Saturday, March 4, 2017

Panic en La Playa Seis 2017

Sometime last year, when ticket sales were announced, we decided to buck up and head down to paradise for Panic En La Playa Seis (PELP). We figured with N's 40th birthday and our 10th anniversary we could justify the cost and the trip. Then, for months and months we put it out of our minds. Finally, February 26th came and we took off for our 6-day trip to sunny Mexico.

Day One, 2/26/17

We caught an Uber at 4am as my mom settled in to live in our house and care for our boys while we were gone. Passports in hand I finally learned the ins and outs of international travel.

 Sunrise over southern US as we flew to Houston.

We arrived in Cancun around 12:30pm, and immediately realized we were in paradise. There is a bar at the airport right in front of the ground travel buses where you can buy tropical drinks by the yard. We found the PELP shuttle and settled in for an hour drive to the resort.

The beauty in this place is hard to describe. And the people who work there are so friendly and kind. PELP reserved the entire place, but we came a day early so there were people there vacationing on 2/26 before the whole place was flooded with hippies and the good people you find during a show.

The view from our room.

Sine we were there a day early, we got to catch the sound check. It was fun to hear a few songs and watch the workers begin to set up the concert area for the music that would ensue over the next few days. They played the songs but without much gusto. It was the perfect tease of what was in store.

Sound check, 2/26/17

 I have never been to Mexico before, and have never been to an all inclusive resort. It was pretty easy to put the money we paid over the last few months behind us and pretend everything we were experiencing was free, besides tips. The food was mostly buffet style, and it was fabulous. The restaurant staff were well versed in gluten free eating and often took me around the buffet to show me what was safe and what wasn't. 

Or first meal at Toro, one of the many buffet style eateries. 



The day the tickets went on sale all those months ago, My friend J texted me about 20 minutes before and asked if we were going. I replied yes and for the next 20 minutes she went back and forth about getting tickets, too. The expense is high, so it's a tough decision to make, but at the last minute she bit the bullet and decided to go. It was so great to have another couple to hang with. We had such an amazing time with these beautiful people!

A toast to friendship and the first night in paradise. 

As we explored the resort we found some music in the lobby area near some pool tables and other entertainment.
A Mexican Beatles cover band, which is exactly as awesome as one would expect.

At some point someone, I think it was our waiter, had the idea of bringing us a shot. When asked what kind we wanted, N replied "surprise us". This is what he brought, and called it a Jelly Fish. It was gross, but made for a great photo!

My brain is just a jelly fish in the ocean in my head, 'cause I drank too much tequila, and I woke up seein' red. ~String Cheese Incident

Day Two, 2/27/17

2/27/17 was our first full day at the resort, so we did lots of exploring and taking in the beauty of this place. It was chilly with the breeze off of the ocean, and it ended up being pretty cloudy, but that didn't seem to affect the way we appreciated the beauty in this place.

These iguanas were everywhere! They mostly moved slowly, but occasionally jumped out and scared the bejezus out of us! 



This part is a little scary for me, but here it goes. At some point leading up to this trip, I decided to throw all self-consciousness out the window and wear a swimsuit that shows my stomach for the first time, maybe ever. Seriously. Even as a young teenager I was so self conscious of my mid area that I refused to bare it for anyone in public, But this time? Eff it. I was going to enjoy the pool and the sunshine and get some color to my belly for the first time ever. It felt so amazing and freeing!

Rocking a stomach-showing swimsuit for the first time, maybe ever. 


In one of the many emails we received from the planning company for PELP, they encouraged us to bring decorations for the balcony. We saw so many cool decorations. We brought a Missouri state flag and a Cardinals flag. It took us a while to figure out how to hang in the best way, but we did it! Represent!



They also had theme nights, and one was Space Wrangler, so N bought these little guys for that night, which wasn't until Thursday, so he hung around here until then,

Wrangler, Space. 

This is the only photo I have that shows the inside of our room. It was small and perfect since we really only slept there. We didn't turn on the TV once. I still wonder if there are English speaking channels in Mexico. We didn't find out!

Braids, hair flowers, and a constantly stocked mini bar. 


The stage was set up with the ocean behind it and plenty of room for everyone to see the stage. This was where we stood at each show, and we walked up to this area a few minutes before 8pm, so you can see that there wasn't really a bad view anywhere. The show was incredible. It was easy to get caught up in the "free" food and drinks, the ocean, the pool and the sunshine, and it quickly became clear why we were all here. Because of the music. While the whole show was fantastic, that Bear Gone Fishin' > Blight > Climb To Safety was killer.

Show #1, 2/27/17 

We were standing just to the right of the soundboard, which had a person manning the entrance to make sure only VIP folks walked in. I saw Luther Dickinson enter this area and got really excited! I have been an arm's length away from Luther before, and never felt brave enough to go up and talk to him.

At one point he came out of the sound board area and was standing against the back railing. I walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. I told him about my son, LBZ, and how we decided his name. He walked out of the area and we talked for a while. Then we danced to Panic and enjoyed the music. He turned to me and said he was going back to the inside area, and I took his hand and told him how much I appreciate his music and thanked him for sharing his talent with me and with the world.

He invited me into the inside part, but I declined. Honestly, I was so overwhelmed with the moment that I think I needed it to end, if that makes sense. As I turned to walk back to me friends, J came up to us and took this photo. Had she been 2 minutes later, this moment wouldn't have been recorded. Once I returned to N and our friends in the crowd, I busted into tears.

This moment was one of the highlights of my entire music life.
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars

Day Three, 2/28/17

I didn't take many photos this day, I think because we spent most of the day at the pool. They had a side stage where Southern Soul Assembly played a set in the afternoon. It was also fat Tuesday, so they had a Mardi Gras party during the show. It was a crazy good time. A waiter brought us a tray full of drinks and said it was watermelon juice and a surprise. I don't know what that surprise was, but it wasn't good. I didn't feel great afterwards and we figured we spent a little too much time in the sun.

Southern Soul Assembly includes Luther Dickinson, JJ Grey, Anders Osborne and Marc Broussard

We didn't let it stop us from the show! The Mardi Gras costumes were fantastic. So many beads and sparkles and happiness all around. The drums in Fishwater was an insane back and forth between Duane and Sonny and I just couldn't get enough. Tall Boy is always great and the Blackout Blues in the encore was just perfect. We were so tired afterwards that we crashed afterwards and decided we maybe needed to balance the sun tomorrow. It's easy to overdo it in paradise, and we wanted to enjoy every single moment of this fabulous trip.

In Mardi Gras style for Fat Tuesday

Day Four

The day started out just lovely as we took a nice long walk around the resort exploring the beaches and pools on the other side from where we were staying.



We got to the pool around noon and posted up in a place where we could have some sunshine and some shade so we didn't get burned. The sun there is no joke, and we really didn't want to burn. Since the performers are also on vacation, we would randomly run into one at the resort.

Colonel Bruce sat down right next to us in the pool area and swam right by us for a long time. We all chatted briefly, and I noticed when he came back to his lounger, putting his shoes on and heading to the bar. Figuring he was coming back, I didn't pay much attention to the fact that he left his shirt there, but the boys did. We tried to find him to return it, but he was gone. N decided it was just his style.

N wearing Colonel Bruce Hampton's shirt.

Even though the buffets were stocked with incredibly delicious food, we all liked the idea of sitting at a restaurant where they bring us a menu. We chose the Mexican restaurant, and it did not disappoint. We couldn't help but notice the smaller than American portions. This was exactly the right amount of food for our pre-show bellies.

Chicken with rice and mole sauce

N's dessert, which was so pretty!

My dessert, which was nice looking, too.

Night four, show #3 was so good. I felt amazing and we felt like we adulted the heck out of the day so we could hang into the show feelin' alright. The first 4 songs started with the letter G, and I never did find out the significance of that, if there is one. North was pretty great as they sang about Mexico, but the best was probably Genesis, which I thoroughly enjoyed and told the man standing next to me (a guy named Todd who was not a Panic fan but came along with some friends for the week) about a gift N gave his best friend in 2003. N had all of the lyrics to Genesis printed on a poster and mailed it to the writer for his autograph. He then framed it and gave it to our good friends for their wedding. Genesis was their wedding song.

Oh, how I love these good people!!

Day Five, 3/1/17

We woke up on day five feeling great! We knew this was our last full day here, so we got to it. We explored some more and did some souvenir shopping for ourselves and for the boys. After spending the day at the pool, we caught the Bloodkin show and I met a guy named Mike and his wife who were from Orlando and had been to at least 3 of the shows. He sat down next to me and asked if it was okay for him to smoke his cigarette. I said yes, and we talked a lot about quitting and how hard it is. And I took notice of the fact that he actually asked me in the first place.

You see, if you've never been to a Panic show, it is difficult to explain. But if you have been to a show, whether Grateful Dead, Panic, Phish or a similar band, the community is what makes this experience so magical. A woman in the bathroom line snapped at me all bitchy, which happens in the real world a lot, but she actually stopped, came back to me and apologized, which only happens in this world, if the bitchy happens at all. Typically people are kind and generous and looking out for each other. Imagine that community at a show, but now it's in an entire privately rented resort and there are 4 shows and tons of beach and pool time in between. That my friends, is Panic en La Playa.

Bloodkin on the side stage, 3/2/17

The theme of the night was Space Wrangler, so N got these awesome little space men and found the perfect little sparkly cowboy hats for them. They felt like our babies at the beginning of the show, but eventually we put them down against the metal barrier that separated the sound board area from where we were standing.

Our little space wranglers.

During set break a group of resort employees saw them and took them off of the railing. I don't know what they said, but they seemed so happy to find these space men. N and I decided to let them have them, but not before we got a good photo.

I seriously think it made their night!
Even if they did tear the little hats off.

It isn't hard at all for me to talk about the biggest highlight of show #4. The entire set list was full of dance party awesomeness, so I shouldn't have been surprised when they went from >Surprise>Ride Me High>Surprise into the song I have spent 16 years and about 50 shows chasing. My favorite Panic song of all time: Airplane.

During set break I told a lovely lady dressed in a super sparkly space wrangler outfit about my love for Airplane. She said she was in the very front row and if they played it, she would make room for me to go up close to hear it.

As soon as I heard the first 3 notes, I knew. I stood there frozen for a bit, then J asked if I wanted to go up front and said she'd go with me. We wiggled our way to the front row and couldn't find the woman I spoke to at set break, but that didn't matter. I looked at the cute little 20-something hippie in the spot directly in front of JB and told him of my 16-year quest to catch this song. Without a hesitation, he moved to the side and held his hand out for me to take his place.

It's hard to put how much I love this song into words. I sang it to my boys as they fell asleep. LBZ loved it so much, he created his own rendition with a small adjustment that includes a helicopter.
Check it out. This moment was also a huge highlight in my music life.

Front row center for "Airplane"

Show #4 was by far my favorite. They had special guests, they opened with Sewing Machine, which our whole group thought they closed with the night before, but they in fact only played part of the typical combo of Protein Drink>Sewing Machine at show #3. Conrad. Wrangler. Red Hot Mama. Parsons. Time is Free (with Colonel Bruce). Blue Indian. And a closing song of Life During Wartime, another one of LBZ's favs. And of course, Chilly Water. (For a 50-second clip of Chilly click here)

A nice shot of the water being tossed around during Chilly.

Day Six, 3/2/17

Oh, day six. Veterans of PELP tried to warn us about re-entry and the difficulty of leaving after show #4. Many veterans stay an extra day, unlike us who came a day early. As much fun as I had, I missed the boys like crazy and really couldn't wait to get home.

Our plan was to meet at 9am, check out at the main convention center, drop our bags in front, eat some breakfast and catch the 10am shuttle back to the Cancun airport. We met at 9am, went to the convention center and checked out, then walked outside and somehow ended up in the lane to get on the shuttle that was leaving right then. They took our bags and put them on the bus instead of on the stairs for the 10am bus.

We tried to tell them, but at that point we all felt committed. We got on the bus behind our bags and had no water, no food and a one hour trip to the airport. We weren't very happy, but we made the best of it. As we were pulling out of the resort, I realized that not only did I not get breakfast, but I also didn't get a chance to say a proper goodbye to the resort and take any final photos at the resort, but we did get a few of the journey home.



The only vacation sunset photo I caught.
Mostly because of timing and position of our room.

Nevertheless, the trip home was uneventful. Traveling out of the country brought some anxiety, so having the trip go smoothly makes me want to do it again as soon as possible. I was thrilled to see my boys, who were at the airport when we landed, and as I snuggled them to bed last night I realized what a perfect balance this trip was for us. N and I got to have an adventure, to see our favorite band, to connect after 10 beautiful years of marriage and to return home to the loving arms of our boys. It was perfect.

Home, sweet home.

This weekend, on the other hand, has been a little rough. The boys are just off and having trouble listening, the memory of no worries on the beach with nothing but our favorite band's concert on our schedule is fading into the reality of routines and housework and laundry. The workweek is looming, and the struggle for re-entry into the real world is a real thing.

To my friends who could not attend this year, I seriously encourage you to build this trip into your vacation spending plans. Start saving now. It's expensive, but worth every single penny. We will have the opportunity to pre-buy tickets for next year, and I think we just might. We'll be the veterans and can give some good advice going forward. Basically, just do it. Go to PELP.

Other fun stuff to note
(I may add to this as I recollect noteworthy details)

The room key is actually a waterproof bracelet you wear when you check in and they cut off when you check out. So it leaves basically zero chance that you will be locked out of your room.

I read the whole book "Born to Run" this week. It includes a lot of stories about running in Mexico, and it was perfect for this trip.

Even though I didn't run at all during this week, I managed to get over 20k steps every single day we were there, making this week one of the highest in steps I have ever achieved, even with weeks that include my longest races.

If you pay attention, they tell you every single thing you need to know about traveling internationally. Miss something, and your'e pretty screwed.

They took a ton of footage of PELP and will likely make a 4-5 minute video like they did last year. I may or may not be hoping for a cameo in the seis version, 

Street tacos are divine. That's all I have to say.


Saturday, February 4, 2017

My word for 2017

Vulnerable

My word for 2016 was adventure. Click here to read my report from a year that was full of running, exploring, personal growth and adventures.

Going into 2017 has been tough for me. I've realized some things about myself that I'd like to further explore, but that exploration is scary. The truth about what we hold deep in our hearts, that we cover up with possessions and smiles and tough skin and super mom personas can be hard to uncover. But that is exactly what I intend to do in 2017.

My 2017 word is vulnerable. My goal is to allow those buried feelings of fear, shame, and unworthiness to surface so I can welcome them and befriend them. I've spent the month of January diving in and what I've found so far is nothing short of fascinating.

Let me describe an example. We are a screen watching family. While we value outdoors and adventures, our go-to is often screens. Winter and the cold makes it more challenging for N and me and we have to stay very cognizant of how much time the boys spend on screens. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by this task this past week, then in the midst of this I took BBZ to the dentist and found that he needs a lot of treatment, much like he did a few years ago. The combination of these two things came to ahead in Saturday.

The boys were playing video games together before dinner and had built a huge village and were working really well together. I was concerned about the length of time they were playing, then the village they built dominated their discussion at the dinner table. I felt completely overtaken by screens and LOST IT. You know, the kind of crabby that makes the family walk on eggshells. It was bad.

In his beautiful and supportive way, N asks me if this is just about the screens or if there was something else going on. I sat for a minute, and really explored this feeling. What was going on with me? I've been so even keeled lately. I've been ridding my home of useless stuff and seeking a more calm and quiet life. Where on earth did this anger come from?

Then I figured it out. The screens. The dentist. The decision to try a more minimal life. Under it all was an intense feeling that:

I am not good enough.

How about that for being vulnerable. A better mom would have screen limits figured out. A better mom would provide better dental care. A better mom (or person) wouldn't have all this stuff in the first place, or would have it all out of the house by now. But rather than admitting that this is how I'm feeling, I lashed out at others in "stressed out" aggression. But buried underneath this outer shell is the fear of being right, that I'm really not good enough.

Something that sent me on this path toward being more open and vulnerable is this talk from Brene Brown. It is a bit long (20 Minutes), but I encourage you to take time to watch or listen if you are interested in exploring this topic.


The example I shared is barely scratching the surface of my own fear of vulnerability. I'm consciously trying to welcome these feelings of uneasiness and fear, breathing them in and further discovering the kinds of connections that are possible with the world and the people around me when I'm being my authentic self. This is my year of vulnerability.

I have kept mostly quite on this blog lately, not making time to document my thoughts. An encounter with an old friend makes me want to dedicate some time to this space of mine. She shared that she was moved by my sharing some private thoughts and experiences when I talked about how N and I chose to start our family years ago. It was beautiful to know that she found strength in my words. So perhaps sharing this experience of being more vulnerable will resonate with a reader out there somewhere.

Like a long run on the most challenging trail course imaginable, this is going to suck.

And I'm actually looking forward to it.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

2016 Review

Adventure

2016 was full of many adventures, both personally, professionally, and within my running goals. It was a great year! Let's recap in photos,because that is super fun.

In February 2016, I started a new job. I know it's been a while since I posted at all, but particularly about this, but this was a HUGE move or me. For the first time in 15 years, I do not supervise a team. I am responsible for my work and my work alone. I am not in charge, and while I get to make some important decisions, the really important ones are made way over my head. This was certainly an adjustment at first, but it is proving to be the huge step back in life I needed, leaving time and space in my heart to be available and present for my boys.


I totally stepped up my running game in 2016. I ran a 15k in February...


Then a 20k in March...


Then a 25k in April! This April race was my first taste of the ultra marathon world, as the 25k distance is basically an ultra half marathon. This got me so excited about increasing my mileage!


Even N decided to run a 5k race with me. Couples who race together...!


This was the 4-week trail race series in May that I ran last year as well. All of the courses are in one of my very favorite parks on different routes throughout the trails. I landed in the top 10 in all four races and even hit the top 5 in race #4!


This guy lost his first tooth. It seems a bit early to me, but I suppose it happens at different times for different kiddos. He's growing like a little weed and is the happiest kid I know!


I just love this photo of N. He and I are just like everyone else in our relationship, we have our ups and downs, and at the end of 2016 we were in a pretty rough down. But we are working hard to stay present and connected and with the needs of our love and our family in the front of our minds. If anything is an adventure, it is going through life with another person. We love each other so, and we get complacent. But we are turning toward each other and doing our best to love each other well.


See? Little signs of love are all around us. We just need to keep our eyes open to see them.


This boy is a whole hand worth of fingers. I haven't posted much about them. I guess I haven't really posted anything in a while, but with them it is somewhat intentional. These boys are becoming the people they are meant to be. What if they don't want their stories on my blog? What if their idea of privacy is different than mine? I feel like I need to be extra guarded as they continue to grow into young men. I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that good things will come for this boy. He's a special one, my little LBZ. His demeanor is so endearing. I only hope he will not feel let down by the world when he finds out it is not as genuine and pure as his little heart.


And this boy. How hard it is to put the beauty of his soul into words. He is kind, and generous, a great friend, and a brave young man. He had a conflict with a fried at school and will barely any help from me, sought out the support from his counselor to help mend the friendship in a way that everyone felt heard and loved. I'm not sure how I got so lucky to have this boy in my life. Watching him grow into a man may be the most rewarding this I will ever do in my life.


In September I ran this race for the second year in a row, but this time it was really challenging. My head wasn't in it, and I was experiencing some burnout. The only reason I am smiling in this photo is because it's the finish line and the race is finally over.


Later in September I had another race scheduled. I got up super early as usual as there was a pretty long drive to this one. When I woke up, I saw this not that N left me. "Have fun, run hard, stay out of your head, enjoy the experience. These words were my mantra during the race. I enjoyed every mile that wrapped around a beautiful lake. This note meant a lot to me, and restored some lost love I had for running.




In the fall, N decided to coach LBZ's soccer team, and BBZ was the "assistant coach". It was a fun adventure where we met lots of new families in our area, and even found some friends that LBZ will be with in kindergarten! N was a great coach. His 3 rules: Be kind, No hand, and Have fun!


This was probably one of the most proud races of my running career so far. It was a 20k on a local trail with some of the toughest climbs around. And I ended as the 4th female overall! It was after this race, however, that I had to finally admit that there was some serious GI issues that happened to me after long runs and races like this. What I had been chalking up as typical runner's trots were becoming a much more worry some situation. I decided to make some major changes to my diet and vitamins and have been gluten free since 10/2016. It has been a slow process, but I can tell my gut is healing and this issues are less severe. I do think it will probably take all year to fully heal my gut to the point where I can build some serious miles into my plan. I hoped to start training for a 50k around this time last year, but that goal in on hold.


This is from another 20 k race in 11/2016. I was signed up for the 30k, but as described above, i needed to back off a bit while I sorted out my health issues. I had been running with a new group I met through the Meetup app, and earned myself a reputation for putting my arms out like an airplane when I go fast down trail hills. Apparently, as captured in this race photo, I also do the airplane when creek crossing, too.


Although I said I would never go to the far north in the winter months again, we made the trek to see my parents and did some hiking and adventuring while there.


My final race of the year was in chilly December, the day after our 10-year wedding anniversary! It was at a lodge, so N and the boys came along and met me at the finish line. It was so great to have them there!


We attended our very first ugly sweater party!


And had an amazing holiday season celebrating our life, our love, and these 2 young boys who simply light up our lives. This whole thing is an adventure, and one wild ride. While I'd like off every now and then, I wouldn't change a thing.


In January of 2016 I set a goals to run/walk/hike 1008 miles in 2016. I met that goal in November and decided to step it up and try and meet the 1008 miles in only running. I met it at the tail end of December, just in time.


2016 was a great year, full of accomplishments and challenges. 2017 will prove to be similar, I think. My running goals are to run 1050 miles in the year, with 300 of those miles on trails. I also hope to focus on strength training and injury prevention as I continue to figure out how I can increase my miles and heal my GI issues. I'd love to add a 50k to this goal, but that may be a 2018 goal.


Stay tuned for my word for 2017. It's a good one!