Saturday, December 21, 2013


Everything cycles. I’ve gotten out of the habit of regular exercise. Every once in a while I think it’s good to take a break and go through a softening period. It allows me to fully recover and to start again fresh.

Even during the most recent hiatus, I still maintained an active lifestyle. In large part, thanks to my dog. I walk River at least twice a day and often go on short runs with him. I also get down on the floor and wrestle around for about twenty minutes almost every day. Also, during the time I wasn’t ‘working out’ I still taught Nia classes now and then and practiced my routine in my home studio. So I was far from sedentary.

But about a month ago I decided to get back into my old routine. I was inspired by seeing a picture of myself taken a few months ago and comparing that to what I saw in the mirror. It was clear that the time off I had given myself to soften up had done just that.

I know from experience that it isn’t a good idea to jump right into full blown workouts, so I gradually added things back in.

I started by joining a gym and re-establishing my weight lifting routine. I hadn’t been in a gym at all since I injured my shoulder in 2009.  It’s been a month now that I’ve been back at it, and I really feel good. I’m glad I am doing it again.

I’m working towards getting back into my four day cycle:

Day One: Rest and/or Recovery movements
On this day, I might do nothing but go for a walk and play with my dog and throw in some light stretches or gentle movements throughout the day. I don’t really set aside a time to spend in the studio.

Day Two: Yoga
This is a day devoted to a basic yoga sequence with a focus on relaxation and on preparing my body for more strenuous days to come.

Day Three: Metabolism
On this day, my goal is to increase my heart rate as high as possible, using athletic, full body movements and a strict timing protocol. I use the Tabata protocol, which is shown to be the most effective and efficient at increasing metabolism the most in the least amount of time. My work out lasts less than half an hour, not including warm up, cool down and meditation. But even including all of that, it’s still usually about forty minutes of movement, plus however long I meditate for.

Day Four: Strength
This is the day I go to the gym and lift weights. I’m using three sets each of Squats, Pull-ups, Dumbbell Bench Press, and Crunches. Each time I go in, I start with a very light set and then a second set with slightly more weight. That, plus the brisk, five-block walk to the gym and the fact that I always wear long pants and a hoodie sweatshirt with the hood up, serves as my warm up.

I keep track of the number of reps and set that I do of each exercise. I started off very easy and each day I gradually increase the number of reps or the weight I’m using on the third set. The first two sets are always the same weight. It was a couple of weeks before any of the exercises have felt challenging, since it was my intention to ease, rather than shock, my body back into the routine.

Up until this week, I was only doing the weight training. I hadn’t gotten back into the four day cycle so that I could accelerate my progress at the gym without rushing. But the last few times i was at the gym, I could really feel the sensation of being near my edge, so I felt it was time to add the whole cycle back in.

The day before yesterday I did this yoga routine
I was out of practice, but I got through it. My balance was wobbly and my mental endurance was way down, as I found myself leaving the mat after every four or five poses for one reason or another. I didn’t get upset by it or belittle or judge my experience, and I made it through the sequence despite almost prematurely quitting twice. Afterwards I felt very ethereal for about half an hour, but after I took a shower and ate, my body felt so comfortable and emotionally, I was very peaceful.

When I use my home studio, I use my video camera as a self-coaching tool. Upon watching the video of this yoga practice, I was alerted to a situation I need to address; an exaggerated curvature in my spine in both my lower back and middle back. My lumbar curve was lordotic and my thoracic curve was kyphotic. That’s fancy talk for “I was slouching”. 

But, unfortunately it isn’t only due to the fact that I was slouching in the studio. I wondered if it was a by-product of the softening period. Or maybe it was developed from doing squats with weights on my shoulders for the past month. But then I wondered if was something that developed while I was doing so much driving this past year, or maybe it is just a new postural attitude I’ve taken on gradually without noticing.

The good news is that I’ve noticed it now and now that I’m aware of it, I can correct it before it becomes a real problem. Maybe I’ll ask someone to shoot a video of me doing my squats at the gym, just to be sure I’m not using bad form.

Another thing that I noticed is that I sometimes look at the reflection in the glass doors to stabilize myself.  Mostly, I just use a soft gaze and don’t really look ‘at’ anything, but there’s something very grounding about the mirror image sometimes. I also sometimes look at the video monitor while shooting my practice. But rather than a reversed mirror image like I’m used to, what I see is the actual video image. So, for example if I see in the monitor that my left shoulder is higher than my right, I’d raise my left shoulder even higher. But then the higher shoulder would go up further in the video image and I’d respond by rising it even higher!

So... I need to not look at the monitor at the very least. And maybe consider getting a mirror for my studio.

Yesterday was the first day I added the metabolic workout back into the mix. It was rough, but it was meant to be. I was focused on learning new movements as well as incorporating my new awareness of my spinal curves. I have done this same routine a couple of years ago, so I was working on increasing the sophistication and challenge of each of the six movements. My cardiovascular system couldn’t keep up with the intensity that my body remembered being at when I had done the same movements last year. I know I’ll get there, and then improve even more, but for now, it was a strange feeling.

Today, is supposed to be Day Four of the cycle. Today I am scheduled to go to the gym and lift heavy weights. It’s 5:00 pm on the shortest day of the year and I still haven’t gone. I’ve decided to insert a special day of rest in honor of Saturnalia.

Just kidding. I’m sore! My legs, my butt, my lats, my arms. Just wrecked. It would be a waste of time for me to go to the gym right now. I’m in no shape to go in there and lift heavier than I did when I was there four days ago. I know that. But if I rested today, I feel like I could go in there tomorrow and blast it out, no problem.

And then I will go right back to the cycle, which would mean resting AGAIN the next day.
I don’t think this will happen every time I go through the cycle. I think that I was unusually sore after yesterday because it was new. My body will repair itself for me to go back and do the same thing again, so it won’t be nearly as traumatizing to me muscularly.

Today: Solstice Yule Rest of Saturnalia
Sun DAY 4 - weights
Mon DAY 1 - rest
Tues DAY 2 - yoga
Wed DAY 3 - metabolic
Thu DAY 4 - weights
Fri DAY 1 - rest
Sat DAY 2 - yoga
Sun DAY 3 - metabolic
Mon DAY 4 - weights
Tues DAY 1 - rest

River's Vocabulary

Although much of my communication with River is through body language and gestures and quite a bit of it is through my tone and intention, there are a number of words that it is clear that he recognizes and responds to, even out of context.

RIVER - he recognizes his name, but his response is not prescribed

SIT - he sits

LIE DOWN - he lies down

GO LIE DOWN - he walks over to his bed (usually used when I’m at the dinner table)

HERE - he knows I have something in my hand

COME - he immediately walks to me

STAY - he stays where he is

STOP - he stops walking and sits down

WAIT - he stops walking but doesn’t have to sit

HUNGRY - indicates food is imminent

FOOD - same as above

GET YOUR _________ - he’ll go and retrieve the item indicated. Items he can ‘get’ are:

    KONG - feeding toy
    TOY - rope used for tugging
    ROPE - another word for ‘toy’
    BEAR - stuffed animal
    BONE - a bone

TOUCH - he’ll tap my outstretched hand with his nose

KISS - he’ll tap my face with his nose

HUG - he’ll press his body against mine

SPIN - he’ll make a 360

JUMP - all four legs, or at least his front legs come off the ground, depending on his excitement level 

BE RIGHT BACK - he knows I’m leaving him alone

SAY HI - he’ll walk over to someone else with their hand outstretched, tap their hand with his nose and then return to me

HEEL - he walks at my right side

BACK - he walks backwards into the ‘heel’ position

GO HOME - he goes into his crate

SHAKE - he puts his paw into my hand

PAW - he presents his paws to me, one at a time (usually for drying after a walk in the rain)

GO - his signal to chase or fetch something

OK - he is released from his ‘heel’ or ‘stay’

LEAVE IT - he ignores whatever he’s been focused on, even if it’s food

CIRCLE - going outside just to pee on the nearest tree and then come right back in

WALK - walking on leash

UP - he’ll jump up on a bench or a wall, etc

OFF - he’ll jump off same

TUG - he’ll grab the other half of what I’m holding and pull

PUSH - he’ll charge at me, pushing his chest into my outstretched hand

ALL THE WAY UP - he’ll run up the stairs and wait for me at the top

THIS WAY - when we’re walking or running together, he’ll change directions toward me

NO - he’ll stop doing what he’s doing. it is usually followed up by a suggestion for what to do instead

GO AROUND - he’ll walk toward me, walk past me on my left, walk around behind me and end up on my right side facing the same direction as me

ROLL OVER - he’ll roll over

READY - he’ll be on alert that a command is coming and wait for it

OW! - if he puts his teeth on me during playtime, this ends the game.

FACE - he presents his nose to me so I can slip a leash over his head

POOP - he will immediately start looking for the right spot

WANNA GO TO THE ____? - it doesn’t matter what the last word is, he wants to go anywhere I suggest

EXCUSE ME - he'll move out of my way

GO TO YOUR PAD - he'll go to sit on a bath mat near the front door

There are probably more, but this is all I can think of at this time.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Learn the GOLDFINGER (aka Bond Girls) Nia routine


Full Schedule:

1- Take the Class
Sunday, January 5
4:00 - 5:00pm
Century Ballroom West Hall
915 E Pine St. Second Floor

Class is open to the public for $10 --FREE to those attending the full training.

2- Do the 8BCs
Saturday, January 11
2:00 - 6:00 pm
JAG Studio
1208 E Republican St, Capitol Hill, Seattle

3- Learn the Moves
Saturday, January 18
2:30 - 6:30 pm
Dance Space Studio, Greenwood, Seattle

4- Teach what you Know
GOLDFINGER teacher Jam
Saturday, February 1
11:00 am - Noon
Century Ballroom West Hall
915 E Pine St. Second Floor

Class is open to the public for $5

Cost for full training is $75. If you attended the BOND GIRLS training in October of 2010, you can attend the GOLDFINGER training at a discount.

Scroll to the bottom of this page to preregister, or pay in cash on the day of the first class.

None of the sessions are required to learn the routine. If you can't make a session and are still interested in learning it, contact me and we can arrange a special session for you.

GOLDFINGER is a Nia routine created by Jason Alan Griffin. Originally it was called BOND GIRLS, but it has since been renamed with a less gender-specific moniker. The routine was inspired by hearing the album Shirley Bassey The Remix Album. Diamonds Are Forever. Shirley Bassey is the voice of three James Bond movie theme songs: Moonraker, Diamonds are Forever and Goldfinger. She’s also done her versions of such classic songs as Hey Big Spender, Spinning Wheel and Where Do I Begin? (the theme to ‘Love Story’).  Upon hearing the album of remixes, JAG says, “It was so exciting to hear these classic songs given a new, modern technological twist, and as soon as I heard the album, I knew I had to teach Nia to it.”

The routine took a few months to come together and has taken on a strong James Bond theme. It was unleashed on the public in 2010 when it was taught in New York City, Santa Barbara, Eugene, Seattle and Portland. The routine and the espionage themed movements excites and thrills people whenever it is taught.

In early 2014, JAG is going to be training a select few teachers in Seattle to lead this routine. You could be teaching this great routine by February, 2014. If you are ready to get started, all you have to do is register for the training and complete the following four missions between now and the end of January. Your training with JAG can start as soon as you are ready and will culminate with a special GOLDFINGER JAM in late January. (exact date to be announced)

Back in 2010, there was a training of about eight “Bond Girls” in Seattle. Anyone who was present and previously trained on that weekend can attend any part of the current training for only $35. Contact JAG to register if that's the case.

This 'Learn the Goldfinger Routine' training will take place in four steps called ‘missions'. Student teachers are given plenty of opportunity to learn their own way and in their own Natural Time. None of the following sessions are required. You are free to do whatever you feel you need to do to learn and embody this routine.

Experience the Goldfinger routine.
aka Take the Class

On Sunday, January 5, 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm at the West Hall of the Century Ballroom, 915 E Pine St. JAG will teach the Goldfinger routine to the public, including the trainees. This dynamic and playful Nia routine with a 007 flavored theme is focused on the Pelvis/Chest/Head body weights. The intention is to infuse sensuality into the Martial Arts. 

The admission to this class is $10 for general public but the cost is covered by the fees for the full training package. If you can’t make that class, no worries, there may be other opportunities to take the class between now and the end of January.  If it is at all possible to arrange it, JAG can even teach the routine as a guest teacher in your class. But even if you don’t get the opportunity to take Goldfinger, it won’t prevent you from learning it.

This class will be video taped and a copy will be given to all attendees for future reference.

Get Familiar with the Music
aka Do Your 8BCs

Upon registering, you will receive the playlist and a copy of the 8BCs so you can immediately begin to get familiar with its nuances and overall feel.

There will be one, four-hour session devoted to meeting as a group and going over the ‘bars’. All of the Goldfinger trainees will gather and go through the entire routine making note on their copy of the bars. If you want to bar the music on your own, you can certainly do it before we meet, and it would be very helpful, but not necessary.  The session we’ll have together will be for going over the ones JAG has already done and following along with the music. JAG will share how he hears the music and explain why his bars are how they are.

If you cannot make the session included in the training and/or you need more personalized attention, you can set up a one-on-one training session with JAG at the special discount rate of $20/hour. This special rate is valid from the time you register for the training until the Goldfinger Jam at the end of January. After that, should any further training be desired, JAG’s regular rate is $80/hour. 

"Bond Girls" at Nia Moves in Houston, TX - October 2010


Learn the Moves
& Move the Moves

We’ll get together as a group a different time for another four-hour session. This one is devoted to getting the choreography written down on your bar sheet as well as getting it into your body.  The session will be a download of all the katas that make up the routine and special attention will be given to transitions and unusual places in the music.



aka Nia Teacher “Goldfinger” Jam taught by JAG and the teachers in training

Saturday, February 1
11:00 am to Noon
West Hall Century Ballroom
 $5 for general public

Trainees will be given the opportunity to choose one or two songs to fully embody in order to lead a song or two in the Goldfinger Jam. Plenty of time will be given in between the choreography download of Mission Three and the final Goldfinger Jam so that teacher will have time to practice on their own or arrange more special training sessions if needed.

This is going to be a hugely fun community event. We will divide the songs up and teach the Goldfinger routine Jam style. There is no pressure, of course. This is all supportive. No one will be forced to teach, although it is highly encouraged as it is a safe environment to explore some really fast learning. 

The exact time and location of this Jam is yet to be determined.

The sooner you register, the sooner you can get started. 

Register here using PayPal, or contact JAG to arrange registration.

Those trainees that sign up the earliest will help influence the schedule and timing of future training missions, which have not been firmly established yet. 

Register for Training

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I don’t fit into a mold. And I don’t fall into formation very easily. My whole life I have felt like I was observing our society from the outside. Or at least from the very edge, looking in. And most of what I see confounds me. 

I’m especially confounded by traditions. When people practice something for the simple and sole reason that they did so last year, and the year prior, and their grandparents did it, and before that, and so on. I’ve heard and believed for a long time that ‘tradition’ is one of the worse reasons there is for doing something. Like religion, tradition is dangerous in that people will mindlessly follow it without question or justification.

I pride myself on doing everything with consciousness and purpose. And it is important to me that the feelings I express and the actions I take come from a real truth inside of me, or I won’t do them. Because of this, I find myself hesitant to fall into the trappings of these traditions.

Many days that are designated as holidays carry with them lots of traditions that I witness masses of people following along with. I always felt uncomfortable with the fact that I was supposed to express love to my mother on the second Sunday in May, or that I was supposed to remember veterans in November and May and surprise my loved one with chocolate in February. I prefer to choose when I give my heartfelt sentiments, not to be told when and how. Thanksgiving Day is one of these days.

Knowing the history of the USA makes me ashamed. While I’m glad that I was born in and live in America, I’m certainly not proud of the country and the things it has done and is doing. It’s like having a big brother who’s a bully to kids in the schoolyard--you still love him, but he’s embarrassing.

So to spend a day devoted to the memory of our genocidal beginnings does not sit right with me. Since becoming an adult, I have learned that the images and the fairy tale we were told about the origins and purpose of the holiday are a gross misrepresentation of what really happened and I’m not cool with celebrating the reality of it.

So then people will tell me that it’s a day for giving thanks and spending with family and friends. And my answer to that is, “Yes, but so was yesterday.  And so is tomorrow.”
And wouldn’t it be more meaningful if it wasn’t on the calendar and expected of you to participate? 

When someone thanks you, it feels good because it comes from them; it is their truth and they chose to say it. But what if someone were reprimanded for not thanking you and told they they had to thank you. So you stand there, expecting it, waiting for it. And when they finally do, how does that gratitude feel?  Sincere?  No. Forced. Platitude gratitude.

That’s how I feel about all of the Thanksgiving Day sentiment. I’m not a grinch, but also I'm not impressed. I don’t disapprove of giving thanks, but when it comes as a response to what holiday it is, I don't feel it. I already live my whole life feeling grateful. I don’t need a day set aside for it. It’s kind of insulting, actually, to suggest that I need to be reminded to feel grateful.

And won’t someone please think about the turkeys? There are no humane regulations on the raising, shipping and slaughter of most of these poor creatures. Unfeeling, factory-type farms will spew out over 46 million turkeys this year who may have felt nothing but fear and pain their whole lives.

Thanks to Bill Chameides at Duke-Nicholas School of the Environment for the following information:

 The Industrial Factory-Farmed Turkey
Most industrial turkeys are produced by a vertically integrated company, which owns the hatchery, feedmill, and processing plant, and contracts with a grower. Two companies (Nicholas and Hybrid Canada) control the genetic material for all broad-breasted, white turkeys.
Day 1 – Hatched. Our chick is put into a harness. Toenails and beak tip are zapped off with high-intensity light (essentially sunburned). The birds are vaccinated with aerosol spray and sorted by sex. Then they are shipped to a nearby contract farm (up to 6 hours away from the hatchery), 100 birds to a box.
At the Farm. The chick goes to a brooder barn where it is placed in a so-called brooder ring — 1,000 birds per ring and 10 rings to a barn. Their feed is a corn-and-soybean meal mash/crumble that is fortified with vitamins, minerals, low-level growth antibiotics, and, for a time, an additive that controls common parasitic disease.
The barn floor is covered with wood shavings, rice hulls, or other local materials to absorb waste. Lights extend daylight hours to keep birds eating.
Day 4 or 5. Brooder ring is removed. Our bird, now a hen, will remain inside until processing, where it is given about 0.7 square feet to strut its stuff — that’s a little more than a 6”x6” space. This will increase to about 1.5 square feet over its lifetime.
Week 12-13 or 16. Slaughter time depends upon size. A relatively small hen (around 14 lbs.) will be slaughtered in 12–13 weeks, a large one (18 lbs.) in about 16 weeks. The hens are rounded up, eight to a cage, and taken to be processed.
The Slaughter House. Our bird is shackled upside down to an automated conveyor where it is stunned, slaughtered, processed, and inspected. It is then placed in a chilled bath with disinfectant, some of which the turkey will absorb. The bird is then injected with saline solution, vegetable oils, and other additives to improve taste and texture. These plump the bird’s weight by about 7.5 percent.
That’s the life of the typical Thanksgiving turkey.

  here is a link to PETA's take on it

I know that many people will read this and start defending their right to practice the holiday. But to that I say, there’s no need. Go ahead. No one is trying to take the holiday away from you. I’m only explaining here why I don’t participate.

I also feel like I have to mention another piece of evidence that people use traditions to divorce themselves from their own internal signals. That is the gluttony that is embraced on this holiday. It pains me to hear people talk about how they ate so much that they couldn’t fasten their pants or that they went into a food coma. Because of my profession and commitment to good health, I recognize the disordered behavior as unnecessary, decadent and dangerous. 

Equally, I’m disturbed by all of the people who are in the gym the next day ferociously ‘burning off their pumpkin pie’. In my mind it takes the celebration right out of the occasion and turns it into an opportunity for expressing food fear and body shaming. 

Even those who choose to follow a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal plan can do so without overeating. Simply take a small serving of each dish. A few bites of each will be plenty if there is a true bounty of offerings. There’s no need to stuff yourself. And one piece of dessert is fine. Don’t feel guilty about it or feel you have to work extra hard in the gym the next day as penance.

Here is the opinion of someone who also doesn’t celebrate the holiday, but for more political reasons. In addition to my personal bent, I choose not to turn a blind eye to this perspective and to be circumspect about my celebrations out of respect. One could just as easily consider today a memorial holiday. I feel more morally and spiritually aligned with honoring this reality than the traditional one.

So, while I’m grateful for everything I have in my life, my friends, my family, my health, my happiness, my material possessions and my spiritual connection to you and the whole universe, I’ll be having lasagna tonight.

Below I have included links to a few resources for anyone who's interested to begin investigating more humanely raised turkeys:
Local Harvest Turkeys
Animal Welfare Approved
Eat Well Guide

 Thank You!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fall Shedding for Winter Hibernation

I know we are still in the middle of fall and have another month left before winter even starts, but I’m already starting to feel the shift. 

In Seattle, the weather has started to turn colder, which always makes me think of death. Not in a morbid way, but just as a part of the cycle of life and progress. Living things die and new ones are born. It’s seasonal and natural.  I don’t avoid talking about, acknowledging or even embracing the idea that loved ones die or will die someday. Living life without taking tomorrow for granted really makes each day special. 

As my way of honoring the feelings that I get around winter, I become aware of welcoming death in my life. I use it as a time to de-clutter my thoughts and my surroundings and my lifestyle; to slough off the old skin so I can start with fresh skin again in the spring.

One of the things I’ve found myself doing this fall is systematically eliminating things that I’m either abusing through overuse or are just simply not serving me at all anymore like late night dessert; cookies, ice cream, etc. Since I’m not that concerned with weight loss, and I’m active, I can allow myself a bit of indulgence in that department. But I know there are other health concerns (and even other cosmetic concerns if you consider the effect of sugar on the look of the skin)  with overusing these things, and lately I’ve become aware of doing it too much and too often. So now I’m making a conscious choice not to do it at all for a while and to examine what my reaction is. I feel like there is a place in my life for sinful, sugary desserts, but I would rather have that be the exception to the rule than a habit. I have not set a final day for this experiment, but my thinking is that at some point in the next few days, I will feel an insurmountable urge and will take note of how many days has passed. It might give me an idea of what sort of frequency to allow the desserts.

Maybe it is the shorter days, or the lower temperatures, or the golden color of the leaves, but yesterday, I started to become aware that I was addicted to Facebook.  It was the first thing I opened in the morning, and the last thing I closed at night and was the focus of my attention numerous times during the day. So yesterday afternoon, I shut it off and made a commitment not to look at it for three days. And at that time, I’ll examine my reaction to both not having access to it and also when the three days are up, what my new feelings will be about re-approaching it. 

So far, it’s only been about 24 hours and I’m alarmed by how often I almost open it up. It has become a reflexive habit. I also had to change the settings on my computer because it would tend to default back to Facebook and before I could close the browser, I’d catch a glimpse that I had 24 notifications. The urge was strong, but instead I ignored them, closed the browser and got a lot of stuff accomplished that day. 

The following morning, I had the spare time to go through all the closets and gather up the ‘junk’ that’s collected in the past year. Old shoes, gifts I never opened and clothing that hasn’t been and/or won’t be worn any longer and put them all in bags. Then put all the bags in Thumper’s boot. I don’t drive often, but the next time I go somewhere, I’ll see them and can quickly swing by a donation bin that’s in a parking lot right in the neighborhood.

The day after that, I devoted to deleting things from my computer to free up space on my hard drive. By investigating why so many of my photos showed up multiple times, I ended up discovering a folder called ‘deleted emails’. There were over 6000 emails with pictures attached. Every time I sent a picture to someone, another copy of it was saved in this folder even though I thought they were deleted. But after I deleted all the emails in that folder, I saw that the duplicates of many of my pictures were gone. I also found a whole folder of duplicates of movies and a couple of video games I never play anymore. I ended up clearing out over 10 GB of space. 

I'm not sure what part of my life will be the next to get reduced, or if I'm done for now, but I thought I'd share a bit of my annual downsizing process.

Friday, November 15, 2013

What I Ate Today

This is an accounting of a day's worth of eating.

I'm only posting this at the request of a friend of mine. I want to be clear that I am not making any reccommendations that anyone adopt this as their diet. I have put no thought into the planning, and make no claims that this is any sort of ideal diet. It's just me, having a typical day but have decided to document it and publish it.

First, upon waking, I squeezed half a lemon into a glass of water and drank it down. Then made a pot of coffee and had my one cup, black!

BREAKFAST: I used a vegetable peeler to lay thin slices of carrot into some butter cooking on the stove. Then I added two eggs and dumped some leftover collard greens from last nights dinner. I sprinkled it with some cajun spices and let it cook for a while. I like the whites to be cooked, but the yolks to be runny.

LUNCH: about three hours later, I was hungry again, so I had a big salad:
a big handful of mixed greens including boy choy, cilantro, parsley, spinach, arugula and tango
more of that same carrot, peeled with a vegetable peeler
a handful of mixed sunflower and pumpkin seeds
a handful of finely chopped raw cauliflower
with the veggie peeler I added a few slivers of cheddar cheese and some zest of the lemon I had used earlier
a chopped handful of cucumber
a handful of garbanzo beans
olive oil, salt and pepper for dressing

DINNER: another salad, with spinach, cucumber, garbanzo beans, mancheca cheese,
also some steamed broccoli, roasted sweet potatoes and some basmati rice.

The portions I use are not typical. My salad takes up half the dinner plate and the amount of rice I serve is about as much as an ice cream scooper.

This morning, I woke up and had my water with lemon.
I'm planning to have some rice for breakfast, with a handful of seeds (pumpkin and sunflower) some cinnamon and coconut milk.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sales Resistance at Gold's Gym

So, the other day I happened across a Groupon offering a month-long membership to Gold’s Gym, including two personal training sessions, for only $19.  I had been flirting with the idea of going back into the gym for some weight-lifting, as I had sworn off of the activity five years early and was curious about what it might do for me now.

So I brought the voucher into Gold’s and was sent to a sales desk, where the girl there tried her best to ‘upsell’ me. Unfortunately for her, I have worked at gyms all my adult life and I know the hard sell tactics.

She started by first trying to build rapport with me, but she has a self-defeating habit of not listening to people when they answer her questions. This causes her to re-ask the same questions and instead of creating a bond, actually creating a rift between us.

I had no intention of buying anything but the free month I came in for, but I let her run her spiel and even enlist the support of her fellow salesman when I balked at the ridiculous concept of a $29.99 maintenance fee.  

My original plan was and is to lift weights for three months. I intended to use this free month first and then see about what kind of rate I can get for two more months. And if there was nothing forthcoming in the way of manageable rates, I’d switch to another gym. My first choice was this Gold’s Gym however, due it being a short, four block walk from my house.

But when the salespeople started talking money, they couldn’t understand my hesitancy to accept the $29.99 fee.  I tried to explain to them that it was just like adding $15 to my monthly payment, since I was only going to be paying for two months. I told them that the extra $30 was a ‘deal killer’ but they acted as if their hands were tied and couldn’t do anything for me. 

I know that they can write any kind of contract they want, but were trying to strong-arm me. And they lost. In the end, I walked into the gym using my Groupon and making no further purchases.

I’ll give them another chance to offer me a decent rate for December and January, but if they remain adamant about the extra fee, I’ll have to go somewhere else. 

The gym suits my needs, which are minimal.

I don’t need classes and I don’t do cardio machines. I am not interested in personal training, nor do I use weight machines. I won’t even be using the locker room. My routine consists of walking to the gym, doing four exercises and walking home. A no-frills gym is perfectly suited to me. 

This gym has a bit of a funky smell. I know the smell all too well from being a highschool athlete. The unmistakable smell is of unwashed, sweaty clothes and/or carpeting. I don’t mind it, but I can understand how it would be very off-putting to many people. 

The equipment I used is fine for my need. All I wanted was a power rack for doing barbell squats, a pull-down or assisted pull up machine until I work up to free pull ups, a bench for dumbbell bench press and a piece of floor and some weight plates for weighted crunches.


I started very light today, basically just going through the motions and setting a baseline. I could easily lift more than I was doing today, but this type of progressive overload works best for me when I start easy and build up momentum going into the challenging stuff. If I went right for the challenging stuff right away, I'd end up progressing a lot less in the end.

My plan is to go back about every other day and very slightly increase the amount of weight I’m lifting. Once I can do twelve repetitions in good form, I increase the weight slightly. If i cannot do at least five good reps, then I lower the weight. By slightly increasing my reps or my weight each time, I will safely, gradually and systematically be increasing my muscle size and strength.

I’ll check in after a few sessions and report my progress or anything of interest that might come up.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I found a Groupon for Gold's Gym.

$19 for a month, including two personal training sessions. I'm not really interested in the PT sessions, except maybe if I can get one to take all of my measurements as a BEFORE baseline.

I'm not unhappy with the shape I'm in, but I know that my muscles were bigger and more defined back when I was lifting weights, so I'm curious to see how much effort it takes to regain some of that.

I have a tendency to see a goal and then go for that goal with 150% effort. And with something like this, it would be very easy to hurt myself doing that, so I have to keep myself honest, realistic and patient.

I'm off to Gold's Gym now, to sign up and get started.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

SQUAT / PLANK Challenge

I was sifting through Facebook last week and came across this anatomical drawing of a person doing a plank exercise with all of the muscled affected in dark red.
It was meant to show how valuable and efficient an exercise it really is.
Which I agree with. I often include planks and/or plank variations in my workouts.

Along with the graphic was written:
The 30 Day Plank Challenge will send your core strength through the roof!
Day 1 - 20 seconds
Day 2 - 20 seconds
Day 3 - 30 seconds
Day 4 - 30 seconds
Day 5 - 40 seconds
Day 6 - REST
Day 7 - 45 seconds
Day 8 - 45 seconds
Day 9 - 60 seconds
Day 10 - 60 seconds
Day 11 - 60 seconds
Day 12 - 90 seconds
Day 13 - REST
Day 14 - 90 seconds
Day 15 - 90 seconds
Day 16 - 120 seconds
Day 17 - 120 seconds
Day 18 - 150 seconds
Day 19 - REST
Day 20 - 150 seconds
Day 21 - 150 seconds
Day 22 - 180 seconds
Day 23 - 180 seconds
Day 24 - 210 seconds
Day 25 - 210 seconds
Day 26 - REST
Day 27 - 240 seconds
Day 28 - 240 seconds
Day 29 - 270 seconds

I was intrigued and impressed. I am aware of the power of gradual progression and also aware that those planks at the end were for longer than I have ever held nor even attempted to hold a plank in my life. In fact, I wasn't even sure I would be able to do it.

So, of course I accepted the challenge anyway. And I even upped the ante by including a squat. I figured the squat would help balance out the program by having a strong focus on the back of the body while the plank focuses more on the front.

I shared the picture and posted this message on my Facebook JAG Healthy Lifestyle page:
This program is simple and doesn't look like much, but by the end of the month, if you're doing those four minute planks, you'll notice that you're incredibly strong. I'm going to start this today. It starts easy, with only 20 seconds and builds quickly. I'm also going to do a squat for the same time period. Feel free to join me.

Day Two
Today was easy, but an important part of the program overall.

I didn't film Day Three, but I was surprised  how much difference it made to add ten seconds. It still wasn't terribly hard, but I was a bit surprised at how much longer it felt.

Day Five
My video camera shut down during the session, but I posted what I got.

Day Six was a day of rest, which I enjoyed. 

I shot this one this morning, Day Seven

As you can hear me say in that last video, everything so far has been pretty easy. The only day that has even felt slightly weird was on Day Three, when we went from 20 to 30 seconds. Other than that, so far it's been smooth sailing and I'm eager for more.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

“To market, to market to buy a fat pig. Home again, home again, jiggity jig.”

I remember this nursery rhyme from my childhood, but haven’t thought about it in a long while. But now that I think of it, is it saying that people used to buy whole pigs from the market? And then what? Take them home and kill them and cut them into steaks and chops? Wow. 
That same rhyme today would be more like “To market to market to buy some slabs of meat that I don’t associate as coming from a cute animal, placed on a Styrofoam tray and wrapped in plastic wrap.  Home again, home again, sitting in my SUV, grumbling about traffic.”

Anyway, yes, today was the last day of our epic journey.

We woke up in Centralia and were prepared to head to Olympia for our last gig and last night in a motel. But when I entered the address of the motel into my navigation, it told me I’d be there in 20 minutes!  Even though we slept in late and got a late start today, I wouldn’t be able to check into the motel in Olympia until 3 o’clock. I noticed that I’d have enough time to drive all the way back to Seattle and return to Olympia in that time. 

So, that’s what I decided to do. 

After stopping in Centralia for some local coffee at a shop recommended by a friend, we hit the road for Seattle. (Yes, the coffee was good, by the way. And VERY caffeinated. I think it was a lighter roast than I would normally choose, so after drinking 8 ounces, I was bouncing off the walls.)

River really took notice when we were in Seattle. He went into high alert sniffing mode. Of course I could project what he was feeling, but let’s just keep it at my observations. When we got back to the house, he quickly ran all over the place, sniffing and wagging his tail. 

I unpacked and went through a huge stack of mail. I then sat down and put together my playlist for tonight’s class in Olympia. 

I showered and got back in the car, which River was hesitant to do, but ultimately he complied. I allowed myself over two hours to drive the 60 miles from Seattle to Olympia, as I knew from experience that traffic along that route was particularly bad, especially in the late afternoon. 

I opted not to stop for food, even though I was hungry, because I didn’t want to use up the time. I figured, if I could make it to Olympia with time to spare then I could grab something before class. However, as it turned out, the traffic nearly doubled the time it should take to go those 60 miles, and I pulled into town and parked the car in just about enough time to arrive at the studio for the start of class.

River started whining in the car when we got near the big park near the studio. If you have been following my saga, you may remember that this is the same park in which I learned that grabbing onto that nylon leash was a bad idea. River had no bad associations with the park, obviously. I interpret his whining as a longing and an anticipation. He makes the sound when he sees a big grassy field and usually when I’ve stopped the car and am undoing his seatbelt. Too bad there was no time for enjoying the big lawn.

The trip was in vain, however, as no one showed up. Julia and I chatted and played with River for about an hour in the studio before we packed up and left. We’ll keep trying to make something happen for us in Olympia. We’ve had successful events there in the past, so there’s no reason it won’t happen again. It just wasn’t in the cards this time.

So that wraps up the 2013 Great Lakes and Texas Road Tour. I had a great time, and I trust River did, too. He never gave an indication that he wasn’t enjoying himself. We met lots of lovely people and visited many beautiful and interesting places.  I will go ahead and speak for both of us when I say, ‘We’re looking forward to doing this again.” But for now, it’s nice to be home.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Scenic Route to Centralia

Our destination today was only 90 minutes from Portland. So we didn’t rush getting out, but ended up hitting the pavement by about 11:30. We stopped for coffee at a Starbucks and it was such a nice morning, that we sat in the chair set aside across the parking lot for smoking. No one was there, so there was no smoking, but it was right in the sun. I took off my shirt and enjoyed my coffee while River sniffed around the trees and bushes that were in the area.

Once on the road, it wasn’t long before we were going over the Columbia River, on which there is a sign saying “Leaving Portland” and another saying “Entering Washington.”

I drove a few miles until I got to Vancouver and decided I wanted to take a detour. At the rate I was going, if I went directly to the motel, I’d arrive hours before the check in time. So we went east.

I didn’t have a plan, but ended up doing some pretty cool things. The first really cool thing I noticed was Mount Hood way off in the distance. Can you see it?

I'm sorry. It looks like in the translation from being emailed and then posted here, the video lost enough resolution to completely obliterate the mountain. But I promise, it's a spectacular sight.

We drove on a road along the Washougal River, and stopped at one point so River could get his feet wet in the same.

A bit later, we stopped for a picnic lunch near Dougal Falls.

We took the Lewis and Clark Highway back west after lunch, and passed by Cape Horn, which was all beautiful and worth coming back to see again.

We got to the motel at a little bit after four, which gave me enough time to do a load of laundry before heading out to teach tonight’s class.

So, with my newly washed patriotic shorts and white V-neck T-shirt that has become my official uniform of this routine, I headed to the space to teach ROCKIN once again. This time it was at the newly established Embody Movement Studio. Christina Mae Wolf is the proprietor and my producer for the class, and she has a gorgeous, spacious studio in what seems like ‘old town’ Centralia.

It is a brand new space and there hasn’t been much time to establish a Nia community, but we had a pretty good turn-out and those that were there had a blast. The reception was warm and passionate and we’re hoping to be able to do it again there, soon.

Lunch earlier today has a bit of a funky taste to it. Just the chicken. So I didn’t eat but that one bite of the chicken. I ate only the vegetables and didn’t take my chance on the meat, since it has been four days since I cooked it, and I may have gotten a bit lax on the changing of the ice in the cooler, so the temperature may have risen dangerously high.

Dinner, as well, had a funky smell to it upon opening the tupperware, so I didn’t eat any of it. I threw it all away and taught class on an empty stomach. Now, it’s almost 9:30. I hope it’s not too late to order a pizza in Centralia, because I’m famished!


So the first thing I wanted to do this morning was to pay a visit to Nia HQ in downtown Portland. I had actually intended to get up and make it to the 9:30 am Nia class, but at 8:00 am, I had a better idea; more sleep.

Plus I justified it by remembering how bad the parking situation is downtown, and how much of a shlep it would be carrying the cage and blankets to the building and up the stairs. I also thought maybe it wouldn’t be cool to just drop by with a dog, unannounced. So I rolled over and slept some more. 

I did eventually get out of bed (obviously) and did eventually work my way down to HQ. I peeked in the studio and saw the White Belt training going on. I was surprised at how few people there were. I guess I was expecting to see 50 or 60 people, but I only saw about four in there today. There could have been more, as I didn’t see the entire room.

Then I went downstairs into the offices and River met the two dogs that were there.  I said Hi to Debbie Rosas. We talked a little bit about my road trip and about why I wasn't teaching in the studio while I was here, and the upcoming First Degree Black Belt Intensive in February. And even covering all that, I didn’t stay long; she had work to do and River was excited by the other dogs and wanted to play and was starting to tear the office apart.

As we were leaving, the little dachshund was goading River all the way down four flights of stairs. I was afraid he was going to follow us all the way outside. But he ended up stopping at the top of the last flight of stairs. I guess he just wanted to be sure we found the door all right.

But still, before I allowed River his playtime, I needed to get some coffee and some food. I poked my head into the Elephant cafe, which is near the Pioneer Square Park and had outdoor seating. The girl that worked there, saw me come in. We made eye contact. And then, it seemed, she was intentionally hiding her face from my view behind the bottles of coffee syrup. I stopped at the door because I had River and it was a small and empty place except for some people sitting on the tables outside. So I called in, “Hi. Excuse me! Is it ok if I walk in with my dog to take an order?” No, she said. Only service dogs were allowed. “Can I give you my order from here and go sit down and have you bring it to me?” She hesitated at that. Mind you, I had JUST seen her taking a tray of food out to another table, so I know they do the table bringing thing. But her reply was “Can you tie the dog up to a post or something?”  “Never mind, I’ll think of something else. Thanks!”

Some places that were listed on my Bring Fido app as having a patio, didn’t have their outdoor furniture set up, I guess due to the cold weather. After almost giving up on the downtown area, I ended up at the famous Portland Food Trucks. Normally, I’m not into eating food from a ‘truck’ but I wasn’t having much luck finding dog-friendly restaurants downtown, so the idea started to appeal to me.

We walked around the trucks and checked them all out, which gave River an opportunity to practice walking at my side through crowds with dogs. I went back to the one that stuck in my head: A grilled cheese place that made a carne asada grilled cheese sandwich with green chili and spicy pepper cheese and this side of spicy dipping sauce.   I ordered that and as it was cooking, I walked over to Ole´ Cafe, at the recommendation of the cheese griller who told me it was the best coffee he’s ever tasted.

 The coffee was good, but the sandwich was amazing. I enjoyed it, but about half an hour later was having heart burn, so I probably wouldn’t get it again.

I took the food and coffee to a nearby park to sit on a bench and eat.

I find that Portland is very strict city. They like to enforce their rules. It is the only city in the world that I’ve ever been stopped by a police officer for jay walking in an empty intersection. That was many years ago, when I still lived in New York and had honestly forgotten that in most of the world, pedestrians wait at the corner for a green light.

And today, I was playing with River in the park on our 50 foot leash. Now I had a bag of treats in my hand and was working on River’s obedience commands. So, if you know River you can imagine that he was never more than four feet away from me. He was glued to me and right on top of everything I said. The only time he was more than a few feet from me was when I asked him to stay and backed away. But he was on high alert and as soon as I said COME, he bolted straight to me.

So two park rangers came over to me and very politely told me that I was breaking the law and that they were legally able to cite and fine me, but that they’d just give me a warning. I explained that I was from out of town, so they happily gave me a map of off-leash dog parks.

So I went to the one that was near the river front, because I know how much River loves to frolic in the water. As usual, I was leery of exposing him to the off-leash dogs, but I know that I can’t keep him sheltered forever, so I thought today was the day.

He actually did pretty good. He's very nice with smaller dogs. He tends to play dominant aggressive with dogs his own size or slightly larger, which will piss off many dogs. He doesn’t really do the give and take as much as he just dominates all the time.

The park was actually beautiful. I wish I did take pictures. It was a huge green lawn and then at the other end, some stairs down to a sandy beach. And with no waves, just like River prefers. There was also a little dock.

At one point, River was running along with some other dogs and reaching the end of his leash. I stupidly, gripped the leash, but was quickly reminded that when I do that it causes heinous finger burns.  So yes, I have one more tiny burn on my newly healed hand. The damage is MUCH less severe this time. 
It's hardly noticeable.

I also noticed that this nylon leash rubs against River’s legs and can really burn and chafe him up good. So, I’m maybe getting soured on the training leash? I’m not sure. I do like it, but maybe I'd like one of hemp so it doesn't burn so much. What to do, though. For now, we’ll continue to use it with caution.

I don't know why, but I didn't take any pictures or videos today. I know that makes for a dull Internet experience, so here are some pictures....
This was taken at a different Motel 6 in Portland, April 2013

At our friend Cheryl's house in Boise, July 2013

"Come on Eileen"

Corpus Christi

Divas and Rockers

Sunday, October 20, 2013

How I Ended up in Portland

We slept late again and didn’t leave Coos Bay until after our coffee and walk, so it was about noon.

Bridge leaving Coos Boy
The plan was to make a direct path to Lincoln City. I was motivated by coming across this story a few days ago:

Since delicate green and blue Japanese glass fishing floats first washed up on Oregon beaches in the early 20th century, beachcombers have scoured the sands for these prized finds. The number of Japanese floats has decreased over the years, but Oregon’s artists keep the tradition alive by planting a crop of handmade floats each fall.
Beginning in mid-October, local glassblowers conceal brilliantly colored, signed and numbered glass floats along the 7.5 miles of public beach in Lincoln City, stretching from the Roads End State Recreation Site area to Cutler City. This year a total of 2,014 floats will be hidden along the coastline for lucky beachcombers to find.
Glassblower Bob Meyer, owner of Ocean Beaches Glassblowing & Gallery in Seal Rock, will make 150 floats this year, each in a kaleidoscope of vibrant color.
When looking for floats, train your eyes above the high-tide area and below the beach embankment. That’s the zone where the floats are hidden. And if you find one, it’s yours to keep. Each float is signed by the artist and numbered. Contact the Lincoln City Visitor and Convention Bureau for a certificate of authentication and information about the artist who crafted your float."


We passed so many tempting sites and sights on the way, but I didn't stop. I did make a vow to come back often to the Oregon Coast and to devote a day or two to just going to all the campsites and recreation areas, scenic viewpoints and beach access trails. It seemed like every 50 yards there was another place I wanted to see. 

But, driven by our glass treasure hunt, we pressed on.

We did stop here, for lunch,
but only stayed as long as it took to eat.
I could have lingered here, as well as many of other gorgeous places along the way, but I wanted to have plenty of daylight left for glass hunting and playing on the beach when we got there.

It was about 3:30 by the time we pulled into Lincoln City.
It was foggy and cold. The temperature hadn’t reached above 55 degrees all day, in fact. It was quite chilly. And it was kind of a mad-house. It was mobbed with people. Everyone, his brother and their dog, it seems were also coming on a glass hunt today.
Suddenly, it wasn’t nearly as appealing as I had imagined it being. The last time we were in Lincoln City, we had the beach to ourselves. I guess this Finders Keepers Glass Treasure Hunt was a success in getting people to come to Lincoln City from all over. 

However, considering the time of day (still early), the weather (cold and grey) and the scene (packed), I decided to keep driving on to Portland, where I was planning to drive to the next day. It seemed like taking the extra 90 minute drive was a better way to spend the afternoon than sitting in the Motel 6, dealing with the crowd on the beach or walking through Lincoln City. Portland was much more interesting a city to walk through, and it would mean tomorrow is a no-driving day.

So now I’m in Portland.
I will say this. It is definitely dinner time.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

West Coast Farms, Mountains, Forests and Ocean

We slept in late and were leaving Medford at about noon. It was a doleful drive through town on the way out as I passed Marco’s Pepper Grill. It was vacant, with a For Lease sign on the window.

We went south at first, because I wanted to drive through Talowa Dunes and Cape Blanco and was in no hurry to get to the motel in Coos Bay. Most of the drive was through California on winding roads through an autumnal forest.

We stopped after driving for a couple of hours and found ourselves at this rest area near a long tunnel. 

We explored a little bit and then exercised,  playing tug and push and chase and then we practiced some heeling. I was using the 50 foot leash and not giving him physical corrections, but just using my voice to make him walk at my side all the way to the trash cans and all the way back to the car. He did a great job.
Then we had lunch.

Jedediah Smith State Park was awesome. The size of some of those giant Redwood trees was staggering; not to mention all the lush ground cover growing wild. And the leaves were just starting to change so there was a lot of green and a lot of big swatches of yellow, orange and red.

We drove over this bridge over the Rogue River.

What was interesting as we went into Oregon and got near the coast, we hit a layer of clouds. So some of the drive was sunny and some was cloudy, but my favorite moments were the ones with both. They were rare, but sometimes the sun would shine through the fog and make this cool, eerie glow.

At one point, driving through Oregon, I noticed that I could see cows grazing on a farm on my right side,  and sandy dunes and the waves of the Pacific Ocean on my left. Straight ahead were mountains covered with dense, green forest.

We stopped near a River at the bottom of a steep embankment. For no reason except that I had reached Intense Natural Beauty Overload and had to stop and just be still in it for a moment to take it all in. River seemed to be digging it too, even though at one point I thought I was going to lose him.

We pulled into Coos Bay just about sundown. It was a flurry of activity with kids and dogs and trailers and ice chests. River was ready to join into the frenzy, but I had to stop in the car and take a few moments to redirect his attention and calm him before we went out to the office to check in. I always take River in with me to the office to check in. I like to demonstrate that I have a well-behaved pit bull so that there is no question about it.

This room has a microwave, so I was able to heat up my dinner, which was, just by chance, the second half of that new york steak I had for lunch. But this time it came with whole beets, sauteed beet greens, goat feta on a bit of radicchio and an apple cut into slices and drizzled with coconut oil and cinnamon. 

After eating I washed River’s paws in the tub and then took my shower. Now I’m going to start putting together the playlist for Seattle’s Annual Fall Nia Teachers Jam.

Friday, October 18, 2013

I-5 to Medford

The sun woke us up today. I had planned it that way, by leaving the curtains open. River slept the whole night in his crate, and only crawled into bed in the morning when we saw the sun. Then I closed the curtains and slept for another couple of hours.

Two nights ago, in San Francisco, he also seemed to be gravitating toward sleeping in his crate. Typically, he’d always get in bed as soon as the light was out, but in SF, he was already in his crate when I turn out the lights for bed and he stayed in there for maybe half an hour in the darkness before climbing into the bed. He didn’t stay, either. After just a few minutes, he hopped down and got back into his crate. I have to admit, I felt a bit jilted, lol, even though it makes me happy that he’s feeling comfortable and confident enough to sleep in his cage in a strange room.

This morning, before leaving the room in Willows, I put all the foods I had cooked last night into tupperware, arranging them in meals with a couple of vegetables and a protein in each one. Some had cheese, some had pumpkin seeds, some had eggs, some chicken, some beef, etc. I ended up with eight meals. I spent less than $50 at the store yesterday, so that’s pretty good for eight healthy meals. I also like the fun of reaching into the cooler and pulling out a meal without knowing exactly what I'm going to get.

Before we left Willows, I drove us to a park that was around the corner called Central Park. We played vigorously on the grass for a good half an hour, and then relaxed in the shade for another half hour before we actually hit the road.River was nice and exhausted for the drive and slept most of the way.

All of the trip was on I-5 today. I was surprised how long it took just to get to Redding. Because Redding was my original stopping point scheduled for yesterday. I changed it at the last minute to Willows when I learned that this Studio 6 had kitchens. (Which was why I was so upset when they wouldn’t give me pots and pans.) And as we pulled into Willows, I guess partly due to the stressful start to that drive, I felt like I was quite done with the whole driving thing for the day. So, in retrospect, going all the way to Redding would have seemed like a miserably long haul.

The scenery was pretty much flat and similar to what I was calling ‘hay country’ from yesterday’s drive. Until, that is, we got through Redding. Going north, it started getting really good. Mount Shasta and Shastina, which is a nice sight to see; twin volcanoes, frosted with snow. And then, going through the Shasta National Forest was fun.
Lake Shasta (or what's left of it) as seen through the window of my car on the VFW Memorial Bridge
Also, in Oregon all of the trees were very colorful due to the season.
Also, in Oregon all of the trees were very colorful due to the season.

I pulled into Medford around 4:20 pm. I chose to stay again at Medford mainly because of an experience I had had at a local restaurant the last time I was through. This incredible Cajun/Creole/Soul Food place called Marco’s Chili Pepper. It gets great reviews on Yelp, and one of them was mine! I was looking forward to it all day. The first time I had gotten the jambalaya and some bread pudding, and it could be the best I’ve ever had. I wanted to get something different this time to see if Marco would again blow me away.

I got online as soon as we were in the motel room to look up the address, and found, much to my horror that it was closed! A Yelp review dates two weeks ago mentioned that she met the owner, Marco, as he was sweeping up and told her that they were closing.

Well, I guess now there’s no reason for me to ever come back to Medford.
Hopes dashed. Good thing I have my cooler stocked with food.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rockin Walnut Creek and Butting Heads in Willows

The word for today is “frustrating”

It started out fine, though. I woke up early and took River for a walk around the block. It was hard to find a tree in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, but we found some, which he ignored. He was much more interested in the corners of mailboxes and certain buildings. For a long time I thought maybe he was going to be too stimulated by all the activity of the city to be able to poop, but he finally did. Right at the curb in an intersection. So I guess he wasn’t shy.

I hit a little bit of traffic on the way to the studio in Walnut Creek. It is a half hour drive, so I allowed myself an hour to get there. I didn’t have my coffee before taking off, though, because that would have eaten into my one hour and it was more important to get there on time than to be caffeinated. 

Making it through the traffic, I arrived at the studio with about twenty minutes to spare. So I started looking around for some coffee. I found a deli with an espresso sign, so I parked the car and walked over to it, but it didn’t open “intill 10:00” (I suddenly felt like I was back in New York). 

So I went back to the car and asked Siri to find me a Starbucks. She found one right around the corner. So, back into the car. While finding another parking spot and waiting in line, I was trying not to get worried about being late. I kept reminding myself, ten minutes is a long time.

So, of course, I made it back to the studio and got set up in plenty of time. Class went very well. It was the highlight of my day, easily. It was so much fun and there were lots of teachers in the room, as well as some people fairly new to Nia. We all rocked out and had a great time.

My next project was to hit the market. But it was over 80 degrees and sunny, so I couldn’t leave River in the car. I asked some of the students who were still in the studio if anyone could baby sit with River while I shopped. Luckily, about five of them were glad to help. It was a strange feeling saying “good bye” to River and watching him be walked away on leash by someone else. But I kept it together and went to the store while they all walked to a local coffee shop to sit and wait for me.

It didn’t seem to me like it was taking a long time, but I noticed it was after 12:30 when I was driving back to the coffee shop with my groceries. When I arrived at the coffee shop, they were all ready to leave, so River and I got in the car and headed for our next destination.

So this is where it starts getting really frustrating:

My Mini Navigation system is set to avoid toll roads, so she was going to take me all the back into the city in order to go around I-80. So as I was headed back toward SF, I hit MAJOR traffic. Like stand still traffic. And I couldn’t get Mini to give me any other options. Fortunately, I had my heinous iPhone and Siri and it turned out that she could give me a more direct route.

As all this was happening, I got an alert that I needed to fill up with gas. I didn’t want to mix that into the trial and tribulation of getting out of town, so I just plugged onward. Siri gave me some directions that didn’t seem to match with the landscape, so I went around in a few circles until I could finally figure out how to get on the right highway out of town. 

I was hungry. I hadn’t had breakfast before class, and now it was many hours after class and I still hadn’t eaten. This was making everything seem more urgent.

Eventually I was able to navigate my way out of Walnut Creek, using a combination of Mini, Siri and my own logic and intuition. It was well after 1:30 pm before I was going 70 MPH on the highway. And now it was time to look for gas. 

Spotting a sign with a picture of a gas pump on it, I got off the freeway in Concord. Well, apparently Concord has some kind of sign ordinance requiring all signs to be hidden by trees, so it was impossible to see where anything was. I had to resort to Siri once again. “direct me to the nearest gas station” I ordered. “Yes, Sir!” she said and proceded to direct me to a Chevron. “You have arrived” She finally said. But I couldn’t see it. There were trees, more trees and a car dealership. I drove around the block and didn’t see it.

I figured it was once a gas station and is now a car dealership, so I asked Siri for a list of local gas stations. She opened up a google search that showed Gas Buddy. She was basically telling me to open up my Gas Buddy app. (sigh) which I did, and finally found a Shell station was down the street. Even though Shell makes my car run slower, I went.  And of course, if I hadn’t known it was there, I never would have found it without proper signage.

Anyway, so I’m filling up with gas and I look over at River and I see a spot on his penis. I look more closely and see it has legs. So I grabbed it and it crawled along my finger. It was brown, and I figured it must’ve been a tick. I threw it far away. It didn’t seem like it had lodged in his skin yet, but of course it added to the stress I was feeling. I imagined he was covered with them and was getting Lyme disease as I sat there.

So, with all my groceries on ice in the cooler and a tank full of gas, I was finally able to speed out of town. Yes, speed. And I’m not a speeder usually. But I just felt the need to drive 80 MPH the hell out of that area!

The toll that Mini was trying to save me came soon and hard. It was $5! to drive over I-80. Geez. But it was worth it to not have to detour through traffic, to San Francisco and back. I happily paid it.

The ride was long and dull. There were lots of trucks hauling hay, which was spilling out all over the highway, and lots of plumes of smoke as everyone seemed to be burning piles of something on their farms. It was bright and sunny and I was squinting.

River seemed particularly clingy and was pawing me a lot. I guess it was because I had left him earlier, but it was getting annoying. I didn’t let him know I was annoyed, though. I just kept gently moving him away.

So we finally get to the Studio 6. Well, actually, at first, the Mini Nav led me to the wrong motel. And I waiting in line behind two people before I got my meeting with the desk clerk who told me Studio 6 is two buildings over, just before the Denny’s. 

Back in the car. Drive 50 yards. Wait in another line. Double check, this is Studio 6? Yes it is. OK, Checked in and went to my room only to discover there was no kitchen. So we walked back to the desk and I explained how I had reserved a room with a kitchenette. The poor girl at the front desk was so stressed and flustered already by the angry person in line ahead of me. (Even River was upset by her rantings).

When I told her I needed a kitchen she said they didn’t have any. I wasn’t going to accept that, since I reserved one on the Internet just two days ago. So she did some switching around (I think she may have cancelled someone else’s reservation to get me in) and found me a room with a kitchen. It was on the other side of the grounds, so BACK IN THE CAR (by this time it was getting harder and harder to convince River to get back in).

Finally we got to room 106 and I was pleased to finally be able to shower. I unpacked my groceries and cleaned out the cooler and was going to start cooking when I discovered all of the cupboards were bare. No pots and pans or plates or utensils. I figured it had to be a mistake so I called up at the front desk and described my problem. She said she’d call me back in half an hour.

An hour later, no call. So I called back and they told me that they only supplied pots and pans for guests staying over seven days. I told them that it was silly to rent a kitchen without pots and pans and she said, “yeah.” So I was stuck. 

I wrote a complaint on Motel 6’s facebook page and I also made a phone call to corporate guest relations, who agreed with me that it was an odd practice not to stock the kitchen with cookware. She offered to call the front desk, but explained that she didn’t have much authority as the property was an independently owned and operated franchise.  She also said she would register a formal complaint with corporate headquarters.

A few minutes later, my phone rang. It was the manager of the property. She repeated the policy that the desk clerk had described and I repeated how strange it was, saying, “People who stay here for one day need to cook, too.” I explained to her how I was passing through town and that I had purchased groceries in San Francisco and was intending to cook them in this kitchenette and live off it for the next few days on the road. 

She offered to bring me a set of pots and pans if I were willing to put a $250 deposit down. I was in no mood to make waves when I was this close to getting them, so I agreed to the deposit, but made sure to ask twice if the deposit would be returned if the pots and pans were not damaged.

She asked if I was here for ‘the race’ and I said no, just passing through. So then she decided to waive the deposit and eventually brought me what I needed.

While I was waiting for them to arrive, I checked River all over for more ticks. I didn't see any, even in his ears. He's acting very mellow today, which could be due to getting up so early this morning, but of course, I'm worried that he's got Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Which is silly because the tick wasn't even attached to him, I just knocked it off him and had to pick it up off the blanket. At first I thought it was a little spider. It looked like this...
  Which, according to the website I looked at, is a harmless Brown Dog Tick. Not even noted for carrying disease.

Now it’s nearly 7pm and I am so freaking hungry that I can hardly muster the energy to cook.

But I will. So do you see now why I say that the word for today was ‘frustrating’?  I do love to cook, so I’m hoping that once I get the burner on and start peeling and chopping, that I’ll feel much better. 

On a more positive note, this motel has a back yard!  River loves that. It’s shared by all the guests, but how nice it is.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

San Francisco

Patiently waiting for his morning walk
We woke up today in Monterey, knowing we were only two hours drive from our final destination in San Francisco, so we found a local beach. The waitress who was complimenting his behavior at the bistro yesterday mentioned that she liked taking her dog to Del Monte Beach, so I found that one and took River.
It seems this beach was also a bit of a wildlife preserve. And one of the creatures being protected was a legless lizard, which is different from a snake.  I had no idea such things existed.

Time flies when we’re at the beach, and before I knew it, we had been there for two hours and it was time for some lunch.
Let's go eat!

So, after a quick consult with my Bring Fido app, I found a dog friendly bakery/cafe with outdoor seating and had lunch there. I ordered a basil burger, which was supposed to come with pesto, but it didn’t seem to have any pesto on it.  And it had a funny flavor like meat that has been in the refrigerator for a day or two too long.  But I ate it anyway, because I flaunt death on a daily basis like that.

In fact, just last night I had thought I was going to have to order out or go pick up something for dinner, but when I rummaged through my cooler, I found that I still had one meal left from my cooking stint in Las Cruces, five days earlier. I thought I had finished all of them so I wasn’t diligent about keeping the ice fresh for that last day. The avocado had turned mostly brown and there wasn’t any meat in this meal, although there were eggs. I didn’t smell anything funky, and the avocado didn’t have that rancid bacon flavor that indicates it’s not good, so I ate it. Yum. But then about half an hour later, my stomach started to hurt. Not terribly, but just like it tensed up and stayed that way for an hour or so. No other symptoms. I’m fine.

Jason - 2; Death - 0

After lunch, we headed to San Francisco.

In Santa Cruz, we hit the 9000 mile mark for the trip.

It’s amazing how familiar I am with most of the drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco as I took that trip growing up more times than I can count. But there are certain pockets of highway that I seemed to miss. Down in LA, for example, I had never explored Palos Verdes nor Marina Del Rey, but I saw them both on this trip. And the section of CA Highway 1 between Monterey and Castroville was also unfamiliar territory. I’ve been to Santa Cruz scores of times, but usually opted to take US 101. Mini Navigation oftentimes takes me on routes that are shorter, but that require me to go off the main highway and take more local type highways. So I got to drive through Los Gatos, which is another place I’d often heard of but never been.

We arrived in San Francisco and checked in and then I took River for an urban walk. It was the most urban place he’s ever been, and he seemed to really enjoy it. In fact, according to River, “This place is great! There’s urine on EVERYTHING!”

Staying at Motel 6s across the country has exposed me to some of the lower rent districts in many of the cities and towns we’ve visited and this was no exception. The motel is on the corner of Geary and Larkin, which is the heart of the Tenderloin district. 

We sort of found a park.  Well, it is marked as a park on my GoogleMaps, but it seems more like the cement courtyard of a government building with some decorative grasses near the sidewalk.  But decorative grasses are one of River’s favorites, so he was in a little bit of heaven.

We’ll rest a little bit and then go out again later to find something to eat for dinner.