Finding Bliss

I found bliss today.

See…

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Bliss was waiting for me at the Cherry Avenue intersection.

There was beauty every direction I looked today. Recognizing beauty on the same street was as simple as looking left and right and up and down.

So, at the intersection of Bliss and Cherry I saw this massive view of Chicago on one side of me…

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And I saw this bird’s eye view on the other side…

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Bliss led me to beauty. I had to work (not so) hard to find the beauty.

Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. And I can say that beyond a shadow of a doubt because I was there!

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Keep your eyes open people! Beauty could be staring you right in the face. And you may not have to look for beauty on Bliss Street! Beauty might be on Cherry Avenue instead!

Namaste,

Sarathlete

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Flip It Upside Down

My world was flipped upside down, quite literally, when I did my first headstand in yoga class last Monday evening.

I’ve been doing yoga regularly for a year. Last Monday evening was the first time I kicked up into headstand on my own. It took me a year of doing yoga consistently to build up the core strength to support my body in that upside down position.

I’ve been in assisted and spotted headstand, but today was the day I took my first steps on my own. It has taken me baby steps to get there.

My biggest fear of this pose was going upside down. It took me a year of courage building to face my fear and just let go. I realized tonight that I had the physical and spiritual strength to grow and let go of my fear of going upside down.

Flipping my world upside down has happened so many times to me since I lost my job in May 2014. Losing my job was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. The six weeks I spent without a job was a hard time because I had to face my fears and find the strength to kick up into life. I had to be willing to go upside down in order to find peace and new life.

There’s a beautiful, glorious and joyous life out there people! Flip your life upside down. Bend over into a forward fold and see how fabulous you feel. Let the blood rush to your head and enjoy whatever feelings bubble up. They will be new feelings perhaps. New is good. New is fabulous. New can be scary too. If we take baby steps we can build courage overtime to face our fears and eventually kick our fears in the face.

BOOM…..I just blew up my fears. I’m walking away from the fire to go do more headstand to get more head rushes and feel inspired and empowered to give, love and create.

My world was turned upside down today was amazing. Newness is fabulous! Keep learning and doing whatever it is that makes you uniquely you! You are fabulous and glorious, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Life turned upside down is a beautiful thing!

Namaste,
Sarathlete

The Gift of Movement

A wiggle. A waddle. A bob and weave. A hand stand. A walk in the park. A bike ride. A foxtrot. A cartwheel. It doesn’t matter how or where or when but we were made to move.

Dancing and yoga and walking in the city and biking down paths and country roads are the forms of movement I’m most into right now.

I am sarathlete! I’m on the move!

I’m so grateful for the ability to be able to move. I was inspired to write this post today by my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law can barely move. I had lunch with Pete’s side of the family today. My mother-in-law is in her early seventies. She’s so overweight she couldn’t walk from the booth to the front door of the restaurant today without being out of breath and having to sit down before she walked out to the car. Her back hurt. She was out of breath. Want to know why? Because she barely moves. She will tell you that she cannot move. She sits in a chair all day and chooses not to move. Instead of trying to to things for herself my mother-in-law chooses to order her husband around all day having him do simple tasks like getting her food or whatever.

I don’t feel sorry for my mother-in-law. I’m not taking pity or making a judgment of her. This is my observation of her.

Watching my mother-in-law today made me so grateful for the gift of movement. I don’t envy her choice not to move at all. I’m also grateful, as a friend once said, that I still have all of my original factory parts! My mother-in-law was such an inspiration to move that I came home and went on a fast 20 mile bike ride. I pushed myself harder on that ride than I ever have when I’ve ridden in the past. Why? Because I could.

I can move. You can move. The choice to move is up to the individual.

For me movement gives me freedom, provides a means of transportation, gives me a form of emotional and physical expression. Movement fulfills me and helps me sustain my life. Movement makes me joyous.

I hope you choose to move because movement makes like so beautiful and interesting, in my opinion! I love it!

If you choose to move then honor yourself and your movement by moving right now. Get up and do a happy dance. Do tree pose. Go jump in a lake. Make a joyful noise. Why? Because you can. You made your choice. Relish in that fact.

Life is a gift. Live it. Move it. Shake it up a bit! Get out of breath once in a while! We can’t choose to move when we die. So move now and celebrate the wonderfully fabulous gift of life!

Namaste!

Sarathlete

Me after a glorious 4 mile walk in Chicago! So happy!

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Selfies

Selfies have been around for years. Why do you think old fashioned cameras had the timer on them giving you enough time to get yourself into the picture.

I realized why selfies are so important this morning. Selfies are important because they humanize a photo and make it more relatable to people.

For instance, here’s a picture I took on my lunch hour in Chicago:

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To me, it’s a gorgeous shot of downtown Chicago. But to you, my fabulous reader, it’s just another picture of downtown Chicago that I happen to think is gorgeous. But you may not view it that way.

I’ve been practicing taking selfies this week. I’m not the best selfie taker! I’m getting better.

Here was my first attempt on my iPad before I figured out that pressing the button on the tap screen only put my fingers in the way of the camera.

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My husband says I look happy-scared! I was just glad to take the selfie. Even the picture of me looks goofy, in some ways, it’s more fun to look at because there’s a human in the photo. I took this picture at work (when I probably should’ve been working—ssssshhhhhhh don’t tell!!!!!!).

Let’s go back to Chicago and the downtown shot. Here’s a more improved selfie in the same location:

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You can see Chicago in the background. At the same time you also see me. Maybe not my best photo in the world, but there’s still a human in the picture. The human part is cool because it adds another element to the picture called emotion. There’s smiling going on which usually means happiness! That smile is darn right genuine because I was in a location I enjoy and also because I figured out how to take a selfie properly on my iPad! You press the right volume button (the button closest to the ringer on/off button). Aaaahhhhhh that moment when you get it right! What a relief! What a happy moment!

Be happy! Be sad! Be mad! Be whatever you want to be. Take photos and put yourself in them sometimes. The photos are more interesting because you can and other people can connect and relate to them more easily. The photos and selfies reflect you living your life and how you felt at that moment in time. The photo itself becomes its own interesting story!

Namaste,
Sarathlete

Meet the Sawochka-Daltons!

(Check out my “What’s in a Name?” post before you read this. This post will be much clearer if you do.)

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After yesterday’s visit to the Social Security office Pete and I are now legally known as Sara Sawochka-Dalton and Pete Sawochka-Dalton.

My last name change hasn’t taken on too much attention because most people expect a woman will either stay with her maiden name or hyphenate her maiden name with her married name.

But I’ve been fascinated by people’s responses, both negative and positive, to Pete’s last name change.

Pete’s last name change has received the strongest positive response from women (with a few exceptions). Female friends, co-workers and family that we’ve told generally have been in favor of Pete changing his last name to take on my last name in addition to his own. Women have also been the most appreciative of his change. Men’s responses generally have been more ambivalent—they think it’s a bit odd and typically want to know why he bothered.

One exception to the generally favorable response from woman has been Pete’s mother. After our visit to the Social Security office, Pete called his mother to let her know about his new last name. Pete’s mother asked why he did that because men don’t do that—at least she’s never heard of the man hyphenating his last name. Legally, of course, any couple can change their last names the way Pete and I did.

But most don’t, because the idea that a woman should take the man’s last name, but not the reverse, is a tradition in our culture. This tradition comes from the stale, patrilineal belief that upon marriage a woman becomes a part of the man’s family (and even the man’s property in many times and places), so she must change her last name to reflect her new family’s (owner’s) last name. But marriage isn’t a one-way union, and no woman should be considered property of any man (or vice versa) in a day where women and men have equal rights. I’m a member of a two-party union. However, I do not belong to Pete and Pete does not belong to me.

We aren’t the only married couple in the country that has legally done a dual last name change. We won’t be the last. I’ve read stories where the man even takes on the wife’s last name only, with no hyphenation.

I’ve learned that my husband is more of an out-of-the-box thinker than I’ve ever given him credit for. Pete went against the norm to change his last name change. I’m so proud of him! When I presented my idea of both of us changing our names, Pete was open to it. Pete didn’t see any arguments against it.

It takes guts for a man to change his last name. I admire and very much appreciate Pete so much for his decision and willingness to make the change! To me, the change shows that he honors our union as much as I do, and our newly combined last names reflect that honor!

Namaste,

Sara Sawochka-Dalton

“What’s in a Name?”

First of all I’d like to wish my husband, Pete Sawochka, a happy 2nd wedding anniversary in advance. Our anniversary is this Sunday, April 13, 2014!

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My father-in-law and mother-in-law sent us a cute card and a monetary gift for us to put towards our annual trip to Bloomington, Indiana. We received this monetary gift in the form of a check made out to: Pete and Sara Sawochka. Both of us are very appreciative of the gift towards our trip! There is one problem with that check, though.

Legally the “Sara Sawochka” on the check doesn’t exist! And soon the “Pete Sawochka” on the check won’t exist either.

When we got married two years ago my intent was to keep my maiden name—Dalton. After the wedding I decided I should probably adopt my husband’s last name of Sawochka. That’s what most women do after they get married. I told my employer that I wanted a new name plate to read “Sara Sawochka” and I changed my last name on Facebook from Dalton to Sawochka. Legally I did nothing. Two years later I’m still Sara Dalton.

About six months or so ago I finally got the urge to change my last name to something completely different. And not only did I want to change my last name but I wanted my husband to change with me. I asked Pete if he would mind changing his last name as well to reflect the combination of both of our names together. Pete agreed and said he was willing to make the name change as well. My plan was to hyphenate both of our last names to either be Pete and Sara Sawochka-Dalton or Dalton-Sawochka.

Why did I want my husband to change his name to match mine? The reason is that I define marriage as a union of two people’s lives. The two people, in my opinion, can be any gender combination (male–male, female-female or male-female). I believe, as a part of that union of two lives, the names should reflect the legacy of both parties involved.

This is not the traditional way we do things in this country. However this country is changing. With gay marriage becoming legal in more and more states terms such as “maiden name” will become part of the past—even in the traditional marriage of a male and female. Think about it like this—in a marriage between two men there is no “maiden name” to be found. Neither is a maiden!

As a part of the celebration of our 2nd anniversary I’ve finally decided to head to the Social Security Office to make a name change. I even took off Monday 4/14/2014 so I’d have time to do this. Pete and I are still discussing what order the combination of names will go in. The important thing is that we’re going to make the change together to reflect the union of our lives that we made two years ago.

Namaste,
Sara

Meet Monster—My Favorite Vegan!

Meet Monster, a.k.a Kasey! She is one of my three dogs. She’s also vegan, but she didn’t start out that way.

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Kasey is her real name and Monster is her nickname. As a puppy she ate…everything. It was like having a little monster around, hence her nickname. This habit of eating everything never quite ended, even though Monster will be four years old in August.

As a puppy Monster really liked to tear wallpaper off the walls and eat it. She also liked to dig into wall corners and gnaw her way to the drywall. Monster still enjoys feasting on sneakers, stinky socks, running shorts, underwear and my husband’s waded up napkins that he leaves laying around. Thankfully she leaves our walls alone!

Here’s a picture of when Monster decided to redecorate my roommates’ wall 3 years ago.

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When Monster was one year old we found out from the vet that she had a food allergy to animal protein. Monster would bite all of the fur off of the back of her body and her sores would get infected. She even had to wear one of those Elizabethan collars. My vet recommended we switch her dog food to a prescription dog food with hydrolyzed chicken, processed in a way so that her body wouldn’t recognize the animal protein. She ate this food for two years. This food made her stool black and very difficult for her to eliminate.

I have a friend who is also a vegan. She feeds her dogs V-dog which is a vegan dog food (contains no animal products or animal byproducts). I decided to give V-dog kibble a try for Monster. V-dog food targets dogs with allergies to grains and animal protein. My vet approved this vegan dog food after she saw all of the quality ingredients it contains. I eventually started feeding V-dog to all of my dogs because it worked so well for Monster. Monster eliminates regularly and her stool has returned to a normal color.

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Since I’m vegan and my husband is a vegetarian we eat a lot of the same foods. I enjoy making all sorts of smoothies for breakfast. Last Sunday I made a smoothie for us with avocado, cocoa powder, banana, dates and almond milk. I blend the ingredients with ice in my Vitamix and serve. Yum!

The smoothie I gave to Pete wound up sitting in a coaster on our end table by the couch. When we were busy in the kitchen that morning we discovered Monster decided to drink most of Pete’s chocolate smoothie. While the smoothie had no animal protein, it did contain chocolate, which is known for making dogs sick—not Monster though!

Here is a picture of Monster after she drank ¾ of the glass of Pete’s smoothie. She had chocolate all over her beard! We were laughing hysterically. Fortunately there wasn’t that much cocoa powder in the drink.

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Here is the culprit with my husband trying to clean up the smoothie on Monster’s snout. I think Monster won the battle!

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Monster is my favorite vegan because she started us on the path of vegan dog food. She’s also my favorite vegan because she will snuggle next to me while chopping veggies on the cutting board just letting me know she’s there!

I hope you enjoyed meeting Monster, a.k.a Kasey, and hearing her story!

Namaste,

Sara

Project Prius C: Pranayama–Huh?

Before we hit the road with yogic driving, I want to teach you how to meditate. Meditation is a part of yoga that we are going to be applying to driving. Meditation will teach you how to breathe in a way that will calm the body and clear the mind. Remember my theory: the calmest driver makes the best driver.

Yoga references many words in Sanskrit. In the title of this post I refer to the word “Pranayama” which is Sanskrit for “extension of the breath”. In Sanskrit the word “prana” means “life force”, specifically meaning “the breath”. Breathing is how our bodies survive—we draw in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. In Sanskrit, “ayama” means “to draw or extend out”. At the beginning of a meditation practice the breaths are short and brisk, in the middle the breaths are medium length and by the end of the practice the breath will be long and deep. The longer and more drawn out the breath, the calmer driver.

Here’s what you need to meditate:

  • A quiet place with no distractions—yes the back seat of your minivan parked in the garage where your kids cannot find you definitely counts!
  • A soft surface to sit on where you can sit up tall with your legs crossed in front of your body—I recommend a pillow to sit atop on your floor.
  • Music (optional)—I highly recommend the Soundscapes Music Channel #743 on the Comcast Cable Network (for more about this see below). Music is a great transitional tool to use to help you sit still when you first start to meditate.

Explanation of Soundscapes

Soundscapes is a combination of sounds from nature like waves crashing, thunder, or birds chirping with a peaceful melody played by a pianist, flautist or violinist. I find the combination of sounds from nature and music creates a relaxing background for my meditation practice.

Here’s a great way to start using music and meditation together: sit and meditate to just one song. Then work your way up to two. Perhaps you will start to find that you need more than two songs to feel calmer—you want to go deeper. Try three songs and so on!

Once you have your meditation spot and (optional) music you are ready to meditate:

  1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position.
  2. Turn your music on.
  3. Take a deep breath in.
  4. Straighten your spine by rolling your shoulders down the back, lift your chest towards the sky, keep your chin parallel with the floor and pull your belly button in towards your spine. Do not lie on your back because you might fall asleep.
  5. Close your eyes.
  6. Place the palms of your hands on your knees with palms facing up.
  7. Start to breathe in and out.
  8. Be present. Be in the moment without thinking of what you did in the yesterday or what you have to do afterwards.
  9. Once you feel you’re finished (perhaps after a song or two), stand up and go back to your day.
  10. Notice how you feel afterwards. If you felt good today then you will feel good after meditating tomorrow too. Make meditation a part of your daily routine.

Here’s how you will look just before you’re done meditating:

Keep calm, stay strong and keep driving on!

Namaste,

Sara

Project Prius C – The Future is Coming!

The future is coming. Driving hybrid cars, like my husband’s Prius C, now offer a glimpse of what the future holds—the electric-powered vehicle. Hybrid automobiles also hang onto a part of their past—gasoline-powered vehicles.

Think of it this way: Past, Present and Future.

The past is represented by gasoline-powered vehicles. These vehicles are so yesterday! Pollution from gasoline-powered vehicles have contributed to today’s global warming crisis. Fifteen years ago, when driving a gasoline-powered vehicle was all the rage, there were one or two hybrid cars being invented and available on the market—specifically, the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight.

Today there are so many hybrid versions of some of people’s favorite gasoline powered-cars (like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Ford Fusion) and SUVs (like the Toyota Highlander, Ford Escape and Chevy Tahoe). Not too worry—the Prius and Insight are still here too!

Hybrid vehicles are powered by two engines. One is gas. The other is electric. The driving conditions determine which engine burns energy, which determines the overall carbon footprint of the vehicle. For instance, accelerating and braking quickly and driving at high speeds cause the gasoline engine to have to work more, which means lower miles per gallon and more fill ups. Driving at lower speeds, generally 35mph and lower, along with slower acceleration and braking mean that the vehicle will run off the electric battery as much as possible. The two engines work together recycling energy for the electric battery when the gasoline engine is running. An example of this is slowly coming to a stop—the battery recharges from the energy created from the gasoline engine as you stop. is are cool because they use the battery recharges when you’re braking utilizing braking energy. Recycling energy is what we need right now. But only recycling won’t be enough to cut the mustard going forward.

The future is coming! Purely electric powered cars (no SUVs yet) are out there right now and have been available for the last couple of years. There are also cars like the Chevy Volt which feature a mostly electric motor with a very small gasoline engine for backup just in case. Currently, purely electric-powered cars, like the Nissan Leaf, are on the market but are expensive for the size of the car and how far it can go before needing to be recharged. But as the technology gets better, the price will drop and the performance will improve, and the carbon footprint left behind will get smaller.

Hopefully, 15 years from now, there will be less hybrids and more cars like the Leaf and Volt on the road, making a carbon footprint that looks like just your big toe touched the sand. And I’d like to see gasoline-powered vehicles in museums and maybe one or two at a local antique car show—and that’s about it!

Much like how a hybrid engine works, I’m going to take two things and combine them: yoga practice and my husband’s 2012 Toyota Prius C. I’m going to teach you how yoga can be incorporated it into your driving. My theory is a calmer, balanced driver makes the best driver. And the best driver creates an awesome driving experience.

You don’t need to have a hybrid vehicle to follow along with me, although I wish you had one. Heck, I wish I had one and didn’t need to borrow my husband’s.

Welcome to Project Prius C—Yogic Driving. The future is coming!

Namaste!

Sara and her husband Pete’s Prius C (as pictured below—the husband and the car)

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Namaste–A Beautiful Greeting

Namaste is a greeting used in yoga.

“Namas” means “bow” in Sanskrit. “Te” means “to you” in Sanskrit.

Namaste means “I bow to you”. Other ways to say it are “I greet you” or “I welcome you” or “I honor you”.

With that, I hope you have a wonderful Wednesday!

Namaste,

Sara