Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Reset - a Rambling Follow-up

The reset worked. Sharing what I did last night really helped. Even if no one had read it, simply organizing my melancholic thoughts and putting out my mixture of exhaustion and gratitude into the universe would have made me feel better. Sharing that post was a reminder that the adage, "the truth shall set you free" is indeed true. I felt freer and less isolated. I was grateful for the friends who reached out to me personally, and for those who commented on what I wrote.

Please understand that the things that were weighing on me have not magically disappeared.  I still have grief and sadness to navigate, anxieties to moderate, and concerns that require my attention. But I am also learning, as I touched on last night, that two opposing forces can be present at once.  I can have heavy concerns whilst feeling light and buoyant. It's strange and counterintuitive, but with practice in dwelling in that space, it gets easier and life actually feels richer from that vantage point. I know it sounds crazy, but trust me.

I forgot to mention that I did 26 sun salutations in that 15 minute period. And I can feel every one of them in my legs today. It's the kind of ache that feels good because you know you worked hard and the effort was good for you.

I slept all night just as I suspected I would. I felt a migraine coming on, so uncharacteristically, I took my medicines before the headache was full blown and slept well. I woke up feeling free of the headache, but as the day wore on, it returned.  I took more medicine, stretched, breathed deeply, and moved through the day as gently as possible.

As I was getting ready this morning, a scene from The Sound of Music kept replaying in my mind. Remember toward the end of the film when the Von Trapps have gone into hiding at the convent? The nuns are bustling around trying to keep the Nazis from finding the family. At one point the Reverent Mother admonishes the sisters to go "slowly, slowly" as they walk to the gate to greet Herr Detweiler.

I kept hearing the same words this morning. Waking up and entering the new day slowly can be a  form of meditation. It's interesting to also note that it seems that in slow motion I can accomplish just as much if not more than when I'm running around in a hurried snit.  Scurrying around creates chaotic energy.  It's those moments when I forget things  or waste more time. Moving slowly is gentle and soothing.

I am finding a new rhythm to my mornings and to how I fit my writing into my day.  Early morning writing doesn't feel right right now, and so I am easing myself into a new routine. What works for us at one point may not work for us forever, and we do ourselves a great disservice when we force things that do not feel right. My mornings are filling with more yoga and with meditation and that feels right in a way that the early morning writing once felt right. I can sense that I need the evenings moving forward to dwell with my characters and not feel rushed through the second draft. Getting to this place is only possible because I've been quiet, listened to my internal rhythms and what my gut is telling me, and paid attention. 

Last night's admission was a reminder that in our weakness, we find  strength. We can muster the energy to start fresh and try again. Whatever you may be holding on to, release your grasp and see if you don't find relief.

I bought these beauties at the grocery tonight. They are stunning in person, and I just had to share. May we all stay open to the beauty that is all around us--even at the grocery store check out.

Monday, January 25, 2016


What I am about to write is the truth. I'm not afraid of the truth, but I am hesitant to share it because I don't want sympathy or pity. I want to share an honest depiction of my life on this blog, and what I'm about to write is as true as the glorious moments when I crossed finish lines, launched off a trapeze platform, made delicious pie crust, and wrote 80,000 words.

The truth is:

I am coming to terms with how I can be deeply content and profoundly sad at the same time.

I am lonely for something or someone I cannot quite put my finger on.

I am weepy, and when those moments come I wonder if I can ever grow strong in my broken places.

I'm not eating enough.

I miss my daughter when we are apart.

I'm tired of thinking about the debt I have to pay down. 

I'm scared that I may never be a published writer.

I'm scared that the story I'm writing will never be as good outside my head as it is inside.

I get anxious when I can't plan for the future or even have the remotest idea what might come my way.

These winter days have me feeling like I'm a character in Groundhog Day.

I am an overthinker, and am wondering how to turn off the chatter in my head.

I have a few new mantras I'm meditating on to help me turn the volume down on my chatter.

Martha Beck has the best mantras:

May I feel happy. May I feel peace. May I feel safe and protected.


Don't drink the poison. (The bad stories we tell ourselves that make us physically ill.)

She also suggests that I stop struggling.  I asked Tammy, "How do I stop struggling?"

Her answer? "Go limp, sister. Go limp."

So I put on my warm hat and coat and launched out into the cool, overcast day for a walk.  I breathed deeply and enjoyed putting one foot in front of another.  I thought about what it might feel like physically to "go limp," so that I could practice the physical and then mental sensation of stopping the struggle.

I smiled at the people who passed me on the sidewalk. I felt a jauntiness to my step. I thought about how much I loved Nancy Drew when I was a pre-teen. How much I wanted to be like her growing up. How I could still pretend to be like her now.

Another mantra came to mind as I walked.

"Give us this day our daily bread" meaning, help me have hope for the future, but mostly help me just stay right here in this moment and trust that my needs will be met today.

I returned to my office.  I sat back down at my desk and began wrapping up what I'd been working on before lunch.

And then an e-mail caught my attention: US BANK HAS YOUR BANK CARD.

A coworker sent me the e-mail.  It turns out on that walk when I was clearing my head, smiling, and daydreaming of Nancy Drew, my credit card slipped out of my pocket or my grasp without me noticing.  A kind bank vice president found it, took it back to his office.  His staff googled my name, found where I might work.  They called a coworker who confirmed that that was me. The bank staff told the coworker that they were holding the card for me.

I sat very still. There was no need to panic because the solution had arrived before I knew there was a problem. My daily bread had been delivered.

I worked late because going home to an empty house didn't have much appeal.  I was ready to leave after an hour. Good music accompanied me home on an evening when the traffic had dissipated before I hit the road. I sang along with the radio and remembered something else Martha Beck has said: singing is a great stress reliever and mood enhancer.

I pulled into my garage, carried my stuff into the kitchen, and went straight to my room.  I changed out of my work clothes. I set the alarm on my phone for fifteen minutes and committed to seeing how many sun salutations could be done in the space of those few minutes.

I breathed deeply. I moved slowly. I stretched and breathed through the pain of tight hamstrings. I noticed how my body moved differently as I increased the number of sun salutations I did.  My heels eventually touched the floor.  My shoulders remained on my back as I moved from one pose to the next. My hands came closer to laying flat on the mat then ever before. I was warming up. Actually getting a little bit hot. This rarely happens and especially not in the winter.

I noticed the chatter quieted as I moved and breathed. I remembered this was why I love yoga so much. I told myself more yoga was going to be needed to get me through writing my second draft and to get me over this emotional slump I'm in.

I took this picture to document my progress.

I stepped off the mat. And felt something different. I felt hunger. And peace. And a quiet mind.

I have to remember the things that help me up and out of these dark periods that visit me now and then.

I can tell I will sleep well tonight, and for that, I am grateful.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Year to Date

Hello! It's been more than a week since I posted anything. I miss when I am not writing on my blog, but I needed some rest--physical and emotional--after my first post-divorce holiday season, a basement that flooded the day after Christmas, and high-volume letter writing at work.

The photo above is a shot of my magnetic board that is propped on my desk in my bedroom.  Before Christmas I removed the Fear sign from where it had been taped at work for almost a year.  I replaced it with another mantra and thought that I would tape it into my journal as a keepsake.  It turns out that I have some residual fear to work through. Particularly in the writing-my-book department.  I've taken quite a few months' hiatus from the book, which was good and necessary.  But now it's time to dive back in and I've found myself scared.  Even more scared than the first go-round.  I didn't have anything to lose as I wrote the draft. I've put a lot of pressure on myself to do the second draft well and quickly.  Basically, I stopped playing and started taking myself too seriously. 

I figured this out in the process of talking it out loud with my writer's dream team: Dan and Tammy. Writing in the morning just doesn't feel right these days, so I'm settling into how I can squeeze a consistent daily writing practice into an evening that is full of dinner prep, homework, relaxation, and whatever else comes my way. I am remembering that I don't have to have everything figured out--such a hard thing for the consummate planner to come to terms with.  I'm chipping away at the barriers I'd created to make writing the second draft seem so daunting.  I've started on Chapter One of the novel, and I am surprised by how easily the habit and good vibes of said habit are returning.

I have begun meditating in the morning. Either ten minutes before I leave for work or silent drive time prayer and meditation for the first half of my commute. I can tell a difference in how I approach the day after I've spent just a few minutes in closed-eye silence or drive time quiet.

As long as I remember that I am a work in progress, I'm fine. Those rare moments when I think maybe I've reached some plateau, forget it. My life gets super angsty and I start beating myself up.

Do you have any mantras that help you move through your day or through difficult situations? I'd love to hear them. Let's help each other find the words that help us make progress, but also allow us to feel wonderfully comfortable wherever we are.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Gratitude Jar

Christmas season 2012 the Mahoneys found ourselves once again a one-income household. I was determined that my four-year-old would not feel the effects of this grown-up situation during a magical time of year. I employed frugality and creativity to make the dollars I had stretch. What resulted was making our Christmas tree out of hundreds of hand prints, and giving homemade gifts like this one, a Gratitudes Jar. 

Cadence was in kindergarten and her handwriting was improving steadily. I asked her to write the word Gratitudes on manuscript paper cards and I affixed them to the jars.

We wrote about the things, people, and circumstances we were grateful for on slips of scrap paper, folded the notes, and slipped them into the jar. After a time, life got busy and the jar found its way to the back of the counter and stopped getting filled.

The counter top has experienced a good decluttering to make space for a microwave, which is a stand in for the built-in model in my kitchen that decided to konk out one day a few months ago. That's another story. Back to the jar. When I cleaned off the counter, I realized that years had passed since we last put something in it. I liked the practice, so the other day, I decided to open it, empty it of its hidden messages and resume actively naming the things for which I am grateful.

Here are a few of the notes Cadence and I rediscovered and read to each other:

1/8/13 Cadence used the phrase “friend-family” on her own.
1/26/13 Peaceful playdates
3/25/13 Time away from every day cares and concerns—in England and Belgium
1/5/13 A good afternoon nap, including Cadence taking one of her own.
3/25/13 Grateful that Uncle Stephen drove us every day. - CJ (a trip reference)
1/15/13 Finding my missing journals. SO relieved.
3/25/13 Grateful we didn't have an accident in the car on our way to lunch in the snow. - CJ
I like Luke. I like Jackson. - CJ
I love you Kara. I like you Daddy (with a fancy -y-) - CJ
1/7/13 Michael Jackson dance party with CJ! Great exercise too!
1/31/13 Cadence's passport came yesterday!
3/25/13 Grateful I go to play in the snow all day long—snow day! - CJ
1/8/13 smooth morning routine and out the door much earlier than normal. Relieved!
I love Me Cadence.
3/25/13 Getting to see Ellyn's first steps, and then her parents seeing her walk later. - Cadence (another trip reference)
1/25/13 Cadence was named Lady of the Week!

We didn't write down our blessings for long that year, but I am glad we did it even for a short time. Looking through them was a nice stroll down memory lane, and a reminder that gratitude begets gratitude. What you look for, you'll always find more of.
Here's what will go in the Gratitude Jar tonight:
  • Lunch with my friend, Laurie
  • Friends whose texts make me laugh out loud
  • My dad's recovery from a serious sickness four years ago
  • Helping Cadence with her math homework and reading to her over Skype
  • Facing my fears in ice skating lessons
  • Sunshine on bitter cold days
  • My blog and its readers

Friday, January 8, 2016

Rambling Thoughts about Millard Fillmore and Random Benefits of Reading History

The presidential biography reading project continues. But please remember as you read my “book reports” or rants as the case may be with our thirteenth president, that I am no scholar. I just want to write a few passing thoughts I have about these historical figures as I go. Plus, I can't help but think that after reading 137 pages about Millard Fillmore I know more than most people in my circles do about this poor excuse for a national leader. 

These days the presidents I'm reading are obscure, basically boring figures in their own right, but the time periods in which they served were anything but boring. They each in their own ways helped create the fertile environment that erupted into the Civil War—decades before the actual violence broke out. Fillmore is in no way an inspiring man about which to read, but I have enjoyed the way his biographer, Paul Finkelman, has written about the times. Finkelman has helped me to absorb the information that I have read multiple times in previous biographies. Reading in chronological order ensures that the same topics and events will be covered by different biographers and from different vantage points. Repetition is an educational tool.

Here's an excerpt about Millard Fillmore. It's really all you need to read to get a flavor for the man. Believe me, the casual reader is not going to be interested in any more than this. 

“Born in poverty, poorly educated, and utterly unsophisticated, Millard Fillmore is one of our most obscure presidents, and one of our worst. In 1848, this virtually unknown former congressman from Buffalo, New York, was elected vice president, and when Zachary Taylor died he became America's second 'accidental president.' He took office at a crossroads in America's history and his failures set the stage for the larger failure of politics that led to the Civil War. Fillmore pushed through the Compromise of 1850, obsessively enforced the oppressive Fugitive Slave Act, and was rejected by his own party, the Whigs, when he sought a full term of his own. Hostile to foreigners, non-Protestants, and abolitionists, he received his only presidential nomination in 1856, from the anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Party. He opposed Abraham Lincoln and was pro-slavery to the end; his neighbors in Buffalo considered in a traitor in the Civil War.”

I know I've written it before and it bears repeating. If you are feeling squeamish about the state of the country or the world these days, read some history. You'll be equal parts deflated and reassured by pretty much every era known to humankind. Why? Because the tomfoolery we are experiencing today IS NOT NEW. It feels new because we've only lived through this iteration of it. Reading history provides valuable time travel and the benefit of hindsight to understand what generations before us could not appreciate in their own time.

When one reads history, one is reminded that humans are humans are humans. It doesn't matter whether these people wore knee-high knickers and powdered wigs or trousers and tails, very human characteristics—insecurity, greed, selfishness, ignorance, ego—guide us no matter in which period of human history we live. And power or the pursuit of power magnifies these awful traits.

The excerpt above describes a president who both appalls me and helps me keep perspective on our current state of affairs. Whatever you may think of the past few decades' worth of men who have occupied the Oval Office, none could be reasonably described as the worst.

I've read this short volume pretty quickly because I am forcing myself to keep this project moving forward. (I do not want to be still in the midst of this project when I am 50—nine years from now.) But I have to say, besides the dry-ish material these biographers have had to work with, the time period makes me very sad. And sad reading makes for slow, apprehensive progress.

Before this project began, I would have said that everything about slavery was bad and distasteful and the Civil War was an egregious waste of human life for the Union and the Confederacy, but I wouldn't have been able to say much more about it than that.

Now I can tell you a little about the Fugitive Slave Act. It was an awful thing, and Fillmore's full support of it was even worse. It allowed slave hunters to whisk away black men and women who had long escaped captivity and thrust them back into a life of captivity and tortuous servitude without an opportunity to speak in their own defense. They had no chance to argue their cases, much less let their wives or families know what was happening before they were removed to the South. Many of these people had lived in the North for years. They had married, had children, jobs, and upstanding lives.

Northerners opposed the Act. They were affected by it too. They could find themselves in trouble with the law for having any sort of contact with a fugitive, even in cases where they had no idea that the person was a fugitive. 

Millard Fillmore was determined that the Fugitive Slave Act was followed to the letter of the law even though many people balked and asked for reasonable modifications. Nope. He wanted to be elected to his own presidency when Taylor's term was done, and he knew he needed the support of the South. Carrying out the Fugitive Slave Act so stringently was one way to accomplish that. Thank goodness his plans were thwarted and he didn't get the nomination. After he lost the Whig nomination, Fillmore joined the Know-Nothing party. Their platform was anti-Catholic. Fillmore said, “I have for a long time looked with dread and apprehension at the corrupting influence which the contest for the foreign vote is exciting upon our election.” Sound familiar?

I wonder if there's any chance that Millard Fillmore and Donald Trump are distant relatives. Since history has such an uncanny knack of repeating itself, I pray I won't have to one day read HIS presidential biography. There would be no valiant crossing of the Delaware captured in that one. 

To wrap up this post, I just want to say something about how reading history gives context to other reading I do. I am currently listening to the audio version of Elizabeth Gilbert's novel Signature of All Things, which is set during the 18th and 19th centuries. Her novel is a sweeping story that spans generations and happens to discuss the abolitionists of the 1840s and 50s. I can picture this time period and her characters so much more vividly now because of the context I have from these biographies. I love how such different reading materials have the power to inform one another.
I look forward with anticipation to what I'm going to learn or understand better when I read about Franklin Pierce. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

40. Blog about each activity - CHECK.

On reflection, this item is the activity that has changed me and my life the most. Before the 40/40list, I had this blog, but I wasn't sure what to say with it. I knew I wanted to chronicle my writing pursuits and the rejections I received as I was building a writing life. I planned to write about life and my observations in between rejections, but that seemed too broad and unfocused. In the sixteen months before last January, I published a total of 20 posts. In the past 12 months, I have published more than 180.

Blogging about my 40/40 list gave me a consistent topic on which to write. And the more I wrote about my year-long celebration and other life observations, my readership grew. For that I am deeply grateful. I honed my craft, chiseled my voice, and learned that people were interested in what I had to say. I have written hard truths in the past year. I feel braver and stronger and more sure of my self and my stance on things.

I am certain that I will be writing about the ways the 40/40 list has transformed me for many posts to come, but the following is my initial analysis.

As the list has come close to completion, people have asked me what activities have stood out over the course of the year. These are the ones that come readily to mind: (and like the list itself, in no particular order)

Physical activities: I did not expect to enjoy all of the physical activities I put on the list as much as I did. Curiosity put them on the list, but I never dreamed that I would actually like training for the 5K. I have signed up for a second session of ice skating lessons, and I am certain I'll take more tennis lessons as time and budget allow. These activities tested my perceptions about my athleticism and what I assumed was my lack thereof. They also reminded me of what impact my ten years of dance training had had on me after all.

Test driving the MINI Cooper: This was a fun day spent with a good friend. I never dreamed that I'd like driving a MINI Cooper as much as I did or that owning one could be possible.

Rereading the Anne of Green Gables series: Revisiting this book series felt like going home. I was reminded of just how important Anne was to me as I was growing up, making sense of the world, and my place in it at a vulnerable time for every girl. I related to her so much better than I did my peers at the time, and Anne gave me the courage and confidence to like being myself—no matter how different I felt from others my age. I also discovered the last two books in the series that I somehow was never curious about reading as a youth. I'm grateful that I explored these books in my fortieth year. I am certain that I appreciated them as an adult far more than I would have as a young girl. Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside felt like unexpected birthday gifts.

Ice Skating at Steinbergs: This was another gift. I did not expect Cadence to enjoy this so much. I will never forget the radiance on her face as we went around and around the rink. My daughter looking up at me and saying over and over, “This is the best day! I'm having so much fun, Mommy! Let's do this again, okay?”

Cooking activities: There were only three cooking related items on the list, but they made an impression on me. I got to share each one of them with special people and with each one my confidence in the kitchen grew. And then because of my successes, I was more willing to try new things and kind to myself when they didn't work out, and then my confidence grew more. I am a different woman in the kitchen at 41 than at 40. My next forty years have a lot of yummy goodness in store. I'm just sure of it.

Daily yoga: Four sun salutations every day taught me about patience, setting goals, and the power of incremental success. These lessons will be applied in other areas of life moving forward. Not to mention how great it feels to touch my toes every single day.

40 book list: I could not have predicted the trajectory my life would take by creating this simple list within a list. I chose the most meaningful forty books of my life thus far, then sent the link to one of the authors whose book made the list. In this year of taking opportunities and risks as they came my way, this message to the author opened the door to attending her retreat in Montana, which in turn opened the door to knowing myself and my craft better, having a new vision for my novel, and making special friendships—one in particular. I have stayed in constant contact with my friend Pamela, and she is coming to visit us in February. We're going to continue the conversation we started in Montana about writing and life and I am richer for her presence in my life. Saying yes to the unexpected things that come our way is a really fantastic way to spend this life.

When I started the list one year ago today, my blog's page views were just over 1,800. As of this week, I hit 16,000 page views. I asked the resident mathematician in my life to figure out what the percentage increase was. Jana did, and we both looked at each other, mouths agape. In one short 12-month period my blog's activity has increased by 780%! I'm calling that a success.

The greatest legacy of this list is knowing that I won't need to create another list to get stuff done in my life. The 40/40 list taught me that life is too good and too rich to sit by and be a spectator. I will continue to sampling new experiences—not because it's on a check list—simply because I want to.

Final item on this list: CHECK.

7. Do four sun salutations daily - CHECK.

I was hesitant about committing to daily yoga. I wasn't doing any yoga at home before January 2015. I only did yoga at my favorite yoga studio a few times a month. I really liked the energy that is cultivated in a room full of men and women who practice yoga, breathing and moving together. I just couldn't imagine thinking up a regular home practice. Then I contemplated the way I COULD add yoga to my home life. Four sun salutations seemed possible, but 365 days seemed daunting. 

Four sun salutations isn't very many, but what makes it something is its daily-ness. It didn't take long for me to realize I was on to something that would persist long after I crossed the activity off my list. I felt better every day for having this quiet, five-minute practice in my routine. Moving my body is important to counterbalance all the sitting and writing and contemplating I do.

Even though the list is completed as of today, the daily yoga will live on in my life. I am excited about the ways the four sun salutations will transform into other forms of practice as I feel ready to stretch myself—literally and figuratively.

As the list comes to a close, I've been thinking about the past year. I've thought a lot about how in some ways the year has gone by really quickly and in other ways very slowly. Marking time with a daily activity like my time on my mat has definitely slowed the time. I am really glad that I chose to mark each day's practice on a calendar. Otherwise, all of the days would have bled together and it would have been hard to remember when I made progress. 

I feel stronger and stretchier I ever have before. I am more limber. My head is clearer, more able to handle the stresses of daily life. I like thinking that at 41 I am stronger and more agile than ever before, and that with this small daily routine, I will continue to gain in strength and flexibility. 

A friend recently sent me this article.  I've been trying to pick out a good quote to include here, but the whole article is so good, it needs to be read in its entirety. Your daily things may be different from my writing and yoga, but his point remains the same. The important stuff must be a part of our daily routine.

Another friend sent this video yesterday.  It inspires me to keep working and stretching in my yoga practice. The old me would have watched this and said, “There's no way I'll ever be able to do that.” The 41-year-old me says, “Won't that be fun to work toward?” 

Just another way this list has transformed me.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Top Posts of 2015

My friend Dan encouraged me early in the year that the more honest, truthful posts I wrote, the more my writing would connect with readers. He is almost always right (with a few teeny tiny exceptions), and certainly was about this.

Writing at 300 rejections this past year has been one of my greatest joys.  I appreciate your readership more than you know. I am fascinated to see that the top ten posts were my truthiest.  I shared thoughts and feelings in these ten essays that I couldn't have imagined sharing even one year ago.  And now, well, it's become common practice.

300 rejections started out as a place to chronicle my writing life. But over time it's taught me that my writing and my life intersect all the time.  It's kinda hard to separate the two.  So now I don't try.  Now I write here to celebrate the big and little things of life--as a writer, a mother, a friend, a woman, and as a human.

Thank you for helping me feel safe and supported as I ruminate, contemplate, and elucidate. I still have a ways to go to reach my 40,000 page view goal here, but I am very well on my way.  If after you read (or re-read) the posts below, you think that your circles of friends and influence could benefit from one (or more) of these posts, I'd be so grateful if you'd share it.  I love thinking about this community of writers and readers and kind, gentle humans expanding. 

Sharing my words would be the best birthday gift I could receive. (I'm forty for only one more day!)

So without further adieu, the top 10 posts of 2015:

A few words about Selfies

The Perfect Way to Spend a Saturday Evening

1. Inaugural Bucket List Check Off

Dan is not my husband and other thoughts on where I am right now

Thanksgiving - Rebooted



Response from a Missouri Representative

Julie's 40/40 Bucket List

Perfectly You and Totally Bi#$in - Race Weekend - #12 CHECK 

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here's to taking life as it comes--the hard and the soft--and finding silver linings, ways to be of service, and joy supreme.  

4. Improve my forward bend - CHECK.

I want to be a yoga teacher someday in the not-so-distant future.

I understand that yoga teachers do not have to be able to do every pose well, but I have the expectation that as a yoga teacher I would at least be able to touch my toes. As of autumn 2015 when I put the list together, touching my toes was out of reach. When I began tracking my practice on January 3, 2015, my fingertips could not touch the mat without my legs bent. And there was great pain when I attempted it. I would do my daily yoga practice for a full two months before my legs would straighten in a forward bend. TWO months. To be able to now at 41 (one day shy) be able to touch my toes pretty much every day seems like an enormous achievement.

I purposely did not make “touch my toes” the goal because, honestly, I wasn't convinced it could happen. After all, for the ten years that I danced ballet, tap, and jazz as a youth and teenager, touching my toes was almost always out of reach. Yoga has taught me a lot about accepting where I am on a given day and in the case of forward bends, where my tight hamstrings are in the process. I knew that a daily practice of yoga would over time have to help improve my forward bend. The yoga mindset let it be okay with whatever progress came my way.

Four years ago I really wanted to be able to do the splits. In those four years, I have come to learn that not every body can do every yoga pose. My long tight legs just might not be the “splitting” kind, and I've made peace with that. Being flexible and loose enough to touch my toes regularly seems much more important to maintaining a strong, healthy body than being able to do the splits as I age.

Moving into 2016, I will continue to work on improving my forward bend. I have new things to which I aspire. Now that getting my fingertips to the mat with straight legs happens pretty much every day, my new milestone will be to place my hands flat on the floor when I bend forward. I know the power of consistent practice and incremental progress, so I don't have a deadline on when that will happen. I trust that in time, it will.

Photos made possible by the selfie stick my observant eight-year-old purchased for me at her Winter Warehouse gift experience at school.  I am including all of my attempts because I think it's hilarious.  What's most important to point out for the purposes of this post: My hands are touching my toes, and my legs are straight.