Monday, September 24, 2007

A Weekend of Springs Magic

Rub-a-dub-dub; three sisters in the tub, hot tub, that is. A dream I've nursed for ages was realized on a recent September weekend. Many's the time while at our beloved Springs, I've thought it would be great to have my two sisters with us. I kept this idea simmering on the back burner of my mind for a long time. This past spring I brought it to the forefront and mailed a formal invitation to my two very dear big sisters to join us for an overnight trip to our most special, favorite place on Earth.

My second oldest sister emailed back with an immediate, emphatic "I'm in", followed by "why not two nights?" My older sister was a bit more reluctant to accept. For many years now she has had family obligations which have kept her from venturing too far from home. This is the sister who has accompanied us in the past for the occasional day trip to the Springs. After some gentle cajoling (because we knew she really wanted to join us) and reassurance that other adult family members living at home currently could hold down the fort for a day or two, she accepted as well. So much to do; much time to plan. My husband has perfected master planning and list making to an art form. It's his favorite medium, his hobby. To his credit, we never lack for anything once we arrive. We picked a date in mid September, fully confident that northern California would deliver perfect late summer weather.

After almost half a year of sweet anticipation, our long awaited weekend came to pass. Disrobing and sharing warm to cold mineral waters, steam baths and saunas with one's family members may seem strange. However, we've been married for 33 plus years and my sisters have known my husband even longer. Once ensconced in the safe haven of this magical place, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. And it was. I made it quite clear from the get go that the Springs is a clothing optional place. Oldest sister, Carole, was a seasoned pro having gone with us before.

Middle sister, Pat, the novice, joined right in, she being an adventurous spirit and always at the ready to try new things. No place on earth is safer and more comfortable to do such a thing.

We had the time of our lives. We sisters love each other dearly and enjoy each other's company like no one else's. Talk about a pampered, catered weekend! My husband planned each meal, each menu and brought them all to culinary perfection for us all. I helped as prep cook, sous chef, whatever...and together, we wined and dined our beautiful, beloved sisters (in-law) to perfection. We stayed in our usual cottage number 12 which houses a stove, refrigerator, sink and counterspace and an eclectic conglomeration of pots and pans and utensils. Anything not found here, a quick trip down to the large community kitchen will remedy. Number 12 connects to a smaller room with a lavatory in between to share. We had our sleeping space, the sisters had theirs. Perfect. We rounded up two extra chairs, pulled our little round dining table out and made room for the four of us for mealtimes and general partying, the latter of which we did a lot!

When I sent the initial invitations, I also made it perfectly clear that one could have lots of privacy, go off by themselves to a quiet spot, soak in a private tub, etc. It's nice to know this is an option but I wasn't too surprised when it turned out that we four spent the majority of our time soaking, steaming and sweating (sauna) in close proximity to each other. We love each other, of course, but we really like each other too. My older sister carries a lot of stress and worry around with her and we could actually see some of this baggage slip away from her face. My other sister never appears to be overly stressed; I believe she has her fair share as do we all but deals with it better. However, she also seemed to be much affected by the magic of the Springs. I could see a great sense of relaxation settle upon her as time went by as well.

As delightful as it is, one cannot spend 24 solid hours soaking her body in soothing water. I brought along a Scrabble game which came into play (!) several times a day. My older sister is an avid New York Times crossword puzzle fan (she's so good that she uses a pen) and having brought a book full of them, we other three took turns playing the kibitzer and completed several of them sucessfully. The time to pack up and leave came all too soon but I am sure this adventure will be preserved in our memories as one of the best weekends we've ever had in our lives. That's really saying something because between the four of us, we've had some great adventures. It is my husband's and my hope that we can do this again sometime; perhaps turn it into a yearly event. I already know that sister number two would say readily enough, "I'm in".

Please click on the following The Three Sisters link to see a picture of "The Three Graces" withthe cleanest nails west of the Rockies.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

A Summer Excursion

Monterey. Monterey Bay. Monterey Bay Aquarium. Three distinct destinations, all wonderful places.

I’ve had the privilege of visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium twice this year. My daughter and son-in-law gave us a Christmas gift of a weekend in Monterey. When the time came to go back in February, my husband was so sick that he couldn’t possibly go. Being the good man that he is, he urged Michael and me to go and not to worry about him and so we did. That was a great trip and we had lots of fun

We came home full of impressions and pictures to share as well as some great news. A new exhibit was on its way to the aquarium featuring fresh water otters. The sea otter exhibit at the aquarium is wonderful and one of my favorite places to spend time. Anyone who knows us knows our true adoration lies with river otters and the like. My daughter and son-in-law decided they would plan another trip to Monterey sometime in the summer taking just my husband and me. We knew the otter exhibit would be in place by then and before I even left the place, I couldn’t wait to return.

On the first weekend of July, the four of us took off for Monterey. My son-in-law, Chris, did all the driving and that in itself was a treat. It was very nice to just look out the window and enjoy the sights; no worries, no hassles. We had a fabulous time. This was the first time we’d gone anywhere with them without children in tow. It was a unique experience to relate to our grown daughter and son-in-law as another adult couple separate from the mommy/daddy mode. The new exhibit was everything we were hoping for and more. My husband and I were in otter heaven and very pleased that the home for this little creatures was obviously well thought out and spacious. Yes, it’s a captive life but the inhabitants didn’t look unhappy at all.

We crammed a lot into that weekend. We ate lots of food, spent two days at the aquarium and visited plenty of shops in search of just the right souvenirs to bring back home. Here’s a picture of my husband, Jim, and me standing with a good friend in the front of a store where an otter fan can find anything they could possibly want...

It'll be a while before we return but we're looking forward to our next visit.


Love those comments

Let’s face it; there’s nothing more pleasing to all who journal than the sight of "comment added alert" in our email boxes. It means someone, somewhere out there is actually reading our deathless lines and knowing this, validates such.

Therefore, after an eight-month absence from my journal, I was amazed to view several comments that appeared shortly after my "return" entry. With the exception of one, all were from people I’d never heard from before. Currently, I’m in the process of visiting their journals. It’s been my habit that when I visit someone’s journal initially, I start with their first entry and either read the entire journal or skim through if it’s especially long and end with the most recent entry. How else to get to know someone and get a feel for their style of writing?

I’m hopeful that others do this as well because I have a strong feeling that many of the best entries to flow from my fingers to the printed page are already in place. If no one ever backtracked to peruse past entries, a new reader to my journal would never get a true sense of who I am. These are selfish thoughts, I know, but our journals are our selfish little creations extolling the joys and sorrows of our personal lives and we love them and feel quite proud and protective of them. Come on, you know it’s true.

A lot of people take breaks from their journals; an amazing amount of people keep up with them on such a regular basis that I sometimes wonder if they ever sleep. How do they find the time? When I read back on my journal, I am amazed by how much I wrote and how I found the time to do so. Where did that time go? I swear, the minutes and hours of the days are shrinking and the days and weeks rush by with such speed and, of course, I know why this is happening. It’s because I’m getting older. It’s that simple. My parents told me this would happen and by golly, they were right!

It’s good to be back.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Eight Months Later...

California’s teetering on the verge of a drought and we concerned citizens of this beautiful but rain starved state have been trying very hard to conserve our water. It hasn’t become the major chore of a little over thirty years ago when I encountered bricks in cisterns and charming little signs posted in bathrooms instructing the user "if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down". Ah yes, words to live by in the late seventies. No, things aren’t quite so serious yet but even in the best of times when rain has been abundant and water is everywhere, it is everyone’s duty to conserve our precious water. It’s been a wet summer for me, however, both in and out of water.

This has been a swimming summer for me. My husband and I are always trying to keep our hands in getting some kind of exercise. It aint easy! Over our many years together, we’ve run, walked, biked and swum (yes, that really is a proper past tense for swim–I looked it up. Looks funny, doesn’t it?) I am not an athletic type and the best part of exercise is when it’s over. I hated running, walking’s nice but my husband’s knees can’t take it anymore, bicycling is great if there are no cars around (knocking bikers off the road is becoming something of a sport these days). I’ve never been a huge fan of swimming but this year has been different.

Each year I have to relearn swimming. Swimming is one of those skills that supposedly once learned, is easy to pick right back up after a long absence. Riding a bike, typing and sex also fall into that category, I believe. I’ve never found it so with swimming. Perhaps that’s because I’m not such a hot swimmer to begin with. Like so many things in my life, I learned (sort of) to swim when I was around 8 or 9. Much too late. A lady friend of my mother’s took me to the local lake one summer and under her patient tutelage, I managed to learn how to tread water, float on my back and swim a few pathetic strokes for a short distance. I recall that this very kind woman actually had to bribe me with money to get me to put my head under water. When I think back on the cesspool of a lake we were in, I wouldn’t put my head under or my body in that water for vast sums of money if offered the same deal today. But ignorance is bliss and it never occurred to me what might be lurking in that nasty lake as I was splashing around in it.

Fast forward to shortly after my wedding day. We moved to a nice apartment complex close to our jobs and use of a good-sized swimming pool was one of the perks. Now, you know what happens to a lot of folks followingtheir wedding day when they’re head over heels in love with each other, the world in general and are extremely happy. Love and happiness ofter equals food. Lots of it! Alas, we were no exception. It didn’t help that directly across from our apartment was Louie’s Bakery and it turned out that Louie made the best damn donuts and pastries on the planet. Every Sunday morning my sweetie and I and a box filled with a dozen of Louie’s donuts would snuggle up for a nice long visit. There never were any left by lunchtime. Shocking! This was the grand life but we both tend to run to fat very quickly and this habit plumped us up in no time. There we were, plump little partridges (but very happy) in drastic need of exercise with a pool across from our apartment in the opposite direction. Strangely enough, there were never many, if any, people in it after dinner.

Time to make use of the pool, go on a diet and get rid of some flab. We each drank a Carnation Instant Breakfast and a One-A-Day vitamin pill for breakfast. I don’t recall eating lunch but we both lived close to work and these were back in the good old days when lunch hour was an hour and we used to meet at home to, ah, visit. Dinner was one skinned, broiled chicken breast each and salad. Our exercise was swimming laps. I got into the pool and proceeded to do my thing. "What are you doing?" asked my husband. "Swimming", I replied sweetly. My second round of swim lessons began right there and then. Of course, my husband was a great swimmer, had done the Red Cross thing, been a lifeguard, etc. so he did know a thing or two about swimming. By the time our first married summer was over I could swim passably well. Iwas taught to actually kick my legs properly and not scissor kick and find a nice rhythm by humming The Blue Danube to myself as I was gliding along. It worked but to this day, I have to start with the basics and it takes almost the entire summer to get it right once more.

This was our first foray into exercise and healthy living and we’ve been trying to stick with it for the past 33 years. Oh, thereve been lapses of course but we always come back to some sort of program to keep the fat at bay. My husband gets all the credit for his tenacity to begin and stick with the program over and over again. Kudos to him because he always has to push me along into joining him and I always feel better and grateful once it’s over.

This past summer we’ve been swimming laps at the city pool on a regular basis. My husband goes every Saturday and Sunday morning; I go every other on the weekends I don’t work. We both go twice a week after work. The water has felt wonderfully refreshing after a long, hot day at work and while our swimming regimen hasn’t given us bodies beautiful, it has worked to tone things up quite a bit. Being overly warm more often than not these days, I’ve found myself looking forward to gliding through the water once the workday is over. I know my technique has improved somewhat because these days my husband tells me I look like something that belongs in the water and not something that’s been thrown in. Ah, high praise from he who really taught me to swim!