Monday, March 29

"New York... this is your last chance."

I collect change in a piggy bank. Well, actually I sort the pennies in a bag then put the silver coins in the piggy bank. I've doesn't this for years. When the bank is about 1/2 full it's worth $150 or so. At least that's what I thought. The other day I walked into my bedroom to find my sensible little piggy bank cracked in two and hemorrhaging silver coins all over the floor. I figured it was my niece or nephew's doing but wasn't mad. I knew that whoever it was had a little kid "Oh shit!" moment and that made me smile. Remember those moments?

I put my rather hefty bag of pennies in my purse and about half of the silver coins in another bag. I took all I could carry and headed for the Coinstar machine. I've been avoiding Coinstar because they want 9.8 cents on the dollar and that's a rip off. Unfortunately, I can't find a Wells Fargo in the area with a coin counting machine and I REALLY don't want to sit around rolling coins so Coinstar it was.

The Coinstar sits next to the "Employment Opportunities" desk/monitor at the grocery store. When I arrived, I saw a nicely dressed older African American man tapping away on the keyboard presumably filling out job application. I started dumping my coins in the machine and it sounded like damn slot machine paying out. I was watching the Coinstar screen and saw that the total was really getting up there fast. I then started feeling very guilty about cashing in so close to somebody obviously looking for a job. I even considered handing him the cash voucher but refrained. I figured he 1) might me insulted or 2) might just want something new to do during the day and therefore looking for a job or 3) could be totally opposed to my political beliefs and therefore deemed unworthy. This tactic worked and I managed to hold on to my voucher.

So, guess how much all the change I could carry was worth? Ready? $333! Of course Coinstar embezzled $30 of it, but still it was a pretty good haul. I cashed in the voucher and headed straight to Michael's to pick up a new piggy bank, since that seems to be working so well for me.

I then went to Best Buy but I'm such a dork that I didn't buy a new flat screen tv or a camera with my new found riches. Instead I picked up the newly released Season One of Rhoda on DVD. I'd heard it had recently been released and have been wanting it ever since. I then went out to lunch with Shandon.

I'm now enjoying episode two of Rhoda and I love it as much as I thought I would. I love Rhoda and Joe and Brenda and Carlton the Doorman. I love them all. Brenda gets some great lines! Remember the opening?

Speaking of openings, I opened my mail and guess what arrived today? My vehicle registration bill on Pearl. Wanna know the amount? $324. The world has a hilarious sense of humor. I always knew I was more of a Rhoda than a Mary.

When I told Mom about my "I'm a Rhoda" stance she said "Well, hell. I could have told you that." Thanks Ma. Yup, I'm a Rhoda.

Saturday, March 13

Tell me about it

Lucy bait, that's what my buddy Shandon calls books, tv and movies she is certain I will love. She knows me well. We have some fine Lucy bait in progress, coming up and remembered. Here is a sampling:

Number one on the list has got to be the upcoming HBO miniseries The Pacific. The other day Shandon handed me an advance copy of the book the show is based on thinking it was Lucy bait. She was right.

I didn't see Band of Brothers when it originally aired. I haven't the foggiest idea how that happened since I'm pretty much obsessed with WWII, especially the American and British experiences of the war. Anyway, I eventually saw Band of Brothers in a one day sitting. (Don't judge me. You know you've done that sort of thing.) It was probably a Veteran's Day marathon, all I know is that it hooked me. All plans were canceled because I had to find out how it all worked out for Easy Company. I also have been pretty much crushing on Dick Winters ever since. Is that weird? Well I can't help it, he's dreamy. That's Dick at the top of the page. See what I mean? I expect I'll be just as enamored with the Marines in The Pacific. We'll see if the series stands up to the inevitable comparisons to BoB. I hope it does.

In the same vein I'm currently reading a wonderful book called Few Eggs, No Oranges. It's the Persephone publishing of Vere Hodgson's diary during the war years in England. Vere was an ordinary woman working at a local charity in Notting Hill and living in her mother's boarding house during the war. Vere kept a diary for most of her life. After the war she edited her 1940-1945 diaries and they became the account I'm now savoring. It's a big fat book that I've been reading for months. I keep it on my nightstand and have been slowly reading a small bits at a time. I like to check in with Vere and see how she's holding up. It will probably take me as long to read the book as it took the war to begin and end. I could easily burn through the pages in a weekend or two but I find myself trying to slow down and let it last.

I should take a moment here to clarify something. I do not like the war, I'm merely fascinated by the many perspectives on it. I find tales of ordinary people under extraordinary circumstances to be irresistible. WWII is therefore of interest to me. However, I have no fantasies of going back in time and living there either. The hair products just weren't up to snuff yet (I kid!). I don't like true crime accounts but true stories of war, survival (recall this post) and some politics (All The President's Men) suck me right in. I want to hear all about those stories.

Have you ever read David Brinkley's book Washington Goes to War? It's a great little book of stories collected by David Brinkley (yes, the late great David Brinkley) on what the war was like in the then sleepy little town of Washington DC. I believe it's currently out of print so, if you ever see it, pick it up. You'll love it.

How about the better known The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? No? What are you waiting for? I adored this book. What's it about you say? Here's a teaser from the site "January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name." Um, yeah. Check it out.

My favorite museum trip was my visit to The Cabinet War Rooms soon after it opened. It's a Winston Churchill museum located in the basement of Parliament. Apparently after the war was won the Brits just locked the doors to the war rooms and went on with life. About a decade ago some folks finally went down there to see what they could find and discovered war offices that were literally frozen in time. They even found packets of sugar rations in the back of a desk drawer. These rooms were the bunkers where Winston Churchill and the BBC used to broadcast speeches and "ran the show". It's where Churchill lived during the blitz and much of the war. It's an amazing place. It alone is worth a trip to England. I'm not kidding.

My favorite movie that isn't about the war but takes place during those years is Radio Days. Anyone who claims to not like Woody Allen needs to see this film. I like to think of it as how my parents lived when they were very young. They knew about the war but they were too young to really comprehend what it was. When I'm reading or watching things about that terrible war it can help to watch a film like Radio Days for a more naive point of view of the war. This is another one that I highly recommend.

Saturday, March 6

The List! Part Deux

I thought I had failed miserably with this year's list of "Film's you Must See Before The Academy Awards". Then I looked back at my post and realized I've done far better than I thought. Here is the updated list. The titles in red indicate those I've seen:

1. Up in the Air
2. Avatar
3. The Hurt Locker
4. Precious
5. Inglourious Basterds
6. Invictus
7. An Education
8. Up
9. A Serious Man
10. The Messenger
11. Julie & Julia
12. A Single Man
13. Crazy Heart
14. The Blind Side
15. The Last Station
16. Nine
17. Star Trek
18. District 9
19. Fantastic Mr. Fox
20. The Lovely Bones
21. (500) Days of Summer
22. It's Complicated
23. The Young Victoria
24. Bright Star
25. The Informant!

District 9 is half red because I Netflix'd it but couldn't get all the way through it. Let's just chalk it up to "life is too short" and call it a day. I'll probably give it another go when it comes to cable.

I'm seeing Crazy Heart tomorrow morning. That means I'm only got Invictus left and although it's just not gonna happen I'm happy I've seen the rest. Not bad for someone who sort of dropped out of the race.

So far my favorite of the year remains The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I'd say my least favorite is The Last Station. Yuck! I hate that cursed Tolstoy. I'll never understand what the big whoop is about that guy. Then again, he was Russian. As a people, Russians have suffered, maybe it's negatively influenced their bench mark. I'm just sayin'.

I believe The Best Film of the Year award belongs to The Hurt Locker. I genuinely admired it. I hope Kathryn Bigelow stomps James Cameron in the Best Director category. I also sincerely hope The Academy refrains from giving The Best Picture award to Avatar. I fell asleep in that dumb thing and was later reassured to hear that I didn't miss a thing. I was entirely underwhelmed by it and cannot understand why folks seem to have enjoyed it. Then again I didn't like Titanic much either. I believe the ridiculous box office dollars Avatar has received is reward enough. I understand that a monster film like Avatar helps the entire film making industry but it deserves nothing more than a couple of technical awards.

I've always lived in Southern California so I'm not sure how folks embrace The Academy Awards broadcast elsewhere. Around these parts there is always a party or small viewing get together to go to. Whatever you plan to do I hope you enjoy the awards. They are usually a pretty good time and, if nothing else, they shine a light on some lesser known films. There were some excellent performances to be seen this year. Go out and see a few if you haven't already.

Thursday, March 4



I tried the vitamin B6/B-12 today. I placed the little red pill under my tongue and let it dissolve on my drive in to work. By my 9:30 meeting I was waving my hands over my head in an "L" shape, like a Yosemite Sam with his guns, shouting "It's approved! Pow, pow, pa-pa-pow!". My colleague was bent over clutching her sides from laughing so hard. She pretty much spent the rest of the day laughing at me.

What can I say? The B vitamins gave me more energy and definitely improved my mood. I had the best work day in weeks.

When asked how I felt different, I equate it to the feeling I get this time every year. You know how you just plain feel better as spring approaches? You know, when the sun stays out longer and you happen to hear the right song on your way home from work? It's like that. Your mood just naturally improves. It felt like that.

I will definitely be taking more. Pow, pow, pa-pa-pow!

Wednesday, March 3

And in time...

Last night my poor dad found me slumped over, in my pjs and robe, staring glassy eyed at the blue glow of the tv. I wasn't clutching a bottle of whiskey but I may as well have been.

Dad: Lucy?
Me: mmm?
Dad: Are you ok?
Me: yeah, why?
Dad: (staring at my neck) ...
Dad: What's around your neck?
Me: My heat pack.
Dad: ...
Me: Oh! You saw the rope handles and thought I'd finally done myself in?
Dad: Well... yeah. Look at you!

Oh dear.

Today was another humdinger that involved watching colleagues get yelled at. I was, fortunately, able to dodge that bullet but it was still unpleasant. It could have spun me out into another downward spiral, and my hyperactive boss didn't help at the end of the day, but I made it through the day.

When I finally got in my car to go home I was feeling sort of numb, and then it happened. I heard the one song on earth that could pull me out of any blue mood. I heard the following on my worth-every-penny satellite radio:

I think that song could wake me from a coma. Seriously, who could be bummed after singing along to that? No matter how bad my day is it's still better than Irene Cara's or the lonely red-headed guy from Fame. Right? (Didn't that guy go on to play that mean Doctor on ER or something?) And why don't we have dance breaks like that at work? It would really make my day so much better. Can someone look into that or me? Thanks.

Within minutes my mood was so improved that I decided to drop by Trader Joe's to pick up the B vitamins that so many of my friends are hopped up on all day (who knew?). Then, miracle of miracles, I found it was the most wonderful time of the year. My favorite bunches of $1.29 daffodils were there waiting for me. I LOVE those things. I wait all year to grab 5-6 bunches of them and every year I wish I'd picked up more. They always smell so earthy and are so cheerful. They made my day.

Between singing the Body Electric, B vitamins and daffodils I think I'm gonna be ok. I also remembered the words of wisdom that my dear friend Stacey's Dad used to write in our cards: DLTLMFGUD. In other words, "Don't let the little mother fuckers get you down". The man was and remains absolutely right.

Monday, March 1

800 pounds of pressure

As mentioned in my last post, my direct Supervisor has been out on stress leave. I've been doing both of our jobs while she's been gone... four months now. The boss over both of us is a decent person but is one of the most high strung people I have EVER met. As I've mentioned numerous times Ive been a little stressed out lately. I'm doing what I can to help but it's been tough.

So far my self prescribed stress relief regimen consists of:
  • Eating more healthfully
  • Exercising more regularly
  • Checking in with the ergonomics guy at work to make sure I'm sitting properly since my neck is killing me (Diagnosis: I was sitting properly but I had to stop cradling the phone to my ear with my shoulder. I got a headset.)
  • Trying to get more sleep
  • Taking the occasional "nerve pill"
  • Applying a heat pack to my neck and shoulders every night
  • Avoiding stressful/upsetting media
  • Downloading meditation podcasts to listen to as I fall asleep
  • Attempting to meditate when I first awaken each morning
  • Taking an Aleve each morning with breakfast
So far these things have helped but my neck still really hurts and I don't really unwind until about Saturday afternoon.

This morning I went in for my bi-annual teeth cleaning with my Dentist. I sat in the chair and he started poking around and cleaning with that dreadful pick thingy. A few minutes in he sat back and we had conversation that went pretty much like this:

DDS: So, what's going on?
Me: What do you mean?
DDS: Does your jaw hurt?
Me: Yeah.
DDS: You're clenching. So, what is it? Work or home?
Me: What are you talking about?
DDS: The tension, is it from work or home?
Me: Uh, I've... been... a little... stressed at work.
DDS: It's pretty bad. You know when you clench your teeth you're applying 800 pounds of pressure. You could take my finger off if I made you mad enough. That kind of clenching happens when you're stressed out. Most people feel funny talking about it with their Dentist but what's going on at work?
Me: Well you ARE a Doctor.
DDS: Yes, I am!

So I explained the past several months to him. He then explained that clenching my teeth at night would not only make my jaw sore but could also cause headaches (check!) and neck and shoulder pain (check and check!).

DDS: Do you chew gum?
Me: Not anymore.
DDS: Good. Ok, so you should start taking a couple of Aleve before bed and 2 more in the morning.
Me: Is that going to be ok? it sounds like a lot.
DDS: No, you'll be fine. Swallowing fists full of Advils a few times a day will eventually hurt your kidneys, and we don't want that, but the Aleve should be ok. If that doesn't help then call me and I'll give you a super-sexy mouth guard. I'll show you one in a minute. That helps 95% of people with Bruxism (the official name for us teeth clenchers). If that doesn't do it then I may have to prescribe muscle relaxants. I'm not opposed to muscles relaxants for this sort of problem. Nothing too severe though. We don't want you walking around like these desperate housewives running their shopping carts into the potato chip aisle at 3:00 in the afternoon.
Me: LOL!
DDS: And If THAT doesn't work then I can give you a device, sort of like an iPod, that will send small electronic shocks to the jaw muscles until they relax. I mean it's not like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or anything but... you know.
Me: Umm, ok.
DDS: Now the other thing. I don't want to worry you but you're bleeding... A LOT. I'm not helping you here (he said waving that pick thingy around) but it's a lot of blood. Why are you bleeding?
Me: I'm not flossing enough?
DDS: No! It's the stress. Do what you gotta do. Take some time off. Go get a facial. Whatever, just do something. I'm not going to tell you to relax because it's easier said than done but go out and do something... and tell you HR department about this!

He then made me rinse with some crazy peri-whatchamacallit dental solution to help with the bleeding and apologized for ruining my lunch. "You'll want to salt everything because this stuff diminishes your ability to taste much for the next several hours. Sorry!"

Who knew your Dentist could tell so much about you from poking around in your mouth for a few minutes? Luckily I really like my Dentist. I like how normal and matter of fact he is but the whole conversation was sort of the last straw for me. So far I haven't mentioned my stress level to HR or my boss but I'm going to, pronto. In fact I tried to talk to my HR person about it today but she had her door closed every time I time I walked by. I'll try again tomorrow.

Until then, I'm microwaving my neck roll getting into bed for some quality Tivo time.

I'll let you know how it goes with the Aleve and the super-sexy mouth guard (I just know I'm gonna need one).

P.S. Be sure to check in with Oprah tomorrow. She's interviewing Roger Ebert. Have you seen him lately? Egads! Let's just say Roger's had a rough few years. There goes my pledge to avoid upsetting tv.