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.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Teaser: Welcome to Orkney

Just off the ferry in St. Margaret's Hope on South Ronaldsay in the Orkney archipelago:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I just got back from a great 5-day adventure up to Orkney. Along the way, I saw quite a bit of Scotland that I'd never seen before and it was FABULOUS!! I'm not going to have time to write actual posts about my trip until probably July, as the next couple weeks are insanely busy. But I really want to share, because it was FABULOUS!!!

So instead, I'm going to try to find time every couple days to post a teaser picture, with no commentary.

This was my view upon leaving Edinburgh :+). (Ok, maybe a little commentary.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Help! Best Marathon Cheering Sign?

This is a plea for help. My friend Xenia is coming up to Edinburgh to run in the Edinburgh Marathon on Sunday. I've never spectated or cheered at a marathon before and I'd like to do it properly. Of course I can come up with an unimaginative sign that says something like, "Go Xenia!! Go!" But I want to do better.

Ideas? Suggestions? Please, please, please, bring them on!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

On Dishwashing

As my family and friends all know, I'm not the best housekeeper. And my least favorite household chore is probably dishwashing. No, it's definitely dishwashing. Something about icky dishes and icky dish water and getting my hands wet. So, the dirty dishes have a tendency to build up.

What in the world does this have to do with anything? A while back, I noticed a correlation between dishwashing and self-care. No really, it's like the dirty dishes are the canary in the coal mine. Danger! Danger! Theresa is falling off the self-care wagon! Proper sleep has probably ceased happening. Healthy eating likely is taking a slide, too, because when the dishes aren't being washed, cooking is not happening either. And exercise? Let's not even talk about exercise.

(Wow, the bad metaphors in that last paragraph, let me count them.)

And as typically happens when the self-care goes down hill, headaches ensue. The last few weeks have been a very good example of all of this. (Although, one thing that I have been doing better, for the most part is sleep. I'm giving myself credit for that. However, I must get my blackout curtains up again, because the sun coming up at 5 o'clock isn't helping the cause.)

In reality, I know that it is all much, much more complicated than that. But these things are all connected -- mood, headaches, sleep, exercise, and doing the dishes. When my dishes are done and my kitchen is clean, everything else seems much more...possible. Also, these smaller things are easier to quantify than the mental health stuff. Did I get to sleep at a good time? Did I eat my 5 servings of fruit and vegetables? Did I get 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise? Did I do the dishes?

I think, before I slide not just down the hill but all the way down to the bottom of the ravine, it's time to get back to the self-care basics. I've done this before, and I'm sure I'll need to do it again. For me, this means lots and lots of tracking. Which means that it's back to Joe's Goals!

These are the goals that I've set up. All the key self-care things are there: proper sleep, eating right as represented by the fruits and veggies, exercise, minimizing caffeine, and dishwashing. And I've added a few other things in there for good measure. I know that if I can stick to this and take care of myself, I will feel better in both mind and body.

I'll be doing other tracking things as well. I need to get a new calendar up on the kitchen door so that I can start giving myself sparkly stars for exercising. It's also time to start tracking food, because crisps and chocolate are not major food groups. I don't aim to do these things forever, just a month or so to hopefully build back up the healthy habits.

I've added the Joe's goals widget to the sidebar. Please come harass me if it starts dipping down into the red.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

An excellent day for a walk

It was cloudy to start, with a bit of chill in the air, but eventually the sun emerged making yesterday a very fine day for a long walk. The walking group headed over to East Linton for a walk to Hailes Castle and Traprain Law.

We started off walking along the River Tyne, making our way to Hailes Castle. The birds were singing madly, and the wild garlic and few-flowered leeks were rampant, scenting the air with the smell the garlic. The gorse was also in full vibrant yellow bloom, giving off its coconut fragrance as we walked past.

At Hailes Castle, we stopped for a wee break. The castle overlooks the River Tyne. As with most castles left in Scotland, it's a bit of a fixer-upper. Presumably it was in a better shape when Mary, Queen of Scots, stayed there with her kidnapper/soon-to-be-husband, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell.

Leaving Hailes Castle, we made our way via country roads to Traprain Law, where we stopped for lunch. Afterward, about 1/2 the group decided to climb to the top. It's not a big hill as far as hills go, but it looked intimidating from a distance. I was mentally dithering about whether to climb up, but finally just told myself to stuff it, and went. It got my heart rate up, that's for sure, but I only had to stop once or twice for a quick breather. And the views, of course, were spectacular. By now the sun decided to join the party, and we could see the coast and Bass Rock and North Berwick Law, which I'd climbed with Little Sis last summer. (And I just now realized that I'd brought my binoculars and forgot to use them. Drat.)

The climb down is always much quicker than going up, and before long we were on our way back to East Linton via country roads and the path along the Tyne River. Our last stop was the beer garden at The Crown.

A terrific walk with great company made for an excellent, excellent day.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The boring this week's goals post

Hmmm, looks awfully familiar:
  • Run 3 WEEKDAYS for a total of 3 miles
  • Yoga class hell or maybe pilates on my own on Wednesday
  • Dance class Thursday
  • Pilates class Friday
  • 10 minutes stretching each WEEKDAY
  • Walk to or from work each day

I'm in a bit of a quandary about what to do about the yoga class. At the least, I need to talk to the instructor and tell her I will be taking it down a notch. She also has Hatha yoga class before the beginners Ashtanga class that might be gentler. Unfortunately, last week killed any warm fuzzies I felt toward the idea of doing yoga. Worrying about whether I will do something that will trigger a migraine does not make for a relaxing time.


Friday, April 30, 2010

Yoga Hell

I hate when I attempt to do something good for my body and mind, and it backfires. Like the beginning yoga class I took Wednesday evening. Oh we'll just start with learning the sun salutation, and then build on to that every week, says the instructor, as if it will be easy.

Hah! Downward dog, you are the devil. Thank you for killing my shoulders and triggering the migraine that wiped out my Thursday, including my evening dance class. Today wasn't a picnic, either, but taking it easy in lunchtime pilates seemed to help.

I am finally feeling better, thanks to a enjoyable evening listening to storytelling, songs, and poems at the Waverley Bar. Of course, the last batch of pain killers has yet to wear off, so we'll see. At the moment, at least, I'm looking forward to tomorrow's 8-mile walk in the Pentlands with my new camera! Here's hoping we don't get too wet.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Oh yes, I forgot

Plan for this next week:
  • Run 3 WEEKDAYS for a total of 3 miles
  • Yoga class Wednesday
  • Dance class Thursday
  • Pilates class Friday
  • Stretching 3 days for 10 minutes each
  • Walk to or from work each day

Carrot I get to buy this book:

I actually had this book in hand at one point this past week, but I made myself put it back. By the way, the odds of me walking out of the bookstore without a book I've identified as one I want is about 1 in 10,000. I showed fortitude, because I told myself I could use the book as a carrot for this week.

Third time's the charm?

It is Sunday night. I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing. It was a pretty good weekend except for the lack of running. The walk yesterday along the canal was good.

And with the exception of my bedroom, my flat is no longer a disaster area! I can even eat at my kitchen table again!

Last week I said I would:
  • Run 3 days for a total of 3 miles
  • Dance class Thursday
  • Pilates class Friday
  • Stretching 3 days for 10 minutes each
  • Walk at least 3 miles this weekend

Note the stars. If I'd run all three times, there would be three stars. Guess I didn't want the chocolate enough. :p