10 Day Water Challenge

After a weekend full of dinner and drinks and a concert on Saturday and more food and tons of wine at a bridal shower on Sunday, Monday is both a good and bad day to start my 10 day water challenge.  Bad because i really need some caffeine, but good because i really need a detox after all i ate and drank.

You can read about the challenge here from Women’s Health UK.

I will post daily (hopefully) on how I’m holding up when it comes to drinking only water for 10 days in lieu of booze, soda, and coffee.

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My European Adventure Day 1 – Goodbye USA

Friday 19 September 2014

I woke up this morning at 5:30 in order to meet up with my trainer for a work out at 6:45 before doing last-minute shopping for kitty litter (so Tank would have a clean box while I was gone for 3 weeks), nuts and beef jerky (like I was going to eat healthy while in Europe), and get my hair did.

I anticipated lots of travel anxiety (which I’ve been plagued with for some reason since my last business trip to Las Vegas in December 2011), but was lucky to not have much.  I finished packing my bags (taking entirely too much with me) before heading to Kansas City International Airport at 4pm.  In my rush to leave, I completely forgot to say goodbye to my furry babies, Harley and Tank.  I think I was more upset about that than I was about leaving Sparky for 3 weeks.

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Harley

Tank

Tank

I went to the Delta counter and checked my bag which qualified for a “heavy” tag – I’m really not a good packer  – before Sparky walked me over to security.  We said our goodbyes and I went through.

Kansas City International Airport is made up of 3 separate terminals (and for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the airport concept, but then it’s also been 10+ years since I took Airport Planning and Design), and each terminal has its own security area.  For that reason (along with the fact that KCI doesn’t have quite the traffic that O’Hare or Atlanta’s Hartsfeld – Jackson have) getting through security doesn’t take too long at all.

I went through security, taking off my shoes, and making the seemingly obligatory trip through what I call the “See Me Naked Machine”, before sitting for about 2 hours waiting for the first leg of my trip.  My first flight was from Kansas City (MCI) to Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport (MSP) and left at 7:25pm for a whopping hour and 2o minutes.

I arrived at MSP around 9pm and made my way to my gate in the international terminal.  I’d never been in this part of the MSP terminal and it was a big surprise!  There was a large hip bar that took up the wall to the left, and it was hopping!   People stood EVERYWHERE.  There had to be twice as many people as there were seats.  I made a quick trip to the bathroom and then tried to stand out of the way as I awaited boarding.

Boarding began a bit after 9pm and the Boeing 767-400 embarked at about 10 after 10 pm.  Thus began my 8 hour flight to London Heathrow (LHR) – the longest flight I had ever been on up until this moment.  I was nervous, but not horribly so, which surprised me.  Dinner was served close to 11pm and I was STARVING even at that late hour.

Dinner consisted of a pesto pasta, a salad, a roll, cheese, a cookie of some sort (I can’t remember it at this point) – all in all I was rather impressed with the airline food.  But then I was impressed with the food in the hospital after my appendectomy as well, so maybe I’m not a very good judge when it comes to this sort of thing.

I dozed on and off during the flight, tried to listen to some of the audiobook version of “Outlander” (which wasn’t very successful), and eventually attempted to watch one of the movies available.  The only ones even remotely interesting (to me at least) were Only Lovers Left Alive and X-Men Days of Future Past. X-Men was the chosen film as I was going to see OLLA at the British Film Institute while I was in London.

I flew Delta and had opted for an Economy Comfort seat, because I sadly can’t afford Business or First Class (one day I will…one day). My seat was in the front row of economy and had extra leg room, but no seat ahead of me under which to stow my carry on – it had to go in the overhead compartment (my only complaint).   While we flew along at cruising altitude, and all that was visible out of my window were clouds, stars and the red light on the port wingtip, I settled in next to my snoozing neighbor for a fitful rest on the way to my European Adventure

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Perspective

I have been feeling rather reflective lately, and as such I’ve come to realize that as people, as humans, we need to be open to learning from others, to listening to others’ experiences.  Everyone has something to share, whether they think they do or not.

I went out on Friday to get a long needed pedicure with Ami and MJ.  The man who was working on my feet was chatting to Ami and I as we sat next to each other with our feet soaking, the massage chairs working out the knots in our shoulders.

We found out that the man working at the spa was from Vietnam and had actually lived for a while in the Philippines (which is where Ami was born).  She asked him how he had ended up in the Philippines and his answer was “we were rescued by fisherman.”  Wait, what?

Yes, he had been rescued by fisherman.  He had escaped Vietnam in 1988 at the age of 10.  He lived in the Philippines for about 16 months before moving to Atlanta where he had an uncle that was willing to sponsor them. He didn’t share all of the details of this story, but the power of what had happened was apparent in just the little bit we heard.  He escaped…..in a boat….and was rescued by a random stranger fishing on the sea.  Wow.

His story reminded me of my last work trip to San Antonio in January 2013.  My producer and our contact from the insurance company we worked with were sitting in the backseat of the cab while I sat int he front seat with the driver.  He was young and very friendly, so we chatted a bit on the way from the AT&T Center back to our hotel.  He was from Iraq and had escaped during the years of most recent conflict/war and moved to the States.  As it’s been 2 years since he told me the story, and I was too stupid to make notes about it when I got back to the hotel, I can’t really remember the details.  I just remember that based on our conversation I was completely in awe.

Both of these men and their stories have really made me consider just how lucky we have it here.  Some of us may grow up with money and some of us may grow up in poverty, struggling to make ends meet.  But in the end, we still have it so much easier than these two men, let alone millions of others.  I can’t imagine being in a country that is in a state of war, in a state of unrest.  And I can’t comprehend fleeing my own country in a rickety boat where the chance of death is better than not making the attempt to escape.

We take for granted the freedom and opportunities we have.  We take for granted the fact that even with the amount of poverty we have in the states, even with our discontent with our government, we are all still richer than most people who live in third world countries.

These conversations have made me reconsider my own gripes that seem so inconsequential.  I woke up too late to do my hair.  My car is in the shop.  I’m tired from working 60 hours a week.  I don’t want to pay my bills.  The fact is, I have water and electricity and a roof over my head; I have a car (in fact I have 3);  I have a job (actually 2) that makes me a decent amount of money and allows me to go out to eat and travel.  I have it so easy in comparison to so much of the rest of this world’s population.

It’s all about perspective

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Deep Thoughts by Uncle George

My uncle called tonight.  I learned a little bit more about him, and he awed me with his deep thoughts.

My mom always says that he’s one of the smartest people she knows.  He’s incredibly intelligent….and as such I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the deep thoughts that come out of his mind.

He’s had an interesting life.  Part of me would love to hear all the details and write his memoir for him (although I think he’s currently working on that himself), and the other part of me is afraid to hear it.  He grew up in the 50s and 60s, is a Navy veteran and a recovering drug addict.  His drug abuse started with marijuana and alcohol and moved on to much harder stuff.  He told me tonight that all of his friends that he knew 20 + years ago are all dead….mostly from drug use.   It’s a scary idea, especially for anyone that has loved ones that are addicts.

He has been treated for cirrhosis of the liver and is currently undergoing radiation for liver cancer…..both of which are a result of his years of alcohol and drug abuse (as well as a mis=prescribed drug which advanced the damage to his liver).  He has been in recovery for most of my life, lucky to be one for whom a 12 step program has worked.  Following such a program, he believes in God and his relationship with Him has grown stronger over the years.

He usually calls from time to time to discuss politics and just talk over issues.  Tonight we had the obligatory political chat (which is always easy since our views are quite similar) and then he told me a couple stories I’d never heard.

When he was first out of the Navy in the late 60s – early 70s, he rode a motorcycle across the country, enabling him to see all 48 contiguous states.

“I never knew that about you,” I told him.

“Well you wouldn’t.  For all your mom knew, I was out drugging.  And I was.  I was like Easy Rider, only more along the lines of Sleazy Rider.  I had seen the sun set and rise on the Atlantic when I was with the Sixth Fleet.  But I rode out to the Pacific.  And I stood at the shore and just looked out beyond the shore.  And beyond the shore BEYOND the shore….do you know what is there?”  This is where he got deep.  He asked if I’d been to the shore and if I’d ever been beyond the shore, far enough away, in the water, to not see land.  “Beyond the shore beyond the shore is a void – a void of darkness where love, light, and faith are the physical laws by which one must abide.”

Whoa…..just whoa.

He proceeded to give me a testimony of sorts…..a testimony of how he came to be closer to God.  He lost a wife to a car accident about 10 year ago now.  And two weeks before her accident he was strangely awoken in the middle of the night by the voice of God.

Now I am aware I may lose some of you here right now as some people are just put off by the idea of God let alone the idea of God talking to a person.  But this conversation explained so much to me, especially when it comes to him.

This voice that my uncle heard (and we didn’t discuss whether it was a literal voice or whether it was a voice made up of thoughts that entered his mind like how my pastor at church would describe it) asked him if he understood the basis of Christianity – that Christ has been the perfect sacrifice and thus has died for his, my uncle’s sins.  My uncle responded yes.  The voice asked him why he still felt so guilty.  My uncle had no answer, so God asked him again.  “Why do you carry this guilt?”  And my uncle realized that as a believer he no longer had to feel the guilt…the Christ had taken that burden upon Himself.

The timing of this conversation was perfect in my opinion.  So often, when something bad happens we automatically blame God.  How could He let this happen?  How could God let this person die?  I don’t want to get into the deepness of this specific topic.  But for my Uncle, the timing was key.  He was able to keep his faith and not be angry with God when he wife died less than a month later.  He never blamed God.

The reason I share this part of the story is that it cleared something up for me.  So often I hear of people that I know or others have known that during a time of illness or just old age are at peace with their passing.  They are ready to go and meet their maker and move on to the next step of their adventure.  This to me is ultimate faith.

I believe in God and have all of my life.  My relationship with Him strengthens and weakens based upon how much I put into it.  But i know that He is there just waiting for me.  However, I can’t comprehend being “ready”….ready to leave this world and meet Him.  I’m not ready.  My uncle is ready, and has been since that conversation with God.  He’s come to terms with it and is at peace.  For this reason he has decided not to have a liver transplant.  He is just going to continue with the radiation and other treatments that the VA can offer.  If his time on this earth comes to an end, he is ready.

And truly, I think his comfort and peace is all based on the deep idea of the void that he mentioned as well as this “conversation” he had with God two weeks before his wife was killed.  I hope to learn from tonight’s chat and consider his wisdom as I move forward in my own life.

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Random Discovery Conversation of the Day

Me: You know what I discovered today?

A: What?

Me: If you use lotion on a regular basis, your skin is soft….and not dry.

A: *stares at me with look of disbelief*

Me: *nods*

A: You just now discovered this?

Me: Pretty much.  And my legs aren’t dry either.

A:……..

Me: They were always dry and flaky.  I never used lotion.

A: You never used lotion?

Me: Well I do on my hands, but not on my legs.

A: Why didn’t you use lotion?

Me: It just took too much time.

A:  *laughs*  Oh my gosh.

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My European Adventure Day 4 – Sore Feet and “British Lemonade”

Monday September 22 2014

I started off day 4 with breakfast of Vegemite on brown toast (thanks to the Aussies of course – it’s actually pretty tasty) with coffee and tea.  Meri, Davy and I were playing the day by ear and Shanni was going to Bath.  She had her train ticket booked and left early that morning while the rest of us were lounging around in the flat.

As the Aussies and I got ready, Meri received a text from Shannon that she had missed her train to Bath from London by…..wait for it……TWO MINUTES.  Needless to say, she was completely gutted and was headed back to the flat.  She returned to Hampstead, and the Fab Four (that’s us by the way) decided to wander parts of London.

We took the tube from the Hampstead station down to Chalk Farm and wandered down to Camden Town.  Camden Town is truly amazing.  Even in the late morning/early afternoon on a Monday, it was crowded.  We wandered along just checking it out before stopping at The Oxford Arms for some lunch.  I wasn’t feeling incredibly wonderful that day (and it seemed to be a recurring issue during most of trip) so I settled for a “lemonade.”  This was my first experience with a non-American lemonade.

In the States lemonade is a sweet yet sour cloudy mixture of lemon, water, and sugar.  In Great Britain it is what we could consider Sprite or 7-Up here – a fizzy lemon lime soda.  In Camden they served it with a slice of lemon.  It was delicious!  And just what I needed for the slightly sour stomach I had this day.  My lunch consisted of the lemonade, some bread and random meat and vegetables from a Ploughman’s Platter that Shannon and I shared.  It was incredibly delicious.

The weather was gorgeous and we sat out in the sunny back beer garden area, chatting and getting to know each other.  Afterwards we headed off to wander around and check out the shops in Camden.  Davy, the saint that he is, waited patiently for us on the sidewalk while the women wandered in and out of shops looking at shoes, scarves, unique clothing.

Since I was completely a virgin to foreign travel, I didn’t know what to expect….ever.  I knew that chip and pin credit cards were used in Europe so I was interested to see what would happen when I presented my Caveman-Era-American-Swipe-Credit-Card to make a purchase.  It was relatively anti-climactic.  They asked for an ID, I handed over my passport, and we were all good.

Sir Richard Steele’s beer garden (my photo)

After the shopping, our next stop was at the Sir Richard Steele Pub in Steele’s Village (just a bit north of Camden Town) for a proper pint (some Old Golden Hen for me) and some pudding – dessert for us Americans.  The sticky toffee pudding, served with vanilla ice cream, was incredible.  It’s a piece of moist, spongy cake that has nuts in it and is usually covered with butterscotch or a toffee sauce.  I think it was, hands down, my favorite dessert of any I ate in London.

Sir Richard Steele Pub (my photo)

Sir Richard Steele Pub (my photo)

Next on our agenda was a Thames River cruise that was included as part of the double-decker bus tour we had taken the day before.  We took the scenic route on our way there, stopping first at Primrose Hill.  Primrose Hill affords a rather impressive view of the City of London, as much of the skyline is visible from the top of the hill.  This day was a beautiful sunny day, and there were many people taking advantage of the sun by relaxing, and sitting in the grass.

Primrose Hill Panorama (my photo)

Primrose Hill Panorama (my photo)

As we wandered down the hill towards Regents Park Road we noticed a small girl, likely no older than 6, pull down her pants next to a tree.  Her mother saw her and ran over to her and held her there while she assumedly “did her business”.  Our fear was that it was number two under the tree and not just number one.  I guess kids’ behavior is universal no matter what the country.  When you gotta go, you gotta go.

We walked along Regents Park Road viewing the expanse of Regents Park to our right and beautiful homes to the left.

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Homes near Regents Park (My photo)

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Homes near Regents Park (my photo)

After walking down the road a while we went ahead and caught a bus to take us into the city center.  It took us FOREVER to find where we were going to get onto the river cruise.  In the process we came across The Tower of London which was incredibly beautiful.  Volunteers were installing the thousands of red ceramic poppies that were part of an art display commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I.


Volunteers installing ceramic poppies at the Tower of London (my photo)

Volunteers installing ceramic poppies at the Tower of London (my photo)

We also had a lovely view of London Bridge during our “stroll”.

London Bridge (my photo)

London Bridge (my photo)

Me strolling along the Thames (photo courtesy of Shannon Armstrong)

Me strolling along the Thames (photo courtesy of Shannon)

We FINALLY got to the dock for our river cruise which was a short, but sweet 20-30 minute ride.  It was nice to sit and relax a bit after walking so much.  Since we drive everywhere (my hometown doesn’t have the level of public transport that London has), the walking may have been a lot on the second day out of the gates.  I know that Shanni’s feet were killing her.  The cruise gave us some nice view of the “big things” in London:

The London Eye

The London Eye from the Thames (my photo)

The London Eye from the Thames (my photo)

The Shard

The Shard from the Thames (my photo)

The Shard from the Thames (my photo)

The Globe Theatre

The Glove Theatre from the Thames (my photo)

The Globe Theatre from the Thames – and the back of Shannon’s head (my photo)

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge from the Thames (my photo)

Tower Bridge from the Thames (my photo)

We disembarked the cruise right at the foot of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.  It was surreal.  I couldn’t believe that I was standing right there, in front of this London icon!

Big Ben  which is actually the bell INSIDE the tower (my photo)

Big Ben which is actually the bell INSIDE the tower (my photo)

We took pity on our poor feet (of which Shanni’s were definitely the worst off) and hailed  a cab to take up back to our lovely Hampstead flat for dinner and “pudding” (and wine of course).

(my photo)

(my photo)

My first REAL international adventure had begun and I was truly enjoying the sights and the time with friends.  I was excited to see what we would experience in the days to come.

Me, Meri and Davy on the  Thames cruise (photo courtesy of Shannon)

Me, Meri and Davy on the Thames cruise (photo courtesy of Shannon)

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Daily Prompt: Write a scene that involves an avocado that isn’t ripe.

“Scott, what are you doing for lunch?  You want to go and get a steak and ale pie with me?” Tierney asked her flat mate and coworker.

“No thanks.  I have a salad that I brought today and an avocado, but thanks for asking.”  Tierney looked at the avocado before reaching over to grab it from Scott’s hands.

“This rock hard thing?  Are you actually going to try to eat it?”  Scott tried to take the avocado out of Tierney’s hands, but she pulled it out of his reach.

He was just a bit taller than her, yet he had a hard time getting the avocado back from her.  As soon as she stuck it down her shirt, he knew he was a goner.  He wasn’t good when it came to girls, especially not when they did things such as that.  This situation made him distinctly uncomfortable.  “Dammit, T.  Give me back my avocado.”

“Come on, Scott.  Come and get it.”  Tierney shook her bosom at him, knowing full well that he would not even remotely attempt a grab for it.

Scott ran his fingers through his short, brown hair and laughed uncomfortably.  “Why do you have to do this all the time?”

Tierney laughed.  “Scott.  I only do this because I know it makes you uncomfortable, and you know it!”  She grinned at his look of chagrin.

“Dammit. Just give me back my avocado.”  He glanced at her chest where he knew his avocado lurked and then looked away quickly, the blush rising up his neck and onto his cheeks.  Tierney cackled evilly, but felt the need to take pity on him.

“Alright, come here, you damn wuss.”  She pulled the avocado out of her shirt and handed it back to him.  “I still have no idea how you plan on eating this rock hard avocado.  It’s definitely not ripe.”

“Watch and learn, my darlin’” he said to her in his South Hampshire accent.  “You just massage the avocado slowly, softening it up since it’s not ripe.”  He carefully squeezed the avocado in his hand while Tierney looked on.

“Ah, much like you would massage a breast.”  Scott gave her a disapproving look before turning a shade of crimson once again.  “Or rather, like a STRAIGHT man would massage a breast at least.  Certainly not you anyway.”  Tierney giggled and winked at Scott.  “So you really think that this is going to ripen up your avocado enough to eat it?”

“Yes, you just massage it for at least five minutes and it softens up enough to eat.”

Tierney gave Scott a skeptical look.  “Have you done this before, or are you just pulling this out of your ass, Scott?  Figuratively speaking of course!”

“Ugh, God, you’re insufferable!”  He continued to “massage” his avocado.

“Ehehehehe.  That’s what I hear.”  Tierney glanced around the office, growing impatient with the massaging of the damn avocado. “Are you seriously going to sit here and massage that damn thing instead of going to lunch with me?  Come on, I’ll buy you a wine if you just go with me and give up this avocado thing,” she whined.

“It’s almost there.” Scott implored.  “I’m almost done.  Be patient,” he scolded.

At that moment, the avocado seemingly exploded in Scott’s hand.  He jumped, a look of surprise overtaking his face.  Tierney snorted and covered her mouth with her hand as she tried to giggle quietly.

“Well, I guess this avocado was a bit more ripe than I thought.”  Scott sucked the avocado innards off of his fingers.

Tierney watched Scott quietly.  “So, wine and steak and ale pie at the pub down the street?” She questioned.

Scott set down the oozing avocado.  “Yep, let me just get my jacket.”

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