Friday, March 27, 2015

I saw you dancing in the gym, you both kicked off your shoes. And your undies, apparently.

I walked in the door after work last night at about 5:55 p.m.  J, who picks the kids up from school every day, was there with them waiting for me to get home.  He left, and I greeted them with hugs and kisses, anticipating a pleasant evening of dinner and bath and maybe some basketball-watching.

Just as I put my backpack down, Zeke said, "I want to go to the dance at school."

I mentally scrolled through the emails I had recently received about school activities, but couldn't come up with anything about a dance.

"What dance?" I asked.

"There's a dance at school," he replied.

"Tonight?  I haven't heard anything about a school dance."

We went back and forth like this, with me asking if he was sure it was tonight, and him insisting that it was.

"And you really want to go?"

"Yes," he said.

"What time is the dance?"

"6 to 8."

It was exactly 6:00 p.m.

"Josie, do you want to go to the dance?"

She was snuggled up on the couch under a blanket, watching a cartoon, but she nodded.

"OK," I shrugged.  "Get your shoes on.  Let's go."

"But we need costumes!"  They both exclaimed.

"What are you talking about??" I was getting seriously irritated at this point.

"It's a costume dance.  You need to get costumes for us!"

"I'm not getting anything," I said.  "I had no idea that there was a dance or that costumes were involved.  If you want costumes, go find them yourself."

So Josie went and put on her princess dress.  Zeke was looking for his Ninja Turtle costume from Halloween, but couldn't find it.

"What about if you put on one of your football jerseys and I'll put some eye black under your eyes?"

That was acceptable to him, so I smudged some mascara under his eyes and off we went.

Because I hadn't heard anything about it (and I went through my emails and found nothing from the school mentioning it), I figured that it would be sparsely populated and that we could hang out for a little while and then go home.  But when we got there, the place was packed with pretty much all the kids from all the grades, plus their parents.  There was a DJ.  There was pizza and soda and glow sticks.

It was kind of like a high school dance, only the participants were much shorter and less likely to be caught smoking weed on the playground.

There were favorite songs - everybody bopped around and sang along to such classics as Katy Perry's "Roar" and "Firework," Taylor Swift's "Trouble" song, "Gangnam Style," and of course, "Let It Go."  When Let It Go came on, every kid went into full-on Beatlemania hysteria mode and started screaming.  It was both alarming and hilarious.

Zeke danced the entire time.  The few times I tried to venture out to dance with him, I was met with an unequivocal "talk to the hand" gesture, so I skulked back to the wall where the other loser parents were hanging out.

Zeke shows off his moves.
Josie (in the purple dress) in a kiddie conga line.
Josie danced for a minute but then went outside to play on the playground.  When she came back inside, I crouched down to give her a hug and wrapped my arm around her and patted her on the butt.

"Um, Josie, when you went to put on your princess dress, did you take off your underwear?"

"Yeah."

"And you didn't put them back on?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"I dunno."  She shrugged.

"Honey, when you wear a princess dress to school, and particularly if you're swinging around on the playground, you can't go commando."

She rolled her eyes and giggled and ran off to find her friends.

I'm going to have to watch out for that girl.  She's trouble (trouble, trouble)...

Monday, March 23, 2015

No one wants to explore Uranus. Stop asking.

Just a warning - if you can't handle discussions of gross bodily functions, this one isn't for the faint of heart.  

Are you still reading?  YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.


********

The start of spring means cleaning up the back yard so we can eat out there or play out there or just sit with a book and enjoy the sunshine.  Yesterday the kids and I hung out outside raking leaves and pulling weeds and sweeping the patio.  After a while they got bored with doing actual work, so they asked if they could play in the hot tub, which I keep lukewarm during spring and summer so it's essentially just a small pool for them to splash around in.

I told them they could, so they stripped off their clothes and hopped in.

Now, I cannot emphasize enough how much of a 7-year-old boy my son is.  Meaning that not only is every other word out of his mouth something to do with butts, farts, poop, penises or vaginas, but he is constantly either touching or showing off the parts of his body relevant to those functions.  He will walk into my room to ask me a question, but will do so completely naked and absent-mindedly playing with his penis.  Or I'll walk into his room while he's getting dressed and he'll turn around and wiggle his butt at me.

On more than one occasion, I have said to him, "could you PLEASE put some underwear on?  I am so tired of looking at your anus."

Then I'll have to explain what "anus" means, while he laughs uproariously.

Though I assumed he would grow out of it by now, he still spends much of his time in the house pantsless, if not fully naked.  I will walk out of a room in which he and Josie are sitting watching TV, fully clothed, and I will return 10 minutes later and find them still watching TV, but with pants and underwear on the floor.

"Why did you take off your pants?" I'll ask.

"We didn't feel like wearing pants," they'll respond, as if my question is a totally unreasonable one.

So, back to yesterday in the hot tub.

They were playing and splashing and giggling.  They turned the jets on and they turned them off.   Giggle giggle.  Then they turned them on again.  Giggle.

Suddenly Zeke got out of the water and headed to the house.

"I need to go potty," he said.

"Go ahead," I responded.

About 7 minutes later, he came back outside.

"Mama, I have a problem."

I looked over at him.  He was naked and wet, but had rivers of brown running down his legs.

"Zeke, is that ... poop?"

He nodded, chagrined.

"What happened??"

He shrugged and said, "I think I have diarrhea."

I took a deep breath.

"Honey, what happened when you were in the hot tub?"

He answered me.  Turns out, he gave himself an enema with the hot tub jets.

"Why did you do that?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said.  "I thought it would be funny."

I sighed heavily.  "OK.  Don't move."

I went inside to get towels.  I was not at all surprised to find that he had tracked mud and shit through the house.  I spent the next 15 minutes cleaning shit off the floor, the toilet, and Zeke himself, and then I ran him a bath and insisted that he scrub all of his parts with soap.  I explained that not only was what he did incredibly gross, but also incredibly dangerous, because he could have perforated his colon and given himself a horrible infection (or worse).  I played up the death angle.

"Sweetie, you cannot EVER do that again.  You could get a horrible infection and die!"

He was solemn and contrite, and promised never to do it again.

Meanwhile, Josie played happily in the hot tub.  When I went back outside, she said, "Mama, I didn't do anything wrong.  I'm a good girl!"

Well, she's a girl, at least, so I've got that going for me.  Because I don't think I could have handled another boy.

Ugh.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

I'm not quite ready for The Talk.

We're at a kids' jumping place after school to hang out with friends and get some exercise before bed.  It's a place that's meant for younger kids, around 7 and under, so I have to admonish Zeke to not get too crazy and to watch out for the little kids.  Because when he's jumping, he gets a little crazy.

There are a couple of kids there who are way too old (like, 9 and 10 years old).  They're in the big bouncy castle with Zeke and one girl gets in Zeke's face and pushes him around a little and tells him to "get the hell out."  So I calmly tell her that she needs to get out of the bouncy castle because she's was too big to be in there.  She sneers at me, but complies.

On the way home in the car, we talk about it.

"That girl wasn't very nice, Mama," Zeke says.

"No, she wasn't."

"She's a sexy baby!" Josie says.  She pronounces it in an ooh-la-la type of voice, so it sounds like "sex-eh BAY-beh."  She keeps repeating it.  "Sexy baby!  She's a sexy baby!"

"Josie, why do you keep saying that?" I ask.

"Yeah," Zeke pipes up. "You don't even know what that means."

"Yes I do!" she responds.  "It means that someone is beautiful."

                 Hmm.  

She keeps going on about sexy babies.

I say, "you know, Jos, I don't really like you using that expression."

"But it just means that someone is pretty!"

"Well, not really.  It's a grown-up word."

"Why?"

                 Ugh.  Why did I start down this road?

"Because it's a word grown-ups use when they find each other attractive.  It's not an appropriate word to describe a child.  Children shouldn't be described as 'sexy.'"

               Dodged a bullet, maybe?

"Because it has to do with sex?"  Zeke asks.

"Well ... yes."

                Fuck.  Here it comes.

"What's sex?"

               *sigh*

"It's when people make love, or make a baby."

"But how do they do that?"

"I'll tell you when we get home."

"Why can't you tell me now?"

"You're right.  I'll tell you now.  You know how boys have penises and girls have vaginas?"

"Yes."  They start tittering in the back seat.

"Well, sex is when the man puts his penis in the woman's vagina."

"Eeeeewwww!"  Josie reacts.

Zeke is silent, thinking about this.

"But it's not something that children do.  It's for adults."

"Richard* did it,"  says Zeke.

"Who's Richard?"

"A kid in my class."

               WTF??

"No he didn't."

"How do you know?"

"Because I know.  Who did he say he did it with?"

"Rita.** A girl in my class."

"No way," I said.  "There's no way that two seven-year-olds had sex.  If he said he did, he either doesn't know what it means or he's lying."

Then I launch into a lecture about how it's not something that children do and not something that they should do until they're older and don't let anyone touch your privates unless it's me giving you a bath or the doctor making sure you're healthy or you but if you're going to touch your privates do it in private and if anyone ever tries to touch you in a way that makes you uncomfortable tell them no and tell me about it so I can protect you and ARE WE HOME YET SO I CAN CHANGE THE FUCKING SUBJECT???

We do get home and they do change the subject and don't dwell on it or ask about it again for the rest of the night.

Or, with any luck, a few more years.

I need a drink.

________________________________________________________________
*not his real name
** not her real name



Monday, March 16, 2015

You spend the first five years trying to get with the plan, and the next five years trying to be with your friends again.

Lately, there has been quite a bit of news and media attention about the Greek system in American colleges and universities, all of it negative.  Campus rapes.  Hazing.  Racism.  Under the articles about these incidents, I frequently see comments from people who question whether the time has come for fraternities and sororities to be abolished.  And even though I was in a sorority in college, I understand their points.

Being in a sorority involves going through a grueling weeks-long rush process. I didn't even understand how brutal it was until I was on the other side and participating in all-night sessions in which the social fate of some poor girl, and whether we would deign to include her in our group, was put to a vote, based on notes that we all made after talking to her for 5 minutes ("Blue skirt with bird-shaped pin - seemed awkward and uncomf., too much makeup, kind of boring - loser" "Red dress, blond, from Seattle - funny story abt summ. camp. Cute, smart - YES").

Every year there were tears and fights over who was invited back and who wasn't.  Every year we gained weight from midnight pizza and sub runs to make up for the fact that during 3 hours of parties, we had only eaten popcorn.  Every year I got bronchitis. It was fucking miserable, and it made me feel mean and awful and occasionally ashamed to be part of such a judge-y, superficial endeavor.

And yet.

And yet, I made incredible friends.  Friends with whom I am still extremely close, with whom I communicate almost every day.  Friends who I always make time to see when I am in their hometown, and vice-versa.  Friends here in the Denver/Boulder area.

Incredibly, there are six of us who were all at UVA together at the same time, from the classes of '91, '92 and '93.  We meet up for dinner as often as we can, but not as often as we'd like, because everyone is busy with jobs or kids or husbands or just the general business of being grown-ups.  My friend Stacy does Beachbody stuff with me.  My friend Christin and I ski and climb mountains together.  My friend Karen comes over for Passover seder.

Karen and Cathy co-own a cabin up in Winter Park, right by the Winter Park ski resort.  This past weekend, five of us were able to spend Friday night up there and then ski together all day Saturday. We hung out watching basketball, eating dinner, getting caught up on each other's lives, and enjoying the company of old friends.  And then the next day, we had one of the most glorious days of skiing I've ever had.
The weather was beyond perfect.  Bright blue, cloudless sky without a hint of breeze, with a high of about 40.  Even up at the very top of the mountain, above the tree line (about 11,000 feet), I was so warm that I skied in just a turtleneck sweater and a down vest, and most of the day I skied without my gloves.  We are all at different levels of proficiency, but we mostly skied together and cheered each other on and chatted endlessly on the chair lift.  I felt so grateful to have these wonderful women in my life.
We talked about how young and unformed we were when we met, at an age when we were still figuring out who we were and what we wanted out of life.  But even as silly, naive 18-year-olds, it turns out we had amazing taste in friends.  As Christin put it, "I have retrospective faith in our 18-year-old selves." So however skeptically I look back on the sorority experience as a whole, or in the abstract, I cannot deny that it brought me some of the best people I've ever met.
The Fraser Valley and surrounding mountains, as seen from the top of Winter Park.  I feel sorry for people who will never see this view in person.
We skied until the lifts shut down, happy and tired and with quads pleasantly sore.  I know I gush about how great it is to live here, but I can't really say it enough.  To have such terrific experiences with good friends, being outside in the sunshine and fresh air, exercising and feeling healthy, in some of the most beautiful mountains on earth -- it's pretty hard to beat.

These experiences are what matter.  This is what we relish even as we look back and wonder where the time went and how could we possibly be in our mid-forties with kids and careers and mortgages and husbands (or in my case, a divorce).  I feel this at my India and Israel reunions as well- that sense of recapturing youth by maintaining these lifelong friendships.

We're already planning on doing it again next year.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains

If you're a skier and you have kids, the early years are rough.*  Hitting the slopes either means trading days on the mountain with your spouse so that one can ski while the other watches the kids, or paying exorbitant amounts of money for on-mountain daycare or ski school.  Seriously, a day of ski school can cost about half the amount of an annual season pass, so unless you're rolling in cash (which I am decidedly not), it can be prohibitively expensive to do it more than a few times a season.  You dream of the day when both kids can ski and you can all head out together.

When that day comes, it is glorious.

Zeke has been able to ski with me since last season.  He's can't go on some of the super-steep runs that I like, and he's not as fast as I am, but we can go out together and have a great time.  He's hilarious - he skis down the hill singing to himself and shaking his butt in a little ski dance, or hooting and hollering with glee because he's having so much fun.

Zeke sings to himself as he skis down a run at Keystone.
This is Josie's first season skiing.  We put her in ski school for 3 days in December, and then took her out on green runs with us.  Her very first non-ski-school day she was plowed over by a snowboarder who was going way too fast in a slow, crowded area, and we had to go home after one run because she was totally freaked out.

This was heart-breaking for a number of reasons.  Of course we were bummed for her, because she was so scared and unhappy.  But getting to that first run is the product of about four hours worth of preparation, including getting up at 5 to pack the car, then getting the kids up and dressed and into the car, then driving up through mountain passes and ski traffic, then parking and unloading the car and lugging all of the gear from the car to the lodge and getting everyone into their boots and making sure jackets are zipped and thumbs are properly situated in mittens and does everyone have their pass? and then shuffling over to the lift.  So when you got through all of that and you only get one run in, a little part of you dies.

Since then, she has had a few more days on the mountain, but the kids basically missed the entire month of January because of their trip to Australia, plus in January and February we got a bunch of big winter storms that all seemed to fall on the weekends, and doing the drive when the weather is like that is not something I'm crazy about.  So she hasn't had many days to work on her skills and get more comfortable.

Until the stars aligned this past weekend.

I had the kids for the weekend, and the weather report said that it was going to be sunny and in the high-30s/low 40s.  Perfect spring skiing conditions.  I decided to get a hotel room up in the mountains so that we could do two days without having to drive home at night.  We decided to go to Breckenridge because it's got a great section that's perfect for beginners, which is what we needed for Josie.

And man, she killed it.  On Saturday, she was a little bit tentative because it had been awhile, but we stayed on the easy stuff and on every run, I had her follow me down and ski in my tracks so that she would make big wide turns and control her speed.  On Sunday, she was feeling like a pro, venturing down steeper runs, following Zeke as he skied through the trees, and figuring out how to get on and off the chair lift by herself.  She even did some ski dancing, just like her brother.

video

What topped it all off was the extraordinary weather.  Brilliant blue skies, comfortable temperatures - Josie and I both skied without gloves on Sunday, and if I had had a convenient place to stash my jacket, I would have taken it off - perfect conditions.  Days like that make it hard to imagine living anywhere else.  Colorado is so beautiful.
Even the drive up is gorgeous.
View from the chairlift.  The sky is so intensely blue it almost doesn't look real.
The hotel was extremely basic, but it did have a pool for the kids to splash around in.
The obligatory selfie on the chairlift.
We skied with our arms out and pretended to be airplanes.  We went through a "haunted forest," an area through the trees that had spooky sounds and giant spiders and snakes to ski through - it helps kids learn how to make solid turns and control their speed, plus it's silly and fun.  I would turn on the music on my phone while we rode the lifts, and we would chair-dance to Katy Perry and Bruno Mars's Uptown Funk.

When we got home last night, we were talking about how much fun we had skiing together.  It really was amazing to be able to enjoy a day like that with the kids, knowing that they were having a great time.

"Mama, that was the best. weekend. ever.  BEST. WEEKEND. EVER!"

I don't know if it's the best weekend ever - they're young, so I don't want to sell their future short. But certainly up there in the top 5.


*I fully recognize that this is "rough" only in the "first-world-problems" sense of the word.  

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

On that day, at that hour, I shall lift my arms and my roots will set off to seek another land.

I'm not sure if it's because of how many divorce and family law attorneys I know, or the friends and coworkers I've talked to who have had horrible experiences, but I'm kind of blown away by how easy this divorce is turning out to be.

I mean, I had no reason to think that it wouldn't be.  J and I separated almost 8 months ago, including divvying up the stuff and working out a custody arrangement and schedule that is working fine.  We don't fight about anything, we do stuff together with the kids from time to time (like ski or go to the movies), and it's all good.  It's all done already - the only thing that needed to happen was to file papers and make it official.

Even so.  Making things official often gives rise to unanticipated conflict, so it ain't over til it's over.

But so far, so good.  We filed the petition at the beginning of February, exchanged financial information today, and had a status conference with the court.  We have two more documents we have to file (both of which are already drafted and agreed upon, so it's just a matter of finalizing them and getting them signed and filed) and we have to do a four hour class on parenting after divorce (which they make everyone do if there are minor children involved - no biggie), then we have a final hearing on May 11 and it'll be over.

I feel like we've been in limbo so long - it's kind of exciting but also a bit weird to know that the wheels are in quick motion and that soon I'll be officially single again.

Whatever that entails.

A couple of my friends were talking about me recently (they told me about it afterwards) and decided that a) I need to get laid, and b) they were surprised that it hadn't happened already.

To which I responded, a) tell me about it, and b) where would I have found a hook-up, given that I only encounter women at work, and the rest of my time is spent taking care of children and household?

Seriously, I want to know.

Because I don't feel like I am finished with romantic love.  I've seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  I know that it's never too late.

But I don't know how to go about it anymore.




Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Now don't you ever change, just promise me you're always gonna be as sweet as you are

One of my friends and I were messaging each other and having a bitch session, and in response to some complaint or other of mine, she said, "well, but at least your children are delightful."

I think about that quite a bit, because lately - and for a while now - my children are delightful.

We seem to have hit a sweet spot, temperamentally, behaviorally, intellectually and otherwise.  They are both very smart and doing well in school.  They are energetic and interested in going out and doing new things and seeing the world.  We go skiing and hiking and swimming and to museums and the zoo.  We watch movies and do puzzles and read books and color.  They are funny and fun.  They are affectionate and considerate and kind.

The other night I felt this incredible surge of love as I sat on the couch while Josie stood behind me and brushed my hair.

"I'm giving you your hair style, Mama.  I'm really good at it."  She poked a couple of bobby pins into my head and threw in a random ponytail.

When she was done, she lay down on the couch and started sucking her fingers, a sign that she was tired.  I picked her up to take her upstairs to go to bed, and she rested her head on my shoulder.  I squeezed her to me.

"You need to stop growing," I whispered.  "I need you to stay five forever.  You're so wonderful right now.  So no more growing, OK?  Can you do that?  Can you stay five?"

She patted my face and nodded.  It's a running joke that we have.

Sometimes I worry about the rigidity of their day at school, especially for Zeke.  It's a lot of seat time and constant testing, with only about 20 minutes a day for recess.  They have a color-coded behavioral system (green is good, purple is a warning, yellow is redirection, blah blah), and he gets in trouble because he'll be singing to himself or cracking jokes when they're supposed to be sitting quietly.

In other words, he's an energetic seven-year-old boy, and sometimes it's hard to sit still or pay attention.

I showed him how to do yoga-ish deep breathing exercises as a way of calming himself down. Sometimes it works, sometimes he forgets.  Sometimes the urge to make fart noises with his hands or to crack a silly joke about toilets is too powerful.

For a while, I was tying certain privileges at home, like using the computer or watching TV, to what color he was on at school.  It was starting to stress him out, and he was obsessed with it.  Even at home, he'd say, "Mama, am I on green?  Am I being good?"

And you know what?  He is good.  He's a good person, and I don't want him constantly worrying that he's not.

So I've decided, fuck it.

He always tells me if he gets in trouble, and we always talk about it and think about how he can act or react differently.  But honestly, when he's getting in trouble because he's restless or feeling silly, I'm not going to pile on.  I don't want him spending his days stressed out about what freaking color he's on, when he's not doing anything really bad.  He never engages in behaviors that I worry about - he's not a bully.  He doesn't get in fights.  He's not violent or destructive.  He's actually incredibly kind and sweet and generous.  So the punishment at school is enough for me.  He'll start with a clean slate at home.

Yesterday I said, "honey, don't worry about what color you're on.  Do your best to listen and pay attention, try to stay on green or purple.  But just relax.  You're a great kid, and if you get in trouble every once in a while for being silly, it's OK.  And if you feel the need to make poop jokes, maybe try to wait until you get home, because I think poop jokes are funny."

He seemed incredibly relieved.  He crawled into my lap and put his arms around me and hugged me tight.  I hugged him back, burying my face in his neck and breathing in that little boy smell that's a combination of soap and clean sweat and a little bit of fresh dirt.

And we stayed that way even after we started giggling because he had tooted right on my leg.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Timing is everything

It's been a weird month.

I've been battling a pervasive bout of depression for a couple of months.  I keep waiting for it to abate.  Like if I say, "OK, on Monday, things are going to be better, and I'm going to feel better and energized."  And by saying it, I can make it so.

But it's still hard.

My aunt, who is a psychologist - and also in the line of relatives from whom I inherited the crazy - suggested I ask my doctor about trying a different type of anti-depressant.  It's not an SSRI - which kind of work for me but also make me feel kind of numb - but rather something that works differently, chemically speaking.  It is usually used to treat seizure disorders, but also can be prescribed for people with bipolar disorder (which I do not have) or as a mood stabilizer for people with less severe forms of depression.

So I went to a doctor who prescribed it for me, and gave me the starter pack - it's the kind of drug that you have gradually build up in your blood stream, so I'm still in the process of ramping up the dosage.  I haven't felt huge effects yet, but for the past couple of nights, for the first time in I don't know how long, I slept soundly without lying awake from 2:30 until 4:30 in the morning.

In the meantime, my mother took me to Canyon Ranch, in Tucson, Arizona, for my birthday.
Desert gardens, with mountains in the background
For those who don't know, Canyon Ranch is considered one of the premier luxury spa resorts in the world.  A four day trip there, with one of my favorite people in the world, is seriously the nicest, most generous gifts anyone has ever given me.  It is extraordinarily beautiful, set in the desert hills behind Tuscon, full of saguaro cacti and desert flowers and javelinas rustling in the bushes.

A water feature designed to allow people to sit and reflect quietly, surrounded by beauty.
We spent our days going for walks and taking exercise classes and getting massages and facials and pedicures.  We talked and read books and enjoyed each others' company.  We ate incredible, healthy, beautifully prepared food.  We played bingo one night and I won a $140 gift certificate for spa services (which doesn't cover the cost of a single spa service, except maybe a pedicure).

The saguaro cacti are amazing looking.

Flowering prickly pear cactus
Desert musicians 
Fountains at dusk.

Barrel cactus.
Enjoying an early morning walk.
Absolutely everything about the place is top-of-the-line.  It's totally luxurious, but in an unostentatious way.

For example, no one goes around in resort wear or fancy clothes.  People wear workout clothes or jeans and flip flops, even to dinner.  There was only one lady who acted like a snobby bitch - this woman from DC who, when we were chatting in the massage waiting area and my mom said she was from "Washington D.C." but clarified it to "McLean, Virginia" when asked for specifics, said, "oh, well, that's not really D.C., but my husband is in real estate, so I know McLean is lovely - at least it's not Rockville!"  From then on, we referred to her as "the DC Madam," and anytime we were talking about different places, we would say, "but at least it's not Rockville!"  But everyone else we met or talked to was really friendly and down-to-earth.

At times it made me uncomfortable.  For example, on Sunday, after enjoying a delicious gourmet breakfast, I went to an exercise class, then had a facial, then a massage.  At one point during the facial, I was lying there as a Russian lady extolled the virtues of the hundreds of dollars worth of exfoliants and creams she was rubbing on my face ("vee only use Sisley products - they are most expensive in vorld"), and I started feeling like a spoiled asshole.  I had an overwhelming urge to go out and do charity work or volunteer in a homeless shelter.  It all felt like too much.

Part of the problem is that, particularly since the separation and being a part-time single parent, I don't have a lot of money to spare.  So the extent of the pampering - and the amount of money it cost - made me a little uncomfortable.

Another part of the problem is that I was enjoying all of this luxury in the middle of a period of reading about people suffering from injustices and deprivation in places like Russia and North Korea, and the juxtaposition of what I was reading and what I was experiencing was a bit jarring.

I came home feeling refreshed and relaxed and lean.  But also a little guilty.

So, long story short - go to Canyon Ranch, if you have the opportunity.  It's an incredible place.  But read something mindless and frothy while you're there.