Sunday, November 19

Travel Blogging in God's Country

11-17-06 Friday night

Sometimes opportunities come out of nowhere, and you just have to act on them quickly, before reality reasserts its normal rut on your experience.

A new friend invited to me to visit her up on a mountain in Colorado, and chancing that she was cool (don't laugh -- I have met many people that I met via internet over the years, and most were awesome, with a few cool but offbeat, but at least one was downright frightening) -- I said yes. I've been really excited about it. She seems very nice, and I'm interested to know her better. I'll be working FT at least while there, plus probably some webwork while there on her behalf, but just getting out of my normal life for awhile has got to be great, never mind the bonus of meeting a new friend.

I chose to take a train, which makes my travel plans into a 48 hour "trains, planes and automobiles" comedy of travel. I think it would have been easier to get to Bangladesh than this approach to getting a couple states away, but there is no lack of interesting people, sights and experiences met when traveling. My grandfather loved the train, rode it all the time, all over the country. One of the major newspapers -- LA or NY times, I forget which -- once did a major article on the passenger trains of the US, and featured him, playing his harmonica with songs from the 30's and 40's.

I lost my Organic Coconut skin cream to Homeland Security. This was a clear and present danger to the puddle jumper taking me from Joplin to Kansas City Missouri. I wished I could talk the woman doing the search into just taking it for herself -- it's good stuff! Bummer it just goes in the trash. There's a list of stuff you can't bring no matter what (perfume, hair spray) and a list of what you can bring but no liquid/cream more than 3oz (even nearly-solid stuff) and the sum total of all of 'em have to fit together in a single 1qt ziplock.

I nearly lost my sweetzfree (super concentrated liquid splenda, the only lowcarb item I brought with me), and that would have been a tragedy indeed, given it's like $64 for 4oz of the stuff -- if lowcarbers were teens, people would be shooting each other over this stuff in bad neighborhoods -- but I got to keep that when I explained it was needed for my medical condition. Hoping to bolster that idea, I dug out my never-used asthma inhaler (brought in case the elevation change was a real oxygen issue by chance). Medical condition, snort! This was not a lie but definitely requires some creative interpretation of the truth to come up with that. It worked. I was proud of myself for thinking fast.

Had a nice talk with the security folks before it was all over. They were cool and we laughed a lot. Pretty boring at their little airport.

The sunset was so awesome from in the air!

Had a great conversation with the woman who ran the cab service at the airport, she was super nice. A guy who was there waiting for his girlfriend to pick him up. I joked, "Women are always late!" He laughs, "I know!" and at the same instant, the woman in the office and I said, "Yeah, but don't tell HER that." Haha! Apparently even women know women.

The three of us had a great talk for about 20 minutes about how we'd all lived around the country in half a dozen states, and how stupid it is that people on the coasts always act like anybody inland or anybody with a southern accent must be a moron, a horrible pervasive prejudice the media keeps perpetuating that is ridiculously untrue. Yes there are the stereotypes but there's as many stupid people in California where I grew up as in Arkansas, I am willing to bet on it.

The cabby who drove me to my hotel was a fabulous guy, philippino, a vietnam vet and desert storm vet. His dad was a POW to the japanese in WWII, was in some famous 'death march' I can't recall the name of now. We talked for the whole 35 minute drive. I could have happily bought him dinner and listened to him tell me war stories all night.

My hotel room felt about 1.7 miles from the elevators -- my bags, stacked, pulled on a rolling checked luggage bag, are super heavy, especially on carpet. By the time I reached my room, panting and dragging it laboriously every other step, I'd started feeling like Robert Deniro in "The Mission," dragging insane amount of rocks in a bag up a mountain to do penance. I was doing my penance on the 17th floor of the Hyatt in Kansas City with two bags filled with two laptop computers and enough clothes for Nanook of the North, as my friend put it.

But my room had the softest bed I ever felt, and enough pillows for the seven dwarves. And it was so kind of them to supply me with a yummy smelling 'white ginger' shampoo, conditioner, soap and body lotion, all in trial sizes that fit into that quart-size ziplock. ;-)

A couple days before I left I started developing an abscess on a tooth I need a root canal on, so by the time my journey started I was in so much dental pain it was just stupid. I didn't bring any drugs -- because I'm insane and moronic, is my only explanation for not bringing pain killers when I knew what was up. Massive drugs had kicked in about an hour before I left, is the only reason I can imagine I wasn't more concerned about it. The pain's barely tolerable, but if I yawn or chew, it's horrifying.

In the hopes of figuring out why I would choose, on some level, to be in severe pain during my first visit anywhere in eons, I did several archetype meditations last night. Great. I may be in agony, and not sleeping, but I am spiritually evolving. Into what? I keep forgetting that when I ask for things like 'to evolve', I'm in that situation Lily Tomlin once joked about in a stand-up routine:

I always said that I wanted to BE someday.
Now I see I should have been more specific.

Saturday 1:30pm

My little girl borrowed my hairbrush and did NOT put it back in my bag as promised. So right now I look like a homeless person. Or a feminist. (I joke about that because I once read a feminist magazine and the pics of the women in the editorial section looked like they apparently considered even hairbrushes a genuine affront to female dignity.) I can't believe it. Finger-combing is not going to work for what I did to my hair last night in rote rocking trying to tune out the pain with music and daydreams. Good thing it's cold and I can wear a hat!

The cabbie the next morning was from East Africa, here on student visa for mechanical engineering. We talked about the internet and he spent the first half of our journey looking back at me and trying to talk me into sitting in the front with him. Oh brother. We stopped at a huge, lovely grocery store so I could get some things. This place was the size of super walmart nearly but all groceries. They had like 5 entire double-sided aisles just for medicine! I felt like that old Soviet MIG pilot who defected here said he did when he went in a grocery store for the first time. I was in a hurry and needed 10 minutes just to read all the options for pain killers, sheesh.

I got medicine, yay. I forgot the brush.... ergh! No lowcarb slimfast there either. Well maybe they had the brush but I would have needed a dogsled team to get to the far side of the store and make good time. Ah well. I got some lowcarb wraps and a few tiny avocados. I thought maybe I could make like an avocado rollup or something, if there was no other LC food available.

The checkout clerk was great, we got talking about the airlines and trains and then about hair care and people in general and I think we could have talked and laughed all day, she was really nice.

I was marveling over how nice everybody I had met, even briefly, was, as I walked back to the cab. On the way to the train station the cabbie told me his favorite part of the internet was sex sites and he really likes ... yes, here it comes... "big women."

He looks at me significantly.


Well, better that sort of attention for my weight than the negative kind I suppose!

The train is sometimes frightening, the way it suddenly jerks to the side out of the blue like you've just jumped a track or something, and the speed/sight/sound of another training passing by in the opposite direction only about 2 feet away is startling. I tried to sleep, as thanks to my tooth I got almost none last night, but I was right by the door going into the lounge and dining area so it was unworkable.

It always seems such a bummer to me that adults don't seem to have the same friend-making traits that kids do. When you get older you can't just go knock on a door and go 'hey, can the kid with red hair come out to play?'

I meet so many people when I travel that I figure I'd be great friends with if they were anywhere near me. Yet I seem to have so few people physically near me I relate to at all. I don't get that. I always enjoy new people. I figure it's something I 'create in my reality' that all the people I relate to are, by some mandatory rule, far away from me. You know, that subconsciously I must push myself away from people locally like for personal safety zone reasons or something.

I mean, sure. I could have a conversation with a table lamp, as an old friend of mine once said, and I have had great long talks with stock clerks at 3am, most people are nice if you're nice to them. But somehow traveling is different.

When I travel, it's as if every person I meet is a novel, interesting book I haven't yet read. I'm delighted to open them and learn something about them.

So it was 7am and I finally had drugs for the dental pain. But at that point, after doing without them for about 18 hours, I didn't want to take them. It had become an issue of honor. If the buddhists can deal with pain with stoicism, so can I. Ha! I am invincible!

"I will be Aes Sedai," I told myself. "Like the cold, I will simply "ignore" the pain." And surprisingly enough, this kinda worked. I had to really specifically do it though, I mean, it took really focused attention. But I found when I really put my attention on something else and excluded that to the degree possible, I would realize quite a long time had passed without me thinking about it, where before it was occupying me totally with misery.

Until I had to breathe freezing air outside for awhile. This so amped up the pain that putting my attention pointedly elsewhere wasn't working very well anymore. I need more practice. (No, guides, that is not a request!)

Eventually I found myself thinking, I am not buddhist, I don't want to be a buddhist, and most of the Aes Sedai are control freak bitches anyway.

So I took the drugs.

I arrived here via train, coach seat, in Galesburg, Illinois, which appears to be a city with a claim only to "not being chicago, nor much of anywhere else for that matter". (It's probably a very nice town. I just didn't really get to see it.) The rail station is very small. Four doublesided hard wood benches, and a 2-person ticket window. Three channels on the TV, though I did talk the woman into putting it on PBS instead of some infomercial channel at least. It's a 4+ hour layover here waiting for my next train, which is nearly 24 hours on until I arrive at my destination. I can finally sleep I hope! I was sitting in the waiting area for about 1.5 hours, and I kept falling asleep sitting up. I was afraid I'd start snoring in front of everybody or something. How embarrassing that would be!

I finally decided I'd rather sit outside in the cold. After sitting out here for about 10 minutes, I started looking calculatingly at the movable picnic tables. I wondered if I could move one over to a bench and get out my laptop and put on it. Not much battery left, but my boredom and discomfort was getting pretty serious. Then I suddenly realized that on the brick wall next to the bench I'm sitting on, is this tiny metal case. I open it up, and sure enough! -- it was an outdoor power outlet. I grabbed a rolling luggage cart just sitting around, which had an area high up perfect for setting my laptop on, plugged my computer in, and so I've been typing instead of snoring. I decided to turn the music on audibly, so I put on classics like Sarah-Lena and Sinatra so it wouldn't be offensive to others. Thanks LD for the great old music! It actually made things much more festive.

I'm starting to freeze though! And my tooth really hurts. I am now seriously overdosing on ibuprofen, so eventually the pain will be tolerable but I'll have the jitters or whatever odd thing happens when you OD on that kind of medicine... but I'm happy.

I like traveling.

Saturday 4:40

I'm in a train again, this time in my 'roomette'. There's a plug in here, a sliding door and dark curtains. Cool. WAY more comfy than coach, gods.

Back at the station, I met a seriously bearded man who'd been in the army from 71 to 91, comes from a family of railroaders, grew up in the dry area of CA. Currently does construction. We talked about world events and life experiences and his new Scot clan kilt, while we froze outside for over an hour.

I went in to get my hat, and on returning outside, met another man, a guy in his late 50's with white hair who reminded me of a lot of vietnam vet marines I've known around his age. Funny... turns out he is a former marine (linguist/intel), served from 59 to 79 (can I call 'em or what?) though most of that as just a simple comm guy; we talked about languages and world events for awhile. He speaks swahili, japanese, english, and something else I forget. We had a talk about modern jihadist issues and the 'nature of things' you can't fix but had better not ignore either. Nice guy. He is in a room a couple doors down from mine with his wife.

Saturday 5:17pm (central anyway), somewhere in Illinois. I think.

It's dark outside, and with the light off it's pretty black. I'm thinking this ought to do very well for meditation tonight. Some Narnia soundtrack and some more archmeds.

The seats in the roomette are 1.5 times the size of the coach seats. there are two which face each other in a tiny room, with a table you can optionally pull out between them, and the whole outer wall is window. There are a couple hangers and a rod that would hold more. Washcloths in a top area, a hidden trashcan. A couple shelves that are the carpeted steps to get to the top bunk I guess, when it's pulled down. Apparently when you want your chairs made into a bed you call the rather hassled seeming attendent, who is very charming, but breathing nearly as hard as I do with running around. (Apparently trains don't have the rule planes do that you must be a barbie doll to be an attendent.)

For dinner I had roast chicken with green beans and a salad. The chicken was pretty yummy. I didn't eat the salad as they only had ranch which was sweet. I will never understand why today's world has this obsession with making salads into desserts. Give me real blue cheese or the old fashioned ranch or I'd rather starve. If I want something sugary I will have a dessert! But she left me the silverware, salt and pepper, so later on (as I'll probably be up most the night given how awake I am right now) I can put some avocado on lowcarb wraps and roll it up -- my plan from this morning. I'm listening to Gwen Stefani's "What are you waiting for" which is enough to keep the dead awake. I'm totally rocking out with headphones... innocent from outside my door.

I miss not being able to get on the internet. Probably best I can't though. That's half the idea of a vacation of sorts, just a little. I won't be on the net as much.

I hope to do a couple RV sessions before I get off this darn train. I miss viewing horribly when I don't do it for awhile and I've been way too busy the last week. It's like there is some inner part of me that I never get to touch except when I view, and we pine for each other like separated lovers when I don't view enough.

9:54pm Sat

I was watching the 13th floor again. I thought of something I never have before when watching it.

I was thinking that in that movie, the many worlds of simulation, could be an analogy to the many probabilities or even 'identity-lives' that we go through in our worlds. In the woman's world, her father and husband and she built a phenomenal science experiment. The father remained true; the husband became a psychopath. The situation exposed a flaw in his character. In the doug world, the husband and father combined in a different time and situation again succeed wildly. In that world, the husband remained true; the father became again a bit of an abuser (though not nearly so badly). Out of the thousands of simulations the woman's family had created, only in that one had doug and fuller succeeded in what they did. Who knows what the circumstances, times or lives were in others, of course. But it got me to thinking.

Who is to say that maybe the reason for what we experience and bring back to the collective, is to find those lucky chances, those one in a thousand, a million, combinations of a man and a time and a circumstance and a character that suddenly give rise to someone like Ataturk or Bose or Ghandi or George Washington Carver. Maybe it is those rare moments of genius, of insight, of ability to change a world, that all of those lives are for. Maybe the life where it really works is the discovery, just like doing a zillion scientific trials.

Maybe all the other lives that we don't make into something exceptional are just statistics. Just extras. Just the control group. Their experience counts. It goes into the collective. But its value is primarily just as part of the search for the successful experiment.

It makes me think of Urantia and the idea of building souls, of them having different qualities. And of Grosso's concept from one of his books that we are responsible for growing and improving the soul that we've got, that they are not bestowed as static perfect things but are inherent as created by consciousness---ours, once we are part of them.

3:02pm Sun

The train is delayed yet again for broken tracks. So I'll be getting in late.

Someone in this tiny town we are stopped near, waiting for the track fix, has an unsecured wireless network! I figure I don't care if they read my email and internet, I'm delighted to be able to get online for a couple minutes!

Colorado mountains are God's country, no doubt. The beauty going past me has literally induced awe more than once. I discovered my omelette had grown cold while I sat here with a fork in hand and my mouth hanging open in sheer admiration.

These incredible layers of geological sediment, thrust up thousands of feet into the air diagonally and even straight up vertically -- to imagine the chaos that must have created these mountains boggles the mind. They are rich with the colors of untold minerals and the most stubborn fir trees growing in nearly solid rock I've ever seen.

The snow is on the ground now and the rivers are half frozen and half running. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, the snow is white on everything, and it is so beautiful my heart aches for it. I could live someplace like this. No problem. It reminds me just a little of Ojai, where I was born and where my heart will always reside, or the version of it before it overdeveloped anyway; literal forested mountains, like high ozarks must be as well, like the blue ridge are as well. Who could see such beauty and not thank God for the honor of being alive here?

It's time for me to go now, as I don't know how long I'll be connected. I was going to blog this on a different blog, but for some reason couldn't get access. This isn't really about lowcarb but perhaps it won't bother anyone too much here.

Speaking of lowcarb, my eating has not been terrible but it hasn't been good, either, on this travel, and I am SO bloated in response to carbs/sodium I don't normally have, and lack of motion! I can hardly wait to get to the B&B so I can spend a few days drinking enough water for a river. Which reminds me I cannot even FIT into these bathrooms on the train. Well I can. But then I can't move. I have managed to put off going, aside from one #1 last night, since I got on the first one yesterday at 7:45am! I'm begging my body to hold out for me until I reach my destination. Which I hope will not be more than a few more hours!

Will blog more once I finally arrive. I have nothing LC with me except sweetzfree (liquid splenda), so it'll be a challenge to put stuff together from scratch with none of my 'special ingredients' and only occasional kitchen access. Challenges are good. I'm sure it will make me appreciate how much easier it is with all the stuff I have at home!

Off for now!

Thursday, November 2

The Clock Demons and Guilty Foods

I know that I have been away from my blog for longer than ever. Sorry about that.

First, my life was sucked into that pit of despair called "no time for mom." Some of you must already know this song. You get up at about 6:30am to start getting kid ready for school and animals fed and yourself dressed and so on. As soon as the kid is at school you come home and go to work. As soon as you're off work, you're busy doing errands, things for the kid's extra activities, etc. As soon as that is done, you realize it's now nighttime and you forgot to eat all day.

Or, you didn't forget, you just didn't get a chance. And since unlike high-carb eating, it isn't quite so easy to "grab something quickly," you can bemoan not eating all day, but if you're busy and you can't leave work, that's just the way it is.

Not-eating regularly tends to make me gain weight. I realize many people can't grasp this because they think weight is all about calories. I am here to tell you, my body is apparently a survivor. Down through millennia, my ancestors must have survived the long winters and the ravages of illness by storing more fat faster than anybody else. Low carb eating has helped me realize that I lose far more weight eating a bunch of food several times a day, than eating almost no food, but a carby meal once a day.

But eating "several times a day" is easier said than done, isn't it? That means that at some point, you had to get off your butt and PREPARE that food. Even if it was some cheese sticks, a garlic clove and green onions (one of my favorite snacks, which I haven't had in a long time. Yum! I think I'll have it tomorrow!), still there is at least a minimum of "pre-effort" required.

Let me backtrack to not long after I last posted. First, I gained ten pounds. IN A DAY. Now since this is physiologically impossible to do via fat or muscle cells, I figured it had to be water, and wondered if it was time for 'that time of the month', or TOM as some call it online. Mine has always been so irregular it tends to surprise me. Yep, the very next day, TOM arrived. And I lost 9 of the pounds. Of course the next day I gained four. And the next day I lost those. At that point I decided I was an idiot to weigh myself during the menses and I would have to wait until it was over.

TOM was more intense than any I've had since I was a teenager. I could hardly move off the quadrupled towel and TWO tom-utilities. To example how bleeding that heavily can make a hormonal woman completely deluded, I actually uttered to my friend that on the bright side, thanks to all the blood loss I bet I'd be at least a pound lighter.

Now that is optimism.

Today I am five pounds lighter than I was when I began it, though it seems TOM slowed the 'momentum' I had going for the weight loss.

Don't let me lie. I haven't been drinking nearly enough water and I know that matters. So it's my own fault if it's slowed down.

Meanwhile, back at the underfed home office, desperation about my lack of available time to "deal with" having food available kicked in.

First it was the puddings. Any chocolate pudding that tastes decent (only when very cold) and has 20g protein, 100cal and 2 carbs (1 fiber) is my friend, so as I've mentioned before, Instone Pudding is my lowcarb hero.

It's a frankenfood, to some degree. Sure, no real reason why a pudding has to be moreso than a bake mix I realize, but something about the fact that it tastes good and comes in a pop-top can makes it seem inherently sinful in some way. As if it can't possibly be good for me if I *like* it.

But even I don't like it enough to eat it every day, let alone more than once a day. The novelty wore off and although I like them, I have not had one in probably a week.

Then, I talked DH into making me a ton more of the "heavy on the meat chili verde". Although this batch was not quite as good as the one prior, it was still very yummy. I ate that in the little 1/2 cup Glad plastic storage bowls for literally a week, several times a day. It took that long to get rid of it, worrying it would go bad if I didn't eat it. Since only a few days before I had ended an 18-meals-in-a-row sized dose of the stuff, suffice to say that now, I think I am ready to not eat it for awhile. Possibly a long while.

But wait, it got better. My SLIM FAST LOW CARB order arrived! That's right, in pop-top cans, chocolate and vanilla, seriously overpriced online, slimfast has a 'lowcarb' option. I bought a couple boxes (4 per box) each to try them out. I had the following conclusions.

1. I detest the chocolate. I'm normally the chocoholic. My 10 year old likes it though. So now when she wants to go eat carby snacks I tell her to drink a slimfast. It's 180 calories, 2 net carbs, 20 grams protein, and a bunch of vitamins.

2. If they are not cold, and I mean REALLY cold, even the vanilla is kinda yucky. But I turned my little room-fridge I got just for lowcarb stuff up a bit, so it's on the verge of nearly freezing, and now I really love the vanilla. I suppose with the cold all I can taste is the "creamy sweet" of it.

Alas, this has resulted in me making slimfast my primary food group. I feel rightfully guilty about this. Slimfast is NOT A FOOD. And to add injury to insult to my poor sweet body-spirit, because SF is a liquid, (a) I'm drinking it instead of water and (b) I don't have solid food making me thirsty for water. So I've drank vastly less water lately. I have, however, managed to plow through quite a few slimfasts.

They are not cheap. 24 cans cost me $39 plus $8 shipping. So, sucking down 3-4 a day of these things could add up.

And so I've felt guilty. I had no time to write, but I also felt like a tree sloth, a beer slug, a burnt-toast kinda gal, because here I am all enthusiastic about lowcarb and so on, but I can't seem to make even an hour or even half an hour to prepare some cheese sticks or rollups or something. (It just occurred to me that a variety of meats and cheeses rolled up in a LC tortilla and sliced in medallions, with a little mustard on the top of each, would be a yummy snack. Yay! Tomorrow is sounding better already!)

Oh yeah! And DID I MENTION the ultimate "you should make better choices" lowcarb snack: pepperoni nuked with mozzarella cheese and some oregano and red pepper flakes on top. I had that a couple times. Felt so guilty... between all the carcinogens probably in pepperoni, the "interesting" digestive results that a massive dose of it gives me, and the fact that it's ingesting enough calories for an entire day in one paper-plate sized pizza-toppings meal... well it is not ideal. But, if you really need protein and calories and you don't have much time, it works.

So that's about it. Time is such a problem for me sometimes... and I've felt guilty about the fact that although I have maintained low carb, and generally made my protein and calories each day, still I feel as if I'm not doing things as completely and well as I should be. I feel I'd be losing weight a little faster if I were.

My scale varies by about 5lbs depending on whether I am leaning ever so slightly on the front of my feet vs. the back, so I have begun measuring always the front. I am still keeping my spreadsheet. I haven't been recording my food, but I can sum it up: "a combination of 4-6 elements per day, which are either 1/2 cup servings of chili verde or cans of slimfast."

I need to do lowcarb penance, except my literal "penance" stage of lowcarbing is keeping carbs just as low as I have been keeping them, more by accident than design.

Tomorrow, I ASPIRE, damn it. The cold snap happened and we have two grocery sacks stuffed with beautiful fresh garden peppers. I want to eat as many as I can before they go bad. (We usually give a bunch to the guys at the local mexican food restaurant, as they are some of the few in our area that really seem to like HOT food as much as we do!) I want to have scrambled eggs... and peppers. I'd like to have tuna and mayo and green onions and some miracle-mayo in a lowcarb tortilla... with peppers. (No, I've never tried that, I just thought of it, but it seems possible.) I want to have some cheese just melted over slices of peppers. I can probably carb myself out on peppers if I'm not careful. (Especially since I have a daily cap on how many 'deductible' carbs I can have, as well as carbs themselves.) We can have a big chicken stirfry with tons of peppers. OK! I have SO cheered myself back up now!

I was feeling all pouty about myself but I feel better now. Tomorrow is another day! The first day of the rest of my life. I can do better!

(Reminder to self: LC SLIM FAST IS NOT FOOD!)