one family's yearlong dare to live their dreams

Back from India

Almost two weeks have passed since little arms greeted me at the door after my big, fat Indian adventure. I scooped up my two girls, kissed their daddy, and wiped away a few tears before sliding back into my whirlwind life as a working mama. Like a good soldier I have fallen in line with the rhythms of school, work, deadlines, meals. Nothing has changed…yet everything is different. Optiondemo Demo

We pulled this off, my little family and me. My girls wear bindis and bangles, and I tell stories about wild elephants and morning walks in the tea fields. Our Party of 4 has been kissed by adventure, and I have a few more pictures to prove it from India Part 2, my second week.

With my friend Milena and an entourage of 16 people, we celebrated her birthday for seven straight days…

Exploring life on the streets in lovely Munnar…

Finding a home where flowers run rampant, and tiny tree frogs conduct the evening symphony…

Plying Kerala’s lazy backwaters via houseboat…

Feasting, and then feasting some more…

Immersing ourselves in local culture (note the Ganesh coloring book)…

And generally steeping ourselves in tea country beauty.

Tips for a balanced life from Marc & Amy Vachon

I spoke with Amy and Marc Vachon, authors of the Equally Shared Parenting book and blog, about a way of life that has made my family’s year of living adventurously possible. Marc and Amy’s work is pitched to parents, but their ideas apply equally well to any life partners who want to bring more joy and balance into their lives. Call it equally shared living.

What is equally shared parenting?

Amy: Equally shared parenting is a term that clinical psychologist Francine Deutsch out of Mount Holyoke coined as the best way to describe this thing. The thing is a lifestyle for a couple with children that builds on an equal partnership [to give] both partners…a chance at a balanced life. And so that means that they share in the four different domains of their lives together. They share equally in their importance as breadwinners in the family. They also share in the housework. They share in raising their children to the equivalent depth and approximate time spent. And then they each have approximately the same amount of time to have fun, individual lives.

Why do it?

Marc: We both want to spend time with the kids. We’re not trying to avoid them and push them off on somebody else. We both want to maintain our careers. We don’t want to avoid having to go to work. We want to embrace that as a part of who we are, and just have it fit into our life as opposed to be an all-encompassing endeavor. And same with recreation and taking care of the home.

What are the challenges?

Marc: I think it takes a leap of faith. Society is set up in a way to reaffirm the male’s role as the primary or sole breadwinner. Yes, women have come into the workforce in much larger numbers. But to totally embrace this model may call into question some of the long-held beliefs that we all grew up with, which is the man is in charge of bringing in the paycheck. To risk that in any way, I think is scary for a lot of people. It takes some courage.

Amy: Same thing on the woman’s side. I think the depth to which a woman has to let go of her society’s definition of motherhood is under appreciated. We often say on the surface, “Oh, I love when my husband helps around the house. I don’t mind if he doesn’t quite fold the towels the way I do.” But that’s just the beginning of what you have to let go. You really have to believe in the depths of your heart that your husband or your spouse or your partner or whoever is as equally capable of coming up with the best way to do anything as you are. That’s hard stuff.

Tips from Amy & Marc on starting an equally shared life

  • Get on the same page with your partner; agree that you both want to do it.
  • Start slowly.
  • Ask yourself what you want more of in your life, and what you want less of.
  • Ask you and your partner what you want out of your relationship.

Tips for keeping it going

  • Enjoy each domain of your life equally (parenting, career, housework, and recreation).
  • Don’t save the good stuff for later; have it all now—time for fun, time to work, time with loved ones.
  • Pursue meaning for yourself both in and out of the home.
  • Accept imperfection as the nature of life.

Mysore Mosaic

I’ve left Mysore behind for the skinny, coconut-scented state of Kerala in southwest India. Here in Fort Cochin – where Western tourists have infiltrated the quaint city, armed with sun hats and digital cameras – my thoughts wander back to Mysore’s unapologetic authenticity…..

A flower vendor selling jasmine garlands to drape over altars or weave into women’s braided hair…

The chalk drawings known as kolam, which were originally designed to ward off insects but now just adorn the streets with domestic artistry…

My favorite hotel breakfast of fresh fruit, watermelon juice, and uppithu, a semolina dish with just a hint of Indian spice…

One of the city’s omnipresent and beloved bovines…

Colored powders at Deva Raja Market, considered one of the most beautiful open-air markets in India…

My sentiments exactly.

Postcard from India #3

My stay here in Mysore is brief, yet I already have my rituals to savor, especially in the mornings. One of my favorite things to do is wander the quiet residential enclave around my yoga shala and photograph the women making chalk drawings on the stoops and streets outside their homes. The designs are lovely, mandala-like and ephemeral, kind of like my stay here, which will be over tomorrow.

When the yoga shala opens, I unroll my mat between two fellow students who have become fast friends, David from Down Under and a Brazilian beauty named Sara. Together we sweat and twist and morph our way through the Ashtanga primary series as the sensations of a Mysore morning filter through the windows: the calls of fruit vendors, the scent of jasmine garlands for sale, the clinking of chai glasses as the tea stalls open.

But what bewitches me most are the dedicated women who, in a daily ritual of chalk dust and pride, become artists for a moment. When I ask if I can take their picture they always smile, and in a flash we’re connected across cultures, allies in impermanence. Soon the rains will come and leave no trace of their intricate patterns…or of me and my Mysore days.

Postcard from India #2

What a mad, dirty, lovable place Mysore is! I fell in love with this yoga-famous metropolis as my plane circled down among palm trees under a blazing sun. As my taxi entered the city we passed mountains of watermelons for sale, cows eating garbage by the roadside, gaggles of sari-clad women, and many barefooted, smiling children. In the city’s ramshackle core I felt the motherly urge to give every building a bath, with a bucket the size of a swimming pool and an enormous, sudsy sponge.

My first few days as a traveler, I could hardly look at a child without welling up. I miss my two beautiful girls back home, and their sweet daddy, with a constant ache in my heart. But slowly I am giving myself to this place and this experience. My brief time of hair-raising rickshaw rides, rooftop monkeys, and night-lit palaces enriches not just me but my whole family. It emboldens us to live with adventurous spirits and hearts open to the wild ride that is life on Earth. And that’s good for us all.

Postcard from India #1

No matter where I am in the world, I have an uncanny feeling of coming home when I walk into a yoga studio. This is how I felt when I entered the simple shala of B.N.S. Iyengar, the 84-year-old Ashtanga master who studied with Krishnamacharya, the grandfather of modern yoga, in Mysore, India.

The guru arrived wearing a motorcycle helmet and a long white dhoti. He seemed ageless, with nary a line on his face; his teaching manner was commanding yet endearing, like strong coffee tempered by just enough sugar. Class was brisk, sweaty, and euphoric. Afterwards with two fellow students I drank my first raw coconut juice, straight from the fruit, at a roadside stand. It felt like a Mysore rite of passage, and now I can say I am truly here.

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