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My vacation countdown has officially entered the single digits, so my brain–usually bouncing off the wall with blogging ideas–is stuck in WORK.PACK.PANIC mode. I don’t know about anyone else, but the final days before vacation are so tense for me; it’s not until I’m at the airport–through security with boarding pass in hand–that I realize this is supposed to be fun. (And I don’t want to think that far ahead, but this article discusses how there really is no such thing as post-vacation bliss; most of the happiness of a vacation comes before and during the trip. Then we just all snap back to baseline. Wah.)

Yes, I cry when I leave Disney World.

But at least we don’t have any hurricane clean-up to worry about before we leave. As it turns out, Irene was ever-so-kind to our little South Jersey community: Our trees stayed intact, we never lost power, and thanks to some last-minute gutter work courtesy of my husband, our basement remained water free. So for us, thankfully, “Splash Mountain” turned off the water canons and graced us instead with a gentle misting spray. There was a lot of damage elsewhere, though, and plenty of people are still walking around the Magic Kingdom in their squishy socks and shoes and soaked-through shorts and T-shirts. (OK, Disney analogy ends…now.)

So, aside from doing all the normal hurricane prep work like digging out our flashlights (and accidentally getting battery acid all over your hand), turning down the refrigerator/freezer temperatures (wow, that made for some solid-as-a-rock frogurt the next day), and buying the essential nonperishable food items (seems like everyone turned into carb-loading ultramarathoners overnight), Bryan and I added a few unique tasks to the list:

Go green!

Environmentally friendly water storage. Which is what happens when every store is out of bottled water and you need to get creative.

Slumber party!

Sleeping on the living room floor instead of upstairs, to stay as clear as possible from the roof. This picture makes an impromptu living room sleepover look fun; it was not. No much how much bedding you use, the floor is still hard (and sleeping on the couch is just awkward). I don’t know how we did it back then in our elementary school days.

After being holed up in the house for about 24 hours, I was going so stir-crazy. The worst of the storm was over by Sunday morning, but it was still too dangerously windy outside for me to consider taking a stroll down my ancient-tree-lined neighborhood. I did some yoga–that calmed me down for a while–but later in the afternoon I was desperate. I picked up my 6-pound medicine ball and told Bryan to play “catch” with me in the living room.

Play ball!

I know a lot of people come to this blog after searching for “medicine ball exercises,” so if you’re looking for some rainy-day fitness fun, here are some ideas, to be done with a partner:

Underhand toss, with squat. Stand with legs a little wider than hip-distance apart. Keeping head, neck, and spine aligned, squat down as though sitting in a chair with ball held low between the legs. From this low position, toss ball to partner with an underhand throw, using biceps and inside forearm as the active muscles. Person catching the ball can do a quick grab and lower into this starting position on the catch.

Overhand toss, with or without squat. Hold ball to upper chest with palms facing outward. Toss ball to partner with a “pushing” kind of motion (kind of like taking a foul shot in basketball). You’ll feel this in the triceps. Partner catches the ball with hands in same position. Adding a small squat (with legs hip-distance apart) intensifies the move.

One-hand underhand toss. If you are like me and have hypermobile joints, I do not recommended this with a 6-pound ball (my shoulders were aching the next day–an “ouch” ache, not a “good workout” ache). Basically, we were mimicking a bowling kind of motion, stepping out with the one leg and tossing the ball underhand with the opposite arm, as though rolling a bowling ball down the alley. Partner catches the ball in standard catch fashion. I think I would have been fine with 4 pounds or so, but those 6 pounds made my rotator cuff so wonky.

• On the other hand, 6 pounds was too light for the back-to-back ball exchange, in which you stand back to back with your partner, holding the ball with two hands. Turn to right and pass ball to partner (his left). Partner swivels around to other side as you swivel around to meet him on your left side, grabbing ball from him and swiveling to your right, so on and so forth.  Do a few repetitions in one direction and then switch sides. This was ridiculously easy with 6 pounds and we gave up after a few rounds. Would have been much more effective with at least 12 pounds.

We kept at it for about 10 minutes, and I worked up a pretty decent sweat! It was a great way to combine keeping conversation with my husband, having fun, and beating the hurricane-day fidgets.

Fortunately the winds died down right before the sun set, so we were able to go on a pleasant walk around town at dusk. Post-hurricane weather is wacko–it was absolutely gorgeous outside! Blue skies, beautiful clouds, chirping birds…all very strange juxtaposed next to severed tree limbs and saturated leaves plastered all over the roads.

How did you beat the rainy-day, Hurricane Irene weekend blues?

As a kid, I never liked having a summer birthday (no exclusive classroom celebration, and everyone was away on vacation when we tried to schedule a party), but as an adult I love the fact that my birthday is at the end of July. That way, when I take the day off work, I can spend my time down the shore! Being by the ocean is like escaping to another world for the day, and there’s no greater birthday gift than being surrounded by blue skies, sand, the roaring ocean, and the bustling summertime boardwalk. So that’s where Bryan and I headed this past Friday!

View of the Atlantic from atop the Wildwood ferris wheel

Although it’s a bit of a longer drive than some other beaches, Wildwood (also known as The Wildwoods, a collection of communities) is quickly becoming one of my favorite destinations. As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s where my parents, little sister, and I used to go every summer in my youth, and part of my love for the boardwalk is due to nostalgia. But get this! The Wildwood boardwalk was named one of National Geographic’s Top 10 National Boardwalks, along with Atlantic City. New Jersey pride!

Wildwood's famous tram car

True to its doo-wop theming, even the Wildwood Wawa fits right in.

Due to my sensitive skin and high burn risk, I generally don’t like to lounge on the beach, so Bryan and I spent our time walking the boards and taking in the sights.

Stay classy, Jersey.

We love the 'Wa!

The shore is supposed to be cooler than the mainland, but that was not happening on Friday. It was hot, humid, and 100% disgusting. My skin was so slimy that putting on sunscreen felt like rubbing oil onto wet skin. We tried to cool off by catching a breeze on spinning rides:

Felt nice and breezy atop the giant ferris wheel!

Camera face off!

Gliding around the pier on a flying pirate ship

Trying to make it like “the good ol’ days,” I encouraged Bryan to go on some thrill rides with me. I used to ride the Condor all the time as kid; you sit in a hanging cage, it spins, and then–while boomerang spinning at the same time–the cars ascend a beam high into the air. “It’s like the Teacups in the sky!” I exclaimed.

The "before" face

What I soon realized as the cars began to climb several stories up is that I am not a kid anymore. As one who gets nervous walking too close to the balcony rail on the upper level at the mall, I should have known better than to willingly fly high into the sky in a suspended metal cage. Halfway up, I had to squeeze my eyes shut and attempt some deep breathing. The spinning was what was doing me in. Ugh.

White-knuckled death grip

I’m a roller coaster enthusiast, so Bryan and I patiently sat outside The Great Nor’Easter, waiting for it to open. The ride is a standard steel suspended looping coaster, the kind where your feet hang.

I love loops and corkscrews and all that jazz, and this is nothing new to me. However, what my body was not prepared for was the intense jostling this ride creates once you soar down the first hill. I wanted the ride to be over as soon as it descended, when it started to feel like I was in a car accident rather than on a roller coaster. My whole body was getting knocked around, and it was nothing like the smooth sailing of Medusa Bizarro over at Six Flags Great Adventure, which is one of the most pleasantly thrilling coasters I’ve ever been on. The only redeeming quality the Nor’Easter had was its spectacular view atop the first hill; at the last clackety-clack, you felt like you’d be dropping straight off into the Atlantic Ocean.

But no, instead you endure about a minute of violent shaking, exit the attraction feeling like your car has just tumbled off a cliff, and you wake up the next morning with bruises on the back of your legs.

Needless to say, traumatized by two childhood rides, I opted to skip the terrifying Dante’s Dungeon (which I never even liked as a kid, because it incorporates live actors who pop out of the shadows). Besides, the exterior is frightening in and of itself.

Me: “I used to ride this stuff all the time as a kid. What the heck happened?”

Bryan: “You realized that you are mortal.”

Me: “Well, there’s a nice birthday sentiment.”

OK, so maybe at 31 I can’t stomach the rides that thrilled me at 10, but one thing that doesn’t change with age is devouring boardwalk pizza for lunch.

In Ocean City, Mack & Manco’s is the #1 pizza purveyor; in Wildwood, it’s simply Macks.

And nothing washes pizza down like some Kohr Bros. custard!

After being out in the sun for so long, Bryan and I beat the heat by escaping under an old pier, enjoying the shade and cool lighting.

We rounded out the day with a game of air hockey (I lost miserably, 7-0), miniature golf (I beat Bryan by one stroke!), and take-out back home from IndeBlue for dinner (because who doesn‘t want hot and spicy Indian food after a 95-degree day at the beach and a broken air conditioner at home?!).

As for my actual birthday yesterday? I woke up feeling more tired than when I went to bed (most likely from being out in the sun all day), answered the ringing doorbell at 8:30 a.m. wearing short shorts stained with tomato sauce and a tank top without a bra (hello, Sears air conditioner repair man!), dilly-dallied around all morning before finally going to the gym for some swimming, and then put myself together for a family birthday dinner at Bertucci’s.

Looking for a party trick to make birthdays better? Have someone take your picture as you do “raspberry” lips. My sister knows how to entertain.

I had an amazing time last weekend just being a kid again.

Two of my favorite people in the world, Emma and Peter, were in town with their 22-month-old daughter Gabriella. She is the textbook definition of “cute kid,” and I’m pretty sure if encyclopedias still existed (remember those things?), you could look up “ideal toddler,” and her picture would be pasted all over the pages.

It was a hot summer afternoon, and Bryan and I spent most of the day soaking up the cuteness that Gabriella had to offer. Of course we spent time chatting with our adult friends, but baby-watching was so much more entertaining than anything on TV.

It was hard for me to keep up with Gabriella’s endless imagination. Who knew that pouring invisible tea and eating plastic crumpets was so fascinating?

At the same time, watching a child’s mind run wild is so humbling. Remember those days when playing with a pot, a wooden spoon, and an old shoebox could last for hours? During our time with Gabriella, we watched her:
• Cook imaginary pancakes and eggs–and if you tried to eat them before blowing on the spoon, her eyes would widen and she’d wave her hands, crying “HOT!”
• Admire a blade of grass and handle it as delicately as a baby praying mantis.
• Contently dig her wet feet deep in a pile of dirt.
• Splash around in a baby pool, completely unaware of the chill of the hose water.
• Discover countless ways to play with plastic cups: throwing them in the pool, wearing them as shoes, filling them up with water and showering herself, tossing plastic ducks into them, wearing a cup as a hat…
• Stop doing whatever she was doing outside to look up at the sky and shout, “PLANE!”

…Which is a perfect segue into how Bryan and I spent the following day–Plane watching!

Even though I have a mortgage and pay taxes, I still like to think of myself as a kid at heart. Gabriella does the happy dance when an airplane engine roars overhead–and so do I!

Bryan, fully aware of my childlike obsession with big, loud flying things, drove me last Sunday over the bridge to Pennsylvania for some real plane watching. I’ve written here before about watching planes land from Red Bank Battlefield, but that is nothing compared to being right next to the airport.

Our first stop was Fort Mifflin, an historic site from the Revolutionary War era, that just so happens to be located right next to Philadelphia International Airport.

I nearly peed myself when we first drove up to the place. I get so excited when I see planes close up! As we were driving, a jet flew right over our car, and I scrambled like a starstruck fan trying to snap a picture of a celebrity. It reminded me of being in Los Angeles, when Bryan and I were driving in LAX territory and planes zoomed directly over the highway.

We hung around Fort Mifflin for a while, snapping fun photos of plane after plane descending into the airport. We didn’t bother paying admission and actually going inside the Fort; just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we have to pretend to be interested in historical stuff. We were there for the planes!

Flapjacks, the fearless flying lobster.

Things got even better when Bryan told me that if we drove to the other side of the airport, we could see planes taking off. I had no idea the public could get so close to the airport and that a magical access road surrounded the entire place. Him telling me this reminded me of when my parents would say, “Hey, let’s go to Clementon Lake Amusement Park tonight!” REALLY?!?!?!

Turns out we weren’t the only ones parked next to the airport. We saw several other people there for fishing, biking, (illegal) motorbike racing, and some older guy driving his convertible around the loop, over and over again.

I plastered myself against the chain-link fence and watched planes race down the runway. I swear, no matter how technologically advanced our society gets, there is still something jaw-dropping and amazing about metal tubes with wings flying through the sky, transporting 100, 200+ people across the ocean. (As Louis CK says, “You’re sitting in a chair…in the sky.”)

Moments like this remind me that age really is just a number. I may not be able to occupy myself for 20 minutes with invisible eggs and a child-size frying pan, but I can stare up at the sky for hours, pointing at the metal birds above, shouting, “PLANE!”

I’m going to kick myself when I read this in January but here’s the truth: It’s too hot for hot yoga.

Sometimes a natural glow isn't all that becoming.

Up until three weeks ago, every Tuesday night was cleared to make room for my hot yoga class. The studio is right around the corner from my office, so I’d stay a little later at work, change into my duds in the bathroom, and head off to class with 15 minutes to spare. Hot yoga was my savior during the winter and into spring, especially those evil April days when it would rain cold rain for hours and end with a blast of chilly wind. Thank god for hot yoga, I’d think, walking into the heated studio wearing sweatpants and a hoodie to “keep myself warm” before stripping down to capris and a tank.

Three Tuesdays ago, however, things changed. First, it became July. I walked out of the office that Tuesday in my yoga gear, and I was so happy to be warm. Yay, summer!, said the cold-blooded yogi. Then I entered my car, which had been sitting in the unshaded parking lot for the past 8 hours.

Sitting in a 100-degree tin can is no motivation to drive yourself to a yoga studio that’s 5 degree hotter.

So I drove home. Now, I wasn’t being lazy. I ended up doing a 90-minute Jivamukti podcast in my yoga room upstairs. The room was hot, but it wasn’t intentionally set to eyeball-melting degrees. I rose from savasana feeling sweaty but not saturated.

Last Tuesday, it was still July, but now it was creeping into mid-summer, which adds a new element to the mix: Humidity! I had gone outside earlier that day for a 30-minute lunch walk and knew right then that I would not be going to hot yoga class that night. I felt bad–I was now missing my second class in a row–but again, I wasn’t taking the lazy person’s way out. I went home and did yet another Jivamukti podcast. Still sweated, but not to the point where I’d absolutely need a shower afterward (which is pretty much standard after every formal hot yoga class).

And so we come to today. I pretty much knew at 7 a.m.–when it was already 81 degrees outside–that hot yoga was out of the picture. That’s when I had just returned from a relatively mild 20-minute walk covered in sweat. Things did not improve throughout the day. I went out to lunch with my department and ate a giant turkey burger that put me into a post-meal stupor. Then the air conditioning in my office broke, which made that turkey-burger stupor even more difficult to overcome. It got so hot inside that we were actually permitted to leave early, at which point I drove home in my 100-degree tin can and collapsed on the living room floor, red-faced and kind of stinky.

However. Although I didn’t make it to class for the third week in a row, I still committed myself to yoga. I found a new podcast on iTunes (an 80-minute vinyasa flow) and went upstairs to my yoga room…which was pretty much a hot yoga studio in itself at that point on this sweltering day. I sweated, I dripped, rubber mat bits stuck to my slimy feet, stray strands of hair were plastered all over my arms and neck, and, by golly, I needed a shower when it all ended.

On this third week away from the yoga studio, my guilt about not attending class is finally dissipating. As a regular student, I tend to get all kinds of anxiety if I have to miss class. I’m afraid of upsetting the instructor, of unintentionally making the studio owner think I hate her business, of tricking myself into thinking I’m lazy. But it’s none of the above–I’m just hot, and I don’t want to do yoga right now in an even hotter room.

This same studio started offering Saturday morning classes, and at first I was really excited. I went to one class and had every intention of making it a regular thing–until it became summer. And then I had a 5Rhythms class one week. And then I slept in the following Saturday because I had gotten to bed really late the night before.

I feel bad because I was once a yoga teacher and know how it feels to see someone one week and not the next. Or the next. All kinds of crazy things spiral through your mind–Did I say something offensive last time? Was my class too hard? Did I touch her feet during savasana and maybe she has a weird foot thing? She thinks I’m a dork. A diva. A doofus.

But sometimes (most of time), it’s just life that’s keeping us from the studio. Or the weather. Up until three weeks ago, my body craved hot yoga class. I’d be in my cubicle at 4 p.m., thinking Yay, yoga class in two hours! When my body doesn’t do that, maybe it’s time to take a little break and try something different.

I slept in again this Saturday, and then on Sunday I tried something totally different (and terrifying)–I went to a new yoga studio! (Ahhhhh, yoga studio anxiety kicking in again!) It’s just a 15-minute walk from my house, so I went over there on foot, took what turned out to be a challenging but manageable and fun vinyasa flow class in an un-air-conditioned (warm but not hot–just perrrrfect in my book) studio, and came home feeling great…until my yoga high (and the caffeine in the iced coffee I grabbed for my walk home) caused me to dance uncontrollably for an hour in my living room, to the point where I was almost as sweaty as my husband after his 4-mile run.

So even though it’s too hot for hot yoga, I guess it’s never too hot for a yoga-induced dance party. 🙂

I don’t know about everyone else, but I always feel like I do a bajillion more things in the summer than I ever do any other time of year. In the winter, my calendar will experience weeks of nothingness; on the contrary, ever since Independence Day, my weekends have been full of here-there-and-everywhere, punctuated by a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

I already wrote about the emotional afternoon I spent saying farewell to my family’s Philly rowhome; well, right before I danced in the living room, I was actually dancing across the city in West Philadelphia, at an afternoon 5Rhythms class.

Dancing the 5 Rhythms right before embarking on an emotionally taxing adventure was a good decision. It got me past the junky layer of my mind to a place of stillness and mindfulness. I really needed that, especially because I had to drive across the city to get to my aunt’s place. I am not the most experienced out-of-state driver and get really nervous when I have to take new and unfamiliar roads. That afternoon I had to take three of my most dreaded highways; it was the great Nervous Driving Trifecta. Thankfully, 2.5 hours of 5Rhythms beforehand stripped away my outer terror, and I made it just fine.

That same evening, I met up with my former coworker Sara for a summer evening dinner of Cuban food at Casona. I was touched when she agreed to order a guacamole appetizer whose cilantro status was uncertain. Sara hates cilantro but loves guac, and she totally put her taste buds on the line. It was such a bold move! Our entrees were both awesome, as was the milky cake dessert (tres leches) we shared afterward.

Sara's just happy the iffy cilantro experience is over.

Vegetable paella, which I managed to split into four separate meals.

We strolled the main drag for a while and ended up having to stop at my parents’ house to use the bathroom. Weird! Then Sara gave me some corn from her family farm because she knows I love corn.

Saluting a corn statue in the Magic Kingdom

As everyone else headed to the beach for the holiday, Bryan and I spent July 3 at our fake shore, Red Bank Battlefield Park, which borders the Delaware River. Not exactly the Atlantic Ocean, but it’s relaxing, peaceful, and a place where shellfish don’t feel threatened.

On Independence Day, Bryan pretended he didn’t know me during joined me for a walk around Cooper River. I was wearing my new weighted vest from Reebok, which pretty much looks like a bulletproof Kevlar vest. It looks silly, but Cooper River Park is home to work-out weirdos. A weighted vest is nothing next to a 200-pound dude walking around on a 90-degree day in one those trashbag-like sweatsuits.

Of course, the evening ended with fireworks. It was a ridiculously long show of nearly 30 minutes, but it was nice to see a fireworks display that didn’t reduce me to tears like Wishes at the Magic Kingdom does.

Post-Wishes "I'm-so-sad-it's-over" face

Speaking of pyrotechnics, one of the games I like to play during the summer is the “Thunder or Fireworks?” game (and actually, with our house being so close to the airport, some nights it’s the “Thunder, Fireworks, or Descending Airplane?” game). Well, this past Friday night, it was definitely THUNDER. I usually like summer t-storms, but Friday’s felt like the apocalypse, and it wreaked havoc on the area. The onslaught of rain closed down my only two routes home from work, and I ended up being stuck at the office until 7:30.

By the time Saturday rolled around, (aside from tree limbs scattered all over the neighborhood) you’d never know there was a problem. I set out on a long and sweaty walk to the farmer’s market and was blasted with sun and humidity. And then I took the long way home, because I get overambitious like that.

That’s why when Bryan and I hit the road to go down to Atlantic City for the night, Starbucks was one of our first stops on the boardwalk. We had tickets for a 9 p.m. comedy show, and there was no way I could stay awake without the help of the green siren.

Caffeine queen!

We don’t gamble or anything, but I love the energetic atmosphere of Atlantic City. I am oddly fascinated with casinos and the people within, everyone from the gray-haired grandmas in velour tracksuits to, well, young adult hipsters in their velour tracksuits. Greasy, grimy, glamorous, glitzy … AC has it all!

Dolled up weirdo in orthopedic walking sandals, because I respect my feet!

Sculpture of couple playing tag on beach that looks like dancers at the right angle

Mr. and Mrs. Shades

After admiring the ocean for a while, we drove over to the marina area of the city. We were seeing Jim Gaffigan (of Hot Pockets fame) at the Borgata. We were hoping he’d resurrect his manatee bit, but his new sea creature to ridicule was the whale. But at least he ended with a Hot Pockets extended remix.

When we set out to go home, I couldn’t help staring with fascination at the sparkling city behind us. I think it’s so cool that the casinos are always “on”! It’s like a whole separate universe just an hour away from home.

Not my picture, but you get the point. Photo credit: NJ.com

Sunday was all about the walking. I walked about a mile to a local coffee shop to meet up with Old Lady Friend Carrol, then walked 4 miles two towns over for an arts and crafts festival, then walked another 2 miles around the actual show. It was in the 90s, and I was hot, but I like when I can combine outdoor activity and exercise. You don’t get to see guys like this at the gym:

Tater the happy pug

At the festival, I was excited to see that the vendor (At-the-Beach America) from whom Bryan and I bought matching lobster t-shirts last year was now selling the same print on tank tops, and in black. When Bryan saw that I had bought a new color, he insisted on getting the black version, too. 🙂

Wearing our original shirts at a Phillies game. The Kanji symbol means "Happiness."

The weekend wrapped up with a stop at Sprinkles Kiwi, a self-serve frozen yogurt joint. Bryan and I call it “Sprinkles” because that was its original name when it opened, but due to copyright issues it later changed to “Kiwi.” Whatever. For us, it will always and forever be Sprinkles. Our tradition is to take our dessert around the corner and sit on the bench outside Cranky’s handbag boutique. It has become “our” bench, and only a handful of times it has already been taken (which totally throws us off). See those buildings in the reflection? When we first started our Sprinkles visits, those buildings weren’t even there! (And how appropriate that I’m sitting right under the Cranky’s logo? ‘Cause usually that’s what I am before being placated by the sweetness of Sprinkles.)

Bryan's base flavor: cookies 'n' cream; Mine: vanilla & peanut butter. Favorite toppings: Reese's Pieces, mochi (me), sprinkles (duh!)

More to come this summer, including kayaking, more 5Rhythms and yoga, another drum circle of two, and a kundalini workshop!

About the Author

Name: Jennifer

Location: Greater Philadelphia Area

Blog Mission:
SHARE my practice experience in conscious dance and yoga,

EXPAND my network of like-minded individuals,

FULFILL my desire to work with words in a more creative and community-building capacity;

FLOW and GROW with the world around me!

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