Part 1: Unexpected Snow Bird – Steak and Sleep

It seems that around this time of year I’m writing my reflections about recent winter travels. Despite my intentions to stay put winter of 2017/18, I find myself writing about this past winter’s travels – Houston TX.

Tumultuous 2017 was filled tremendous highs and lows. The first 6 months were spent either living in NYC or traveling back and forth for shorter stays.

 

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Nowhere to go

Somewhere in early July, Allan and I independently, came to the conclusion that we should see my dad, sooner rather than later. His birthday was in August. So, with thoughts of him in mind, we drove to Clarksville, TN for one week and then stayed in Houston for two. We capped that trip with 5 days trapped inside of a tense house during hurricane Harvey. My parent’s house was fine, but every road that surrounded the house was closed due to flooding.

 

By the time we were back home in early September, the last thing I wanted to do was leave beautiful Upstate New York. We talked about it and decided to stay put. Besides, hadn’t Northeast winters of late have been mild?

Early during my work day on December 7, I filled a vacant 15 minutes with a call to my parents. It was about 10:30 AM in NY so 9:30 in Houston. They had gone to early mass. Then they took their breakfast at Panera. When I called, they were just finishing up and getting ready to leave. After I said goodbye, I hopped onto my first interview of the day. While on video call with a candidate in India, my phone rang. My candidate asked if I had to get the call. Seeing the caller ID and knowing that my mom does often butt dial, I said, “no, I’ll just call my mom back – I only just talked to her”. Typically, if she really meant to dial, she would leave a message or call right back – neither of which she did.

When my interview finished, I called her back. Mom answered immediately. She was crisp and to the point: Dad fell and hit his head. He was unconscious. They are at the emergency room doing tests. Here is the doctor. I’ll call you later.

After that call, my concentration was shot. Mom could give me no more information. There was nothing for me to do but just perform my interviews. I performed some, but while I recorded all of the answers, I was just going through the motions. I started just cleaning my office waiting for mom’s next call.

They transferred dad to CHI Saint Luke’s hospital downtown. After much back and forth with mom, and several tests it seems that his fall was caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure. He fell, hit his head and then had a subsequent brain hemorrhage or stroke. Would they drain the blood? Would they just wait for the swelling to go down? She didn’t know. All we could do was sit and wait.

I started looking for tickets. I told mom I could leave that night or the next morning. I would leave my daughter, SB for a short stay or bring her if I traveled for the week. The first couple days mom would say, “maybe, let me see the progress.” Then a couple days in she said in a firm, positive voice, “no. SB has school, you have work.”

On day three Mom said brightly, “Dad woke up!” Since Dad’s phone had WhatsApp, I insisted on doing daily video calls. She spoke calmly about her day. She introduced me by video to the nurses. She told me what was delivered from the hospital kitchen and the tests the doctors were running. She was always in that room. “See, there’s K!” She would say to what looked like dad’s sleeping form on the bed. Sometimes she would bring the phone closer to him. But more often than not, when I asked to speak to dad “No, he’s just resting,” She would say. He was there on the screen. Never too close.

Mom was positive and controlled. I imagine this is what she is like as an auditor. It was a side I hadn’t really seen before.

We agreed to come after Christmas. SB should finish her semester of preschool and bounce class. We could celebrate Christmas with our friends and family. Then SB and I would fly to Houston, Allan would drive with Dolce, for an anticipated 3 week stay.

As our departure date got closer, I had an inkling that things were much more difficult than what Mom made them seem. One time when I video called, I got her when she was down in the hospital basement cafeteria. I asked her, “how are you really?” I caught a glimpse of the tiredness, pain, uncertainty, overwhelmed with what she was going through. But she smiled said announced, “there is Beltran, our friend here to visit dad!” The screen went blank.

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SB, Me and our Airplane Puke Bag Puppet

SB and I arrived in Houston on Dec 29. Mom was never the biggest fan of driving and Dad loved driving. It was an easy arrangement. Dad chauffeured her for most of her long drives – like the airport. Mom asked her neighbor drive her to pick me up though I offered multiple times to get a car myself and meet her at home. On the way home, we went out for dinner. Mom encourage me to order a lot for myself and SB.  We talked about Dad. Mom was very positive about his progress. She also talked about going back to the hospital that night. The neighbor told her she should stay with me. That was when Mom admitted she had not eaten or slept in the house since the accident. It had been 22 days.

Back at the house, I opened the fridge to put away our copious leftovers. The fridge reminded me of college: old food, energy drinks, some condiments and hard boiled eggs. In the pantry there was Nissin Cup-o-soups and rice.

The next morning, I went grocery shopping. I bought SB’s favorite snacks. I stocked up on fruits and veggies. I bought meat to make steaks, meatballs and roasted chicken. I decided I would be there to cook for her so she wouldn’t have to eat hospital food.

The first meal I decided to make was steak. Mom’s favorite uncle used to make her steak and salad whenever he would visit the country. She had good memories of that – so that’s what I will make.

I made the small filet with roasted veggies and rice for lunch. Mom ate half of what I gave her. “It was delicious,” she said. But, her stomach shrunk because she had eaten so little over the past few weeks. I packed a to go container so she could have some for dinner when she went back to the hospital to see dad. It was the first time weeks that she ate multiple meals in one day.

When Mom went back to the hospital that night, she did not want me to go with her. She wanted the doctor to sign off on my visit as SB and I recently had the flu.

It was New Year’s Eve and the end of my second full day in Houston I was bummed that I still hadn’t seen dad. Allan was still on the road from his overnight in Clarksville, TN. But, the fridge was looking a bit better, more than just energy drinks and rotten food from our stay over the summer. Mom slept a solid 5 hours the night before. She slept in a bed instead of napping in a chair. She had quiet instead of the nurses making their rounds and whizzing and beeping of unfamiliar machines. Maybe I was doing some good around here. 

Yoga 101

If you know me, you know I am currently training to become a yoga teacher!  If you don’t know me… Hi!  I am Heather, thank you for reading!

Now that I am super active in the yoga community the #1 question I get is “I want to do yoga, where do I start?”  Most people I speak to are nervous about going to a class, don’t know anything about yoga, don’t know what gear they need, or even what kind of clothes to wear.

I am too nervous to go to class, what are my options?!

If you want to learn some of the asanas or flows before you go to a class, there are options!  I really love Yoga with Adriene on YouTube.  She is very approachable, and her 30 day challenges are awesome.  You can find her page here.  If you don’t connect with her, that’s ok!  YouTube or Do You Yoga have a ton of teachers and classes.  Just find someone you connect with.  I like that she is quirky and fun, but maybe you want someone that is more peaceful or zen.  You can shop around for teachers, just find someone you like!  There are many different teachers and many different styles of teaching and voices.  It’s almost like dating!  You have to like the person to be able to really get into the practice and have your moving meditation.

I am going to my first class, what should I expect?

I want to say I LOVE seeing new students in class.  There is nothing to be afraid of!  I recommend letting your instructor know that this is your first class.  They will be excited to see you there –I promise!

Don’t be nervous to ask the instructor questions before or after class.  If you didn’t understand a pose, or you are unsure if you are doing it correctly, ask!  That is part of why an instructor is there.  I have been practicing for years and I still often ask the instructor questions after class.

You may not understand everything that happens in the class.  There may be some rituals that may feel unfamiliar to you, and words you have never heard before.  Yoga is a practice, not a perfection.  If you are confused about a pose, take a look around the class.  Maybe you will be able to get some clarification from looking at other students. If you can’t figure it out, don’t worry about it.  Skip it!  Ask the instructor after class!  If there is a ritual that you don’t follow, don’t understand, or don’t feel like doing… skip it!  Ask for clarification, or just try next time if you want.  If you regularly go to class, you will start to understand the structure of the class, and the rituals that are being done.

Yoga is about you, and focusing on your body and breath.  Don’t worry about the namaste or OM if you don’t like it or understand it.  Don’t fret about that confusing or difficult posture.  If you want to sit on the ground, and count your breath the whole time.  That is yoga!  You will build strength in time, you will develop the vocabulary in time.  It’s not a rush to the finish line, it’s a journey that should be enjoyed.

What Studio or form of Yoga should I try?

If you are unsure of what studio to go to, or what kind of classes to take, shop around!  You will find a studio and form of yoga you connect with.

Most studios offer a new student trial.  You can go to the studio and check it out before you even sign up for a class.  Go inside, and ask questions, see if the ambiance is what you are looking for.  If not, don’t feel obligated to go.  Again with the dating, you are dating the instructor AND the studio here.  Make sure you like them .

If you don’t know what type of yoga you may like take a look here and see what resonates with you.  When you find a style you like, Yelp it and find a studio near you that offers that style of class.

There are heated classes, hot classes, and regular temperature classes so check that out when you select a studio.  There are many different opinions on hot yoga practices and I am not trying to sway you in any way.  If you are curious do some research and see what you think.  I just want to give you a heads up so you don’t walk into a 100 degree room your first time and think “uhhhh what?”

What clothes should I wear?

Honestly, it really doesn’t matter, you should just wear something you feel comfortable in!  I would suggest a top you can at least tie in a knot at the bottom (you are upside down a lot,) and high waisted pants (you are bending over.)  You don’t need fancy brands or anything.  I get 99% of my workout gear at Old Navy.

Don’t feel discouraged or distracted by what other yogis wear.  Just wear something that makes you feel good and doesn’t require a lot of fussing or adjusting.

What gear do I need?

Basics: yoga mat, hand towel, water bottle, and possibly mat towel if you’re choosing a hot or heated class.  If you don’t have a mat, sometimes studios offer rentals (but call and ask first!)

You can get a cheap yoga mat from TJ MAXX, Home Goods, Target, or a similar store.  If you are looking for a decent but affordable brand I would suggest Gaiam.

If you are looking to build flexibility you may want to purchase a yoga strap.  I have this one.  If you do buy a strap I would suggest doing some research on how to use it.  Here is a great article to get started.

A block may also be useful to you.  Most studios have blocks to borrow while taking class there.  Feel free to get two and ask the instructor how to use them.  They should cue in the class where a block may be helpful to support your body and help gain access to a pose.

 

 

I hope this article was helpful to you!  If you are interested in doing yoga I would suggest you get out there and do it.  If you have any additional questions.  Please feel free to comment and I will answer them for you!

 

Diabetes and the dog – Our crash course in managing chronic illness

Bringing up Dolce

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Dolce at 6 weeks

My husband’s theory is, “always name your pet the character you wish it to have.” For example, my first pet was an orange tabby named Giuseppe. He was super feisty. Allan named his cat, Hazel, “A nice grandma name.” For the entire time I knew her, Hazel was content to lay on your lap all day.

We wanted our Keeshond puppy to grow up to be sweet and loving. So, we named her Dolce, the Italian word for sweet. In her early years she was definitely playful, sweet and loving. Now, approaching her 9th birthday, we’ve learned that our beloved puppy is diabetic. There is too much sugar in her blood and she is insulin dependent. She is sweet in more ways than we hoped.

Young Life and Early signs

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Dolce during her hiking days

 

The average Keeshond is between 30 to 40 lbs. In her first years, Dolce was always in the mid to high 30s. We would give her extra treats. We didn’t think this was a problem at the time. For her first 5 years, she would go on 3 to 5 mile expeditions with me almost every day.
One hot summer day when she was 5 and a half, I took her on a long run. Halfway home, she stopped, looked at me and sat down and refused to move. I had to call Allan to bring the car. When he opened the door, Dolce perked right up and took a running leap into the back seat. After that day, she refused to go on walks with me again unless it was absolutely necessary. She also steadily began to gain weight.
Dolce was always a food motivated dog. While some puppies respond well to joyful praise during training, Dolce responded best to treats. As her sweet face looked up at you when at the table, it was almost impossible to deny her a nibble of food. One holiday, my mother even baked a whole turkey. When I asked why, pointing out that no one in our family liked turkey she said, “Dolce does.”
A couple years ago, we asked the vet to test her thyroid. It seemed that Dolce had been on a constant diet – only about one cup of food per day, but she wasn’t losing any weight. The blood test confirmed she had underactive thyroid, an endocrine system disorder. We started giving her a thyroid hormone twice a day. Dolce started getting her energy back. She even joined me for some longer walks!
After a while, Allan lessened the dosage based on her constant panting and hunger. Reading on the internet, he felt that she was getting too much. He lessened the dosage without getting her blood and hormones tested again.
Whenever I asked, I was brushed aside given assurances that it was all ok. I did not push the issue. At that time, our daughter, SB was just under a year old. We were both working from home without extra help. I feel guilty now that I did not have the capacity to take the dog myself.

Making excuses – Delaying the inevitable just makes things worse

Over the past year, we saw an increase in panting and hunger, even though she was not getting as much exercise as she had in her younger life. In addition, she began drinking a lot more water.

The excuses we made for all the drinking and panting was that she was hot. In the summer, it was just plain hot. In the winter, the fire was hot. In our defense she is super fluffy and she is often hot.

Why was she hungry all the time? Well, she just likes food. She is food motivated.
At age 5 she stopped walking with me. But at ages 7 and 8 she stopped wanting to go with Allan, her main person. When she did, she would slowly heft herself up and limp out. The excuse there was that she hurt her paws or her nails were long.

Allan takes pride in grooming Dolce. However about a year ago, we did not have time and we took her to a groomer. She was surprised at the dermatitis in Dolce’s skin especially based on the quality of food we gave her.

In hindsight, I realize that all of these things are classic symptoms of diabetes in dogs.

The Diagnosis

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SB and Dolce, 2 months before the diagnosis

About two months ago, we left Dolce with our best friend to take my brother to Manhattan for the weekend. After the second night, she called to say something was definitely wrong. Though her house was a steamy 80 degrees, Dolce was drinking a lot more water than usual. She drank to the point of vomiting. In addition, Dolce was aggressive to the other dogs and to my friend when the water bowl was taken away. Dolce was panting, whining, and would not move from her spot, even to go into an air conditioned room.
When we brought Dolce home that weekend, she seemed normal. Allan said she was fine and she just missed us. This time I did not take his word for it. I called the vet myself to make the appointment.

Aftermath

Blood tests showed that Dolce had high sugar levels in her blood. Further tests of her pee showed that it was leaking into her urine.

When they called with the results, I anticipated what Allan would ask knowing that he is skeptical of medicine and doctors. “Can this be controlled with diet and exercise?” The answer was no. Dogs are different. Once they have diabetes they can’t get rid of it. They need insulin every 12 hours.

The timing of the diagnosis was unfortunate. Two days after the second test, we were leaving for an extended road trip to Tennessee and Texas.

We were supposed to start giving Dolce insulin. The brand on the script cost $380 and our pharmacy did not carry it. They said it would take a week to get the drug.
We kept driving. That night in Western PA we tried a Walmart pharmacy. They had a Novolin. They said it was the same thing that our vet prescribed and it was a fraction of the price. We decided to wait until Monday to call our vet and make sure we could give her the cheaper version.

Once she started taking insulin, we noticed her perk up immediately. Her smile was almost back. Her initial dose was 5 cc.
Sadly Dolce went blind within the week of her diagnosis.
We were able to find a good vet in Texas to do follow up bloodwork on our Dolce. He told us about a dog’s sugar cycle. The blood glucose levels spike at meal time. 6 hours later, should be the low point. In a dog, this should be between 80 to 120.

At 5 cc of insulin, Dolce’s blood glucose was still about 400 mg at the 6 hour mark. We were instructed to stay at the current dose for one week. Then we should increase the dosage by 2 cc, let her adjust and see how her body responds. Currently we are at 9cc of insulin per meal. Dolce’s blood glucose level is now consistently around 90 to 100 at the 6 hour mark.

Regarding her eyes, she cannot see at all. There is a program out of Cornell in Ithaca, NY that can test to see if Dolce would be a good candidate for eye surgery. We are considering it. Dolce is only 9 years old this year and the average lifespan of a Keeshond is between 13 to 15 years. That is still a lot of time.

In Conclusion

Our life has changed dramatically with Dolce’s diagnosis. We now give her shots twice a day.

We can’t be spontaneous anymore. This hampers our travel. We can’t just leave her with anyone. We need to carefully monitor her food. Had I been more forceful, there is a chance that the condition would not have gotten this far.
This episode has inspired me to be more adamant and relentlessly persistent about following up early with chronic conditions.
Does someone in your family have a persistent cough that they swear is just allergies? Get that checked!!
Do you know someone who had elevated blood sugars during pregnancy but now they are fine? Continue to monitor that glucose levels once yearly at minimum.
It is important to establish a baseline for your health and to continue careful monitoring for fluctuations.Know the conditions you have so they do not develop into bigger challenges later in life.

Our Move to Manhattan – the 5 Best and 5 Worst Things

We live in a beautiful spot in the Northern Catskills of NY. Our little parcel of land is surrounded by acres of farmland and untouched forest. The waterfall down the street is a great place to cool off in the summer and a stunning ice palace to look at in the winter. So why leave?

Well, the North East gets cold. I love the fresh snow – the winter wonderland of it all. The juxtaposition of frozen landscape while drinking hot tea and wrapped in cozy blankets is sheer pleasure to me. But just the talk of snow and cold gets my husband, Allan, down.

Our house is so charming to look at and think about. It was one of the oldest buildings in our town. Built in 1792, it has been owned by 5 families including the people for whom the road was named. Over the decades, people have added rooms to fit their needs. As a result you have a rambling home unlike any other. The oldest part of the mill house still has the original stacked stone foundation and crawl space. During rainy weather, a stream runs beneath the house. In the winter, any standing water freezes and icicles form on the stones. Unfortunately for Allan, as the weather turns cold, the damp seeps up from below and aggravates his asthma. Seasonal mold tickles the sinuses and triggers allergies. He gets into a cycle of coughing and wheezing that is no fun for anyone. Our move to NYC was this year’s solution to the ills of February, March and early April.

We are not strangers to Manhattan. We have given concerts there for a number of years. Whenever family and friends come to visit, we take them on day or overnight trips to see the major sights. However, this is the first time we’ve been here for so long without a social agenda.

Our apartment was located in lower Manhattan, the Financial District – FiDi, right between South Street Seaport and the World Trade Center. The newly renovated space was empty and deliciously dry and hot. The building’s boiler was turned on by maintenance at the start of winter and roasts everyone whether they like it or not. The apartment was 80 degrees or more. Even Allan who often complains of the cold left the window open most of the time to get some cold fresh air.  During our stay, his lungs sound great and aside from the colds we had at the start of our trip, he hasn’t had a cough.

FiDi and the South Street Seaport are the oldest neighborhood in the City. It took me four weeks of living here to get out of the neighborhood! My remote job coupled with my work-a-holic tendencies kept me in my chair until after dark. When I was done, I would leave the apartment, get lost and try to find my way back.

The streets are narrow and cobbled. The super organized grid of Manhattan gives way to curves and alleys. A few turns and oops, I didn’t mean to go there – as I arrive at a darkened plaza filled with people smoking cigarettes, huddled in the coats, rushing out of doors on their way to the trains and water taxis.

This is the first time I have spent any length of time in the FiDi. Before, it was just day trips for school or the quick stop when family members came to town. Much of the area is being rebuilt after hurricane Sandy and 9/11.

On the colder or rainy nights, I take our daughter SB from Fulton Center to Battery Park city through a series of underground shopping centers. She is fascinated by the “Up-Downs” or elevators and escalators we need to take to get to each connecting level.

Finally our 4th weekend here we broke away and took the subway uptown to SoHo and then walked back. Since then We have walked up the Hudson River to Greenwich Village, explored Chinatown and Little Italy and museums all over the Island.
Reflecting on our time, the 5 best things about our move have been, excellent socialization for SB, independent from our car, easy access to events, lean living and diversity of everything.

Excellent Socialization for SB

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SB meets a mermaid on 1st Friday

Our apartment is in a complex built in the early 1970s. Generations of families live here. There are two parks in our apartment complex, an indoor playroom and a pre-school within our complex. There is always someone her age for her to socialize with.

Easy access to events
There is always something happening in the city. Traveling with a 2-year old, we kept our consumption of events to things like story time in the evenings at Barnes and Noble, Saturdays at the Strand and Sunday art projects at museums.

Ditch the Car
I love the freedom of not having to use a car. At home, I need a car for all of my errands.
Load the baby in the car, get in the car, drive, take the baby out of the car, put her in the stroller etc etc etc. so many steps! I often will cut my errands short just so I do not have to put SB in and out of her seat again.

In Manhattan, I just put her in the stroller and go everywhere on foot. It is a luxury to walk to a nearby place to grab ingredients, fill prescriptions, find a good restaurant and meet friends.

Living Lean… sort of
Knowing that we were going to be living in a drastically smaller space than we currently occupy, we knew that we would have to travel light.
I brought:
three interchangeable outfits and one dress
air mattress,
Two sets of place settings
Bedding
3 Towels

While here we bought:
Office Chairs – because you gotta work pay the bills
Wine glasses – I didn’t want to drink wine from a mug. It just feels wrong
A water bottle with a filter – New York City’s water may come from the beautiful Ashokan Reservoir upstate, but the old city pipes make it taste disgusting
A data modem – Our apartment was unfurnished without a cable hook up. If we wanted internet connectivity, we either had to use use a data modem or install cable. At the time we did not think it was worth the effort to install cable. We probably should have looked into it – but we needed internet immediately for work.
Children’s clothing toys and books – I bought winter boots and snow suit for SB after the first snow. We also acquired toys from moving piles.

Diversity – of everything!
I love that I am surrounded by people from all walks of life. We can hear multiple languages and accents a day. There are people young and old, rich and poor and everything in between.

The 5 Worst Things for me were that there was no nature – at least not in the abundance that I’m currently used to. There was no quiet and no darkness. We were never alone and the city is quite expensive.

I Miss Nature

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Our view on a sunny day

I miss seeing the trees through my windows. Here in the city, when I stare straight out my window there are walls and windows. The outdoor construction elevator goes miles a day, up and down – up and down. When I see the the Asian Ambulance rush by sirens blaring and I wonder, “would it pick me up if I needed help?” I can watch the action at the photo studio across the street on the seventh floor. On sunny days I can see the blue sky when laying down. On foggy days, I can barely see the tops of buildings around me. When the snow falls, it’s like we live in a snow globe swirling up and around, caught in the drafts between the buildings. All of this is captivating but it is not the peacefulness of the trees.

No Quiet
Our apartment faced Fulton Street, a main thoroughfare in the Financial District. On the east end is South Street Seaport. On the West is the World Trade Center. There was a 24 hour McDonalds across the street. Every night you can expect to hear giddy people experiencing some part of their exciting night. There are two highrises under construction across the street. Around the corner is a hospital and police precinct. During the day, there are siren calls every couple hours at least. To top it off, the apartment above ours is undergoing a renovation. Hammer hammer hammer, drill drill drill.

I can count the nights where there was almost no noise on one hand. One night the road was closed while filming night scenes for a TV show. Another weekend the street was blocked of for the unloading and construction of a crane. No traffic or sirens -Ahhh.

No dark
Our apartment had just undergone renovation and we were the first people to use it. Because of our short stay, we did not want to make too many alterations like drilling holes in the walls for curtain rods, so our windows were bare. The lights are always on in the office towers across the street. The weekends are slightly darker than the weekdays but only slightly. One of my first purchases was an eye mask so that I could sleep peacefully.

Never Alone
In this move, we went from a sprawling house with no neighbors to a 700 square foot one bedroom apartment. By city standards this is spacious. However, during the day it was three of us in the same space. As both my husband and I both work from home,  we are on top of each other all day long.

As I walk the streets of my section of town, I can see the familiar faces of my neighbors in the courtyard near our front door. I nod to the same homeless guy who sits at the steps of the discount shop, which used to be a really great book store. As I walk through the crowds, I imagine the energies of millions of people who tread these streets and subways throughout the history of this great city. Even on the quietest of nights, I am not alone.

Expensive
There are no bones about it, Manhattan is expensive. The sticker shock came the first day when we almost bought a 5 lb crate of clementines. Just the week before, we bought a crate, the same size and brand, from our local store upstate for $3.99. The grocery downstairs had it for $12.99. Ummmmm no!  We did not buy clementines that day.

***

I know that when we go back home, I will miss some things, like the fact that I can walk everywhere and the instant community, whether I want it or not. But, I can incorporate some of the best things like living lean. I have also made a pact with myself to force me or Allan to take SB out to find more activities and events for kids her age. Making the effort to ping those who mean so much to us and creating community. As for the things on my “worst” list, they make me appreciate our little spot of home that much more.

Journey to Positivity

First off. I want this to be a collaborative piece. I want to hear your experiences, thoughts, opinions, etc. Friends, please comment below and let’s get a community conversation going!

Time for some real talk.

I tend to be a negative and cynical person. I have always been inclined to pick out the bad in something over the good, and overthink EVERYTHING.

Recent example: I hosted a dinner party with friends, we all enjoyed our time together and shared great laughs. However, after they left I thought it was a failure because I didn’t have fancy salad tongs. Instead of seeing all the great things that happened, I chose to let that negative energy consume me and assume all my best friends left thinking “Wow, Heather didn’t have salad tongs! This dinner sucked!” That’s the old me. Something changed for me recently and I want to share my experiences with you, friends!

Let me preface this next part by saying I am not knocking what works for you. I think if you have a tool that makes you happy that is great! These are just my honest experiences.

My mom in my adult years has become very spiritual, she is into reiki and she meditates a lot.  She would give advice like “say 3 positive affirmations to yourself each morning.”  I would roll my eyes and think ‘that sounds out there and dumb.’  (Sorry mom!)  She would tell me to let the negative stuff go, that I worry too much, etc etc, and I would say “yeah Mom, I know” but deep down I knew that I was saying these things to pacify her.

Next person who has tried to help me throughout my life is me dear friend Andrew.  He is a master of personality traits, how they interact together, their tendencies, and pros and cons. He is a Myers Briggs guru, we have challenging and interesting conversations all the time. He suggested (or I mentioned and he approved) writing a few positive things that happened that day in a journal at night before I go to sleep. I thought this was a great idea and I did do it for awhile. But, it never made me feel more positive. I was just going through the motions, and actually nitpicking and finding the negative in the event, even when writing the positive thing that happened.

When I reflect there are two monumental things that have changed the way I think completely.  The first thing was a Women’s Day meditation that was led by Sutra Studios owner Rebecca Fritz. I had never done a meditation before, let alone a group meditation, and I was really REALLY scared to go. This event was happening right after a class I took, I was already at the studio and didn’t have a good excuse not to go. I put my fear of looking dumb or not doing it the right way aside and confidently walked right into the room. Yikes!

I can’t remember exactly what was said but one thing really stuck out. Rebecca said ‘think of a young person you love, and if there was one thing you could tell them what would you say’ (She said this a HELL of a lot more eloquent, beautiful, and thought provoking. But, I can’t remember verbatim the words that she said.) She told us to dig deep in our soul and take that one pearl of advice and give it to this young girl. I immediately decided my one piece of wisdom or advice was ‘it’s ok to be happy.’ Rebecca then said “now instead of looking at that young girl and giving her advice, you are now looking at yourself.” Bam that one realization helped change my life!  Thanks Rebecca if you are reading this ;).

The next thing was setting an intent at my yoga practice. I didn’t used to do this and I thought it was a little woo woo and silly. When the yoga instructor was suggest an intent, they never really connected for me.

One random day I decided to start setting an intent for my practice, and my intent has stayed the same since I started. Strength. That’s it. Just that one word. Strength can mean so many different things. Sometimes to me it means ‘Autumn didn’t sleep, I am fucking tired, and I need the strength to just power through this practice.’ Or other days ‘I have the inner strength to be brave and put myself out there for a job. Without making judgements on myself that they won’t like me.’ Or even ‘Things are not going great in my relationship with my husband right now, but I have the strength to stand strong for myself and my daughter. And be happy outside of those issues.’ There are so many more things strength can mean, those are just a few things that have come to my mind at practice throughout the months.

I have always been a cold turkey, rip the bandaid off type of gal. So in reflection, I think the things that were suggested to me by others didn’t work before because they were not ‘all in’ enough. The spark that took me to a different state of mind was realizing ‘that it’s ok to be happy’ and leaping in without looking back.

So that is my journey. What’s yours?

 

So We Decided to Move to Manhattan – part 1

Since I was a teenager, I  always said that my preferences are to live in the middle of a big city or in middle of nowhere. This winter I really did it. My husband and I moved from the middle of nowhere Upstate, NY into the heart of lower Manhattan for two months.

In early December, when we first hatched this plan, 8 weeks sounded like a long time. Now that we are approaching the end of our stay, I feel like we have barely scratched the surface. I only have 2 more weeks left, but I have months more of activities to experience!!!

Our 8 week trip was centered around a Mobile Product Management program Allan had applied for, and was accepted to. After SB was born, he began working remotely for a talent staffing firm. After devising a way to distinguish his company from the competition, he got a taste of product definition and management, a field that tied together all of his previous experience. He and his boss agreed that this would be a good road for him. The class was two nights a week plus a third night of subject matter expert lecture in Manhattan – 2.5 hours home each way by car on a good day. That was too much driving to make the class a good experience if he stayed at home. So it was decided, we would all move down to the city.

Hello NY
Hello NY + Hello Traffic

We moved down the last weekend of January. We arrived on a cold and clear Sunday night. Traffic flowed quickly until we got through the Lincoln Tunnel. Then, everything came to a standstill due to the ongoing Muslim Ban protests. What should have been a quick half-hour drive down town turned into a 2 hour crawl. My happy optimism was quickly overshadowed by the wailing baby, aggravated driver and whining dog.

We finally parked the car next to Fulton Market. Out one window, just a block away I could see the masts of an historic boat bobbing in the East River. Out the other was the new Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center standing at attention next to the Twin Tower footprints. I should have been staring in wonder at everything around me, but I had been cooped up for so long! Frazzled and grumpy, I pulled SB from her car seat to cuddle her while Allan went out to find our friend and host.

Allan came back w/ our friend and a cart. After one trip, we were completely moved in. The three of us took a walk through the complex to help stretch our muscles, breathe fresh air, learn about our neighborhood and walk the dog.

After the walk, our friend offered to follow Allan on a drive uptown to park our car at a long term, discount parking lot off of Times Square. Though we had barely spoken to each other in the past 2 hours, I put my foot down. No – we would swallow the price of overnight garage parking as opposed to saving $50 and parking in our prepaid spot. After 2.5 extra hours in the car, being settled for the night was more precious to me than $50 and the adventure of driving through a mile of protesters – again.

After our friend drove off, we hopped down to the Fulton Market grocery located near our front door to get a quick microwaveable dinner. Our day had started at 7 AM. By 2 PM we had gotten in the car.  It was now 10PM and we had not eaten as yet and we still had to put together our apartment.

IMG_0588
Freedom Tower – the view from our front door

All the while, SB was and is an inspiration on this trip. Allan reminds me frequently: for her, all of the world is a museum to be explored. Once she was out of her car seat, she was happy to just run around complex – the grassy spots and the sidewalks. She was happy to run through the empty apartment. Happy to see the bed inflate, Happy to see the lights of the city that never sleeps – happy happy happy happy happy! We looked at each other and breathed a sigh of hope and relief. We made the right decision.

Taking your Toddler to Disneyland

Recently my very dear friend Margie and I took our toddlers (under 2 years old) to Disneyland for the day.  We went on separate occasions about a week apart.  We discussed the experience, how to do it the ‘right way,’ and how to get the most out of the day.  Also of course, how to keep us and our little ones sane.  We both drove to Disney from Phoenix, which is about 5.5 hours away.  Here are some of our tips from how to get there, where to stay, and what to do while at the park.

For the drive

Margie: Leave at bedtime and drive through night.  Aspen sleeps so well in the car that is why we drive at her bed time.  If you have a baby that doesn’t I would not suggest it.

Heather:  This is what I was most worried about!  We left right after we got up in the morning and had breakfast.  My husband drove and I sat with Autumn and played with her during the day.  I bought a few new books, downloaded some baby playlists, and bought a new toy to keep her entertained.  We stopped for lunch, changed her diaper, and walked around.  She napped after lunch for a few hours, and then we were there.  We had very little complaining in the car.

For the stay

Margie: Stay at a hotel within walking distance so heading back for a major blowout and nap time is easy.

Heather: Yes, yes, yes.  Can’t agree more!  We both stayed at the Best Western right across from the park.  It’s definitely not a luxury hotel, but it is a place to sleep that is clean.

Margie: Keep nap schedule!

Heather: If you can get you little one to nap, good for you.  Autumn had so much sensory overload she didn’t nap at all, and stayed up way past her bedtime.  We tried hard to get her to nap, but here was 0 chance it was going to happen.

For the Park

Margie: Use stroller in park.  The park has great stroller parking areas and then it’s easy to carry food, extra clothing, water/juice.

Heather:  You can take any food and drink into the park you want as long as it’s not in a glass container, and it’s not alcohol.  We brought carrot sticks, raisins, cliff bars, peanut butter pretzels, rice cakes, and lots of water.

Margie: Stay in magic kingdom. Not worth wasting money on entrance to CA adventure with a baby.

Heather:  I didn’t go to California adventure, so I can’t comment on this.

Understanding the Baby Exchange

The baby exchange is a great way for the adults to ride adult rides while still entertaining your little one.  You walk up to the cast member who is at the front of the ride you want to ride, and let them know you are doing a baby exchange.  They give you a little slip and one parent stays with the child and the other gets to ride the ride.  The second rider gets to go through the fastpass line when the 1st rider is finished.  The baby exchange pass is good for three people.  If you want some good karma for the day, bring along some strangers and make new friends.

***PLEASE NOTE:  You have to show your child to the cast member, they won’t give you a pass without proof that you have a kid.  My husband tried to get an exchange pass while I was changing Autumn and they didn’t let him have it.***
Getting the Most Out of the Park

I followed this guide and found it to be very helpful and accurate (even though it is from 2012.)

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/28/news/la-trb-disneyland-in-a-day-02201228

Here are a few things to highlight from the above article.

  • They are stricter on fast passes since this article was published.  You have to go during the times allotted.  They will turn  you away.
  • If you plan to go first thing in the morning WHICH I HIGHLY SUGGEST plan to be at the park at least 30 minutes before it opens.  There will already a pretty big line to get into the park as well as a line at bag check.
  • Decide which ride you are going to get a fastpass for, and what ride you are going to go on first.  Do this before you get into the park.  Get the fastpass first and go directly to that first ride you want to ride.  For us we got fastpasses for Hyperspace Mountain, and hurried over to Star Tours and got on the ride with no wait.
  • You should get fastpasses for these rides: Space Mountain, Star Tours, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones.
  • When it gets to be around 11am or noon you should leave.  The wait times are just ridiculous.  We went to the hotel room from 12 to around 5.  Had dinner out of the park at 4:30 ish and headed back when we were done.
  • Download the Disney App to check the wait times for rides.  They are very accurate.
  • The Haunted Mansion may be too scary for your child.  Even though there are no height restrictions.  Autumn took a nap during it, but it is a lot scarier than I remember.

Other Randomness

Margie: The Tiki Room,  It’s a Small World and musical performances were Aspen’s favorite.  If your baby loves music hits those for sure.

Heather: Autumn wasn’t really interested in any characters or rides.  She did love the music, watching the rides from afar, and there were bubbles everywhere.  Her favorite thing was playing with the stone ball rotating in water in Tomorrowland.  Autumn was afraid of the Tiki Room which I was really surprised about.

Hopefully this gives you a few tips and tricks that will be useful for your visit.  If you have any other pointers please comment below :D.  Also, many thanks to Margie for contributing to this article!