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I’ve gone through this every month for the past year.  Two weeks out of every month, I could be pregnant.  That possibility steels me for the changes in diet and behavior and body that are taking place.  For two weeks a month, I pretend to be pregnant.  I take vitamins every day; I avoid soft cheeses, raw eggs, and too much caffeine.  I don’t kill myself at the gym, telling myself that this month could be the month that that bit of belly flab that won’t go away is actually something much more significant.  But each and every month, it is not. 

Around the third week of my cycle, I start being hopeful. I start tuning into my body, waiting to feel those twinges and sensations I felt 2 summers ago, when I was pregnant for real.  I wait for that moment to replay itself, that moment one morning that summer, when I came happily bounding down the stairs and felt my breasts heave and tug as they never had before.  In that moment, I knew I was pregnant.  I both fear and welcome those sensations, as they mean something is happening in my body.  But why must the PMS symptoms be so similar in timing and quantity to early pregnancy symptoms?  Why does implantation feel so similar to regular old cramping?  Why does a change in appetite signify my period or a pregnancy?  Why does a bloated belly feel so much like a baby bump?  Am I just more tired than usual or am I tired?  Am I feeling like I need to clean or am I nesting

I am no longer tracking precise data about our “no-no’s” or my basal body temperature.  I tried all that last fall, and through the winter, with no success.  No patterns emerged, and there was nothing to show for my efforts.  My cycle ranged from 4 weeks to 7, and, try as I might, I couldn’t tune into my body’s signals as I had before.  I realize I was not in control, but all my charting and tracking and counting was compensation.  I was trying to control what is supposed to be a natural process.

When “family planning” became a science, and all the “What to Expect” bullshit hit the mainstream fan, the so-called natural process was flipped on its head.  Now we’re having sex on top, on bottom, on the flip-side, on the roof, if it’ll change our odds.  In our own bathrooms, women are measuring cervical mucus, fertility hormones, basal body temperatures, and we’re counting days obsessively.  We will seek out that elusive Ovulation, and we will corner it and make it show itself to our husbands’/partners’ sperm.  It will be known!  We will control it!

As I try to become more in-touch with my body, it becomes a mysterious and distant entity, furtively squirreling away its secrets and sending mixed signals.  We will try again this month, armed this time with a ClearBlue Easy Fertility Monitor.  This thing is digital, folks.  It will seek out and annihilate highlight any ovulation within a 100 foot radius. If there’s anything growing up in my generation has taught me, it is that technology will solve all the world’s problems.  All.  Disregard all the killer-race-of-robot movies and all the cloning scenarios, technology is our friend.

To prove my assertion that my mother’s visits are like a tornado, I have made a list of all the food items found in and out of the fridge that she deposited here last weekend.  Keep in mind, there are plenty of non-food items (“Projects,” clothing, magazines, newspaper clippings, etc.), but these are easier to catalog.

To wit: The food found in the fridge post-Mom:

  • ½ garden burger, fries, from her lunch on the way down.
  • 1 bite of pumpkin cheese cake in a Ziploc baggie.
  • ¼ Austrian tea cake from a bakery in Plattsburgh, NY, where we used to live.
  • Leftover yellow curry, from our Thai dinner before going to see Mr. Apron’s play.
  • A blob of sugar cookie dough, neglected from when she made turkey sugar cookies within minutes of setting foot in the house.
  • A small Greek salad from Panera, neglected by my sister, who didn’t like the dressing.
  • Bulgarian cheese, because in my 5th grade gifted program (“Odyssey”) I researched Bulgaria and made an authentic dish which called for Bulgarian cheese.  Back then, we made do with farmer’s cheese.  What am I going to do with Bulgarian cheese?
  • Turkey sugar cookies.

And lest the cupboards become jealous, here is what she left them:

  • 1 pkg Cadbury chocolate eggs.
  • Pumpkin seed brittle
  • 1 bag chips from Panera
  • 6 bags of Trader Joe’s low-fat kettle corn
  • 1 tin “pretzel poppers”, chocolate covered pretzel balls, which resemble goat turds.
  • 1 opened package of “Spongebob Graham Snackers”

My task is to consume or redistribute as much as I can before the expiration date.  We have so far eaten the garden burger + fries (Mr. Apron’s lunch), the Thai curry (my lunch), most of the turkey cookies, the Greek salad (appetizer for Mr. Apron), the chips (another lunch accoutrement) and 2 bags of kettle corn.  We are working on the pretzel poppers, graham “snackers” and Cadbury chocolate eggs.  We have given away several turkey cookies to my in-laws.  I have pitched the bite of pumpkin cheesecake (and Ziploc baggie). 

Will the guilt expire before the pumpkin seed brittle does?  Will I ever find a recipe for Bulgarian cheese?  How many kernels of popcorn will I find in my teeth?  Stay tuned for these, and other questions, in another installment of “Food = Love”, brought to you by the number 17, the letter Q, and mothers everywhere!

I guess the whole blog world, including my dear husband, was busy writing their thankful posts for yesterday, Thanksgiving.  I was too busy bitching about crummy gifts from my aunt, a jag I’ve seemingly been on all week.  However, I did get up early on this, my day off, when Mr. Apron is working until 3pm, so I could go shopping.  I didn’t go to all the nutso salse at 3am, 4am, midnight, since I think that’s sick, and it just feeds into my anti-consumerism sentiment that rises in my throat like bile whenever I see another commercial, recycle another circular, or hear another radio ad.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why it needs to be so early.

So I went to the Dansko Outlet, armed with my 20% off coupon.  They only opened at 8am, which is comfortably daylight, so I can justify it.  Besides, 20% off shoes that are already 50% off the retail price.  Plus, I mean, shoes.  Come on. 

And I’m back already.  No one trampled me in a Wal-Mart parking lot, no one took the last Zhu-zhu pet out of my hesitating hands, no one cut in line ahead of me, and no one snatched the last door-buster as I zeroed in on an HDTV.  I think I escaped unscathed.

But thankful.  So I thought I’d segue to a little piece that has nothing to do with the agonizingly awkward, stress-inducing, ulcer-erupting dinner that went on last night at my in-laws’.

I am thankful for my mother, who in purchasing terrible gifts, is still showing she means well, and who has awakened the latent Martha Stewart spirit in me that gave me a craving to bake pumpkin bread last night, after we had returned, stuffed, from dinner. 

I am thankful for my father, who inspires me to try new projects, and who has taught me all the vaguely athletic activities I still pursue. 

I am thankful for my sister, who still looks up to me and makes me feel I have an iota of cool left in my spleen, despite the 99.7% dork I truly am. 

I am thankful for my brother, who called last week to ask, “How’s the married thing going for you?” and cared enough to send a birthday present that my mom told him to buy, which arrived without a card or return address. 

I am thankful for our dogs, one good, one naughty, who keep me entertained when I am alone, warm when I am chilly, and humbled when I think I’ve really got this dog training thing down pat. 

I am thankful for the burst bubble in the real estate market, which allowed us to buy this house, and gradually transform it into a home oozing with the spirit of “us”. 

I am thankful for my new job, filled with coworkers I can at last relate to and respect. 

I am thankful, most of all, for my husband, my partner, my buddy.  We have been through more ups and downs throughout the year that I can count, and I’m very good at math.  Through it all, I know I have him.  He will hold me when I need to be held, help me to do hard things, and work with me to conquer the biggest obstacles of all. 

Happy Day After Thanksgiving.  Keep that spirit from yesterday in your heart as your claw and bite your way into Best Buy.

My aunt is a giver of choice gifts.  She is reponsible for the matching buttoneered license plate frames that adorn our car, which were an anniverary present.  Apparently, the 2nd anniversary is not cotton, but kitsch.  For years, she has insisted that I am still in love with all things frog, and has bought me no fewer than 3 sets of frog pajamas on my birthday.  I thought finally she was relenting when, last year, she gave us a gift card to Barnes & Noble for Hanukkah.   breathed a sigh of relief.  But, oh, no.  This year was no exception. My  newest frog pajamas (with matching fuzzy slippers) were earmarked as a donation to Mr. Apron’s work as soon as I tore the paper off.  A few short weeks later, we opened our anniversary box to find a pair of these:

Arrrr!

Yes, that is a giant pirate martini glass with “Cannon ball” written on the  base. 

I was regaling my coworkers with tales of my aunt’s atrocious gifts, when one of them showed undue interest in the martini glasses.  Turns out her family celebrates the holidays by doing what used to be called a Chinese auction, but is more P.C. to call a tacky gift pollyanna.  She knew, she just knew, she would win for worst (and therefore, best) gift with my martini glasses.  So I donated them to her cause. 

“But what will you do if your aunt comes to visit and asks to see them?” she inquired.

The last time I saw my aunt was at my wedding, 4 years ago.  If she saw us more often than that, she might know I’ve moved beyond frog pajamas and that we don’t drink at all.  Not even pirate martinis.

Gift-giving in my family has always been a strained topic.  (For proof, see here and here and here.)  My brother, with his December 25th birthday, always got shafted anyway for separate birthday/Hanukkah gifts.  He always wanted, yet rarely received, expensive electronica.  My father is impossible to shop for, and as a result, has more neckties and shirts that he can wear in a lifetime, and a stack of dry, “Daddy books” by his bedside, waiting to be read.  Mom, on the other hand, is very specific about what she wants, and does not hesitate to let us know, in writing, as an e-mail or card in the mail.  As she does this about a week before the event, we have to scramble to coordinate the shopping, shipping, and chipping in, lest she become very disappointed. 

Ah, yes, disappointed, that all-too-familiar feeling associated with Hanukkah.  Year after year, I’d make a wish-list, as we were encouraged to do, and time after time, the hopeful expectation has turned to doom and dread as I unwrap The Misunderstood (non) Turtleneck Sweater, The Wrong Birkenstocks, and The Hideous (non) Pea Coat That Looks Like a Men’s Blazer, and The Clothing That Would Not Fit.  And those are just the gifts I wanted.  I also end up with piles upon piles of crap I never wanted, little trinkets and tchotchkes that have always filled out the Hanukkah piles, as we opened one a night for 8 days: piles of socks, weird “gourmet” foods from TJ Maxx, stuffed animals (into my 20s), and clearance merchandise from Ocean State Job Lot with holes, stains, or “ready for crafting”.  My sister tries to keep these things at bay, fighting not to let them cross the threshold of her apartment, while I make trip after trip to Salvation Army, and jump at the chance to make a few choice contributions to other people’s yard sales. 

I’ve heard of large families who all pick names out of a hat and choose one person to shop for.  I’ve heard of the $20 limit.  I’ve heard of the themed gift giving extravaganza.  I’ve read Cathy and “AAaack!”ed my way through well intentioned agreements not to exchange gifts.  I’ve hemmed and hawed over who needs to be on my list.  Yesterday, a coworker revealed that her family actually does not exchange gifts.  As I strive each year to find homes for the piles of acceptable crap that enter my house after birthday and especially Hanukkah, I would genuinely welcome a truce on my family’s gift-giving quagmire.  Mr. Apron is stressing  because he has not started shopping yet for my Hanukkah gifts, and I’ve promised not to get him the full 8 this year.  For our anniversary in October, he was in the throes of play rehearsal, and I’d just emerged from a birthday, so we kept it delightfully low-key.  No fruit, or china, or appliances, or linen, or paper.  Just a bouquet from the florist who did our wedding flowers, a picnic at the township park where we were married, and dinner from Wegman’s.  I bought tickets to go see Peter and the Wolf at the symphony, and he scored seats at a live recording of NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”.  That was it.  As soon as we’d accepted our own failures to procure the “perfect gift” for each other, we relaxed and had a great anniversary.

After our wedding, I was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of “stuff” from our registry, I swore off consumerism for a good, umm, season.  The “Holiday Shopping Season” gives me hives. The endless pop Christmas songs blasting through store speakers, the 80 degree stores that leave me stripping off winter layers from the 40 degree day outside, the snaking cash register lines, the commercials to buy, buy, buy, and the overflowing tables of Isotoner gloves, Dearfoams, plaid pajamas, cashmere sweaters, and keychain/flashlight/iPod speakers, set up by gender, age, and dollar amount so you can blindly pick out a “perfect gift.”  It’s all too much for me.  While I was on my double-boiler pursuit this weekend, I was greeted by packed parking lots, eager shoppers, and early sales.  I wanted to bolt, run home, bury my head under the covers, and stay that way until December 26th

It is so much harder to be a gracious recipient of a crap gift, than it is to give a gift you’ve put any thought into.  It’d be easier, period, if my family could accept that all us kids are “grown” and won’t be crest-fallen not to see the huge pile of gifts again.   Ever.  I think we’d actually be elated to be free of the guilt of fulfilling Mom’s wishes, finding something (anything) for Dad, and shopping merely out of obligation.  Though the Salvation Army might suffer for it.

I have a confession to make.  Hello, I am a grown up, and I eat kid food.  My basic cooking repertoire consists of kid food.  No fancy French reduction sauces, nothing braised or poached or simmered.  Essentially, it’s kid food, and I am deeply shamed.

My freezer and cabinets hold the following foods which can be boiled and smothered in a jar of some kind of sauce – pierogies, gnocchi, ravioli, macaroni, and noodles.  I even have Kraft fluorescent orange Mac & Cheese, and Chef Boyardee dinosaur pasta.  There are no children in my house, to speak of.  You may often catch me grating cheese over a flat tortilla, and throwing in some hastily warmed frozen veggies for a mock-quesadilla.  I eat roasted yams with ketchup.  My sandwiches are mini-bagels and cream cheese.  My lunches have Oreo-style cookies in them, string cheese, boxes of raisins, and goldfish crackers.  The only thing missing is a cookie cutter for my grilled cheese sandwiches. 

Maybe it’s because I came of age as a vegetarian in small towns without much culinary imagination.  Minnesota was a meat-and-potatoes place, and our part of Upstate New York hadn’t heard of bagels yet, let alone couscous, quinoa, or açai berry.  Though my parents have been vegetarian, or nearly, for longer than I have, so our family meals have always had a meat-free vibe, I didn’t get a tremendous amount of modeling of culinary sophistication.  My brother, the notoriously picky eater, influenced what was served at the table, and his predilection for chicken nuggets/fish sticks, pasta drowning in red sauce, and French fries swimming in ketchup didn’t allow the rest of the family to have a gourmet experience.  That’s not to say I don’t enjoy grown-up food; I do, very much, but I’m petrified of cooking it. 

My coworkers come in with Pyrex containers (there’s a BPA phobia around here, so glass is “in”) brimming with delicious leftovers.  “Oh, just some panko-encrusted flank steak I whipped up last night” sidled with fresh green beans and homemade mashed potatoes.  “This?  It’s my homemade barley stew.”  “Leftover lasagna” “Herbed chicken in a bouillabaisse with polenta.”  My sad little bagel stares up at me. 

I’ve heard people say meat is easy.  Not that all the myriad things being done on television cooking shows are basic, but meat is an easy thing to base a meal around.  You start with some cut of some animals, do stuff to it, and add on veggies and a starch.  Crafting a balanced vegetarian meal is trickier, so I usually end up mixing such flavors as pickles, cheddar and sour cream potato chips, and a garden burger.  If it’s not billed a “main dish” when I pick it up off the shelf or out of the freezer, I’m not quite sure how to convince myself it’s meal-worthy.  I’ve tried innovating a few times – chick pea “cutlets”, home-made garden burgers, barbecue “chicken” sandwiches with a fabulous product called “Quorn,” but many of these are just meat substitutes repackaged to look like a vegetarian main course, and that feels like cheating.  I’d like to make meals that aren’t trying to replace meat meals, but that stand on their own.  And I have no idea where to start. 

I haven’t make quinoa in years, polenta scares me, and tofu never has a pleasing texture when I make it at home.  My stir-fries are fabulous, but few and far between as I am lazy and/or rushed in making dinner.  Lasagna is great, but it makes enough for the block, and I get easily bored of eating it for a week straight in my lunches.  And, really?  It’s just noodles and sauce and cheese repackaged in layers, which reminds me too much of my former roommate.  She, too, was a vegetarian, who gave the rest of us vegetarians a bad name by subsisting entirely on combinations of white bread, cheddar or American cheese, pasta products, and tomato sauce, with nary a real vegetable in sight.  Her meals rotated between grilled cheese, pasta in sauce, and pizza, the very essence of kid food.

It’s bad enough I still package up my lunches in Ziploc baggies of snack foods; my mother only feeds into this by purchasing me applesauce in a squeeze bag, which has a warning on it that this produce is not suitable for children under 3 as the cap is a choking hazard.  I can’t bring myself to squeeze a bag of applesauce into my mouth in public, even if it is strawberry applesauce. 

Give me my Chef Boyardee, give me my Kraft Mac & Cheese.  At least I’m not eating Dora ice cream, flourescent Gogurt, or chicken nuggets in the shape of dinosaurs.

I’ve been driving by this establishment for years, and have seen this particular oddity in signage many times.  Finally this week I learned how to e-mail myself pictures from my camera phone, so you lucky readers get a treat.  Enjoy.

I wonder if they have a drive-thru window.

There’s no mention of the dry cleaner’s that shares the building, but why would you need to?  Really, I think it’s clear enough from the sign.  Seriously, what else could possibly mean with that sign, other than they have a tailor on staff with some speedy skills?

I’ll take “Idioms” for $2000, Alex.

“Answer:  An example of the straw that broke the horse’s back”

Bzzz.

“What is…the dog peeing on the bed as we were literally climbing in at 1:00am last night after a performance of Mr. Apron’s show for which ¾ of my family was in attendance?”

After a day in which my family arrived, and by ‘arrived,’ I mean ‘descended upon like a plague of entropy,’ and I realized any illusion of control I wield over my own life would soon end.  After a 2-hour search for a double-boiler at 6 stores, which finally did yield the correct pot, but which enabled a colossal failure in my quest to make custard to use up the 10 egg yolks  I had left over from making my sister-in-law’s angel food birthday cake.

I think that counts as the last straw.  I think my tantrum on the rug screaming, “I just can’t cope!” was completely justified.  We were out of blankets as my sister was dozing under one comforter, my parents under another, and I had just pulled out our delicious down quilt.  We had somehow fitted it into its duvet despite the dog’s leaping and bounding all over it, and she let out her piece de resistance – a splatter of pee as we were about to crawl under the covers.  “She’s peeing, she’s peeing!” I screamed as I saw her mount her typical pose, but it was too late.

And my well intentioned custard?  It turned into hot, sour smelling milk with chunks of egg encrusted on the bottom of the pan.  Stupid “Joy of Cooking:” “Scald milk” (huh?) “Slowly add egg yolks, sugar, and salt.  Heat over a double boiler, stirring constantly until thickened.”  I looked up “scald”.  I stirred constantly, and all I got was nasty smelling milk with bits of egg mung.  So now I’ve used up 4 of those yolks and wasted 2 cups of milk, with nothing to show for it but a disposal with bad breath. 

I told my father, as he prepared to walk the puppy this afternoon to allay my responsibilities as I wrestled with a migraine, that if he happened to lose her, not to give chase.  She did wriggle out of her harness and escape, but he went after her, eventually hauling her sorry blonde ass home for us to deal with.

Despite the excitement over the play, it was simply a crap weekend.  One for the books, and one to sort through on the couch. 

“That’s correct!  You have control of the board.”

Now that my family is gone, the duvet is drying on the line, and the play is mercifully over, I may just have regained control.  If only the dog could do the same with her bladder.

Due to the impending overindulgence of the holiday season (read: Dunkin Donuts in the front office every Friday), one of my coworkers has spearheaded a Biggest Loser style competition.  People will ante up $5, team up, weigh themselves anonymously, and the team who has lost the most weight as a percentage of their total weight, will win the pot.  

I am not entering.  This has nothing to do with modesty, a desire to stay away from mainstream activities, nor is it in any way is a protest with any sort of principles behind it.  I just do not lose weight.  Or gain it, for that matter.  You know how Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers encourages you to be your “healthy weight” as if there is some mystical weight your body is “supposed to” be?  I think my body has watched too many of those ads and believes it.  I weigh exactly 3 lbs more than I did when I graduated high school, 11 years ago. 

In my adult life, my weight has fluctuated so minimally that I have likely only weighed more than this twice, and less than this twice.  I look in the mirror, and aside from the wrinkles and the +/- acne situation, I see exactly the same body I’ve been seeing for a long time.  

The two times I weighed less were after a 7-week intensive backpacking trip to Europe with a shoestring budget, on which I subsisted on bread, cheese, yogurt, and fruit, and walked many, many miles each day with a 30lb pack on my back; and after my brain surgery, where I spent a week eating almost nothing, and 2 months recovering enough strength to walk around the block. 

The two times I weighed more were during an episode in college where I went for weeks with persistent nausea, ended up having a full upper and lower GI series of testing done, where the docs ultimately said “You have acid reflux, and we’re not sure what is causing your nausea, so it’s probably IBS,” which is about as specific as saying, “You have a tummy ache;” and during the 8 weeks when I was pregnant.  When my “IBS” hit, the doctor’s scale added 12lbs to my normal weight, and subtracted 2 inches from my height; deduce what you will.  I didn’t weight myself when I was pregnant, nor did I look when I was weighed at the OB’s office, as the number on the scale was supposed to be increasing, and as long as it was healthy, I didn’t care. 

All this talk of the Biggest Loser at work has me thinking about weight and body image again.  Recently, I’ve been noticing my pants just aren’t fitting like they used to.  They don’t fit like they did last spring, when it was pants weather.  This is making me crazy.  My waist measurement has not changed at all, but who among us under the age of 50 wears pants at the natural waist anyway?(well, aside from Mondo Guerra’s plus-sign pants, but that’s another story.)  Something is going on with my belly.  Pants I’ve had for 3, 4 years, are now too tight at the waist, and I can’t tolerate wearing them all day.  I find myself cringing as I reach more and more often for the New York & Company dress pants that have an elastic waist. 

The worst part of this is not true vanity.  It’s not fear of a changing body as I move into late twenties territory.  It’s not the fear of confronting a new person in the mirror.  It’s not even the fear of the number on the scale I don’t own.  The worst part is that my pants and skirts, my wardrobe, my image, my investment into my outer style, has been compromised!  I’m not the type who can just run out and buy the next size up in GAP jeans.  I have one-of-a-kind pieces, vintage garments, skirts I’ve made from bed sheets, and pants I’ve spent hours hemming.  I don’t shed my wardrobe each year like a crustacean does.  Mine is crafted from years of culling, acquiring, hunting, mixing and matching.  I can’t just go out and replace it for one that can accommodate my “belly” body, like other people have skinny jeans, fat jeans, and everything in between.  My clothing is my identity, and if my body changes, it might, too.  

I’m trying to fend off whatever is causing my pants to be too tight – stress, Newman O’s, ice cream sandwiches, being chained to a chair all day.  But it’s hard for a person who has never had to change her diet, to think about it.  Sure, I changed my diet when I became vegetarian at age 15, and again when I began to suspect I was lactose intolerant.  But these have merely been substitutions, not denials.  I cannot deny myself that after school snack, that 10am snack, that evening tea-and-cookie snack.  I am already eating smaller portions than the average human due to my acid reflux (I usually cut a garden burger in half and have the rest for lunch the next day; I can get 3 meals out of one Chinese food order).  All those tricks the media and UDSA are throwing at us, I already know, and have been doing for years anyway.   I’m hitting the gym with Mr. Apron, doing both cardio and strength training.  I walk the dogs.  I take the stairs.  I park far away. 

I’m not sure what else I can do, except maybe buy a corset or invest in Spanx. 

Or hope I get pregnant again soon, so I can throw all this body image garbage out the window, and live in garments with elastic waists.

“What was the worst part?”  Meredith Vieira asked some bimbo newlywed on the Today Show this morning.  I was still half asleep on the couch, working on the corduroy marks on my left cheek, but I perked up when she intoned, “Walking up nine flights of steps!” to eat the salads, sandwiches, and fruit they threw together and drink the free booze.  Oh, and smelling the non-functioning toilets.  They were bored, poor things, and tried to sleep through the whole stranded cruise ship ordeal.  “Well, we tried to sleep through it, but that only got us through the first day!”  After that, they had to figure out some way to entertain themselves, so they turned to that old activity of last resort – playing cards.  Can you imagine – 2 whole days (since they slept the first) of having to be entertained on a bum cruise ship!  And then a 2 hour bus ride back to California!  The horrors of having 3 days of your honeymoon on an ocean cruise ruined by a lack of electricity, an abundance of warm beer, and Spam on the last day! 

Really makes those Chilean miners’ trials pale in comparison, doesn’t it? Forget being trapped underground for more than two months without sunlight. Forget stretching rations for 17 days before being found.  Forget shitting and exercising in an underground cavern and entertaining yourselves with rocks. Never mind being without contact to the above-ground world for 17 days.  Forget being hoisted to the surface in a 22” capsule.  Those 4500 privileged Americans on that Carnival ship suffered, and we shall not soon forget their ordeal.  Imagine walking up 9 flights of steps just to get free warm beer!