Monday, January 16, 2017

Get thin, Get rich, Get likes.

Happy New Year. 2017.
Everywhere you go this month, online, in stores, on radio and TV, the ads will be there, preying on your vulnerability. I don’t know why we choose the beginning of a new year to attempt to overhaul our lives. Except, maybe the passing of a calendar year, with dreams yet to be fulfilled, reminds us of how quickly time passes, how little time we have left to “finally make it”, “get thin”, “get rich”, get Instafamous.

I love New Year’s Resolutions. I am a firm believer in them. I make them every year and often in the middle of the year too. I don’t just make one. I am your typical American (50% will make resolutions) who over-resolves, making not just one resolution, but a whole dang list. I resolve big and little things: Love better, Be on Time, Run a marathon, Stay in touch with friends. I do it the Right Way too. I get specific. I make my goals measureable. I plan out baby-steps to move me toward achieving them. So, I am not here to tell you that you shouldn’t make resolutions. By all means, make them, my dear. Resolve right now to achieve it all in 2017. But, please, don’t spend your money with charlatans.
By all means, make resolutions my dear.
Weight loss is invariably one of the top five New Year’s Resolutions. Is it on your list this year? If so, you will likely be hearing all the solutions available to you right now and feeling a bit overwhelmed, a bit, adrift perhaps, in the sea of weight loss claims. The weight loss industry is one of the fastest growing and as part of the overall wellness industry is expected to continue to trend upward in 2017. “Wellness” products: foods, beverages, vitamins, supplements and gimmicky weight loss gadgets available to the average consumer today can be found online, in grocery and health food stores, through gyms and even from your neighbor, as direct marketing continues to grow. It’s not surprising to me as a healthcare professional to hear my patients repeat ridiculous health related claims that are used to sell products. They’ll often ask my opinion about a particular product. And I try to give them good advice.

Apple Cider Vinegar is one of my all-time favorites. “Why?” I always ask. Why would you drink it straight when it makes such a lovely salad dressing? I promise you that drinking straight vinegar will not help you lose the fifty pounds you need to lose. Changing your diet to one of real, whole foods and moving your body on a regular basis: those things will take off the weight. But it is depressingly slow and we want insta-results.

Your neighbor, your colleague, your niece, even your friend from high school: they aren’t necessarily out to take your money with their direct marketing weight loss products. I am sure that many of them truly believe in the products they want to sell you. But be wary. Don’t spend any money you aren’t willing to gamble. And please, if your weight has become a medical issue then don’t play around with it. Get medical help.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Bonaire Shore Diving 2016

Bonaire. February. 2016

It's a desert island.

When I look at the pictures I think...there was a lot of wildlife.
And diving. A lot of diving.
And driving around in a truck that was made in China
over rough, dusty roads,
the truck filled with nitrox tanks,
where the view on one side was cactus and rock
and on the other
it was clear blue water.

We had some equipment failures.
But, you know, divers help each other out. We had my regulator working again in less than an hour. Labor paid in beer. To a shop manager who wasn't even getting our business that week. That's how divers do it.

Rob made his 100th dive.
Then we celebrated with caipirinhas.
Later in the week, I made my 100th dive. Off La Dania's Leap.

Shore diving is something you should do.
It makes you a better diver.
We planned our entrances and exits over rough coral,
and through surf.

We did some amazing night dives,
sharing the reef with two tarpon as big as me.

We lost a camera.
In the ocean.
the OCEAN.
And we swam our search pattern and found it.

Then we celebrated with caipirinhas.

You should go there.
To Bonaire.
Do the Leap.
Do all the dives.

Take pictures of the blue waters.
Be nice to the donkeys
And cats
And epic iguanas.

Be gentle with the reef.

The bushes that surrounded our porch were home to this guy and several of his friends

We stayed at The Caribbean Club

The fence around our cottage

Check out our incredible patio!

This is pretty much where we lived when we weren't diving. The view. The breeze. The iguana....

Rob's 100th dive!

The caipirinha!

Bar side pool.

Oh yes, There was also Heineken. 

Hello, friend!

One of the bar cats.

Caribbean Club

That water

It's a SCAP. Google it. Keeps your hair in place. 

1000 steps. Ok...maybe 72. But you try carrying your gear up after the dive!  This is a Don't Miss dive site. 

La Dania's Leap

My 100th dive!

So, we weren't huge fans of the Cactus Spirits...

But, it was fun to visit the distillery, nonetheless

Chinese truck filled with Nitrox tanks.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Snowy November Days and Memories of a Child-like Faith

Not sure where it came from this morning, but my head has been in the past, dredging up memories of my kids as small children playing in the snow decoupaged over memories of my own childhood. I’m sure this song was just stored away up there somewhere. I haven’t heard it in years but I found myself belting it out in the kitchen as I stirred the tomato sauce.  Have a listen:

One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus

No, really. Click on the link and listen to the song. It’s an integral part of this.  I’m a sucker for the old Gospel hymns.
I can see my mom sitting at the piano, my sisters and I gathered round singing.  This one, and, The Old Rugged Cross, and Great is Thy Faithfulness.

Those were the days when faith was simple and true. Black and white. Jesus loves me. Church on Sunday morning and then, on snowy days like this one, bundling up in our 70’s era coats and boots and playing for hours in the snow. My sisters and I, and Jesus.

Where did they go? Those days. My children. My sisters. Jesus.

This must be nostalgia speaking. So forgive me if I trend sappy here. But sometimes I long for  the simple and true. For the cold, wet hands of a child fresh in from the snow. For that solid presence beside me, that person who knows me, hates and loves me simultaneously and knows the same old Gospel hymns as I do. Sometimes I long for Jesus.

We grow up. Our children grow too. Snowy days are different now. So much is lost along the way to this strange place. What remains of that childhood faith?

“Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”  Yeats

Can I trace back to when things started to fall apart for me? When that simple faith of childhood began to crumble away leaving a complicated mess of desire and skepticism.  One might try to blame my liberal arts education. I suspect that a strong sarcastic streak and my own sinful, rebellious nature is more likely the culprit.  I’ve never abandoned Christianity, but I’ve never fully embraced a church since reaching adulthood.

Leaving behind my solid Baptist upbringing and marrying into the Catholic Church at a young age set into play a habit that has been hard to abandon: that of standing just on the periphery of organized religion and making pot-shots at it.  That of course, at the same time as I was dutifully raising my children to be good Catholics.  It didn’t add up to a very satisfying spiritual experience, I’ll admit.  I attempted to get real some years ago, deciding to go all in.  I went through the process of getting confirmed and became a Real Catholic.  I’m sorry to say that it didn’t stick.  I’m sure that reflects a huge lack of commitment on my part. 20+ years of Catholic mass and there are a few things I really love about it....the rare times that they sing the classic hymns I grew up with, the sharing of peace, infant baptism (yeah, I know...but it’s symbolic and beautiful), and this: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the words and I shall be healed.”  Truer words have not been spoken and they resonated with me from day one: me, the little Baptist girl among the Papists.

Nowadays, I go to mass with my kids when they are around, and I go to one of those fluffy, feel-good Christian churches with Rob, if he’s home on a Sunday.  The music there is hard to stomach. I feel like I’m in a propaganda machine, the lights, the big screens projecting the lyrics, all calculated to enhance my emotional response. But the minister seems like an intelligent guy and I respect that.  He urges us to be better people, to love more purely, to put our faith into action: things we all want.  I listen to my grown children and watch them live out their own version of faith, hoping that their sharp intellect and wit is not a harbinger of faithlessness. I pray that I have not ruined God for them.

Yeats may have been prophetic. His verses speak so clearly of the troubled days we live in. I read the words of Pope Francis today, and my heart cries out at the truth He speaks as well: “Christmas is approaching: there will be lights, parties, Christmas trees and nativity scenes … it’s all a charade. The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path.”  When anarchy reigns and peace is nowhere to be found I feel overwhelmed at the scope of misery, fear and pain.  What is to be done? What is one lapsed Catholic, wanna-be Christian to do?

I don’t have the answers. But this is what I strive for: to be a better wife, mother and friend, to heal my own heart, to offer kindness to each person I meet.  I greet each baby born into my hands with these words,  “welcome to the world, little one,” and then, silently, a prayer.

It’s late November and snow is falling in earnest, the first snow of the year. Now it will begin to feel like the Holidays. There is always, with me, a wistfulness around the holiday season, when longing is intensified, memories are awakened and family members, long gone or distant are sorely missed.   Can I take my longing for connection and my helplessness and somehow meld them together into something? Something practical? Something that will bring meaningful good into this broken old world of ours? There’s a lot to do.

Here, on this blustery, Saturday morning, I’m not sure whether I’ll be in church tomorrow morning, but the music that stirs my soul is available right here on Youtube. I’ll be singing the old-time hymns and looking for strength each day, to do the things I have to do.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Anthony's Key Resort: Roatan, Honduras

If you want to do a lot of diving, in a beautiful environment with a family friendly atmosphere, Anthony's Key is the answer.

We took our two teenagers and Rob's dad, Jon joined us for a week at Anthony's Key this past June. We'd heard about the diving in Roatan and were excited to find a resort with a two for one price package.

Look at that long line of dive boats!  Those boats leave 3 or 4 times a day, returning to the resort after each dive.  This makes it super convenient for the diver who may not want to get up for the first dive of the day or may want to sit out the afternoon dive in favor of attending the dolphin show.

The resort is home to the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences.  It also boasts a PADI 5-Star Instructor Development program.  So, during your stay you are likely to encounter budding marine biologists as well as dive students.  Take the opportunity to include some additional certifications in your dive package as we did: A completed her Advanced Open Water and Jon and R joined her to do Nitrox certifications.

You will find the bungalows to be enchanting.  The nights on Roatan are cool, so there was no need for air conditioning.  In fact it was perfect sleeping weather, just right for snuggling up under the blankets and listening to the waves and the breeze.

 Most of the bungalows are on a separate island, which is reached by water taxi.  It is a 30 second ride and the taxi service is available 24 hours a day.  Here we are on the taxi, having just arrived and making our way over to our bungalow:

Each one has a covered patio with hammocks strung strategically to lure you into an afternoon siesta. 

The resort's medical clinic is staffed by a single physician.  When we needed his services, we arrived at the clinic at 7:55 for a posted opening time of 8:00 a.m. and the good doctor sauntered in about 8:25.  Island time!  R's ears refused to clear after our flight down.  He was diagnosed with mild barotrauma with a differential diagnosis of infection.  I gave him the antibiotics I had brought along for "just in case"...a z-pack that was intended for the more likely traveler's diarrhea.  He sat out on the surface the first few days, taking sudafed and snorkeling a bit.  We were happy to have him join us diving by mid-week. The good news about the clinic is that it has a compression chamber.  We did not require it's services that week!

One afternoon the dive boats took us over to Maya Key, an island owned by Anthony's Key Resort that houses a rescued wildlife sanctuary.  R and A made a friend.

The diving was fantastic.  We did night dives, deep dives, and wreck dives.  Each dive boat has a captain and divemaster and is assigned a roster of divers who dive off that boat for the week.  It's a good opportunity to get to know some of the other divers on the resort.

The restaurant served three meals a day during set time spans and each group of travelers is assigned to a table and a waiter for the week.  The food was quite good, though not gourmet. The seafood option was always fresh and served with rice and vegetables.  They also offered an "American" option with each meal: pasta, chicken or burgers. Desserts were probably the most disappointing: they involved a variety of sponge cakes that I found uninspired and not worth the calories.

Here is the restaurant/bar:

Some of the local brews:

The resort lobby where guest orientation occurs:

Nights were cool and quiet. Bedtime came early. Sleeping with the cool ocean breezes and the sound of the waves, was fantastic. 

Beautiful. Exotic. Low-key. Easy diving. Family-friendly. Affordable. 
We found it all at Anthony's Key.