Saturday, December 29, 2007

Rearranging my Living Room

From time to time, the urge to rearrange my home overcomes me. Generally, I have no advance warning, did no planning of furniture or art placement, and just go at it. It's been a couple of years since I did anything significant in my living room... since the delivery of my floor loom for which I needed to make space in my studio. But yesterday morning, I got out of bed, stretched, padded into the kitchen, and without even getting washed or dressed, let alone feeding the dogs, started moving things around.

The formerly-sofa-table is now under the needlepoint in my 'entryway.'

The corner where we put Claudia's bed is virtually untouched. Note, though, Ian's castle on one of the chairs. He is coming next Wednesday morning to paint it.
I like how this section came out. Museum-artsy-funky look. And despite the number of pieces in this small space, it doesn't look overcrowded. Except for the basket of Sunny's dog toys which will be dealt with.
The new arrangement of the major seating. A more traditional layout. It's been years and years since I had the sofa under the window. I moved it away shortly after Sunny's arrival. If you look closely, you can see some dark patches on the blinds behind it. That's where Sunny used to get angry and mangle the slats. Hence the sofa-on-a-diagonal-away-from-the-window look that we formerly embraced.
As with any furniture arranging when you're dealing with constrained and cookie-cutter spaces, there are parts that I really like and parts that I like not so much. This is the less enjoyable space. The new 'entryway.' It's a little tight for my comfort. But since I spend most of my time either in my unit or out of it, I can live with the space.
All of these pieces were given to me by people who I care(d) for a great deal.

This box was a gift from my parents when I was 10 years old. We were in San Francisco's Chinatown. Although it's not anything that's uncommon, I still love it.
I made this needlepoint in 1994 into 1995 while living up at my parent's home after I lost my own during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. I started it during a time of extreme illness and worked on it night and day for almost seven months. The picture does not tell of the detail or the large size of the piece.
I did this needlepoint shortly after moving back home in July of 1995.
This is the second needlepoint that I ever did... when I was in my early 20s.

This piece - Coming Home - is an extrordinary gift (about 2 1/2 feet high) given to me by my good friend, Sandy Burstein. She is a world class artist and her site is well worth visiting. When she gave me the statue, we placed it and my immediate comment was "he needs a hat." She went home and brought the hat and the necklace over so he would not be naked.


Tehachapi. Doesn't even sound like a real word, does it? Yet it's a place... a real place, some 2 hours north of Los Angeles.

Eric & I found ourselves driving out there last Thursday because he was taking his 2nd son, Ethan, to Winter Skateboarding Camp. I'm not sure whether he had ever been there before... I had though and knew what to expect. A mountain town. Not exatly poor, but not like Los Angeles with it's high cost of living. Farms abound, and the city itself is very managable.

We started early in the morning, with the 11:30am deadline to arrive and all. Everyone who drives north up I-5 out of LA knows when we're leaving the city... the California Aqueduct boasts a short stretch where it channels some of the water down a waterfall. It used to be lit up at night... I don't know if they still do that as I don't live in a part of the San Fernando Valley that can view it anymore. But it's still a landmark. Like comfort food to me.

A little farther out of town and I'm reminded that this city is still built on a desert. Without the water that we plunder with abandon from other parts of the country, we would not be green and lush. We had to travel quite a distance over the Mojave Desert to get to our destination.

The Mojave's greatest claim to fame is being the home of Edwards Air Force Base. It may sound familiar, and it should. For the first many years, NASA's Space Shuttle Program used to use solely it to land the Shuttles. Mainly because they wanted to land them where, if there was a major mishap, there wasn't a large population. I think they chose the right spot.

Although the shuttle now lands in Florida as it makes so much more economic sense to do so, Edwards is still a back-up location when the weather is inclement there.

The city of Mojave is proud of it's association with the Air Force Base. It's small and looks quite poverty striken although it could be a typical desert town too. I just don't know. I've never done anything except pass through. Quickly.

For obvious reasons.

For although the sign boasts of being an Oasis, it doesn't fit my personal image of such.

Once through Mojave, we turn off of the main highway and head to Tehachapi. It's an interesting drive, for me mostly because of the windmills generating electricity. Put in place and formerly managed by Enron (yes, THAT Enron), I don't know who is in charge of them these days. They line the hillsides for quite a way and are hypnotic in nature. The only other place where I've seen them is enroute to Palm Springs.

Tehachapi and it's surrounding communities are quite picturesque. Covered bridges...

Horse Theif Parks...

and farmland abound.

But of course, wherever I go where there are people involved, I find something to make me laugh. We're not in the south, but I'd put money on there being a lot of people in that particular community that do shoot. And I'm not talking photography either.

We had lunch in a restaurant in the Tehachapi Historic district. It's actually kind of a cute artsy-fartsy type of block, but we knew we needed to eat at Kelcey's.

Where the Walmart Greeter get's his training before moving up to the big time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Starting Over

Well, Christmas is past and it's time to assess the weight damage. At the beginning of last week, the scale read 151 and I was OK with it. Not the 148 that I like to be at, but a respectable number. But in the past few days, it's zoomed up quite a bit. I know that there are some body-function issues going on here that are influencing the number, but that some of the increase is well deserved. Those french fries at the bowling alley... the truffles and chocolate covered sunflower seeds. The Chicken Pot Pie that I made for Eric's family for Christmas yesterday.

I'd still guess that most of the weight is undeserved and will pass in a few days (I can feel the symptoms of a major obstruction going on inside) but if I am to be honest with myself - and I mostly am, I don't really know that to be the case. You see, for the first time in years, I did not keep food sheets. For three whole weeks! I'm not sure exactly what I've consumed in that time frame and those little boogers really do make a difference to me, keeping me aware of my habits and behaviors. I don't know if I was lazy or if not keeping them was avoidance behavior, but I started them up again two days ago and am not happy about what I am recording.

Don't get me wrong. If I assess this holiday season, I actually did do a lot of things right.

1. I exercised. Not the 2000 calories-per-week that HMR recommends. Not every day as Richard recommends. But I rarely get all that in, even when I am doing well with the program. Health issues make me afraid. But I was out there doing things and it counts.

2. I got on the scale each and every day. Never was there even a question of not climbing on. No, I did not and do not like the results, but I am not going into total avoidance. I know what the numbers are doing and knowledge is power.

3. I made a point of having at least one healthy meal each and every day.

4. I attended all of my weight maintenance classes at HMR. And was perfectly honest with Lucy about my food sheet issues. And my weight crisis.

5. I kept going to therapy appointments, even though I did not want to deal with the issues that are currently coming up.

6. I dealt with some emotional and social issues that were devastating rather than stuffing them inside and eating over them.

All of this is a very big deal. Most people don't want to deal with issues of weight at all during this time of the year, and I kept up some significant behavior patterns that will help me get back on track.

But I also have to look at some of the behaviors that I did not maintain and now need to get back into place.

1. I need to get a minimum of 5 vegetables and fruits per day into my diet.

2. I need to prepare my vegetables in advance so that I don't have to start with the chopping process when I am hungry. When I am hungry enough, I will grab anything (like a loaf of bread) rather than take the time to cook if it's not ready to go.

3. I need to keep steamed vegetables and prepared rice-cous cous in my home for fast eating options.

4. I need to keep junk food out of my home.

5. I need to re-stock my sauces and marinades.

6. I need to make a point of grabbing pieces of fruit at pre-determined times of day so that my hunger is always manageable.

7. I need to do some kind of exercise 7 times per week. Exercise class 3 times. Walk the dogs a minimum of 3 times. Stepper routine a minimum of 3 times.

8. My artisan pursuits have become very sedentary with the advent of beading. I need to get something onto my loom to work on in the evenings. That is a very physical activity.

9. I need to keep salad pre-made in my refrigerator.

10. I need to keep my refrigerator and pantry fully stocked with healthy foods.

Early this morning, I got up and got on the scale. Oy. I knew that I needed to do it anyway, but as a result of the number, instead of going back to bed, I immediately went to the kitchen and started going through my pantry and refrigerator and freezer, looking for problem foods. I pulled out two grocery bags full of stuff that needed to go into the garbage. Today. Immediately.

The ironic thing is that getting rid of most of it was not a problem. The only thing that presented an issue was the Chocolate covered Sunflower Seeds (Jack Scat) that were in my freezer. I thought, as I pulled them out, that I would put them into the place in my pantry that I keep foods (like sugar & nuts) that I want around but don't want to eat all the time. For some reason, that one location (right hand corner at knee level) seems to be a place that I won't binge out of. But as I pulled the seeds out, I immediately started shoveling them into my mouth. I quickly realized that there was no way that I was going to keep them in my home and not go through them quickly. I put them into the garbage and buried them.

Then, even though I had just consumed I-don't-know-how-many calories worth of junk, I realized that if I let that one behavior dictate my food choices for the day, I would end up having one more day of junk-food reactionary eating. So I decided right there and then that I would eat a somewhat healthy and light breakfast and eat the rest of the day like the event never happened. So I chopped up an apple and threw it over a bowl of Special K. And feel like I've started over.

I know that the next weeks are going to be rough. I've maintained my weight within reason now for almost two years. That's about the time frame in my 20s that I kept it down before things started going awry. But I am a different person than I was then. I am way more willing to deal with the issues that are bothering me and address my personality deficits. And I pledge to myself that I will deal with this too.

I am not going back from where I came

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Los Angeles is often a punch line for jokes. Artificial... superficial... La La Land. And as I've watched many of my friends move to other parts of the country, I occasionally wonder why I stay here.

Of course there are the obvious reasons. Family. And my medical issues tie me to health institutions that offer the kind of options (hope) that few places in the country - indeed in the world - do. Limiting reasons.

But then there is the other side of Los Angeles. Cultural. Artsy. Affluent. A stew of different types of people.

A number of years ago, a friend from a smaller city in the the midwest and his family came out on vacation. We got together for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Marina del Rey. After catching up on all the gossip, we turned to the subject of L.A. Why do I like to live here. What is the best thing about Los Angeles? What is the worst thing about Los Angeles?

It was easy to come up with the answers. The best thing? The diversity of people, activities, and options. Whatever you want to do, wherever you want to go, whatever culture you would like to experience from any part of the world is available here. Just jump into your car and drive and I can find pockets of people who's way of living is far different than my own. Who welcome me into their community and are willing to share their belif systems and culture with me.

The worst? The diversity of people. Los Angeles is running out of space, and when you have as many different kinds of people living in a restricted space as we do, it can foster suspicions and distrust. We can - at times - be a pressure cooker of experiences and without room to move away and consider the other's point of view, angry behavior born of lack of understanding can errupt.

But last night, I was lucky enough to experience the best side of Los Angeles. Each year on Christmas Eve, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors give the people of this city a "Christmas Gift." An experience of music and dance and song in the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion at the Los Angeles Music Center. All free of charge. Broadcast on Southern California PBS stations from start (3pm) to finish (9pm), anyone can attend... coming and going as their schedules and desires require.

Families, old couples, the young. The single people with noplace to go all converged at the Music Center for this year's 48th Annual LA Holiday Celebration.
It consists of a sampling of various performances from all the cultures that this city has to offer. Most acts lasting between 5 and 15 minutes. And it showcases one of the best things that LA has to offer. Incredible entertainment. Co-existance in peace and love.

With the Motion Picture studios located here, everyone seems to be an actor or a singer or dancer or musician. And all amazingly talented. Even pick-up groups have a professional air about them. And most of the acts that we saw last night were far more than casual.

What a nice evening. I so look forward to next year's event. Only 364 days to go.

Happy Holiday!

Monday, December 24, 2007


It's almost 4pm here in Los Angeles... Eric has come and gone since Ian left for the day, and I'm about to get ready for this evening's festivities. I will be accompanying Adele, Steve, and of course, Ian down to the Dorthy Chandler Pavillion for their annual Christmas Eve Concert. Simucast on KCET (PBS) in Los Angeles, it is a free event. The acts are too numerous to count, but they get better and better as the day goes on. We're leaving from my home around 5:30 this evening and expect to be there through the end at 9. How I'm ever going to make it that long is beyond me, but I'm a-gonna try. But I digress.

When I last left my story of Ian's overnight visit, I was signing off so that I could start a pillow. I actually read that line aloud to him as I was typing, so he was standing on my bed, armed and ready when I pushed the "Publish" button. We battered each other from one end of the condo to the other. Ian learned - I think - a very important strategy for fighting with pillows. It is very helpful to hold the pillow from the open end and hit with the closed. He was holding the case on the wrong side and his pillow came flying out during that particular skirmish. I must have hit him 10 times before we paused to re-stuff his pillow into his case.

He had announced earlier in the evening that his normal bed time was 9:15 pm, but because he was staying here, he was going to stay up until 10:15. (His decision. I would have let him stay up as long as he liked.) He was planning to get up at 6:15 the next morning so that he could get dressed and brush his teeth before Zoboomafoo(heck if I know if the spelling is correct) came on PBS. And so I helped him make his bed,

he got changed into night clothes, the dogs visited him in bed,

and we cuddled and talked a little while before he fell asleep.

No problem. Or so I thought.

I have a hard time falling asleep. My first mistake was somewhere around midnight. Ian appeared to be out cold, so I crawled into my own bed and softly turned on my 13" tv to fall asleep by. Ian sat bolt upright. "No TV" he announced. Grumpily. OK. But the damage was done. He started crying and talking about how he hadn't slept at all since he got here and how he was not going to sleep the rest of the night. I asked if he wanted to cuddle again... "Yes" he said.

He fell asleep and I was just falling asleep when he woke up again. Around 1am. Crying again about how he was never going to fall asleep and that the room was too hot (I turned down the heat at his request) and how the ceiling fan was not on high enough (I turned it up to the highest speed), but things were still not good. His air mattress was not like his bed at home. So I invited him up into my bed to sleep. He accepted. And so there were three of us in the bed. Me. My regular bedmate Cosmos. And Ian. We cuddled again for a little while, and Ian fell asleep. I eventually did to.

Around 4 am, I awoke. Between Ian and Cosmos, I had been compressed into a spot on my mattress about the size of a frisbee. I was still stiff from bowling the night before and now was in some significant pain. So I quietly got out of bed and padded into the kitchen, there to consume a few advil. And came back to bed again.

Ian was wide awake. Complaining about how he hadn't slept the whole night. Kicking me and tossing. Crying a little. Then, singing to Cosmos. Christmas Carols with a few Hanukah songs thrown in for good measure. And not just singing to him. He lifted Cosmos's ear flap up and was crooning directly into the poor dog's ear canal. Not exactly what Cozie was hoping for at that time of night. If you could have seen the look that dog gave me...

Ian was wide awake. Decided that he needed to go to the bathroom. Closed the door. And I remembered that I had planted the Fart Machine in back of the toilet the prior evening. Pushed the button and set it off. But instead of getting Ian to laugh, he just got mad. Came back into the bedroom and fell over Sunny who was sleeping in the aisle by the bedroom door. Sunny screamed, Ian protested and then cried. Climbed back into bed. And so it was three bumps on a log (or mattress) again.

Around 5:30 am or so, Ian decided to get out of bed and go watch TV in the other room. Fine with me. He disappeared... now it was just Me and Cosmos. I tried to sleep, but Ian appeared at my bedside again, complaining that the TV was just a blank screen. I got up and discovered that the cable box had been turned off, fixed it, and went back to bed. At 6am he showed up again. Apparently his 5:30 am show was over. He didn't like the 6 o'clock programming, so he came to see what I was doing. (Sleeping, or trying to.) Announced that if it was 6 PM instead of am, PBS would be broadcasting BBC World News. Went over to sing into Cosmos's ear again. And in my sleep-deprived haze, I heard him making some kind of deal with Cosmos. I'm not sure quite what the deal was and I asked him. "None of your business, Aunt Laura" he retorted. Whatever. It was a deal with a dog. A very tired dog. One who had been sung to directly into his ear canal for the better part of 12 hours.

Ian left the room again, and I thought that I was going to get a few minutes to myself. But no... at 6:15, the alarm went off, just as we had programmed it the evening before. Ian came back to investigate. I lay there like I was dying. I was.

Once Ian was satisfied, he disappeared again. I was too tired to see what he was up to. And as it turns out, he was getting dressed and brushing his teeth as he has promised. He came back to me at 6:30 to let me know that he was now turning on the TV again. Zoboomafoo (or whatever it was) was on.

I got about 40 minutes of sleep while Ian watched his show before he came back to me to let me know he was bored. It was time to feed the dogs and then get breakfast. And so I gave up and got up.

We walked to Mort's Deli down near Ventura Blvd.

Ian had only walked to breakfast once in his life before this (while on vacation in San Diego... to Denny's) and was very concerned whether or not Mort's had pancakes. I told him that I was pretty sure that they did, but if not, we would continue on to Carrow's where I knew for sure they were served.

We walked under a freeway overpass... Ian liked it.

Actually, I kind of like to walk under them too. Lots of echos. And then walked another couple of blocks until we arrived at the restaurant. Yes, they did have pancakes, so we took a seat and Ian ordered the short stack.

I asked him how he liked them. "They're just like Denny's except warmer" he replied.

We stopped at the market to buy some parsley and then at the vaccum store to get a new belt on the way back home.

Arrived about 15 minutes before Mommy and Daddy showed up. Ian was in fine form. I was dying.

When Mommy and Daddy arrived, they asked Ian how he was feeling. "I feel great." he said. "I got a full eight hours sleep." (I filled them in.)

They finally left, just after Eric arrived and after Ian pulled the Fart-Machine-in-the-bathroom trick on both Daddy and Eric (from where the fart machine came). Somehow, when it wasn't funny the night before, it had now - with the remote control in Ian's hands - become hysterical.

Despite Ian's proclimation of eight-hours-sleep, I have it from a very good source (Mommy) that it wasn't just me. Ian was very tired too. He fell asleep on the way home.

And has slept a good part of the day away.

Not me. I had things to do and places to go. And we'll be off to the Music Center in just a little while. Between me and Ian, I have a feeling that this evening, one of us will be in fine form. And one of us will be very tired.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Castle Construction

Ian is over, spending the night so that we can make his model castle for his class. He's already written a report on the same.

He came over at 6 so that we could have dinner first. His bill of fare is Pasta with "Pizza Sauce," and Garlic Bread. I personally like to add a lot of vegetables into my pasta.

When Ian comes to visit, it is his job to grate the cheese.

Aunt Laura almost tried to scare Ian with the spider in the bowl, but he didn't get scared. (This is a quote directly from Ian.)

Ian wanted to make this picture look silly.

Ian ate a chocolate called "Bear Doo Doo." Ian says that this quote will suit everyone. (I wanted to just say Ian ate Bear Doo Doo, but he wasn't going for it.)

We built this castle together. Ian did all of the measuring and making the lines himself. Aunt Laura was in charge of the box cutter and the hot glue gun.

Ian decided after we got to this point that it was time for a break. He says that we will paint the castle "another time." (Funny, but towards the end of the building exercise, Ian got bored and told me to "do whatever I wanted, as long as it came out looking like a castle. Now I know how parents end up making their children's models - lol!)

Now I have to sign off because there is a boy in my bed that I need to start a pillow fight with.

Good Night!

The Cost-Benefit Equation

This morning as I awoke - indeed even during those wakeful moments over night, I thought to myself "What have you done?" The voices of a few of my doctors made their way through my mind too. Dr. Bluestone: "You must be careful about what exercise you do and how much you do of it. Absolutely pursue it because your mobility depends upon it, but move forward with caution." Dr. Sisto and also Rocky, my Physical Therapist: "You must baby your knees along if you expect to continue walking." Dr. Muti: "What are you doing hurting yourself?" And there's no question at all that I hurt this morning. Badly. You see, last night I went bowling.

"Bowling?" you ask. Yes, bowling. I was lucky enough to have been invited by Helen and Diane to their open house to be followed by a trip to their local bowling alley. Jan and Paula were there too. And Eric, good sport that he is. And I happily went along, having wanted to try bowling out for quite a while, even knowing that I am not a good bowler. Ok, an awful bowler. No, not even awful. More along the line of "You may laugh at me as much as you like during our game, but you are never to divulge my score once we leave this alley." Everyone happily agreed, and I was thrilled to finally do the do after a break of some 35 years.

Eric has a history in bowling. He belonged to a silly league in which his team were known as The Centurians and each of the members chose Roman names to bowl under. I will not divulge his name here, but we quickly agreed that he should come up with Roman names for us too. Names befitting our interests and status.

Me? To reflect my interest in beading... Jewelus Makus
Diane? Interested in the heavens... Starus Burnus
Jan? A photographer... Clickus Shootus
Helen? Teacher of swimming and interested in all things aquatic... Aquaius Finnis
And Paula? Interested in all things James Joyce... Iris Pubus (like pub... get your mind out of the gutter - lol!)

I was thrilled that our alley had bumpers, but discovered after several turns that I did not need them. Paula - the split queen because even though this was her very first time bowling ever in her whole life kept knocking down impossible split pins - relied on them more, but turned in very respectable scores. But even more impressive than her numbers was her victory dances when she would knock down the pins. Jan, Diane, & Helen had clearly been there more often and actually were very good.

I did quite well for me. My first game netted me 89 points.

That was actually a personal best. You see, my average score before this night was 25. But my second game? I seemed to find my stride and ended up with a whopping 134!!!!! Several strikes and spares. WOW!

Between the games, we stopped to eat. Bowling alley food. I knew that this was the last hurrah before the holiday season eating was grinding to a halt, and ordered a Turkey Burger and Steak Fries. Ate the whole burger and about 2/3 of the fries. Eric, worried about what i was eating, especially since I clearly stated that I knew I was going to be sick from them even as I downed them like a dog to food, took about 1/3 for himself. And I could feel the salt and grease permeating my system and I started to smell like them and I could feel my joints swelling from the water retention. I didn't care. And even this morning as I got on the scale and I was up to 155 pounds, I don't care.

I am feeling pretty sick from them this morning too, but I repeat, I don't care. I started off the day with a good breakfast and recorded it on my food sheets. And know what's for lunch and will record it too. And have to go shopping at the farmers market and get ready for Ian's 2nd overnight here where we are going to make castles and I don't care. Because the holiday eating is over and it's time to get back down to business in that department now.

But back to the bowling.

I could tell that I was doing a little damage to myself, even as my partners-in-crime were congratulating me on how well I was doing physically. And socially too. Again, like at Francesca's party, I was not awkward at all. Felt like I was amongst my own (even though the focus of this event and the type of people were quite different) and didn't feel like I said too little or too much. I hope it's true. It would be quite unique to have done well two times in a row at social events.

This morning, I can hardly move. My back is very bad as is my bad elbow, my neck, and my knee that I hurt during the falls a few weeks ago, I now know for sure needs an MRI. But this is where the Cost-Benefit Equation comes in.

What did last night cost me? A few pounds. A very painful morning. How did it benefit me? A fantastic time. An experience with people that I rarely socialize with but enjoy that turned out very well. A Roman name.

All actions have consequences. Nothing is ever for free... given without strings. We have to look at our choices and make our decisions. Do we move forward and take our chances? Or do we stay home, sequestered and safe, but lose out on the experiences that we would have enjoyed?

I spent many years by myself. I know what they got me. I'm moving out in the world now. Scared to death on so many fronts. But definitely reaping some rewards for the action too.

Just like Rodney Dangerfield before me, I get no respect. Clearly my sister has already read my blog. Within 10 minutes of posting it, I received an e-mail from her on a different subject, but it started out:

Dear Jointus Swelllus,

I suggest you meet up with my dear friend advilus maximus.


Related Posts with Thumbnails