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I’ve been thinking about energy a lot this past week. Mainly because I have none. Or at least very little anyway. I’ve been doing battle with a series of headaches—including some migraines. It’s been frustrating.

For whatever reason migraines have the disconcerting side effect of causing me to feel even worse about myself than I normally do. It sucks. When I’m in the middle of the physical pain my brain is able to recognize that the emotional upheaval is simply a side effect of the migraine, and knows it will pass. Unfortunately that doesn’t help me feel any better. Here’s what my internal conversations sounds like.

Brain: Okay Spudsie. You know this “I’m never gonna make any progress” and “I’m a lousy person” crap is simply a side effect of the migraine pain. You know it will pass eventually and you’ll start to see things more clearly.

Emotions: Yeah. Right. (Side note: My emotions tend to be very sarcastic during migraines. ;-)) I hate this. I’m still one big gooey mess of pent up-ness. This isn’t because of the migraine. This simply is. I’m not any better off than I was a year ago. The migraines still attack and I’m no better at fighting them off. They still slam me to the ground—which is probably where I deserve to be anyway. You’re the logical one—surely you can see that.

Brain: (Deeply sighing) Give it time Spudster. Give it time. The pain will pass and your vision will clear. Just try to focus on drinking water and breathing deeply. Try not to dwell on beating yourself up.

Emotions: Yeah. Right. Try not to dwell on beating myself up. Pffffft. Like that’s gonna happen. What happens to you when someone tells you not to think of an elephant, hmmmmm???? That’s right—all you can think of is an elephant! Let me sulk in my self pity pit for a while. It’s the one thing I’m really good at after all. Oh! And the water thing…..you do realize that drinking THAT much water makes us run to the bathroom every thirty minutes, right? And you know how painful it is to move at all in the middle of a migraine. Can’t we just leave the water alone?

Brain: We’re drinking the water. Period. It helps flush all the lousy stuff out of our system. So just drink it and go take a nap will ya! At least when you are sleeping you can’t beat yourself up.

And so it goes. Yuck. The migraine pain is bad enough, but the emotional toll it takes is far worse. I end up completely drained of any positive energy.

So I’ve been thinking about that positive energy a lot this past week. Wondering where it goes. And what attracts it back my way. And how I’ve become soooooo much more aware of it in the past year. Of sensing it around me. Of feeling it flow through me—or get tied up in knots occasionally. Of feeling it in others.

Last Thanksgiving Mr. Spuds and I vacationed in Las Vegas. Two nights before leaving I slept wrong and knotted up some odd muscles in my neck. I do this occasionally and didn’t think too much of it. Well after a day of not being able to turn my head while on vacation I’d had enough. The Canyon Ranch Spa at the Palazzo (where we stayed) offers a Tension massage that focuses on the head and neck. Perfect! Bright and early the next morning I went down to the spa and made an appointment.

Until then I’d never had a massage in my life. I’m a fairly modest person and blush at the thought of having someone other than my husband see me wearing nothing but a strategically draped sheet. Well evidently pain is a pretty good motivator for me to break out of my comfort zone. While scheduling the massage I was asked if I wanted a male or female therapist. Male, definitely male. No hesitation on my part. These knots are like steel and I need someone with serious upper body strength to work them out. When I mentioned I’d never had a massage before the person scheduling the appointment said, “Oh! I have the perfect therapist for you. Gabriel. He’s wonderful, you’ll love him.” Okay, fine. Whoever. Just fix my neck!

I had no idea.

Gabriel was (and IS) amazing! He made me feel completely at ease. I didn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable or self conscious or anything. Wow! (At one point during the massage he joked about advertising in bus stations about offering massages from “the hands of an angel.” Mr. Spuds loved the play on his name and quipped for the rest of the vacation about how I was “touched by an angel.” Groan. I should probably hope these two never meet! LOL!) While he was working on getting rid of the knots (which were so pronounced I was tempted to name them) he kept talking about how I should come back for a full body massage at some point. That the Tension massage was good for working out specific problems, but the full body massage was sooooo much better.

In fact, he talked about it enough that he really shouldn’t have been surprised when I was his first appointment the very next morning for a full body Canyon Ranch massage. LOL! Turns out he was right. It was awesome! I left feeling completely relaxed and completely energized at the same time. Totally cool!

When we returned to Vegas in April (yes, yes….I know….it’s an amazing food city though….I simply can’t resist!), I went back to visit Gabriel again. This time I scheduled a massage the first morning we were in town. Ahhhhhh…..heaven. What a great way to start a vacation!

About half-way through the trip I felt lousy. We won’t talk about the reason. (Ahem. Any drink with the word “chocolate” in it really can’t be bad right? Even if you have 6 of them, right??? Groan. I’m old enough to know better!) Physically I was fine—no headaches, no stomach problems, no knots. I just felt off-kilter. I wasn’t hungry. I told Mr. Spuds I was going to see if Gabriel had any open appointments that day. Mr. Spuds though I had lost my mind. How on earth is a massage going to help?? I was convinced. My energy felt off—it wasn’t flowing normally. It felt knotted up somewhere inside. And I knew Gabriel could help.

Yay! I was right. When it came time for my appointment I told him how I was feeling and that I wanted to see if he could get me back to normal. Bingo! He knew exactly what to do. He asked a few questions and worked in a slightly different way than he had the last time. It worked! It was as though he pulled the energy from my head into my core and then kept it flowing (unknotted) through my legs and out my feet. Awesome! I left feeling totally relaxed, totally energized, and totally hungry!! (I’ve never claimed to be anything even approaching normal. LOL!)

The rest of the day felt magical. I turned my $20 gambling budget (last of the big spenders eh?) into $150. I had an amazing dinner at Bouchon with Mr. Spuds—and had the BEST mint ice cream I’ve ever had. (It tasted herbal instead of fake-minty. Loved it!!!) I had an incredible time at the Blue Man Group show—and Mr. Spuds got to participate and have the entire audience applaud him—totally cool!

The difference was night and day. Before, when my energy was tied in knots, I was trying to force enjoyment. “I am determined to enjoy myself. I’m not going to let feeling off-kilter keep me from doing the things I want to do.” I wasn’t wallowing, but I was pushing myself to keep going. Once the energy was flowing again, everything else flowed right along with it. Enjoyment simply happened. Joy was there—I didn’t have to force it or even go looking for it. It lived in me.

All in all it was an experience I hope to never forget. And I hope I can keep the lesson with me. When the energy is flowing, so is everything else. When the energy flows, I’m in flow. I love it when life lessons sneak up on ya!

Anyone who knows me IRL has heard about Gabriel before. I’ve gushed on and on and on and on about what an amazing massage therapist he is. Recently (within the past month) I was given the opportunity to spend two days at a pretty neat spa free of charge. (!!!) I scheduled a couple of different body treatments—a Swedish massage and a Papaya body scrub and treatment. And I found myself wondering how they would compare to what I’d had in Las Vegas. Would they be just as incredible? Would I find myself realizing that while Gabriel was great he wasn’t the be-all-and-end-all of massage therapists? Hmmmmmm….this could be interesting. I couldn’t wait to find out.

After the Swedish massage I told Mr. Spuds, “Okay. Now I know. Gabriel is a ROCK STAR/GOD among massage therapists!!!” The Swedish massage was nice. That’s about all I can say. If it had been my first massage ever I probably wouldn’t ever schedule another one. There wasn’t anything “bad” about it—it simply wasn’t worth what it would have cost.

The Papaya body scrub and treatment included another 50 minute massage—with a different therapist. Ahhhhh….much better than the last therapist. Still no Gabriel, but at least this one managed to work out a couple of my knots.

In case I haven’t been crystal clear with my opinion let me say it plainly. If you ever travel to Las Vegas (and want a massage) call the Canyon Ranch Spaclub at the Palazzo/Venetian and book any appointment you can get with Gabriel! Seriously. He’s that good. Cut your gambling budget, see a cheaper show, skip an expensive meal (and you KNOW he’s got to be good if I suggest skipping awesome food!)…..do whatever you have to do. Just make it happen.

He’s great at making people feel comfortable—and every person at the spa talks about how much they love working with him. He’s great at being able to ask the right questions and move you around in such a way that he can tell what muscles need extra attention—even if you don’t realize it. (He asked if my right hip was bothering me very much. Ummm….no…not really. Then he pressed on one spot. OUCH! Okay…evidently it is bothering me and I hadn’t realized it. LOL!) And he totally gets that energy flows through the body, and that sometimes it gets stuck and needs to be worked out.

I love it when God uses something unexpected and/or unpleasant (like knotted neck muscles that won’t let me move my head) to teach me life lessons and introduce me to really awesome people!! Looking back I am SOOOOOO thankful for sleeping wrong and knotting up those muscles. It’s turned into something awesome!

Now if only there were a way to move Gabriel and his family closer to Ohio…..hmmmmmmm….

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Don’t worry foodies….I’ll get back to the food.  At the moment I don’t have the time (or attention span!) to do justice to the rest of the food.  So I’ll get back to that.

In the meantime, I was reminded today of the reason I “liberate” so many shampoo (and conditioner, and lotion, and bath salts, and bath gel, and soap) bottles from vacation hotels.

I know Doctor.  This puzzles you to no end.  J  I mean, really…..I can afford to pay for a hotel room so clearly I can afford to pay for my own shampoo….right? 

I was reminded this evening it’s not really about being cheap.  (Quit laughing!  It’s not….really! LOL!)  It’s about trying to bring back the memory in a really tangible way.

My life is blessed.  Truly more blessed than I ever expected it would be.  I have been able to enjoy some fantastic vacations in recent years with Mr. Spuds.  Amazing food in Las Vegas, amazing nature (and friends!) in Maine, amazing gardens and cool mountain streams in North Carolina….well, you get the idea.  These vacations have been remarkable indulgences of calm, quiet relaxation for my spirit.  I treasure the experiences and the memories. 

Pictures are one tool I use to help keep the memories fresh and alive.  But sometimes it’s nice to get another sense involved.  When Mr. Spuds and I discover a wine we enjoy on vacation we search high and low back home to find a source for the same wine.  Then whenever we enjoy it the memory of a delightful meal or some fun people watching comes back to life.  We try to do the same thing with different foods—but that can be more challenging since neither one of us is an internationally renowned chef. 

Oddly enough the shampoos (and other assorted bath products) are the same thing.  (Stick with me here Doctor.)  Typically the hotels Mr. Spuds and I “live” in for vacations have pretty distinctive scents in their bath products.  No one else has quite the same scent as the Bellagio, or as the Palazzo, or as the Harborside in Bar Harbor.  They are each wonderful and different.  I try to bring home as many as I can to help keep the memory alive.  It helps add another dimension to my memory—or triggers a different level of memory.  (I’m not sure how the science works….I simply love that it does!)

It’s a rough time at work right now.  (Year end always is.)  Being able to come home and grab one of the eight (yep….count ‘em EIGHT) bottles of Palazzo shampoo and enjoying an overly long, hot shower is fantastic.  Closing my eyes, breathing deeply, inhaling the distinctive lemon verbena-ish scent transports me right back to the opulent bathroom at the Palazzo.  I once again feel as though I’ve been completely relaxed by a massage at the spa and am looking forward to a one-of-a-kind dinner later in the evening.

One deep breath and it all comes flooding back to me.  Ahhhhhhhhh.  Being in the moment…even though the moment is in the past.  (Hmmmmm…that’s not really being in the moment is it?  Okay…..how about this?)  Ahhhhhhhhh.  Reliving a moment of perfection.  Of delight.  Of everything being right with the world. 

It’s amazing what one (ahem…EIGHT) small bottle of shampoo can do isn’t it?

It probably still makes you shake your head Doctor.  And that’s okay.  J  Sometimes being odd (even really odd) serves a purpose.  An odd purpose, but a purpose nonetheless. 

That’s all for now.  My hands are a little dry from the winter weather and I have to go find the hand lotion I “liberated.”

J

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Many of my friends are surprised to learn of my love for Las Vegas.  Clearly I don’t present myself as the party-all-night-until-you-drop kind of potato!  J  But there’s sooooo much more to Las Vegas than the clubs and alcohol.  In a completely unexpected and almost inexplicable way the energy of the city helps relax me.  Aren’t paradoxes wonderful?? 

Mr. Spuds and I both really love having so many amazing restaurants within walking distance.  Really top notch fine-dining places.  All different types of environments—from the formal white table cloths with REAL sliver silverware to the more casual bistros they are simply amazing.  And quite yummy!

We arrived Sunday morning with only 2 dining reservations—we had decided to “go with the flow” for the rest of the meals.  There are ALWAYS about 2 dozen places we want to eat and never have enough time (or money!  LOL) to get to all of them. 

We had lunch reservations Sunday at Table 10 at the Palazzo (where we stayed).  It’s one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants and had a number of menu items that sounded really tempting to me.  There were a number of appetizers that sounded really tempting (Beer & Parmesan Cheese Soup with pretzel crackers) but I decided to order only an entrée.  But ohhhhhh, what an entrée it was!  Lobster Pot Pie!  From the menu, “Fresh Maine lobster baked in a pastry dome with sweet corn, mushrooms, leeks and spinach in truffle sherry cream.”  It was beyond wonderful.  The flavor of the lobster filled every corner of every bite!  I’m glad I didn’t order an appetizer—I could barely finish the pot pie.  It must have had half a lobster in it.  Wow! 

Mr. Spuds had a Carnitas Po-Boy.  From the menu, “Slow cooked pork carnitas on freshly baked bread with charred tomato BBQ sauce, cole slaw and fried pickles.”  Now, I don’t like pickles…but even I loved the fried pickles here!  The BBQ flavor was amazing.  Yummmmm!

Despite claiming I was far too full for dessert I succumb to the temptation of Banana Cream Cheesecake.  From the menu, “banana cheesecake baked with chocolate cookie crust, whipped cream and peanut butter sauce.”  Droooooooolllllll!  I couldn’t eat it all, but what I did manage to inhale was wonderful!  The peanut butter sauce was the perfect complement to the banana flavor.  Both were light yet completely satisfying.  Soooooo good!

There were a number of items on the menu I had wanted to try—and had hoped to return to Table 10 for lunch on another day.  Unfortunately the service we received at our first lunch was….well….let’s just say it was poor.  We felt as though our server was annoyed we were there.  Sigh.  If I’m paying that much money for lunch I expect the server to do more than barely tolerate me.  I am NOT a demanding guest.  I ask any questions I may have about the food, and occasionally ask for recommendations if I am torn between 2 dishes, but that’s about it.  I don’t send food back unless it is completely inedible or the wrong item.  I don’t snap my fingers and demand service.  I don’t care if service takes a while—I’m on vacation so there’s no need to rush!  I am polite and smile at everyone we meet while dining.  I say please and thank you.  (I wasn’t raised in a barn afterall!)  So it really disappoints me when servers don’t extend the same courtesies to me. 

So based on service Mr. Spuds and I did not return.  We might go back on a future trip and sit at the bar area.  But the poor service really seems to counteract the appeal of the food.  That’s a shame.

Dinner on Sunday night was pretty casual.  We walked over to the Mirage and picked up a sandwich and a dessert from the Carnegie Deli.  If you’ve ever eaten there you know one sandwich easily feeds about 3 people!  I wasn’t too concerned about the sandwich—I was really there for dessert!  Hershey’s 5th Avenue chocolate cream pie.  (Insert the Homer Simpson drooling noise here.)  Yum!!!  Total sugar overload!  I think there was an entire candy bar on top the piece of pie.  It was dessert for Mr. Spuds and me for 2 nights—and we still didn’t finish it all.  (Let’s not talk about the calories!)  Since there was a ton of space in our room at the Palazzo we brought the food back to our room and enjoyed a cheap and good meal while kicking up our feet on the sofas.

Monday for lunch we decided to try Morels.  It’s a French steakhouse and bistro.  We ate outside and enjoyed people watching along with our meal.  Ahhhh…I love Vegas!  Mr. Spuds and I shared the classic cheese fondue.  Perfection!  (And far too much of it!)  At most places that serve fondue they never bring enough bread.  There’s always extra cheese.  This was no exception.  But as soon as someone (not even our server!) noticed our bread was gone they asked if we would like more.  Wha?!  That never happens…how nice!  We declined as we realized we were already too full to eat the rest of our lunch.  LOL!  I had an open face prosciutto and poached eggs sandwich with wilted spinach, brie cheese and egg brioche.  It was huge!  (Note to self- you’re in Vegas now where the portions are even more out of control than normal!)  Mr. Spuds had the prosciutto and wild arugula flatbread—with basil pesto, blue cheese and figs.  Did I mention mine was huge?  Well the flatbread could have fed three people!

All of the food at Morels was wonderful, as was the service!  In fact, it was so good we went back on Tuesday for lunch again.  We had a different server this time (still sitting outside people watching!).  At one point our server from Monday walked by when our current server as at our table.  She recognized us and greeted us—and told our server “Watch out for these two!  They are trouble…grin!”  How cool is that? 

I had the seafood fettuccine, with fresh fish, clams, mussels, shrimp, tomato concasse, basil, all in a garlic white wine sauce.  The seafood was amazingly good and fresh.  I would have preferred a slightly stronger flavor from the white wine sauce—but that’s just me.  Again, the seafood was sooooo fresh!  Mr. Spuds had the fish and chips—which he really enjoyed.  The amazing part of this meal was the cheese we started with.

Our server presented us with a huge page of different cheeses.  You could sample 1, 3 or 5 of them.  I was intrigued.  I love cheese—but don’t really know how to explain what I like.  So I asked our server if he could help me select 3 of them.  He happily agreed.  I told him I really like bleu cheeses.  He asked if I like them more creamy….and I think I interrupted him here.  “Nope….I don’t like wimpy bleu cheeses!  Give me strong flavor any day of the week!”  J  So he recommended a really awesome (and strong!) bleu.   He also recommended 2 others—one with a bite and peppercorns, and a soft yet really flavorful goat cheese.  They were all marvelous!  Another great meal!

We had tickets to see “Mama Mia” at Mandalay Bat Monday night.  (Half priced front row tickets!!)  So after the show we ate at Mr. Spuds favorite bar—the bar at StripSteak.  This is an amazing steak house—but it’s the entrees and desserts that keep drawing us back.  They serve the full menu at the bar, so we typically stop by one evening and sit at the bar and enjoy appetizers, drinks and dessert. 

Hmmmm…..this is getting to be overly long….even for me!  Since I’m home with a migraine (grrrrr…) and it’s taking me a really long time to do this, I think I’m going to stop here for the day.  There’s more food to come (the best was Wednesday night!) and the explanation for the title.  So stay tuned…..when I feel better I’ll share the rest of the food.

Right now I gotta go take a nap.

 

 

 

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