Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Challenge presented...Challenge Met

So we reached the end of the two weeks and no one starved to death.  The house was not burned down. The grill did not explode and I only suffered two minor burns and they were both on the second to last day!  Ta da!

Things I did not do during the challenge...
1. Cook complicated meals.
      As I was first looking at the planning for the two weeks I realized I was making things very complicated.  Lots of things from scratch, or with a lot of steps or babysitting that would need to be done. This is part of why I tend to get frustrated with cooking. I like to cook things like that. I really do.  But with having one car it's not possible for me to be creating complicated dinners while at the same time picking Brent up from work. On days that I don't need to go anyplace this works just fine, he can take the car, I can stay here, but on any other day it's just not convenient.

2. Pre-plan most meals.  
    I know when I started that I said one of the things I was going to do was plan and then that would prove how little of a deal planning really was and I would have this miraculous epiphany and all of a sudden I would realize that planning was no big deal and I could totally do it without feeling like I was being shackled to a draconian menu plan that some heartless despot was forcing on me...Yes I do understand that in this case I am both the despot and the despotted...just ignore that part and stay with me.  But in the words of wisdom handed down from my husband..."have you met you?" Basically I was setting myself up to fail with that one. I don't like rules, as a rule. (see what I did there?) I really don't like being told what I can and cannot do, even if I am the one doing the telling. I will self sabotage, I will make excuses, I will find a way to wriggle out of any situation that feels like pressure or has the potential to make me unhappy. And as ridiculous as I know it sounds, making a strict menu would in fact tend to make me unhappy.

  Instead the most I planned ahead was a day. C and I went to the store almost every day over the two weeks. What sounded good that day was what we had for dinner. If two things sounded good then we planned for one day in advance. That's it. And I discovered that going to the store and picking up dinner for that night wasn't that big of a deal. We live right down the street from one grocery store and a 10 minute drive away from the other. Run in, browse a little, pick up, check out, back home within 30 minutes.  Easy.

3. Stress
  This was the biggest one for me. We had simple, easy, not pre-planned meals and if they were good great, if not then we could make sandwiches. We didn't have to resort to sandwiches so that was nice, but we could have. The busiest stretch of the day cooking wise for me was weekday morning breakfast. I would be making coffee, cooking breakfast and packing Brent's lunch all at one time and needed to get it done quickly so we could get on the road and get him to work on time. This was the area I thought would trip me up the most. And it was the area that I ditched this morning. I packed him leftovers for lunch and we grabbed breakfast at Starbucks on the way.  But after two weeks of having something a little more filling I realized that I will be back to the morning rush tomorrow. Because it's busy, but I can totally do it. No stress....

So Monday we could eat out again and we did. Sort of. I made breakfast sandwiches and Brent cooked steak on the grill for dinner, but we grabbed lunch out between going to the movies and going shopping. And that for me was the best part. Eating out is convenient. Coming back home to eat breaks your flow if you are out running errands. It was nice to not have to sweat that detail. And that's the biggest part of my challenge I hope to hold on to. Treating eating out as a convenience to use here and there instead of the fall back normal. Because the basics are still there. I think, even as simple as I made it, I am better cook than a lot of the food we grab because it's quick and easy. And I know I pay more attention to the ingredients than they do so the food is better for us. And the couple pounds we all lost over the past two weeks shows that we were probably eating way too much of that convenient food as well.

So now that this mini-challenge is over I can see a few more things I need to get done. I need to finish changing out the basement in to a usable space instead of the half-way old studio/PT room it is right now. I want to do a super deep clean on the house and get everything all shiny and sparkly.  And of course I need to get writing more regularly. I was thinking back a few years ago when I did the blog a day challenge.  What do you think? At least a few words on the screen every day in June? I'm not committing to that yet, but I am thinking about it.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm headed to McDonald's to grab some lunch....

Kidding!  I will be having leftovers and thinking about what to make for dinner tonight.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Today's picture of the day is "Something you can't live without"  I knew this one would be a challenge as soon as I saw it on the list. See, I am superstitious. I was raised in a religious household and if you break religion down it's really pretty much acting on superstitions to try and make sure you have a decent life and afterlife so it's not a surprise that even after leaving the church I am still incredibly superstitious. Also add to the religious superstitions the myriad of the Dutch, Irish, Scottish, German and so on and so on superstitions that we followed (you say traditions, I say superstitions) and it's really a wonder I can get out of bed each morning without following a ritual!

What does this mean for a picture you ask? Well let me tell you....

One of my greatest superstitions is that you don't challenge the Universe. I don't say that my sports team has a game locked up until the last buzzer sounds. I don't say something will be easy because I know that as soon as I get cocky the Universe will show me just how hard something simple can be. And to take a picture of something I can't live without? Well that was just blowing my mind...what do you take a picture of that then isn't a challenge? My family? I know that you can live without the people that you love. It might not be pleasant but you can do it. My friends? Same thing.  I have had people in my life that I could not imagine not seeing and speaking to that I have no idea where they are or what they are doing right now. Food? Water? Air?  Why would I want to throw that out there? I could just visualize the Universe cackling and rubbing it's metaphorical hands together in preparation...

Then I thought, you are probably WAY over-thinking this one so I thought about finding a picture of brains. But with my group of friends if I posted a picture of a brain as something I couldn't live without they might assume I had become a zombie and kill me due to the "I won't let you become a zombie" pact we have. Some of you are laughing at that but others are nodding because you know it's true!

So by the time I went through all of the things that I couldn't take a picture of I was left with just the one option. The one thing that I couldn't live without is well...me. At least in this form. What comes next after this me ceases to be me is a subject for another blog on another day...

And I was also left with a photo description that was way too long to post under the photo so you got a bonus mini-blog to go with. I know...I'm a giver. A superstitious whacked out nut job...but a giver!

Thursday, May 17, 2012


You know how we all sort of feel like we are invisible to the rest of the world if we are in our cars? Like no one can see you totally rocking out to that song on the radio. Or, god forbid, picking your nose? We travel around in our bubbles of privacy totally forgetting that they aren't private. Not at all. Yesterday I was witness to one of the most sensual public displays of affection I have seen in a long long time, if not the most ever, and I had to wonder, does she realize we can all see her? And does she care?

Now, I didn't say sexual, though it very well could have been, and I didn't say inappropriate, because it wasn't at all, but it was sensual. I've written about being touchy feely before and so I wondered if it was just me that noticed...at first.

Okay, let me back up. It's been sunny in Portland for the past few days. We love our sunshine here the way only people who don't get a lot of it love sunshine. As soon as the temperatures hit the 60s and the sun comes out the summer wardrobe is on and people act like it's in the 90s and actually really warm.  So when it is pretty warm we are all beside ourselves with joy. Now the summer wardrobe in Portland isn't just shorts, skirts, sleeveless tops those sorts of things but convertibles, bicycles and in this case motorcycles.

As I pulled up to a stoplight yesterday in the lane next to me and a few car lengths ahead is a couple on a motorcycle. He is obviously the one who is normally riding, he has on his leather riding coat and his helmet with jeans.  She is sitting behind him in yoga pants and a white tunic. I thought how very boho she looks. Then she unwrapped her arms from his waist sat up straight on the bike and stretched.  Turning her face up to the sun.  It made me laugh a little to see. The cat like stretch accompanying the helmeted head was an interesting mix. Then she stretched her hands out and caressed her riding partner. She started with both hands in the middle of his upper back and then ran them down both arms. The way she moved her hands and arms I was trying to decide if she was a dancer or a therapist. The grace of movement made me think dancer, the intent behind the touch made me think therapist.  As she reached the bottom of his arm she flared her fingers out and turned her hands and the ran them back up his arms. For a minute I could feel what she was feeling.  The leather warm from the sun, the feel of it under her fingers and hands as she moved back up his arms and to his back, then she ran both hands down the middle of his back and he leaned slightly in to her touch.  Like I said, it was a very sensual moment and they both were in their own world.  Just each other on the the back of that bike, the sun shining, the world theirs....then the light changed she leaned back down over him wrapping her arms around his waist and they were off.  I returned my gaze to the truck in front of me, waiting for our turn light to change and saw the driver watching them pull away.  He gave his head a little shake to clear the cobwebs and then turned to face forward again.  And I thought....well at least it wasn't just me....

I met up with the couple on the bike a few lights later. The first thing I thought was very practical, at least now I know that it's 6 of one half dozen of the other if I turn or go straight at the light. Then I watched them wait. Wondering if what I had witnessed before was a normal stop light routine for them. It wasn't. This time she shook her arms out a little then leaned back over him and tucked her hands into his jacket pockets ready to ride again. I gave thanks that I was able to witness their moment of  unself-conscious bliss earlier and made a wish for their safety and happiness. Then I opened my hands palms up to the sun turned my face towards my open sunroof and soaked in a little of that warmth for myself....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

End of one chapter and on to a new challenge...

So yesterday I closed my Time Out Massage Business accounts. One of the last steps in packing up and shutting down. I have cancelled my professional memberships, pulled down my contact information, closed out my books, started gathering up my business cards, deciding what to turn the studio in to next and what to do with my chair and table.  It's an odd feeling. I made the decision that this would be the last year I was in business at the end of last year. I stopped accepting new clients last year. I started looking at other things to do with my time last year, but I was expecting to have the slow fade out instead of the abrupt stop.  Even knowing it's what I want to do in the long run, and that it's only a few months earlier than planned it's still odd and has left me sort of out of kilter.

So with that I have come up with things to keep me challenged! First on the list...starting on Monday I am going to cook at home for all meals every day for two whole weeks!  I know for a lot of you this seems like an odd challenge, isn't this normal you are wondering? And for those of you that know me a little better you are thinking...Holy shit, she has lost her mind!

Yep, I am going to cook.  A lot. As those of you that do know me know it's not that I am a bad cook, it's that I have convinced myself that I don't like planning and grocery shopping. So what I decided to do is make a little mini challenge that will force my hand on those parts. And once I get in the flow of it I will realize it's not a big deal. It's nothing I can't handle and since I cook as well as many of the places we eat and I cook better food for us than most of those places it will be totally worth it. So this weekend will be spent laying in some meal plans for the next few weeks.  Then grocery shopping. I believe that the reason I don't like to grocery shop is because I don't like to plan. So I always feel a little lost going through the store.  What do I need? What do I want? How am I supposed to know on Monday what I want to eat on Tuesday?? But if I plan and fill that plan with things that we all like (or at least that I like, I'm the one cooking after all!) then I think I will look forward to the challenge. That's the plan. See?  I'm already in the planning zone!

Basic rules are simple, I must cook all meals at home for two weeks.  This doesn't mean they all have to be from scratch.  Trader Joe's has some mini-tamales they are advertising right now and I think I will be picking up some of those for sure.  What it does mean is that drive through or carryout eaten at home doesn't count. And I am allowing snacks or dessert out.  If we are running errands on the weekend and want a snack we may stop and get one as long as it doesn't cross over in to meal territory. I'm not a barbarian after all.

Now, of course, my first in challenge challenge will be that Monday will be the hottest day of the year so far so I will have to overcome my terror of lighting the grill to be able to cook outside...nothing like starting a challenge off with a bang.  Wait. No. Not a bang.  A bang would be bad....

Friday, May 4, 2012

Painted lady

Janet looked down at her red fingernails.  It wasn't her normal color but it was her mother's favorite so she was wearing it for her.  Janet's mother Alice always told the story of how she came to love her red nail polish.

Janet's grandmother had been a very conservative, strict woman, to put it mildly.  She was one of those women we point to as being a strong matriarch in family history but if she were alive today we would report her for child abuse. Alice had come home one day from a girlfriend's house with her nails painted crimson red. She had been so proud of the manicure. She thought the bright color was so fancy and pretty she rushed in to the kitchen to show her mother. Her mother was not pleased.  At all.  She told Alice that only whores painted their fingers like that and no daughter of hers would be parading herself around like a wanton woman! Alice's mother scrubbed her fingers with turpentine until the polish was gone and Alice's hands were raw and bleeding.  Instead of going to school the next day showing off her beautiful red nails Alice hid her hands for weeks while they healed.

When Alice finally left the family farm and moved to the "big city" of Osceola one of the first things she did was buy a bottle of Crimson Fire nail polish and start painting her nails weekly.  Later on in life when Janet's father was making enough money for the family to be comfortable Alice started to indulge in a weekly manicure and a pedicure from the local salon.  Always red. Janet could remember the first time she was allowed to go with her mother to get her nails painted.  She was six and it had been a reward for stopping biting her nails. She chose purple. The lady who was going to paint her nails checked in with Alice to make sure she was okay with the garish color that Janet had chosen. Alice smiled and said, "If it makes her happy to have her nails purple, then paint her nails purple." The only time Alice ever raised an eyebrow of Janet's polish choices was during the stretch in high school where she went with black. And even then all Alice said was, "That must be hard to take off."

The only time Janet saw her mother without her trademark red nails was when the family took a trip back to Iowa to visit her grandmother.  Alice went in for her weekly manicure but had just a layer of clear polish put on.  Janet remembered hearing her mother and father discuss it on the plane. Her father thought that Alice should have kept her nails the way she liked them, Alice said that her mother was an old woman and that it didn't cost her anything to show her respect by not having her nails painted in her house.

That visit back had been terrifying to Janet. Janet had never met her grandmother before, she didn't like Janet's father so didn't want the family to visit with him along. Alice finally put her foot down and told her she had two grandchildren she should meet but she was not going without their father. Janet wasn't supposed to know that her grandmother didn't like her father but she had overheard Alice and a girlfriend of hers talking about it one day. Janet's grandmother blamed her father for taking Alice away from the farm, then away from Iowa and for turning her into something she wasn't raised to be. Janet wasn't sure what that could be since in her 5 year old eyes her mother was everything that was perfect and right in the world.

On the trip there Alice explained to Janet and her older brother that her mother wasn't like their other grandmother. That they shouldn't expect her to greet them with hugs. That she might even seem a little intimidating but to understand that she still loved them, she just didn't show it in the way they were used to. Years later Janet and James discussed that trip and what they remembered.  James remembered how big their grandmother had seemed.  Their mother Alice was a very petite woman. Barely 5'3" tall, very trim and fit even after having two children.  She was always perfectly groomed and put together. Their grandmother seemed a giant in comparison. She was as tall as Janet's father and probably as wide. Janet remembered that she was very scary. She seemed to only speak to Alice and then what she would say wasn't very nice. She was critical of the way Alice was dressed, she said James needed a haircut, she said that Janet didn't have any manners and she would never refer to their father by name.  It was always "that man".   But they both remembered very clearly how the trip ended.

On the last day of their visit Alice asked her mother if she had anything else to say to her before they left that night.  Janet's grandmother sized her up with a very critical look and said, "I guess I failed you. I tried my best to raise you right and I just failed." That was the last straw for Janet's father.  He stood up slowly from the dinner table, "Alice, honey, I've been as quiet as I can be. But I cannot and will not take this anymore." Janet's mother had looked down at her hands and nodded, just a small movement, but it was enough to let Janet's father know he could go on.

"Though we appreciate your hospitality [though the way he said hospitality it was clear what he thought of it] we are leaving right now. I have listened to Alice beg you to visit or allow us to visit for the past 10 years. You would have nothing of it. Alice dared to leave you and you have never forgiven her. But I just want you to know a few things. I didn't take your daughter away from you, you drove her away. She is the strongest, smartest, most beautiful woman I have ever known.  Where she never heard a kind word from you our children hear all of the time how wonderful they are.  Where you tried to limit her choices and make her only what you thought appropriate she supports everyone around her and gives them the strength to become what they can be.  Her friends, her children and yes, her husband all adore her. I have tried over the years to give you the benefit of the doubt. To believe that you had to have some good in you because of how much good there is in Alice. But she is who she is not because of you, but in spite of you."

Then he held out his hand to Alice, she stood up and held out her hand to James who then took Janet's and they all walked out of Janet's grandmother's house. As they reached the door, Janet's father turned around and said one last thing to her grandmother, "And my name is Charles."

They never visited Iowa as a family again.  When Alice's mother died a few years later Alice and Charles went back to the funeral but James and Janet were allowed to stay with their other grandmother for the weekend.

Once Janet and James were adults their mother would share more stories about growing up on the farm in Iowa. They both had wished they had a chance to have met their grandfather. It was clear from the stories that it was from him that Alice got her kind ways.  He had been a small man in stature but had a big heart. He would comfort Alice and her brothers when he felt that Alice's mother had been too strict. He died when Alice was only 9 and she was left to face her mother on her own from that point on. Alice was always very quick to tell James and Janet that their grandmother did the best she could with what she had, she was raised a certain way and that was all she knew. But James and Janet both believed that wasn't true.  After all they had met their grandmother, they had heard the stories about what she was like to Alice growing up and Alice wasn't like that at all. It was all she had known as well, but she did better.

Small in stature, big in heart. She was the best mother in the world according to both James and Janet. She had been the best wife in the world to their father Charles and he told her so every day that they had together.  When he died as people spoke at the funeral almost everyone talked about how much he adored Alice. She had been the best thing that every happened to him and he never let her forget it.  Even her mother-in-law had adored her. She always said Alice was the daughter she had never had but had always wished for, though better than she could have ever dreamed. She was the sort of friend that you knew you could always count on. She was kind to a fault and stronger than anyone could have ever guessed. She had been a better woman than her mother had ever given her credit for. Red nails and all.

Janet looked down at her red fingernails again.  This time her daughter reached over and held her hand. Her nails also painted a bright red, and then the minister began to speak....

"One of the things I will never forget about Alice was her beautiful red fingernails....."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

But they're mine....

I got one of the scariest emails the other day.  Here let me share it with you...

Dear Amazon.com Customer,

As someone who purchased at least one eligible trade-in item such as a CD or box set, you can now trade in your item for an Amazon.com Gift Card.

Expand your music collection and buy MP3s, new CDs, or anything else at Amazon

Creepy right?  They want my stuff.  And they are offering me a bounty for it.

Now, you would think the terror would be universal when receiving a note like this, but apparently my husband thought it was a GREAT idea. Can you believe this? He said that since we have burned all of the music to our computer and listen to everything digitally and even buy most of our music online in the first place now there is really no reason to hold on to our CDs. We could trade them in and get some cash for them and not have to store them any more. It's a win, win, he says.

I say, WHAT? What if the hard drive crashes and we lose all of the music on there? iTunes might let us get back music we bought from them, but what about all of the music we have on CDs? What then? What if I want to listen to a CD in the car? What if I want to loan someone music? What if someone tells me there is something cool in the liner notes and I can't go check it out for myself? What if the artist comes to town and I have a chance to have my CD signed and I don't have the CD anymore? What if? What if? What if?

He said, "You don't have to do it. But keep in mind they will give you money if you do. And you can use that money for more music. Or Kindle Books. Or anything else you want on the site." And then he left it to me to process. Because he knows that what seems like something simple and logical to someone else, get rid of the hard copy you already have the music from it accessible, is a panic inducing moment for me.

I've written before about the cleaning sprees I go on when I get home from a visit to Albuquerque. I come from a family of keepers. I would say hoarders but that conjurs up images of animal feces and food scraps and it's not like that.  At least I hope to god it's not like that. It's just really a case of too much stuff. It has always been an issue.  My folks were depression era kids and they kept everything.  You never knew when you might be able to take those scraps of wood and that carpet remnant and turn it into a boot remover.  Or when that spare part from the old gas stove might be able to be turned into a manual choke for a car.  Both things my dad made.  He was one of those inventive type guys that could make just about anything. But this meant that he kept EVERYTHING because you just never knew.

My mother likes stuff. Collectibles, magazines, furniture, pots and pans, gadgets, anything that can be purchased on the TV shopping channels. And she keeps it all. Sometimes in the original boxes because she wanted it but didn't have room for it, yet.  But see, when you don't get rid of anything then you never have room for anything else. So I try to make it a practice to go through and clear things out. But it isn't easy for me and there are areas where it's almost impossible.

Books for the longest time were one of those areas. Owning a hard cover book to me was a big deal. Growing up on the poor side means paperbacks, used or from the library, never a hardcover unless it was from the library. But never one you owned. So for the longest time if I bought a book, I kept it. And some books I have read over and over and over. I can't tell you how many times I've read East of Eden or The Thorn Birds. Though both of those I've only ever owned in paperback. But after awhile the books started taking over. And since I had a collection of paperbacks and hardcovers they didn't look neat and tidy on shelves so I didn't want them out in public spaces but what to do with them? And I read a lot. And more and more new books are coming out all the time so how many books am I really going to go back and re-read? So I started getting rid of my collections. I sold some off to used bookstores, I donated a lot to the local library and now when I get a new book I make the decision on keep or not keep as soon as I finish and either sell it or donate it or pass it along to a friend. With the Kindle and the ease of buying and keeping books I see this as soon to change, but until my Kindle fills it's memory banks I won't worry about that....

CDs are one of those areas. I buy most of my musical digitally now. The ease of buying just one song that you like instead of risking the whole album has some appeal. But even buying the whole album it's easy to do digitally. But I still have a few, just a few, CDs.
Okay, maybe it's more than a few.  Anyway, I have them. And Amazon wants them.  Or at least they will want a few.  Which will be a crisis in and of itself.  What does it mean if they want to buy some of my collection but not all of it? What are they saying about my musical taste when they don't want most of my stuff? Or any of it? Who are they to judge me?  Bastards....

Okay, anyway.  I have CDs.  CDs that I never listen to anymore because I have my music in other forms that are more convenient to me. But having them is comforting. Weird right? I do it with movies as well. I have DVDs of movies that I LOVE that I have never watched. I wanted them. I asked specifically for them. But I haven't sat down and watched them. And I would be PISSED if you took them away from me. I know it makes my son and my husband a little confused when they buy me a DVD and I am so excited to get it but when they check back a week, a month, a year, later it's still wrapped in the cellophane never been watched. But I do love having it. I love knowing that I could stop down and watch it at any point in time.

I waited my entire adult life for Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains to be released on DVD. This movie was a staple of my teenage years. Anytime it was on TV I watched it. I loved it. Diane Lane was the epitome of cool. Even though she was a giant mess. Brent got it for me for Christmas a few years ago and I about lost it I was so excited! And I haven't watched it. Part of me is a little afraid it won't have held up and I will be disappointed. Part of it is that I know watching it at 15 I had a completely different world view than I would have now and I'm afraid that watching Corrine, excuse me, Third Degree Burns, tumble down her rabbit hole won't be as entertaining as it was then, but will just be sad. But the biggest part is that watching it isn't the point. Just having it is.

I am fully aware that this is a problem. I know that it's a little crazy. Or a lot crazy. I know how come I am like this, and I can even work very hard to let go of things and not be like this. But for right now having these things is comforting. They don't take up a lot of room. Well, once Brent burned the DVDs to the computer and stored the hard copies in the garage they don't. They aren't overly expensive. Well, as long as I make sure to only indulge when things are on sale. And for the most part the people that live with me know that it's crazy and they are okay with it being crazy. Or at least they are used to it being crazy.  And it might not even make the top ten reasons they would describe me as crazy. Or as we say in my house it's just a grain of sand in the beach of reasons. And it could be worse. Now it's just CDs and DVDs. It used to be CDs, DVDs, books, kitchen gadgets, hair gee gaws, work out gear, basically anything that was shown on a "As Seen on TV" infomercial....And well, there are the boots and the strappy sandals but we don't count those.

And just in case any of you were wondering...yes all of those CDs are alphabetized...grain of sand in the beach of reasons....