Out for repairs

Perfect May evening, and I feel about as imperfect as I’ve felt in a while; tired, tense, out of shape, and mentally exhausted; Club Petaluma is upside down with unfinished projects and clutter, and I’m writing cranky poetry, which usually makes me feel better, but that isn’t even doing the trick.   I don’t feel like I’ve completely gotten over being sick from a couple of weeks ago, and I wound up in the ER earlier this week with severe back pain. I never knew that the phrase “pain management” would come to be so familiar to me; I’m well-acquainted with my “regular” pain, but this was new, persistent and scary.  It turned out to be a strained thoracic muscle, but I am glad that I got it checked out, since heart attack symptoms for women can show up as back pain. My mother’s heart attack started out as a bad backache, and resulted in triple-bypass surgery for her, so I’m on the job when it comes assessing back pain.

Being a cranky mess is not the way that I want to spend the summer, so here’s a visual list to get this camper back into happy mode:

When I practice all of these, I feel like this:

Instead of this:

As always, my friends keep me in the game, and this week was no exception.  I was excited to see my friend Tischel receive her Master’s in Education on Saturday at Cal State Long Beach, and it turned into a nice reunion of CSULB work friends:

This week, friends asked about me, called me when I was in the ER, texted me, and made me laugh.  You are gold to me, all of you, and I don’t ever forget how fortunate I am to know you. And now, let’s roll out summer, why don’t we?


Before this phenomenal August summer day gets away – some old and new business (and some cross-talk between my left and right brain; it’s OK, just go with it, I do):

The transformation of Club Petaluma has begun:

Vinyl siding – next comes paint and posts and shutters, oh my! And landscaping, fencing…it’s a huge undertaking, but I’m so glad to get it started.  It’s gratifying to see the idea that I’ve had in my mind (albeit an ever-changing idea) finally begin to be realized.

One of my favorite episodes of “Sex and the City” is on right now; it’s the one where they go to the Hamptons for a wedding, and the phrase “za za zew” is introduced (if you haven’t seen the episode, “za za zew” is, as I perceive it, the undeniable chemistry that two people have.  I think I like this one because it combines two things that I enjoy when watching TV, or movies: characters going on the road, and weddings.  And this great bit of dialogue: Samantha: “What do you call za za zew gone bad?” Miranda: “Za za ew.”

This summer started slowly, but has definitely picked up steam – I have such a large number of projects right now, between the house (inside and out), knitting, books (I’m in the middle of four, I’m embarrassed to say), and writing, not to mention working out, cooking, making sure my husband and my crazy dog remember who I am, maybe sleeping once in a while, and taking in the summer before it’s gone.

I’m off; here’s a little za za zew for you!

Bytes and pieces

So it’s the day after, and I’m still here, as is everyone I know – and no reports of anyone missing. If I remember correctly, if and when the rapture occurs, we won’t be getting an Evite….therefore, onward with the decline of civilization!

I’ve been having Internet connection issues this week, and since Jamal is in Chicago, I thought that I would try to correct it myself by calling tech support. After an hour of “Unplug this wire, type in this code” from a man with a very heavy accent and a bad phone connection (irony calling!), I was nearly in tears, and past caring if I ever had Internet service again.  When it didn’t work again the next evening, I called back to make an appointment with a technician.  Long story short, the company is sending a new modem and a technician on Monday morning – in another little touch of irony, every time I hung up with tech support, my  connection was restored for a short time. For now, it’s working, so I’m typing as fast as I can…

“Bridesmaids” – intelligent, profane and funny.  I found myself trying to stop laughing so that I wouldn’t miss the next line.  If you can handle smart women characters doing many silly things, go see it.

Memorial Day weekend is coming up, and to kickstart the summer, there’s this: LACMA is having a Tim Burton exhibit beginning May 28th, and going through October. I’m going to the book signing next Saturday (getting a group together to see the exhibit later in the summer), then to the screening of “Vertigo” at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Tim Burton in the morning, Hitchcock in the evening…good beginnings; see you at the cemetery next Saturday?


Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and true love

American film directors Robert Rodriguez and Q...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m watching “From Dusk till Dawn” – the opening credits are rolling out over the Blasters singing “Dark Night.”  Quentin Tarantino and George Clooney play brothers on the run after robbing a bank; they set a liquor store clerk on fire before they shoot him, and take several hostages, all in the first hour. I don’t want to give away too much more if you haven’t seen the movie – just this: Cheech Marin, Salma Hayek, and vampires. And Tom Savini, who is not only an actor, but a makeup and special effects artist, and who has a special part (pun intended) in the movie. One of my very favorites, directed by Robert Rodriguez, for so many reasons – it’s steeped in delicious crazy, for starters. Looking for vampires? Give these bloodsuckers a try; they’re not pretty, and they revel in evil.  Just the movie to wrap up the  year, and make me all warm inside — and take a peek at George Clooney with a tribal tattoo:

It’s the last week of the year.  I don’t have much to say about this year right now, especially when George Clooney is ramming a wooden stake through Quentin Tarantino’s heart, since that’s the only way to kill a vampire (which he has turned into), and Juliette Lewis is tripping over body parts. As you might guess from this post, during the holidays, when I’m being told that I have to be sentimental, I actively resist it, except when it feels like the right time.  So I will tell you this – I am always surprised at the kindness of people, and this year, I have been showered with extraordinary kindnesses beyond measure.  For this, I will always be grateful; my friends are my superheroes, no kidding- not only for what they mean to me, but for what they do every day in their lives. And I think that if we were ever on the run from vampires, they would make sure that I got away safely, and like Harvey Keitel in the movie, they would make me promise to kill them if they turned into vampires. How could there be better friends than these?

My New Year’s wish for you is that you have such friends; oh, and that you refrain from making any New Year’s resolutions.  Maybe New Year’s intentions; much less disappointment, because you’re not breaking anything, and you can still intend to do (or not do) whatever it is that you are going to do (or not do) all year long.  Gotta go; Fred Williamson just showed up as a super-repulsive vampire and Harvey Keitel has to deal with him – ewwww!!

Happy holidays?

It’s the aftermath of the Thanksgiving/Black Friday/overstuffed beginning to this holiday season. I’m feeling surprisingly cheerful so far – last year, I was ready to move to another country until January.  This year, I’m feeling agreeable to participating in the festivities – I’m not going to be wearing any antler hats, but I will put up the pink tree and go to the mall (going to the mall is a regular habit, so the only difference will be more people, and the anticipation of having fights breaking out in the food court.

Here’s my tree, in close up; this is from last year, if you thought for one second that I would have the tree up three days after Thanksgiving,  I am truly still a woman of mystery to you…

Christmas sneaks up on me every year – I’m one of those last-minute shoppers, and I don’t see this aspect of my life changing anytime soon.  I read an interesting article about spending money on people, and that rather than buying things for people, the author suggested giving experiences as gifts.  I like that; giving the people I love the opportunity to have a good meal, or a fun day together, seems like it would mean more than another sweater or a gift card.

Most of the people I know buy what they want for themselves anyway; last year, I had the idea that everyone should just buy what they want for themselves, wrap it up, and open it on Christmas.  That way, everyone gets what they want, returns go way down, and you still have good cheer; in fact, you have improved good cheer, because there would be no dashed hopes or destroyed expectations.  Of course, we would still buy for the kiddies until they become employed, then they become self-gifters. Cynical, you say? Practical, I reply.

But that was last year – this year, I’m on board, albeit with my life preserver and my seasick pills,  just in case.  And I’m thinking that instead of eating until I burst, or spending until I’m broke, I’m going to strive to appreciate the great moments with my friends and family. I’m also going to open doors for people when I can, let them ahead of me in line if the opportunity arises, take the parking space that is a little bit farther away from the mall instead of fighting for one twenty yards closer, and keep my sense of humor all the way through to 2011 and beyond. What was the line from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure“? “Be excellent to each other” – be excellent, indeed.

What are you worried about?

Yesterday I was in Seal Beach, having arrived a bit early to my therapy appointment, and I was sitting in the truck, thinking about what I needed to talk about.  I did come up with a few things, plus an interesting thought that came to mind; I feel better.  I started seeing a therapist again after my mother died because I needed to talk, and I wanted to feel lighter inside.  Waiting for my appointment yesterday, I realized that I do feel lighter inside; there are several reasons for this, but the main reason is that I’m concentrating on not worrying incessantly – I have discovered through these few weeks that I worry about everything, and boy, do I mean everything. Job, husband,  friends, dog, money, health, house, earthquakes, sinkholes, floods, plagues, black holes, etc.  It’s really something that I have time to do anything, with all of the time I spend worrying.

Along with giving up my all-day worry beads, I am also working on being more optimistic – here’s one of my favorite quotes by Nicolas Murray Butler:

“Optimism is essential to achievement, and it is also the foundation of courage and true progress.”

Achievement, courage, and progress; all nearly impossible without optimism.  Here’s another good quote by Henry Ford:

“If you think you can, or you can’t, you’re usually right.”

(Speaking of achievement, I’m home today waiting for the Direct TV guy, and I just got a glimpse of Drew Carey on “The Price is Right.”  Have you seen him recently? He looks remarkable!  These photos don’t do him justice; check out the show and see what a little optimism can do.  Stunning; good for you, Drew.)

It’s been a nice couple of days; the heat wave is due to break soon, and there are unbelievable twilight skies in southern California, with thick grey clouds, shot through with pink rays of simmering sunlight (see? I’m a true sunny-side up girl again!).  Onward —

Smooth stones at the Huntington Library

Off today, home and weighing my options – I went to the Huntington Library yesterday.  It is in San Marino, which is an old money neighborhood near Pasadena (also old money).  We walked through the desert garden, Japanese garden, rose garden, and Shakespeare garden; if you’ve never been, or not been for a while, you should visit – stunning. It was a lovely, light day with my friends that I needed. I will add some photos here, but for now, here are some of my favorite places at the Huntington:

This morning, reality has appeared with a vengeance.  I think the reason I feel a little unsettled today is that since I’m at home, I have to face everything that I need to do to settle my mother’s estate.  I’ve settled estates before; my brother’s and uncle’s estates both had to go through probate, as neither one of them had a will or a trust. This is a l-o-o-o-ng, involved story, but the short version is that everyone passed away in my brother’s family, and we had to go through one lawyer who did nothing because he was very ill as well, and didn’t tell me until he was in the end stage of pancreatic cancer, and then we had to move the whole thing to my mother’s lawyer, who basically saved my sanity and who I’m working with now.

I was the administrator for both my uncle’s and brother’s estate, and those experiences helped me decide to go back to school at night to get my paralegal certificate.  I haven’t done anything with it yet, but I’m not sorry I went through the four years it took to finish it. I like where I’m working, but you never know what can happen…I like to think that the certificate will be helpful if a need for a sudden career change arises.

So today is about paying bills, going to the bank to take care of estate business, and organizing my life so that my brain doesn’t feel so cluttered.   In addition to yesterday at the Huntington, there have been some really good moments recently – Weird Al at the OC Fair (his show was incredible, great band, and Weird Al has only gotten funnier, if that’s possible); my high school reunion last weekend; and good times with friends who I am so fortunate to see every day at work, and who lend me their ears for support, and their great good humor for constant laughs. These days, I’m stumbling over little smooth stones of happiness in many different places, and I need to pick them up and hold them, if only for a little while.

P.S. Something kind of amazing just happened that I want to share; while Googling images for “smooth stones,” I came across “five smooth stones.”  If you’re not familiar with this phrase, have a Google on me, won’t you? And if you do know about the five smooth stones, let me just say this…today just got a whole lot better than it was an hour ago.  I am off, smooth stones in hand –

Mental hopscotch redux

I’m all over the place again; bless you for your patience  –  I missed my friend Kim’s play “Stop Kiss” at the Garage Theater last night because Paco decided to eat something bad and wound up in the hospital.  I decided to leave him there overnight, because I was worried that he might be dehydrated – he is home now, and seems good, just tired. (It’s Sunday morning now, and I just boiled some chicken and ground it for him – let’s face it, the dog owns me, no doubt about it).  Here’s a review of the play; I want to bring your attention to the line “The acting is superb.” Go, Kim!

Speaking of going, my high school reunion is next weekend, and I am, yes; I feel a mixture of excitement and dread about this.  Excitement, because I will get to see friends that I only get to talk to on Facebook, and now we can hang out in person.  Dread, because in high school I was so dysfunctionally shy that I couldn’t talk to people that I knew, much less make friends with any new people, and I’m a little worried, that when I get around everyone, I will become that person again.  Irrational? Oh, yeah.  But I will go, and try not to sound like an idiot after 32 years  – I won’t be able to stay too long, since I double-booked myself and have another party that I need to attend (I really need to start writing things down).  Until then, North Town…

Netflix sent me “Breathless” a couple of weeks ago, and I think I’m going to watch it today. Not the classic version with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, nooooooo; I have waiting for me the 1983 guilty pleasure with Richard Gere and Valerie Kaprisky. I confess that I haven’t seen the version with Belmondo and Seberg, but sometimes in a person’s movie diet, you have to have a few Twinkies in between the nutrition. One day I will watch it, promise. (I really want to call the French version “About the Souffle,” but that would be an entirely different movie, wouldn’t it? Mr. Simmons from my high school French class would be giving me such a look right about now…)

I also have “Moon,” starring Sam Rockwell, which I started to watch and never finished; it was good up until I fell asleep (not a comment on the movie, but a remark on how tired I was on that night).  I also have the first season of “Glee” to finish, as well as last week’s episode of “Mad Men” on my Tivo.  Phew!

Will you still love me if I tell  you that I’m seeing a therapist for grief counseling? I am, and if you don’t, your loss…! I’m a champ at suppressing my feelings, especially the uncomfortable ones. It’s been a recent development in my life that I’ve been able to feel what I feel without running for the refrigerator, or a glass of wine, or (fill in your diversion of choice)? This week, my assignment was to write a letter to my mother, and to let my grief take me where it wants to go; my therapist is wonderful, and helped me through so much six years ago, so I decided to go back to see her again, because I need it.  I feel better now that I’ve seen her, and will probably see her a few more times until I decide I’m done. Sorry, Tom … pity we will never see eye-to-eye on this one.

Sunday’s almost half over, so I’m off – cheers!

Greyed-out summer

Spending a little time under grey skies before the blasting heat begins next week:

I finally got my Sweet Earth perfume yesterday (LOVE getting goodies in the mail!) and I figured out which flavor was my favorite – hyacinth, and it still smells as good as I remember.  I wasn’t transported back in time, but it’s a nice fragrance, so there’s that.

If you haven’t seen it yet, “Hot in Cleveland” is a seriously funny show; I just watched the bloopers and laughed even louder than I did at the show, which was so loud that Jamal came in to find out what I was watching. (I hope this link works, and you can see the clips without too much buffering.)

Knight and Day?” Not as horrible as the critics made it out to be – the first two-thirds were funny and interesting, if not entirely believable.  Personally, I don’t have to believe everything about every single movie that I see, but if you require absolute realism in your action films, you may want to skip it.  It was entertaining, which is what I was looking for. However, if I were Tom or Cameron (who I know are reading this on a regular basis), I might think twice about being filmed up so close that the screen is filled with my face.  These are pretty people, but their close-ups were alarmingly close; dunno, maybe it’s just me….see how I worked Tom Cruise in again there?  I may be verging on an obsession; it’s fascinating to look at this actor whose movies I’ve loved since “Risky Business”, and know that he has beliefs that are so far off my radar that I would never be able to come close to understanding them.

Still, I don’t have to understand an actor’s life to see a movie, do I? All I have to do, once I buy my ticket, is to sit and let the story be told.  Ideally, for my twelve bucks, or eight for a matinee, I will be baptized in the magical waters of make-believe. Sometimes magic does take place; with movies these days, usually there’s just a guy sweeping up the theatre afterward, and I’m out twelve bucks and two hours.  I think that’s why I’m interested in Tom Cruise – he had that ability to create that magic in his films.  “Knight and Day” didn’t quite get me there, but it had its moments, which makes me think that it may still be possible.

Speaking of critics, if I had to rate this summer on the Tomatometer, it would be rotten; I’ve been known as the “glass half-full” girl, but this summer is doing a number on me, I have to say.  Bad weather, everyone I know going through stuff, and if I had to say one positive thing about it, it’s that it’s going by quickly, so I’m hoping to have more hope by the time October rolls around.  I never thought I would ever say this, but I just can’t wait for this year to be done, because it has been the worst one in some time.   Having said that, I present my very first poll (even though there aren’t too many of you, I would love to know what you think):

I will now put on my cheerleader outfit to say: Cheers to my wonderfully strong friends who, in the midst of their own battles, help me remember how to stand up to adversity, live in the moment, and put on my armor, when it’s necessary to fight like a warrior.  To quote a movie line (are you surprised?): “You are the mac to my cheese.”

Let’s get out there this week and slay some dragons (or mix some metaphors, whatever works) —- later…