Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Verdict, Old Wives, and A Few Good Books

A Verdict:
In my December 9th post, I was cheerfully optimistic that I could get back to my goal weight on my own. No need for outside help for me! Even so, my self confidence kept colliding with the heavy weight of my previous failed efforts. "I (might) need the discipline of a structured program to get myself moving (in the right direction)," I admitted. "I'll get a sense of which version is true in the weeks ahead." The jury is in and I'm going back to Weight Watchers. The numbers this morning were the same as three weeks ago. It seriously sucks rodents when a 5'4" woman considers herself lucky that the scale shows a weight of only 203.5 lbs.

Old Wives:
On December 20th, I was deriding old wives. I had decided to work on a Christmas project in the garage with the garage door open despite my sniffles and cough and the chill weather. The idea "that 'you can catch a cold from cold weather' is an 'old wive's tale,' "I wrote adding that they were "not the most knowledgeable of old wives at that." One dismisses the wisdom of old wives at one's own peril. My cold got worse after playing elf in the garage. Matt and I had to miss the family Christmas celebration because I was too sick to attend. Ditto New Year's Eve. For the first time in years, we had plans for the night. Instead we're staying home. Matt has tossed a few "I told you so's" in my direction. I shoulda listened when he told me to stay in our nice warm house.

A few book reviews:
Well, at least being sick has given me some reading time. Unfortunatley I've nodded off much of the time, but here are a few notes about the books that I've been reading:

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan tells the story of the great environmental, economic, and human tragedy that occurred in the Great Plains during the Great Depression. This is a history rather than a historical novel, yet the individuals whose struggles Egan's describes, become alive in his telling their stories. A compounding tragedy is that the land still bares the scars of man's abuse of it and that, even with this knowledge of prior devastation, we continue to ravage the earth. I heartily recommend this engrossing book.

Set in Cairo around the time of the first Gulf War, The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany, tells the story of a highly varied cast of individuals who lives intersect through their connection to this building. The roof dwellers, the poorest of the residents, include a young, aspiring policeman who is drawn to the jihadists when his dreams are shattered. Other plot lines involve the gay editor of a French language newspaper, an aging playboy whose sister is trying to get him declared incompetent so that she can have his share of their inheritence, and a number of (redundancy alert) corrupt politicians . Though the plot lines of this book are strong and the characters are well defined, the thing that I found most compelling was the sense of claustophobic oppression that those in the underclass experience as their daily due. For a sense of this experience, I recommend this book.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is the story of 9 year old Liesel Meminger, and her foster family in Nazi Germany. The narrator is Death. I initially found this to be quite a distraction because Death seemed to have a child's voice. After the first hundred pages or so, I found that the unintentional humor and irony of the narrator, Death, softened the edges of a trully horrific era. The characters were multi-faceted and the events vividly portrayed. The ending surprised me. The book is a major page-turner. At times, I almost literally couldn't put it down.

My expecatations for The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch were way too high. I had seen Diane Sawyer's interview with the author and had bookmarked his lecture on my computer, but had never gotten around to watching it. I decided to read the book instead. A mistake. From the bits that I have seen of the video, the man himself is the inspiration. The book has much wisdom in it, but would have been more appropriate for a younger, more goal oriented me. I've given it as gifts to my daughter and my son + his wife. My daughter has already read and enjoyed it. I expect my son and his wife will enjoy it as well.

Snow by Orhan Pamuk is the book that I'll be reading next. I'm drawn to it because of the back cover description: "An exiled poet named Ka returns to Turkey and travels to the forlorn city of Kars. His ostensible purpose is to report on a wave of suicides among religious girls forbidden to wear their head scarves." Pamuk won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. Margaret Atwood's recommmendation of the book on its front cover carries much weight with me. We shall see if this author joins the many whose works are "must reads" for me.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Santa Arlene Among Her Peers

The last few weeks have been defined by busyness, the march of the Santas, my usual seasonal melancholy, and a cold with resulting lethargy followed by a self imposed forced march to productivity. This last of these had me hard at work in my garage today, an elf in her workshop, with the garage door open despite the chill weather so that I wouldn't miss the mailman to whom I wanted to directly give my Christmas cards (having finished with them after the posted pick up time at the closest mail box. I wondered about the effect of the cold weather on my sickness, decided that "you can catch a cold from cold weather" is an "old wive's tale" (and not the most knowledgeable of old wives at that), and turned the portable heater to its highest setting. I'm hoping that my sickness will pass in time for me to attend the family Christmas celebration that is the occassion that had me playing Santa's elf in the garage.

But it is not Santa's elf, but Santa himself, that is my primary identity. The pictures below were taken in San Francisco last Saturday. The lovely reindeer who appears in three of these pictures is my daughter, Rachael. The great fun for me is the joyful silliness of the whole thing, the merriment of playing with other Santas, and coming up to perfect strangers, asking them if they've been good or bad, having them actually answer, and giving them a Santa gift. Behind the personna of Santa, I gain a freedom to easily connect with my fellow human being and find most of them enjoy that unexpected connection. I also gift the cops and talk with them. The not-that-well- hidden presence of alcohol is their chief concern. Between two flasks of Jim Beam, numerous bar stops, and friendly sharings from my fellow Santas and other assorted characters of the season, I managed to maintain the optimum level of non-sobriety throughout, in love with the world and not barfing on it. The police were actually very cool in dealing with our raucous crowd, staying at the periphery, available in case things got enough out of hand to require their intervention. The surprises this year included a full on snow fight at one park, a bouncie house at another, and milk and cookies somewhere else. What a wonderful life it is being one of many Santas.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Eight Months From Now

Instead of focusing on an "auspicious" start date when I would vigorously begin a weight loss program from which I'd never ever stray (except, occasionally in moderation), I've been looking ahead eight months and asking myself where I will be with my long lapse of self discipline. What comes to mind is an image of myself like this one, taken in Barcelona on May 25, 2006. I was in the low 160's then and headed back down, I thought, to the weight that I'd finally reached three years earlier, 127 pounds. Eighteen months before that I'd weighed 197 pounds.

I began my return to the land of big-size from that of size ten petite with a party week-end in Arizona shortly after getting a pound and a half below my goal weight. Throughout the entire time that I was getting rid of the 65 lbs., I'd never once cheated nor had the temptation to do so. Sticking with a healthful eating program had been easy for me. In Arizona, my food choices were pretty much limited to tortilla chips or potato chips. I had no access to transportation (which is mostly true; I'm painting this with broad brush strokes.) I took a vacation from healthful eating and vacationing became my lifestyle. When life presented its challenges, I went on vacation. I began this blog with the title "Onwards, Getting Rid of the Regain" on 9/29/05 at 185 pounds. The last time I weighed myself, the scale read 203.5 lbs., .5 pounds less than my most recent high. When my weight began its long climb upward, even to the point at which I first began this blog, I was pleased that I wasn't one of the many who would talk about regaining their weight "with a bonus." Now I can't even claim that success. I've struggled with my various regains from the beginning, the first five pounds and five pounds beyond that, then fifty pounds and more, much more. I've re-lost and regained mountains of fat. I'm glad that I've kept up the struggle. If I hadn't, I might be up a hundred pounds from where I am now. Or maybe not. Perhaps I would have avoided the binges that have been so much a part of my weight gain if I'd accepted the numbers somewhere along the line. In any case, I'm not willing to accept 203.5 lbs. And I'll deal with the downscale numbers when I reach them. And I will reach them.

I've realized that reading the blogs of my on-line friends inspires me whether they are succeeding in their struggles with weight or whether they are going through a difficult patch. In the first case, they provide a positive example. I want to show them (hi Annette) that I too can succeed. In the second case, they give me strength by validating for me how difficult it can be to get back on track once veering so far away from it. I want to be their positive example. I want to be one of the people who don't give up and ultimately succeed. My on-line friends who either don't share this challenge or write about it rarely are also sources of inspiration. They allow me to function in this loose community as a full human being. My current blob-like state along with the lack of self discipline which produced it only a partial defines me.

The last successful time around, when I went from 192 lbs. to 127 lbs., the image that helped me get there came from a dream. For a reason that I can no longer remember, the powerful symbol of this was a red triangle. Along each of its lines was a different word and the words were Fat, Stupid, and Undisciplined. This was the first impression that I believed my bulging self made on people who didn't know me. In my dream, the sun enveloped me in golden light and I knew that the time had come when I would succeed in getting rid of the weight. All I had to do was "stick with the program and the weight would take care of itself." It was it this point that I joined Weight Watchers.

I'm not up for a WW rejoin right now. I'm not up for counting points or even doing the current core program. This may change, but I'm not up for it now. But the image of eight months is a compelling one. I'm thinking of a swimming pool now. I'm thinking that I might be able to swim clear across the pool to the eight months side. On my own.

I want to end this post here. The end. But I wrote one more paragraph and have decided to include it. I'm not sure why. Perhaps I like the sound of my own words.

Or maybe not. Eight months might be the side of the pool. Holding on to it may keep me from going under, but I may need the discipline of a structured program to get myself moving to the other side. As a metaphor, this all falls apart; at my current weight, I'm my own flotation device. But I can't dive in just now. I'd hit my head against the cement sides of the pool.

I'll get a sense of which version is true in the weeks ahead.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Seeing My World Through Daisy's Eyes

It is 12:54 a.m. I'm almost at the point where I'm likely to drift unimpeded into Sleepland once I snuggle into my pillow. Daisy, with her copper owl eyes, has been watching me type. At one point, she seemed fascinated by the magical appearance of the letters on the screen. I guess, not knowing the process, it is for her as if something suddenly popped into existence. I experience the opposite of this at times when things seem to pop out of existence. At these times, the concept of anti-matter as I understand it seems very real to me. Most recently my glasses, which so often disappear, really did disappear for a full day. I ended up driving to my glass class without wearing them. I had a major headache as the day wore on. My glasses did not turn up, though I did find them, and not by searching, but rather by analyzing Sherlock Holmes-like. The infamous family room couch, which is the scene of most of my food crimes, swallowed up my glasses and spit them out on the floor beneath. I'm struck as I write this that the word is "glasses" and that we refer to them as plural. We talk about a pair of glasses when referring to only the one item. The thing about my family room couch is that this one item is constructed as if it is three items with the space between each of the seats sometimes forming a chasm into which things fall at will. Underneath this couch, this too-heavy-to-move-by-oneself couch, are pencils and ice cream spoons and bits of food. It is really rather disgusting when you think about it, which I don't. Thankfully I was able to fish out my glasses with a ruler.

Daisy is no longer watching me. I will probably find her nestled in the blankets on the bed. She will find her comfortable spot curled within the arc of my left arm as I begin to drift off to sleep. When I turn to make my full committment to the land of dreams, she'll hop off and go to one of her night time places. In the morning, she'll come to investigate whether I'm ready to greet her and the new day. If I turn back to the pillows, she'll leave only to return a bit later. I wonder what she makes of the long uninterrupted slumbers of us human beings. I suppose cats don't wonder about such things. They accept their world as it is and they deal with it. Daisy was wary of me in the beginning of our relationship. In addition to accepting her world and dealing with it, she was and is open to seeing her world differently. I think I can learn something about life from Daisy.

Morning postscript: Daisy was not waiting for me in bed nor did she come in later last night. She did her morning check up on me. Cats, like humans, are not always predictable.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Self Discipline, Self Regard, Self Indulgence, and Sloth

I'm either stuck right now or finding my way to some sanity in my relationship with food. I'm not up for counting points or record keeping of any type. Undeterred by lack of success with this in the past, I'm now trying to "just" make good decisions with regard to what I eat. This is easier to do when I'm alert and busy than when I'm tired and glued to the family room couch. I've returned to the strategy of keeping good-for-you foods that I enjoy eating on hand. These include ones that I can eat in any amount and ones with which I have to be far more careful. In the first category, I currently have steamed rutabagas, winter squash, and broccoli in the refrigerator along with fresh veggies and fruit. In the second category, I have yogurt and cheeses in the refrigerator and WW ice cream in the freezer. I also have candy on hand. W H A T ? ? ? It's occurred to me that sometimes when I want something sweet, I keep trying to satisfy this desire in ways that don't satisfy and then continue with a still unsatisfying binge. So I'm trying to short circuit the process with one or two little squares of Hershey's dark chocolate. At about 15 calories a square, I'm not doing myself any damage unless I start getting into insatiability. I have a vested interest in stopping myself at two squares. If I end up eating the whole chocolate bar, I'll have shown myself that I can't self moderate. We'll see how this goes.

As to getting the exercise that I need to be healthy and get rid of the lbs., I've been filled with that with which the road to hell has been paved, good intentions. I read the blogs of my on-line friends and resolve to get on my elliptical cross trainer. I have no excuse; it's right behind me as I type this and I enjoy working out on it. E N J O Y ! ! ! Really. Yet even now, as I type this at 5:42 p.m., I know that I'll end another day without any significant exercise. I'd thought of ending this post with promises to myself to do better. Naaaaaah. I'll know that I'm doing better if I find myself on the elliptical or on the park trails that are so close to where I live. My moment by moment decisions will tell the story of who I am in relationship to self discipline and self regard on the one hand and self indulgence and sloth on the other.

Friday, October 31, 2008

My New Space

In her October 31st post, Kathy wrote about a change in her perspective after she moved her family room chair from one side of the room to the other. I began to comment about this, but decided instead to blog about a related experience.

I have gradually been moving my glass activities from the kitchen table to the garage. Initially this was a matter of doing some glass cutting on a card table which I would return to its home in the storage area under the stairs after I finished using it. Then I stopped putting the table away. The glass has been seducing me into playing with it ever since whenever I go into the garage. It starts out innocently enough with just a quick glance at the current state of my various on-going projects. Before I know it, an hour or more has smoothly passed by. A month ago, the glass warehouse where I've been attending a once a week workshop off and on for the last three or so years had a half price sale on their full sheets of glass. Let's just say I saved a fortune on glass. The corollary of this is that I'll have to live a very long time to use it all up. It's a life insurance policy of sorts. This glass is currently wrapped up in a heavy duty quilt around which are bungee cords secured to the wood framing in which it is secured. This has been making my use of glass a cumbersome ordeal. My plan has been to use one sheet at a time along with the many scraps of leftover glass that I accumulate. This week-end I decided that I didn't want my creativity to have to be constrained in this way. I began to consider getting shelves that could accommodate my glass and make it more accessible. My hubby, Matt, told me that he'd make them for me. Yesterday, I started thinking about getting a kiln. The building of the shelves and the purchase of the kiln is probably a couple of months away, but I'm finding myself very excited about the prospect of setting up these new things. Kathy wrote about the change in her perspective when she moved her chair. I'm experiencing the sense of a whole new world opening up to me as I make a new space for myself in the garage.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just A Quickie Note (and For Laughingwolf)

I haven't fallen off the planet and I haven't "given up" blogging. There are just so many options as to how I can spend my time and so (comparatively) few hours available to do the things that I want to do and have to do that I find that weeks pass before I even think about getting on line with this. I think about a number of my blogging friends at random times and wonder how they are doing. Since this usually happens when I'm in such places as the car or shower, I can't just click on an icon and find out. Right now I'm simultaneously doing laundry, making nuisance calls (ie. to charge card companies), and dealing with the ever growing paper pile on my desk. I'm tempted to check the blogs of some of my on-line friends now, but that would put me even further behind with my "To Do" list. Sooooooo, as I turn back to the (possibly eternal) PP (paper pile), I hope that all who read this enjoy extraordinarily satisfying lives in the days and weeks ahead. And for myself, I wish for one of these three things: greater efficiency in accomplishing life's "have to's" or the removal of my need for sleep or a whole bunch of more hours in my day.

For Laughingwolf:

This is the sweatshirt to which I referred in my comment to Laughingwolf's October 5th post entitled "sheep...? Electric Sheep." The picture is of a "Pythagorean Tree," which is the result of creating fractals from the proof of the Pythagorean Theorem: A squared plus B squared equals C squared.The Pythagorean theorem: The sum of the areas of the two squares on the legs (a and b) equals the area of the square on the hypotenuse (c).


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Word Verification

Is anyone else as challenged as I am with Word Verification. After the third try with some of them, I feel like I'm failing an IQ test.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Sounds of Silence (NOT!!!)

Matt and I returned home on Wednesday after 3 1/2 days of what was supposed to be a 7 day get-away at Lake Tahoe, California. We'd rented a house there with plans to spend most of the time reading our armloads of books. The picture at the right shows the kind of vacation that we expected:

This is what we found: The house that we rented is next door to this one, on the same side as the porta-potty. A plumber was there when we arrived on Saturday afternoon, but was gone after about a half an hour. Another contractor stopped by for about 20 minutes after that. He let us see inside the house which was pretty much down to the studs. He told us that he thought the dry wall installers would be coming on Monday. On Sunday, the owner came by to water the lawn. He told us that the workers would be doing some "minor" work outside on Monday and after that the insulation would be blown in. He said, "It shouldn't be too noisy."

No construction workers came on Monday or Tuesday. We got the dredger instead. It made a couple of noisy pass-bys on Monday and rooted around directly in front of our house for an hour and a half to two hours on Tuesday. Having settled in with a big food shop for the week, Matt and I decided to make the best of it.

Loud hammering began on Wednesday morning. When we called the rental office, the agent said that she'd return a prorated portion of the money that we'd paid if we wanted to leave early. On the way home, we revisited our criteria for future vacations. We like the feel of the place to the right. The old adage applies: There's no place like home.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Joi de Vive Pixelated

On August 27, I began a blog in which I described the previous two or three weeks as abundantly joyful. I felt as if each molecule of air that I breathed had at its center a core of perfect goodness. I was a blessing to all whom I encountered and they, by their presence, blessed me. When I was alone, the infinite/eternal and I were One.

A few weeks have passed and reality's hard edges have poked a few holes in the fabric of my Joy. The photos below are of some of the threads out of which this fabric was (and still is) woven.

Adequate sleep: It binds together all the other threads. Without it, nothing can hold. After enough sleepless nights despite my regimen of four pre-bed antihistamines, I decided to toss the pills and stay awake until sleep came thudding by. At this point, I'm mostly getting the sleep I need and waking up with far more energy than I'd had previously.

My hubby, Matt: For a year or so, hubby Matt had a benign tumor on his parathyroid that was causing calcium to be leached from his bones. During this time, he experienced constant spontaneous bone fractures and frequent intolerable pain. The condition went undiagnosed because we all were pretty much focused on his Leukemia and its possible ramifications. Now, several operations later, Matt's been doing substantially better. He goes for daily walks using walking sticks or a cane, has washed the cars, and has done some light gardening. We've truly been given a second chance. In the unexpectedness of this, we relish the good times that we thought were lost to us.

Being able to make fun plans: For many many months, the only plans that Matt and I made were to consult with his various doctors and show up for his various operations. Now we buy tickets for plays and musical performances and vacations are once again on our schedule.

My daughter, Rachael: Rachael, and I had a two day/two night get-away, starting out in San Francisco a then heading to Half Moon Bay. She's wise, funny, and very observant.
She also "gets" me. I am always astounded that this amazing young woman is my daughter.

My son, Ben: Ben sets his goals high and works hard to accomplish them. I'm proud of him.

My granddaughter: Maddie is my first and currently only grandchild. She is a delight. I didn't "need" to be a grandmother for my life to be "complete," but I consider myself blessed that Life has given me this Gift.

The many avenues of creativity that are open to me: I often think that my truest self emerges when I'm alone, especially when I'm working on a project that involves some creativity.

For Maddie's birthday, I made a reversible multi-colored treasure bag into which I put five
smaller such bags filled with objects that are condusive to exploration and creative play. The bags with the tiny pink bear and the tinier white dog are reversible. The blue and beige striped one has a large front pocket. The white one, made with a sheer fabric, has twelve or thirteen compartments. Arriving at a creative idea and seeing that idea expand even as I work on it is a powerful experience for me.

The digital camera that Matt got for me has opened a whole new world.

At this point, my flower project is virtually finished. (I'll have to give it a more pleasing name.) I'm planning to have Tap Plastics finish off the project for me. I'm thinking that I'd like to have the multiple levels protected by plastic banding that goes around the project, possibly as part of the front surface. My mind is abuzz with other themes that I'll use to create future photo mandelas and abstracts. And that's exciting to me, the buzz of future projects whirling around in my head. And also the awesomeness of the technology that's allowing me this kind of play.

And then there are my glass projects. I don't like the way the pink candy dish turned out. I intend to smash it, put the broken pieces in the kiln to reflatten them, and utilize these pieces in a whole other project. I enjoy thinking about this.

Eventually I'll get around sewing the top and shorts that I was going to make for Burning Man 2006. The pattern is already cut out.

I have no idea how I'll use some of this "junk", but I know I'll have fun doing it

.A clear desk (finally): During my non-blogging weeks, I got caught up with my long ignored piles of paperwork. This included going over bank statements from March onwards. I firmly resolve, as I've resolved before, to keep up to date with this stuff.

Books: I have shelves of books that I'm looking forward to reading. Literacy is such a wonderful gift. Come to think of it, aren't we all blessed by our long ago ancestors developing language and a visual way to represent it?

Music and the potential for me to be a music maker: I recently purchased a musical keyboard and have tapped a few of the keys for about two minutes. I'm looking forward to learning how to play. My optometrist told me that I show the early signs of developing macular degeneration in 15 or 20 years. That will probably put the kabosh on the viusal projects I so much enjoy. With that possibility, I've decided to expand my musical skills beyond those of turning the CD player on and off.

The beauty of my world: Since moving to our current residence, I've never taken for granted the natural beauty that surrounds me.

My plants: I no longer seem to have a black thumb. My plants are thriving. They are a factor when I think about taking multi-week vacations.

Routine chores: As long as I'm not rushed to get them done, I enjoy the meditative peace and pace of doing them.

Daisy and Morris: My cats are and always have been a constant source of joy to me.

And so I come to the end of this post feeling truly blessed having reminded myself about the things that elicit my happiness. A final one, about which I didn't write, is reading the blogs of my on-line friends. (I hope I still have on-line friends.) I'll start doing that when I'm again at my computer.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Busy Big Bee Being Beaucoup Busy

I'll catch up with blogging & reading blogs of on-line friends in a couple of weeks.
Until then, I wish everyone (including myself) success in reaching those elusive and also those easily accomplished goals. And, along the way, may life give all of us some reasons to smile.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

It Really Is The Process

I just had the entirely evil experience of spending a very long time on a post (which included 16 photos and a number of links) and with one unwise click of a key deleting the whole friggin thing. Paradoxically I was writing about the value of process over product. Right now, at 2:31 a.m., I'm too exhausted to care. I'm unlikely to have another session at the computer in the week ahead because of a delightfully busy week. In a strange sense, it really doesn't matter that what I wrote has snapped into non-existence. The process really does matter. I'm disappointed not to be able to publicly present what I put together, but the rush of life will be pulling me forward and bits of what I wrote will possibly come up again, polished for having been previously formulated and nurtured by their continuing presence somewhere in the convoluted reaches of my brain.

Even so, here are a few pictures from the Splash Dog competition at the fair. (I'm too tired right now to explain.)