Retreat to the Beach, Part One: Veni, Vidi, Munchi

Road Trip!!!!

So, despite the aforementioned transportation difficulties, I managed to get with a group heading out and spent the next five hours or so sitting in a car cringing at every nearby-passing vehicle and braking movement along the way. Yeah, that was fun. And to cap it off, our driver got a speeding ticket when we were about 20 minutes from arriving. Let’s just say it was not an auspicious day for vehicular travel.

We arrive – and eat!

Anyway, we arrived at the luxurious Marriott Grande Ocean Resort mid-afternoon (see some envy-making pics here), got our room keys and settled in to chill out until dinner. I didn’t bring a bathing suit (I haven’t bought one lately), so I didn’t get to hop in the hot tub with my buds, but I did tag along anyway and roll up my jeans so I could dangle my tootsies in the pool area spa until they looked like boiled lobsters. Mmmmm…warm feet. I ended up with wet pants, but the rooms had a washer/dryer set, so it was all good.

There was a hilarious incident when a colleague who went into an outdoor bubble tub came flailing back out precipitously, yelling about something on the bottom. Turned out to be a toe-munching branch monster – a rather full and leafy branch of a nearby azalea bush that had fallen into the tub, and into whose woody, leafy embrace my friend had stepped. LOL!

During the retreat, each 2 bedroom suite (which comfortably housed 4-5 members) was responsible for at least one meal (our room ended up doing both breakfasts, but breakfast is easy so that was okay). Dinner that night was the purview of our program director, who is an amazing cook and who laid out a spectacular feast,which I enjoyed enthusiastically until the grilled lobster tails showed up.

Holy mother of God, those things reek. I had to wander out to the balcony a couple of times to clear my head, but still ended up feeling rather queasy for the rest of the meal, which I spent assiduously keeping my eyes on my own plate so I could avoid looking at the queasy-making lobster remains around me – although that didn’t stop me from slowly but surely working my way through the Bananas Foster she made for dessert. It did, however, make the meal far less enjoyable than it could have been, and I felt sick for the rest of the night.

After the festivities and dinner, I spent an hour on a treadmill trying to get some exercise after spending half the day in a car or sitting around a table. The gym had the tv on to CBS, which was showing what had been one of my favorite shows before I came here and went tv-free, Criminal Minds. I found I couldn’t watch it. After having been so long away from it, the violence was just unsettling. Interesting.

As for sleeping arrangements, I ended up having the pull-out couch-bed in the living room to myself, due to the fact that I didn’t want anyone kept awake by any coughing fits (my last cold renewed the lease on the post-viral cough, which had taken up residence in my lungs after my November illness and had been fading away.) I pulled the sliding glass door to the patio open a scootch so I could hear the ocean and get some fresh air, pulled the curtains shut and drifted off.

That is, until I was rudely awakened in the early am by a full-blown panic attack, complete with gut-wrenching, toilet-camping nausea/cramps. That was fun.

I’m guessing it was a delayed reaction to the stress of the bang-up that morning, maybe coupled with the lobster-tail wooziness. After about a half-hour or so, in any case, it passed and I was able to go back to bed. But that’s still no way to spend your first night at the beach. *sigh*

I appreciate you because…

A few weeks prior, along with an evaluation we had to complete on our program director we had been given an exercise to complete for the event, which was to finish the phrase “I appreciate you because…” for each of our team members, plus the program director and coordinator. It was a difficult exercise to do, not because we don’t appreciate our teammates (we really do!) but because it’s hard to pin down nebulous feelings of good will and friendship into something distilled and concrete that is not way too personal on one hand, or seriously lame on the other. This latter was a concern for those teammates who we rarely saw outside of the Friday meetings – you know you like them and that they are good people, in a general sense, but you don’t have anything specific because you rarely see or interact with them. You don’t want to write one person paragraphs lauding their finer points in specific and detailed terms, and then have the person next to them to end up with, “You’re nice. And I like your hair.”

As a result of this difficulty, it took most of us all of that time, plus most of the afternoon of our arrival, to complete. (These were the materials I had forgotten at the homework club – I had worked for weeks on them and wasn’t about to leave them behind.) During the prep for dinner, we went around stuffing our appreciations into the appropriate manila envelope, which we had each labeled with our names and decorated with markers. (It was reminiscent of those grade-school Valentines Day card exchanges where you decorate a box for your desk and run around stuffing cards into your classmates’ creations. Only better, since this time around my “classmates” actually like me. LOL!). Mysteriously, each envelope also turned up containing a package of Wonka Fun Dip, as well. Which further cemented the whole schoolroom-Valentines-Day atmosphere.

After dinner, many of us spent the downtime reading our appreciations and getting all sniffly. A lot of mine focused on appreciating that I say what I think and unapologetically being who I am, and that I was meeting the challenge of working with kids really well, which was nice. I also got some props for my irrepressible geektitude and spreadsheet mojo, which was also nice.

Letter to self

Another thing that ended up in our envelopes was a letter we had written to ourselves during training, denoting what we perceived to be our Goals and Challenges for the coming year. Mine went as follows, with my current comments in italics:

Goals –

  • Spend some time thinking about coaching – where to take it/what to do. Rev up writing work – build to living wage level by year’s end.

    The writing end of this is coming along slowly, but making some progress. Still have a way to go re: making a living. Not been spending enough time thinking about the coaching bit, though. Need to make some definite plans to work on that.

  • Explore non-profit/world-changing infrastructure of Asheville for potential post-Americorps involvement.

    Not so much on this – been too damn busy. But now that I am starting to get a bit ahead of things and not being so exhausted after work, I hope to ramp this up.

  • Build network of Asheville movers and shakers and world changers. Keep network active and useful.

    Basically, I’ve totally dropped the ball on this one. And it’s definitely going to the top of the list of Things I Need A Kick In The Pants About.

  • Settle into Asheville, get out more. Become more socially sustainable. Look for place to live/buy.

    Since my goal for this first year was pretty much to just take in the surrounding area’s politics, housing trends, economy and so forth, I’d call this one a success, since we’ve been doing that pretty much evenly since we’ve been here. Learning where the good buys are, where the mortgages are killers and where “good buys” really aren’t.

Challenges –

  • Cost of living – find ways to live cheaply and sustainably on Americorps funs so other money can go to savings/pay debt down.

    We altered this, somewhat. We’ve been putting Americorps money in the savings, mostly, and living on other wages, while putting the overage of that in savings as well. Which was working like a charm until the whole transmission thing sucked it dry. *sigh*

  • Socialization after years of geekish isolation.

    Uh, not so much. Too tired after work means I rarely go out afterward, when I might conceivably ride with co-workers, and having only one vehicle, that I can’t drive (still not ready to go back to shifting a stick with my bad shoulder), means that after-hours and weekend stuff is limited to what we can both enjoy, because I feel icky about making Mr. Pitts into a chauffeur for my entertainment purposes only. And Mr. Pitts is not exactly a social butterfly. I really wish city transit came within walking distance of our place, but it doesn’t, and you can’t really do much walking this close to the highway, anyway. I really need to find another way to make this work that doesn’t involve asking strangers for rides or walking along a major traffic artery.

  • Putting down roots – out of habit (new habit!)

    Doing great on that. I already don’t want to leave. Although could do better on the whole “make and interact with friends” part of the equation.

  • Dealing with kids – learn to love the noise, retrain nervous system to not associate noise=death/danger.

    Hmm…getting there, but not there yet. Having the neighbor come over during a loud day to glower and rant unfortunately didn’t help that much. *gulp*

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