Archive for the ‘chocolate’ Category

IMG_6551This morning I taught the 9 am yoga class. Leaving my house early I drove past Ella’s school and began to feel a bit blue. I watched parents and their children walking to school hand in hand. Melancholy took over as I thought of Ella still in her bed knowing full well that Ella would not get to school until after noon. More depressing thoughts creeped into my mind thinking how I will never be able to walk hand in hand with Ella or watch her run up the school steps and so many other things that she will miss out on in life.  Finally, arriving at the yoga studio I unlocked the door and immediately put my ipod into the dock, Joni Mitchell began to sing. Busying myself with open details at the studio I put my blues on hold. I got dressed in my yoga costume (bikram yoga teacher language) and by the time I got to the front desk to greet the first student the song Chelsea Morning was playing. I stopped and listened as Joni invited me to Stay and talk in present tenses. My melancholy lifted, my heart filling with gratitude for all that I have to feel grateful for–Ella’s cuddles on the couch each night, her sweet little body falling asleep in my arms, and the purpose that is much bigger than myself that I have each morning when I get out of bed.

Thank you Joni Mitchell and Ella two strong incredible ladies, life is a lot sweeter because of you both.


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Ella and me in a buddhist temple in Singapore. 

Recent conversations have left me feeling unsettled and frankly kind of shitty. Perhaps it’s a lack of articulation of my feelings or just not wanting to “go there” with folks. It’s not a new topic for me or I’m pretty sure for any other parent of a kid with a disability. Sometimes when I’m talking about Ella, people say things like, “It must be so awful for Ella not to be able to talk or walk or eat for herself or do anything for herself.” Or people will  give me a look of sadness and pity when I tell them about her. I usually just smile and move on.  However, sometimes I’m left feeling like shit and often like a failure as a Mom and a women. I do understand that this is not people’s intention and they’re trying to show concern. However, stating the obvious of Ella’s condition to me, Ella’s Mom of 9 years, is just hurtful. Our family has worked very hard to get past these incredible challenges, move on and live a very happy, fulfilled life. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that when people bring up these facts about Ella, it’s only awful for me not Ella. Ella doesn’t know a different way of living. She has adapted. She communicates in a non-traditional way. We help her get everywhere she wants to go and she is a very happy kid. As for me, I don’t really think about any of the things that Ella can’t do until someone brings them up and then I feel like shit. On most days, I am just doing what I need to do to help Ella. Enjoying the challenges that come with trying to get her involved in life and never thinking that Ella is missing out. Life is too busy and full to entertain such thoughts. Sometimes, I like to think of Ella as a zen master or a bodhisattva, who sits for many hours in meditation without moving. They don’t need food or water. Flies land on their noses and they resist swatting them away.  They’re not tempted by the frills and thrills of our physical world. They sit peacefully with a gentle smile on their face and teach us about patience, love and compassion. This is what I wish I could articulate about my sweet, enlightened Ella during each of these conversations that I frequently have (or perhaps cram down people’s throats). However, I always resist my urge to explain our lives or philosophies on life  (and my violent, unkind thoughts.) I take my lessons and lead from Ella and the enlightened teaching masters to act kindly, compassionately and to speak friendly, warmly, and gently and to talk only when necessary.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”  Gandhi

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Recently, a friend approached me about her 13 year old daughter who is interested in babysitting and spending some time with Ella. She feels that it would be great for her daughter and I couldn’t agree more. Ella will love it! She will surely enjoy hanging out with a cool 13 year old, plus I think Ella gets bored of Dave and me.

This reminded me of when I was a teenager in high school and I baby-sat for a little girl with cerebral palsy. Her mom, who was a nurse, used to drop her off at my house after I got home from school for a few hours until her dad picked her up. It was a wonderful experience for me, serendipitous indeed, and the little girl was a delight, so happy and filled with joy. Now, this was not a babysitting job that I went out seeking on my own. My mother, who owns and operates the local beauty shop in town, and several of her costumers volunteered me for the job. I remember feeling a little scared and overwhelmed the first day she came to my house. I wasn’t alone with her. My mom was home working in the beauty shop in the basement of our house. So if I needed anything I could ask my mom and any of her costumers. Most of the ladies were grandmothers who came in once a week to get their hair washed and set. However, when her mom brought her in she had a beaming smile and reached for me right away. She was not as impaired as Ella, but at the time she wasn’t walking. She had a bar in between her legs attached to her shoes. I assume now this was to help with scissoring of her legs. She also wasn’t talking, but it was never hard to figure out what she wanted. I quickly became very comfortable with her and looked forward to her weekly visits. After she left, I always felt a warmth in my heart that resonated for hours.

As I think back on this brief and wonderful experience, I feel so fortunate that those around me saw something in me and knew that I was right for the job. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. I remember after Ella was born, Dave and I were taken into a small room off of the NICU and told that Ella had severe brain damage. Her future looked very bleak, if she survived. I was crushed, devastated and depressed. However, there were brief moments of hope for me as I thought of the little girl that came into my life, for such a short time, bringing and sharing her joy and making a lasting impression.

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Last November I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The book is about a woman who was over-stressed, found herself snapping at her children and husband too much and felt she just wasn’t as happy as she could be. She spent an entire year researching how people found happiness and developing and cultivating her own happiness. Through her research she found that founding father Benjamin Franklin was a patron saint of self-realization. In his Autobiography, he described how he designed his Virtues Chart as part of a “bold and arduous Project of arriving at moral Perfection.” He identified thirteen virtues he wanted to cultivate and made a chart with those virtues plotted against the days of the week. Each day, Benjamin Franklin would score himself on whether he practiced those thirteen virtues. I found this chart-keeping approach to monitor behavior very interesting. For several years I’ve been keeping a happiness journal, writing down something from my day that made me smile or feel joy. https://juliepeoplesclark.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/with-gratitude/ When the new year approached I decided to try my own accountability chart and not only focus on virtues but also on behaviors that I wanted to foster in myself.

My chart reads like this:

  • I will have a green smoothie or vegetable juice everyday.
  •  I will walk or dance at least 30 minutes everyday.
  • I will practice Bikram yoga 5 days a week.
  • I will meditate at least 30 minutes everyday.
  • I will consume no white sugar.
  • I will buy no new clothes.
  • No computer after 7 pm.
  • I will keep my accountability chart everyday.
  • I will write down at least one thing that made me happy each day.
  • I will not complain about anything, ever.
  • I will always remain positive.
  • I will write for my blog or work on my book every day.
  • I will speak only the truth.
  • I will let no one steal my peace.

Before I go to bed I get out my journal and write down each of my goals, giving myself a check mark if I have accomplished it and an x if I haven’t. I don’t judge myself if I have more x’s then checks on certain days that just the way some days work out. However, the chart has made me more aware of my goals during the day. I found that I was mindlessly eating white sugar, finding silly excuses not to meditate, buying clothes I didn’t need and telling little white lies to keep people happy. I have yet to have a day full of check marks and to be honest I am not sure that is my goal, I just wanted to be more aware of my behavior and how it effects my happiness.

Side note: My happiness statement still always includes something about Ella each day and I’ve noticed that everyday I’ve practice Bikram yoga I mention something about how the practice makes me happy. Guess I’m headed to the right place (Bikram Teacher Training) in 4 DAYS!

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Last night as I was leading a silent Bikram yoga class at the studio where I practice I had a transformation. This transformation is not a new one for me, it happens almost every time I practice yoga. First of all a silent class is an incredible way to practice the series of 26 postures in a Bikram class. The sequence of the silent class is the same as a traditional Bikram yoga class, but I practice along with the students and tell students what posture comes next and when to come out of it, I say nothing else. The wonderful studio http://www.bikramyogaburlington.com/ where I practice does this every winter and donates the money made from the class to a local charity. This year the money is going to the Vision Strength Action (VSA) http://www.vsavt.org/ program that provides art classes/programs to adults and children with disabilities. I have been teaching dance classes for adults with disabilities for the VSA for the past year. It has been an incredible experience, a highlight of my week. Also leading the silent classes has been a wonderful way for me to prepare for the teacher training coming up in THREE weeks.

Now about my transformation…In Bikram classes you wear very little clothing, the room is heated to 105-115 with about 50% humidity. You learn pretty fast, the less clothes the better off you are. There is a large mirror in each Bikram studio that you stand in front of and look your body the whole class. Last night as class started I began with a self-deprecating attitude–criticizing my thighs and belly, disappointed in myself for having 2 chocolate milkshakes this week and noticing the recent breakouts in my skin. By the time we got through the first series of postures that criticizing voice was silenced and an appreciation for my strong, incredible and capable body took over. My strong legs that act as Ella’s legs each day, my strong arms that lift Ella’s slippery body out of the bath tub, my strong and flexible spine that will allow me to care for Ella as she gets older, heavier and taller and the bulldog determination that I have developed to get me through the sweaty 90 minute class and Ella’s IEP meetings at school. This is why I love my body and Bikram yoga. Bring it Teacher Training, I’m ready!

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I can’t quit you…

I gave up drinking alcohol about three years ago–no problem. Drinking too much red wine after Ella was born, I was waking up too often with a headache and feeling like crap.  I’ve had no problem with cravings or slip ups with alcohol, I feel and see the benefits of not drinking. I wake up feeling great, my nose is not always stuffy, my head is always clear, I’ve lost weight and our dinner bill when we dine out is so much cheaper. Why can’t I quit sugar and dairy??

I have been seeing the same nutritionist as Ella https://juliepeoplesclark.wordpress.com/2010/09/05/remarkable/ for the past six weeks. She has made a  huge difference in Ella’s overall health with dietary changes, quite remarkable changes. I wanted to see what changes she would have me make in my diet. No surprise here, eliminate dairy and sugar. Overall my health is very good, I eat well, exercise everyday and feel very little stress. However, I always feel– hummm…. not so great when I eat dairy and sugar. Dairy hurts my stomach (and effects a few other things, but that would be TMI to talk about here) and sugar gives me a headache. BUT… I LOVE CHEESE AND CHOCOLATE! One of my nephew’s spelling words last week was cheese. His homework was to write sentences for each spelling word, his sentence for cheese was, “My Aunt loves cheese.” It’s true! and I love all kinds the stinky most expensive kind and the crap that comes out of a can (although I don’t eat the crap anymore–that was my college munchies days.) This cheese habit started very early with me. When I was a kid I ate so many American cheese slices each day that I hid the evidence by stuffing the wrappers in our family’s couch. After I moved out to attend college my Mom found thousands of cheese wrappers that I hid in shame and my ugly secret was exposed. Sugar, I am not quite as addicted to, but every few days I fall off the no sugar wagon. I was doing really well abstaining from sugar and dairy until this past weekend, Friday night I had homemade mac and cheese and an ice cream cone, then Saturday I went to a friend’s birthday party and had a pretty large piece of an amazing flourless chocolate cake and ice cream, then Sunday, I don’t even want to talk about Sunday–Let’s just say nachos were involved. With all that said starting Monday I went back on the no sugar/no dairy wagon, let’s see how far I travel this time.

Ella eats so well, sugar and dairy have never touched her lips. Her skin and hair are beautiful and her digestion and elimination are right on track. She never whines about the lack of cheese and chocolate in her diet. Once again Ella is my teacher, my guru ( https://juliepeoplesclark.wordpress.com/yoga-and-healing/.)

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I had one today. Ella is sick again, she has a virus that is causing a painful cough, pink eye and lots of gas/tummy pains. She is crying, having a lot of seizures and just seems uncomfortable. Things are hard right now. I understand that this will pass and she will get better, but when Ella gets sick I worry. We were in the doctor’s office for the 2nd time this week, Ella was coughing and crying and I was trying to calm her. There was a woman in the office that was staring over her magazine. I tried my usual tricks to get her to stop staring–smiling at her and staring back–it didn’t work. Finally, I looked right her and said “Hello, how are you?” (not in a nice voice.)  She looked at me like I was crazy said “Hello,” stopped staring and returned to her magazine.  I know that I should have handled this better. I feel terrible when I act out, it does no good for anyone involved. I get flushed and flustered, Ella feels my emotion, stiffens up and cries more and I am sure that the women in the office didn’t think twice about what happened.

Ella is doing ok–she is on nebulizer treatments for the slight wheezing in her lungs and Tylenol helps with the painful cough. What can they give a Mommy that is feeling a little bitchy? Chocolate?

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