Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Toilet Paper Revolution?????

A few days ago my friend L sent me an email that described a product which one could easily have guessed to be a fake, a joke, an email spoof. The product is "ShitBegone" Toilet Paper--and I'm here to tell you it's no joke and no spoof. It's the real deal.

I was so intrigued by the idea that I went to the website and ordered a case. It just arrived via UPS, and while the name of the product was not on the box, it was definitely identified as toilet tissue--96 rolls. (I think the UPS man wasn't sure whether to be amused or offer me sympathy for requiring this huge case of tp.) (I ordered the full case, because with a full case I get a free "ShitBegone" mug. How could I resist that?)

Anyhow, I immediately opened the box and took out a roll. Naturally, I grabbed my camera to memorialize the moment.

Jed, the creator and owner of the small business enterprise that markets this unusual product, claims that ShitBegone is "the future of toilet paper." Says so right on the label.

I gather I am also now a member of the "ShitBegone family" with all privileges and responsibilites attached therewith. One of those responsibilities is to "fold" my toilet paper, not "wad it up". That way you use less and get better, ah, coverage. I confess I have been a life-long wadder but am trying hard to reform.

Of course, I had to put it to the test as quickly as possible. Since at the moment I had no need of the paper for its intended use, I decided to do a couple of other comparison tests.

From my master bathroom's paper holder I tore off a five sheet length of a major tp brand--the kind that Mr. Whipple used to admonish the ladies for squeezing (surely you remember that!) I tore off a similar length of ShitBegone, and folded each piece over once and then again. I placed one "pad" of paper against each cheek (the ones under my eyes) and considered. Hmmmmm. Yes, actually the "major brand" does feel a little scratchier, even though it has all these poofy, quilty designs in it that are supposed to make it soft. Hmmmm again.

Next test: I took the pads to the bathroom sink. I unfolded them and turned the faucet on to a fast drip. One at a time I held each sheet by the ends letting the water drip into the center. The first one was ShitBegone. As the water wicked up the paper, the paper began to break apart in my fingers. It's pretty, um, delicate, and dissolves rapidly in water. (I would expect that would make for efficient flushing.) Next came the Char...opps... the major brand. Holding the ends, I let the water drip on it, wicking up until the entire length of paper was wet.
ShitBegone on left.....major brand on right

Nothing happened. I pulled on the ends and it did pull apart in the middle, but this stuff is not meant to come apart readily in water, that's pretty clear. Hmmmm.

Final test (at least for the time being): I took both wet pads of paper and wadded them up as tightly as I could. Keep in mind they were almost the same length when they started out, with the ShitBegone slightly longer. The ShitBegone ball of wet paper was about half the size of the other one. (It should be note here that both brands are 2 ply.) Either there was more paper in the major brand wad or it was coarser and less compressible--or both.

The ultimate and final test is yet to come. (Sorry I just don't have to right now.) But I will be sure to give you the results when the verdict is in.

Meantime, you can check it out at ShitBegone . Better yet, google shitbegone and take a look at how many much buzz has been generated about this product.

I promised sample rolls to a few friends, but the rest of you are going to have to check it out for yourselves. Think of it as "the paper chase", or "following the paper trail", or "getting your papers in order'' or any other euphemism you care to add.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Walk in the Snow

We had several inches of snow yesterday and I had resigned myself to staying inside my snug little house. However, my friend Lawrence called and suggested we take a hike in a nearby park. After a few seconds to get my mind around hiking in the snow (after all I did just get back from Antarctica!), I said, "OK!" We arranged to meet in the park which is very near his home.

I grabbed a quick shower and put on several layers of clothes--about the same as I wore in Antarctica-- and added sunscreen and sunglasses. After brushing the snow off my car I proceeded cautiously through town. The streets weren't bad, but there can always be a slick patch that the plows missed. The highway was clear so there was no problem until I turned off onto a county road to reach the park. That road had been partially cleared by local traffic, but the further I went, the more ice and snow I encountered. Eventually I was creeping along at 20 mph on a winding, hilly road, wondering if this was such a good idea after all!

Giant City State Park is a beautiful area, created during the last ice age as glaciers pushed up huge boulders and gouged out caves and other interesting rock formations. It's a favorite spot for lots of outdoor activities, including camping, hiking, picnics, and horseback riding. At one time or another in the past I've actually done all of these--but never in the snow!

I took this shot several years ago when another friend and I spent an early spring afternoon in the park

Lawrence and I were headed for a hiking trail called "the trillium trail", but when we arrived we found that the severe ice storm which struck our area 2 weeks ago apparently had damaged the trail to the extent it was not considered safe to hike. The park administration had closed it off.

Note the red tape across the sign. The a small yellow sheet taped on the left side explains the ice damaged area is unsafe.

Here's a view of part of the trillium trailhead that we could see from the parking pullout. I imagine in springtime trillium is abundant in the area, as well as many other wildflowers. Since I haven't learned yet how to upload pictures from other net sites--but I will eventually-- click to see pictures of this delicate wildflower. Trillum

Good little citizens that we are, we decided not to defy the park administrators. Lawrence suggested we walk up the asphalt road for a bit to see if any other trails looked promising. Since the road was deserted, we made our way to the next trailhead.

Before we left the trillium trail area I took one more shot of where we couldn't go. The trail follows a gradual gradient up to the ridge, over and back down and is a little over a mile. Normally it's not a difficult hike, but even if the trail hadn't been closed, it would have been a challenge in the snow.

The wet snow had pretty much melted off the dark road surface but there were some slick spots, so we stuck to the side in the snow, which offered better footing. I turned around to take this shot, and you can see our footprints. It looks one set but that's because I was trying to walk in Lawrence's footprints, and not having much luck, since he's a 6 footer and I'm 5'3".

I've driven in this area when there has been snow on the ground, but I'd never walked through it. The woods take on an entirely different dimension in the snow. It was very quiet, but after a few minutes we could hear a snow plow in the distance.

By the time we ambled up to this lot the plow had cleaned it up and was scraping against the asphalt. When I took this picture, the driver decided to leave. Maybe he thought I was a spy for the park rangers, checking up on him!

The trail behind this parking area was not closed, so we decided to give it a try.

In my haste to get ready for the hike I had forgot to bring my walking stick. Lawrence found some deadfall branches and broke off two pieces for us to use as temporary walking sticks--and they worked just fine!

It would have been illegal to break off a branch from a tree, but due to several recent ice and storm storms there was plenty of deadfall to choose from.

Here's Lawrence as he started off to find some suitable small limbs already on the ground. When we came back down from our hike we left our "walking sticks" near the trailhead in case some other intrepid hiker might want to use them.

The trailhead begins just beyond the picnic shelter on the left.

As we hiked I stopped several places to snap pictures.

Things that usually look very ordinary take on an entirely different aspect in the snow. Nature's "ornaments" on this evergreen are more beautiful than those on any "Christmas tree".

Eventually we reached an area where the trail became steep and the rocks looked really slippery. We both paused, considered, and pretty much simultaneously agreed it would not be wise to carry on any higher. We could probably get up, but coming down could be an entirely different deal! Personally I don't do down nearly so well as up, so I was considerably relieved that my friend also didn't want to pursue the trail further.

We weren't really ready to head back, however, so we brushed the snow from some flat rocks and sat down. Happily, before leaving home I had decided to don my waterproof pants, so I was quite comfortable on the rock. This shot was taken looking back down the trail from our rocky perch.

I made use of Lawrence's arm as we made our way back down to the trailhead, since I figured he'd rather have me lean gently on his arm than pick me up if I lost my footing and went down.

We walked back up the road to the trillium trailhead where both our vehicles were parked and stood talking for a while. After a few minutes we were somewhat surprised to see an enormous Peterbilt truck slogging up the road toward us. The truck stopped in the middle of the road, and since it seemed highly unlikely someone would be expecting a delivery in the park, Lawrence walked over to talk with the driver. Turned out the guy's actual destination was another mile or so up the county highway and he'd been given the wrong info about where he was supposed to turn off. As a result here he was in the park with his big-assed truck and no place to turn around.

Lawrence has had some experience driving big rigs like this one and told me he doubted the truck would be able to turn around, even up at the next trailhead parking area, although it was considerably larger than the pullout where we were parked. However, the trucker decided to give it a try and started on up the road.

My friend shook his head and said he didn't think the truck would be able to turn around. We waited, and sure enough, after a while the truck reappeared, slowly backing up the winding asphalt road. After another conference with the truck driver, Lawrence and I pulled out of the parking area and headed slowly back toward the highway with our hazard lights on and the truck following carefully--backing up! That trucker knew how to handle his rig, I'll say that. We pulled out onto the highway and Lawrence got out to help guide the trucker back onto the road. Once his rig was headed in the right direction, he gave us a big high five and went on his way.

We continued the additional half mile or so into the quaint little town of Makanda and found a little ice cream/coffee shop open. We enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate (mine was raspberry flavored-ummmm) and then headed back to the highway. Lawrence showed me a different route to get back to Carbondale, and that road was totally clear, which was a relief. (BTW, I strongly suggest you check out the link to Makanda, as it is an interesting little "hippy haven" town, nestled in the hills. It was also the home of the late Senator Paul Simon, who loved Southern Illinois with a passion.)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Working Out at the Rec

"The Rec" is the affectionate abbreviation for the Southern Illinois University-Carbondale Student Recreation Center, located on the SIU-C campus about a five minute drive from my home (unless I hit the eternal stoplight, which isn't really eternal, only 90 seconds. It just seems like an eternity.)

I started going to the Rec about a year and a half ago, after a friend of mine felt my newly skinnier arms and told me my triceps were flabby. Well! Trying not to be insulted, I had to admit she was right. I was slimmer overall, but despite having worked out with hands weights for a while, I wasn't very well toned and could sure benefit from some formal weight training.

Being an alumna of SIU I'm eligible to join the Rec Center, which is primarly for students. However, a lot of faculty and alums go there to swim, workout and fight off the ravages of growing older. I often see friends there, including quite a few people from my church.

This is Amanda, my personal trainer. Although by this time I know how to use all the equipment, I know myself well enough to realize that unless someone is there waiting for me to show up at the appointed time, I can--and will-- easily talk myself out of going to work out. So I pay the bucks and have a trainer work with me. Amanda is my third trainer, not because they dump me--honest--but because of the university's changing schedule. My first trainer was Lynn, who is the manager of the Rec's Lifestyle Enhancement Center. Eventually Lynn's admin duties began to overwhelm her and she had to pass on her clients to other trainers. Then came Michelle, with whom I worked for over 6 months. Michelle is working on her master's degree and last fall her class schedule didn't permit her to have a client at my regular workout time. Since I was accustomed to the days and times I wanted to stick with my schedule, so Michelle turned me over to Amanda.

Amanda is currently waiting to hear if she has been accepted at Temple University to get her PhD. I hope she is accepted, but that will mean she will be leaving in August--and I'll be getting another trainer. (sigh) I wish I could depend on myself to stay with it without a trainer, but when I'm snug at home, inertia takes over unless I have a specific appointment.

Before working out with weights, it's important your muscles be adequately warmed up and stretched to avoid injury. Sometimes I warm up at home, doing low impact aerobics to music; then I stretch, grab a quick shower and jump in my car to head for the Rec.

Other days I go in early to warm up on one of the high tech treadmills available. These babies do everything but fix you a cup of coffee!

This is the weight machine I usually start each session on. It's my favorite since I get to lie down. It's a seated leg press and primarily works the quadriceps, the largest muscles in our bodies. As you push against the weight plate with your feet, you raise the weights on the left side. I'm up to pressing 230 pounds, which I feel pretty good about. (I think I started with 100.)

This is another leg machine, the front leg curl. Amanda took this shot. Note the mirror behind me. Both side walls are mirrors so you can check your form. I try not to look.

This is a hamstring exercise, and is the complement, or opposite, of the leg press. Judging by these "thunder thighs", I need to do more of them!

After 45 minutes of sweating and straining on the weight machines comes the very best part! I lie down on this mat and Amanda does passive stretching of my legs and hips and shoulders and then gives me a brief neck and shoulder massage. The massage is to keep my right shoulder from seizing up, which it has a tendency to do because I have an impingement problem. The massage feels great, and afterward what I'd really like to do is curl up on the mat and take a nap!

But no, it's back to the women's locker room, hoping I remember the combination to my locker so I can retrieve my coat and purse and lock up my weight gloves and towel until next time. I go twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings,and I try not to let anything interfere with these appointments. The weather has not been cooperative lately, however, and I've only been able to get in one session a week since I got back from my trip to Antarctica. I can tell when I miss a session because the next one is more difficult. When I was gone for two weeks on the trip, I lost some ground, even though I was doing a lot of climbing, walking, etc. It's not the same as training specific muscle groups. Like the old saying, "What you don't use, you lose."

Since I began weight training at the Rec I am notably stronger. I can heft my mom's wheelchair in and out of my hatchback much more easily and I scoop up 25 pound bags of dog and cat food as if they were nothing. Even 50 pound sacks of birdseed are more easily maneuvered into my cart, providing they are up high enough on the pile for me to pull them off and slide them into the cart.

Weight training works for anyone at any age. You just need to proceed carefully, prepare your muscles with a warmup and take your time. Patience pays off big dividends in this arena.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Birthday Bash

Yesterday, March 5, was my mother's 94th birthday. The years are gradually taking their toll, but all things considered, Mom does really well. She has an apartment in an assisted living center about 5 miles from where I live, so I can get there in 10 minutes if I need to.

When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she said, "A cookbook! The kind that has all the basic stuff in it." I found a like-new Betty Crocker "Introduction to Cooking" at a local used book store, and Mom said it was exactly what she had in mind. Although meals are provided at the facility in a common dining room, Mom does most of her own cooking, including making dinner every Tuesday night for my bachelor nephew, who lives in the same town. The kitchen in her apartment is tiny, but she's always been a good cook and manages quite well.

Last night we went to her favorite restaurant, Applebee's. Two friends of ours met us there, and we had a wonderful meal.

I have no idea why it is when I tell Mom to smile she almost always ends up looking like she just ate a sour apple. She's wearing a silk blouse I brought her a few years ago when I went to Bangkok.

A cooperative waiter took this one of all of us. Wow, she almost smiled!
I waited until we were almost ready to leave to do the pictures and tell the waiter what the special occasion was, because I didn't want him to summon the birthday singers. Mom would have died of embarrassment!
After dinner I took Mom back to her apartment, where we were greeted by her two cats, Peaches and Pumpkin. Too late, I realize I should have taken their pictures too. Another time, perhaps.
I feel very fortunate to still have my Mom around and in relatively good shape and in good spirits. She keeps busy reading and watching TV, especially St. Louis Cardinal baseball and NASCAR. She's a rabid Jeff Gordon fan and has pictures, posters and other "No. 24" memorabilia all over the apartment. Just outside the apartment livingroom window she has three bird feeders which my nephew fills for her. She loves watching the various birds that come to the feeders, especially the hummingbirds. I think Peaches and Pumpkin like watching the birds as well.
Aren't I lucky to still be someone's "little girl"?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Beware of falling ice????

Good morning, Everyone!

I woke up this morning to an odd sound. At first I thought a troop of squirrels was running around on my roof, but knowing the roof was icy, that didn't seem to make sense. Bright sun was streaming through my bedroom window, and when I peeked out, I thought, how odd that it's hailing while the sun is shining! Then I realized it wasn't hailing at all. The sight and sounds were made by chunks of ice falling from trees, wires, roofs, etc. The ice was melting so quickly in the sun that it didn't have time to liquify completely. Therefore, small icy chunks were raining down like little shards of glass. If you look carefully at the picture above you can see the ice chunks sparkling on the ground and in the street in front of my house. The chunks continued to "rain" down as I shot this picture, but I'm not sure if you can see them as they fall.

Front yard from a slightly different angle. If you enlarge the picture, perhaps you can see the ice falling against the dark background of the tree trunk.

As I type an hour after taking the pictures, it's still "raining ice", but now it's coming in fits and spurts--and driving my poor dog and cats nuts. They know "something" is on the roof, but can't figure it out. (My dog friend Cosmos would be totally freaking out!)

Yesterday I spent quite a bit of time watching a very unusual bird feeding in my backyard. He looked sort of like a pigeon, but hopped instead of walking as pigeons do. Mostly black and white with a front that was either tan or dirty--hard to tell which-- he was rather aggressive, bluffing away the cardinals as they tried to alight nearby. I wanted to take his picture but was worried if I opened the back door, he'd fly off, which in fact he did. So I settled for trying for a shot of him through the glass half of the back door.

I apologize for the poor quality of this shot, but I think you can see "mystery bird" in the center. A female cardinal is perched on the feeder to the left, so you can get an idea of the relative size of Mr. Mystery Bird. Every time he moved he showed a different color pattern, mostly of black and white. His beak was fairly large and orange, but I couldn't get a good look at his feet to check color or shape. I went carefully through my bird book ("Birds of the Northern Hemisphere") but couldn't find anything that matched what I was seeing. The closest I found was a couple of species of gulls or terns. Since there are a lot of lakes in our area, we do have gulls, so maybe that's what he was. (The lakes were still frozen over yesterday, so I supposed the fishing wasn't too great.) We're located on the Mississippi Flyway, and get a lot of migrating birds, passing through on their way to and from their summer and winter habitats. Perhaps he was some exotic bird not native to the northern hemisphere, which would explain my not being able to ID him from my book . Mr. Mystery Bird hung around the entire day, stoking up on sunflower seeds. I also saw him pulling a worm out of the mushy ground around the base of the feeder, so he isn't a picky eater.

This morning one brave squirrel is at the feeder, but most of the birds are hanging back, apparently not wishing to get conked on their little heads by chunks of ice that continue to fall. (Some of the chunks are several inches long, and I wouldn't want to get conked either!) In any case Mr. Mystery Bird is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he's on his way north with a full belly and a clear day for flying. Bon voyage, Mystery Bird!

I mentioned the cardinals, and I always have lots of them, since sunflower seeds are one of their favorite repasts. I should have posted this picture last week, since I took it when the snow was falling, but between having camera problems and being anxious to post the retreat pictures, I omitted it, so I'm putting it up now. There were only a few birds cooperative enough to hang around while I shot this picture, but earlier I had counted at least 12 bright red male cardinals clinging to the bending, snow-laden bamboo. I don't much like winter, but sights such as this help relieve the tedium and inconvenience of ice and snow.

Today is my mother's 94th birthday. (Happy Birthday, Molly!) Since the ice is rapidly melting and the rest of today is predicted to be sunny and relatively mild, we have plans for an evening out to celebrate. More nasty weather is forecast for tomorrow, so we must party while we can! I promise pictures.

Monday, March 3, 2008

From winter to spring with a weekend between

Hi, Everyone!

My new camera works! And it's compatible with the software already on my computer, so I was able to upload successfully the pictures I took with the old camera and quite a few taken this weekend with the new one. So here goes with catching up:

Here's the snow we had the last week in Feb. From the snow on my compost bin I think you can get an idea what it was like. There are still a few yucky looking piles of dirty snow lying around in parking lot corners, but with another couple of days of warmer weather they will disappear. I hope that's the last of the snow and ice for the year, but around here, you never know. Some of our heaviest snows have been in March, so I will keep fingers and toes crossed!

This weekend was our annual Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship Women's Retreat, held at a camp site on Little Grassy Lake about 10 miles from my house. There are a lot of lakes in our area, and this is just one of many camp sites available for outings like ours. This particular campsite is operated by the Methodist Church, but they aren't picky and rent to us Unitarians just like anyone else. The term "camp site" is somewhat misleading, since there are buildings with dorm rooms, meeting rooms, a cafeteria, etc.--all very nice and not really "roughing it". This is our third year at the Methodist campsite.

On Friday afternoon another gal and I stopped by our church to pick up lounging pillows from the Jr. High classroom and plastic glasses from the kitchen. (We try to avoid using paper or disposable plastic as much as we can.) Back home I packed up my car with the rest of the stuff I was taking--books, clothes, snacks for Fri night, yoga mats, a box of marking pens and pencils, 2 boxes of ceramic mugs, clean rags, hand soap and one roll of paper towels for the "designated restroom"--which I will explain later--and, of course, the timer and other materials for the famous Women's Retreat Saturday Night Charades, which has become a retreat tradition.

I was first to arrive at the campsite around 4 pm Friday, so I unloaded my car and claimed the semi private room closest to the big meeting room where most activities would take place. That meant my bathroom would also be the "designated restroom", since the other bathrooms are downstairs (who designed this building?????)

I set up the "relaxation area", with the pillows and my books. Others would also be bringing books and other items from home for all to share during free moments. I set up my boom box with a "Chieftains" CD--nothing like great Irish music to raise your spirits and get your blood pumping!

The others in the Fri night group began to trickle in around five. There were 12 or so at one point on Fri night, but I think only 8 slept over. This is just the second year for our having the Fri night sleep over option for the retreat. I love it, since we can set everything up in the afternoon and relax in the evening before the main group arrives on Sat morning.

Here's a shot of some of the Fri night group, hanging out, snacking, and decompressing from kids, jobs and whatever else rocks their regular worlds.
Some are working moms, several are retired, more "mature" ladies, like myself. Most are members of the Fellowship, but a few are not. Everyone is welcome at our retreats as long as they are female!

This is the "snack table". Yum. There was also stuff on other tables, including guacamole, bean dip, lots of crackers,chips, and cheeses, and--of all things--a jar of caviar! Do we know how to retreat or what!

Sat morning one of the gals led a yoga class at 7 and by the time we were done, the Sat group had begun to arrive, register, and unpack. We started with an ice breaker activity, since there are always new Fellowship members and first time retreaters in the group. This activity involved choosing a place from among signs scattered around the room as a place you would want to go.
Here's Tammy, one of this year's co-chairs, explaining how the activity works.
The signs included Ocean, Forest, Desert, Fire, Cave, Antarctica, and Mountain. We were to group around the signs and tell each other why we wanted to go there. Naturally I went immediately to the sign that said "Antarctica", since I'd go back there in a New York minute! Only one other person stood with me. She had been to the area on a large cruise ship a year or so ago. Interesting that of all the places we could have chosen, we both wanted to go back there.

After a while we were asked to switch and go stand under a sign for a place we would definitely NOT want to go. I went straight to the "Cave" sign, since I do NOT like caves. I had plenty of company there. As you might expect, several people were clustered under the "Antarctica" sign, and I beelined it over there to ask them why not??? Main answer, "Because I don't like to be cold." I explained I was not really cold while there, since the temperature was in the 30's and I was properly dressed--and reminded them when I returned and got off the plane in St. Louis it was 16 degrees!!! They were surprised to learn it's that warm during Antarctica's summer. Many people have misconceptions about this little known part of our world.

Another short break and we went to the craft tables. We'd been told to bring a white tee shirt or other garment to decorate. On two tables were lots of beads, feathers, fringe, and other interesting baubles for gluing, sewing or tying on--plus markers, glue guns, pins and scissors.
Here's a retreater contemplating what next to put on her shirt. These were to be our costumes for "Celebrating the Body Beautiful"--which turned out to be Belly Dancing!

Let's see...feathers, beads, fringe,
glitter, colored markers, tinsel...so much to choose from.

How can I decide what to do?

I forgot to bring a shirt, but someone had brought extra garments, so I chose to decorate a purple bra.....

...and here it is!

And yes, I actually did wear it later in the day.

And no, I'm not going to post a picture.

After another short break we gathered for Pat to lead us in a "music and healing" activity which involving using tones to do something called "aligning our chakras". Hmmmmm. I don't know if I got mine aligned, but it was fun to do.

I especially liked the "singing bowls". One of our group has been to Napal and brought those along for the program.

After a yummy lunch prepared by the camp staff we sang songs, table by table, according to the song lyrics put on our tables in advance.

One of the tables had "Hava Nagila" as their assigned song. After singing it once, they formed a conga line and all of us sang while they trouped through the room!

After lunch we gathered for the Maori Art Circle activity. First we were asked to draw a large circle on a piece of paper. Then we were instructed to draw within the circle one of each of the following symbols: bird, flower, mountain, snake, path, shelter, butterfly, and tree. That took several minutes; then the leader explained how to interpret what we had drawn. The circle is divided into four quadrants, representing physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental aspects of an individual. Each of the eight symbols represents a facet of life. Where you place each symbol, as well as its size and position related to the other symbols, determines it's relative significance in your life. It sounds kinky but was surprisingly accurate for many of us. Fun to do anyway.
Here's a shot of someone else's circle. (Mine was done in pastels and wouldn't have shown up as well as this one.)

After another break we divided into small groups to discuss our spiritual journeys--how we came to be where we are. It's always interesting to hear the stories of the paths others have taken in seeking spiritual fulfillment and peace. There are often similarities in our stories, but also a lot of intriguing differences. It's another wonderful way we come to learn and care about each other during the retreats.

Another short break--to get gussied up--and then came Belly Dancing! A couple of the women in our group have actually had lessons and they showed us how it's done. The music was great, and there was no one else to watch, so we all had a great time shimmying and shaking our booties! Some women chose not to participate, but at the retreat there is no pressure to do anything, so that's OK.

We have a saying that "What happens at the retreat, stays at the retreat", so I chose this picture because the shadows pretty much make everyone anonymous. The blonde lady in the center has had lessons. I'm telling you, she has those moves down pat--and she's about 3 years older than I am! Sheesh!

The next activity was a smorgasbord of "pampering", including the low impact aerobic class I led, a massage therapist who donated her time for tips, a nail station, and just a lot of general relaxing and schmoozing.

Here's Jan doing her nails.

Dinner was excellent, and afterwards Pat led us in an African chant, which some of us had learned the year before and always enjoy singing. Then it was time for charades!
I didn't get any pictures during charades, because I was too busy to grab my camera. For the past several years I've been writing charades for others to act out and I've been the timer as well--so, I never got to play before. This year someone wrote up additional charades so I could draw from that batch and play along--great fun! It may sound hokey, but I guarantee when a bunch of women let their hair down and have to pantomine various words, it can get hysterically funny--and it did. We laughed until we hurt. That's such a great and healthy thing to be able to do. Laughter, I've heard it said, is "internal jogging". Well, we jogged up a storm Sat night! We played charades until nearly 10. Some of us trundled off to bed, but a few diehards stayed up until midnight, enjoying the snacks and each other's company.

Our Sunday morning started off with another yoga class. After breakfast we had our morning worship service. Each year one or two people are assigned to develop the service, and it's always different and very special. This time it was about Ayervedic Yoga, and began with a wonderful cleansing chant done with a CD. Again this might sound kind of "new agey", but it was enjoyable and felt powerful to do as a group. The speaker taught us about three types of meditation and we practiced each for a short time. Very relaxing. And something I ought to do more often.

After the service, everyone pitched in to clean up, return furniture to the assigned places, and pack to return to our respective homes. I should add that the weather was wonderfully cooperative for us all three days, and it was actually in the 70's by the time I got back home!
As I unpacked the car I noticed my crocuses were up again and really blooming big time! Here's a shot of early Spring in Southern Illinois.
It may get cold again for a day or two, but when you see these bright little guys, you know Spring is definitely on the way! And after the Winter we've had, we are ready!
LATE BREAKING FLASH! My personal weather forecaster person, aka my Mother, just called to ask me if I had "plenty of provisions on hand". Apparently another nasty winter storm is headed our way tonight with snow, sleeet, freezing rain and ice. It's already raining and the temperature has dropped from the 60's to 40. I just took out the trash, and I swear it dropped another 5 degrees while I was doing that. (I just checked my outside thermometer again, and by golly it did drop 3 degrees--so it's definitely cooling off quickly.) Oh, yuck. Here we go again.