"We Three"

"We Three"

Thursday, June 30, 2005

The good news, and the bad...

So, I did well on my test, with a score of 95 out of 98, and if I had not second-guessed myself, it could have been 97. There's a good something to learn right there. Some of this stuff will stay with me all the rest of my life, because I still remember some things from the first time I took this class, in 1963. We had this charismatic professor, Dr. Alvin Hunter, and they held all his classes in the auditorium because so many students were attracted to them. I remember this as being a lot easier than it is now, because psychology is a very young science and has now come into its own, no longer considered "soft", and it is all jazzed up with a lot of information about the biological foundations of behavior, and tons of experiments and observations have been made in the interim, as well. What stuck with me were the body types: ectomorphs, endomorphs and mesomorphs. I haven't run across them in our current text, but when I do, I'm on top of it!

Then, after patting myself on the back about my ability to recall all the minituae of the nervous system, parts of the brain, genetics, I ran off to my 5:30 meeting, and not only left the back door open, again, but the freezer door, as well. Not my finest moment, by far. Well, the refrigerator is a little balky about closing, and I forget that because it doesn't happen all that often. But that back door thing, that's a recurring problem. So I got out my trusty Printmaster disk and made myself a sign for the front door. Let us hope that works. I also know that things I see every day tend to slip off of my radar, as well. Hopefully, by the time that happens, checking the back door will be ingrained in my memory banks. Progress, not perfection.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The thing about style...

After all these years, you would think I would have discovered my style. For a while, in my early twenties, after my first divorce, I was Holly Golightly, urban and coiffed with a Sassoon, very sleek. I even had one of those mega-long cigarette holders, which, after a couple of smokes, made my black and gold Sterlings taste pretty awful. Then I remarried and moved to Hawaii, where I was Hilo Hattie, all muumuued and brown. Shortly after our return to the mainland, I divorced again, and moved to Santa Rosa, where my style sank into suburban mediocrity. After the purchase of my Birkenstocks, I considered doing Earth Mother, but it just never worked out for me, not even when I moved to the coast and became West County Wild Woman. There is too much vanity there to let my hair grow out gray and braid it down my back, and I just can't walk out into the world with a naked face, either. But I do like the student personna, where I can just put one of those dandy clamps in my hair, throw on jeans and a tee shirt and some sandals, and go. No more panty hose. Hell, no more girdle, like I wore in my early city days. Even when I was a student, 42 years ago, we wore wool skirts and Mary Janes to college. Some changes are definitely for the best.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The answer to No. 43 is C. No, A. No, oh hell...

I have now taken my first test, and the teacher lied. She said she would only cover what she covered in class, and then threw in some questions on the endocrine system anyway. I am pretty sure I got all those right. In fact, I am 99% sure of all the questions, except No. 43, which she said she covered in class, but neither my test partner nor I remember anything about it in our notes, and I went back to check, afterward, and I think this is a brain-fart on the part of our 62 year old teacher, bless her soul. Also, she said 89 questions, and there were 98. Oh, well, most were pretty easy, and the few we were tripped up on, one or the other of us remembered. There were only a couple that neither of us were certain about. This was a chapter about neurons and neurotransmitters and brain parts/functions and heredity, little things like that. It was complex and there was a lot of material to assimilate, and a good test of my ability to retain what I studied. Also a good test of my method of studying that I instituted: read through the chapter, then outline it, in sections, with rests in between to eat or go for a walk, or just do anything else but think about it. Then read through again, the next day. I referred to my outline this morning, but did not study any more last night, when the test was put off for another day. I am heartened. My neural pathways are intact, and I can train them to learn, again. So, on to the next step, an appointment with a counselor to map out my curriculum for fall. I am off the launching pad here!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Ah, college...

I studied like a little demon Sunday for a test that was supposed to happen this morning, that didn't happen. OK, we'll see how long this knowledge can last up there in the dark recesses of my aged brain, because I have paper I want to write today. I took notes, both in class and an outline of the chapter as I studied, and I tried to give myself frequent breaks, little snacks and a game of Freecell once in a while, a walk around the neighborhood with Boo, and it worked. I can tell you about resting potential and action potential, the difference in afferent and efferent cells, the function of the amygdala and the thalamus, all kinds of information about the working of the brain, at least what has been discovered and hypothesized. It is still a mystery on a lot of levels, and I think oversimplified in our text. This is the most complex system in our known universe and a source of great wonder. I am so stoked by learning about it. And I am training my neural network to retain what I put into it by means of the marvel of plasticity. And a lot of this is attitude, too. We saw a film today about diseases that cause damage to the brain, and Agnes DeMille, great choreographer and dancer, had a debillitating stroke that affected her motor function. Her discipline and desire were credited with her recovery. Well, duh. Attitude is everything. I'm writing that on my favorite spiritual aid, the PostIt, to stick to my computer here.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

All about axons and dendrites...

You know, Boo likes to guess which way we are going when we head out the door. He is always three steps ahead, which means I almost step on him a lot when he guesses wrong. Now, there's a lesson I could learn. I am always trying to study ahead, guessing what the teacher will be covering next. So far, I have been 100% wrong, and am now deciding that I will wait and see, and trust that there will be enough time to study before the tests. Like tomorrow. We already know it will be 89 questions on the brain, the physical site of all my problems, for sure. I actually enjoyed the chapter, and will be reading it and outlining it and testing myself with the handy-dandy CD they gave me with the text. Actually, the text was so expensive, I should have gotten a CD player, too. And since this is our first test, we are taking it with a partner. Mine is Kristina, who will be a senior at Cal next semester, and just keeping her brain going here during the summer. She seems to have a sharp mind, and great study ethics. And I feel especially motivated to be up on the material so I can hold up my end. Sounds like a plan. This is a big milestone on my test-drive of college, how well I can retain the material. I'd hold my breath, but my textbook says that is bad for you.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Tender moments, relived...

I am listening to a tape of a mix my mother made for me, at my request, of Andre Previn's album Like Love, and another 101 Strings extravaganza, music from my young and tender years. You know, though my childhood was often tumultuous and fraught with pain, it was full of music. Dad would bring home new recordings often, Glenn Miller was a favorite, as well as Perry Como and Bing Crosby. There were stacks and stacks of 78's in the cupboard. Later, we got this huge stereo that looked like a roll-top desk, and accumulated a lot of ablums, as well as some of those 45's that were so popular in the 50's. We had all the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals: The King and I, Carousel, Oklahoma, South Pacific. Oh, and Camelot, how I loved Robert Goulet singing If ever I would leave you. And OK, we had Billy Vaughn and Mantovani, too. And I loved them. They were the precursor to my love for classical music. Listening now, I feel very young, and full of promise, like I did when I was 14, all legs and freckles, sunburned from a day at Ives pool, where Nick Boreta, who would be my high school sweetheart, chased me around all day. Summer smelled like lemon blossoms, and sounded like Tab Hunter singing Red Sails in the Sunset or the Everly Brothers or Frankie Avalon. We played statues and Red Rover on the front lawn, and begged for dimes when the ice cream truck drove up our street with its music box jingle playing over and over. I didn't know how sweet it was, then. Maybe my mother is right; it was a more innocent time.

Let's hear it for endorphins!

I am writing my second college paper, on an article about endorphins, and it is only 2 pages, double-spaced, 12 font, but it has me spinning. I picked an article expecting to hear that endorphin is a natural opiate, and is produced when we exercise, giving us that marvelous high, like when I get off that damned treadmill, I feel like I could fly away. But I also read that meditation increases endorphin levels as well. Why? The article did not say, so I went after about 5 more articles, and it seems to be in the breath, though another factor may be prolonged periods of hyper-awareness, a sort of letting-go of everything else but the running or the chanting, or even the Sufi dancing and concentrating on the moment. That's a pretty wonderful thing to know. My favorite endorphin-producing activity is washing the car. I get into the moment, enjoying the sudsy sponge swipes all over every inch of its shiny black body, scrubbing those ill-fated bugs off the license plate, and watching the sunlight play in the spray when I hose it off. I am less enamored of sweeping out the muffin crumbs and dog hair, but I am in such a good mood by the time I get around to them, it doesn't matter. When I am done, I feel euphoric in a mild-mannered way. OK, I'm kind of nuts here, but it's a benevolent kind of crazy, n'est-ce pas? And I sure hope my teacher likes my paper. I have figured out that angle, to follow her instructions and give her what she is looking for. That's a quantum leap, right there.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Frodo and Gandalf and Sam, oh my!

I was feeling mighty low a couple of days ago, just general ennui stemming from self-doubt about being able to accomplish my goal of going to college at this late date, and some very old angst, as well, so I put Fellowship of the Ring in my DVD player and settled in. I was gifted with all three movies, extended version (30 to 50 extra minutes, per movie) by my dear son this Christmas. Frodo is just such a wonderful character, so little, so innocent, so brave. Now, I will admit that I didn't particularly like the first two movies when I saw them at our little Rio Theater. They seemed long, difficult to understand (I didn't read the books) with all those names and places and legends to assimilate. Then the 3rd movie came along and I got it. Oh, Aragorn is the decendent of Isilidor! He is the King of Gondor! Actually, it all got crystal clear when I watched the movies with the English subtitles on. Until then, I thought Elrond was Elron, as in Elron Hubbard. And the music is wondrous, have you noticed? I have a couple of the soundtrack albums as well, and there are all these choral pieces, and boy sopranos, and pan flute, all elvish and vaguely Celtic. So I have made it through the first movie, (it took two evenings to do that) and now will journey on with the 2nd one. I should be done by next Monday; it takes an evening to watch 1/2 a movie. A week of Frodo and Sam, Gimli, Legolas, and that yummy Aragorn, there's something to live for.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Oh, dear...

Lots of little irritations going on here. My new ISP has some glitches, like it balks at sending my e-mails, not a good thing. I never know if my sterling prose has glided away on the wings of the ether, or is stuck on the runway somewhere. There are all these irritating error boxes full of hieroglyphics that pop up all over my screen. I sent an emergency e-mail to support, and I wasn't sure all day yesterday if it had even left my mailbox. Goodness, I might even have had to phone these people! But good news, I got a long and detailed instruction list to fix this error. Of course, the last time I tried to follow their long and detailed instructions, I couldn't even find the program I needed to fix on my disk! So I am longing for those days when I knew where everything was, for Xtree, you know, it was so easy then. Well, primitive, too. I am looking at some rather weighty tomes sitting on my computer bookshelf. Time to read up on Windows and all its myriad vicissitudes. Wonderful.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A little angst, please.

I visited my parents this weekend. Sometimes this goes well. This was not one of those times. Now, I am 61 years old. I have had many years dealing with my mother, who is an unhappy person who seems to think we should all be in that boat with her, especially me. I am a disappointment to her, I guess. And fortified as I am with experience of her nastiness, she still can blind-side me. So I left carrying my very heavy cross, again. The good thing is that it didn't take a long time to move off my pity pot. You see, every so often, I get into that old belief that what she thinks about me is actually about me. It isn't. It's about her, who she is, what she sees and hears, none of which looks like what I see or hear. And that is sad. As angry as I got, I could still feel how awful it must be to be her. And I could be really happy that I didn't get whatever gene triggers her unhappiness. Grateful as hell, actually. I tried on that persona earlier in this life, and it was an ill fit. I prefer to be joyful and dance around a lot. Sometimes, it's really hard work.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Help, I'm having an epiphany here!

Don't you just love that word? Epiphany, sudden and often rude awakening that may or may not be welcome at the time of its arrival. Like last night. My audio tapes are scattered all over the place, but I found a cache of them in the garage and dragged them it to try out the new music machine in the bedroom. Now, some of these tapes are mixes of music made for me by a former lover, and this proclivity was the main attraction this man had for me, his inner sweetness and a shared love for music. Once I put on "Heart Graffiti", I began to sink into renewed grief over this relationship that ended nine years ago! And I remembered too, that this was when my daughter was still living at home, and I missed her, too! I don't even like all this music, oh, no no. None of this makes a whole lot of sense to me, but then, emotions seem to have a life of their own, and music is so very powerful to me. I decided that if it could drag me into despair, I actually can use it to lift my spirit, too. So I am desensitizing all this music, everything from the soundtrack from Dances with Wolves to Buddy Holly's ditties, to the theme from Northern Exposure. Which leads me to another of my favorite words, catharsis. That is what is actually happening here, bringing all that darkness up and out of my id. I used to think I was weaker than other human beings because I felt everything so deeply, like I cried over GE commercials, you know, "we bring good things to light"? Now I think I have a greater capacity for life than most people have, because of this particular attribute. And this is why I am studying psychology, to plumb the depths of the human condition, my own as well. It's got to be a good thing.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

And she shall have music wherever she goes...

You know, I am not rich. My income is a little above poverty level for this area, which is very affluent. And I am blessed beyond belief, too. When I "retired", left my employment of 12 years, I was gifted with a $500 Costco card. Boy, it doesn't get any better than that for me as there is nothing I love as much as shopping! So far, I have gotten a table for the backyard, where I plan on sitting with my textbook and laptop to study all summer, when it gets here (it rained today). And I pondered and puzzed, and finally decided on a little stereo for the bedroom, because my other music makers are out in our common rooms, and my housemate sometimes needs to rest, quietly. So now I can retreat to my room, and bathe myself in music, propped up on my multitudinous pillows. Abundance reigns here. Oh, yes, I keep 16 pillow on the bed: 1 to sleep on (it's down), 4 more to prop myself up and lounge with my trash novels, 2 to wear the shams, and 9 throw pillows of various shapes and colors, to spice things up and give Boo his daily thrill when he gets up on the bed, rolls over onto his back, and squirms all around, throwing them all over the bedroom. I still have half my gift money left. And my rebate came from my Executive membership today, another $91.25. Prosperity and abundance. Grace.

The thing about cow lips...

My fathers parents did not believe in higher education, never having experienced it themselves, no doubt. So their 5 sons went into the trades: the oldest and youngest ran an insurance agency, the second and fourth went into the family plumbing business, and the middle kid, my Dad, became a butcher. Dad was extremely personable, at work. At home, he was often irritable and sometimes a ticking timebomb of anger. He ruled by terror. So when we were shopping to get our meat, I was always somewhat confused by the big jolly man in the white apron behind the neat display case, where the hamburger was always in these whipped cream-like swirls. He would give me a weiner, cold, right out of that case. Now I didn't particularly like weiners, but I ate that thing, because I didn't want to disappoint my Dad. Then some evil-minded person told me they were made of cow lips. You know, that didn't phase me. We ate a lot of the cow others didn't: liver, of course, but kidneys and brains, too. Yesterday, in Costco, standing in that ever present line, I began to salivate for one of those huge, plump, juicy ones they sell for $1.50, complete with large soft drink. The line at the food counter was manageable, and I slathered that thing with deli mustard and pickle relish. Boo and I savored every bite. Into each life, let a little cow lips fall.

Friday, June 17, 2005

A whole day of seredipity, whee!

Report from that little old college student, me! I got my first paper back, a review of the first film we saw, "The Mind", a Discovery Channel production. She loved it! Well, I do love to write, and she saw that. Also, she announced that the bookstore had the syllabus they were out of when I bought that very expensive textbook. This was a full week ahead of schedule. Cool. It was raining, and the bookstore was a healthy hike away. I decided I could wait. But sitting at the stoplight, I said to myself, now, you really need to review that thing, so I turned into the main campus. No parking. Unfazed, I took a second loop through, and there it was, as close as I could get to Pioneer Hall. While I was paying for my syllabus and scantrons and super-duper art eraser to correct any booboos on my tests, I asked about returning the first set of textbooks, and found that it was the last day to get refunds. Well, that was fortuitous. So I went home, bagged them up and went back. No receipt. Bummer. I prayed to St. Jude all the way home to help me find that damned receipt. I have a folder called "Misc." where everything ends up. After plowing through volumes of sales tags from Costco, Trader Joes, Raleys, Payless Shoe Source, Target, there it was! And I also found a $20 bill I had wadded inside a Safeway receipt. I would never have found it if it had not been really important to get my $51.30 back.
The whole scenario was as unlikely as they get, and so many things had to fall exactly into place for me to wind up feeling truly blessed. Of course, I could be a little more mindful, and not throw money into the filing cabinet any more. But it was as if that lonely little $20 bill was crying out to be found. So I am oozing gratitude from every pore. Thank you, Universe!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Is it just me, part II...

My new favorite cereal comes from Trader Joes, and is anyone else as in love with a store as I am here? So many good things, and Ben & Jerry's for $2.50 a pint, too! I really want to eat good and yummy at the same time. So I tried this flax seed cereal, with pumpkin seeds, too. I read the ingredients, and most everything is organic, and I couldn't find sugar there, until I realized that "organic evaporated cane juice" just had to be the one. Whatever, it is delicious, not too sweet but not bland either. Except it has all these little black seeds, which I suppose are the flax seeds, and they remind me of (gulp) the itty bitty black bugs. You see, the house on the edge of the world, my previous abode, had magnificent views of the river and the island and the hills and the sea, and flowers bloomed there year round, and a majestic 3 point stag lived in our backyard, but paradise always has a hitch. It took about two years to get them, in a bag of whole wheat flour I seldom used, shoved into the back of the black hole of a cupboard Then they migrated, and were in everything. I had to totally empty everything out, scrub and disinfect, dump a lot of stuff, boxes of crackers and cereal in particular. Now, this is a cathartic and wondrous process, really. I once again knew everything that lived in my cupboards. But the second time they showed up, I was a little peeved. Eventually, Costco came to the rescue, with a huge boxful of plastic containers. Everything that could possibly be vulnerable in my new, bright and accessible cupboards still lives encased in plastic. There is nothing more irritating than setting my tastebuds for that risotto mix and pouring out the sauce mix laden with itty bitty black bugs. Yuck. Give me ants anyday.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Poor Boo...

Moving and changing most of my life was at best disconcerting and sometimes pure trauma. And of course, I projected that out onto my dog. What are our fur people for if not anthropomorphizing every nuance of their existence? I wound up taking Boo with me everywhere I went, my little hood ornament in the back seat. He even went to work, living in the car in the morning (he had lots of shade and water, and a mid morning Milk Bone), and under my desk in the afternoon. Now that work is over and school has started, it was time to leave him home, no guaranteed shade in the parking lot, well no guaranteed parking place, either. And, of course, he had a dandy case of separation anxiety. This comes under the category of troubles of my own making. Sigh. Fortunately, we have a doggie expert on the radio, Warren Epstein, every Saturday when I am out and about doing my errands. Warren said give them a special treat, a pat on the head and leave. And no fuss when I come back either. So the first time, I gave Boo a chew-stick. It is specially treated to be good for his teeth, too. I will never forget the sight of that little black dog sitting in the middle of our front room, chew-stick sticking out of both side of his mouth, terror in his eyes. I left the radio on, too. Probably he didn't need that, but it just seemed a nice thing to do for him. I would want someone to do that for me. He was a trembling mass of joy when I came home, and I just patted him and went about hiding my keys from myself, which I do every time I come home. While I was gone, he burrowed under the 16 pillows on my bed (more about that another time) so he could curl up on the one at the bottom, the one I sleep on. So sweet. The second time, he refused the chew-stick, as if not accepting it would keep me from leaving. Smart cookie, this dog. Milk Bones didn't work, either. Yesterday I bought new and better treats. I'm a smart cookie, too. I don't know who I am training here, me or the dog, but I am feeling more OK about leaving him.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Yet another of life's little jokes on me...

I started school today, one measly class. And I was well prepared, having registered and gotten my parking permit and my textbooks, frugally used. I decided that if I could find the classroom I was ahead of the game. Funnily enough, it didn't have a number on the door like all the others, but I guessed it was 1696 from its position between 1695 and 1697. I'm no dummy. However, the teacher was different. Sad to say, the scheduled teach had an accident, so we got this new one. Good news: I like her. Bad news: she uses a different textbook, and the bookstore had a limited supply of them, together with the syllibus. One of the students came back late from the 10 minute break with hers. I figured, no sweat. I will drop my heavy laptop bag in the car and trot over there after class. All those young people had the same idea and they were swifter than I. I got the book, new, $118. I think they line these texts in platinum or something. But no syllibus. Soon, they said. Not soon enough for this elderly student. Really, it is bad enough to be cast adrift in this sea of budding hormones, now I don't even have all my oars in the water. I will muddle through, I am sure. I wrote my first paper, it was a little long, but fun to do. One thing I have no problem with is expressing my opinions. And I seem to be the only one in the room enjoying this class. All those young faces look consummately bored. Whatever happens here, I can't lose. If I am not cut out for academia, I will find out. And if I do well, I will be launched on my course for the next few years. And I found the classroom, didn't I?


A long long time ago, like 35 years, I went to the opera in the San Francisco Opera House to see Tosca, wonderful lyric opera. We sat in a box (it was a matinee or we could never have afforded that). The diva was singing her swan song. And the tenor was new and upcoming. Placido Domingo. It was a while before I realized how lucky we were to see him when he was just beginning his career. And yesterday it happened again. We heard a young soprano in concert, Hope Briggs. This woman has more than a lovely singing voice, she has a presence that is electrifying. She sang Mozart, she sang Verdi, she sang Massenet, then several spirituals. Already she is being compared to Leontyne Price, which I think is unfair. She is better than that, and her expression of the arias says that she can act, as well, a huge dividend for an opera singer. Opera is a big and glorious thing. To be truly wonderful, it needs to be sung with a lot of feeling, from the little tickling arias in Italian comic opera to the ponderous Wagnerian dirges in the Ring trilogy. It was truly an honor to see her performance. And what a treat for this country girl to spend an afternoon in the big city hearing Bach and Brahms. Just so we didn't get swelled heads over our cultural endeavors, we ended our day at In & Out Burger on the way home. That milkshake was a work of art in itself.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Boo needs a personal trainer!

WE are having delightful spring weather, warm and sunny and the air smells like summer, warm silver grass smell. After a sweet lunch together at Applebee's, our favorite diner, my son and I took a walk in the neighborhood, past all the little houses sitting on huge lots surrounded by very old trees and lots of rose bushes. Boo went with, of course, on his jaunty red leash, and heading out the door, he was a ball of fire, ready to explore the great unknown. A lot of our walk was shady because the trees tunnel the street now that they are in glorious full leaf. Nevertheless, after waddling along pedantically, Boo panted and started to flag, then, on our way back, he just beelined it for a shady, leafy place and flopped down and refused to move. Well, we sat down with him, doused him with the water we had so smartly brought with us, and waited for him to cool down. I thought, what a smart little cookie this dog is. When he is tired, he just stops. I don't do that. I will fight sleep till I am so pooped, I crash and burn. Wouldn't it be great if I knew all my limitations, if I had this inner dashboard of warning lights, like my car has, that would flash at me when I was running out of fuel, or needed to cool down my engine, or was about to emit something I would be sorry for later? Well, actually, I do. I have an AA sponsor, who will always help me read the flashing lights and recommend what I do about that. Kind of sweet. Meanwhile, I need to exercise this little black dog more. Guess that personal trainer is me.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

I think my computer just farted, again.

Remember when we were smarter than our machines? I mean, my car does some very interesting things, like all the doors lock 30 seconds after I turn on the key. And when I press the gizmo to open the doors, the inside light goes on, very handy when I am out in the boonies, at night, as I often am. And while it gives this polite little dingdingding if I neglect to fasten the seatbelt before starting the engine, it will eventually swear at me with that dinger if I don't do it till I get on the road. Well, the computer now also has my best interests at heart and is constantly reminding me to upgrade my virus protection, etc. Little windows pop-up at the most irritating times. Recently there was a balloon message from my toolbar saying that there were 17 upgrades ready to be loaded. I ignored it, until this big window rose up like Venus from the sea, with a noise better suited to announce the Second Coming and scared the you-know-what out of me as I noodled around in my mahjohnng game, so I did it, I upgraded. And after it restarted itself, rather rudely, I must say, my wallpaper came up, without my desktop. I knew it, I knew those upgrades were going to be trouble. I don't know how I got my desktop back, I just kept playing around with it and there it was again. I do like the new look of my media player, and now my firewall is installed, whoopee. I hope that is all for a while. My heart cannot take another pronouncement of impending doom.

Friday, June 10, 2005

I'm happy to report that the oven works very well.

Please, no applause, but I baked yesterday. This is a rare and wondrous occurence. The oven in our old Wedgewood on the edge of the world sucked. It just sat there forever warming up and cost a bloody fortune in the propane it consumed, so baking went away in my life for a long, long time. It's back! I was on the hook to bring the goodies for my womens' meeting last night, which usually means a trip to Costco for something yummy like cheesecake. Instead I took two trips to the supermarket, no, not soul-sucking Safeway but our local one at the end of our street, G&G, the one everyone says is so wonderful. First I trooped down there on foot, Boo stayed home. I had my little list with me, and I got everything on it. On the way home, I realized I might not have enough butter. So back I went, after my soap opera, I know my priorities. The cookies I chose were done in three stages, I mean, this was a production. Bake the crust, then bake the filling, then frost the suckers. Lots of sugar and butter, how could you go wrong. And they came out fine and everyone was impressed and I even ate two of them myself, after dining on yogurt to leave the room for all those wonderful calories. I am glad I have not forgotten how to do this stuff. Once upon a time, I was happy-hands-at-home woman, sewing and knitting and collecting recipes right and left. Every meal was an adventure, from Beef Wellington to Coq au Vin. And crepes, ah I just loved making them. There was always a stack in the freezer, little wafers with waxed paper between them, ready to be filled with vanilla creme and topped with cinammon apples or fresh strawberries, or served for dinner filled with ham and mushrooms or chicken curry. Actually, I have fonder memories of the food than the experience. Dusting and cleaning were pretty blah occupations to fill up a day. Unfortunately, they still are, as I am about to find out. Whatever, I brought home a few of those cookies. I will need to work hard to be able to fit them into my daily caloric intake index.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Old friend has come home here.

My daughter gave me a big new edition of Atlas Shrugged for my birthday (OK, I asked for it). I first read this when I was 20 years young and riding the streetcar down Market Street to my job at Travelers Insurance, 555 California Street. I remember plowing through the first half of the book (that's 550 pages, a very big first half), waiting for something to happen. Then Dagny crashes her plane in the valley and it all came together and was absolutely amazing. I have since seen interviews Ayn Rand gave and you have to hand it to her, she lived her heroine's life, lifted chin and all. Her characters are either heroes or slobs, with very few shades of gray in between. I guess Eddie Willers qualifies in that latter category, and she flushes him as readily as she does that slug James Taggart and all his cronies. I adopted her philosophy when I was tender because it felt really good to believe that I was a noble being and totally self-directed. Well, it felt good until I ran off the road and spent a couple of decades thrashing around in a jungle of my own making before running into a brick wall at 200 mph. Still, I read this book every 10 years or so. I could do worse than to not depend on the kindness of others for my happiness and support and be the hero of my own live. And there is a spirit of interdependence there that rings true as well. She just missed the one key that I have found so helpful, God. I want to believe that she led a happy life, dear Ayn. Certainly it was one of deep conviction, one that was born out of deep resentment of the constrictions of communism in her native Russia. I hope to meet up with her someday and ask her about that. She can come to my salon in heaven to lecture to us, along with Tchaikowsky and Buddha and maybe even Jesus.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Get thee behind me, hubris.

I have been fond of saying that it has never rained on my birthday. Well, here it is, the 22nd anniversary of my 39th birthday, and the sky is all puckered up out there. I guess I can handle it raining once every 61 years. Somehow, I expected that when I woke up this morning I would look like Ma Kettle, all gray and lumpy. Or Helen Gurley Brown, a withered cinnamon stick. And I am delighted to report that I am still me, love handles and saddle bags intact, all tan courtesy of Neutragena, bouncing around. I measure my agility by my ability to put on my underpants standing up. As long as I can still do that, I am cooking with gas. My plans for today include ODing on coffee, with a 20 oz non-fat latte from my favorite barista joint, and a croissant to go along with it, then a trip to Sebastopol, my birthplace, to visit my parents and collect my gift, and a quiet sojourn to Barnes and Noble with my laptop and my current Jennifer Cruisie novel (I am reading Fast Women again, I found it in the piles of books under my desk when I retired). This woman of leisure thing is outstanding. And how wonderful that it takes so little to make me happy; a small black and white dog, a 4.5 lb. laptop and a paperback book.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Advice from the sagacious one.

I don't know about you, but I never listened to my mother. Now that I am an old mother myself, I realize she had a lot of wisdom to impart, like moderation. She was a real fan of it. I just never could get that one. If it was good, more had to be better. So I wound up all torn up with my addiction. Sigh. Personally, the best advice I could give anyone is not to give advice, not even when asked for it. I don't want to be responsible for anyone else's train wreck, no, not me. I will, however, tell someone how I handled a sticky situation. That I am happy to relate. For one thing, it reminds me that I have in the past, and can again, overcome obstacles that seemed insurmountable at the time. And it gives me bushels of gratitude to remember that. There is something to be said for living here for 60 years. My life has taken me to a lot of dark places, and out the other end of the tunnel into the light, as well. That journey changes a person. My friend Kathleen told me yesterday that I belong to the butterfly clan, as I am an air sign. In the Medicine cards, butterfly is the card of transformation. Well, duh. I have morphed so many times I can't even begin to count; knock-kneed kid to leggy teen to college coed to young wife to young divorcee to young career-woman to wife and mother to single-mother career-woman to wife and stepmother of three to late-in-life mother to divorced single-mother redux to recovering alcoholic to wild-woman artist to my present state of retired re-entry student. Lots of change there. Presently, I feel like I am still in pupa, all curled up in myself getting ready to spring open. Can't wait to see what emerges here. Could be really wondrous.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Lessons from Obiwan Kenobi, etal

I just got back from seeing ROTS (that's Revenge of the Sith for the uninitiated). George really got it right, again. He could have skipped most of the first two movies, Episodes 1 and 2 and gone right into this one, which was once again character-driven and riveting because of it. OK, there was a lot of young-love angst, sad but true. The lesson comes from Yoda, that fear of loss leads to the dark side. Always. Mr. Lucas is a contemporary of mine, one who loved Saturday matinee serials like Flash Gordon and Captain America. For this 60 year old, it felt like an inside joke for a long time, because so few young people know about this tradition. Indiana Jones is another example of this hommage. How wonderful that the adventures continue. I am going to watch the first 3 movies again, to savor the moment. Today's movie made me remember the wonder of seeing the first one. I noticed as it drew to a close, that the music and tone slipped into the next episode with great ease. Nicely done. And, Yoda kicks butt!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Bleeping again.

Part of my stop-smoking day celebration took my to (gulp) the mall. There was a time I would haunt the mall, plowing through Victoria's Secret in search of sales, ditto Macy's and Wherehouse Records. It is rare that I buy anything at retail, you know. I dress out of Costco a lot, also WalMart has the best jeans for me, in long sizes. But I just had to check out Payless Shoe Source, where I found 2 pairs of summer sandals, and Suncoast, because I wanted What the Bleep Do We Know, and could not find it in my usual bargain places. So I settled into my 5 pillows last night and watched it, again, because I made a point of seeing it in the theater originally. Now, I have explored this before. I read The Tao of Physics, The Holographic Universe, Thd Dancing Wu Li Masters, all about the phenomenon that quantum physics has led us back to Eastern thought. It is very profound and mysterious, and I always found it to be very exciting, too. I have this big bell inside me, and whenever a great truth reveals itself to me, it rings with a Big Ben boom, and resonates all through my being. It is ever so much better than getting drunk! I always feel not like I am discovering this truth, oh no, but remembering it, as if I had always known it, and I have come home. I love the scene where Marlee Madsen is drawing blue hearts all over her body. Loving myself has come with a pretty high price, because first I had to hate myself and do self-destruction for 27 years, until it was enough to wind up bleeding, and on fire. That got me to AA, where the process could really begin. Now I am 15 years down that rabbit hole they talk about, and about to go even deeper as I once again burst through that bubble of a comfort zone into a new and unfamiliar world, academia. I think it is time to pick up one of those books again. We truly live in a magnificent and mysterious world. It is a real joy to get up to it everyday.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

My last drug.

I cannot claim to be a child of the 60's. I was a grown-up when the flower-power movement began, and some of it rubbed off on me anyway. A little hash, a little psychedelics, a little peyote, some magic mushrooms, all basically organic and soft-core. In the end, it was booze that I loved the best, legal booze. I have put down all that stuff now and live a sweetly drug-free, conscious life, even while having fun, strange to tell. I really thought there would never be any more fun once I stopped drinking. My first sponsor would drag me to AA dances, and make me dance, with her. Have fun, damn it! Well, I did. And I still do, lots of it, and I remember it all the next morning, when I rise sans hangover to begin all over again. Part of this is because I stay immaculately healthy. I eat more than sensibly, eating is fun, too. I found that I don't need to eat a lot to have fun, though. I have more fun when I am more sleek. And it has often occurred to me that my coffee habit may be in juxtaposition with my ethics here. Surely, this must be bad for me, I love it so much. Here is a difficult admission: I have become somewhat snobbish about my coffee. I buy my beans fresh-roasted, so that the aroma fills the car on the way home, and it is almost intoxicating, it is so marvelous. My bag of beans lives in the door of the fridge, and comes out every other morning while I fill my little blue grinder and push down on the button for just the right amount of time, so that the resulting grounds are still intact, not so powdery that they clump in the grinder. I eagerly stand by Mr. Coffee as it burbles and spits out this amazing-smelling brew. The whole kitchen grows fragrant with the smell of coffee. Because I am so very conscious, I can feel the little kick right away. And I love it! Currently, my blend is Ethiopian, because Costco stopped roasting my Sumatra. That's OK. It's not like the difference between chardonnay and petit sirrah, after all.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Mind if I obsess here?

Like my hair, my skin has been a life-long preoccupation for me. Well, I may not be much, but I am all that I think about. I had freckles when I was a kid. They started as this little expansion bridge that spanned my nose, then spread out all over my face. You could tell summer had arrived by my dusting of new ones. As I grew into adolescence, I would get these red spots in the whites of my eyes. The eye doctor told us they were, yep, freckles. I got teased a lot. And as awful as freckles were, they were nothing compared to pimples. I escaped the really pock-marking acne, but pimples came with fair regularity and I haunted the drug store looking for relief. For 40 years. Back when I had really good health insurance, I would visit the dermatologist every couple of years, hoping for a breakthrough. Retin-A helped there, and I could not get my insurance to pay for it because I was over 40, and it was considered cosmetic, even though it really was to stave off pimples. So I asked how best to preserve my skin and his best advice was to wear a moisturizer with sunscreen (Johnson & Johnson Purpose) and never use soap on my face. His recommendation? Dove. I have used Dove since I was about 27. Now, at 61, my skin is relatively pimple-free. Once in a while a rogue blemish invades for a moment, even now. And I have the best skin I have ever had in my life. It is relatively unlined, too, and I am certain this is because it was so oily when I was younger. I keep it slathered with all those wonderful goos out there, with names like Elizabeth Arden's Visible Difference and Olay's Regenerist. My personal favorite is Pond's Dramatic Results. And now, they are not sufficient if they just battle wrinkles. Now, they must be firming, too, because my flesh has divorced my bone, and without aid, would just hang off my face like tired crepe paper. It's a challenge being me.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Is it just me, part two.

Television and I grew up together. I was 5 before we had one. Up till then, I listened with my mother to the soap operas on the radio, Helen Trent, Ma Perkins and Young Doctor Malone, and to The Lone Ranger and Inner Sanctum at my grandparents house because my mother thought they were too scary. Stories on the radio are really wonderful, you know. My kids and stepkids found this out when we listened to them on Sunday nights coming home from grandma's house. Imagination can make them even more wonderful. But I digress. Early TV was incredibly creative, with personalities like Jack Paar, Ed Sullivan, Lawrence Welk, Steve Allen, Milton Berle, Sid Caeser, a whole plethora of sterling talents. Lucille Ball and Jackie Gleason came along, and Jack Benny morphed over from radio. George Burns and Gracie Allen, the list goes on, all super-people, larger than life. Since moving to town, I am once again watching network, no more Sopranos or Six Feet Under, and I really love reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond and Friends, and Judging Amy, wow. But what's with all this prime time "reality" crap? I mean, from a producer's point of view, it must be nice not to have to pay a stable of creative writers and talented actors, not to mention set designers and decorators. And why do that when you can get beautiful young stupid people to roll around nearly naked in chicken guts and eat live bugs for nothing. My question is: who is watching it? Who is ogling the Donald's really disastrous comb-over to endure the back-biting, back-stabbing tedium of corporate politics? Once, I read a science-fiction short story that predicted a world populated 99.9% by morons, because the smart people stopped procreating. Perhaps it has already descended on us, except in the short story, the remaining .01% were calling the shots. It looks like the powers-that-be have descended as well. Even BBC has better shows, tasteless, but far more creative. I'm at the point that I crave the return of the Western, and believe me, they were done to death. At least they were dramatic, and gave us Clint Eastwood, to boot.

Jumping up and down here!

Today is the 16th anniversary of quitting smoking, a day I always set aside to treat myself really well. That usually translates into spending money, but I never hesitate, because I am saving so very much money here by not smoking. Have you seen how much cigarettes cost these days? Back when they were less pricey I had the brilliant idea of spending the equivalent of a year's smoking on myself, until I figured out it would cost me over $2,000 to do that. Now it would be over $3,200, and that's if I bought them at Costco where they are "reasonable". June 2, 1989 was not the first time I quit, there had been 4 previous attempts lasting more than 6 months each, one was 2 1/2 years. But it was the last time. I was done. My chest hurt all the time like a buffalo was sitting on it, and my insides just felt flayed. I never complained because I was well aware this was self-imposed pain. I felt enslaved by this habit. It dictated where I could work, where I went (not the movies, you couldn't smoke there any more), who I hung around with. It was dirty and expensive even then. So I sought help through my doctor, who gave me a patch, not nicotine, they weren't available then, but a drug used to help heroin addicts through withdrawal. Then I targeted my day, burned the last of my Benson & Hedges 100's in the fireplace at midnight, took a week off of work, and suffered for a few days. The physical stuff was easy. It was the psychological addiction that lingered and made me nutso for the next few months. The phone would ring in my office, I would reach for it with one hand and for a cigarette with the other. The grief I would feel in that moment was all-consuming. It took a while to really let go, and now I occasionally still dream of smoking. Well, I did it from age 18 till 45, with little intermitent vacations here and there, usually prompted by a bout of pneumonia. I have not had pneumonia in the last 16 years. No bronchitis, either. In fact, knock on wood, I enjoy really good lung health. I can feel the lasting effects, though, when I hiked up our hill in Jenner, in the shortness of breath that never went away even as I grew physically accustomed to the effort. In the last few years, I have seen many people die as a result of their smoking and I am so grateful for my once-again pink lungs. I think that is worth a trip to the mall for some summer sandals (more shoes), and a 20 ounce latte and croissant sandwich, to boot.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Free at last!

Ah, the wonders of retirement. I have been retired now for 14 1/2 hours, 9 of which I slept, so I am not an expert at it, yet. This is a lot like getting out of school for the summer, and isn't it interesting that it is occurring right at that time. My birthday is June 8, and it always came right at the summer break, in fact, our high school class graduated on my 18th birthday. For many years, I thought I was a summer baby, but a glance at the calendar would have told me summer doesn't start till the 21st, so I was born in the springtime. June is a wonderful time to be born. It is halfway to Christmas, so there is never a dearth of presents. My flower is the rose and my birthstone is the pearl. I have lots of both of those in my life at this moment. I am taking in to Costco another disk of flower pictures that I took of the roses in our garden. They make nifty enlargements for less that $3. I am thinking I will have a show someday, somewhere, so I need to get these babies printed up and framed. Gee, this entry has gone all over the place. Stream of consciousness kind of day, I guess. Or maybe I just need to finish my first cup of coffee before sitting down to write. You think?