experiencing the experience

today is my aunt’s birthday. it’s a milestone, but we won’t get into numbers (or she’ll kill me). she enjoys celebrating her birthday almost as much as i do. she also enjoys pampering herself with mani-pedis or a trip to the spa. today we went to the spa! and what a day. have you ever seen “the blah blah blah experience”? and wondered if it was actually an “experience”?? i personally think it’s completely overused, but today i was pleasantly surprised to actually experience an “experience”. it was better than i expected, and i’d like to share with you the details of the day without turning this into a full fledged advertisement or boring you to death.

today we went to glen ivy hot springs. off the freeway and hidden by nature, apparently it’s been there since 1850. who knew? anyway, the morning started pretty gloomy on our side of town, not ideal for a trip to the spa, but not going and rescheduling is just not what we do. so, with SuperBoy dropped off and our bags packed, we hit the road. clear sailing all the way. as we got closer to our destination, it got warmer and brighter outside. nice. it was packed! well, the parking lot was packed. as you approach the entrance, you can tell that you’re somewhere else. i think that they have a retractable roof over the place. it always seems to be blue skies without a care in the world over there and i just don’t see how that is possible. the are no empty spaces. there are plants, trees and foliage everywhere. there was even a little brown bunny sitting quietly in the shade. cute.

up the stairs to the registration and payment location. the staff is extremely polite, helpful and cheery. they all seem very happy with their jobs. they are always helpful and often caring of the guests. it’s not like going to the local store. it’s a place of pampering, and they do their share. at the registration and payment location there are lots of questions, an exchange  of money or credit and then a map! a huge map!

“this over here, this over there, these things: here, here and here. have fun.”

today we started our fun with the mud. yes mud.

wait.. i started my day with a mango flavored bellini. i don’t know what’s included in a bellini, but the first ingredient is champagne, and so, as you should already know.. i’m in, with both feet. whoooo!

i would also like to share with you that this is a spa. a place of relaxation. everything done here is in, on, around or related to water. if you have problems with seeing people of every shape, size, color, swimsuit type and tattoo coverage, this is NOT the place for you. if you do decide to go, approach with an open mind and be aware that the same is being done for you. this is not a place for judgement or commentary. just go, do what you do and enjoy yourself. honestly, no one is worried about you, so don’t be worried about them.

ok. back to the day.. today we started our fun with the mud. yes mud. red clay mud. fun stuff. you walk under a small gazebo and BAM! mud everywhere. people are in varying states of mud coverage or drying. you start by stepping down into the mud pool. it’s not what you think. it’s not a big bowl of thick mud looking like oatmeal… it’s a huge pool, filled with warm water. just beyond the stairs is a large cement surface and in the middle of that is a huge HUGE ball of mud. the red clay mud. the water is not clear, but it is far from “dirty”. once you’ve dipped yourself, it’s time to play. gather mud from the rock and slather it all over. from head to toe. some only cover their limbs and perhaps their back and chest… whatever they can reach. the fun stuff is watching the groups of (mostly women) folk laughing and covering each other. not too thick now, or you’ll never dry. with our visible areas covered, it’s off to dry. you can lounge on one of the many beach chaises or take a trip inside the “wasa” (a warming room). either way, once the mud dries, it’s time to slough it off. along with any and all of the dead skin you have ever accumulated and/or missed previously. scrub scrub scrub. gosh, i was so ashy that my skin was white. you are also welcome to rinse off and wash with lavender cleansing gel. here is what the website says about the red clay mud:

“Red clay has been used as a purifying agent since ancient times. It draws from the pores, absorbs impurities, and releases waste and dead skin cells while tightening and revitalizing the skin.”

i have to admit that while i have been to the spa several times, the mud is my favorite. they will even take commemorative photos of you and your friends covered in mud and mount them in a “Club Mud” paper frame. good stuff. i personally scrub the dried mud off with a towel and then rinse. my skin is soft to the touch and void of any rough spots or problem areas. some folks choose to lounge in the mud pool for a while and rid themselves of those impurities. others, like myself, just mud and run. we dry, we scrub and one to the next one! lessssgoooooo!

after the warm rinse and dry off we ventured to Cafe Sole for lunch. we were not the only people with this idea! a line for salad, a line for hot food, a line for something else and a line to pay! whew. all of the food is fresh and prepared in front of you. it was gorgeous! absolutely gorgeous. at most places that you go to for services, food does not tend to meet one’s expectations, but this DID. it was in the medium price range, but healthy sized servings. servings for adults enjoying the day away. most people shared their entree, particularly the nachos. good lord, the size of those things was just huge. score! one bellini down, hardER lemonade in it’s place.

with lunch barely finished we turned a couple of corners to “the grotto”. umm, no, it is NOT the infamous grotto at the fabulous and fuzzy Playboy Mansion that donned the phrase “what happens in the grotto stays in the grotto”, no.. this is a grotto containing a “moisturizing experience”. and an experience it was.

ok. so this is where i got the title. have you ever embarked on something called “an experience” only to find out that it was anything but? i have. epic fail and total disappointment. but the grotto, well, that’s an experience worth experiencing. so, now that we are mudded, scrubbed and grubbed, we are ready to moisturize. check in and what? downstairs? wow. we load into an elevator and downstairs we go. when we exit, we are given simple instructions to remain suited, but to remove everything else. through the door where

“The fun starts as an attendant coats your skin with a rich, warm, light green body moisturizer of aloe vera, shea butter, coconut oil, and other beneficial elements.”

they literally paint your exposed skin from the neck down, slathering you with this magical lotion potion that would moisturize a rhinoceros. through another door and deeper into the grotto you go. warm air and low lights make it inviting and comfortable. this is it. this is the experience. you sit in this warm room, coated in magic and just absorb. the warmth encourages your pores to open and allows you to maximize absorption. wait, i found some mud. how did that get there? there is ice cold water everywhere you go, even in the grotto. i didn’t try to sit on the fiberglass formed rocks for fear that i would slide right off and onto my rump with a smack. there were several others in there and everyone was just smoothing the magic on. rubbing their silky smooth and slick skin. it feels nice. oops, wait, i found some more mud. perhaps the grotto is no different than applying waaaaaaay too much lotion, but without a grotto, clean up is going to be mission impossible. i’ll leave it up to glen ivy.

when you’ve had enough of the warm air and trying to sit, through another door to rinse it all off. the showers are ideal and perfect. there are standard shower heads, some lower so assist with all that is lower and for someone like me, there is a giant round rain shower showerhead, up high. aaaaaaah. heaven. my shower at home is very low. even with the showerhead pointed as high as possible, the water hits me in the chin, so THIS is a treat. the grotto moisturizing magic is thick and requires a little help in addition to the water rinse. towels.

once rinsed and equipped with towels, through another door. cooler air to close your pores and help you KEEP some of the moisture. cold water, apples and a very juicy pear. the grotto experience is phenomenal if you ask me. i don’t think i would ever go back without partaking in it. it was thoroughly enjoyable.

hardER lemonade finished, bellini number two. next on the list was a trip to the saline pool. warm warm warm. and just a lovely place to relax. it’s only three-and-a-half feet throughout and has a bench seat all the way around. it also has bubbling jets just high enough to massage my lower back. i never want to leave the saline pool. i enjoy glen ivy as a whole, but the saline pool reminds me of my days at the besties house, jumping in and out of the swimming pool and spa. according to the website:

“The Saline Pool earns its name from its warm water treated with Epsom Salts. An excellent place to soothe tired muscles.”

maybe that’s why i enjoy it so. with SuperBoy the rambunctious four-year-old, something of mine is always sore. today it is my left ribs. he kicked me so hard the other night that i was unable to comfortably continue sleeping. i guess this is my version of “calgon, take me away”, so:

“epsom salt? do yo thang!”

we finished the day with a brief sit in the sauna. another of my favorite activities. sitting upon almost hot tile with hot steam so thick that you can’t see each other. an instant sweat from head to toe without pilates, kickboxing or chasing my son. yes! sadly, you can’t stay in there too long. people tend to get light headed or heart palpitations. me? i just love it. i stretched out for a moment and watched the steam turn into water droplets that slid along the angled clear glass window above my head. usually there aren’t so many gals in there, but today, we were thigh to thigh.. and so.. i’m out!

off to another shower. to rid myself of any more mud or grotto magic. the showers at spas are to die for. tall enough for a gal like me to not have to fold herself in half. the water always seems to be the right temperature and everything smells so great. now, for me, the hair and body care products provided are nothing shy of a  complete breakout. my skin is too sensitive to use them, but i enjoy their smell just the same, so i wash my hands and feet several times so i can revel in it.

after rinsing again, spinning my swimsuit dry in a handy contraption made for just that and replenishing some of the water that was compromised by the sun, the heat and the bellinis, it was time to redress and vacate. sad. it took me a significantly longer time to get dressed. having to drive home after a day at the spa is nothing shy of torture. with spaghetti for arms, i gathered my things and walked out with a smile.

having had time to consider enjoying an “experience” helped me to actually enjoy the experience. i didn’t read too far into it, i followed the instructions and i enjoyed myself. i would definitely consider “the grotto moisturizing experience” an “experience” and i would love to do it again. there are many things to do and enjoy at glen ivy. this is what i did and this is what i enjoyed. go. and when you’re done tell me if what you did was an “experience”.

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the simplicities of the intricacies

we have a beautiful backyard. i will be the first to admit that i have not used it for all that it is worth. we have a covered gazebo, swimming pool, grass and garden areas, an avocado tree, and barbecue attached to the gas line. the pool is not fenced, so taking my son into the backyard is nothing short of a mild heart attack. the anxiety caused by just thinking about it keeps me from actually going out there. yes, i understand that i have robbed myself and my son of some wonderful outside antics. but, i am also certain that i have saved him from a near death experience, or twelve, and also saved myself from having to jump into whatever-temperature water to save him. thems the breaks. i cannot change what i have done, only what i will do.

so, i decided to go outside the other day. it was beautiful for the ump-teenth day in a row and very inviting. i tend to occupy the area to the far side of the pool that i call the “stage”. it’s two steps up from the deck and sits between two low gardens. one day i will actually garden those gardens, in the meantime we will let the ground cover… cover. the stage is in the middle of the yard, facing the house. prime seating for just about anything. i can see the entire yard and into the house from there. kinda like a lifeguard, but with a lot less skin, a rickety bench, and four years of bein’ a mom under my belt. a mama-guard. essentially, just a mom, but i like to accentuate the many qualities and jobs contained therein. what better way than a dash? anyway…

i cannot touch the sliding glass door or the screen without mr. mini-me and his canine-like sense of hearing:

“go outside mommy? go outside?”

“yes, bubs, put your shoes on.”

“ok, ok, ok. oooooooh kay!”

with my shoes on and his at least retrieved, we busted out of the house and into the world. it really was beautiful. there was a slight breeze and wisps of white clouds against the baby blue background called the sky. so i took my place on the debatable bench upon “the stage”, (i call it debatable because it came in a box and was probably put together with a butter knife). the sun is such an overwhelming force. my skin went warm and then hot. i don’t mind it though. i actually enjoy sun bathing. my son sat at the steps of the shallow end with his feet in the water. that didn’t last for long. lucky for the two of us, he managed to get distracted by the water hose. just then, my aunt came outside and she turned it on for him. it almost shot him right in the face! i laughed so hard at just the thought.

i adjusted the bench to optimize my receipt of the sun rays. he ran this way and that with the hose laughing and giggling the way a child should. he seemed to have a hard time holding the hose and getting wet so i did what any mom would. i took the hose from him and squirted him from head to toe. hahahahah! i sprayed it up in the air and let him run through it, under it and over it. he has such a great laugh when he’s having fun. he was soaked and ecstatic. i went inside and brought him a towel and a fresh outfit. when he said that he was cold, i changed his clothes and warmed up with a hug, a kiss and a few minutes in the sun. he was happy and entertained and it didn’t cost anything more than the water we were using. he got to expend some of his boundless SuperBoy energy and get dirty, wet and delirious all at once. i thought to myself “man, i’m gonna have to do this more often.”

i decided to further enjoy myself, but we would need some supplies. after seven minutes of consistent debate, i convinced my son to come inside with me, momentarily, while i changed into something worthy of sunbathing and got a snack or two. we returned outside with a small picnic and half the living room furniture. i took his little people table and chair outside. he felt it necessary to bring his sleeping bag, two pillows, both stuffed tiggers and the loving valentine sock monkey couple. hey, whatever makes him happy (within reason, and most of the time), right? he laid on the sleeping bag with his stuffed friends, mumbling to himself and resisting his nap.

it was during this time that i just sat looking, admiring and generally falling in love with the world around me. the breeze picked up and i could hear the many wind chimes clinking away. i watched as the resident lizards shifted this way and that in an attempt to also maximize their sunning. our neighborhood is a white-picket-fence type area. all of the houses have trees. most of them have at least one fruit tree, usually citrus. we have an avocado tree. the number of birds in the area is awe inspiring. we have a few regulars including an family of owls in the palm out front, one little black bird (he looks like he has a mohawk) that bathes in the swimming pool, and another with a white tail that uses the natural angle of the roof to aid in her early morning bug hunt and devour.

as i sat admiring the huge beige lizard just above my son’s head, i was delighted to see a few hummingbirds. they are mesmerizing, aren’t they? so tiny, weightless and never still. anyway, they seemed to be playing tag because they flew this way, one behind the other, and then back just as quickly. i don’t know how many there were, but i enjoyed them just the same. i was blankly staring at the avocado tree when my glance fell upon the joshua tree next to it. it always stands so proud in it’s awkward, no-method-to-the-madness shape. growing and regenerating from the inside out. the older leaves, brown and winkled, hanging down revealing the trees history. the newer leaves, untwisting and revealing themselves from the top. it seems to me that people grow and regenerate in the same way. maturing on the inside, but constantly changing and shedding the outside. our eyes and our hearts weather the storms of life. but our mind changes and grows and can always provide something new. we manipulate our hair and clothing to project what we want others to see. trees have no such option, but they don’t seem to mind.

while pondering the age of the joshua tree, one of the hummingbirds fluttered about. she (i call her she because it seems appropriate for something so cute, sweet and delicate) zigged and zagged and eventually came to rest upon one of the thick triangular leaves. the breeze that was present when i first went outside had picked up significantly. the hummingbird sat motionless except for the wind at it’s back. the leaf swayed and bounced and she seemed not to care. if i hadn’t seen her flying about i would have no idea that she was there. i watched her for a moment or so until i saw a bright flash out of the corner of my eye. it was the surface of the water in the swimming pool.

i love water. i always have. perhaps it is because i am an aquarius. or perhaps it’s because i like water. i particularly enjoy watching water be effected. the wind invading it’s space or rain drops making it dance. either way, i’m hooked. i used to live in an apartment facing the swimming pool. i liked to watch the rain and the pool collide. enchanting and entrancing. but at this moment, the wind was creating super tiny waves, pushing the surface debris toward the shallow end. my mind wandered about the things i was seeing and i contemplated the following:

  1. water and air are unpredictable forces of nature.
  2. they are both colorless and odorless when in their natural states.
  3. neither water nor air has a shape unless it is contained.
  4. they both contain pressure, currents and debris.
  5. when stirred up by mother nature, the affects of their damage is devastating.

those thoughts led me to ponder and question the world and our atmosphere. water, which has to be contained to stay in one place, is able to hold on to the spinning ball of dirt that we call earth. on top of that, we have a very delicate, yet balanced atmosphere that somehow manages to deal with the fact that we all inhale and exhale but we aren’t dead yet. can you say wow?!? i did. i don’t ponder too far after that. i love the scientific look on life. extracting the aesthetics and the shells and getting to the core of something, but i didn’t want to dissect the concept to the point of destruction. life and it’s intimate secrets border on the ultimate magic. once you learn the card trick or the how the rabbit actually disappears, it’s not as enchanting. i want to maintain my wonder and awe.

by this time, my skin was hot to the touch. i had changed from my usual paper-sack-tan skin tone to that of a burnt biscuit. my son was pink in the cheeks and cranky because he was void of a nap. it was time to go inside and leave the joy and wonder of the backyard. we had a good time and it didn’t cost us anything but the energy expended. my son had the time of his life with a water hose and i had been entertained for hours by just being. how spectacular! we’ll have to do this again… very soon.

nothing in life is simple. even if it appears to be simple, it is not. there is a driving force behind any and everything that, even when explained, cannot truly provide a reasonable theory of what is actually going on. everything is intricate. the simplicity lies within our view and our interest. sometimes, it is best to look, admire and move on. i can’t wait to see it all again. even though i have seen it all before, it will still be brand new.