more exercise, less sugar

Dragged myself from bed at 6:46 a.m. to prepare for exercise class. Would’ve preferred sleeping in, especially with my propensity for late night blogging. Will find a balance one of these days. But having had a spotty attendance record so far this summer, I feel compelled to get myself  to the gym, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Our instructor gave me a further reason to push myself.

Kristina is in the midst of some remodeling. She told us that she was grateful for her exercise regimen. Needing to replace a steel rod to rehang her garage door, Kristina successfully undertook the task herself. She felt we would be as capable given our attention to exercise. And she’s right. Many a time I’ve thought how easily I lug grocery bags in from the car, usually making it in one trip. Unless allergens are swirling overhead, I can walk my dog up and down hills with minimal huffing and puffing. My chronic lower back pain is on “simmer.” Even though I’ll never eliminate my arthritis, I can manage the pain without drugs.

Incorporated into our exercise regimen, we use 3 lb. and 5 lb. hand weights, ankle weights, flex bands, and poles. Lying on the floor, we do sit ups, push ups, leg lifts, pelvic tilts, and hold our bodies parallel to the floor for up to 32 counts. All of this comes on the heels of aerobic work to get our heart rate up. On Mondays we do lunges across the floor several times, sometimes even doing the length of the gym. On Wednesdays we add a step to the mix. On Fridays we lay on our backs, legs bent on the seat of the chair. From this position, we do all our floor exercises. All of this wasn’t easy at first, but 4 years later, I feel stronger and more in control physically and mentally. 

Exercise and cutting way back on sugar, which causes inflammation, are my “magic bullets.” When I don’t get enough of the first, and get too much of the latter, I ache, badly. As soon as I return to my “weapons” in defense of good health, the pain melts away. It’s taken years of trying different diets, including Weight Watchers 3 times, and The Perricone Prescription, to arrive at my solution. It’s not a quick fix or a perfect one for I stray often, especially on vacations. But I get back to my routine as soon as I can, and my body thanks me for it.

It’s still a struggle to age, but I’ve no choice in the matter so I opt to do it healthily and therefore, gracefully.

wish the same for you…hugmamma.

a friendly place

Getting up for 8:15 Mass is a struggle. I’m not a morning person, as I’ve said in previous posts. So making it to exercise and church services is a labor of love, or else insanity, maybe both. The “drawing card” for me are the teachers, Kristina at the gym, and Father Brian at St. Joseph’s. Their common denominator is their compassionate, warm, “open” personalities. Neither basks in the limelight, rather they are humbly passionate about spreading their messages, Kristina “speaks” to exercise as essential for our well-being; Father Brian shares the gospel that God loves and cares for all of us.

Probably the youngest priest I’ve ever encountered as pastor of a parish, Father Brian, is a natural-born “shepherd.” He gathers his parishioners, his “sheep,” about him, with concern for our safe deliverance into the hands of God, our Maker. He doesn’t prod us with pokers, rather he relates stories, personal or biblical, which encourages us to think and to decide by what values we should live. The church fills with laughter when Father Brian tells a joke or humorous anecdote. He’s not even above pointing a finger at himself, whether in fun or to confirm that he too is human. His manner is easy, his smiles always forthcoming. He is accepting of ways that are different from his. If there are rules, and there must be, by which the parish operates, they do not seem “set in stone.” Perhaps his youthfulness and relative newness to pastoral duties has him proceeding with caution, allowing himself to blend into the congregation’s routine, to become one with, not one above, us.

Today my ears were extra perked when listening to Father’ sermon. He spoke of our need to focus upon the “small things” in our lives. These, he said, are the building blocks of the kingdom of Heaven. God does not reward us for “flash”, but rather for what we do “behind the scenes.” As stewards of God’s gifts, our services toward and on behalf of one another will be rewarded. Our faithfulness will be recognized. Romans 12:6-8 from The New Testament testifies to this:

“We each have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” 

As an introduction to his homily, Father Brian spoke of witnessing small, but meaningful, human gestures that “built up the Kingdom of God.” Friends from out-of-town were visiting with him. A couple and their 2 daughters visited the popular tourist attractions. In their comings and goings, Father witnessed the loving care bestowed upon the littlest child by her sister and her parents.

On a recent visit with his elderly grandparents at their assisted living facility, Father celebrated the Mass in their apartment, the 3 huddling together. At the “kiss of peace”, his grandparents turned and pecked each other on the cheek, mouthing the words “I love you” to one another. This demonstration of their affection spoke volumes of their 67 year-long marriage.

After weekday Mass one morning, Father Brian noticed a lone woman moving through the pews, collecting congregation booklets, which she would then return to their housing. On another occasion, a parishioner asked Father if she could bring flowers from her garden to place around the altar. Walking over to it, he fingered one of the daisies, lovingly displayed in a vase. Matching arrangements were staged prominently in other areas.

It is obvious that Father Brian is like family to his parishioners. He freely speaks to us of his mother, other relatives, his friends, his love of basketball, his personal impressions of a recent visit to the Vatican, and his own faith journey. And he eagerly awaits us outside after Mass, shaking hands and smiling broadly. He always remembers our daughter, though she’s not a regular. Because he attracts everyone with his charismatic style, I said to Father Brian one day “You could be a rock star!” To which he replied, after letting out a belly laugh, “Jesus is the rock star!”

no “Hell, fire and brimstone” here, only warmth…hugmamma