Wednesday, December 29, 2010

When Claudia Meets Animoto

I just learned how to do something really cool on line and I thought I'd share it and my great friend Claudia with you. You can learn more about Claudia by going to Claudia's Blog or Claudia's Yoga on my left sidebar.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas, Last Year and This, Part 1

At 8 am last year, I was laying in my bed, contemplating how long it was safe to lay there before the dogs would start bothering me, wanting to be fed, put out, played with. Lucy was brand new to my home, I was living in my condo. Alone. I rolled over, still 1/2 asleep, grabbed the TV remote, and immediately found a stupid Christmas Parade. I did the obvious thing. Rolled over, leaving the TV on to act as a sedative, and went back to sleep.

Knock! Knock! Knock! at our bedroom door this year. Miles. I started laughing, Eric not so much. "When are we going to open up our Christmas Presents?" I heard in Miles's distinctive excited gab. "Soon." I replied.

"Are you the only one up?" I asked, still in bed beside a moaning Eric who did not want to be disturbed. "No", Miles replied. "Gabby's up too." "We'll be out in a few minutes." I promised.

8:40 am.

Last year I would be stumbling to the front door to let the dogs out for 5 minutes. They would not want to stay out long. We would all stumble back into bed.

This year: Knock! Knock! Knock! Miles again. I'm glad we had the forsight to lock the bedroom door. "You said we'd open presents soon and Sunny has pooped on the floor." I burst out quietly laughing, Eric hushing me urgently. "We'll be out soon!" I called back. "In the meanwhile, Sunny's poop is your Christmas Present."

"Ew." Miles replied.

"It's your Christmas Candy!" I laughingly said. "Shut up!" Eric said to me urgently. "It's too early to get up."

"I have to go to the bathroom."

"It can wait."

Miles: "When are we going to open up presents?"

Me: "Very soon now. Who's up?"

Miles: "Gabby and Garrett."

Me: "Not Ethan?"

Miles: "Not yet."

Me: "We'll be out soon."

Miles: "Ok."


9:00 AM

Last Year I would have been just waking up and thinking about getting some breakfast for the dogs and me.

This year: Knock! Knock! Knock!

Miles: "You said you'd be out soon! Where are you?"

I whisper to Eric "I have to go to the bathroom!"

I call out to Miles: "We're almost outside now."

Eric to Miles; "We'll be out soon."

Eric to Me: "You don't have to go to the bathroom."


9:30 am

Last year: I would either have had breakfast in bed or would have quietly moved to the studio to not watch the parade and sit in a stupor.

This year: "I have to go to the bathroom bad!" I whisper to Eric.

We hear Garrett with Miles outside in the family room or somewhere not right next to our bedroom door. "You don't have to go. If you go outside, it will be all over."

"I have to go now!" I urgently reply.

"You don't have to go. You don't have to go. You don't have to go." Eric murmers, rubbing my stomach with every repeat.

"You're just making it worse!" I reply.

"Sorry." he says."

"I'm going now. Be right back." And somehow I sneak out to the bathroom and back into the bedroom without being discovered. Ah, a Christmas Miracle!


10:40 am

I have no idea what I would have been doing by this time last year, but it would have been quiet and alone.

This year: Knock! Knock! Knock! Miles again.

"You said you'd be out soon and it's 10:40 now! Where are you?"

I whisper to Eric, "How long do you want him in therapy? I could tell him that we're busy humping like bunnies." (In fact, we are humping like bunnies. My 'Christmas Present' Eric says.)

"Shut up." Eric whispers back. To Miles "We'll be out in 15 minutes. Just be patient."

I call out "Is Ethan awake yet?"

Miles: "N0!"

Me: "Go wake him up. Get him out of bed so that we can open presents together.:

Miles: "OK"

11:00 am

I am putting on my bathroom and underwear, knowing that we will have to present ourselves shortly. Eric is putting on a tee shirt and lounge pants.

Knock! Knock! Knock! Miles. "Where are you?" he cries. "You said soon!" And I open the door and step out to his delighted smile. Ethan has decided that sleeping in is more of an imperative than opening up presents. I assure Miles that we can open them up now anyway.

End of Part 1.

Share The Love: A Different Featured Artist Every Week!

Do you like to go into wilderness stores and look at all the cool chatkies as well as the gear? Do you like hiking? Do you like to pretend you like the outdoors for the benefit of your naturalist friends, even if your real vision of interacting with the wilderness is having a plant in your room at Caesar's Palace?

Well, I am truly #'s 1 and 2 although I do neither often enough, but visiting today's featured artist was truly like taking a walk in the woods with the docent-run gift shop right in the middle!

This weeks Featured Artisan is Walk in the Woods, LLC. Beautiful creations

that bring you "Back to Nature" ! You can find Walk in the Woods at:

http://www.byregion.net/cgibin/users/profiles.pl?username=walkinthewoods

http://whatrosemadetoday.blogspot.com/

http://www.facebook.com/WalkintheWoodsLLC

http://www.etsy.com/shop/walkinthewoodsllc

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 24, 2010

Stockings for All Year Round



When I first met Janel Laidman, she was attending her first meeting of GLASG (Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild) and, upon meeting us, happily exclaimed "I've finally found my tribe!"  She was a major talent in the fiber arts - that was apparent immediately - but was still busy at her day job (well, sort of... she grew e-coli bacteria at UCLA on Friday nights which always amused me), but turned out extraordinary works of artisan delight in her spare time.



Over the years, she has gone through multiple iterations, leaving UCLA to pursue fiber arts and the fiber business in many forms.  Owning a fiber and spinning store, starting an on line spinning magazine , teaching classes, designing garments... winning awards for her work and getting a lot of public notice for it, writing books, and all-in-all, becoming one of the stars in the fiber world.   I have always admired her; indeed, I admit to a little bit of jealousy over the years as I knew that I had the creative bug too, but the execution of my own unique ideas in fiber - as hard as I tried and as unique as they were - just never matched up.  Of course, I had not found my own true calling yet...  beads, where I could not only be unique in my artistic expression but also discovered that I was as proficient or maybe even more proficient as some of the best. More exciting news on that front coming early next year and trust me, it's good stuff, but back to Janel for this post is about her.


The bottom line on Janel is that I knew a kindred spirit in creativity and she is totally amazing, not only as an artist but also as a person.  She is down to earth and grounded, knows what she is about and not afraid to pursue it.  I watched her in awe over the past many years as she knew where she was going, wasn't quite sure if she was ready to step off of that cliff to get there, than did so and flew.  (I miss her so as she moved to Eugene, Oregon as part of the process, a natural move for somebody with her bent towards fiber and a loss for us in Southern California)   Her books are waited for with great anticipation, she seems to have - at least so far - settled into sock design in an extraordinary way and is recognized, written and blogged about, and welcomed in the way that anyone would of royalty, but given the announcement in her Rustling Leaf Press, we may be lucky enough to see her branching out into a bigger forum of design.

Look at this:  A Knitting Encyclopedia!  Oh, I need to order this one  for sure.  And now, in 2011, rather than the one sock club that she usually offers, she is offering two!  The Illuminations Sock Club (formerly known as "Solemates" and "Art and Sole."

I, for one, am personally very excited about this.  As much as I love beading and am finally about to pursue it as a serious business instead of something under wraps (again, a serious discussion about this next year when everything is finalized), I miss fiber arts.  No, I am never going to be a great artist in that forum, but you don't have to be one to recognize talent when you see it and want to participate fully.  It's ok.  For myself, I have come to a point in my life where jealousy is recognized for what it is... a yearning to be a better person, and when it creeps into my psyche, I use it in the appropriate manner.  As inspiration to work hard and improve myself rather than resent the people who produce such great and wonderful items of beauty and also as an incentive to make the connections to them stronger because who, but people who are better than yourself, are the best people to know and associate with?  They make you think, they make you stretch your imagination; they set the benchmark of where you want to go in your own life.  I am fortunate enough to call Janel and many other people who I admire friends even as I wonder why they accept me into the fold.  But I'm not questioning that acceptance too closely.  I had enough of that in my former life and managed to isolate myself from a world that turns out to be wonderful and warm and full of opportunity only because of insecurity.  Now if they (and I mean not only my artistic friends, but my friends in many walks of life) will have me, I will go and join them because I can accept the possibility that they see something in me that I don't see in myself, they also have their insecurities that are not necessarily apparent to me, and as a group, we are so much stronger than we are as single individuals.

Like Janel, I have found my "tribe."  My tribe is the world.  My tribe is people and animals and all things of an artistic, ethical, humane, and beautiful nature.  I have a lot of people to thank for this turn-about in my attitude... Dr. Muti my Therapist, my amazing sister Adele, my other family members, the wonderful people I've met in my various fiber guilds and clubs over the years, Richard, The Fab Four plus others who have been so important to me who I've met through his clubhouse, and the love of my life, Eric and his children who are bringing to me a wholeness that I not only never believed that I could feel, but had no idea how all-encompassing, challenging, and rewarding it could be.  But I digress again.  Back to Janel.

With the impending separation of my beading pursuits from my home life (which if you are a regular reader of my blog or recipient of my e-mails -oy vey, poor you - you know has turned upside down over the past year, I want to take up an old and missed hobby.  Knitting.  And where am I going to start?  With socks of course.  Janel's socks.  Small, intensely beautiful, unique.

Additionally, not only will I get the benefit of Janel's amazing patterns, but since my own intention is to join one of her sock clubs in 2011, I have the option of having her send me the fiber to recreate her genius too, and that's exactly what I am going to do.  She even offers the club in different color ways... you get to choose from bright and vibrant hues, muted ones, earth-tones, or my own personal favorite, "Surprise Me!"  As the years have progressed, I like to let other people make some of my fashion and color choices for me (that's why I like designing jewelry so much for others... they come up with color combination s that I might never have considered that are wonderful!) and stretch myself beyond my personal comfort zone. 

No, Janel's clubs are not inexpensive, but you get not only the wonderful and unique experience of working up her patterns, but you get a kit of luxury fibers from small manufacturers who you might never have heard of.  Working up Janel's kits is like taking a master class in knitting using only the finest of materials.  And as our mutual friend Elena always says, "Why waste time on lousy fibers?"  If you are considering pampering yourself in any way next year and are interested in knitting, you might want to consider joining her clubs too.

As a participant in my own very first Christmas this year, I am going to buy myself one Christmas Present.  The joy of receiving two sock kits in the mail from Janel every other month for the entire year.  It's appropriate, don't you think?  Giving myself the gift of Christmas Stockings?  Something beautiful, something appropriate in a variety of fibers that can be used all year long, something that will stretch my working skills (and bring them not only back to where they were before I forsake knitting, spinning, and weaving for beading but maybe even beyond) and my talents and will give me pause for thought and likely the inspiration will be able to be applied to my own work in the form of patterns not otherwise thought of, color combinations not dreamed of, and the incentive to keep up with such a natural talent as Janel.

I am lucky in that I wrote to Janel when she first e-mailed me about her sock club, and asked for permission to write about it here and she granted me that permission.  I waited for Christmas Eve to make this post because when is there a better time to write about stockings and socks?  And with this comment, I'm going to leave you with more pictures of Janel's amazing work and wish everyone a wonderful Holiday no matter what your religious or cultural persuasion, and may all of your wishes and dreams come true.




Visit and get to know Janel Laidman at her blog, The Beebonnet Report.   The only thing wrong with her blog is that she is so busy all the time that she always leaves us wanting more...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree....

Once upon a time, I was 100% Jewish. Not religious, mind you, but culturally Jewish. I celebrated Hanukah, I made fun of the High Holy Days, but I respected them. I loved Passover, mainly for the fried Mazoh my Father made, but I loved it.

Then I married Eric who, although he won't admit it, is also 100% Jewish to the core. But his previous wife was Christian, and the children were raised to celebrate Christmas.

There are some things that are not worth worrying about. The Christmas Tree that adorns our dining area is one of them. In fact, it's a beautiful tree, even though it is fake, and I've always admired the trees. They are used as part of the Christmas Celebration but in fact, their origins come much further back in history than the birth of Jesus, and having a pretty tree with lights and stockings and such not only doesn't bother me, but I enjoy it. The cat and dogs don't seem to be interested, and their involvement in it was the only real concern that I had.

That is until this evening. I was talking to Adele earlier this afternoon, and the Christmas Tree is one of the subjects that came up. I told her the same thing that I am saying here. This is my very first Christmas and my very first Christmas Tree. I like it.

Then, she dropped the bombshell. She thinks it would be a good idea if she gave me a very special gift. A very special ornament for our tree. One that would forever more be known as a symbol of this moment in time.

The ornament would say "Baby's First Christmas."

No Adele. No. Do not send me that ornament. I'm warning you.... lol!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tri-o-Rama

It's amazing where my new-found jewelry skills can be put to use.

You're already aware of Miles's Urban Wildlife Report, of course. His subject? The Black Widow Spider. But of course, you don't know how much he was freaking out over the whole project. Miles is super-intelligent, scoring well into the "advanced" section of California's "Star Testing" program. In fact, despite all of his special challenges which profoundly affect his performance at school, he has been recommended to test out for the gifted program. That test will be administered next May. But back to now.

Miles hates to do reports. They require focus and concentrated attention over an extended period of time that he just doesn't have the ability to put out. As a result, his Dad and I were highly involved in helping him with his report. Dad worked with him on the written part. They had to learn all sorts of facts about the Black Widow, and in the end, Eric typed it up on the computer and inserted pictures.

I, as the artist in the family, on the other hand, chose the artistic part of the report to work with him on.

It was safe to say that by the time we were ready to get started - the day before the report was actually due, Miles had worked himself up into such a state of hysteria that I could hardly get him to sit down and try. He had seen some of the tri-o-ramas that had been brought in by kids early (stupid teacher's pets - lol!), and was particularly intimidated by the one on cockroaches. I had a chance to see it myself and yes, it is pretty impressive. So were many of the other kid's works. I have no idea how involved parents were vs. the kids; all I know is that Miles felt that he was less than the other kids and therefore refused first to participate in the project at all, then, lest he be judged as less adequate than the others at drawing skills, purposely made his backdrop pictures in pencil and awful so that he pre-judged himself. We all know how that goes.

Fortunately, though, I had a vision. Miles could not see it even as I explained it to him, but it was there all the same and I kept insisting that he needn't worry about the backdrop. It didn't matter if it was good or bad, neat or sloppy. The end result of the project was going to be very cool, and it was.

It started by me flipping through pictures by Edi on Facebook and the "It's Better Handmade" group on the same. It was there that I found this amongst her profile pictures:
This is a spider that she wire wrapped and was a custom order for one of her clients.  You should go see Edi's work, by the way.  It's absolutely amazing!  She has nothing to fear from me in the wire wrapped jewelry arena.  You can find her here on Etsy. 

Stop by and take a peek; you'll be amazed and you won't regret the time spent viewing her work, even if you aren't currently in the market for jewelry.  Who knows... you might buy a piece even while you aren't looking.  I keep thinking about doing so myself, even as I know that as a business strategy, except for my wedding ring and my watch, the only jewelry I should ever wear is my own.  That's how wonderful her work is.

Anyway, I took one look at her spider, knew that I couldn't really replicate her work (and Edi, if you're reading, I never steal other peoples ideas for profit, EVER, and also you can see that my execution of your idea doesn't quite match up - lol!, so don't worry), but I also knew that I could do a good enough job in recreating a wire wrap spider for a 3rd grade project featuring the Black Widow, and so I did.

I also knew that we needed flies in the tri-o-rama for the spider to eat...  easily wrapped up out of a tiny bit of wire for wings threaded through one fire-polished glass bead.  And we needed flora.  Lots of flora.
Black Widow living in the country.  Note the "flying" fly.  That was a special tough Miles was particularly fond of.

Miles was, as I said, absolutely hysterical.  he couldn't envision at all what I was going to help him do, even as he was delighted by the Black Widow and the flies that I had created.  But in the end, the project turned out really well, stood up against all the other kid's work (thank you again Edi; the spider was what made the difference), and when we were walking together to his class, me helping him carry in all the different accouterments that were required on this last day of school before the holiday break, a lot of the boys immediately crowded around Miles, and I could hear their exclamations of amazement at his project.  "Oh cool!"  "Wow!"  "How did you make the spider so real?"  "Are those real plants?"
This would be our meditation garden.  In the backdrop on the left, you can see Gabby and Garrett (or the backs of their heads) watching TV while sitting on the sofa.  On the right is the sliding glass door looking into our dining room.

Said the spider in the conversation balloon as Miles realized that this particular spider had hit a gold mine of bead bugs, "Three in a row.  Jackpot!"
 And when I left the room, Miles no longer needed me for security.  He had done a good job, a great job in fact, and he was, in fact, was proud of his work.

Urban Black Widow on the Left, Country Black Widow on the Right.  Flying flies in both scenarios.  Miles would not let me add dog poop to the urban scene, even as we all know that dog poop is the most certain attractor of flies.

Over and Done? Maybe not.

As much as I feel really done and done over by the situation with my hip joints (and by the way, have I mentioned that I think I have the same thing going on in my shoulders?), some habits die hard.  Two months ago while I was having one of my experimental infusions, I had a long and tearful conversation with my doctor about night times and how many times I had to get up to go to the bathroom, woken up from my sleep in the wee hours of the morning for that very need.  We talked about the stress in my life, how terrible my eating habits had become.  (This was the conversation that I desperately wanted to have with Richard, but he was busy with other people, I already wasn't regular in class and when I turned up, I was usually late, and as I figured out a few weeks ago, he really didn't want to hear about my dietary and exercise woes as it related to my serious health issues anyway.)  The doctor and I agreed that I immediately had to do two things:

1.)  Normalize the hours in which I was eating dinner.  Eric's family had a habit of eating dinner when it was convenient, say around 9 to 10pm or so.  That was devastating for my condition as even though food does not digest right away, eating that late prompts the GI system to go into overdrive and that would be a partial cause for my 20 to 25 trips to the bathroom during the 6 to 7 hours of sleep that I was able to get nightly.  (There's no catching up during the day for me as the pills that I take every morning are stimulants, making a nap completely impossible.)

2.)  Reduce the stress.  Stress does not cause auto-immune problems, but it sure does make them worse.  This home has been a nerve-wrecking situation for me from the normal woes of transitioning from 53 years of being single and "free" to having to deal with the constant commotion of four kids, three of whom are ADD and the fourth with serious issues and who sleeps during the day and wanders the house at night.  In other words, there is not an hour in the day here that the activity doesn't stop.  Add to that a new marriage and since I've been a solitary creature all my life, purposely isolating myself during a great part of that time, although I love Eric with all my heart and wouldn't change a thing, learning how to do the marriage thing has been a terribly steep learning curve.  Additionally, as funny as this sounds, going from living in abject poverty where I didn't know if I would have enough money to make it through the month and be able to feed both myself and especially my dogs into a situation where we're decidedly middle class has been like going through a time warp...  it's too weird to need something and just be able to go out and get it and it stresses me out too.

But the truth is that since the wedding and the reception have been completed and we're able to focus all our energy directly on our home and our way of life (this has been a transition for Eric too as things that he lived with - not happy situations but necessary as there are only so many hours in the day and the time spent managing four kids meant that a lot of things that turn a house into a home had to go by the wayside) , things are definitely getting better.  Not that things are under control yet, but even with the discovery with this last rain that our indoor water fall feature has not been fixed, I was able to resort to simple sarcasm and a post on Facebook linked up to a You Tube video rather than break down in tears, and this morning, I'm almost (so far) finding the situation amusing.  Yes, things are getting better.  Oh yes they are.

One area in which it is evident is our eating patterns.  Mornings and lunch, it's all men (and women and children) for themselves.  The kids are old enough and are used to foraging for food on their own.  I wish they were in the habit of picking up after themselves, but they've had years of training from Eric that he will take care of everything and it's culture shock for them too as I've been holding them accountable for their own messes, and their own laundry, and other things that they've never had to deal with consistently before.  Eric has jumped onto the bandwagon where this is concerned, and although it's very hard for him not to help them when they request it (and what they need is stupid), and it's very hard for him not to respond when they have a crisis (again, stupid crises... we're both right there when their needs are legitimate), he has taken steps in the right direction which renews my respect for him - what he's doing is really hard and I know it - and reinforces both my love for him and makes me sure that loving and marrying him was the right decision.  Despite the anguish that I face at least every other day and is actually mostly daily that mostly brings me to tears.  I'm going through a lot of fake eyelashes right now due to the tears but again, note that we're (by that I mean me)  now middle class, I know a place that sells them for only $2.00 per set and they are of terrific quality, and I can suddenly afford to cry and wreck them, knowing that I can buy more if I need to.  Weird.

But after that doctor's appointment, the fateful one where he insisted that I needed to start cleaning up my act and especially in the area of the times that I am eating, I had a two-day long discussion with Eric and he is so sweet and so incredibly supportive that we implemented the philosophy and are actually mostly holding to it now.

We have a menu chalk board in the family room right next to the kitchen where I am outlining the dinners that I plan for the week.  The plan is fluid in that sometimes life gets in the way and we end up bringing food in from the outside rather than keep to the plan.  Sometimes I flex the menu as we don't have ingredients or the kids really protest what's on for the day.  But planning meals is something I didn't do at all when I was living by myself; I was successful at losing weight because I only had me to look out for and it was easy to keep the healthy foods around the house and just figure out what to make out of them when the meal came up.  Now we're living with human vacuum cleaners and who knows what's going to be left by mid afternoon?

But the posted plan is helpful.  I can refer to it and know what ingredients are needed in the home, and try to ensure that we pick them up early in the day, and last night was another successful dinner.  Yes, originally we planned to have taco night, but we had pulled out chicken breasts for the stuffed baked chicken that I had planned two nights ago and had not used because I was so busy that day that we ended up bringing in Chinese.  So I went with the chicken meal, and although the kids are chafing at having to eat mostly healthy and especially that we don't bring in take-out food (they just LOVE In and Out) very often, more often than not, they're eating what I am making.  Maybe not at dinner time when they protest that they don't like what I have put on the table and refuse to taste it, but later in the evening when they make yet another trip to the "outside" refrigerator where Eric used to keep all sorts of frozen junk food for them to make for their midnight forays (frozen pizzas, hot pockets, mozzarella sticks... you get the picture) and find that the cupboard is bare.  (Thank you Eric; although that food left me cold, the act of them eating junk food all the time was making me want to go do bad things myself.)

And so, again, last night I was able to present a healthy dinner that was really good too.

Stuffed Baked Chicken Breasts:  Butterfly the chicken breasts.  I made the stuffing out of Italian Seasoned bread crumbs that had Garlic in them, Parmesan Reggiano, Parsley, Mozzarella, and a little bit of Italian Dressing to hold the concoction together (no, it's not the lowest calorie stuffing, but the portion size was dictated by the breast itself, I didn't make any extra to cook on the side, and it was somewhat kid friendly). I made the stuffing in the food processor so there was very little mess.   Bake the prepared chicken in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes.

Roasted Butternut Squash:  Costco cubed butternut squash with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Cooked at the same time in the same oven as the chicken.
And a salad that featured vegetables in all five colors.  (I learned that it was really important from a nutrition standpoint to try to get vegetables of all five colors in every day from a nutrition class that I used to attend.)
Cherry tomatoes, Red-Orange-Yellow bell peppers, Avocado, Green onion, Red cabbage, and Costco's spring mix of greens, with the croutons that the kids love available on the side but no longer mixed into the salad.
That way, they can have a little bit of what they like in the salad but 1.)  We can each exercise our own version of portion control when it comes to this as well as the salad dressing - note that the entire salad was on a Lazy Susan,  2.)  The croutons don't get soggy, ruining the salad as we want to eat it as leftovers.  With the next salad, I'm going to introduce Pine Nuts and Dried Cranberries as optional additions too.  That will be tonight since the salad wasn't finished last night.

Eric & I set a goal for having the dinner meal on the table any time between 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm and since we made this our desired time to eat, we've only missed twice.  Twice in two months!  Exceptionally good considering how erratic the times we were eating were before.  And the regularly scheduled meals as well as the fact that they are balanced, meaning that I don't need to keep going back to the kitchen all night on forays, have decreased my nocturnal bathroom trips down from 25 to 30 times a night to maybe 5.  What a difference!

I don't know what's scheduled for tonight's meal; I will need to get up and dressed and check our menu board shortly.  I have a feeling that I may have to stop at the market for an item or two.  But I know that once again we will be successful at doing what we mean to do because instead of just having good intentions, we are actually enacting our plans into reality.

The next nut for me to crack as it relates to healthy lifestyle, is exercise.  This is going to be a tough one.  As I've mentioned, the situation with my hips is very serious indeed, and I've been instructed for right now not to walk for more than 10 minutes, no elliptical, no exercise class, and the walk is not to be a power walk but instead just a meander up and down the street.  I don't know what the future holds where exercise is concerned, but I'm starting to adjust my outlook and we'll see where it takes me.

The good news is that the mystery of the fainting issue that has plagued me for so many years is done and over with thanks to the addition medication for a slow thyroid (it turns out that the "borderline slow" thyroid that everyone was hesitant to treat was more than borderline; the blood tests showing it as borderline were not telling the whole story, and I was going in and out of thyroid crisis, causing the faints and explaining the tingling sensation in my neck and chest I'd experience that nobody quite believed because this symptom of slow thyroid is so rare that it's quite unbelievable).  I don't have to worry about that anymore as I not only exercise but also live my regular life.  You have no idea how freeing it is not to have to worry all the time about finding myself on the floor at a moment's notice in most any venue, with paramedics called and me yelling that they were not to touch me.  It's hard to believe... the solution was so easy but we didn't know we were solving it when the pills were added to my daily regimen.  What a happy health surprise!

And so, now, the day is about to begin.  The kids have been making more and more noise and screaming for their father even as we both decided to sleep in on this rainy Sunday.  Eric has been marvelous about ignoring them as he should... they need to learn to respect our private space - the bedroom with the door closed - but Miles has just broken that seal, crying that Gabby slammed his neck down on concrete.  He looks none-the-worse for wear, but I probably need to get up and see what's going on, leaving Eric in bed to sleep a little longer.

For me, sleep is not a possibility at this point.  I have taken my morning medications; the newly increased dose of thyroid combined with a stimulant.  I have a fantasy now of perhaps being weaned off the stimulant  since the lethargy maybe perhaps could be attributed to the more-than-slow thyroid too although I have not ventured even a peep of an opinion about this to my doctors yet, but it would be nice not to be an Adderal "addict" although addiction is not really in play here since there is a difference between being drug dependent and drug addicted.  I'm going to stay the course for the time being, seeing if the increased Thyroid medication makes a palpable difference to my daily living before suggesting that we try reducing Adderall doses; I don't want to jump the gun too quickly on this because 1.)  We don't really know what was happening in the first place to prompt the prescription except that I had such a low energy level that I literally couldn't rouse myself from bed without it to even take care of basic hygiene issues like brushing my teeth, taking a shower, getting dressed, 2.)  That it was determined between my entire team of Doctors and Therapists - with a Psychiactric consult - with me in complete agreement that my lethargy had nothing to do with depression but definitely was based upon a physical problem, and 3.)  That the Adderall was a necessary component and that was confirmed by the fact that a normal side effect was decreased appetite and weight loss; I experienced neither of these and in fact, have gained weight (I hope now that this will be reversed thanks to my speedier thyroid).

For now, I'm going to take these successes and build upon them.  There are three major points in my life that can be used as benchmarks to show that I am establishing a new normal.  1.)  I am working again.  Check out my Etsy store (www.artizenbeads.etsy.com) to see how much I've posted, and I'm also making a decided effort to fufill all the promises of jewelry and accessories made throughout this year that I let lapse due first to health and then transition issues, and I also have a new line of jewelry (mixed media) as well as a schedule of classes to teach and I'm entered into more Juried Competitions which is very exciting for me, indeed, even as I don't know if my work is up to placing in the top three yet but I know that it's good and I know it deep in my gut, and it's getting better all the time.  Check this out:


I'll explain what this is in a future blog post when I'm ready to talk about my "Spring to Summer" line, but I'm really excited about the potential.

Second, menu planning and a concerted effort to move towards a more healthy lifestyle for the whole family.

And finally, third, I've started reading again.  I just finished "The Glass Castle" by Jeanette Walls (LOVED it... Dr. Muti suggested that I read this well over a year ago and I'm glad that I never forgot his recommendation, even as the therapeutic crisis that prompted this recommendation passed and I don't even remember what it was), and now I'm about 1/3 the way through "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  Loving it too!  Fiction, a mystery, talked about / recommended over and over again by many people including Richard, and I never did get to the top of the list at the Library to check it out, so I broke down and bought it.  I'm glad I did.  I'm getting a chapter or two of something read every single night.

And so, even as I am angry at new medical developments, upset with an injustice I feel was done to me in the guise of 'helping' but I have a feeling was motivated by personal circumstances by the person involved, and I miss my friends terribly since I never see them since taking on the role of family-woman and Step mom, I am also growing more happy and content and in control of my life.  The next step for me, I think, is to start trying to reunite with my friends.  I"m not sure quite how to do that yet... most of them are single or have outgrown small children and I don't know how they will cope with the chaos that is all day, every day here, but we'll see.  I'm feeling positive that somehow, we'll work things out.

Christmas Decorations in My Neck-of-the-Woods!

I've shared with you the quirky sense of style my neighborhood has before.  It comes out everywhere.  From the Chevy house to the Pasture House (Featuring life sized plastic cows on the perfectly manicured front lawn) to the Dragon-Castle house that simply defies description.  But I was unprepared for Christmas,.as much as I should have been.

Of course we have the standard houses too.  Not decorated.  That would be us.  Although the kids mother is Christian so I have the very first Christmas Tree of my life right in the middle of our house, Eric is bound and determined that if we have lights, they should spell out "Blessed are the Cheese Makers."  Although I think that's a pretty funny idea, I have a feeling that our neighbors wouldn't.  So we will have to make due with our indoor decor only.


The next step up is the old-school single strand of lights houses.
Quaint, but not terribly impressive in this day and age.

The trying-a-little-harder houses.
This one went for icicles and lighting on their front fence.  Have I mentioned that almost all the properties in our neighborhood are fenced in?

Then you have the tastefully decorated houses.
 Icicles, maybe a snowman or a Santa if necessary, but not memorable in this neighborhood.  Just pretty.

Next comes the over-decorated houses.

There are a lot of those here.  Lots of "statues" in the front lawn.  Laughable, but still not all that memorable.

Now this house is starting to get there.
It's definitely a laughable house.  Their home itself is decked out with simple stranding of lights.  But the Winnebago that is perennially parked in their driveway?  (I've never seen it moved once!)  Now THAT's a spectacle - lol!  But still, they have a long way to go.

You would think that this house might take the cake.
This house is actually two lots wide, one with a house that's overdecorated in blue lights (not pictured) and then an empty lot next door that's full of lights and statues.  If you live in the neighborhood, it's on Parthenia just east of Zelzah.  You can't miss it.  I believe it's to the east of the Elvis Impersonator house too.  (Yes, a real Elvis Impersonator who performs in Las Vegas and does very well lives there.)  But even this house isn't good enough to take the prize.

You have not seen the winning house, and I mean THE WINNING house until you've visited 17840 Sunburst Street, Northridge, CA 91325.



One pass by this house is not enough. You just don't get the full effect. Here's another run by. Enjoy!



If you want to see a real spectacle, you won't be disappointed here.  From the intersection of Nordhoff and Zelzah (that's the corner of California Statue University Northridge where the weird CSUN sign is), go one short block south of Nordhoff on Zelzah, then make a right onto Sunburst.  You will know where this house is located as soon as you make that right.  Trust me, this house can be seen from outer space.  Eric is estimating that the electric bill for this display has to be a minimum of $50.00 per night.

My favorite part is that the house next door is completely dark, save for the reflection of the lights from this house on the windows.  The house directly across the street is tastefully and beautifully decorated, but also sports a "For Sale" sign in the front lawn.

I suppose I understand.  How can you compete with a house that's so over-the-top that it should be broadcast on national news?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Share The Love: A Different Featured Artist Every Week!

"Share The Love" blog posts are generally reserved for Tuesdays as an agreement between the various artisans involved and I have done my best to keep to the general rule.  The truth is, though, that the code for the featured shop of the week is usually issued on the Sunday before and I set the timer on my Blog to show the feature on the appropriate day.  However, it's so close to Christmas and the items featured this week are not only adorable but very cost efficient that I've decided to break the rule and post about it today.

Hungry?  Don't want to spend  lot of calories on sweets?  Love pastels and bright colors and handiwork?  This week's artist, Luisa from Crocheted Little Things, may have the answer for you.  Adorable ice cream cones, cupcakes, and even Oreo Cookies are awaiting you direct from her hands, made out of yarn.

Luisa offers expedited shipping (this info an update to my earlier version of this post as confirmed by Lu herself) and also, if you're worried that your purchase won't arrive in time for Santa to deliver it, gift certificates!

Check her out...  at worst you will be gifted a giggle of delight, and maybe - oh maybe- you will find an adorable stocking stuffer for yourself or a junk-food connoisseur in your life.



This weeks Featured Artisan is Luisa, owner/designer of Crocheted Little Things! Lu brings
us into the world of adorable "Little Things". Everything she makes is just irresistible! You
can find Crocheted Little Things on:

Artfire
Etsy
Blog
Facebook
Twitter

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Practicing Patience

A long time ago, Richard Simmons asked me to represent the process of "Practicing Patience" in his video "Love Yourself and Win".  I was incredibly sick at the time; in fact, still deathly ill, having survived yet another in a series of near death incidents thanks to my IBD.  When the video came out and I got a good look at how I looked and sounded when I am that ill, I cried my eyes out.  Eric tried to tell me that I was just nervous and that I didn't look that bad, but I did.  I was not nervous at all. I was completely at ease, but was so sick - the image helped by editing, of course, to explain why I looked so horrid on screen - that I was almost nonsensical. 

I was a hypocrite at the time.  I shouldn't have been talking about that particular subject especially.  I wasn't a patient person then; I'm not even now.   But I was in a situation from where there was no escape.  My body was continuing to fail me, and so I consciously put myself in a state of mind where I believed what I was saying in the video... in life, even if it wasn't true.  Just like any good salesman will do.  I sold myself on the concept, and so it was easy to convince others of the same.

Now I'm in a different sort of health crisis.  I still have ongoing major problems with my IBD, but thanks to long-term use of steroids combined with declining ability to sustain an exercise program, my hip joints have gone completely out of whack.  I am in incredibly intense pain, and the initial diagnosis of Bursitis has probably been augmented by Avascular Necrosis.  That's an extremely serious diagnosis from which I will not recover.  Things, if it is true, will do nothing but get worse for me from here.

I used to love exercise class.  It was a place of grounding, it was a place of emotional growth and physical miracles.  But as of late, it's been a source of intense pain for me, not only physical but a place of mental anguish too. 

I am no longer a success story, even though the vast majority of my weight after all these years is still gone.  There is a lot of pressure on me in that class to get back to where I was.  I don't think I can. 

There is not room in that classroom for me anymore.  I've clawed and fought my way back in so many times that the powers that be, even though they wanted me to practice patience, have run out of patience for me.  And I am profoundly depressed over it, and over the current pain which is unremitting, and over the fact that while I will work very hard and do everything that I am asked to do to mitigate it, I truly believe that this is it.  It's over for me.  I am shelved and I don't have the ability to fight my way back anymore.

I have lost my sense of humor, I have lost my friends, I have lost myself.   

I am in constant pain, excruciating pain.  The last time I saw Richard, he made a comment that I hide it very well, and I affirmed for him that yes, I hide all the health crises extremely well.  I don't think he believed me at the time even though he should have because if there's anything I've been in the past 8 years, it's been brutally honest with him.  But it was not what he wanted to hear, even as it was the truth.  If he only knew the agony that even sitting cross legged on the floor was for me at that moment.  But I had kept quiet about it up until then, a normal pattern when I am crashing health wise and don't want to admit it even to myself, and when I finally tried to express what's going on, it didn't fit the profile or ambiance that he was trying to create in the room and I was cut off. 

Although I was upset - extremely upset - then, I realize that he was right.  I am of no use, I am worthless to him as well as myself now.  Had I been honest with him though(via e-mail) before that moment, he would have known better than to even start a conversation with me.  One that, from his point of view was inevitably going to go awry.  I would have been fine without the talking; we hadn't really talked at all in months and months and months anyway.  But I guess what happened that day was inevitable. My weight was bound to come up in class sooner or later and we were on a collision course for disaster.  It was my fault.

The bottom line is that I can't practice patience anymore.  I'm not capable of it.  I will do my best to recover, but to be patient implies a certain degree of acceptance of what's happening, and a willingness to work around it.  While I will, at least for the moment, do what I am told, I desperately want to punish myself for my body's latest failure, and punish myself badly.  And what better way than to go back to exercising full bore without regards for the long term consequences? 

It's that impulse that I'm fighting now.  That of wanting to damage myself permanently.  And the timing is so sad, too.  We've finally figured out the mystery of my fainting after so many long years, and I truly believe it's over.  We know that my thyroid was in play, my medication for the thyroid issue was just doubled from when we first made the association 2 months ago, so it very well may be that the weight is going to go away without much effort on my part (the thyroid medication in combination with the Adderall, that is).  I'm fighting the other issues, and hard.  But I don't know how long I can keep it up.

Wanting to hurt myself is an old habit.  But working hard is one too.  It remains to be seen which impulse wins in this horrible battle.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Black Widows, and What Men Can Learn From Them

Miles' class in school are being required to do a report on "Urban Wildlife." Miles's assignment is the Black Widow Spider. Although I found the assignment somewhat fascinating, he procrastinated and procrastinated and now it's due this Friday and only part of it is done.



School today is quite different than when I went. When I was in elementary school, homework was a solitary affair done by the student. But these days, the parents are expected to be involved. In fact, we actually have to sign a contract with the teacher in which she stipulates what we need to participate in. And so, both Eric & I are participating in said Urban Wildlife report. Eric is helping Miles with the research and writing part. I will help him with his Tri-o-rama. That's like a diorama but compartmentalized.

Miles' spider report is very interesting, although I think his father and I are more intrigued by it than he is. He doesn't understand how funny the information we are getting really is.

Apparently, the Black Widow has gotten a bad rap. Female spiders of all sorts kill and eat their mates after being inseminated. I thought this behavior was unique to Black Widows before working with him on this report.

The web site that Eric found that tidbit on, however, specifically said that although the Black Widow most often kills and eats her husband after mating too, occasionally she lets him live and go free. Being released is directly dependent upon how full she is when they do their dance. I quickly turned that into a life-lesson for Miles although, thank goodness, he’s too young to understand it.

“Always take the girl out for dinner when you grow up and are old enough to go out on a date.”

Miles didn’t understand the implication and just looked confused when I said it. He’s way too young and thank goodness, it’s apparently an area that his big brothers and sister have not prematurely educated him in. He will remember my words, though, when he is older. Trust me, he will, because I will remind him from time to time when he is of dating age, of the Black Widow report and Mrs. Mejia, his teacher. Women who date Miles when he is old enough would thank her for her assignment if only they knew. Oh how glad I am that the Black Widow is what Miles' assignment is!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fashion Choices

One of my very favorite blogs to read is The Panopticon written by a Knitting Designer and Author named Franklin Habit.  I have never met this man although some of my friends who are prominent in the fiber arts world have, but oh, would I love to have him as a friend.  He has a wild imagination (just ask about his room mates... go to his Blog for more information on that - lol!), is talented beyond belief, a sense of style that makes for not only good reading but great visuals as his designs are revealed, and just the right amount of sarcasm to bring actual laughter out of me, even when I am sitting all by myself at the computer.   He also is very much like me in that he sees things that are so very obvious, but not really noticed or commented on by what I euphemistically call the "Population at Large."  Often people tell me that I'm so very funny, but I'm not.  I'm really not.  All I do is tell the truth and they're just not used to people saying it.  Franklin, or I should probably call him Mr. Habit because I don't know him (yet... sooner or later I'm going to get back to fiber arts and prioritize taking a class with him and that's a guarantee) and he deserves the utmost respect, does the same thing.  The blog post I read this morning - written a few days ago - that started the course of my own blog posting of this morning shows off most of his talents beautifully, in that he decides to evaluate the fashion sense of a Princess with great insight and wit.
I'm not going to discuss his comments here, but again, I'd strongly suggest that you go visit his blog  and get a good laugh. (Even Eric enjoys his articles, laughing hysterically, when I pull them up and read them for him, so although he writes from the viewpoint of a gay knitting designer with a sardonic wit, don't exclude him because you may not appreciate what he does or the 'cosmetics' of who he is.  Trust me, you'll like him!)

After reading this particular post, I immediately flashed on a session I had with Miles with his therapist about six weeks ago.  Miles did not want to go to this particular session, and was very uncooperative.  As a result, the three of us - Renee, Miles, & I  - ended up playing a board game (I wish I could remember the name) featuring the collection and swapping of trading cards featuring Super Heroes and Villians.

Now, his Therapist, Renee, is a very nice woman and truly has been of tremendous help to this family through a very stressful separation and divorce (from Eric's ex), and continues to support us in many significant ways.  She has been very valuable to us, both before and after I came onto the scene, and I don't know how Eric would have been able to accomplish what he has both with his family and in Court without her.  However, her viewpoint is quite different than ours, her insights as to the working of 'our' children's minds not as deep as I might like them to be, and she clearly and simply comes from a different place and viewpoint than me.  (Kind of obvious given her choice of professions... if I had to listen to other people's problems all day long, I'd probably have to kill everyone - lol!)  But back to the story.

Miles was so terribly uncooperative that he refused to speak a word to her, and he also refused to let her talk to him.  In desperation, she finally decided to have him pull a board game from her closet (apparently games and art/crafting is a way that she gets her child clients to talk and/or express themselves) and Miles's choice was again, the Super Hero game.

We sat at her table and dealt the initial round of cards.  I was chagrined immediately.  Not at the focus of the game which basically recreated fights and wars between Heroes and Villains (I hate violence), but instead at the gawd-awful costumes everyone wore.

It had been a long time since I have considered cartoon costuming, and oy vey!  As someone who used not to care a whit about fashion but eventually came 'round to Richard's way of thinking that appearance makes a huge difference in the way people treat you in this world, and then now a jewelry designer, I was mortified.  How could these men (and occasionally women although their sense of style was Hollywood Prostitute but still a little bit better than the men  ) wear what they did in public?  Who on earth did they get to design those uniforms for them?  And did the designers ever ask for credit, screen or otherwise, for their work or, like Michael Jackson's Plastic Surgeons, mostly hid in the background, not wanting to be known for what they had done?

Like I said, each Super Hero had his or her own point value (as did the Villains) and the winner of the game was the one who accumulated not only the most Heroes, but the ones with the highest point values.  There were opportunities to swap Heroes during the game with our opponents, and Miles, intent on winning, always went for the Heroes with the highest points.  Not me though.  All I wanted to do is get the Heroes with the worst outfits off of my side of the game board, and I completely stupified Renee by my method of playing and by stating my motives.

She actually had a shocked look on her face when I stated them.  (Therapists are never supposed to look shocked although I have, on the very rare occasion, said something that has even elicited the same from my own, and he's definitely a heavy-weight in the world of Therapy, an extremely high IQ man with both tremendous insight and patience.)  Then she stammered that she had never played with anyone who cared what the heroes were wearing before.

I immediately retorted that "she had obviously never played the game with a woman before, then."  A statement that left her speechless.

But really.  How could that be?  Look at what these people are wearing!  Horrid colors, nothing but spandex except in the rare occasions when they're wearing tattered clothing (think the Incredible Hulk) and capes.  Not even capes that do what they're actually intended to do... wrap around an individual and keep them warm.  No, the capes of Super Heroes are strictly for fashion value, and I'm surprised that 1.) when the hero is flying through the air, the neck-band of the cape does not strangle him (perhaps Super Heroes don't need to breathe?) and 2.) that nobody uses the fashion accoutrement of the cape against the Hero in a fight.  I mean, come on!  Those capes are clearly something that can be grabbed and used to the advantage by enemy warriors.  So many possibilities.  Cover the heads of the heroes to block their vision (except those with X-ray vision, thanks Superman), inhibit their hearing, mess up their hair.  Grab them as the heroes fly by and throw them off balance.  Use them to trip the heroes and/or tie them up.

And then there's the fact that all Heroes, well almost all of them, go to work in their underwear.  Now lets not even go to the place where I don't understand how the Police who need these Heroes help respect them when they're clearly criminals themselves (indecent exposure, thank you).  Let's not even discuss the fact that I enjoy a man in colored underwear but certainly there are more sophisticated and fashionable colors than those chosen by these select few.  And we can even skip the part that the underwear, because they're always made out of spandex, compress the Super Heroes - ahem - man parts, making them a little less heroic in anyone's eyes who might be interested in making them a boy-toy.


No, let's get right to the crux of the problem.  Now I will admit that I have never seen this happen in either a comic book or an animated cartoon (all clearly written by men), but when you are regularly getting into physical fights of an extremely violent nature, and the goal is to save the world so the stakes are very high, don't you think you would want to make a priority of protecting your most vulnerable point, the place that if struck or kicked, would bring you to the ground in a quivering heap of Jello in a single moment of hurt?  And what of the Villains? Do they have a sense of fair play that they never strike below the belt, are they just stupid, or are their creators so stupid that they haven't thought of this issue?  Or, as I've heard it, are Super Heroes super down there too, as solid as a rock?  Because if the last is the case, I can't help but thinking about many trips I've made to The Getty out here, and how many of the male statues of Gods have had their penises knocked off and are on display with nothing there.  Is it possible that the Super Heroes, before their feature roles were well known, had their genitalia broken off and so there is no point of going using them as a target in the movies, cartoons, books?

Because if that's the answer to the dilemma, I truly think that they are not so super in the end.

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