Thursday, December 31, 2009

And so it ends...

2009, the year that changed everything, is over. 12 months ago I set out to manifest some big dreams. Looking back at 2009, all I can say is, "Holy cow, I did it. No wonder I'm so tired."

On December 31, 2008, I opened my crisp, new 2009 day planner and wrote on August 1st "open True North Yoga". At that time my husband and I were both employed in New Jersey, the house was not in any condition to sell and we had just been talking vaguely about moving to the Adirondacks. As 2008 was nearing its end, however, I had a feeling that 2009 was the year we needed to go. I was restless, itching to try something new, be somewhere else, get out from behind a desk in a windowless office. I loved teaching yoga and I loved Schroon Lake, so I set a goal and wrote it down - on the page for August 1st.

14 days later my husband got laid off. The universe doesn't give us more obvious signs than that. "The door is open," it said. "Step through it." And the year began.

I wrote a few more things in my day planner last New Year's Eve. On February 2nd's page I wrote "swim - 12 minutes". On the next line I wrote "bike - 24 minutes". I turned a couple of pages and wrote "run - 12 minutes". Then I wrote something on every page or two until September 26th, recording my first triathlon training plan.

As 2009 went on, I added more things to my day planner - things like "call realtor", "Rob's job interview", "open house" and "last day at work". There were also things like "register kids for school", "PTSO meeting" and "volunteer at marathon". The end of the year included entries such as "call mortgage broker", "house closing", "winterize cabin" and "unpack kitchen boxes".

Of course, there was more to 2009 than the to-do lists and appointment schedules. There was sadness at saying good-bye to friends, and fear and uncertainty about starting over someplace new. There was loss - laying to rest a grandmother, an uncle and a special pet. There was satisfaction in crossing finish lines. And there were the joys of a kindergarten graduation, a sweet sixteen, and the first Christmas morning in a new house.

Now I sit in the kitchen of our house in the mountains with my fresh, new day planner for 2010 open in front of me. My triathlon training plan is already written on the pages, tweaked for the additions of a third triathlon and a half-marathon to my race schedule. I have no life-altering goals for 2010, and, other than training, no grand plan for the year. I'm taking 2010 month-by-month. January's goals are simple - finish unpacking, complete the chair yoga teacher training program I started in September, knit for charity, and write in my journal.

That last goal is the one to watch out for. It was while writing in my journal that my dreams took shape. It was in my journal that 2009's plan developed. It was in putting pen to paper, gluing cut-outs into collages and sketching pictures that vague desires were molded into clear visions of the future and everything became doable.

I don't know what ideas will come as I write in the new year, but I should probably rest up for 2011.

Wishing you peace and joy in 2010. May all your dreams manifest.
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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Candy Cane Affirmations

Peppermint candy cane on my scannerImage via Wikipedia

I am a candy cane junkie. I bought this year's first box two weeks before Thanksgiving and hid them away until Black Friday, the official start of candy cane season. Since then I've had at least one a day. I can't help myself. The red-and-white pepperminty goodness keeps me in the Christmas spirit, even when the holiday preparations get stressful - like having my entire family planning to spend Christmas Day in the house I haven't moved into yet thanks to delays in finalizing our mortgage. Thank goodness for those sugary hooks.

The holidays can be stressful for many of us. We are bombarded by images of glittery holiday tables, expertly browned turkeys and trees surrounded by piles of gifts with coordinated wrap and bows. Earlier attempts to recreate magazine picture holiday decor have left me disappointed. What I've discovered over the past few years is that my family never expected a magazine picture. They've been happiest without any pressure to keep the house photo-shoot spotless and they care more about the gift than the wrapping paper. Now I try to keep reminding myself that Christmas can't be found on a glossy page, although I sometimes forget in a store aisle full of blinking lights and garland.

This time of year people come to yoga class with their own stories of holiday pressures, and they bring the holiday stress to their mats. In addition to offering my yoga students in a stress-relieving practice, I've decided to combine my candy cane addiction with affirmations - a tool that worked for me when I needed to change my thinking and my stress-causing expectations. I've got a bag full of little candy canes and I'm attaching a positive holiday affirmation to each. What could be better in the yoga room than a bowl full of good thoughts, sugar and mint?

I'm even going to try not to eat them all myself.

I've been working on the affirmations, finding some online and writing others. Here are some examples:

I give myself the gift of compassion and forgiveness this holiday season.

I glow with joyful light that shines on those around me.

A wave of peace flows through the world and over me.

I fill my home only with treasured, meaningful decorations.

I've got others, but I still have more candy canes than affirmations. Any contributions would be greatly appreciated!

Now I've got to go think of a few more. And eat a candy cane.

UPDATE: We've gotten word that the mortgage company has finished their seemingly endless approvals, checks, and quality control, and we are clear to close. Looks like we may be in the house by the weekend. Just in time to put up the Christmas lights.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009


During the 1950s, the shores of Schroon Lake, NY were graced by world-class resorts, including the Leland House, the Ondawa and the Edgewater, on whose land my parents' house now sits. Perhaps the most spectacular and well-known resort was Scaroon Manor. The 327-acre site in South Schroon featured a golf course, tennis courts, a beautiful shoreline and an amphitheater. The 1957 film Marjorie Morningstar, starring Gene Kelly and Natalie Wood, was filmed at Scaroon Manor. During the filming Schroon Lake was enjoyed by the cast and crew, and especially by Robert Wagner, who was there only to advance the romance between himself and Miss Wood and had many idle hours while she was on the set. Less than a decade after the movie was made, after a couple of unprofitable seasons in the hands of new owners, the hotel's land was sold to New York State.

The once elegant buildings were demolished and, for many years, the land was left idle. The golf course is now designated wetlands and nature has long since reclaimed the tennis courts. All that is left of the grand hotel is the stone shell of the amphitheater. For almost 50 years the site was open to the public, or at least anyone who was willing to boat around the remains of the concrete docks to reach the beach, or make their way through the brambles from the road.

Trips to "Marjorie Morningstar", as we called the place, are part of my memories of summer vacations at Schroon Lake. We would beach the boat and scramble up what was left of the paths in search of blackberries, which grew wild. We would climb onto the remains of the amphitheater and dance and sing for the adults. For us kids, that amphitheater was a magical place, as if the spirit of Natalie Wood was still there, inspiring even the shyest among us to perform.

Recently, the state has decided to use the land, and has gotten busy clearing pathways, paving parking lots, and building picnic shelters and restrooms. The state also constructed a little building near the entrance, where employees can sit and collect money for day-use fees. Still under construction are additional facilities and campsites. I've heard that the state plans to open Scaroon Manor for camping, to replace campsites lost at the soon-to-be-closed Eagle Point Campground, where overuse has led to serious erosion and loss of vegetation.

Thanks to the state, boating in with the kids to let them run and explore like we did has become expensive. (Someone is watching the new boat docks to collect those fees.) During the summer, all we can do is look at the beach from the water as we go by. At the end of the season, however, the state workers pack up and go home, and the locals park outside the locked gate and walk in.

Today we took the dogs and walked the old hotel grounds. My son performed in the amphitheater, which still has it's magic. On a quiet path we let the dogs off their leashes and they took off running - into the lake, down the path, into the creek, up the path again and back into the creek. They enjoyed their own little piece of doggie heaven, oblivious to how cold the water must have been. The dogs were so happy that they forgot how badly they usually listen. They came when we called them, sat still as we put their leashes back on, and walked like well-trained show dogs back to the car. (I wonder if Natalie Wood had a dog.)

Scaroon Manor park is a nice place for a short walk every now and then, although I miss the untended ruins from my childhood memories. The blackberries are gone; their thorny vines were probably deemed unsafe. The paths are a bit too groomed and there is too much pavement to really satisfy my desire to explore the wilds of the Adirondacks. The brown vinyl-sided restrooms can't replace the resort that once flourished on the shore, but perhaps the state will restore the amphitheater one day, keeping the spirit of Marjorie Morningstar alive to inspire another generation.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The View from (Almost) the Top

It was a beautiful November day, 48 degrees and mostly sunny. The kids were off from school for Veterans Day, and the county offices were closed so my husband had the day off as well. I don't have any yoga classes on Wednesdays, so I was free. We had to take advantage of this day.

After sleeping in a bit, we stuffed lunch into a day pack and drove to Putnam Pond in Ticonderoga, NY. We hiked around the south end of Putnam Pond, then picked up the trail to Treadway Mountain.

Hiking in the Adirondacks in the fall is magnificent, but not without its challenges. The trails are blanketed with brown leaves. Green moss and the occasional fern provide contrast, and the scene is highlighted here and there with white curls of birch bark. The leafless trees no longer block the sun, and it streamed down to sparkle off the quartz embedded in Treadway's rocks. The trails are quiet and there are no bugs. The trails were damp and even squishy in places, however, and the leaf cover makes it hard to see the rocks and mud, so we had to take it slow at times.

Of course, when you're hiking with a six year old, you're always taking it slow.

We had been hiking almost 3 hours when we reached the last knoll before Treadway's summit. The guidebook estimated the total hike at 2 1/2 hours, but the writers of the guidebook must not have tried it with a first grader. He never stopped and he tried hard to keep up, but his legs are short and he just can't go as fast. The guidebook said the last bit to the summit should take 15 minutes, but we knew it would be longer than that and we wanted to be down before dark, so we decided it was enough for today and satisfied ourselves with looking at the summit while we ate our lunch.

Next spring there will be pictures from the top.

We were pleasantly surprised by this trail. The terrain changes from soft forest floor to almost solid rock as you near the top. There was even a five-foot rock wall to scramble up. Cairns marked the trail over the rocky bits, and my son amused himself by adding a pebble to each one. The hike took us past Mud Pond, which was not muddy but actually crystal clear and as smooth as glass. The quartz top is fantastic, and the views were great even though we didn't reach the summit.

During our hike, we caught glimpses of the rarely seen teenagera surlyous (commonly known as the American teenager). This solitary creature roams the trails, usually just out of sight. The only way to get a good look at one is to leave food out. The teenagera surlyous can't resist a meal and may risk being seen for a cheese sandwich. This species does not seem to get a properly insulating winter coat until the temperature is well below freezing, perhaps due to a genetic deficiency, therefore if may be possible to tell if one is near by listening for muttering about the cold. The impatient animal might also be spotted pacing near a locked car, especially if there is no cell service. (We thought this species was native to the Northeastern U.S., but we've since heard they've been spotted across the continent.)

Each time we go out, I am impressed with my son's ability to navigate the trails. He spots trail markers, and at junctions remembers which color marker to follow next. He took a couple of spills, and got "kissed" by the rock when we climbed down a ledge, but he never stopped smiling. I feel blessed to share these experiences with him.

Every now and then my son would slip a cool hand into mine and walk with me. I know that he will soon outgrow holding mom's hand, and in a few years he will probably only reach for my hand to help me up. I treasure these moments now and will gladly walk slowly along the trails with my baby, even if someone is already pacing by the car.

We made it down just as the sun was setting spectacularly behind the mountains.
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Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Problem with Handstands

Joshua Tree yoga - handstandImage via Wikipedia

There is nothing that makes my heart ache more than one of those pictures in Yoga Journal magazine of a yogini perfectly balanced on her hands, back bent, head lifted and feet dropping towards her head. She's smiling as if to say "this is the easiest thing I've ever done." Sigh.

I know I shouldn't want it so badly. I should put my ego aside when I'm on my mat. I should practice non-attachment to hand-standing outcomes. I should be where I am today. Double Sigh.

Adho Mukha Vrksasana, or handstand, is my yoga mountain; it's sheer rock face and I'm scaling it without a rope. I've figured out headstand (Salamba Sirsasana) and the forearm balance Pincha Mayurasana, but I'm missing something with handstand.

Upside down is one of my favorite ways to be. I could spend an hour in shoulder stand (Salamba Sarvangasana). I think the worst day can be turned around by a few minutes on my head. I'm not afraid of falling.

I can kick up to the wall and, as long as my feet are against the wall, hold handstand for awhile. I can take one foot off the wall. Take the second foot off the wall, though, and next thing I know my feet are back on the ground. Every time. I just can't master the balance.

When I was at Yoga Journal's Estes Park Conference in 2008, I took a handstanding workshop with David Swenson (the master of making it look easy). I paid attention and tried to do everything he said. We practiced with partners. Even with my partner holding me up, I couldn't keep my feet over my head.

One of my goals for November is to practice handstands every day. So far I have done one handstand each day against the wall. And, so far, I haven't gotten any better. Okay, it's only been a week, but I keep hoping for a breakthrough.

In the meantime, I'll keep working on letting go of my attachment to handstand. And not hating the Yoga Journal models.
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Where there's smoke there's fire...or not

Wood burning stoveImage by JKleeman via Flickr

Our little Adirondack cabin is heated by a wood-burning stove. The stove does a great job of keeping the house long as there's a fire going. When my husband is home, that's not a problem. He's got a knack for starting fires and we are always toasty. The problems start when he goes to work.

Fire and I have always had a sort of all or nothing relationship. Sometimes I can strike every match in the book and never get as much as a spark. Other times I light a candle only to have the candle holder shatter. I've noticed a strange smell in the car just before the burning wires make the headlights fade. Let's not even mention what happened to the pot holder I dropped into the oven.

Because of my history with fire, burning things has been my husband's job while I stayed out of the way.

The first time my husband left me with nothing but ash in the wood stove, I spent most of the day and most of the matches trying to light a piece of wood. My husband came home that evening to find me and the kids wearing two sweaters each. I had to be humble and admit that I needed some fire making lessons.

The next morning I was instructed in the finer points of fire construction. I learned that I needed more than one split log. I was shown how to arrange the ash and coals and where to put the crumbled up newspaper. I discovered the magic of kindling. Armed with this new information, and under my husband's watchful eye, I made a fire.

Fire and I aren't BFFs or anything, but our relationship is more stable. Most days I can get the stove lit with one match. Occassionally I still need a whole book of matches. If fire is being really uncooperative, I bake something. The oven warms the house up very nicely, too.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Spazz, with a Capital S

Chimney Rock YogiImage by Gare and Kitty via Flickr

I was chatting with a yoga student after class yesterday and she asked me which sports I had played in high school. My answer seemed to surprise her. The truth is, I never played any sports in high school. In fact, I spent most of high school volunteering to play ping-pong with the special ed kids so I could get out of gym. I was not athletic. I was an uncoordinated, gawky honors student. I was a Spazz. (Note the capital S.)

So how does the high school klutz end up teaching yoga and participating in triathlons in her 40s? I've been thinking about it, and, honestly, I don't know. I can't remember what drew me to the first yoga class 13 years ago. Desperate to lose post-baby weight, I made a fool of myself in all the aerobic and spin classes they offered in the gym. Maybe I figured yoga couldn't be any worse. I can say with certainty that after one class I was hooked.

Fast-forward 12 years, and I'm finishing up 500 hours of yoga teacher training. I knew the day was coming soon when I wouldn't be spending one weekend a month at the yoga studio, and I wouldn't be compelled to practice every day. My body felt great - strong, flexible, coordinated. I'm afraid that once I lose teacher training, my motivation will go with it. I needed something else to do.

A couple of months later I was in Colorado for a Yoga Journal Conference. I went a day early to do a yoga and rock climbing intensive with Jason Magness and Team Yogaslackers. Rock climbing was something I always wanted to try, so I figured I could scratch that off my bucket list. (I loved it, and now my whole family climbs at an indoor gym. We're hoping to get out on the rock again next summer.) During the intensive, someone mentioned triathlons. I wasn't paying much attention, but I guess that triathlon idea worked it's way into my head.

A week or two later I found myself googling "triathlon" and "training plan". I can't say for sure what made me think I could do a triathlon. I could swim well enough to avoid drowning, bike around the park, and I'd run a 5K once. Not really what I'd call a solid base. I just wanted to do it, so I did. Twice. Now I get to call myself a "triathlete". Notice the "athlete" in there?

When people say "athlete" I still assume they're talking about someone else. But I'm working on it.
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Breath of Fresh Air

The alarm went off at 6:30 am and I opened my eyes to was light out! I love standard time. I wish daylight savings time would go away forever, but I'm just happy it's over for a few months. Since it was Sunday, I didn't have to hop out of bed and I got to watch the sunlight stream in the window for awhile before I finally got up for my run.

I ran 4 miles this morning under blue skies.

At noon, I persuaded my daughter to get out of bed (she was at the midnight showing of Zombieland at the Strand Theater for Halloween) and got everyone into their hiking boots. We hiked the Blue Hill Trail in the Pharaoh Wilderness for a couple of hours. It was a perfect day for hiking. Bright light spilled down through the trees. The air had a nip to it, but it wasn't cold. Everything looked brilliant!

We found a newt on a rock by a stream and some cool fungus. I kept my youngest amused looking for all the colors in the rainbow. He's been carrying around my husband's old camera and he took pictures of the colored things we found.

Here's a red leaf...

and some orange fungus...

and a blue trail marker.

He lost interest after blue, but stayed out of trouble anyway.

My daughter hikes much faster than the rest of us, then she has to wait for the rest of us to catch up. I'm trying to convince her to try trail running.

Days like today remind me of why we came to live in the Adirondacks. Days like today also tire me out, especially because it's 9:30 pm, but my body remembers that last night it was 10:30. It also remembers that my daughter needed a ride home at 1:45 am, and this body didn't sleep until noon. Fresh air kept me going all day. Hopefully it will help me sleep all night.
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Friday, October 30, 2009


The Halloween festivities in Schroon Lake started today when the elementary school kids paraded down Main Street in their costumes. This was, of course, my first time witnessing the event, and I was pleasantly surprised by some things I noticed, such as:

  1. Unlike our suburban New Jersey school, the kids are allowed to wear scary and/or violent costumes. Now, I'm not saying that we should glorify violence or anything, but, come on, it's Halloween. It's supposed to be scary. Sorry, but there's no way a Disney princess can scare off an evil spirit. I was happy to see a couple of first grade vampires, complete with dripping fake blood.
  2. The kids went out and interacted with the people in town. This was a very nice change from doing loops around the school parking lot. People who didn't have children in school came out and watched just because it was fun. Let's hear it for inter-generational connections!
  3. The businesses along Main Street got into the spirit of Halloween. Business owners and employees dressed up, came outside and handed out candy to the kids as they passed. These same businesses regularly support the PTSO and the booster club. I appreciate businesses that give back to the community (and I remember that when I shop).
  4. My six year old has a new girlfriend, whether he wants one or not. Apparently she found his Iron Man costume very appealing. That's so cute.
Since Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, I've been really happy to see lots of decorated houses around town. I'm looking forward to taking my son trick-or-treating tomorrow. My teenage daughter will be out there tomorrow night, haunting town with the rest of the after-dark crowd until the midnight showing of Zombieland.

Next year, when we are settled in the new house, I am throwing a Halloween party. This year I'll just enjoy my kids' Halloween.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Running and running and running...

Startup of half marathon runImage by via Flickr

Today I completed my last run for the month of October. During the month I ran just over 38 miles. Not an impressive total compared to those training for marathons, but huge for me. In fact, it's the most miles I've ever run in one month.

For kicks, I looked back in my training log to October of 2008. Last October I "ran" 6.7 miles; most of those miles were walking. I had just started a couch-to-5K program, and at the end of the month had built up to actually running 6 minutes out of 30. Most of the comments I'd made read something like "I hate running." It was almost silly, but I stuck with it, because I wanted to do a triathlon.

The plan worked.

Today I ran 3.4 miles, slightly longer than the 5K distance. It was easy - just a short mid-week run. And I enjoyed it. I saw a quail, a couple of deer and a woodpecker. I planned the evening's yoga class in my head. I thought about lengthening my stride, and how I could improve my speed. When I was done, I felt good.

I like running.

One of my goals for 2010 is to finish a half-marathon. Another goal is to do a handstand. Looking for the "couch-to-..." program for that.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

There are pine needles on my yoga mat

Adirondack MountainsImage by stevesheriw via Flickr

The Adirondack mountains are covered in pine trees. They are beautiful now, providing contrast to the brown leaves of the hardwoods. In a couple of months their snow-covered branches will sparkle. At their roots are blankets of needles.

As much as I love the pine trees, the needles create a housekeeping challenge. Everyone who comes in, be they human or canine, brings pine needles with them. I sweep needles off the floor daily. This is just part of living in the Adirondacks, and I've accepted it.

I have the same problem at the yoga studio, of course. It seems every time I am in downward facing dog I notice I needle on my mat. I am working on my three-legged down dog because I am compelled to pick the needle off my mat while holding the pose. I am bothered by anything on my mat that doesn't belong. This is my perfectionism spilling into my yoga. Perfectionism comes with the ego, and the ego doesn't belong in my practice.

Perhaps it's time to take my yoga off the mat and out into the pine needles.
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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Nice day for a swim

...and a bike...and a run. So what if it's 43 degrees?

I set up my transition area for the Lake George Triathlon wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt and I wished I had my hat and gloves. It was cold! My teeth were chattering as I hung around with the group at the "special" bike rack. Our hybrid and mountain bike tires didn't fit in the fancy road bike racks, so we got a small rack all to ourselves. At least it was right by the bike and run exit.

UPS had brought me a new Xterra wetsuit ten days before the race, but I never did get to try it out. Going into a race with untested equipment is a big no-no, but after my disastrous swim in Lake George in June's North Country Triathlon, I figured it couldn't get any worse. I got into my wetsuit about 20 minutes before the first wave started and I was glad I did. I finally stopped shivering.

When my wave was called, I waded out into the lake and got a pleasant surprise. Despite the wind and waves, the lake was warm! The water temperature was almost 70 degrees and it felt like swimming in a heated pool. My wetsuit worked great, and I really like the extra buoyancy. I wasn't swimming fast, nor was a swimming straight, but I was swimming. I finished the 1600 yard swim in 41 minutes, which isn't fast but was nearly a 1 minute per yard improvement over the June swim, when it took me almost 35 minutes to go half the distance.

I made the run into transition and stripped off my wet suit. A couple of minutes later I was on my bike and cruising along, slowly. I hadn't trained enough for the bike, and my hybrid was no match for the road bikes. I resigned myself to being last, and enjoyed the scenery. It was a beautiful ride through bike paths and quiet roads. I got passed by most of the folks who got out of the water behind me, but I was still smiling from the swim and just kept pedaling. I didn't even stress out when I dropped my chain half-way up a killer hill. Finally I finished the ride and left my bike in transition to face the run.

The run was two loops with lots of hills. Since I was so far behind, most of the other racers were on their second loop when I started. I just smiled at the people who were passing me and telling me we were almost done. I was tired from the bike, but I knew I could do the 6 mile run and just kept going. On my second loop I passed a few people who were walking, so I didn't finish dead last.

It wasn't pretty, but I finished my first Olympic distance triathlon. I've got my finisher medal hanging on the wall right in front of me, and I'm proud of it. I'm looking forward to next season, with a goal of improving my time in both races.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Mathematics homeworkImage via Wikipedia

My youngest started first grade last week, and we are now getting to experience that parent-child bonding opportunity called homework. When my daughter was in elementary school, I dreaded helping her with homework. There was never enough time, and she battled with me whenever I tried to correct her work. After working a long day, I prayed she'd finished her homework in after school care so I didn't have to try to squeeze a homework fight into an already tight dinner and bedtime routine. I breathed a big sigh of relief when she got to middle school and no longer needed homework supervision.

Because I am no longer working full time, I'm home after school and available for homework help. So far, first grade homework has been pretty painless. My son seems to like homework, although sometimes it is difficult to get him to focus. Until today he's been doing his homework at the kitchen table, but today I got the big computer desk unpacked and organized enough to use, so he's sitting at the next workstation working on math. It's nice to have him so close.

I'm still getting used to this new lifestyle. I never thought I would appreciate cooking and cleaning, but I'm finding doing mom stuff very satisfying. I find more zen moments in washing dishes and folding laundry than I did sitting in an office banging on a keyboard. I feel more alive hearing about a day at school than I did rushing from meeting to meeting. I am more grateful for having 5 minutes to sit on the couch with my son and listen to him read than I ever was for my paycheck.

My family made some big sacrifices when we left New Jersey for the wilds of Upstate New York. We have to live with less, and do so in a smaller home. But there is truth to the old adage that money can't buy happiness. We may not have much, but we have time for each other. Homework is much more fun this way.
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Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Yogini vs. the Spiders

The True North Yoga studio is in the community room of a church that's been around for over a century. It's a great old building, with a stone foundation and a special energy from well-established sacred space, but it also had a few years of accumulated dust in the corners. Occassionally nobody will come for a scheduled class, so I've been using that time to clean.

One of my favorite things about the space is a wall of big windows. Since I've been burning candles and incense regularly, I have to clean the windows to combat the buildup of soot. One quiet day I grabbed the Windex and some paper towels and started to shine the glass, inside and out. I got rid of the old cobwebs and dead bugs and dirt. Pane by pane, the windows got clean.

When I opened up for my first class the next morning, the bright sunlight was streaming through the newly cleaned windows. The light made patterns on the floor and sparkled off a jumble of spider webs in one window. Wait, hadn't I just gotten rid of those? A tiny Adirondack spider had been very busy overnight. After escorting the spider outside, I grabbed the broom and took down the web. My windows were spotless again - for the moment.

It turns out the spiders were not going to be evicted without a fight. The next day I found more webs. When I swept the vestibule, there were other spiders that had to be encouraged to move on. I have nothing against spiders, in fact I love spiders for their appetite for the nasty bugs, but the webs make the space look dirty. I have tried hard to be gentle as I show them the door, practicing ahimsa, or non-violence, while I clean. Adirondack spiders, I've found, are just stubborn.

Spider relocation and web removal have become part of my weekly routine. Round after round of showing the spiders the door hasn't helped much. I might get a rest in winter, but I think, when the bell rings, it will be a draw.
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Friday, September 11, 2009

Being Present

Students in Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana (High...Image via Wikipedia

I'm one of those people who multi-tasks. When my hands are set to one job, my mind gets busy on other things. Back when I was an accountant (last month) I would routinely put numbers into spreadsheets while listening to an audiobook, occasionally adding something to my shopping list. I was never totally focused on anything, and I didn't need to be to get everything done.

It took me years of yoga classes before I stopped multi-tasking on my mat. My body would be in an asana, but my mind would be critiquing my position or checking out the lady next to me or working on some problem. I'd be trying to figure out how to get my kids to the places they needed to be later or worrying about what time my husband would be home for dinner.

My breakthrough finally came at a time when stress had driven me into a deep depression and, after not having time for yoga, I returned to my practice seeking some relief from the stress. Desperate to escape my life for awhile, I started paying more attention when my teacher told me to quiet my mind. My mind still chatters every now and then, but even just moments of stillness have made a huge difference in my stress level.

When I started teaching yoga, my mind started chattering again. When I practiced on my own, I went over the poses in my head, memorizing how to instruct them. When I took a class, I was more focused on learning from the teacher's example, listening for nice phrases and good instructions to mimic when I taught. My practice fell apart, because I wasn't doing yoga for myself anymore. After awhile, teaching came easier and I found my way back to my own practice.

Lately I have noticed that, while teaching, I have to stay present to what I am doing with the class. As long as I am totally focused, the class flows effortlessly. It's as if some higher power is speaking through me, and I am just delivering his message. If my mind wanders, I lose my connection with the divine guru and I start to stumble over words, lose track of my lefts and rights, and can't think of what to do next. So I try to stay present. That means no worrying about what the kids are doing, no thinking about the next tweet or Facebook status update, no planning ahead to the next class. Just like I do in my own practice, if my mind starts to chatter, I have to take a deep breath and let it go.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Other Side

adirondack chairsImage by lars hammar via Flickr

Ever since I started this blog, I've been writing about leaving New Jersey, moving to the Adirondacks, completing a triathlon and opening a yoga studio. Now I can say - check, check, check and check.

As of yesterday, all our stuff from the New Jersey house was safely tucked away in two units at Schroon Lake Self Storage. We've got what we need in the cabin and I'm working on making it less vacation-y and more homey until we find a bigger place. I'm feeling more secure, and sleeping better, knowing all my stuff is in one place (or at least one town).

The triathlon was completed in June, but you all knew that. I'm not done with that, though. I'm training for the Lake George Triathlon in September. Being here at the lake all the time has given me lots of opportunities to practice my open water swims. I think I'll do better next time.

On August 1st I started teaching yoga classes at the Schroon Lake Community Church. The church was very kind and let me use their community room for my classes. I've had a pretty good response, despite the weather, which has been gorgeous. After two months of rain, I'm not surprised many are choosing the beach over yoga. I confess, when nobody shows up for a class, that's where I go. I'm happy with the number of classes I have taught, and I'm not wishing for rain.

I'm still adjusting to being in a new place, and trying to get into a routine for the day-to-day things. Although I am no longer working 9-to-5, I am out of the house quite a bit. The schedule changes, so I have afternoons open some days, mornings others. I'm trying to be flexible, because I don't want to spend a glorious afternoon scrubbing floors when I could be in the lake, working on my swim training or playing with the kids. Winters are long up here in the North Country, so I don't want to miss any of the summer. The floors will still be dirty when the snow starts to fall.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Packing up is hard to do...

BusyBoxImage via Wikipedia

I've been quiet, I know. It is my last week in New Jersey, and I've been busy packing the house and wrapping up the sale of the house. Moving out is hard work, and not really much fun. Moving in is much more exciting, but I've got to wait awhile for that part. For the time being, I'll be making our vacation cabin feel like a real home while I get the yoga studio started and get used to life in the North Country.

In May 2007, at the beginning of yoga teacher training, I set up a profile on the Gaia Community. My profile included my goals for the future - say good-bye to corporate America, open a yoga studio. It was part of my five year plan. The universe must have thought it was a good idea, because my time-table got moved up a bit.

Now I'm four days away from fulfilling those goals. It's exciting and scary and overwhelming. I have to keep reminding myself to breathe. Luckily I know a few things about breathing.
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

3 a.m.

alarm clock, bought from IKEAImage via Wikipedia

Every night for the past few weeks, I've opened my eyes and read "3:00" on my alarm clock. Well, sometimes it says "3:10", sometimes "2:47", but you get the picture. No matter what time I go to sleep, I get a 3:00 a.m. wake up call.

I'm not surprised that I have been enjoying the witching hour lately. I've been pretty unsettled due to the whole selling the house, moving my family to a new place, leaving my job, starting my own business thing. My brain is doing lots of thinking, and doesn't want to stop so I can get some sleep.

I thank the universe that Netflix lets you watch stuff online, or I'd have nothing to do when I'm wide awake before dawn.

Nothing has helped with the insomnia. I've tried yoga and meditation before bed. I've tried warm milk. Then I tried beer and work up at 3:00 a.m. with a headache.

I really don't sleep well until 5:00 a.m. That's when the alarm goes off. I hit the snooze, and sleep blissfully for the next hour or so, missing my workout time. And there is the catch-22. I can't sleep, so I don't get up to run, bike or swim. Without the workouts to burn off the energy, I can't sleep. And so on, and so on...

Since I've got another triathlon in two months, I'd better get my act together and get the workouts done. Maybe a 3:00 a.m. run is what I need.
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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Yogi, Who is Your God?

Cover of "The Heart of Yoga: Developing a...Cover via Amazon

Thanks to the Namaste Book Club, a new online group dedicated to the discussion of yoga-related books, I am reading The Heart of Yoga by T. K. V. Desikachar again. I've had the book so long I can't remember where I got it, or if I ever read the whole thing. The last time I pulled it off the book shelf was during yoga teacher training, when I needed some Sanskrit words for a presentation. This time I'm starting at the beginning and reading cover to cover. I've just finished the second chapter and I'm chewing on what I read.

Desikachar points out that Patanjali's Yoga Sutras do not include a discussion about God. In the Sutras, yoga is defined as the settling of the mind into stillness. The practice of yoga makes us more present, more aware, able to think more clearly, and, as a result, we become who we are truly meant to be. By keeping God out of it, Patanjali kept yoga accessible to everyone, no matter what belief, or disbelief, he had. Considering how much strife has resulted from differing religious beliefs, I'd say that Patanjali had amazing foresight.

While yoga doesn't come with a god, God doesn't stay out of yoga, or at least He didn't for me. I was raised Methodist, but once I was out of my parents' house I started on a long, twisting path away from the church. Convinced that I couldn't be an empowered female in the patriarchal church, I wandered to goddess-based Wicca, explored some other earthy Pagan variants, tried Buddhism, then settled into the Unitarian Universalist church for awhile. I stayed far away from God the Father.

Then, during yoga teacher training, we read the Bhagavad Gita and I discovered a male god who worked for me. Krishna, as described in the Gita, is powerful and demanding, yet wise and compassionate. As I read, my childhood religious education started to come back to me. Something about the story allowed me to reconcile all the concepts of divinity I'd come to know and integrate the Christian God into my own unique spirituality.

What I ended up with was a very personal relationship with God, one that is not dictated by church doctrine or another standardized belief system. I am again comfortable in a church service, free to enjoy the parts that resonate with me and reject those that don't. I can sing my heart out at kirtan, confident that my connection with the Divine is not compromised by the name I'm chanting. I can sit in meditation and hear God's messages to me, and when I teach yoga I trust that the Great Guru is speaking through me.

I guess that, in the stillness of my yoga practice, God settled into me.

Note: While I was busy fluttering from religion to religion, my little brother was at the seminary. He has a PhD in Theology and is a full-time Methodist minister. There have been some interesting discussions over family dinners, as I'm sure you can imagine. Despite my collection of pentagrams, our disagreement about the nature of God and the fact that I still mock him sometimes as only a big sister can, he loves me. It's nice to know that, if I'm wrong about all this, he'll be there to see me into Heaven.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Aspiring No More

Last Saturday I stood on a beach at 6:30 am while a stranger wrote numbers on my arms with Sharpie. My husband's hybrid was balanced in a wooden rack between some impressive-looking road bikes, standing guard over my running shoes. People bustled around me, some walking bikes, others clipping straps to their ankles, yet others testing the water. A man spoke into a walkie-talkie about buoys and kayaks. This was not my typical Saturday morning.

Two hours later I stood in 66 degree water wearing a bright green swim cap, waiting for the horn that would signal me to start swimming. So began my participation in the North Country Triathlon in Hague, New York, my first sprint triathlon. The horn sounded for my wave and we started swimming. Thirty seconds later the bottom of Lake George disappeared from view and my swimming became floundering as I fought a wave of panic. My wetsuit felt tight and I couldn't catch my breath, nor could I put my face back in the cold water. Six months in a heated pool had not prepared me for the cold lake swim.

After thirty minutes I dragged myself out of the water. Freestyle had been abandoned, but I managed to complete the half mile swim with a combination of breast stroke and side stroke. Occasionally I floated on my back and kicked. I did manage a few seconds of freestyle as I got close to the shore and could see the sandy lake bottom again. I was tired and knew I was one of the last people coming out of the water, but the swim was just the start, so I stripped my wetsuit off as I plodded up the beach to my bike.

The start of the bike course was uphill. For a couple of miles I pedaled furiously with my chain in the smallest rings and seemed to go nowhere. The slower swimmers from the wave after mine passed me on their fancy road bikes (the faster swimmers had passed me in the water). I kept going. After six months of training, I planned to finish this thing. At an aid station I grabbed a cup of water and asked if we ever got to go downhill. The volunteer laughed as she told me the top of the hill was right around the next bend. Sure enough, a few minutes later I was coasting downhill.

It turns out the clunky hybrid is capable of some decent speed. Hours and hours of pedaling with the bike sitting on a trainer in my kitchen during the winter and rainy spring must have paid off. My legs weren't screaming despite the long uphill climb, so I pedaled to maintain my speed. I even caught and passed a couple of people. Flying down one hill, hearing nothing but the wind in my ears, I realized that I was having fun. Even though I was racing, I was relaxed and enjoying being out in the fresh Adirondack air. The frustrating swim was out of my head. Instead, I was wondering how I could get my hands on a road bike for next time. At that point, I knew there would be a next time.

I was almost disappointed when the transition area came into view and I had to get off the bike. I found my place in rack and left my bike, then turned and ran back out of transition and onto the run course. The sun was strong and the run also started uphill. I was running too hard and felt my heart rate climb, so I took a couple thirty-second walking breaks, had some water at the next aid station, then started running again. It took a couple of minutes, but I found my rhythm and the rest of the run went by quickly. Before I knew it I could see the finish line. Just as it came into view I could hear someone coming behind me. Not wanting to get passed at the end, I sprinted to the finish, slowing down just before crossing the line to wave to my kids and my mom.

A volunteer handed me a finisher's medal while another cut the timing chip strap off my ankle. Then I got hugs from my family. My son told me to wear my medal, so I did. I was no longer an aspiring triathlete. I finished. I am a triathlete.

Monday morning, after taking the remainder of the weekend to think about my race and what I needed to do to get better, I registered for another triathlon. In September, I'll be competing in the Lake George Triathlon. This will be an Olympic distance event, twice as long as the sprint I'd just completed. This time I will be ready for that swim.
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