Announcement!

Hi friends!  For those of you following along at home with my pregnancy, I have a bit of an announcement.  I have referenced it a few times so the keen reader may already know this – but Rick and I (after much deliberation) decided to open up the envelope from our doctor telling us the sex of the baby.  It’s a boy!  I grew a penis!  And balls! (Sorry.  I just love saying that.)

Though you never know for sure until the baby is born, for now we are planning on a little man entering our lives in December!  After debating for a long time about whether to open the envelope, Rick finally convinced me that it was the right move for us – and I’m glad we did.

We opened it up in the mountains, by ourselves, sitting in the bed of Rick’s truck.  We had spent the weekend camping with friends and it was beautiful autumn weather.  We felt warm and happy and good about life. As we sat in the sunshine,  I opened the envelope to find a small, folded piece of paper with cursive handwriting that said “It’s a boy! :)”   We both cried with excitement.  It was a special moment that I wish I could relive over again.

Rick had said he wanted a girl. Though I know he is thrilled that he’ll have a son.  I on the other hand, was impartial, but fairly sure that I’d seen some man parts during the 20-week ultrasound.  After googling ultrasound penis images for a few days, I was not convinced of what I’d seen.  But, I did have some other feelings and theories about the baby that led me to think it was going to be a boy.  Rick had to laugh a little when I found out I was right.  He knows he’ll never hear the end of it now!  If you want to hear about my theories you’ll need to address those questions to me privately, because the answers are not exactly blog-appropriate!

We shared the news at my lovely baby shower a couple of weeks ago.  My mom and mother in law had come out to join us, along with my sister.  Rick and I wanted our news to be a fun surprise, so about halfway through the shower I asked my sister if she would give a toast.  After the toast I stood up and presented the group with my incredible pumpkin carving skills.  That morning at 5:30 am I had woken up and secretly carved three pumpkins.  One said “Rick”.  The other said my name, “Kat”, and the third (a small one) said “Frankie”.  I cut a huge hole in the front of the “Kat” pumpkin that served as a display window.  Inside, I placed the “Frankie” pumpkin.  It was a cute little pregnant pumpkin display.

I don’t think anyone thought twice about it, until I stood up and they witnessed the birth of pumpkin “Frankie.”  Inside Frankie I had hidden two cards that I gave to my mom and mother in law, ostensibly as a thank you, for traveling to my shower.  But, when they opened them up, the saw the announcement that we are having a boy!  They both were quiet for a moment, the Lisa buried her head in her hands and started crying (happy tears) and my mom got all teared up.  It was enough to clue the rest of the crowd in that we had shared more than a starbucks card!  It was such a fun moment because nobody expected it, and we got to catch them all off guard!

Since the “reveal” we have been reveling in knowing we have a little man on the way.  More and more, I feel like I am carrying around a little Rick. The reason I think that is because I have been incredibly happy, even-keel, and content the entirety of this pregnancy. It makes me think that the influence Rick exerts on me in our daily lives is being compounded by carrying a little soul inside me that is a lot like his dad.  He wakes up early and kicks me, he loves it when we talk about Rick’s truck, he has Rick’s hands and profile according to our ultrasounds, and he seems to like the Beatles.  One can only conclude that there is a little Rick in there, already training for marathons in the womb.

Lately, the baby has been so active that I can literally sit and watch the movements roll across the skin of my belly – even through my clothes.  It’s all beginning to feel so real. I am so excited.  Yesterday we began our hypnobabies class to learn to birth naturally through hypnosis.  I’m so excited to try it!  Tonight I met with my doula, Julieanne.  I am so thrilled to be working with her!  And last week I found an ayurvedic postpartum doula to work with after the baby is born.  I am so thrilled to see the pieces falling into place.  I cannot wait to be a mom.

 

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Manizales, El Jardin Secreto, and… Montana?

As I write this, there are two puppies curled up on the floor near me, Rick is sitting in hammock a few feet from me, and I’m overlooking a lush, green mountainside that falls away into a valley punctuated by a muddy, boulder-strewn river.  Just setting the scene here.  I almost hate to write this knowing that many of my friends and family are hiding out from the cold weather.  We, on the other hand, are taking a little break from the afternoon heat.

We are about twenty minutes from the city of Manizales, near the coffee-growing zone, at a hostel called the Jardin Secreto.  Unlike most of our previous places, this is actually not owned by locals.  That part is unfortunate.  We practice our Spanish a bit less here than when we stayed in the city of Manizales with the adorable Maria Teresa of the Palogrande hostel – she and I sat and chatted over coffee for a few hours, which was so wonderful for my Spanish and great fun to learn about the city from a local!  But, there are trade-offs, the couple that owns this place is American (from Portland) the woman is a yoga teacher in the Anusara tradition, and she’s into Ayurveda – so I’ve found my little happy place.  Needless to say we have been here a night and already extended our stay for several more.  There is something about the lushness, the cool nights, the pungent smells of dirt and manure, and the myriad flowers in every shape and size – it’s a just a hard place to leave.

Today we toured a sustainable coffee farm, which was great.  Lots and lots of good coffee, and some great food too.  Tomorrow we’ll head up to the mountains to trek to Los Nevados – hopefully approaching something like 15,800 feet of elevation!  The day after we will check out some thermal springs, before heading to Bogota where I’ll be beginning my yoga teacher training with BJ Galvan.  I’m really excited! The fact that I’m able to continue my training with a teacher who I have worked with in Australia is wonderful.  And, the fact that we could combine our travel here and my teacher training (after having to drop out of the training I had planned to do in Australia so that we could move home and get married) is a huge blessing.  I can’t wait!  I’m also thrilled at the opportunity to do some of it in Spanish.  What fun!

I have to say that this trip has strengthened my confidence in my speaking immensely. I have always been able understand Spanish fairly well (having taken it from age four through high school certainly helped with that), but my speaking has really come back to me with two weeks of Spanish school.  It’s wonderful and fun to feel relatively sure of myself as I speak, and to be very sure of what I’m hearing.  It’s been nearly 13 years since I last spoke Spanish regularly – it’s incredible what the brain keeps hidden away. 🙂

Anyway, in case you’re wondering how Manizales, the Jardin Secreto, and Montana are at all related, I guess I can fill in a few details. As we have been traveling, Rick and I have been dedicating a fair amount of time to job applications and figuring out some of the details of our future.  While there are challenges to doing this abroad (namely horrendous Internet in Cartagena, and the fact that we are often on the move) it’s actually been pretty effective.  Up until we left for Medellin I was cranking out a few applications a day – mostly to locations throughout Montana and Colorado. Rick has been doing much of the same, though his path is a bit more reliant on where I go so I’ve been leading the charge.

Having completed our tour of the US cities we were considering calling home just over a month ago now, we determined that we loved the sunshine and ruggedness of the Rockies and probably wanted to make those mountains our home.  Though we have both spent lots of time in Denver, and though Rick owns a house there, we are both drawn to a rural lifestyle.  Montana has been calling to us both now for a long time, and it might just end up being our final destination for several reasons.  I’ve always wanted to live there, and have taken every chance I’ve had to visit.  Rick too has felt the draw to Montana.  He was a ski bum at Big Sky and has spent quite a bit of time in and around Bozeman.  And, just a few summers ago Rick and I biked from Missoula to Seattle, seeing some of the best of the west along the way.  That part of the country holds a chunk of both of our hearts and I think we’d like to try making a go of settling down there and bringing up a family – with the majority of our time spent out in the woods.

There is something about the idea of a more rural life that I love.  I am a social person and I love and feed off the energy I get from other people.  Unfortunately, sometimes I feel as though it takes me away from my own priorities and goals.  I found that to a certain extent, the relative isolation of our lives in Australia (in the sense that we didn’t have a huge social network) allowed us to grow individually and together in some really special ways.  I felt like it allowed me to spend time focusing on things I enjoy and want to do more of – like yoga, art, and writing.  Rick, though in very different ways, sees the appeal of a rural lifestyle.  We both want to improve our ability to live self-sufficiently and be close to nature.  Rick loves the idea of being able to leave the house to go trail running, a luxury that might even draw me back into the runners fold. We also both love that in Montana we can have mountains, water, and sunshine.  I guess I’m greedy, but I just want it all – and I’m willing to give up living in a larger city to have it.  Plus, we both love the winters and the potential of amazing backcountry skiing, great resorts, and opportunities to Nordic ski too.

We have a few irons in the fire for jobs in Montana, but we are more and more convinced that even if we don’t have a specific job to walk into, we might make our way to Montana anyway. We aren’t ruling out other parts of the West.  I certainly love the idea of being close to our friends in Colorado, or somehow finding work we love in Jackson Hole or Boise, but when we consider all the options, we still end up with Montana at the top of our lists.  No final decisions have been made yet, but so far this is where are hearts are leading us.

Adventures in Ayurveda

As I have mentioned on here a bit, I have been working for the past 5 months or so with an Ayurvedic doctor here in Brisbane, who also happens to be a friend and amazing yoga teacher.  I went to a workshop she put on months ago, and was inspired to learn more about ayurveda and how it could help me improve my own health and wellness.

It’s been an adventure delving into this.  First, I learned about my dosha, which in ayurveda means your constitution. There are three; kapha, pitta, and vatta.  They all have very specific qualities that make them unique and reflect elements of the natural world like fire, water, air, and earth.  The way these elements interact together helps to explain the way your body and mind work; your energy levels, your mindset, and many elements of your physical and mental health. Most people are a mix of all three doshas – often the way the three interact will change with the seasons.  But each person has their own unique mix, which is something you’re born with and can’t really change.  You can, however, manage the way the doshas work within your body to attempt to achieve balance and improve your health.

In my case, I didn’t come to Heidi, my doctor, with any specific health issues.  I basically had a host of small things that had bothered me for a long time.  I could hardly eat a meal without being doubled over in stomach pain shortly thereafter.  I had skin rashes, inflammation, and my mind often felt foggy and tired.  I was also extremely moody.  But I took all of these things to be normal – and assumed that most people dealt with the same health frustrations.   I just wanted to see if ayurveda could offer me an alternative to it, and after hearing Heidi talk about it, I thought it might .

When Heidi sat down with me, we had a talk. A serious talk. I walked away feeling like I had bared my soul.  She knew about my mental state, the way I felt about my friends and family and their health issues, my relationships, my stressors, my libido, my sweat, my exercise habits, and every last details about my excrement.  She looked at my tongue and drew pictures of it, and she looked into my eyes and furrowed her brow.  She looked at my fingernails and my skin, and by the time I was done I felt there was nothing Heidi didn’t know about me (and she probably knew things even I didn’t).  It was all a bit intrusive at first, but as we went on I could help but wonder why no doctor had ever asked me some of these questions.

I learned from her, that I’m a pitta.  A pitta pitta.  Where most people are more of a mix of three, I’m pretty much all pitta.  In short, that means I have a fiery nature, a strong metabolism, a strong desire to work and stay busy, and I’m prone to skin and stomach issues.   There is a LOT more to that – but that’s the quick and dirty.  It felt oddly validating to be deemed super pitta.  I’ve been told on more than one occasion, by more than one person, that I am the most intense person they know – which I have never fully understood.  But, Heidi saw it too in my “crazy eyes”, so I’m just accepting it as fact.  I’m intense, apparently.

So, to help balance out the pitta in me and bring me to a more healthful place, I have been going heavy on bitter foods like rocket, kale, broccoli, pomegranate, berries, and other “cooling” things like coconut water, coriander and fennel.  I’m laying off some of my favorite foods like tomatoes, anything salty, all nightshades, and sour things like lemons and oranges.   I also take all sorts of tinctures (not the sketchy type…) and potions.   I meditate and do breathing exercises.  I feel like a witch.  And, I like it.

The end of summer here in Australia is a hot, and extremely wet time of year.  It’s a hard time to be a pitta.  Things go all out of whack – and my body has.   I got a serious infection which I tried to treat with ayurveda – and which was working pretty well until guests arrived, I went traveling, and drank a lot for my birthday (which I do not regret!).  The inability to keep a routine and follow the rules I needed to follow to heal myself totally backfired on me.  I ended up in a lot of pain, upset with myself for failing ayurveda, and in a doctor’s office getting myself some antibiotics – which I try to avoid like the plague.   I am wiped out from battling nasties for weeks now, both with ayurveda and with western meds.

But despite that, I’m pretty hooked on the benefits of ayurveda,  It’s amazing to recognize that by observing my body more closely and recognizing what my symptoms mean, I can figure out how to be healthier and happier by making dietary adjustments.  I don’t have pain after my meals now, because I have worked on cultivating the right flora in my digestive tract.  That has helped my moods (because eating without pain is always a good thing!).  My PMS is less intense, my temper flares less easily, and I don’t feel that inner sense of hardness that I did for so long, which made it hard for me to cultivate empathy for other people.   I feel (more) comfortable being vulnerable. My skin has cleared up so I barely have a hint of skin rash or inflammation.  And I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to work rather than groggy all day and alert in the evening when I want to sleep.  My whole life seems to make more sense and feel more aligned with what is healthy and right.

I know some people might think ayurveda is a bit wacky and out there, but to me you simply cannot argue with results.  I feel amazing. And even though I have been unwell recently (during a hard wet season with LOTS of rain, heat, and humidity – all which really throw off my dosha), I know that I am on a course towards much better health than I have had ever before.  It feels so, so, good.

I want to encourage everyone out there to learn more about ayurveda and improving your health in a natural, diet-based way – because health is so much more than the absence of disease.  The goal is feeling vibrant, alert, and whole.  And I’m finally feeling that way!

The Edge

My blogging here, began with a goal to explore my relationships and emotions through my experiences in the natural world; a fitting lens through which to gaze, as it so markedly shapes my outlook.  But I’ve struggled with it!

Oddly, I have found that though my life in Brisbane takes place outside proportionately more than my life most other places has, I feel a shortage of reflective time to think on the world I move through each day. I’ve suffered a bit of writer’s block in the last few months. I’m not sure if the block was due to lack of time, lack of inward reflection, or the simple fact that I’m just happy.

I once interned with a former stand-up comedian during college.  When I asked him why he no longer did stand-up, he told me it was because he was finally happy.  I wondered at first if he was joking – an ironic answer to make me laugh and maybe see if he still had it – but he wasn’t.

Perhaps the creative muse lives, for many of us, in the seat of discontent.  I know mine has at times.  Why do people ponder their lives, their partners, their direction, if not a gnawing seed of unsettledness?  And isn’t that pondering at the root of creativity?  It seems to me to be.  But then I have been known to paint beautiful things only to cover them in black paint because I prefered its texture.  I’m a weirdo and it’s possible I have a dysfunctional muse.

That being said, I felt inspiration to write for the first time in months last weekend – and it came from something other than discontent.  I took my sisters up to northern Queensland to the city of Cairns for a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef and to see the Daintree forest.  We spent the day on a small sailboat and swam with some beautiful reef sharks and sea turtles.  It was a bit choppy so the water wasn’t perfect, but I love the ocean and the chance to swim with creatures that never cross my path for want of feet.  It calms me to undulate with the movements of the water around me and offer myself up to a universe where I’m at the mercy of so many things beyond my control.  It seems to appropriately align the world – at least to my view.  I could spend my life in the water without complaint.

We had motored out to the reef in the morning, but as the afternoon drew to a close we clambered back into the boat and put it under sail for the ride home.  Now, I haven’t done a lot of sailing, but I am not a total novice either.  I raced a legitimate regatta on Lake Michigan once, and I had the bruises to show for it for weeks. After last weekend though, I wish it was a bigger part of my life because when the wind bowed the sails, and our masts leaned against its force I felt unchained.  My hips rolled with the boat into the swells and my body let go in a way I have felt in only a few other contexts; tearing down a powder run, riding my bike fast down the mountains of Colorado, and paddling big waves in a canoe.

On the Ocean Free

Maybe it’s the speed or the wind in my face that lights me up, but the feeling is as if my body is filling up with honey; pure bliss seeping through me with slow, gooey, goodness.  I say honey both for the fact that it feels like it creeps out from my core to my fingers with this languid viscousness that quells any mental chatter.  And because it sticks. You can call the feeling up after the fact and bask in the glow of it.  You’re in the right place, you’re flying,  you’re not scared, you’re on the edge – and loving it. I’ve heard the feeling referred to as flow.

It’s in those moments that I feel like a conduit between the world below me and something bigger. At those moments I’ve tapped into the source.  It’s a high like no other.

Lately I’ve been dancing with the edge of this sensation on a near-daily basis. I wish I could share it with the people around me because it feels so damn good.  I think I’ve been able to access it through a combination of a lot of yoga and the work I’ve been doing with my friend and ayurvedic doctor who is helping me to work with my diet to regulate my inflammation and moods.  I don’t really know what is happening, but I’m sticking by it.  I feel too good not to.

I have a sense of mental calm that I’ve never really experienced in any sort of sustained way before.  It’s like I’m accessing a better version of me, and one that I was keeping under wraps for a long, long time.  I realize I sound like a new age hippy and I don’t mind if you laugh at me for this post. Whatever. I will do weird breathing exercises and eat dirt twice a day if I can continue to feel awesome indefinitely.

But seriously, I feel so good that I worry I may become a happy jerk. You know the type. The person whose rose-colored glasses make you want to shoot them?  I’ve encountered the type before and I have come close to pulling the trigger on them.  I mean, who do they think they are with their preachy radiance and tranquility?

Sadly, I think I pulled a happy jerk move just recently trying to share my experience with someone who wasn’t open to it for various reasons.  Long story.  Needless to say, I think it exhibited a lack of compassion on my part, and I need to watch my predisposition to be the uncompassionate happy jerk.

I don’t know. In times of great joy I think it’s worthwhile to remind yourself of the fleetingness of the feelings we experience. Which is, I guess , why it’s so tempting to overshare one’s jubilance.  I’m going to work on just observing the feelings and being happy with the little slice of world before me.  Like sadness, these feelings are just waves we each ride.  Take it as long as you can ride it and hope more comes your way.  I’m riding this wave for all that I can.   I feel the wind in my hair and the sun on my skin, and goddamn, it’s amazing.

(P.S. I realize that in the very act of posting this I may be jinxing this.  But it’s still worth sharing.)