Milestone Achieved

Whew! I successfully made it through two grueling, but awesome,* years of graduate school and this Sunday I will be ceremoniously granted a Clinical Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. It feels good. I will have family in town and there will be much rejoicing. Weather permitting (it's not), I'd like to grill out with friends and family on Saturday and have a bit of a pre-graduation social. This plan might necessitate buying a new grill as a graduation present to myself.

This afternoon, I'll pick my folks up at the airport and then we'll take them out to dinner with Deborah's side of the family. Tomorrow, Deborah and I may go car shopping and there's also some kind of art walk in Middleton, which my folks might enjoy. Sunday is the BIG DAY and by mid-afternoon I will be officially an MFT graduate. Monday morning, I'll do some paperwork to demarcate my transition from student to professional (mainly updating my liability insurance to practice as a therapist).

How are things with you?

*Note: It's awesome in retrospect. When I was in the thick of it, it was no quite as awesome.


My Dietary Weathervane

More than a year ago, my lovely wife Deborah and I switched to a vegan diet. This means we don't purposefully or willfully eat any foods that come from animals, with a few minor exceptions (I still eat some honey now and then).

Placebo effect or not, one of the first things I noticed was that after about two weeks on this diet, the osteoarthritis pain in my left big toe (from a bike injury many years ago) pretty much disappeared.

Every once in a while, it flares up a little bit, although nothing like it did during my pre-vegan lifestyle. The flare ups are usually related to eating something inflammatory, like pasta or refined carbs. I am somewhat carbohydrate sensitive.

Last night, I was having a vigorous dialogue with a group of friends about diets and I mentioned how some foods inflame my osteoarthritis pain, and that's how I know if I have eaten too much of something inflammatory (or failed to eat enough anti-inflammatory antioxidants, like vegetables, to counteract the inflammation). It occurred to me that my left big toe is now something of a dietary weathervane, letting me know when I have exceeded the boundaries of my generally healthy diet in some way.

The End.

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Grand Canyon - Day 6

Somehow, we all managed to get up at 4 AM or so this morning to drive to the tiny Prescott AZ airport. As planned the night before, breakfast comprised cold leftover pizza, supplemented with a couple of clementine tangerines and some hotel room coffee.

It was still dark outside when we got to the airport, about a 20-minute drive from the Hampton Inn we had stayed at. A single staff person was smoking a cigarette at the curb outside the entrance to the airport's one and only check-in and gate area (seriously, this airport is miniscule!). He told me where to park the rental car and then I dropped the key into the Hertz dropbox, since their office was closed at that hour. We had arrived before any airport staff, other than the good samaritan attending to the curb outside, so it was a few minutes before we could check our bags to our respective destinations, and a few more minutes after that before TSA security opened up. Long story short, we boarded the tiny jet plane to Denver and took off on schedule. Once we landed in Denver, Deborah and I had to say quick goodbyes to my parents before we parted ways to catch our connecting flights. My folks were continuing on to Colorado Springs CO, where they would hang with my sister for a few days before flying back to Akron OH, where they live. Deborah and I were returning home to Madison WI. We'd have a day to rest before getting back into the swing of things.

I was sad to be leaving Arizona today, and somewhat mad about having to do so at such a heinously early hour of the morning. That being said, the Grand Canyon trip over this past week was amazing and exceeded expectations in many ways. We covered a lot of ground in a small amount of time, and it was very fulfilling. I still don't like it when vacations have to end, and if I had my druthers, I'd be traveling all the time, maybe as a travel writer. But I digress.

Some of this Grand Canyon trip was just campy family fun, like when we rode on "ye olde west" style train out to the south rim of the canyon on Day 3.

Things got more "real" when we took a guided tour via minivan the day after the train ride fun. We got schooled on the geology and culture of the Grand Canyon by our tour guide, Keaton, of Dave's Canyon Tours.

In summary, my wife Deborah and I really enjoyed the trip and being able to spend time with my parents. It was my mom's idea to go to the Grand Canyon and organizing it was part of my 80th birthday present for her. I hope this becomes a trend (of requesting that I organize trips to take my folks on in the future), because travel is a blast and it's even better when it can be enjoyed with family.


Grand Canyon - Day 5

Today was our final full day of family travel in Arizona. After breakfast at the B and B, we loaded up the rental car with our bags and headed for Prescott (pronounced Press Kit) AZ, where we'd be flying out of butt early the following morning. We decided to take the scenic route back to Prescott, by way of the towns of Sedona and Jerome AZ. We got a good view of Cathedral Rock outside of Sedona and we had a nice vegan lunch at the Mine Cafe in the old mining community turned tourist trap that is Jerome. My awesome wife Deborah, working her magic with the Giant Internet Brain, is responsible for finding this hidden gem of an eatery, which we probably would not have found on our own. After lunch, my family members spent some time in the shoppes (not shops) of Jerome, including a kaleidoscopery of epic proportions (putatively, the largest collection of kaleidoscopes in the world).

We rolled into Prescott about 4 PM and found our way to the Hampton Inn where we'd be spending the night, to decompress for an hour or so before dinner. Deborah Yelped us up some vegan food options in town and we decided to try out a place called Bill's Pizza, whose menu indicated you could get vegan Daiya cheese on your pie. We headed there about 6 PM and got seated after an acceptably short wait for a table. It was a popular place.

After perusing the menu a bit while discussing our plans for getting to the airport at the arse crack of dawn the following morning, we decided to order two 18-inch pizza pies - one for my mom and pops and one for Deborah and me - so that we could take leftovers home and have cold pizza to eat for breakfast (of champions!) when we awoke at 4 frickin' AM the next day. That pizza was good and the plan proved efficacious. It's a testament to a pizza joint if their pizza tastes decently good cold. Bill's pizza did.

Deborah had, of course, picked up my chest cold yesterday, and when we got back to the Hampton Inn, we each took a "snort" (vernacular for a shot) of the Robitussin DM Sleepy Time formula I had bought a couple nights earlier. The medicine kicked in about halfway through an episode of the Orville that we watched on Netflix, and we conked out until our respective redundant phone alarms tore us from sleep in the pre-dawn hours. Stay tuned for tomorrow's thrilling conclusion of the Grand Canyon Trip.


Grand Canyon - Day 4


Picked up a bit of a bug during the night. It happens during travel sometimes. Bit of drainage, bit of a cough. Luckily, Deborah had some cough drops and my mom gave me some kind of herbal cold remedy she got from a health food store. My boss at the vitamin company that used to employ me years ago would likely scoff at the efficacy of such a remedy, which is ironic given that the company manufactured, marketed, and sold many similarly efficacious products (which is to say, their efficacy was unsupported by science). But I digress, in the interest of monetizing this post.

It stormed during the night. Thunder woke me up a couple times. It was thundersnow, because there was about an inch or so of accumulated snow on things outside in the morning. I'm not sure if I slept well or not. I think I did, but I feel tired today. That may be due to this cold bug.

We had another good and vegan-friendly breakfast at the Sheridan House B and B in Williams AZ. Deborah and I had strategically ordered two different menu items in case either of us didn't like our choice, and indeed we did end up trading dishes. I had ordered a vegan breakfast burrito and Deborah had ordered a vegan skillet. She thought the skillet was too spicy, and it did have some afterburn, so we traded. I thought the breakfast burrito was also pretty spicy, but she didn't seem to mind it.

After breakfast, we went back to our rooms briefly to prep for our big day of Grand Canyoning by minivan, with a tour company called Canyon Dave's. Our tour guide, Keaton (I thought it was Keith at first), rolled up in the van on schedule about 8:30 AM and we all piled in. The drive up to the canyon was about an hour.


The guided tour was magnificent. Keaton shared a ton of information with us about the geological formation of the Grand Canyon and the human history surrounding it. He also took us to some phenomenal viewing spots. What follows is mostly pictures and videos from the tour.


It was a cold and windy day up on the south rim of the canyon, which did nothing for my cold bug. I felt like I couldn't really get warm all day. When we got back to Williams in the evening after our tour, I went to Safeway and scored some OTC cold meds, including Robitussin DM PM, which has an antihistamine in it that knocks you on your @$$. Then we cranked up the heat in our room at the B and B and got snug. I ingeniously reheated the leftover Thai food from last night, even though there was no microwave to be found, by using a sort of poor man's sous vide method. We watched a TV show on Deborah's tablet and then I was going to finish my blog post for the day (this one), but the cough medicine kicked in and I zonked out for the night. If you are reading this, I finished it eventually.


Grand Canyon - Day 3


I slept decently well in the king sized bed in our room at the bed and breakfast, the Sheridan House in Williams AZ. I feel like I woke up a few times in the night, probably due to a combination of random sounds and a lack of earplugs.

Deborah got up early to prep for the day. I eventually followed suit and made a couple cups of coffee in the Keurig machine in the room before taking a shower. About 7:45 AM, we headed over to the main house of the B and B for the second B in the moniker.

The breakfast was delightful and included French press coffee. The owners accommodated Deborah's and my veganism, which was my baseline expectation. They exceeded this baseline considerably, serving up a baked veggie casserole with a side of vegan banana bread. My parents got more traditional, non-vegan fare, also prepared and presented nicely.

Today's adventure largely comprised taking a train up to the south rim of the Grand Canyon and taking in it's spectacular glory. Pictures don't really do it justice, but Part B of this post nonetheless contains some pictures.


We boarded the Grand Canyon (GC) train about 9:30 in the morning for the slightly over two hour ride to the GC National Park, in first class seats. We had a light buffet and a cash bar on our train car. It was pleasant. Once we got up to the GC, we took a bus tour from one scenic outlook to the next, capturing some good pictures and generally having fun, before training it back to Williams around 3:30 PM.


We may have located the "Bud's of Williams AZ." Regular readers will recall that when my family travels, especially to tourist-y places, we are ever and always in search of the "best value" eateries in a given place: loads of quality food at a budget price. The "Bud's" moniker stems from a trip to Sanibel Island in Florida, where everything is uber-overpriced, many years ago. We stumbled upon a hole-in-the-wall fish joint called Bud's where the food was good, the servings heaping, and the cost low, and then pretty much ate there all the time. So now we compare all quality/quantity eateries in new places to Bud's.

Anyway, the "Bud's of Williams AZ" is a Thai restaurant called Dara Thai Cafe. After getting back from the GC on the train, my family was pretty tired out and to avoid the rigamarole of going out to a restaurant for dinner (and also wary of it due to last night's lackluster options), we opted to order takeout from this Thai place and eat it back in the comfy environs of the B and B. The price was right and the portions large. They were easily able to accommodate the vegan palates in our group. It was an all around good find.