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Lessons Learned at 63

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On August 10, 2015 I will be celebrating my 63rd birthday. That’s half way to 126 years, in case you’re wondering. Here are the most important lessons I learned this past year. Some were biggies and some were small potatoes.

1. Teaching three yoga classes a week and practicing every day is very good for me: mind and body.

2. Learning to “Let it Go” is hard work and worth it. As a Catholic school kid, I never let anything go. In fact, I’m really good at still holding on tight to some perfection garbage. This year it was time to delete bothersome junk from my head. Amen.

3. Staying connected to a few, good, soulmate-friends is better than having a long list of half-assed ones. I’m finding that I am losing patience with the daily drama/soap opera and blather that can be ever present, if I let it.  Gone, baby, gone!

4. Decluttering and simplifying is harder than I thought. Through the past 12 months I’ve worked to get rid of stuff that doesn’t make me happy and isn’t useful. I’m learning that I don’t have to have a stockpile in order to have what I need. My excesses are most obvious with my books, yarn, fabric and to-do lists!  So I’m learning to consistently use the library instead of buying books (unless I really love the book). I’m also learning to work with the fiber I have already bought. So often I go through my stash and realize, this is really good stuff. I should buy this— oh wait— I already did!  It has felt good to use what I have, make something beautiful and then enjoy wearing it.

5. I learned that serious medical stuff is wicked scary. A mark on my vaccination ended up being melanoma, and surgery took care of it. It’s one of those, “Hey, I never noticed that” situations— even though I thought I was alert and conscientious about skin cancer.  So now I’m learning to be hyper-vigilant but not neurotic about it.  I don’t go to the beach until after 4 PM, I’m lathered up with great smelling sunscreen, and I wear a silly, big brimmed hat.

6. Writing is rewriting. I’m working on a couple of writing projects and hear my words as a professor echoing off these walls. Fewer thoughtfully chosen words are better than volumes of babble. Each sentence needs to do something meaningful— not just take up space on the page. Every revision teaches me something new— and I like that.

7. Short lists are better than long lists, which is why I’m so proud of myself at ending this at number seven and not feeling obliged to go to ten!!!
Hope this coming year is the best year yet. I bet it will be. Cheers to all.


WoodNeck Walkdoc 6/25/15

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We start this day with a morning walk to WoodNeck Beach– always a wise decision.  The weather is perfect, the birds are singing, and there is always so much to quietly observe.  Daisies grow so much better along the path than in my garden.  Waterlilies float on the marsh, not close enough to photograph, but beautiful to see. Sandalwood and honeysuckle fragrance waft in the salty breeze. The poison ivy is bushy and shiny– it almost looks pretty– until you think about it a bit more.  Sand crabs dig perfectly circular holes leaving lumpy trails of debris behind. The beach is empty and beautiful with the tide going out and the damp sand is easy to walk on. A few sun salutations are in order. Then we walk into a plover family:  mama, dad, and four little ones just born yesterday.  They scamper on the sand and are uninterrupted by man or beast.  In 26 days, they will be gone. The little ones learn to feed themselves and who knows which ones will return next year.  The lifeguard chair is turned on its side still, but it won’t be long before more folks arrive and soak up the rays, play in the sand and go for a swim.



Plover on the move.


Sand Crabs at Work


WoodNeck– ahhh!


A single plant in bloom amidst the rocks and shells

Yoga- Next Chapter

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photo 1I have been joyfully practicing yoga for fifteen months, and am a different person because of this practice. It’s true that I no longer have back pain, can actually hold a plank for several minutes, and can do a headstand (sort of, it would be nice if I could keep my legs together, for the nuns’ sake!) I know more poses than I ever thought I could remember and can actually create a fluid sequence using them. Ah…Vinyasa Yoga…I love it!

A month ago, the studio I belong to (Innerglow at Mashpee Commons) announced a three week Intensive Teacher Training course. The class description says it leads to a deepening of one’s practice and a certification to teach yoga. When I first heard about this offering, I wondered if it might be for me. I’ve been a teacher “of something” all my life; did I want to teach yoga, too? Was I proficient or experienced enough to take this class? Did I need to get into even better shape before embarking on this adventure? Do I want to teach or just live a life with a very open, flexible schedule? So many questions, but I know I feel a driving passion to keep doing yoga.

As is often the case, I must have been ready to learn, and the teachers appeared; Sheryl Light and Michelle Itzkowitz work their magic on me and the six other yogis in our class. For the past three weeks, we have been present, working, thinking, learning, sweating, and laughing 10 to 12 hours per day. I don’t think I’ve ever used so many muscles or thought so much about the connection of breath, mind, and body. Yoga is more than poses and wearing LuluLemon pants. It’s meditation in motion and linking body and breath while clearing the mind of clutter.

In short, this intense class is one of the wisest and kindest acts I’ve done for myself in a very long time. Yes, it is a challenge physically, but also mentally. The physical exercise is only one part of the entire process. Landing on my mat and emptying my mind of chatter, to do lists, real and/or imagined worries, and the urge to find perfection is wicked hard. “Quiet your mind” says the teacher…Then like the shot at the beginning of a race, my mind starts to run…Oh, did I put the clothes in the dryer? Fish or pasta for dinner? Remember to call the vet for Blackie’s test results (he’s fine- don’t worry). Did I lock my car? When are the real estate taxes due? I am learning to listen to these mental interruptions and then release them instead of letting them lease space in my head rent-free.

One by one, I let them go and listen to what a silent mind sounds like. It’s quiet, and all I think about is my breath: inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. Move my body with my breath, not in opposition to it. Good stuff starts to flow and come together. Then I learn that the word “yoga” means “union” and it all starts to fit together.

At the end of our three-week program, I’m in awe of another “union” that has been created. There are seven of us in class and two teachers. We’ve formed a family of our own. In this short period of time, we have created “siblings by choice.” What a gift this is, and it is completely unexpected on my part. My guts tell me that these women will be good friends for life. Yesterday was our last class together—and graduation. It was bittersweet.

On the mat and off the mat, I notice the lessons learned in this class with these people. In so many ways, it is a gift that keeps on giving. I’m very grateful for it all and will be teaching my first community class on Saturday, August 30(Labor Day Weekend) at 4 PM at Innerglow Studio, Mashpee Commons. The fee is a donation that will be given to Heroes in Transition—a wonderful non-profit that aids veterans by providing appropriate assistance to those with special needs in four key areas:

Home modifications for disabled veterans

Transitional Support Group Therapy

Financial support for service families

Assistance dogs for veterans.


Everyone is welcome. Hope to see you there!




Chinese Checkers

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Many of you who know me are aware of that fact that, until a year or so ago, my favorite form of exercise was lifting my fork from the plate to my mouth. Ok, maybe not that bad… maybe it was aerobically turning the pages of a good book….Or speed/power knitting. Then I discovered yoga and would now be lost without it. It centers me; my back doesn’t hurt, and I’ve lost my fear of falling over. Yoga has made an impact both on and off the mat.

Then, quite by mistake, a week ago, I arrived at the yoga studio for a 9 AM Vinyasa class. Something was quite different. The mats were going the “wrong” way. There were strange flexible rings in the front of the room and pile of elastic exercise bands that brought back memories of physical therapy and a demanding personal trainer. There was no “yoga” music in the background and many of the people in the class had real muscles.

My regular yoga teacher, Michelle, quietly told me that this was a Pilates class—the first one offered. I clearly didn’t check the latest schedule. So I looked her in the eye and said…“Well, can I do this Pilates stuff?” Without pause, she replied, “Of course, get in there.” So I did.

Learning something completely new and physically demanding at the ripe, young age of 61 might have scared me off. But it didn’t. I told the instructor, Monica, this was my first Pilates class ever… she was encouraging and her cues were crystal clear. I could follow her directions and make this Pilates thing work. The stretches we did were different than warm ups in yoga. Each move was more intense, took me out of my comfort zone and had to be repeated multiple times. I stopped worrying if I could do it, and just followed the teacher. Before I knew it, I was pulsing mini sit-ups without fears or tears.

Was it fun—no, not really! It was challenging, and I could feel that I was working my body in a different way than in my yoga practice or when taking long walks. I had to overcome the awkwardness of not really knowing what I was doing—and learn something new. It meant giving up the pretense of control and taking baby steps into the unknown. At the end of class, I was thrilled and amazed that “I did it!” I fully expected to hurt and have multiple Charlie-horses simultaneously—so I took an hour long soak in a hot Epson salt bath—and David did bring me a small (ok, medium) glass of brandy while I sat and soaked until my finger tips looked like white prunes. It was heavenly! I laid back and realized that I walked into a Pilates class unexpectedly and didn’t run away… instead I was looking forward to next Friday’s class.

How could this happen: One self-care action follows another and another and another. An entourage of wise, compassionate, skilled yoga teachers (Thank you and hugs to Kirsten, Megan, Michelle and Sandy McA) move me forward on and off the mat. They teach me yoga and so much more. I meditate and quiet my overactive mind. Most importantly, I delete toxic people and excessive commitments from my life. This all opens up room for new opportunities and new growth. I remember years ago, Danny Rothenberg told me that I ought to consider leaving more open space in my life. He made the comparison to Chinese checkers. “You need some open spots in order to jump ahead. You have too many marbles on the board.” It has taken me years to follow up on his advice.

So the benefits of life with “fewer marbles on the board” are numerous. Yes, I’m a regular Pilates and yoga student now, and I’m in much better shape than I was a year ago. I have learned the value of subtracting obstacles from my life in order to add more of the good stuff. It does come back to simplicity and having a “short list” of what is important. My hubby, David, has been talking about the value of a “short list” forever. I’m getting there.

Yoga Mama


On any given Monday and Thursday at 10:15 AM you’ll find me on a mat, soaked in sweat, head to toe in a room that’s at least 90 degrees. Every muscle in this 61 year old body has been worked hard, and I couldn’t be more pleased. I am a yoga mama—who would have thought????

Six months ago I had my annual physical and asked my doctor what I had to do to get rid of chronic back pain and lots of little aches that seemed to be occurring too frequently.


With a straight face, he asked me if I had tried yoga. I laughed out loud—do I look like I can do yoga? I can’t sit still and am unable to tie myself into a pretzel. He has been my doctor for more than twenty years and knows me well. He said to try it—it’s good for a lot of “stuff” but make sure you find a teacher you like.


I left his office thinking he was crazy. Later that week, I told my knitting group about his advice. To my surprise, many knitters (all shapes, sizes, and ages) around the room did practice yoga and had recommendations. I began to rethink this yoga idea; my back ached while I was cogitating.

A week later I arranged for a few private lessons with the most highly recommended teacher, Kirsten. Learning some of the basics at home where I could fall over, get stuck and be completely confused was a smart move. Kirsten was compassionate AND smart. She knew her yoga and successfully convinced me that I could do it. After the first session, my back felt better, but more importantly I realized that I could actually do this and like it.


Yoga brought new words and new perspectives into focus: breath, paying attention to my body, alignment, gaze, flow, eliminating distractions. All had relevance both on and off the mat. Every class I’m able to do something that I was unable to do the previous class. There are times when I see my shadow on the studio floor and, in amazement say “That’s me!” I don’t mean that in an egotistical way—but it really is quite a surprise for me to see myself flowing from one pose to another while breathing and working hard.


When Kirsten had an accident and took a leave of absence, I jumped right into the next class with a new teacher, Megan. Yes, I was a little nervous. The new class was more rigorous, and it was a heated classroom. Would I like her? Would it be too hard? Would I cry? The answer is all good news. Megan pushes me beyond my comfort zone in a similar way that I pushed my students to write and think critically beyond their usual limits.

No, I’m not doing handstands yet, but every class I make progress and continue to work on my daily practice, incorporating the new poses learned in class. Making the quiet time to do this for myself has been a real gift. I do owe a great deal of thanks, not only to Dr. Tracy who first put the bug in my ear, but also to both Kirsten and Megan… and also to my daughters who both practice yoga and offered encouragement and strength through this whole process.


I like what yoga does for me. It’s centering, quieting, and peaceful. It also strengthens what needs to be stronger and relaxes what is tied in knots. So it is with great joy that I include yoga in my life and can’t imagine living without it.


Pushing To Spring

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Coonamesset Farm in bloom

Coonamesset Farm in bloom

This past week has been filled with all sorts of reasons to celebrate. It’s May. There are graduations, Spring is in full force, and, of course, Mother’s Day. All good stuff.

I have had the pleasure of mentoring Gordon since he was a junior at Waltham High. Together we worked on writing critical essays, how to read challenging texts and how to remember to set your alarm to get to class on time. For the past five and a half years, he has put up with me, and I have put up with him…but joyfully so!

Gordon   Class of 2013 Bentley University

Gordon Class of 2013
Bentley University

This past week Gordon successfully completed his final semester at Bentley and will graduate next Saturday. He has invited me to the ceremony, and I’ll sit in the audience, yell and make noise when he receives his diploma, and then I’ll probably blubber into several tissues. He never gave up; he’s the first in his Haitian immigrant family to attend college, the first to graduate, and it’s a very proud moment that I know he’ll savor and appreciate. I can’t wait to see him in his cap and gown.

Mama and Molly

Mama and Molly

Mother’s Day Weekend has been absolutely delightful. Molly and Josh arrived and spoiled me rotten with her fabulous cooking and their wonderful company. Books, recipes, knitting ideas were shared and explored. We reconnected as if we were never apart. Kate and Matt will be visiting soon, but in the meantime, we did our first video Ichat. What a kick–I get to see her face and hear her voice! We gab over hot coffee as if she were next door. I really appreciate that I’ll always love my kids, but just as importantly, I really like them! I’m a lucky lady.

Coonamesset Lettuce

Coonamesset Lettuce

David and I had brunch at Coonamesset Farm today. The food was good, but the farm in springtime was something to behold. There are fallow fields, some lined with small seedlings and others more fully developed.  Everything is in the state of “becoming”. It’s filled with good intentions, hope and demands hard work. It’s also beautiful.

Alpaca deep in thought

Alpaca deep in thought

The farm animals are always a joy to visit. It’s their home and they let us drop in. The alpacas look like little kids with their big eyes and sense of wonder. Their “wool” is spun into the alpaca yarn I’ll be knitting warm hats and shawls with this winter.

IMG_3353 IMG_3360

The ducks and chickens are now located together in a large fenced in area. The ducks are laid back, and the chickens seem manic. One unusual, very pretty breed of chicken  has a duo that pace back and forth as if they’re thinking about solving a quadratic equation.


During the past month I’ve started to practice yoga. I know— I’m clumsy, don’t have an athletic muscle or bone in my body, and have trouble staying still for more than three seconds. This “yoga thing” is amazing. Both of my daughters do it and encouraged me to try. I found an excellent teacher who is succeeding in turning me into a yoga-mama. After four weeks, my chronic back pain is gone, I am more relaxed and centered, and I like doing it. I even speak softly for at least an hour after I’m done. Go figure! It is a most welcomed addition to my life, and I’m grateful.


Last, but not least, Smitty’s Ice Cream opened for the season this past week. I confess David and I drove on an empty tank of gas to get there. Yes, he got coffee ice cream smothered in butterscotch, and I tried two new flavors: coconut and orange/pineapple. Yum, yum, yum. This cannot become a habit…well maybe one can substitute a cup of ice cream for a lunch???

All of these events (except possibly Smitty’s) share the theme of hope and rebirth that comes from inspiration as well as perspiration. It resonates with me…optimism based on hard work and realizing one’s potential by doing good stuff with focus and determination. Gordon learned how to be a student and reached his goal. The farm will be worked and produce good food and lots of beauty. My daughters have grown up into adults that I am so very proud of; parenting is work and it works. I am learning how to do yoga without falling over; I practice every day. Smitty’s Ice Cream is my exercise in moderation. That might take some time.