Every morning starts here at Elmo's, unless it starts on the third-floor of my neighborhood yoga studio then I come here second, flushed from a vigorous practice. No judgment from the Elmo's crowd. Not for my bed head and sleepy eyes or, alternately, my sweaty, exhausted look. 

It takes me four minutes and seven seconds to walk here. I timed myself today. The short walk is one of my favorite parts of the day. Uma used to come with me every morning and we'd say hi to all the other early-rising neighbor dogs. The neighborhood is so quiet first thing. Depending on the season, it's either pitch black or just starting to blush with light when I head out. 

Today, the trees in the park lit up in fiery red hues and electric orange. The line of ginkgo trees across the street looked to be nearing peak neon yellow.

For months after Uma's death, the walk to the coffee shop was awkward, her absence so keenly felt. I fumbled with what to do with my hands without her leash. I felt self-conscious when I saw her friends. I was surprised by just how long this sense of not-quite-rightness persisted. Maybe it still does to a degree. Our house is wanting of another dog.

I sat in the corner of the couch in the front room and drank my coffee while the rest of the house slept. No school today or tomorrow. Teacher conferences instead. I started at Tobias' preschool where his teacher told me of some trick he was doing on the playground.

"What are you doing?" she asked. "Imitating a frog?"

"No, I'm working on my crow pose," he told her. 

It seems the kids are as consumed by yoga as I am these days. 

Monday is the day I shop for food. It's a mixed bag now that the kids are back to school. On the plus side, I don't have to police four children as I fill the cart. The drawback: I have to carry seven tons of groceries into the house by myself.

I treat myself to 13 malted milk balls on Mondays. Any less than 13 and my belly wants more. Any more than 13 and my head starts to ache. 

Conferences at the elementary school were next. Esme's teacher said she's equipped to be whatever she wants when she's older. Desmond's teacher told us he explained a math problem in a way she'd never heard but plans to use with her students from now on. Josephine's teacher marveled at her writing. We told her about the poem, "The love dove," Josephine wrote for us last night: 

"The love dove is high up in the tree's spreading love to all the bee's. The love dove is happy to help a mate find a date. Kent was a gent and he found the best date."

I dropped Kent at the Metro, made lunch, then took the kids to Home Depot to buy tile for a new bathroom in the basement. With the exception of about eight months in Raleigh, Kent and I have always lived with one bathroom, so it feels like an absolute luxury to have a second one constructed. Never mind that the basement is short and Kent can't actually stand in most of it. It will have a bathroom. A SECOND TOILET!

So, I won't complain about the kids behavior and the fact that I had to forcefully sit one child at one end of the Home Depot aisle and plop another at the other end to keep them from fighting while I tried to pick tile. I won't (even though I did, just there).

Oh look, the coffee shop again. This day needs more caffeine.  

I finally ate my malted milk balls and listened to the kids climb the silver maple in the back yard. Josephine wandered in at one point to ask where Esme and Tobias went. I looked out the window and saw Esme climbing the fence, shouting to Tobias whom she directed into the neighbor's yard. I didn't know what they were up to except no good.

Meanwhile, at the front of the house... Desmond once told me that books saved his life. I think they continue to, every single day. 

I lost my patience at 6 p.m. and finished with the day at 7:09 when Kent walked in the door. I'm in bed on a heating pad now. Living large!

*This post was inspired by a blogging pal and should be the first of seven meant to show you what a week looks like for me. 


One-minute Handstand

The other night I couldn't sleep, couldn't slow my thoughts or temper my energy so I got out of bed, unrolled my yoga mat and practiced some poses I've become enamored with. This is happening a lot lately, this excitement and restlessness. This sense of adventure and fun. 

The next morning, Kent told me he could hear my ujjayi breathing. Hear my feet hitting the mat.

I've been inspired by new teachers and new classes, by yoginis unknown to me just weeks ago whom I've found on Instagram. 

Who's that celebrity famous for saying "I've got the fever?" The more cowbell guy from Saturday Night Live?

I've got the fever and instead of cowbells I want yoga. There's a web site I've found recently called Yoga Dork. That about sums it up.

On another of my restless nights I sat up, alone, making a list of 14 yoga poses or transitions I'd like to do one day: dragonfly, visvamitrasana and one-legged crow among them. Another: a one-minute handstand. I read somewhere that in order to do a one-arm handstand, you first need to hold a handstand for a minute. So, I put it on my list. 

First, though, I needed to figure out how long I hold my handstand now. I catch some good hang time now and then, but I've never timed myself. Today, I set up my tripod in the back yard and pressed record. 

41 Seconds from Dana Damico on Vimeo.


I have to find another 19 seconds to reach my goal.


Handstand Press

I did something in yoga class I've never done before, something I've never seen anyone else do either. I shouted "Oh my god! Oh my god!" as I lifted myself into a pose I thought previously impossible, then I high-fived the teacher immediately after. Like I was a weightlifter or soccer player or some other athlete drunk on adrenaline, not a yogini.

It wasn't just the physical breakthrough that stunned me, though it did! The emotional one was even more unreal. I'm not an effusive person, at least I don't think I am. I think most people would describe me as calm. Reserved, even. But there I was, in a quiet yoga studio, making a fool of myself with a teacher whose class I'd never taken. 

I was still high hours later. And still thinking about it the day after. 

Sometimes, many times, I struggle with sharing things about myself. Recently, I asked Kent for advice and he told me to 'let my beauty shine.' What he meant, really, was fly that freak flag of yours with pride. So, I did that day. I felt like I let it fly in the yoga studio too, in a moment of unadulterated and boundless joy I couldn't have contained if I tried.

I don't know what's driving the transformation - yoga teacher training, maybe? age? - but I dig it. I walked home from the yoga studio smiling and laughing and the absolute best part, I didn't tell myself to stop.  

Handstand Press from Dana Damico on Vimeo.


Monkey Mind

Something unexpected - and unsettling - happened to my yoga practice when I started yoga teacher training. My mind no longer goes blessedly blank when I'm on my mat or stills when I unfurl in savasana. It chatters. On and on and on and on like Tobias who hasn't stopped talking since the day he learned how.

In Buddhism, it's called the monkey mind and luckily it's something I've never been cursed with. 

I have a teacher who is fond of telling the class to stop thinking of their day ahead or the day before. Stop writing to-do lists, she tells us. Stop rehashing old arguments, past grievances. Focus on this moment. Right now. The burn in fierce pose. The muscle shake in plank.

I always smile. I am here, I think to myself. I'm on this mat now and nowhere else because this mat is always where I want to be.

I hear my breath. I see my gaze. I feel my body. I am here. 

Except, I'm not as much anymore. I still get lost during the practice - mostly - and I still fail to see friends on nearby mats. But I don't float away in savasana like I used to. I can't place my thoughts in the imaginary basket that washes them down the stream anymore. 

Maybe it's because I feel overwhelmed by the information we've been fed these last few weeks - philosophy, anatomy, sutras, the flow, cues, hands-on assists. It's muddled my mind and thrown me off balance, in actual practice and, to be honest, outside the studio too. 

I skipped class today. I think I'll skip again tomorrow and maybe even the next one too. I may dig in the dirt or, better yet, go for a ride through the woods, take my yoga practice away from the mat for a few days, see if I can outride the mind monkey.


Our Own Diana Nyad

The first triathlon Kent did he crashed a borrowed bike on a steep mountain road and showed up at the finish line with killer scrapes on his thigh and bum. He swam fast (he always swims fast), but he labored through the run on thick legs despite the short course. 

On Friday, he leaves for Las Vegas, 40 pounds lighter and lightyears faster than he was those many years ago, where he'll compete with a select group of athletes from around the country and the world at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. He'll be racing with other badasses like himself, in other words. 

The journey from that small, community-centered triathlon in western North Carolina to an international spectacle has been thrilling to watch. When Diana Nyad walked onto the Key West beach after swimming nearly 53 hours and told the crowd to never give up, I thought of Kent riding alone on a bike trainer in the garage at midnight. When she said you're never to old to chase your dreams and said her dream wouldn't have been possible without her team, I nodded at the truth. 

Kent has sacrificed time with the family and we've sacrificed moments with him in order that he can push his body, test his will, shatter limitations and recreate his own idea of himself. I'm intoxicated by people who tackle the impossible - or what seems like it for a time. Not just the Nyad level feats of derring-do either. I mean, swimming the ocean expanse blows my mind, but I'm energized too by the local chef who is reclaiming his health, dropping pounds and competing in his first triathlon; by the stranger on Twitter who boasted of finishing his first Ironman; by a friend who walked all night for a cause close to her heart; by my yoga teacher who achieved a new pose. 

Their bravery ignites mine. Their perseverance pushes me. Their triumph fuels me to seek bold triumphs of my own. 

Desmond is "the big cheese" at school next week which means he gets to tell the class about himself, show his special treasures and share family photos. In selecting the pictures, he picked ones of himself playing chess, jumping from a rope swing at family camp, playing tetherball. And he picked two photos of Kent - just Kent - competing in Ironman Lake Placid. In July, I got to tick another item off my life list when we watched Kent cross the finish line there. It was an emotional experience and I found myself welled up with tears throughout the day, awed by the strength and beauty of the competitors, by the sheer audacity of swimming 2.4 miles, riding 112 miles over those mountain roads, then running a full marathon. A marathon, for crissakes. 

It wasn't just the competitors, though. I felt the love of all the spectators, all of the loved ones and families like us who helped the competitors make it to the start line in one piece, then cheered them to the finish. Those people leaning over the barricades, screaming their fool heads off for the woman racing past, the ones crying and pumping their fists? I know their story. It's mine. It's Desmond's. 

We won't get to cheer Kent along the course in Las Vegas, but we'll be pulling for him. Our own Diana Nyad.