Thursday, February 2, 2012

Frenzy in Slo Mo

Do you ever get the feeling that you're working full-speed ahead, as hard as you can, but that the view from the outside is that of someone slogging through quicksand?
That's me over this past week. I wanted to tell you about the illuminating consequences of, once again, trying to get a little exercise, and about the usual trials and tribulations of reserving another airline ticket and hotel rooms.

I wanted to whine and to celebrate.

But I was working on a project with a deadline -- past the deadline really. And each time I diverted from the deadline project, no matter how pressing the alternative was, guilt piled on. And, of course, there was the diversion of the near-drowning of mouse and keyboard.

The agony and the . . . um . . . no ecstasy yet


Self to Self: (Groan.) You really need to get in shape.

Tomorrow I'll start walking.

(Tomorrow, self forgets to walk. And so forth.)
One week before leaving on a trip to France, where Jeanne takes us on forced marches through Nice, Avignon, Sarlat, Paris, and other rugged terrain, self remembers to start walking.

Doctor says to Moi: Have you been exercising?

Moi, thinking back to that week before a trip, and four-day stints at quilt camp twice a year when I walk (hike, climb) to meals twice a day, answers: Uh, some.

Son-in-Law, who does physical medicine and can crank me into good shape, says, "I'm not going to work on you if you won't work on yourself. Weight-bearing exercise and walking."

He can tell if I fib to him.

My bone density scan isn't the greatest (and I also fall down a lot): calcium and vitamin D recommended (already do); weight bearing exercise recommended. (We know about that.)

Jane Fonda appears on the Today Show promoting two new exercise videos, Prime Time: Trim Tone & Flex, and Prime Time: Firm & Burn. Jane is exactly my age. I must be in my Prime Time (smiley). I know she is in better shape than I am (isn't everybody?) but at least this isn't for the spinning crowd or whatever it is they do these days.

Amazon has the DVDs in my hands in a flash. I put them on the DVD shelf under the TV. After a couple of weeks I look at one upper body work out. The live band advertised isn't exactly rock and roll, but it looks easy peasy, even for the exercise-averse such as I.

One day I read A Day Without Sushi's blog about her trip to the Oaxaca coast in Mexico which involves an encounter with an exceptionally rustic rural outhouse and a rooster, and she observes that "Here I stood, or more accurately danced, in front of the toilet, cursing myself for not adding more (read: any) squats to my exercise routine before taking on this trip."

That reminded me of an episode last summer in France with Sister where the best of two choices was the squat toilet. (If you're not familiar with this particular item, Google it and you can get pictures, the benefits of, and instructions on how-to-use.) Lucky we had our walking sticks and each other to hoist us up  from the squat. In fact, in the past I've avoided long queues at public toilets in France by advancing to the front of the line to the available squat toilet.

This may be the best incentive to exercise ever. That and a pending appointment with another doctor who will be recommending, er, demanding exercise, finally prompted me to set a daily alarm and interrupt the project with a deadline, and the crisis project, last week.

I barely got through my first upper body workout, even though it's not much over 15 minutes long, and I was thrashed, breathless, nauseous, sore in every muscle of my body. Next day I did the lower body, and have alternated through most days since. Never in my life have I felt pain in my butt-cheeks, either from walking or from exercise. I always thought that when fellow walkers complained of the burn in their buns, that I must not have those particular muscles in my skinny hiney. But I know now. Ouch.

Everything still hurts, but if it doesn't kill me in the meantime, it may help, and I may be able to move up to Firm & Burn. And squat, and stand up.

Hasty Bookings

I mentioned a few months ago that I was contemplating a French Alps tour that would start on -- ta da --my 75th birthday: Geneva, Yvoire and Annecy. Fun, huh? The week with the project with the deadline also became the week that making travel arrangements became critical.

I read about this tour two or three years ago, have corresponded with the tour organizer over that period, and this year the timing works. It's a small tour -- maximum of eight, minimum of five. I gave them my deposit info to reserve a spot, which they held until they reached the minimum.

A travel check list:

 X  Monitor airfare trends round trip San Francisco to Geneva, on my dates

When I started looking (late fall) prices were brutal. They'd dropped at the end of the year, then a couple of weeks ago they jumped up $20. That's when -- fearing the bottom has passed and might not be back -- I panic. I don't wait for the next billing cycle on my credit card like I intended. I book.

Flights have disappeared from the schedule in this interval. Air France books me on KLM, through Amsterdam instead of Paris. (It's all still Flying Blue miles.) I book to arrive a day early. I like to get a night up on jet lag, and, in this case, because arriving during the pickup period for the tour would ... well, the flights and layovers aren't pretty.

I'm also leaving the day after the tour ends to get the quickest and cheapest flight home, the one that leaves at 7:15 a.m. with a big 50 minutes to change planes in Amsterdam. Imagine the possibilities . . .

First, of course, I go through the same song and dance in booking as last time.

"Your credit card was declined."

Oh, this again.

"Please try another card or contact your credit card company, then redo the reservation from the beginning."


The credit card company tells me they approved the charge, so I ignore the part about starting over and reenter the credit card information.

Then maybe I find the problem. Most credit cards have something like good thru 04/13, or exp. date 09/12. My credit card says 08/10-10/13 (with "valid dates" above the numbers). I have a feeling I had entered 08/13, picking up numbers from both ends of the combo, though why the cc company would have approved it that way, I don't know. Second try went through, however. Flight booked.

 X  Research hotels in Geneva for arrival and departure days.

Send emails to bloggers in the Geneva area for recommendations. I got warned Geneva is expensive. (Heard on TV as I'm typing this that it's the 4th most expensive city in the world.) I read user reviews of cheap(er) hotels. How the same hotel can be small, friendly, convenient, and have a good breakfast and also be the worst shithole ever, with obnoxious staff, filthy rooms, soiled linens, and cardboard breakfast with tepid coffee, puzzles me.

Again, I intended to wait until the next credit card cycle to book. When I checked a couple of days after booking my flight, I was able to get an arrival day hotel with airport shuttle, with only three rooms left at the price. Pay now. Nonrefundable. (Gulp.)

For my departure day, most of the listings were plastered with SOLD OUT. Three near the airport had availability, two in the $400-$500 range and the other one, the cheaper one, was the one with the dual personality. It's said to be walking distance to the airport. That will be an exciting walk at 5:00 a.m. or so.  I can cancel up to the day before arrival. It seemed like a really good idea to get these locked in.

It's always an adventure just to plan an adventure, and is, at the very least, time consuming. Nevertheless I finally finished the project with the deadline. Writing this blog reminded me to buy the travel insurance. Now I need to send my travel info to the tour HQ and make payments on this trip and the fall trip to dot all "I's" and cross all "T's".

My next big project is to plan my Timeline for Facebook. I originally resisted the change -- don't we hate that once we get used to something, Facebook changes it again? -- but now I'm looking forward to playing with it.

Here's to a more exciting, guilt free daily life.

See you soon. (Photos tomorrow of random scenery during the slo mo week)


  1. Jane Fonda is still kicking butt. I remember doing her workout years ago.

  2. Very fun to read your planning of the French Alps Tours, Lee. We're looking forward to picking you up on June 9th in Geneva. I'll be getting the details from you soon. Fun blog. Cynthia, French Alps Tours