Sunday, May 31, 2009

Word of the Day

Main Entry: psy·chot·ic
Pronunciation: \sī-ˈkä-tik\
Function: adjective
Date: circa 1890

: of, relating to, marked by, or affected with psychosis

— psychotic noun
— psy·chot·i·cal·ly \-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Psychosis is a severe mental condition in which there is a loss of contact with reality. There are many possible causes:

Alcohol and certain drugs
Brain tumorsDementia (including Alzheimer's)
Manic depression (bipolar disorder)
Psychotic depression

Abnormal displays of emotion
Depression and sometimes suicidal thoughts
Disorganized thought and/or speech
Extreme excitement (mania)
False beliefs (delusions)
Loss of touch with reality
Mistaken perceptions (illusions)
Seeing, hearing, feeling, or perceiving things that are not there (hallucinations)
Unfounded fear/suspicion

* * * * *

Is there ever a point in time when the last remaining family member who interacts with a psychotic individual is morally allowed to divest themselves of the same, knowing full well that the person is unable to cope on their own? Or is that individual required to continue contact due to ethical considerations?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Portion Control

Admittedly the day is not over yet, but it seems to have been the first really good eating day that I've had in a long long time!

I was in the shower this morning and an ephiphany came to me. "Why not have a really balanced breakfast? Why not cut back on portions?" And so I did.

It started at pill time for the dogs. I am currently hiding their pills in cream cheese. Three pills for Cosmos in a fingerful of cream cheese. 1 fingerful of cream cheese for me. Three pills for Sunny in a fingerful of cream cheese. Another fingerful of cream cheese for me. Give Sunny his eye drops, and yet another finger of cream cheese for me before putting the 5 pound Costco container back in the refrigerator. Probably worth 150 calories or more if I was being honest. But who's counting? After all, if I eat it in the fly standing up, it doesn't have any calories, right?

Well, this morning I thought "Let's just see if you can give the dogs pills without sampling yourself!" And you know, it wasn't all that bad. Yes, there was a moment of regret as I put the tub o' cheese back into the refrigerator, but it was fleeting. And then I thought, 'Instead of making toast (2 slices) with tomato, avacado, and cream cheese for breakfast, maybe you should have protein. And maybe it should be portion controlled." And so I settled for one egg instead of my normal two (I've had two since the beginning of the program) on one of my new OroWheat Sandwich Rounds (2 mini slices of bread for 100 calories total) with a slice of tomato and avacado on it, and a side of 1/2 cup pineapple.

As I was making up my breakfast, I took a picture and woefully thought to myself how pitiful it looked. Way too small to satisfy me. But then I assembled it on the plate and it didn't look so bad. Less food than I had been used to eating as of late, but adequate.

I carried my food to my computer as I am likely to do, ate breakfast, and checked the web. I fully admit to pangs of wanting to eat more. No, I wasn't hungry. But I wasn't full like I am used to being after breakfast. Soon, though, it was time to leave for Slimmons.

I was really afraid as I left my condo. Did I have enough to eat to sustain me? Will I be insatiably hungry when I get home for lunch? Should I have taken some fruit or ??? along with me 'just in case?' Of course, the 'just in case' scenario would quickly have turned into an "I have to eat it on the way down to Slimmons because it's in the car" situation, so I resisted. And worried that I didn't have enough before class.

My worries were for naught. Not only did I feel just fine all the way to lunch - several hours later - but I actually felt better in class than I had for a long time. Like I had the proper nutrients in the proper proportions and I had energy but was not weighted down!

When I thought about it (which I did), I realized that I had a protein, a starch, vegetable, and fruit for breakfast. Very well balanced. No dairy, but that's a hot button food group for me, and not something I will eat before going out.

Eating a good breakfast set me up for a good day. Upon arriving home from Slimmons, I had oatmeal with blackberries and 1 TB of Raw Sugar. Later, a TJ's Egg White Salad on 5 Ak Mak Crackers. For dinner, I made my special Cous Cous using 4 chicken tenderloins cubed, and all of the vegetables left in the fridge from the week. (Tomorrow is Farmer's Market day.) There's enough Cous Cous made up for several meals forward. And I just had another of the 100-calorie Oro Wheat Rounds with Country Crock for a snack. I'm stuffed at just 1415 calories for the day!

After posting this to my blog, I'm going to go into the kitchen, clean up from dinner, and use the rest of my week-old veggies to make up a tomato pasta sauce in the crock pot. Give Cosmos his IV. Put away the laundry I did earlier this afernoon. Finish knotting up a crystal-and-pearl necklace I started earlier. And get to bed early.

All in all, a good day.

Do I think my troubles are over now that I've gotten a good day under my belt? Of course not. In fact, not by a longshot. Old deeply engrained habits have manifested themselves over the past few weeks, and need to be broken again. It's just not that easy.

But what I think I proved to myself today is that there is room for the newer habits... the ones only a couple of years old... to come out again.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Am I Making It?

I think probably I am. There's no question that I've, in the past couple of weeks, become prolific in the amount of jewelry that I am putting out. I've hosted 14 people in my home for a Memorial Day BBQ. (If you're wondering, the kids initially were suspicious of the 'dog biscuit' sugar cookies, but it didn't take them more than about 2 minutes to be munching down.) I've attended exercise class more days than I've missed this week, even with Tuesday night's issue, and fully intend to attend tomorrow morning.

Of course, there's the issue of eating. I did pick up food sheets again yesterday, and kept them today too. No, I didn't like what I was writing down, but step one for me in this endeavour is to just write it out. I need to refrain from making judgement upon myself for a week or two until I get better at this resumed habit.

My refrigerator is full of food which is already chopped and peeled and ready to go at a whim.

I have appointments scheduled with the doctors that I need to see... unfortunately some of them are not for two-to-three weeks out, most notably my eye doctor, but at least they're scheduled.

And so it appears to be going well.

So why am I feeling so unsettled?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Practicing Patience

I'm scared. Although I have not deserted all of the techniques I used to lose all of my weight, I am not doing well. Exercise is not as good as it used to be... I keep having issues of body during the sessions (as well as outside of them) and don't move at the intensity that I used to.

The Ambien Related sleep eating is over, but with it's abatement, I am noticing an increased eating pattern during the day.

A few days ago, I decided to keep food journals again. They used to be a very significant tool in managing my weight. I kept them for only a couple of days, then dropped them on Memorial Day. Not coincidentally, I ate way outside of the box on Memorial Day. I didn't keep my journals yesterday either, although instead I made a food plan. I kept mostly to the plan for most of the day. Then I-don't-know-what took over late into the evening and I binged.

I know what used to work. Food plans, food journals, and consistent record keeping. My life situation has changed... in some respects improving in ways that I couldn't even fathom a couple of years ago, but in other ways deteriorating rapidly. That's the problem with lifestyle-change type weight programs. Just when you think you've successfully changed your lifestyle, life itself throws you a curve ball and you have to adjust your choices again.

A few years ago, Richard had me appear in a production that ultimately became the DVD "Love Yourself and Win." My testimonial was about practicing patience on the road to success. Although I did not feel particularly patient at the time, I know that I, in fact, was. I worked a weight loss program while dealing with incredible levels of disease. If you look at my appearance in that video, you know instantly how ill I was even during the taping.

Now I need to apply my own advice to my life as it exists today. I need to practice patience. I need to not condemn myself as I struggle to find the balance that I once had in making my food choices appropriate with my physical activity and my emotional growth. I've only been out of the Ambien Cycle for a couple of weeks; to expect myself to transform myself instantly into a picture-perfect machine of healthy choices is unrealistic, and if I continue to knock my head against that wall, I'm just going to knock myself out of the game.

Instead, I need to focus on what I am doing right, and build on that. And what am I doing right?

1.) I keep attending exercise class, even as it is becoming more and more frightening to do so for anticipation of health events occuring.

2.) I keep getting on the scale on a daily basis even as the rising numbers are distressing me terribly. Denying that the numbers are changing do not mean the numbers are not changing, and only through dealing with the truth am I going to be able to adjust.

3.) I've recognized that I am not going to get anywhere without keeping food journals. I've tried to keep them; failed after a couple of days, but intend to pick them up again today.

4.) I've started preparing my vegetables and fruits directly upon getting them home from the market again. That strategy made me successfully cook healthy foods in the past because it was quick. It has helped me do so again in the past week.

5.) I've started pre-cooking chicken and fish and steamed vegetables again and keeping them in my refrigerator prepared for quick use in a meal or insertion into a salad.

6.) I've acknowledged my struggle publicly. Denying it doesn't change the fact that it is a struggle.

7.) I've contacted several of my doctors to deal with other health issues that are impacting my efforts to lose weight. My failing eyesight (may be related to the Cimzia Treatments) makes it difficult to function, my neuroma is troubling me again, making it difficult at times to put any weight on that foot. My sleeping issues continue, exacerbated by the lack of Ambien. All of these doctors have been contacted and I will be seeing them to discuss their varioius roles in the next week.

8.) I've become more activly involved in my "hobbies' as a distraction from eating.

What do I need to work on?

1.) I need to go out to dinner less, and focus on eating healthy meals at home.

2.) I need to reduce the stress in my life as much as possible. That may mean temporarily restricting family members from access to me. That may mean increasing the number of Cosmos's IV's to reduce other issues associated with a lesser infusion schedule. That may mean taking up medatitive activities to help relax. That may mean asserting myself in areas that I am not going to discuss here before discussing them with my Therapist.

3.) I need to resume food journals again. And every time I fail to keep them, resolve to pick them up again quickly until they become a regular habit. Again.

4.) I need to resume planning food again. That doesn't mean menus down to the nth degree as I know that in my lifestlye, that's not realistic. But it does mean that I need to plan my trips to the market, and that unhealthy choices cannot even be subject to consideration. It also means that I need to prepare foods in advance of needing them.

5.) I need to keep interacting with friends, but trust that they understand that food is a hot issue for me right now, and that we will need to meet outside of the food spectrum of activities. I know that they will understand.

6.) I need to practice patience. I need to remember that when I picked this program up in the first place, I only made small changes at a time, but the cumulative effect of tiny adjustments in my lifestyle was huge.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Operation Dog Biscuit

The Mission: To mess with children's minds.
The Date: Today, May 25th, Memorial Day
The Event: Memorial Day Pot Luck BBQ at my home.

The other day, I was preparing for today's Memorial Day BBQ - to happen later this afternoon - and I ran across a set of dog bone shaped cookie cutters. The possibilities came upon my mind instantly. "Of Course!" I thought. "This is a perfect opportunity to screw with, at a minimum, Ian and Miles. With a little luck, the older kids might do a double take too.

I pulled out an old cookbook that featured cookies, and found a recipe for Sugar Cookies. I had to make the dough in advance and chill it in my refrigerator... it was worth it. Today, I rolled it out, cut cookies, sprinkled them with sugar, and baked them.

Then I put them in my dog themed cookie jar... the one that, if he remembers that far back, Ian knows that I used to keep dog biscuits in. When the kids arrive and after they go swimming, we will be sitting in the living room and I'll ask one of the younger boys to bring the dog biscuit jar to me. I will pull cookies out and feed them to the dogs. Then I will turn to the kids and ask them whether they like their dog biscuit light or dark. (I kind of burned some.) If they turn me down, I'll offer some to Eric, Adele, Steve, and any other adults that are around. Then we sit back and wait to see what happens.

Cosmos was quite interested in the preparation phase of this special mission. Especially when he saw items that were suspiciously shaped like dog biscuits going from dough form to cookie sheet to what he knows from history is his cookie jar. Yes, I gave him a couple, but I need to hold of on giving him more until later this afternoon.

I'm fortunate in that Sunny is not such a glutton as Cosmos, and opted to lay on his new bed rather than bother me for food. He'll get his treats later this afternoon too.

So what do you think is going to happen? I've set up a poll on the sidebar of my blog. Looking forward to your thoughts!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Beam Me Up Scotty... I'm going to a MOVIE!

Movies are fraught with peril for me. I never know when I'm going to be able to watch one in peace, or when I'm going to spend so much time trekking (pun intended) back and forth to the bathroom that I won't have a clue what's going on.

In addition, although I admit to a never-ending love of the original Star Trek series, I can't say that I tune in, even though it's broadcast regularly at 9 PM weekdays on one of our multitude of cable channels. In all honestly, I burnt myself out on it decades ago. Yeah, if it shows itself and I have nothing better to do (or watch), I might leave it on my small screen, but only if I'm also doing something else at the same time. Like beading.

So imagine my surprise when I came across this review - Do Gay Martians Have the Right to Marry? of the new Star Trek movie written by Franklin Habit of The Panopticon, and knew without a doubt that I needed to see it. I showed it to a couple of friends, who agreed with me that this was the very best Movie Review that they had ever read, and that they were going to go now too.

Eric & I are Blasting Off tonight. Oy vey! It's been a long time since I immersed myself in "the lifestyle" - LOL!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Just For Today...

Just for today, I am going to keep written records of what I eat. My Ambien-inspired nightime eating is no more, but my weight is at a point where I am really uncomfortable. My food habits have improved since my night issue is resolved, but I know that the only way to really know what I am eating and make the adjustments to my lifestyle required to lose this weight again is through knowledge, and that knowledge will be attained through records. So I will keep them, just for today.

Just for today, I will list 3 more pieces of jewelry on Etsy. For I know that my best bet in exposing my work to the public and eventually selling it at a regular pace is to put it up on the internet. I will not let the lack of "cool" names stop me. I will name the pieces whatever I do, and if I think of something better, I will change it later. But I need to be listing items on line. Just for today.

Just for today, I will give Cosmos is IV early so that I don't have to worry about doing it all day long. I will not worry about his vet appointment later this afternoon, for I know that I am doing the best I can by him, he is alert and attentive, and that if his blood tests are getting worse, there is little I can do to change that. So I will take care of my boy the best I can, and do what I can to alleviate stress. Just for today.

Just for today, I will attempt one major feat of housework. I will do it so that I know that I will not have to do it at the last minute before having friends over on Monday for a Memorial Day BBQ. I will accept that I am recovering from another set of Cimzia Injections, that my home will not be perfect, but I will do what needs to be done in the way of cleaning up. Just for today.

Just for today, I will do the best I can. Just for today.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pearls of Wisedom

It's a little disquieting to read about yourself as others see you. If you follow my blog regularly - or if you know me well, you know that I mostly seem very self-aware and confident these days. I seem to go after all sorts of goals, and I rarely miss. But you also know that I blunder... a lot. That I agonize over my mistakes, and that "agonize" is an understatement. Especially when I hurt or offend people in the process. I'm not sure how often I actually do either... probably not as frequently as it seems, but it seems like it's all the time. "No matter what I do, no matter how well I perform, it will never be good enough" is my mantra.

So it was really strange and disquieting to read Angie over at Fit After 40's blog about me last Monday. She sent me the article to proof read in advance... my reaction back to her is that "this scares me." She was concerned; wanted to know what scares me. To which I replied that she should not worry. Factually, everything was correct. And it was.

I saw my therapist yesterday; I never mentioned the article to him. That was probably a mistake.

* * * * *

I have a lot of jewelry made up at this point. This includes a new line of "Knotted Pearls and Beads" that is less art, and more "jewelry" but is cost-efficient for these tough economic times. Hand knotted real freshwater pearl necklaces at $50, mostly Swarovski crystal of the same at $65. (Crystals at cost are way higher than pearls, believe it or not.) But have I listed it - or scads of other jewelry - on my Etsy Web Based Store? Well, actually ahem, mostly not yet.

The problem? They expect every piece to have a name. I've run out of names. Eric suggests themes like calling one of my green bead necklaces "Living Green" or a yellow one as "Mellow Yellow" or a red one as "Seeing Red," etc, but my response was that I should probably name the green one "Soylent Green" and that when worn, everyone should call out "Soylent Green is People!"

I look at other Etsy sites; all the product seems to have lovely titles attached to them. I look at Janel over at The Beebonet Report's blog; she is currently teasing her new book that is coming out - The Enchanted Sole - and I haven't forgotten her already-published book "The Ecclectic Sole" (yes, I own a copy) and she has the most lovely names for her socks. The books are of knitting patterns for socks if you want to know, and Janel is an exceptional artist who has reinvented socks. If you ever thought about knitting one, or if you just really appreciate detailed and gorgeous handmade work, you should take a look.

Anyway, I wonder. How do they do it? Where do they come up with these names? Is there a book of product names out there like there used to be books of baby names?

I'm serious. Does anyone have any idea where I can go to come up with names? I've got a lot of stuff to list! And it's even possible that you might want some of it yourself - lol!

Monday, May 18, 2009

THe Magic of Making Up

I remember well the tearful conversation that I had with Richard only a week before we were scheduled to film "Party Off the Pounds". I was hysterical and ready to quit. It was the night that our 'costumes' were being judged, and they had fallen short of expectations. The cast as a whole was devistated. We had worked so hard over months of rehearsals, and had trusted in the costuming process without question. Tensions were running high on the 'set,' and we felt both like we had let the principals down by our appearance, and at the same time, we felt unjustifyably attacked for something out of our control.

My own reaction, although internalized, was way more severe than that. I had never worn make-up; never done anything with my hair. Although I had already lost well over 150 pounds, I was as insecure as ever... maybe even more than ever because I didn't know what end was up or down in the world anymore. Everything that I had believed in regards to social norms had turned out not to be true or correct; I was still so afraid of everybody and every thing, that I couldn't even look anyone in the eye and smile. And now I was the brunt of judgement. Harsh judgement. Judgement that I didn't recognize as the result of fatigue and stress and unrealized expectations on the part(s) of the principals. I felt that I had personally let everyone down.

When Richard finally forced me to tell him what was wrong and why I wanted to leave the cast so late into the process, I responded : "You can glue all the peacock feathers you want on a vulture, but no matter what you do, it will still be a vulture."

How wrong I was.

Good Morning. This is my "look" when I am au natural. I have gotten up, showered, and dressed. No make-up at all.

Richard prevailed and I, very unwillingly, rejoined the cast. If this was the reaction to me just at costuming, what was going to happen when the hair and make-up people got hold of me? I knew I was a completely hopeless case. I knew. I knew nothing.

The following week, only days before filming, I met Janet, who introduced me to my new hair style and color. She also suggested I put on a little bit of peach lip balm. I went along with her... at that point, I was numb with terror and all the fight had gone out of me. I didn't want anything to do with the video, but I was just too tired to fight.

All this happened in her home. I'm not sure why she invited me in there except that I have a feeling that everyone knew just how shakey I was and that I was ready to bolt at any second. They were probably treating me with kid gloves, just to ensure I show up for the production.

After she did my hair and put the lip balm on me, she walked me into her bathroom and had me look in the mirror. I was terrified. I knew that I would still be horrible. But what I saw was somebody not quite as bad... somebody a little more acceptable. "What did you do to me?" I asked her. She told me where to go to buy the right color lip gloss, and I did it.

In this picture, I've used moisturizer, and added foundation. Notice how my skin tone has become more even.

The following week, the cast was instructed to get manicures. I had never had one before, and was terrified of that too. Adele gracefully offered to accompany me. She also had never had one.

The process was interesting; I was afraid that it would actually hurt, but it didn't. On the other hand, when the manicurist found out that neither of us had ever had a manicure before, she gave us both looks that confirmed that we were the worst kind of scum. Like we had never taken a bath.

But when the process was done, Adele & I were feeling pretty good about ourselves, and had a good time continuing our girly day out.

This is the first step to sculpting my face. I've used a bronzer below my jaw line (and blended into my neck), just beneath my "cheekbones," at my temples, and a little bit on my nose and chin to simulate the effects of the sun. Notice how my double chin is just a little bit less, and my jowels are not as prevelant?

I was horrified at the thought of being worked on at the first day of shooting. Again, looking back, Richard and principals must have realized how tenuous my grip on emotional stability was. They specially assigned me Lona Jeffers, apparently a make-up person of some prestigue (they all kept commenting to each other that they couldn't believe that I didn't know who she was. I'm sorry, I still don't know who she was) and she treated me with kid gloves.

As I sat in that make-up chair, I was astounded at not only the kindness she showed me, but the transformation that she was bringing forth in my face. My skin tone was evening out. My eyes were popping open. When she applied my very first fakey eyelashes, I couldn't believe what had happened. And as I sat there gaping at myself, I made her promise to explain exactly what she had done to me. I wanted to know. And she knew that I meant it.

Now I've added blush to the apples of my cheeks. My face looks thinner than in the first couple of pictures.

The first night after the shoot, a group of cast-mates went out to dinner. I was flabergasted at how well we were treated. I had never had that kind of service in my life! We had not taken off our make-up, and they could clearly tell that we were part of a production of some sort. We were royalty in the restaurant.

The next day, Lona was as good as her word. I would query her at every step on what she was doing to my face, and she would slow down and demonstrate. She was clearly excited about having somebody in her chair who didn't take what she did for granted; who was intrigued at the transformation and wanted to know how to do it. And I wanted to know everything!

We went out to dinner the second night and the third after shooting, and the phenomenal treatment continued. I got the connection between appearance and service, and it was a lesson that I didn't forget. I had little-to-no practice at applying make-up before this time, but there was never a day (other than when I was sick and close to dying) that I didn't apply it before leaving my home. And mostly, I apply it even if I don't have any plans to leave. Who knows who's going to turn up at the front door?

Eye shadow. Darker blend of colors on the lids, a light shade just below the brow line, and a moderate brown in the crease. The application of the brown in my crease line seems to have popped my eyes more open.

Learning to put make-up on turned out to be a life lesson, and in many respects. First and foremost, I don't claim to really know "how" to do it. I am dependant on make-up counter personnel to choose my colors and show me how and where to apply them. I was forced to interact with others, and ask for their help.

Now that doesn't sound like such a big deal, but to me it was. I was used to cloistering myself; hiding from the world and definitely never interacting. I was horribly embarassed at, as I used to tell my therapist, "not knowing what every Junior High School girl already knows." I knew that I was going to be subject to judgement when I admitted to those perfect make-up people that I actually needed help... that I didn't come pre-programmed with the knowledge that I thought I should have.

But when I worked up the nerve to go into a Department Store and ask for help, I was flabergasted at the reaction. First, it was clear that I wasn't the first middle aged woman ever to come in and not have a clue. Second, they were thrilled at the chance to show somebody what to do who was so receptive to the message.

Of course, they were also very happy at getting a great big sale, but I truly believe that for them, the commission was secondary to having such an impact on me. And it was life-altering.

Now I've added eyeliner and brow pencil. I'm starting to look human here.

I learned that not only people do "judge a book by it's cover," but that judging a book by it's cover isn't always bad. It isn't the fact of the 'sex appeal' that I try to exude when I'm done up that I am speaking of. It's more basic than that. When I put on make-up and do my hair appropriately, I present myself as someone with a lot of self respect. I found out that the world respects you at about the same quotient level as you respect yourself. My book is covered with self esteem (some of it real, some of it still in progress, but I cover that well), and everybody reacts accordingly.

But let's talk about the sex appeal for a minute. I found out that, by presenting myself in a way that screams "available," I get all sorts of extra service from men. I get all sorts of free stuff from men. And I get all sorts of respect from men.

The realization that I was getting so much attention and respect was a shock to me. Given my past, I always assumed that the more you scream "sex," the less respect and the more objectified you are. I was terrified of that objectification given my personal history. But what I found out is that although almost all men (even gay men) respond to the sex appeal, most of them are respectful and courteous and are of moral good character. Although they would like to sleep with me (not interested, thank you... I have and love Eric), they have no interest in ravishing me, so to speak, or manifesting displays of power. Rather, all they want is to please.

Fake eyelashes, and I'm almost at the look that I'm going for.

The first time I realized I was a threat to women based on my new look was a shock. I was at an annual picnic with the same husbands-and-wives that I had known for years. But suddenly, everything changed. I was no more interested in stealing their husbands than I ever had been (my moral set has not changed, thank you), but their perception of me was very different. They wouldn't talk to me, and manuevered to sit between me and their men at all times. I was not angry, I did not find their reaction shocking, I was not even amused. I was just confused.

On the other hand, when I would go shopping, especially in higher end women's store, I was suddenly the object of a lot of attention and service. I guess I exuded "Beverly Hills Housewife with Expendable Cash," and also confidence. I was and remain neither, but it's nice to know that I'll pass.


The thing about this continuing attention is that it does have an effect on me. I've come to like the attention and the service. I've come to expect it. That speaks not so much of being spoiled - I will never take for granted the way I'm being treated now - but more of beliving that I deserve it. Again, it's a matter of self esteem. I am not so horrible that I need to hide from the world. Additionally, when I allow others into my world, they seem to relish the opportunity to interact.

Who knew? I had no idea how, by hiding, I was punishing people that might want to help for the pleasure of the interaction. And who might I help in return by the same? For I have found that, as my self awareness and self confidence have grown, I love to share myself with others too and - yes, here comes the cliche - give back what I have received. Which is the point of this blog post.

And the final touch... lip gloss.

I've received the knowledge that appearance affects everything. The way I'm treated. The way I interact with the world. My friendships, and the calibur of people that I attract. The quality of medical interaction I get with my doctors. My very sense of self and self esteem.

And I've learned that appearance also allows me to make more of a mark on the world. In my case, that's good. I want to be a force for positive change. A little (ok, a lot of) make-up goes a long way in helping me with that quest.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Resolutions, 2009 Revisited

At the beginning of the year, as is the tradition in this country, I wrote a number of resolutions which were to be fufilled in 2009. I started this tradition a couple of years ago thanks to a suggestion by Richard Simmons. He faithfully does them every year, and they help to guide and shape his life.

My first experience in 2007 with them was wonderful. Things that I had wanted to do but never got around to made it to the list. I went places and saw things that I know I wouldn't have pushed for had they not been written and committed to. And late in September of that year, when I completed my goals, I felt terrific. I thought about adding more resolutions to my list at that point, but decided against it. I was already in the mind-set to achieve; my task at that point would be to think about what I wanted to achieve in 2008.

2008 was a bust. I made some fabulous resolutions, but medical issues dominated, and I spent the majority of the year in bed. I did look at my list from time to time; I agonized as I saw the opportunity to achieve slipping away from me. I was just too-plain sick to do anything. And so I only completed one item on the list - to complete an Advanced Directive, a critical item given my state of health, and the rest went by the wayside.

Most of my resolutions for 2008 could be carried over into 2009, and so I did. 2009 is a "do over" for me. Making up for lost time. Gaining ground in education and expertise. Gaining self confidence. And I've been plugging away at my list.

It is now mid May, and I'm getting close to halfway done with my list. Although health, as always, is challenging, I'm not so sick that I cannot achieve. The drive that got me through so many other situations is tasking me to complete my goals for this year. And I will.

Here's where I am at so far:

1. I will visit the Los Angeles County Coroner's Gift Shop - DONE 1/30/2009!
2. I will attend an event at the Disney Concert Hall.
3. I will establish a shop on Etsy - DONE 2/17/2009!
4. I will take at least 4 classes and workshops. 4/5/2009, 5/17/2009, next scheduled class 6/25/2009, the fourth TBD.
5. I will complete my will.
6. I will go to "The Counter" for a hamburger.
7. I will weave a throw blanket.
8. I will complete the rough draft of my book and pitch it to be published. (In progress.)
9. I will start paying for exercise classes again - Done 2/10/2009!
10. I will complete the SSI Disability Paperwork and process - DONE 2/21/2009!
11. I will sign up for Medicare - DONE 2/8/2009!

12. I will learn to download and play music from the Internet.
13. I will get my car tuned up - DONE 5/1/2009!
14. I will take an overnight trip out of town, no matter how small it is - DONE 4/17 - 4/19, 2009!

15. I will show my work at a trade or craft show - DONE 4/26/2009!

All in all, it's been a relatively productive year.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Coming Clean

No, not another expose on my hall closet, thank you. It's actually feeling pretty good still from the clearing out I gave it a few months ago. This post is about what's happened to me since I came clean about Ambien and how it was disrupting my life.

OK, I admit it. I do worry about what others think of me. I even minimally worry about what's being said about my current struggle with weight. Not enough to spend nights up over it, but it passes my mind. But where I really obsess is over my behavior.

I grew up in a deviant household. It was a home where opinions were expressed whether they were welcome or not, and often they were meant to hurt terribly. They did. All three of the children of my nuclear family still struggle with issues of self esteem to one degree or another. And of the three of us, only one seems to have broken the bonds of inappropriateness to a degree that I expect she lives her life without fear of embarassing or humiliating herself. That one is not me.

I worry excessively because I don't always know when to shut up. I don't always know how to express myself or behave appropriately. "I'm sorry" is a regular feature in my life, and I truly feel terrible if I have hurt anyone. On the other hand, with maturity comes acceptance of who we are, and I do accept the fact that I am "The Eccentric One." That, in itself is not a bad thing, and in fact I wear that mantle proudly.

The only issue is knowing where the thin line between Eccentric and Inappropriate lies. And knowing how to handle situations that cross over. Hence my reaction when I was pretty sure that not everything was well in the world of Ambien. If I was doing what I suspected I was, my reaction was to hide and suppress it. Certainly I wouldn't want to bring that behavior into the open. No. Not me.

The problem with that is that up until recently, I lived my whole life hiding and suppressing who I was, and it wasn't working for me. Rather than looking at my behaviors and figuring out what was ok and what needed to be changed, I refused to look at anything. My weight and over-all appearance proves that point.

With the whole Ambien Issue, I was most certainly binge eating while sleepwalking. My weight climbed, and although I never denied the issue and most certainly asked for help from Richard, my Therapist, and my friends, I wasn't totally honest about the issues and behaviors that were impacting my weight.

That came up in class discussion this morning. The fact that living totally honestly and openly for me would have been a more productive means to an end. If I had only admitted to the Ambien issue earlier, I might have had my medications changed (appropriately, this time) sooner, and I might weigh 5 pounds less. If only.

I didn't. I engaged in some unconscious dangerous behavior in which fortunately nobody got hurt or in trouble. I engaged in some eating behaviors which resulted in my weight gain being 10 pounds instead of 5.

In the grand scheme of things, the damage is very minimal. I would never purposely drive under the influence, and since I am not a drinker or recreational drug user, the likelyhood of this hppening again is pretty-much nil. And 10 pounds gained? Even if I never took it off again, compared to where I came from at the start of this journey, I am still an unqualified success.

The thing is, though, that since I did admit to the issue and received prompt and effective help for it (Thank You Dr. R-!), other behaviors are falling back into place again. I've started preparing my vegetables and fruits for cooking immediately upon bringing them home from the market. That way, I'll be prone to using them instead of letting them languish because I need to eat - when I'm hungry - faster than I can cook from "scratch." I'm more likely to be open in my relationships, and be a better friend and person for it. I seem to be more productive in my art ventures too. I'm completing lots of items that I had let sit around for months.

Note to self: Honesty is Key.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cuff Me

Here are photos of my latest work. They are prototypes. (Hint: that means that next time, on the first piece, I'll use dark thread when it will lay against dark leather - lol!)

What startles me is not only the work, which still seems to channel through me from another source, but the clarity with which I am now taking pictures. That I take full credit for. The process by which I learned to capture clear and accurate photos was agonizing. I'm proud of myself.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Ambien Effect

I take a lot of very nasty medications due to issues of body beyond my control. Some of them are stimulants, or have the side effect of being a stimulant. When you take prescriptions such as these, emotional stability and sleeping become prime issues. And so my doctors, years ago, prescribed me mood stabilizers, and gave me a prescription to sleep by.

This information is from the New York Times:

With a tendency to stare zombie-like and run into stationary objects, a new species of impaired motorist is hitting the roads: the Ambien driver.

Ambien, the nation's best-selling prescription sleeping pill, is showing up with regularity as a factor in traffic arrests, sometimes involving drivers who later say they were sleep-driving and have no memory of taking the wheel after taking the drug. ( )
I was and remain grateful for the help. It's one thing to not sleep for a day-or-three, or even for a week to ten days, but it's an entirely different matter when you may not get more than two to three disrupted hours of sleep a night for a month or more. I started taking Ambien with pleasure. I suddenly was able to get a full eight and wake up unimpaired.

From the Washington Post:

Sleep researchers have reported an unusual number of incidents of sleepwalking in people taking Ambien, the top-selling sleep aid in the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration has received similar reports. Some incidents involve eating or driving while asleep; some have led to criminal charges. No conclusive link between the drug and the incidents has been established.

· Ambien maker Sanofi-Aventis says the side effect is rare and the medication is safe and effective when used as directed. The label strongly cautions patients not to use alcohol while taking the drug. ( )

I went on like this for years. Taking one Ambien CR at bedtime without issue. Expecting to get a good night's sleep and reap the benefits of the same the next morning. Respectable people like Colin Powell were taking it; why shouldn't I?

From the Washington Post:

The case of lifelong insomnia sufferer Janet Makinen is typical of the Ambien incidents.
The 55-year-old resident of Dade City, Fla., said she took Ambien nightly for six years. During that time, she regularly got out of bed after having fallen asleep, went to the kitchen and ate, she said.

"I went from wearing a size 1 to wearing a size 12," Makinen said. "I would eat raw eggs. I would eat a half-gallon of ice cream. I would eat a bag of potato chips, a loaf of bread."

She would find evidence of her night eating afterward, she said, but had no memory of doing it. ( )

I first had a gut feeling something was not quite right about eight months ago. Suddenly I had nightmares. And the feeling that I might not have been in bed all night long. But I could remember nothing, so I dismissed the idea as ludicrous.

From the Washington Post:

Ambien may render some people unable to awaken completely even when something significant disturbs their sleep, so they enter the state of partial arousal, some experts say. "It is the case, perhaps, of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object," said Michael Sateia, chief of the Section of Sleep Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., and past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

According to Stacia Sailer, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, some people taking sleep medications (not just Ambien) can, in that partial state of arousal, carry out many routine activities. The case of Lt. Judith Renee Lasswell, 39, a Navy intelligence officer stationed in Tampa, included several bizarre incidents, including a case of alleged shoplifting that threatens her military career.

According to the complaint in the class-action suit, she once wandered into the intelligence center where she works talking incoherently, and her colleagues led her back to bed. She said she has no memories of the episode.

But most damaging was an incident last September when, after taking Ambien, Lasswell said she sleepwalked into the base exchange, carrying several DVDs which she had purchased previously or rented from the base library. After returning an "X-Files" DVD to receive store credit, she was approached by base police, who claimed she had taken the DVD off the shelf, failed to pay for it and returned it for credit. She was handcuffed and charged with shoplifting DVDs and a candle.

Lasswell said she has no memory of the incidents.

According to the complaint, Lasswell's top-secret security clearance was subsequently revoked, and she faces larceny charges and a dishonorable discharge. A 17-year Navy veteran, she risks losing her pension and severance pay.

"I've never had a problem before in my life until I took Ambien, and it's literally ruined my career and everything I ever worked for," Lasswell said in a statement. "I have gaps in memory from the whole time I was on Ambien, which is very terrifying."

In January, Lasswell requested a polygraph test to support her defense in the military judicial process. According to the test report, a copy of which was provided by Lask, Lasswell denied intending to steal and falsely claiming store credit, and said she did not remember the events related to the incident. The polygraph examiner found "no deception" in her responses, according to the report. ( )

About six months ago, I awoke to find a box of Special K in my bed with me. Still factory sealed so I hadn't eaten anything, but it was disquieting to find it there at all. I decided to tell my Therapist that I had a feeling I might be sleepwalking. He told me to talk to my doctor, and reference the Ambien.

I didn't. It was just too crazy; me sleepwalking. And the Ambien? How could that be? I had taken it for years with no issue. At least I think there wasn't an issue.

From Medical News Today:

posted by Dr. Arnold Swathier on 20 Mar 2006 at 6:05 am

I have lots of patients on Ambien. At least half experience either sleepwalking, memory loss or problems driving. For the makers to say these side-effects are rare, is a joke!!! ( )

Later that month, my Rheumotologist refused to refill my Ambien prescription unless I came in to see him. At the appointment, he was fairly insistent that I try a different sleeping medication. He did not mention the sleepwalking reports. I didn't mention my suspicions about myself either.

I was agreeable to trying anything he suggested, but after two weeks on the new med during which I was terribly groggy all day long, we agreed that it wasn't working out well, and he said to go back to taking Ambien.

From the Wisconsin Law Journal:

The main characteristic of Ambien-impaired drivers was that they drove well below the speed limit and kept driving until they hit something, according to Johnson.

“The slow speed was very common, and essentially driving until you couldn’t drive anymore. They tended to run into a stationary object, like a light pole or parked car,” he said.

In five cases in which no alcohol or other drugs were found, Johnson said, police reported that the Ambien-impaired drivers shared the same zombie-like characteristics.
“They seemed very much disoriented; their eyes wouldn’t focus on individuals,” he said. “They would just look right through a person.” ( )

My Ambien was becoming less effective. It would sometimes take a couple of hours to work. I was not sleeping for a satisfactory length of time. And my nightmares became profuse.

From Fox News:

Perhaps the strangest of these behaviors is sleep eating. It was first reported in 2002 by Michael H. Silber, MD, co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorder Center. Silber is the president-elect of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

"What happens is the patients get out of bed, walk to the kitchen, prepare food -- often sloppily, and often with strange, high-calorie ingredients," Silber tells WebMD. "They have microwave food sometimes. They eat in a very sloppy way, either in the kitchen or after taking the food back to bed. And they have no memory of it. They wake to find a mess in the kitchen or crumbs in the bed."

In each case, Silber says, the patient took Ambien as prescribed. At the time of the 2002 report, Silber had seen no more than five cases. He now has seen some 20 cases of sleep eating in patients who took Ambien as directed.

"It could be injurious -- but I have not had anyone who set the kitchen on fire," Silber says. "The most important thing is the severe embarrassment and discomfort these patients experience. And some put on a lot of weight due to high-caloric sleep eating. We have some patients who have had it happen often -- in one patient, more than once a night." (,2933,188040,00.html )

I started having periods of time just before the medicine worked that I was conscious, but would go into the kitchen and eat pretty-much anything in sight. I didn't care. My weight started increasing significantly. But the weight gain was still out of line with what I know I ate. I cared when I got on the scale each morning. And I cared as my clothes grew tighter.

From CBS News:

Rhode Island Sen. Patrick Kennedy said he was asleep when he crashed his car, also in 2006, before the warning labels for sleep driving. He claimed he was not drunk, but blamed it on Ambien. ( )

My sleep patterns became more erratic. I would also regularly look for food in my refrigerator that I "knew" was there, but it wasn't. Since there was no evidence of me having eaten it (no wrappers), I figured that I probably was mistaken about my inventory.

I started waking up in the morning with scrapes, bumps, and bruises. I had no explanation how they occurred. I would also often wake up with my condo in disarray. Objects moved, beads spilled, TV remotes missing.

I suspected that I might have started sleepwalking on a regular basis, but did not tell anyone. Crazy people sleepwalk. I did not want to be identified as nuts.

From the Post Crescent:

OSHKOSH — A sleep aid that a Black Wolf woman believes contributed to the disappearance and ultimate death of her husband has previously been linked to episodes of erratic behavior including sleepwalking and sleep-driving.

Cherie Merkes believes the prescription sleep aid Ambien CR played a role in her husband Michael's disappearance more than two weeks ago, noting her husband began taking the medication just a few weeks before he disappeared.Michael Merkes body was found in the Fox River last week, just downstream from where he'd parked his car after leaving the Merkes' house on April 25.

If Michael Merkes, 55, did sleep-drive and sleepwalk his way into the Fox River as his wife believes he did, he would not be the first person to display the erratic behavior sometimes associated with the drug. ( )

Last Thursday morning, I awoke to find my condo in greater disorder than normal. I had a long scratch down my left hip. I walked into the kitchen to find three empty boxes of crackers, an empty baguette wrapper, and a 1/2 eaten carton of ice cream on the counter. This really frightened me, as I wouldn't ever bring those foods into my home. I live alone, so there's no way somebody else brought them in and ate them. Additionally I felt overstuffed.

The only conclusion I could come to was my worst-case nightmare. I must have driven to the market, bought those items, brought them home, and eaten them. All in my sleep. I have absolutely no recollection of any of this. But it got worse from there.

When I fired up my computer and checked my e-mail, there were all sorts of invoices from purchases made overnight. I don't like to shop under any circumstances, and certainly rarely-to-never over my computer. When I mentioned this to Eric later in the day, he told me that we had a phone conversation while I was placing one of the orders, and that I sounded perfectly rational. I don't remember that either.

That's where I drew the line. I made an appointment with my Internist for the next day to discuss the situation with him.


I did something recently that concerns me on many levels. I am under a large amount of stress because I'm in an unhappy marriage (which we're trying to work out) and because my company laid me off. I am under treatment for depression. A week ago, my doctor doubled the dosage of my antidepressant and, because I'm not sleeping well, he prescribed Ambien. On Saturday morning, I confused the vials and took two Ambien. I told my wife what happened and that I would probably sleep all day and went to bed. At around 10 p.m., my wife commented on how productive I had been: mowing the lawn, cleaning up, grocery shopping. I remembered none of this and said so. She said her only concern was that I left for "errands" and returned two hours later with nothing in hand. I talked to my doctor Monday, and he told me Ambien can cause amnesia and that some people have reported walking, driving, and cooking in their sleep. I know now what filled the missing two hours. This afternoon, I got a call from a woman who called me "lover" and asked when I wanted to come back. She called me her f--k buddy. This is a woman I had talked to only twice before in social situations. I do not even know where she lives; maybe I phoned her for directions. I do find her attractive, but I am stunned that I did something like this. My wife is vindictive, and if I say anything to her, it will end our marriage. I do not want to continue a relationship with the other woman. ( )

I saw Dr. R- early in the afternoon, and when he asked me what I was there about, I could hardly tell him the story. It was way too embarrassing. He responded by telling me that this is a way more common side effect than the drug company was admitting, and that I was "never to take Ambien again." He prescribed something else to help me sleep.

I queried him again. "You have other patients with the same issues?" He confirmed it. "And how is their mental status other than this? Are they generally sane?"

He responded, "Completely sane."

I have had three nights of only partial sleep on this new drug, but when I wake up in the morning, everything in my condo is where it belongs. My refrigerator seems fuller even though it's a few days since I went to the market. And I have not had any new bumps or bruises either.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Bell Once Rung...

Oh Gawd, I've done it again. Blathered at the mouth without considering how it might be read on the other side of the internet communication. This is the second time this week.

Writing a blog, or responding to other's posts, is usually a joyful occasion for me. I first learned how to reach out and interact with people who were to become my best friends thanks to the internet. I was brave on line. There was nobody to judge me for my appearance, or whatnot.

But writing on the 'net has it's issues too. For me, the main one is that it doesn't seem quite real. It constantly amazes me that my words are read and reacted to. It's actually hard for me to believe that when I type words into my computer, they can be read anywhere in the world. For example, when Eric & I attended TNNA last year, we came across a grouping of computer screens in the center of the trade show for the convenience of the conventioneers. He changed all the empty screens to my web site. It was a sobering moment for me. I realized at that moment that complete strangers could see what I had done in my bedroom at my rickety desk, by myself at my computer. It's a moment that is still sobering for me.

Another issue is that words that sound wonderful in my head, and are intended to evoke one response sometimes seem fine even as I type them. But then I get a different reaction after they're published, and I'm astounded. I would never purposely write something to hurt anyone else; but sometimes it happens anyway.

I don't know. Are my foibles enough that I should consider dropping my blog? Or are kind intentions along with sincere - and horrified-at-what-I-did - apologies enough (along with revising what I wrote), and do they heal? I know that once a bell is rung, it cannot be unrung again.

I don't want to wreak havoc across the universe because of moments of bad judgement... I need to learn to recognize words for what they are. In advance of committing myself to them for all to see. Is that possible?

Timely Advice

Note to self: When going to the Farmers Market and the Real Market in the same day, it's a bad idea to put a dozen ripened-to-perfection Farmer's Market tomatoes in the bottom of the basket tote, and then pile 48 cans of dog food on top of them.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

And The Award Goes To....

Apparently me. I was amused and bemused when I logged into
Angie's "Get Fit After 40" Blog and found this waiting there for me:

I've known Angie" for about 2 1/2 years now: we first met in person at
Richard Simmons Fall Retreat of 2006, and she has come a long way since then. She is a successful weight loss participant, and additionally her Blog readership is growing by leaps and bounds. I fully expect her to join the ranks of "Super Blogger" with the large number of daily hits to her column in the near future. It's easy to see why.

She talks about her weight loss efforts and the foibles she encounters along the way with a frankness and an open way that invites you into her world. Sure, she blogs about her down times too - that making her more likeable and approachable, but I admire her for not getting nearly as negative as I do at times. She has struck a balance between real life and blogging life that I aspire to. So that brings me back to this:

I'm flattered, Angie. I thought about not responding because I didn't quite know what to say. I'd never really considered that anyone would find my words inspiring, or that they would hit close to home. I thought, early on, that I might want to try for Super Blogger position myself (I don't have a life), but then I found out that I have way too much to do in many different forums, and my emotional path is rocky and extreme. I don't have time or the consistency in health for the consistant posting and commenting on other blogs to bring in an audience. I use my own forum sometimes to blow off steam, and I certainly wander in and out of different subects rather than keeping focused. But apparently, I must have touched Angie anyway.

What's funny is that when I write a blog post, it's not really about writing to the world. It's about amusing myself. I'm also amused and bemused when people I haven't seen in quite a while know everything that is going on in my life. When I am surprised and can't contain the feeling, they look at me cross-eyed and flatly state "Well I read your Blog." Duh.

I'm even more surprised when I receive comments from strangers. Where are they coming from? How did they find me? Where do they live, and why do they relate to what I say? I don't know, but apparently somebody finds me readable. Why? This forum is not like when I am writing articles for publication that are focused on a specific subject with a target audience.

But back to the award. I"ve decided to play. If Angie thinks I am good enough to receive it, I'm very honored. Like
Claudia always says, "Just shut up and say 'Thank You!' when somebody gives you a compliment!" One of the most profound pieces of advice I have ever received. So Angie, Thank you!

Now that I've gotten that out, there are some rules to receiving this award.

*** You need to tape it up on your blog somewhere.

*** You have to pass it along to 5 fellow super bloggers, and comment on their blog to let them know how lucky they are today!

*** When you present your Super Blogger awards, link back to the super blogger who gave it to you.

Choosing only 5 fellow super bloggers is impossible for me. I am going outside of the rule book and choosing six, because as you will see, one of my Super Blogger choices doesn't really have a blog although he has a very strong internet presence, and I don't have a chance of him responding to this award. But he is a very important person on line, in public, and in my life. More about that in a couple of minutes.

Choice # 1:
Robin Atkins at Beadlust
It's funny; I met Robin when she taught a Beaded Tassel class at the Association of Southern California Weavers Conference in Visialia, CA back in 2007. When I attend these conferences, I always take one "weird" class off subject. I believe in working outside of the box (in this case, of fiber arts) on a regular basis. I had no idea when I walked into her classroom, that she was going to make such a difference in my life. As she taught me skills in assembling beads, I had a profound sense that I had found what I was meant to do. That all of my crafting up to that moment was in preparation for becoming a bead artist. Based on my growing jewelry clintele, that feeling was not off base.

I was very ill the weekend that I attended that Conference. Rather than displaying my wit and humor and odd sense of perspective during class, I was quiet and non-descript. I'm sure that Robin doesn't really even remember my attendance and for good reason. But I know that she sometimes comes into my blog. And occasionally, I'm even honored by a comment.

Robin doesn't post on Beadlust nearly as often as I would like. But I check in with her regularly. Her work is always deeply personal, beautiful, and her words reach out and grab me.

Choice # 2: Annie Modesitt at Modeknit / Knitting Heretic

I've never met Annie in person, but of course as a knitter, am well aware of her amazing and beautiful designs and work. When I stumbled into her blog purely by accident, I found a woman who is dealing with life crisises similar to the ones that I face, and with a dignity and strength that astounds me. I read her regularly; have rarely commented on her Blog because the topics generally are too close to home for comfort, but rely on her perspective to know that I am not completely off base in dealing with my own life situation.

Choice # 3: Joe Ganci at Joe Ganci Gets a Blog

I'm honored to call Joe a friend. He's stayed at my home on a couple of occasions when he has passed through Los Angeles, and I hope that he comes back again soon. He is highly involved in Politics, the Italian American community, Family life... his posts about his visits to his Mother and Sister back in Italy are particularly fascinating. He also is a bit of a computer genius, and travels all over the country to lecture at conferences and symposiums.

He is what I like best in a writer; highly opinionated, but also quite willing to listen to - and hear - differing viewpoints. Sometimes he even changes his mind after considering them. Where in politics, this ability is called being a flip-flopper, in my world, it's called intelligent. Never close yourself off to the possibility that there are different ways of viewing the world, and sometimes the ones that we endorse are not the best way.

Choice # 4 - Stephanie Pearl-McFee at Yarn Harlot

A knitter and a writer about all things knitting and her life - which is drastically different than mine, I often find myself relating and chuckling at the same time. Last year when I was critically sick for a protracted period of time and could scarcely leave my bed, I would force myself up and out to find the latest updates about her stay at the cabin in the woods and her encounters with Bambi and Friends; alien deer. It was a story that could actually make me smile during a desperate time when smiling was way down on my list of priorities.

She also allowed me to witness the birth of a word: Kinnearing. That would be taking surreptious photographs (of celebrities) of people without their knowledge or permission. It's called Kinnearing because she first did it and blogged about it when she encountered Greg Kinnear in an airport. Yes, he knows about the term. He's talked about Stephanie on I-forgot-which-late-night-tv-program and the term. Even Greg Kinnear recognizes her as a super blogger.

Stephanie also inspired me to participate in a special task that she suggested. To get a politician or celebrity to hold a sock-in-progress that we were making; posting the picture on our own blog. In fact, that was an easy one for me. Richard Simmons is a very good sport, and held my sock post haste.

Choice # 5 - Kristen Nicholas of Getting Stitched On The Farm

Another choice of somebody who doesn't have a clue who I am. I'm not sure how I found Kristen's blog, but I adore it. She chronicals her life on a Sheep Farm in Western Massachusetts. This is a lifestye that I often fantasized about; aspired to. Life - and health - got in the way, and I know at this point that it will never happen for me. But it's ok. While I adore her stories and sit in my comfortable chair in the middle of Los Angeles, dreaming of inserting myself in the narrative, I know for absolute sure that the end of that dream is actually productive for me.

For you see, in reading her blog, I know that I unequivocally do not have the backbone for it. Even if I had the health and the financial where-with-all, no way. I could never deal with parting of the lambs, markets, rampaging rams, etc. That's a part of the business. I'm better off living vicariously through Kristen.

I also have to tell you an amusing story about her. I read her blog for months, not knowing at all that she is a very famous Knitting Designer. I was rummaging through her links one day, though, and found a whole bunch of her patterns from very prestigeous magazines. "Oh My Gawd!" I screamed. I made that one! And that one and that one and that one and that one...

Now for my special one: Choice # 6 - Richard Simmons.

To know me is to know what a profound impact this man has had on my life. He writes a daily column in his web site, and while a lot of the site is restricted to paying members (at a nominal charge), his daily message is available for free. I know that he writes these messages himself. Not only has he said so at Slimmons, his Exercise Studio in Beverly Hills, but as I read the various stories, I know many of the people and events that he drew inspiration from.

Richard evokes a strong response from everyone I have ever met. Most love him; some can't stand him. I would submit that those who are not fans of him only know of his TV Persona which can be, shall we say, effervescent? I know him to be a very serious and passionate man, willing to do whatever it takes to help people in crisis. Including being publicly silly and having people take potshots for it.

I also know him to be one of the most patient and kind men I've ever met. He has suffered with me for six-and-a-half long years at his exercise studio. He oversaw me when I was a very angry and morbidly obese woman. He has overseen me during times of critical illness when it was questionable whether I was even going to live. He has suffered the consequences of my anger, my inability to face who I was and later the difficulty of the transition to who I am now. He also continues to suffer the effects of my health.

Where nobody ekse in their right mind would allow me into an exercise studio with the kind of continuing medical "events" that I have, he embraces me. Where nobody else in their right mind would have responded with patience and kindness at some of the horrible misperceptions I communicated to him over the years (mostly through e-mail), he responded with kindness.

He is at an odd place in my life. I adore him and would likely do pretty-much anything he asked of me. He knows much of what I deal with. He is an incredibly good friend who is also a mentor and role model. (Oh yes, I wonder how much he had to do with me unconsciously becoming the queen of bling? I wonder why I like Swarovski Crystals so much?) By the same token, he is not family, therefore I don't generally let him know in advance of dangerous medical situations or pharmeceutical treatments that chemically influence how I percieve the world and react to input. The trouble with that is he is close enough to advise me, and he always runs the risk of an adverse reaction out of me where none is warranted.

Richard Simmons is a brave, kind, and forgiving man.

And now for two Honorable Mentions: Trish Anderson of Tanglewood Fiber Creations and Janel Laidman of The Beebonet Report. I knew both of these women when they were extremely talented and relatively unknown members of the Fiber Community. I know them now when they are both ascending their thrones as royalty in the same. I'm honored to call both of them friends.

And now with all of these shout-outs to send notification to, I will close by making Claudia happy one more time. Angie, THANK YOU for the award, the recognition, and for being my friend. I'm honored on all accounts.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


In the weight loss world, the word "Inspiration" is often used freely and, IMHO, way too liberally. Many have said that I am an inspiration; in a sense I understand it because I've lost more weight than I know what to do with (even with the current gain in consideration), but in all honesty, I don't fit the weight-loss mode. I did not decide to lose weight, decide what to do, and then do it. Rather, I relaxed into the process and whatever happened, happened.

That's probably part of my issue in getting back on track now. I am thinking about the problem day and night, trying to figure out what I was doing then that I am currently not. The answer is simple. Thinking.

Stop with the analysis. Stop with the agonizing. I need to just do it.

This revelation came to me as I was finishing up the back of the neck piece that I blogged about yesterday. The front has been done for quite a while; I did not plan how it would end up; rather it just came to me during the process. (Click on image to see a larger photo.)

The back, I agonized over, and it wasn't happening. My work was second rate and I knew it. There are some situations where 'good enough' is 'good enough,' but in art - and this piece is not just jewelry, it's Wearable Art - I need to be exceptionally comfortable with the end product. I stalled and delayed, working on it, but even telling S- (my friend and client) that I was getting fearful as I was working, and put it aside for days and sometimes as much as a week. Fortunatly, she is a very patient woman, and did not pressure me.

A month ago, after agonizing whether or not to attend (will they like me? will they accept me?), I finally made my way out to Creative Castle for a Beading Group that meets on the second Tuesday of every month. There is a big difference between the women who attend these meetings and me. They're highly educated, and very likable. They are amazing crafts people, and have all sorts of knowledge that I don't posess. But they were all working from charts, patterns, and graphs. They are artisans. I'm not. My ideas come straight out of my head. Apparently, I am an artist.

They took one look at my work, were amazed at what I had created, but immediately launched into Critical Issues. I treasured their input; I only want to be known for excellence. I absorbed everything they told me, applied it, and finished off the back of neck piece earlier today. (Click on image to enlarge.)

The thing is, I had no plan. All I knew when I restarted this project was that I was going to use my Gold Foil Leather because it would be brighter than what I had originally chosen, and would compliment the gold plated beads on the front. I had no idea until I started it, that I was going to put a web on the piece, and certainly did not know that it was going to be a spider's web until the very last when suddenly it occured to me to put a Swarovski Crystal in the back surrounded by AB Delica beads. I didn't know I was even creating the spider until it was done.

"Oh. My. God!" I said out loud. "O.M.G."

And this is when it was reinforced what was good and different about my work in beads. It is the same thing that allowed me to lose so much weight. I relax into the process, understanding that it isn't really me that's driving. Then I allow whatever it is that IS in charge to conduit itself through my mind, my hands, my body. I now gladly accept the mantle of Artist, but do not take credit. I am simply channeling a force that was waiting to express itself.

I am facing some significant challenges in the weight loss arena right now. I was up several more pounds this morning; I'm not going to comment here about what's going on except that it's time that I made an appointment with my Internist. Stress eating is also a big contributor. But I suddenly realized at the completion of the neck piece that the bigger reason that I am struggling right now is because I am trying to force the process.

I need to relax into the situation. Stop fighting it. If I need a Doctor's help, it's time to face the music and seek out the help that I need. If I am stress eating, I need to channel that stress into another activity. It's what I used to do.

It's time to apply the Artist's Touch into my life.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How do you spell Relief?

Over a year ago, I started a piece of jewelry for a client who is also a very good friend. Making jewelry for friends is a special kind of pressure. I know that I do good work, but still worry that my results will be disappointing. I don't know why I worry so much, but it's part of my personality.

Anyway, this woman started taking jewelry from me back at the beginning when my creativity was showing, but my skill set wasn't that wide, and is still commissioning me to make her pieces. She seems happy with my work, and definitely gives me a boost of confidence.

Anyway, I started this piece a long long time ago, but my body took the reins of my life, I got very sick, and was unable to produce anything of any meaning for almost twelves months. I certainly wasn't well enough to continue the exacting work that this piece required.

As I got better earlier this year, I started making some jewelry, but was afraid to work on her order. My brain had not fully recovered yet, and I didn't have the confidence required to work with materials that were not my own. (She supplied me with pounds of family heirloom beads to work with.) Then, as I became weller, I had the confidence to start and complete a necklace that is striking on it's own accord, but not as far outside of my personal box as my current work is.

Once that project was completed, I decided to go back to work on this:

The progress has been agonizing. Not so much for the bead embroidery, but for lining it with leather. I'm not going to show you the original result, but let's just say that I wasn't happy with it. In fact, I found some new friends at a Beading Group about a month ago, and T- even said to me point blank, "The back of your work should be as beautiful as the front." Then she gave me advice on how to improve my output.

I was relieved that my fears were confirmed, but with a way to improve my work. I took that advice to heart, came home, and started the lining process all over again. This time in gold foil stamped leather. The result was beautiful. But still not satisfying. It needed something more.

But finally I came upon the answer. I am now stringing a beaded web over the leather, and getting such positive reinforcement that I can hardly believe it. In fact, some people, before seeing the actual front of the piece, get excited because they assume that the back is the focal point!

In therapy today, Dr. M- asked me why I was putting such effort in a part of the piece that would not even be seen. I had an immediate answer for him, in the form of a question. Why are jackets lined in beautiful silk? Because the owner knows that it is there.

I am making the back of this piece beautiful because S- will know it's there even though the world will not. And I will know too.

* * * * *

I also have an answer to the agonizing question that I posed yesterday. Did my animal print top make me cool or old?

As I was getting out of my car after my therapy appointment, I ran into two girls, ages 12 and 14, who live up in the front of my condominium building. When they saw me, they both got the biggest smiles I've seen out of them in a long time.

"That's the coolest Cheetah Top I've ever seen!" one exclaimed.

The other replied, "I want one too. Where did you get it?"

If the pre-teen set approves of my wardrobe, I know that I am dressing appropriately.

Such An Animal

The day before Eric & I left for Cambria (yes, I know, I owe you a whole series of posts still on the subject), I stopped by Macy's lingerie department. There I purchased three camisoles; one of them an animal print.

Animal print clothing is really outside of the box for me. I've learned over the years, though, that while stepping outside of the box is a scary thing, it's necessary for personal growth. Yes, dear readers, buying a camisole that day became an act of good faith in my future.

The future was bright. I wore that camisole on the first day of our vacation, and Eric liked it very much. I kind of liked it too. It was different.

* * *

Fast forward three weeks to last Friday. Eric & I were leaving Valley Produce. (Ok. Shut up. I know I owe you a post on that topic too - lol!) As we were waiting to pull out onto Vanowen Ave., we silently watched two ladies walk down the sidewalk and in front of our car. I pointed out to Eric that they were both wearing animal print tops, thinking in my mind that it was cool that I was wearing mine too. He replied by stating that all the thousand-year-old women at his Mother's Senior Retirement Village dress the same way.

So now I need your opinion. Wearing animal print clothing. Is it cool or is it only for very old ladies?


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