Penguins have names like Fiona and Tyrone and Louis

Apparently the rest of the country is buried under snow, but here in Seattle we are having GORGOUS weather (complete with sunshine AND warmth!), so we had to get out of the house to do something more exciting than grocery shopping at Costco. So we headed on up to the Woodland Park Zoo to renew our yearly membership and see some animals! Potamus has been obsessed with making animal noises (his particular favorite is the chimpanzee, which I have NO idea where he learned that from…haha).

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I realized when we parked, that I had brought a 2 year old to the zoo without a stroller as tired-leg-backup. What’s fun about going places with kids is that it’s new every time. He squealed and pointed and even drew the attention of passerbys who even said “wow, he’s really excited.” I don’t like to stifle his excitement, because FUCK YEAH PENGUINS ARE COOL BABY! I guess I didn’t notice all the ‘well behaved’ (aka quiet) kids at the zoo who ooh and ahh with tiny exasperated adult voices…because my kid has enthusiasm just like his mom.

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On our way out we stopped back at the penguin exhibit and watched them get fed. I was struck by the zookeeper who was calling out their names as he threw them a fish. Hey Tyrone, here you go! Fiona, you need your vitamins too! Louis, eat the fish, don’t drop it that seagull will get it! I was fascinated, because of course penguins have personalities and you would know them, but I found the names funny. I think a children’s book called “A Penguin Named Tyrone” would be cute. Anyone want to write that?

The Price of Anger: Exhaustion

Typically my anger is directed toward others, and is mostly in the form of smallish annoyances. The emotion is like a match: quick to light and quick to burn out. For those that see my annoyance on an almost daily basis they get used to the quickness of it, though I suppose some would say that if you’re burned by a match it leaves a mark even if the flame goes out quickly.

My sister says that I have the ability to change the temperature in a room. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know that my energy is powerful and when not harnessed it has caused destruction. Maybe I’m thinking of Rogue from the X Men type ‘powers.’ At any rate, I cycle through annoyance on a daily basis, but the anger I felt the other day is much more insidious and harder to shake. It’s exhausting.

I feel like I’ve run a marathon through mud or molasses. My mind wants me to believe that I’ve learned something from that experience on Tuesday, but I’m not quite sure that it’s accurate. What’s challenging is that I KNOW that being a teacher is like being a therapist and that the cliche of leading horses to water is true. I know that. I really do know that. And believe it. And I’m still stuck. Which is the most frustrating part of it all.

The self-loathing that comes with this level of anger (dare I say rage?) is awful. I could curl up in bed all day with this shitty stomach ache. It leads to more destructive activities, like an obsession with alcohol (for which I haven’t consumed, because I am mostly afraid that choosing alcohol while I’m so angry will only make things worse), and a desire to give up yoga completely, and to lash out at all the lovely supportive people around me.

And I don’t want to hear about your damn problems, either. That’s the thing…I tried calling a friend the other day, and as she chattered on about whatever she was talking about I found myself seething with even more anger. I didn’t want to hear it. Not one more complaint about her job or her schooling or her dogs who chewed something up. Nope. Wasn’t going to have it. Emotionally and mentally spent.

It’s the end of my work week. Today the student’s are giving their speeches. And we will all go home early. I’ll probably go to yoga and hopefully can pull myself out of this funk, because it’s a terrible feeling.

Teacher Discouragement: How Being a Yoga Student is Helping Me See My Student’s Differently

Yesterday’s class sucked.

I don’t think I went into the afternoon session with a foul attitude, though the one repeat student did ask me before class “um, are you okay, you look upset?” At any rate, we got started and the whole vibe was just off and this is repeatedly wearing me down, despite the good heart-to-heart conversation I had with them a few weeks ago. It just feels the same, and I want to focus on the 10 students who are paying attention, but I get distracted by the remaining students who are screwing around, or sleeping, or just generally spaced out not paying attention.

And so, when I let my class out early, I posted about my chronic discouragement on Facebook, with a somewhat plea for ideas…and the things that I was given back only futhered my frustration with the whole day. It feels like the people who responded, also teachers themselves, just didn’t understand what I already do in my classroom. Calls for using humor, more youtube clips, asking them about their interests, are all well and good…and things I do already…but at the end of the day, I also have to present to them material from the course and expect that the soft-skills of being able to FUCKING SIT IN YOUR SEAT FOR A GODDAMN 20 MINUTES AT A TIME isn’t too much to ask for. How are they ever going to get a job, if that’s what they indeed want, with their milling-around slacker attitudes?

In my almost-ragey attitude, I headed home and off to yoga. Where I proceeded to feel just as angry and this time, not only at my day and my students, but myself. The poses seemed more challenging than before, my mind wouldn’t shut up, I became hyper critical and noticed all the others around me. It didn’t matter that my instructor was positive, gave compliments liberally, and believed we could all do our best. It. Did. Not. Matter. I sat there on my mat, grumpy, almost determined to have a shitty class, and fumed. My day had been shit. My class was going to shit. And my best friend practicing next to me looked like a yoga goddess and it didn’t matter that I knew she cried at work and had as shitty of a day as me. I was in a place of glump.

But even though my brow was furrowed and I didn’t want to be there anymore (but you can’t very well just huff out after only 4 poses), I could tell that I was my student. For whatever reason they can’t get outside their heads, their past experiences, and no matter amount of coaxing, sweet-talking, gentle chiding, sarcasm, humor, or exasperation is going to motivate them to get off their butts and onto their mat and try Trikonasana if they don’t want to. Because anything short of that instructor marching over to me and physically manipulating my limbs into a contorted pose I was NOT going to do it.

I’d like to think it helped me have clarity about my own circus-monkey act in front of my class. But I was still angry and resentful and discouraged when I left, though this blog post was milling about in my mind, so there was probably some movement at least. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I teach them tomorrow. How I’m going to react. If I’ll use more humor, or You Tube clips, or whatnot. But I can’t do the work for them, and I saw that pretty clearly in yoga. She provided the space, and it was up to me to bring my game. And it was my deal when it didn’t go as planned.

Gauging Normal in Parenthood

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I invited some friends over for lasagna on Saturday because a) I was craving lasagna, b) I like having an excuse to invite friends over, and c) I like having an excuse to not eat an entire pan of lasagna myself. It was fun, but Boof noticed their little one eating everything on his high chair tray and was like “does he always eat whatever you put in front of him?” and when they answered that yes, he does, it made me suddenly think:

I have a high maintenance kid.

I have no doubt that there are things I could be doing ‘better’ to make my son ‘behave’ more or ‘comply’ more, and I lack the energy and wherewithal to follow through on that type of parenting course. But I also think…maybe…maybe…my kid might be high needs. Not high needs like special needs, but this is a kid who REFUSED for-the-love-of-God any form of milk from a bottle/sippycup/regular cup until he was about 2 (or at daycare). He nurses straight from the tap and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Maybe I’m ‘spoiling’ him with all of this attachment parenting, but I also wonder…maybe my kid is just difficult in his adorably lovable sweet way.

He wants to sleep a particular way, and only eat particular foods when with us (and he’s picky at daycare, though less so), and watch particular shows and basically overall has his mama’s stubborn personality.

But he’s my only kid. So I have nothing to compare it to. And I’m not saying parenting him is easy, or that my friend who’s struggling with her ‘good eater’ on different issues has a better/worse time than me, but it makes me wonder. I focus a lot on my son’s sweetly stubborn personality and think he’s overall an easy kid, but…but…what if he’s not? What if my exhaustion is because he’s actually a very demanding and particularly needy kid who I love dearly, but am exhausted and mystified by most of the time?

My Body as Public Property

Yesterday I had lunch with my co-teacher, and I was bitching about the lame pasta salad the cafeteria was offering and he said, “yeah, you’ll probably need something more than that with all your hot yoga,” and I replied with “I know man, I can’t believe it, I’ve lost 30lbs doing hot yoga.” His response shocked me, as he said:

I know. You can tell. Bethany (my friend and co-worker) and I were talking about it the other day. You look good.

There was nothing weird about his statement, though it did catch me off guard. Because I spend a lot of time in my head, I rarely even notice that I have a body. And after 31 years of life as a woman, I have rarely had moments of body image issues (related to weight, because I’ve certainly had insecurities about my height). I don’t hate my body because a) it’s super functional (carrying my brain to and fro is a necessity) and b) it brings me quite a lot of pleasure. It wasn’t until I was pregnant, though, that I really started to notice how my physical body was suddenly on the public stage. Grannies and co-workers and grocery store clerks all had some comment, ranging from “oh, you don’t look pregnant,” to “oh, you’re having a boy,” to any number of other random things. Fortunately nobody touched me, but I for that I blame my 6’1 frame and badass-I-will-cut-you-if-you-come-too-close attitude.

So here I am, a regular practitioner of bikram yoga, 30lbs lighter (yay, I’ve lost the baby weight finally! and actually weighing less than I did at my wedding), and I’m suddenly…doubting myself? Feeling anxious? Feeling uncomfortable in my own skin? Not exactly. Even Boof has noticed, that the regular yoga practice has only increased my confidence level. I feel more in control tune with my body. I feel strong, and flexible, and sexy. And I’m not even focusing on weight.

But.

But.

As someone with an anxiety disorder, I worry. A LOT. And I’m starting to worry about things like:

What if I really like being thin and then I gain weight? And then I start feeling bad about myself for gaining weight? And then I develop an eating disorder?

Yeah, my brain works like that.

But it is an interesting experience suddenly being more in the public eye with how I look. I look back at pictures and I can’t really see much of a difference, though overall 30lbs is quite a lot of weight actually, and think I looked fine before, but definitely feel more fine now. Does that make sense?

 

 

You Wanna Know About My Stance on Adoption?

My friends are often surprised that someone like me (aka a ‘successful’ adoption story) is anti adoption. Especially since I worked with foster youth, and fucked up families in crisis, and at-risk teenagers gettin’ knocked up with their meth-head boyfriends (maybe a tad exaggerated there). And so I usually bumble along in my explanation, but then I came across this piece and thought “holy shit, yeah” and so I’m just going to quote the whole damn thing, or you can click over and read it in it’s entirety on their site…

Meet the New Anti-Adoption Movement:
The surprising next frontier in reproductive justice

For a long time, Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy thought of herself as an adoption success story. Pregnant at 18 from an affair with her boss, she denied the pregnancy until her coworkers began to notice. Too far along to get an abortion, she looked up an adoption agency in the Yellow Pages and found herself agreeing to move to Boston and live with a host family until she gave birth. Her son, who she calls Max (his adoptive parents gave him a different name), was born in November of 1987 and handed over to a couple Corrigan D’Arcy had only seen in photos. And that was that.

She told herself she’d done the smart thing. She’d given her son a two-parent family of means. It wasn’t until more than a decade later that Corrigan D’Arcy, by then married and the mother of three more children, began to rethink what had happened.

 By having her move to a new state while pregnant, she felt the agency was purposely isolating her from friends and family who might have helped her. Though she knew who her baby’s father was, the agency told her not to tell him she was pregnant. She could have sued him for child support—he was a wealthy lawyer—but the adoption agency didn’t talk about that, only about the hardships she would face as a “welfare mom,” should she keep her child. They called her a “family-building angel” and a “saint” for considering adoption. “It was crazy subtle, subtle, subtle brainwashing,” she told me recently.

Adoption has long been perceived as the win-win way out of a a difficult situation. An unwed mother gets rid of the child she’s not equipped to care for; an adoptive family gets a much-wanted child. But people are increasingly realizing that the industry is not nearly as well-regulated and ethical as it should be. There are issues of coercion, corruption, and lack of transparency that are only now being fully addressed.

The past decade has seen the rise of a broad and loose coalition of activists out to change the way adoption works in America. This coalition makes bedfellows of people who would ordinarily have nothing to do with each other: Mormon and fundamentalist women who feel they were pressured by their churches, progressives who believe adoption is a classist institution that takes the children of the young and poor and gives them to the wealthier and better-educated, and adoptive parents who have had traumatic experiences with corrupt adoption agencies.

Some women, like Corrigan D’Arcy, blog their stories. They run message boards with names like “First Mother Forum” and “Pound Pup Legacy,” full of tales of bitterly regretted adoptions. They hold retreats for birthmothers and adoptees. They’ve formed several grassroots activist organizations, including Parents for Ethical Adoption ReformOrigins-USA, and Concerned United Birthparents. Some call themselves adoption reformers. Others prefer terms such as “adoption truth advocate.” A few will come straight out and say they’re anti-adoption.

They want, among other things, a ban on adoption agencies offering monetary support to pregnant women. They want to see laws put in place guaranteeing that “open” adoptions (where birthparents have some level of contact with their children) stay open. They want women to have more time after birth to decide whether to terminate their parental rights. These activists have become increasingly loud of late, holding prominent rallies, organizing online, and winning several recent legislative victories.

Reproduce justice activists tend to focus on rights to contraception and abortion. But these adoption reforms are equally important when it comes to men and women having full control of their destinies.

Adoption in America has changed vastly since the end of the so-called “Baby Scoop Era” in the early 1970s, when many pregnant young women were “sent away” and their babies offered up for adoption as a matter of course. Thanks to legalized abortion and a drastic lessening of the stigma against unwed mothers, the number of babies available domestically has been shrinking since the mid-’70s. Fifty years ago, about 9 percent of babies born to unmarried women were placed for adoption. Today that number is 1 percent. All in all, there are about 14,000 domestic infant adoptions a year, comprising only about 15 percent of U.S. adoptions. (The rest are from the foster care system, or are international.)

But for young women who do find themselves pregnant and unmarried, the pressure to choose adoption is still present. Much of this pressure still comes from organized religion. Andrea Mills, 38, has placed four of her children for adoption through the Mormon Church’s LDS Family Services program over the past 13 years. Mormonism forbids abortion, considers premarital sex taboo, and frowns upon single parenthood. When Mills initially voiced uncertainty about adoption, the counselor handling her case insisted it was her best option, saying “This is what God wanted.” The nation’s4,000-odd “crisis pregnancy centers,” anti-choice organizations, are often affiliated with evangelical Christian maternity homes and Christian adoption agencies. “Pregnant? Scared?” their ads ask on billboards and in bar bathroom posters; “We can help.”

Even non-religious adoption agencies practice what some say is subtle coercion. Agencies offer pregnant women financial assistance—for rent, groceries, medical bills, maternity clothes, even cellphones. Some even offer college scholarships for women who go through with adoptions. Agencies frequently warn women about a “post-abortion syndrome” of lasting depression and guilt, though mainstream medical organizations dismissed these warnings. (Adoption, on the other hand, is known to cause “a sense of loss that is all-encompassing,” says the U.S. Administration for Children and Families.) Adoption counselors are frequently adoptive parents themselves, which puts them in a less-than-neutral position.

While the ubiquity of open adoption—today 95 percent of all adoptions include some kind of contact between birthparents and children—is universally seen as a step forward, it can present its own challenges. Pregnant women, encouraged to choose and bond with an adoptive couple before the baby is born, often get the impression that they and the couple are going to be “kind of co-parents,” says Kathryn Joyce, the author of The Child Catchers, an expose on corruption in the adoption industry. But then, when the baby is born and relinquished, the couple closes ranks, wanting—understandably enough—to cocoon as a family. The birthmother is left feeling like, in Joyce’s words, “’you were all over me when I was pregnant, but now that you have the baby you don’t want anything to do with me.’”

Responding to all this, adoption reformers have been lobbying state governments for a number of specific changes.

First, there’s the matter of timing. In some states, such as Utah, a woman can sign papers irrevocably terminating her parental rights 24 hours after giving birth. At this point, a woman is still in the hospital, exhausted and possibly under the influence of painkillers. In more than half of all states, irrevocable termination of parental rights can be established in fewer than four days. “We believe that this is by no means a sufficient time period to make an irreversible, life-altering decision with consequences for many people,” says Concerned United Birthparents, an adoption reform group, which would like to extend the period to 30 days.

But public opinion tends to favor shorter waiting times, sympathetic to the pain of adoptive parents who have babies taken away after a birthmother changes her mind. (A reality show on Logo TV called “The Baby Wait” focuses on this limbo period, its allegiances clearly lying with the prospective adoptive couples.) In April, Kansas eliminated its 30-day post-birth waiting period, allowing adoptions to be finalized within the first 24 hours. This act was generally reported as an uncontroversial good.

There has been a bit more progress on open adoption. Fewer than half of U.S. states regulate open adoption agreements. In the rest, openness depends on the whim of the adoptive parents, many of whom soon tire of feeling they’re sharing their child. In Mills’s case, a supposedly open adoption became “don’t call us, we’ll call you,” she says. Georgia enacted a law in May that makes open adoption contracts legally binding, meaning birthparents are guaranteed access to their children as often as their agreed-upon contracts specify. Utah passed a similar measure earlier this year, but only for children adopted from state custody.

In August, the Adoptee Rights Coalition rallied around the issue of access to birth certificates. Currently, only a handful of states allow unrestricted access to original birth certificates. But the recent phenomenon of adoptees searching for, and sometimes finding, their birthparents via Facebook has highlighted the need for action. Though people imagine that birth mothers want their privacy, Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, says that only a tiny minority actually want to withhold their identifying details from their children permanently. In May, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a new law giving some, but not all, adoptees access to their original birth certificates, a partial win for reformers that left many unhappy. Pennsylvania’s legislature will likely vote on a similar bill this fall, as will Ohio’s, after numerous failed attempts by adoption reform groups in both states to pass such legislation. Another bill was passed by the New Jersey legislature, but conditionally vetoed by Governor Chris Christie in 2011.

Very few activists are claiming that adoption shouldn’t be an option, but the activists currently involved in the issue recognize that adoption is far from the perfect solution it was so long perceived to be. It’s a difficult, life-changing decision with ramifications that last a lifetime. As such, it needs to be treated with the utmost transparency and a much higher degree of ethical oversight, legal and otherwise.

“I would rather see us live in a society where we say to struggling pregnant women, ‘OK you have a problem, we should try to fix the whole situation,’” says Corrigan D’Arcy, “rather than remove the child and leave the mother in crisis.” One of the most important events of her recent life was locating her now-teenage son via MySpace. “Every portion of finding him, whether it was just finding that he was alive or finding where he is, I felt one step lighter, one step closer to being who I was really supposed to be.”

Image via Shutterstock.

Emily Matchar has written for The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Salon. She’s the author of Homeward Bound (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

I’d be interested to hear what you think of this article…

Yogavangelist: Introducing Friends to Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga with friends!

Growing up as a fundamentalist Christian, I am no stranger to the ‘evangelist’ idea. I was taught about how to ‘witness’ to my friends, and the importance of ‘preaching the gospel’ so that people I knew could be ‘saved’ and ‘go to heaven.’ I wonder if I just never believed any of the hype, because as an anxious person I never felt comfortable blabbing about Christian doctrine with friends, let alone with strangers. Sure I’d have discussions, but never in an evangelist sort of way.

I wonder if I was just never a good enough Christian, that I must never have really believed in all of it, because my evangelist-anxiety has not extended to things like Bikram yoga. Yesterday my bestie The Anxious Hippie drove up to visit me for the long weekend, and we headed on out to coffee and a FREE bikram yoga class thanks to the Valentine’s Day special my studio was having.

This makes the 6th friend/family member that I’ve convinced to try a Bikram class, and I’ve invited at least as many more that have politely declined (or outright said HELL NO to the heat!). But she freaking KILLED IT YA’LL. I mean, totally. The heat didn’t seem to bother her one bit, and she had a great balance of working hard, but not pushing herself past her comfort point. It was so great to have her in class!

So there you go. I’m the crazy yogavangelist, and I might come knocking on your door with pamphlets and fliers about the benefits of Bikram yoga! Because Lord knows it’s certainly changing my life (did I mention I weigh less than I did at my wedding 5 years ago? WAHOO!).

How do you share your love of yoga with others?

How Drinking Beer Leads to Yoga Poses

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Sometimes you just need a girl’s day, that turns into a girl’s night. And with little ones roaming around, this spontaneous day was actually very well planned…down to the last minute, even.

We started off with a leisurely drive up north to a Korean women’s spa. WHOA, what an experience. It felt somewhere between radically amazing and downright uncomfortable. While lying on a wet massage table, getting scrubbed by a Korean woman named “Tina,” next to at least 10 other women getting the same body scrub, I couldn’t help but feel that this was about 1/2 a step away from a Korean red light district. But at the end of the day I felt so relaxed and rejuvenated that wandering around in our hospital dressing gowns with shower caps like psych patients that I would certainly go back.

And we headed on down to the U district for a shampoo and blow out, before we went out to dinner. And then, finally, the fun part of our day…drinking at Gordon Biersch brewery. YUM! On our way back to the hotel, after 1 (or 5) beers, we just had to bust out some yoga moves. We don’t do yoga 4 times a week together to not want to do them while a bit tipsy!

Toe Stand

despite the beer, her balance is amazing!

nothing like a heart opener to end the night!

nothing like a heart opener to end the night!

24 hours of pure girl’s day bliss. We woke up to croissants and mimosas in bed, and I felt so relaxed it was unbelievable!

How to Pass the Time when You’re Waiting To Hear That Your Student Is Not Dead…

“I want to die! I want to die!” is not the first thing you want to read in your Monday morning email. Especially when the email was sent at 2:24 am on Saturday, a day you don’t work nor check email. Boundaries are super important in this job, and I make sure to live up to the boundaries that I set with my students. This isn’t the 24/7 crisis work that I used to do, and technically I am not even acting in the counseling capacity for my students, but when I read an email like that my heart skips a beat (or 12).

Because I care a great deal about students, and I also take suicidal ideation seriously.

I know, as a mental health counselor, that there is a difference between wanting to die and wanting to kill myself but without the ability to do a face-to-face assessment I cannot determine the level of threat in this email. And with a student not responding to my response email(s) or phone call, I am left in the emotional lurch.

Tomorrow, at noon, I will put a welfare check out on this student, per the college’s recommendation. But, in the meantime, my heart feels bound up and my normally boundaries-of-steel are crumbling into an almost state of panic.

I’ve never lost a student to suicide. I am frank in my lectures and in my last assessment with the student I am confident they were in a depressed state but had no suicide ideation, let alone any means or plan. I am confident in that. And yet…and yet…that email…and how quickly things can spiral.

In the meantime, while I wait for that return email, or that police knock on their door, I am drinking beer and folding underwear. Because nothing puts the world at ease like sorting panties into sexy and period piles on my coffee table. I have to live this way, one foot in front of the other…focus on the mundane, the real, the things I can control right now.

And wait.

Waiting is the hardest part.

And for those of you that vibe or shake or pray or drum or send good thoughts…you wanna send them my student’s way?

Thanks.

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How Yoga and Breastfeeding Prepared Me for My First Tattoo

I’ve wanted a tattoo forever, and as you know, from this post, foxes hold a special place in our family. I think of them as a spirit animal of sorts, (which maybe means I should change the title from Coyote Mother, to Fox Mother? Haha). So what better inspiration for my first tattoo, than a fox?

I trolled around on pinterest for aproximately 100 years to find the right inspiration (there are a lot of ugly ass foxes out there on people’s bodies), and settle on this beautiful illustration to serve as the basis for my tattoo!

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A rib tattoo for my first tattoo? Heck yeah baby! I headed on up to Two Birds Tattoo, a lovely all-female shop in Seattle. My lovely tattoo artist, Tarah, was initially hesitant to tattoo me on my ribs, since it was my first tattoo, but my confidence in my ability to manage the pain convinced her. As I laid there on my side, with my arm over my head for two hours, I told her that my experience breastfeeding my son prepared me for those moments. Because truthfully, the pain of my arm being wrenched into a strange position was more painful than the actual tattooing. I really enjoyed the process of the outlining, and only found myself flinching in the shading on more tender areas (which, surprisingly, were around my stretch marks and not so much on my actual ribs). I’ve spent so much time lying in uncomfortable positions over the past two years that a few hours on a tattoo table was nothing!

I took little sips of air, breathing through my nose. Tarah said that she has noticed a trend with people who practice yoga, that they tolerate the pain better, especially in the ribs area. I told her that if her other clients ever needed to know why, it’s because nose breathing actually calms the nervous system and helps override the fight/flight panic of adrenaline. I told her that I was basically tricking my body into thinking I was ‘okay’ even though my brain was probably like ‘ouch, pain, run away, you’re being attacked!’ She thought that was such great advice, and would pass it on to clients who needed something to focus on.

I think I’m hooked. I had such a great experience, and love the tattoo so much, that I am already planning on another…