yoga dorc

life and times of a modern day yogini (named dorcas)



My man is away on work travel in Fiji and everything is breaking.  I can’t get the car in gear. The kids broke the key off trying to open the mailbox, Paloma broke the laptop I use all the time, the kitchen sink clogged and I had to do some plumbing, the washer overflowed, all the IT is problematic, my Iphone is still dead from its trip down the toilet, AND I’m sick for the first time since I’ve been here.  I’m tattered and worn.


holdin hands5x7pResentful, I sat down to email A a ‘honey’ do list of all the broken things to prepare him when he comes home and I realized it was 3-6-5.  March 6, 2005, A and I got married in a small, surprise ceremony with 22 friends and close family.  Ten years ago, today I was dressed in a white gown, riding in a very fast limo with my BF – running late to the tiny, cold, candlelit stone chapel on south mountain.  My grandmother awaited in her finest fur coat and orange lipstick.  Friends helped sprinkle rose pedals, light candles and tweak the propane heater we rented.  Both my brothers were miraculously in the same place at the same time and my dad had just been told he was to walk me down the aisle in 10 minutes.

As the memory quickly flashes across my mind, it all catches me by surprise.   Snapped out of my own self pity and sore throat, I noticed too that I was listening to Krista Tippets interview with Thich Nath Hahn On Being.  Compassion, gratitude and forgiveness are hallmarks of the monk’s philosophy on living. Mine too. In theory anyway.

And so, I scratched the honey-do list for this one.

Thanks A, 10 Things I’m Grateful For On our Anniversary

1) Thanks for a great love story.  My first and only true love. From our first non verbal notice of each other in chemistry class in 1995 to falling in love over Bauer skate boxes, jujitsu lessons behind the ice rink and all night conversations in the VW Jetta.  It was unconventional and magical.  I can only hope our daughters have such a beautiful and charmed experience in their life.

IMG_09752) Thanks for your persistence with my family.  Daddy Ty and brothers Rudy and Willy aren’t an easy group to sway. after years of painful, awkward encounters, you still persisted, unaffected by their rejection.  And now, our strong bonds will affect future generations. I deeply cherish this.

IMG_31423) Thanks for you patience with me.  Undeterred by my absolute, stubborn unwillingness to hike the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal with you, you waited, albeit annoyed, until I came around. You always push and persist, not letting me give into my own fears. Always giving me the time I need to say yes and never throwing it back in my face.

4) Thanks for being an awesome birth partner.  Moments we will always hold as high marks in our IMG_0994adventure together.  I have never valued your presence more than during those hours our babies made their way into our world.  I have never surrendered so deeply to the unknown or felt so supported, encouraged and respected by you. (except in the beginning when we always get in a big fight because I want to be alone and you want to be with me).

IMG_62805) Thanks for being an extrovert.  You, single-handedly, bring balance to me and to our family.  You take us out, bring us adventure, keep us social and demand we LIVE life instead of DO DISHES all weekend.

6) Thanks for the 30 second snuggle.  The secret to long-lasting relationships. Really, its only 30 seconds.

7) Thanks for being interesting.  You keep yourself fresh, informed, up to date on all kinds of stuff.  You can spew off random facts and cool stories and teach the kids, or me, about anything we ask.  You are curious, clever and forward moving. Stagnation and boredom are not in your life.  I love this.

8) Thanks for holding up the mirror and holding me accountable for my faulty perception of myself. Although this is the most painful aspect of a relationship, it is the one I ultimately value the most.  I grow and evolve and improve because of you.

9) Thanks for breaking my heart a few times.  It may sound weird, but I know I have loved deeply and madly and lost.  I have learned a great deal from my suffering and it gives me empathy and insight into all other forms of suffering.  It teaches me forgiveness and humility and the opportunity to be vulnerable over and over again.

10) Thanks for taking care of yourself.  You have self-respect.  You set a good example of how to stay happy and balanced for me and our children.   And it doesn’t hurt that you still look as handsome as ever to me.  And with much better shoes.

Happy Anniversary my love.  1995-2015.  Lets go for 20 more.




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just say yes

DSC_3325She’s a mother of four grown kids.  A triathlete turned yogi.  An adventurer and lover of the open road.  And she’s my guest in New Caledonia!

As if the full life she has lived already is not enough, she has sold her belongings and taken a one way ticket to places she has never been.

For the past 10 days, every time I ask her.  ” do you want to go …” she says YES.

Now, that is inspiration.

“love the life you live.
live the life you love.”
Bob Marley

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point breakI always wanted to be that chick on Point Break.  The one that shimmied her jean shorts up her wet and sand covered legs, tossed her bikini on the floor of her MG and rushed off to work. Her name was “Tyler” (Lori Petty). I must have watched that movie a hundred times, always imagining my escape from Frederick, Maryland to Encinitas California. All I knew was that I would surf.  And by default I would have long white hair, tan skin and strong legs.

That was NINETEEN NINETY ONE.  Patrick Swayze was hot and Keanu Reaves had a big future. I was 13 years old. Turns out a lot can happen in 20+ years.  Patrick Swayze lost his battle with Pancreatic Cancer,  Encinitas has been named one of the World’s 20 Best Surf Towns by National Geographic and is home to some of the most premier yoga and wellness centers in the world, including The Chopra Center for Wellbeing (which is nestled in the LaCosta resort where my mom worked in her 20’s.)  Keanu Reeves is 50 and well, I tried surfing at Moonlight Beach in the late 90’s, got pounded against the rocks and left my dream there.

IMG_2232So I laughed out load today when Lori Petty came to mind as I shimmied my own shorts up my sticky legs. In a rush to pick up the kids, I slung my wet bikini on the floor and raced around to the drivers side.  The image of “Tyler” hit me.  I may not be 18, or in Encinitas, but here I am – living at the beach. There were certainly no kids (or even a man) in my dreams and  ‘water walking‘ with my pregnant friend is hardly the surfer I thought I might be.  But sure enough, I’m here. And its time to carpe-fucking-diem.

It may seem a bit late to be coming to this realization, as we have been here for nearly a year.  I’ve spent the better part of the past 12 months absorbed with life in Frederick or thinking I was living somewhere between my kitchen sink and the clothesline. I’ve seen the outside world here, instagram-ed it and adored it, but not lived in it.  Silly me.

As the one year mark hits and reflections run rampant, I realize I have no time to waste.

I think about leaving New Caledonia every single day.  Ironically, it keeps me present.  WhenIMG_0094[1] I pull the driveway gate closed, I imagine what it will be like to say goodbye to our house.  When I drive along the coast on my way to meet A for lunch I pretend it’s the last time I’ll take in the beautiful kite sails and the turquoise waters.

Its my way of appreciating what is right beneath my nose.  Maybe its a mind trick, but when I do pull away from the house for the last time, I don’t want to leave here with one regret.  I don’t want to look back on a cold winter day in November from my kitchen in Frederick and think – why didn’t I go to the beach every damn day?  That would be pretty stupid.  And so, I’ve made myself a promise to go to the beach – everyday. Besides, one must cool off daily in the heat of the south pacific.

IMG_2592What presence I have lacked this year (despite all my mindfulness practicing), the kids have indeed made up for.  They have walked down the street everyday in their blue school shirts, worked hard and rocked an entire grade of school in French.  People always tell you that kids pick up language so fast, but to see is to believe!  I’m so impressed and inspired with the human capacity (as children anyway) to adapt. Neither of them knew any French when they started and now they both understand their teachers and speak French with their classmates. Jonah is quite motivated to really improve his language skills and wants to learn Spanish now too (and then russian after that).  Ivy uses her skills as needed, or when no one is obviously listening you’ll catch her signing some French tunes.  I’ve hired them to teach me.  Never too young to get a job.  And never too old to learn a new language.

And now its summer!  Jonah has wasted no time mastering swimming. I suppose IMG_2513
‘mastered’ is not quite the right word, but he has turned a corner is really comfortable underwater, swimming from one end of the pool to the other, snorkeling and he now wants to windsurf like his Dada.  Perhaps the presence of the exciting PWA (Professional Windsurfing Association) World Cup Championships here in Noumea in November was inspiration too.  In other events, he got his yellow belt in jujitsu and lost his first tooth (where is my baby?).

IMG_2088Ivy is growing up too.  Its been an emotional year with her and there has been a lot of screaming and utter defiance.  She is assertive as hell and clear as can be. She is amazingly strong, powerful and clever. She loves me passionately or hates me intensely.  I just assure her that I love her either way (which she hates).

But she is learning to feel things deeply but also channel and direct herself.  She misses Nana and Gma a lot. Our three week whirlwind trip home in October reminded us all of the deep love that is there for us with family and friends and it stirred up raw emotion left forgotten in our hurried departure.  Now Ivy tells me very emphatically that next time she goes to Frederick she is not leaving again. But within a few minutes, she’ll ask what our next adventure will be.  Suddenly, she realizes that with refusing to leave Frederick again, she will never see her best, best friend Lydia againIMG_1604.  She’s beginning to get it.  Our predicament.

The predicament of having two homes far far apart, two sets of friends and living a transient, temporary life.  It is not something I have spelled out for them or really discussed, but I don’t have to. So many of the great friends we’ve made in Noumea will be gone by the end of the year.  Poof.  Gone.  Off to Switzerland, Australia, back to America.  And the questions begin to be asked. Where is Keighlan?  Why isn’t she coming back?  When is Nana coming? I found Jonah outside in the rocking chair one day, worried that everyone was leaving because they didn’t like him. (ouch).

It’s a great teaching opportunity, but a tough one too.  Life, by nature, is impermanent andimperenance change is inevitable, but we manage to convince ourselves otherwise by creating the perception of security.  I’m not sure if learning this young will make it harder or easier to experience healthy relationships.  It starts to feel easier to close your heart, to NOT get too close to people, as you know they will be leaving.

And so, for all the beauty, success and excitement, it sure has been an INTENSE year.  We hurdled a BIG move in 2014, a lot of transition, a new language (not me), a few big trips back to the states and all while still having a baby.

But the sweetest baby ever.  She’s grown from an easy, sweet six month old to an easy, sweet
and funny little-big-girl.  Paloma and I still have a little ‘nuggle’ fest every morning while she has her one remaining drink of mamma’s milk. I can’t let it go.  She’s my baby and watching her toddle around the house, put cell phones in toilets and raid the kitchen cabinets almost IMG_2489always brings me joy.

Paloma is my mini me. I smile, she smiles. I make a silly face, she repeats.  I walk around the house talking on the phone, she picks up a phone and imitates me in baby gibberish.  I go sit on the potty, she wants to sit on the potty.  She bring me a colander and chants “beans, beans, beans” when she wants me to make her some beans (because I always rinse them in the colander).  Instead of “yes,” she sings a lovely little “Ouiiiiii”  that sounds like “wheeeeee” in response to a question.  Or she shakes her head emphatically no – back and forth, back and forth, hair flying, cheesy smile.

I’m pretty sure A comes home at lunch just to see her.   They chase each other around and have a squish and a tickle (or a ‘nuggle’).  Both seem pretty pleased with the arrangement.  It must be delightful to commute just 5 minutes for a warm lunch + baby giggles + homemade chocolate.  I’m not sure I’m making this miserable enough for him to want to move back to Frederick anytime soon.   Four hours of commuting in a commuter van on route 270 in the winter with no hope of a lunch date with Paloma would make me think twice.

IMG_0501[1]Beyond always taking a proper lunch break, A has wasted no time diving into South Pacific beach life.  If he had the Point Break dream, he’s hit the jackpot too.  He has been living it up since he got here Dec 4 last year.  Always demonstrating his great ability to have perspective on what is important;  dishes, laundry and tidying the house will never crowd out adventure, leisure or a learning opportunity.  And so he’s working his IT magic by day, windsurfing at lunch a few days a week and keeping his jujitsu skills up by night.  His SPC work team is gaining recognition and they assisted in hosting the controversial French President Francois Hollande on his visit to Noumea in November.  As a natural leader, he has taken on the role of staff representative with some-important-after-hours-work-group, despite my raised eyebrow. But he makes sure I get my yoga nights too while he does the dinner/bedtime shift which often includes the kids listening to ‘This American Life’ (NPR).  We make a good team when we can appreciate each others strengths. Which, let’s be clear, seems to be more rare than common.  Currently, we are having a standoff about getting an above ground pool for the summer.  I think we all know who is going to win (not me).

While he may win that game, I make the food.  Life could get very boring and meager for A.  Not IMG_3992that I would ever hold a grunge against him for a decade or anything:-).  But I will limit his meals to healthy ones. Well, in particular, no sugar, no yeast and pitta pacifying.  I noticed we were all eating an extreme amount of white bread baguettes and chocolate croissants (remember, its French territory here) so I upped the ante on Jonah’s no junk food diet back in August. And although, no one else is really participating with any fervor except me, they won’t find any junk food lying around when their blood sugar crashes.

digestion sessionsThey might find it boring and disappointing, but I find it fascinating -food, nutrition and digestion that is.  In the absence of opportunity for trips to Kripalu and teacher trainings, I’ve discovered incredible online education and inspiration. The latest is the Digestion Sessions.  19 talks from doctors and experts practitioners on how and why good digestion is the key to health. Some of the data is controversial about specific things like gluten intolerance, but the overwhelming evidence supports the need for a healthy human microbiome to ward off disease.  I could discuss this for hours and fortunately I’ve gained a new nerdy friend who loves it too (until she moves back to Sydney in just a few weeks so she can begin studying Chinese Medicine).

I wonder if the next friend to blow into my life will be a smoking, drinking, dorito-eating partier to balance me out. I think it is possible to get too uptight about being ‘conscious’ and mindful and lately I’ve noticed how hard I’m working, all day, everyday just to maintain, what I think, are the basics.  Perhaps its the end of the school year, the rising temperatures or the fact that my regular babysitter/cleaner is on vacation for a while. Suddenly, re-using all glass jars, limiting screen time for the kids, meditation and yoga everyday, not wasting food, composting, getting the right amount of vitamin D, consciously communicating, oh-my-god-the-list-goes-on-and-on, is just over the top.  I might need to smoke a cigarette, scream at my kids and eat a whole container of ice cream to balance myself out. The truth is, its become clear to me that there is not enough time in the day to be good at everything. (insert DUH).  As a good friend just said, “I’m just not on my A game anymore since I’ve had 2 kids!”  MEE TOO.  Something has to give.  William Shakspere (and my wise husband) might just be right:  “Expectations are the root of all heartache.”

Unrealistic expectations is a broader theme for me to examine. Beyond conscious living, taking care of myself and mindful mothering, thereIMG_4761[1] is ‘my real job’ that gets sandwiched between drop off, naptimes and pickup, and now that its summer, I’m not sure where to squeeze it in.  I love my work. I love business and I love running Sol Yoga.  But the studio sure has weathered a rough year, perhaps our most challenging ever on many levels.  In reviewing it from this year-end perch, it is all beginning to make much more sense. Remote leadership diminishes intimacy and we are in the business of connected-ness. Since the months before I left until now, we have all been in a transitional shit storm.  I am grateful for the dedication of everyone involved and the practice of yoga because it has not been easy.  But, we have once again, beat our marks from previous years, hired great staff and are beginning to see the edge of the storm. Fortunately, as a pitta, I welcome the challenge it brings, but might need to soften my expectations 🙂

Letting go is also another continuous, predominant theme in life this year.  My contribution is limited with Sol Yoga, my days are full with the bounty of motherhood and I’m a million miles away from sustaining relationships.  It makes for really weird, sometimes even hard days. Which seems inexcusable when I look around and see the beauty and realize with so much gratitude just how blessed I am. But I’m pretty human. I miss seeing my mom with my kids. I miss good, deep friendships and I miss feeling truly integrated in a community.  It’s always hard to be away from people and places that have parts of your heart, even if it there is a beautiful beach nearby.

We were not here for the holidays last year.  And I’ll tell you what.  That is pretty weird too. The calendar says December 21, but ALL external indicators tell me it is June or July.  I rallied a few girl friends for lunch for the summer solstice – my favorite holiday in the entire year.  For a moment I longed to be popping into Sol Yoga to practice with some of my old-time buddies, but then I remembered that it’s not the summer solstice at all in Frederick!! It’s the shortest, darkest, often very cold, day of the year.  Instead, five moms (sans kids) sat at a beach-side restaurant wiping sweat from our upper lip and fanning our faces with the menu and offering a baby blessing to my 33 week prego friend Zita. I’ll take that 🙂

All this weirdness can also be spun as liberating too. The absorption into family life, the dissolving of the my ego and the sense of anonymity, the lack of seasons and tradition all leave me feeling undefined and curious about the layers beneath the external.

Fittingly, my mother slipped me a copy of the Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow IMG_3438Lindbergh. I always knew it was my mothers favorite book and now, as a mother, I know why.  It validates so much.

“For to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, likes spokes from the hub of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is essentially circular.  We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community, stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spiders web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes. How difficult for us then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet, how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives.”

She goes on to say, “The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Women and Independence.  It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel. What is the answer? There is no easy answer. I only have clues, shells from the sea. “

Perhaps I did not make it to California when I was 18 because I didn’t need the gifts the Encinitas sea offers.  I did not have yoga yet.  I did not have children. I did not have a husband.  I was not stretched out, exposed and sensitive. In fact, I was tough, certain and closed. Dreams often come to fruition not when we want them to, but when the timing is right.

And so, this hot Christmas and onward for the summer, my intention is to be here now.   To indulge my superficial inner desires and embody the skinny surfer chick from a movie (avec trois enfants).   To take on the carefree quality of summer.  To rock a tiny bikini, tan my strong legs and shimmy into my Billabong shorts with wet salty hair.  This is my chance.  Hopefully Jonah, Ivy and Paloma won’t mind straggling along for the summer ride.  Junk food and TV allowed.




“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”  Steve Jobs

I was listening to that Steve Jobs Stanford commencement speech recently and I heard him say that.  It’s so true.

Its been raw here in New Cal.  The dots are connecting in strange and powerful ways.   I’ve been busy living 2 full-on lives since the last blog post.  The external functional one that involves being a mother, wife, business owner and foreigner and the internal one of observing, listening and healing.
IMG_0719[1]I can report that all things on the outside are good.  Kids are adjusted, learning French and being normal in all ways that kids are normal.  A is content and happily planning Dorcstock for our return home visit coming up.  During Paloma’s naps, I’ve been super focused on recruiting and hiring a General Manager for Sol Yoga, which after 3 months has finally come to a close.

People come and go here.  The neighbors moved to a nicer house a few streets away and the other neighbors are calling it quits and heading off to Switzerland.  Jonah’s best friend at school (Vasillina) never came back from her ‘trip’ home but we’ve got a new family of six to hang out with and make us feel like five is no big deal.   I walk to school twice a day with my big sunglasses on so I can be introverted and lost inside my own thoughts while managing the functional requirements of life.

But beyond the glamorous view, there is something to this place.  Like no other place I’ve been or time in life, there is a powerful undercurrent that begs me to be raw and GET REAL.  I’m isolated on an island in the middle of nowhere. My shoes are always off. My shoulders are mostly bare, the sky is crystal blue and the waters are translucent.  It is about being exposed.  And vulnerable. As cliché as it sounds, it’s happening.  In fact, a friend told me ..”they say, when you come to New Caledonia it’s to work on your roots.”

I left off with a revelation of epic proportions that I have been carrying around anger for 15 years that has wreaked havoc on my relationship and my physical body.  Not long after I wrote that, my decade old shoulder pain started to unravel. And now, a few months later, with the support of few skilled healers and encouragement to let go,  it has largely evaporated.  Poof.  Pain be gone.  Its true it seems that the mind and body are indeed connected.  With these powerful results, I have been tempted to go deeper.  What about the other aches and pains?  What emotions are connected to those? What can I let go of and walk lighter and freer?

Looking back, I can see that I limped here.  Eight 50 lb bags, three children, a brave face and a broken heart.  A million aches and pains and literally, unfinished business(es) at home.IMG_1348[1]

But life calls sometimes.  It makes decisions for you.  And you can only have faith that the understanding will come with time.

And now I see.  I came here to become whole again. To shake me out of my ‘normal’ and acceptable and put me at the feet of unknown, a foreign land and in the hands of new humans.

I came across this article one rainy night and it struck a chord.  Three steps to healing anything –

1. take responsibility for it.

2. find the cause.

3. heal the cause.

That simple.

I’m not a therapist.  And I don’t have a therapist.  (talking freaks me out a bit) .  But I do like this concept of peeling back the layers to reveal the root of things.  Just keep asking why.  Just like my 4 year old Ivy – “but why Mom?”  Keep looking deeper.  Past the blame and shame, past the fear, right to the heart.  I love this popular TED talk by Brene Brown on Vulnerability.  She reports on the characteristics of ‘whole-hearted’ people.  They live with a deep courage to be imperfect, a compassion to be kind to themselves first, then others and connection as a result of authenticity.  The ‘whole hearted’ fully embrace vulnerability.  They believe what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful.

In theory I am totally into this.  I fully embrace vulnerability.  I’m authentic.   I’m okay with being imperfect.  Check, check, check.   Uh. nice try Dorcas.  You must not be if you even having this dialogue in the first place.

I re-read the article.  Take responsibility.  Find cause.  I pondered for weeks and weeks, peppered the inquiry with effective bodywork, writing, acupuncture, yoga, daily meditation, discussion with interested friends and of course many walks to school in my big sunglasses.  I thought about a lot of things like my pesky ankle, childhood events, the pain in my hip, the friends I keep, etc.

IMG_6060[1]And sometimes I even felt indulgent wallowing in my own inquiry when there is an Ebola outbreak in Africa and people in the world that don’ t have healthy children and a great life. And then I’m reminded by my studies and practice and yes, TED talks, if we don’t kindly take care of ourselves first, we’ve got nothing to offer anyone.  And so I don’t have Ebola, but a difficult inquiry continues.  It is not comfortable to look at yourself in the mirror.  Or easy. Or really fun.  I am driven by results.  Driven by the end goal of feeling liberated and whole and free of self-doubt, judgement, physical pain and guilt. Driven by the desire to live as fully as possible and have the most awesome relationships I can with the people I love the most.  And in doing so, give back 100 fold.

At first, the examination was widespread and random.  Every time the same thing would come up, I’d try to take it one layer deeper.  “But why Mom,” echoed in my head.

When I was a toddler, my mom was concerned I might be deaf and mute.  I’ve always been afraid to talk to people.  I like to listen. to gather information.  We joke about it now as I speak publicly and teach large groups of people. But why? What am I afraid of?  I’ve always been good with the conclusion that my truth lies within and I don’t need to share it to feel complete.  But maybe I do. Connection as a result of authenticity doesn’t come from holding things inside.

I fractured my wrist in karate when I was a kid. It was really painful, but I pretended it was fine for days. Until my dad got a hold of me and made me confess that I couldn’t move my arm. It was the middle of the summer and I wore long sleeve sweatshirts to cover up my cast. I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want any attention. And I certainly didn’t want any attention for being broken. Hmm… where’s my deep courage to be imperfect?

And what about embracing vulnerability? That was squashed early on. As a teenager, I wrote goal sheet and affirmations in accordance with some home-school-self-help-study-book choice of my parents – one of my affirmations was, “I can control my emotions.”  I must have said and written it thousands of times in my youth.  And for my dad, this has (seemingly) helped him thru life.  He suffered loss and grief early in life and perhaps this has been how he coped.  And now, as a parent, I understand.  He wanted to teach me what would work.  What would help make me a successful human being.  And feelings don’t really have a place when you are trying to be successful, forward moving, goal oriented and productive.  And perhaps he could sense in me the very same deep well of empathy he has.  The deep well that drops you to your knees when you feel someone else’s pain.  Perhaps he knew I would need tools for remaining steadfast. And most certainly those tools have taught me to be calm, non-reactive, nonchalant and extremely unaffected by surprises.  And, I might add, wildly successful in life by all external standards.

Random things ruminated for weeks.  Until one night after a self shirodhara. As I lay my oily head on the pillow, things came together.IMG_9866[1]

After a good 18 years of conditioning to mask or ignore my own pain and control my emotions, I’ve spent another 10 feigning indifference and appearing unaffected because my hips and psoas are my self storage unit and my thyroid is a great damn.  And then god gifted me yoga.  The grey to the black and white of my life so far, the receptivity to the protection of martial arts, the healing and soothing to the hurting I’d been doing and the people who would help me connect to the truest version of myself I’ve every known.  And so the past 7 years have broken me down and cracked me open.  Exploring yoga and Ayurveda, having babies, all while experiencing chronic physical pain and attempting to figure it all out.

And then there is the New Caledonia chapter, the crescendo perhaps, or maybe just where I begin to connect the dots.   I’ve had to risk losing everything I value to learn to trust in who I love.  I’ve had to be anonymous to find my voice again. I’ve had to be uncomfortable to get exposed.

I do have faith. That trust that Steve Jobs talks about.  I almost always feel certain that the truth will rise to the top and I am in the right place at the right time.  That the next step, especially when unknown, will appear right before I take it.  That the right people will show up when I need them.

Within two days of arriving here, I had a new support system. She walked up to me and introduced herself like she had been sent on a mission.  We talk or walk almost everyday.

And when friends from home stopped calling, two more perfect matches dropped out of the sky to put me at ease and make me feel normal here.  I didn’t realize how uncomfortable I was until I wasn’t.  Friends I can geek out with and talk about all things yoga, Ayurveda and the mind-body connection. We indulge in endless conversation about vata/pitta/kapha, the connection of the emotional body to the physical body, the anatomical development of the psoas, the effect of too much yeast in the body and how to make yummy nutritious food. They listen to my deep personal physical and emotional epiphanies and act completely interested and un-phased by it. We have engaged in some of the most valuable conversations of my life and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to feel seen.  And just as they came, and my story of healing comes to a close, they will be airlifted out.  Thanks God. Mission accomplished.  Now onto the next lesson of ‘letting go!”

It is my urge to re-read my words, to doubt clicking ‘post’ but the greater lesson to me is that it okay to open up.  And if my doubt gets the best of me, I can lean on articles like this confirming the proven health benefits to writing.   I write to process but also because I can allow myself to be fully seen.  And Brene Brown’s research doesn’t lie.  Vulnerability is beautiful.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”  Steve Jobs.



the unlikely story of love

I’ve been observing a mean little kid.  He’s just short of 5 years old but already getting a reputation as a bully.  He says mean things, hits and bites and inflicts pain however he can.  But if you watch him long enough, you’ll see that he is a loner.  You’ll see that he really wants to play with everyone but he gets shut out.  You’ll see his face begin to crumple and fall apart in tears right before he finds his inner badass and comes right at you with insult or injury.   Beneath it all, he’s a total softy in a big kids body.  But he’s got pretty tough skin, that kid.  And he has to because his smart big sister is pretty unrelenting with the insults.

jonah sentencesThe cycle is terribly perpetual and catches on like wildfire.  One kid is mean to another and that kid feels hurt and is mean right back.  Now, it’s just normal behavior – mean for mean.  My kids, have jumped right on board and it is great opportunity to teach a new reaction.   A few months ago I had Jonah write his first ‘”sentences.”  In his notebook he copied, ” When someone is mean to me, I can walk away or be nice.”  Even for a pretty sweet kid like Jonah its a hard reaction to control.  (**note – jonah also takes jujitsu for the times when he cannot be nice or walk away :-))

So I’ve been watching this a lot and thinking about the seed Tara Brach, author and leading meditation teacher, planted 4 or 5 years ago  at the DC Buddhafest.  She talks a lot about the human reaction to pain and how we naturally do our best to avoid it – physical, mental or emotional pain.  And often when we get hurt, we  immediately lash out in anger.   Bypassing the awareness that in between the infliction of pain and the reaction of anger was a momentary drive through sadness, vulnerability or deep hurt.   Further, she said, we go on to try to inflict pain on the very person that hurt us in an effort to get them to understand our own suffering.

She tells this parable: “Imagine you are walking in the woods and you see a small dog sitting by a tree. As you approach, it suddenly lunges at you, teeth bared. You are frightened and angry. But then you notice that one of its legs is caught in a trap. Immediately your mood shifts from anger to concern: You see that the dog’s aggression is coming from vulnerability and pain. This applies to all of us. When we behave in hurtful ways, it is because we are caught in some kind of painful trap. The more we look through the eyes of wisdom at ourselves and each other, the more we cultivate a compassionate heart.”

Watching kids is a great way to observe how the feeling of physical or emotional pain manifests and how it begins to create lifelong patterns.  Viewing people’s anger from a place of compassion makes it possible to be less offended, take things less personally and recognize that we all can express anger but it might not be as malicious as it seems.

But here is where the deep work begins for me.  After years of seeing this in others (that was easy), I finally realized it applies to me too.  DUH. DUH. DUH.

dorcasandadamI’m mean to the person I love the most. And if I were witnessing myself in action, I might conclude that I’m lashing out because i’m hurt.

I’ve been in a relationship for almost 20 years with the same person.  That is over half my life now.   And for better or worse, I believe a long-term relationship (marriage in this case) is a damn good opportunity to develop a spiritual practice and the most amazing opportunity for self-reflection.  How many people in life  become so familiar and close that they know your daily rhythms, all your stories, your family, your weakness, your strengths, your baggage and your birthmarks.   The inherent intimacy creates space for your total true self to emerge.  One would think that my true self would be delightful and kind and content, just like I am to everyone else in the world.   But no, A gets the WORST of me. Day in and day out, he gets the angry version of me.  The bitch.  The one that is never satisfied or pleased with how much he has ‘helped’ around the house.  Yeah, sure we love each other.  Sure, I find him attractive. Sure, I can articulate a million reasons why I think he’s great.

But beneath it all, lets face it.  I’m angry.  And I’m mean to A.  Not all the time, but a lot of the time.  And have been for at least a decade.  Until now, I’ve denied it.  Brushed off the accusation as an impossibility.

Meanwhile,  I literally have a pain in my neck & shoulder. And have since 2000.  About the same time A rolled out of my life for 2+ years to serve in the Peace Corps.  This was before the days of free Skype, so I wallowed around, shocked by my broken heart and unaware of how to navigate the feeling of abandonment, grief and loss.  I cried in the shower a few times, but mostly just stuffed those lumps in my throat on down.  I wanted the best for him and I wanted him to feel like I was cool with it.  When it finally hit me that I was devastated, sad and depressed, I put up a wall and turned to anger.  I could still like him and even love him, but not with an open heart.  I became a stone cold lover.  Love him in my head and on paper, but not with my heart.  That would be too risky.  Maybe he could earn my innocence and tenderness back, but he would have to understand my pain.  And it’s never been enough.  So I’m all stuffed up in my 5th Chakra.

But until I sat my ass on a meditation cushion for a few years,  started watching the mean kid, getting bodywork to unlock my shoulder blade and an Osteopath to untwist my hyoid bone, it didn’t occur to me that I’m the angry one lashing out.  That I’m the dog with my leg caught in a trap.  Anger is unpleasant but seductive. In this interview with Bill Moyer, Pema Chodron says that anger has a hook. “There’s something delicious about finding fault with something,” she said. Especially when our egos are involved (which is nearly always the case), we may protect our anger. We justify it and even feed it.”

my fav  And so, perhaps I’ve come halfway around the world to the land of the south pacific to heal.  To find tenderness and to say.  I’m sorry A. I’ve been confused. I actually love the shit out of you – more than I can handle.  I get a lump in my throat when I think about what I would do for you. How I would follow you to the end of the earth just to be with you.  That in fact, once upon a time, being without you broke my heart.  The sadness around the days you left is literally stuck inside of me and close to my heart.  Even now, 14 years later, it swells up and nearly overflows, but a lifetime of controlling my emotions comes in handy to push it right back down. Instead, my inner bad-ass, stone cold lover comes out to tango.  Sure, let’s go on a date.  Sure, lets move to New Caledonia.  I’ll be unaffected.  I’ll be tough.  I’ll walk ahead of you and I’ll be just a little bit of a bitch. God forbid I surrender control or be sweet.  I might get hurt.

“Each time you meet an old emotional pattern with presence, your awakening to truth can deepen. There’s less identification with the self in the story and more ability to rest in the awareness that is witnessing what’s happening. You become more able to abide in compassion, to remember and trust your true home. Rather than cycling repetitively through old conditioning, you are actually spiraling toward freedom.” ― Tara BrachTrue Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

And so, its time.  Time to let it go.  Time to clear out old hurt and anger and spiral toward freedom.  Life is too short and New Caledonia is too beautiful to be any bit angry at a nice guy like A.   Lets hope clearing the 5th chakra is as simple as an ah-ha moment and a blog post 🙂


(disclaimer – my self assessment could be wrong.)



47 pictures and 6 months makes a home

DSC_9224Last year this time, we were just settling into have another baby.  Only a few weeks to go before we’d expand to a family of five.  It was the month of June.  My favorite.  The best of life for me.  The beginning of summer, the longest day of the year, birthdays galore, gardens, late nights with friends, bare feet and for three of the past six years, the birth of my babies.  I always feel alive, connected to family and inspired.

For all I knew, life would stay the same and I could count on more and more inspired summers.

Except for this one little wild-hair-crazy-idea of A’s.  An overseas  job in New Caledonia! What?!

This was the extent of the early conversations:

“Babe.”  Followed by a long pause and a stern look.  “I’m about to have a baby.  There is no way you can talk to me about this,”  I would say.  I remember an incredible surge of anger and emotion in response to a) the idea in general and b) the timing of the idea.

“But you should just look at the pictures,” A would try to sneak in.

“Listen, this hypothetical inquiry is a waste of my time. You can just keep this silly idea to yourself.  Because, in this moment, my answer is HELL NO.  I’m not moving anywhere.  Why mess with a good thing?   Now i’m going to make dinner and put the kids to bed and clean out the babies room for the birth pool.  If you ever get a job offer, you can ask me about it then.”

A has lots of overseas ideas.  This was really nothing new. I was banking on the fact that he would either lose interest or he would never get a final job offer.  I couldn’t bear the idea of leaving my cocoon at this time in our lives.  It would be too painful and a logistical nightmare.

IMG_4721[1]But here we are. In New Caledonia, our family of five.  This is when I realize that so much can happen in a short period of time.  A change can come out of nowhere and suddenly redirect your trajectory despite your best laid plans.

Somewhere between mid July and late September of last year, A had a few interviews, got a job offer, went thru rigorous negotiations (with his employer, then me).  After a long period of silence (and anger), I went right through the biggest ball of fear I’ve ever faced and said YES.  YES, lets pack up our great life and move to the other side of the world on an adventure. YES, lets take an unknown risk.  I blame this quote that found its way into my hands during this time.hearty yes

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” Joseph Campbell

And now we are six months in and the dust is just beginning to settle.

IMG_7291[1]IMG_7502[1]IMG_6761[1]Our house iIMG_7440[1]s now a home. We recently spent a weekend hanging 47 pictures. It brought a warmth to the 100% white walls and tile floors that was long overdue. Faces of family and friends are all around us and our guest room is slowly opening up for our first visitors. I indulge in a little ‘decorating’ and DQ design when I need a little pick me up or distraction. Box by box and room by room, we are moving in.  Its my way of slowly and slowly accepting  reality.

IMG_6351[1]IMG_6347[1]A has the best work/life balance he has had in a decade, which he deserves.  Commuting on route 270 from Frederick to Washington DC is known as one of the worst commutes in the country and he did it for way too long.  Nowadays, he kicks on his converse sneakers, billabong jeans, island button up and makes the long 5 minute commute to his office, which is in a prime beach front location. On his 1 hour lunch break, he grabs Phillipe and Sio, his windsurfing coworkers, and heads out for a 30 minute session.  Windsurfing is like snowboarding in that you just totally SUCK at it, until you just GET it.  But A is one persistent dude.  Now, given decent wind conditions, he can hop on the board/sail contraption and ride to a small island just off the coast in a matter of minutes.  Plenty of time left to get back to work by 1pm.  Island life suits him well.

If I had a lunch break, I’d do the same.  Minus the windsurfing. Just the quick trip the beach part.  Just me, my sunnies and a towel and you can stick a fork in me. I’m done.

But the novelty of the water has worn off for the kids.  Its so hard getting picked up in a land rover, being served a fresh assortment of delicious snacks in the back seat, slipping your shoes off to walk onto the beautiful empty beach, all within 5 minutes of leaving school.  “I don’t WANT to go to the beaaaaaaaaaaaaachhhhhhh,” they say.  Transitions are hard.  I get it.  Good thing I’m not asking them to go home and do homework.  After food settles into belly the resistance subsides and before you know it everyone is happily splashing in the water.  And then, of course, noone wants to go home.

IMG_6208[1]Fortunely, one of them has not learned how to ‘backtalk.’  She’s just taking a few small steps and blurting out caveman sounding words.  She can be scooped up from just about anywhere and conveniently carried to the next adventure.  Despite her regular night wakings and stealth ability to scratch my cornea and cause me more pain that her own labor and delivery, Paloma Rudisill continues to be delightful, charming and all things considered, easy.  The little dove reminds me how quickly life moves. Inside of the six months we have been here she has sat up on her own, grown a complete head of hair, learned to crawl, say her first words and now walk.  Whenever I need attitude adjustment or reminder to be present to the moment, I look from Paloma to Jonah and see how quickly this time passes.

IMG_7504[1]IMG_5314[1]Jonah is exiting the innocent childhood phase of life and becoming a boy.  Navigating playing with other kids without his best skillset – his language, is interesting to observe.  He is without complaint, on point at school and adjusting well overall. He has several friends but only one of them speaks English (and French and Russian).  Jonah thinks Vasilina is a boy.  And indeed, Vasilina wants to be a boy and looks like a boy. But Vasilina’s mother says she is a girl. Apparently she used to have long, pretty hair but really wanted a boys haircut and clothes.  She is tall, in charge, has exceptional language skills and is probably in spy school already.  Jonah is undeterred by his/her gender confusion and calls him his ‘best friend.’   He is also experiencing some serious infatuation. Our neighbor Sophie is ‘hard to get,’ and keeps Jonah guessing if she likes him or not.  So, he loves her. When pushed on the subject, he articulates that he doesn’t really like to play with her, but he likes it when she likes him.  Whew.  And so, with all the ups and downs of becoming a boy, his main outside of school activity is jujitsu.  Three years of practice now and he’s gaining skills and confidence every week.

IMG_7593[1]Ivy is the best, most beautiful strong willed child I could ask for.  The french is seeping in through her skin and coming out at unexpected a surprising times.  She corrects my English words for the French ones and can be caught singing French tunes throughout the day.  As long as her little love tank is topped off and she is getting plenty of attention, she is fantastic in every way.  But if we slip up and have other children to tend to, or she is hungry or tired,  you might as well just put on earplugs and settle in for some screaming. And she doesn’t really care if you punish her.  Go ahead.  Make my day. She comes around when she is damn ready. I might speed that come around up if  I go into character or pretend to be someone else. “Mom, you be the girl and i’ll be the mom,” she’ll say.  Always imagining and pretending, that little Ivy Lu.

IMG_7531[1]As a duo, Ivy and Jonah have re-discovered each other since the neighbors went off to New Zealand for holiday.  They are a good play team and really love each other.  Paloma is starting to get their attention and they include her in their forts and ships and lego-a-thons more and more.  Jonah will spend long periods of time being silly with her and they both talk about how cute she is.  Cute on top of cute, what can top that?

As for me, the winter has hit me hard. I’m wrapped in my sleeveless sweater and have my 1 pair of socks on most of the time.  I drag myself to the beach on the days it is barely 80 degrees at high noon for a 20 minute vitiman D pick-me-up and make plenty of warm soups when it dips below 70 degrees.  I am contemplating asking Claire to send my North Face jacket for my camping expeditions.  God forbid I feel uncomfortable or cold.  That was not part of the deal A sold me.  He said South Pacific.  And I heard – HOT. TAN. ALL. THE. TIME.   I feel slighted.

IMG_6900JUST kidding.  Winter is pretty sweet here. I do feel  a bit disoriented though.  Its about to be the shortest, not the longest,  day of the year on June 21st.  It gets dark at 530pm and the kids are mid semester in school. The thermometer still reflects early summer temps, but it actually feels cold by comparison to the sweltering heat when we arrived in New Caledonia on January 4th.  My body is expecting a more distinct seasonal shift.

Yoga-ing is still happening daily but now that Paloma is about a year old, I’m VERY slowly kicking it up a notch.   I started a 21 day challenge with a group of women here – just to walk or run for 20 minutes every day until the winter solstice.  So far, so good.  Everywhere you go it is BEAUT-I-FULL and just a short walk or run around the neighborhood is filled with steep climbs and sweeping views.  As my community expands, I’ve discovered a few Ayurveda junkies and took an Organic chocolate making workshop with a bunch of hippies.  And I woke up the other day thinking I am ready to start teaching a (yoga) class here. I think all my walking/running has opening up a wellspring of enthusiasm that has been drained out by sleepless nights. But my days of good energy get me into trouble.  Perhaps a wiser decision would be to sit in a rocking chair and finish some books I’ve started, or do my 2013 taxes that still await me.  The truth is, there is no extra time – not for sleep, not for teaching yoga, not for reading books.

No time, because I still work.  I still have a ‘job,’ aside from all this house-wifey, mommy stuff.  Working remotely for Sol Yoga has been a great anchor for me and source of comfort since we have arrived.  Keeping me connected to my other baby, my passion and group of intimate friends and family. It has not been without challenge though.  Waking up to resignation letters and the limitations of one dimensional communication from a far away time zone is both exhilerating (I love a challenge) and a test of patience (If only I could just pop over to the studio this would be soooooooooo much easier).  Nonetheless, the studio thrives on and I feel validated in my endeavors.

IMG_6802[1]So, this June, from my unexpected perch in the south pacific, I can appreciate the beauty of my life 1 year ago and a new life here. I feel alive and so connected to my nuclear family of five, fueled and supported from afar by lifetime long relationships that withstand the test of distance and time, stabilized by my regular yoga practice and inspired more than ever to live the life that is right beneath my nose.  This will likely be the most beautiful place I ever live and the only time my children truly want to snuggle me constantly.  La vie est belle!


(disclaimer –   I wrote this post a week ago on a glorious few hours I had ALONE.  Today, as I finally post it, I am on the other end of the spectrum.  It is indeed a beautiful day outside and sure, life is beautiful, but I’ve been puked on, peed on and had to clean some other kids poop off my floor.   After 2 weeks of school vacation, I’m ready to lose it.   I think this is why I write.  I have MOMENTS of great clarity and perspective that must be etched in time because the rest of the time I’m in the trenches and can’t find any wipes.)



birthday-a-thon begins

photo 3HOORAY! We’ve made it to birthday season! This family of five has four birthdays within 30 days – June 4th and 28th (Ivy & A), July 2nd & 3rd (Paloma & Jonah)

When we first told the kids about our ‘big adventure,’  one of their biggest concerns was if they would have a birthday in New Caledonia.  As if moving away might actually mean you don’t age, or worse, there wouldn’t be any friends or presents.  A reasonable question if you are five or under and only have memories of your big day in the cozy comfort of the friends and family of Frederick Maryland. I don’t know what it is about aging, but kids seem to be obsessed with getting older as FAST AS POSSIBLE.

And so, as we pulled away from Frederick on that freezing cold winter day in January, one of my real worries was who would be there to celebrate the kids birthday’s.  Would they have new ‘kid’ friends by then?

Silly little worry.  Our yearly birthday-a-thon has begun with Ivy.   I had to limit my invites so there were only 17 of her most favorite friends and about 10-15 or so adults.  I’m not much of a future planner nor do I care too much about putting on a good show for the littles,  so if I had a Walmart near by, I would have picked up a piñata on the way to get the Costco cake and pizza and called it a party. But the piñatas here are custom-made and uber expensive, there is no  Costco and my neighbor is a near professional baker who loves tpico spoil Ivy.

So next easiest option is to ask Ms. Suzi to make a cake, you-tube how to make a piñata and feed an army with easy to make tacos.  Throw in some Sangria and margaritas made by our resident bartender Daddy-A, wrap it up with a fiesta them and we’ve got ourselves a party.

Ivy was deep in play the whole time. Her friends range in age from 18 months to almost 11 years old.  She is mostly obsessed with the older girls and looked a bit star struck for 6 hours straight.  Although she has outgrown her ‘too tight’ relationship with clothes, she ended up nearly topless (for the second year straight as someone pointed out) in some sort of off the shoulder princess dress from most the night. Not only did she get a beautiful birthday cake from Ms Suzi, but a few dozen pink cupcakes and hello kitty cookies too. Mamma hooked her up with not only one pinata, but four (she is turning four after all) filled with presents and sweet treats.  People showed up with presents that were right up her alley and she was straight-faced (that means delighted) from morning till night.

The house and yardphoto 1 looked like a cyclone had gone through (blasting open 4 pinatas will have this effect) and the mid-week party went on until at least 11pm (when i finally disappeared to bed). Jonah had some sort of super sugar high and begged to sleep on a yoga mat in the hallway.  Ivy wailed into her brown blanket when her friend Jessica finally went home the fell asleep within 2 minutes.  Paloma crashed around 5pm and slept right through the chaos. A never came to bed and I found him on Jonah’s bed in the morning.  When the light of morning came, it looked a bit like a college dorm or the aftermath of a ‘girls gone wild’ party.   Jonah was the first of the three to wake up in the morning and immediately asked “why is everyone sleeping in the wrong place?!”

Birthday season.  One down, 3 to go.


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29 littles.

photo 2Today my jujitsu training came in handy.  I was forced to defend myself from a wild three year old.  With a huge smile on his face, he looked me in the eye and ran straight at me, full speed.  Instinctively, I dipped my shoulder down and let him plow all 35 lbs of his little Kanacky self into me as I tossed him right onto his back. Gently, and peacefully of course, as I’m in the midst of teaching a kids yoga forward fold – with bubble bee breath.

The good news is, I’m in a French school and that sort of ‘handling’ does not seem to be a problem.  I didn’t need to sign a waiver or have a background check to get right down there (literally on the floor) with the 29 snot nosed kids.  In fact, I was invited to Ivy’s class to teach for some sort of special parent day (details are fuzzy as much of the invitation was in french).   Naturally, as I am actually terrified of anything new, every part of me wanted to say no. In my head echoed this quote: “Do one thing that scares you everyday.”  It’s easy for me to live by this as it turns out, it doesn’t take much to scare me.

Besides, MaitIMG_4864rese Manuela gave me no chance to say no and told me I could teach anything – 15 minute ‘workshops’ repeated 6 times as all the kids would rotate from one ‘workshop’ to the next.  Another mom likes to bake, so she made mini cupcakes with the kids.  One is a science teacher, so she explored making/melting ice. In another group they made origami and explored Japanese culture and then there would be my group.  Pretty cool for the kids.  And as it turns out, very rare and out of the box for the French system.  I found out later that  Ivy’s teacher is the only one that does this and introduced it to her school.

Really the only thing that came to mind was yoga.  But I was hoping I could come up with something else.  Of all kinds of yoga, this is by far, the only one I really dislike.  I mean, you have to be loud, silly, animated, super creative and covered in kids.  Not exactly a top skill for a quiet introvert that likes stillness.  But this mini lesson feels like a microcosm of the macrocosm of my experience of moving to New Caledonia.  Every part of this has me stepping out of my comfort zone.  “Do one thing that scares you everyday.”  There it is again. There must be a lesson here.

So, without too much thought, I followed my first instinct and suggested I teach kids yoga.  The teacher was THRILLED.  In her 7 years of doing this, no one has ever done kids yoga.  I suddenly had a new best friend.   No kidding.  She began complimenting my boots and talking about her personal life.  We exchanged email so we could discuss the details of the workshop and the next day she was blowing kisses to Ivy when she left.  On the way out of school, Ivy said: “She is just getting nicer and nicer to me.”  Apparently having a yoga teacher mom has perks.

So Sunday night I prinkids yogated out a few kids yoga postures,  crafted them up a bit and spent some time making a mental tool bag of things I could pull out.

On Monday morning, I joined Ivy’s ‘petite section’ of 29 turquoise polo shirt wearing kids. They range in age from 2yrs 9 months to 4 years.  If you have young children or are aware of the phases of child development, you know this is quite a wide age range.  From pacifier sucking, barely talking,  sobbing 2 year olds to 4 year olds that could begin learning o read, there is a wide range of abilities.

In my mental prep work, I was using Ivy as my average, forgetting about the littler ones.  Needless to say, I overestimated their attention span and ability. Of the 29 kids, only about 1/2 were teachable.  They engaged in the activity, participated and responded to direction and interaction.  Great.  Easy.  Kids Yoga is perfect and they loved it. 1/4 of the kids were comatose.  Staring off into space, un-responsive and impossible to engage despite physically lifting their arms and legs, they just look at you like you are speaking a foreign language (oh right, I am).  And the final 1/4 of the kids are wildly unruly or a slobbery, snotty, sobbing mess.

So here were are, 6-8 at a time, crammed in a very small space (that resembled a corral) we hoped like a frogs, roared like lions, hummed like bumble bees and balanced like trees. I had an audience in the round of parents and cameras. For a moment, I wanted to fake a stomach ache and ask Ivy to stand in for me. But, doing one thing that scares me everyday for much of my life has prepared me well.  Despite my inside experience, I can now fly by the seat of my pants,  make something out of nothing and do it well. Thank god for that.

So while I tossed kids over my shoulder and channeled my best inner Pat-Quynn-silly-faces,  I could hear Maitrese Manuela in the background saying the “yoga is AWE-SUMphoto 1!  With my tool belt of everything I’ve ever done to distract, engage and entertain, I survived and at least 1/2 the kids really thrived.

With depleted adrenals and sweaty armpits, I walked home as slowly as I could.  The longer I walked the longer I got to be kid-free.  I have no idea how teachers of small children maintain their enthusiasm. I have a new appreciation for the teacher and for Ivy.  Ivy is brave.  And Maitresse Manuela is brilliant.  (And that little Kanaky kid needs to sign up for jujitsu with Jonah).

(Post post update)

Just when I thought I would never have to do that again, Maitrese Manuela told me she would like me to teach again.  She liked my ‘gentle’ style and the yoga was “awe-sum.”  She needs to arrange a few things with the directress before it happens.  Now, I just need to decide if the scarier thing of saying “NO,” is in order.




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the yoga scene

“Yoga does not remove us from the reality or responsibilities of everyday life but rather places our feet firmly and resolutely in the practical ground of experience.”- Donna Farhi

One part investigator, onecropped-img_4264.jpg part yogini, one part tired mom just looking for a good place to rest my yoga mat (and head), I’ve been getting around Noumea, New Caledonia, shopping yoga studios, trying on teachers and pretending to understand french-yoga-speak for almost 6 months now.  I’m looking for a few things.

1. My personal practice.  Since 1999 I’ve been hooked on yoga.  For me its a lifestyle, no longer just a good stretch for my hamstrings.  And now, more than ever, I require a daily practice of some sort.  I love the challenge of taking my practice on the road but am ultimately seeking a home studio to sink into while I’m here.


sol yoga headquarters frederick, md

2. The world of yoga as it relates to business.  Yoga is everywhere. Over 20 million people practice in the united states and 30 million people worldwide.  People are seeking  stress relief, better health and spiritual awakening and there is a global movement of self-examination. I opened Sol Yoga as a tiny boutique studio 10 years ago to carry on the community that my teacher, Katherine had started.  Opening night gathered 12 students and now we have 4 studios, 50+ classes per week and 40+ teachers.  Our growth has reflected the worldwide trends and I’m excited to get a sampling of yoga in the southern hemisphere and around the world.

3. Community here.  Being away from my little nucleus of yoga (Sol Yoga) is both liberating and challenging.  But there is no comfort like the ease of being with a group of like-minded people. I’ve met a whole lot of nice people through A’s work, but very few of them are locals or into yoga.  Studio hopping is a nice way for me to get to know New Caledonia outside of the expat community as well as create a new support network for myself.

My escapades have given me perspective to how spoiled I was in Frederick practicing at my own studio.   Sol Yoga was free to me, available everyday, right around the corner and exactly the kind of familiar practice I (thought I ) loved.  Now, limited by the normal things like children, finances and time,  I practice at home 4-5 times a week and take a class on the island the other days.  But the groovy thing about practicing here is that I’m anonymous and its a whole new world of old school yoga.  I love it.

There’s Christine who was the first teacher I found and perhaps the one I feel the most at ease with.  She knows my truth – that I don’t speak a lick of French and I’m a yoga teacher – both things i’d prefer to keep under wraps. She gives me a nod when I show up late (which i STILL seem to do) and ignores me just the right amount.  We paced off of each other for the spring equinox yoga mala (108 sun salutations) and earned each others respect without saying a word.  I go to her Ashtanga class on occasion (the one with mostly teenagers in it) and she tries to make my hands come together behind my back in one of the marichi-asanas.  I laugh.  She does not.  She studio hops, just as I do.  So I’ll catch her in one of two lovely little studios within 5 minutes of my house.  She speaks as much English as I speak French, sounds like a smoker from a life past and gets down to business.  I particularly love her yoga nidra.  She talks the entire time and its like melodic white noise through a rusty microphone.  I stay just alert enough to know when to roll over with the rest of the class.  Perplexed after class, she asks (awkwardly) if I know what she said.  I give her a shoulder shrug, a smile and $1500 franc.  “Merci,” I butcher because I still can’t get the throaty ‘r’ sound. So I add on a “good-bye, ” in my best English.

Lawrence is simply lovely.  She is not the man I thought she would be when I read the schedule.  In fact, she teaches an incredibly sweet yin yoga class a few times a month at the Noumea Yoga Association.  The studio is a bit grungy and I often sit on my mat thinking of all the ways I would rearrange the space to make it more efficient and beautiful.  But the classes are well attended, teachers seem down to earth and the sequences are really fantastic.  Old school Hatha yoga.  No vinyasa bologna. No music.  No frills.  Just good yoga.  And I love me some good yoga.  Lawrence reminds me of Kristina Molinari Oboyle.  Part beautiful wise, nurturing and warm, part sharp, precise, don’t-even-think-about-it, drill sergeant. So, naturally, I seek to please her.

Par for the course, the French are very good at their yoga.  People in the class are middle-aged, fit, tan, healthy looking and quite serious about getting it right.  They all follow directions exactly as they are supposed to and seem very dedicated.   I can fit in well as long as I don’t open my mouth.  My American accent is horrendous.  So I secretly follow along.  I keep the eye toward the teacher closed and the other eye opened to watch for the next move.  I listen intently to the change in tone of the teacher’s voice to indicate when its time to switch sides.   All of the teachers talk non stop, spewing French instructions and cues life a continuous waterfall.  I love it.  I just get the gist of what we are doing, then sink into my own head space while the teacher won-won-won-won’s on.  I tell myself I’ll learn French by yoga-osmosis.  A new kind of language immersion.


noumea yoga assoc

For better or worse, I can easily get my head stuck in my armpit like Lawrence demonstrates,  but it gets me in a bit of trouble this time.   I positioned myself poorly with no-one to watch for the next cue and it was here, in some deep expression of thread the needle (with an extra twist) that I had my first awkward encounter.  I must have put my arm in the air ten seconds before I was instructed to do so and un-benounced to me, the lovely Lawrence, in her sweet French, yin yoga tone has been talking to me for some time before I realized that everyone was looking at me, just waiting.  I recovered gracefully, until we returned to the same position the next time (facing away from the class). Lawrence appeared. Standing over me, looking down into my armpit, she spoke directly to me in gibberish. My mind raced to remember how to say “I don’t speak French.”  All I could recall was PA-LE-VO-ANGLAY, which I think was semi-appropriate.  To which she replied, “Ahhhhhhhhhh, now I understand!”  I can only imagine that she thought I was deaf, dumb, or just being a difficult (not listening) student.

Come to find out, she speaks perfect English and we had a lovely chat after class.  I confessed to my lack of French and abundance of yoga experience. Like everyone down here, they immediately suggest I teach a class in English as there are so many foreigners.  This idea horrifies me as I hardly have time for my own practice, let alone teaching, but I’ve come around to just saying “Yes, maybe someday.”

So far, if I had to pick a favorite class, it would be this yin class.  I live very near a place called Anse Vata and for those of you that know the vata of Ayurveda, it is that.  Extremely windy, mobile, light and airy.  So grounding down, sitting on the floor doing slow, deep stretches feels just right to balance the vata energy.

On the other hand, my least favorite has been a class in the centre of town.  I tried several times to find the studio without luck and finally gave it one more shot at the invitation of a friend.  Sure enough, it was where it was supposed to be it took my friend hollering out the window from above.  “Come up here.”  A tiny little L-shaped studio with great windows covered with weird curtains welcomed me (late again).

It was a flat experience.  I can’t totally pinpoint my dissatisfaction.  Perhaps the difficulty in finding it, or the Ashtanga based practice which makes me feel like I’m literally and figuratively trying to fit inside a small box,  or the fact that the teacher put us in savasana, left the room to go get dressed, noisily put the props away, shut off all the lights and then stood at the door with her purse on her shoulder telling us to come out of savasana when we were ready.  She seemed like she hated us.  AND, it was VERY expensive.

Up until now in my new cal yoga experience, the scene is not as hip and uber cool as it in the states.  Which has been refreshing and delightful.  Enter Acro Yoga.  High flying fun for partners, this form of yoga is a spin off on acrobatics.  About a decade ago it was unheard of and now, its all the rage.  Yoga beautified and made playful.  Indeed it is fun!  The workshop promised to be led in English in a Capoeira studio just outside of town.  I emailed with the IMG_6353[1]teacher (ahhh, communication inIMG_5250[1]IMG_6352[1] my native tongue) a
nd she encouraged me to come even without a partner.  Naturally, after driving around in circles and even off road a little, I arrived 20 minutes late to a group of 18 people in a neat little circle sharing a little bit about themselves in French.  From what I gather they want my name, any injuries and what kind of animal I want to be in my next life.  Yoga is so f*&%ing weird sometimes.

“Bonjour, Jem-ma-pell Dorcas. That’s all the french I know and I’d like to be an elephant in my next life.”  I said.

The american teacher’s partner translated then asked me to repeat my name five times, slower and slower. Dumb sounding American accent + weird Greek name is all I can hear. Finally we moved on.  Whew. Or at least I thought so.  After a few silly circle exercises, we were now standing in the circle and told to show our best dance move in the center.  I almost left.  I can do a lot of things, but this is not one of them.  After a momentary lurch toward the door, I remembered that I’ve been blindfolded at Kripalu walking around with my hands in front of me searching for a partner.  Again, the weird, uncomfortable shit that yoga has made me do is, well, uncomfortable and weird, but in the end liberating.  So, I popped into the center on my hands and walked around. Not exactly a dance move, but hand stands, like Acro are very hot right now.  I can be fresh when I need to be.

After flying like around like a bird and getting all vata-derranged with my partners Luke (a local Kanak capoeira dude) and Franny (a cliché beautiful French hipster with a zero inch waist), I did some basing (I lay on the ground and become the support).  It turns out I’m twisted somewhere (hips or shoulders) and Franny just couldn’t fly straight.  Luke worked it out just fine and we ended the whole things with some partner massage and a dance party.  I felt like a part of some cliche-lets-call-it-yoga, but-it-might-really-be-a-dating, club.  Every thing the teacher said (American), I have said.  Hello mirror in your face.  Also uncomfortable.

This is the reason, I don’t invite other people to yoga with me.  You just never know if it is going to be super hip and cool, totally zen and boring, uber spiritual and freaky, bad ass workout, or just right.  I’m fine with the whole spectrum, but I hate taking on another’s experience.  But my friend Zita insisted. She has been asking for months.

I thought the Ashtanga practice with Christine would be fairly reliable.  The studio is pretty, the teacher is straightforward, the practice is athletic and well, a set sequence. How can it go wrong?

Show up on a full moon, that’s how.  Only a few people were there, we started with a LONG meditation, progressed into bhanda work and eventually full uddiyana bhanda and agni sara.  This is all stuff I’ve been dying to play with in a class environment, but for a beginner, this is full on weird and subtle work.  All in french mind you.  Then, top top of the advanced practice, Christine led us all outside to look at the red full moon.  Needless to say, Zita has not been back to class with me:-)

All the morIMG_6060[1]e for me I suppose.  I’ve had the luxury of sharing yoga with friends for more than a decade now. This solo journey is right up my alley and timely.  My personal practice is steady, the business of yoga is good and although I have yet to speak to anyone in my classes, I’ve spotted a woman with a pair of lululemon shorts.  I think I might try to make her my friend. Wish me bon chance!



 “I believe that most yoga teachers can attest that yoga is visibly de-stressing and healing countless people each day. This new wave of peace and tolerance can be felt rising, and not just in America; the wave has now stretched across the seas to Europe, the Far East, and even the Middle East. International power-cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing, Singapore, Berlin, London, Istanbul, and Tel Aviv all offer yoga classes in impressive yoga centers. Lives are being changed and are souls re-inspired to reach beyond themselves and into the possibility of a greater world through peace, health, nondogmatic spirituality, and a conscious life.”  Matt Strom


a selfless servant


my mom

I don’t need a religion to know goodness, understand love or believe in angels.  It is my mother that shows me the highest form of honor, respect and unconditional care I can imagine. She IS selfless service in action and a living role model.

The idea of selfless service (seva) is an important concept in most Indian religions and yogic traditions. Because God is perceived as having a relationship with others, as well as oneself, serving other people is considered an essential devotional practice of indirectly serving God. Service to make life easier for others is one of central tenets of Sikhism. Selfless service is also important in ChristianityJesus often preached it (Matthew 20:25-28Mark 9:35; 10:42-45Luke 9:46-48; 17:7-10John 13:12-15), and both Peter and Paul, respectively, wrote about it (1 Peter 4:10-11), (2 Corinthians 4:5Philippians 2:5-7Colossians 3:23-24).

ty on jonahs bike

45+ years with this character

For as long as I’ve been conscious of my mom’s life (beyond my own needs),  I’ve noticed her giving of herself.  She has cared for my dad for 45+ years of marriage, raised the heck out of three kids, tends to her 95-year-old dad, her ailing brother and thousands of young mothers and children she has touched in her career.  She’s a wonderfully natural caregiver.  As she gives, she receives.

If that weren’t enough, she’s smart and clever as can be. I’m not even sure when, but somewhere in our youth, she snuck in a master’s degree in child development while tending to us all.  And in the years she should be retired, she’s worked herself right up the ladder to be an important lady in her field of expertise.

She’s tough too.  You might not know it because of her pretty and soft exterior, but my mom is tough as nails.  She birthed us all naturally without a whimper and schleps man-sized loads of wood and coal in the winter.  She can wrestle a calf and will win any foot race you put her in.  And don’t mess with her.  Like most mom’s, she has eyes in the back of her head and a secret inferno within that she reserves for real danger.


pure love

And if you know her, you might know that she is silly.  But you must be under 7 years old to get the best of her.  She got a lot of tricks up her sleeves.  Ever seen ‘napkin head’ Nana?   It’s a good one.

Above all, she is incredibly humble.  Her amazing-ness is never overt or worn on the outside.  In fact, all her joys, sorrows and complaints are stored inside her secret aching shoulders, sleepless nights and fading eyesight. There is no time for herself, which hurts my heart.  I know that she gives up her ‘yoga’ night to take care of her dog or go for a walk with my dad.  I know she will put absolutely everything on hold if I ask her for anything . She is a servant.


pile of grandkids

I am not really sure how to show her how proud I feel, how honored I am that she is my mother or how to say thank you.  If I had to guess, I think her favorite thing is just spending time with her kids and grandkids.  And now as a mom, I get it.  There is no substitute for being in physical proximity to the very things that lived inside you and hold the other parts of your heart.  Skype just doesn’t cut it.

So this mother’s day, I would like to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry we are so far away.  New Caledonia sure is beautiful, but it would be complete with you here.   Happy Mothers Day Patricia Arlene Moody Quynn. It is because of your mothering I believe in God. You are above and beyond the best.

“Living creatures are nourished by food, and food is nourished by rain; rain itself is the water of life, which comes from selfless worship and service.” – Bhagavad Gita