Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Fabulous Orkney Tour

This past spring, looking ahead I was fairly certain that this was going to be my last summer in Scotland -- mine was never intended to be a permanent position, and the latest bit of funding was scheduled to run out at the end of the year. Usually I head back to the US for my holidays to visit family and friends, but I decided to do something different this year. Something like taking advantage of the fact that I'm living in Scotland! Something like trying to see more of this fabulous country, like maybe the Highlands! (I couldn't leave Scotland without seeing the Highlands!) Or, looking at the map, what about going to the very top of Scotland!!

A friend of mine (Hi GP!) had a great experience with Rabbies Tours, so I thought I'd see what they had to offer. I wavered back and forth between a couple of their 5-day tours, but finally I decided on the Orkney and the Far North tour.

I signed up for the tour, and although June was shaping up to be an incredibly busy month, I was so looking forward to the trip. Not that I knew anything about Orkney and I didn't have time to do any reading up. I just knew that it was up there at the top of Scotland, and I was going to get to places that I would probably never go to on my own.

The morning June 11 finally rolled around, and I made it down the the Royal Mile (only a wee bit late) where Rabbies buses load up. They do small 16-person buses, so the tours are more intimate than most others. There were only 14 on our tour, plus our tour guide, Karen. It was an interesting bunch: three couples from different places in Canada and the US, a couple from Poland on their honeymoon, two woman from Germany, and four woman traveling alone (including myself). Zeitha and Leslie were both from Australia, although both have ties to Scotland. Jane was from Toronto, but she grew up in Scotland. I would really enjoy getting to know these three ladies over the next five days.

I'm going to do a blog post for each day, because there is way, way, way too much to try to squish it all into one post. But here are a few of my favorite pictures below. The tour, by the way, was incredible and fabulous and amazing and really there aren't enough words! It's trite, but Scotland is so very beautiful! More to come...

Our mascot: A Highland Cow (not a cow wearing a viking helmet)

Flowers at the Falls of Dochart


Gorse on a hill

Me in my twee Scottish hat on the ferry to Orkney


Broch of Gurness

Brough of Birsay

Skara Brae

Ring of Brodgar

In St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall

Flowers at Smoo Cave

Real Highland Cow

Along the northern coast of Scotland

Gorse in the Highlands

Just a picture I liked (near Carr Bridge)

In the woods near the Falls of Bruar

New Friends

Friday, October 22, 2010

Writing in the Dust

Hmm, a bit dusty in here wouldn't you say? I mean it's only been, let's see.. June, July, ... , October, almost 5 months since my last posts. And those were teasers about my trip to Orkney which implied more to come.

Some big things happened in these 5 months, most of which anyone reading my blog already knows about. In June, my parents visited, and we had a great time. I had a job interview back in the US. I went on some fabulous walks and avoided the tourists and the Festival crowds in July and August. I got the job and started planning my move to Baltimore. At the beginning of October, one of my sisters came to visit, and we had a great time. All that was wonderful!

Other stuff hasn't been so great, namely how I've been taking care of myself. Answer: Not very well. Oh, I've limped along (not literally). I've been seeing a terrific massage therapist/osteopath type person, who has helped to unknot some of the long-standing knots in my neck, shoulders, and back. In May I started taking something to help with the anxiety-depression combo that strikes with a killer migraine every period, lasting for approximately 2 weeks, and I think that has helped. I've added a bunch of supplements (B6, Magnesium, Calcium, Vit D, Vit E, Omega 3) that research suggests is good for mood and/or migraine prevention. That's all good.

But those few good-for-me things have been completely overwhelmed by the bad-for-me things. Little or no aerobic exercise. Waaaayyyy to much time sitting immobile in front of the computer playing games. (The computer I play games on is currently taking a time-out under a blanket in the closet.) Little or no meal planning and poor, poor eating habits. Becoming more and more hermity. Plus the mental bashing for not doing all the things I should or have said I was going to do. (Bah, a pox on myself. I'm so sick of my own mental whining.)

And as you might expect, the results of all the above things have wreaked havoc on my mental and physical well-being. The mind-body-spirit trifecta is broken. So, so broken.


Essentially, I have very few good habits. And what few I have are in severe danger of being lost in mire of my many, many bad habits. (Once upon a time, I know I had more good habits. Where, oh where did they go? I ran several 10k races last year, for Bob's sake.) In a nutshell, this is what I need to change. It is the big picture. I can talk about taking better care of myself, blah, blah, blah, blah. But unless I'm actively building up good habits to replace the bad old ones, nothing will change in the long run.

It's a great plan! And simple! Bad habits -> good habits.

But the success of any great plan is in the details.

So let's start with the most egregious. Probably the worst habit I have right now is dragging my feet in the morning to get out the door and into work. (On the surface, this doesn't seem so terrible, but the repercussions of this for me are HUGE. Trust me on this.) See, I don't have any set work schedule, and that's a dangerous thing for me. Sometimes (more and more frequently) I give up and decide to just work from home. This is BAD because I really need the human interaction I get at work for my mental health. Plus I don't get as much done at home.

Goal 1: lollygagging in morning -> getting up and moving out the door to work by 9am

I have tried to change this bad habit so many times, you wouldn't believe it. This time, what I've done is made a basic morning check list that I'm putting on my door, and I will reward myself with stars for each thing as I do them. Here it is.

Ok, so it's a bit hard to read. It starts off with get out of bed. Yes, I'm giving myself a star just for getting out of bed in the morning! I said it was basic. I also get a star if I get out the door right away and do some exercise, even if it is just walking around the block. I guess I figure that if it's a challenge at the moment for me just to step out of the door to my flat, then that's where I need to start. I'm also giving myself stars for showering, eating breakfast, getting dressed, and going to work, etc. Go ahead, laugh. It's not that I don't do these things now, it's more that I do them at 10 or 11 or *cough* sometimes after lunch. The point here is to change my morning routing from one of puttering around and wasting time to one where I get up and start moving and get out the door.

Aside from this first goal, I figure that I also have to start blogging more. I need some accountability. So, I'm also committing to blogging twice a week. One update post on how the habit changes are going, and a second post on anything else. My immediate goal here is to blog and post pictures about my Orkney trip before I leave Scotland. After that, well, I'll be in a new city. Surely there will be places to explore and blog about there!

So, working on changing my morning slothfulness and more blogging. Stay tuned.