Goodbye, Sweet Tater

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Four years ago I sat down to write a post about potatoes. On that same day I introduced the world to Caturday. A year later I had quit my job, moved away (and in with my then-boyfriend), and started a master’s program in nutrition. A year after that I’d ended my relationship, moved to Charlotte and signed up for yoga teacher training. After one more trip around the sun I was done with my master’s degree, teaching yoga full-time and on my way to LA for an adventure I would immediately regret (and eventually embrace).

Here, on the fourth anniversary of that first potato post, I’d like to officially shut down the Sweet Tater operation.

Sweet Tater started for no reason in particular. I was bored with my job, drinking wine and seeking a creative outlet, a lethal trifecta that landed me (and I suspect countless others) at wordpress.com. I actually almost started a workout blog called (are you ready for this…?) BlackCatFitness.com but ended up with a half-assed focus on food and a play on my nickname instead. (I’d like a high five for dodging that Black Cat Fitness bullet, thank you.)

Sweet Tater was a fun ride. The blog taught me to test my limits, explore new things, make new friends and have a voice. What I (and the blog) often lacked, unfortunately, was direction, humility and a filter. At times I’m grateful to have so much of my life on record. It can be really fun to look back at what I was doing and how I was growing at different phases in my life. But I also wrote about incredibly personal moments from a painfully shattered frame of mind in what I assume was an attempt to feel validated, heard and less alone. (These are, in my opinion, the real reasons almost anyone is blogging–no matter what they say.)

Under the veil of “healthy living” I trudged along in a never-ending battle against myself. What you didn’t see (or perhaps did) was that I was often paralyzingly depressed, reclusive, self-conscious and out of control. My decision to move away from the blog was gradual but inevitable.

I eventually hit a point where the blog I was writing was no longer a blog I would ever want to read. I started shifting gears in January of this year, attempting to reroute Sweet Tater towards something… different, though I didn’t know what. In the end, an open (but rose-colored) diary for all the world (or at least a limited readership) to see started to feel juvenile at best and cringe-worthily narcissistic at worst. As it turns out, though, four years of blog baggage (2,168 posts to be exact) is a difficult ship to steer so I eventually stopped posting all together and just let it coast.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Sweet Tater and I think there is a lot for me to be proud of in it. And I am. If I sparked just one person’s interest in yoga or vegetarianism or hunger relief or collecting cats off the street, I’ll be happy with what Sweet Tater contributed to the world. But I think it also contributed a lot of unnecessary chatter to an already loud world. A lot changes in four years and I believe strongly that this blog has run its course.

Thanks for your support over the years–for reading and commenting and emailing me. I really am grateful that you chose to spend time here, that you shared stories with me in return, and that you love cats almost as much as I do.

Worried about Caturday? Don’t worry, everyone is… Caturday lives on over at honeystuck.com. Yeah, that’s correct; I ended one blog to start another. (You may roll your eyes.)

Honeystuck is my fresh start in the food blogging world. It’s a lot of the same with a little less baggage and preaching (and plenty of cats). I hope you’ll join me there.

www.honeystuck.com   |  t: @honeystuckblog   |   i: honeystuck

Adopt a Pet

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“You know how when a couple has a baby and it totally interferes with their relationship?”

Adam is eerily calm as Joey the highway kitten pounces on him from behind a mountain of sheets at 6:30 in the morning. This following a scarring (literally and figuratively) attack by Tilly the two-legged cat and the emotional trauma of making him bond with Toby the stray dog and then promptly hand him off to his new family.

Nope. I have no idea what you’re insinuating here.

So the deal is I currently have four cats in my house. Ralph, Weaz, Tilly the two-legged cat and most recently: Joey (like Dawson’s Creek because she’s a girl) the highway kitten.

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I found Joey hunkered down on the center line on Tyvola with traffic zipping by on each side. Ignoring my mom’s lifelong advice to never risk a human life to save an animal, I slammed on my brakes and was promptly rear ended. Naturally. Try explaining to someone that you just created a serious automotive hazard in order to rescue a stray kitten.

The other driver was surprisingly cool and didn’t stop me from sprinting barefoot (had to toss the heels aside) down the side of the road to see if the kitten was still there. She was. With trucks speeding by inches away from her. When the traffic finally broke I ran into the street (barefoot) and snatched her up.

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Both cars were fine so we let it go but did exchange information so I texted the other driver later that day to apologize again. I’m not saying I condone reckless driving to save kittens but…

I took her to the vet and they said she is “remarkably healthy considering her circumstances.” I LOVE her and if I didn’t already have two-and-a-half in the apartment… I’d keep her. (Adam cringes.)

Just LOOK at her playing with her mouse.

Want to adopt Joey?

If you are in or around Charlotte and are interested in adopting Joey, you can reach out to Halfway There Rescue for an adoption application. I believe there is one person already in line ahead of you, but in case it doesn’t work out you can go ahead and get in line.

Joey is female (despite her name… Adam named her), 1.5 pounds, healthy as can be, litterbox trained, received her first round of vaccinations, and has a sweet, playful disposition.

It doesn’t end there. Some very kind dog rescuers emailed me yesterday asking if I could help get the word out about Charlotte, a beautiful lab mix currently in foster care but in emergency need of a permanent home or she’ll be shipped off to New Jersey on Friday.

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Charlotte is a lab mix (probably some boxer), 10-11 months old, house trained, crate trained, spayed, vaccinated, good with kids (lived with a 5-year-old child), good with other dogs, disinterested in cats. She is a little scared of males so probably has a bad history. Charlotte was found abandoned as a puppy and has been tossed around from shelters and fosters.

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Charlotte and Friend

Let’s save this sweet dog the stress of getting passed from place to place and find her a home here, appropriately enough, in Charlotte.

Want to adopt Charlotte?

Charlotte was pulled from the shelter by Lulu’s Animal Rescue in New Jersey so I assume a formal application process will go through them, but you can reach out to me if you’re interested in seeing her and I can connect you with her foster: katierlevans@gmail.com.

That does it for my stray animal collection this week. In the midst of all the madness, we celebrated Adam, Weaz, and Ralph’s birthday on Monday with carrot cake cupcakes. I tried to give him Joey but he said no. Rude.

The man is in need of some serious dog time. At least he still has Wedgie… who is basically a cat.

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Oh! And I almost forgot to mention… My brother proposed to his girlfriend (an animal rescuer extraordinaire) and look how he did it:

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Those are her three rescues plus his black lab. Love.

Caturday 5/18/13

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“Yeah, I have two toddlers that nap from noon to 2 and that’s when I shower so… Come over around 2:30?”

I was working out a visitation window with the woman fostering a two-legged cat that I HAD. TO. HAVE. Motherhood is a level of selflessness I can’t quite wrap my head around. Personal hygiene limited to when the kids are sleeping? No gracias. All the stray cats in the world, though? SIGN ME UP.

I know what you’re thinking: Really, Katie? Three cats? At 27? Should we go ahead and order you a muumuu and some house slippers?

No. Because Tilly the two-legged cat brings my total to two-and-a-half. Plus, she landed in my life as a result of rescuing a puppy so that’s got to count for something. It happened like this…

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Tuesday around lunchtime Mitch busted up in the apartment on a rampage about some irresponsible ass abandoning a black puppy in the dog run at our complex. (We don’t take kindly to irresponsible pet owners.) We went out to investigate and learned that maintenance had called animal control. I knew that if they picked him up the skinny, filthy, mangey little guy would never make it to the adoption floor. Unfortunately little black mutts are a dime a dozen and if they don’t look adoptable, they have a high likelihood of being put down.

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I intervened and claimed ownership to buy him some time. Knowing I had absolutely no idea what to do next, I called my brother’s girlfriend for backup. Sarah runs a non-profit animal rescue called Halfway There (in her spare time… By day, she’s a school psychologist). She offered to take Toby to the vet and cover all his expenses to be neutered and vaccinated. Second chance!

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In the process of getting Toby transferred to the vet, Sarah nonchalantly mentioned she had a two-legged cat in need of placement. A TWO-LEGGED CAT? Surely she knew this would consume me until the cat was in my possession.

I tried to let it go. I really did. But the thought of that nubby little creature in need of a place to stay drove me insane.

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After several texts to Adam and absolutely no rational thought whatsoever, I decided to go get her.

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Her name is Tilly and as far as I know she was born without her two front legs. I say she’s left-handed because that is the longer of her two nubs, but there’s not much there. Her previous owner surrendered her under the explanation that she was aggressive and wouldn’t use the litter box. Only one of these two statements is true and Adam learned that the hard way. More about that later.

She has a special accessible litterbox with a lower step up to make it easier on her and hasn’t had any accidents at my house or at her last foster. Tilly may be a handicat, but she gets around just fine. Mo’ legs, mo’ problems. No legs, no problem.

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Poor Adam gets the Boyfriend Award of the Year for putting up with me this week. The day I picked Tilly up was the same day Toby was ready to be retrieved from the vet. So with a total six animals–Ralph, Weaz, Tilly, Oliver, Diesel and Toby–in our care, we were kind of living in a zoo.

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Toby spent one night with Adam and his dogs while I tried to get Tilly adjusted to life at Caturday headquarters. (You can see Ralph and Weaz’s bewilderment upon meeting her here.)

Adam fell in love with Toby in just one night and I got a little nervous we were going to end up like some kind of really jacked up animal version of the Brady Bunch but with no Alice to clean up all the poop.

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So I launched into Operation Adopt Toby to find him a real home. Within an hour of posting his information on Facebook, he had a waiting list three deep.

Yesterday we handed him off to my friend Kacy and her family. Adam was kind of a disaster but we knew he was landing in a happy, loving home. I started crying in the checkout line at Marhsall’s when Kacy sent me pictures of him settling in with her kids. Look at him with his new brother and sister:

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Toby was in a new home. Tilly was slowly but surely warming up to my crew. Things were looking good.

Adam: Do you think Tilly can get on the bed?
Me: Definitely not.
Adam: No, I think she probably could make it.
Me: I’m telling you that cat cannot jump onto the bed.
Adam: Let’s go to Home Depot tomorrow. I’ll make her a ramp.
Me: Oh my god… Yes. It should have carpet.
Adam: Well obviously.

That’s the conversation we had just a few short hours prior to Tilly launching like a MF two-legged torpedo onto the bed to attack Adam. Turns out she can definitely get on the bed. Cancel the ramp.

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In her defense, it had been an overwhelming hour of introductions to Ralph, Weaz, Wedge and Adam, and I think Tilly’s intention was to go for Weaz, but Adam just happened to be on the bed when she got up there. Adam feels differently.

Now, I do understand that Adam suffered legitimate wounds and a loss of blood at the hands (errrr, nubs) of a cat I insisted on bringing into our lives, but THIS IS ONE OF THE FUNNIEST THINGS I’VE EVER SEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

You’ve really never lived until you’ve seen your grownass boyfriend scream in terror under the attack of a two-legged cat. The whole ordeal only lasted about 30 seconds but there was screaming and hysterical laughter and my sad attempt at getting all four animals locked away into separate rooms. All because of a two-legged cat we thought couldn’t even get on the bed. Gaze upon this fierce predator…

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HAHAHA.

When all was said and done we convulsed with uncontrollable laughter. I have been such a helicopter mom, keeping all the animals away and making sure Tilly is taken care of. Turns out Tilly takes shit from no one. She took down a grown man last night. I think she’s gonna be just fine with Ralph and Weaz.

Ralph is fine with it because the more cheese I feed Tilly, the more cheese she gets.

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Weaz is like DO NOT WANT.

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To round out this, the most epic of all Caturdays, here is Weaz’s doppleganger:

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Tilly may not stay with us forever. I refuse to force her into a situation where she’s uncomfortable and stressed just because I think she’s cute. Also Adam is now scared of her. (HAHAHA.) But I also think these things take time so we’ll let her see if she wants to settle in. If not, I think a loving pet-less home (in Charlotte so I can see her) would be a great place for her. So if you’re in the market for a two-legged cat (that can definitely get on the bed on her own), just keep her in mind.

If you are in the Charlotte area and looking to adopt, please check out Sarah’s rescue Halfway There.

ALSO… Ralph, Weaz and Adam have a birthday on Monday. Send them presents.

Lessons from Teaching Yoga

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A year ago today I was gearing up to teach my first yoga class. It feels so strange to read the post I wrote 365 days ago for several reasons: A year ago I was still in grad school and thought I would be a dietitian right about now. A year ago I thought Adam would never want to be with me so I let another boy take me out on a date the night before. A year ago I was in love with the idea of teaching yoga full time, of making such an important part of my life my career.

Today I’m not a dietitian and don’t have a plan to complete the dietetic internship (yet) because life has pulled me in other exciting directions. Today I have a date with Adam, my boyfriend… finally. And I love him. Today, as has been the case for many other days several months back, I continue to wrestle with the idea of continuing to teach yoga at all. But much in the same way I assume wedding anniversaries remind couples of their love and passion and all the possibility on day one, my one-year yoga anniversary has reignited the (arguably disillusioned) enthusiasm and eagerness I felt after teaching my first class.

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Gregor Maehle, author of Ashtanga Yoga Practice & Philosophy, matter-of-factly describes a year in yoga study in his commentary on Sutra 1.14:

Yoga Sutra 1.14 One becomes firmly established in practice only after attending to it for a long time, without interruption and with an attitude of devotion.

“What does a long time mean?” asks Maehle. “A year is not a long time. A decade is more to the point. Several decades would be more realistic.”

So I haven’t been teaching for a long time. But I like to think I’ve learned a few things along the way this year, about teaching yoga and about life and about myself.

Things I Learned Teaching Yoga

No One Is Watching You – A lot of beginner yogis are concerned that everyone in the room is watching them as they stumble and fall and struggle. If the other students are really in their own practice (and I’d say most of the time they are), no one else is watching you. It’s an odd phenomenon that we allow our insecurities, the things that make us want to disappear in a crowded room, to pull us into the spotlight, at least in our own minds. I never worried much about people seeing me practice, but when I first started teaching yoga, out of insecurity I was suddenly convinced that everyone in the room was staring at me the whole time. They’re not. They’re practicing the yoga that I’m teaching. I had this self absorbed assumption that all eyes were on me when I first started teaching, not because I was great but because I wasn’t. My first lesson in teaching yoga was to remove myself from the equation, to pluck myself from center of the spotlight of insecurity so that I could focus on giving rather than receiving. This is a tough lesson for a young, eager, achievement-oriented, approval-seeking millienial to learn because it’s a lesson in quiet self assurance and confidence without input from anyone else. Learning to stand in our own power and be ourselves regardless of who is watching (or not) is, I think, one of the most valuable skills a human can possess and perhaps the most freeing.

It’s About Quality Not Quantity – Yoga is a business just like any other. Dollars in, dollars out, and hopefully you land in the green. Being that I was on the management team at the studio when I started teaching, I immediately fell into the trap of making sure I was an asset to the studio, that I was earning my keep and keeping my numbers up. I started to judge the quality of my class on the quantitative measure of attendance. Big classes were good classes. Small classes were bad classes. This is a twisted way to look at it because as it turns out yoga is a business just like any other and it’s not. We have to generate revenue to keep our doors open, yes, and we have to look at ROI and bottom dollar, but at some point the numbers game gives under the hefty weight of a measure far more important than attendance: the impact of the class on an individual student. I’ve learned in diving into the world of hunger relief this year that an impact on one person is no less valuable than an impact on 100. And so the story is the same in the yoga studio. My roommate (who teaches as well and credits her personal practice for saving her life) has always said that if she can convince just one person in a class to love yoga and come back, her job is done. I learned from her that teaching yoga is a lesson in valuing quality, not quantity.

You’re Never Ready – I decided to sign up for teacher training after my long list of excuses about why I couldn’t was met with the simplest, most profound response from my teacher, “You’re never ready and it’s never a good time.” Oof. She’s right. I made the leap and signed up and, wouldn’t you know it, I wasn’t ready and the timing sucked. I was in my last year of grad school, I was broke, and I was still shattered from my life transitions the year prior. But you know what? Teacher training was exactly what I needed in my life to break me down and build me up and ground me firmly in who I am at that inopportune time. Later, I was thrown into my first teaching experience before I was even done with my training. (I had one more weekend to go.) I was not ready. I stayed up all night writing my sequence and rehearsing my cues and rearranging my music. Still, I was not ready. The class undoubtedly sucked, but I did it, ready or not. And here’s the thing: Had I waited a week until I was done training, I wouldn’t have been ready then either. Had I waited another year until I had more money or less on my plate before being ready to sign up for teacher training, I still wouldn’t have been ready then. You’re never ready for the big stuff–falling in love and figuring out who you are and taking risks. So stop over-thinking, stop making excuses, stop finding a reason to remain where you are. Give yourself permission to be more. Give yourself permission to fail. Because here’s the beautiful part: You’ll figure it out.

Despite these powerful learning experiences and the deep gratitude I feel for my teachers for imparting their knowledge and the studio for giving me an incredible opportunity and the students for sharing their practice with me, I have still found myself struggling with whether or not teaching is right for me right now. (It’s never the right time, right?)

So I’m glad that my one-year yoga anniversary fell when it did because it hit me at a time when I most need to remember why I started doing this in the first place, everything I’ve learned since then, and all I have to explore in the years to come.

Yoga is a force in my life that I can’t even put into words (though apparently I try with incredibly long posts like this). My practice makes me feel safe and empowered and restored but at the same time it can be scary and exhausting and difficult. And that’s the beauty of yoga. It teaches us about effort and ease, hard and soft, strength and vulnerability so that we can gracefully move from one to the other. It teaches us to be present and to be comfortable with who we are, where we are, how we look and what we’re doing.

Yoga, I think, amplifies our humanity allowing us to be more and love more and give more with less. Yoga is a gift. Teaching yoga is an honor.

Again, Gregor Maehle nails it on the head:

“Especially as we start to succeed with yoga, we often tend to lose our intention. We might be happy to stick with asana or pranayama after we get comfortable with it. We might lose interest in yoga because we notice that our teacher and those around us are not sincere. We might get dejected because we did not get an experience of true yoga. In all of these cases, it is important to remember ourselves, our purpose, our goal, and the correct method. This remembrance will make sure that we stay on course.”

Here’s to staying the course.

Caturday 5/11/13

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We interrupt this regularly scheduled Caturday to introduce you to your new favorite cat: Princess Monster Truck.

She’s a real live cat in Brooklyn, which means she’s real and hip.

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WE LOVE HER AND YOU DO TOO.

She was born that way, yes, and is the poster child for cat rescue. Her super cool owners found her on the street and couldn’t leave her there. They are awesome.

You can find her Instagram here.

You. are. welcome.