Two Nights in Two Acts: The Allure of the Screen

Act I

Scene: My bedroom on a week night, 9:45 PM. The first of four alarms to get me up for work the next morning is scheduled to go off in t-minus 8 hours. An alarm reminding me to get ready for bed has come and gone. But there I am, sitting up propped against the pillows, iPad in my lap, watching Game of Thrones.

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9:45 PM – I’ll go to bed once this episode is finished.

9:51 PM – I love this show. How have I been missing out until now?

10:06 PM – Episode ends.

10:09 PM – Post-episode commentary ends. Preview for next episode plays.

10:10 PM – No way Danny sells one of her dragons. Screw it, I’m watching the next episode; I can hack it on less than seven hours of sleep. (total lie. I suck at life on little sleep)

10:37 PM – Arbitrarily scroll through Facebook on phone while watching the iPad.

10:47 PM – Casually glance at the clock on my bedside table, with a small pang of regret when I see how late it is. Also noticed: the book and magazine that I’ve been meaning to read for weeks, always opting instead to look at a screen until bed. Yawns.

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11:07 PM – Episode ends.

11:10 PM – Post-episode commentary ends. Preview for next episode plays.

11:11 PM – Man that looks like a good one. I think that red wedding episode is in this season, too.

11:12 PM – No, time to call it a night. (Yawns)

11:13 PM – Begrudgingly get out of bed to charge my iPad. Get back into bed, smug with pride: This is what discipline looks like.

11:15 PM – Grab my phone, quick check of work/personal emails. While I’m at it, check in with NPR and Weatherbug. Yawns.

11:21 PM – Oh, and Buzzfeed. A Disney character quiz that ONLY real fans will get? I’m in.

11:37 PM – And eHarmony app, because true love. Maybe someone’s looked at my profile…

11:51 PM – How HARD is it to find a decent man?!?!?!?!

11:52 PM – One more peek at Facebook before bed. Yawning. Lots of yawning. Very tired.

12:21 AM – God I’m tired, time to call it a night.

12:21 AM – Place phone on bedside table, being too tired to get out of bed and plug it in to charge. Lights out, asleep instantly.

—musical interlude—

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5:45 AM – Alarm. Nope

5:50 AM – Alarm. Nope

6:00 AM – Alarm. Nope

6:20AM – Alarm. Nope

6:38 AM – PANIC.

7: 22 AM – Dash through shower, get ready for work and sprint out the door. Did not have time for coffee. Phone is at 22 percent.

7:37 AM – (in traffic) I hate this. I hate myself.

End scene.

Act II

Scene: My bedroom on a week night, 9:15 PM. The first of four alarms to get me up for work the next morning is scheduled to go off in t-minus 8.5 hours. I am sitting up propped against the pillows, iPad in my lap, watching Game of Thrones.

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9:21 PM – I love this show. How have I been missing out until now?

9:30 PM – Alarm reminding me to get ready for bed. There are five minutes left in the episode.

9:35 PM – Episode ends.

9:38 PM – Post-episode commentary ends. Preview for next episode plays.

9:39 PM – Man, that looks like a good one. I think that red wedding episode is in this season, too.

9:40 PM – Internal struggle between watching another episode and choosing to put the iPad away and get to bed at a decent hour like a sane person. Sanity wins.

9:41 PM – Begrudgingly get out of bed to charge my iPad AND my phone. Get back into bed, torn between feeling proud of myself for my superb maturity and wanting to stick it to the man by watching more GoT. Yawns.

9:42 PM – Reflect on the realization that, as much as I enjoy staying up late, I cannot – CANNOT – stand waking up tired, late and already defeated…which will be my reality if I continue to sit in bed with a screen in my lap. A morning person I am not; giving in to more screen time and a super-late bedtime simply means I am doomed to fail when my alarm goes off in the morning. It is a black and white issue for me. And if I’m honest, it does more damage than just shortchanging myself on sleep and my first cup of joe. It goes deeper, and stays with me.

9:45 PM – Pick up the magazine from my bedside table. Make a mental note to read more in my spare time. Yawns.

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9:46 PM – I love this magazine; so well written. Why do I not read it more often?

10:24 PM – Lots of yawning. Very tired.

10:25 PM – I can’t remember if I’ve already read that line.

10:27 PM – (Still reading the same line. Yawning) Just finish this paragraph and you can go to sleep.

10:29 PM – Magazine slips from my hands and fall to the floor.

10:29 PM – And that’s my cue: time for lights out.

10:30 PM – Lights out. Asleep within minutes.

—-musical interlude—

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5:45 AM – Alarm. Nope

5:50 AM – Alarm….fine….

5:55 AM – Drinking coffee. Thank you baby Jesus.

7:00 AM – Showered, dressed for work, caffeinated and getting in the car. Phone is at 100 percent. Happy. Grateful. In this moment, I am completely ok.

7:01 AM – Start ignition. Bring it.

End scene.

A Cat’s Love

Nineteen years of cuddles, comfort, and play. It’s only been a day since my sweet kitty has been gone, but I miss her more than I imagined was possible. My heart physically aches. She was my best friend.

We were both babies when we met. She was 6 months old and I was just a 20 year-old college student. Together we lived in San Antonio, Austin, Boston, and Dallas. We had many different roommates, friends, and parties.  She was by my side through every gut-wrenching break-up and with me the day I married the love of my life, John. She loved him, even though he wasn’t a “cat guy,” and she certainly knew it. She even tolerated a new addition to the family, Roxy, a DOG. She cuddled with me through an exciting first pregnancy and a very painful second one. She became besties with Luke and even let Zoe pet (pull) her fur.

Throughout my entire adult life, Bella and I were inseparable. Up until her last moments, she was by my side. Most cats hide when they are sick and ready to die. The only time she left me was when John and I were desperately trying to get her to eat something. She retreated to the closet as if to say “Mom, stop. I am ready.” Moments after I texted the vet that we were going to let her go, she came out of the closet and never left my side.

Pets are incredible creatures. They are such intuitive beings. They know when we hurt. They take care of us when we are sick. They celebrate with us when we are happy. They remain loyal, no matter what we say or what we do. They love unconditionally. And all they ask for in return is nourishment, love, and comfort. It’s really pretty simple and a lesson we can all learn.

Today was my first day without her. I woke up to silence. There was no meowing at the foot of the bed, no purring in my ear, and no soft fur on my face. Roxy slept in her place all day and looked at me with sad eyes. I swear she misses her too. John, the guy who doesn’t like cats, had tears in his eyes. While it hurts so very much to say goodbye, I am so grateful that she was there the day I went to the Humane Society of San Antonio.

Sweet Bella, you were an incredible companion. I am so glad you are at peace. As our vet Mandy said, “Enjoy your wings, girl.”

Plans Shmans

Luke’s Lessons
“Plans Shmans”

Angela Luke first meeting
The very moment I met my sweet baby boy.

A few months into my pregnancy, I started to envision the delivery day.  I researched, asked friends about their experiences, and went to a lot of childbirth classes.  The birthing class leaders told us to write a birth plan, which included anything from who you wanted in the room to what type of music, scents, and medication you did or didn’t want during the delivery.  I had a pretty clear picture of Luke’s birth. It would be incredibly painful, I knew, because I wanted a natural birth (or “normal birth” as they called it in our childbirth classes). I, under no circumstances, was going to have a “non-normal” Cesarean birth.  I would use the hippie dippie tub to ease my pain.  I would have lavender scent throughout the room. John would use yoga assists to help me calm down and we would ujjayi breath together. My favorite Jason Mraz song “Living in the Moment” would be playing in the background. It would be the way nature intended it.  And I would wear my momma badge proudly.

As I was planning this experience, Luke was on a different path. He decided to get cozy in the breech position which means his little head was up instead of down. He stayed this way, week after week.  I looked into ways to “turn” him (including practicing headstands) but nothing seemed to work. With my amniotic fluid going down coupled with the fact that I am a first time mom, the odds were not in my favor for him to do a half somersault and cooperate with me. Doctors no longer deliver breech babies the “normal” way.  They deliver breech babies by Cesarean section.   My birth plan was toast. This kid was coming out surgically.

I was pretty bummed about this realization but decided to accept what is and plan for a new kind of “perfect” delivery.  I asked my doctor if I could play my music during the birth.  It was pretty much the only thing I could add to the experience since we were in a sterile operating room.  No tubs, birthing balls, or yummy scents allowed.

There is so much I can share about the birth, and I will in other posts and in my classes, but for today, my biggest lesson to share is this: have a plan but be open, able, and willing to change it at any moment because when you least expect it, the Universe (or your little unborn baby) will decide something different for you.

As Luke entered the world, “Living in the Moment” was playing.  John was holding my hand.  The tech took photos with our “good” camera (although I am not sure I wanted to see everything she captured!).  Tears filled my eyes.  Our little man was here.  I was a mom (I earned my badge)! John was a dad.  Suddenly the delivery method made zero difference to either of us.  We were in awe. We were in love.  We experienced true magic.

And what is “normal” anyway?

 “Normal”? I didn’t have a “normal” experience with either of my babies…My first was in the hospital for two extra days due to contaminated bloodwork, and my second was in the NICU because he had a hole in his tiny lung. Now, they are both happy and healthy…and the only thing I care about is the fact that I can snuggle their cute little faces any time I want! 🙂
 Exactly! Normal is such a silly way to put it. I too was surprised by my C-section– people kept saying “you’re in such good space; you won’t have any issues.” We really just never know what our bodies will do! For my second, I tried for a VBAC. My water broke, got to 5cm… then they saw he was breech. Healthy kids are all that matter!

7 Gems from Nana and Papa

As Baby Wags’ birthday quickly approaches, I find myself thinking more about the type of mom I want to be and what I want to teach him.  In journaling this, I couldn’t help but think about my parents, Marie and Bob Barrese, and the lessons they’ve taught me.  There are so many, but the seven below are the ones I cherish the most.

1.     Surprise people – From the time my brother Tony and I were little munchkins to now, Mom and Dad have always surprised us.  I remember being a kid eating breakfast on a seemingly regular summer morning and hearing, “We are going to Great America today (Six Flags)!!!” “Ahhh!” we screamed. “How fun! We had no idea!”  The surprises continued on into adolescence, with a vacation to Hawaii (we thought we were going to California, and I kept telling the flight attendant that we were on the wrong flight), and even as adults, we are constantly surprising each other with gifts, both small and large.  Taking the time to plan something thoughtful for the people you love without them doing any of the work is one of the coolest feelings in the world.  Click here to see when we told Marie & Bob about Baby Wags.

2.     Bake for others – If you know my mom, you know she bakes.  But Marie is not the average baker; I am convinced she could have her own show on The Food Network.  Every Christmas, she bakes over twenty-five different types of cookies and gives them out as gifts.  My brother and I took on this tradition (in a much more reasonable manner) and give baking treats to friends, family, and co-workers at various times of the year.  There’s just nothing like a home-cooked, sweet treat to show you care.

3.     Keep in touch with people who matter – When I was twelve, our family moved from Chicago to a suburb of Boston. At a young age, I learned to make the effort (because not a lot of people do) to keep in touch with the friends and family I left behind. Next time you are in traffic (and are not in a school zone and you have a hands-free phone, of course), call someone you haven’t talked to in a while. It will make his/her day, and there is just nothing like a connection with an old friend. It’s not enough to just think about people.  If they matter to you, make the effort to connect.

4.     Do what you love – My parents did a great job encouraging my brother and I to do whatever we wanted in life, no matter how crazy it seemed.  Because of this, they ended up with a yoga studio owner and opera conductor, which I personally think is super cool. Even if you can’t make it your career, find something that makes you happy and do it, often. Always be curious and in exploration. You just never know what you are going to find. I mean, I certainly didn’t major in yoga in college!

5.     Don’t procrastinate – The Barreses are all about getting shi* done. When my dad sees that a mirror needs to be hung or gutters cleaned out, he is on the project before I can finish my sentence.  When my mom sees that the laundry needs to be folded, there is nothing else she will do until it’s folded and neatly put away. They don’t mess around; they never wait for the infamous “later,” and they are always in action.  When I’m going through a lazy spell, I channel my mom and ask myself the question, “What would Marie do?” The answer is always: get up and get it done. My reward for not procrastinating is guilt-free time to play and do the things I enjoy.

6.     Always say thank you –When someone does something nice for you, acknowledge them and let them know how much you appreciate them.  This could be through a verbal thank you, a phone call, email, or my personal favorite, a handwritten note.  Mom and Dad instilled a sense of gratitude in us at a young age. I am always on the lookout for fun thank you notes. I keep a stash in my office and send them all of the time. There is just nothing like getting real mail these days!

7.     Celebrate everything! – Italians are known for celebrating everything. When we had a recital or performance, they brought us flowers and took us out for dinner.  Every birthday, anniversary, and holiday (even Halloween) is a BIG DEAL in our family.  I love this because it has made my life richer and simply more fun. I have fond memories of having a haunted house in our garage at Halloween, having my favorite cake on my birthday (which my mom always makes gluten free now!), and feeling so much love and support on my wedding day.  We all know that life is short. Celebrating every moment, big and small, makes life more meaningful.  It’s worth the effort, and it’s just plain fun!

To my sweet baby boy (who I get to meet in just a few days), I cannot wait to pass down these traditions and share life’s gifts with you. But what I am most excited about is what you will inevitably teach me about life, love, and family.

COMMENTS
bob barrese
Who knew? we were making it up as we went along. Maybe number 8 is trust your instincts

Anthony Barrese
4 & 5 are the magical combo! Love T

Rebekah
You will be a great mom! He will learn these lovely things from you and many more amazing things! It will be a beautiful journey and I am so excited for you that is begins for you in just one short day!

Cassandra (cassandra@yogasportdallas.com)
I just love this!! I also would just like to say I’m pretty excited for Marie to be down in this region with those baking skills! 😉 xoxoxoxo

10 Years, 10 Lessons

Last night was a big night for me. As I left the studio and locked up, I realized to myself, “The next time I walk in, the studio will be ten years old!” It’s such a big milestone for me, for the studio and for our community. A lot has happened over the past ten years – it seemed only fitting to share a few things I’ve learned over time.

Here are the top ten things I learned since opening the studio ten years ago:

1.     We GET to light the incense (or in Baptiste terms, Shift Your Vision).  About five years ago, we were having difficulty getting everyone on staff to do the non-teaching tasks before and after class (light the incense, fill the humidifiers, vacuum, etc). At a teacher meeting, one of my teachers said, “It’s not that we have to light the incense, it’s that we GET to light the incense. It’s a privilege to be the person responsible for creating the environment for our students.” This forever changed the way I personally approached every task as well as the way I manage others today.  Be above nothing. Be willing and excited to do everything.

2.     Let people help. Being a Type A “I will do it all myself” kinda gal, I learned over the years that in order to grow the business (and avoid a nervous breakdown), I needed to ask for help. From asking my parents for financial help when I needed it to keep the doors open to asking my staff to take on bigger roles as I go on maternity leave (!!!), I have learned that people are not only able but willing, and honored, when you ask for their help.

3.     Trust Your Gut. Confession: I never wanted to put mirrors up or play music in the studio. I only had them because I was a terrified 26-year-old studio owner and knew all the other power yoga studios in Dallas used them. I assumed people wouldn’t come if I didn’t follow suite. Then one day many years ago, S Factor, a pole-dancing company out of California called to rent the studio for a weekend. On Saturday morning, we came in to find stripper poles and sassy, purple crushed velvet covering up our mirrors. The morning classes LOVED it. So, we did away with the stripper poles (thank goodness) and my Mom made us more attractive curtains, which we still have today. Voila – no mirrors! We soon took it a step further and stopped playing music and in year three, we even started to Om. And man, The YSC rocks Oms! I’m glad I went with my gut and turned YS into the studio I always wanted, because it makes us very unique today.

4.     Mexican food and power yoga do go together. Seriously, good old Gloria’s and YS are two of the longest standing businesses in the 4140 Lemmon Ave Douglas Court building.  I am not sure what we would do without queso runs while we remodeled, repainted and dressed up the studio.  I can still remember the first YogaSport Yoga School reunion at Gloria’s.  I had a sangria that evening. You’ll often find us yogis meeting, connecting and drinking sangrias and margaritas down there. I mean, hey, you gotta indulge!

5.     Don’t Be Afraid To Have Tough Conversations. Over the years, I’ve had to have a lot of challenging conversations. The first time I fired someone. The first time I told someone they needed to wear deodorant in a heated yoga studio. The first time I told a student that we would no longer play music in classes. And even the first time I sweet-talked Baron into teaching a class at YogaSport (he is my mentor, but he’s kind of famous and doesn’t frequent small studios like YS). Not to mention all the sharing we do during classes. You think us teachers are zen yogis all the time, but sometimes it’s tough to share with our students, even when we know it’s the best thing to do.

6.     Work Your A** Off.  I have learned that owning a business is extremely hard work.  Having the willingness to work late nights, early mornings (hey, I taught a lot of 6ams in the early days, ask Andy D!) and doing the work even on the “I don’t wanna” days, is what will help you succeed. Besides queso, of course.

7.     Be Willing To Let Go When Things Aren’t Working.  Throughout the years I tried several different class formats and teachers, trying to be the studio for everyone. I kept thinking that if I just tried harder, marketed more, paid more, etc. I could make it work. Then I realized, hey sometimes things don’t work and you just have to let them go. And that’s OK. Trying something and letting it go isn’t failure. It’s part of the growth process. Now we only offer Baptiste Power Yoga and it works. And wow, it’s so much easier to manage, go figure!

8.     Don’t Listen to the Dream Crushers.  If you are willing to do number 6 (and you mean it), then you must also ignore the dream crushers.  I still remember several people, including someone I considered a mentor, warning me not to open a studio. They said the market was saturated, there was no money in owning a yoga studio and I was too young to run a successful business without a partner.  I am grateful for my stubborn Italian heritage, and my incredibly supportive parents, who gave me the gumption and drive to ignore the crushers, and my own fears, to see what happened.

9.     Share The Big Stuff.  From having my fiance dump me just months before our wedding, to going through grueling fertility treatments, I have shared the deepest secrets of my life with The YSC both in class and through my writing.  I remember when I opened, my website bio talked about how I used yoga to help with my depression and anxiety in my early 20’s. A friend asked me if I thought I was being a little too personal.  To that, I said no. Sure, there are things that will stay off limits, but there’s also a cathartic and connective result when you’re open and honest about life’s challenges.

10. Time Really Does Fly! As I look back on 10 years, I can still feel the mixture of excitement and anxiety as I opened the doors on May 15, 2004.  And tonight, as I closed up shop for the last time before YS turns 10, I feel like a completely different person.  The person who locked the doors tonight has become a strong, confident and accomplished woman. A wife and mom-to-be. A lot can happen in 10 years (even 10 months or 10 minutes) and if you don’t pay attention, you will miss it. That means getting your nose out of the computer, tablet and phone, looking up and enjoying the people and things around you.

A lot has changed for me personally and for the studio over the past ten years. Two things that haven’t changed though, is the power of my getting on my yoga mat and the power of our community. No matter how hectic or stressful a day, no matter how many people join us, it’s still, and always will be, my second home. This studio and the people in it have helped me live! And I hope it helps you live too. Make sure to enjoy every moment, because another ten years will be gone before you know it.

I invite you to share in the comments how your yoga practice and The YogaSport Community has helped you live.

In love and light,
Angela

COMMENTS
John Wagner
I’m so proud of you for following your dream and being successful at it. Congrats on 10 years of successful business!
Love, John

liza Collins (lizadenton@yahoo.com)
Congratulations my friend! And just think: when the studio turns 20, Baby Wags will be in 5th grade. Whaaaaaat? Xoxooxo!
So much love, Liza.

Rebekah Feather
Congratulations my dear friend! I am so thankful to have been a part of the wonderful, life-changing YS Community you have built over the last 10 years. Well done. You certainly deserve to celebrate!!!
-Rebekah F.

Andy D
Oh sweet Angela! While you were working your a** off at our 6 am classes (which were often just us!), you were giving me more than you could ever know. Not only did you cultivate in me a love for yoga that has kept me coming back to the mat for ten years, but you quite literally saved my sanity. That is not hyperbole. In 2004 I was facing a personal and marital crisis so severe that I did not even know how to get out of bed. I promised myself I would let everything go except 3 things: I would breathe, take care of my dog, and go to yoga. Those three things got me through and instilled in me the tools to find lightness in the most uncomfortable situations. Although I love living in Austin, I miss YS! And now, even my hubby has taken up a practice. So cool!

Melinda (pmroland@swbell.net)
Ten years is an incredible accomplishment for a yoga studio in Dallas, since most of them don’t last past 2 or 3 years. You are to be admired Angela for your ability to market like no other, keep going when it seems everything is falling a part, to sharing so much of yourself with so many. I personally , thank you, for being my first yoga mentor, teacher and friend many years ago. Best wishes for the next 10 years, the upcoming birth of your first son, and many more blessings to unfold.
Namaste,
Melinda Roland

Amanda
Love this and you…I have learned so much in my journey so far with yoga at YogaSport, here is one of my favorites:

Love & Yoga. I see so many different version of love in our community at Yoga Sport and it is so amazing how everyone is embraced, it gives me such hope to know I have a community and wonderful people around me rooting for me. Who knows if I get on the airplane later today and sit next to a cute guy (I am just putting this out in the universe), but what I do know is through gaining the courage to sign up for 40 days, waking up to attend 6am classes before I leave for work trips, walking into yoga studios around the US, signing up for teacher training, turning in my notice to my landlord here in Dallas and signing a lease in Austin…I have such a loving support system and a place that will always feel like home, anything is possible! I also know that is on my mat anywhere is home, but more importantly in YogaSport.

Jenny
Wow, just wow! Very powerful lessons learned and shared. YogaSport has come such a long way, and is a blessing to so many. Happy birthday, and here’s to 10 more years! 🙂

Molly
I love this, Angela! Especially love the picture from 10 years ago. So you asked how YogaSport changed our lives…YS has given me so many new, incredible friends, I’m 8% less body fat since the first time I walked in the door a year ago and your Teacher Training program has completely changed my world. I’m a better person because of the studio and especially, because of you. Thank you so much for opening the studio and for being so welcoming to everyone who walks in. Congrats on the anniversary, here’s to 10 more years (and then some)!

Goodbye, Sweet Lola

On a recent afternoon, I decided to skip out on work, put Lola’s top down, and take Roxy to the dog park. The weather was gorgeous: 75 degrees and sunny; it’s as if the Universe knew it was going to be my last day with my sweet little car. As the wind rushed by and the sun warmed my skin, the memories started flowing.

It was early 2008. I was never into cars, but since my Civic had been in the shop more often than I had anticipated, I decided to buy a different kind of car, one that made a statement about me and where I was in life, which was an early mid-life crisis of sorts. I’d never thought I would be 31 and single, but there I was, so I decided to embrace it. Lola is an MX5 (formerly known as a Miata) two seater, hard top convertible. She is sexy, fun, and powerful, all of the qualities I wanted to embody. I didn’t need a man or a family to define me. I was happy and free. As I left the Mazda dealer with my shiny new car, the dealer said, “Smile, people are watching you now.”

After many years of excruciatingly painful and often ridiculously funny dates from online dating, my husband John showed up in my eHarmony matches. The Universe definitely has a sense of humor. He is 6’2” and can barely fit in Lola. So, for the last five plus years, we have driven in his car. I was secretly OK with this because it meant that Lola was still my car, and thus a symbol of my individuality and freedom.

Fast forward to today: I am 26 weeks pregnant and making decisions that are no longer about me. I can’t keep Lola because legally you can’t have a baby in the front seat of a car – not to mention the fact that Lola is small and somewhat dangerous for a pregnant momma to be driving.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the new car I am buying; it’s spacious, has a fancy interior, and all the bells and the whistles. But, it’s not Lola. Today, I give up more than a car. I give up a symbol of the time in my life when I was independent and carefree.  It’s such a bittersweet moment; I longed for this day for years yet I’m still immensely sad about letting Lola go.

As the saleswoman started to prepare the paperwork and I was fighting back tears, I remembered that change, even good change, can often be challenging to move through.  It’s so important for us to cherish each experience, each stage in life, because before we know it, we will be moving on to the next.  I will forever have fond memories of the time I rode around town with the radio blaring and breeze tossing around the strands of my hair, just me and Lola. Today, however, I look forward to creating the next stage in my life

As we were leaving the dealership with our new baby-friendly car, John asked, “So what’s her name?” I didn’t have to think about it. It just came to me: “Her name is Big Momma.”

Welcome to the Wagner family, Big Momma.

Angela Big Momma car

COMMENTS
Sherrye Bass
Angela- you are so right. Enjoy every moment of everyday because life is all about change and how we manage it. Life can be a joyous adventure if we just allow it to be so. Miss you and the studio and I hope to see you soon! Sherrye Bass

John Wagner
Thank God for leg room!!

And Just Like That, Shift Happens

Angela pregnant shift happensI have always been a very open person. Throughout my years as a yoga teacher, teacher trainer, and writer, I have openly shared the deepest and most personal parts of my life. I truly believe that we learn by connecting and sharing. But, for much of 2012 and 2013, I felt isolated, private, and in hiding. The experience of trying to conceive was different. I felt a different type of sadness and pain than ever before. And this story wasn’t just mine. It was something John and I experienced together, as a couple, and, until now, our story didn’t feel safe to share with the world.

2012 started off with lots of hope and excitement. John and I were settled in our new house, stable in our jobs, and ready to start our family. What an exciting time in life! But, things didn’t work out as planned. Each month brought a little more disappointment when we realized that our next step wasn’t happening as easily as we had hoped. In early 2013, we started the assisted fertility process.

2013 was filled with unending doctor and hospital visits. Some months I would go to the doctor for ten days in a row, constantly pricked and prodded by the best specialists in town. What was once a beautiful and natural process became an impersonal and scientific experiment, and I was the lab rat. Test after test, procedure after procedure, the doctors never found anything “wrong,” except for the obvious fact that I could not get pregnant. Everything seemed perfect, but no matter how perfect the circumstances, timing, or procedures, I could not get pregnant.

During these times, my yoga practice, close family and friends, and my focus on others helped me get through each day. But something dark haunted my soul. In my mind, I was a disappointment to my husband, my family, and myself. I wasn’t good enough to be a mom. It was my fault for building my career and waiting until the apparently ancient age of 35 to start having a family. People told me I was too stressed, trying too hard or, my personal favorite, that God only gives us what we can handle. Some days I cried my eyes out; other days I wanted to punch people in the face. All days, I didn’t feel like myself anymore. It was as if someone else had taken over my reactions and emotions. Intellectually, I knew that my feelings weren’t logical; but they were real, and I lived them as my truth.

After six months of physically, mentally, and financially painful fertility treatments, I was still not pregnant. Done with the daily injections, crazy-making hormones, painful surgeries, and endless doctor’s visits, I decided I couldn’t handle it anymore. I sat up, night after night, trying to decide if it was even worth it. I started to visualize a life without children. Would John and my parents ever forgive me? Would we be happy, fulfilled, joyful without kids? Regardless of the answers, I just knew that for 2013, I was done and over it.

We packaged up the remaining fertility meds, cleaned out our drawers of fertility and baby books, set up the “will be baby’s room” as Roxy’s dog room, and, as much as we could, moved on with our lives. I was in a deep depression, barely getting out of bed some days, but made a promise to myself and my husband to continue to teach my classes and teacher trainings and show up for others as much as humanly possible.

Then, shift happened, and I was suddenly two months pregnant. What? We didn’t believe the news. It wasn’t on our radar; we weren’t “trying,” and it was very unlikely to happen for us naturally, if at all. Yet, there it was, a positive home pregnancy test, followed by another positive home pregnancy test, two successful sonograms, a healthy heartbeat, and positive tests all around. As I write this blog post, I have a hard time believing that I am, in fact, 16 weeks pregnant with a beautiful, expanding belly.

After my last failed IVF cycle, I texted my mom because I couldn’t talk without crying hysterically. I wrote, “I have lost hope.” I will always remember her one word response. “Never.” She taught me that losing hope wasn’t a choice. Staying positive was a way of life, an attitude and a truth. Life continues to surprise us, just when we least expect it. I can’t explain why or how, and after all that we have been through, I don’t even care. Today, I simply enjoy the blessing that is our baby. And, for the first time in a very long time, I feel a freedom to share my feelings, my experiences, and my life with all of you. A very important part of me has returned. I thank you for listening and sharing in our incredibly joyful celebration of hope, life and love.

In love and light,
Angela

COMMENTS
Beth
Angela, what amazes me is you were having some of your toughest times in life when I was having the most trying time of my life, but your words and classes were able to get me through my difficult time. This speaks to the phenomenal teacher, person, (and now mom) you are!!Thank you and congratulations!!

Meera Snyder
Thank you for sharing your raw, authentic, genuine story with us. I’m sooooo incredibly happy for you!

randy
Angela what great news for you and John. It was nice sharing with all of us what you have been going thru. I wish you two the best and comfort as a family to come!!!!!!!

Peg Bolen
Congratulations Angela. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful news with your yogi community. Even those of us who are far away keep a special place, and eye out, for you and the YS community. Enjoy the beginning of the trip of a lifetime! Namaste friend.

Neal Hacker
Way to go guys!!!

Sally
Thank you for sharing your journey – I have often used the life experiences that you have so willingly shared, to give advice/examples (sometimes unsolicited!) to my daughter, of how to persevere in life, how to go through love and loss and find love again, and how to go against the grain as a female business owner to follow your bliss as you have done. Although my infertility journey was nowhere near the depth of yours, I too experienced that initial shock of, “wait – this is the next step, this is my plan in life” but it didn’t happen that way! Your choosing to share your truth through that journey will inevitably give someone else hope that might not otherwise see any light anywhere. So incredibly happy for you and also happy to be able to observe the unfolding of this perfectly timed miracle occurring in yours and John’s lives.

Emily Threet
I’m glad you wrote all of that out. Thanks for sharing. Happy for you.

Kristee
Angela! Just got a chance to read this! You’re such an eloquent writer… What a sweet unexpected blessing! I know this baby is already so loved. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your heart! Love to your growing family! – Kristee Walker

Barbara
Bravo! I have been there and thank you for the words that will help others faced with a difficult and unexpected fertility journey. What a lucky child to get such great parents! Congratulations!!!

Amy
Congratulations, Angela! Your honest, open and heartfelt story brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t be happier for you and John. You will be an amazing mother and you are deserving of every joy that life brings you. All my love, Amy.

Alice Riccardi
Great news Angela! It truly is a miracle in the making. Wishing you and your husband much love and joy!!!! Alice

Feminine Power

As I was teaching to a Level One Teacher Training Bootcamp, I heard Baron ask, “Are you afraid of your feminine energy?” I suddenly stopped, looked around at the 100+ yogis in the room and became quiet. I was shocked by this question, not really understanding why it was being asked. But I thought about it for a while and answered honestly and without emotion, “I think I am.” It was one of the biggest “A-ha” moments of my life.

That was almost three years ago. I was participating at a Baptiste Training called BADASS, a breakout program within Level One. Nine of us were coached all week on our teaching and our big finale was teaching to the Level One Participants while being coached by our teacher, Baron Baptiste. I was super excited about this moment. It was rare to get one-on-one coaching from Baron. But, I never expected such a life changing moment to happen while teaching Triangle Series.

Baron continued on. “I know and we know you are a strong, powerful and successful woman. I have seen you grow yourself and your studio throughout the years. But now you don’t have to prove it. Find your softness and give that to yourself and your students. You won’t be able to take away the strength and power. That is a part of who you are.” I started to tear up. It hit. It really hit. But in a good way. There was so much freedom in what I was hearing.

After the training, I met my then-boyfriend (now hubby) John in Hawaii for a vacation. I immediately told him what Baron said. He wasn’t at all surprised and acted as if it was common knowledge. When I got home, I called my parents and told them the story. My dad said, “Well, Duh.” Seriously, my dad said “Duh,” I will never forget it. And then my dad continued on about how I had always been a bit of a Tom Boy. I was floored by their responses. How could this be so obvious to the men in my life and not to me? Why didn’t someone tell me?!

My experience led me on a path of personal exploration and excavation. I began to see myself from an outside view. As a kid and teenager, I didn’t sing in the choir or play an instrument, I participated in track and field hockey. After college, I became a fitness teacher and personal trainer. I liked feeling strong. In addition to being physically strong, I always felt like I had to prove that I was good enough. I always felt like I had to prove my abilities, strength and success to people. I always felt like I had to be fiercely independent and not need anyone. Then I started to think about my daily life. How I hate to blow dry my hair. I dislike it so much that I used to go outside with a wet head in the winter, in Boston, and freeze my booty off. That’s how much I hated doing my hair (and still do). I wore clothes that were too baggy, and very often raggedy. I lived in sweats or my yoga clothes. Even when I wasn’t teaching yoga. Well yikes, there really wasn’t much femininity, or gentleness in my life.

The femininity part was interesting. But what was even more interesting was the question about my fear. Was I afraid of my femininity? Well shit, yes. I didn’t realize it but my quest for independence, a successful business and a need to always prove myself made me think that the opposite qualities were weak. Staying home to take care of my condo, learning how to cook, spending time on my hair and makeup? Are you kidding? And Baron really understood it for what it was. A fear. If I let people see this soft, gentle side, what will they think? What will I become? Of course now I realize what a crazy lie I was living. And I had created a pretty tough path for myself. It was exhausting. I didn’t realize that I needed someone to say, it will be OK. You will still be Angela. You will still be strong and successful. But you can be pretty and soft and gentle too.

When I came back from that Bootcamp, I started teaching my powerful classes but I added gentleness, ease and grace to my teaching. It was like magic. My classes were packed. One of my teachers said, “I don’t know what happened at Bootcamp but I LOVE the way you are teaching. I am not even sure what is different, but I love it.” I smiled. I kept this story close to me for a long time. While I explored how this affected different aspects of my life (my relationship with John, my teaching, my dress, my attitude towards my studio, staff, etc), I applied my new way of being. And it worked. I now let John take the trash out in the alley behind our condo. I didn’t need to prove that I could do it on my own. I let him take care of me and it felt good for both of us. I approached my students with a new, softer attitude. I still made them work just as hard, but it came from a softer place. There was more compassion, ease and joy. Ah, there was joy.

Today, almost three years later, I openly share this experience. We as teachers often say that the way you are on your yoga mat is the way you are in your life. It’s so true. We can’t change our way of being by putting on a new hat. And I certainly couldn’t hide this when I taught yoga. I feel grateful that my teacher took a stand for me and my growth by telling me the truth.

Today I have a new freedom in my life and I work on it everyday. Just last night I had another femininity fight with myself. It had been a few days since I had shaved my legs and tomorrow was my day off with John. Ugh, I hate doing this, I’ll just do it tomorrow. I looked at the razor and said, discipline. Shave your legs. These kinds of things seem silly and small, and they are in the grand scheme of life. But I make an effort to enjoy the feminine side of myself because I have realized that it really is pretty fabulous. And, while we were watching TV and cuddling on the couch, John rubbed my leg and mentioned how soft my legs felt. He had no idea that I was writing this post.

So, if you have read Brittany’s posts (The Beginning, Round 2, and Round 3) and about our new journey together, it will all make sense. Clothes are a huge issue for me, and you can now understand why. I’ll share more about this struggle as the Closet Zen/Shakti Style Project continues. For now, I will continue to put effort into my soft side. I even made an appointment to get my hair cut this week. These are all big things in my world.

Honor

Yesterday was September 11, 2011. I cringe at the sound of that date. The simple words, nine eleven, are so heavy and weighted with so much history and meaning. To be honest, it’s something I have avoided thinking about for the past nine-ish years.

On 9/11/01, I had just moved to Dallas. I was working for a small advertising agency and trying to settle into my new life. I remember waking up that morning to my radio alarm clock (remember those?). I didn’t hear my usual morning show banter or the latest pop song, I woke up to something much different. As I tried to clear my head and figure out what I was hearing, I got dressed and headed to work. It wasn’t until I got to work and talked to a co-worker, Sarah, that I realized what was happening. And even then, I really had no idea. She immediately said, “It’s Osama Bin Laden.” I remember thinking, “Who? What is she talking about?”

Let me backtrack and say that as a young adult, I never watched news, read the paper or kept up with anything that wasn’t a part of my immediate life. I knew more about the world when I was in high school because my Social Studies teacher, Mr. Stockbridge, would not let us pass high school if we didn’t throughly understand what was happening between the Sunnis and the Shiites. I remember going home and my dad being so impressed that I even knew those words. Being a history buff and political junkie, his mouth watered as I showed interest in the world. And then I went to college. I became totally self involved. I never read the paper and I rarely watched TV (except the occasional 90210 drinking game parties). I had no idea what was happening outside of the Trinity University Bubble.

As 9/11/01 unfolded, I stay glued to my friend’s TV (our TV didn’t work for some reason). I stayed at Chuck’s house for hours and hours, crying and watching the tragedy. I watched it so much that I became obsessed. I couldn’t sleep at night. I had nightmares. I felt terrible for having such a good life. For the first time, I felt scared that maybe we were all in danger. So, I decided to stop cold turkey. I stopped watching TV, I stopped reading the paper, I stopped listening to anything related to 9/11. I pretended that it didn’t happen. And I did this for years.

Fast forward to yesterday. I was so ignorant about it all, I thought last year was the 10th anniversary. Yes, I realize it’s simple math, but I avoided even thinking about the year that it happened. John and I went about our Sunday, making breakfast, going shopping and teaching/taking my class at 4pm. Someone walked into the studio and mentioned it. I immediately changed the subject and said, “People do not come to yoga to be reminded of this.” I didn’t even mention it in the final comments of class. It’s like it was a regular Sunday afternoon.

After dinner, John asked, “What do you want to do?” I said, “We need to watch something about 9/11.” He looked at me and without saying anything, he nodded in agreement. It was interesting. Neither of us had mentioned it much that day. But we knew we had a responsibility, as Americans, to honor the day, the people and the country. We turned on the TV and watched a special on the 9/11 Commission Report. Then we watched “9/11 As It Happened” which replayed the NBC coverage from that morning. We finished by watching the NBC 9/11 reporters talk about what it was like for them to deliver the news of the tragedy to the American people.

We held hands, cried and looked at each other a lot. We told each other we loved each other. We told each other how lucky we are. For the first time, we experienced it together. Then we recounted where we were that day, what we were doing and how we heard the news. It’s one of those days everyone remembers where they were, what they were doing and how they heard the news.

I woke up today feeling funky. Surprisingly, no nightmares, just a fogginess. Although I feel a little funny, I feel good that John and I honored an important day together. Life is not always a party, but ignoring the bad stuff doesn’t make it go away. I feel less ignorant, selfish and more connected to my fellow human beings. Today I am excited to connect with people, get out of my small mind, and live my life. It’s so easy for me, and many of us, to stay in our little worlds. But the big world will continue to happen, whether we choose to pay attention or not.

Last night, I said to John, “We need to get a flag for the house.” He said, “Yes, we do. Let’s get one this week.”

Wrong Turn

Last week I was driving around town trying to find our local Kroger. John and I moved up North a few months ago and are still feeling our way around our new neighborhood. I completely missed the street and drove miles past it. As I banged a U-ie (is that how you spell it?!), I saw a sign for TJMaxx. TJMaxx brings back fond childhoold memories. My mom, a very skilled bargain hunter, frequented discount stores in search of a steal. I really didn’t have anything specific in mind but I figured since I was sort of lost in space anyway, why not take a few minutes to see if I could find a treasure? Because I am a “I can never veer away from THE PLAN” kinda-gal, this decision was a pleasant surprise.

So, I ventured in, found Bella some fabulous kitty bowls and came across this sign. I didn’t purchase it but I did take some time to soak up the simple yet profound words. You just never know when a wrong turn will take you to a good place. This sign is full of good advice. My favorite is “Your Life is NOW.” I mean, really. Simple, obvious, yet something I really needed to hear. And need to hear on a regular basis.

What’s your favorite?

Sign inspirational