, hopefully you somewhat have your shit together—in a place that makes you sing, on a career path that challenges you, surrounded by genuine people you want to continue investing your time in.

But, what about the awe? Do you still have it? Or, did you lose it along the way?

Often I feel like I’m struggling to hold onto it, to continue marveling at life when the days keep flying by, faster and faster. I try to slow it down, I try to stop and notice. Somehow it’s alarmingly easy to go with it—and suddenly you realize a year has passed. A year.

So, one Friday this summer me and Mr. H took a sanity day to hang out around the house and just be. I was determined to do a 90-minute Yoga class, something I rarely have time for as I’m squeezing in 30-60 minute classes throughout my hectic week.

I had just started my practice, and I was centering myself. Then, wouldn’t you know it?

The gardening equipment struck up in our courtyard, a symphony of shrill that—despite my serene start—pissed me right off.

It was Friday. I’m never home on Fridays. And just like every other apartment I’ve lived in, Fridays are gardening day.

I live in the city, so getting bent out of shape over any noise when meditating or practicing Yoga is silly, I know. It’s a control thing. I have this time that I want things to be a certain way, quiet and peaceful, because I’m trying to de-stress, dammit!

But that Friday, it was gardening day.

I had two choices. I could give up my Yoga practice, try again when the coveted quiet, peaceful setting was more attainable. Or, I could get over it, and continue with the racket outside my window.

I decided on choice #2. I thought it was perfect actually, because it complemented the past month of craziness I had experienced in my life, especially at work—the struggle to remain calm in the chaos.

So, I worked with it. Every time my irritation rose, I breathed deeper. Every time I wanted to give up, I kept moving.

Because at the end of the day, there is very little we can control. Rather than getting upset, we can find the correlation between the emotional instigator and a tough situation in our lives.

I’m not saying it’s easy, because it’s not. Once you begin to recognize this, believe it or not, life gets easier.

yoga hip opener
Lizard Pose

Anyway about halfway through my practice, I was in one of the Yoga poses I truly struggle with…Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard Pose).

I know what you’re thinking.

I’m a Yogi, I’m not supposed to hate. Well I kinda hate this mofo pose, because it’s one of the most evil hip openers out there. The heat rises within me and I want to run away from my mat, never to return.

Lizard Pose took a strange turn this time. When I looked up, cursing under my breath with a cat on my back, there was the gardener—standing in front of my window with his leaf blower.

Do you know what the guy did? He smiled at me and waved.

I did the same, somewhat awkwardly as you can imagine.

Then, he went on his way.

I laughed. I laughed at myself, at my ridiculous attitude. The carefree gardener was like, “Hey, this is kinda weird but kinda awesome.”

And, he was right.

yoga with pets

Come Back

This isn’t one of those posts where I, the blogger, apologizes for an unexcused absence. I told you about my summer departure and I told you why I was doing it.

It was excused, planned, deserved.

I was losing my joy for writing. And that is something I cannot do. Not because I’m a so-called “writer” but because I’m not the same without it.

This was the longest break I’ve ever taken from my blog. It was hard.

I missed it. I missed all of you.

But the things I learned this summer were too good to pass up. There isn’t enough time in this blog post to share them all now, and to tell you the truth, I’m not sure if I can explain what happened to change me.

I will say this. I came back to myself.

The separation gave me the room I needed to consider it all. And, I do mean “all of it.”

For this summer, I think I finally grasped life—its vast, violet landscapes that stretch forever. There’s absolutely no way to see it all, smell it all, touch it all. It’s impossible to experience all that beauty in one lifetime.

I’m a Life Enthusiast. Not because I’m one of those chipper individuals, dishing out too many compliments for the hell of it or going with the flow when they should react.

I’m sparing with my compliments, but I love to give them—to make people feel good when it’s right. I can’t brush things off or go with the flow…it’s not my style. I care too much about what’s happening.

I want to take it all in, all the time.


I often feel like that little girl still, the one hell-bent on learning to fly. I loved heights and I used to climb everything. I often jumped from places I shouldn’t have, trying to transform my scrawny arms into wings.

I wasn’t trying to look cool, I was trying to cover more ground. I wanted to see everything and I knew that flying was the quickest way to do it.

One day, when I was seven or eight, I fell out of a tree. I landed on my back and I screamed so loud that my dad sprinted out of our crappy condo, dropping the wooden spoon he had been stirring the spaghetti sauce with on the kitchen floor. He scooped me up into his arms and everything was okay.

That was when I realized I couldn’t fly, and I was devastated. I had been practicing inside my mind, imagining that if I concentrated enough, if I kept trying, I could do it.

My husband scoops me into his arms now. When I try to fly and I can’t. When I try to do everything at once and I fall out of a tree.

Thank God, he’s there to catch me.

I learned to fly this summer. Not physically, but mentally, I soared.

I came back to myself, and though I didn’t travel anywhere the entire time, I discovered new people, places, and things. Even the people, places, and things I already knew seemed different.

mom at the airport

My mom and sister came to visit. And me, “the baby” of the family, saw everything differently as we drank beer and talked, as we found new ways to come back to each other in this part of our lives.

We are older, we have scars and memories, but we’re still family. No matter how little time we have spent together over the years, our laughs and hands are still the same as one another’s. We could be anywhere and do anything and still make it.

It was at once comforting and paralyzing to have this kind of clarity about my family.

salmon river

I went whitewater rafting for my first time. It was a team-building activity at work and I was scared shitless. I refused at first, swearing up and down that I was going to stay on dry land where it was safe…and smart. That day another coworker couldn’t make it, and I decided to face my fears.

Rafting on the Salmon River is no joke—you won’t see a bunch of wasted people floating along with straw hats and cut-off shorts. You have to have a guide and you have to be sober. The water is also 45 degrees, so you need to wear a wetsuit. (For anyone who wants to see wipeouts on the final waterfall we went over, there’s a carnage montage video you can watch.)

I saw the great Northwestern beauty of Washington from the water, gliding along the rapids, working with a small crew to do everything in our power to stay in that little yellow raft, far away from the sharp rocks and raging river. I found a way to come back to my adventurous self that occasionally said “hell, yes” to crazy things.

I took a chance on a beautiful experience that ended up changing me for the better. To think, I almost dismissed it.

What else? Oh, man. So many things.

I guess I should tell you all that I finished the first draft of my book. Writing novels is nothing new, but I came so damn close to never writing one again. Summoning the strength to move forward with another one was a big deal for me.

I found a way to come back to my writing, without expectations or judgment. And I explored something new, a dystopian/fantasy genre, a HUGE change from the historical fiction I typically do.

It flowed. It flowed like the raging river I was just talking about.

I was so unsure and I almost didn’t do it, then I got in the little yellow raft and I paddled until my arms felt like they would never be the same. I paddled because it was the only way to move forward, to keep going when everything seemed against me.

cat yoga

The featured image I chose for this blog post is a bit racy and strange, I suppose, since I’m practicing Yin Yoga in my skivvies with a cat on my back.

I wanted to use it though. This is me when I come back to myself.

I bow down in gratitude, pressing my face against the sturdy earth, because I need it to ground me. I don’t look fancy, and just like in life, comedy swiftly follows even the most serious moments (in my case, that’s usually being mounted by a panda cat).

My cat knows. She climbs on top of my back and sits there, purring. She feels my agreement with peace and she likes it.

I hope you weren’t expecting too much from me—some great revelation or wisdom. In fact, I’m more confused than ever.

All I can tell you is that I used to want to fly and now I need the ground. So if you find you’re in a constant state of flight, unsure and unstable, do whatever it takes to come back to yourself. Because that feeling of being grounded is rare and difficult to grasp, but it’s truly the best place to be.

The Non-Violent Practice of Productivity

There is a grand difference between being productive and being busy. Though most of us want to be productive, we get trapped in a cycle of busyness.

I’m not sure when being busy became such a definitive part of our culture. Somehow it’s synonymous with working hard, when truthfully it’s so toxic that busyness does nothing except beat us down.

The moment I got out of high school and joined the workforce, as a lowly hostess at the Peppertree Cafe, I remember being jarred by the urge to be busy. That confusion followed me forever after that first job.

What I learned was this. Look busy…even when you’re not.

Honestly, I didn’t understand the point. But because I was at the mercy of a paycheck, I played along. After all, anyone not looking busy would be terminated.

Later on in the corporate world, I saw another side of work. People were slaves to busyness.

It was a tragic competition to see who the busiest person was.

Whoever got there first and stayed the longest…won. Whoever forgot to eat and wasted away…won. Whoever was so overworked that they had a breakdown and had to take a leave of absence…won.

Yet, all they were doing was losing. Losing out on hours of their lives that could have been spent with family, or doing that creative thing that set them free.

waterfalls in oregon

At the beginning of my Yoga teacher training, we learned about the Yamas and the Niyamas. They are basic guidelines for life which help you know yourself and others.

One of the Yamas that really stood out to me was Ahimsa. The literal translation of this Sanskrit word is non-injury or non-violence.

When our focus in life is to be consumed by busyness, we are being violent to ourselves. It is not our boss who is making us do this. It is not our job that is making us do this. We are harming ourselves.

If you truly feel that your job is causing this deep unhappiness, then you should find a different one. Otherwise, you are not practicing Ahimsa.

What I’m getting at is the one thing I always aim for in my life. Balance.

How can I be productive while being kind to myself? How can I kick ass without kicking my own ass?

I get a lot of shocked expressions from people when they learn that I’ve written three books. The inevitable question always comes up: How do you do it?

Well, I practice productivity.

When I set my mind to accomplishing something, I do it. But it took me many years to learn how to be productive instead of busy.

I learned how to fulfill instead of deplete.

Lately for work, I’ve been attending webinars and reading blog posts about productivity as much as possible.

I shared this post on Twitter, which several of you also liked, so please check out Wanna Stop Working So Late? Do Your Most Exhausting Task First. It’s more business-oriented, but I learned a lot about prioritization—including working in sprints and rests.

Why did I go on this productivity rampage? Because I felt like I was slipping into the vortex of busyness.

I started a new job last winter and I had days at work where I didn’t know where to begin. I would stare at my to-do list until I wanted to cry, because I was overwhelmed.

So, I took matters into my own hands to incorporate Ahimsa into my work routine. This is what I’ve learned…

  1. Start your morning right. Take ten minutes for a little bit of meditation (or if you prefer, sitting still) and stretching. The computer distractions can wait.
  2. That thing you’re dreading most…do it first. Don’t worry about your emails, just knock it out.
  3. F*ck multi-tasking. Dedicate your full attention to one project at a time. Turn off email alerts if they’re too distracting.
  4. Schedule half-hour email sessions. You will never clean out your inbox. More will come after you delete the others. Stop trying.
  5. Group similar tasks together. While you’re in that mode, your focus will be optimized.
  6. Step away from your desk. Even if it’s for a short walk to clear your head, the break away from your screen will revive you.
  7. Hang it up. After your ninth hour of work, you’re done. Go home. It will all be there tomorrow.
  8. No matter what…exercise. Staying active will keep you energized. Not doing anything will have the opposite effect.
  9. Cook food. Instead of eating out all the time, make simple meals that have simple ingredients.
  10. Remember your creative side. Never ditch it because you’re drained. Spend a little time each week, and enjoy it.
  11. Lose yourself in sex. You’re not too tired to do it. Experiencing pleasure is vital to our sanity, so get some.
  12. Focus on your sleep. An hour before, shut everything off. Rub your bedding down with lavender oil. And dream, dammit.

Hey, I get stressed out just like anyone else. I’m not perfect, and I stopped trying to be.

Each day I wake up and strive for a balanced life, one where I can pay my bills but still spend as much energy as possible on the people and things I truly love.

It’s hard work…much harder than looking busy.

Alright your turn! How do you practice productivity?

cat yoga

Cat Yogi

One night last week I decided to treat myself to a Yin class. Usually I go for Vinyasa, because I adore the active flowing movement of this practice.

But, I’m also a firm Yin believer—especially with go, go, go people like yours truly.

I’ve been incorporating Yin into my practice for the past three years. I stumbled upon it accidentally, since I had a teacher that specialized in that particular style.

I remember the first class I took was so different from anything else I tried. In fact, I was confused.

Because though it looked like we weren’t doing much, it was one of the most difficult classes I have ever taken.

Mentally and physically Yin is ridiculously challenging. The poses are usually held for five minutes and rather than fighting the emotion and the body, you have to surrender.

For you Type A people like me, surrendering is just something we don’t do. Which is why I love Yin. It is a true test of what I am capable of, when I explore this unfamiliar stillness.

Well, there’s someone else that loves Yin in this house. Someone that looks a lot like a stuffed animal.

For any Yogi with pets out there, you understand the struggle with having a regular home practice.

When you’re on the floor, you’re fair game. You will be licked, mounted, and humiliated.

Aphrodite the cat usually gets kicked off my Yoga mat once sun salutations are in full swing, but she always comes back at the end of class and we do Savasana together. (It’s her favorite pose.)

So, when I took an advanced Yin class the other night—meaning seven minute holds instead of five—she took the entire class with me.

No, she wasn’t stretching next to me. She was on me.

I realize that grabbing an iPhone to snap pix and take videos during any Yoga class is taboo. But I needed to show proof to the world that humans aren’t the only ones that like Yoga.

Cats like it too.

I know, I know. We’re the cutest.

To tell you the truth, even though I’m usually irritated with my cat for “disrupting” my Yoga class, the other night I was fascinated with our time together.

She moved with me, from pose to pose, because I let her be. It’s an interesting concept—to let things be and see what happens.

(Some of you have seen this video already on social, but in case you missed it, here we are in Pigeon Pose together. Being awesome.)

Thursday Night

cat stars

Something interesting happens on Thursday nights. I’m usually wiped out from the workweek, ready for the weekend.

But the self-doubt never fails. I ask myself…how in the hell will I be me again?

You know what I’m talking about, right?

That little bit of sacred time when you get to do whatever you want. Whatever that may be.

No deadlines. No meetings. No schedules.

And, cue panic.

The panic to live. To try to get everything done in a couple of days—the laundry, the grocery store, the exercise, the relaxing, the creativity, the lovemaking.

Thursday nights always happen the same way for me. I’m tired and moody, but after a couple of necessary beers and some laughs, I unlock myself. I remember what it’s like to be me again.

We never talk about Thursdays. We talk about Monday blues and Friday fun.

I don’t know why, but on Thursdays, a couple of hours before I go to bed, I become me again. Thinking about things that mean something, looking at my husband like I haven’t seen him in ages, realizing how damn beautiful he is.

A couple of months ago I started a new job and I remember thinking on a Thursday night—how am I going to keep up with it all? My marriage, my cats, my apartment, my family, my friends, my Yoga, my running, my blog, my novels, my “me”.

That night I wrote the opening scene to my next novel. Crazy as that sounds, after three books and no fame, I’m going to write another.

Because I have to. Because I can’t help myself. Because this is me.

This novel will be a departure from the historical fiction novelista many of you know me to be.

I’ve decided to go forward, just a little, to a time just beyond now when we haven’t learned from the mistakes of history, when we’ve become a world where the people in charge (the government, the dictator, the tyrant) forbid love.

Because love is the one thing THEY can’t control. And the funny thing is, if we all just loved more…the world could be so much better, perhaps peaceful even.

Hell, wouldn’t that be something?

The working title for my next novel is Virasana. It’s a Sanskrit word for one of the few Yoga poses I just cannot do, but an amazing one nonetheless.

For those who practice Yoga, you’ll smile at my choice. The English translation is pretty awesome.

The main character is a reluctant heroine with the power to command nature at her will—something she doesn’t understand, something she learns is her greatest power.

In the opening scene the main character is on the edge of a cliff, alone in a familiar place where her and her man used to be together, side by side. Everything is fragrant and green, the newness that comes with spring.

I can’t make any promises on a release timeframe, because I have very little time to write.

I haven’t touched this since I first wrote it that Thursday night, but I’ve looked at it many times and knew that it was right. I don’t have time to continue with it right now, but I hope to soon.

For some reason this particular Thursday night I decided it was time to share it.

This is what I have so far…

I got so used to you sitting beside me.
It was all a routine…like breakfast.
But you were better than breakfast. You nourished me like nothing else.
For a good while there—um—I guess I felt full. Maybe even stuffed.
Can you believe that?
Stuffed on love, on you.
Well, not anymore.
I’m always hungry for you.
Actually, I’m starving.
But, hey. You’re not here anymore, are you?
Come on.
Pretty please.
Say something, release me.
You’ve got nothing?
Alright, fine. So, where was I?
Oh, yeah. You’re not here anymore, are you?
The grass and the dandelions have reclaimed your space. My tears have watered them, helped them grow. My lips have made them tender and alive.
How in the hell did I do that? I’m so dead.
That would be too easy.
Under the earth where nobody can see me.
I’m dried out, alone.
Above the earth where everyone can see me. Everyone.
That’s more like it. That’s hard.
Real hard.
Hey—um—I have a question for you.
Yeah, you. You’re the only one I know that can answer it, so listen up.
What’s this excuse for a world without you by my side?
Come on.
Pretty please.
Say something, release me.