September 2017


Our ship sailed all night and docked at Strasbrough early in the morning. We went through several locks during the night, some more smoothly than others. But the ship seems in good shape regardless.

We were given a pass for the tram system and had a local guide show us around the city. We walked through a variety of streets paved with very old cobblestones, new cobblestones (flattened and easy for walking and bikes), and more like small flagstones or tiles. There were some wall towers from medieval times still standing.

Where we were walking was once the old, poor part of town. Several of the very large houses were once tanneries. This was obvious because they have special rooms at the top of the house with a raised roof open to the air. This was necessary to dry the hides they tanned.

We know it was a poor part of town because tanning hides is a very stinky business filled with lots of icky garbage, smells, and downright nasty stuff. The natural waterway would carry some of this away. But the smells would remain. The area remained a poor part of town until after WWII when they had to rebuild much of the city. At that point, they decided to gentrify the area and it became a tourist stop.

We had a local guide taking us through the city in which he was born. He gave us a history lesson on the area. The original Celts who lived here were called something I have no idea how to spell but is where the Alsace name comes from. The Romans were the people who called the place Gaul (in Latin, of course). They were being insulting since it was the Latin word related to “Chicken”. Even so, the rooster remains a symbol of France.

The region has shifted from German to French control a number of times – eleven, according to our guide. It has remained under French control since the end of WWII. Today, even after two millenium of strife between the French and Germans, they have a tram that has one end of the path in France and the other in Germany, a true example of peace and the power of the EU.

We entered the square and there was the Strasbourg Cathedral. The massive building took over 200 years to build and was never quite finished. There is only one tower. By the time they got to the second tower, the Gothic style was out of fashion and they had run out of money. So, they stopped.

It has one of the few (perhaps the only) Rose Window that doesn’t depict a religous icon. Instead, it is a geometric pattern and is stunningly beautiful. There is also added at some point, as astrological clock. It had to be added later because it depicts the sun as the center of the solar system and the church was built before Galileo and Copernicus. It also has a very modern looking clock.

After our guided tour through the old part of the city, we returned to the boat for lunch and then were given time to wander around. We went back to area we had been earlier in the morning and found a pastry shop. There I got a chocolate croissant while Dick got a variety of small eclaires – each one with a different flavored filling. We also got some coffee and sat outside in the warm sunshine enjoying our treat.

It has been overcast in the morning so we went back into the cathedral to see the stained glass windows in the sunshine. While the rose window was pretty in the morning, it was spectacular in the afternoon.

We managed to find our way on the tram system without getting lost and made it back to the boat safely. We had a lovely evening and talked to a bunch more new people, learning their stories.

We stayed docked overnight and will move along later today.

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The second night at the hotel went much better. They really had unplugged the bed so there weren’t lights on all night. That was a big plus. The air conditioning worked. Everything was far more hospitable.

I worried about the whole Uber thing. Since it didn’t work at the airport, I wasn’t sure how it would work from the hotel. I was messing with it before we checked out nnd somehow ordered a ride which would be at the hotel before we were checked out. I tried to find where to cancel it and had myself in a tizzy. I found it, cancelled the ride, and we got ourselves checked out and ready. I really got Uber to come for us and we made it safely to the ship. Having the addresses written out beforehand made this so much easier. I just handed drivers a card and hoped they got me to the right place. They did.

We boarded the ship and got ourselves unpacked before going up to the dining room for lunch. It was cloudy with showers on and off. Luckily we were already acquainted with the city and didn’t need to venture out in the rain to get out money’s worth.

Instead, we went to the lounge and played cards. Someone wanted to know what we were playing and we told him Eucker and he went and got his wife and we played together. Then they had something else scheduled and left.

Another couple came over and asked if we would teach them how to play. Roland didn’t play cards at all and this game was too confusing with right and left bowers. So we decided to play gin rummy, one hand at a time. We had a lovely afternoon doing that.

We then had to learn about the running of the ship, meet the essential crew, and generally get a welcome talk. So we listened to all they had to say before being shunted back to the dining room for dinner. I hope to keep switching tables in order to meet more people. So we picked a different table for dinner than we had used for lunch.

Meals here are delicious and it was fun to have each course appear with some portions of the meal based on the culture or cousine of the area we are in. This is something new this trip.

For breakfast today, we sat at a new table. After breakfast there was another talk to attend to before we got on our buses and went into Basel. There we took a walking tour.

The cathedral we had visited on Sunday was part of the tour. We learned construction began in 1019 and it wasn’f finished until 1505. Part of the reason was that a major earthuake, the worst in Europe’s recorded history, knocked down part of the building before it was even finished being built. That must have been soul-crushing.

We didn’t go inside the church today beccause they were practicing music inside. Luckily, we had already seen it.

History tidbit: Only the very rich could be buried close to the church itself. They were not enbalmed and had no casket. They dug a pit, placed the body inside, and covered it with dirt and then a paving stone. The corpse would then rot and give off the wonderful smell of a rotting corpse. And as the poor schmucks entered the church they had to pass over the “stinking rich” and that’s where the phrase comes from.

We returned to the ship for lunch and then had some time to kill. Close by the ship, about a mile away, was a cool marker where Switzerland, France, and Germany come together. We walked over to see that and got back to the ship in time to have another talk.

This time, a local woman, born in Basel came to talk to us about life in Switzerland today. She had lived in the US for eight years and her English was impeccable. She told us about her native land and then took questions from the audience.

It was time to leave port, so they kicked her to shore and off we went, sailing down the Rhine River.

It would be so easy to quit. Quitting takes zero effort. I could quit CrossFit and yoga and everything would stop aching and hurting.

While on Sistercation, I noticed one day that nothing hurt. Nothing. My calves weren’t aching. My IT band went back to unnoticeable. I didn’t have trouble with my lats or triceps or any particular part of my body. My everything was pain free. No strain. No ouchiness.

In addition to this pain free status, I could still hold my balance, pick up crap, move freely and without injury, and do all the things I couldn’t do easily five years ago. My body still held all the benefits of CrossFit and yoga without all the actual effort of doing anything.

I came home and got back into my CrossFit and yoga routine. And the intermittent strains and aches and pains returned.

I just had a massage yesterday and Jose worked really hard to get rid of the built up accumulation of my active lifestyle. I really hurt my shoulder/scapula a couple weeks ago with an overhead carry WOD. It’s finally fixed.

Then last night was my regular yin yoga class and we did lots of deep stretches with props (most of the session was with bolsters and it was really lovely). In yin yoga, the idea is to sink into poses so that the connective tissue and fascia and all the tightness have time to release and relax and the musculoskeletal system can achieve previous flexibility and whatnot. It isn’t like vinyasa or flow yoga.

Today’s CrossFit WOD had kettlebell swings and toes to bar, which I sub out as knees to elbows(ish). There were also goblet squats with the kettlebell. And so, right now, my hands are on fire and my quads and lats are letting me know I did a bunch of work.

When I first started CrossFit, I couldn’t have done anything I did today. My kettlebell swings were done with lighter weight, I couldn’t squat below parallel, I couldn’t raise my knees to even my waist. I was unable to do the things I did today – not with ease or panache or grace or anything, but did them nonetheless.

I’ve spent thousands of dollars on CrossFit over the years, not counting clothing or equipment or protein powder or any of that stuff, but just on membership. And I still can’t do a pull-up or HSPU. I can’t climb a rope and I hope I never do. I’m really paranoid about falling from that height and breaking my hip. I’m an old woman and Grandma never recovered from her broken hip.

So it is my own fault I don’t climb ropes. It’s also my own fault I don’t have a pull-up or HSPU or any of the other things I complain about. I’ve not earned them. Paying dues isn’t a magic formula for success. You actually have to do the work to get the results. Certainly my age is a factor in all this, but so is my attitude. I have to take responsibility for my failures. Which allows me to take credit for all my successes – so it works out.

There are things I do outside the gym that when I stop to think about it, are absolutely amazing. My balance is so much stronger, my strength is much greater, my ability to do many of the things Little Old Ladies can’t do is simply awesome.

So, even though it is sometimes tempting to quit and return to slugdom, I’ve worked too hard to get to where I am right now. It certainly wouldn’t take five years to get back to taking every jar into the other room to be opened or carrying in only one or two bags of groceries at a time.

It’s isn’t a daily reward anymore. I don’t make leaps and bounds of improvement on a weekly basis. I can’t see the incremental tiny growth, but looking back I can see the results.

It’s like aging. I don’t feel any older than I did yesterday. Aging is constant and incremental. I am certainly older than I was five years ago and I know this when looking back. Each moment brings me closer to my next birthday, a marker we need to remind ourselves that time moves on.

Some days it seems like I’ve put in a lot of effort for not much gain – until I look back and see exactly how far it is I’ve come. Quitting is seductive because it is monumentally easy. And quite frankly, if I could quit and remain right here, I probably would. But quitting is going to make me slide back down the mountain and I’ve worked so hard to get here that I do believe I will just have to keep going, strained IT band and all.

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Adult to child: Just do your best.
Adult to child: Is this really your best?
Child to adult, hesitantly: Yes.

Just do your best. We say this to kids all the time. It’s onerous. How many times as adults do we not do our best? Can you really NOT cook a better meal than the ones you have been preparing all week? When was the last time you really cleaned the house instead of just getting the surfaces? How much television have you watched instead of [fill in blank]? Is your career path on course? How many times did you check social media at work this week? Is that really your best?

We do our best on occasion. But not all the time. It would be exhausting. I make decent meals much of the time, but other times I honestly don’t feel like it. We don’t have to have gourmet food three times a day.

The house is reasonably clean. The laundry is done often enough. We aren’t going to have the health department come in and condemn the place. But it isn’t spotless and probably never was.

Life is imperfect. Doing one’s best all the time is perfection and we are not capable of perfection. I’m not sure it should even be a goal. If everyone were perfect, whatever that might mean, we would all be the same. It is our imperfections which make us unique individuals. I’m odd in this place and even weirder in that one and when you sum up all the ways in which I miss the mark, it creates me.

When I CrossFit, I’m not the best. I’m often not even anywhere close to my own best. I’m tired and cranky and the WOD contains crap I struggle with. But by struggling in my own crappy manner time and again, by listening to the coach who points out the errors in my form, I can improve to something better. But I will never get to best, at least not consistently because that would be perfection and … humans aren’t perfect.

When I do yoga, I strive to get myself tied into the correct knot and because I do yin, I then try to hold the pose and melt into it. Sometimes this is simply impossible and sometimes it is merely a struggle. But because I’ve been doing this for months, my poses look more like they are approaching the way the masters says to contort oneself. But in yoga, acceptance is more important than prescription.

I’ve been meditating. My mind is far less chaotic and I can focus on my breath for longer and longer periods. There was a time when I couldn’t even sit still for a few minutes. I can now. It isn’t the best, but it is better.

I rarely have the strength or stamina to do my best. But I can often do enough. Perfection is unattainable. But enough can be enough. If you let it.

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I’m nearly done with my 28 days of guided meditation. Each day has had a positive affirmation to help center the mind when it starts to wander off in any and all directions. I’ve been able to sit still and keep my mind tethered closer as the days have gone by.

I want to continue the practice of meditation after the four weeks is up. I know I will need some anchor other than just my breath, although that helps as well. I’ve looked for sites that have a list of positive affirmations and I think they are all a bit too much for me. I am not perfect and I never have been. I don’t always choose the good thing to do. I have a list of faults and failings a mile long, and then some. The positive affirmations have made me cringe as I know what I’m chanting to myself is an outright lie.

Because of this, I decided to write some of my own positive affirmations. Things I can say to myself that are true and hold me anchored to the world as it.

  1. Life is messy and chaotic. Embrace the chaos.
  2. There is no certainty so there is always hope.
  3. Kindness is a superpower. You can always be kind.
  4. Coffee exists.
  5. Beauty is there if you look.
  6. I am not responsible for everything.
  7. Sadness is as fleeting as happiness.
  8. Dandelions are really wildflowers.
  9. Cool showers on hot days are affordable luxuries.
  10. Lily of the valley smells divine.
  11. Music exists.
  12. Mom was right. Be nice. You will sleep better.
  13. No one is perfect – not even me – as it should be.
  14. Crying is release.
  15. Chocolate exists.
  16. Clean sheets are a delight.
  17. There is only one “best” of anything and everything. I’m ok.
  18. Hot showers on cold mornings are an affordable luxury.
  19. Plans are theory. Life is practice.
  20. I am a hot mess, like everyone else.
  21. Creativity abounds.
  22. There is only one “worst” of anything and everything. I’m ok.
  23. Trying counts for something.
  24. There are many more things to discover.
  25. It’s all right to be unsure.

That was a short list of things that I’m grateful are true. They might not be positive affirmations in the sense that I’m not lying to myself about how perfect I am and how perfect life is and how perfect anything is. They are reasons why life is good and it would help me to remember them. I’m sure I can come up with some more of these in another month.

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The internet has become so enhanced it is barely functioning for me. It is all made to leave me feeling like I am “normal” and nothing is to upset me. Algorithms are used everywhere to “enhance” my experience to the point where my experience is the same with or without the internet.

Facebook is determined to let me see like-minded things even though my friends are far from like-minded. It must be evident somewhere that I’m not interested in a bland, one-dimensional existence. Some of my friends are very liberal; some are very conservative. Some of my friends are very religious; some of my friends are very agnostic. Some of my friends are Americans; some of my friends live around the globe. I don’t choose to live in a “only like me” world.

But Facebook wants my experience to be “better” by offering me more of whatever it is I seem like to their algorithms. Apparently I’m a CrossFit coffee addict with a love of sarcasm. That’s true, but I’m also many other things and am not upset by ideas outside my own thinking. In fact, I seek them out. A difference of opinion helps me either broaden my own or clarify my stance. Both are admirable things to do.

Netflix is on my smart TV and it “helps” me by listing all the various types of shows I might like. Even though I made a watch list of shows I would like, those don’t just pop up any more. Instead I get a line saying “Since you watched this” and it will show me similar shows. A line for each and every damn thing I’ve clicked on, even if it was by mistake and I watched all of ten seconds before getting out of there. The shows I would like to see are hidden somewhere down the list or off the chart or somewhere unfindable. It’s very difficult to move from watching a mystery to a documentary to a comedy. If I like one type, dammit, I will like that forevermore. Did they mishear Poe’s Raven?

You Tube just upgraded their site. I get a lot of recommendations to watch crap I’m not interested in. Instead of the newest things for the channels I’ve subscribed to, I get a list of shit from weeks to months to years ago, depending on how old the channel is. They are using some algorithm that makes me see, what I assume are the most popular videos from that channel. So, in all likelihood, something I’ve already seen.

Algorithms are doing their best to make my life uniform, bland, and without thinking or expanding my ideas at all. They want me to see and hear what I’ve already seen and heard.

Amazon loves to show me ads with things I’ve already purchased, just in case anyone in their right mind need several $150 heat presses or 47 fancy ass toothbrushes. I already bought that crap. I’m not going to be buying it over and over and if, perchance, I want to buy something again, you guys save my list of what I’ve already bought. Why show them to me in ads? Or, conversely, if I’ve ever clicked through an ad in interest and then opted to click away, that same ad shows up over and over and over and over and over, just in case I might really want to buy what I didn’t want to buy before.

Staples used to track my every move and when I ordered supplies at work, which were things I had no use for at home, it would show up in my ads for months here at home. So, I just bought 5,000 sheets of high end thick very white paper, and your advertisement wants me to buy more? Really? Why aren’t you making an algorithm that precludes the things I’ve just bought for at least so many weeks or months? Isn’t that more reasonable?

Cookies are supposed to make my experience better by allowing things to show up that I might like. Instead, they are limiting my experience by selecting to keep new things from me.

I must go now and buy a spice jar holder. Wait, my kitchen has a whole drawer designed specifically for spices. And I just clicked on that plastic insert thing to figure out how it would work for someone else. I’m not interested. I will never be interested. Why won’t the algorithms learn this?

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