Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Photo Dump!

Yes, pictures have now magically appeared in my cruise entries.  They start in this post right here (Cornwall) and continue through Wales. (Oh crap, I have some to add for Dublin, too, but they're still in my phone.)

I've got a few other shots, which, for some reason or another, didn't fit with the blog posts.  Here they are:

My folks in Cornwall.

Someplace in Cornwall -- possibly the Scilly Islands, but I can't be certain.

Yet another angle on the really picturesque rest stop (near the really awful toilets).

View from the wall around Caernarfon castle.

A bird in Wales that really wanted its photo taken.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Late for Dinner

I was late for dinner.  I stopped for a shower.  It was better for everyone this way.

I attended a class which was supposed to help us work on balance.  This went pretty well (although my dad got dizzy in there, and all of sudden, both instructors were surrounding him and giving him water and stuff).  From my point of view, it was something of a refresher of some of the positions I'd learned in skating.  Which is to say, we were instructed to hold several one-foot awkward balancey things, and -- much of the time -- making myself get into that position resulted in a good deal of bobbing and weaving, until such time as I sort of rebalanced myself, and it felt familiar as a skating pose.

(Also:  one foot balance secret I learned skating -- when you lift one foot, it's harder to balance it tucked neatly at your ankle than it is to hold the knee up in front of you.  If you've got your knee up high enough that you can balance a pizza box on your thigh, you can hold that position easy.  And it looks more impressive, too.  Go on, try it.  I'll wait.)

After that, we attended a class called "Desert Drumming."  I envisioned us all sitting in a circle, drumming on drums.  In reality, we were planted fairly close to each other, in a formation where we were each behind a physioball on a plastic stand, about two steps away from the people on either side.  We have drumsticks.  Music is played (it sounds like the super-duper-extended version of "The Rhythm is Gonna Get You") and our teacher directs us to tap both drumsticks on the ball at every beat.  So far so good.  Then alternate drumsticks -- but each time, sort of sway to the side, and hold the stick straight up the air before smacking the ball.  Next thing you know, she's got us doing dance steps over to the sides, and hitting our neighbors' balls (that doesn't sound right), shaking our butts, swinging the drumsticks around our heads (sometimes dangerously), and hitting the sticks on the drum stands and floor.  And it never fucking stops.  (This is why I'm not entirely sure if it was the same song.  It might've gone off into something else, but it just kept going.)  For about 40 minutes, we're doing a high energy dance/drumming routine, and whenever we think we're going to stop, the Evil Taskmistress directs us to drum on the drum as hard and as fast as we can, for what was first 10 seconds, and ultimately worked its way up to 30 seconds.  And then we'd start the routine again from the top.  Once or twice, I wondered how many people in the room were imagining her head in place of the physioballs we were whacking on.  I finished that course drenched.  I could've freaking wrung out the scrunchie from my hair.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I (rather annoyingly) looked pretty good.  It was all that healthy glow business.  Sweating like a pig, face flushed from exertion, hair all curly from the moisture... and I thought I looked healthier than I have in years.  

I followed up with a stretch class -- and, even an hour after the drumming class was over, there was no escaping the conclusion that I was well and truly spent (and in no condition to be around civilized people for mealtime).

I had every intention of stopping by the gym to work out for what would be the fourth day in a row before I leave tomorrow, but I've run out of clothes.  Which is to say, it would be terribly wrong for me to inflict my-post-exercise clothing on people sitting next to me on an aircraft, and all I've got left is one set of clean clothes.  (I hadn't really thought it through when packing -- that I'd need both exercise clothes and vaguely presentable clean clothes for each day.  As it is, my dinner ensemble tonight consisted of the free T-shirt the resort gave me, paired with the other side of a reversible skirt I wore two days ago.  And, yeah, that looks as bad as you'd imagine.  Worse, probably.  But, ohmygod, clean.)

Saturday, August 24, 2013


After a lovely afternoon in which I sat by a pool and almost finished the book I'm reading, I went off to the Yoga Room for a freebie Meditation class.

I've had a few Meditation classes -- most of them at my previous visit here, one a really misguided session I attended at a State Bar Convention which actually counted for our mandatory continuing education hours.  Mostly, I just use them to sort of zone out for a bit.  You know, to take a moment and not do anything.

Today's meditation class was different in that I think I might have learned something.  Nothing particularly revelatory, but I was actually surprised at how it went.

We did two meditations -- in one, we were supposed to focus on our breathing, and I have to say that I failed miserably at this.  The teacher suggested that we count up to 5 on each inhale and exhale, and that sent me totally off the focus-on-my-breathing rails, as it was way more interesting to focus on the numbers than it was to focus on my respiratory system.  So it seemed to take forever for that particular 7 minutes to end.

The second one involved a mantra.  She described this as actually giving yourself something to think about.  Said we were to ask ourselves what we wanted out of mediation, put that in a word or three, and then mentally repeat this over and over.  That was pretty much it in the way of direction -- other than to sort of see where it goes, but keep coming back to the words.

OK, I figured I was interested in meditation for a moment or two of calm.  Calm wasn't enough of a mantra to really get my brain around, so I also threw in Stillness and Steadiness.  "Calm, Stillness, Steadiness," I mentally repeated, for about a zillion times.  During the following seven minutes, I went off on three different little ... I called 'em vignettes.  Never lost track of consciousness or where I was or anything, but I did let the words take my imagination where they wanted to take it.

First stop (Calm, Stillness, Steadiness) was a tightrope walker.  Didn't take very long, in fact, for me to get the mental tightrope walker going along the tightrope to the rhythm of the words.  Then I did two things.  First, I mentally put myself into the position of the tightrope walker.  Second, I remembered the one time I'd actually tried tightrope walking.  (I sucked at it.) But what I'd learned from that experience is that, to walk the tightrope, you need Determination and Confidence.  I decided that was all I could learn from that particular vignette, so I returned my focus to the mantra which was running in the background, to see where it would next take me.  What does Calm, Stillness, Steadiness look like?

A wizard, standing in the center of a tempest of evil spells.  As the whirlwind spins around him, the wizard calmly, steadily uses his wand to slurp up individual evil spells.  Again, I put myself where the wizard is and see what I can learn here.  And what I learn is that there are just too many evil spells -- I'll never be able to get them all.  But if I just accept that, I can remain calm and keep them from overwhelming me.  OK then, Acceptance.  What else can I pick up in this meditation?

Calm, Stillness, Steadiness... Calm, Stillness, Steadiness.  A leaf on a tree in the wind.  This one was problematic, because the leaf wasn't staying calm or still.  Wanted to (apparently) but couldn't.  So, I try to figure myself as the leaf (that one's a stretch, but I'm pretty new at this meditation thing, so I go with it) and ask what I can do to be still when I'm buffeted by the wind.  And then (and I think this may have been the only actual revelation of this meditation), I realize that I just have to wait until the sun comes out.  Patience, I reckon, is the lesson from this one.

I'm looking around for another vignette the mantra can give me when the meditation ends.  I damn near want a pen and paper to write this down:  To achieve calm, stillness, and steadiness, you need determination, confidence, acceptance, and patience.  I think that works for me.

I'm not entirely sure I was actually looking for this lesson.  I think I just wanted to meditate to get a little peace in the middle of a sometimes hectic life.  But I was genuinely pleased at the results.

Also (while meditating on the meditation), I realized that the three vignettes got progressively more distant from myself.  I mean, the first was a person doing something I'd actually attempted; the second was a person doing something fantastical; the third wasn't even a person.  (And it was from nature.  Where the hell did that come from?  Probably the wind blowing earlier today when I was outside reading my book.)  Interesting.

Can't say I'm going to run out and start meditating regularly now, but the experience did give me a little peek into the value of just sort of focusing on what you're aiming for, and letting your brain off the leash a little bit to see it what solutions it could come up with.

You can buy what now?

Got up bright and early -- my alarm went off at 7:00 and I wasn't really angry at it or anything.  I guess that's what happens when you actually have 8 hours of sleep.  Had breakfast (a cranberry/pecan french toast) and met with today's nutritionist -- who turned out to be last night's nutritionist.  She now has the challenge of coming up with a variety of healthy meals designed for someone who doesn't cook much and hates most vegetables.  (I have been directed to (1) get my body composition tested, so she knows how many calories to aim for; and (2) try quinoa, and let her know if I consider it an acceptable grain.)  Both of these things will be accomplished by the end of the weekend.

Did the same workout I did yesterday, although I kicked the cardio up a few more minutes.  Do not yet appear to be dead, so, y'know, that's a good sign.

On my way back to the room, I thought I'd stop at the shop.  It's one of those places that smells like patchouli and has geodes all over the room.  They sell all sorts of products branded with the resort's name, lots of stuff to keep you cool, lots of stuff to exercise with (including videos which I assume won't even get out the box when most people get them home), and lots of crystals that are labelled with various healing powers.

They have said crystals on leather cords to wear around your neck, or as jewelry, or as stones to hold....

.... or on clips to put on your pet's collar.

That's right.  You can give Fluffy a little tinkly crystal charm on her collar, which will (depending) shower her with love, or health, or relaxation, or whatever.

Now, see, this here has me stumped.  I imagine that whatever value there actually is to this whole healing crystal business is something of a placebo effect.  It comes from knowing you're wearing the healing crystal, which gives you some sort of positive sense of well-being.  The damn things aren't going to cure cancer or anything, but they can give you comfort and change your outlook.  One of those "if you believe in it, it'll work" types of things.

Which is where this whole Pet thing loses me.  Because Fluffy there has no idea of the mystical powers of the crystal.  Fluffy may, conceivably, enjoy its presence -- as some of them are shiny and may even make a pleasing sound when she runs around -- but if the pet doesn't really know what the crystal is supposed to do, how will it possibly have any effect on the pet?

Or will the pet somehow feel the healthy vibes because the person who is the food in the bowl believes in it?

(All that said, if they had one for Not Peeing Inappropriately, I would have bought it in a heartbeat.)

Friday, August 23, 2013


Yes, I know, it isn't like me to start on a new vacation when I haven't posted the pictures from the last one yet.  In my defense, I've gone through the photos, selected the good ones, and uploaded them to picasa.  What I haven't yet done is put them in the appropriate posts (and, for convenience, one big post as well).  I thought perhaps I'd do that before posting about this trip, but there's only so much you can do on a 7-inch tablet screen.  So, the pics will wait yet again, as I give you a short rundown of this weekend.

This weekend lands me in Arizona, at one of them snooty healthy living resorts.  (Can't really call it a "fat farm," -- they don't limit what you eat, although it's all quite healthy; none of the program attendance is mandatory; and they also do a variety of mind/body stuff that's supposed to put your spirit right with the universe.)  You basically give them a big pile of money to stay there -- and that lets you attend a bunch of classes, use the facilities, and eat all your meals -- and then that ALSO gives you an allowance to spend on specialists and spa services.  (I'm using mine on a nutritionist tomorrow morning, who will then go off and create a week's worth of menus especially for me.  I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with, given that the list of vegetables I don't eat is, like, two pages long.)

I've been here before -- about 20 pounds heavier.  And it really is because of this place that those 20 pounds are no longer on me.  On the plus side, that was, like 6 years ago, and the 20 pounds are still gone.  On the minus side, it was initially closer to 30 pounds.  So, I'm hoping that a little refresher around here will get me back to healthy eating, exercising, and living (which, in my case, means sleeping).

Longtime readers may recall that, on my first visit, I took my big fat ass to a class entitled "Fit Strip," in which we were each assigned a chair, directed to imagine the appropriate object of our affection in said chair, and were then taught something halfway between a fitness routine and a lap dance, to be performed with (and upon) the chair.  I'm not sure how much of my ass I sweated off in that class, but I surely laughed it down in size.  Not at my classmates, I might add -- at myself (the imaginary dude in my chair kept rolling his eyes) and at the only man in the room -- the DJ -- who was studiously staring down at his music equipment and trying desperately not to make eye contact with any of us.

I am happy to report that there are no Fit Strip classes this weekend.  Chairs everywhere rejoice.

My flight got in around 11.  The dude from the resort picked me up at the airport, and cheerfully reported that it was "only" 100 degrees outside.  That's Tucson for you.  I asked him how hot it has to get before he stops saying "only."  Somewhere in the hundred-and-teens.  I believe it was at this point that he offered me a bottle of water.  

There's a certain sense in putting your fitness resorty place in the middle of the desert.  They give everyone a water bottle and encourage vast amounts of fluid consumption.  Which we're all only too happy to do because, well, ... because it's so fucking hot, obviously.  The result, though, is that you both (1) eat less, because you already feel full from all that water; and (2) pee out all the toxins.  (Sorry, that's the more touchy-feely side of this endeavor coming out.)  Bottom line, though, you sorta start getting results when you're here, simply because you drink all that water, because you're in the damn desert.

After getting oriented (which involved me taking a small walk around a small fraction of the resort-- had planned on walking more but, hello, 100 degrees), I went to the gym and worked out some.  I haven't worked out in some time, but I'm still a pretty good judge of what's a safe amount of cardio for me to do at any given time.  Not so much the stuff on the machines.  I did myself 3 sets of reps on 4 different machines (intentionally setting the weights really low), all the while thinking that this was either a really good, solid basis to work on for the rest of the weekend or way too much, and I'll be unable to move tomorrow.  Was beginning to think it was the latter, but then I took an hour-long stretch class, which made everything feel better.  (Of course, now, 3 hours later, I'm again thinking I'll be back in Unable To Move land.)

After dinner (tasty), there was a free lecture on Eating for Energy, which was really, really useful.  It sort of confirmed that what I thought I've been doing wrong, I have indeed been doing wrong.  Also suggested a few other things I should look into doing right.

Particularly funny was that, this morning, at the airport, I'd stopped at the Starbucks and got myself a muffin.  They had a "reduced fat" muffin which had, like, 430 calories, and a nice big, fatty fat muffin for, like, 480 calories.  Now, OK, I shouldn't have been looking at muffins anyway.  But set that aside for a second.  I thought that a 50 calorie savings on a 450(ish) calorie muffin didn't seem worth the low-fatitude.  Again, the 450 calorie muffin is probably not the best example, but what I did learn tonight is that I basically had the right attitude here.  What the nutritionist said is that (1) the "reduced fat" stuff is more processed, and therefore, not as good for you as the more natural stuff (as the nutrition is processed out in exchange for chemicals) and (2) fat makes you feel full.  So you can eat a ton of processed reduced-fat stuff and not feel satiated, but a smaller about of real stuff will make you feel full and will be better in the long run.  Obviously, portion control is a big part of this, but I'm certainly seeing the appeal of, say, an occasional indulgence in a small scoop of real ice cream, over my nightly 100-calorie low-fat Skinny Cow "frozen treat."

There was more (I took notes!) but I'm feeling sleepy and, since I have to meet the nutritionist pretty early tomorrow, I want to go with that feeling.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cats: Pretty Damn Smart

So, I take the cat to the vet yesterday, for the follow-up urine sample.  The vet cannot take said sample because the well is dry.  Says I have a choice between leaving the cat there all day and bringing her in on another day.  If I choose the latter course, I am advised to not let her use the litter box in the morning, so she'll have a full bladder when I bring her in.

I point out that if I don't let her use the box, she'll just pee on my bed again.  Using the box is something to be encouraged with this cat.  So, I agree to leave the cat all day.

In the afternoon, I go to pick up my "cat carrier full of angry."  And she is.  Growls at me all the way home.  "Left me at the freakin' vet all day," she seems to say, "I'll get my revenge on you."

I get home and, in the interests of family harmony, open her carrier just as soon as I'm inside the door.  Cat scampers out and makes a beeline down the hall and comes up short right outside my bedroom door (which I'd had the foresight to close, in anticipation of this very moment).  Cat stalks off.

Now, you can tell me that she was heading for the bedroom in order to hide in the closet or one of her other places of safety, but there is no way I'll believe she was planning to do anything other than jump up on my bed and urinate in retaliation.  No. Way.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Going Home

Yeah, as per usual, things kinda got ahead of me once I got home.  Tons to do at work; a $2000 estimate to get rid of my termites; and my cat peed on my bed.  A lot.  We will skip over the bit where I didn't notice it until after I'd slept in a pee-soaked bed, and go right on over to how expensive new comforters and featherbeds are.  (And, once I got the cat to the vet, the fun of chasing her around the house with antibiotics.)

I'm not usually depressed when I get back from vacations -- usually I'm pretty invigorated and ready to get right back into things.  It's a bit different this time.  I'm going to work, coming home, watching TV, doing nothing else, and noticing that I'm doing nothing else.  (OK, sure I'm seeing plays and reviewing them, but that's kind of an obligation as well.)  There's a level of dissatisfication with my day to day existence which has nothing at all to do with sleeping in cat pee.  Part of me wants to do something drastic (for me, anyway) and, I don't know, turn off the damn TV and see if I can't get a little more free time in which to get stuff done.  And the other part of me is the one writing this from the couch, with a bottle of water on one side and the remote on the other.  Guess which part is winning.

ANYWAY, I did want to tell you about the flight home, because it was memorable.  We started early at the Dublin airport and ... honestly, I have no freakin' recollection of flying to London.  We did that -- I know we did that because we somehow ended up in Heathrow.  Our flight to Chicago was delayed, so we spent a bit of time in Heathrow.  There was a DVD I wanted to buy, so I wandered the shops in Terminal 5, but they'd closed the HMV that used to be in there.  On the plus side, they had a Doctor Who exhibit, with a TARDIS and a dalek and totally uninterested employees manning it.  (I walked by about 4 times and couldn't figure out if we were allowed to take pictures or if we had to, y'know, pay them or something.)  Insert here jokes about security being pretty crappy if daleks could get in.

So eventually we get on the big flight to Chicago.  I'm in Business class (gotta dig those points) in the aisle seat on the right-hand side of the center seats.  I come down the aisle to my seat and find someone in it.  Not just any someone, but a baby in a baby seat.  There was a family which had the other three center seats and somehow thought they had mine instead.  I agreed to switch to the aisle on the other side, and got myself organized for the flight.  I'm next to their son; then comes the mom; then the baby.  Dad had a seat across the aisle from the baby.  Across the aisle from me is an older couple.

We get ready to take off.  The baby, who is strapped to her dad, facing forward (as flight regs require) is unhappy about this.  She's screaming and crying.  The flight attendant comes down the aisle, picks up the kid and hugs her (which quiets her somewhat) and then tries handing her to mom.  But, again, neither parent can hug the kid -- they each just have to strap the kid in their lap, facing away, which provides absolutely no comfort the child at all.

I am oddly not annoyed.  I am so not annoyed, it actually surprises me.  (Because, y'know, I am no good with kids.)  It's completely obvious why the child is crying -- the plane is speeding down the runway, it's noisy, it's bright, there are all these people around, and nobody can hug her and bounce her and do that standard comforting thing.  The kid that's sitting next to me is actually pretty well behaved.  The mom is both playful with him and explaining things.  It's working well.  When mom isn't trying to calm the baby, she's mouthing, "I'm sorry" in my direction.  I make a "no problem" face at her.

The problem is the older couple across the aisle from me, who are ten times more annoying than the crying baby -- because they should know better.  Loud enough for me (and, clearly, the parents) to hear, they are treating the rest of the plane to an endless stream of annoyed sighs.  They then decide to comment on the parenting of the couple with the baby.  Saying things like, "It's the parents' fault."  And then, my two favorite comments:  "They should just slap that kid!"  (because, yes, slapping a crying one-year-old is the perfect way to get her to stop crying); followed by a stage-whispered "Low class!"

Look, I'm clearly not Miss Manners over here, but I'm pretty fucking sure loudly calling someone "Low class" is, well, classless.

Of course, the kid stopped crying as soon as we got airborne and they turned off the seatbelt sign, so the parents could do their thing and calm her down.  Didn't cry for the rest of the flight.  

.... but we had been late leaving London and ultimately ended up late in Chicago.  I did not have a ton of time to clear Immigration and Customs and make my connecting flight.  That is an understatement.  They gave little "Fast Connection" passes to people who had tight connections to make, but they apparently did not think I had a very tight connection.  This is how tight my connection actually was:  I have a "Global Entry" card which qualifies me for a shorter line at Immigration; I used that.  I was also travelling First Class, so was able to use the First Class line for security (and bag re-check).  Had I not had either of those things, I wouldn't have made it.  No idea why they didn't give people on my flight "Fast Connection" cards, but I'm glad I made it anyway.

Oh, also, I may have flashed everyone in baggage claim in O'Hare.  I was standing around the baggage carousel when I saw my bags coming and realized I hadn't put my elastic back brace back on.  I'd been doing ok with my back, but, knowing the rule for back injuries (it takes twice as long to heal as you think it does), I wasn't lifting anything heavy without wearing the brace.  Well, my bags are coming and I certainly can't wait -- I just lifted my shirt and wrapped the brace around myself (from, say, ribs on down), not really caring that I was giving everyone a nice view of my bra.  Don't care.  Made the flight!