REALLY "TRI" ING


are floaties allowed?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christie:  Mom, want to sign up for Bikram yoga with me?  
Me:  Sure, sounds great.


Three days later.
Location:  Bikram yoga
Time:  Two minutes to start of class.


Christie:  Mom, you look terrified.


Two minutes later.
Location:  Bikram yoga.


Enter:  Richard, Bikram yoga instructor.  Richard heads to the front of the room.  Everyone stands.


Richard:  Hi  Class, Welco....


Christie:  (sinking to the floor)  I'm going down.  I'm going down.


Bikram yoga.  Do you know what Bikram yoga is?  Bikram yoga is yoga that is done in a room that is hot.  Not just mildly hot but really hot.  Really, really hot.  Fifteen thousand degrees hot.  And do you know what they tell you your goal is for your first class?  To stay in the room.  Your goal is to stay in the room for 90 minutes.  Not learn a new pose, not follow along as best you can, not push yourself a little harder.   No.  Your one and only goal is to not leave the room.


The class starts with a breathing exercise.  It lasts five minutes.  The goal of this breathing exercise is to open up your lungs... to get rich, oxygenated blood to every part of your body and to prepare your body for the 85 minutes of true yoga to come.    After the five minute breathing exercise the only rich, oxygenated blood I had was in my pinkie toe.  I was dizzy from now zero oxygen to my brain, drenched from the fifteen thousand degree heat and one hundred percent out of the breath I was supposedly just channeling.   85 minutes to go.

Stay in the room.  The only goal.    Stay. In. The. Room.

Time:  85 minutes later
Location:  Bikram yoga
Scene:  Two yoga mats side by side.  Christie one one, me on the other.   Red faced, dripping wet.  Showing our complete mastery of the dead body pose.  


Still in the room.

Namaste









                                                 













Friday, December 9, 2011

Night of the Great Freak-Out

I like to sleep.  Strike that.  I love to sleep.  I love to get into my comfy jammies, climb into my comfy bed, lay my head down on my comfy pillow, pull my comfy, comfy comforter up over me (where it will stay until at some point in the night I will curse it and fling it off in a desperate attempt to be less than twelve thousand degrees) and drift off into never never land.  Aahhh...peaceful, quiet, dreamy sleep.  The calm, the serenity, the joy, the voice telling me to wake up, there's a squirrel in our room.
 Start of the great freak out.

"What??  What did you say??"  I am instantly wide awake, terrified, and panicked.  "There is a squirrel in our room," my husband repeats calmly as he gets up and turns the light on.  Wait.  Wait.  Number one.  What are you talking about??  Number two.  What are you talking about??    " I heard something in the wall earlier so I knew a squirrel found its way in again."  (Yes, we have had squirrels before.  In our attic.  Which is bad enough.  But the attic is, well, an attic.  It's way up there.  Far away from me.  Mike sets a few traps, gets the squirrels and I never have to deal with them.  Ever.  Ever ever).   "I felt something touch my head," he says, "and I thought it was you but when I looked, you were way over in the bed so it couldn't have been you.  I thought maybe I imagined it but a few minutes later I heard rustling and then papers fell off your nightstand."
 I want to do multiple things at once:  throw up, burn my sheets, seek the immediate aid of a Freudian-trained therapist and cry hysterically.
Mike at this point has the lights on, a broom in his hand and is looking under the bed.  "Yup, there's a squirrel all right."   I am sitting bolt upright in bed with all of the covers wrapped so tightly around me I am suffocating.  I'm not sure what my thinking is...that the squirrel will jump back up on the bed and want to cuddle up and share my blankie.... I don't know......but I feel a fierce need to shield myself.  Mike sees the squirrel and starts to prod it out with the broom.  The squirrel races out from under the bed and makes a mad dash for the bedroom door.  Right before our very eyes we see the squirrel squeeze through the bottom of the door out into the rest of the house.  Nooooooo!!

We race to the door, open it, and ...nothing.  No squirrel anywhere.  Mike turns on all the lights...hallway, kitchen, living room.  Nothing.  Mind you, I am operating in full on freak out panic mode at this point. Not only is there a squirrel in my house, there is now a squirrel loose in my house somewhere.  Which means that at any moment I could round a corner or open a door or pick a up a discarded sweatshirt off the floor and there will be a squirrel waiting to jump out at me.  (sidebar:  I do not like to be scared.  At all.  Ever.  My poor husband used to come home from work, walk into the house and if I was in the bedroom and didn't hear him come in would have me walk around the corner into the kitchen only to let out a blood curdling scream upon seeing him.  Now that's a nice greeting after a long day at the office, huh?  Thus, the following rule:  Always, always sing out loudly  "I'm home!!"  upon entering the house.  A simple rule that has saved us both from near heart attacks multiple times).
We search and search....no squirrel.  Mike's searching involves physically moving from room to room, looking under and around furniture, moving things, checking in closets.  My searching involves standing perfectly immobile in one spot, furtively darting my eyes back and forth, readying myself to jump on the kitchen table at a moment's notice.

We search / stand for half an hour.  Nothing. No squirrel anywhere.  "Well, I don't think we're going to find it now.  Let's just go back to bed," Mike says, heading towards the bedroom.  I tiptoe behind him (why am I tiptoeing??), follow him into the bedroom and gingerly hop up into the bed, getting dizzy from the motion of my head jerking in every direction at once, looking for the squirrel.  "Mike, there is absolutely no way I am going to be able to fall back to sleep now knowing there is a squirrel loose somewhere  in ZZZZZZZZZZZ. "

My alarm goes off at 5:15.  I hazard a fuzzy squirrel running across my feet and run into the kitchen to turn my coffee on.  I have my priorities even in the most dire of circumstances.  Then it's off to the bathroom for a quick shower.  Two minutes in Mike calls out to me.  Robbie, who had fallen asleep in the family room the night before, called on the home phone (kids these days) to tell him there were animals in the family room with him.  O.M.G.  The squirrel has my baby!!  I jump out of the shower, throw my bathrobe on and race to save my son.  Ok, ok.  This did not really happen.  What really happened is that I stayed in the shower for as long as I possibly could hoping and praying that by the time I got out  my 17 year old baby (happy birthday, Robbie!) and his father would have defeated and disposed of the enemy.

No such luck.  The enemy was very much still alive.   But at least Mike had it cornered in the closet.  He was holding the broom in one hand, clearing out the closet with the other.  Finally he had everything off the closet floor.  The squirrel was hiding behind a little built-in shelf in the back of the closet.  "There are two of us going in this closet, " Mike said, "but only one of us is coming out."  He told me to close the door behind him and shove a blanket under it.  That was my job, to make sure that blanket was shoved good and tight under that door.  "No matter what I say, do not open this door," Mike says.  He walks into the closet and I quickly shut the door behind him.  I immediately hear a muffled "Get me out, get me out, get me the hell out of here!!"

Did I mention this squirrel was a flying squirrel?  Yes.  A flying squirrel.  They really do exist.  And I have one.  In my house.  In my closet.  With my husband.

I hear thuds and bangs and grunts and noises bouncing off the walls and floor and ceiling.  I do not remember this but afterward my husband told me all he heard at this time was me on the other side of the door repeating something over and over.   Not "be careful, please be careful" or "please dear god, don't let the squirrel bite Mike and give him rabies" or "thank god I have such a wonderful husband who will risk his life to protect me from this squirrel."  ....no, not any of those things.  Apparently what I felt the need to repeat over and over was: "I can't believe this is happening to me."

All of a sudden Mike yells out,  "he's trying to get out under the door!!"  Under the door.  Where I have shoved the blanket.  My one job.  To make sure that blanket was shoved tightly all the way under the door.  Along the whole door.  Not missing a spot.  Not missing  the one spot the squirrel would find and burrow under.  I see the blanket move.  I see a lump under the blanket.  I feel Mike trying to open the door to get at the squirrel.  I do what I feel needs to be done in this situation.  I scream.

  The squirrel runs into the middle of the room, does a victory dance, and races away.

Thwarted.  Again.  I cannot believe it.  Robbie grabs his pillow. "Ok, well, I'm going upstairs," he says,  clearly having had enough of a squirrel interfering with his birthday sleep.  Mike goes back to the bedroom to get ready for work.  I go to the kitchen to fix myself some breakfast.  My fear is starting to turn to anger.  This little monster is getting the better of us.  I don't like it.  I don't like it one bit.

I bring my breakfast into the bedroom and sit on the edge of the bed.  I'm talking to Mike, watching Morning Joe and sipping my coffee.  And see it.   Out of the corner of my eye, I see the squirrel run across the living room.   I cannot believe it.  Now I'm really angry. That stupid squirrel is just toying with me.  That's it.  I've had it.  Enough.  You interrupted my morning coffee.  This is war.

"Squirrel!!"  I yell out and race into the other room.   Mike is two seconds behind me.  We see it run into the family room.  We move so fast we are like two blurs.   There!  There it is!   It  jumps up onto the back of the chair.   We see it jump onto the curtain and climb up to the top.  It is sitting on the curtain rod.   Mike heads toward it with the broom.  With a steely glint in my eye I slam the door shut.  And  reach for a blanket.    









Friday, November 25, 2011


 My trip to Europe, part two. And as a special treat for you, my dear 18 followers and 2 lurkers, this post was written by a very special guest blogger. For your enjoyment,  may I present.... the one and only.....  Christie Amrein!!

Mama, You've Been On My Mind

As I previously mentioned, my mom came to visit me in Europe.  She managed to blog about the first half of our time together, but has left it up to me to handle the second half.  Just thinking back to our two weeks together makes me physically exhausted.  I truly do not know how we managed to do so much in such a short period of time.  Lots of cafes con leche, and our fair share of siestas.
Seeing as I am surrounded by a bunch of loco 20-year-olds on a daily basis, for which Europe is an endless playground, I figured my trip with my mother would be relaxing, easy-going, and sophisticated.  As is usually the case with any assumption I make in Spain, I was wrong.  On her first night in town, we headed to a local bar to tag-time a Jarra de Sangria Grande.  Please note the “Grande” part of in this description, as the bartender blatantly laughed at me when I ordered it the first time when he realized there were only two of us.   However, by our third visit to his place, he no longer doubted our ability to take down the entire pitcher.  It was on this first night that I should have realized that my time with Peachie was going to be nothing short of an adventure.
After spending our first week in Bilbao, we were up before the sun at the beginning of her second weekend in Europe to head to Barcelona.  We were out the door of my dorm building by 5:00 AM and were on our way to the bus station, which I have been to about a million times, as there is a bus that goes directly from the center of Bilbao to the airport.  Usually, I take a metro to the bus station, where I catch the bus to the airport.  However, since we were awake before the metros had started running, we had to walk to the bus station instead.  The bus to the airport only costs one euro, as opposed to a twenty-five euro taxi ride. I assured my mom that the bus station was not that far away, and that I could find it on foot. I have been living in Bilbao for three months and have been to that same bus station a million times, where I have always taken that same bus to get to the airport.
Forty minutes and one very unattractive meltdown later, we were in the middle of nowhere, helplessly flagging down a taxi to take us to the airport. Apparently, when mommy is around, I remember how to throw one hell of a tantrum.  What I could not remember was how to get to that stupid bus station. I was overheated, under-caffeinated, and teary-eyed.  Just get me to the airport, and get me to Barcelona –the place where dreams are made.
Upon landing in Barcelona, I whipped out my instructions detailing how to find our hostel from the airport.  We hopped on a bus that would take us to the center of the city. We were to get off at the first stop the bus made.  Well, the first stop came around and the doors of the bus did not open.  We stood there like mute babies and did not think to ask the driver to simply open the doors and let us get off.  The same thing happened at the second stop.  And the third.  I was working up a sweat, screaming about the indecency of our bus driver and the fact that his unbelievably rude decision to keep us as prisoners had taken us way off track from the route my directions instructed me to follow.  Finally, at the last stop the bus was to make, the doors opened and we got out, now completely disoriented.  It was not until our trip had ended and we were on our way back to the airport on this same bus that we realized the multiple “STOP” buttons located throughout the vehicle, with clear instructions (in English) indicating that we were to press any of the many, many buttons to alert the driver that a passenger was looking to exit the bus. 
Luckily, I learned a few things about the metro stations in Barcelona during my last visit there, and I was able to backtrack without too much added hysteria.  However, I noticed that my phone battery was blinking on completely empty, and remembered that I had not packed my phone charger.  I had plans to meet Chema for lunch and was not going to be able to tell him where to find us.  He had planned on skipping his afternoon class to meet up with us, but we had not yet set a time or place.  At this point, I was getting just slightly annoyed with the series of unfortunate events that were unfolding.  We dropped our things off at the hostel, and I declared that my only mission in life was to charge my dinky little cell phone.  I found a MoviStar phone company relatively easily, and asked to purchase a charger.  They told me that my phone was so cheap that the charger was going to be 18 euros whereas buying an entire new phone would be 19 euros.  I told them I didn’t had neither the time nor the patience to set up a new phone and to please kindly allow me to pay them whatever they wanted so long as I could avoid the wrath of Chema Voilo. Let’s just say that he did not exactly voluntarily decide to skip his class to see me, and he MAY have had to deal with just a BIT of an overreaction on my part on Wednesday night when he had tried telling me that he couldn’t easily meet up with us on this particular Thursday.  If I ended up screwing up this lunch then we probably wouldn’t be talking today.  Or ever again, for that matter.  So, I bought the phone charger, charged my phone for ten minutes, and decided to mentally erase the entire morning and start again.
Alright, Mom, it’s time to put these minor roadblocks behind us and enjoy my favorite city in Europe.  We bought a map the size of Texas and, checking the street signs to orient ourselves about six times, headed in the direction of La Sagrada Familia.  About 45 minutes later, we realized we had gone in the exact opposite direction from that which we were meant to walk.  Luckily, everywhere in Barcelona is beautiful, and we ended up in the Gothic Quarter of the city, which I had missed on my first trip and was happy to stumble across on my second one.  We then headed over to Las Ramblas to walk towards the water and wait for Chema, our tour guide for the afternoon.  We had a great lunch and walk along the beach, followed by a visit to a magic little café in the style of Alice in Wonderland. Things were turning around and I was remembering why I loved Barcelona so much.  Thanks for dealing with me, Chemita!  
This picture is awkwardly in black and white, and I'm awkwardly holding an H&M bag, but BFFs regardless.
America's Next Top Mom Model
After lunch, my Mom and I made the journey up to Park Guell in time to watch the sunset.  While that was a beautiful sight, I realized it was already way too dark for my mom to understand how beautiful that park is during the daytime.  We decided to return in the morning, and headed out to have tapas in the city.  While sitting outside in the middle of Barcelona, sharing our tapas and drinking some more of our much loved sangria, we took a few minutes to realize that this was probably one of the coolest moments of our lives.
Buenas Noches, Barcelona!
The next day, we shared the most expensive meal of our trip, AKA we went to Starbucks, and then headed back to Park Guell.  I would like to remind everyone about my previous decision to get married there, and would also like to once again reach out to Javier Bardem and let him know that he has 3 more weeks to find me in Spain. 
I miss this woman.
Pretending we are on a photo shoot.
The perfect place to walk down the aisle.
After exploring Park Guell for a couple hours, we had to head right back to the Barcelona airport to catch our flight to Rome.  I was beyond excited to go to Italy.  I brought my stretchiest pair of jeggings to prepare myself for the binge eating that I intended to do.  I was also extra excited because I had booked my mom and myself a private room at a place called Salvador Bed and Breakfast. I had never stayed at a Bed and Breakfast before!  I couldn’t wait to see our cute little room and settle in. 
We stumbled upon our B&B around 7:00 PM or so.  It was not much to look at from the outside, but I was sure it was going to be wonderfully charming on the inside.  I rang the buzzer at the front door.  Nothing happened.  Rang it again.  Nothing happened.  Huh.  What now?  It was then that I noticed an older, stout gentleman bumbling up the street towards the building.  “Salvador?” he asked, as he headed to open the door for us.  “¡Si, gracias!”  I told him, before remembering that we are not in Spain, but since I knew absolutely zero words in Italian other than “gelato,” I just had to hope that he would get the general idea.  I figured this man was just someone who lived in the building and was used to confused American tourists standing outside the door, wondering how to get inside.  He did not speak English by any means, but somehow managed to tell us that he had just finished eating dinner.  Spaghetti, to be specific.  His name was George.  Alright, old man George, that’s nice.  He took us all the way right up to the door of the B&B.  How kind!  Wow, Italians sure go out of their way to help people. 
Then, he did something that I had not been expecting.  He took out some keys and opened the door to the B&B.  Wait, are you staying here, too?  What’s going on?  He then walks up to a very messy little desk, with about a million shreds of paper strewn everywhere, and proceeds to ask me my name.  It is then that I realize that this bumbling old man is the owner of this place.  And by “this place,” I mean…his place.  His personal apartment that he is pretending to have transformed in to a Bed and Breakfast.  He sloppily writes down my passport number in a calendar (under the month of March, mind you), and takes us to our room.  It is spacious and clean, so I can’t complain.  He then points to the clock, at the numbers 8, 9, and 10, and says “Breakfast.”  He then goes over to a door marked “Privado” and motions for us to knock on the door.  He then goes back and points to the clock again.  We figure breakfast is beyond the doors between the hours of 8 and 10.  How cute!  The kitchen is behind closed doors to keep breakfast a surprise.  He must go through great pains to personally prepare our meals, considering we are staying in his personal apartment.  Thanks, George!  With that, my mom and I head out to eat our first Italian meal.
As we were stumbling through the streets to find somewhere to eat, we happened across the Pantheon.  Rome is the most bizarre city on Earth.  There is not just a mixture of new and old, as there is in Bilbao, but rather a striking juxtaposition between brand new and absolutely ANCIENT.  The magnificent buildings I have read about in history books my entire life are just mixed in amongst commercial shopping and dining areas.  It is so amazing, and so weird. We ended up eating on a side street near the Plaza Navonna.    I could write an epic poem describing how delicious our food was, but all I will say is, YUM.  We also came to love the owner of the restaurant (who also most likely loved my mother), and we decided that we were going to love Rome.  
The Pantheon
Vatican City
The next morning, my mom and I woke up, showered, and talked about what we might be having for breakfast.  It was 9:00, but there seemed to be no one else awake except for us.  We could have sworn George told us breakfast was anytime between 8:00 and 10:00, so we awkwardly crept up to the door marked “Privado.”  I guess we should just…knock on the door and see what happens?  My mom knocked on the door quietly.  Nothing happens.  My mom knocked on the door loudly.  We heard someone rustling about, followed by George’s shouting, “Minuto!”  Behind that door does not lie a kitchen.  We just knocked on George’s bedroom door.  He was asleep, and our knocking has just woken him up.  I feel incredibly awkward and run back to our room. 
George emerges from his room, groggy-eyed but cheerful. He points to my sock-covered feet and says, “Shoes.” What?  Why do I have to put shoes on to eat?  He then opens the door that leads out of the B&B.  Okay…is breakfast downstairs or something?  I put my shoes on and follow him.  Follow him out the door, down the elevator, out the front door of the building, down the street, around the corner, and into a café.  My hair is soaking wet.  We are in a café.  There are two cute baristas looking at me like I am an absolute idiot, and also as if they are expecting me to say something.  I don’t speak Italian, I don’t know what I’m doing here, and I look like a wet dog.  I feel incredibly awkward and run to the closest table.  George gets us two cappuccinos and 2 pastries.  He tells us not to wake him up the following day, as he will be sleeping, and now that we know where the café is, we know what to do.  So, this is the breakfast part of our Bed and Breakfast.  We are uncontrollably laughing, and I still looking like a shaggy poodle, so we down our cappuccinos and leave. 
Our day is filled with sightseeing and exploring.  Rome is by far the most touristy place I have ever been, which makes sense seeing as the entire city feels like one big museum of amazing buildings forever frozen in time.  For lunch, I was able to meet up with the BEAUTIFUL and amazing Sara Gil, who is Rebecca Drake’s roommate at Emory College in Atlanta.  Although I had never met Sara before, I had heard so much about her and had wanted to meet her for what feels like forever, so I was beyond excited to get the chance to see her…in Rome.  She took us to eat one of the best meals of my entire life, followed by the best gelato in the world, followed by a tour of the city.  She knows just about everything about Rome, and was simply the most lovely person with which to spend the afternoon.  I seriously feel like I have known that girl for years, and am so, so, so happy to have finally actually met her in person!
Mama making a wish at the Trevvi Fountain!
Sara!!!!!!! I'm so happy just writing this caption and remembering this happened.
At this point, it was Saturday evening.  Saturday, November 12th, 2011.  I had been waiting for that day for months, for that was the day that Bob Dylan was playing in Rome.  That was the day I picked out last Spring from Dylan’s tour dates as the concert I wanted to see while studying abroad.  That day was the reason I traveled to Rome.  That day was the reason my Mom’s trip fell at the time that it did.  I was going to see Bob Dylan…in Rome.  I couldn’t wait.  There was just one little problem, that being that we didn’t actually have tickets due to an unsurpassable error with the ticketing site.  However, I have been to over 40 Dylan concerts, and I have witnessed countless numbers of people pick up tickets the day of the show.  My mom and I got at the venue at about 5:30pm, for a 9:00 show, which we figured would give us plenty of time to buy a ticket (either from the ticket booth, from someone with an extra ticket, or from a scalper).  I saw some people I recognized who I have met during various legs of the Never Ending Tour in the States..  I also met a very nice (and very handsome) fellow Californian with whom to pass the hours outside the venue.  I was so happy to be there.  I couldn’t wait for the concert to begin. 
The next 5 hours are a blur of emotion that I do not really wish to describe.  Let’s just say that at 10:30, in tears, I turned to my Mom, still ticketless, and simply said, “I’m ready to go home now.” I’ll leave it to the words of Bobby D himself to sum up how I felt that night:
“I see nothing to be gained by any explanation There are no words that need to be said You left me standing in the doorway crying Blues wrapped around my head.”
We took the metro home in absolute silence.  I suddenly really missed my Dad, who I know would have found a way to get  us in to that show, even if he had to rip down the walls to do it.  When we got back to the B&B, I decided that we had to look towards tomorrow as opposed to dwelling on the unfortunate events of that night.  I took out the tickets to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum that I had bought weeks ago in preparation for our trip. The tickets were valid for 2 days.  I thought that I had purchased them for Saturday the 12th and Sunday the 13th, and my Mom and I had planned on visiting these sites on Sunday.  I was especially looking forward to seeing the Colosseum. I took out the tickets and read, “Validity: Friday, November 11th- Saturday, November 12th.”  I pulled the blanket over my head and went to sleep. 
The next morning, my Mom and I resumed speaking.  Maybe last night had not gone as we may have wanted it to, but we were visiting the cradle of Western Civilization.  We truly could not complain about anything at all.  Not one thing.  We could not have been more lucky and blessed to be in Rome together.  However, we still decided to cut our losses and scratch every item off our to-do list so as to have a completely stress-free day.  We spent the entire day shopping and eating.  It was the best decision we could have made.  We headed to the airport with our suitcases stuffed with souvenirs and our bodies stuffed with pizza.  It was a good day.  It was a great trip.  We headed back to Bilbao on Sunday night.
On Monday, I skipped the majority of my classes (school isn’t real, my life isn’t real, nothing is real) and had a picnic with my Mom and my best friends here.  I then reluctantly helped my mother pack.  Well, that’s a lie. I mostly just watched her pack and yelled at her not to leave me.  Then we went for Sangria.
My mom looks younger than my friends.
My mom left on Tuesday, and I spent the entire day in my bed, in mourning.  I had gotten so used to having her here with me, and I was just truly so sad for her to leave.  Luckily, I had spent two of the best weeks of my life with here –two weeks that I will never, ever forget.  I have so many wonderful memories with her that I will genuinely always cherish.
I woke up the next day and went to the cafeteria to have some coffee by myself.  I was still feeling very sad, especially while having my coffee alone, as having coffee with my mom is one of my very favorite things to do.  I went to my first class and came home to take a run.  I put on my left running shoe, and went to put on my right one, but there was something blocking my foot.  Something rather large.  What the heck?  I stuck my hand in my shoe and found a little package, with a note from my Mom.  She had bought for me the bracelet I had obsessed over in Barcelona but had not bought for myself, wrapped it up, and left it in my running sneaker.  What’s more, she left me a little bag with euros inside it, with directions to buy myself a matching ring.  I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time.  My day was infinitely better from then on.
Highlights of my last couple weeks include eating gnocchi, eating pasta, eating pizza, eating gelato, and eating a cookie the size of my head, all in Rome.  Minor setbacks include gaining ten pounds in Rome.  One major, MAJOR setback was being flashed in Rome.  Yes, flashed.  By a man.  A man flashed me in Rome.  TWICE.  I am still having nightmares.
Needless to say, I loved having Peach here.  In three weeks from tomorrow, I will be seeing her again.  I cannot even believe that I will be moving out of here in three weeks.  We have 21 days left here…and we are going to make them count.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I ran away to Bilbao, Spain.  (don't worry, I had to look it up on a map, too).   After ten days and nine nights on a plane I arrived to the beautiful sight of the one and only Christie Amrein waiting for me.   How I have missed that girl!  Christie greeted me with a huge smile, open arms and an extensive itinerary.

Day Number One


Morning

Arrival in Bilbao 9:55AM
Arrival to Colegio Mayor - Check In - 11:00AM

Afternoon

Lunch in the city
Walking tour of Bilbao
Coffee break
Grocery shopping

Evening

Dinner in the dorms
After dinner drink to see the city at night


A very full day.  Bilbao is a beautiful city.  Europe is so unique.... the buildings, the architecture, the scenery, the people. So cool to be in a place completely different from where I live.  It was great to have Christie show me around a city she has come to know and like so much.  Her new home.
We did a lot of walking that first day. Up stairs.  Yes, up stairs.  In a city.  So many, many stairs.  not. prepared. for. the. stairs.  whew. dying.  have to..catch... my breath.

Typical street in Bilbao

stairs

more stairs


Window in my room
amazing view from my window



Ok, see the last item on the itinerary?  After dinner drink. This elevated my already great day to a new height.  Sorry, Dad, your cosmo has been replaced.


SANGRIA.    My new love.


Day Number Two


Morning

Breakfast in the dorms
Run along the river together

Afternoon

Shopping in Casco Viejo
Picnic lunch at top of Casco Viejo stairs
Coffee stop
Shopping on Gran Via

Evening

Split:  Continue shopping or take a siesta while Christie volunteers, 4:45-6:00
Dinner (Pintxos) in Casco Viejo



I have a deficit in my brain.  Specifically, the foreign language processing center in my brain.  There is some vital synapse or collection of neurons or something that is completely missing.  This is the only explanation I have for what happened on the morning of day number two.  
The sum total of all the words I know in Spanish can fit on on the tip of a pencil.  But I was determined to pick up a few phrases on this trip.  I started to get the hang of saying "gracias" and "hola" and "buenas noches" without feeling totally geeky and self  conscious and proceeded to add "perdon"  after repeatedly bumping into strangers on the street (Spaniards do not move to accommodate oncoming people.  They just keep right on walking.  They will walk right into you.  This is a fact.  I learned it the hard way.  Thus, the need to add perdon to my repertoire).   
I was staying on the fourth floor of Christie's dorm.  She was on the sixth floor.  Each floor has a common room.  The coffee maker was located in the common room on Christie's floor.  Christie is well aware of my need for coffee first thing in the morning (bless this child) so she told me to just come up to her common room as soon as I woke up and put my coffee on...nobody would be in there.  When I awoke I was a bit disoriented.  Bleary-eyed, I grabbed my coffee and filter and headed out my door, down the dark hallway and towards the stairwell.  I didn't notice her until I was practically right next to her.  A cleaning woman.  "Hola," she said to me.  I can only blame the early hour and my faulty wiring for the words that proceeded to come out of my mouth.    "Buenas noches,"  I replied and ran up the stairs.

I would like to say this was my only embarrassing language fiasco.  It wasn't.  To my blog readers, please refer to Christie's blog post "Series of Dreams" for further examples ......http://christieamrein.blogspot.com/

Day number two was jam packed with activities including shopping in both the old section of the city as well as shopping in the new section of the city.  I, of course, loved it all.



The rain in Spain does not stay mainly in the plain.  And thus, the next couple of days did not go strictly according to plan.  However, the rain could not stop us from going to a futbol game on Sunday night, Bilbao v. Barcelona.  Totally, totally cool.  Great seats, a real live bicycle kick, an extremely close game (Barcelona scored in the last minute to tie the game) and a crowd like I have never experienced before made it a true highlight.




Day Number Four


Morning

Breakfast in dorm
Split:  Go shopping at Gran Via while Christie in class

Afternoon

Reconvene for lunch in the dorms, Christie will not be eating in the cafeteria and will instead make lunch and eat with you, 2:30pm

Survey of Hispanic Literature Class, 4:10-5:30pm
Coffee break

Evening:

Dinner in the dorms




"Go shopping in Gran Via while Christie is in class." See where it says that there? Go shopping. By myself. In Spain. Where they speak Spanish. And I, well, you know all about my Spanish speaking abilities. As well as my sense of direction abilities. So the thought of finding the metro, getting on the metro, heading in the right direction, getting off at the right stop and finding Gran Via was all a bit overwhelming. But it was on the itinerary. I had to do it. I had to step out of my comfort zone. Oh, wait, step out of my comfort zone? Sounds familiar..... Like, maybe, when I decided to train for a triathlon? I GOT THIS. And I did. It was amazing. I rode the metro (in the right direction), found Gran Via, went shopping, bought a few things, paid in Euros, and made it back home a happier, more confident woman. Yay, me, Yay, itinerary.

Day Number Five

Morning

Breakfast in the dorms
Free time while Christie goes to her first class

Afternoon

Run together after Christie's last class, 12:00pm
Lunch in Gexto (beach town)
Walk around and shop in Gexto

Coffee stop


Evening


Dinner in dorms



Gexto is a beach town on the Bay of Biscay about 45 minutes outside of Bilbao. We walked around for a bit enjoying the town then got a little lost in our effort to find a cafe for our coffee stop. It seems a young man noticed our plight and decided to come to our rescue. "Sandy," (like the song from "Grease" he told us, doing his best John Travolta imitation) was a transplant from Cuba who took us on an hour long walking tour of Gexto, telling us about all the town, showing us different sights and leading us up to by far the most beautiful spot in the whole town with an amazing view that we never would have found on our own. (ok, I have to admit, I was a little freaked out at first and had no idea what this Sandy guy was all about and what the heck he was doing and how the heck we were ever going to get away from him and was he going to follow us back to Bilbao and stay with us forever but after a while I realized he was actually just a genuinely nice guy who wanted to show us the best part of the town. Sometimes, it's just that simple).

Beautiful day at the beach


Stairs.  There's a surprise.

Sandy showed us a hidden cove




Best views courtesy of Sandy





Day Number Six


Morning

Breakfast in dorms
Run together
Split:  Visit to the Guggenheim Museum

Afternoon

Reconvene for lunch in the dorms
Split:  free time while Christie goes to her last class

Evening

Reconvene for visit to the Museo de Bellas Arstes
Dinner in the dorms
Early bedtime



"The Guggenheim Bilbao's collection spans from the mid-twentieth century to the present day, concentrating on post-war painting and sculpture in America and Europe. The collection includes key works by significant artists including Anselm Kiefer, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and Richard Serra, whose workThe Matter of Time was created to be a permanent installation in Bilbao's largest gallery."   

Ok, that didn't mean anything to me,  either.  I will confess I didn't think I was going to be that impressed by the Guggenheim, just because it's not really my cup of tea.  But I was absolutely captivated by the exhibit "the Matter of Time," by Richard Serra.  It was awesome. 

 "Mega-sculptor Richard Serra's mega-installation, A Matter of Time, opened June 8 at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. This huge permanent installation of eight bent steel sculptures is possibly the largest installation to ever be housed in a museum gallery. The work weighs about 1,200 tons, is over 430 feet in length and has taken up residence in a 32,000 square foot gallery. The eight pieces swirl and glide together, creating spaces while imposing upon the space they are in. Imposing as they may be, the sculptures invite the viewer to become participant: to explore around them, to find the spaces within, to play with sound, to stop and start at any point, to move at any speed. Because of its mazelike structure, this installation will leave different imprints on every person that passes though the experience."     (look at it on you tube).

The Matter of Time.  Blurry because the lady slapped my hand as I was taking the picture.  Clear translation in any language:  no pictures allowed.  

Why is there a ginormous dog sculpture outside of the Guggenheim?



Observations so far:
The people of Bilbao are beautiful.  No, seriously.  They are dressed to the nines at all times.  You can scour the entire city and will not find one person in sweatpants or wearing Uggs.  Young and old alike.  The eighty year old woman sitting next to us in the restaurant looked effortlessly chic with her jewels, her  blond bob and her black leather pants.  
Siestas are wonderful.
Trips to the market for warm bread quickly become a necessary activity of daily living.
Looking strangers (particularly men) in the eye and smiling is strictly verboten.  I learned this the second or third day I was in Bilbao.  It is considered extremely forward.  Well, I guess there are about 15 men (and probably about 12 woman) who are waiting for me to give them a call.  
Time with my daughter in Europe....priceless.







And on the seventh day....we rested.

ABSOLUTELY NOT.


To be continued.......



Saturday, November 5, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

It´s going to snow tomorrow.  That´s what Bob Maxon said.  A rare October snowstorm.  Huh.  That´s weird.  I guess I better run to the store and get some milk and eggs.  And candy.  You know, the necessities.

So the thing about rare October snowstorms is that IT ISN´T SUPPOSED TO SNOW IN OCTOBER.  For good reason.  Let´s all think about this for a second.  Fall.  Colors.  Leaves.  Trees.  Leaves on the tress.  Lots and lots of leaves on the trees.  Snowstorm.  A Nor´easter.  Snow.  Lots and lots of snow. Snow on the trees.  The trees with leaves.


I like electricity.  I like being able to flip a switch and have something turn on.  Like a light.  Or the heat.  Or my curling iron.  Or, for God´s sake, THE COFFEE POT.

Our power went out Saturday.  Last Saturday.  As in, about a week ago.    Biggest October snowstorm in recorded history here in Connecticut.  Wow.  Is that a record you really want to break??

Trees and power lines came down everywhere, strewn across streets and yards and houses in every which way.   Roads are impassable.  People can't get out of their own driveways.   Chaos rules.  Rioting in the street.  Ok, ok, I'm making those last things up but people did start fighting over gas at the few gas stations that had power.
 It's a disaster outside.  It's pretty unbelievable, actually.  It's like it's not real, like it's a movie set.   Simsbury is 100% without electricity.  The whole town.  Totally shut down.  And it's been like that since Saturday.

I would have died in Colonial times.  I know this.  I have always known this.  I really don't understand why I am being put through this little charade.

I had things in the washing machine when the power went out.  I took them out and hung them up to dry.  They now have icicles on them.  I hung them up inside the house.


The day after the power went out my sixteen year old son went to stay with a friend who had a generator.  I packed bags of food,  hugged him good bye and said I didn't know when I'd see him again.  He called later that night to check up on us.  I told him that his dad had lit candles.  Tons and tons of candles.  "How romantic," he said.


 I took a shower at the emergency shelter our town set up in the high school.  Only it wasn't a shower.  It was a spurt.  A spurt of tepid water.    After taking said tepid spurt and managing somehow to wash my hair, I was told I couldn't use my hairdryer.   I headed out of the high school / emergency shelter into the freezing cold night with dripping wet hair.  Long dripping wet hair.     Icicles in my life.


No power.  No electricity.  For a week.  And possibly another entire week.


And so, dear 18 followers and 2 lurkers, you see, I had to do it.  I had no choice.


I ran away.







Sunday, October 23, 2011

My husband and I still like each other.  Really.  I'm not kidding.   After all these years, we still like spending time together.  We like doing things together.  Lately, we have been running together  (you read that right, lurkers number one and two, running together).  We are running partners.  {Sidebar:  my husband broke up with me as a running partner after a run two weeks ago. It was bad.  Real bad. Not the break-up.  The run.
 It was a beautiful Sunday morning.  The weather was perfect. The timing was perfect.  Perfect fall day for a long run.  I love long runs.   The open road, the solitude, the easy rhythm of your legs turning, turning, turning,  mile after mile.  Your body starts working on it's own, effortlessly, freeing up your mind to go to wonderful places it normally wouldn't.  Long runs are beautiful.  Usually. That particular Sunday.....

Number One:
I was battling a few demons.   I refer you to table 1:


Table 1
                                                                                                  


All of them.  I was all of them that day.  At the same time.


Number two: 
 I broke my bum.  I will not elaborate.  But I will tell you that this was not the first time I broke my bum.   

I did not have a good long run.  And there is a weeeeeee little teensy tiny possibility I may have mentioned this fact once or twice.  During the run.  After the run.  Long after the run. And so he broke up with me.   
  That was two weeks ago.  Water under the bridge.  We're back together again.  Happy wife = happy life.}



Today's run was on really challenging hills at Stratton.  Lots and lots of hills. Up, up, up.  Down, down, down.  Hills.  We've been on hills together before.

Maui, 1985.  Just married (THE wedding of the 80's).  On our honeymoon.  Young, in love, adventurous.    Let's do Haleakala.  "Haleakala is one of two national parks in the Hawaiian Islands. Located on the southern section of the island of Maui, the park's 28,655 acres contain one of the most spectacular volcanic craters in the world as well as a beautiful section of the Maui coastline. Land in the park lies at altitudes from sea level along the coast to over 10,000 feet at the summit of the mountain, supporting a range of habitats from subalpine to subtropical rain forests. "     Yes, let's do Haleakala. Not in cars driving up, looking at the amazing view, then driving back down like most people.  Or even on bikes, driving up then riding back down on bikes like a handful of others we saw doing.  No, let's go down Haleakala on horseback.  Going down the inside. Sure!  Sounds great! 
 We drive up to the top.   Up.  Up and up. But it is an easy climb up, a little curvy but relatively smooth and gentle.  We reach the top   We enjoy the view for a bit then go find our guide. A grizzled, old Hawaiian.   He brings out two horses. Two plodding, old, graying  mares.  Well this is ok.  A nice, old horse.  I can't remember ever being on a horse before but I think this is going to be fine.  I think I might even like this.  I might be really good at it.  I might discover I have a hidden horseback riding talent and start galloping off immediately, becoming one with the horse, my hair flying in the wind.  I'll have to get jodhpurs.  And cute riding boots.  And eventually my own horse.  Black.  Like Black Beauty.   She'll be beautiful.  I'll ride her every day.  Everyone will look at us and say, there's that girl with the cute jodhpurs riding that beautiful horse.  I  look at the horse in front of me now.  She looks old and gentle and dependable.  She has done this a thousand times before. This is a good start.  She will get me ready for my Black Beauty.   The grizzled old guide helps me get on her.  I sit up in the saddle.  She is still.  Good horsey.  Nice horsey.  Mike gets on his horse.  The guide gets on his horse.  We start off.  

I have never been inside a volcano before.  It is beautiful. It is huge.  It is open and wide and amazing.  Ir's like a huge desert.  And I am going down it on a horse.  How cool is this??   We follow the guide along wide open trails.  My horse is sure footed and gentle.  Good horsey.  Mike's horse is a little more frisky. She goes here and there and doesn't always go exactly where he wants her to.  I'm glad I don't have his horse.  

Down, down, down.  Down gentle hills.  We make steady progress.  We ride and ride.  I notice the landscape starting to change.  The trails are starting to narrow.  A lot.  And now there are no longer desert-like sloping hills.  There are cliffs.  Sheer cliffs.  Sheer cliffs down the volcano.  And the trails are getting closer to these sheer cliffs.  The trails are becoming so narrow we have to start riding single file.  The guide, then me, then Mike.  The guide way in front.  Mike way behind on his meandering horse. Down the trail. Oh, did I mention the name of the trail?  Sliding Sands Trail.  A trail called sliding sands, right next to the cliffs.  I start to sweat.  From the heat.  And the fear (sweet, innocent, young me has no idea that this is nothing compared to the buckets of sweat that will befall me twenty five years later.  Again, I refer you to table one).  I don't do well with heights.  Until this point, being up so high didn't really feel so bad.  We had been all together, out in the open, going down nice, wide open trails.  Now we are single file.  Next to a sheer drop down.   My horse's hooves clomp, clomp along the trail.  Clomp, clomp, clomp.  Clomp, clomp,  stop.  Huh?  Stop? Horsey, what are you doing?  Why did you stop?  She moves to the left.  The left. The left is where the drop is.  No, horsey, no.  Go straight.  Straight!!  She steps to the left again. NO!!!! I pull on the reins.  Nothing.  I start to shake.  She is so close to the edge.  I can't breathe.  She stops.  Oh, thank god. Thank God.  I am going to live.  I breathe again.  And then.....  Horsey goes over to the edge.  One hoof down the edge.  Another hoof.  Two hooves are over the edge. The only thing keeping me alive are two back hooves still on sliding sands trail.    Horsey lowers her head down the cliff.   She is reaching, reaching for something.  Grass.  She is reaching for a small clump of grass, a rarity in this arid landscape.  What??  Horsey, you are about to toss me head first into the great abyss because you want a snack??  I am hanging on for dear life, my legs gripping desperately to her sides,  leaning as far back as I can in the saddle.  I am practically lying down.  I crane my neck up and all I can see is a sheer drop down the volcano.   This is how I am going to go? Tossed down a volcano by a hungry horse on my honeymoon?   I panic.  The guide is way in front of me now.  I look back.  Where is Mike??  His horse has gone off on another one of it's own adventures.  Mike, you are  about to lose your bride over the edge of Haleakala!!  Help!!   He rounds the corner,  sees my peril, and yells for the guide.  They are both at my side within two seconds.  The guide talks some sort of  animal speak to my horse.  Mike talks some sort of newlywed speak to me.  Horsey and I end up back on the trail.  I. AM. ALIVE. 

We spend hours in that volcano.  Hours and hours. On horseback.  My legs are killing me from the vise-like grip they have on my horse. My hands are raw from gripping the reins for dear life.  Finally, finally we reach the bottom.  Oh, thank you, sweet Jesus.  We made it to the bottom.  Alive.  The guide jumps off his horse.  Mike jumps off his horse.  I jump off..... Nope.  I can't move.  I cannot move my legs.  I cannot get off this horse.  I am one with the horse all right.  I have been one with my horse for hours now.  Sitting in that saddle.  Becoming one. The guide comes over.  Mike comes over.  Together they pry  me off my horse.  One leg down. The other leg down.  I take a step. Pain, Oh, the pain.  Pain.  And that, dear 18 followers and 2 lurkers, was broken bum number one. 


Today's run was on hills.  At Stratton.  With my running partner.  And no horses.