Friday, March 30, 2012

The Half-Assed Gourmet Strikes Again

First rule of winning Mega Millions: You do not talk about winning Mega Millions.

What are you looking for? I just told you Rule #1.

I have not yet checked my Mega Millions tickets, so I could very well be a multi-millionaire (and perhaps ready to participate in the “Shark Tank” on ABC). However, I dusted off my Kermit the Frog impression today and pleased RB, a VERY particular 6 year old young man. Just what America needs: a multi-millionaire who can imitate green felt.

Works for me. By the way, this blog, “50 Lbs. to Normal” (and I may have to change the name if the damned BMI doesn’t start going down) has had over 7,000 hits. I thank you for your support, but I’d like to hear back from folks as to why “Turn, Turn, Turn” is the most popular post. Feel free to leave comments.

Before I get into the real purpose of today’s post (“The Half-Assed Gourmet Strikes Again”), I’d like to say a word to two groups of people (and there may be some overlap): with lottery fever gripping the nation (over $600 million? Come on, that’s got to grab your attention), those who cite the odds as “a tax on people who can’t do math” and those people who cite the failure rate of diets/weight loss efforts (one study calculated it at 90%) if someone tells them they are 1) buying a lottery ticket and/or going to work on losing a few pounds. We will call them the Triple P groups: People Who Pee on Petunias (petunias as a metaphor for ambitions/dreams and used here because it starts with the letter P and alliteration is pleasing to the human ear). Triple P folks? Let it go. Okay? The petunia planters are not reaching into your wallet for ticket money and not dragging you to the gym to spot for them while they lift weights. You don’t like the odds, don’t play. It’s that simple.  But don’t unzip your fly and pee on someone else’s seedlings just because you don’t have the vision.  Part of the fun of these two endeavors are the dreams/visualization of what can be. Ever seen “Finding Neverland” with Johnny Depp (further proof the man can play effin’ ANYTHING, as if “Benny and Joon” wasn’t enough)? He’s playing J.M. Barrie, the author/creator of Peter Pan who was a great dreamer himself. A young boy says something to squash his vision of something and Barrie calls him “a horrid little candle snuffer.”  If your friend wants to spend a couple of bucks on lottery tickets (just a couple of bucks, not the rent or the dog’s kibble) and speaks of great things to be done with the money, let him/her. The Segway of progress is imagination/dreaming/vision. Okay, so the odds are long that one ticket will win hundreds of millions of dollars or someone who’s been unfit and/or overweight for an extended period of time will lose weight and keep it off, but dammit, it’s not your job to talk them out of it. By the way, I haven’t had much forward progress in the numbers, but I’m looking good. I caught a guy checking out my ass today. That’s been over a year without relapsing to bad habits so…

I want to be a thinner multi-millionaire.

And by the way, if your default setting is to talk someone else out of their dreams, maybe you need to talk to a therapist about YOUR attitude.

Now to the “meat” of this post…

Stop reading now if you…
1) Hate green beans
2) Are strict vegetarian
3) Take any adjustment to a Giada DeLaurentiis recipe as an insult to the lady’s honor that must be avenged forthwith.
Okay, so we’re all friends now? Good. Remember the Sausage, Sage and Artichoke Hearts recipe that was a riff on a Tyler Florence recipe? Sort of like, say, the Farrelly brothers riffing on Shakespeare? We’re back for Round Two; same All Star Thanksgiving show, but it’s Giada’s turn. You will need:
1) A good sized frying pan (I have a 9 inch Farberware Millenium pan that is my treasure).
2) Access to Trader Joe’s since all of the ingredients came from there.
a) From the fresh produce section: a bag of haricots vert (fancy French talk for green beans, small, slender ones) $2.99, shallots $.99, sliced thin (or a mild, mild onion like Vidalia, diced).
b) Bacon ends and pieces (“What the hell is that?” you ask. This is the non-pretty leftovers from when they slice up and package the applewood. You don’t need pretty for this recipe and the stuff tastes wonderful. Thick cut and lovely). Use half the package and chop it up to be bite sized, $2.99 (Appropriate since someone in the next unit was getting LOUDLY porked this afternoon. Discretion, People. It’s a good thing).
c) Tomato paste. TJ’s has 2 varieties: one is comes in a standard tomato paste can and costs $.89 (it’s organic). The other comes in a tube and costs $.99. By the way, Nerd Fitness (Paleo diet) approves the use of tomato paste.
d) Garlic. I used some TJ’s garlic paste I had on hand (GENEROUS tablespoon. I like garlic). I think I paid $1.99 for it.
e) Black pepper. The bacon (and the tomato paste in a tube) have enough salt for any taste unless you’re a white-tailed deer. In which case, you would probably not be making this recipe and you should avoid running into Sarah Palin. There’s a great Far Side cartoon of deer grandmothers handing out salt licks to all the grandkids – grandfawns? – but I can’t find it through Google).
Let’s start by cutting the corner on the bag of haricots vert (What? Freedom fries? Annoyed sigh. Have it your way) GREEN BEANS and throwing them in the microwave for 3-4 minutes. Giada would have you blanch them (boiling water for 2 minutes then shock in ice water bath. Yeah, I thought you’d think this other route was easier. Trust me: I just ate this). Same result: tender beans.
While the microwave is busy humming away, turn your stove on (Look, I’ve attended Thanksgiving dinners where the hostess got up at 3 AM to start the turkey, went through all the steps and went back to bed only to discover 3-4 hours later that she’d forgotten to turn on the oven. I am not making this up) to a medium high heat. Bacon will splatter as it cooks, so be aware that you will be on clean-up. It’s a given. Let it render a bit (melt the fat) and add the shallots until they get limp and translucent. Stirring is encouraged to prevent burning.
Your beans should have dinged (or whatever noise your microwave makes to announce that it’s done). CAREFULLY open the bag (they’ve been steaming. You will get a green bean facial) and add (dump) them into the pan. Stir.
Now, add the tomato paste and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Reduce heat (add a LITTLE water if you feel the need. I don’t) and give things a little time to cook together, meld flavors. You want the bacon cooked (and if it doesn’t produce enough rendered fat to cook everything else, you have my blessing to add a dash of olive oil (or olive erl as a good friend insists on calling it). No harm.
Giada used pancetta when she made this (available at Trader Joe’s, but the bacon ends cost less) as it is an Italian side dish. I’m perfectly happy chowing down on it as a main dish (and as leftovers, oh boy.  Think spaghetti sauce the next day). Feel free to throw in some basil (I did the first time I made this. Didn’t today, didn’t miss it. Basil adds a nice dimension, but  its absence is not a fatal to this dish).
Bacon or salt pork is a traditional additive to cooking beans, including green beans. You COULD, I suppose, substitute bacon salt (found at Cost Plus World Market) which is both vegetarian and kosher, but since bacon makes everything better, I go with the real deal.
Mangia, mangia.


Monday, March 26, 2012

You're Never Too Young...

I’m not even going to pretend I’ve weighed myself lately. As it is, I haven’t been to the gym in 4 days. No excuses, I’ve missed it. I’m heading in as soon as I’m done dashing off this post.

I’m annoyed. Irritated. Frustrated. Ready to bang my head on a wall (not that it’ll do any good) because
“they just don’t get it.”

I subscribe to Vogue, which is the Bible of airbrushed body loathing. (I like the clothes. I like to keep up on what’s in, even if it I can’t afford/fit it. I do have a sense of style, just not one I can indulge). The tip-off that maybe I wouldn’t enjoy this month so much was the Monster of Self-Promotion, She Who is Role Model to the Whoredashians, Jennifer Lopez, graces the April 2012 cover. (There IS a sex tape, but she blocked the release. Or says she blocked the release). I have not and will not read the accompanying article.

Nope, what has aroused my ire is the mixed message contain in the magazine. The hint comes with a teasers on the cover (I don’t work in magazine publishing. I don’t know the technical terms): “Kitchen Controversy: A Mom Fights Childhood Obesity At Home” and “SHAPE 2012 Your Best Body EVER Raise Your Metabolism Get Better Curves Age-Proof Your Skin”* And away we go.

(* This is my asterisk. Low tech, low cost means of age-proofing your skin? Plenty of water, adequate sleep, don’t smoke, minimize alcohol and  use sunblock made for babies (The adult stuff? Even if it's intended for sensitive skin, it gives me a chemical burn. Water Babies or Banana Boat Baby: If it's good enough for a baby's butt, it's good enough for my face). I have people telling me I look like I’m in my twenties. I’m not. AARP is actively hunting for me as we speak. And if Vogue finds out I’m undercutting product promotion, Anna Wintour will have a bounty on my head. You’ll see her wearing my scalp at the front row of Fashion Week in Paris. It makes an unusual pin).

The “Kitchen Controversy” story (Up Front, page 122, right behind the stinky Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb  perfume sample) is titled “Weight Watcher” about Dara-Lynn Weiss putting her 7 year old daughter on a Weight Watchers style diet. Let’s pause so that sinks in. 7. Second grader. Here’s a hint that maybe there’s a little projection going on : “I had suffered through my own issues with food (DING DING DING). Who was I to teach a little girl how to maintain a healthy weight and body image?” “Bea understands that, just as some kids have asthma, her weight is something she may always have to think about, unfair as it seems.” The story describes a running battle with this child over what she’s eating, including REMOVING FOOD FROM THE KID’S HAND IN PUBLIC AND DUMPING IT. Bea constantly complains about being hungry, gets some exercise (not much) and there are times when Mommy Dearest just lets her have whatever she wants; this woman doesn’t hold the line she has set but expects a young child to do it. Here’s my favorite line: “Incredibly, she has not yet exhibited symptoms of intense psychological damage.”  I believe “yet” is the operative word in that sentence.

Wow. Where do I begin? Not to the degree this broad did it, but I’ve been there. Pictures of me from when I was 9 or 10 (I haven’t seen them in a while, but I remember the class photos) show a slightly heavy girl. I wasn’t the class champ: there was one angry, snotty girl in my grade school class who was very big and I distinctly remember hearing her talk about cellulite at lunch (she was correcting someone else’s pronunciation of the word. Then snarled at me because I was listening. I think she went on to work at the DMV). I believe she was all of 11 (tops). This would have been 1972.

That’s 40 years we’ve been warping young female minds about body image.                   

My parents (who were not willows themselves) went the shame route with me and my grandmother piled on (Loved that woman to death, but she wasn’t slender, either. Neither was my grandfather), but I had free access to all the baked goodies that arrived with Gramp and Gram, not to mention inclusion on trips to Seward’s, the local dairy/ice cream parlor. My mother made “diet” bread for my sandwiches (which tasted like sawdust) and while my siblings were given lunch money, I brown-bagged it every day. Just a sandwich, no extras, maybe desserts sometimes (that were mocked by my classmates). I was shown pictures of fat little girls and asked “You don’t want to look like HER, do you?” I remember crying my eyes out more than once. Hell yeah, I cheated, especially after I’d left home and could make my own decisions about what I ate. BAD decisions, which is why I’m in my current “working hard to work it off” position.

And this was nothing compared to what the writer of that article did to her daughter. Poor little Bea is going to end up as a cutter, even if she’s lost 16 pounds in a year and her mother is proud of her (they’re pictured having afternoon tea, everything Momma DOESN’T want her daughter ingesting. This little girl has long legs like a model. I hope to God she kicks her mother with them). Dara-Lynn Weiss (author of the article) Look, Lady (and I use the term loosely), maybe there’s an issue with what she’s eating. Did you have her checked for food allergies? Celiac (which can begin manifesting as carb cravings)? Metabolic issues?  You talk about the doctor’s warning with weight (high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol), but NEVER ONCE indicated whether the kid had been TESTED for these issues. So it’s just an appearance issue, you self-loathing sanctimonious bitch. When the time comes, I hope she puts you in the worst nursing home imaginable.

Let’s jump to page 297 of our hymnals, “Can You Raise Your Metabolism?” The artistic photo is of 5 women in fat suits, clearly trained in classical dance (the poses, the feet). Remember the teaser from the cover, “Raise Your Metabolism”? Yeah, this woman, Ginny Graves, has decided you can only really do it temporarily. “Muscle is the main determinant of differences in metabolic rate – the single biggest reason Serena Williams incinerates calories while the majority of us count them.” This broad describes trying get hold of ephedra, rejecting HCG (yes, I did it. I think one round, otherwise your body says, “Hey, I know this trick. Nope. Not falling for it.”), pretty much every weight loss trick short of crystal meth (part of that weight loss is losing your teeth). Long story short, she works out like hell (Weight training and spinning class. Sounds familiar? Spinning is out for me due to the WRK – Wonky Right Knee. And I don’t like it. Give me an elliptical any day).

Her conclusions: you can only raise it temporarily. Fine: don’t stop moving.

After I’d read these two articles, the phrase that jumped to my mind was “Mixed Signals.” We had the mother with the iron fist trying to get her daughter to lose weight, but periodically giving the kid the okay for a cupcake and a second cupcake. And we had the cover of the magazine telling us “Raise Your Metabolism” (which is code for “Drop pounds”) but the inside story says, “No, not really. Not permanently.

This kind of inconsistency is what sells a lot of anti-anxiety meds.

It took me over 40 years to figure out the right path for me (which will lead to the gym in a few minutes), mostly because I kept asking for directions and the answers I got contradicted each other. (I’d say the same thing happened to the Israelites searching for the Promised Land, but you know the old joke about them being led by men so therefore nobody asked for directions).

Foods made with grains are not my friends. Refined sugar is not my friend. I can make a tastier, healthier meal from scratch than I can with something coming out of a jar or box. Hey, wow, it’s FUN to lift weights and see muscles getting defined. My favorite meal is some kind of meat and a salad or green vegetable and THAT WORKS FOR ME.  Having found these things, I can now tune out the background noise of mixed messages because my internal personal GPS has found the way.

And Bea Weiss? You are a beautiful girl. I’ve seen the pictures. Tell Mommy Headcase to get over herself and deal with her own issues before projecting them onto you (and exploiting it for an article in Vogue). You’re okay, Kid. Let’s hope you stay that way.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tom Sawyer (And I Don't Mean Rush)

Name brand of a sneaker (tennis shoe, sand shoe, etc.).   Did some marketing jackass decide it would be clever and catchy to just leave the “B” off of “Basics” and that would pique interest in the shoes.
Not quite.

ASICS is an acronym for : Anima Sana In Corpore Sano. It is a Latin phrase. I would tell you the English translation but I want you, the reader, to figure it out. It’s good for you; give you that sense of achievement (even if it’s a little one).

Run to Google. Or Ask. Or any other search engine.

Put it to you this way: the sneakers will get you the second half of the saying.

As for the first half, that’s every bit as important, but we seem to neglect maintaining/developing our brains.

When was the last time you read a book (and on Kindle/Nook/Kobo, e-reader to be named later)? What’s that? You’re listening to books on tape? You’ll just wait for the movie?
Sorry. I have to wait for my eye to stop twitching.

When I was a teacher, I heard a lot of complaining from “my” kids about having to read (and an equal amount of bitching from later generations of kids).  That is, except when they had to do a presentation on what they were reading. The boys were fascinated with a pictorial history of World War II and when making their presentations, would emphasize Hitler’s “blue eyes and blonde hair” rule for the Aryans and every little shit in that classroom would turn around and stare at me.  Like they hadn’t done it two weeks prior for the previous kid with the same book.  As teacher, I got to tell them to turn around and pay attention or pay time in detention (not that I wanted to spend extra time). Okay, they read the book but it was essentially a PICTURE book.

“So what?” you say. “At least the kids were reading a book.”

Pull up a chair, Bunkie. Let me educate you. (I’ll get some mileage out of the teaching degree yet)

Unlike muscles, tendons and bones, your brain has neurons and neural pathways. The more you use them, the more active they become. Repeated behaviors strengthen pathways. It’s why you learn things like tying your shoes. It’s not a big chore each and every time (unless, God forbid, you’ve had some sort of brain injury and need to relearn). Curiosity, learning new things, learning new skills builds new neural pathways, keeps them strong. And like anything that’s disused, well, they don’t actually rust or grow weeds, but it’s tough to get them back up and running again.

The act of reading is not just about gathering information (or entertainment) from the printed words in front of you. If you remember back to learning the alphabet and learning to read, it was a lot of hard work learning the rules, learning to decipher what the words were AND WHAT THEY MEANT. When you read, you are 1) identifying and recognizing the letters, 2) identifying and recognizing the words (or looking them up if you don’t recognize them), 3) identifying the sentence containing the words and 4) deciphering the meaning of that sentence and the ones around it. In reading this blog, you’re actually working your brain, not a bad thing.

Writing adds an additional component. Not just creating a word or a sentence, but coordinating the actions of the hand to what is going on in the mind. Writing with pen and paper requires even more effort than typing away on a keyboard (and yes, I do both. When I’m starting a new story or just getting the notes together, I go pen and paper. In addition to neural pathways, I’m exercising my fine motor skills. There is something about connecting the pen to the hand that triggers the more creative areas of the brain. Besides, Jane Austen, Shakespeare and Chaucer did all of their writing with pen and paper. Works for me. Bonus question: what was the FIRST novel (American novel, perhaps) to be written on a typewriter? I’m not going to tell you. YOU TELL ME.

My grandfather, Cliff Thatcher aka Gramp or Chief (I always got a kick out of my cousins calling him Uncle Chief) completed the crossword puzzle, the jumble and another syndicated word puzzle (may have been a word search or acrostics) every day. He designed and built furniture in his basement woodshop, played piano, organ and taught himself the clarinet. Gramp stayed mentally active all his life (and could tell a joke with the best of them all the way up to the end). As a young man, he worked as a bank teller and into his 80s, could swiftly and accurately add, subtract, multiply and divide in his head. They didn’t have computers or calculators; the human brain WAS the calculator.

My grandmother, Kay Thatcher aka Gram or Auntsie, could run me off my feet (of course, I had a truckload more weight on at that point) despite having 57 years on me. From a lifetime of knitting (before her hands gave out with tendonitis from 60 years of using them), we could give her knitting needles and yarn and watch a fisherman’s knit sweater grow accurately (no misplaced or dropped stitches) while she was watching “As The World Turns” and “The Guiding Light” on TV. With so much repetition of that activity, she had extremely strong neural pathways built. She also read daily and finished “Gods and Generals” just before she passed. I’ve read it. It’s challenging stuff.
Reading and writing are essentially cardio for your brain. Solving a puzzle, be it crosswords, Sudoku or quadratic equations, is weight-lifting for your brain. I have no idea what kind of mental workouts he does, but Robin Williams must have a super highway of neural pathways. Why? Get hold of his “Inside the Actor’s Studio” and watch the lightning speed with which he pulls up references on pretty much any subject. That’s a fit brain.

As technology has advanced and we’ve become more reliant on electronics, I would argue (tentatively) that we’re becoming…dumber. We’re not depending on our brains to solve math problems, figure out a route or even remember the basics of spelling and grammar. And that is how we end up with signs like this:

If you go to Northridge, CA, to a shopping center on the corner of Tampa and Nordhoff (the side with the Fresh & Easy), you will see this sign.

Whoever placed the order for the sign didn’t know the correct spelling for “coming.” The person who took the order for the sign didn’t correct the spelling. The person who actually made the sign didn’t correct the spelling. It’s a simple word.
I have a dual degree: Bachelor of Science in Education and English was my teaching major (Social Studies was the teaching minor. Don’t get me started on people’s inability to find things on maps or ignorance of their country’s history). Whereas most people would argue that I am a killjoy and nitpicker, I would argue that as a former Language Arts teacher, I am sensitive to language. I am the educated, intelligent, independent female snob that Rick Santorum hates and fears. That being said…

Spell Check is ruining people’s ability to intelligently express themselves.

There, their and they’re. Common homonyms. What’s a homonym? Homonyms are words that sound like other words, but are spelled differently and have different meanings. I grind my teeth when I see these words misused. Over the past few years, I’ve been grinding my teeth so much, I’m surprised I still have any. “Their” is a possessive pronoun. If I was talking about the Obama family’s dog, Bo, I would say, “Bo is their dog.”  If he was standing in front of me, I would use the adverb “there.”  “Bo is standing there.” If I was describing the Obamas bringing Bo to me to puppy sit (which I would do, he’s adorable. I love those white paws), I would say “They’re dropping him off tomorrow.” 
This is shit I learned in third grade, yet I’ve seen errors in newspapers like USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and (sadly) the Boston Globe where “their” stands in for the other two. As long as it’s (and there’s another lesson: the difference between it’s and its) spelled T-H-E-I-R, Spellcheck won’t catch it. Spellcheck isn’t programmed to evaluate context; just whether or not you have the letters in the correct order.

Excessive reliance on Spellcheck makes the user dumber. Excessive use of text and Twitter abbreviations cause the neural pathways that get used for correct spelling and grammar to grow over with weeds and makes the user present him/herself as a lazy dumbass (“Well, I can do it when I need to.” Really, Sparky? Even if you don’t PRACTICE???). IT’S PREVENTABLE!!!!

12 years back, we had the great Y2K Scare. Since programmers had shortened years from four to two digits in order to save space, nobody knew if all the computers on Earth were going to have a major freak out on January 1, 2000. They didn’t BUT…if they had…most people would have been screwed because of too much dependence on computers and not enough dependence on brains. They math wizards who get stuffed into lockers would have had the advantage because they don’t need computers to calculate. Ever seen the movie “Apollo 13” starring Tom Hanks? Rent it, get it on Netflix, whatever. There’s something I want you to see. Understand: this movie is set in 1970. Your average laptop computer is now more powerful than the big room-filling, punch-card eating monsters that NASA used for the space program back then. There is a scene, after the onboard explosion has occurred (not a spoiler. Not only is it in the movie, it was in the news) and the NASA scientists and engineers need to plot a course and calculate a trajectory for the spacecraft that 1) won’t use up too much fuel, 2) won’t be so shallow that the craft essentially deflects of the Earth’s atmosphere or 3) won’t be so steep that the spacecraft comes in at too acute an angle and burns up. We don’t see the guy actually calculating the course, but we see a roomful of engineers confirm his math. No calculators (they didn’t exist). No computers. They all used their heads and slide rules, which require brain power.  Not only did the actors survive the movie, but actual astronauts Lovell, Haise and Swigert made it home in real life. Had Y2K happened on their watch, these men would have ended up ruling the planet.

I hated algebra and geometry in high school (and have the lousy report cards to prove it). The classic grumble is “When am I ever going to use this in real life?” Well, we’re not required to solve quadratic equations as part of our jobs (unless we’re employed at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena), but it took me to getting to be an adult and to seeing my best friend’s computer programming homework in college that it dawned on me: Algebra and geometry are teaching problem solving. Here’s a set of rules: here’s your situation (not to be confused with one of those Jersey Shore idiots). How do you solve this problem? We didn’t think about it then and we probably don’t stop and consider it now, but as we go through a day, we are constantly “solving for X.” If it’s 20 miles to get to work and the 101 is jammed, what time should I leave the house to be to work on time? Oh, yeah: it’s algebra. This is not something you can tap into a computer. You’ve got to sit back and figure it out yourself.

Geometry ties into solving logic puzzles (part of the LSAT that I absolutely detested. If it wasn’t for the hot flashes, just the thought would give me cold sweats). “If A, then B.”  Sudoku puzzles also tie into solving logic problems. Real world application? Bride and groom trying to figure out a seating chart for their reception where they have a) bitterly divorced parents, b) at least 3 friends they’re trying to match with 3 other friends, c) 1 friend of the groom who can’t be seated anywhere near the potential hook-ups because he’s slept with 2 of them and talks about it when drunk and d) over the bride’s objection, children ARE coming and she needs to properly place a kiddie table. (Do yourselves a favor, People: Elope and then throw a cocktail party.) No computer program can solve this, but if you’ve been doing your Sudoku puzzles, YOU CAN .

It may make the politicians feel safer and more secure if we’re dumb and placid (push button society and all it becomes capable of is pushing buttons), but they forget that when the uneducated finally get pissed off, they lack the negotiating skills, diplomatic language and requisite skill set to peacefully move a government out of power. Nope: when it’s serfs up (that was intentional), they WILL go French Revolution on your ass.

So, step away from the video games, the audio books and the Spell Check. As you would work to strengthen your body, strengthen your mind. Pick up an actual book, a puzzle or a book of sample math problems.  As you build muscles and tendons, bulk up on neurons and neural pathways.

After all, sound mind in a sound body.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Two Roads Diverged...

A funny thing happened on the way to my blog post about how we need to sharpen our brains because we rely too much on computers (we do)…

I got laid off from my job. Not fired (for cause or to be a cautionary tale. I’ve experienced  both of those). Laid off. Not enough work to keep all the workers going, so the force had to be reduced.
Fortunately, my friends have NOT asked, “Gee, Sue, what are you going to do?” or said, “Well, you’ve got to find another job.” (Really, Captain Obvious?) These are the common expressions of support in these circumstances (and sadly, a lot of people I know and people I don’t know have found themselves in this situation), but I need to figure out a few things before I’m willing to hear them.
I’m not in panic mode. I have ex-friends who have the “ex” status because they got pissed at me for NOT panicking (WTF?) in dire straits, including loss of job. 

I’ve consulted mental health professionals from time to time (Sometimes, people need help to deal with stress so that they do not do crazy, self-destructive shit or to STOP doing crazy, self-destructive shit). One of them gave me a priceless piece of advice when I was faced with an ugly situation and fighting the impulse to make a bad decision just to resolve the matter:

Don’t let fear drive the bus.

Panic and fear are not conducive to making good decisions (and there is a whole predatory financial industry set up to exploit people’s fear). Smelling the smoke of your hair on fire is toxic to a reasoned, sound thought process.

As stated in previous posts, comedian Marc Maron (of the “WTF” podcast) has stated that positivity is a coping mechanism. It works for me. With that in mind, I choose to look at my unexpected free time as having a whole world of possibility open to me.

So what do I WANT now?

One of the benefits of writing this blog has been that it has gotten me into the habit of writing (not every day as I started out). I enjoy thinking up stories and essays, but didn’t (notice the past tense) enjoy the mechanical process of converting them to a format that would be visible to others. “Why bother?” I thought, “If nobody else is going to read them.” Why, indeed?

Not anymore. The paid work I had involved writing, but it was essentially writing the same thing (or substantially the same thing) over and over. This blog is more fun.

Okay, so now we know what I WANT to do, but there I’m not getting offers to get paid for it right now (but that’s coming. You heard it here first).

I remember a couple of classes in eighth grade where the teacher was trying to get us to figure out what our values were. He’d read a story where the hero had a dilemma (not life and death, but a hard choice), then ask us what we thought the guy should do. The one that sticks in my memory was of a family man who was a skilled graphic artist working in an ad agency. He loved his work.  The man had a teen-aged son getting ready to go to college and while money wasn’t tight, it wasn’t flowing, either and college was going to add some strain. The ad agency offered him a promotion to a management position. There would be a lot more money, but the man wouldn’t be an artist anymore, the hours would be longer and since he would be management, the stress would increase, but he could easily afford to send his son to college. If he stayed with the current job, he’d have the job satisfaction, but not the money. The question was: what should he do?

Some of my heroes are people like Warren Buffett, Jimmy Buffett (yes. And he has some pretty sharp business sense) and Richard Branson. They love their work and it has loved them back. They took chances (and still take big gambles. Warren Buffett is playing Monopoly, the life-sized version), put their hearts and souls into what they were doing and it has paid handsome dividends (although not literally. Berkshire Hathaway doesn’t really pay divs). “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.”

I want that feeling. I deserve that feeling.

There is the school of thought (Law of Attraction, the Secret, etc.) that says you should decide what you want and “make a demand on the Universe” for it. The trick is figuring out what it is (in detail that you want). For instance, Sunday, I had “made a demand’ for $2,000 over and above my paycheck “free and clear” (meaning I hadn’t borrowed it. It was flat out mine). Guess how much the unused paid time off came to?

I should have been specific about “Oh and by the way, keep the income stream flowing.” Live and learn.

I’m getting leads on more of the mortgage underwriting work I’ve been doing. Either work at home or go to an office (I feel safe in saying I have a pretty good reputation in this industry).

Here’s the thing: at the back of my mind is a little voice saying, “You came to Los Angeles to pursue an acting dream. Other than the improv games at a party the other night, when was the last time you took a class, auditioned, did a stand-up set or came near it?”

Years. Been too busy earning a living and that has taken me on the road. I haven’t had my own home since 2005. I’ve been traveling to make the world safe for mortgage lending, so I wasn’t in L.A. for auditions, headshots, classes, any of it. I am now, but I need an actual home (the hotel has been okay for a year, but it’s time to move on). And I still need to support myself.

Here’s the downside to having a “fallback” position when you’re chasing something risky; you’re more likely to fall back. Due diligence audits: 40 hours a week (unless you’re working for a sweatshop type lender/servicer/audit firm and then 50 hours), solid pay and benefits. It’s a very comfortable tar pit to fall into.

I need to make some decisions, but in order to do it right, I need to be level-headed and clear about my priorities. No alcohol (otherwise, I may end up with a tattooed tush instead of a career path).

I’m preparing to make a demand on the Universe. The question is: what am I going to demand?

Postscript: I just saw the above picture when I was JUSTon Facebook after posting this bit about 5 minutes ago. The Universe is speaking...(?)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Half-Assed Gourmet

Nope, no numbers.

Well, if you are subscribed to this blog’s Facebook page (!/pages/50-Lbs-to-Normal-the-Blog/288968621123432. Like it. I’m not really good at begging. This is as close as I get so if you want groveling, get a Cocker Spaniel), you know that I’m tired, cranky (Why? I’m tired. Duh. I’m not taking it out on anyone, but I’m cranky) and I’ve decided it’s a good idea to have some cheap wine (QUALITY cheap wine, I hasten to point out). While it does help the cranky, I do need to eat something substantial. It was Yoga Day (aka Tibetan Twister or Himalayan Hokey-Pokey, take your pick). Tyler Florence of the Food Network has a great recipe for something  once called “Roman Style Artichokes,” now known as “Artichokes with Pork Sausage, Lemon and Sage”(How un-freakin’-imaginative). Now, Tyler’s got you cooking from whole artichokes and all the work THEY entail to get to the heart, cutting up pork sausage and basically working one’s tail feathers off.

Nuh uh.

Okay, Gang, listen up: this is why you need access to Trader Joe’s. You save a few steps.

They carry frozen ARTICHOKE HEARTS, God bless their eccentric inventory. I found this out in November 2004 standing in line behind a little lady who had all the ingredient to make this dish (FKA Roman Style Artichokes. Seriously, Food Network? What the Hell? Did Rome threaten to sue?). The dish had debuted on a Thanksgiving special and this was Tyler’s side dish (a Thanksgiving SIDE dish with meat? Hey, Paula Deen was dumping sliced hard-boiled eggs into the gravy. I shit you not). Other than the “Yeah, get whole artichokes and proceed from there,” the dish looked simple, good and relatively healthy (well, especially compared to Paula Deen. I will NOT be eating her gravy any time soon. Or late). But I digress.

I’ve made this dish quite a few times (and screwed up the sage part, using fresh rosemary instead. Still works. Eating dried rosemary is like chewing needles. I learned that the hard way). In my last trip to Trader Joe’s, I found chicken Italian sausage and figured, “Let’s give it a shot.”

This is the point where, if my friend Tony Spatafora (of Dish It Out. Excellence) is reading, he’ll mop his brow, say a quick prayer for my soul and plan an intervention.

Remember the tired and cranky part? Yeah. Not the best mindset for careful food preparation. And the first, mellowing hit from the Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay made me even less interested in doing a lot of steps.

Okay, before we plunge in, let me assure you I have eaten the end result and I haven’t vomited, died or otherwise indicated a problem.  It DOES need some work.

You can get everything from Trader Joe’s (although I wouldn’t swear to the sage)

1 package of chicken sweet Italian sausage

1 bag of frozen artichoke hearts (thaw the little suckers)

1 BB shallot (Big Beautiful), peeled, sliced thin

1 lemon (Truth: the actual lemon I had was harder than Mitt Romney’s heart, so I used my True Lemon crystals instead. 2 packets)

Garlic paste (don’t have garlic cloves on hand)

Olive oil

Poultry seasoning mix (Why? Because I didn’t have fresh sage. BUT poultry seasoning does have sage. What the hell; I’m the only one eating this concoction)

An open bottle of Chardonnay

Fresh ground black pepper

If you’re anal or OCD, you are no doubt checking this recipe against Tyler’s. Yeah; don’t do that. Your head will explode.

For starters, the chicken sausage requires a little prep and you can go one of two ways: either remove the casings (I haven’t seen bulk chicken Italian sausage anywhere, so I THINK you’re stuck with the actual sausages) and brown OR (what I did) pierce the sausages with a fork and parboil them (use your favorite big frying pan. I did. Farberware Millenium. LOVE the stuff)  until they’re firm, remove from water and slice. They’ll look better when the dish is done (not that I was terribly hung up on presentation). Give the pan a quick wash; you’re going to use it again (unless you did the free range browning, in which case, you’re already ahead of the game). Yeah, remove the casings and brown. Move it to the side of the pan.

Quickly sweat the shallots and throw in a tablespoon of the garlic paste. Medium high heat (hey, if it was hot enough to brown sausage, it’s the right heat for this. Just don’t walk away from the stove). Not quite brown, but translucent.

Throw in a little olive oil, if you haven’t already (Look, I’d had some wine BEFORE I started cooking tonight and I’ve had a little more since then). I thought I’d be slick and brown the artichoke hearts like I do when I eat Brussels Sprouts. Didn’t quite work as planned: the artichokes were still frozen and there were a couple of brown spots here and there. Browning isn’t important.

Tyler’s recipe calls for chicken stock. Guess what mine DOESN’T have? I threw in some wine instead (half a glug) and added about a teaspoon of poultry seasoning.

I let things go until the artichokes were thawed (Learn from my mistakes. Thaw them before using), then shook on the lemon crystals and black pepper. I am notoriously light-handed with salt in the first place, even more so when using sausage (because salt tends to be an important ingredient in sausage making).

You know, as weird and half-assed as this one-pan recipe looks in print, it works. Even if you’re tired and cranky, a little planning and prep and you’ll have a decent meal in less than one hour.

Just learn from my mistakes…

Last Word on the BOZo (I just sent this email to his website)

I'm sorry, Mehmet Oz, but you have lost substantial credibility.
I used to watch your show with a notebook in hand. I don't even turn it on anymore. Here's where you lost me:
1: Your shows are either about weight or wrinkles or scare tactics about health that come back to adipose tissue.
2. You are partnered up with Weight Watchers. Therefore, your objectivity in discussing weight issues/loss programs that are NOT Weight Watchers is highly suspect. See previous comment about show content: You come across as just herding more clientele into the WW program. Is that practicing medicine? No. It's sales, pure and simple.
3. I just heard you on Mark & Brian discussing "The Biology of Blubber." Excuse me, but are you talking about human beings or humpback whales? Blubber is a very specific kind of tissue found on marine mammals, not humans. Keep that in mind unless you like sounding like a pompous, nasty douchebag.
4. Shame and fear seem to be your favorite tactics. When was the last time they worked? Yeah, I'm overweight. Yeah, I'm working on it, but you are just pissing me off.
5. You deplore certain tactics and products, but you have no trouble with product placement during the course of the hour, especially weight loss products and EXPENSIVE dermatological procedures that your average viewer cannot access. Congratulations: you're an infomercial. For Weight Watchers.
6. The killer was the show with the super obese women. You seemed unable to handle the fact that they were fine with who they were, not unhealthy (according to their doctors and them), not victims of childhood sexual abuse and just not fitting into the teeny tiny little mold into which you tried to fit them. Instead of trying to change everybody else's mindset, maybe you should take a good look at yours, huh?

For starters: you WERE a respected heart surgeon. You are NOT: dietician, gerontologist, bariatric specialist endocrinologist, dermatologist, gynecologist, oncologist orthopedic specialist and especially not, the Messiah ("I give you permission to cheat." Who the HELL do you think you are?).  You're more entertainer than anything else now. Too bad. You've gone from serving patients to serving your ego. You were doing more good before you got in front of a camera.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What DOESN'T Kill Me?

And that is a question.

The latest nutritional brouhaha getting sensationalized is one called “Red Meat Consumption and Mortality.”  It is an observational study (no lab rats or mice were harmed) following 120,000 men and women. The findings of this study (Cue the dramatic music)  claim eating red meat WILL kill you.

My response, via Olympia Dukakis in her Oscar winning role in “Moonstruck”: “Cosmo, I want you to know, no matter what you do, you’re going to die, same as everybody else.”

Pretty much.  One day, your heart will say, “Th-th-th-that’s all, Folks” and stop. Not a goddamned thing either you or I or Sir Richard Branson or the Queen or the Pope or the Dalai Lama can do to change that. Man is mortal. Since nobody knows what happens after that (if anything), organized religion has been using the threat of an unpleasant afterlife as the chief means of keeping the troops in line, but I digress.

Red meat on the hoof can kill you if you get caught in a stampede or you try bull riding for the first time and you really, really suck at it. They didn’t study those possibilities.

First of all, who funded this study? Here’s your first lesson in Skepticism 101: who paid for it? The poultry lobby? Alaska Fishermen (Hey, they had Ben Stein shilling for them a few years ago. He’s a bigger whore than Rush Limbaugh)? Blue Diamond Almond Cooperative? The Incredible, Edible Egg? Environmentalists? Militant vegans?  In the words of Deep Throat (Mark Felt, although I suspect it was really someone else higher up in the Nixon Administration and he was just convenient to use): “Follow the money.”

Let’s be honest with ourselves here: News is a means of product placement and marketing disguised as a disinterested third party merely providing information.  When you’ve got Brian Williams talking about the KFC Double Down on the Nightly News, someone from the KFC publicity department PLACED that story to be covered. Advertising is as omnipresent as air.

Secondly, well, we’ve been seeing a lot of food recalls for contaminated  eggs, spinach, tomatoes, etc. E coli and salmonella will kill you, too. So will botulism from improperly canned food (That was a whole “All In the Family” episode). And mercury from seafood, as well as the parasites you can pick up from sushi. None of those foods are red meat.

I am pulling my information from the following source: Mark’s Daily Apple (

Disclosure: Mark’s Daily Apple is focused on the Paleo (or Caveman) Diet and as such, recommends against eating grain. His take on the study was how many of the participants were including fast food hamburgers on buns because (Paleo theory) grains are not good for you and should not be eaten (For the record, I don’t miss them from my diet. Veggies and fruits have carbohydrates a go-go).

The study was conducted via questionnaires that people filled out (get this) ONCE EVERY FOUR YEARS.  ARE YOU MOTHER EFFIN’ KIDDING ME?  There are days I can’t remember what I had for breakfast 4 hours ago, let alone how much steak I had at Claim Jumper in 2008 (None. Logan’s Roadhouse, on the other hand…)

Ay yi yi yi yi yi….

If you have seen “The Secret” (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, but I find it valuable and positivity is an effective coping mechanism for me. Suck it), you will have seen Neale Donald Walsh talk about doing things that give you joy, including “If you experience joy eating a salami sandwich, then do that.”

This is a quality of life issue. The self-inflicted misery of never eating your favorite foods will make life seem like it lasts forever. (Of course, if you like onion rings and they give your heartburn, that’s different. Eat the onion rings, but shut the fuck up about the heartburn. Or double down on the Tums).

If we were to listen to all the competing voices (and, mes amis, they ARE competing. They are fighting for your attention and your trust because they all want YOUR DOLLARS (or pounds, francs, Euros, guilders, yen, baht…)), we would be left with nothing to eat or drink because every food, every beverage has detractors. In fact, there’s a series of books titled, “Eat This, Not That.” And no, I haven’t cracked the cover on any of them.

I enjoy beef. And lamb. And pork. And bison (although I feel guilty about it because I like buffaloes as living, breathing critters). My last meal (and according to this dumbass study, it will be the cause of it) will be “Half a cow, medium rare.”  When I have passed on eating these foods because someone well-intended told me not to, I was not a happy camper (and my iron levels started to droop).

So take your questionable, quadrennial questionnaire and use it to light the charcoal. Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet

If you’re expecting scale numbers, learn to live with disappointment (at least for today). BUT…

I took a good look at myself in the mirror as I was working out and…DEFINITE HOURGLASS (not sexy yet, but dammit, I’VE GOT A WAIST!!!!!!!!).  And the new skinny jeans? Yeah, the waistband is just a wee bit loose already. I was headed out the door yesterday afternoon (dropping off the too big clothing) and caught a look at my face in the mirror. I liked what I saw. Now, I hesitate to say (or think) I look good or I like myself; I’ve just always figured that was egotism. But, like I said, I caught a look at my face and thought, “I’m pretty.” I don’t look bloated or tired anymore. I have to sit down with someone to rework the makeup because (and this is serious) my previous look was designed to minimize a fat face. I don’t have a round face anymore (I have the webbed throat that is the “genetic betrayal that is my legacy” – Janeane Garafalo as Heather Mooney in “Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion”). It’s a pleasant problem to have.

A tall, good-looking guy APPROACHED ME at the gym today. Okay, okay, I know him from yoga class (he hasn’t been there in ages. Knee issues. Gee, that sounds familiar). But he wanted to confirm that I would be there tomorrow. Hells frickin’ yeah!

This brings me to today’s sermon…I mean my blog post. As this is actually text for stand-up FOR ME, consider it copyrighted material, off limits for theft (unless you want to pay me) and MINE, MINE, MINE.

You’ll have to imagine me at a microphone stand and since the jacket I used to wear for my stand-up gigs was stolen, I’m having a hard time visualizing it myself. (Somewhere in Portland, OR, there’s a homeless transvestite asking “Does this make me look fat?”)

Ah, yes, the mating ritual.  You know, in the animal kingdom, the males are the ones who have to do all the work and the girls get to decide. Human race? Rulers of the planet, top of the food chain and (if you’re to believe the Bible given “dominion over all”) we’ve got it ass backwards. Women seem to do all the heavy lifting (and tucking, Botox,bulimia, implants, you get the picture) to attract the male of the species.

I’ve seen it up close and personal in the bar scene. For starters, women generally don’t go to bars by themselves. In what can only be a holdover from the cave days, they work as a hunter/gatherer groups. Those women who DO hit the bars alone are considered rogues and not to be trusted (The memory of “Fatal Attraction” lingers on). Anyway, if she can take down the big prize by herself, then she’s considered an outcast and probably a bitch. The rest of the hunter/gatherers will destroy her behind her back. Mammoth/investment banker, same thing. And she should have at least introduced him to the other girls. Selfish bitch; she can’t even dance.

Look at the terminology for starting and building a lifelong romantic partnership. “Husband hunting,” “He’s a great catch”, “trolling”, “on the prowl” or the dreaded “shotgun wedding” (bridesmaids in camouflage taffeta).  It’s a big game hunt or sport fishing; either way it’s the “American Sportsman” with Curt Gowdy (Yes, I’m that old) If someone got sharp enough, they’d come up with a hybrid of “ Modern Brides” and “Field & Stream.” Or sell husband hunting licenses a la New Hampshire and the annual moose lottery (if you’re lucky, you can shoot the biggest, dumbest deer in North America).  Open season all year round. You could even make a show out of it, like the aforementioned “American Sportsman.”  Commentary by Martha Stewart and Ted Nugent.

“Who’s our first contestant tonight, Ted?”

“Well, Martha, it’s Andrea Stokely of White Plains, NY. She’s playing the long game tonight; got a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from NYU,  6 months savings and a 780 credit score, making her ideal for starting a life together.  Parents are solid upper middle class, with a comfortable stock portfolio, vacation home on the lake and they own their home outright. She’s never sexted anyone and no psychotic ex-boyfriends. Let’s see how she does.”

“Ted, I see she’s caught the eye of a junior associate at a Wall Street law firm. He’s got a law degree from Columbia, an AMEX Platinum card that he pays monthly and his parents are divorced (and dead). While he wants to get married eventually, he’s not looking tonight. This is going to be a real challenge for Andrea.”

“Martha, she’s making her move, “accidentally” bumped into him while trying to get the bartender’s attention, apology with a giggle and…and… YES, she is going for the hair flip!”

“The gambit seems to have paid off, Ted. He’s focused, leaning in and …what’s this?”

“Uh oh, we’ve got another contender, Martha. This is Britney Suggs of DeKalb, IL. She’s a high school dropout who works as a dental receptionist during the day and two nights a week, supplements her income with pole dancing at a local strip club, one of the seedier ones. She’s developing a coke habit, got a case of the crabs and owes money to 3 different loan sharks, but our boy seems to have forgotten Andrea completely.”

“And why is that, Ted?”

“Look at the sweater cows, Martha. She’s packing Double Ds and that’s a slam dunk every time. She traded sexual favors with the dentist to get them, but they’re getting the job done. Looks like Andrea will be going home to her vibrator tonight.”

And so it goes. As for me, I’ve been more in the “catch and release” program.

Lest anyone think I’m just bitter and Mother Theresa got more action than I did, I have dated. It’s just never been particularly good.

Thinking I should be open-minded and treat others as I would like to be treated myself, I agreed to go out with a guy who was old enough to have voted for Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt. It was a dinner date, so I was home after the early bird special.

And speaking of old men, I’d like to bitch about something for a moment: women going through the hormone depletion that is menopause are the butt of jokes. Hot flash humor, ha ha. Why is it, on the flip side, when Mr. Willy doesn’t snap to on command, it’s cause for national panic. Seriously, I hear a local celebrity on the radio boasting about how he’s undergone “hormone replacement.” And I’ve seen ads for something called (I kid you not) “Andro Gel” to deal with “low T.” If they advertised female menopause remedies as much, the GOP would hold hearings (no women invited) decrying it as warping the moral fiber of America. Do we want our children to see ads about (gasp) FEMALE HORMONES??? It might lead to uncomfortable questions about what females are and why they need hormones. And then dancing. Look, Y Chromosome owners, quit your bitching. When you  have to remove facial hairs by yanking them one by one with a pair of tweezers instead of a Gillette Mach 4 and Old Spice aftershave, then you tell me about how difficult aging is. And back down on the Old Spice. Your sense of smell may not be working, but my nose is fine. Actually, just limit it to Dial deodorant soap. Metro sexual or not, the girls are the ones who are supposed to smell pretty.

But I digress.

At the other end of the bad date scale, we had the possible virgin. Youngster (truly ugly nerd sweater) and didn’t seem to know what he was doing. If not an actual virgin, then definitely a candidate for remedial sex ed. And I wasn’t interested in playing teacher to this clown; clearly he had sexual ADD – he was more focused on pleasuring himself than a living, breathing, WILLING woman. At least he didn’t steal anything.

These are just examples, glaring ones. Let’s say they are the reasons why I’ve had less experience at my (ahem) age than Britney Spears did by the time she was 25. If that’s been the best offered to me, I’ve been happy to do without, in a manner of speaking.

And yet, I’m still willing to try. I keep hearing “men are visual, men are visual, men are visual” (Hey, Ray Charles wasn’t visual and he had a LOT of girlfriends). Fine. I’ve been working on improving the bait. I have a friggin’ waist, okay? For real!

Let’s see what I can catch…

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Good Day

Still haven’t been on the scale. Eh.

What a good day looks like…

I added squats on the Smith machine to my workout.  No weights, just the 15 lb. bar so that I don’t overwork the right knee. I really felt like I had worked hard so that will become a regular part of the workout.

As I said, I bagged up a bunch of my size 18-20 clothes to give to a friend of mine. I’m not naked (not that anyone wants to see THAT), but I do have the Holy Grail of “Okay, I’ve lost enough weight” clothes which is a pair of size 11 Levis 501 jeans. Neither Monty Python nor Indiana Jones came across them in their quests (although they did find Spam. And Sean Connery).

Those jeans still don’t fit, but I can pull them up.  Buttoning, not so much. The Great White Belly is having its last hurrah by preventing this. I’m dying to wear those jeans because they have a tapered leg and while my gut is big, ain’t nuthin’ wrong with these gams…

I took my jeans to the local Levi store in search of “same thing, larger size.” We have good news and bad news. Bad new first: not only are the HG (Holy Grail) jeans vintage, they’re no longer made in that style (501, yes. Tapered leg, no). Well, fuck a doodle doo. However, the VERY nice young guys working the counter had me try on two other pairs of jeans, a 32 x 32 pair of 501s and a 31 x 31 pair of non-numeric “skinny” boyfriend cut jeans. “Aw, Jeez,” I thought. “This is going to get ugly.” (For those of you thinking that a 32” waist is fat, go to hell. It’s smaller than what I’ve been wearing)

Both pairs fit. The skinny boyfriend cut even better than the straight leg 501s. The waistband was up slightly over my hip. Hip huggers, although I used to wear them when I was a teenager (my sister’s hand me downs) are not a good idea with The Great White Belly. Yeah. The 32 inch waist was flapping in the breeze in the small of my back (plus the inseam was a bit too long for my taste. Had I been wearing my cowboy boots, which have a modest heel, they would have been fine). The skinny jeans (full disclosure: 99% cotton, 1% elastic) fit like a glove and even the salesman said my butt looked good. NOBODY pays attention to my butt. NOBODY.

Plus, they’re on sale 60% off. SCORE! I’ll save enough money to buy a new white shirt (I had one from Ann Taylor, but that disappeared when my car was broken into and a garment bag with some of my favorite clothing was stolen. Early 2008 really sucked). And that’ll be smaller, too!

Progress, always progress.


Didn’t weigh in today. BUT I bagged up a bunch of clothing in the 18-20 and 1X, 2X sizes (sort of like “One Fish, Two Fish” but with far more emotional baggage) to give to a beloved friend who is tackling weight herself. And I don’t buy junk. We’re talking NYDJ, Michael Kors, Elie Tahari and Eileen Fisher, stuff made of cotton, wool and silk.

To the extremely large, extremely NICE gentleman who helped me change out the weights on a machine yesterday: Thank you, Sir. So much time (and extra effort. A little bonus workout, I suppose) is spent removing the weights from the previous user to put on my lighter, girly weights that for someone to step up and say, “Here. I’ve got ‘em” is a real treat. There are people with manners and consideration. The fact that they stand out so much is a shame; common courtesy should be, well, common. Thank you again, Sir. I hope to run into you soon.

At the other end of the scale…

To the young woman in the shiny new BMW who pulled into the right turn only lane so she could dart out ahead of the three cars lined up at a red light to go straight: while I wasn’t hoping to see your demise by terminal stupidity (running into the cars parked along Tampa as you tried to outrun those of us who obey traffic laws: mostly because you would have taken out pedestrians and at least two other drivers),  it made my day to see the cop nab you. Too bad I won’t be there when you explain to Daddy why his insurance rate just went through the roof.

And finally…

To the woman who attempted to start a naked conversation with me in the “wet” locker room at the gym. First of all, if you have to puff and pant that hard just to take a shower and dry yourself, perhaps you should reconsider your gym membership. Also, see “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” Naked locker room conversations with strangers? No. Unless you’re Ryan Gosling…Nonononononononononono.

It’s been a day. I slept very badly last night, which is unusual. I fall asleep quickly and, except for getting up to pee, stay asleep. Not last night. Tough falling asleep, didn’t stay asleep and, judging frowam the emails and other conversations I’ve had today, it was an epidemic. Must be some kind of funky energy going on to wake us all up. Maybe tonight.

It’s 24 hours later than when I started writing this post and I hear we have a solar storm headed our way. I maintain that sunspots are disturbing our sleep.

Today is going to be a two-post day, so this’ll be somewhat short.

I was in something of a bad mood yesterday afternoon and the lack of anything good on TV wasn’t helping. I did something radical: I turned off the bloody thing.

Quiet. Peace. Not exactly silence: I’m on Ventura Blvd, so there’s constantly traffic noise, but within the four walls…peace.

Here’s the thing: we’re (and I’m thinking of most Americans) trained to turn on the TV set and leave it on as background noise even if we’re doing something else. Even if we don’t really like what’s on, it seldom occurs to anyone to just turn it off. Try it sometime.

If you’re a regular reader here (and if you’re new, Hi! Welcome! Sorry, but the welcome goody bags are long gone), you know I’m a big advocate for sleep as a restorative, as essential and something that shouldn’t be short-changed because the benefits are too great and the issues caused by not enough sleep are also pretty substantial.  

During our waking hours, we are hit with a constant mosaic of sound, a lot of it manmade and, if you’re listening to the radio or watching TV, a big chunk is devoted to trying to sell you something. It gets layered, especially if you’re in traffic and the car next to you has ITS sound system cranking (to the point where you see the car visibly vibrate with the bass and/or the output is interfering with your radio reception. Hearing technology is a growth industry. You heard it here first). I’d be willing to bet that you could name any number of commercial jingles from 3 notes or less and the pitch for a dozen products or services that you don’t even want. Personally, I get irritated with all the noise and the ads.

Turning off the sources (TV, radio) turns off the irritation. Even for 5, 10, 15 minutes. You can feel your blood pressure drop, that eye stop twitching and the vein that was beginning to throb in your left temple will stop. You will be able to hear your own thoughts.

You could even get radical and meditate (or just close your eyes and breathe deeply for a few minutes). It’s good. If you find you like the quiet and want to extend it, use the time to read a book or work a puzzle (it’s like weightlifting for your brain. Instead of muscles, you’re building neural pathways).

So, point the remote at the TV, power off and shhhhhhh.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

And I Approve This Message Myself

_____ lbs. Since the armed forces are no longer using “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I was able to buy it cheap and use it for my weigh-in numbers. (I haven’t been on the scale in days).

I got a little over-confident with the Roman chair and a 25 lb. weight plate to the point where my lower back was groaning last night. However, thanks to Epsom salts, Aleve and today’s Pilates class, that was undone. Oh yeah: and a good night’s sleep. Sleep is a miraculous thing: while you’re talking to giant winged bears in your dreams, your body is working like a NASCAR pit crew to repair damage and prep for the next day. Both your mind and your body get this treatment, so don’t cheat yourself out of a good night’s sleep. Sleep is the daily reset button.

I’ve been hearing and reading about a new teenager trend: young girls posting videos on Youtube asking the viewers to rate their appearance: Hot or not.  I came across a good article about it on

And (time to blow my own horn) I’ve written a tangential piece in this blog:;postID=9153169401213506783

This time last week (Last Sunday being Feb 26, 2012 and the Oscar broadcast), I was dressed in a “sexy” cavewoman costume for the best annual Oscar party. Although I didn’t win any prizes (dammit. Next. Red wig, sword, cavewoman costume: Main character from “Brave” even if I haven’t seen it yet. Or red wig, black catsuit: Black Widow from “Avengers.”), I got a lot of kind and complimentary comments on the photos I posted to Facebook and on the ones I posted in this space. Applying the “Hot or not” choice, I think I came out on the hot side (and not because of the hot flashes, either. Youngsters reading this: this is what you have to look forward to. Not fun, but survivable).

Those comments, however great they are and made me feel, weren’t the reason for posting the pictures or for going to the gym 5-6 days a week, experimenting with various forms of exercise and diet (and that’s “diet” in the broad “What I Eat on A Regular Basis”, not “Cabbage Soup” or “Hollywood Juice Fast” diet sense), reading up on things like sleep and stress reduction. They aren’t even the validation I needed to know I’m doing right by myself.

(God forgive me for quoting the Idiot In Chief) “I am the Decider.”

Right now (Americans. Americanas = female Americans), women’s issues are taking up a lot of time and space in the news cycle and the coverage has a general tag of “War on Women.” An amendment to a bill that would allow employers to opt out of covering contraception was narrowly shut down. Rush Limbaugh, one of the biggest (in more ways than one. I used to respect the man, even if I didn’t agree with a damned thing he said. I no longer respect him) commentators in the American media is now on the hot seat for calling a woman who testified before Congress a “slut” and a “prostitute.” One of the MEN running for the Republican nomination for President, Rick Santorum, has said (and I’ve seen the video) that he’d like the US to be under a Christian version of Sharia law (which we know doesn’t favor vaginas). And ALL of the Republican hopefuls are courting the right wingnuts by taking anti-choice stances when it comes to abortion (Since they also like the death penalty, “pro life” is a wee bit hypocritical). “Mad Men” is and has been a huge hit on AMC (it’s a good show), enough for ABC to go ahead with “Pan Am” and I wonder if there may not be some white male nostalgia for the era when white American males were the undisputed  kings of the land. And on top of that, we have a new fad with girls/young women giving total strangers the power to decide their merits based on looks/video.

Where do I start?

Let’s start with the kind of people who write comments on the Internet. This is an anonymous place, unless one is a hacker of Lisbeth Salander skills, it’s unlikely that an anonymous writer is going to be unmasked. Part of the vast Internet community is a sub-group called “trolls”. Wikipedia says, “In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory,[2] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[3] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

Or it could be your irritating 13 year old brother and his jerkwater friends.

Trolls will post any and all kinds of crap in the comments section just for the sake of posting crap. They don’t consider the audience (unless it’s their jerkwater friends and they think they’re the heirs to the Algonquin Round Table), they don’t think about (or care about) the consequences of their actions or how it will affect the blog poster or other commenters. The Internet creates bubbles of personal space and there are no consequences in the real world. Or so we think. Especially the trolls.

So you really don’t want/need their input.

Then we have the real life mean girls. You could have the looks of Michelle Pfeiffer, the brains of Albert Einstein and the athletic abilities of Tom Brady (do NOT mention the Giants, Eli Manning or Tim Tebow), but people who feel rotten about themselves will seek to undermine you. Misery loves company. Your success or gifts make them feel small and unworthy. And, like water seeking its own level, they will attempt to pull you down to even everything out, whether it’s true or not.

So, you really don’t want/need their input.

We come to the black-hearted; those who would prey on you. (This is scary. I’m sorry, but sometimes, fear does serve a purpose) These are people who would actively seek you out exploit your looks, your youth, your innocence. Traffickers, pornographers, pimps, psychopaths. If you are online seeking approval, you WILL attract their attention and you have shown a weakness that can be used to control you once you’re in their power.

You DEFINITELY don’t want their input.

To thine own self be true. And be the best version of yourself that you can.­­

Look, what are your goals? Who do you want to be or what do you want to do with your life? What are you doing to get there and how’s your progress? There’s something to judge for yourself.

Outer appearance is like wrapping paper: it covers what’s inside and even the prettiest, most admired and costliest paper can conceal a box of moldy dog poop.

Looks fade. Even someone with beaucoup mega big bucks and access to all the plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills loses something along the way; you cannot look 22 forever, no matter how much money and time you spend on the issue. And when they’re gone, what’s left is the real you.

“She’s got a great personality” has been a sitcom staple since TV was invented, used to set up a punchline about an unattractive woman being set up on a blind date. A man may take a hot body to his bed, but he wakes up next to the personality. (And yes, women, too)

“Canterbury Tales,” is a personal favorite, especially the “Wife of Bath’s Tale” (those of you rooting for “The Miller’s Tale,” hold your horses until we talk farting). I’ll let Wikipedia summarize it:

There was a Knight in King Arthur’s time who raped a fair young maiden. King Arthur sent a decree out that the Knight must be brought to justice. When the Knight is captured, he is condemned to death, but the Queen intercedes on behalf of the Knight and asks the King to allow her to pass judgment on the Knight.

The Queen asks the Knight, “What is the thing that most women desire?” The Knight does not have an answer. The Queen releases the Knight, but commands him to return within one year with an answer.

The Knight spent this time roaming from place to place questioning women. Some say they want wealth, others happiness, others to be gratified and flattered. Everywhere he heard different answers. It is time for him to return to the Court and he is depressed for he does not have a good answer.

Outside the castle in the woods, he sees twenty four maidens dancing and singing, but when he approaches they disappear as if by magic, and all that is left is an old hag. The Knight explains the problem to the hag and she is wise and may know the answer, but she would require payment for saving his life. The Knight agrees.

The Queen asks the question again, and the Knight responds that women most desire sovereignty over their husbands. All the women of the Court agree that this is a valid answer.

The Knight is acquitted.

The old crone enters saying that she supplied the answer for the Knight and she now requests that he marries her. The Knight, in agony, agrees.

On their wedding night the hag is upset that the Knight doesn’t attend to his new bride, but her ugliness and low breeding repulse him. She reminds him that her looks can be an asset because she will be a virtuous wife to him because no other men would desire her. She asks him what he would prefer – an old ugly hag who is loyal, true and humble or a beautiful woman whom he would always have doubts about concerning her faithfulness? The Knight responds by saying that the choice was hers. The hag is pleased. She has won mastery over her husband, and she asks the Knight to kiss her. She says, “You will find me a fair and faithful wife”. The Knight turns to look at the hag again, but now finds a young and lovely woman.

Well, that kind of overdoes the looks angle, but my point is: she retains her own power, finds herself beautiful and powerful. So does the Knight.

If you’re thinking about a “Hot or Not” video, don’t do it. If you want to be hot, be hot within your own head (or wait for menopause. You never know when the heat waves will hit). Self-confidence is power and with energy costs these days, you don’t want to just give it away.