yoga class – all together now

unexpectedly profound.  made this mama weepy.  why did i wait so long to do this?  grateful.  and with a large dose of silliness.

i woke up in a rotten mood last week.  not sure why….couldn’t pinpoint a reason. and, i stayed that way for most of the day – feeeling sad, grouchy, lonely, mopey, frustrated and simultaneously overwhelmed and underwhelmed.  ick!

brett was out of town for the night, so, i considered my options.  did i have it in me to make a fun summer memory?  what could it be?  i checked the schedule for our minor league baseball team, the indianapolis indians.  they were playing a home game, downtown indy, started at 7pm – we could do that.   or….miniature golf, who doesn’t love mini golf?  and, on the east side of indy is rustic gardens (the best place to play).  it’s where i played when i was a little girl.  that might be fun.

but, my rotten mood prevailed – i thought of a dozen reasons why both those outings would just bring more misery – both entailed a long drive, i’d have to spend a good bit of money, it was really hot outside, my kids would probably want to go home not long after arrival, siblings would argue… mind you, most of these expectations weren’t a guaranteed outcome; and, i don’t mind driving and a little expense for fun isn’t going to doom me.  but, i mentally shot down both ideas.  now – i was feeling even more anxious.

then, i remembered.  what always makes me feel better about myself and my place in the world?  duh. taking a yoga class.  slowly, my gloom started to lift.  one of my favorite local instructors, christine k., was scheduled to teach a vinyasa flow class at 5:45.  i’ve been to her class before, so, i am familiar with her style and with the other students that usually attend.  so, i sent her a quick fb message:  christine, would it be all right with you, and not too distracting to others, if i came to your class with my four daughters?  she soon replied: bring ‘em. it will be awesome.

so, i gathered the girls – made the announcement: “mandatory yoga class attendance with your mama!” 

we headed to the studio a mile down the road, and arrived plenty early for class.  christine made eye contact with each of my girls and one by one, she gave them each a hug, and told them how happy she was that they were there. 

we went into the yoga room and set out our mats – 5 mats in a row, in the back row.  other students came in and there were quizzical looks……i could sense them asking themselves, am i in the right class?  who brought all the kids?  is this gonna work?  and honestly, i only knew the answer to one of those questions.

i offered yoga props to my daughters.  reliably, my two youngests wanted every prop available.  i offered my oldest, an eye pillow.  she didn’t want one, claiming it would ruin her eye makeup, which she spends lengthy periods of time each day, perfecting. 

class began.  my daughters flowed with christine’s instructions and were respectful of each other and the other students in the room.  i started to think to myself…this is good.   as time elapsed, and we moved through poses and breaths, each of the girls’ quirky personalities emerged within the practice.

sasha and sophia were taking it quite seriously.  they were trying their best. they were calm and steady.  i peeked over once and saw christine help sophia into the prettiest half moon pose i’ve ever seen.  at one point, i noticed amara doing some bizarre interpretive dance moves. and, i almost stepped in and said something to her, like hey! not now!  but, i paused.  i reflected.  she wasn’t distracting anyone. she was quiet and staying on her own mat.  if the girl wants to shake it, i should let her shake it.

of course, one of my girls farted loudly during a pose, and i bit my lip hard and stared at the ground to keep from laughing.  after class, they all denied doing it – each person pointing a finger at the sister sitting next to them.  i reassured them that anyone who has taken yoga classes, has farted during a class.  i have. haven’t you?

christine conducted the class with wisdom, grace and good humor.  and the most poignant part of the class, for me, involved my dear isabel (whom, if you’ve read this blog before…you know.  she is not a fan of the yoga).  she struggles with flexibility, strength and coordination.  she was in a pose, christine approached her and whispered in her ear, “you are a strong young woman.”  and hearing that, made my heart swell to such a size that i felt it would burst – because i want the best for her, and she’s 14 and it’s a tough age and she is searching for her place and her purpose – and she is a very strong, young woman.

savasana was delightful. everyone relaxed.  at the end of class, i thanked the other students for being welcoming to us.  sasha wants to go back.  the girls debriefed a bit after class.  they described the experience as helpful, peaceful, beneficial and relaxing.  we all felt better.

and that, my friends is the beauty of an intentional practice of body, mind, spirit connection.  and who better to share that with, than my beloved daughters?

peace and love to you all.  thank you christine. you gave us all a priceless gift.


Posted in kids, meditation with kids, teens, yoga, yoga with kids | 3 Comments

expect the unexpected

good morning!  i hope you’re well and enjoying this beautiful weather we’ve been having – long, warm days that bleed into soft evenings of flickering fireflies, giving way to the coolness of dawn and the promise of a new day. it has been lovely indeed. and feelings of gratitude and fullness have occupied much of my awareness and heart space.

i am writing to you because i recently pulled together a themed yoga class that was well-received, fun and illuminating. the theme was a “backwards” yoga class! what does that mean?  well, it was interesting because i promo’ed this class on facebook (as i do most of my classes) and a few readers came to class expecting a backbend themed class (quite understandable).  but, it was not meant to be that.  instead, we did a typical lisa d yoga class, except, in reverse…..

here’s how it began. me: ok, everyone, come to a comfortable seated position at the top of your mat. take a big inhale, in through your nose, exhale, out your mouth.  now, join me in singing the shanti prayer, if you wish. “i want everyone, in all the world, to be happy. shanti, shanti, shanti.”  good. now let’s come into savasana/final relaxation…..

yup, we did it like that!

after one of these backwards classes, a yoga student (hi zach), said to me, you know, lisa, i wasn’t to sure about this…..singing at the beginning of class and savasana.  i’m kinda resistant to change.  but, when you’re leading class, i trust the journey you take us on. and i relaxed.

and, that’s the thing about doing these uniquely themed classes.  i know my audience. they know me, for the most part. i offer most of these themed classes at cityoga,  where i’ve been teaching for years – so, i have regular students that i see on a consistent basis.  i’ve watched their practice.  they know how i guide a class. they are familiar with my style. these type of classes would be difficult, and not particularly recommended, to try to pull off in a class full of beginners or new students with whom you are not familiar. also, as an instructor, we must be meticulous about sequencing the poses, especially when they are taught in an unconventional order of format.  we must always make sure that the muscles we are asking our students to stretch, are muscles that we have prepared for stretching, through breath, awareness,proper sequencing and warm ups.

that being said, the backwards class went from a breath and the shanti prayer to a real 8+ minute long savasana with eye pillows and guided progressive full body relaxation and silence; and ended by ringing the tibetan singing bowl three times. then, we did sequences of reclined poses, like twists and hip openers, moving into shoulderstand, plow, bridge and fish (one of my favorite combos of closing poses, in this case, opening poses :)). currently, i am really into repeating poses and sequences, so, we did all of the above, twice.

we then shifted up into seated poses, like, bound angle, seated twists, head to knee pose, inclined planes, pigeon poses.  about two-thirds of the way through the class, we did our first down dog and standing poses.  we proceeded through sun salutations and slid into our usual warm up or centering poses, now formatted at the end of our time together – we closed with an invitation to breathe, find your center, set an intention – and finally, legs up the wall pose to close the class.  because we had scooted our mats to the wall for legs up the wall pose, after 5 minutes or so of holding the pose, we all sat upright, faced the center of the room.  at this point, we were in a circle (i love teaching classes in a circle, and believe that that format is an under-utilized way of creating a sense of inclusion in a yoga class) – anyhow, in a circle, we closed our time together with one more breath all together and the shanti prayer (again).  backwards class, good stuff!

during the class, i shared a few quotes about backwardness that i gleaned from the internet. here’s one from lewis carroll, “it’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.”  and from kierkegaard, “life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

finally, i wanted to create a playlist of “directional” songs for the backwards class – songs having to do with, backwards, forwards, up, down, top, bottom, north, south, east, west, etc.  but, that was hard, and i was getting stumped. so, instead, i made a fun playlist that people seemed to enjoy.  here it is – i called it: rainy spring friday.

1. the canyon – a.r. rahman

2. liberation begins – a.r. rahman

3. touch of the sun – a.r. rahman

4. new star in the sky – air

5. within you without you – alan lorber orchestra

6. lost in marrakesh – ancient astronauts

7. minara – niyaz

8. agbalagba – angelique kidjo

9. 32 flavors – ani difranco

10. central reservation – beth orton

11. never turn your back on mother earth – neko case

12. gayatri mantra – adham shaikh

13. ai du – ali farka toure/ry cooder

14. black river – amos lee

15. djorolen – bela fleck

that’s all for now!  hope to see you in class soon.  peace and love, lisa d

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yoga and rhythm

good morning!  i love this time of year.  we are in full-on birthday season at our house (all 6 of us have birthdays between the months of may and september).  yesterday, we celebrated sophia turning 8 years old.  we did the kid party last weekend; so yesterday, we spent time together as a family.  i picked the birthday girl up early from school.  we made a cake, a special birthday dinner, opened presents….she loved her fishing pole, bait and tackle box. and…..just a couple weeks from now, sasha’s birthday! phew…..

living in indy most of my life, us locals know that memorial day weekend is a fun and exciting time to be in the city.  the weather is usually great.  the earth is lush and green.  race car drivers go fast. somebody wins. everyone cheers.  picnics. pool parties. cook-outs.  fun!

this memorial day, monday, may 27th, i am happy to offer a special yoga experience to our community…..just one more reason to love memorial day weekend.  monday morning, brett and i will load our djembe, our snare drum, our tom drum, cowbell :), claves, temple bells and singing bowls into our car and head to eagle creek park (one of the largest urban parks in the country), to the beautiful peace through yoga studio, located at the peace learning center, in the park. then, it’s on!

i am grateful and happy that brett agreed to join me as we create this thing, this experience, that, is exceptionally unique and tons of fun.  my co-creator, co-conspirator, brett, has big musical talent.  he’s one of these rare people who never has taken a lesson, never learned to read music, but can play almost any instrument he gets his hands on…..guitar, bass, piano/keyboards, flutes, and his favorite, the drums.  he is gifted at musical improvisation and claims that he hears and composes music in his head all day long….

as a child, adolescent and teenager, i took years of piano lessons, did learn to read sheet music and sang in church choirs and school choirs.  i wasn’t dedicated enough and maybe not talented enough to move beyond amateur musical experiences.  but, i always come back to music because it fills me up and makes me happy.

i started playing the djembe…..maybe, 5 or 6 years ago.  i already owned a djembe, rarely played it; it mostly collected dust-  until, i met a group of women who would become friends, sisters, soul guides, mentors and DRUMMERS with me.  it began innocently enough….”hey! let’s get together. we’ll sing and drum and dance, for fun!”  luckily, one of us knew what we were doing.  jamie became our drum leader.  she too, like brett, has raw musical talent.  she started learning west african rhythms on the djembe and she taught the rest of us.  she is a quick learner and a good teacher and soon we were able to drum a rhythm or two.  we formed a women’s drum troupe called: ashre.  we attended women drum (a fabulous weekend held twice a year at oakwood retreat center to empower women  to learn to drum, and to express ourselves through drumming, singing and dancing).

learning to play the djembe has challenged me again and again – and on more than 1 occasion, i said to myself – wah wah, i can’t do it! my left hand won’t do what i want it to do. i’ll never be a good drummer.  but, self doubt is something i’ve worked hard to overcome – so, i kept practicing….and it was so fun to play with ashre.  we laughed, we cried, we danced, we drummed and we performed for others – broad ripple art fair – yup!  cottage home block party – yup! private events and parties – it was a blast. and, i got better.  i played louder.  i began to believe in myself.  i quit worrying if i was good enough.  so, i drummed.  even when ashre broke up, i drummed.

brett was drumming a lot too.  we would play together, improvise together, and it sounded pretty good.  obviously, we know each other well and i can feel where the rhythm is going when he is playing and vice versa.  it became clear that we could take what we were doing, music wise, in our living room and bring it into the yoga studio.  cityoga offered us the chance to do just that – this past march.  the event went well and we are building on that foundation.

basically, yoga and rhythm becomes a vinyasa style yoga class accompanied by live, mostly improvised drum and percussion.  the music provides a sacred space for breath and connection to our bodies and our movements on the yoga mat.  please consider joining us this monday at eagle creek park from 10am-11:30.  it will cost you just $15, and will bring a long lasting smile to your face and a tappin in your toes.  hope to see you there!

if you’re interested, here’s a playlist i made called: djembe yoga

1. akiwowo (a capella) – babatunde olatunji

2. muloma (let us be united) – sierra leone’s refugee all-stars

3. evening samba – mickey hart

4. ti ca – althiery dorival

5. mi swing es tropical – quantic and nickodemus

6. this is not a tango – the juju orchestra

7. kikiribu (the bahama soul club) – mo’ horizons

8. din din wo (little child) – habib koite and bamada

9. luna – gabrielle roth and the mirrors

10. tekanatsyaslitha – joanne shenandoah

11. freedom – nawang khechog

LOVE to you all – have a great weekend – peace out!

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revamping…..and, i am a theme machine!

good afternoon on this sparkly, post storm tuesday.

i’ve been searching my soul for ways to revamp this blog.  no longer are we practicing familyoga on a consistent basis, for reasons familiar to anyone who has ever been a parent…..we let ourselves get swept up in busyness, space constraints, lack of enthusiasm, etc.  i am also becoming more and more focused on boosting my own yoga teaching career path by providing myself and y’all a forum for more exposure, access and a wider audience.

so….where does this blog go from here?

i’m excited!

you see, i came to be a yoga instructor in a very organic and unplanned way.  and this is quite different from how most other instructors came to be who they are.  this has been a blessing and a curse (mostly a blessing).  i’ve got something unique.  it shows up in many ways, most of which, i am not even aware of, because it’s just how i am, how i teach, and who i am.  but, i have received enough feedback over the course of 10+years of teaching yoga classes, that it’s finally sinking in – my yoga classes are DIFFERENT.  and some people (certainly not everyone) really REALLY love them.

now, for the blog part of this equation – i will, from this day forward :) , be using this space to  write (and hopefully, communicate with you!) about our yoga classes, sequencing, themes, what worked, what didn’t, feedback, playlists, poems, insights……i envision blogging as a way to generate excitement and plant seeds of insight and awareness regarding upcoming classes and workshops; and as a way to debrief after classes or series of classes.

one of the things i am most looking forward to sharing with y’all….is about the processes i use to theme a yoga class…..i am a theme machine!  i can come up with yoga class themes one after another, AND….i love to do it.  theme-ing a class keeps the practice fresh and innovative for me, the instructor, and you, the student.  it gives me a fresh way to look at the practice, every single time.  i hope that this can be a resource and inspiration for other instructors and interested students  (just last saturday, a woman was in the back row of my class, and she seemed to be writing down nearly everything i was saying and the sequence of poses i was using :))  so, instead of bringing a notebook to a class, this blog can be an insight into the thought and heart processes i use make the practice come alive each and every class.

here’s a tease for my most recent themed class…..i called the theme: green and blue, earth and sky. i’ve been so inspired by the flora and fauna and trees and green and blue sky and clouds this time of year,  that i knew this could be a beautiful theme for a class. we did lotsa seated and reclined earthy poses. we talked about barren land and fertile land and gardens and babies….the last half of the class, we did some of what i called “ethereal” standing poses, sky poses…..

the playlist for the green/blue class was pretty awesome.  every song on it has the word green or blue in its title.  i list the song name first, artist, second.

1. songs of the rainbow world, blue-green world – r. carlos nakai

2. blue in green – miles davis and john coltrane

3. on green dolphin street – herbie hancock

4. green eyes – coldplay

5. fresh green freedom – xavier rudd

6. into the blue – the karminsky experience

7. i guess that’s why they call it the blues – elton john

8. inner city blues (make me wanna holler) – marvin gaye

9. blue moon – a touch of jazz

10. the blues was written down here – kate lamont and blueprint music

11. tangled up in blue – bob dylan

12. blue – cat power

13. elusinian blue – gabrielle roth and the mirrors

14. resonance in blue 3 – takashi suzuki

15. deep night blues – riley lee

16. blue paper – moby

17. throat chakra egyptian blue – jonathan goldman

thanks for reading – i hope it wasn’t to painful…..i have barely been writing recently and feel very rusty – writing certainly improves with practice.  here’s to more writing and living and loving!

come check out the green/blue, earth/sky yoga classes, this wednesday at simply yoga in zionsville – friday, hot yoga at cityoga and saturday morn at cityoga.

i want everyone, in all the world, to be happy.  shanti shanti shanti.

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feedback from 3rd graders

back again with the cuteness….

my yoga practice and my propensity for wanting to teach others a yoga practice has taken me to some pretty interesting places – from yoga practice in meeting rooms of local churches on indy’s east side to yoga practice with celebrities at the democratic national convention, it’s been a wild ride. but, one of the experiences i cherish the most is bringing yoga classes into my children’s school.  kids are gifted yogis; often hilarity ensues, and they give the best feedback.

“dear mrs. daugherty, i hope you have had a nice year. i really do like yoga. i never knew that i liked yoga. i like to stretch and that was one of my favorite parts. but, my favorite part was the relaxing part at the end. i was almost asleep. sincerely, zoe”

“dear mrs. daugherty, thank you so much for teaching us yoga. the funnest thing was when we layed down and relaxed at the end. you are awesome. sincerely, george”

“dear mrs. daugherty, i loved doing the warrior poses. they were fun. the crow pose was very comfortable. i am going to try to sign up for yoga.  thanks for coming. sincerely, avery”

“dear mrs. daugherty, thank you for letting us do yoga. it was the best relaxing time. we want to do it some time again. sincerely, ben”

“dear mrs. daugherty, thank you for coming in to teach us yoga. it helped me in soccer. sincerely, ethan”

“dear mrs. daugherty, i liked doing the yoga. i wish we could have tried to do the splits. you are the best yoga teacher. sincerely, mitchell”

“dear mrs. daugherty, thank you for taking your time to teach us. my favorite part was when we got to lay down for rest time. i have never ever in my entire life seen someone do yoga better than that. sincerely, owen”

“dear mrs. daugherty, i love yoga so much. my favorite part was when we lay down and close our eyes and you ring the bell. i do yoga at home. i like the hard poses because they are really cool. sincerely, carson”

“dear mrs. daugherty, thank you so much for the yoga. the part i liked best was when i was laying down and you rung the chimes.  it was so quiet that it surprised me! i loved it. love, parker”

“dear mrs. daugherty, i can’t wait until our next yoga lesson. i loved all the moves, especially the arabesque. yoga is a fun way to exercise. sincerely, ainsley”

“dear mrs. daugherty, thank you for showing me some new things about yoga. i am going to do some of it every night. there were a lot of things that i liked, even the pose where you had to touch your toes. thank you for teaching me some new tricks. sincerely, arrion”

and finally…..

“dear mrs. daugherty, i really liked yoga even though we didn’t do the candlestick pose. some of the poses were very easy, some were kind of hard.  i liked the tree best of all. i also liked laying down and resting. it felt like i was actually asleep. sincerely, lee-ann”

needless to say, i am quite blessed. cheers! love, lisa d

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here we go again

feels like starting over – furrowing my brow to remember my username and password for this blog.  simultaneously embarrassed and relieved to be writing on here again, after a few months of……silence.  yes, we’ve had a lot going on.  yes, our two pets died in september.  yes, we moved (just up the road ;)).  yes, brett was out of town weekly from september through november.  yes, having four school-age children means that there is much to be done on a daily basis.  and, YES! i am happy to be writing, right now.

what to write about after a hiatus such as this?  easy.  i am deeply in love with my seven year old daughter.

as a parent,  there is some moral code that says we must preface a conversation about the virtues of one of our children, by saying:  of course, i love all my children deeply and completely.  now that that requirement is taken care of (and truth!)……i am smitten by sophia.

her loveliness and kindness seems to come from something or somewhere that is untarnished and pure.  it is how she makes me feel when i am in her presence; like i am sitting at the feet of my guru.

it is her eyes, which are warm and deep.  i gaze into her eyes, and i don’t want to stop, ever.  it’s like, when you have a newborn baby in your arms and it is difficult to look anywhere else; and you can spend hours or days simply looking at your baby.  well, for me, that feeling never went away.  i see sophia and my gaze is fixed.

it is her hands.  they are small, graceful, elegant and capable.    i love to watch her hands as she pets the dog, writes the story, builds the legos, and plants the flowers.  but mostly, i love when we sit close, and she puts one of those lovely hands on my knee or thigh and i feel its delicate weight and the warmth of its presence.

it is her voice.  she is blessed with the sweetest voice i have ever heard.  when i speak to her on the phone, i find myself struggling to pay attention to what she is saying because i become so distracted by the soothing, soft, lyrical quality of her voice; and i can’t help but grin from ear to ear.

she has depth and goodness to her, as i believe, all young children do.  it is because of this that i recommit myself every single day to live a noble life and to continue to create and re-create a world, a society, that values the beauty and innocence of children.  for they are some of our greatest teachers and gifts.

namaste!  i hope to write on here again, real soon :)


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a memorial: to a well-loved cat

r.i.p. niko 8/8/95 – 9/18/12

she was the first thing that was truly mine.  before i had a real job, my own home, a man, children, a car…..i had her.

i left my midwestern hometown on august 16th, 1995, just a week after my 22nd birthday,  with my best friend, gretchen, to move to tucson, arizona.  we had a destination.  we would live in the extra bedroom of our mutual friend, amy’s, apartment.  amy was a full-time college student at the university of arizona.   gretchen’s stay in tucson would be temporary, only lasting a few weeks before she headed back to the midwest.  my move to tucson would become permanent. i had $900 in cash (from waitressing over the summer), no car, no job prospects…..but lots of enthusiasm and optimism.

the first few weeks in tucson were idyllic.  me, gretchen and amy were silly and adventurous.  we explored the catalina mountains, tanque verde, sedona.  we shopped at consignment stores.  we got drunk at college bars.

september came and gretchen left.  amy began her new college semester.  now, i felt alone. i missed my family and friends and brett in indiana desperately.  i called my loved ones daily.  all i could think about was how much i missed everyone.  so i confessed my lonely feelings to amy and we decided to get a kitten.

i’ve always loved cats.  i did not grow up with cats in my home.  my dad didn’t like them.  as a child, i would dream of having a cat of my own.  i would imagine that i found a stray kitten.  i would take care of it….my parents would let me keep it…..

amy and i went to our local humane society; and of course, we fell in love with the contents of the first cage of wiggly black and white kitten brothers and sisters.  we picked a kitten that seemed affectionate, but not needy, healthy, but not hyper.  she was pure black, with bright green eyes.  she and i shared a birthday.  after she was spayed, we brought her home.  we named her niko.

we picked the name niko because i was really into the band: the velvet underground and nico.  i switched nico with a “c” to niko with a “k” as a nod to my roomie, amy, because her nickname was amy k. see….it’s all making sense now, right??  i was young and kinda clueless, but, well intentioned.

niko was a funny and lively kitten.  she was the type of kitten who would attack our shoelaces and our long hair.  she would run full speed and ricochet herself off of the walls and the futons.  she would hang by her claws upside down from the furniture.  she was healthy and happy; and in october of that year, brett moved to tucson to join me and amy and niko.  now, our apartment was full and complete and we were content.

in may of 1996, amy graduated.  brett and i found our own apartment to live in; and it was decided that we would keep niko.

amy and i are still friends.  she lives in central indiana now too.  i will always be grateful to her for helping me pick out the best kitten in the whole world.

our lives moved on.  brett and i got jobs.  we made friends.  we moved to many different homes and living situations in and around tucson.  we had babies.  and niko was there….for all of it.

in 2002, we made the decision to move back to our midwestern hometown.  our moving plan was as simple as a moving plan can be.  i would take a flight from phoenix to indy with baby sasha, toddler isabel and niko.  brett would drive our van with a trailer full of our belongings across the country. leaving tucson was physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually draining.  it was so sad to say goodbye to so much of what we loved and had created. furthermore…..the day of the departure, i was sick with a cough and a cold, as were isabel and sasha.  so, here i was at the airport, less than 6 months after 9/11/01 with a sick baby in one arm, a cat carrier in the other and a sick toddler hanging on to my skirt hem.  and of course, we get pulled out of the security line at the airport for further security scrutiny.  wtf?!?  i think i practically fell into my mom’s arms, weeping, feverish and coughing when she picked us up from the airport in indy.

and once again, our lives moved on.  brett and i got jobs.  we made friends. we moved to many different homes and living situations in and around indy.  we had babies.  and niko was there…..for all of it.

last summer, niko had some sort of medical crisis.  we took her to the vet.  the vet did not expect her to live through the weekend.  she gave us pain medicine to make niko comfortable.  we brought her home, took care of her, and waited for her to die.  after two days, niko began to feel better.  she had escaped death.  it might be true that cats have 9 lives, or at least 2 or 3.  unfortunately, the medical crisis took a toll on her overall health and well-being.  and over the course of the next year, she looked and seemed to feel worse and worse.

last week, as a family, we made a decision to have niko euthanized after brett’s birthday, after the weekend, on a tuesday, when i had time in my schedule to care for her one last day.

the days leading up to tuesday were full of love and affection for our sweet, old cat.  she slept with isabel.  brett and i encouraged her to sit on our laps as long as she wanted.

on tuesday, niko and i spent the day together.  the morning was cool and rainy and we slept and cuddled in bed.  by early afternoon, the sun broke through the clouds and warmed the day.  niko sat on the open windowsill.  we had made arrangements with the vet to bring niko’s body home with us after the euthanasia.  so, i thought that i had better get started digging her grave. i chose a spot under the canopy of the big, black walnut tree in our backyard.  i dug and i cried.  i dug and i grunted and groaned and yelled.  i dug until my hands felt like they were about to blister.  niko joined me outside.  we stood side by side next to the hole which would become her final resting place.  then, she found a warm slab of cement about 10 yards from where i was digging and she watched me finish my job.

the kids came home from school.  they each gave niko one last hug and kiss.  sophia wrote niko a note:  “september 18, 2012, goodbye niko.  i love you. sophia”  at the bottom of the note, she drew a picture of a broken heart.

the euthanasia was quick.  the vet was very kind.  brett and i wept. we brought home her dead body.  we wrapped her burial box in a ceremonial cloth and placed it in the grave.  our children and our neighbor’s child began to collect flowers, dozens and dozens of flowers: roses and sedum, snapdragons and pansies, violets and dandelions…..we arranged them in her grave, then covered it with dirt.  we laid her water dish ( a ceramic dish she had used for years – isabel had painted and decorated it with the words “i love niko”.) we filled the dish with more flowers.  i sat by the grave for a long time.

after a while, the kids began to jump on the trampoline and play.  some of us ate dinner.  we trudged through homework, bedtime.  once the children were asleep, i went outside into the cool night air.  it was a beautiful night and the sky was full of stars.  i invited brett to join me and he did.  i was gazing out and up into the western sky when i saw it……a shooting star that streaked just above the horizon.  i held my breath, tears stung my eyes and streaked my cheeks.  then, i breathed out a long exhale.  i love you niko.  thank you for belonging to me as much as i belonged to you.  we were a good team.  rest in peace beautiful kitty.  namaste.

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