recovery

From San Diego to Chicago (and into the Polar Vortex....)

My time in San Diego was not only amazing, but exactly what I needed to do for myself. I have no regrets about leaving my job in Tampa and spending 6 months in San Diego working as a personal trainer, helping launch a business, and making some amazing friends. What I did realize, however, was that a part of me felt like I was treading water--not making progress down my life path. Granted, while every single thing that I  did was, in fact, making progress with my self, internally and externally, I knew that it couldn't last forever. After getting confirmation on Christmas eve, I have taken a new job and moved back across the country, this time to Chicago!

This called for another epic road trip, only this time my dad flew out, helped me pack, and made the trip with me. Literally, everything I own fit in (and on top) of my car. My first reaction to this was "wow, everything I own can fit in my car!" Followed closely by my second reaction "why do I have so much shit??"

Loaded up

After an awesome surprise going-away-get-together with some friends and saying goodbye to my awesome roommate, my dad got everything packed in one day and shoved off: First stop, Vegas!

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We spent the next 3 days basically just hanging out in Henderson, NV, right outside Las Vegas, with my dad's best friend and my Godfather, Scott, whom I've gone and hung out with man times over the past year. It was really nice to just relax, ride some bikes, and enjoy my last moments of warm weather. Scott and I got an epic ride in, riding 43 miles all the way to Boulder City, with 2,300 feet of climbing and getting to see some gorgeous desert scenery.

Rockin the W

It seems that, indeed, my Dad and Scott are actually old dudes. The highlight of the weekend for me was watching them just glued to the TV screen for 3 hours watching Downton Abbey. It was hysterical. I, instead, went down to the strip and tried my luck and some roulette.

After Vegas, we got back on the road and headed for our next stop, which was Grand Junction, Colorado. One of my goals on the trip was to stop at as many random places as possible to commemorate the journey.  The first of those: The giant soda cans in Utah!

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I don't know why they exist, but they're awesome

At the same stop as the cans, we figured it was a good place to get some lunch. Little did we know what some good Utahan cooking consisted of! We checked out a place called "Mom's Diner", a sure classic, right? We lasted about 5 minutes in there... My dad, a guy who just can't be rude, decided to order a scone so that we didn't have to order a meal. It turns out a "scone" means something else in Utah...

It was so. bad.

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He tried to eat it but couldn't stomach it. I hid it some napkins and we snuck out of the restaurant.

Besides it's scones, Utah is absolutely gorgeous!! You almost feel like you're on another planet.  Here are some gratuitous landscape shots:

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That night we arrived in Grand Junction, Colorado. We had left warm weather sometime long ago in Nevada... but we managed to find a great local brewery and get a great dinner. The Ale House had some really nice local brews and great collection of old cans.

Pictures of taking pictures... super meta

Great collection on vintage cans

After our quick sojourn in Grand Junction, we grabbed a great workout and headed on to Denver. This drive was, again, gorgeous. But also incredibly frightening. We hit some bad snow going over Vail Pass, at about 10,000 feet elevation, and were driving on, or in, snow for most of the time.

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My dad, being from upstate New York, did a lot of the snow driving (and also so I could read out loud to him from different training websites about dead-lifting, glute activation, and shoulder rehab...) My favorite moment though was when we hit some bad snow and ice coming down the mountain. Traffic stopped pretty quick and my dad started pumping the brakes but it looked like we might hit the car in front of us. He yells at me "Chuck, I can't stop!" I guess I just don't get that excited, but my, very calm, response was "what the hell do you want me to do about it? Here, turn left." Luckily we got out unscathed.

We finally got into Denver where we spent 2 nights so that I could see a ton of friends I have there. You might recall, but I spent most of summer there a year and half ago and that city and the people had an incredible, life-changing, impact on my life.

The first thing I got to in Denver was meet up with an awesome girl whom I met last year and who still lives in Denver where she is going to school. We met up for dinner... and not only was it amazing to see her  maintaining the personality and liveliness that she had when I saw her last, but at our meal there was no guilt, no shame, no anxiety, nor any destructive thinking. I loved it.

The next day was literally one of the best days I've had in a long time. The first thing I did was head over to the Eating Recovery Center, where I spent the better part of 4 months, and got to sit down with my entire treatment team that I worked with during my time there. They were all doing great and it was fantastic to be able to speak with them all like friends and to let them know that, yes, I of course still have some struggles, but that everything they did for me was amazing and that I am doing great.

After that meeting, I headed up a bit north of Denver and met another, more recent friend of mine, Jeremey, for lunch. Jeremey is a trainer as well, but has recently made the switch to a more digital-publishing based role, although he still writes for sites like Menshealth.com and Greatist.com. We caught up and talked about life, fitness, writing, life goals... all that good stuff.

After that, I headed back to the other site for the ERC and met with a another member of my treatment team. This guy is someone that I can always count on to be there for when I need an ear and also knows how to help. And, usually, that "help" is just being able to say to me, "hey, I don't know what you're going through, I've never been through it myself, but know that I am here for you and I know that you're struggling." I'm hoping to collaborate a bit with in the future on some resources for males dealing with eating disorders.

Finally, I spent some time just walking around Denver before meeting a last set of friends for dinner. This couple recently just had an amazing little boy, and, no joke, he's a cutie.

Baby!

The next morning, after grabbing a workout, we shoved of across the great plains to make our way to Lincoln, Nebraska, where we planned to stay the night. This was the most difficult driving I've ever done! I've never been in wind that strong, and was petrified that the rooftop carrier was going to be blown off the car and that my bikes were going to go flying off the back! Luckily, this didn't happen, but we literally saw 18-wheeler trucks that had been blown over onto their sides from the force of the wind.

Basically a hurricane

This day was full of goofy stops. While I wanted to stop at "Pawnee Park and Recreation Center" and pay homage to one of my favorite shows, it was too dark and out of the way when we got there. However, we did stop and see the biggest ball of stamps in the world!!

Stamps!

After a thrilling morning of stamps, we decided to stop at the one and only Volkswagen Beetle Spider! When we stopped to ask for directions, the guy we talked to asked if I'd seen Cadillac Ranch, to which I was able to say "why yes I have!" (Thank you road trip to San Diego!)

It's poisonous

Once we finally got to Lincoln, we met up with a family friend whom we hadn't seen since we moved from Texas about 14 years ago

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Finally, it was a straight shot into Chicago and another full day of driving. Nothing super exciting happened that day, that I remember, except finding random British and Irish candy in a gas station in Iowa and then driving under this bridge:

Some Bridge

That night we stayed with my... Great aunt(?), my dad's aunt, I believe, who lives a bit outside Chicago and sort of gave us a home-base as we prepared to move me in, plus gave my dad a place to stay. The next morning, of course, it started to snow, to make my move-in experience perfectly "wonderful". As you may not know, I hate being cold and get cold incredibly quickly, so I'm learning the art of "bundling up"! Thank God my mom found my old snow boots from high school and sent them with my dad so that I would have them.

My new place is in a cool neighborhood right outside downtown. The move-in wasn't too hard... just cold

Brr....

But you know cures coldness? Deep Dish pizza!

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We went to Lou Malnati's and it was awesome--although, according to my roommate, and which I whole heartedly agree and wish he'd told us before we ate, the best way to order it is with the sausage crumbled and fully cooked.  Point noted for next time.

And that was it! My walk to work is less than a mile which is great, but bundling up takes me a lot longer in the morning... but it's worth it to be here!

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Making this trip with dad was amazing and makes realize that I need to spend more time with him and my whole family. It will be great to just a quick, direct flight back to DC to hang out with them.

Thanks for reading!

This Feels Right

A lot has happened since my last post--which is a large reason I've been delaying this update (well, that and until today it used to take me hours to upload pictures...). I've got a changes coming, but I guess I'll start at the end first. Then weekend before last, I hopped on a plane and jetted out to California--I flew into LA, saw my cousin, and rode with a friend 4 hours north to be a part of the one and only Wildflower Triathlons. This was a team event for Wattie Ink, so I had the chance to meet about 20 of my teammates...  they are all awesome and overall really really good people. We camped out Friday night (in a tent) and I then spent the entire day Saturday chasing around most of my teammates who were racing the Long Course half-Ironman race.  I think I got a video of nearly everyone crossing the finish line or out on the course! (Let me know if you raced and I'll see if I got you on video!) Heather Jackson, a Wattie Ink pro triathlete, won the overall Pro female division and dominated the course!

Heather Jackson- the Champ!

Transition

If you don't know about Wildflower, it's known as one of the toughest triathlon courses in the country. Mad props to everyone who finished on Saturday as it was easily like 90 degrees- I was getting a workout just around with the camera so I know the racers felt it.

Some of the squad at Wildflower

The next morning we woke up to temps in 50s. I was so cold I didn't even know if I was going to start the olympic distance race I would be doing that morning.  Luckily, I got into my Blue Seventy wetsuit early and was able to stay warm. The race was awesome--swim was choppy and impossible to sight, hills on the bike were crazy, and the run felt entirely uphill until the last mile.  My swim was bad, but I blame that on how I swam, not my swimming ability, bike was solid, and my run was really good.  This felt awesome based on the amount and distance that my training has been. I've been doing less with more intensity and lifting a lot more.

Headed toward the finish

Me and One-arm Willie!

My wild one-armed uncle Willie was there! I met him at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon a few years. He won the overall challenged athlete division

After the wild weekend, I returned to LA, got In n Out Burger with my cousin (that's right bitches) then hopped a train to San Diego, bike in tote. I stayed with a good friend of mine and we sealed the deal on an apartment we'll be moving into in June...

Which brings me back to the start!

A few weeks ago, I made the decision to resign from my job. It was not in line with where I wanted to go in my career and I wasn't happy.  At the time, I didn't have something else lined up yet, but I knew that if I didn't make a move, I never would.  So I stepped away... And I have never felt so happy. The decision felt so right and so powerful. Now, I could be happy, and my destiny lies in what I make of it and how hard I work for ME. I came across this article today, which totally reaffirmed what I plan to do.

So through a series of events and hustling, I am going to be moving to San Diego next week to pursue an opportunity in marketing, brand development, and sports--everything I want to be doing and that will help me determine and align what I want to do in the long term. I couldn't be happier and more excited.  I will be very sad to leave Tampa and the amazing friends I have here, but this is going to be another huge step in my recovery: for me to get to a new environment, leave old habits, and create a life free from the things in my past which kept me stuck.

To help support myself, I'm also going to start personal training again, which I can't wait to do as it is something I really enjoy and I have a lot more experience and knowledge than when I was training in college.

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Next Tuesday I'll head out from Tampa on a cross country adventure.  I've talked my little brother into making half of the road trip with me which should be awesome! Our plan is drive from Tampa to Atlanta, spend the night in Atlanta, then spend a night and day in Nashville, followed by the next night and nearly a full day in Memphis, then stopping through Little Rock as we finish in Tulsa for the weekend where my cousin is having her wedding. After the wedding, my brother is flying home, and I'll finish the journey through Albuquerque for a night and then spend a night in Las Vegas! If anyone is along this route, please let me know, as it would be awesome to meet up! Especially in the second half of that trip--who wants to go to Vegas with me??  No, like really, I need someone to go with!

Here goes!

1,000 miles in the car with this kid...

Back to Life

Four months between posts is far too long, but I didn't know where to start and when the right time to post again would be.  I'm back in Tampa and have been since November and I'm loving it and the beautiful weather!  I completed treatment in late October and flew back to DC for a couple of days to spend time with my family and then they flew back to Tampa with me to help me get resettled.  Thanks to the storm, we got stuck in DC for 1 few extra days, but it was not big deal. Moving back into my apartment was rough and scary--mostly because I was afraid my refrigerator would have shut off and melted all over my apartment or something--but honestly it wasn't too bad! Since then I've been working a lot trying to catch up on everything and move ahead.  That's gone fairly well, especially with some unexpected turnover that left me reporting to a number of different people.

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But whats new right? How am I doing?  At this point, pretty well!  I get to see my friends a lot more than I was before.  I haven't been able to workout with them or go to swim practice as much as I'd like because of work getting in the way a lot or traveling for work or the holidays.  Eating is going well, it is definitely hard on some days though when I look in the mirror. Sometimes, I'm actually pretty happy with how I look but other times it's very hard.  The mirror is ok, but pictures are very difficult, to be honest. I know it probably may seem to others like I'm still struggling, and at times I really am, but I'm pushing myself every day at new struggles.  I'm still really trying to figure out what's right for me in terms of eating and exercise.  I want to build muscle and get stronger but I also want to get back into competitive triathlon shape BUT NOT in a disordered way.  Those 2 goals are just difficult to balance in terms of energy balance and how much and what one needs to eat to build muscle while getting faster.  I just really don't want to look like I did before though, that's for sure! But most importantly, I don't want that to be what my life is about.  I've been able to go out with friends and not talk about triathlon at all and holy crap its amazing! Like going to watch 2 amazing friends  get married. Oh, and the week before that, on New Years eve, 2 other amazing friends got married, but I couldn't make it as I was still up in DC!

Meghann and Derek's wedding

But in triathlon news, once I again I have been selected to race for the 2013 Wattie Ink Elite triathlon team!  Wattie Ink are amazing though and selected me while allowing me to explain my situation and said that for to me to race longer than an Olympic distance triathlon would be dangerous to my recovery. I'm looking forward to traveling to the races I can and meet and support teammates even if I'm not racing.

Christmas was great and I got to spend a lot of time home with family--including my brother and sister who I hadn't seen in a year! We went to Rochester, NY, immediately after Christmas and got 18-inches of snow on our first night there... damn I love Florida!  That whole snow thing without having anything more than 1 big coat isn't fun.  I need some boots I guess?  Maybe I should just keep a pair in Rochester.

Christmas eve style

And in more immediate news, HOCKEY IS BACK! I went to the Lightning's opening game against the Capitals on Saturday--a friend from work had VIP box seats, so that was pretty awesome! The Caps are my favorite team, but it was good to see the Lightning win!

Lightning game

 

 

Well I know this was all over the place as I tried to fit 4 months into a few paragraphs.  But I want to start writing more often as I've got some fun things in the work.  I miss all my friends at the ERC like crazy but know I'll see them again in a healthy way soon.

Thanks for reading y'all and thank you for everyone who has embraced me in my return and been so helpful.

 

 

Acceptance, Willingness, and Committed Action

12 weeks into treatment and this fact becomes more clear to me every day: There are 3 components involved with change- Accepting that it's necessary, being willing to make a change, and committing to do and following through on it.  It's tough as hell. Acceptance:

Everyday I become more accepting of the fact that I will likely struggle with an eating disorder for the rest of my life. However, I don't have to let it rule me and can be in control of my actions.  I accept that my eating disorder is an evil thing that will sneak in at any moment and attempt to sabotage my efforts at recovery.  As hard as it is to admit this, it's what is going to make recovery possible for me.  5 years ago I entered treatment for the first time at the age of 20 with the belief that "I'm going to walk out of the door of this facility completely recovered and never think about me eating disorder again." Well, that certainly wasn't the case was it?  It would be inaccurate for me to think this is something that will go away, however, I know that I can lead a life that will provide the tools and strength to get through this and live a life based on values, hope, and free of darkness.

I can also accept that I do deserve a life that is free of guilt, shame, and loneliness. I accept that some days it will be very hard, but I also know that some days it will be easier.  We all deserve a life like that and it's in our human rights to be happy. But we don't have to be happy all the time; life includes feelings of sadness, happiness, love, and heartbreak.  And we need to accept that.

Willingness:

Lately, the willingness piece has been more difficult.  Yes, I want to get better and beat this (and I am), but often the thoughts do come in that want a return to my old, comfortable, predictable life.  I've been contemplating this blog post for a few days without knowing where to start.  I noticed that if anyone else asked me to do something for them, that I would do it as fast and as best that I could without thinking about it.  However, when it comes time to do something for myself, it's an entire different ball game and there's a realization that I don't think I am as important.  It took committing to my therapist and my peers here that I would post and update this week.

In preparing to update though, I saw pictures of my old self at swim practice and sooo terribly wanted that body back.  My eating disorder told me immediately that I could do all the things I have been working on here- flexibility, social interaction, love, friendship, spontaneity- and still get that body back.  My dietician helped me see, however, that, no, I couldn't. Undernourished, fatigued, and unhappy, my body would not be able to feed my mind enough to let me do those things.  Hence why, as hard as I tried to beat this eating disorder by myself, I wasn't able to do.

I'll be straight up, I've reached my "maintenance weight", which is significantly more than I weighed when I entered treatment 12 weeks ago. Does this petrify me?  Absolutely.  Everyone I know has only known me as I used to look. No one has seen me at a normal weight then lose weight and then return from treatment back at a normal weight. I am incredibly scared of coming back and being judged for how I look--that I will no longer have an identity; no longer be "the athlete" or "the kid with the eating disorder." I am also scared of how to reintroduce exercise without being sucked back into it as I was before.  I am willing to try though.  And I will succeed. Breaking the connections of food and exercise is tough for me; that I have to earn and deserve food in order to be able to enjoy it.  However, being here has greatly helped me with that.  I am now able to lift weights a few times a week and will begin to reintroduce cardio next week.  On the days I don't workout though, there's still no choice that I need to eat all my meals and snacks.

I also realize that I was giving food an immense amount of power.  Literally, the only source of "happiness" on many days came from my dinner and being able to eat it.  But in order to feel like I deserved it, it took sacrifice throughout the day and obsessive amounts of exercise.  That's why it was so hard for me to do activities that would threaten a meal that I had earned, because if something else got in the way of it, what then would I be able to find happiness in? It also prevented me from being truly present with friends- fully engaged and I'm sure made me less fun to be around.  I hadn't seen this need to avoid loneliness by restricting and exercise, as those would make me not feel "left out" because it gave me an excuse of something that I had to anyway.  A necessary obligation to "train and eat right"

Committed Action:

I am committed beating this.  100%, no doubt, absolutely.  I am incredibly unhappy with my body- Coming in, I had this fear that I was just a shallow and vain person for thinking that this was all just a stifling fear of becoming fat. Just having that fear that I am shallow has shown me that there is more to this than just surface appearance. I have been digging deeper and don't have a definitive answer yet, but I know large maintaining factors are feeling accepted as an athlete and a way to not feel lonely.

Part of the committed actions I make are to view and thank my body what it can do; to view my body as instrument, not adornment. I now have the ability to build muscle and get stronger, be more present, function more healthily, and think more clearly.  I can take up hockey again and enjoy or go mountain biking and have the energy to make it through a day.  I also can now let myself take the adventures or go on the trips which the eating disorder prevented me from doing. I'm not just going to walk out cured, but I have the skills to make change happen.

The most anxiety still comes from seeing people I haven't seen in 3 months and returning looking completely different. Yes, it's going to be noticeable and how do I deal with that? Especially with people who never knew I had an eating disorder.  I also need to draw lines between those who I'm accountable to, and those can support me. I had given too much responsibility to friends and strained relationships because of that.

Committing to be willing is the hardest part in all but it the most significant part of change.  To make change you can't just go through the motions, but, as I've said before, you've got to be willing to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Thanks for reading

Update from the Mile High City!

So I finally have a quick minute to provide an update! I wrote this over a week ago, but all of it remains true.  I'm learning a lot here about myself, my struggles, and my future.  What I have some to realize is that life is not just about being "happy".  In fact, it is this endless striving for happiness that keeps us unhappy.  Living a full and fulfilling life means to feel all emotions--happiness and sadness, fear and anger, hope and joy.  We must experience all of these and not try to blunt them.  I am also learning that the eating disordered thoughts I am having may always be there, but I'm ok with that.  I've just got to learn how to control them, manage them, and tolerate them while acknowledging that, yes, they are there, but I don't have to act upon them.

I wrote this email to all my team, family, and friends to let you know all that has been going on.   I wanted to give you just an update of what's been going on here.
To start, last week, my treatment coordination team (Psychiatrist, therapist, dietitian, family therapist, and nurse) asked how my impulses had been around exercise. I at first wanted to lie, but then realized that that is not the man I want to be anymore and I told them I had been doing push ups in my room. It was not a ton, and probably not burning and calories, but from talking through it what I realized was that the purpose it was serving was not that I woke up every day thinking "yay, I feel like I would really enjoy some push ups!", but really it was just my eating disorder telling me, "we don't really want to feel the awful things we feel when you don't exercise, all the real problems in your life, so lets just do enough to take that edge off ti all to make this day bearable."
So this weekend I swore to myself and God that I would not engage in any of those behaviors. I had to keep in mind that 1) I swore to God, so breaking that trust was unthinkable, 2) if I did the actions I would have to deal with one of two feelings: first, I would either lie to my team and feel awful about that, or alternately, tell them truth and feel awful about letting them all down. So I didn't do any of my behaviors. But it did not help waking up on Saturday morning feeling that overnight my stomach had ballooned into this fat, gross, flabby, unattractive blob. that looked like I had been stung by a bee and was swollen. This had me really upset emotionally and physically, but I still did do any push ups or exercise which only increased the anxiety.... but I got through it! And I sat with those emotions of feeling how much it sucked, how much I hated it, and how much these feelings allowed me to actually feel what the eating disorder was making me hide.
Now, there is so much more under this all that I can get into later, but while talking to my dad on Saturday night, one of the reasons just sort of came out. One of my values is connection--with friends, family, God, and just socially (we've seen how good that ha gone, right? lol). What came out in the conversation I was having with him was that I realized I want to feel included. Let me elaborate. Every time my friends (or family) do anything without me, or if I'm not invited somewhere, my immediate reaction is that "they don't like me" or "I'm not cool enough that they would want to hang out with me." (Yes, I am aware that lately, that has actually been true; that I am not someone who people would probably want to hang out with). But, in order to handle, or to not feel these feelings at all, I engage in my eating disorder behaviors. Therefore, I am back in control. In 2 ways, first being that I blunt the feelings altogether. But second, and more importantly, I realized that I am just using these behaviors to give me control and reasons for not being invited. If I "have to do my workout" or "have to prepare all my food, etc etc", then I am back in control, and the reason I am missing out on whatever my friends or family are doing is back on me. "I couldn't have gone anyway because my workout had to be done." Then my eating disorder lies to me and says "I don't mind being alone, this is the way I like to be."
When clearly this is NOT the case because I so badly want to be included and want to be part of that connection.
The other thing I am petrified is, of course, gaining the weight. To me, if I'm not where I was when I came in, I'm obese. I am trying to work through these emotions and look it as a pendulum-- On one end these is the state I came in at: No health, no friends, screwed up hormones, no testosterone, but feeling like I am healthy, fit, fast, and lean. On the other end is obese, no exercise eating twinkies and drinking Slurpies all day. I figure if I'm not where I was when I got here, that I just automatically swing right to the other side. I am trying to remember that "healthy" is a good word. It's got "heal" in the word, and that, lets be honest, 95% of Americans are NOT healthy, so being healthy needs to be OK with me... it's still in that 5%.
Also, I fear that I won't be a fast, or I won't be as "good"a triathlete, or people won't like me, or I'll be fat if I'm not where I am now, but how do I know that? How can I make those assumptions if I've never actually let myself get there? What if I am faster and fitter and can enjoy exercise again? What if my relationships are 100 times better and I can actually think clearer again? What if I can find a way to balance exercise, health, and friendships at a happy equilibrium and to actually enjoy life once again?? I'll never know unless I give myself that acceptance, which at this point, is the hardest, most difficult, most manly, most courageous, most scary, thing I could do. What if i turn out to be a triathlon beast which I never knew? Or a for damn sure good and reliable friend?
But I need to remember--a pendulum has to hit every single point while it makes its way from one end to another. Therefore, I just need to let this pendulum start swinging and know there is a point I will find, where my body feels healthy and strong and will tell me where it wants to be, and I also can balance good friends and the enjoyment of exercise.

Well that was a novel, but I just wanted to keep you updatde (and to reiterate this all to myself)!  Thank you to everyone who reached out and to everyone who reads. Here are some pictures from the couple times I've been able to get out.

I apologize if I can't respond to any comments as I can't always access the blog from inside the center, but I will try!