Ingredients for a Delicious Day: A Lesson in Savoring the Sweetness of Life

          “Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day.”—Alice Morse Earle


Recently, my sixth grade students and I were discussing events from their assigned reading of a chapter in a book, Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen. Cole Matthews, the main character, had been convicted for beating another boy who informed on him with the police.  The character of Cole is a stereotypic bully who blames his bad behavior on his alcoholic dad who verbally and physically abuses him and his mother who overlooks the dad’s behavior.




His parole officer, on a visit with Cole in a detention center, brings a grocery bag full of ingredients used to make a molasses cake, such as baking soda, eggs, flour, salt, etc., and asks Cole to try each ingredient separately.  Cole, not wanting to seem weak, takes big bites of each individual ingredient, including a raw egg.  When Garvey asks Cole how the separate ingredients tasted, Cole naturally answers that they tasted terrible.


blur close up cooking egg
Photo by Skitterphoto on


Next, Garvey offers Cole a piece of the actual molasses cake that he had baked.  Upon tasting the cake, Cole proclaimed the cake tasted good.  Then Garvey brings his object lesson full circle by asking Cole which “bitter tasting” ingredient should have been left out.


person holding slice of cake on white ceramic plate
Photo by Buenosia Carol on


I have read and reread this book over the years with my students, and there are many noteworthy passages that make great object lessons for sixth graders.  However, for some reason, thoughts of this passage replayed through my head like an earworm line of a pop song or commercial jingle on the night my husband, John, and I returned from taking our daughter, Madelyn, to Bethany College for her second year.  Clearly, Divine Providence had a lesson to teach me.


Olde Main at Bethany College as pictured in spring of 2018.


Maddie had packed up as many of her personal effects as her compact car could hold and left in the early hours of Tuesday morning to drive Bethany for stage one of her move-in.  I tried hard not to be too emotional as she left, but my throat and heart-space filled repeatedly throughout the morning with a choking feeling as I restrained tears.  Additionally, I spent the rest of the week feeling that eye-blurring, heart-tugging emotion each time I thought of her or walked past her empty bedroom even though I knew she was doing what she needed to do.


Maddie and I this summer at the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk, NC.


Meanwhile, the hallway was lined with larger tubs, boxes, bags, and random oddities for John and me to take to her at week’s end. Additionally, she left a list on our dining room table of supplies for me to gather and add the hall.  Furthermore, she texted several more additional items that were not on the original list.

A few more items were added to the list, such as finding/gathering paint supplies for an art class.


While all of this sounds so simple on paper, John and I have been back to work as teachers at St. Joseph Catholic School since the second week of August.  Like all working parents know, there are numerous responsibilities outside of the work day that also require a certain expenditure of energy.  Add to that equation the fact that we are not the spring chickens we used to be, and well, quite frankly, our personal fatigue and emotional recovery isn’t what it used to be.


Nonetheless, I gathered all of the items for which Maddie asked on Thursday evening, so John could load the car.  I felt a nagging annoyance of being asked to search down and gather items that Maddie had not taken time to do before she left. Additionally, I knew John’s back would be throbbing from sitting on a riding lawn mower for hours, which fires up his bulging disc (we have 2-3 acres that he mows), before he even began to carry the heavy tubs and bags to our car.  However, my mom, in a phone conversation that I initiated as I hunted and gathered more supplies, reminded me of all that my dad and she went through to get me to and from Ohio University in Athens.  Hmm . . .


The next day, by the time we worked a full day with 95 middle school kids on Friday and began the four-hour drive to Bethany, well, we were tuckered out.  As John drove, we battled staying awake, and I secretly wondered how on earth I would overcome the eventual carsickness that comes with the curvy mountain roads of the Wheeling/Bethany, WV region.  Furthermore, how would we both have the energy for a late night dinner with Maddie, parents of one her Bethany friends, as well as a couple of other friends?  Plus, once the dinner and 30-minute drive back down the mountain to the hotel was over, how would we find even more energy for the next day’s back-straining move?


Olde Main at Bethany College as pictured in spring of 2018.


As I write this, I feel heat rising to my own cheeks and tears welling once more.  All I can think is:  selfish, selfish, selfish as well as so many unnecessary worries.  To be certain, I had tasted a few of life’s bitter ingredients, such as the drain of emotional separation from my child, the real fatigue of a life inside and outside of work, as well as carsickness. But what I was forgetting was the sweetness of it all mixed together.


My husband and I are fortunate enough to work jobs that allow us the weekend off in order to move the rest of daughter’s supplies.  Both her car and our car transported us safely to the Wheeling/Bethany area.  We could afford to stay in hotel in order to rest for the night.  Maddie’s friend’s parents, Amy and Keith, welcomed us into their home as if we were one of the family and shared with us a spectacularly prepared meal. We spent a delightful Friday evening with the two of them alongside Maddie and two more of her friends.

We spent the evening on top of the mountain, just outside of Bethany College, on a small farm owned by Keith and Amy Vanhorn parents of one of Maddie’s college friends, Eden.


The next day, Maddie was in no rush for us to get the rest of things moved into her dorm room, so John and I went to breakfast—something the two of us rarely do.   Afterwards, we sat by the hotel’s fire pit enjoying the coolness of the morning for a few minutes as we each read.  Furthermore, the weather remained mild as we helped to move in both Maddie and one of her roommates, Jillian. I gazed with pride at how organized Maddie’s room looked already with what she had brought with her earlier in the week.  Additionally, she did not want us doing any more work for her once we helped to carry supplies to her dorm room.


The early stages of organization of a dorm room before we arrived–it was already looking organized.


We had time to relax and read for a few minutes on a cool morning beside the hotel’s fire pit, listening to the trickle of the water fall before the big move-in.


Maddie is healthy, bright, articulate, and kind-hearted.  She has a full academic scholarship and begins her second year at Bethany with a phenomenal GPA and enough credit to technically be considered a junior.  She worked hard this summer to overcome a few personal struggles, and John I had the privilege of witnessing her inner growth.


Images of Maddie from this summer:  In Cincinnati with my brother and mom to see a pay, at the Optavia National Convention, and dog sitting with Lizzy, my dad and step-mom’s “baby.”


Why, then, was I focusing on the bitterness of individual tastes and not the totality of sweetness of this event? Humbly, I say, because I am flawed and imperfect.  It is the curse of my humanity, and I have yet to overcome it.




There is saying about how Divine Providence will continue to put the same lessons in your life until you learn from them. At least this time, I was made aware of my errors, and I can call on my faith to help me do better moving forward.



In the meantime, I am so grateful for not only this middle-of-the-night lesson, but even more so for the wonderful opportunities this weekend truly provided.  John and I are so full of parental love and pride, and are truly blessed parents.  I feel hopeful that Maddie will do better than her old mom who is still in need of learning a lesson or two or ten.


Me, Maddie, and John, squinty eyes and all, at Keith and Amy Vanhorn’s house, late Saturday afternoon just before leaving Maddie at Bethany College.

Rose and Dan: The Story of the Heart to Hand Blessing Box

           “There is a lot that happens around the world we cannot control.  We cannot stop earthquakes, we cannot prevent droughts, and we cannot prevent all conflict, but when we know where the hungry, the homeless and the sick exist, then we can help.”—Jan Schakowsky

           “Most people never really sat down and got to know a homeless person, but every homeless person is just a real person that was created by God and it is the same kind of different as us; they just have a different story.”—Ron Hall




           A man and woman, both possessing skin as brown and lined as an oak tree, stood at a corner along 6th Ave waiting to safely cross the street.  A small boy, perhaps six or seven years in age, held the hand of the man, while an impish girl with large eyes, perhaps four or five years old, held the woman’s. Despite the fatigue in the eyes of the adults, they repeatedly looked down at the children seemingly answering questions and/or giving directions.


           As the traffic light turned green, they began to cross the intersecting street as I began to drive towards school. I noticed the parents appeared to cling a bit harder to the hands of their little ones—much as I used to do when crossing an intersection with my own daughter when she was quite young.  I continued making my way down 6th Ave, but my thoughts kept drifting back to that family.  Were they homeless? Did they have food? Did the kids go to school?  Was the family safe? Where were they going—after all, this part of town is not really known for its family-oriented businesses.  I wondered if the kids had toys, books, and/or other children with which to play.




          I am often troubled by images such as this as I travel to and from St. Joseph Catholic School where my husband, John, and I teach.  I have frequently wondered how I could help in a tangible, meaningful way. As a 30+ year veteran educator, I have seen a wide variety of heart-breaking circumstances in which kids are often surrounded—situations that I feel quite certain I would have never survived.  It has always been my mission, above all as a teacher, to meet the needs of my students as they come to me, provide them with loving structure and routine in order to not only educate them, but to also reach their heart.




           Sadly, over the years, despite not only my attempts, but also the millions of teachers, and other services, across the country, kids’ environment is such a powerful influence that, at least in my experience, very few kids can overcome the situations in which they are raised. That said, “hope is eternal;” and thus, I continue to shine a light on the potential futures each of my students could have with a bit of hard work and elbow grease.  Still, I have often wondered what more can I do, especially for the homeless children I see daily on my way to work.




           Several months ago, my sister-in-law, Jacki Humphreys, and her husband Tony, were telling me about a “Blessing Box” on 7th Ave in front of the fire station.  She described it as a type of pantry, where anyone in need, not just the homeless, can walk by and take what they need.  Items such as non-perishable foods, hygiene products, toys, and clothing necessities such as socks, shoes, hats, gloves, and so forth can be donated and found there.  The box is open 24/7 for the community to fill as their schedule/budget allows, and for those experiencing hardship to take as needed. Yet, like so many others things in life, I became distracted, and the Blessing Box fell off my radar, I am ashamed to say.


                     Photos courtesy of Missy Clagg Morrison via Facebook




           Then, Katrina Mailloux, founder and owner of Brown Dog Yoga as well as one of my yoga teacher training instructors, stated during one of our most recent trainings that she wanted our group of 20 yoga-teachers-in-training to do something for the community.  Suddenly, Jacki’s words about the Heart to Hand Blessing Box came rushing into my mind. I casually mentioned this to Katrina and the rest of the group. That was all it took, Katrina and the rest of the “2018 Yoga Tribe,” as we often refer to ourselves, were ready to help; and by the next day, my trunk was overflowing donations for the Blessing Box.




           Then, once again, life happened, and it would sadly be several days later before John and I found our way to the Blessing Box. My fallibility once again raised its ugly head.  Nonetheless, we had finally arrived and went to work filling the box when I noticed on my second trip walking to the trunk of my car, a couple standing a respectful distance from me whom I would later learn were named Dan and Rose. As I walked by, I spoke to them. They immediately thanked me for what I doing.  I explained that it wasn’t me, but a whole group of people. (And what I should have added was that I am the one that is flawed and waited nearly five days before I came to load it.) On my way from the car to the box, I encouraged them to come join John and me.




           Looking into their eyes, I could see the beautiful young woman that Rose once was and the dashingly tall guy Dan must have been.  Quite frankly, that beauty was still within them if you were willing to look into their eyes, but it was hidden behind the wear and tear of the streets.  We offered them a small Amazon box that we had just emptied to fill with supplies for which they were need. As they talked, I noticed they were missing most, if not all, of their teeth.  They shared stories of life on the street–narratives filled with robberies, beatings, and even recently being stabbed for a backpack. They described visits to the ER and showed me recent wounds and past scars.  Furthermore, Dan spoke of a preacher in another section of Huntington who tries to help them; however, they have been mugged on that part of town so often, they now try to avoid that area—but it was clear they missed talking to the minister.




          To be certain, my mind wanted to go into judgmental role, and I had to keep drawing my focus back to see Rose and Dan as the small children walking into a teacher’s classroom years ago. Inside, that is who they still were at their essence.  In my mind, this was worth remembering as my education experience has taught me that no child has ever stepped foot in my classroom and stated, “When I grow up, I want to be homeless, mentally ill, and/or addicted to drugs.”

           Dan and Rose seemed afraid to take more than what they thought was their “fair share.”  As Dad stated, “There are others who have it worse than us.”


Meet Dan and Rose. Look at those beautiful smiles as they stand in front of the Heart to Hand Blessing Box.


           Rose focused on taking a few feminine products for self-care as well as personal hygiene supplies for both of them, “I haven’t used lotion in so long.  This smells so good,” she said opening a bottle a taking in a deep inhalation. Meanwhile, Dan took a box of honey buns, several packages of snack crackers, and toilet paper. “Toilet paper is hard to come by,” he said blushing a bit.  

They did not want to take more than there fair share. Even when I offered them several plastic shopping bags in addition to the box, they would each only take one.


           In the end, Dan and Rose repeatedly thank me.  I kept telling them that it wasn’t me, but many other people far more thoughtful—I just happened to be the one delivering.  Then, Dan looked me straight in the eye and said, “One day, I hope to be in your position.”

           Despite thinking, “I am nobody important, Dan.” I heard myself instead saying, “You will be Dan.  You will be. You just have to believe and begin to take small steps.”

           Hope is eternal.




           Walking away, in the opposite direction of which Dan and Rose began to walk, I fought the sea of emotion welling inside of me. My mind went back to a bumper sticker I had recently seen in the Pullman Plaza parking garage, “Do small things with great love.”  I realized in that moment, the Heart to Hand Blessing Box was a small thing I could begin to do with great love. I hope to overcome my past shortcomings in my failure to help the homeless. Now, that I have witnessed the power of the Blessing Box, and I see how close it is to my school, I have no excuse not to continue to help.  I am called to action. What about you?




           For more information regarding the Heart to Hand Blessing Boxes in Huntington, visit their page of Facebook; or, read “Blessing box– a blessing to those who give and receive” on-line at the Herald-Dispatch.



Yoga Flow

Photographed above:  My beautiful daughter, Madelyn, practices tree pose while standing on the limb of an amazing tree at Jockey’s Ridge on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Author’s note:  What follows is a highly personal piece I wrote for my recent 200-YTT training.  It is important for the reader to understand that yoga is NOT a religion, nor is it affiliated with any certain religion.  However, what I have found is that yoga’s tenants, restraints, and practices strongly compliments and enhances my personal faith life.  Namaste.




           “One of life’s quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful . . ..”—Norman Mclean

           “Eventually, all thing merge into one, and a river runs through it.”—Norman Maclean            

           “You cannot step into the same river twice.”—Heraclitus

           Fortitude. Tenacity.  Breath.  These were three words I strongly associated with yoga, and for that matter, any fitness or life endeavor, when I first began the journey of yoga teacher training (YTT) at Brown Dog Yoga (BDY), a yoga studio situated alongside the Ohio River in Huntington, WV.    Like the ever changing, ever flowing Ohio River, each time I have stepped into the studio at BDY, the experience is different; and thus, I am different now than when I first walked through its door.




           I am no longer the same person who whispered, “Fortitude. Tenacity. Breath,” as I walked into BDY for the very first time. Arriving early, I sat in the studio, which was all new to me, fighting the well-practiced negative chatter that has spent years dominating my monkey mind.  

           “You’re too old and too injured,” alleged doubt.

           “In fact, you’re too irrelevant, not fit enough, and certainly nowhere near knowledgeable enough,” droned fear.   

            “You’ll never fit in, and talk too much, ask too many questions, or do none of those and just freeze,” whispered anxiety.

           “You’ll never have time to study, practice, and read—much less still possess the ability to learn.  I mean, really, you should just get up and walk out now. Who do you think you are, the next Bryan Kest?  Don’t be so arrogant,” added distrust and suspicion.

           Still, I remained in the room, frozen, silently chanting my mantra, “Fortitude. Tenacity. Breath.”  Bryan Kest videos taught me those words in the 1990s. He was the professional yoga teacher that initially inspired my journey into yoga.  Those words clearly worked for him; therefore, I had latched onto that phrase as the flame clings to the log. After all, those three words pretty much summed up large portions of my life.  It was how I overcame fears, anxieties, and sorrows.




           Nonetheless, I walked out of BDY after that first weekend ready to spread my arms out wide into the crisp, night air and shout to the heavens.  Instead, I inhaled deeply, smiled broadly to myself, and felt a new lightness in my step. This was where I supposed to be, and at the right time.  I would be okay.

           However, like a nagging joint injury that won’t go away, fear, doubt, anxiety, distrust, and suspicion logged frequent flyer miles in the seat of my soul with each new month.  Heart palpitations would wake me during the night. My throat squeezed, belly gripped, and my lungs felt small. Still, I whispered my mantra, “Fortitude. Tenacity. Breath.”




           Then came the moment I was to teach a lesson for the first time.   A percussion section drummed a staccato rhythm in my lungs as a bass drum boomed a brilliant beat in my chest that echoed into my ears, my head, and vibrated my limbs.  Fight, flight, or freeze?

           Emotion ripped through my third chakra, which is located around the area of the belly button and extends up the bottom tip of the breastbone.  It is called the Manipura, which according to The Chopra Center, translates to, “lustrous gem;” yet, this was not what I was feeling.  Instead, the sensations of entrapment and abandonment spiraled in my center. I froze, folded, and flopped.  Failure was all I could think as tears fought to free themselves.




           Fortitude. Tenacity. Breath.  Go back.  Don’t quit. Keeping trying.  

           Then, came the first written test in month four.  It was over the bones of the body and a few other anatomy terms/references.  Life had been busy, and my time for study had been limited. Once again, downpours of panic splattered over me mimicking the winter weather; and, just as the banks of the Ohio River were overflowing with muddy water, so too was my self-doubt spilling out into my now murky manipura.

           Was I really meant to be a yoga teacher? Did I really think I could help others when I clearly couldn’t help myself?  Would the world end if I never became I yoga teacher?  After all, I could finish the program, and at least say my practice had improved, and my knowledge had increased.  There was nothing wrong with that.


As seen on Instagram @positiveenergyalways


           Surrender.  Seek. Soul-search. A new mantra was forming.  I began to journal, to meditate, and to pray more.  What did I really want to do? This required work and reflection.  It also required purposeful, deep three-part breathing that Katrina, our main instructor, strongly encouraged me to practice in a private session.

            “Take the breath deep into your belly. Expand it into your ribs and then up into the heart space,” she encouraged.  “Really connect with your breath,” she added. And so, I began to practice this way of breathing.




           Practice.  Progress. Breath. I practiced this three-part breath driving to and from work.  My mediation evolved into simply focusing on three-part breathing and remaining open to what arose.  Moments of prayer, and even time spent writing, were also filled with three-part breathing. All yoga practices, including the sessions in which I practiced teaching others, began to focus more on three-part breathing.

           Soon my desires became clearer.  I needed to practice three-part breathing for the rest of my life because that is yoga. “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life . . .. (Genesis 2:7 NIV).  This prana, this breath of life can spiral energy, joy, and peace within me, but more importantly, it is my connection to my Creator, my inner light, and my heart.




           I now know that yoga is so much more than physical exercise.  It is a practice for the body, mind, and soul. It is a practice that occurs both on, and even more so, off the yoga mat.  Its observances and restraints ask me to take my practice into my daily life. I feel as if I have barely scratched the surface of yoga and all its interrelated topics in my 200-level YTT.  I want to learn more, to understand more, and to gain deeper insight with regard to yoga. Not only that, but I also feel a deep motivation to share this Divine connection with others in the same way in which it has been so graciously shared to me.  

           Have I lost all feelings of unworthiness, pessimism, and distrust?  NO. However, Rich, another instructor at BDY, introduced another mantra in my life, “Progress, not perfection.”  


           Practice.  Progress. Breath.  One of the first yamas, tenants, of yoga is ahimsa, or nonviolence.  However, as I reflect over the very words I have written, I see that violence, sadly, has enveloped so much of my self-dialogue throughout a large portion of my life.  If I have been seeing myself through such a negative, fearful, and judgmental lens, what messages have I subconsciously been projecting onto others? Thus, if I am to truly incorporate this yogic way of life, then I must offer free-will/empowerment, compassion, and forgiveness to myself first in order to fully offer the same to others. This will increase my ability to choose actions, behaviors, and words motivated from a point of genuine love—a practice worth pursuing.




           Deborah Adele, author of one my required readings for 200-YTT, The Yamas and Niyamas, states that in the New Testament, the Greeks used a word, splagchnizomai, which is translated to mean compassion. According to Adele, this word means to feel deeply within one’s bowels or inward parts.  It was used, she explains, when the Gospel writers wanted to reveal that a person was touched so profoundly by another, that they were deeply and inwardly motivated to take immediate action for the benefit of others.  This accurately describes how I now feel about yoga.



           Yoga holds up a mirror for me daily.  It allows me to see the real me without mucky illusions or ideals of perfection.  I am free to feel deeply, to see where I fall short, but to also feel empowered and emboldened to move forward with incremental steps towards progress as I journey through life.  Looking at my reflection, I can say, I am enough,which will also increase my ability to convey to others, you are enough.  Therefore, I embrace this path of yoga, rather than resist it.  I surrender to the unknown—the unknown of each breath, each practice, and even the unknown of this journey.



There is no “arriving,” just a path on which to continue to walk, learn, and grow.


        On the Sunday of month six of YTT, our group practiced a walking meditation alongside the Ohio River.  Its rock bed, laid down two-three million years earlier, continuously changes with the unremitting flow of the water.  Likewise, its boundaries subtly, and sometimes violently, shift and sway with the rise and fall of the water. It was formed by the confluence of two rivers; and, countless tributaries from six states feed it and influence its ebb and flow.  Ultimately, the waters of the Ohio River join with the Mississippi River and its tributaries. In the end, all of this water stretches into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean thus becoming one interconnected body.



And all rivers merge into one . . .


That is yoga.  It began with one Divine OM over the centuries of time.  One breath led to our collective prana, the Ultimate life force, of which I am an interwoven part; bound to all who came before me and all who will follow after my physical body is not longer present. It began with the ultimate Source as a gift of love, and this Divine Providence lights me from within as well as all living beings around the world.

Light. Love. Life.

Surrender.  Seek. Soul-search.  

Practice. Progress. Path.

Connection.  Breath.





Yoga Teacher Training: The first steps into Forgiveness, Faith, & Fearlessness

           “A little step may be the beginning of a great journey.”—Jennifer DeDonato

           “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your heart.  Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakes.”—Carl Jung

           I recall when the stack of books arrived on my doorstep in December 2017.  I could feel their physical weight within the box and within my gut. Uh, oh. Who did I think I was?  What sort of thing had I placed myself into? Where did I think this would ever take me? When did I think I could find the time for this? Why did I ever think I could do this? How did I think I could ever learn all of this material?


As seen on Instagram by positiveaffirmations101.


           All of my self-doubts, insecurities, fears, and uncertainties burned to the surface via my red face and icy cold hands as I slowly lifted each new book out.  Then, the aroma of new books filled my lungs and the crisp, shininess of each cover glimmered in the light above my kitchen table—my “home office.” One thing was for certain, as a 30+ year educator, I DO savor the sight, scent, feel, and even the sound of pages turning when casually flipping through new books—each filled with the promise of uncharted waters, stories, and journeys.  At least there was comfort and familiarity with that.


Required readings for RYT 2018!


           Then came January—the first weekend of training with 19 other so-called strangers, in an unfamiliar location, with unknown instructors, and wait, what? —No desks, tables, chairs, or other types of furniture!  Everybody sits on the floor on mats, blankets, cushions, or any combination of the three? Are you kidding me? At age 52, how was I supposed to survive Friday evenings and daylong Saturday and Sunday sessions like this?  I was ready to bolt back out to my car as tension tightened my belly but froze my body in place. This was yoga teacher training at Brown Dog Yoga, Huntington, WV. It was my choice, but how on earth would I ever get through it?


Yes, even at my age, sitting on the floor, with continuous practice, is not only possible, but good for your posture muscles!


           I thought of one of my favorite and charismatic video yoga instructors, Bryan Kest, best known for his work with Power Yoga.  He had a saying onto which I had latched in the early 1990’s: fortitude, tenacity, breath.  These three words had often been the mantra that powered me through many life and fitness endeavors.  I would utilize the strength of those words once more in order to power my way through this training. Little did I know then, those three words would be replaced with other, more meaningful and much softer phrases.



One such phrase was, surrender, seek, soul-search.  Learning to surrender to the moment, to events as they are, to life as it is—is a skill for which I am still learning. My desire to seek truths, knowledge, and understanding began to evolve over the eight months of training/study, and it continues to grow even now. Additionally, looking inwardly and learning to honestly soul-search was, and often still is, a painful experience because of the truths I am a master at hiding from myself, but if I am to grow, then I must continue to do this.


Although this is the logo for Outer Banks Yoga, the image serves as a reminder to me of the importance of taking time to develop your own inner practice of growth.


           Practice, progress, breathe, has also become another utilized phrase.  Yoga is not just a form of exercise (Although it is a GREAT form of exercise that anyone can do!) —it can be a way of life with practices and applications for both on and off the mat.  Make no mistake, though, it is NOT a religion. My 200-hours of training and study is not the end, but only the beginning of a practice that I intend to continue for the rest of my life.  I now realize I have MUCH more to learn and apply in order to evolve.


There is no “arriving,” just a path on which to continue to walk, learn, and grow.


           Thus, I can no longer think in terms of “perfection” or “arriving,” as I used to do when I trained for a marathon, sought a degree, attempted to lose weight, and so forth.  With yoga, it’s about progress.  Yes, I will most likely falter, waiver, and perhaps even fall.  The important thing is, like the old saying from my childhood, “try, try again.”  Allow those mistakes and so-called failures to teach me lessons and further my progress towards understanding.  Age, injury, career, and any other role that life has assigned to me cannot impede my inner-work, unlike my former short-term goals.  Personal growth and progress never has to end as long as I practice, study, and/or reflect.


Deep belly breathing, meditation, prayer, and time for reflection are so important for personal growth.


           Breathing comes into play because I am a breath and tension holder.  Part of my make-up, if I am to be honest, is to feel “in control.”  As an educator, writer, parent, and so forth—that feeling of control has ruled my life—I, frankly, still struggle with it.  Letting go of the feeling of control requires faith and deep breathing.  And, while I do not want self-discipline to be confused with what I am writing about, the act of holding expectations causes me to hold my breath and grip tensions throughout my body—such as neck, shoulders, belly, etc.– when life events don’t go my way.  Deep breathing reminds me to let go and rest in my faith that life is as it should be, and a MUCH higher power than myself is in control. No amount tensing up body parts is going to change outcomes.

           Finally, one of my dear teachers, Katrina, recently offered me a new mantra:  forgiveness, FAITH, and fearlessness.  Learning to forgive myself of my self-defined failures will thus lead to more forgiveness of others.  We all make mistakes; it is the humbling part of our humanity. Fear of so-called mistakes will freeze and stagnant my inner growth. Thus, I must continue to rely on my faith in order to increase the act of forgiveness and move throughout the rest of my life with fearlessness.


As seen on Instagram @positiveenergyalways


            Yes, it is true, I entered yoga teacher training in order to teach yoga—which I am now officially certified to do.  However, I walk away a different and very grateful person, with not only a deeper understanding of yoga, but also a deeper understanding of myself.  Additionally, I am now connected to group of gifted and unique individuals with whom I shared this journey.




           What does all of this mean?  I am not sure. I do plan to teach yoga.  I also plan to continue teaching my students at St. Joseph Catholic Middle School, continue writing, and continue on this path I started at BDY.  I am also still wife, mom, daughter, sister, cousin, friend, and so forth. Yet, I now realize that none of these things are truly who I am. At the very core of who I am, I see a child of God, a Divine creation that is not only within me, but also within each of you Dear Reader, and every other human being on this planet.  As the book of Genesis described, we were all brought into the being with the “breath of life,”and we will continue on this earth until our last breath is uttered.  It is my intention to utilize this gift of life to offer moments of positivity and upliftment to others. I will NEVER be perfect, but I can move forward with Grace.  In the words of Anne Lamott, “I do not understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”

P.S.  I am eternally grateful to Katrina and Rich Mailloux as well as Tina Chabot and the members of the 2018 YTT tribe. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. Namaste.




Lucy, the brown dog, visits us on our last day of Yoga Teacher Training!



Katie Arnold, one of my dear classmates, took a selfie of the two of us for her Instagram album.  She, like the rest of the 2018 YTT tribe, is a special and gifted individual.  



La Famiglia–A Place to Call Home

           “It’s the nature of Italians to live life with a positive tone and to celebrate the invitations that come along in life. Italian food is so conducive to all of that.”—Lidia Bastianich



Caroline, Courtney, and **Emily–three of the friendly faces at La Famiglia.      **Emily has since left La Famiglia in order to focus on her studies at MU Medical School!


         “Hi Mrs. Hill!  We’ve got seats for you!”  The young lady exclaims as we pass her.  Her name is Caroline, and she is one of the many staff members at La Famiglia, 1327 6th Avenue in Huntington, WV, who makes John, my husband, and me feel right at home.  Caroline’s face glistens in the evening sun as she rushes about taking care of the outside patio customers.

           Entering through the front door, John and I are further greeted by Courtney and Selena, the latter of whom also happens to be one of my former Kindergarten students from what seems like a lifetime ago.



Entrance to La Famiglia’s beautiful private event room–ready to book your next special event.


           “Hi guys! How are you?” greets Selena.

           “I’m going to check right now and see if the guys have gluten-free pasta in the back for you Mrs. Hill,” adds Courtney as she hustles away and disappears into the kitchen area.

           “Hi! Mrs. Hill.  How’s Maddie? I feel like I haven’t seen her in forever!” greets and asks another former, but much more recent, student named Sophie.

           “Hi guys, good to see you!” gently and softly adds one of John’s former students, Hayley.

           “Hey! Hi again!” chimes in Sam, a fairly new waitress with a youthful grin.


Tyler and Emily are ready to serve drinks from behind the bar.


           As the evening sun made its westward descent casting a warm, ripened- peach-hued glow overhead during this recent visit, John and I enjoyed talking with former and current students and/or their parents, fellow staff and/or church members, and even Rev. Monsignor Dean Borgmeyer, our parish pastor, before, during, and after our scrumptious dinner. Additionally, La Famiglia owner Ralph Hagy, and his sons, Joe and Jordan, each spent time, not only talking with us, but also making their rounds throughout the restaurant conversing with all of their customers.  This is one of the reasons why dining at La Famiglia has the feel of eating at home with extended family and friends; and, it is that very atmosphere, as well as made-from scratch food, that keeps “mi famiglia,” my family, returning again and again.



The interior and exterior of La Famiglia is comfortable and inviting.  Just look at that porch swing!


           Of course, it doesn’t hurt that La Famiglia is located directly across from the school in which John and I teach as well as our home church, St. Joseph Catholic School and St. Joseph Catholic Church respectively.   Since John and I tend to work late on Friday evenings, it’s not unusual for us to walk directly from school to the restaurant where we know our end-of-the workweek-fatigue will be assuaged with made-from scratch food—including the pasta, sauce, pizza, and yes, cheese, as well as gregarious conversation and a wide variety of appealing “adult beverages,” including house crafted specials, such as limoncello and figcello to name a few.



Jordan, Ralph, and Joe Hagy are seen most nights circulating among customers ensuring they feel at home and welcome!


           While I was already well aware of how very much my family enjoys dining at La Famiglia, I fell even more in-love with it after experiencing a sneak-peak behind the scenes!!  Ralph, Ramon, and staff invited me to not only take pictures of their wood-fired oven and kitchen area as the staff recovered from a weekday lunch rush and prepared for the dinner crowd, but also to observe the cheese-making process.  I was pumped to say the least!



Check out the wood-fired oven and busy kitchen!         Ramon Urbaez gets the water hot for the curds!


           Arriving around 3:30 one afternoon, I found the dining area abandoned, except for one lone salad and water sitting on the bar.  (Later, I would learn it was Ralph’s lunch for which he did not have time to eat.) As I walked toward the kitchen, I could hear Ralph talking.  Rounding the corner, I watched as Ralph deftly navigated between a call on a cell phone and a call on the restaurant phone. I could tell from the conversations that both calls were regarding acquiring fresh ingredients for the restaurant’s current menu and upcoming weekend specials.

           Across from him was a box chock full of fresh produce that Ralph later explained to me had just arrived from a nearby WV farm-based business.  In return, Ralph was sending the farm-business a few products from his restaurant to use and sell. Ralph explained that sometimes the barter system was still the best way for local businesses to help one another.  


Garden fresh produce at La Famiglia!


           Meanwhile, as Ralph talked, water was being heated over a stove in an enormous pot, seemingly big enough to bathe a large dog, to a precise temperature in order to make fresh cheese. Nearby, was another large pot filled with salted curds ready to be made into fresh mozzarella cheese.  Ralph explained that the staff goes through the cheese making process nearly every business day! The water must be heated between 160-180 degrees in order to create the best consistency and bring out the most flavor. Once Ramon stated the temperature was correct, both men went to work.



Salted curds await to have hot water poured over them in order to make fresh mozzarella balls.  Two pans of ice water baths await to cool the fresh cheese.  Additionally, a paddle is ready to help stir these curds along!


           Gloves were donned, due to the high temperature of the water, curds were dropped in the water, and Ramon began to work his magic on the curds using a large wooden paddle that looked very much like a paddle used to maneuver a canoe.  Ralph was at the ready holding the pot steady. It was hot work that Ramon said felt, “really good to do in the winter, but not so much in the summer.”



Ralph pours the hot water over the curds as Ramon is at the ready with the paddle.


           Once the correct consistency had been reached, both men plunged their gloved hands into the hot water in order to knead and form fresh, warm mozzarella balls between the size of a baseball and softball.  Each of these freshly formed mounds was then placed on a large metal baking sheet to cool.



As the cheese begins to bind and reach the right consistency, Ralph and Ramon begin making the fresh balls of mozzarella.


           Ralph was kind enough to allow me to taste a bit of the warm, ooey-gooeyness.  Wow! Did my taste buds ever light up and dance a mambo in my mouth. I tried to imagine, as Ralph suggested, how good the warm cheese would taste if drizzled with a bit of quality balsamic vinegar and olive oil served up with fresh garden basil and tomatoes.  Oh my! No wonder La Famiglia’s Fresh Caprese Platter and Margherita pizzas are two of their biggest sellers in the summer!



Margherita Pizza, Caprese Capri, and Caprese Platter are three dishes at La Famiglia that feature their daily-made, fresh mozzarella cheese!












           Watching the intense focus that went into their cheese making, I could only imagine the attention to detail that goes into each of their made-from-scratch menu items and weekly specials.  In fact, Ralph further explained to me that they make all of their pasta and pizza dough fresh from flour imported from Italy. Additionally, I was privy to see the first class, organic meats and tomato products they purchase from an Italian wholesaler. Clearly the restaurant does not skimp on quality when it comes to the ingredients for their menu items. No wonder my family feels like we are sitting down to a homemade meal when we go to La Famiglia, because we are!



Fresh, quality meats from an Italian wholesaler. 


           Whether you are dining in or taking out, the next time you want a home cooked, family meal that is truly made-from-scratch from fresh whole food ingredients, but don’t have the time or energy to cook, give La Famiglia a try!   From hand-cut steaks to fall-off the-bone, slow-cooked ribs; from fresh, tasty salads and soups to made-from scratch pasta and pizza; from grilled-to-perfection fish to savory appetizers, including their family recipe for hand rolled meatballs; and from one-of-a-kind gelatos to over-stuffed cannolis, and-oh-so-much more, you are sure to walk away from La Famiglia feeling like a well-fed part of their family!

           From my home to yours, I wish you healthy, happy, and homemade meals!


Appealing appetizers, including Diavolo Horn . . .



Farm-fresh salads . . .



Fall-off-the-bone Diavolo Ribs and Short-rib Dinner Special . . .






Fill-your-mouth-with-comfort Lasagna Calabrese  . . .



Unique seasonal specials, i.e. stuffed, grilled eggplant . . .



Phenomenal made-from-scratch (including the crust) wood-fired pizza . . .



Perfectly cooked to your request, hand-cut steaks and other weekend specials . . .



Steaming platters of made-from-scratch-pasta—notice how one platter fogged my camera lens!  (with gluten-free option available) . . .



Unique and homemade desserts . . .