Monday, June 30, 2008


Over the past week we've been getting calls from the Harvard Business Journal and the Washington Post, begging us to take part in a survey of some sort. Almost every time they call (and it's been almost 2-3 times daily), we pick up and let them know that we neither have the time nor the inclination to participate. Yet, they keep calling.

Most of the time we let it go to voicemail but occasionally we pick up and explain politely to the person on the other end (because they're just doing their job after all), that we're still not interested thank you.

Last night they called again (surprise) and Hubbie picked up the phone, explaining our disinterest for the millionth time. Several minutes later he headed out to the garage and, as he closed the door, the phone rang again. Since I was sitting comfortably on the couch, covered in dogs, I decided to let the answering machine get it. "Hello you've reached and , please leave us a message!" (For those of you who have never called us, our joint voicemail greeting is very happy and sweet, recorded just after we got married.)

Then, there was the perfunctory telesales 'pause', a sigh from the woman caller, and then loud and clear over the speaker she said "Whatever!"

That's right: whatever.

The telemarketer (or telesurveyor, whatever) actually took the time to leave us a snotty message, insulting our greeting.

To say I was peeved is an understatement. Which is why, when they called back again (not 10 minutes later), Hubby leapt for the phone and asked ever-so-politely that they please remove us from their list. He knew that some venomous retalliation was brewing in my throat. The woman he talked to had the audacity to argue with him about this request, telling him 'this wasn't a sales call'. You're right about that, honey, because a sales person would have been hungry enough for a deal that they wouldn't have insulted us on our answering machine.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

On Day One

On my blogging travels last night, I found a cool new website called "On Day One". This site provides a forum for mere mortals, like you and I, to post our ideas and thoughts on what we think the next President of the United States should focus on, 'on day one' in the White House.

I guess you don't need 10 guesses to know what I wrote about. Here is my "Day One" first-item-on-the-agenda for President Obama (I hope):

Health care access for everyone should be issue #1. Health care costs are out of control, affecting the bottom line of companies as well as the take-home pay of many Americans. Many insured Americans are chronically underinsured and under constant threat of a critical illness wiping out their assets. The practices of insurers re: who and how they insure, needs reform. My husband was only 30 with
no major illnesses when he was turned down for individual insurance. THE SYSTEM NEEDS CHANGE!

Of course, I would have liked the ability to rant further and elaborate, but you only get so many characters.

Submit your own ideas by clicking here and feel free to share them with me on this blog too - I promise not to critique them, no matter which viewpoint they come from.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Assignment 1

Did I tell you I signed up for an online travel writing course? I don't think so. Well, I did and it started last week. The course is through The Learning Exchange and the online classroom features lessons, supplementary reading material suggestions, quizzes, weekly assignments, and an online discussion board where classmates can share and critique one another's work.

I just finished the first assignment last night and thought it would be a good test of my chops to post it here for your honest review and critique. Yes, I said honest. The purpose of this course is to flex my creative writing skills (vs. my ranting ones that I use here without refinement) and get better, so there is no point in providing me with platitudes if you're going to comment.

So, here goes...

First, the assignment (so you know what you're measuring me against)

In 50 to 300 words, describe your favorite place on the planet. Choose a place you really love. Write about your hometown or about the region where you live. You can write about the place where you took your last vacation. You can be informational or inspirational. You can be as flowery in the description as you choose. However, you may not use the words: Pretty, attractive, good, nice, beautiful, lovely, or other wishy-washy descriptive words. Further you may NOT use: very, really, especially, quite, or incredible.


Now, my little ditty...

They’re decorated in bright checkers of red, green, and orange, assaulting your eyes under the glare of fluorescent lights. No AC means the air inside is heavy and choking with the smell of sweat in the summer. During the winter, hot air pumps out of floor-level vents, making that roll-neck sweater seem too close for comfort.

It’s often so quiet inside that opening a packet of crisps grabs the attention of everyone within a ten foot radius. Even when crowded, the only sound is the background percussion of russled papers, yawns, sneezes, and coughs, all timed to the boppedy-bop beat of the tracks.

They run on a schedule nobody even bothers to understand, they’re expensive, they’re often delayed by strike or bomb-threat but, to me, they’re a rite of passage back into the place I call home.

I was born and raised just 11 miles east of London, just like my parents, grandparents, and their parents before them. As a child, Mum and I would jump on the London Underground for our twice yearly shopping trips to Oxford and Regent Streets or summer outings to palaces, castles, monuments, and museums. As a teenager I trekked-in daily to attend lectures at The University of the Arts. Whenever I get on the ‘tube’, it always just seems like yesterday that I was cramming myself into the first available seat during rush hour, photocopied text book pages and highlighter in hand, and using the 90 minute journey as a my study hall.

For me, stepping onto the London Underground is like putting on a pair of your favorite sweat pants before settling down in front of the tv – you just can’t relax and feel ‘at home’ until you do it.

Edited to add...

This was my instructor's comment on my first article:

I am chuckling, this was fabulous prose. I know what you mean about slipping on the sweat pants feel of travel. I feel that way getting on an airplane. I immediately relax and sometimes fall asleep--no matter what time of day. The jets start and I'm tired. Loved your writing, Michelle. Eva


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Uppers and Downers

No, this is not a post about Amy Winehouse. It's a post about my morning so far.


During my Bryan Kest Power Yoga workout this morning, I finally achieved the 'contortionist pose' (my name, not theirs) on my right side (the side with my bum hip.) In order to contortion oneself into the contortionist pose, one must lunge on your right leg, leaving your left foot at 90 degrees to your right, then lean over on the bent leg, pass your right arm under your knee, around your thigh, and bring your right arm/hand around to meet it. Desperately grasp fingers and.... voila! You are a contortionist. This is the first time I've been able to do this pre- or post-surgery, so it was quite an achievement. I attribute it mostly to upper-body flexibility, however, since it's openness through your chest/shoulders that really helps you make it happen.


The external hard drive did not miraculously repair itself as a result of it's little weekend vacation. After starting enough yesterday in order for me to access some Jamaica pics, it promptly froze again. Further research online revealed a chronic problem with this brand and, unfortunately, the workaround/fix is going to be mind-numbingly time consuming. I need to get all my files off of there (all 21GB of them), onto another storage device, and then I need to reformat the drive, remove the access application that came with it on all the computers that access it, and then put everything back on again. Given that the darn thing seems to freeze during uploads and downloads, I can tell that this project may take until December and has the potential to ruin just about every evening and weekend between now and then. I tried to move some files last night to an online storage site I was testing but, after 7 hours, it only managed to copy 1/245th of all the files. Yup. This is going to be painful.

If anyone has any recommendations about how to do this more efficiently, please let me know.

Monday, June 23, 2008

That Irie feeling is back -- somewhat

Finally, I have all my Jamaica photos uploaded to Flickr.

For those of you who got a direct email from me several days ago, you'll know that I had some problems with my external hard drive on which I store all my photos (4+ years worth). At some point in the downloading/uploading process last week, the thing just died on me. After several frustrating hours of phone-calls and restarts, I gave up on the thing and resigned myself to $500+ of data-recovery charges to get back all those photos, including some of the ones from this recent trip that hadn't made it up to Flickr yet.

Well, today I got a hair up my ass and decided to plug the thing back in again. Yippppeeee, is all I can say. It just started up as normal. Just like that. Weird, yet wonderful. So, I was able to upload the 20 or so additional photos that didn't originally make their way to the net.

Below, for your viewing pleasure, are those photos in all their glory. Because there are so many of them, they are in no particular order but that seems to work for this trip. Every third photo is a sunset or beach pic and that really sums up our vacation - lounging around on floaties, marveling at the clear, warm, Caribbean. Of course there was some adventuring for good measure - ATV'ing and Kayaking - but for the most part this is what we went there to do, and this is what we darn well did.

Click here for Jamaica photos

So, about as irie as one can get, given that we're no longer on that beach and it's 105 degrees here in Sacraghetto.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

It's Sunday

... and time to share a story I read in the Sacramento Bee this morning that really touched me: Foster son - and maybe President one day.

I can't even imagine what kind of courage it took for this 14 year old boy to run out of his family home in the middle of the night, or what depth of horrors he had been subjected to in order to make that seem like the most viable option. And then there is the Vice Principal of the school who took enough time to care...

With all the bad/sad/frustrating stories in this world, it's good for your heart to read the odd one like this once in a while. It also pulls you up a bit and makes you wonder: what difference could we make in this world if we all took the time to care about a stranger? I've already made a small stride in this direction recently, and I'll share more in a future post.

Enjoy your Sunday and, if you're in Sac, stay cool! It's baking out there!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

MORE surgery?!

Yesterday was my 3rd follow-up appointment with my surgeon following my hip surgery in March. For those of you that haven't been counting, I'm about 3 months and 1 week out from my surgery.

The reason I'm continuing to go back is because:

1) I continue to have pain/stiffness/small ROM in the same areas I had before the surgery and it's still not to the point where it's better than before the surgery.


2) I have, what we considered to be, a pissed-off nerve on the lower lateral side of my thigh resulting in constant (always there) soreness and light-touch numbness.

Number one, both PT and surgeon continue to conclude is caused by scar tissue. Fair enough; I do see some improvement with continued strength training, stretching, and manual therapy. I'll just keep all that up.

Number two, however, is something that the surgeon has kept telling me "will get better over time". You know, the ole "it should take another 6-8 weeks" diagnosis. (In medicine everything seems to "take" 6-8 weeks, so I've remained skeptical.)

Yesterday finally, the surgeon actually stopped poo-pooing my complaints about the nerve soreness/numbness and started seriously looking at what's going on. Aparently I had been through enough 6-8 week time-frames to warrant further investigation and concern. So, he poked and he prodded and I winced and grimaced. He pressed on my upper thigh/hip area where they did the surgery and asked if that affected the soreness in my lower thigh and I said "no". He pushed around that same area asking me, "So, it doesn't hurt up here at all?" and frowning when I told him no. As I had been trying to point out for 3 visits, it hurts all the way down there, about 1/2 way down my thigh on the lateral/posterior portion. Nowehere near the site of the surgery itself.

So he sat back and sighed. "Well, that's unusual. I thought it would be referred pain from where we poked around in your hip from the surgery but it's not in an area that would have been affected by that. So, it's weird. You shouldn't have pain all the way down there. Unless it's something that was caused by the traction. I thought it might be scar tissue caused by blood pooling in your thigh but then it would be hard or lumpy and it's not."

To cut to the chase, he doesn't know what or why it is. His suggestion is to......wait for it...... wait another 6-8 weeks and, if it's still sore, give me a cortisone shot (meeps!). This in and of itself my solve the problem by calming "it" down (of course, we don't actually know what "it" is; we're surmising it's a nerve but have no medical proof.) However, it may only temporarily get rid of the soreness. If it comes back after the cortisone shot, he recommends another surgery via a 3" incision (ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?) to go in there and see what's going on with the nerves. If the cortisone shot doesn't help at all then he guesses I'm just stuck with it.

There is no way in hell, heaven, or any purgatory inbetween that I am allowing that man to open me up again. Scar tissue, damaged nerves - these are the things I'm left dealing with 3 months later and all of them are a result of the surgery itself; new problems the procedure created that are actually more painful and limiting than the original injury I went under the knife to resolve. Who knows what "new" things we can create by allowing him to go in there and poke around in a new area, just (it seems) on a whim.

So, I'm resolved to being more diligent about my PT's recommendations of heat/cold therapy and more (painful) massage of the offending area. It's not that I haven't been doing these things but I haven't been doing them consistently, 2x per day, and especially not while I was away on vacation. If, after continued efforts, I still have soreness down there, I'm going to go back to my PCP and ask for a referral to a neurologist. I have to believe that there are non-invasive treatments and tests we can do to determine what's going on with my thigh and I'd certainly like to explore those before being sliced open again (if at all).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sometimes you just need to listen to the one-armed rasta man

... and he was right. Every little thing IS gonna be alright: Frankie's lump is nothing more than a fatty deposit in a weird spot. A function of being 9 years old.

On a side note: how I wish I was back on the beach chair recording this ditty right now.

More photos and videos to come later this week.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Ok, it's not a word - I made it up. It means "not irie". (See previous post titled "Irie").

We're finally back home, it's about 4:30pm and we've come down from our vacation high with a thud.

First, Maggie destructo-jaws has eaten away a good 3" area of the carpet in the family room.

Second, and more disturbingly, my elder dog, Frankie, appears to have developed a large growth around the left-hand side of his rib cage. When I say large, I mean large enough to see the protrusion when you look at him - probably 2.5" long and 1" high. It's not surface level, so it's different from the allergic, skin cysts that he has had elsewhere in the past. It seems firm, although not solid, and attached on the inside, not to the skin. He definitely didn't have it before we left because we'd just got him groomed before we took off on vacation.

So, something new to worry about until we can rush him into the vet tomorrow morning...

Delayed AGAIN.

By the time this week is over, we will have taken a total of 6 flights, 50% of which will have been delayed by 60 minutes or more.

Yes, we are delayed AGAIN.

We're sitting at John Wayne Airport, Orange County, right now and frequenting the Oasis bar/restaurant because we're bored and need to waste time. No doubt the concessions and restaurants in airports are just GIDDY at the increased frequency of delays these days - they MAKE OUT. Instead of a soda from McDonalds, we've purchased two glasses of wine, a coke, and some Parmesan potato chips (aka: heart-attack on a plate.) Our total in-airport expenditure has risen from $1.50 to $15 as a result of our 60 minute delay.

Hubby wants to rage against the machine and give the airlines (all of 'em) "what for" but, while I agree that it's just bullshit (sorry Mum, there's no other word for it), I also know that they have all the leverage and we, as mere paying travelers, have little-to-none. The only thing that can be achieved by complaining is the loss of any remaining "vacation spirit" and a higher heart rate. They've got my money and my time; I think I'm done giving up anything else of value.

Even so, I reiterate my distaste for the direction that airline travel is heading and I know I'm not the only one based upon response to my previous post. But it gets worse. Right after my last post from Charlotte, I read a USA Today article that told me that US Airlines has announced even more fees - fees for the first bag as well as the second, fees for a soda or cup of coffee, and also (which ticks me off no end) fees to redeem your frequent flyer miles. Are you kidding me? You want to charge me to redeem the miles I loyally gained from traveling with your airline consistently, and then, when I get on the plane, you want to charge me $1.50 for a cup of luke-warm, gnat-piss coffee?

But what do you do? If you need to travel you need an airline and short of becoming a multi-millionaire with my own private jet overnight, I'm not sure what else there is to do but "suck it up."

Until Sacraghetto...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Back in airline hell

So, we left behind the aqua-marine of the Caribbean sea and launched ourselves back into hell, aka: the American airline system. No sooner had the carefree lyrics of the Marley classic, "Don't Worry About a Thing", started to fade than they were replaced by the word "delay".

Air travel sucks butt.

It all started out so well in Montego Bay. Our flight was on time, it even took off a few minutes early. We were stylin'. All much to our relief, given we only had 90 minutes to get into Charlotte, deplane, get through immigration, pick up our bags, pass through customs, re-check our bags, go back through security (laptop out, shoes off, belt off, little baggie on display, repear in reverse), and hot-foot it across two terminals to our new gate - all of which we did without a hitch. We arrived at our gate approximately 20 minutes before boarding, downing a Burger King value meal on-the-run, and sat down with a sigh of relief. The departure boards in the terminal and at the gate said the flight was going out on time and we would be in Orange County in time to hit one of our favorite restaurants for a late dinner. Woo hoo!

Which was right about when Hubby noticed that there was no plane at the end of the moveable gateway thingumy. Strange, we thought, but we continued to devour our large-size fries and Whopper. And then the words every traveler dreads... "Ladies and Gentlemen, if you're traveling on flight 123 to xyz..."

Yup, that's right, all of a sudden, right there and then, despite every US Airways person and board informing us otherwise not moments before, the flight was going to be delayed 90 minutes. Aparently, despite the incoming flight having left two hours late and having been in the air for 2.5 hours already, they only just realized that it wouldn't be here in time to get us off the ground at our scheduled departure time. Amazing. It's like getting up an hour and a half late for work, sitting in two hours of traffic, and then calling in to your boss five minutes before you're about to arrive to inform them you're going to be late. No shit Sherlock.

Now we're not going to get into LAX until 10pm, which means that, by the time we've negotiated baggage-claim, the car rental shuttle, the car rental counter, and the drive, we probably won't hit our hotel in OC until near midnight. Extended vacation? Not.

The worst part is that I know our situation is not the most dire of all the travelers here at this airport right now. Both the US Airways Special Services counters we passed had lines 50 weary people deep and the departure board read as a sorry list of delays and cancellations. Some people have probably missed the only connecting flight to their destination today, or it has been cancelled, so my grumblings seem like a petty inconvenience in comparison.

The fact of the matter is that airline travel in the U.S. is not just no fun any more, it's literally a nightmare. Rising prices, shrinking legroom, scaled-back services (on a 2.5 hour flight you don't even get a pack of peanuts any more), new costs ($25 for your second suitcase, $7 for a stale sandwich, $15 for a decent seat), rolled-back schedules, and frustrating delays are only adding to the bottle-necks the airlines created with the "hub" system. It's now literally more hassle to fly across America in most cases, than it is to fly across the Atlantic. At least with the latter: (a) the hassle is proportionate to the distance (b) the travel time is mostly in the air going somewhere, and (c) there is still some pretense at maintaining services on a transatlantic flight. In the time it takes to get from Sacramento to the east coast, I could have flown all the way to England, probably with time to spare.

Which all really sucks because I never used to feel this way about the journey - I used to enjoy getting on the plane and viewed arriving at the airport as the 'beginning' of my vacation. Not so any more. Maintaining a positive attitude througout the travel experience now requires a laser focus on the pay-off.... which on the way home is much harder to do.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Irie is Jamaican patois for "doin' alright" and today that just about sums it up. We didn't do much but we were Irie aalll the live long day.

Having skipped our snorkeling trip, we read the skies and headed for the beach. It was a scorching hot day, the only one so far without an afternoon storm, and we sure made the most of it. We floated, we sun-bathed, we ate, we drank, we floated, we sunbathed, we drank, we floated, we drank, we... um... well you get the picture. At about 2pm the picture looked decidely pink - the color of our noses and shoulders - so we put on some street clothes (something not damp, hallelujah brother!) and head out to the craft market about a minute's walk outside the resort. I say "craft market" but basically it's a series of concrete huts rented out by desperate natives all hawking their version of the same tourist crap: Come to my store lady; Sweet lady I'll give you a good deal; Stay here sir, I'll give you the best deal. If I sound bitter and twisted it's not true - I'm just telling you like it is. I like trawling for the best deal on the cheesiest tourist crap,

The most amusing part of the trip was Hubby's inability to ignore a manufactured sob-story. As the only tourists in the whole place, he bought something at almost every store we visited, affected by the "woe is me" stories of the store owners. Meanwhile, I made the rounds, said my thank yous and went back and bought only the things I most liked. To the outsider it would have provided a great superfluous summary of our personalities and relationship. Hubby was also magnate to the eager drug dealers and was presented with the largest bounty of coke and "e"he'd ever seen. No, we didn't buy any. Not our style.

Late this afternoon we cleaned our sunburned bodies up, washing away the layers of suntan lotion, salty water and bug spray, and head out to Rick's Cafe, a Negril landmark since the 70s. A visit to Rick's for the Negril sunset is almost a must for any visitor. They have great fruity drinks, a cliff-top vantage point on the west-facing ocean, and live reggae music - the perfect trilogy.

It's about 9:15pm right now and we're ready to hit the main entertainment area for the staff and visitor talent contest, the staple of the "joiner"resort. Needless to say neither of us are competing; we plan to make fun of others instead.

This evening we got a sad delivery - our check-out itinerary for Friday morning. It's already that time. God, it's gone so fast.

Until tomorrow... our last day...

Oops, we did it again!

On our honeymoon in Belize last year our one night of drunken abandon was followed by a painful 4 hour road trip to Mayan ruins on the Guatemalan border. In Puerto Vallarta last December, the night before we went on a twisty-turny, 2 hour ride up the mountain to a sleepy Mexican village, we partied like it was 1999. Yesterday we had our ATV ride excursion, up into the Jamaican mountains above Lucea and guess what we did the night before? That's right... drank and danced our booties off. We seem doomed to force ourselves to endure excursions through the fog of a killer hangover.

So, yes, following my post on Monday night after the repeat-guest dinner, we joined the entertainment staff on the dancefloor until gone midnight. Of course, we were so busy getting our groove thangs on, that we didn't pay much attention to our alcohol intake. Dance, sip, dance, sip... it was a deadly combination. We had a great time but 9:30am the next morning rolled around waaaay too quickly.

We survived, however, and had a great trip up 2,200 ft above seal level to the rural town of Cascades, population 1,500, and an old slave town. Over boulders, through muddy puddles, and eventually past playgrounds of waving children in their school uniforms we zoomed, hangover or no hangover. We have photos and I have to say, if I didn't tell you I was more sluggish than a slug and had a mouth dryer than the Sahara, there is no way you would tell from the pics. Honestly, we both had a good time despite not feeling 100% and at least it was only a 45 minute ride out to the tour site, and a 2.5 hour excursion. We were back in our room by 2.30pm.

To add insult to injury, our expensive sneakers got TRASHED. The tour person at the hotel said to wear sneakers. What she didn't say was "wear sneakers you don't mind getting ruined." Of course, it just so happens that Hubby had purchased a new pair of bright-white, fancy sneakers from Fleet Feet Sports before we left for $140 - his first pair of good, new sneakers for some time. It took less than 5 minutes on those ATVs for them to be barely visible beneath a layer of mud. :o( Fortunately, I have a newer pair waiting for me at home so my grief was short-lived, but I can't even begin to tell you how horrible I felt for Hubby.

Yes, I admit, it was moi who wanted to stay on the dancefloor way past our bedtime the night before. And yes, it was moi who was giddy about the idea of ATV'ing it up the Jamaican mountains. So, yes, it was me that was to blame for Hubby's hangover and ruined fancy sneakers. I was so busy feeling bad for putting him through it all that I almost forgot I was hung over myself. I guess every cloud has a silver lining.

I'll be buying him new sneakers when we return.

p.s. We're having a GREAT time. It has stormed every day around noon but the sun comes out again around 4pm, when we grab our floaties and loll around in the still Caribbean water for a few hours before dinner. Today, through a mix-up, we missed our snorkeling trip but it's sunny and so we're heading out to catch some more vitamin D. Turrah!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Yeah Mon!

The best time to be on the beach in Negril this time of year is 5pm. The tropical thuderstorms have passed over and the sun has resurrected itself for an awesome sunset. The sand is wet, the breeze has died down, and most of the tourists have given up on the weather with a nap in their room. The aqua Caribbean water winks at you in the sun, pleading with you to wade on in, and the reggae music in the background reinforces the vacation karma. A one-armed rasta serenades you: "Don't worry about a thing, coz every little thing's gonna be alright," he crooons for his $5 tip, as you stare out onto paradise. It's almost impossible not to fall in love with this country and it's people.

Tonight, as repeat guests, we were given a special meal at the resort's most exclusive restaurant and had the opportunity to mingle with other fans of Jamaica as well as the Couples staff. I was lucky enough to be seated next to Allison, the entertainment manager, who I chatted with about children (which b0th of us have a reverance for), Sex and the City (which she'd seen and was disappointed in), and the dfference between Eurpoean and American tourists. Europeans, she said, were much more likely to rent a car and want to mingle with the locals, exploring on their own the 'real' Jamaica, whereas Americans were more likely to stay in resort and only go on the planned excursions. This made sense to me since my immediate instinct upon visiting a place is to talk to the locals and find out where they like to go for entertainment. Sure, I like the luxury resort to lay down my head, but during the day I enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of another human being, someone who experiences this life day-in, day-out.

Thunderbolts and lightening! Very, very frightening!

We were welcomed back to Jamaica with thunderous applause... I mean, er, thunder. That's right, our first 2 hours in Jamaica were spent watching torrential rain pour off the roof of the beach bar. But, the good news is:

1) We're here! YEAH MON!
2) And so is our baggage! IRIE!

Much to our relief, we hadn't idealized Jamaica or Negril in our memories. Coming to Jamaica is like being greeted by an old friend. The people are just so darn happy, laid-back and friendly, and not in that sleazy "I'll be nice to you for a while and then ask you for ten dollar" way. We rolled our suitcases out of Montego Bay customs and into the "Couples Lounge"(the meeting area for our resort) and before we were even 25 feet away, were greeted with the genuine smiles of the Couples transportation staff. Many knuckles were bumped in greeting, much "no problem"íng was exchanged, and then we headed to the bar for a glass of the national brew "Red Stripe". Within 2 hours we were checked-into our hotel and sipping Pina Coladas in the rain.

All I have to say to that is, "NO PROBLEM, MON!"

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Back on track

Now in Charlotte, waiting to board our flight to Montego Bay.

Despite leaving almost 90 minutes later than schedule from LAX (an eye-crossing 12 midnight departure) we arrived into Charlotte only 30 minutes late... ironically early enough to have made our original flight at 7:50am. Undeterred, we immediately found a US Airways supervisor, told them our plight, and managed to get the Special Services desk to get us on the 9:35am flight. We're still not entirely sure if our bags will make it - that's a big "fingers crossed" - but we physically watched the guy transmit the message to the baggage handlers to re-route our bags - the rest is in the hands of a higher power (or more specifically Carlos in baggage supervision).

Charlotte airport is nice -new, bright, airy and modern - but there is an abnormally large concentration of Starbucks - literally 2-3 in every terminal and at least one inbetween. We had to walk from terminal B to D and must have seen 6 along the way. Even for the average U.S. airport, that's overkill. You literally could have bought an espresso shot at one and downed it in time to get another at the next location. You'd be zizzing from head-to-toe with a killer caffeine high, but it's definitely doable. Nuts.

Anyway, our plane isn't far off boarding (yay, no 4 hour layover) so I'm going to sign-off. Gotta love this free airport wi-fi...

Saturday, June 07, 2008

It's not the travel, it's the transportation

Well, we're sort of on vacation... if the travel part counts. But lemme tell ya, it's not much fun yet.

It's 10:15pm on Saturday night and we're sitting at Gate 8 in Terminal One of LAX. We had a 5 hour lay-over in LAX which got extended to a 6.5 hour layover. Only 90 extra minutes but it does mean that we will miss our original connecting flight from Charlotte to Montego Bay. At check-in, the attendant put us on what he said was the next available flight from Charlotte, 3.5 hours later, which sucks because now instead of arriving in to Jamaica at 8:30 in the morning, we won't be getting in until 1:30pm - right about when we would be hoping to be sitting on the beach, Pina Colada in-hand.

However, now we find out that there was actually an earlier connecting flight (2 hours earlier) from Charlotte and that the check-in guy just bungled it. So, Hubby is busy trying to "work" the woman at the front counter. She says she can't put us back on the earlier connecting flight because our luggage is already checked and would still arrive on the later flight. Trying to go down and change the tag wa sa possibility but the check-in chick seemed to think the likelihood of that going well was low. Hubby is therefore determined to use our misfortune for a free upgrade. I'll give him points for trying but I have only ever been upgraded for complaining once in 15 years of flying (at London Heathrow after some check-in chick got shirty with me and put me on a passenger 'watch list' - I don't think she got laid the night before or something.) So, sexed-up check-in agents aside, it's not looking good.

We spent the last 4 hours wasting time by renting a car for $20 from Thrifty and driving to Manhattan Beach for a glimpse at the sparkling Pacific Ocean we miss so much, then some dinner on the Manhattan Beach Blvd. strip. All-in-all it was much better than twiddling our fingers in the US Airways lounge for the $80 day pass.

News update... Hubby got us upgraded to First Class. Still not extra time but at least for a red-eye it will be a nicer, more comfy seat. I eat my hat on the "no point in complaining 'coz they'll never give you the upgrade". Good job Hubby!

Saving laptop battery now... turrah...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Friends make the world go round

This evening I finally connected with a girlfriend I haven't spoken to in months. But still, despite the 500 miles between us and the months of silence, it was like we'd just chatted yesterday.

I left the call feeling energized, young, and happy. Despite the fact that this particular girlfriend is someone that I speak to less than casual acquaintances, I was reminded of the many reasons why she still remains my best friend.

Unfiltered, unabridged, non-judgmental... that's the definition of a true "girlfriend chat". The kind of friendship where you could call and say "I just murdered someone," and she would say "NO WAY! You have to tell me everything!".

It just made me realize how, when you've got a true friend, it doesn't matter what separates you, the things that keep you together are much stronger and more enduring.

I don't have many of these relationships, in fact I could count the ones I have on one hand, but I treasure the ones I do.

Thanks girls... and thanks to this particular girl... you know who you are and I love ya!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Give the lady a break

It just makes me mad that the media is criticizing Hillary Clinton for not having conceded the Democratic nomination yet. Why is it that, for one second, people cannot connect with this situation on a human level, regardless of their opinion of her, her policies, or her campaign?

Here is a woman who started her campaign 18 months ago, ahead in the polls and a virtual shoo-in for the nomination, and has spent months - no years - listening to the conjecture about her candidacy. A woman who has won 18 million votes and the passionate support of men and women across the country. A 60-year old woman who has attended more than 1,000 campaign events (200 more than Obama) in almost every state in our nation, has raised (like Obama) more money than any presidential campaign before her, and who has poured millions of dollars of her own fortune into the cause also. A woman who has had thousands of volunteers and staffers working tirelessly for her cause. often at the expense of their own lives and families. And a woman who has seen her husband win this same prize, who knows the taste of victory, and the reality of the grand opportunity she was given but that has slipped through her fingers.

So, why then is it impossible to imagine that even a powerful, ambitious woman, has feelings and emotions that she needs to work through after such a hard-fought campaign?

Our society seems to require women place themselves in one box or another. You're either assertive, ambitious, smart, and unfeeling (a "bitch") or you're a blithering mess who can't be relied upon to handle positions of real responsibility (hello - is this a Jane Austin novel?)

Give the lady a break, I say. Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, she is not a robot. Give her time to process the reality of her situation in the cold light of day and to consider her goodbye speech as well as Obama considers each of his well-measured words. Give her time to work through the disappointment, the goodbyes, to look beyond an end she'd never thought she'd see and toward a future that is uncertain, and space to craft that final speech in a gracious, appropriate and eloquent way. I think she's earned at least that.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Snot fun... but it soon will be!

Last week SUCKED. I was sooooo sick. I didn't know one head could hold that much snot. I went from a head so packed-up that water leaked constantly out of my eyes and nostrils, to the now globules of gunk that continue to make me giddy when I blow my nose. While I thought I was starting to come through it on Tuesday, I went rapidly downhill on Wednesday when I was essentially catatonic: I actually layed on the bed (something I never usually do, even when sick) for a whole hour without sleeping or moving, staring out the patio window. I don't think I had a single cognitive thought that whole time. There was so much goop dripping out of me, a regular box of tissues just didn't cut it. Instead I had to resort to carrying around a toilet roll and a plastic baggie, the latter for immediate and sanitary disposal of snotty tissues. I think I actually went through 3 toilet rolls last week

Still yesterday, 8 days after I first got this thing, I drove up the hill with Hubby to see his mom and the elevation change played such havoc with my ears that they popped and whined like a frying pan full of Bubble & Squeak.

So, overall: BLECH

In other news, the Gluten Free diet thing is going well. Hubby and I are discovering the secret life of packaged foods, with the result being that things we didn't think would be gluten free are, and visa versa. We've also come to recognize that this is actually quite a common issue and one that many restaurants are well equipped to deal with. At first, after reading some of the literature online. we thought we'd have to grow our own vegetables and slaughter our own cows for the rest of our life. Then we found that there are actually some well-known restaurants that not only accomodate gluten-free guests, but actually provide special menus for them. A few of note are P.F. Changs, Outback, and Chipotle. We've also upped the percentage of our groceries we purchase at Trader Joes, which has an entire 6-page PDF on their website listing all the items in their store that are gluten free. Since I already love TJs and their food tends to be cheaper than the regular grocery store, this is a win-win all around.

Hubby seems to feel that the diet is helping his digestion and, while I'm not feeling any immediate benefit, I'm not all that bothered by sticking to it. Although, I've got to say, when I was sick I could have MURDERED simple piece of wheat toast with butter. But I did not give in. Nope. Will-power won out. Actually, I could still murder a piece of wheat toast with butter, which is funny because I never ate that much bread before. It's that stupid reticular activator, I guess

Finally, this is our last work week before we head off to Jamaica - yes, the carrot at the end of the stick I offered myself, in exchange for having my hip operation. We leave on Saturday night to take a red-eye out of L.A. and arrive in Montego Bay late morning on Sunday. Then it's a one hour bus ride to Negril, the "Capital of Cool". Despite being several pounds heavier that I would like to be to don a bathing suit, I just can't wait to slip on my tankini and wade out into the clear, warm Caribbean. This will be our second time in Jamaica and our second time at the Couples Resort. Since I generally view repeat visits as a waste of valuable traveling time, you can guess just how much we loved it last time.

Sun, sand, pina coladas, and reggae... utter paradise.

Me floating in the Caribbean in December of 2005. Soon to be repeated!

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