Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

If you could pack up the perfect Memorial Day weekend into a nice little box, I was carrying that box in my pocket all weekend.

A few weeks ago when I was in Sacramento, I had a little epiphany about California.  On the first floor of the State Capital, each county has a little glass diorama-like display case where they can put pictures highlighting their county.  I was walking along looking at these show-and-tell displays, and I became really depressed because there is so much beauty, just in our one little state, and I have a feeling I'm never going to see it all.  Eventually I will leave California, and I won't have seen all of Placer County.  Or Humboldt County.  Or Shasta. Lots of places.  So J and I have decided to become tourists in our own state.  It's quite fitting with my New Stuff Project anyway, and it will be fun to see how many state parks we can visit.

So this weekend we headed up to Hearst Castle, the "ranch" of William Randolph Hearst, which he filled with Renaissance paintings, tapestries, Greek ruins and statues, and Roman mosaics.  Apparently after the two world wars, ancient European stuff was on the market super-cheap to raise money for rebuilding, so you could have a swimming pool like this:

After we oohed and aahed at the artwork and mosaics, we checked out the little town of Cambria, about fifteen minutes south of the castle, along the central coast.  We communed with a sea lion - well, he didn't commune, so much, but we had fun watching him try to bust open the shell he had so he could eat the yummy goodies inside, and I tried to get the perfect picture of the waves crashing on the rocks.  After waiting for about half an hour, I finally got this one:

We ate dinner, and after waiting for the necessary 30 minutes, I went swimming in the outdoor heated pool, which I had to myself since it was freezing.  That reminds me of a family vacation we took to Kent State when I was a kid (I don't know why we were visiting Kent State.  My parents were never big hippies, so I'm not sure whether we were paying homage to something, or just picking out random places to visit.  If you don't know why Kent State is important, by the way, you're a young whippersnapper, and you need to go wikipedia it).  We stayed in a hotel with a sign advertising Family Rates and Heated Pool, only someone was clever and switched the P and the T, so it read Family RaPes, Heated tool.  Funny.

We proceeded to spend the next day hanging out on the beach, climbing on rocks, and playing with the sea lions, after which we started the drive home, stopping along the way in Solvang, which has to be the kitchiest town I've ever seen.  And considering I grew up in Amish country, with towns like Intercourse and Bird-in-hand advertising buggy rides, quilts and drive-through covered bridges, that's saying a lot.  Apparently a bunch of Danish people settled Solvang, and they were seriously into windmills.  The entire town looks like something out of every stereotypical picture of the Netherlands you've ever imagined, but worse.  I felt like Don Quixote caught in a nightmare of windmills, wooden shoes, and chocolate.  

I did have a funny moment, though.  We were eating lunch and I overheard a girl who was waitressing complain to her friend about all the tourists in Solvang, and how she avoids going there unless she's working.  It reminded me of how much I used to hate on tourists in Pennsylvania.  I even had a bumper sticker that read, "Since there's a tourist season, why can't we shoot them?"  I hated how they refused to pass the Amish buggies on back roads.  I hated how slow they drove.  I hated that when I was a kid they used to stop on the road when I was outside playing and ask me if I was Amish.  I avoided Intercourse, Strasburg and Bird-in-Hand like the plague.  And yet, here I was, 20 years later, in the kitchiest, cheesiest tourist trap I've ever seen, having a nice salad, sitting outside, and admiring the "cuteness" of it all.  I wondered whether, in 20 years, that girl might take a family vacation to Intercourse and pay to ride in an "authentic" Amish buggy.  That made me wonder whether there's this weird time/space continuum of tourist-trap survivors that visit each others' towns every 20 years.  It did my head in, so we skedaddled out of there, avoiding all the families on group-bicycles and people shopping for tulips, and headed out, stopping at the Santa Inez mission, just to add some Imperialist history to our trip.  

No trip through California is complete without a trip to a Mission, just to wallow in some forced guilt about smallpox.  We wallowed, laughed smugly at the whitewashed descriptive signs (ie, "in 1860 the Indians were forced out of the town that was built for them 40 years before, and were given the reservation area surrounding the mission."  Oh, the things that are left unsaid in that paragraph!) and got back in the car and left, using our gangsta-radar to find the only ghetto street in all of Santa Barbara to stop for gas.  The place looked like it could have been on 87th and Vermont, yet it was a block from the beach in one of the swankiest towns in the country.  It was kind of fun wondering whether I'd be killed while using the bathroom.    Driving back along the coast, we saw a school (swarm? group? parade?) of dolphins jumping all around, which was super-cool, and reminded me again just how gorgeous this state is.  

So now we're back up the mountain, and I'm frustrated because my new Droid Charge gets, like, zero reception in my house.  That's what happens when you live 5000 feet up in a forest of redwoods, I guess.  If anybody's trying to call me, I'm having fun playing with my kickass phone, which seems to be able to do everything except actually take calls.  Tradeoffs, I guess.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Getting Fit Project Update: Halfway There!

I officially started my Lifestyle Adjustment on March 8 with the goal of losing 40 pounds by August (five months from then).  We're about halfway through now, and this morning, I officially hit the 20 pound mark.  Woot for me!  How that looks in real life: I lost 3 inches from my waist, 2 inches from my hips, an inch from each thigh and an inch from my bust.  That's 8 inches from the areas that I measure.  All the Boat Clothes I bought before our cruise in March are too big, which needs to be filed in the "Good Problems to Have" folder.

I'm finding it slower going now, but I expected that.  Your body eventually gets used to the new food regimen, and will adapt to it.  So I need to switch things up - eat often, to keep my metabolism going, for example.  And I read that up to 70% of your metabolism is determined by how much water you drink, so I'm drinking loads of water these days - at least two liters a day.  I pee all the time, but after being pregnant, I'm kind of used to that.

And I'm still hungry.  Seriously, I've said it before and I'll say it again.  All those people who say you can lose weight without being hungry are absolute liars.  I'm perpetually hungry.  But I'm getting used to it, and I don't go to bed thinking I'm going to die overnight if I don't eat a big bowl of cereal before I go to sleep anymore.  I'm eating about 1800 calories/day which generally includes at least one really big spinach salad for dinner.  If it were up to me, I'd be eating 3000 calories a day, half of that made up of cake and icing.

The thing that's worth it, though?  I went up to the attic on Sunday and got down a box of clothes I haven't been able to wear since 2004, and most of them fit.  

The big downside?  I'm noticing fine lines in my cheeks now, which I suppose have always been there but I didn't notice because of the extra weight.  So now I get to buy anti-wrinkle cream.  Sigh.

It's a Reward Day though, and my 10 Pound Reward this round is a new phone.  I'm getting myself down to the Verizon store quick-like.  New gadgets and old clothes are totally worth being hungry for!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fun with Lyrics

Saturday Night Live is a highlight of my TV week anyway, but when Justin Timberlake hosts it, it becomes a highlight of my TV year (thank God the Rapture didn't happen on Saturday, so we didn't miss this!).  So yesterday we watched SNL, and laughed our asses off to the Digital Short, featuring The Golden Rule, which we all know as, "it's not gay, when it's in a threeway."  It postulates, of course, that whatever two guys do together doesn't count if there's a girl with them.  Good to know.

Later on in the evening I was singing the song to myself, only I mis-sang, and the words came out, "it's not gay, if it's on a freeway."  The implication then would be that anything two guys do together while stuck in rush hour traffic on the five north in, say, Whittier, wouldn't count.  But as soon as you exit off on to surface streets, it becomes gay.  Two things I just can't pass up with this line of thought:  First, it's an additional justification for having a carpool: not only do you get to drive faster, but you also can indulge in random gay treats; and second, just make sure you check the timing on your GPS because as soon as you exit, the gay activities have to cease.

All night long we were having fun putting our own lyrical spin on the song.  It's not gay if it's in a doorway, for example.  Or a causeway, but I'm not really sure what a causeway is. Driveway also rhymes, which brings new meaning to National Public Radio's famous Driveway Moments... 

You could substitute "runway", but that would be logistically difficult since most of the time spent on the runway involves wearing your seatbelt, making any gay activity strategically difficult.  Also, it brings airports to mind.  Let's have fun with word association: airport in the context of a gay song = a homophobic conservative senator in Minneapolis tapping his shoe in the men's room.  I'd rather not go there in my mind, so scratch that and strike it from the record.

Jonathan just reminded me not to forget to use Runway as Catwalk, which makes a lot more sense.  You see a lot of freaky stuff on high fashion runways, and I can imagine that it would take a lot to phase anyone on a fashion runway.  That being said, models always look so serious, intimidating, and devoid of personality, so I'm not so sure that you'd even want to engage in much gay activity on a runway.  But maybe that's just me.

Any day of the week rhymes, so if you're feeling a need to justify random gay activities you can remember the old axiom: "it's not gay, if it's monday (substitute your day of the week here)."

And finally, MMA, which fits on several levels.  Two sweaty half naked muscled guys rolling around on a mat looks pretty gay in the first place, so it's a good reminder that "it's not gay, if it's MMA." 

We have the best dinner table conversation, my hubby and I.

Friday, May 20, 2011

In Which I Get Political

In case you don't live in California, the economic malaise we're in has hit libraries disproportionately, with some losing up to 75% of their funding in the past few years.  Given the fact that many more people are using the library than ever (in over 70% of towns the library is the only place where you can get free internet, for example), this is a bad thing.

So I hightailed it up to Sacramento on Wednesday for the California Library Association's Legislative Day, where I met with my Assemblyman and Senator to talk about how important libraries are.  There were two highlights of the day.  First, I found out that the State Capitol has a decent cafeteria in the basement with a good salad bar.  Second, we had a read-in on the east lawn.  I've never been to a read-in before.  It was kind of like a sit-in, only with quiet librarians who didn't make any demands, and read a lot.  It was kind of like the quiet-non-confrontational-person's sit-in.

Oh, and the third highlight is that the Sacramento airport has a massage-bar, and for $30 I got a half-hour massage from a giant Russian man who beat me up, and I loved it.

Man, I made a political difference AND got my shoulders to relax all in the same day.  Leg Day rocks.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Local News: Not Knowing The Camera's On You Edition

The quality of this video is bad since they taped their TV, but man, is it funny.

It's been a while since I trawled around Local News, and I forgot how hilarious it is!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Week Four of Doing New Things: I Review The Landmark Forum

I just had my mind blown this weekend, people.  Seriously.  Like blown out of the water.  As my New Thing of the Week, I reviewed the Landmark Forum.  It counts as a New Thing because it's a much different program than it was when I originally did it, as a snot-nosed 19 year old in 1996.  

In case you haven't heard of Landmark, it's a three day inquiry in what it means to be human, as in the ontology of being human.  Ontology is the study of the nature of being, what constitutes reality (going all the way back to the Greeks) and for three days you sit in a room, in a hard chair, and you consider your humanity.  

One of the most basic concepts in the Forum that you get in the very first session is the distinction between what has happened, and what we humans make it mean.  It's very basic stuff if you think about it.  An obvious example is how, if five people see the same car accident, you'll get at least five different interpretations of what happened.  Our lives are essentially made up of interpretations.  Things happen, and we interpret those events into our own meanings (and different people interpret things in different ways, obviously).  

The problem comes when we forget that we made up those interpretations, and we live our lives as if they're reality.  They're not.  When I was 10 and my dad looked at my report card and said, "B+, why isn't that an A?" he wasn't saying that I was a disappointment to him.  I just made that up.  He might have been saying, "you're so smart, I really want you to live up to your potential."  I made up an interpretation, and then I lived my life like that was reality.

One of the biggest things I got from that conversation, on Friday morning, was that I made up a story when I was in 6th grade that I was weird.  There was a new girl at my school - Ashley Grovesner - and she arrived and, for whatever reason, said some things that could be interpreted as "mean".  People laughed, and I sat alone at lunch.  Those are the "facts" in terms of what happened.  What I made that mean was that I was different, that I didn't belong, and society could go screw itself.  And ever since then I've lived a life where I take pride in being "different."  

It's a very strong part of my identity, and I'm very attached to that part of myself.  I am someone who does crazy things.  I drive across the country by myself when I'm 19.  I move to England.  I have 9 cats.  I win $5000 Target gift cards.  I lose babies.  

But the problem is that I live my life from the decision of a 12 year old.  

Like that 12 year old even knew what was going on anyway.  Maybe Ashley Grovesner was jealous of me.  Maybe she was jealous of how much I belonged.  She had her own issues that would have led her to be a bitch in a new school, right?  But I continue to live my life from the decision of a 12 year old, and to this day, if I'm at a conference and it's lunch time, I pretend to be really busy and stand outside the banquet making phone calls so that I don't have to go up to someone and ask to sit at their table.

Maybe it would be fun to try on that I could belong in the world, and see what happened.  Maybe I could sit with strangers at lunch, and talk to people, and not be afraid of them, because maybe they're all just as afraid of me as I am of them.

What's really funny is when we take these stories we've made up and we look for evidence of them.  You know how you can find anything that you're looking for?  Like when you get pregnant and suddenly everyone around you is pregnant?  Or when you buy a blue pick up truck, and suddenly all you see are blue pick up trucks?  We've all had that happen to us.  It's because we're suddenly looking for those things - we're aware of them - and so we find the blue pick up trucks that drove past us before without us ever knowing about it.  

But we do the same things with our stories.  For example, one time, years ago, I thought I deserved a raise at work.  I asked for a raise, and was told no.  In that moment, I made up that my boss didn't like me.  So then I looked for evidence of it.  I noticed how I got crappy schedules.  I noticed how she looked at me weird.  I noticed how she was constantly reminding me to clock in, and always insisted that I had my bag checked to make sure I wasn't stealing anything before I left work.  Suddenly I have all this evidence.  Then I talk about it with people.  "Hey, you guys, isn't she a bitch?  She hates me."  And I get people to agree with me.  Which is more evidence.  And of course I can't stay at that job, right?  Because my boss hates me.  So I quit the job.

The thing is, I made it all up.  All that happened was that she said I couldn't have a raise.  Hell, for all I know, they weren't allowed to give out raises then.  Maybe there was a raise-freeze.  Maybe I hadn't worked there long enough.  Maybe her boyfriend had just broken up with her, or she just got in a car accident.  I have no idea why she said no, but it probably wasn't because she hated me.  

So I cost myself a job because of a story I made up.

But everybody does it.  It's what we do in life.  We live our lives as if we are in reality, but we so aren't.  We couldn't recognize reality if it came up and kicked us in the ass.  Well, we can actually, if we do the Forum.  This stuff is so ingrained in who we are, in our identities, that we need something radical - like three days with 100 other people sitting on hard chairs - to kick that shit out of our systems, and free us up to invent something new with our lives, not based on what we think we know about life.

I did the Forum when I was 19 and I credit it for making me the person I am in life.  I have participated on-and-off over the past 16 years, doing lots of Landmark programs, and stepping away when I thought that was a good idea, too.  But this was the first time I reviewed the Forum, and I had my mind blown again.  I had forgotten how powerful this stuff is.  Most of the people in my life have done Landmark, so I take it for granted that people can separate out what happened from their interpretation of what happened.  I forgot that most humans will go their entire lives without questioning that their interpretation of the world is the Truth.  That's why wars happen.  That's why fights happen and families break up.  Everybody thinks their interpretation is right, and they will fight for that to the death.  If the world could get the simple distinction of making up stories, there could be world peace.  And that's just from Friday morning.  You get two and a half more days of that stuff.  It's nuts.  People get their lives out of this course.  They forgive their parents.  They are finally honest with their spouses about resentments they've been carrying for years.  They fall in love with themselves.  

The main thing I got in terms of my pregnancy losses is how wrapped up I've been in the drama of it all.  I replay it all in my head day after day.  I obsess over the drama of it all.  But that winds up being a dishonor to my babies, because I get them all wrapped up in my drama.  Grief is natural.  Replaying the events over and over, six months on, isn't.  That's drama, and it doesn't do anything to honor my babies.  Now I can just be with my grief, and have my babies near me, and not have to obsess about all the drama.  And that's a powerful freedom.

Are there other ways to this self-knowledge?  Sure there are.  There's therapy sessions at $100/hour and you usually go for years, for one.  There's books, but most people never do anything with the stuff they read in books.  If that wasn't the case, then everybody who read The Secret when Oprah first talked about it would be millionaires now.  

Nope, for my money I'm a fan of the Forum.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In Which I Probably Offend People From Oakland...

I'm still happy these days...despite the best efforts of Mother's Day and my 35th Birthday (note to any childless people nearly 35:  Do Not, I repeat, DO NOT Google: having children after 35.  You will not be happy with the results.  Apparently, if I even manage to conceive now - and apparently that's a big if - my future child will be born with three heads.  I'm ignoring Google)

I was really ok about the weekend until Friday afternoon when I was returning my rental car at the Oakland airport, and hopped on the little jitney bus to go to the terminal, and there, on the seat next to me, was a baby that was about 8 weeks old.  Baby T would be about 10 weeks old now.  I really wanted Oakland to have a chapel where I could go and cry.  Lots of airports do have chapels.  I see them.  I've never gone in, but I see the signs.  Oakland doesn't.  Smug prepsters who are too cool hiding behind their ipads to need to go to a chapel.  Grrrrr.  So I found a quiet spot, curled around my suitcase, covered my head with my jacket, and sobbed for 15 minutes.

And then I got a frappuccino, because really, I deserved a damn frappuccino.

(which begs a whole other entry about the idea that food could somehow make the situation better, and my thought process that would lead me to believe that since I was sad, I somehow concluded that I deserved sugar and caffeine...but in fairness to me, I did get the sugar free syrup, and only drank half...still, the thought process is what it is)

That being said, before the baby-sighting threw me into the abyss, I spent Thursday evening at the Piedmont Springs spa in Oakland.  It was part of my Project Happiness: Trying New Things.  So let me tell you about the hot tubs at the Piedmont Springs.

Actually, first I should tell you about hot tubs in general.  Public ones, that is.  When I was 19 I drove across the country for Spring Break in my 1987 Oldsmobile, by myself, on an ill-advised man-chasing trip. It was 1995: the early, heady days of CompuServe, and it turned into a bad scene pretty quickly.  Me, being stubborn and overly dramatic, thought that it would be a cool gesture to steep myself in heartbreak and visit said man's hometown.  While I was hanging out in Contra Costa County, I met up with another friend, who was also made via CompuServe, and he took me to the Albany Pools and Spas, where they have these giant wine-vats converted into hot tubs.  They're all outside, in private rooms with the roof open, fairy lights hanging everywhere, and I was smitten with this magic place where one could rent a hot tub for $15 an hour, and sit in it.

So, fast forward to me now, living in California, with an office in San Mateo, allowing me to go up to the Bay Area pretty much whenever I want, which is kickass cool (because I love San Francisco, but it's too frigging expensive).  So I've been back to the place in Albany several times, and it's just as awesome as I remembered it.  But then, people in my office recommended this place in Piedmont, which supposedly takes the awesomeness to the next level.

Last week, as part of my Trying New Things Every Week project, I rented myself a hot tub at Piedmont Springs.  So I got to spend a couple of hours here:

Pretty sweet, eh?  The only thing about it is that I don't really think I'm a fan of Piedmont in general.  I'd been there before once to visit a stationary store (yes, on my trips to different places, I like to do things like visit new stationary stores.  I'm sorry.  It's me.) and I get the distinct vibe that Piedmont thinks it's a hipster town, with hipster guys wearing man-purses filled with gadgets, riding their expensive bicycles, and smugly drinking their Peet's coffee, making lists in their heads of all the ways they are a superior man.  There are outdoor cafes, lots of independent shops, small-town atmosphere.

Frankly, I found it boring.  I'd be much more of a fan of Oakland if, instead of taking pride in these little hipster scenes, they took pride in what was authentic to them - their hip hop and blues music history, for example.

I've never been a fan of the whole Northern-California-Superiority-Complex anyway, but I live in Southern California, so I would say that.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Six Degrees with the Royal Wedding

There are plenty of other blogs out there that are gushing about Kate's dress, and Wills' handsomeness, so I'm not going to do that.  What I'm going to do is share with you my three, albeit very faint, connections to the Royal Wedding.

1.  Westminster Abbey.  Ok, so I know that it's been there for a thousand years, so plenty of people have a connection via Westminster Abbey, but not all of them like mine.  I'm one of the relatively few people through the ages who have actually attended regular services there.  I had my own seat in the choir at the weekday 5pm Evensong services, and everything.  And man, would I feel smug, walking up on Sunday afternoons at 2:45, breezing past all the American tourists, and having the Priest recognize me, and move aside to let me in. Then I'd, you know, look at the chair where all the monarchs since William the Conquerer had been crowned, and I wouldn't feel quite so smug anymore.

2.  Grace, the Ear-Covering Bridesmaid:  So my friend Anna Louisa posted on Facebook that she went to school with Grace's mom, and was saluting her for raising such a self-expressed daughter.  Therefore, by my calculation, I'm like 3 degrees away from Prince William.  Anna Louisa - Grace's mom - Prince William (who is Grace's Godfather).

3.  John Rutter (who composed the Anthem that the Abbey Dean commissioned for the wedding, This is the Day):  In case you've never heard of him before now, he's a brilliant choral composer, based in Cambridge, I think.  I'm pretty sure I've posted music of his before, because I just adore him.  And I got the chance to be a groupie to him in 2001 when I went to the Association of British Choral Director's annual meeting (three days of singing and conducting!  Be still my heart!).  He was going to be doing a clinic, and I ran into him in a hallway.  Literally.  I had my head down in the program, trying to figure out where I was going, and I think he had his head down, probably composing something.  I was groupie-speechless and managed a quick, "I love your work" before scurrying along, kicking myself for not thinking of anything more clever to say.

On the topic of John Rutter, you've gotta check out his Requiem.  It's all on youtube in parts, posted by @MonteverdiChor.  I'm posting the Angus Dei and The Lord is My Shepherd here.  It's juicy.  Me likey.

Monday, May 2, 2011

In Which I get Zen with The Shit

What can I say, you guys.  It's Monday.  Justice may have been done by getting Bin Laden (and I'm not so sure about that, anyway, given that I really don't feel much safer now that we're at an elevated threat level) but The Donald still refuses to do the Right thing and get rid of Star, so I'm still waiting for Celebrity Apprentice justice.  The other night I stayed up until 4:30 to watch the Kate become a princess, not because I care so much about them (though, really, I've fallen under their spell lately) but because of all the great views of central London.

The thing I want to share, though, is this amazing artist on etsy that a friend shared with me, The Midnight Orange.  She makes beautiful clay sculptures for mama's like me.  Like this necklace.  I got mine in the mail today.

I can't look at her shop for too long, though, because I start to cry.  Cuz she has stuff like this (called, appropriately, Empty But For Love):

So it's been over six months since we lost Baby T, and I've been grieving pretty hard lately.  I think part of it is that there was so much going on in the first few months after it happened, and I never had time to just grieve.  You deal with hospital crap, and recovery, and then we started working on getting pregnant again right away, so I was temping and reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility, and then I got pregnant in three cycles, and then I was freaking out about that baby, and then I lost that baby, and then there was more hospital crap, and then we went away, and now there's just...nothing.  The hospital bills have even slowed down now.  There's just an office that should be a nursery, and two drawers of gender-neutral baby clothes that I bought in a lot on ebay when I hit 18 weeks and thought I should start preparing.  No 3am feedings.  No gurgling baby snuggling next to me.  No crying.  No diapers (we had decided on cloth diapers - we're both cheap, and green!).  Just more of the same.

Mother's Day is coming up and the support group I go to is having a Mother's Day Tea on Saturday (which also, incidentally, happens to be my 35th birthday) for mama's of babies who aren't here anymore.  I waffle between really looking forward to it, and dreading it.  I haven't gone to the support group since I lost the second baby.  There's just too much sadness.  Too much heartache.  I hate it.  I want to be around happiness.

But sometimes, when you're sitting in shit, the best thing to do is quit looking around hoping that the shit turns into purple marshmallows, and just accept that you're sitting in shit, and in order to get out of the shit, you need to stand up and actually walk through the shit.  Thus, perhaps getting splashed by even more shit in the process, but eventually getting to the other side of the shit.  It doesn't work to pretend the shit is anything other than shit, which is what I was doing before.  Oh look!  I'll get pregnant right away!  It will all be ok!  A second baby will make it all better!  Nope, darlin', you're still stuck in shit.

So I'm getting zen with the shit, accepting the shit, not trying to deny the shit, and hopefully, by not trying to fight back against the shit, I will be able to flow through the shit, to the other side.

I just typed shit like sixteen times.  Whatever, I'm swimming in it, so I'm getting used to it.