I am home. Yesterday was 17 long crazy hours of travel and I still feel a little bit out of it, but I feel like I should sum up my vacation before I move on to other non vacation posts.
Overall it was a great week in Sicily. Delicious food. Amazing Yoga. Beautiful scenery. Learned about a different part of the world and a different culture. Met new people. Yadda, yadda yadda.
After yoga class on Friday I was feeling overwhelmed with gratitude. Thankful for being able to afford this vacation. Thankful for the ability to move my body in to those crazy yoga poses. Thankful that I had survived the week with minimal to no anxiety. Thankful that no one on the trip was extremely annoying. Thankful that I had successfully managed to make small talk and not get completely bored out of my mind or come off like a buffoon.
At dinner on Friday, Erica gave each person a gratitude related quote and we each had to read the quote aloud and then say one or two words that summed up the week for us to help us remember the trip. Two ideas came to my mind. First was to repeat Erica’s quote about risks from the yoga class earlier in the week (and in an earlier post), because those words really resonated with me, but I was afraid I could not say them without getting emotional. The second idea was to say “Disco Warrior” which was a pose we did in class, clearly the more amusing choice. I stupidly decided to go with the more meaningful words and as expected, I got so emotional I could barely get them out. People had to wait for me to be able to speak and then I finally managed to say them. I don’t like to get emotional in front of other people, even I those I have known forever, so this was a big deal for me. I did not feel close enough to these people to open myself up that way and for the rest of the night I felt very uncomfortable. It was not as cathartic as I thought it would be. Other people also got emotional with their words and I doubt anyone gave much thought to my emotions because people were all wrapped up in their own stuff, but I would love to go back to that moment and make the “Disco Warrior” choice. The lesson learned was that it is not all rainbows and unicorns every time you put yourself out there.
The whole week was a study in human interaction for me. I would have paid money to get inside people’s heads and find out what they were thinking. I watched some of the women fight to be heard at the table and others sit back and observe more of the time like I did. I could listen to three conversations at the same time (like being at home and multi tasking!) My first impressions of people changed over the week which often happens so I have to always remember to keep an open mind. The people I think I would be most likely to hang with in real life don’t live in NYC, but I expect some of us New Yorkers will get together again and we will see what happens.
My goal is to try to maintain the feelings of gratitude I had at the end of the week and try to fight off my glass half empty persona. I am armed with a great NYC yoga teacher recommendation and some guided meditations to try. Fingers crossed…
I decided to stay back today while the rest of the Lululemon ladies went for a chilly hike on the most active volcano in the world. I spent most of yesterday wondering what the heck I was thinking taking on this exercise vacation with strangers. We spent the morning walking around the quaint town of Taormina in small groups. It is always a little awkward when you are with a large group you don’t know and you are set free to wander. It is kind of like partnering up in gym class when you are young, but thankfully, much less traumatic. I mingled about with some of my travel mates in the drizzly but not horrible rain. The Greek Theater was beautiful (don’t ask me anything about it since I read no guidebooks before I got here), the town was cute, and I was quite proud of myself for not buying anything except gelato (everything in Italy tastes better that at home).
At lunch I got bored of the conversation. This seems to happen to me a lot. It is not like I have some extremely interesting topic to discuss on the tip of my tongue. When I am with people who have similar interests and observations that I do, conversation can be quite engaging. I have realized that not a lot of people talk about observations. They love to tell stories about themselves. It often feels like everyone is just trying to get in their story and not interested in anyone else’s. Small talk is big of course. Lots of “what do you do?” “where do you live?” comes with the territory on a trip like this. Yesterday someone gave me such a pained expression when she felt obliged to ask me what I do after I asked her, I tried to cut it as short as possible. We have had at least three conversations about when everyone’s flights depart on Saturday. Lots of talk about marathons, triathlons, trainers, swim coaches, boot camp classes. These things are not part of my world. I am the clearly only one who keeps forgetting the “shape” of Escape to Shape when I book the trip. What I do know is that this crew is constantly talking. I have no idea how they come up with so much to say and I do know is that it gets more interesting with my new favorite digestif, Limoncello (its like drinking lemon sorbet.)
Yesterday afternoon, we had a very nice power walk on the vast grounds of L’Olmo (our villa). Lemon trees, ocean views, and a few scary looking beetles. Sadly, this nice walk was followed by a “boot camp” arm workout. This hard core Canadian firefighter fitness lady is all business. She is very sweet but clearly insane. She can really cause pain. If anyone tells you that you are going to do 90-60-30’s, run! When we got through the hard part and we were finally to the stretch, Erica brought in the owners’ new puppies and the workout was over. I am one of the very few people in the world who does not love puppies. The ladies went crazy. I ducked out while they ogled and took my super tired arms to my room for a rest.
Today, I decided I did not want to ride in a bus for an hour and stress about how I would pee on a freezing cold volcano (that did not look like it had a lot of trees.) I joined the ladies for breakfast and spent two hours bundled up by the gorgeous pool. I got eaten alive by mosquitoes (even through my clothes) and it got a bit chilly but I had to stay out there after I made one of the very nice staff stop his breakfast clean up to put out all of the chair cushions and umbrellas for me. I just sat there for most of the time doing nothing; something I am only capable of on vacation. At home I can barely make myself do one thing at a time much less sit and do nothing. It was fabulous. For lunch my amazing hosts prepared some mozzarella and tomatoes just for me AND I got to have my salami sandwich I was supposed to have on the hike (I LOVE all processed meats). I even got a delicious almond granita. I felt very pampered and almost rewarded for my laziness! Erica and Francesco have no judgment.
The chatty ladies are on their way back and after my very enjoyable and relaxing day I am looking forward to hearing about their adventures and ready to re-engage with my social exercise vacation.
I’m in Italy. It’s beautiful. It’s not an Eat, Pray, Love thing. There will be eating and yoga, but no official praying and not likely any love. I am on a group trip with mostly women and one man (who is part of a couple) and no cute guys magically appeared next to me on the plane (I swear that only happens in the movies!) I was introduced to this travel company (Escape to Shape) by a high school friend who knows the owners. I did my first E2S trip to Morocco 1 1/2 years ago and now I am in Sicily with 17 strangers (and Erica and Francesco who run the show and are the sweetest people and best host and hostess on the planet.)
I am way in to the Escape part (and when I say “way in to” I mean terrified to fly across the world and spend a week with strangers but simultaneously excited about seeing new places and learning new things) and the Shape part is good for me and comes with the trip so I rise to the occasion. Today the occasion involved a 3 mile walk to small town food market and a 3 mile walk back followed by a 1 hour lower body boot camp class (yes, after 6 miles of walking). Before dinner we go back to the mat for yoga, then wine tasting, cooking class and dinner. That will add up to more exercise than I have done in a month. I am a fan of moderate exercise but don’t have one of those “push yourself” personalities when it comes to working out. This week I will push it a bit and I am sure it will feel great (not during of course, but after.)
As you can imagine the trip attracts mostly single women, around my age (late 30s early 40s). Everyone is from the US and about half from NYC. Lots of interesting women that I would never meet in my current circle of life (which is not very big.) Magazine editor, casting director, financial planner, psychologist, professor, director of operations for the Alvin Ailey dance company, fitness company owner. A semi diverse group (for white women who have all enough money to buy Lululemon yoga outfits and travel across the world.) It is a lot of time with strangers, which can be exhausting for an introvert, but also good for me and aligned with my goals to make my world bigger. Most people don’t know each other and everyone is friendly and chatty. I generally I do more listening than talking with people I don’t know, but I have gotten in some words here and there. It’s only day 2 so we will see how it all pans out.
I am already sore from this morning’s workout and it is time to get ready for Yoga. I might need a little prayer to make it through this one.
Addendum: I survived yoga and Erica taught me this today: To get across the fire, you have to take risks, and the other side is never as scary as you think it is going to be. Awesome. Great mental and physical workout. That is what is awesome about yoga if you do it right. PS: Sicilian wine is delicious as was our pasta alla norma dinner followed by the best Cannoli I have ever had.
I attended a very NYC event the other night that had a television theme! Showtime (the television network) hired designers to transform penthouse apartments at a NYC hotel/residence in to rooms inspired by shows on the Showtime network. My high school friend Stephen K Chung was chosen to design one of the rooms. Stephen is an architect by trade but also, apparently, a fabulous interior designer! His design was for the show “The Big C” which I have not seen but is about a woman who is diagnosed with cancer and stars Laura Linney (who was there earlier in the night, but I missed her!). His gorgeous white room is here on the right (the best room of them all by far!)
Stephen put a lot of thought behind every design element in the room. For example, not sure if you can tell but the lamps have the illusion of floating in the air. That represents that state between dream and awake where things are a little fuzzy which happens a lot when you are sick (I am sure I did not explain that right)
The room had some cool technical features designed by MIT students Stephen recruited. On the right you can see an interactive dress that has sensors you can touch to hear recorded messages from people you love or sounds like birds chirping. I am not sure why you would want that feature as part of a dress, but art sometimes eludes me. On the left was my favorite cool thing. The blocks are magnets that can be moved around the wall and they change colors when you touch them (kind of like playing with souped up refrigerator magnets). The absolute coolest part is that you can touch one block and hold your finger there and then touch another block which will turn the same color as the one you touched first by sending an electronic current THROUGH YOUR BODY. I am sure I learned about this in 6th grade and never thought about again until last night. It blew my mind. I did also confirm that you can send a current from your finger through the tip of your nose. Science is very cool.
Nothing really excited me about the other rooms. I spent some time in the Dexter room of course. We chatted with the designer’s assistant for a bit. He was a nice guy and really tried to sell the room. The designer works for lots of celebrities (including Michael C Hall – Dexter himself who was not there sadly). I think we finally established that I would not want to live in the same room Dexter would which is a good thing since he is a serial killer (but a really nice one). This photo gives you a feeling of the Dexter room.
I was out way too late and dragged the next day but it was great to catch up with old friends and take advantage of the unique and cool stuff that happens in NYC! If you live in NYC you can pay to go visit the Showtime House at Cassa in midtown or if you just want to learn more: http://www.sho.com/site/showtimehouse/home.do
This week’s adventures included Puffs Plus by day, NyQuil by night, and way too much television. A nice summer cold kept me cooped up in my apartment all week. I practically cleaned out my TiVo. Least seasons episodes of Medium, The Mentalist, Haven ( which does not normally keep my attention but perfect for a stuffy head) and Real Housewives of New Jersey ( After part two of the RHNJ reunion, no more Real Housewives. I swear!) Completely blew my 10 hours out of the water, but I did pull off some minor accomplishments this week while fighting the mucus.
(1)Wrapped up Season 4 of Dexter – definitely the best season yet (spoilers to follow.) So happy Laguerta and Batista ended up together (I called it!). Nice plot twist with the reporter being Trinity’s daughter. Did not see that coming! Frustrating to watch Trinity continue to get away because Dexter HAD to kill him, but true to character and the ending was perfect. Sad, but perfect. So perfect, I signed up for Showtime so I can see Season 5 real time. I am already stressed out about how I am going to stick to 10 hours with the new fall season so this was a BIG decision, but when they told me it was CHEAPER to change to an HBO/Showtime package for 1 year than keep just HBO, I knew the universe was telling me to go for it.
(2)Finished “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” – Loved it. Does take a while to get in to, but once you are in, it is a great page turner. Been a while since I have read a great page turner . I was not a fan of what I call the “outer mystery” (The financial scandal the book starts and ends with.) I guess it was used to get Blomkvist to the “inner mystery” which was much more interesting and unfortunately ended with almost 100 pages left and then we were taken back to the financial scandal I had little interest in. I skimmed those last chapters. I was worried that I had lost my ability read for more than 10 minutes at a time since I am convinced my constant connection to my phone has changed my brain chemistry. I now know that I CAN do it. Not sure when I will do it again. I did buy “The Girl Who Played With Fire” the next day, but the fall TV season is coming AND I am planning to get OUT of the house more this fall. Calendar is already filling up!
(3)Attended my first US Open – I am not a big fan of watching any sports. I wanted to check out this event people are always talking about and am quite glad I did. It was a beautiful day. I was finally feeling better and was very happy to be outside soaking up the Vitamin D. The fans are much more pleasant to be around than baseball fans, which is to be expected from a sport played and watched by the upper and middle class. Maybe I should start playing tennis so I can get those awesome arms I have always wanted. (And wear those cute outfits). I of course had to find out what was up with the love, 15, 30, 40 thing. Fascinating that no one who has ever explained it to me ever has any idea why the scoring works the way it does. Wikipedia satisfied my curiosity by giving some good potential origins for something that seemed completely random. (If interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennis_score)
Still figuring out what this content should be…how much do I write? What do I share? Do I wait to have entertaining, amusing thoughts? Do I write about TV or other things? Who is reading? Who cares? What distinguishes blog entry vs diary entry? Since the intent is really to be an outlet of personal expression, I guess I can do whatever I want! That is liberating.
I did take a break from my TiVo for a couple of nights this week and stepped out on the town.
On Thursday night, the original plan was to attend a mixer where I knew no one. I was of course dreading that, so when the option of attending a work happy hour presented itself, I quickly jumped on that band wagon. It was still semi- adventurous of me, since I don’t know very many people in my office and had no idea if I would know anyone there. There were a couple of people there I knew and I met some new peeps. No fast and furious friends, but it was mildly entertaining. Nothing like the nights at the Galaxy in Ocean City with my PWC peeps or Coast/Map Room outings with the Fab Four in Chicago, but those are hard nights to live up to (trust me..good times.) I stayed too long, had more drinks than I should have for a “not so fun night”, and regretted it the next day. I did feel a sense of accomplishment for being out and about and meeting new people and I may have networked my way in to some free US Open tickets. Overall, probably more productive than watching Big Brother.
Friday night was much more fun. After a quick nap after work, I threw on a hipster outfit and headed to Williamsburg with my friend LL (who generally frequents Williamsburg when his wife is away or has other plans because she is not fan of the boroughs.) We met up another friend of his for dinner, MG. MG was gracious enough to draw names out of a baggie I brought with me to help us pick our fantasy football draft order of dinner. We barely escaped a moral dilemma when we were not sure the draft order successfully saved on my phone and thought we might have to redo it. I am just now making the connection that LL then “accidentally” spilled hot candle wax all over my Iphone (clearly in an attempt to create a technical malfunction and get a better draft pick), but one of the restaurant employees quickly came to the rescue and instructed us that a Metrocard could be used to scrape off the wax. (Apparently, this happens to the hipsters all the time.) The Iphone was fully de-waxed, and it turned out that the draft order was successfully saved and emailed and we continued on with our evening and kept our horrible picks. (I am 12th which means I have back to back picks in our snake draft. I might have a heart attack during the draft.)
We then ventured on to a beer hall and had fascinating conversations about books, blogs, social climbers, double dates, ambition, TV (of course!), running, beards, and other various topics. It was a fun night with lots of laughing and interesting conversation. The title of this blog post was inspired by LLs theme for the night which was “keeping it real”, and we did! I was definitely a little buzzed on the way home because I remember commenting on the subway that “there are so many people”. My mind was blown that the subway car was full of people that I had probably never seen before and will probably never see again and that that happens to me every day. I likely see repeats more often then I realize, but there are a lot of people in NYC. Deep thoughts on the L train.
So those were my non TV adventures this week. Aren’t you excited you popped in to read them?
I was supposed to go to the office today, but I woke up a tad late, remembered that I have a 7:30am crack of dawn con call and decided to bag the office and work from home. I REALLY wanted a Starbucks Iced Triple Grande Whole Milk Latte (my signature summer drink) so I threw on some clothes and headed to Starbucks pre meeting. I get there and they tell me they have no ice. No ice! In August in NYC? I start to leave and then realize ice is a commodity that I actually own so all I need are the milk and espresso and I can add the ice myself. (No, I did not get a discount, just some really weird looks). I get home 5 minutes before the crack of dawn con call, add the ice and notice right away that they gave me 2% or possibly even worse, skim milk. These variations are NOT part of the signature drink and I am not flexible on this. When I am at Starbucks, I can use my “iced latte super powers of detection” to notice, in an instant (when the drink is fully assembled) when they give me 2% or skim and immediately refuse it and get another. Today, because of the ice issue and the 7:30am crack of dawn call, I was screwed.
What the bejesus does this have to do with Charlie Brown? When I posted this little gem (in much shorter form) in response to a Facebook status update about my Iced Late today, my friend said I sometimes remind her of Charlie Brown. This was directionally correct and it cracked me up. As did this excerpt from Wikipedia: “Charlie Brown is a lovable loser, a child possessed of endless determination and hope, but who is ultimately dominated by his insecurities and a “permanent case of bad luck”……He also has a sense of reality about him, usually making comments of sad realization to the sarcastic jibes or using quick-witted remarks to point out the often ridiculous actions and bad luck he often has”. Kind of me… although I have had much good luck in my life and am blessed in many ways, I am a glass half full kinda person. I also sometimes refer to myself as Chicken Little, which is even more appropriate.
So that was my adventure of the day and I have thoroughly impressed myself with my ability to turn this in to a blog post…