Sunday, September 30, 2007


All trips to the desert take 2 1/2 hours. Period. Last week, we tried to go to the Fall Festival at St. Andrews Abbey. Google Maps stated that it's 1 1/4 hours from my front porch. Maybe. If you don't get lost and drive intermidably around the desert for 90 minutes,

only, in the end, to find out that I am an idiot and had the dates of the festival wrong. Today, we tried it again. The car broke down.

Fortunately, AAA is as good as it's advertising; they came and picked up the car,

delivered us to Budget Car Rental,

and headed on down the freeway, back to the San Fernando Valley to drop the Lexus off at the dealership. I love the 100-mile towing option that I purchased just last year. Eric - it was his car - will deal with the repair tomorrow. But with new rental car in hand, we headed down the road to the Abbey. It was lovely there. Good food, good arts and crafts booths, beautiful surroundings. Singing priests and nuns, and dancing the Vespers at 4:30 pm. Maybe a few more priests, nuns, and monks than I'm comfortable with, but then again, it was held at a Monestary, so what did I expect?

Ethan asked an interesting question. "Do Monks sleep in their robes?" I doubt it, as their robes appeared to be very clean and pressed. And quite a different style than those worn at the Monestary in Santa Barbara where they are Franciscans. I guess it's a different tradition.
But then I started thinking, what exactly do they wear to sleep in? Pajamas? If so, are they plain, or do they have piping in obnoxious colors, or are they funny prints with fish or cows, hunting scenes or what-not on them? Or maybe they have replicas of their robes but in flannel? I have no idea, and, for once, I used the better part of discretion and did not ask. I do admit, though, that while I do not have the nerve to ask the Monks what their night attire is, my curiosity is piqued.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thank You

I'm really lucky in that I have some wonderful people in my life. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Faceless People

I think that anyone with an income who works in a large city has seen them. Or "not" seen them on purpose. The homeless. They sit on the sidewalks in varying states of decay. Addicts of one sort or another. The mentally ill. The down-on-their-luck. I've done it too. Walked right on by, purposly averting my eyes while feeling bad, pretending they don't exist.

After all, what can I do about it? I'm barely in a home myself. Having been saddled with medical issue upon medical issue upon medical issue, and the bills that just won't quit, I live in quiet despair. Trying to pay my own way and not making it without help. Incapable of putting in a full day's work, or even a partial day enough of the time to generate a sustainable income. I'm on to something with my creative endeavours, but don't have the health and energy to make anything out of them. I'm trying...

Yesterday was "Injection Day." The medication that I have been taking for the past eight weeks is weighing heavier and heavier upon me. Almost from the beginning, I noticed changes. Unpleasant changes. Not only in my physical state, but my emotional and intellectual ones too. I reported them to my doctors, but they never take the side effects that I report seriously. Hence the great Cyclosporine indicent of 2000.

The effects of the medication are cumulative, meaning that each time I give myself an injection, the side effects get worse and worse. The problem being, of course that it's working well on the base illness. It's the rest of it that I can't handle. And again, nobody takes it seriously, no matter what I say or do. "It's that pain-in-the-ass patient again, complaining."

I'm at a point of intertia where a good part of the day, I'm not functioning anywhere near a normal capacity. I've tried to maintain a normal routine... doctor's appointments, classes, exercise class. But making myself go and interact with people is something akin to pushing a toy that operates on a flywheel. I rev myself up and take off. I go and go and go, blurting out the most inanine comments at the most inopportune times. Irritating people. Offending people. Driving them crazy. And then crashing. Barely able to interact. Barely able to move. Making them feel bad.

Most people can't stand to be anywhere near me anymore. I can't say I blame them. I can't stand to be around myself either. I dread any activity that requires personal interaction. Or physical exertion. Or worst of all, both.

I injected myself early in the morning. Getting up at around 6 am, I dragged myself to the refrigerator where the Humira is stored. Pulled a syringe and alcohol wipe. (I tried to use the pen; this medication is unbelievablly painful to inject and I wasn't able to stand not being able to control the speed at which it went in, so syringe & needle it is.) Carried it to my bedroom where the dogs were still sleeping. And, over the course of the next two minutes, slowly dispensed the medication into my right thigh. And waited.

Within the hour, the first signs were well in progress. Shortness of breath. Chest pains. A fluttering feeling something akin to an electrical charge running down my limbs. I remembered Dr V's instructions... I was probably having a slight allergic reaction. "Take a Claritin." So I did. For what good it did. Which was none.
By 10:30, I knew I had to get up and moving. I abhor laying around all day if it's possible not to, so although I was dizzy and had a headache as well as the other issues, I forced myself into the shower, got dressed and made up, and by 11:30, headed out to my Weight Maintenance class. Where they could immediately tell that I was not myself. I was starting to crash emotionally as well as physically by the time I had arrived.
This particular group is not terribly demanding on my emotions, though. They study food with Lucy on a more intellectual level, and have the good sense not to bother with the emotional aspect. so although I wasn't a full participant, I could still keep up. I just wasn't terribly enthusiastic.

Getting home took almost 90 minutes thanks to I-have-no-idea-what-caused-the-traffic-jam on the 405 freeway. And I debated whether or not I should attend exercise class. Ultimately deciding that maintaining my normal routine was important, I got changed and headed out to Slimmons.

Richard is unbelievably accessable. He arrives 30 minutes before class every Tuesday to talk to his students individually, privately, in his office. I know that these sessions have helped many of us in ways that is hard to describe. They've definately helped me. But I also know that at this point, I am persona non-gratis, so instead of waiting in the lobby for a chance to talk to him, I hid out in the dressing room until class began. And wondered if I had made the right decision in coming at all.

It didn't take long to figure it out. It had been a mistake. I knew it when I started to flush and turn red. I knew it more as my chest got tight and I had trouble breathing. And I really knew it when, all of a sudden, I got a new pain. Intense pain in both of my kidneys. I stumbled out of the classroom and into the bathroom, where I sat for quite a while until it subsided from excruciating to severe. Then I moved out of the bathroom and sat on one of the dressing room benches for a few minutes.

S- came breezing in. I know that she is tired of my ever-present medical issues. Looking at me quickly, she said "I know that you would tell me if you needed help." with disapproval in her eyes, and ran back out before I could respond. (I can't blame her for her attitude. I almost never want help. And I can't say that I would have asked for it last night either.) I muttered "I need to get out of here." to myself, and dizzily made my way to my purse and bag, purposely averting my eyes so that I didn't have to look at anyone. After all, I don't trust them to do what I need. Just help me to my car so that I can go home. No. They over-react and call the Paramedics. That's expensive and the net result of the last Paramedic visit was about $25000 in bills between the call and a bazillion follow up doctor's appointments and tests. And we still have no idea what causes the fainting spells. I just don't have the financial where-with-all to bear any more bills like that.

So I made my way out of the studio as the class continued, and out the front door before it happened. My head suddenly pounded so hard that I became momentarily disoriented. I remember bouncing against the locked left door of Slimmons and sliding to the ground. They hadn't seen that, thank goodness, and I knew I was glad I was out of there so that they couldn't call the medics. And I sat and waited for the moment to pass. But it didn't.

I tried to get up, but when I would try to bear any weight on my limbs, they felt like an electrical charge was going through them - intensely painful - and I got even more dizzy. I realized that I did need help, and tried to crawl my way back into the studio. And couldn't make it, so I lay on the sidewalk hoping that somebody would see me and assist.

The problem with these issues is that although I can't communicate coherently, I am acutely aware of what's going on around me. I remember the two people walking by on the sidewalk, strangers. I couldn't reach out or say anything and they pretended they couldn't see me. So did the joggers; one coming from my right, and the other from my left. The first one moved into the street and then back onto the sidewalk to avoid me; the other actually jumped over me. And as I lay there, I realized that this was exactly what the homeless experience. Purposeful neglect.

I wish I could say that somebody eventually came and helped me, but they didn't. I lay there, the music from class blasting out of the door, and slowly recovered. I was finally able to sit up, and then stand up - barely - as the class was fetching their weights for toning exercises. I stumbled to my car, vomited in the street, and then sat in the back seat of my car for a while before transferring to the front where I sat for maybe another ten minutes. Then, recovered enough to operate my vehicle, turned on the ignition and drove home with no issue. I did think about going to the emergency room for a couple of minutes. But to what end? I'd be there for hours and hours and then they wouldn't help me. They never do.

I also wish I could say that I got some kind of revelation from this experience. That I am more empathetic to the homeless and down-and-out now, but I know that's not true either. I still can't do anything to help them. If I look at them as I pass, then I take on some personal responsibility for their plight, and I just can't. Can't. I don't have the reserves in any way, shape, or form to do so.

And I sit here wondering if there is some higher purpose for my experience. Believing that there is would imply that I believe in a higher power, which I don't. If I did, then I would have to be mighty angry and I just don't have the strength for that. And I would also be required to believe that there is hope for my situation, which there isn't. My doctors avert their eyes as I plead for them to find something in their bag of tricks to heal me.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Weight Denial, Once Again

My weight had gone up quite a bit by the beginning of August. In fact, I had been watching the numbers creep up with morbid fascination for a couple of months before that. One of the changes in me since joining with Richard and learning to deal with weight loss is to not ever skip a day of weighing in, no matter what I thought the scale was going to do. Sometimes it's been really hard to step on and deal with the report, but over time, I've learned that the best way to deal with a gain - or an impending one - is to face it head on.

It was hard for me to know what the issue was in the beginning. Whether it was the obstruction that I was dealing with (up eight pounds over the course of a couple of weeks, then suddenly overnight, dropping six as the obstruction passed), or real weight gain. But as I realized that the scale was zig zagging upwards, ever up, I was starting to realize I was having a real problem. And I wasn't dealing with it.

The day that turned the tide for me was when I was forced to put on a pair of pants in my closet that I hadn't worn for a while. They fit, but they were snug. Hardly how I remember them. But I had been avoiding wearing them for a while, knowing but not acknowledging the issue. It was time to evaluate my eating habits. Again.

And so I looked at my food sheets (I had still been keeping them during my gain, although I had not been appropriately accounting for portion size) and realized that there were two culprits in my diet. Too much bread. An almost constant flow of dried fruit. So I decided right then and there to cut the fruit completely out of my diet, and drastically reduce the bread. I did so by just deciding not to buy any more fruit (easier said than done at the beginning although it's now, again, becoming a matter of rote passing it by when visiting Trader Joes) and moving my bread from the refrigerator to the freezer. I won't deny that it was tough at the beginning; the sugar in those foods had me hooked again as it did when I was super-obese. But I perservered and I did fine.

The problem was that the scale was not dropping as I had hoped it would. I reported this frustration to Lucy at HMR (not at Slimmons where all they see is that I've maintained within reason and think that I have this maintenance thing down) who was very supportive of me. They deal with a lot of people who have lost significant weight there and are maintaining. My class, in fact, currently has 15 regular members who's weight losses and maintenance runs between 30 pounds and 120 pounds, excluding me (back to 210 pounds as of this a.m.) who lost with Richard. But that's neither here nor there.

Lucy is an incredibly smart and supportive woman. Never judgemental; her answers to our various issues are always thoughtful and on target. She advised me to keep with my food decision, then we mutually agreed that I was going to bump my vegetable & fruit intake up. (She is acutely aware of my health issues and doesn't press me on adding more exercise into my routine.) The weight eeked down ever so slowly. .4 pound. Another .3 pound. And this week, if something doesn't happen to totally throw me off of program, I will achieve what I thought I might not; I will actually weight-average below 150 pounds again! (I had gotten up to a single-day reading of 154 on the scale.) My actual weight was 148 this morning.

Every Friday, Lucy & HMR asks that we check in. Although I know that they would prefer a phone call, I'm not completely comfortable with that. I often need time to digest Lucy's suggestions so that I am not defensive about them and e-mail gives me the time that I need to do so. Additionally, I'm ashamed to admit, it's easier to acknowledge transgressions on a computer screen than to a live person.

Last week, I expressed my frustration that the scale wasn't moving down as fast as my calculations said it should, and she responded that I should consider having a body-fat analysis done. In fact, she could do it right there in the office as they maintained the equipment there. I did not respond. I needed time to think about it.
Lucy, in her wisedom, did not press the matter at the normal class on Tuesday. In fact we didn't speak of it at all. Instead, we focused on fiber and the Kashi Cookie that I had received for free over the internet. We all agreed that it was a bad choice and not a "healthy" snack at all, despite advertising claims. And I was given my assignment for the week: I was to try two whole-grain products. Oats, and brown rice. (I had tried Millit in class and liked it.
so today's check-in came up again, and I e-mailed early. Unfortunately, it was before I actually weighed in and found out that today's weight was something I had been waiting for. But I inquired more about the body-fat measuring process. How was it done? Was it in the tank of water, because that would be an immediate deal breaker.

No, Lucy assured me. It was done with some kind of special scale. But I was quite frank with her. I am not doing so well emotionally right now, and don't know if I can deal with the stress of the knowledge.
What if it comes back telling me to lose another 25 pounds? What if it tells me that I'm still obese? The first worry is a possibility although I don't intend to lose that much. Too much work. Intellectually, I know that the obesity question is ridiculous, but I'm responding to this more on a gut level.

So what does all of this this say about me? That I'm not over my old ways yet? That I'm still living in denial and because of it, I'm very subject to massive weight gain? Or is the fact that I'm dealing with the scale daily and recording my food and even managing to make the numbers go in the right direction - on purpose - enough to keep me on the right track?

I want to be an honest person, and honesty starts with one's self. But does that mean I have to face down what is an emotional nightmare right now or am I being honest enough? I'm truly not feeling strong enough to deal with information that may not be good. I wish I was a better person.

Palmdale, California

Eric & I decided to go to Valyermo with Ethan last weekend for the Fall Festival at St. Andrews Abbey. Located way out in the desert outside of Palmdale, we - of course - took a wrong turn and drove all over the desert for over an hour before figuring out what we had done.

But finally finding a gas station - or two, we righted ourselves out and made our way to the Abbey. There, we discovered that I was an idiot and that the festival did not occur until next weekend. But fortunately, Palmdale can be an amusing place so our almost-three-hour trip out there was not completely for naught.

Since we had planned to eat lunch at the Abbey, by the time we found out that the festival wasn't on and made our way back to Palmdale, we were pretty hungry. And assessed our choices for fare. We pretty promptly rejected Marisco's.

There's something about a restaurant that sells both Mexican Food and Teriyaki Bowls that arrouses my suspicion. Although you will note that the parking lot was full.

We quickly settled on Charlie Brown Farms.

Yes, those are dinosaurs you see in the parking lot. Something of a local landmark, it's not only famous for it's about a bazillion kinds of milk shakes. It's menu also serves exotic meats.

I was seriously tempted to order an Ostrich Burger, but in the end got a pulled CHicken BBQ Sandwich. Eric had the Hungarian Sausage.

Once lunch was done, shopping was in order. We took a look at the local roadside fruit stands,

and the fruit looked delicious, but they were selling it only by the crate, so it was a no-go. We briefly stopped by the "Village of Gnomes",

But everyone in there was so blue. Ah, yes, I'm getting Gnomes mixed up with Smurfs. They have them there too.

But then we found an Antique Store - that term antique being used very loosely - that appealed to us. For on the drive by, we could not miss the fact that they had a missle parked in front of the store.

The store itself was a disaster... layers of dirt and dust and grime covered everything inside the shed. But I did find a really cool cast iron skillet which I got to bring home for $10. I'll probably blog more on that once I clean and start to use it. Other stores similar in theme to the ones pictured here were also perused for hidden treasures. There weren't many, but we had the opportunity to visit and assess the desert lifestyle. I have to admit that it's a very amusing place to visit, but I certainly wouldn't want to live there.

The good news is that we had a very nice time. The better news is that we are planning to go back to the Abbey next week when the festival is actually on. This is an event that's been held for over 50 years and is quite large and famous. It will be worth a repeat attempt. And since all of Eric's children will be joining us next weekend (the price to get in is free; with just a $5 parking fee), I'm sure we will need to revisit the missle once again. I may pick up another cast iron skillet too.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How Are You?

Such a simple sentence. Just three words. But for those of us who are chronically ill and don't want the world to throw a pity party, this is such a loaded question.

Why does everyone want to know? Are they just being polite, or are they really interested? And if they are interested, why? Do they really care, or are they just curious?

How am I supposed to respond to this repeated inquiry? How do you tell someone that on the best days of your life, you still feel like crap. On the worst days and on many in between, you wish that you didn't exist any more. That you're always afraid to leave home for fear of what may happen while you're out. That you're tired of the inquiries and fake concern and especially of the Paramedics. And of the embarrassment of bodily functions gone awry in public settings.

Then, of course, there is the make-up aspect of the whole thing. Enough make-up, and a corpse looks good. So why is everyone so surprised that I can paint on a "look" and still feel the way I feel? I am like veneer on particle board. A fake cover to hide something of less than standard quality.

All I know is that everyone makes assumptions about me. In most cases, they don't have a clue and I don't even know how to explain it. I'm tired of the question, and I'm certainly tired of the answer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Handbags and Heartburn

Well, actually - ahem, no heartburn, but I present to you the greatest natural laxative that I have ever ingested. Works well, tastes good too.

And now, on a lighter note, I've finished up quite a number of projects although I still have a lot on my calendar. The most important one by far is my very first leather handbag.

I learned this technique from Shelly N at the Stitch Cafe; I know that the skills picked up here are going to serve me well into the future. And, by the way, if the purse looks a little familiar to you, take a close look. Remember my "Chameleon" necklace? I chopped it up and used it as an accessory on the handbag. I can always make another if the mood strikes me, but I like it where it's at for now. And this leaves me free to make new and more Unique Jewelry. More on that tomorrow.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Production Line Crafting

I used to think that artists had the cushy life. They got to do what they wanted; what they loved, on whatever schedule they chose. I was jealous because there's nothing I like to do better than to make things. But in the past six weeks or so, I've gotten an entirely new perspective on making "artwork" for profit.
With one set client, an item just completed and delivered for another, and a lot of other potential buyers out there... who are constantly making inquiries about my work, I'm suddenly feeling the pressure to produce. It's not that I didn't always have a drive; goodness knows that I've defied almost every social etiquette by knitting or spinning or doing something with my hands at pretty-much every event or gathering I attended. Give me five or ten minutes, and I will have something to show for it.
But this is different. I'm not making things just for myself or as gifts now. I'm making them to sell. And I'm suddenly realizing that Art is a business just as much as what I did in my former life. Except this is much more personal.
It's not that my clients are pressuring me to meet deadlines. In fact, with the exception of a piece that I delivered for a charity silent auction yesterday, they have told me to do this in my own time and not to worry or stress over it. But that's not my nature. When I have work to do, I want to get it done. And there are so many directions that I am pulled in all at once.
Start with the work space. I'd been working in my studio, which is well suited for Spinning yarn and weaving and knitting, but not so good for the beading or leather. I need a standard sized table to produce that with better lighting than is available. So I just set up one of my Freecycle tables under a window in my dining area where the lighting is excellent. And now, officially, the only room that is not permeated with my crafts is my bedroom. Unless you count my computer, which is my avenue to market myself and is located right next to my bed.

Then there is the number of items in progress at the same time. This piece will be a large pendant for a necklace. When the bead embroidery is complete, it will be glued to leather, then beaded around the edges for a cohesive look. After which, I will attach the necklace and fringe. It is part of a consignment order that I am working on; part of the new skill set that I picked up last weekend at my Myra Woods' Freeform Beading Class.

There is the leather handbag. I am sure that there are more leather works in my future because I find that not only am I enjoying the process, but I'm sure that the end result will be high-budget items that are eminently sellable. But the process is slow as I'm beading around the edges of all the leather applique now; and this piece, as my first, will be kept. Not only is there a sentimental attachment to it, but also there are mistakes in it as I learn the process. The next bag I put out will be way more perfect and I'll be more comfortable asking a good bit for it.

There is also The Red Scarf Project. Knit a scarf, send it in, and it will be forwarded to an Orphan who got through the foster care system and managed to get into college or trade school. Red Scarf because it will be delivered at Valentines Day as part of a larger package from the Foundation, but the scarf is due at their warehouse by October 15th.

And that's just the "creative" part of my current days. This morning, I also set up a shop on Etsy; "The place to buy and sell all things handmade." No, I have not listed anything there yet... I'll let you know when I do. But the account is established and that's a first step. I also set up a Premiere PayPal account, so I will be able to buy and sell, not only on Etsy, but wherever else the internet offers opportunity.
I guess all of this is good. The good stress, as we used to talk about it at my old job. But I'm finding out that stress is stress is stress. I need to look into avenues to release it. Maybe Yoga?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Myra Woods Freeform Beading Class

Last Saturday, I took an amazing "Freeform Beaded Button" class through the Southern California Handweavers Guild. Taught by Myra Woods, by the end of our class, we all ended up with bead-encrusted buttons. Myra is not only an extremely talented bead artist, but she is a wonderful teacher too. Personable, knowledgable, she made my experience fun as well as educational.
We all started out with the same materials. Several packages of beads. A plate. Needle & thread, cloth, embroidery hoop, and pencil.

We drew concentric circles on our cloth, and sketched out guidelines for our embroidery.

Myra taught us the four basic stitches for bead embroidery, and we were off! Once the button face was completed, we cut it out of the cloth...

and inserted it into the button form.

After making the button, and applying Myra's finishing techniques, look at what I ended up with!

I was initially a little surprised that my initial project turned out as well as it did. But I have to admit that I didn't come into this class as a complete beginner. 30 years ago, I was beading my jeans and cut-offs. Most of the work that I did in those days is long gone, but I do still own one pair of shorts...

Yes, they were Daisy Dukes. It was the 70s, and that's what we wore, except in those days, we called them Hot Pants. Myra's class was a joy to take. I would strongly suggest that, if you have a bent for crafts and she is in your area, you should register to take anything she teaches. You will come out with new skills, but also you will gain an appreciation for beads in general and for the artistic process.
In the Los Angeles Area, you can catch Myra's classes at the Stitch Cafe or check her web site for additional opportunities. She also teaches knitting, crochet, and embroidery.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


At the end of last year (2006), Richard began talking to his class about making New Year's Resolutions. As I am with many of his ideas, I was resistant. To me, the kinds of promises that people make to themselves are generally dumb. They're open ended, hard to monitor, and difficult to keep... Like "I want to lose weight." I mean, how do you make a promise like that to yourself? How much weight? In what amount of time? How do you measure this goal? And what if life's circumstances get in the way? Resolutions were built to be broken as I saw it.

But he kept talking to us, and come December 31st, I had decided that I would make some. After all, I usually work well off of lists. And so it came to be that I recorded the following commitments on the front page of my 2007 Dayplanner:

1. I will decide what my goal weight is and get to it.
2. I will host a minimum of four gatherings in my home this year.
3. I will propose my feature column idea to "X" Magazine this year.
4. I will take a minimum of four classes in any subject this year.
5. I will take a trip to someplace this year, no matter how small.
6. I will see the Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles this year.
7. I will sell at least 10 craft items this year.
8. I will get W-'s script to S- this year.

Some of these tasks were either fun or funny, others were very difficult to either do or achieve. All of them were good for me, though.

Probably, the two hardest to complete were the weight goal issue and the script. Both of them required quite a bit of thought and nerve. Although I often come across as confident, assertive, and at times even aggressive, I am actually very timid and shy by nature. My persona is something that amazes even me. I often think that it's the "equal and opposite reaction" that is supposed to be sparked by the action; or in my case, inaction.
I visited the page that I had recorded my resolutions on often. And over time, realized that several of them were taking care of themselves. The trip? My fiber conference last March. (Provided link to Conference 2009.) The magazine? I got the nerve to send off my query letter on the spur-of-the-moment one afternoon several months ago. It's a good idea, and whether they accept it or not, I'm glad that I sent it in.

The Gatherings? Just seemed to happen. So I started recording the dates that I either did parts or completed the entire project next to the line item, and as I completed them, I highlighted them in purple. And with a list in action, I correspondingly went into action.

The weight goal? I ultimately decided that I was already there; that it was just too hard to keep on losing and that I didn't want to put the sustained effort into both losing the amount in question, and then keeping it off.
The script? Definitely the hardest one for me as I was acting as an intermediary for two people that I really like and respect, and if things went terribly wrong, I could lose both of these friends. I can honestly say that had it not been written down and committed to, I may never have gotten the nerve to get it finished. But it happened and although it did not have a classicly happy ending, there's still light at the end of that tunnel and both of my friends are fine with me.

The craft items took care of themselves. I was selling my pouches at the begining of the year; and then my jewelry business started taking off, and the number was blown out of the water.

And the classes just seemed to happen too. As I started learning about more things, my curiosity and drive to expand my skills took over and I completed class number's 4 and 5 this week. And have more scheduled in the next few.

So that just left the Cathedral, and Eric was a wonderful sport and took me there this morning. I have proof that we visited, too. Both of my dogs now sport Saint Frances Medals for Dogs that were for sale in their gift shop. And I have a tin of "Fish Tarts," a candy similar to Sweet Tarts except that they are in the shape of a fish and every tin comes with a bible phrase inside.

So now that I've completed all the tasks I set out for myself this year, the question came to mind: Do I need to set some new ones to complete before 2008? And after due consideration, I've decided that I do not.
The wheel of production and progress was set in motion by Richard nine months ago, and although I had severe reservations about the process when I started it, I realize now that he was so right. Having that written list spurred me to complete everything that I had set out for myself because I could not conveniently "forget" it, only remembering at the end of the year with regret.

And I've already started making my Resolutions for Year 2008.

1. I will get a booth and show my product line in at least one trade show next year.
2. I will attend at least one event in the Disney Hall at the Music Center next year.
3. I will visit the Gift Shop at the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office next year.

To be continued...

Friday, September 7, 2007

Projects Old and new

As a newly budding Artisan, I need to watch for any and all opportunities that come up. I'm willing to try and make almost anything, and know that almost anything can be made with a little time, patience, and perhaps a class. Enter the Stitch Cafe in Valley Village (formerly known as North Hollywood).

Stitch Cafe is well spoken of within my fiber arts circle. It's known for it's friendly ambience, supurb and unique stock, and wide range of classes. I've been meaning to check it out for years, but had never actually made it there. Until yesterday.

I needed to learn how to work with leather in order to pursue a potential lead. But had no idea where to even find a class. And then one came to my e-mail! "Learn to make a leather bag..." it proposed. And I was very excited. Until I realized that the class was held the day before I had actually opened this particular piece of information. My bad. But a couple of calls first to Stitch Cafe, and then the fabulous teacher Shelley Neimorow, garnered what I needed. A class! And they were very accomodating; scheduling it during the week and a private session to boot.

Leather is way easier to work with than I would have imagined. In my mind there were huge rotary blades to cut it with, and awls to make holes, and an industrial sewing machine to hold the pieces together. We used none of that.

The first thing we did was cut out the main pieces of the bag. That was simple as choosing a piece of garment leather (very soft) and cutting it with a pair of sewing shears.

Once the pieces were cut, we punched holes with a Gromet Punch.

We laced the bag up using a thong that we also had cut from the leather.

Then it was time to embellish the piece. The glue we used, surprisingly, is available at JoAnne's Crafts.

A shoulder strap was cut, braided, and attached, then we realized that "Chameleon," a necklace that I just happened to be wearing, fit the piece beautifully. I quickly made the decision to cut it up and use it on the purse. And that, sadly, was the end of the class.

But not of the project, of course. I came home, cut Chameleon and glued it to the piece, and now I am beading the edges of the embellishment leather. The beading is a long process, mainly because it's hard to sew beads on such a tough fabric. I actually ended up buying a new thimble today, just because i think I'm close to fully penetrating the index finger of my right hand with the needle. And now I have a quandry.

There's nothing better that I'd like to do than keep on working on my handbag. At this point, I'm sure it's going to be absolutely gorgeous, and probably worth a fortune too, if I'd ever sell it which I wouldn't. (I can envision future bags for sale, though.) And since I won't sell this piece and it's therefore not revenue generating, and since I can see that the beading may take several days to complete, can I justify working on this piece when I have commission projects to do? I even have one that is about half way done!

And then, of course, there's that mountain of laundry awaiting me in my closet.

That also has to be attended to. So how to budget my time? And I can't just put it off until tomorrow. I have yet another class to attend, this time with Myra Woods at the Southern California Handweavers Guild. We will be learning freeform bead embroidery. It will take the better part of the day.
So I think I'm going to have to start with a list. Figure out what's pressing and when each item has to be finished. And how many hours it will take to complete, and budget my time from there.

Who would think that, in my world, there would be too much to do?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

We Sound Out in Disapproval

There are many things in this world that Cosmos does not approve of. Improper programming on his television. The Sky. The Phone. People who pass by without stopping to pet him. A grasshopper farting 3 blocks away. But never - before today - has my Cosmos disapproved of anything being cooked in the kitchen.

"What is that awful substance that can bring forth such anger?" you ask.

Behold the scourge of Air Pop Popcorn!

* * * * * And now for a Public Service Announcement

Hamlin Street Elementary School is located in West Hills, CA. As part of the Los Angeles School District, it suffers from a chronic shortfall of funds. The rooms and playground are old and antiquated, and it shows it's almost-60-years of age. Yet it provides a sound education for many students, including my nephew.

Many of the students that attend at Hamlin are new immigrants to the United States and have to learn English as a Second Language on-the-fly during school hours. Even more of the students are from middle class homes where both parents have to work just to get by.

This is not a school that has a lot of clout within the School District because the parents don't have the ability or time to be politically active. Or to participate in school fund raisers. So it is languishing. Last year, the situation there was bad enough that the administration needed to take money out of the General Education Fund because they did not have enough money in the Custodial Fund to keep the lavatories clean. Yup. That's right. They had to make the tough decision to buy fewer books and supplies so that they could buy soap to wash the bathrooms.

You can help this school, and it won't cost you a cent. If you have a couple of minutes, may I ask that you click on, designate Hamlin Street Elementary School as your fund recipient, and just do a search or two on the Internet through it? (If I did the link correctly, Hamlin will probably automatically pop up on your screen.) Every time you do a search, Hamlin's PTA receives a penny.

I know that it doesn't sound like a lot of money, but it only costs a few dollars to keep this school in cleaning supplies. Or to provide cold water to the kids on a brutally hot day. (Like the 113 degree temperatures that we've been enduring for the past 10 days.) Or to buy a box of kleenex or Bandaids for when the kids fall down and scrape themselves on the original baked-to-a-crisp blacktop that they have no choice but to play upon. We'd all thank you for your help.

Monday, September 3, 2007


The other night, I hosted a dinner at my condo. The guests of honor were Genora, Rick, & Marsha, aka my dog's Godparents. They are the rescue group of people from whom I adopt my dogs.
We talked about many things including the social issues that my dogs had when they came to live with me. The problem with Cosmos, as I explained, was that he was a 3 1/2 year old dog, but he had never emotionally grown up from puppyhood..

A full-fledged puppy in an adult sized dog is not attractive. Cosmos would swarm me and climb up me like a puppy in a 60+ pound body. He would lick me at a furious puppy rate of speed. He would clamor for me and follow me and react like a being who was holding on to a lifeline for dear life. And I put up with it, hoping that he would settle down over time.

He did. It took a couple of years, but he became a dog. A weird and eccentric dog who is attached to me to a degree that I've seen out of few canines. My Momma's Boy. But a whole lot easier to deal with and love than teeth and claws scrambling all over you.

Rick commented about Cozie from before I knew him that has been both thought-provoking and disturbing all at the same time. Apparently, he thought that my puppy-theory made sense because Cosmos had been very disconnected from all the other dogs at the rescue. For whatever reason, he did not travel in their circles, and did not emulate their ways. And as he stalled out socially and emotionally, he became part of the unwanted, even within the canine social order.

Rick and Genora were curious about why I adopt the dogs that I do. I ask for the most abused, unhealthy animals. The ones that nobody wants, "who need me the most." Why do I do that? And I just muttered that it's something that I've always done. But that answer was certainly evasive. Because the truth is I do it because I know exactly how it is to be the unwanted one. Unworthy of anyone or any thing. Defective. Different. Inept.

There is a different psychology to those of us who have topped the 300 pound mark. That there's a similar disconnection to society that Cosmos experienced. I know it to be true in at least my case, and I've seen it in people who I am close to who also lost similar amounts of weight. We all seem to be experiencing the same type difficulties relating to our peers now that we're in a "normal" weight range.

For me, I knew that I was not of a normal cast quite early. Probably by 1st grade. Issues of family and health set me apart; so did my interests when I was brave enough to express them. But that was actually a rare event, as I was already ostracized and teased mercilessly by both family and social peers and desperately and unsuccessfully tried to hide my nature to fit in. And because I didn't know that the lies were transparent, the problem became worse. To the point that the only beings I could befriend and depend on were furry ones. They would accept me no matter how I was. And as my peers were maturing and changing and growing up, I was left behind and even more isolated than ever.

I started a cycle of hurting myself with food and in other ways that I won't discuss here. Psychologists would probably interpret it as a cry for help, but I don't believe that. I simply felt that unworthy of living, and needed to punish myself for my existance. And then was punished and ostrasized more by family for the actions (I had no friends at all by this point) and the cycle escalated. I won't repeat the names that I was called, or some of the physical action that was taken against me. But it can bring me to tears even now.

I tried to fix things in my mid 20's. I lost a lot of weight on Optifast, and peers reacted to me in a very positive way. But I didn't believe them; I didn't know how I was supposed to act or behave. And as health issues became prevalent in my life and discomfort with new social situations that I should have been experienced and dealt with as a teenager started coming up, I felt even more terrible about myself. I eventually re-isolated, and let my manifest destiny take over. I became completely alone - again - and gained massive amounts of weight.
Fast forward to four-and-a-half years ago. I was a morbidly obese woman well on the path to becoming a shut in. I had been in therapy for years (I must have been incredibly frustrating to my Psychologist) and suddenly found myself amongst the disciples of Richard Simmons. It was a logical next-step to a journey that I started when I entered therapy, and although I was not receptive to the idea or reality of weight loss when I began, I suppose that on some level I must have been, because the message was received and I lost quite a bit of weight. And learned how to do the "hot chick" routine with my appearance (hair and make-up), and the social order under which I believed the world functioned shattered.

You would think that everything was a "Happily Ever After" at this point, but of course, reality dictated that it was not. I missed quite a bit of the social education that every Junior High School girl gets. I accept that some of my differences are, in fact, desirable qualities. And that my new-and-improved appearance does count and makes a difference; that the world as a whole treats me better. But it's still tough to be "eccentric" And I continue to struggle along.

I'm suddenly feeling very isolated from the world again, and in a way that's hard to quantify. It's difficult to express my thoughts and feelings and desires; and my friends don't get that things are not quite right. I suppose that's because I've gotten the "fitting in" act down better than when I was a child, or maybe it seems that I always embrace my actions and activities that are different, but then again, maybe not. Because a lot of the people that I would most like to associate with don't seem to have the time of day for me anymore. And I don't know if it's because they are having a hard time with my new look, or more likely, they're feeling how uncomfortable I am in my own skin, and are responding in kind.

And I don't know if my discomfort is because of my ineptitude and insecurity, or if the external pressures that I'm currently facing are coloring the world.

I wonder if Cosmos ever feels this way? At those moments when he's extra clingy and driving me crazy, is it because he knows that he's different too, and he needs the kind of elusive reassurance that neither of us seem to find? Does he feel inadequate? Are dogs capable of feeling that way? I don't know, but I think I'm going to go hug him now.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Ian's Big Night Out

Last night was Ian's first night in his seven years away from home. He's came for a sleep-over at my home!
He'd been preparing for this event for several weeks. We've conferred about Sunday Morning Breakfast early last week. Eric's kids like chocolate chip pancakes, so I asked Adele if she thought Ian would like them too. "Oh yes." she assured me. And advised that he would like chocolate syrup and whipped cream on them too.

With pancake mix in hand (a gift from Eric out of his box of mix, along with chocolate chips & handwritten instructions how to make them), I planned to pick up the chocolate syrup and cream on Satuday afternoon. It was a good thing that I waited. Ian found out about our plans and gave me a concerned call. He did not want chocolate syrup on his pancakes. He wanted maple syrup. But he still wanted the chocolate chips and whipped cream too. (Can we all say Diabetic Coma together?)

I asked him if it would be ok for him to have pancakes and me to have eggs. "That would be fine, Aunt Laura." he replied. "I don't find the smell of eggs repugnant." Repugnant? But when I asked if it would be ok for me to scramble them with tomato and onions, he replied that "That's just plain gross. Tomatoes and eggs don't go together." (I'm screwed.)

So I picked up a bottle of real maple syrup from Trader Joes, and whipped cream from the market. And even before I had took care of that that, Ian called to confer with me about the night again. We discussed what we were going to do. I suggested the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica because they have gigantic dinosaur topiaries there, but Daddy was a bit nervous about that idea so Mommy & I agreed that we would make a threesome of it another night (or day) while Daddy was at work. Ian and I decided that we would just spend the night in.

Then, I got a call from Adele a couple of days ago, giggling. Apparently, we were not just going to relax. She had found a written schedule that Ian had been working on for our activities.

7:00 pm - Feed dogs biscuits.
7:01 pm - Weave for five minutes.
7:06 pm - Watch "The Last Mimzy."
8:30 pm - Play with dogs.

Sounded like my boys were not going to get much rest. And they didn't! :) Ian believes in leashing them up and escorting them around my condo. They, being the gentle souls that they are, went along with it, even past the point of doggie exhaustion.

Of course, there was dinner. Our initial plans were for Ian to come over after dinner because I didn't want to chance cooking something for him that he wouldn't like. But as fate would have it, I was left with a lot of garlic bread after another dinner that I hosted here on Friday night. Ian's favorite food. So he came early enough for the evening meal. Garlic bread with a side of Spaghetti with "Pizza Sauce." Not spaghetti sauce, because he doesn't like that. "Pizza Sauce."

And so the evening progressed.:

Cosmos models one of my multitude of plastic spiders. No Mommy, it wasn't one of the ones. Photograph by Ian.

Ian sets the table for dinner...

Learns how to grate cheese. Parmesan for the spaghetti...

And the pasta of choice for the evening is Garlic Parsley Fettuccini! Somebody has sophisticated tastes for being only seven.

The evening repast. From left to right, Garlic Bread - Pasta - Salad. Only one of us ate the salad and it wasn't the child in the picture.

Sunday morning, ready to go to the Farmers Market.

Ian had a surprise for Mommy when she came to pick him up. We made special ice cubes on Saturday night with plastic spiders submerged in them. The plan was to offer Mommy a cold glass of water with ice in it when she arrived. At 112 degrees in the San Fernando Valley, there was no question that she would accept.

For the record, Ian was worried that Mommy would be mad about the prank, so he made sure that she knew that I started it. Yes, Mommy, it was my idea.

And Ian, just in case you're reading... Remember how to get the circumference of a pumpkin?

(Answer: Pumpkin Pi)


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