Pretzels at bedtime

No, not those kinds of pretzels. Recently I started adding a very basic yoga series to my bedtime routine. Nothing dramatic or strenuous. Just something restful and stretchy. Back in the days, I used to be a regular when it came to yoga. In fact, when I lived in Austin the first time around I was part-time manager of the Austin Yoga Center and halfway through a training program to become a certified yoga instructor when I moved back to NY to become managing editor of Catholic New York. Anyhow, lately I’ve been feeling the tug of yoga again. I think it’s because yoga is something that has always centered me and helped me pray, and I really want to make progress with my praying, which is incredibly lame at this point. The other night when I was finished doing some basic poses — Downward Dog, Cat, Cobra, Tree and other stuff like that — I sat in Half Lotus in quiet meditation for a few minutes and really felt a God connection, which is something I typically don’t feel, believe it or not, when I try to pray in church or in my little prayer space at home or in bed before drifting off to sleep. It makes sense that I’d feel that connection at that moment since that’s what yoga’s all about, quieting your physical self so your spiritual self can go to new places. If you’ve never tried yoga, find a class. It is SO worth the time and effort.

On a related note, our family joined the YMCA a few days ago. A friend called and asked me to meet her at the “Hot Yoga” class that was being offered. I was more than a little leery. To me yoga — usually Hatha or Kripalu — has always been about calmness and a spiritually centered kind of strength, not about building muscle or getting fit (although that’s a side benefit). I wasn’t so sure I liked the idea of yoga as a workout in the typical sense. But I grabbed my mat and found an inconspicuous spot in the back corner since I knew I’d be behind the eight ball in this class. I not only survived, I did just about every pose (not always gracefully, but, hey, you can’t have everything) and I loved it. I have never, even in the midst of yoga teacher training, done anything related to yoga that was this difficult and strenuous. Plus they turn up the heat. Hence, the “hot” classification. A few minutes into class I found myself smiling because I was just so happy to be there, although my legs were shaking and the sweat was dropping onto the mat below me. Talk about pretzels! At one point, when my right knee was up near my head and my right hand was near my outer foot, I looked at the other newcomer next to me and said, “Right foot green.” It was a challenge, to say the least, but I would go back in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the teacher’s schedule is changing, so I may have to give something else a whirl — like “Zumba,” which is some crazy sounding Latin dance exercise class that starts next week. I can’t promise that that outing will be nearly as successful.

So this is our new thing, trying to get the most out of our Y membership, something we put off for years because of the cost but finally realized was just what our family needed. I actually swam laps yesterday. If you knew anything about my swimming ability, you would know this is an incredible feat. I swam the first four laps half expecting the lifeguard to jump in at any moment because surely I must have looked like I was in distress as I flailed along. The last four laps I did with a kickboard to give my upper body a rest. No wonder those Olympic swimmers have the bodies they do!

Noah, who glides through water effortlessly, swam six laps yesterday and 20 — yes, TWENTY, 2-0 — laps this morning, not all consecutively, but still, that’s a ton of laps. Today I opted for some new machine I’ve never done before. Maybe it was an elliptical. The cardio guy had to show me how to get started, as I was going backwards when I first stepped on. Way to blend in with the regulars.

Unfortunately, you will probably have to put up with occasional Y updates as we try new things and make physical progress. I mean, if I’m going backwards on an elliptical machine just think what I’ll do in Zumba or the spinning class. Stay tuned…

Where am I, you ask?

Sorry I’ve been away for most of the week. Every day I plan to sit down and post a thoughtful entry about this or that, but, quite frankly, this last week of summer is getting the better of me. The kids are racing to the finish, with bickering and whining and, to top it off, head colds all around. Let me just give you a brief snippet of how this week has been going:

Yesterday, at 7:30 a.m., I went to take laundry from the washer and put it in the dryer. When I opened the machine, there was so much wet tissue stuck to everything that I was tempted to call Sears and just tell them to haul the thing away and bring me a new one. It turned out that one of my children — names are being withheld to protect the guilty — left not one tissue but one PACK of tissues in a pants pocket. I have never seen so much shredded tissue in one place.

As I was cleaning up the tissue and muttering under my breath, I noticed that I had not shelved all the groceries that go in our basement “pantry.” So I walked over to do that and noticed popcorn loose and spread all over the middle shelf. Hoping this was just some spontaneous popcorn explosion, I picked up the open package and looked around. Nope. Nothing spontaneous about this. Apparently in addition to Charlotte building a web out front, we’ve got (or had) Stuart Little feasting on food in our basement. Popcorn, pasta, stuffing, hot chocolate and coffee were all sampled and sprinkled about. He even tried to get through the seal on a glass jar of chunky peanut butter. Not a good morning. After removing everything from the pantry and setting a trap, we waited for the greedy little guy to return. He did, lured in by the sent of fresh peanut butter.

Anyway, today we are trying to get the rest of the back-to-school stuff squared away — sneakers to buy, soccer shoes and shin guards to track down, pencils to sharpen, cheers of joy (from me) to rehearse. We are all very ready for school to start on Wednesday for the big kids and Thursday for Chiara.

So…That’s where I’ve been. I hope to post something a little more meaningful later today, but you never know what might sidetrack me along the way.

We’ve got our very own Charlotte

This morning Noah noticed a spider busily spinning an orb web near the holly shrub between our front porch and our garage. Not the best location in terms of traffic, but we’ll do our best to leave it undisturbed. I’m waiting to see if our little spider spins any messages for us. I’d like to think she’d come up with something on par with what Charlotte had to say about Wilbur — “terrific,” “radiant,” “humble” — but right now I’m afraid that “some pig” might be the only message that might suit us and not because we have a cute oinking farm animal out front. Our porch forms cobwebs at such an outrageous pace that we just can’t keep up. We have two Adirondack chairs on our porch, and I dare you to sit in one. You’ll either get tangled up in a web or overrun by spiders and other creepy crawlers. I’m convinced that our front porch has gotten so out of hand that the letter carrier will soon refuse to deliver our mail. Anyway, here’s our own Charlotte at work this morning. I hope you can see at least some of the intricate details…

The two faces of Chiara

The other day Chiara was playing with an old cell phone, pretending to call a friend. I was at my desk and I heard her say, “Hi. So how was your day? Beautiful, fluffy and cute?” I smiled to myself over the little gem of a girl I have.

The next day, however, when Olivia did something to annoy her, Chiara yelled, “Whatever, major loser.” So much for my little gem. I stopped both girls and asked where that kind of talk came from. Apparently from the Wonderful World of Disney. It seems that Chiara was paying very close attention when Olivia was watching “Camp Rock,” the latest Disney made-for-TV movie that has resulted in a whole new line of clothing and lunch box paraphernalia.

What are the chances that this kid is not going to get thrown out of preschool in two weeks?

Finding St. Francis in a parking lot

Now that my blog is here and my website is over there, I tend not to link to my Life Lines columns each month, which is just silly isn’t it? I mean, a link is a link. So, please click HERE if you would like to read my column on the connection between St. Francis and my minivan. Intrigued? I hope so. The column has been getting some good feedback. In fact, it has led to an invitation to speak at Saratoga Central Catholic High School in the near future. An auditorium full of teen-agers — how scary is that? I figure if I survived high school the first time around, I can make it through one more hour, right? RIGHT?!?

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