Thursday, December 31, 2009

Finally coming to an end

I have had lots of time to contemplate things over the last couple of weeks and to make list upon list. Not one of those lists is a list of resolutions though. Because I don't believe in making them. I figure that if you are going to make changes in your life, why wait for January 1 to roll around? That's part of the reason why I embarked upon the weight loss path back in November -- because by doing so then meant to me that I really wanted to make those changes. One of my coworkers had started off on the endeavor with me but said right before Thanksgiving that she would wait until January because it's just too hard during the holiday season. Me? I like a challenge. What's a couple of obstacles like holiday meals? I figure if you can get through something when it's the absolutely hardest to do, then you're ready for anything that life hands you.Other thoughts were around traditions. December has been a bit of a challenge over the last couple of years but I'll get it all figured out. And as the new year approached, I suddenly realized that I have longstanding traditions for the start of the year.

I stopped going out on New Year's Eve long ago. Hey. I'm a professional partier and don't like to mix with the rank amateurs like that. So I prepare a tray of food and hunker in for the evening with a selection of books and DVDs.

This years tray features salad, seafood and cheeses -- some of my usuals. The bacon wrapped scallops came from Trader Joe's but the ramekin contains Baked Oysters with Bacon and Leeks -- something I whipped up once I got home from work. Oh, and the bottle is from Domaine Carneros -- a lovely blanc de noir. And let me perfectly honest. I have survived today on green tea and water just so that I could make this calorie splurge. I haven't really lost any weight since around Thanksgiving, but I have also managed to get through this season without gaining back any of the weight I have loss to date. I call that a win.

Here's to hoping that 2010 is a much better year. For now I must return to my tray and try to decide which movie first, and if it's time to throw another log on the fire. And I hope that wherever you are tonight, you are happy and safe.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

We all suck

I spent a great portion of last Friday reading this book -- a birthday gift from my friend, Emerald. She knows how much I love all things Denis Leary. Just a warning though -- he is not for the feint of heart. His warning in the prologue boils down to that there is at least one thing in the book guaranteed to piss just about everyone off.

Now a great deal of the book discusses children and our treatment of them in the United States. There is a whole chapter in fact on children and self-esteem. And how parents today seem bent on protecting their child from damage to his/her self-esteem. I don't know if this is everywhere but it certainly seems to occur quite a bit in Berkeley. I give you this passage from the book, describing his experiences at Emerson.

"But instead of cursing the darkness we lit it up -- using the advice of one Dr. James Randall we formed The Emerson Comedy Workshop. Dr. Randall forced the Student Government Association to recognize The Workshop as a legitimate theater group and fund it, thereby allowing us to write all of our own one-act plays, variety shows, mini-musical parodies -- whatever came to mind. We even ended up getting credit for all the creative work as well as the set design, lighting design, tech work et al. We did three to four shows a year. We were almost always last on the list for available theater space, but we would take whatever we were given -- lecture halls, raw square spaces, even -- in my favorite turn of events -- a former church -- and have to outfit it with a stage, lights, backstage area and seating. Our limitations always became a plus. [My emphasis.] Our shows were funny, exciting and always on the cutting edge and what began as what some people thought of as an impossibility became the hardest ticket in town -- we sold out every single production for every show three theater seasons a year for three seasons running. The Workshop still exists a full thirty-two years later. I'm not telling you this a form of braggadocio -- I'm informing you how our generation of kids refused to accept the status quo. We rebelled and it paid off -- big-time.

That's an example of the power of not taking no for an answer. As a matter of fact -- taking no and turning it into a giant gleaming Yes."

This is what is possible when a child is taught that sometimes we all fail. See? That's how I grew up. Well sort of. Because I had one parent who was like this at least. One who let me believe that anything was possible -- within realistic boundaries. (To show how much this parent believes, when I used to do a great deal of handmade crafts, I was asked how much start-up I would need to make this my full-time occupation.) And yes, this parent usually wanted to try to pick up the pieces and make everything better for me. But also respected me enough that when I said, "You know it's OK to say no sometimes. How else will I learn to pick myself up?" Hmmm. Or maybe that was just me parenting myself. Because it seems like I did a lot of that back then.

So in my opinion, in this way he's right. I think that to never teach a child that while sometimes things don't work out the way we plan, we can persevere -- and maybe even achieve -- is to do the child a great disservice. Because isn't the idea to prepare them to one day enter the world and to be equipped to take care of themselves? Yeah, that's right. I, the non-parent, has the audacity to talk about parenting. Because I spent five years dealing with your children in the classroom. And I see them when I go shopping. But more importantly, I know that I am the person I am today because other people -- some who never had children of their own -- helped my parents to parent me.

And speaking of parenting, there's a great chapter in the book on Hollywood kids. Or actually that's the lack of parenting in that case.

Bottom line is that if you like satire and don't mind poking fun at yourself every now and then, you'll probably enjoy this book. Me? I personally plan to buy several more copies to hand out as gifts in the future.

Monday, December 28, 2009


As long as it is not a Spare the Air day, this is the normal view around here. Everyone was upset on the 25th that we were not able to have a fire that day. Well, we could have but then I would have faced a possible $400 fine.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Finding center

When I started this blog, I said that Tuesdays would be about media. And now I'm trying to get back to that place. I think the theme for today comes from these song lyrics...

"Don't matter you're wearin'
It's about the way you wear it"

Really it is. It's about the attitude that you have when you walk in the door. You have to own the place. And to not be afraid of it.

I could do this in college without thinking about it but if anyone complimented me on this, I would pooh-pooh them. This changed after the year I spent in therapy in my post-grad years. (And silly you, thought that this would be all about music.)

During that year, I worked through the exercises in the book pictured. All these years later, I am not completely there but now I am cognizant of my triggers -- and the root of these triggers.

I know that when the ground beneath my feet suddenly feels like it's slipping, I will try to grab control wherever I can -- usually in trying to control my weight. I know that I can find other ways to ask for help instead of destroying myself. I know that I am not alone; I just sometimes choose the wrong people upon whom to depend. But most of all, I know that I am more than the negative voices I heard in my life that I managed to internalize along the way. And contrary to those voices, I am a good person, I am attractive, I am deserving of all the good that comes my way. And when I forget this, I re-read passages in this book.

But before this book, there was another. There was a book that told me that we as individuals can survive almost anything. To me Taoism is about letting it all happen. You are yourself regardless of the events in your life. This has been my go-to book over the last 20-plus years when I feel like I am losing my way, losing myself. I cannot count the number of times I have read this book. It is always one of the first things I unpack when I move.

And why now? Well, there's been lots of crazy going on around here -- family, work, the holiday season. And so I've gone back to my favorite books while I try to figure out how I plan to navigate future holiday seasons.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hello old friend

When I embarked on this weight loss thing seven weeks ago, I gave up red meat. Oh how I have missed it. But as I have become more savvy, I have learned how to reintroduce it into my diet while still sticking to my ever decreasing calorie count.

I started this dish on Saturday right before I started the cioppino since it required more cooking time. I didn't have to worry about removing tomato skins at the end as I had skinned the tomatoes before dropping them into the pot. And I addeda half cup of Parmesan to the polenta. Next time I will dredge the beef first so that I end up with a thicker sauce.

But the best thing of all? Stepped on the scale this morning to discover that I have lost a total of ten pounds to date. I am elated.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


For the last couple of months or so, I have been been trying to think of what tradition means to me. A year ago I would have said that it meant spending holidays with family. When that didn't happen last year, I was very upset -- to say the least.

This year both of my parents stuck around for Thanksgiving and I chose to not spend the day with either of them because I was still so hurt and angry. A strange thing happened though. I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend. There was no worrying about making sure to not say the wrong thing. There was no fighting to not show how much it hurts when someone makes a verbal jab at me.

I had a great moment of clarity this past week at work. I was perusing the Poulet holiday menu and jotting down the items on the Hanukkah and Christmas menus that sounded interesting. Then a coworker came over to my desk and upon seeing the list loudly declared something along the lines of, "Who the hell would want Hanukkah food?" Made it really easy for me to send a response to the email later in the day inviting all the office staff to the Christmas celebration to be held on the 24th. I respectfully declined.

Yes, for years I have been doing the Christmas thing -- out of respect for relatives. The last time I attended a church service was way back in the 80s. Christmas at best has been a secular thing because it stopped being a part of my spiritual beliefs a long time ago. (I have never done the Easter thing all these years because that has not felt as secular a day as Christmas has become.) But I continued to celebrate it with relatives because they understood and respected the fact that my beliefs were not the same as theirs. Without these relatives around, it's hard to hold onto something that is not a part of my belief system. And my decision to pass on the office party? That was out of respect as well. Because I'll be damned if I have to sit there and make nice with someone who so clearly has little respect for anything outside of her narrow view of the world.

The next thing that happened was that I set to cooking yesterday. And while I was stirring things, I realized that I have at least one winter tradition -- a big pot of cioppino. It may not be much but it's a start. And I started thinking that it's time for me to get back in touch with my own spirituality that has taken a back burner to the needs of others over these last few years.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Braving the weather

Now I know that some of y'all in colder climates are saying to yourselves, "Weather? Those Californians are such wimps." Yes, we are. We like our temperate climate. But this is an El Nino year so I see lots of rain and cold in our immediate future. And lots of whining as a result. We are petulant privileged children. (Say that fast three times. I double dog dare you.)

But Friday evening was the start of Hanukkah. And me? I am down with any religious holiday that involves food. (Note to self -- Must research Hindu and Buddhist traditions for ones that involve food as well as I am only versed in the Christian, Jewish and Islamic ones.) So Friday I headed out into the awful rain to Berkeley. Saul's had a latke tent for the weekend. I cannot even begin to describe my love of latkes. OK. It is not as great as my love of blintzes but still.

This weekend was more about this inspiration though. When Maddie and Boy Toy were out here in August, we hit a couple of wineries and I joined their wine clubs. Imagine my surprise at the beginning of November when instead of my usual two bottles, I received this beauty. Yes, it is a magnum. And yes, in this photo it is completely empty. How? Well, I sent out an Evite and cooked up some food.

There was my usual goat cheese with fig and walnut tapenade to start the evening. The main was a salad, bread, moussaka and spinach lasagna (pictured). There were children running around laughing and playing. Adults were busy catching up on one another's lives. Jade said that she had watched Julie and Julia earlier in the day and it made her think of me. For me, it felt like home.

I awoke this morning a bit fuzzy around the edges. And then it hit me. They had eaten everything. There was no food left save the baklava even though they had put a pretty healthy dent in it as well. The remainder will be going to work with me tomorrow as I am sticking true to my weight loss goal. Because -- squeeee! -- I had lost another pound when I got on the scale this morning. I now weigh less than I did back in July. This is real and I can do it. And the fact that I'm doing it during the holiday season and at a time that I am vulnerable to using food as a crutch proves to me that I can do this anytime.

Today I also did a kind of hard thing. I went to meet my mother to go to the movies. I realized on the way there that I have not seen a movie in a theater in over two years. Scary. Five years ago I used to see at least 75 or so movies per year in a theater. With my DVD viewing, I easily watched 200 movies a year. I miss it. Maybe if and when I get my bonus check in January (Yes, my company is still giving those out.), I will rejoin the San Francisco Film Society. Because I do need to take my non-flabby self out to places and all.

I totally survived going to the movies with my mom. While she enjoyed Invictus, she did not like it as much as Blind Side. Me? I would have liked it more if she had not been reciting the poem throughout the movie but I knew it would happen. But how can you not love this?

"I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul."

It tied in beautifully with watching "Dollhouse" Friday night. Here's where I would put in the warning about plot spoilers and all but I suspect that at this point, I'm the only one watching. Echo met up with a previous engagement -- a guy who wanted her to be his dead wife. The guy had finally moved on in his life and was engaged but when he saw Echo, everything came back for him.
"I thought I was past this."

"You never get past it. It becomes a part of who you are."

So true. And me now? It's all about having a home that I can open up to others. And on days in which there is not a Save the Air warning, a fire in the fireplace. By the way, the screen came from my aunt's house. And so a little bit of her will always be with me. Because sometimes we need to see it. But I know that I carry a little bit of the four women I have lost in these last 15 months or so in me. I would not be who I am today if not for them. And I will never forget this. They taught me to cook, to set a pretty table, to be a gracious hostess, to find joy in being around other people's children. They also taught me that bad things happen but we are survivors and so we move on. It is how we react and not these things themselves that define who we are.

And Flufficat, Boris and Natasha would like to thank Teddy and Kiki for their Hanukkah gifts. As you can see, the blue fluffy thing was big hit. Of course after one hour, it no longer exists. Because my cats are all gangsta like that.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Good morning

I have spent the last week working through with the folks at JS-Kit on the comments issues that have plagued this blog since I converted from Haloscan to JS-Kit. Hopefully they are all solved.

And so I leave you with a photo of a morning ritual around here. Upon awaking, Natasha likes to see what's going on outside.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dance party

So this weekend, I wanted to eat loads of stuff but now I know that if I want to eat like that, I need to have some physical activity to offset the caloric intake. That's how I found myself dancing at home once more on Friday afternoon. And I was feeling this sense of independence so I returned to some of the songs of my teens and 20s.

First on the list is "Institutionalized" by Suidical Tendencies.

"MY best interests?"

That got me thinking. Why is it the people who are the most apt to say that they are doing what is best for you are the least likely to really know what you need?

This is probably the tamer of the Oingo Boingo songs that I used to play when my mom would get mad at me and send me to my room. My response? Blast some Boingo from the stereo. But like I said, this one is pretty innocuous. It was more like a prelude for things to come.

Definitely the song for pissed off youth.

"They say you lost the ability to even think
That your tiny little brain
Slipped down the kitchen sink"

My absolute favorite.

"Who makes the rules?
Someone else."

Hearing those lines always made me want to reply, "Fuck that."

So yeah, these songs kind of sum of my current state of mind. Don't tell me what I should or shouldn't do because you might not like the response.

And as I continue to figure out who will be in my life and to what extent they will, I am thinking I will add some songs to the mix. Like maybe selections from The Smiths' "Meat Is Murder." And my old theme -- Ministry's "Everyday Is Halloween."