Checking in and Catching up

My Ab Lounge finally is out of here, sold on Craigslist to a young college student who willingly parted with $50. I had been quite over-optimistic about what I was actually willing to do and that never seemed to be it, so out it goes. I already spent the $50 to buy a lightweight fall coat. Of course, it’s been in the 80’s so who knows when it will come in handy. But eventually …

My Mom and DadNext weekend my parents are arriving from Texas for a 10-day visit. I’ve been scrambling around trying to get things as tidy and prepared as possible, primarily lugging stuff to the dump (er, transfer station – though really it was a dump) and drilling lots of holes to get new curtains up.

The study, which will become their guest room when we blow up the Aerobed, is in the front of the apartment and gets a lot of light from streetlights even with blinds closed. So I needed room-darkening curtains and not just something filmy draped over rods for cover.

The rods went up last weekend – I love using the drill and making holes – but I ended up exchanging the first curtains I got for others with more color. They came this week and were ironed and hung, and then I got mad because the look was too heavy. I needed some kind of way to hook them out of the way and opening up the window during the day, but still easy to undo at night to pull the curtains shut to darken the room.

Another trip to Home Depot (which is almost as dangerous for me as an office supply store is) yielded holdbacks that match my rods, which also came from HD. They’re just little metal U shaped things that, well, hold back the curtain. Putting them up involved more drilling and hole-making and now I’m happy with the look.

But my mother is coming. I have to clean everything but not too early because I could make a mess of it again before Friday. I hate cleaning when I get home from work so we’ll see how this actually shakes out. In practice, as long as the piles are tidy and they have a place to unpack, it will be fine.

Food will be interesting. My mom is smaller now than when she got married, and she was a size 10 then. My dad has had a weight problem all his life but I think of him as having a little extra padding; his problem is nothing like the one I’ve battled, though it is his problem. He understands, though, and that helps.

I’m used to living and eating alone most of the time except when I’m out with friends. Any food in the house is because I brought it here. I don’t need to worry about tempting finicky appetites or fixing vegetables that no one will eat. So having the parents here – for 10 days! – needs a good bit more thought. I think perhaps we will work on menus together when they’re here and we know the touring schedule better. As long as I have the things that I know I need, I can stay on track. And my parents don’t want me to disrupt my food plan. My problem is expanding the cooking options for multiple people at every meal.

This weekend is kind of pampering time, in addition to hole-drilling. This morning I had my hair cut and roots touched up so I can have more “good hair” days. Tomorrow I’m having a massage and a pedicure – and am going to figure out how to get to the gym to do some exercises in the pool. I missed water aerobics on Thursday because I wasn’t feeling well but I do like being able to slip into the water and move without hurting.

Forging New Traditions

Manasquan BeachWhen I was growing up, summer was clearly defined. It started with Memorial Day and the opening of my grandfather’s beach house and ended with Labor Day, always at the beach with family and cookouts. The clans gathered en masse with adults and kids separating out to do our own things and only coming together for meals.

I still think, come Memorial Day and Labor Day, that I am supposed to be at the shore with my family even though we moved away when I was 16. We usually have a conversation about it, reinforcing memories and tradition, even as we live different lives now.

This year I spent part of Labor Day weekend, not at the shore with family but in New York City with our Frances, taking the train down for the day yesterday. It was my first trip on the Metro North train which is oh so convenient and cheap ($28 for a round trip off-peak hour ticket). By the time we left CT and headed into the city, the train was full of baseball fans off to the Yankees game and extremely loud folks going to the Brazilian Festival. I was grateful to not have to lug a suitcase and to just be going to play.

Frances met me at Grand Central Terminal which is amazing if you’ve never been there. Not many places to sit but beautifully restored and truly a grand space. We had a perfect day to be out exploring and spent our time in Chinatown and Little Italy, armed with cameras and no real agenda.

Street vendors were out everywhere with booths of jewelry, art, tchotchkes, plastic life essentials, and food. In Chinatown that included dried fish which smelled really awful; the fruit was much more appealing. There was a joyous man armed with bubble guns, shooting streams of big soap bubbles and pumping the air with delight. He made us smile and buoyed our spirits.

Most of our shopping time was spent at Pearl River, one of Frances’ favorite stores and now one of mine. They have EVERYTHING, not just stuff for tourists, from beautiful silk garments to exotic spices to paper lanterns and bamboo. Downstairs is where I had the best time poking around looking at pigs and Buddhas and that happy cat with the raised paw that was everywhere, almost like a little army.

We puzzled at the fan display, trying to figure out why some were so much larger than the others. An elderly Chinese lady who spoke little to no English showed us that they were dancing fans and the fluttery extensions rippled gracefully as she moved the fan in dance moves. She was very sweet and shy and charmed us completely.

Buddha Buddha BanksI fell in love with some plastic Buddha Buddha banks – big heavy ones and little bitty tiny miniatures – and bought one of each of the miniatures because, well, they were cute. I had my eye on all things pig and in this Year of the Pig, there was a lot to see and photograph.

We had Thai food for lunch (I adore Pad Thai and have it whenever possible) with a chance to sit down and rest our feet, then treated ourselves to an amazing 46 minute Chinese back rub (aka massage). I have no idea why it was 46 instead of 45 min. but I wanted more more more. Today I’m paying for it a bit with sore muscles where she went very deep but I could feel the knots breaking up so I’m not at all sorry.

Back on our feet and out on the streets, we were spotted by a Chinese man who invited us to a back room with knock off purses. Apparently the better quality fakes are behind these closed doors, not out on the street, so being asked in was a big deal. I just know that I bought two bags I didn’t even know I needed – the leather felt great and who cares if they’re not real Prada?

Our last real stop was at an All Things Italian store with lots of saints statues in the window and inside. Not being a good Catholic girl, I didn’t know who most of them were but I still appreciated the tackiness of the collective display. I’d rather have a plastic Buddha, though.

Then it was back to Grand Central and my train home, down and back in an easy day. I love that I’m close enough to do this often so I can see slices of the city in small installments. Future trips need to include massages and visits to Chinatown, though, which I think can be arranged.

Splashing through the Slush

I was snuggled into my warm bed early this morning when the clock went off earlier than usual – and I opened one eye and remembered, “oh yeah, check for snow.” After listening to the weather reports last night, I had visions of shoveling and scraping before jumping into the shower.

But there was only a little bit of snow that didn’t look like much. Goodie goodie. Until I turned on the news and found out the “snow storm” was turning into a “wind and sleet” storm. Not good. I’d rather have snow any day, not that I want snow either.

So bundled up like Nanook of the North, with my freshly washed hair squashed into my red polartec hat and wearing sturdy coat, gloves, and duck shoes to splash through the water, and grabbing a bag with lunch and breakfast – and a camera – I headed outside at 7:00. This is way early for me; I am so not a morning person. I brushed off the snow (not much) and headed out to work.

The roads had mostly been plowed but there were slippery spots and two-way driving on some of the narrow side roads proved difficult – especially since school buses are a lot wider than my little car. I tried to leave plenty of room between me and the cars around me but Boston drivers aren’t so willing to do that. It can be unnerving.

I got to work early enough to park in an underground lot so I wouldn’t be iced in and spent the day in meetings and getting ready for a staff party (yes, another one – we party a lot), distracted by the sleet against the glass and the leaking windows in my office. I now have a bright red plastic tablecloth protecting some of the furniture (see background of picture).

My roses came in a box via UPS, deep red and long stemmed and gorgeous, each in their little plastic thingie with water in it. I am so glad I got them for myself! I managed to avoid most of the extra food around except for 3 Lindt truffles that I brought to the IT meeting as a bribe. I’m not too proud to eat them myself.

At the end of the day on the way home, two wild turkeys crossed my path, forcing me to stop so they could cross the road. They were butt ugly and took their own sweet time, stopping in the middle of the street to sort of glare at me.

The parking lots at our complex still had not been plowed by the time I got home, so I dragged out the shovel and started in on my space. It was a mess – heavy, wet, drippy, and cold shoveling for 45 minutes (earning activity points, though). It was a fruitless quest, really, since the space filled up with water almost as fast as I shoveled the slush. Distractions built as my clothes got soaked – hat, coat, gloves, feet squishing in icy water inside my duck shoes, soggy pants. My hair was wet, legs frozen, and I couldn’t feel my toes. It wasn’t pretty or comfortable.

My body is starting to remind me that I used muscles that haven’t been working much lately. I hope I can move in the morning, and that my sore knees still work!

Getting More Beautiful

After a totally crazy week packed with meetings all over the calendar and in multiple buildings, I’m taking a few days off for 5 days in a row for myself. Today was a pampering day.

I started by sleeping in til 8am which is such a luxury – but getting 8 hours of sleep makes such a difference. I made myself go directly to the shower even though I was feeling kind of meh about the whole idead because I know I always feel more awake when I come out clean.

Next step was to make the bed and dry my hair, open the curtains and blinds outside the bedroom, and sit under my natural daylight lamp for 30 minutes. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD) and my doctor told me this week that I should sit under the lamp in the morning to get the light exposure first thing, and it is making a difference to help me wake up and feel less draggy.

I found I wasn’t very hungry all day today, which is a notable change for me. I had to force myself to eat breakfast and brought a long a meal bar and some yogurt for my hair appointment, which is the way I started my day with my “hair guys”. It was time for the works – a hair cut plus coloring my roots and doing highlights and lowlights (giving some of the foil color in a blonde color and some in a lighter brown than my base color). It gives the hair more depth and looks less brassy, but it means spending about 3 hours there havng them do stuff and then waiting while it “cooks” on my head. The pic above is me sitting there with the foil on my head – oh so attractive.

My next stop was the gym. We ran a little long with the hair since I wasn’t sure if we would be doing highlights and that adds to the time, so I ended up not being able to workout. The main purpose was getting an algomask facial. I’ve only ever had 2 facials before and it’s been a long time. OMG, if you haven’t had one, sign up right now, it was amazing. I felt so pampered, resting on the table on a heated pad so the warmth came up to my bones from underneath and on top as well. It was cozy and all I had to do was lay there and feel lotions and heat and mysterious things happen, including lotion massaged into my hands which were then put in plastic bags and placed (not shoved) into heated mitts that forced the moisture deep into the skin. They look fabulous. Maybe I should be a hand model 🙂

My skin looks amazing and feels tighter, not because it’s stressed out but because it’s healthier. The bags under my eyes have evened out and it’s glowing. She even had time to wax my eyebrows, which also improved the look. All I was thinking when I saw them was of the “caterpillar brows” as Carmindy of What Not to Wear described the brows of one of their victims, er, makeovers.

I’m off to bed – I need a lot of sleep so I can head back to the gym tomorrow for a workout and then, ah ecstasy! a massage. And then a mani and pedi – I’m definitely getting in all of the pampering things I can think of at one time. Kind of like a spa but not having to pay to travel or lodging. It feels really good to be taking care of myself.

Massage Day

MassageI treated myself to a wonderful restorative hot stone massage after work today, my reward for having to work this Intersession holiday and to end the year on a pampering note. If you’ve never had one of these before, I highly recommend it.

The therapist uses stones heated to 120 degrees, placing them on the body to let the heat penetrate the muscles to allow the massage to go deeper and work on tight knots. She also uses the stones, covered with oil, to actually do some of the massage, which is incredibly relaxing and meditative. I found that after a while I simply felt the weight of the stones on my body and not their heat as I went deeper into the experience.

Massage time is quiet time for me to center in and focus on my body. I pay attention to the feeling of being touched, which doesn’t happen to me all that often – I get touch-deprived, actually, so I want to really savor the experience. I find concentrating on the hands working on my body to be a way to connect with what’s going on with me. As the fingers find problems with muscles and gradually work through the knots, I feel tension release in inside places, too. For me massage isn’t optional, it’s a necessary way to take care of myself.