Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010-Bring it on!

So, with out too much explanation, I will indulge all that read a glimpse of my resolution list. I read in some magazine that one shouldn't put more than seven items on a daily to do list. Well, I am going to take it easy this year and stick to seven for the year. Have I lost the over-achiever award? So be it! The first two are easy: no smoking and no gossip. No kidding. Enough already.
So here are my seven with only the first two being in order of importance (and it's really a photo finish with gossip and smoking: because really, no smoking is more important on a health basis and no gossip on the spiritual front and I have difficulty differentiating the hierarchy here).

Resolutions- Yoda said "do or not do-there is no try":
  1. No smoking (it's 2:38am and I am doing well, but the package of Big Red is all gone-someone said Cinnamon would help)
  2. No gossip (I am not going to say it & I am not going to listen to it)
  3. Start and stick with yoga (even the basic poses-classes can wait till I am back in Colorado)
  4. Without even coming close to Julie Powell's ambition: cook or bake at least ONE new recipe a week once I get back to Colorado.
  5. Learn a foreign language-USE the public library and choose one before getting home
  6. Keep my car clean, weekly!
  7. DO something completely new and be open minded. ONE NEW THING in 2010. Based on last year's list of firsts, I am not too worried about #7, but it keeps me adventurous!

This goes with out saying that everything I am doing prior to 2009 that contributes positively to my life will continue and these are just #7 reminders to gently push the envelope!


Looking back again before 2010!

Thanks to my faithful followers, I have been informed of a few firsts that I clearly forgot about, but they are by no means insignificant and they definitely fall in the category of things I never thought I would do or have the opportunity to experience:
  1. I passed the NRA test with 49/50 and became eligible for my CCW! I learned to shoot a few semi automatic weapons!
  2. I took a train cross country and that was an adventure to remember (Jeff wonders how I could have forgotten that!).
  3. I played in my first ever poker tournament in Deadwood, South Dakota (and lasted no more than 5-10 minutes, tops. I suspect this is because I played poker with Jeff exactly twice in the RV).
  4. Jolene reminded me that I actually started to write which was something I have wanted to do for a very long time. I started this blog TotheMax. Thank you for reminding me of one of my personal bests Jolene!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking back on 2009

So this was quite the year for me. I have done things this year that I have never done before and to some extent, never thought I would do! So, in review, I guess I got quite a bit accomplished. It motivates me to make a list of things I would like to do. So first, a year in review. My list for 2010 will come later, like in 2010!
  1. I got married.
  2. I changed my name (this, for all modern women, does not necessarily follow #1!).
  3. I lost/left my job (depends on who you ask and how far you take it).
  4. I moved Max & myself to our new house (Jeff's home on Lookout Mountain that, in my opinion, had so much potential back in 2005 when he first showed it to me).
  5. I got a new car (2009 GMC Acadia for sticklers on specifics).
  6. I went through all 12 steps again.
  7. I went RV'ing for the first time and saw Nebraska, Montana & South Dakota for the first time ever (did I leave anything out Jeff?).
  8. I moved into the RV in the fall and headed out to ultimately spend our first winter with NO snow (and still experienced snow in September before we left)! I saw the following states for the first time: Indiana. Iowa, South Carolina & Georgia. I saw new parts of these states I had once visited: Illinois, Ohio, New York, Maine, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida!
  9. I got my PADI Open Water Diver certification!

Well, that about does it, I think. I planned NONE of this; I had no idea anything other than possibly doing the 12 steps would or could have possibly happened. Which kind of makes a list of Things I Would Like to Accomplish in 2010 pretty open ended. I can't even conceive of what 2010 will have in store for me!


Friday, December 25, 2009

Holiday season in the RV

We are having a beautiful (and warm) time on Key Largo! We can't believe we are enjoying 75 degree weather at the end of December. We have met some really great people on Key Largo and I really could see living here. We have had such an amazing time with the weather and biking all around and allowing me the experience to learn diving and pick out snorkeling equipment that we made a joint decision to not exchange presents. We are just enjoying the simple pleasures of new experiences, friends, and baking skills. Gingerbread hearts can get pretty creative, I have learned.

We have been making new connections and establishing opportunities to provide service within the AA community, such as the alcothon at the RUSK club. Apparently everyone here knows the RUSK club, even TA (The Scuba Instructor). I am about to take off on my blue and white cherished Huffy to close the Christmas Day alcothon.

Well, back to the whole "holiday thing": so, Jeff, feeling festive, bought stockings and Santa hats. I bought him a card and put my mother's Chanukah gelt in his stocking. Considering we are giving no gifts, I wanted the bare minimum and that's what I did! That's not what Jeff did. He had to go and be all sneaky & stuff. Into my stocking went lots of candy and a card. Lots MORE candy than he got! Why did he have to be so sweet? Then today when I went to a meeting, he went and refilled my stocking. He told me to go look because he saw that there may be something still in there. WHAT???!! There was more in my stocking. So much for the joint decision made as a married couple. And they were wrapped! I opened two precious photos, in frames and everything. Max and our three dogs were in the photos respectively! I love you Jeff!

One more holiday and we will be into 2010. Our last unofficial holiday is our first wedding anniversary and that happens January 13, 2010, two days before we leave this RV site in Key Largo.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A PADI open water course: how it went down in Key Largo

SO here we go! I finished the whole didactic and practical portions of the PADI open water diver course. I studied for a full week, watched a three hour video and met with an instructor for three days. My three day practical experience was an interesting experience. And if you know me at all, you know what I mean by interesting. If you don't know, well read on! And, oh yeah, if you know me read on anyway!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I was so excited for this day I could barely sleep Monday night! I accumulated about three hours and I am not really sure if any of it was REM sleep.

I arrived at 9am at the Dive-In shop. I had three hours of sleep. I was exhausted. I was not impressed with the quizzes I had to complete. They were so simple. Yet, I received two 100%'s and a 90% and an 80%. Embarrassing as they are designed from any on 12 years old on up. Yet, with my BA & ND, I still could not get it together. I am pretty sure that even though my instructor was talking to me through out my completion of the quizzes, I should have been able to get 100% on all of them. I am pretty sure at this point is when my instructor that I was dim witted; from then on, he treated me as such. For anyone who knows me, and just to review: we know I like to ask questions A lot of questions. I asked them to get confidence in what I thought was true; I asked them to confirm what I was supposed to do under water, so I would act safely with this regulator (and they were not all stupid questions, believe me). He took all these questions as another factoid of low wattage on my part. He also knows I don't drink, so he probably thinks I am some dim witted do -gooder...not like it's any business of mine what other people think of me, but still... So he would proceed with directions, only to ask after every direction, "does that make sense?". Yeah, asshole, blowing bubbles under water makes sense. Oh my god, he got on my nerves right away.....

But let's press on; he wanted to get me on a dive my very first day, which in the long run, was probably good to get my nerves jump started. So, we got to the boat and I learned how to roll backward into the water off the boat on my first day, which I have to say, did terrify me a little. But to be honest, what terrified me the most was the fact that I don't know if I totally trusted him and I think that's what frazzled me the most. I descended on a mooring line behind him and started to have those ear issues, the squeeze. Ugh, it actually started to hurt. I equalized, not soon enough, and I equalized what seemed like every foot. However, I found it to really be quite the squeeze. Every time I equalized, it felt like my ears were sneezing. So, I got down there and hung out for about 7 minutes (I found this bottom time out later) when SOMETHING happened. Oh my god, I think I hyperventilated or tried to draw more air from the reg or something. I PANICKED, which is horrible. I know I must have breathed fine on the way up, but I couldn't find the instructor (why don't I call him TA from now on, for you know, The Asshole). I started ascending, and then when I got up and up and and away....I started a runaway ascent and I can't remember if and how I was breathing, which of course, caused me to panic even more. As we ALL know, you can not be holding your breath while diving. I got up to the surface and waved the distress signal. I inflated my BCD, but probably not enough because I was struggling and wide eyed. But I didn't take the regulator out of my mouth. I did not take off my mask and I gave the appropriate signal. Another diver came to my aid and then TA surfaced and inflated my BCD a little more.

Well, we know how TA responded to this. I did not dive for the rest of the day. I was so upset with myself, that along with the motion of the waves, I felt like I was going to be sick. The tears were coming. TA absolutely could not deal with that and I know he thought I was a blubbering idiot. Needless to say, the owner of the shop was pissed that he took me diving and didn't spend the rest of the day in the pool. This is something I found out on Wednesday.

What I did find out was a spiritual experience on the way home. As we headed back, I faced the horizon with tears in my eyes and mad at my self for the major disappointment. Then I saw the beauty in it all. Because really, when I got sober, it was the hardest thing I had ever done. The first year, I was full of fear. And here I was, so upset and disgruntled with myself because I panicked for 2 minutes maximum. Yes, this could have been life threatening. But so is being spiritually bankrupt back then. Isn't anything that is truly rewarding worth working for? And who am I to think this should all come so easily? So I felt so much better. The only thing better would be to have Jeff there at that moment. I wished so badly that he was and that was part of the tears. The other part were prayers to continue. And so I did.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

So, I found out that he made a mistake. Honestly, while I was glad that I just kinda got forced to face all my nerves at once, I felt better knowing that I should have had more pool training (like in the deep end). It occurred to me that maybe it would have been nice to have a little deep end experience before venturing into the ocean at 30 feet depth after breathing with the regulator in 3 foot deep water. Something about the shallow end gave me a lot of comfort. Comfort in 30 foot deep water 2 hours later: not so much.

To start off Wednesday, I had just woken up from a nice 7-8 hour slumber (such a difference sleep makes, huh?). I took my final exam and got a 100%. There you go, this day is starting out differently and much much better. Then we go to the pool and TA starts talking to his girlfriend and grunts after saying he is with "the student". He grunts and says "not so much" in the phone. Then he looks at me (looking at him grunt in the phone) and starts all nice in the phone "but I think today will be much better". HUH?? Shut up and hang up the phone. Which he did. So we worked on more skills and I got deep end time and this time I feel much better about getting into the water. He had suggested to take a pseudophedrine in the morning (which contradicts the PADI recommendation of no medications), but it turned out just fine and my ears felt much better in the deep end. So we stopped off at Burger King and I made nice by buying his burgers. This was VERY nice of me, I thought. No ego. NOT.AT.ALL. ANYWAY, we head off to the other dive shop (Horizon Divers) and I had two pretty decent dives. I felt much better, even though TA told me I didn't have to keep equalizing once I got steady in the deepest area of our dive (which was only 30 or 35 feet). I guess this was pretty good information as he told me he saw blood in my mask (from blown little vessels in my nose). It still felt better to keep equalizing, but this was good information to have. So I dove again and got some more skills done. I had I felt like it was a much more successful dive. TA was slightly less condescending, but still murmured to everyone on the boat that I was a student and had no idea what I was doing because of yesterday. Whatever. I was really happy with the dives. I started to get my confidence back up and I knew that I was going to love doing this with Jeff and anyone else that would love to dive with me.

We were on our way to Winch hole Molasses Reef and Fire Coral Cave for Dives #1 & #2:
I saw the most amazing things under water and it was superb; the viz was not bad at all, in my opinion (but what do I know?), and I saw great colors. There was so much purple in the vegetation and a lot of orange in the coral; it was just beautiful. The fish were all different colors and I saw just huge schools of fish and a few lone nurse sharks and barracudas. I knew that I wanted to see more.

At the end of the day, I had completed some of my skills by the end of Wednesday and I am glad I got the snorkel & regulator exchange done, because being with out my regulator really freaks me out. I am just barely getting the hang of "the blowing small bubbles" (Tiny Bubbles song came to mind under water) between my air sources. I did it though, and CESA is next. CESA is the Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent, and I get to lose the regulator after taking a deep breath and blowing tiny bubbles till I get to the surface. Oh yay!

So, TA kept talking to his dive cronies and left me alone on my way back to shore. I was just thinking about the ocean, staring at the horizon, in awe of everything the ocean offers under its surface. It is really there, if you want it, but you have to want it, I realized. I was looking forward at this point to be able to tell Jeff I had a much better day at it.

TA informed me that I was all done with my pool skills and we would be going to Rainbow Dive center (Rainbow Reef I think?) Thursday to dive with them. I was glad to be finally done with the pool and with the final exam. As we were going to do the dive at 8:30am, I would be done with diving by late lunch and have my cert all done. Time to go home and tell Jeff all about it (in reality I didn't really tell him how much my instructor annoyed me.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I woke up with horrible cramps, which was horrible timing. I just prepared myself with a pseudoephedrine for my ears (according to TA, this would be fine), but I was afraid to take the amount of ibuprofen needed to make all my cramps go away due to the fact it makes me a little drowsy. So for some insane reason, I thought it would be okay to bicycle up to the dive shop with TA. He picked me up and I suddenly wished we were going in the car (not his, of course as he does not have one, but the dive shop owner's car). I developed more cramps and hoped my adrenaline would start kicking in.

After making it to the dive shop and getting on the boat, TA was murmuring about having to take me on the boat and I was his student, blah blah blah. I guess everyone had to know I was a student; it was the safe thing to do, I know, as everyone else was certified and should know I am in training. But really, the way he did it...well, there is room for improvement in the consideration and kindness department. Let's just say that.

So at the end of dive #3, I was unable to blow small bubbles for a CESA though I could do it in the pool, but I feel that I had a good handle on it, especially because Jeff helped me out in that department, giving me good suggestions. I saw beautiful sharks and marine life. Stunning stuff. By the end of dive #4, I made a successful CESA and compass reading back to the boat. Problem was that I was so full of horrible cramps, I told TA prior to dive #4. He was grateful for the timely warning and informed me that 20 minutes is the minimum for a qualifying dive for open water scuba and that's what we did! I was pretty quiet and he was a lot nicer toward the end. We biked back and I changed my clothes in the RV and headed over to the shop for my cert paper work. How I dove twice and biked 5 miles round trip with horrible cramps escapes the logical part of my brain. I chalk that one up to adrenaline.

Back at the dive shop, he told me to work on my skills with Jeff and they let me come back the next day for my photo. I was feeling pretty excited to be done, but so worn out, that no picture would come remotely close to being pretty. I went back the next day and got my print out. YAY!!

I am so excited to dive more with Jeff and I am already looking at dive destinations for vacations. Watch out!

Post Script: I am sure there is something I left out, but right now I am too excited to care!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

SCUBA @ the Dive-in Shop in Key Largo

I signed up for a PADI course for open water SCUBA diving certification and I am psyched! Not only does this give me something to do, but it gives me something to look forward to! I am told that there is much to be said for being in the moment, for focusing on what's at hand in the moments when you are deep in the ocean (well not that deep at first, right?). I haven't taken any course or instruction in a long time, so this will be good for me. I have to read the whole Go Dive book then watch a 3 hour video. I then will be working with a SCUBA instructor for a few days until I get all the proficiencies done. Yay!! Then Jeff and I will go on a dive together.

Other than getting ready for diving, I am bicycling about 3-5 miles a day on my new bike from Walmart. My bike is a 26" Huffy in blue and white; it is a cruiser with no gears and pedal operated brakes; I love it. Jeff has attached my woven basket and my front light. We are working on getting the rear light attached (in the mean time I use a light on my shorts as you can get a ticket here if you don't have lights). It's getting pretty "Keyed out" as a local says. I will get a photo as soon as I can, so you can replace the image of me on the orange bike!

I will probably take a hiatus from frequent blogging so I can focus on my PADI class. See you soon!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Let's say thanks- a tribute to our troops overseas

Hi there,
I received an email with this web address called Basically, if you click on this site and choose from an array of handmade cards from children in the U.S. of A., you can express your gratitude for the troops that are overseas. They miss their families and would love a few good words! Oh, and Xerox will foot the bill for getting all these postcards to random military personnel around the world. The catch is only this: you will have to pick a canned message and you will not know the soldier who receives your card. If you can live with that (I don't think it's much to ask), then you will bring a smile to some soldier who is really missing home! Thanks for your support!

Getting to Key Largo or how we got screwed out of $580

So here I am in Key Largo. We were going to take the slower route to Key Largo as we had reservations at Blue Fin Rock Harbor from December 16-January 15. When we were getting ready to leave Tybee Island, GA, we knew we needed to get warm in a big hurry. We had reservations at Blue Fin Rock Harbor for December 15-January 15, but the woman who is my contact there did not answer the phone so I called another place in Key Largo as I didn't think we could get a place so early at Rock Harbor. I called this place Riptide RV park and got a reservation for 12 days. It was a bit expensive. They also charged us an extra $25 per dog. Then the Rock Harbor lady called back and said we could stay there. When I called Riptide back, Greg refused to cancel the order and said because we already put it on our card, we couldn't reneg now. Really? Yeah really. So I called Alana back at Rock Harbor and told her what happened which she said was ridiculous, because they should have no problem voiding the transaction or crediting us as we wanted to cancel within an hour, especially with no signature binding us (which is probably why Alana only takes cash or checks). That should have been a big red flag to us. So, Alana said if we had any problems with them in Key Largo, we could just call her when we got in.

So we got to Riptide at 2:45 pm only to read a sign that says "be back in 5 minutes, call _____ for assistance". So I called the number. Twice. At 4:15, needles to say, Jeff and I were tired, hot and impatient. I called Alana at Rock Harbor. "Come on over" was all she needed to say. We got to the Rock Harbor Marina and got settled and I missed the Riptide's call at 4:45 pm (while we were getting oriented to the hook ups, etc) that we could pick out a site and they will catch up with us later. How gracious! Any site? I called our credit card who told us how to dispute it, but recommended that for the record, I should probably ask them first and I may not have to get to the disputing part. I called back and left a message about finding another site "but thank you anyway and please credit us". They called me back and he was a total ass. " I refuse to credit you" was his only response. I said that I would have to dispute and he said "I am not responding to that" and hung up. Ohmygod! In a recession, you would think people would not to try to run out any future or current business with ANY of this behavior! Did I mention that they charged $25 per dog. Yes? Oh good, because I didn't want to miss a thing. But then again, I guess Riptide is in a lot of fear with not having any customers (empty RV park) and holding on to any money they think they can get. Riptide is getting a little desperate, yes?

So, we wrote a check to the Rock Harbor (which was a 1 minute drive from Riptide, no joke) for the 12 extra days and gave it to an older guy named Mike who winced when we mentioned the Riptide. I will say that Alana was really nice to just bring us over and give us a prorated figure for the 12 days rather than the normal daily rate. And by the way, she does not charge for the three dogs!

Alana showed me the Dive-in shop where they rent boats, wave runners, fishing gear and dive gear, not to mention they are a PADI certified instruction center. In my next post, I will talk about my introduction to diving! See you then!