An Integrated Approach

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a new venture

Today marks my first official day of partnering with Yoga for Recovery.
The ladies of YFR are quite fantastic; a group of committed, loving women who teach every Friday as part of the Prostitution and Drug Rehabilitation Program for Women at the Cook County Jail.

Many of you know that I have had a long-standing interest in and a passion for those who participate in our nation’s correction programs, but historically I feel like I’ve done a lot of talking and not a lot of acting in accordance with my opinions and beliefs. In fact, I pretty much turned my back on my prison studies to pursue yoga.

That is, until a few months ago when my very good friend Lara put out an all-call for teachers to volunteer with a program she was a part of.
Needless to say, I jumped right in, went to the information meet-and-greet, got my background check/prison pass, and then I got scared.

I used my changing job situation as an excuse not to go to orientation, because, simply, I was scared. Not physically mind you, but of how I would be percieved by these women, would they believe that I cared? Would they think I was a silly little white girl who really knew nothing about life? Would they think my story or what I had to teach was invalid?

And then I remebered what my wise roommate has said many times in many ways. That kind of thinking is the pernicious and little named sin of self-centricness. I am not the center of this dialogue. My opinion/presence does not hold nearly as much weight as I give it. The fact is, I am here to provide a space for these women. I don’t know their stories, I most likely will never know them. But I can provide a space for them to lay on their mats with their eyes closed. I can show them a new way to stand firmly on the earth and I can say something about the value of being still.

Besides the guard standing outside and the matching uniforms of my students, it wasn’t much different from teaching any other class.

Teaching is teaching is teaching.



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a long over-due update

So it’s been a while since my last post, over two months in fact. Life has been quite packed this spring and as new post ideas started to build up, my ability to do all of them justice dwindled, and I gave up.

However, after a recent bout of extreme illness which forced me to basically stop my life for two weeks, I’m feeling refreshed and ready to go, even as the drowsy effects of all of the prescriptions my doctor prescribed are still lingering.

The garden is coming along nicely, though with Chicago being in a constant state of weather flux, the plants are never sure whats going on. Meg and I try to water them, and while they are growing, it’s an uphill battle.

Otherwise, the start of summer is heralding my annual sense of wanderlust and change, Fitzgerald said it best with Nick Carraway, who “had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer”. So many thoughts and ideas are percolating inside my mind. Being sick has left me ample time for thinking, reading, writing, and listening. The beginning of summer is always a time of dreaming, of re-orienting,  for me. And its a good time to take a step out and discover new ways to keep myself present and content with the process of my life(one thing I can do is to be more intentional about consistently writing throughout the summer).

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a bit on growing

I am proud to announce that the Troy House has a garden! Meg came home two weeks ago and said she was thinking about planting a few things this summer and would I want to help or was there anything I thought she should plant? From that question it turned into a much bigger, but so far manageable, project. Last week we consulted books and gardening aficionados to figure out of the things we initially wanted to grow what was still possible this late in the season.

We settled on spinach, mesclun, green beans, and tomatos. Armed with diagrams, lists of supplies needed and questions to ask the staff at Home Depot we set out on a very rainy Sunday afternoon to buy our garden supplies.

After an hour and a half of debating organic fertilizer, types and materials of stakes. whether or not we should “bird/squirrel proof” the strawberries,we packed up my brother’s awesomely huge trailblazer and headed home!

After we got home , Meg tackled the tomato and strawberry re-potting while I saturated the seedling pods with water. We then planted a couple of seeds in each pod. They are all lined up on the window sill, soaking up sun. We will transfer them to out door troughs in a week or so.

The windowsill garden, guarded by Gnoma

It hasn’t even been a week and we’ve got sprouts!

Meg and I are really excited to have fresh greens this summer, and its fun to test our hands at gardening and growing. Both of us always seem to be talking about sustainable living, shopping locally/organically; its about time we started participating not just as consumers.

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on taking it personally.

I love the following poem. Truly. I come back to it again and again. I find that I often subconsciously pick a poem that becomes emblematic of a stage of life. Its becomes an anthem, something I come back to in times of stress and point to, saying, “See! Don’t you all understand? He gets it!”.
I found this poem in college. Its not my constant mantra anymore., but it testifies to the gosepl in a way that I think Fredrick Buechner would appreciate–I just finished Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale. Rather, if it doesn’t testify to the truth of the gospel, this poem at least gets at the core thing in all of us that desires the cosmic narrative, the story of our lives to be played on the grand scale. In that respect, Hoagland, with out referencing the gospel, demands and articulates our deep need for all of this to matter, and in such perfectly pairs with the tradgey, comedy and fairytale of Burchner’s gospel. And there is just something lovely about someone brazenly demanding that the ugly, the unkempt, the rigmaroll of life, in all its beauty be acknowledged.

By Tony Hoaglandb. 1953 Tony Hoagland

Don’t take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal—
the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;
the price of grapefruit and stamps,
the wet hair of women in the rain—
And I cursed what hurt me
and I praised what gave me joy,
the most simple-minded of possible responses.
The government reminded me of my father,
with its deafness and its laws,
and the weather reminded me of my mom,
with her tropical squalls.
Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness
Think first, they said of Talk
Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts
but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t
believe in the clean break;
I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,
I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back
and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries
like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.
Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?
You were that yellow caboose, the moon
disappearing over a ridge of cloud.
I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;
barking and barking:
trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.

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a running explanation

I’ve started running recently. Not for weight-loss, not because I like it, not because I want to run a marathon (though maybe one day I will).

For some reason, my friend from work thought it would be fun to do The Shamrock Shuffle—the unofficial inauguration of Chicago running season. 40,000 crazy people run every year, looking forward to the booze-fest that awaits them at the finish line. You can’t really call yourself a Chicagoan with out having run it at least once. Well, maybe you can, but having done it, I now hold a completely different appreciation and sense of solidarity with my city and its people.

Anyway, about 2 months ago, we started running once a week. It was bad. I mean, I hated it. I was proud of us for getting out there, we at least were running every Thursday while our co-workers went out drinking. So two points to my sense of moral superiority, but still, I hated it. I have never liked running. Although every few years I get back on a treadmill, hoping that as I’ve matured I’ve also developed a hereto unknown passion and love for running. This has never been the case, until now.

Fast forward to the end of March. We ran the Shuffle. I walked over every bridge, I nearly cried from the pain of my body processing the gatorade I so desperately needed to keep going. But I did finish; with a pretty respectable time, considering I’d never run that far, nor had I trained more than three or four times for this thing.

All of the sudden, I was a runner. This was something I did, it was a part of me. I ran a major race, I couldn’t dis-acknowledge that fact. I cared about this thing much more than I admitted, even to myself.  Somewhere, between the hundreds of people in start group B and the finish line, I became like the thousands around me hurling themselves down the streets of Chicago. I felt legitimate. I felt powerful. Like I had weight in the world because no one could tell me that I didn’t finished in 48:31. That’s what the clock said. I had done this thing. There were thousands watching that day that did not do it. But I did.

That feeling was exhilarating, I had actualized in a way I didn’t expect. And now every time I run there is an after taste of that first race. I exist. My body does this crazy thing. I will move myself through space and prove to you and myself that I am alive.

And as of today I am officially registered for the Chicago Women’s Half Marathon at the end of June. Last weekend I ran six miles, on Sunday I will run seven. I will continue to delight in my existence, in the ways I am fiercely, fearfully, and wonderfully made.

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a birthday present

I have always loved making things. But recently, creating has taken a backseat to the rest of my life.

That is, until I met Lauren.

She has a wonderful eye for possibilities. Just look at her blog! She and her husband Alex have “Crafternoons” on Sundays after church. They are both incredibly talented. At first when I met them, I was in awe of how together they were—newly married, real jobs, and both had a shared value for the aesthetic and physicality of their home.

As I got to know this fantastic couple, my awe turned to inspiration. If Alex and Lauren can make cool stuff, I could too?

But when it came time to getting a real, grown-up present for my dear friend’s birthday this weekend, I was at a loss. I’m not exactly rolling in dollars these days. However, I do have tons of junk and random craft stuff squirreled away throughout our apartment. So, last night I sat down and thought: What would Lauren do?

Something clean, simple, elegant. Less is more. And with the Handmaden blog fresh in my mind I set out to create something beautiful for my friend.

I had the drawing below in a frame, but had never found where to put it in my apt. And while I didn’t want to part with the drawing, I could use the frame. Below is result of yesterdays attempt at creating with the materials I have.

on the left, a drawing from an old art text book.
on the right, my painted rendering on glass.

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a berry good smoothie

I’ve been a bit of a smoothie-addict as of late. Last week at least one meal a day was a smoothie. I skipped the office today and have been nursing a spinach and blueberry smoothie all day.

This is what I will be making tomorrow.

The Curious Country Cook….: Berry Blast Smoothie.


1 ripe banana, peeled
1/2- 3/4 cup orange juice
6 ounces of frozen mixed berries
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
2  tbsp ground wheat germ
1/4 cup soy milk (or milk)
1 tbsp honey

1. Combine the banana, the berries, yogurt, wheat germ, honey, and 1/4 cup of the juice in a blender.
2. Blend for about 1 minute or until all of the ingredients are mixed. Add in the rest of the juice and the milk and blend until smooth.
3. Serve