Thursday, January 26, 2017

Turn the page once more

Yesterday was Satish’s twelfth birthday and when I called to wish him a happy one, I happened to be in my office, looking at a photograph that was taken when he was only five.  Grinning impishly at the camera, Satish proudly wears the first of many sweaters I have knit for him, a lovely creation he helped me design.  It’s a bittersweet thing to know that next year he’ll be in junior high.  In six more, he’ll be getting ready to go to college.  But in-between now and then, I’ll enjoy every single Tuesday morning when I get up early to drive him and Danta to school.  Every soccer game.  Every chess match.  Every. Single. Moment.
Here’s a blog to celebrate all the years we’ve been friends…and all the years to come.

Turn the page
Originally published on May 21, 2014

A couple of weeks ago I was driving my little pal, Satish, home from a yoga session.  As many of you know, we met when he was four.  He joined my yoga classes when he was in kindergarten.  And now, as a third grader, Satish has been my stalwart assistant this year.  It's a joy to watch him grow from an apprehensive and shy little fella to a boisterous and hilarious part of our yoga practice.  Whether he's helping with a craft, passing out healthy snacks, or simply tying a little one's sneakers, Satish has been an integral part of our classes.
On the way home, he asked, "Can fourth graders do yoga at West Side?"
I glanced at him in the rear-view mirror.  "No...we've tried to get a class going for the older kids, but it's not been successful."  Seeing the disappointment on his face, I then said, "I know you'll be busy with schoolwork next year, but if you'd like, you're welcome to still assist me."
Satish nodded.  "Let's keep that open as an option."  He then went back to the Harry Potter book he was reading.
The car was silent for a while and every so often, I'd check the rear-view mirror to see his brow furrowed in concentration.  To watch him carefully turn the page of the enormous book whose binding needed repair.  At a stop light, I looked over my shoulder and was startled for a moment.
"Oh man, Satish," I said.  "You've really grown up this year...with your new teeth and your glasses...and you've grown at least three inches.  Where does time go?"
He shrugged and went back to his book.  I went back to keeping my eyes on the road, but for the rest of the ride, I kept thinking about how quickly the past four and half years have flown by.  How I've known Satish through preschool and primary grades.  Through countless haircuts and skinned knees.  Through a host of soccer practices and games.  Guitar lessons.  Watching him learn how to read.  I thought about our marathon Monopoly games.  The way he consistently beats me at chess.
In many ways, I'd love to stop time and simply enjoy him while he's young.  But I know I can't.  

When I was a first grade teacher, my kids would get antsy this time of year.  Summer vacation loomed large and spring fever was a constant diversion.  We'd count down the last ten days on the school calendar, all the while reviewing the year behind us.  I'd often ask my kids what they learned beyond the academics.  Beyond learning how to read and write and count by fives and tens.  Many of them talked about their love of learning a bit of German.  Others enjoyed the field trips to the Toledo Museum of Art and the zoo.  Some commented on how they learned to get along with each other, despite their many differences.  And one child even asked me what I learned from them.
The list is entirely too long to write here.
But I realize now the great sadness for me was letting them go...these six and seven-year-olds who had been in my care.  Sure they'd stop by my classroom in the morning for a hug and a "hello" on their way to second or third grade.  I'd see them at the Pumpkin Run in the fall and the carnival each spring.  But I wouldn't get to watch them grow up.  Not really.  And in many ways, my former students are lodged in my memory as children. 
That is until they "friend" me on Facebook and I witness what seems like an automatic transition into adulthood.  It's almost like ripping off a Band-Aid -- this instant realization that so many years have gone by.

Perhaps that's why I've been reveling in my time with Satish and his little brother, Danta.  I get to watch them grow up, week by week.  Month by month.  Year by year.  I'm right up front to see them lose teeth and write letters to Santa.  I get to drive them to soccer practice and cheer for them at school performances.  Like the flowers I tend in my garden, I get to be a small part in their growth...and I love every single moment. 
On Monday while Danta and I were standing in the field waiting for his practice to start,  I saw a child who looked familiar.  "Hey...that could be one of my kids," I said.
"What kid?" Danta asked.
"One of my former first graders," I explained.  Then I took a closer look.  "Nah...he's too young.  Some of my kids are in their late twenties and early thirties!"
Danta wrinkled his brow.  "How can that work?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well...they get older a lot, but you don't."
I shrugged.  "Every year we each add a number to our age."
"I know that," Danta replied.  "But they get a lot older, and you don't."
"Maybe that's because kids grow and I've been the same height since I was eleven."
Danta shook his head.  "No...what I mean is that they're old and you're not."
I gave him a playful smile.  "Well, thanks for that, pal.  Must be all the yoga I practice."
I've been thinking a lot about my kids this week.  The ones I taught at Heywood Elementary in Troy, Ohio back in the late eighties.  The ones I taught at Greenwood for ten years.  My yoga kids at West Side where I've been since 2000 sharing my love of the practice.  There have been hundreds of little ones I've had the privilege to learn watch grow up right before my eyes.  I've known some of them from the time they were born.  Some of them I've met just this year.  But all of them are a joy and wonder, each child a blessing (sometimes in disguise). 
As I let go of another school year and look forward to a summer of teaching adult classes and writing another novel, I'm also looking forward to tennis lessons with Satish and Danta.  To afternoons fishing with them and my friend, Lisa.  To sleepovers and hours spent playing board games on rainy days.  And in many ways, our fun is just beginning as it changes shape from one form to another.
I'm so very thankful that as my little friends turn the page on another year in their lives, I get to walk along beside them, gently letting go of the things we once did when they were little and opening new doors of wonder that they will walk through in the experience of growing older.
And always I'll keep in mind Danta's wise know that getting older is not a choice, but growing old certainly is.  Perhaps that's the greatest joy in working with children...the opportunity to be child-like and playful at any age.
What an incredible lesson.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The ultimate selfie

Anyone who’s been a teacher for a while will tell you that wherever they go, they see someone they know.  For years I’ve run into former students and it’s great to catch up on where life has taken them in the years since they were in my classroom.  Last weekend, I saw one of my current yoga students, a lovely young girl I’ve known since Gina was a newborn and her brother was a preschool student in one of my yoga classes.  Now a teenager, she’s a bubbly, vivacious, and endearing young woman who brings so much life to our Saturday practice.  There's much about Gina that's a reflection of my teenage self, and I marveled at how time and grace has recreated the person I was back then into the woman I am today. 
I grew up in south Toledo, my neighborhood tucked into a little cul-de-sac that merged with the property of a local private school.  In the winter, my friends and I went sledding down Dead Man’s Hill, a treacherous slope at the rear of Maumee Valley’s acreage.  In the summer, we played endless tennis matches on their courts at twilight.  I can recall a chilly Saturday morning during my Senior year when I sat in one of the classrooms, taking my SAT’s.  Decades later I returned as a visiting instructor during Winterim and as an after-school yoga instructor for the lower elementary.  
In early January, I had the unique opportunity to return to Maumee Valley as a guest speaker for seventh and eighth grade writing students.  Their teacher is the parent of one of my former Yoga Kids, and I looked forward to sharing my experiences in writing and self-publishing. 
When I walked into the school, Eimile smiled, “One of my students knows you.”
“Really?  Which one?” I asked.
Anna Baldwin* she replied.  “You used to teach her yoga.”
“Right!” I nodded.  “She was in my kindergarten class when I taught at West Side for a year.”
“There’s only one boy in the group,” Eimile said as we walked to her classroom.  “He’s really bright and creative.”
“That’s cool,” I smiled, recalling how interesting it was  to learn about personal stamina when I was the only girl in a speech class filled with rowdy football players.
Moments later as the students filed in, Anna gave me a big hug.  “It’s so great to see you again!” I beamed. 
“When Mrs. Green told us you were coming in, I didn’t recognize your name,” Anna admitted.  “But once I Googled a TV interview you did in 2015, I recognized you right away!”
“You remember me as Yoga Katie, not Kate, right?” I asked.
“Right,” she chuckled.
We chatted a bit longer and I instantly remembered the sweet, sometimes moody little one Anna used to be.  Funny, articulate, and always lovable, Anna was also occasionally stoic when upset about something, and it was difficult to coax her to speak so we could work through it.  Still, Anna taught me that some children simply need more time to process their feelings, and that given space and quiet support, they will come full circle on their own.
Although I plan an overview of what I’m going to say, I never have an agenda when I do presentations, especially with young people.  So, once Eimile introduced me, I asked the class what they wanted to gain from our time together. Looking around the class, I paused and studied the only boy for moment, realizing that I knew him as well.
“Did you go to West Side?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he smiled.
“Do you have a brother named Jacob?”
He nodded.
“Oh!  I know who you are!” I laughed.  “You left the year before I came to teach, but I had your little brother in my class…and I taught your dad yoga at his workplace and later at my home center.  Remind me of your name.”
“David,” he replied.
“You used to come visit Jacob when your elementary school had the day off,” I smiled.
Then I glanced at another student, a darling girl with short, curly brown hair.  “I’m Rachel and you were my kindergarten teacher, too,” she laughed.  “I had long hair back then.”
I nodded, thinking, My kids may grow and change over the years, but I always recognize them by their eyes.
As I talked about the writing process and my long journey into self-publishing, I mentioned that in a Kardashian world, it’s often hard to find quality work.   Later on, during the Q & A portion of the class, David asked, “Can you tell us more about what you meant by that?”
“Sure,” I said, my own face now stoic.  “We live in a culture that celebrates flash and bang, that looks for what’s easy and easily accessible, what’s instant entertainment.  Look at social media for example.  Most people are more interested in how many ‘likes’ they get on a selfie they post online than taking a good, hard look in the mirror and dealing with themselves.
“Each one of you here is going through something right now.  It might be that you were late to school or dealing with the death of a loved one.  Maybe your parents are splitting up or you just moved to Toledo and have trouble making friends.  Maybe it’s as simple as being tired or grumpy or whatever.  It doesn’t matter, because as writers, you’ll use language to move yourself through it.  You’ll use writing as a tool to really see yourself, to see others, to weave together stories and images that bring to life your own journey.  There’s no competition here for every one of you has a distinct voice and you can help each other find it.”
“How did you find yours?” a student asked.
“I went through some really difficult things when I was younger,” I replied, nodding out the window toward the snow-covered hills.  “In fact, my childhood home is right behind your school and I used to come here to hike and sled when I was little.  I spent a lot of time outside, thinking about what was happening to me, and then, when I was your age, I started to write in a journal.  Forty years later, I still do.”
“Is there a character you’ve written that you can’t stand?” a girl asked.
“Oh, yes…plenty,” I laughed.  “But when I wrote A TAPESTRY OF TRUTH, I learned that I can truly dislike a character and still have compassion for her…kind of like the way I feel about those parts of myself that I think are less-than-desirable.”
“If you could spend time with one of your characters, which one would it be and what would you do?” another student asked.
Surprisingly, tears instantly sprang to my eyes.  “I’d choose Sapphire, one of the main characters from THE LACE MAKERS.  I’d just play with her because she’s sweet and funny and a bit naughty.  But really, each character and each book embody pieces of who I was, who I am, or who I want to become.”
As I was leaving, Anna gave me a hug.  “I’d like to connect with you about writing."
“I’d love that,” I smiled, hopeful that the creative process could give Anna a voice to express all the things she might not be able to say aloud, but can clearly articulate through storytelling.  

As for me, I’ve not been writing much this winter.  To be honest, sometimes I miss it, sometimes I don’t.  I’ve waited what seems like forever to meet the love of my life, and now that he’s here, I can’t spend enough time listening to his stories, telling him mine.  Pretty soon we’re going on a retreat and I’m sure he and I will be able to fill up three days with sparkling conversation, if not more than a few lively games of Parcheesi.
My beloved sometimes teases me after long coffee dates with my girlfriends, “Is your jaw sore by now, Kate?”
“You should talk,” I shoot back, laughing.  “Well, you DO…don’t you?  I swear, if the transcripts of our conversations were available, you’d often have the lion’s share.”
But I don’t mind at all. 
Now, instead of examining my life and writing about it, I’m living more fully with someone who always makes me laugh.  Someone who encourages me to ponder things and unwittingly, yet endearingly feel a host of emotions (often simultaneously).  Someone who teaches me infinite languages of love.
Through him, I see myself more fully…and not just because we’ve discovered over the past few months that we both like chewing Mentos gum, using rosemary-mint shampoo as shower gel, and washing dishes in exactly the same anal-retentive way.  Through the fire of discovery, I recognize that we’re both intense and quirky, serious and silly, artistic and intuitive.  It manifests in different ways and we sometimes need to clarify our intentions, but in the end, it’s all good…for both of us.
Recently I told my beloved that by being with him I’m learning how to be an active listener, how to be more patient and accepting.  I’m learning how to love someone with my presence, with my purpose, with my promise to always be honest and truthful.  I’m learning that loving someone has layers, and that most of mine have been peeled away, revealing parts of me that only he gets to witness.  
For me that’s the ultimate selfie…to look in his eyes and see not only a man I love more each day, but also a reflection of the many facets of myself that I’ve yet to discover.  Maybe someday I'll write about it, but for right now, I'm content to just let it be what it is...this wonderfully incredible journey into enchanted love.

*Names have been changed.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

I am the vortex

"Follow your bliss and the universe will 
open doors for you where there were only walls."

Joseph Campbell

Familiar with the old saying,  Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it?   I learned a long time ago to let go of specifics when it comes to making requests of an unlimited Universe.  Before I figured out that to get exactly what I wanted often came with way too many strings attached, I struggled mightily with my limiting, self-imposed parameters. Yeah, I may have been able to learn how to knit an incredibly intricate sweater, but in the end, when I tried it on, it still looked like a burlap sack.  Sure, I may have gotten the job I thought I wanted, but didn’t earn the salary and benefits I needed.  I may have garnered the attention of some object of my desire only to soon discover that what he really wanted was less than desirable.  Still, if what Joseph Campbell says is true, that translates into an ever-evolving awareness of the intentions I put out into the world.
Because God knows that’s what I’ll receive in return.

I’m all good with how karma works, both positively and negatively.  In fact, it’s easier for me to let go of circumstances I can't control by simply telling myself that in time more will be revealed.  That whatever I'm struggling with now could mean I'm due for a little attitude adjustment.  Perhaps I've called it in because I need to look more closely at the way I live my life, the things I say or do, all of the day-to-day choices I make.
In my late twenties, I used to tell my friends, “I want to have a partner, be a parent, and get published by the time I turn thirty-five.”  When that didn’t happen, no matter how many times I tried to push the river, I took a different tack.  In my early forties, having a child no longer appealed to me as it once did, so I focused on writing…and left the door open for the possibility of partner appearing in my life.
“You’ll never find anyone hanging around your house writing books and teaching yoga,” some friends would tell me.  “You need to get out and meet people.”
“I don’t want to,” I’d always reply.  “I’m not a bar person…and I hate the idea of going to a single’s mixer.”
“How about internet dating?” someone inevitably asked. 
“Been there…done that,” I shot back.  “Ick.  No, thank you.”
Last year, one of my friends sighed, “Well Kate, you’re going to have to do something different if you really want a relationship.  How else are you going to meet a good man?”
Not deterred in the slightest, I replied, “I’m going to take care of myself.  I’m going to do what I love.  I’m going to go places that resonate with me.  When I’m ready and when he’s ready, he’ll just show up at my door.”
“How often does that happen?” she asked, rolling her eyes.
“It doesn’t matter,” I replied.  “Just watch and see.”
Shortly thereafter, that’s exactly what happened…although I didn’t know it at the time.

I spent the better part of 2015 writing and promoting THE LACE MAKERS, all the while working out, teaching yoga, reading books, meditating, gardening, and a host of other things that allowed me to create much-needed balance in my life.  I didn’t think much about finding The One; I was more interested in staying open to whatever was right in front of me.  Opportunities came and went, yet none of the men sparked more than another lesson to file under “never again”.
This past August, I spent a week hiking in Sedona.  On the first glorious morning, my friend and I made our way up the craggy sides of Boyton Canyon to find the energy vortex near the apex.  As our planet is a living thing, a vortex is a place in nature where the Earth is exceptionally alive and healthy.  It can also be a place where there's increased energy and vitality.  Acting as an amplifier, a vortex will magnify whatever we bring to it whether it be on a physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual level.  In other words, being in close proximity to a vortex is instant karma in action.
When Sandy and I climbed higher, feeling the surge of energy in the red rocks of Boyton Canyon, I knew we had found the vortex.  Standing on the precipice, I spontaneously opened my arms like a tuning fork and turned in every direction, marveling at the incredible beauty of the cornflower blue sky, a backdrop to the vast landscape that surrounded us.  Breathing deeply, I silently asked that whatever I truly needed might be brought into my life, and that I might have the awareness to recognize and appreciate it.  Then I said a prayer of humble gratitude for the opportunity to be in that moment, knowing full well that what I intended would magically appear. 
Little did I know it already had six months earlier, and that shortly after my return from Sedona, the little seed that had been planted in March would quickly sprout above the earth.  The man I’m now seeing arrived in my life last spring, and our friendship grew and blossomed throughout the summer months.  The week after my return from Sedona, we made a date to attend a local concert together.  Six weeks later, I realized I was in love with him.  
How did we meet you ask?  I was sitting in my office, happily writing with the window open when he walked by with a mutual friend.  My beloved didn’t even need to show up at the front door, for it was clandestinely fortuitous to meet him while I was doing what I love best…well, what I now love second-best. 
At Thanskgiving I told him, “Now I can finally find my way into the publishing world.”
“Why’s that?” he asked.
“Because you’re here,” I replied.  “No matter what happens in my professional life, I’ll always have you.  My priorities are straight…so that door can finally open because I know I’ll never be able to write a sentence or a blog or a book that means more to me than you do.”
Sure enough, a week later I heard from an agent in NYC who requested the full manuscript of THE LACE MAKERS.  I eagerly sent him a copy, then soon after discovered his personal Facebook page.  I wasn’t all that surprised to know that his first name is the same as my sweetheart’s, but I was amused to find that his wife’s name is Kate.  He has two daughters, just like my beloved.  He plays electric guitar and enjoys fishing…just like my dear one.  
Coincidence or not?  
You decide. 
As for me, I live by the truth that what I meaningfully sow, I’ll most definitely reap.  This winter, I’m overjoyed to embrace the fruitful gifts of following my heart, living with integrity, and never giving up hope that if I plant optimistic seeds of intention, then let go of the outcome, a bouquet of beautiful blessings will certainly follow.  

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

All things new

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written an original blog.  Curiously enough, the last 2016 essay I published is dated November 11th, the day I decided to take a leap of faith and perhaps change my life for the better.  I’m infinitely thankful that I summoned the courage, because for the past couple of months I’ve been happily preoccupied by diving into an incredibly loving relationship.  It wasn’t what I was expecting or even looking for, but since last spring, time has slowly evolved a captivating friendship into something I can’t quite put into words.  That’s why I’ve put my journal and laptop aside, allowing myself to be immersed in living life…not just writing about it. 
I used to think that once I found a man with whom I could fully be myself, everything would change.  I imagined it to be like a lightning bolt of realization that would blow everything out of the water so that I could begin again, brand new and utterly transformed.  But that didn’t happen.  The day-to-day responsibilities of life are still the same.  I work, I pay the bills, I enjoy time with friends.  Yet what I’ve discovered is that the reality of loving someone…and being loved in return…is wholly unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. 
Now I find that everything is brand new.  When I wake up in the morning, there’s another person in my life and in my heart.  Someone else to pray and care for.  Someone with whom I laugh until our sides ache.  Someone who came into my life so magically, I almost missed it.  Since we met last March, I’ve slowly discovered that all things are brand new, for my beloved allows me to open myself that much more, to expand my horizons, to experience even the most ordinary aspects of life on a deeper level because he’s standing right next to me, revealing himself as well. 
Neither one of us can define what we’re creating, for there’s no definite way to describe how we feel.  Love doesn’t even being to scratch the surface.  Last week, my dear told me that the oneness he feels between us in unlike anything he’s ever known and I simply nodded, knowing I couldn't describe it any better.  It’s not a fairytale we’re living, but a real-life, moment-to-moment encounter with each other.  It doesn’t matter if we’re playing Trivial Pursuit, watching a movie, or walking through the grocery store.  Any moment is extraordinary because we make it so…and because I’m wise enough to appreciate the remarkable man who is blessing my life with so much love and laughter, I find I’m overflowing with happiness.

On New Year’s Eve, we spent most of the day together taking care of our collective responsibilities while looking forward to a quiet evening at home.  As my car turned into the neighborhood, I noticed the odometer ticking from 9,999 miles to 10,000.  I brightly smiled.  “That’s a good omen for the new year, right honey?” 
My beloved good-naturedly agreed, saying, “Optimistic in spirit you are.  Positive insight you have.  Happy you will be.”
Laughing heartily, I replied, “Love you I do...there is no try.”
(Did I mention my sweetheart and I enjoy exchanging Yoda-speak?)
Close to midnight, decked out in black sweats and a dapper new hat, he strapped on his electric guitar and played me a little Jimi Hendrix, then some of his original compositions.  Relaxing on the couch, I was lost in the moment, thankful that I had finally come home to myself so that I can share my life with a man who surprises me more each day with his exceptionally hilarious humor, his unique perspective on the gifts of grace and inner peace, his ability to spread love to anyone and everyone he meets.
When 12:00 arrived, my beloved said, “You know, we could think of this moment as a brand-new beginning, but I kinda do that every morning, you know?”
“I do,” I replied.  "Every single day since we got together has been a new beginning."
The new year heralds a clean slate, another chance to set things right, an opportunity to stretch ourselves beyond who we think we are into something that might be challenging, but hopefully worth the work.   As 2017 dawns, I’m happily closing the door on a solitary life that was necessary to lead me to a man who has allowed me to finally leave the past behind so that we can walk hand-in-hand into whatever the present moment holds. 
Now more than ever, I'm infinitely and incredibly blessed.