Thursday, 29 May 2014 07:00

What I did on my Spring vacation

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I perpetually have way more vacation time built up than I can easily use. Around the December holidays I traditionally take a few weeks off to relax and decompress after a ridiculously busy fall. At the end of April I was feeling a bit out of sorts and scheduled some down time towards the latter half of May. What was initially only a week morphed into almost two, with a few guest appearances in the office mid-stream. I didn't have anywhere to go or any real plans, but I plunged headlong into an earned and hopefully deserved staycation in the Lou culminating on Memorial Day. Here is what I did and didn't do.

Fitness: I don't run or bike or lift weights of any kind. I was never very good at sports involving balls (keep your mind out of my pants dear reader), but I was always a good swimmer. In early April I started practicing for my self-imposed "A mile a day in May" swim challenge and have not missed a day since. Today is day 29 of 31 days in May and so far, so good. Some days I got bored and went back to the pool a second time for a second mile. The routine has helped me regain some focus and discipline that had been hiding somewhere in my head. I also lost something along the way that has been a part of me for a long time now. About 10 pounds. All told I have lost closer to thirty pounds since last fall and I keep dropping. In a proud and hilarious montage my shorts kept falling down even with a belt. Holding my pants up in the middle of Dierberg's was an almost daily occurrence. I tried on my partner's shorts and they actually fit - a full four sizes less than my own clothes. Achievement unlocked! After my cancer and diabetes scares of the past few years I have tried super hard to be better about diet and exercise. If that wasn't motivation itself I have seen the future and it scared me. That future was the saggy, flabby bodies and asses of the ancient men who also use the Y where I do laps. Some day that will most likely be me as well, but I will not go there without kicking and screaming, and swimming, all the way.

Ice cream: For reasons not known I have become addicted to pineapple shakes. I think I have had about a dozen in the past three weeks. When I swam in the middle of the day when everyone else I knew was working, how could they catch me having yet another shake? After all I was still losing weight and changing my shape even with these infusions of ice cream. There is a Mr. Wizards Frozen Custard stand on Big Bend near my house that was my primary target. I also visited Dairy Queen of all places 3 or 4 times, plus a time or two at Sonic. I have failed to make the pilgrimmage to Ted Drewe's yet, but that trip is inevitable. I'm not sure what is in pineapple that I seem to need so badly, but bring it on. 

The yard: My yard is not all that big, but hilly and complicated. Located on former farm land, my property is fertile and everything is lush. I think I inherited a magical green thumb from both sides of my family. I spent great gobs of time mowing the grass, trimming bushes, pulling vines, and eradicating weeds as much as I could. Thankfully I only suffered from a few brief patches of poison ivy that did not spread too far. It is everywhere around here and I am seriously allergic to the stuff. No matter how much I bundle up sdomehow it always gets through. A small price to pay I suppose. Many paper lawn bags and trash cans filled with trimmings later, I am still not done with everything. I even found time to do some yard work for the kindly widow next door. She is the eyes and ears of the neighborhood, but good god can she talk your ear off. I don't mind though because she is nice and sometimes pitches in for some mulch for the hill that faces her yard. I have enjoyed having some very fragrant irises in the kitchen window for weeks now. The Columbines were magnificent and a rose bush given to me by my parents has just started to bloom, despite the fact that I thought I had killed it in my clumsy planting.

A tree grows in Maplewood: I did however start a small war with a neighbor on the next street whose yard backs up to the alley. There are a few alley-facing houses near my garage and I did a favor for the woman in the one next to my garage that got a little out of control. There are a few pine trees that have grown out over the one man's fence and across the alley. When it gets rainy or snowy the branches would hang down so low that they were touching the cars. I offered to do some tree trimming and got to work. Armed with a ladder, hand saw and long-handled tree saw I cut off everything at the fence line up to about twenty feet off the ground. The owner of the trees came out once to ask what I was doing and introduce himself. I explained my project and said that I would clean up everything. He cam back again twenty minutes later and asked me to stop, so I did. The next morning he rang the doorbell at 8 am to shout at me and say how mad he and his wife were and what I had done. He told me that he even filed a complaint with Maplewood City Hall. Thanks, jerk. For full disclosure I have been cutting branches off of that tree for twelve years to make the alley passable and he has never set foot in that alley to do a thing. I think the amount cut off is appropriate and that an arborist would agree with me. This is NOT like those bizarre and horrifying things that Ameren likes to do to trees. THAT is insane. However, I do keep eyeing the one last branch that I wanted to remove. Sometime soon in the middle of the night during a storm victory will be mine! 

The dogs: I spent a lot of quality time with the girls, including the one that I thought we were going to put down a few weeks ago. Saki is a tough and noble creature whose time was not quite up yet. It has been a sincere and humbling life lesson that I have learned. Dahlia Danger Dog on the other hand is just as much of a brat as always. Monitoring her daily activities has spared the life of a few birds and countless rabbits in the yard. I spent many an afternoon napping (after my brisk mile swim and ice cream treat of course) with them and loving them as much as I could. A close friend had to put her special angel to sleep recently and it broke her heart. I will forever honor my doggie promise to keep these animals safe and taken care of to the best of my ability. They are my family.

Family: I had an extremely lovely day with my mom a few weeks ago. She is a passionate bird lover and nature fan and the greatest mom on earth. Her health has been somewhat uneven the past few years, but is in really good shape lately thanks in no small part to my siblings demand that her doctor's review her medication regimen. After being taken off a shitload (literally) of heavy drugs, her constitution is dramatically and amazingly improved. On a warm cloudy day just after her birthday I took her on a long drive to the Audubon Center at Riverlands Bird Sanctuary and Confluence State Park in West Alton, MO. If you are not aware of these incredible places, then get familiar. Our area is an major rest stop for gazillions of migratory birds and home to nearly 300 species of birds throughout the year. I personally spotted a Red-winged Blackbird and an Indigo Bunting. Junior Bird Watcher badge earned! The Confluence is a smallish Missouri state park with an incredibly majestic view and heritage. It is conveniently located a few miles up the road from the Audubon Center is absolutely worth the visit. I don't know who Ted and Pat Jones are, but wow thanks for this great gift to St. Louis. 

Memorial Day: All good things must come to an end, including my staycation. It ended with a balls out morning mile swim followed by a day of food prep and weeding in the back yard in anticipation of a pork steak festival for my partner's family. It was muggy and humid and I was soaked head to toe after an hour of yard work. It was a simple, home-spun meal served on a white table cloth with linen napkins and plastic dishes bought at Dierberg's a century ago when I first moved into this house. I adore and crave pork steaks and they turned out fantastic. My mother-in-law was in love with the roasted corn and my 15-year-old, picky eater brother-in-law had a second helping of pork steak, which made me proud. Once we were truly stuffed, an impromptu and seriously dirty game of Cards Against Humanity went on for hours. The fifteen-year-old handed us our asses, figuratively speaking.

Results: I basically did nothing at all and had a fantastic time. All hail St. Louis staycation and a full recharging of the batteries. Okay, f*ck it. I am going to Ted Drewe's tonight!