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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Blue Box! What you call it when you leave a girl hanging...

(nope. not that kind of blue box...)




Today I was working on my new orgasm book for Cleis Press (due out in February 2015!) when my little sister helped me coin a new phrase - blue box. As in, "My partner had me all worked up and then came and it was game over, left me with total blue box."

Yup. You heard it here first. And, yes, girls get that too. Your partner in crime gets your motor running and then gets off him or herself and then rolls over and falls asleep leaving you with, you got it...

blue box.

You're welcome.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sex and Night Diving: What I learned from diving in



It's pitch black. Martin interlaces his fingers with mine. I take a long deep breath and let it out slowly. My senses are heightened. I feel acutely aware of every sensation. Every sight and sound. Every feeling. I'm excited and scared and so present I can't imagine anything before this moment or after.

Martin isn't my lover and we're not having or even about to have sex. He's my dive instructor and he's taking me out on my first night dive. The whole arrangement is surreal. I flew from Brisbane, Australia to Hamilton Island, Australia in the Whitsundays.

An outfit called Cruise Whitsundays has taken me by boat out to a permanent pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef, at Hardy Reef to be exact, called Reef World where I've spent the day diving.

It's spectacular, as you would expect. Gorgeous fish, both enormous and minuscule. Unreal coral. Everything around me living and pulsing and swaying.

And tonight, I'll sleep in a swag (a very Australian rig that's a mattress, sleeping bag, and tent all in one) under the stars, all but alone on the top deck of the pontoon under a vast canopy of stars, the Milky Way winding through.

But before I rest, I go out on my first ever night dive. It's exhilarating and terrifying. I can see only what the light of my torch blazes on. The plankton in the water sparkles like stars, making it feel as if I'm floating through outer space, weightless and alone in the universe.

"We're three of the luckiest people in the world right now," Martin says to Victor, another instructor, and I as we prepare to get in the water. He couldn't be any more right. And as I glide through the water, catching glimpses of beautiful coral and fish playing in the reef, I am suddenly struck by just how profound experience this is.

It's incredibly dangerous in some ways. We're out in the middle of the ocean, at night. No boat or copter at the ready should there be an emergency. And yet, we're also incredibly safe. I'm PADI certified, meaning I am fully trained and prepared for this dive. My instructor and his colleague are insanely experienced and trained. All I have to do is the easiest - and the hardest - thing in the world. All I have to do is trust.

It's that realization that makes me think about how much night diving, or diving in general or any number of other adventures for that matter, requires precisely what is needed to experience the kind of truly intimate, mind altering, life affirming sex that too few people enjoy but that everyone should experience.

The five tips for great sex that I learned from night diving.

1. Trust your partner. Martin is my instructor. My life is in his hands and, to some extent, his in mine. There is no one else down there to rely on. I trust him completely. Only then can I really enjoy the experience.

When it comes to sex, when you trust your partner fully, you can let go in a profound way. The best sex, the fullest, most intimate, most mind-blowing sex comes from giving yourself over completely to the person you’re with.

2. Trust your equipment. Your dive equipment is literally your lifeline when you're diving. You check it completely before you get in. But once you're below the sea, you have to trust that it will do what it's designed to do, take care of you while you're below the surface.

Our bodies were made for pleasure. People have a bad habit of not fully enjoying all the bits and parts we've been given, not trusting that we have the right and the privilege of reveling in the amazingness of all of our "equipment."  But if you trust your body, it will take care of you and bring you great pleasure. All you have to do is give in to it.

3. Mind your breathing. If you gobble up air when you're diving, you have to come up way sooner than you would otherwise. If you hold your breath, you could damage your lungs and ears. Underwater, you have to breathe with intention, listening to your breathe sounds and being conscious not to hold your breath or hyperventilate.

Sex is all about breath. Focusing on your breathing can intensify orgasms greatly. Breath deeply and with intention. Play with how your body feels when you breath deeply versus more shallowly versus holding your breath all together. (Not recommended during sex and an absolute no-no when you dive.)

4. Be ever present. It's easy when you night dive to get lost in worry. Is there something scary around that next mountain of coral? Will you have enough air? But if you spend your time thinking about that, you'll miss it all. Instead, you have to be in the moment.

The same goes for sex. Forget about the mail you didn't open. To hell with any nagging body insecurities. Explore every sensation. Let yourself sense everything and take it all in.

5. Ride the unknown. This was my first night dive and my 8th dive ever. Everything about it was unknown. Even for Martin who had done this dive 1000 times, couldn't really know what we were in for. The sea is new every time you enter it. To truly enjoy it, you have the relish the unknown.

Each time you have sex it’s a brand new experience whether you're with a familiar partner or a brand new one. Whether you're trying something for the first time or enjoying the rhythm of familiarity, let the possibility of the unknown excite you and allow yourself to follow it wherever it takes you.

I came up from that dive exhausted and exhilarated and so proud of myself, allowing my sense of adventure instead of my penchant for fear and insecurity guide me. If you do the same when it comes to sex, you'll be amazed at the pleasure that's in store. All you have to do is dive in...



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Diving in Australia!



I recently went on an amazing trip to Australia to dive both the Great Barrier and the Ningaloo Reefs. I did a piece about the trip for Huffington Post.

People have been asking where I stayed and ate, what adventure outfits I used, and what I packed. So here's the rundown!

-->
How to Get There-


Where to Stay-

Brisbane:

Perth:

Fremantle:

Exmouth:

Hamilton Island:

Where to Eat -

Brisbane:


Perth:

What to do:

Brisbane Greeters – This is a totally free service. You email them and tell them what you want to see and they do everything in their power to arrange a guide who can show you the town!
Rockingham Wild Adventures – They will pick you up in Perth and drive you to Rockingham for the Wild Dolphin Swim.
Story Bridge Adventure Climb – You can get info and your tickets here. Reservations required.
RiverLife – For kayaking, segwaying, rock climbing, and other Brisbane adventures
Gallery of Modern Art – For a little culture, when you need a break from all of the adventuring.
Cruise Whitsundays – This is where you can check out ReefWorld and the ReefSleep.
Ocean Eco Adventures – This outfit will take you out in search of Whale Sharks to swim with.
Ningaloo Whale Shark N Dive – For diving the Navy Pier or going on a Whale Shark Adventure.

What to bring:

Gear – As a woman, I’m a huge proponent of AquaLung’s Details line because it’s actually designed for women. I brought along my mask, snorkel, and fins. But left home my wet suit. Too hard to travel with. 

I also was very glad to have my SPIBelt for valuables. Although it’s not designed for underwater, it is waterproof. So it was awesome to wear to the diving (or other adventure) site with my ID, money, and phone inside and then throw in my bag when I’m diving. I used my SPIBelt messenger bag for city touring when I wanted a little more space.

Things to do – As a diver, there is lots of time spent in remote or technologically disconnected places, so I brought along my Outdoor Tech Turtle Shell 2.0 wireless speaker and my favorite Eccolo journal. It’s not waterproof. But a Ziploc bag did the trick.



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Win tickets to Dinosaur Zoo Live!



Enter to Win a Family Four Pack to Erth's Dinosaur Zoo Live! At the Majestic Theater in Dallas on Saturday, January 18th at 10am ($200.00 Value!)

Erth’s DINOSAUR ZOO Live brings an awesome array of prehistoric creatures to life on stage.  Observe and interact with extraordinary, life-like dinosaurs in this entertaining and educational live show.

Enter by Tuesday, January 14, 2014 for your chance to bring the Family to this one-of-a-kind event!

To enter, like my page at:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jenny-Block/118385024943309

And leave a comment under the contest announcement there. Get a friend to like the page and get an additional entry for each friend who likes it. Just send me a private message with their names!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I commissioned a portrait of my puppy




I’ve always had a dog but I never considered myself a “dog person.” That is, until I met Walter. He’s 12 pounds of Chihuahua/Cairn Terrier mish mash that gives new meaning to the phrase “ugly cute.” I love him more than a person probably should love a dog. But there’s something about that tiny smirk and warm, fuzzy body that he curves into a comma against my side while I write, that makes me feel loved in a way that I’ve never experienced before or since.

Walter adopted me 4 years ago. So it wasn’t until very recently that I ever seriously considered the whole pet portrait thing. I liked the idea of it. But it also sort of freaked me out. Was I really “that girl”? Apparently, yes.

A friend posted a painting that Denise Kemp from Iridescent Moon Gallery had done of this handsome German Wire Haired Pointer and I was hooked. I commissioned two pieces, one watercolor and one acrylic. I love them both but the watercolor in particular really captures the spirit of my little man.

Maybe it’s the eyes or his quiet smile. Or the way she captured his disobedient fur, whose true nature is almost hidden by his haircut. Maybe it’s the way he’s laying down in the piece, face flat to the floor, like always. There’s something about Kemp’s eye for detail and the tenderness with which she guides her brush. I don’t know what the magic is. But I know she worked it on Walter.

The piece inspired my girlfriend so much that she commissioned one of her late and long-adored cat, Coco, and of her mother’s beloved puppies, Jackson and Pearle, who passed this year as well. The likenesses Kemp created are uncanny both in appearance and spirit.

I suppose there’s no fighting it now. I’m officially a dog person.

You can find Denise and her work at:







Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ecuador by train!

I don't generally post press releases. But I had to share this one. I love the idea of traveling by train. Would you take a journey like this? 

Since 1994, Tropic Journeys in Nature has led tours through the country’s most engaging landscapes. Now it is hosting four-day/three-night journeys on Ecuador’s Tren Crucero (cruise train) that launched in early summer 2013. http://www.destinationecuador.com/quito-ecuador-train-tour.html

Already Tren Crucero is being singled out to join a pantheon of the world’s top train journeys. Guests experience Ecuador’s stunning landscape using vintage transportation, enroute enjoying accommodations at hand-selected haciendas and colonial lodgings that immerse them in regional cultures glimpsed from train windows.

The per person rate is $1,270 inclusive of a bilingual naturalist guide, daily train and bus excursions, three nights lodging and all meals. While on the train guests can enjoy drinks and tapas while seated comfortably or reviewing the landscape from an open-air car. An on-train safe is available for storing valuables. Departures are from June through early September and from December through February.

The luxury journey begins in Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Andes crowned by majestic Cotopaxi Volcano, and ends in Guayaquil on the Pacific. Traversing 450 kilometers along the Avenue of Volcanoes, an early 20th century steam-engine locomotive pulls passengers to heights of 3,600 meters and down to sea level.

Tren Crucero rolls out of Quito’s Chimbacalle station at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday, stopping at El Boliche where a modern coach ferries guests to a hike near Limpiopungo, a glacial lake in Cotopaxi National Park that shelters a variety of Andean wildlife: Andean gulls, Andean dear, wolves, the unique bear of South America, and the magnificent Andean Condor. Overall rising 6,000 meters above sea level is Cotopaxi volcano. After an hacienda lunch, guests view a dance festival at Lasso train station and overnight with dinner at La Cienega Hacienda once lodged Simon Bolivar who led four countries to independence from Spain.

On Wednesday from Latacunga train station guests travel southward to explore a rose plantation and learn the history of Ecuadorian roses, a major contributor to the country’s gross domestic product. Lunch follows later at Roka Plaza hotel, an ancient colonial house, in Ambato. Conditions permitting, there will be views from a safe distance of the very active Ttungurahua volcano that is currently spewing ash and gas daily. The afternoon presents Urbina at 11,840 feet above sea level, the highest train station in the country. Here an ice trader will explain his daily craft of digging ice from a glacier on the Chimborazo volcano. Overnight and dinner are at Abraspungo Inn.

Riobamba was once Ecuador´s capital. Thursday’s departure from here is via an impressive restored steam locomotive pulling guests across fascinating Andean landscapes to the Colta community. There’s a short stop at Balbanera church, the first Christian landmark made here some 500 years ago. The destination is Guamote’s indigenous market, one of the last authentic markets in the Andes, with traders exchanging products as they did 4,000 years ago. Impressive geological formations begin in Alausi as the train zigzags 535 meters in altitude over 12 kilometers down Devil’s Nose, the track itself an engineering feat hailed as the most difficult in the world. The overnight in Huigra. a small village between the Andes and the coast is at Eterna Primavera lodge.

Friday transitions from the Andes to the coast along the Chanchan riverbed, stopping in Bucay to visit the Shuar community that migrated many years ago from the Amazon basin. The journey continues to Durán, passing through banana, sugar and rice plantations. The final destination is Guayaquil near the coast.

Monday, July 29, 2013

On Being Skinny Fat

I've gained nearly nine pounds recently that have been making me very unhappy. I don't feel good in my clothes. I don't like how I look naked. I feel self-conscious about what I imagine other people are seeing and thinking. So sue me, I care what I look like and I care what other people think. I want to be attractive. I'm not alone in that. At all. Although I certainly feel very alone in admitting it.

Although nine pounds might not seem like much, it's a lot on my 5' frame. It's 10 percent of my body weight, 10 percent that I simply don't need to be lugging around. I'm a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers. I have been for more than 10 years. I went on WW after I had my daughter, at which point I weighed 176 pounds. I was beyond miserable.

I tried to convince myself that I was fine with it. "I have a great life and a beautiful, healthy family. That's all that matters." "You are the only one who cares about your weight and why should you care?" "You are not defined by your weight." But the truth was I wasn't healthy. I did care. And, in some ways, I am my weight. Whether I want to deny it or not, how I take care of myself is a big part of who I am.  And based on my build, that number on the scale, at least in terms of my body make-up, meant I wasn't taking care of myself.

The thing is, we can only really know if we're healthy if we get a truly accurate assessment like a DEXA scan, for example. (Too many of the other available tests, like caliper testing, are painfully inaccurate.) Dexa is dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, which uses X-rays of two different energies that scan the body. Fat absorbs one more strongly than the other allowing a computer to determine body composition, body fat percentage, and bone mineral density.

I finally had one of those scans and it has changed me. Completely.

I went to Canyon Ranch Miami to do a four-day detox program. You know, no alcohol, healthy eating, some yoga classes, a few spa treatments, some detox juices, and meetings with a nutritionist and a doctor. Honestly, I didn't expect much more than a pampering weekend that would give my system a break from my usual less-than-healthy habits that included tons of Splenda, too many sweets, and skipped meals in an effort to make up for my sins.

What I got was a whole new way of looking at my weight, my health, and how I eat. I wasn't planning on getting a DEXA while I was there. But when I heard they had one, I was really anxious to check it out. You lay on a table and the machine moves slowly down the length of your body, x-raying every inch of you. You can't hide from the DEXA and that's what makes it so great.

It doesn't judge you. It doesn't have any preconceived notions about you or about weight in a social context. It doesn't care about anything except your age and the make up of your body. As I lay on the table, listening to the machine whir above me, I tried to chat calmly with the guy operating the scan, my exercise physiologist at Canyon Ranch Miami, Jeffrey A. Dolgan, MS, CSCS, HFI, RCEP. But I was too nervous about the results to focus on the conversation.

It wasn't designed to detect a specific and defined life-threatening medical issue like a brain tumor or a blocked artery. But it was going to tell me my true body fat percentage and distribution as well as my bone density. And there would be no way to deny the results. I think I was equally afraid that it would tell me I was fine just as I was terrified that it would say I needed to lose weight.

Before I saw the scan, my goal was to lose eight pounds and some change and, go figure, that was precisely what the results of the scan recommended. There’s a name for this phenom - "skinny fat." I’m skinny fat. I look "fine" but my body fat percentage is 37 percent, which means I am only 1 percent away from being in the "unhealthy" range according to Dolgan.

Two things struck me at that moment.  One, it's true: You cannot tell a person's health just by looking at them and, two, I know my own body. I also felt incredibly empowered by having the facts. I have every right to be unhappy with my body because my body was unhappy with itself. And frankly, I felt relieved that I have every "right" to express my discontent because now it has a medical backing. I'm not just whining about being too fat. I am too fat. I may not be overweight. But I am overfat.

Who would have thought that hearing someone call me fat would actually be a happy thing? Ok, I wasn't happy exactly, but relieved. There was no guessing. There's nothing "just in my head." I need to lose eight pounds of fat and, ideally, gain eight pounds of lean muscle as well (although the latter is going to take me significantly longer). Dolgan recommended a series of strength training exercises to do every other day, as well as advised me that I needed to get some kind of cardio every day for 30 minutes.

But that was only part one. Then it was time to talk to the doc and the nutritionist. I was scared to death of what they'd say and they both said exactly what I didn't want to hear. I had to change the way I eat. I had to.

After I revealed all of eating habits and digestive complaints, my nutritionist at Canyon Ranch Miami, Larisa Alonso, MS, LN, CNS, insisted that I give up Splenda because it is effectively making holes in my digestive system. She prescribed a two-week hiatus from sweets because of my addiction to them. She gave me a list of veggies that I needed to buy organic. And she drew a picture of how my plate should look at lunch and dinner -- half veggies, one quarter (3 ounces) of meat and one quarter (half a cup) of starch.

She told me no more skipping meals and no more fruit binging. She recommended food sensitivity testing due to all of my stomach issues and suggested staying away from BBQ and fried food. I could have cried. I love Splenda and sweets and carbs. And I hate veggies. She told be everything I didn't want to hear. She called me an addict and a disordered eater and it felt like a relief, once again, to hear it out loud. It's my truth and pretending it isn't wasn't helping me.

The doctor, Karen Koffler, M.D., had, not surprisingly, remarkable similar things to say, adding that I should avoid microwaving things in plastic and should start using a "green" dry cleaner.  She also suggested taking probiotics, eating more cruciferous vegetables, and talking to my doctor to see if my body is estrogen dominant. In other words, I needed a complete overhaul.

I moped for a couple of good hours. Why should I have to do all of these stupid things? Why can't I just eat what I want? Why does it have to be so hard? Then I got over myself and decided to commit. Seriously commit. I wasn't hurting anyone but myself with what I was doing. But I was doing some serious harm that was only going to get worse as time goes on.

So here I am, almost eight weeks later. I haven't touched Splenda or sweets and 85 percent of my lunch and dinner plates look like her Alonso's drawings. I've only had alcohol on two occasions since my visit and fried food has only twice made its way from my dish to my stomach. I am still working on the daily cardio and every other day strength training. But I am getting darn close to the schedule prescribed.

I'm already down to 101.8 pounds and I already feel totally different, both because of being lighter and because my digestive system is so much happier with me. It hasn't been easy, especially since I went to Disney World and Sea World the days following my time at Canyon Ranch Miami. But I have already learned to simply say, "No, thank you" to what I would have usually said, "Yes, please." And I have learned to ask for less of what I shouldn't have and more of what I should.

Am I giddy about it? Not at all. I hate it. But I hate feeling uncomfortable with my weight even more. Sure, it would be great if being healthy was my main or only focus. But looking fit and being happy with the numbers I see on the scale and on the tag inside my jeans is important to me. And even my nutritionist said that she doesn't care what keeps me eating healthy, as long as I do it.

When it comes to our bodies, it has to be about whether our body fat percentages fall into the healthy or the unhealthy range. When it comes to food, it can't just be about what we want, it has to be about what our bodies need. When it comes to our doctors, it has to be about the truth, even when it hurts.

I feel better than I have in a long time, and I cannot wait to lose the rest of those eight pounds of fat and gain some lean muscle. I can already see the changes in my body and the muscle delineation beginning to show itself.

I look forward to checking back in at the Ranch and getting gold stars from my doctor and my nutritionist. I look forward to lying on that scanner table again and having my exercise physiologist remove the "skinny fat" label and replace it with "healthy." I, of course, am the only one who can then apply the "happy" label. But that should be no problem when those extra pounds of fat are a thing of the past and nothing but good health is waiting for me in the future.