Sunday, September 30

First impressions


Today I decided to try Weight Watchers again. It's the only program I've ever attempted that I saw results with. Of course, I tend to gain everything back but that's my fault not the program's.

Anyway, I decided to try a Sunday morning class since my Sunday mornings are less hectic than my Saturday mornings and weekdays are insane. When I walked in to register, there were two women behind the counter. One was a young woman probably in her early 30's. Another petite women, in her 40's, was helping me. For whatever reason I assumed the older woman was the "Leader" of the meeting. It may have been the way she was gently scolding an older women for having gained weight in the past week. There was an annoying patronizing tone to her scolding that bugged me. Besides, the new member who had gained weight seemed to be confused about the program and that probably explained the weight gain. She just needed to talk to someone in a little more detail. I just stood there and hoped I'd get the younger woman for my registration but, of course, I got the scolder. Then I looked down and saw her name badge. It said "I lost 13 pounds in 2006". Ok, good job but... 13 pounds? Give me a break! I am 5'10" and have a significant amount of weight to lose. I realize it's ridiculous but I can't listen to a tiny 5'3" self righteous woman tell me how to lose the ton I have to drop. And was that a flinch I saw when you noted my starting weight? Lady, I'll take you down with that kind of attitude! I figured I'd stay, hear her out, then find a different meeting.

I sat down and flipped though the WW materials until the younger woman walked to the front and started the meeting. Phew! Here's what I instantly liked about her: She wasn't that superior little troll from up front, she had a small nose piercing, she wore a purple crushed velvet skirt and a bright pink feathered hair clip in her hair. I liked her silver sandals, and was that a tattoo I saw peeking out from under her sandal strap? Yes, it was! By the end of the meeting I'd learned that she'd lost 35 pounds (that's better) 7 years ago on WW, had a baby then had to lose it all over again. After our meeting she was off to teach a yoga class then take a yoga class. (Ok, now we're talking.) She emphasised the fact that good health is not a number on a scale or a size in our pants. She pointed out that while she had the height of a supermodel the similarities clearly stopped there (she's a little taller than I am) and that being underweight is not a good goal for anyone. When people ask her how long it took to lose 35 pounds she says "So far, 7 years, 4 months and 6 days." I like her and will be back. I hope I don't see the scolder again. She might get hurt.

Saturday, September 29

Clueless


Today I saw The Rape of Europa. It's an excellent documentary of the systematic and destructive theft of Europe's master art, by the Nazis, during WWII. The movie also highlights the deliberate destruction of as much art and architecture of the "inferior races" as possible.

Once again I'm stunned by my own ignorance. I've long known the Nazis stole art from Jewish collections leading up to and during the war but I had no idea how methodical and organized the theft was. I also knew that Hitler was a failed artist who coveted great artwork but I didn't know he compiled a wish list of art to steal and that the plundering of that art mirrors his path of destruction throughout Europe. Hitler knew where the art was and bombed and invaded many great cities in his effort to check off items from his wish list. It's an incredible story that I'd never really heard about until today. For instance, I never knew there was an evacuation planned in order to remove all of the contents of the Louvre in order to keep it out of the hands of the Third Reich. The Louvre curators had evacuation drills and, when the time came, were able to carefully pack and move the entire Louvre collection with the aid of French civilians. The artwork was then deposited, for safekeeping, throughout the country and into many of France's castles. I simply had no idea.

The Louvre was one thing but, of course, Florence was another big target for Hitler. It's estimated that the Nazi's stole 10% of the world's greatest works of art by the looting of Florence alone.

We all know there are many masterpieces that have never resurfaced after WWII but it's not all bad news. Apparently the allies had Monuments Men that hunted for and found some of the greatest artwork in the world and returned it, soon after the war ended, to their original residences in Europe. The Louvre's collection made it back and they found most of the pieces from Florence, including Michelangelo's David, and returned them to the city.

I doubt this film will get a lot of play but, if you have a chance, do check it out.

Friday, September 28

Bearwatch!


Once a month I get together with a bunch of women for a Stampin' Up craft night. A rep comes and shows us new techniques for card making and we ohh and ahh over our stamp catalogs, order more stamps, eat snacks and chat. Most of these women are moms and/or teachers and are aged 35-50. Most are new friends to me that I've met through one of my best friends from college.

Tonight, after "stamp club", as we've come to call it, six of us were tooling through the neighborhood dropping members off for the night. We had been talking about the pesky bears and skunks and raccoons in the neighborhood when my good friend pointed and said "Look! There he is! The BEAR!" We all took a moment to spot him in the dark then, in perfect unison, screamed to the top of our lungs. I know, it probably wasn't the best reaction, considering our proximity to the bear, but it just sort of happened. I can't explain why I screamed since I'm not typically spooked so easily but this was a HUGE bear. The bear in our neighborhood is probably about 400 lbs. This one had to be at least 600 lbs. It was sitting in a driveway next to the sealed trash cans enjoying a snack. It looked up at us then casually walked off through someones front yard. Everyone begged my friend to back up the Suburban and follow the thing. She did and I quickly spotted the bear's silhouette on a corner cliff in the same yard. The bear trotted down the slope then meandered across the street, through the high beams of our car, and strolled through another yard. He was disturbingly comfortable in our presence. We kept watching him as he coolly continued his walk before we decided it was best to drop neighborhood friends off quickly while we still had a sense of where the bear was.

I was slightly alarmed when I was dropped off at my car because my friend said "Oh, Chris (her husband and fellow high school classmate) must have seen the bear around here. He's left the lights on for you." Chris and I have know each other a long time and most of our conversations revolve around giving each other a hard time about something or other. Somehow, this kind gesture of leaving lights on for me made the bear situation seem so much more dangerous than I'd originally thought. It freaked me out! It's sort of like your spazzy brother leaving lights on for you. It's unusually thoughtful so you can't help but look over your shoulder for the Zodiac Killer.

By the time I cruised into my own driveway I definitely had bear on the brain and was completed freaked out about the 5 or 6 yards I had to cross from my car to the back door. When I pull up after dark, I can't see what's lurking in the breezeway between our house and detached garage. I mean anything could be waiting for me in there. I'm usually worried about skunks but tonight I was certain a big damn bear was waiting to snuff me out. It's safe to say I was moving faster than most of you have ever or will ever see me move. I can't remember ever being so relieved to lock our back door behind me. This crazy nature stuff sucks sometimes.

Tuesday, September 25

Dilemma


I've heard legend of a co-workers bold behavior but today I "caught wind" of it first hand. The co-worker in question has been rumored to pass gas rather loudly and with very little remorse. Those who work in her (yes, I said her) vicinity have been shocked when I pled ignorance to this issue. I've honestly never heard her do it... that is, until today. Today I walked by her desk and heard her blast an enormous fart. It was truly shocking. Now, I can understand the occasional slip up in this department but to make no apparent effort to stop yourself is something I've never come across in the work place. Sure, my younger brother and even the brothers of friends have gone the extra mile when trying to shock my friends and I with this behavior, but that was years ago. My experience today left me so perplexed I wasn't even able to react. I didn't even laugh. I just walked by wide eyed and stunned. I forgot to even mention it anyone until now.

I honestly don't know how to react to something like this. One friend who sits near the culprit has told me she' occasionally shouts out "Hey! Do you mind?". She says she gets an offhand "Oh, sorry" in response but the behavior doesn't stop.

I apologise for the off color topic of today's post, but honestly, have any of you ever experienced this? It's all so foreign to me. Aside from this odd behavior, I really like this person. What would you do?

Sunday, September 23

Listen


Many friends make fun of me for my nerdy fascination with history. Some even accuse me of a morbid obsession with so many sad, sad stories. In the past year I've chosen to read about the plague, the sinking of a great war ship, The Worst Hard Time and so on (Come to think of it, my good friend Shandon has referred me to all of those books. She's become a far superior alternative to Oprah's bookclub!). Even when I vacation, inevitably the "best" part of my time off is learning more about remarkable stories of injustice and those who survive and thrive. When I went to London, my trip to the Cabinet War Rooms was by far the highlight of my trip. That means it was better than Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey, The Tower of London and Abbey Road. When I visited Mt. Rushmore last year my spontaneous stop at the Crazy Horse Memorial ended up stomping Rushmore and Deadwood. The only thing that came close to beating it was the visit to Walnut Grove... another place made noteworthy by it's famous resident's survival story. And let's not forget my favorite road trip titled Diners & Disasters... that's right, another story of human suffering and survival. While most of my best friends share these interests, my "friend" Sarah Vowell expresses this drive best in her excellent Assassination Vacation. (Highly recommended.)

The fact is that I'm not drawn to morbidity, I swear. What I'm drawn to are stories of survival. I also admit to a certain obligation to bear witness to those who have lived through such terrible human suffering. If someone lives through something few others have to endure it's seems only fair to listen to their stories and do what we can to prevent them from happening again.

I spent the weekend reading a not-so-morbid book that's been hard to avoid this summer called Eat, Pray, Love. It's a wonderful story of a woman coming through a terrible divorce and how she overcomes anger and depression and learns to forgive and love again. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author, decided to divide a year into visits to three places: Italy (Eat), India (Pray), and Indonesia (Love). She often focuses on ordinarily somber topics, especially those of spirituality, but writes with such humor that I found myself literally laughing out loud. She admits that going to an ashram in India to pray and meditate is a scary and freaky thing to most Westerners but she goes for it anyway. She meets some amazing characters along the way. They are a joy to get to know. There is no way I can do her story justice here but I can tell you it's a nice cross between Under the Tuscan Sun and your favorite Bill Bryson book but with gorgeous Italian men, great food, a Guru and an elderly medicine man thrown in. Check it out, I really think you'll like it.

I followed up that wonderfully uplifting read with a 2 1/2 hour viewing of part one of The War. (Yes, I'm going to talk about it again.) First of all, it's as good as I'd hoped. Secondly, I genuinely admire the honesty of those contributing to it's storytelling. Because there are still folks around who remember WWII, Ken Burns, the Director, decided to lose the historians and experts for this documentary and let the the real folks tell their stories. He relies wholly on first hand accounts of veterans and those who waited for loved ones to return to the home front to tell this story. It's the first time I've heard such honesty about WWII. You hear one veteren admit that he didn't enlist for any noble, patriotic reason. When explaining what motivates a young man to sign up for a war he says "It has nothing to do with patriotism or who the enemy is. It's the opportunity to be somebody more exciting than the kid you are." At other times we hear a veteran admit that yes, his unit killed POWs if a buddy had been killed that day. He says that most will deny doing such things but that he saw it and he admits "We were supposed to be the good guys, but it happened". It's all revelations we've suspected but never dared to ask. Also, this "Greatest Generation" fought a war, then came home and buried all of those dreadful memories into the darkest corners of their hearts and minds. We didn't know about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or other post war disorders back then. Veterens suffering from those traumas were lumped under the ignorant label of being "Shell Shocked". No wonder they didn't want to talk about it. If they opened their mouths they might never be able to stop it all from pouring out. It seems only now some of them are willing to speak about what they saw and what they did.

I'm ashamed to admit how little I know about this fairly recent war. I've already been enlightened on some details. For instance, I had no idea MacArthur had a dreadful beginning in WWII. Did you know he had 9 hours warning about the attack on Pearl Harbor but most of his planes were on the ground when the Japanese attacked? I had always been led to believe it was a complete surprise and that's why so many planes were on the ground. Who knew? I don't think I'd ever simply looked at a map to see how important the victories at Midway and Guadalcanal were to us. Also, we'll never even know how many people died in WWII but it's estimated that the number is somewhere between 50 to 60 million, and most were civilians. I don't think I'd ever heard those numbers before. Unbelievable.

I've only seen the first part The War but I'm sold. Mr. Burns (and not the one from the Simpsons) has really outdone himself this time. I think it's because he, and his team, have been able to interview so many survivors first hand. Of course, this is also why Baseball so great. Imagine if he'd had the chance to interview soldiers for The Civil War.

Ultimately, both my wonderful read, over this weekend, and the mesmerizing viewing this evening all come down to the same point: Listen... never forget to just listen.

Friday, September 21

Blow, Daddy, Blow!


This evening, as many of you may know, marks the beginning of Yom Kippur. I am friends with and work with lots of Jews. While not an official member of the the Jewish clan, I'm definitely a friend of the clan. They tell me I'm "Jew-ish". I'll take that as a compliment, thank you very much.

Earlier in the week I was talking to a friend I work with named Ralph. He's a very nice, older man who is full of life and a lot of fun and who happens to be Jewish. Since last weekend was Rosh Hashanah, I asked how his New Year had been, knowing full well he certainly had a good time. He said it was wonderful but that on Monday he spoke to a goy (a non-jew) to whom he mentioned being honored with the task of blowing the shofar (pronounced show-far). His gentile friend completely misunderstood Ralph and thought he said he was honored with "blowing the chauffeur". Ralph couldn't understand the long pause on the other end of the line until his friend finally said "I wasn't aware of that tradition." He immediately understood her confusion and went on to explain the tradition of Sounding the Shofar. Ralph and I laughed for a long time over that one.

After retelling Ralph's story to another Jewish friend of mine, she admitted that the similarity between the words shofar and chauffeur had never occurred to her. She then added "I'll never think of a shofar the same again! Thanks a lot!!" She went on to explain that she'd probably never thought about it because she's always so preoccupied with worry for the man who sounds the shofar at her Temple. She said he's a rather portly man and that when he's blowing he turns bright red and she's always certain he's about to keel over from a stroke. On the other hand, she's never heard anyone blow the shofar like him so, the fear is apparently worth it.

When I emailed Ralph today I wrote "Happy day of atonement! I just heard that your fast means NO WATER. Yikes! I'd never make it." I SO wanted to ask if he had to blow the chauffeur again but decided against typing that into a work related email. Ralph would have cracked up but HR might have frowned upon that question. Ralph, and his boss, are always trying to get me to convert. I always tell them "I would but I'm not smart enough." I've explained that I was baptised Catholic but that it "didn't take". They inevitably go on to say something like "Come on over. You'd be such a good Jew. Besides, we atone for all of our sins in only one day a year. It's so much more efficient than all of those pesky Hail Marys and begging for forgiveness every day." Ya know, they've got a good point.

Thursday, September 20

Beautiful Day


Today was one of those absolutely gorgeous California days. The morning was drizzly and cloudy but the sun later broke through and shone over a clean crisp sky. Even the view from the parking lot at work was stunning. It's hard to believe it was 115 degrees just a few weeks ago. I'm sitting here in my favorite sweats and stocking feet. I don't believe I've worn these sweat pants in over 7 months. They feel great!

There is a rare September storm on the way and I can't wait. One of the many pleasures of being a Californian is the luxury of enjoying rain. It's so rare that you never mind it. I, for one, always look forward to rain. It actually feels like fall. I'm not foolish enough to believe we're over the heat. I'm sure we have several weeks of heat before it feels like fall and stays that way.

In anticipation of the rain, a friend and I "kidnapped" another friend who needed a new tire for her car. She's been tooling around on her spare tire for over a month and that's just plain dangerous, especially during the first rain following a long summer. For those of you who may not have lived in a draught area, allow me to explain: the roads around here accumulate a lot of oil and dirt during the summer. The roads are terribly slippery during the first rain of the season.

After informing our friend that we were taking the tire issue into our own hands, we followed her to CostCo, where she dropped off her car, then headed for a nearby Olive Garden. (By the way, I'm not ordinarily a big fan of Olive Garden but the chicken scampi I enjoyed today was delicious!) After lunch, we still had a few minutes before the car would be ready so we dropped by Target so I cold pick up a b-day gift for my brother. We pulled right up to a great parking spot, as we had for the Olive Garden, ran in and out in 3 minutes and somehow managed to get a free $10 Target gift card with my purchase. It was a great afternoon. After I dropped my friends off to pick up the car, I headed back to work. I later learned that my friend was charged only $1 for her new tire. Her old tire was still under warranty and the $1 was for a recycling charge. There wasn't even a labor charge. How great is that?! We had such great luck at every turn today. I love days like today!!!

Tomorrow night we're supposed to be hit with a big storm. It sort of cracks me up because any cloud that brings a drop of rain also brings on the "Storm Watch" alerts on the local newscasts. It's embarrassing but mostly hilarious.

Now, the big decision is what to read during the rain. Hmm... What a wonderful dilemma.

Tuesday, September 18

Tivomania


I've been doing some exploring, via Tivo, and trying some different shows. I've mentioned some here lately, but these are the ones I like the most:

Mad Men
- Probably my top pick these days. It centers on the lives of ad men in the 60's. If this show is indication, I think it's safe to say that to be a white, professional, male in the 60's was to have it made. The storyline is great but the set and costume design are impeccable, right down to women's round tipped manicures. The folks working on this show are dead on. Along with the amazing look of the show, I'm often shocked at the sexist attitudes portrayed in Mad Men but Mom tells me that's exactly how it was. They also have fun with the naivete of the time. Pregnant women are shown drinking and smoking constantly along with the rest of the characters. When a child walks into the kitchen wearing a dry cleaning bag over her head because she's playing "spaceman", her mother's response is not horror over the potential suffocation threat but annoyance that her dry cleaning has probably been tossed on her bedroom floor. Give this one a try, you won't be sorry.

Tim Gunn's Guide to Style - Shandon and I share a love of all things "before and after". This one is B&A at it's best. I like this show more than What Not to Wear because it's a bit kinder. It's more about changing the self confidence of the people they help. Tim Gunn gives excellent advice, with some humor, along with a gentle and caring touch. I really like him.

Confessions of a Matchmaker - This show features a no nonsense matchmaker named Patti Novak. Patti is quite the opposite of Tim Gunn. She meets and matches singles for a living but her tough love approach is what makes it worth watching. Most of her clients are a mess in one way or another and Patti's there to help them out. She whips them into shape with her candor but manages to never be nasty. She demands respect for herself and her clients but mostly she cracks me up.

Rescue Me - Ok, hear me out. I wasn't a big Denis Leary fan either but this show is great. It focuses on the lives of firemen in a New York city firehouse post 9/11. All of the firemen are struggling in their lives but mostly Denis Leary's character, Tommy Gavin. Tommy is dealing with some serious survivor's guilt. He speaks with his dead cousin who died in the Twin Towers. Let's be clear, this is a show for grown ups. Let's just say the firefighting scenes are almost as hot as the sex scenes but I really love the humor... oh, and the cute boys don't hurt either. Rescue Me is heartbreaking, hilarious and sometimes down right disturbing which is what makes it such great television. It's definitely a show worth catching up on.

Intervention - This one is a train wreck that I can't stop watching. It follows the lives of one or two addicts (junkies, alcoholics, bulimics, you name it) who believe they are participating in a documentary on addiction. It all leads up to an intervention then gives an update on the addict three months later. It's brutal but good stuff.

How Clean is Your House?
- Mentioned here the other day. I love it!

Here is programming I'm most looking forward to this new season:

The War - I've pretty much loved every documentary Ken Burns has done. I'm looking forward to his take on the most documented war. I'm sure he'll have a unique point of view.

The Bionic Woman - I guess the aggressive ad campaign has worked on me. This one looks like a good time.

Men In Trees - I love, love, love this show. I always fall for shows based in Alaska especially those featuring rugged men. Throw in an especially dreamy male lead and I'm sold.

Lost - They almost lost me last season but they turned it around in time to make we look forward to it again. Let's see how long they can keep my attention.

Grey's Anatomy - Yeah, I'm sick as sick of Meredith as the next person, but somehow they keep me wanting more. McDreamy has sort of become McWhiny but the previews show him with a nice new haircut that makes him look almost at good as McSteamy. If you don't understand that then don't bother trying to catch up, you've missed too much.

And here are the down right embarrassing, guilty pleasures I've found surprisingly entertaining. I eat these shows up like an 8 year old boy:

Ice Road Truckers - I know, I know. When I first saw this advertised I said "Oh God, give me a break!" Then I saw a few episodes and found it oddly compelling. Who knew this job even existed?

Survivorman - This dude is a maniac and I can't stop watching him go.

Deadliest Catch - Insanity.

Looking at this list it becomes painfully obvious that I'm a sucker for prime time soap operas, documentaries and reality shows. I suppose there are worse realizations.

Monday, September 17

I enjoy being a girl

Missing the "You are a woman now" film in the third grade because your mom booked an optometrist appointment that infamous day: Free

Guiding your room mate, through the bathroom door, through her first perilous first tampon application: Free

Surviving numerous pregnancy scares, both yours and your friends: Free

Receiving this picture along with the text "What the F?" in my inbox from a married and startled friend: F*cking priceless


Sunday, September 16

Rocket Men



Today I did brunch and a movie with Tony. We were planning on seeing The Brave One. Almost immediately after saying hello to each other Tony admitted that he'd been plotting to convince me to see Across the Universe instead. I admitted I'd had the same idea but that it wasn't playing anywhere near us. Oh well, maybe next time. We then agreed that The Brave One seemed a bit of a downer for such a nice day. Hmm, we wondered. What could be playing at the Laemmle?

I'd almost forgotten about In the Shadow of the Moon. The show time was at a great time for us so we decided to go for it. I'm so glad we did! What a great movie. It centers on the astronauts who have been to the moon. I've long claimed that I'm fairly ignorant to the moon walks. I was about 3 years old when Neil and Buzz took those famous steps. There is an assumption that folks my age know all about that monumental event. We Gen-X'ers were too young to remember the first moon walk first hand and by the time we were old enough to care the hype had died down. Americans were taking the space program for granted by the time we hit junior high. This movie does a good job of explaining all the details I'd never considered before. Like the fact that someone, Michael Collins, had to fly all the way to the moon but couldn't walk on it because he had to man the spaceship while Neil and Buzz took off in the space pod to the surface of the moon. Disappointed! For the record, Mr. Collins doesn't see it as a negative, he's proud of the role he played in getting us to the moon.

Even knowing how it all turned out didn't keep my heart from racing when the time came for Neil and Buzz to re-attach the pod to the ship for their ride home. I'd never considered that drama. Apparently the government had. Nixon pre-recorded a message to the country stating the two men couldn't get back to the ship and were being left behind to die... just in case. Good Lord! The film is made up of vintage footage and interviews with the astronauts. I'd never considered how remarkable those men were and are.

The movie is ultimately a very moving film (I misted up several times), especially when you see how the voyage brought the world together. People from all around the world were saying "We did it!". It wasn't considered an American triumph but one that all mankind could share. It made me sad to think about how far we've come from those warm and fuzzy feelings for each other. It made me wonder how we'll ever get to that wonderful mood again.

I then considered how much my niece and nephew know about moon walks. If I'm ignorant to those events imagine what they must think? Men walking on the moon is ancient history to those two. I had dinner with the brother and his family tonight and mentioned the movie to Little Man. I asked if he'd heard about it and he said "Yeah, I know all about it." I said "You know it was a really big deal, right?" He looked up at me with a reassuring "Yes, it was cool." Well that's encouraging. I'd love to take him to a shuttle landing or departure some day. It seems like a potentially super cool thing to witness but I've never taken the time to do it. Maybe some day.

If you have some time, I highly recommend In the Shadow of the Moon and be sure to take the kids.

Saturday, September 15

Ice, Ice, Baby


Dad has been fishing in Alaska for the past week and a half. His friend from the 1st grade and his brother invited Dad to join them. He's been excited about it for a while but the extra fun bonus was that he used frequent flyer miles and scored a round trip first class ticket. Nice!

We haven't heard form him in a week because the lodge is rather remote and only has short wave radio communication. Before Dad left, he warned us that he'd be sending a lot of fish home. They clean and flash freeze the catch and ship it to your home. I'm not a big fish fan but as I recall, that Alaskan caught fish pretty darn good eating.

In anticipation of the big catch, Mom decided to get a freezer for the garage. We never seem to have enough room in the kitchen freezer so it seemed like a practical idea. After some research, and a recon mission to Sears, Mom asked me to go with her this morning to buy the freezer. She picked a smallish model, we're not trying to store a side of beef after all. Immediately after the purchase she regretted her decision. She had spent more than planned but I thought she'd made a good choice. Finally, I convinced her she'd done the right thing when I pointed out "Dad can keep his dead birds in there." She hadn't considered the dreaded dead bird collection. We currently have a hummingbird taking up residence in the freezer. Mom hates fish so the thought of Dad keeping his dead birds and fish in another location suddenly made the purchase seem down right brilliant. How could we have forgotten that obvious advantage?! The dead animal keeper will be delivered tomorrow. I suppose it's no different from anyone else's freezer. Most folks have things like chicken, beef and fish in their freezer, right? I guess the only difference is that most people don't catch or find them themselves.

Thursday, September 13

Wicked Good Time


Forgive me if I've mentioned my latest television obsession already, but have you seen How Clean is Your House? *Sigh* Oh, it's SO good but, admittedly, in a train wreck/guilty pleasure sort of way.

Two British ladies go to the filthiest homes they can find and clean them up. (And for the record, I'm on board with most any show that features two British ladies.) Kim and Aggie, my new Brit friends, find folks living in absolute squalor, toss out the junk, reveal the health hazards of living in filth and show them how to change their ways. I especially love the way they use ordnary, old fashioned cleaning formulas utilizing vinegar, soap, borax, lemons, salt and hot water most of the time. It's amazing what a bit of elbow grease and effort can do for the lives of these people. I'm literally shocked every episode with how some people live. I think I gasp pretty much every time I tune in. I can't get over the fact that these people live this way then allow their homes to be shown on tv. It's incredible!

Mom says she tunes in from time to time to feel better about her cleaning skills. I can pretty much guarantee you'll have a similar reaction. I should warn any germaphobes out there to avoid it this show at all costs. You may never recover! The rest of you should be sure to check it out on BBC America. Oh, but avoid the London rat episode. Even I couldn't stomach that one.

Wednesday, September 12

Big Girls Don't Cry


Once a year, at work, I'm expected to report my list of objectives for the coming year. Six months later I'm asked to submit a self assessment on my progress. It's a nagging process but one that, in the end, proves to be quite helpful. I mean think about it, how often do you look ahead 12 months and list what you'd like to accomplish? It's easy to decide on objectives then forget all about them so a self assessment can be a great time to prioritize.

This year's self assessment is due this Friday so today I sat down with my boss to go over it all. We're expected to have a conversation about my accomplishments then agree on how to report them all. I've had a very good year and am on track to grow my business 11% over my initial projection. Yea me! As a result, my self assessment is glowing. Well come on, if your boss asks you how you're doing, it's a smart idea to drag out the self congratulatory attitude. I believe I used the term "rock star" at one point.

My boss and I had a very good meeting on my progress. The only problem is that I'm under the distinct impression that I'm at the lower end of the pay scale for my position. At the end of our discussion I told her I felt I had performed at a level worthy of at least the mid range of the pay bracket for my position. She immediately agreed. I asked if it was too late to effect the next pay raise period and she said "absolutely not". She was in complete agreement with my request... thank God! I'm so glad I told her how I felt. Our annual raises don't come until next year but I'm happy I spoke up in time to (hopefully) make a difference.

During that conference last month, I learned that one of the good qualities I possess is being outspoken, which is why I have little problem asking for a raise. The down side of being outspoken is that I can be (how can I put this?)... overwhelming. I was in a meeting today with about 10 women. We get together once a month to discuss how our business is going and to share best practices. We have worked together for a while now and tend to give each other a hard time while we learn from each other. Well, someone sent their 22 year old associate in alone with some controversial product. Somebody pointed out that the product had been approved, to which I rolled my eyes and said "Let's be clear, that product got in through a back door, went against our strategy and really screwed a lot of us over." (All entirely true.) I wasn't speaking to the girl but she misunderstood my tone and assumed I was angry at her. I was ticked off at the situation but certainly not at her. Later, while walking down a hall one of the girl's co-workers said "Wow, I heard you really ripped her a new asshole." What?! Eventually, I heard that from every member of her team. Finally, I went over to the youngster and explained that I was annoyed with the situation but that it had nothing to do with her and that I was sorry if she misunderstood me. She said "Well, are you ok now? You seemed really mad." Good Lord! I sort of gave up at that point. I mean, how do you tell a 22 year old to get some thicker skin? This is corporate America. This girl is going to face confrontation from time to time. Later, a friend, who was in the meeting at the time of the "asshole ripping", laughed and said "Ya know, somebody's got to tell her if she wants to play with the big girls she's gotta not take it all so personally." She's right, but I don't have the time or patience to stroke anyone anymore.

Sunday, September 9

Go Pac!


Now, I'm not a scary, screaming, chest pounding, face painting variety football fan, but the sound of football on a Sunday is one of my all time favorites. I think I feel this way because it means fall is coming (or here) as well as cooler weather. Now that I'm an adult, fall means no back to school for me. Ha ha! I still get a little thrill when the kiddies trudge off to school without me. For all of these reasons fall is my favorite time of year and football is the sound of fall for me.

For many years it didn't matter who was playing, I just liked to have the tv tuned to football. I'd generally ignore the action and score but enjoyed the comforting sounds of football. On the other hand, I pretty much despised most football players. I thought those guys were the worst qualities of men all rolled into an awful gang of steroid sipping freaks. I still can't stand most and I particularly despise the carefully choreographed post-touchdown dances performed in the end zone. I hate grandstanding and no sports figures grandstand more than pro- football players. I consider most just plain awful.

That's how I felt about all pro football until my dear friend Heidi, turned me on to the Green By Packers. I've loved the Pac ever since. Their fans are like no other sports fans out there. They will never turn on their boys, they will support them 'til they die. Season tickets are not cold heartedly sold to the highest bidder, they are lovingly passed down from generation to generation. Unlike other NFL teams they are publicly owned. That's right, you too can buy Green Bay Packers stock, ya just gotta love that concept. Going to Lambeau Field for a Packers game remains high on my life list of things to do before I die.

This morning I'm enjoying the first game of the season. Brett Favre is back as Quarterback and there are already several players out due to injuries but no matter, the Pac is back and my world is a better place for it.

GO PAC!

Thursday, September 6

More NY

Cab Driver: That's $10 per person


New York Born Co-worker: $10?! Are you crazy?

Lucy: It's true. They're all charging $10 per person per zone.


Cab Driver: Here, look. (handing her the sheet all of the cabbies have been waving at us.)


NYBC-W: I don't need to see any paper to know you're making a killing from this strike. You and Bloomberg! Damn millionaire making a killing trying to raise our rates and there you are right on his coat tails! I already know you're making $25 from this ride.


Cab Driver: It's $10 per person.


NYBC-W: We're all going to the same location! How is that $10 per person? You've got single moms sitting back here and we don't have money to throw around like that. God damn Bloomberg is testing us. He just wants to know how many of us will pay this stupid rate.(Mumbling) Putting my kid through college... damn $10 per head, my ass! Goddamn strike, only ones getting screwed are us working moms trying to get to work every day.


Cab Driver: Ok, ok, I'll take $5 per person.


NYBC-W: (Suddenly very sweet) Oh thank you so much. You're a good man.

I was howling. I could have never done that. Every time I got in a cab this week I didn't care what they were charging. I was just so happy to have a cab.

That was the start of my day. I later ended up working from my hotel room. Here's the view from over my laptop and out the window:





I like that view. I still can't get over the architecture of NYC. Even the hotel I'm in must have been an old tenement building. The rooms have crazy layouts and it seems no two are alike. It always makes me wonder about all the people who have lived here. Like that old building out my window, I wonder how many of her tenants I would have liked? I wish I had the chance to meet the people who designed and built that place. Granted, I might really disliked some of them but there were bound to have been a few cool people involved the in the old place. Maybe I'm weird, but that's the kind of thing I think about when I look at these old buildings.

After working for a few hours, I drifted off for a 20 minute nap. I was SO comfortable on that bed I did NOT want to get up for dinner. I eventually hauled my butt off the bed and got ready. We lucked out and found that the hotel had a complimentary town car available just when we needed it. The driver was very nice. He drove like a maniac but was incredibly calm the whole ride. I'm used to crazy cabbies that are angry the whole ride It was a nice change of pace.

A friend saw Andy Roddick signing tennis balls in front of our hotel. I hear he had a busy week. I saw Moby holding a baby outside the store I was in, in the Lower East End. I was later told he lives in the neighborhood. How do people know these things?

We had a large group planning to meet at The Social Stanton (turn down your speakers if you're at work but click on the bars to look around). I'd never been to the place before, but I'd been told it was a hot place to go. Everybody I work with seems to like the hip places. I don't. I'm a 40-year-old junior executive at a Fortune 500 company, I'm no hipster.

I was pleasantly surprised by the place. Due to the size of our party, the menu was prix fixe. Someone did a great job selecting the food for us because it was delicious. The fish tacos were yummy (not Nobu yummy, but yummy none the less). We sampled some french onion soup dumplings, thin crust pizza, ravioli, chicken and waffles (we were foolishly expecting a Roscoe's variety experience and were naturally disappointed) but the big it was the dessert. They served fresh baked cookies and warm donuts with dipping sauce. Holy crap, what a great idea!!! We loved them. It would be a fun idea to try at a family gathering some time. (Or maybe a craft day!)

I rarely drink so I wound up sitting at the dry end of the table. One co-worker is pregnant so we wanted to get her home at a decent hour. We stepped out of the restaurant and a cab dropped someone off right in front of us. I decided it was good pregnancy karma working on our side. We got back to the hotel around 9:30 and I couldn't be happier.

I leave early tomorrow morning and, as usual, am happy to be getting home.

Wednesday, September 5

New York, New York

I had a great day of meetings and to top it off, the weather was beautiful. I'm SO grateful. It was about 78 degrees and sunny around noon. The only bummer was the taxi driver strike. You can find some cabs around here but they're charging $10 per person per zone and there are about 6 zones in Manhattan. I mainly walked around today since my hotel was only about 10 blocks from most appointments. They say the strike will only last 48 hours but now we're hearing it could be longer. Oh, and did I mention that both Fashion Week and the US Open are going on around here? No wonder we had such trouble finding a hotel. Oh, and those cabbies are damn smart! If you don't want to strike around Christmas time then this would be our second best opportunity to stick it to the city.

Ok, so I'm in NYC so naturally I'll be talking about food. Tonight we ate at Nobu. I've been to Nobu Next Door but tonight was my first time at Nobu. It's no news flash but I gotta say it: Chef Nobu Matsuhisa is officially a genius. I didn't even know I liked sushi until I ate at Nobu Next Door and Nobu was just as wonderful. They're what every sushi restaurant strives to be. Still I often forget how much I enjoy sushi since I don't eat it very often. I therefore wasn't terribly enthusiastic about tonights dinner selection BUT Nobu sushi is a world of it's own. It was amazing. We tried several dishes and shared but I think my favorite was the Cod. It's something I would NEVER order on my own but man was it good. It was a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth dish that I'll crave for a long time to come. Some at our table turned up their noses at the Tempura but I pointed out "Nobu Tempura is probably not like the tempura we know." They later thanked me for ordering the Crab Tempura. It was outstanding. Honestly, everything we tried was fabulous. The Rock Shrimp and Yellowtail were to-die-for and I'm here to tell you that a Nobu fish taco is not to be believed. Still, one friend kept saying "I'm still hungry! I need some carbs." To which I said "Great, you'll have room for dessert."

- Flash forward 20 minutes-

We're heading to Serendipity 3. Have I mentioned Serendipity before? WELL, Serendipity is an incredible fire trap of a restaurant that everyone visits for the decadent desserts. The famed Frozen Hot Chocolate is the main attraction. It's made of 14 chocolates that are blended into an amazing chocolate milk shake concoction that's is an experience in itself. There were five us us for dinner but only four went for dessert. The one guy in the group had to get back to his room to get some work done. Since cabs were scarce, we packed him onto a rickshaw that carried him away down Fifth Avenue. I wish I had my camera for that scene.

We walked past Tiffany & Co. I said "I've never been in there. It's so tragic." The girls agreed then ran over to peer in the windows. They were tearing down the window displays for the night and I couldn't but notice the guy doing the work in my window was a super-cutie. I'm know I'm getting old because when I see overly attractive men I now have to bite my tongue to keep from shouting "Holy crap are you cute!" This time I just shook my head, walked away, pointed over my shoulder and told my friends "Hottie, stage right!" They all ran to the window and looked up the poor guy. I'd like to say he was surprised but, honestly, I don't think it was the first time that had happened to him. We continued down Fifth past Yves Saint Laurant, Burberry, Chanel, Dior, Van Cleef & Arpels and a bunch of other mega-spendy storefronts. I know it's an avenue of blood diamonds but *sigh*... they're pretty.

Once at Serendipity we each ordered a dessert to share. One friend ordered the Frozen Hot Chocolate. I ordered the Sandie Tart Sundae (butter pecan cookies under cinnamon ice cream and hot chocolate and whipped cream). The other two friends ordered the Can't Be Believed Sundae (Humble Pie, ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream) and the Serendipity Banana Split - Coward's Edition. It only had three scoops of ice cream as opposed to the five scoop version. All were great. The Frozen Hot Chocolate showed up with four straws. At one point I was standing up, holding my hair back and sipping from a Frozen Hot Chocolate straw. I sat down and said "Jeez, I feel like I'm at a frat party doing a bong hit or something." I took a picture of it all but can't seem to pick it up from my email. I'll try posting it later.

In the elevator, on my way back to my room, a few of us were agreeing to meeting tomorrow morning at 8:15 am. Another elevator passenger cried "8:00 in the morning?! What kind of place is this?" She was holding a glass of wine and was pretty well tanked. She was obviously a Fashion Week victim. I don't think we'll be seeing her in the lobby tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, September 4

Escape from LA


Well, I high-tailed it outta town first thing this morning. My bedroom was fairly cool by about 3:00 am but it was warming up by around 8:00 am and I was outta there. We called the repair guy and the soonest he said he could get out to the house is this Thursday. Thursday! I feel so bad for ma and pa. They made a break for it and headed for the hills today. Literally, they got in the car and drove to the mountains until they realized the road was closed. Good Lord! Poor guys.

I called them when I got to the hotel to see how they were doing. Mom said it was about 10 degrees cooler than yesterday but that "it only got to about 90 degrees in the house this afternoon". Only?! The heat is obviously getting to her. She would never make such an outrageous statement in her right mind.

As for myself, I cranked the air conditioning in the car on the way to the airport, froze in the plane and walked into a freezing hotel room. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining but I actually had to turn the air conditioning OFF. This time yesterday I wouldn't have dreamed I'd be capable of such cavalier behavior.

I'm officially in NYC. I just finished a Turkey Burger, sparkling water and a slice of cheesecake for the low, low price of $55. Sheesh! Imagine if I'd had the roast chicken or fillet? I do have some rather nice bath products to enjoy in the morning though.

In the mean time, I'll be watching cable and catching up on overdue online work (assuming the dumb system is working, for a change of pace).

I'll be checking in soon.

And for all of you without air conditioning... I swear I'm thinkin' of you in your time of need. May the force be with you all.

Monday, September 3

Have I died and gone to hell?

Around 2:30 today it was about 104 degrees in the shade and our air conditioning went out. I'm miserable. Unless I'm in the direct line of a high powered fan I am not even remotely happy. We believe we are in need of refrigerant. I'm not even sure what refrigerant is, but I want some pronto.

Just this morning I was enjoying my new favorite show, Mad Men (it's fabulously shocking and you must check it out sooner than later) in our nice cool home. I was actually thinking about how lucky I was. *Memories, like the corners of my mind...*

I'm going to NYC tomorrow and am thrilled to be getting out of this heat. It's supposed to be a blissful 77 degrees on Wednesday, when I'll actually be out and about. I feel bad for leaving my family in this heat wave with no ammo but there's not much I can do about it. I can only hope they can get it repaired ASAP.

On the other hand, to put things in perspective:

Sunday, September 2

Ode to a Gay Husband

I have a wonderful Gay Husband, his name is Tony. Well, he's not really my husband but he's a dear friend who happens to be gay and every girl who knows him would marry if she could.

The deal with a Gay Husband is that they are all the things a wonderful husband is but without any complicated intimacy issues. They make you laugh and share common entertainment interests but are also men so they are excellent chaperones. For instance, today Mom warned me about the purse snatching problem at our local mall (who knew?). She told me to be careful to which I replied "Don't worry, I'll be with Tony." She was relieved. Tony is a fantastic singer and likes to dance, he loves theater and sing-a-longs and has one of the most upbeat outlooks on life I've ever encountered. Above all, Tony is a gentleman. He's a breath of fresh air and he's one of my best friends.

Today Tony and I got together for brunch and movie. We walked around the mall a bit, shopped a bit and picked up some iced teas (since it was so freakin' hot, even in the mall!). (Sidebar: We went to the Coffee Bean kiosk where the server asked me "Is this for here or to go?" Here? What here? Would I stand here at the counter? What difference does it make? Would I get a crystal goblet if it were "for here? What do you mean?!" I must have had a funny look on my face as all of these thoughts whizzed through my head because Tony was laughing at me.)

Later, in Sun Coast Video, while looking through the Classics and TV DVD sets I mentioned that I couldn't figure out how to record on my new DVD recorder. "It's only recording a black screen." I whined. Tony puffed out his chest and said "Let me take a look at it." When we got home he quickly had my DVD recorder all hooked up and working like a dream. Not only can I now record but he showed me how to name each chapter (or episodes of Men in Trees, in my case) and select a title photo for each episode. I would have NEVER known about those options much less how to figure them all out.

Ladies, I highly recommend having a Gay Husband as wonderful as mine. Admittedly, a primo Gay Husband can be hard to find but I believe they're well worth the search. Oh, but for the record you can't have mine... he's taken! He's my Rock Hudson (if only I could be Elizabeth Taylor. Early Liz, that is.)

Saturday, September 1

Damn, it's hot.


It's 102 degrees in the shade, according to our thermometer. What does a girl do in heat like this? Well, any girl worth her salt gets the hell outta the heat by any means possible.

Here's a breakdown of my day so far:
  • Get hair colored (a girl has her priorities, after all)
  • Pick up luggage from repair shop (shop not air conditioned, but was in there only 5 minutes, so it was ok.)
  • Meet friends at theater and see best documentary EVER (King of Kong... trust me, this one is great!)
  • Have Diet Coke and popcorn for lunch
  • Realize you'll probably need some protein at some point in the day, go to grocery store, pick up fillet, corn on cob and strawberries for dinner
  • Eye a DVD of Monty Python and The Holy Grail and purchase promptly
  • Get home, put groceries away and put Holy Grail in DVD player
  • Start blog

That's where I am. All I wanted to do was sit in an air conditioned room and read or watch a good movie when I got home today. I made a good choice in my DVD selection. I'm already laughing (...strange women lying in ponds distributing swords... I mean really, does it get any better? I can't tell you how many times my brother I and shouted "Help! Help! I'm being repressed!" when our mother tried to correct us in our youth. Hmm, I think it's time I taught my niece and nephew that one.)

Long live air conditioning and Monty Python.