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Monday, February 18, 2013


Not writing today...stuff is going down and my focus needs to be elsewhere.



Friday, February 15, 2013

A Mother's Choice/Definitely Shaken

Friday and one week and a day until my party! It's perfect to have a huge event looming - quiets my often overactive mind to have a huge task at hand. Focusing on logistics, putting grocery lists together, lugging cooler and drink tubs from the garage, amassing bowls and silverware, putting out vases where a dozen dozen roses will be displayed. And thanks to Amazon Prime and free shipping it was painless to order three dozen Irish coffee glasses and balloon wine glasses to replace ones broken since the last party. This weekend, more work on the five soups and the cakes (unfrosted) will be made and frozen. I'll remind Bobby to bring his sound system, check in with Michael, the masseur to ensure he hasn't forgotten the date (he will be set up in my bedroom giving massages to anyone who wants one). This is going to be one helluva party! Martha Steward ain't got nuthin' on me!

Neighbors Una and Henry bopped over yesterday evening for an unauthorized Valentine's Day martini (Valentine's Day is NOT a federal holiday!) There was a whole shaken versus stirred debate. I, like James Bond, prefer my martinis battered and bruised (I shake the bejesus out of them). Henry prefers a gentle stir to create a drink less watered down with more of a bite. Una just likes them. They were worried about me home alone on Valentine's Day - so sweet! I hope I'm not that pathetic that people worry unnecessarily about me in that way! I was fine yesterday - 'twas just another day, barely noticed the "holiday". Didn't make or receive a single Valentine.  Was wistful only once but shook it off and said, "Who knows...next year on 2/14 I might be in love and in Paris!"

Been thinking about my writing. Gearing up to start writing the narrative that will connect all the songs in my Burt Bacharach show. Friends have also been pushing me to pick up the novel I started a year plus ago - it's a great premise and it needs to be written. Realizing there's an undercurrent to my writing - something Kaveh and I never got to the bottom of was why I'm fixated on the death of children. Joke at the writing group is that just about everything I write has dead babies in it - it's a Sarah theme. I also dream about children dying all the time. Most often my writing and dreams include two children - often twins. So what's up with that and why did Kaveh leave that untouched? Hmmm...

Reading through old pieces I wrote in the group - here is one from about a year ago.

The doctor put his hand on my arm and said gently, "You or the baby will survive, but not both of you. I'm so sorry." 
"Says you," I yelled, defiantly. "You're an idiot!" There were enough idiots in the world, I reasoned as I whipped my Beretta out of my backpack and shot him accurately between his eyes. I slipped from the examining table, tossed my backpack over one shoulder and held my gown closed as I ventured cautiously into the hall. Thanks to the silencer, the gunshot had gone undetected.  
"Who's in charge here?" I demanded of the nurse at the station  "Bitch, you've got exactly five second to get your smug cow-face out of that Sudoko puzzle you're doing and answer me!" Nurse Crachit or Crotch-less, or whatever her name was, snapped to. 
"I'm in charge," she said with fear in her eyes. 
"No I mean really in charge - head doctor, surgeon - chief of the universe - whatever - get him NOW!" I bellowed. 
She scrambled away from me like a sideways crab.I realized I was waving the Berretta around again - I had a habit of doing that.  Pacing and waiting, I weighed my options. Doctor Idiot had to be wrong - he was just covering his ass. My daddy always told me to never take no for an answer. It mortified me when I was little to hear him bargain and wheedle his way, extracting "Well, maybe's" or "Just-for-you's" from store managers who just got tired of dealing with his shit. I wished he were here now - he would know what to do. 
"Mam, I'd like to help you. Would it be possible to sit down and discuss your options? Possible for you to put the gun down so we can talk more easily?" 
He was young to be in charge of anything and impossibly handsome but I was tired - the drugs were starting to take effect. I slumped into a chair and he sat next to me - reached for my hand. 
"I know this is a blow but I'm afraid there is no third alternative. We can't save both you and the baby." 
I believed him. "What the fuck! I guess baby it is!" Without warning I put the gun in my mouth and made a mother's choice.

Not going to Weight Watcher's tomorrow. On a scale of 1-10, my week was a 9 (previous weeks have been take-no-prisoners 10's. I slipped ever so slightly and I didn't exercise much. If I get on that hated scale one more week and show no loss or another .4 reduction, my resolve is sure to crumble completely (I know myself). There's a risk, certainly, in skipping a week - that can also be a set up for failure (a slippery slope) - I'm mindful of that. Goal is to have an amazing active week (activity will be way up with party prep) and to give myself the gift on the morning of my party of a weight loss of a couple of pounds.

Have a wonderful weekend. Challenge is sending me an e-mail if you want to come to my party - I'll give you the particulars. And maybe you can work on finding a creative outlet where you can let all kinds of stuff (even the dark scary stories like mine) bubble out of you. It's so much better to expose that darkness to the light in an artistic way.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Strategic Renewal/Do You Have a Chinois?

Thursday - last night was a bust! Went to the piano bar to sing and Bob Solone wasn't there - a few others, who were similarly unaware he'd taken the night off showed up and we sat at the piano and talked. One old gal, Penny, went through my massive music book, humming the tunes to herself, asking me now and again to sing her a song which I did. Then a call from Victor who was in the vicinity and he hopped over for about a half hour and we talked up a storm. I left shortly after he left to meet up with his partner.

Started the cooking and shlepping for my party. It's always an enormous undertaking. If I don't plan right I'll find myself totally depleted and unable to enjoy the event - dumb, right? To not enjoy the fruits of my own labor? Today two big soup pots simmering on the stove - making chicken soup. My Jewish friends tell me my chicken soup is the best they've had! The secret is probably because I cook the chicken backs for three days to produce a stock that is rich and complex. I'm also wise to the subtlety that secret ingredients can add - tiny quantities that fly beneath the palate radar. Into each pot, in addition to the usual suspects like ribs of celery, chunks of onion, carrots, bay leaf, salt and pepper, I also add JUST two whole cloves and two allspice berries. Learned the hard way how assertive these ingredients can be. My goal is a soup where chicken is the star with the other cast members doing their thing unnoticed behind the scenes. Next step - the soup will be filtered through a chinois to remove any grit, chilled, and the fat that congeals on top removed and saved to be used in the making of the matzo balls. Day before the party, I'll saute chopped carrots, celery and onion, add the chicken broth along with some fresh grated ginger and dill weed. I'll add back in, a few spoonfuls of the reserved chicken fat because any self-respecting chicken soup should glisten with a few beads of fat on top. And the matzo balls? Good thing I only make this soup once a year because it's the chicken fat that takes them over the top of deliciousness - I call them little pillows of heaven.  I hope your mouth is watering about now. Too bad you can't smell what I'm smelling!

And speaking of being depleted, just read a fascinating article in NYT entitled Relax, You'll Be More Productive by Tony Schwartz. You're thinking, "Yeah, sure. I've heard that advice before - power naps and all that." I know I have. Had this conversation with Liza last week when I landed this new gig and ruminated on how I was going to fit the work into my otherwise busy days. We reviewed how I spend my time. She laughed at me cuz it DID sound ridiculous! I get up naturally without an alarm which means some days I'm up at 6:30 and other days, especially if I've been out the night  before, it might be almost 8:00AM when the day starts. Feed the cats. Brew a pot of coffee. Do any dishes from the day before. Write the list. Drink coffee meditationally for about 1/2 hour - staring at my elm tree. Write the blog which takes about an hour. Attend to self care: vitamins, floss, water pic, physical therapy exercises, elliptical, shower. Get and open mail. Enter receipts into Quick Books and review online banking transactions. Catch up on e-mails. Work for about an hour. Run errands like banking, groceries, dry cleaner, salon. Cook. Eat healthy meals. Talk on the phone. Work for another hour. Take a nap. Do tasks from the list. Work day done. Go out. Have fun.

Liza, on the other hand never does less than several things at the same time - schedules her tasks for maximum efficiency, barely sleeps and keeps everyone on a tight schedule. She attempted to solve my time "problem" by suggesting I write my blog while on the elliptical (dictated), forego the half hour of coffee meditation and enjoy the coffee while catching up on e-mail etc.

So from the article, which you really should read for yourself, I plucked and transposed some salient points:

  • A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal -  including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations - boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.
  • Physicists understand energy as the capacity to do work. Like time, energy is finite; but unlike time it is renewable.
  • The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology. Human beings aren't designed to expend energy continuously. Rather we're meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.
  • Researchers..discovered we sleep in cycles of roughly 90 minutes, moving from light to deep sleep and back out again....they also discovered this cycle recapitulates itself during our waking lives. During the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a  break, but we often override these signals and instead stoke ourselves up with caffeine, sugar and our own emergency reserves - the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. 
  • To maximize gains...individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Companies like Google, Coke and others are tapping into this research and have started creating a work environment where employees are required to renew themselves periodically throughout the day. 
  • ..The energy employees bring to their jobs is far more important in terms of the value of their work than is the number of hours they work. By managing energy more skilfully, it's possible to get more done, in less time, more sustainably ...When we're renewing, we're truly renewing, so when we're working, we can really work.

Not feeling so guilty about my half hour nap in the afternoon after reading that!!! I've known for a long time that tiny nap is key to my ability to maintain my productivity throughout the day and into the evening. People think I'm the energizer rabbit - I'm NOT!  That bunny just kept going and going and going.  I take time for renewal most days. Think Liza should do the same!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Outrageous Sweetness/You Will Fail

Egads....I'm busy again! The new work gig, plus the work I assumed when Mark passed away, on top of all the self care that I take very seriously. And fun (which I also take seriously!) - last night writing group - we had a dozen writers of all ilks. Some were really good and wrote compellingly. Me? I came up empty - couldn't settle into the quiet rhythm of writing. Kids were texting me like crazy and I had a lot on my mind. So, I simply enjoyed the group and played the role of appreciator. Fun to see that our constancy is paying off. James, Liza and I started this group almost two years ago - it's passed the test of time. And tonight, I'll sing at the piano bar - working on some new songs I'll preview there.

Madeleine is on my mind - my youngest daughter. Talked about her at length with a concerned friend last night and I'm percolating ideas to help her without falling into the trap I have in the past - trying to force my kind of change. She is twenty, a young woman - she needs to figure out what she stands for, what her goals are and chart her course. My role has to be that of a supporting cast member not a didactic disciplinarian.

Last night, when I spoke with my friend of her, I focused on her incredible sweetness. I reminisced about her as a toddler who wanted nothing more than to love and be loved. I remember her hugging everyone with almost ferocity as if she was afraid to let them go. She never understood rejection - it cut her to the quick - I remember still the saddest, confused look on her face when people were cruel to her (there was a lot of that in our house). I watched her grow and cope with a world that was too harsh for her sweetness, acquiring an outrageous and hard protective shell as protection. She learned to mask her hurt, learned to return sarcasm with her own brand of it, learned the world was a hard place and to survive she had to be harder and cleverer. I also witnessed her turn her rage on herself.

In describing her, I searched for a story to relate that would illustrate Madeleine's special brand of outrageous sweetness. One came to me. The back story is that Madeleine spent her senior year of high school in rehab. It was a classic intervention where she was summoned to the principal's office to find all the people assigned to her (as well as her parents) sitting there. After an explanation, she was driven to rehab - very scared and angry. She spent the next year in a girls' recovery home under tight supervision. It was a beautiful well-appointed residence that accommodated a dozen girls at a time. Girls came and went - some admitted like Madeleine by concerned parents. Others, court mandated.

Staff told me how good Madeleine was with new girls. They arrived similarly pissed and scared, sometimes almost comatose  balled up in a corner, unwilling to interact. Mostly they were ignored until they snapped out of it (sometimes weeks later) and decided to make the best of their situation. Madeleine was the self-appointed welcome committee. I think she hurt for the new girls, remembering acutely just how distressful it had been for her when she arrived.

Recently she and I talked about her year at Rosecrance - she told me a story designed to make me laugh (which it did). Don't think she realized that it also touched me (brought a tear). The story - when new girls came to Rosecrance and wouldn't talk, Madeleine worked hard to befriend the girl and crack the shell. She seized on something that always seemed to work with even the toughest nuts.

"Hi I'm Madeleine. I have really dark nipples. Do you want to see them?" With that she would, without invitation, lift her shirt and show the unhappy girl her rosy nipples and invariably giggles ensued. Mission accomplished. Ice broken.

Am I a weird mother to think that is the dearest, sweetest thing? The talk with my friend last night made me want to break through to her in a similar way - be there for her in the right way. I won't lift my shirt and show her my nipples or the cafe au lait scar from when I canned peaches and got a 2nd degree burn. What I will do is take another run at this good parenting thing - not give up on the girl. She is wonderful and deserves a rosy future.

All for today. Your challenge today is maybe thinking about taking another run at a problem you may have put on the shelf. I'm reminded that in AA (been told - I thankfully don't have a need for it) the participants are told they might have hundreds of lapses - that it could be the 101st time, giving up alcohol where it finally sticks. Same with Weight Watchers...if I were a leader the first thing I would tell new attendees is, "You will fail. You will fail over and over and over again. Victory is realized by people who realize failure is just part of the process." I have failed with Madeleine over and over again...have failed to touch the spots that need healing, have failed to give her the leg up she needs to make the difficult transition to adulthood (it's every parent's job to help launch). So, she flounders. We need to take another run at this - she needs to be my focus. Thinking sadly about my friends' child's death this past Christmas - an overdose. Enough dead babies.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Pile/Little Things

Tuesday and tonight is my writing group which has, temporarily been moved to Tuesdays. Busy day...car to the shop to fix the bumper I messed up when I backed into the Volvo in the alley, making a birthday cake for a friend and delivering it, and digging into my new project - needing to become a call recording expert in short order!

Was it the gray day yesterday and still too much winter ahead of us that caused a malaise? Got into the car with Adrienne and she announced, "Today is the day I am officially tired of winter!" It was the sunless gray day that got to her. Yesterday,I, too, found myself dispirited and just going through the motions. "What are the sources of my anxiety?" I asked myself. Knew one of them right away. The pile. Almost a foot high that pile - each day I put on my to-do list "go through pile" and every day I shirk the task. What's curious to me is why I allowed such a pile to exist and live on in my life - it's as if I had become weirdly attached to it like a strange friend. Glimmer of understanding - the pile is maybe one of many "piles" I carry around like an old dog who can't walk. Thinking the thought even crossed my mind, "What will be left to do if you don't have the pile? What will you do with your life when everything is organized - as if I will have no raison d'etre or need for a daily list - as if life will cease without burdens and odious tasks! At this point, you're probably thinking, "Sarah overthinks everything - it's just a pile of crap for God's sake - everyone has a pile!"

I decided to rid myself of the pile and then when it was vanquished, to think about virtual piles I have sitting in corners of my life: my divorce, reviewing health insurance claims, photos.....lots more. Gritting my teeth, I embraced the damned thing - put it front and center on my desk and said to it, "Today is a good day to die!" OK, I didn't say that or even think it but the whole gun thing is on my mind. What I DID do was take a blank piece of paper and write the word, "Happiness" on it with a corny smile face. I put that piece of paper at the bottom of the pile and knew the next time I'd see it was when every last piece of paper was dealt with. Took five hours and lots of scanning and reviewing, but at 5PM, the pile was no more. I actually kissed the piece of paper with the smiley face when I got to it.

New friend of mine said something I like. He said, "..it's certain small things in life that often point to really huge things if you are able to connect the dots." I would take it a step further and say, the small things are the most important things. Grand gestures, passionate orations, big plans - they're the things we talk about. Less so the little, unglamorous day-in-and-day-out observances and habits that are the sturdy or fragile fabric of our lives. Those are, I think, the things that really count.

A revelation for me, the woman who lives her life like it's performance art. The concept that, at the end of our lives, it will be the little dots that will be connected by those we leave behind as our contribution is celebrated and assessed. When Mark's friend and sister got up to talk at his service, and Chris' family spoke at his, their remembrances were of small acts of kindness, quiet intimate moments, sweet and funny and probably, at the time, seemingly insignificant anecdotes. Those were the things that mattered in the very final analysis.

So, thinking the little things are the big things. In my environment, mocking piles of disorganization that I'm perversely attached to speak to me  every time I walk past them.  They say, "There's more work to be done...there are difficult cobwebs yet to untangle and sweep away...there is more where I came from." And, in between the epic parties is the meat of life - the way I choose to spend each day, the people who I orbit with, the causes I celebrate, the songs I choose to sing. Little/big decisions.

Challenge today is thinking about that and maybe identifying your "piles". If you are living next to them, what are they whispering to you? What is the strange hold they exert over you? Are you, like me, afraid that, without your piles, you might be nothing? That the work will be done? That you will be done?


Monday, February 11, 2013

Eclair Sex/A Party

Ah..Monday, the day after Sunday! Highlight of the weekend was Joan Curto's Cabaret show at Davenport's on Friday. Went with friends Carla and Allan. She sang the songs of Cole Porter - don't think I would want to be friends with anyone who didn't love the songs of Cole Porter - it would be an irreconcilable, incompatible difference - a dealbreaker! She sang, accompanied by the Chicago treasure Beckie Menzie at the piano, for an absolutely delightful hour. I'll be singing on that same stage in September. And while Joan wore dainty strappy heels, I was very aware of what big footsteps she was leaving on that stage for me and others to fill!

What WASN'T the highlight of the weekend was the weigh-in on Saturday at Weight Watchers. Despite a perfect effort on my part (I was determined to show a good loss), I lost the same as last week, a measly .4 pounds. And sure enough, by Saturday night I felt my resolve slipping on all fronts - tried not to let it get me down but the doubt and disappointment was already spreading under my skin and there was no balm to be had. I ended up having two unauthorized martinis along with several crackers (wheat) and an enormous chocolate-covered strawberry (sugar).  By Sunday I had regained my resolve. Scary that it's all so fragile even when you've been at it for over five years! It gives me a hats-off respect for people who battle and master addiction and who get up in front of a room and say, "My name is X, and I've been sober for twenty years. Wow! I will give the weight loss another week.

Did I mention I'm having a party? You're welcome to come if I know you - just reach out to me for details. And if you know me and didn't get an invitation it's probably because I've scratched you off the invite list because you've been invited to parties in the past but never attended one (getting tired of people who won't play with me).  My parties are epic by today's standards - I usually throw two a year - one in winter and the other for my birthday. My guests will be greeted with a choice of two special hot drinks - their choice of mulled cider spiked with apricot brandy and whiskey or Irish coffee topped with runny whipped cream, drizzed with creme de menthe. In the kitchen there will be five large pots of soup: chicken matzo ball, Italian wedding, split pea with ham, French onion and also a vegetarian chile. Carmen, my cleaning lady, will be working the kitchen and she will assist guests in ladling up bowls of soups with all the trimmings (the right cheese, matzo balls, croutons, crusty bread). Most years people end up sampling all five of the soups. There will also be a meat and cheese sandwich board with a honey-baked ham and a chafing dish of barbecued turkey.

In the dining room, the buffet will host all the sweets. Over the next week, I'll be starting the baking and I'll make my usual suspects: the better-than-sex chocolate cake, a lemon-pepper ginger pound-like cake, the carrot cake I perfected for Patrick, and from the Swedish bakery I plan to pick up a marzipan-covered white cake and a dozen of the most incredible chocolate eclairs I've ever tasted.  The eclairs from the Swedish baker are so delicious I actually considered having a chocolate eclair party where guests ceremonially ate chocolate eclairs. Kidding of course, but they're kind of sacred. And maybe it was my state of mind when I sampled my first Swedish bakery eclair. It was the week after Thanksgiving. I had lapsed with WW because of the holiday - tried my best to take Thanksgiving in my stride but it knocked me from my perch. December loomed and I was determined not to let the slide continue, determined not to make that month a month of excess and regret. It was at that time, tenant Mark mentioned the Wheat Belly book. Fortuitous timing...instead of devouring more leftover stuffing, I devoured that book and geared myself up for wheat abstinence. First though, a detour to the Swedish bakery which was en route to Josh's house. If I was going to give up wheat forever I needed a proper good-bye. I made my choices carefully, a slice of the marzipan covered white cake, a tiny stollen and two chocolate eclairs that I would eat over the next two days. So memorable..it was a perfect send-off.

The cake was great but the eclairs? Oh my.  The pastry choux was perfect, crunchy on the outside with a soft and toothsome interior. The vanilla custard filling was ice cold and infused with the best vanilla - probably Tahitian. And not sweet - barely sweetened which made all the other ingredients shine. Spread atop the eclair - a dark chocolate ganache made of fine chocolate that imparted just the right amount of sweetness in each bite - a contrast with the not-sweet pastry and filling. That eclair experience is seared into my brain - I never need to eat another one. No need - I know exactly how they taste.  My pleasure will be introducing you to this experience and watching your pleasure.  These days my sweets are vicarious.

All for today. Your challenge. Reach out to me if you want to come to the party.


Oh, and I didn't mention the chair masseur and the live music (Bobby Benson on piano with all my singer friends at the mic!)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Gloves are Off!/Time for a Mission Statement

Friday and a busy day - lunch with a client (the same one I blew off last week!) and a new project I picked up that I'm excited about. One of those word of mouth things where they found me - the work dropped in my lap. When the project was described to me, I all but declined it because I know next to nothing about the technology - call recording. Rather than present myself falsely I said, "I don't think I'm your gal for this project - I have no expertise in analyzing and doing vendor selection for call recording solutions." Funny that the rest of the conversation was them convincing me that I could do the work, they sold me on taking the gig. So it will be good to learn something new with no pretense. Thank God for Google - over the weekend I'll read everything I can about the different call recording vendors! And cool that, at the end of this project, I really will be a call recording expert!  Reminds me of my first husband who was a litigator. Because of the cases assigned to him, he ended up being a nationally recognized expert in Firestone exploding tires, Manitowoc crane accidents and gas explosions!

This morning I've been thinking more about yesterday's topic - violence and mulling over the thought that we may bear individual responsibility (in addition to societal responsibility) for the violence we consume. Talked at length to Josh about this when he came over for dinner last night and I agreed with his concerns that we should be very mindful about trying to regulate the consumption of violence. He and I agreed that the consumption of violence is a very tricky thing.  Here are some of my thoughts:

  • to deny our love affair with violence would be to deny basic human nature. Violence is woven tightly into our lives and it's nothing new. Think Roman forums - crowds feasting on images of Christians being eaten by lions. Some of the best movies (I'm thinking, for instance, about the Lord of the Ring series) are rife with violence. Great art often contains violent images. Good men are called to violence to protect their own - it's in their DNA to use force when needed. Don't think I would want to be with a man who couldn't protect me.
  • technology has made the consumption of violence so much more prevalent. Compare and contrast the viewing habits between modern humans versus people of yesterday. It's almost exponential! There used to be constraints on what was acceptable to present to the viewing public. Now the gloves are off - almost nothing is sacred and the images are coming fast and furiously with few controls.
  • It's one thing for adults to negotiate their way in an increasingly violent world but something very different for children who are being fed a steady diet of violence. Doesn't it make sense to be concerned about everything your child is consuming whether it's high fructose corn syrup, hours of screen time, junk food, or...violence?
  • Thinking the answer lies somewhere between personal responsibility and a careful use of government controls. When I Fandango'd the movies playing at my local theater yesterday, I expected to see some kind of rating for violence that would be useful for parents and people not wanting to take in a violent flick. The ratings told me almost nothing and there was absolutely no mention of violence. Seems PG-13 and R have more to do with sexual content than violent content. Even the kids movie, Wreck It Ralph described scenes with violence but the reviewer said it was appropriate for kids! So, some kind of credible rating system that addresses specifically the violent content in all media would be a good start, right? I can also see the government playing a role in regulating violent imagery in advertising (as they should also be doing with substances like alcohol and tobacco). The feds could put its muscle behind educating the public about gratuitous violence and encourage public debate about violence in our culture. There is a lot to discuss, including how we've institutionalized violence.  Once we start getting introspective about this topic, the discussion has to also include the U.S.'s use of violence in the world (walk softly but carry a big stick - quote from Teddy Roosevelt) 
  • Then it comes down to individuals being careful consumers of violence - that's where the personal responsibility comes into play. It's not realistic to think we can cut violence out of our consciousness' - we are a violent species. What we can do is turn the volume down - admit our consumption is out of whack, not healthy and then seek solutions for violence abatement and moderation
And that's how I see it....challenge today is creating your own mission statement about your own consumption of and relationship to violence. Where do you stand on this issue?


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hypocrisy/Step off the Grid

Thursday - my how the weeks fly! Piano bar was fun last night - I sang often and well. Friends Kenneth and Lisa joined me. He is a terrific singer in the style of Nat King Cole - very smooth and classy with a fabulous sense of timing. And handsome too! When James and I saw him in concert once, James said, with admiration, "I'd go gay for him!" Last night he sang a couple of chestnuts: Lush Life and Angel Eyes. I sang Walk on By, Skylark, Them There Eyes, and La Vie en Rose.

Today I'm shaking my head over a video Carol sent me that I'm really hoping you take the time to watch on YouTube.


Her sending this comes on the heels of my seeing, with friends, the Osama Bin Laden capture movie, Zero Dark Thirty. And I realize the trailers at the beginning are chosen in keeping with the theme of the featured film - if you go to see, for example, the new movie Quartet, I doubt the previews will be violence layered with more violence. And yet....something is so wrong when there is even the option of choosing so many movies where violence is the featured star. Just went to Fandango to see what's playing in my local Evanston theater. Check this out! Out of twenty movies playing, 13 of them are violent, even the ones targeted to kids! And that doesn't include Lincoln which I'm sure must have some gory Civil War scenes (haven't seen it yet)!

Identity Thief 
Side Effects – (violent)
Bullet to the Head  - (violent)
Stand Up Guys – (violent)
Warm Bodies X – (violent)
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters  (violent)
Movie 43
Parker (violent)
Mama -  PG13 – (violent)
Gangster Squad  (violent)
Quartet – PG13
Zero Dark Thirty (violent)
Les Miserables
The Hobbit (violent)
Life of Pi
Silvers Linings Playbook
Wreck-It Ralph  (violent)
Argo (violent)

Hypocrisy abounds, not just among the Hollywood actors and actresses you will see on the video, but also within us - we are the the target, plunk-the-money down, consumers of violence. Case in point, my friend with whom I attended the Osama movie. After a preview of a new Die Hard movie, she turned to me and whispered, "I've always loved Die Hard movies!" She then went on to bemoan the rest of the violent previews as disturbing and alarming - her words, "This country is in trouble." Hmmmm......

Our dualistic nature...seems we are not always "sweet little bunnies" (still laughing that Martin called me that when I see myself more as Tank Girl). Seems, if we're honest, we should admit we've got an inborn thirst for violence and gore. It's not just the fringe of us who want to see someone mowed down with bullets once in a while in the name of good shoot 'em up entertainment. I personally loved the movie Matrix and really, you don't get much more violent than that!

So what do we do???? Thinking we shouldn't lie to ourselves and each other and maintain that the thirst for violence doesn't compel even he best of us from time to time. We're wired for it. Seeing a good guy kick butt and exact revenge, thrilling to see evil obliterated, right? Heady stuff! Thinking we need to admit to and own up to our often violent-loving dualistic nature and then figure out how we can live with it and manage it.

How about a two-pronged approach where we address the issue of  violence both from a societal perspective as well as a personal one? I've newly decided my portal (brain) is off limits to gun violence and violence in general. I know there is a section of my brain that enjoys being lit up by things like a good James Bond movie or worse - it's pleasurable  But there is also a zone in my brain that would enjoy being lit up by heroin and I would never think of indulging that! So, no violence for Sarah, no violent books, no shoot 'em up movies, no violent news clips, no violent video games (not sure about Mrs. Pacman - is it violent when she eats her adversaries?). Just think, if other individuals made this same commitment, to be anti-consumers of violence, all that crap would dry up! No demand! No product!

I believe we also have responsibilities as a society to examine our group hypocrisies. We are appalled when one of us goes on a violent rampage and yet we vote for candidates who help to perpetuate violence (war wagers, supporters of the NRA, etc). We don't protect our children from violent images and lyrics. We glorify force and belittle the efforts of pacifists.

Challenge today is to join me in giving up violence. What might that look like for you? Making your home a violence-free zone? Giving voice (probably unpopularly) to the new thought that, "We don't let violence into our home in any form: movies, books, magazines, games, song lyrics." As for the movies we take ourselves to and the ones we allow our kids to see? Due diligence to make sure they're films without violence and explaining unapologetically to our friends and kids, "I/we don't do violence. We need to see something else." Good luck though! Non-violent films are slim pickings!

Are we fucked up on this topic or what???????  Thinking we really need to work hard to nurture our better natures and work to make violence taboo - both personally and societally!  Not easy though when the world is full of bullies (or are we the bullies?) - is there such a thing as a good war? Thinking about Hitler.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

'Twas Good/Pantry Purge?

Wednesday...chilly in Chicago.. quintessential! Woke up happy...and actually audibly whispered to myself, "I'm glad to be alive." Maybe it was seeing the sun return to the early morning sky and the sun that poked its head out today. And then, the mental exercise, "What was good about yesterday?" So much..got a lot done, enjoyed seeing Jo-Jo and his new purple collar that Elizabeth worries might make him look like a girl, ate great, time with friend James in the evening - haven't seen much of him lately, he's been working a lot, and then very late tea with tenant Mark.  All that and a good book on a frosty evening. 'Twas good. Tonight piano bar with Adrienne. I won't sulk if I'm not called up to sing as often as some of the old timers.

I've been getting questions and inquiries about what I eat now that I've given up most dairy, sugar and wheat. What DOES that leave? Friend Sue is on board with the no wheat thing, having read Wheat Belly at my suggestion. And really, once you read that book, there's really no turning back. Tenant Mark turned me on to the book. I ordered it and read it over the course of a few days. When we visited next, he asked me, "So, are you going to do it? Give up wheat? I was surprised at the question because was there really much of a choice? Once you're presented with the evidence, there is only one course of action. Back to Sue. Now that she embraces the science, she wonders, "What do I feed myself and my family? Other people find it incredulous that I don't eat cheese, sugar, wheat or most wheat substitutes (common mistake is substituting wheat with other high glycemic substances like potato, rice, tapioca flour - the idea is to stabilize your blood sugar and be healthier).

So, here is a glimpse of what I typically eat these days with some practical suggestions sprinkled in. Keep in mind, I'm also eating for weight loss so if you're not trying to reduce, you would eat a lot more!


  • Gluten-free steel cut oats - 1/2 c. with berries or other fruit and coconut creamer and a cup of coffee   Tips:
    • Get the oats at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's - Bob's Red Mill. These are not the quick cooking or rolled oats and they do specify gluten-free which means there is no wheat contamination in them. Bring 3 c. of salted water to a boil and whisk in 1 c. of the oats. Bring back to the boil and then turn down to lowest setting and cook for about 1/2 hour stirring frequently until desired thickness. This will make several servings, making the rest of the week easier - the leftover oats warms easily in the microwave.  
    • Enjoy a mix of fruit like raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, fresh pineapple, ripe pear, pomegranate seeds. Put a combo of fruit on the oats (fresh fruit is something you should absolutely splurge on and not penny-pinch).  I use coconut coffee lightener (creamer) - a brand called "So Delicious" found in the refrigerator section of Whole Foods. Warm about 1/4 c. and pour on top of the oats and fruit.
  • 2% Fage Greek Yogurt - 1/2 c. with same types of fruit listed above and 1/2 TBS of honey (the only sweetener I allow myself and in tiny quantities). Greek yogurt and on special occasions a bit of goat cheese is the only dairy I eat these days (no butter, cow-milk cheese, sour cream, milk, cream)
  • Veggie Scramble - Finely dice vegetables like carrots, onion, red and green peppers, even asparagus and sauteed until soft and lightly brown in a skillet sprayed with Coconut Spray (Whole Foods - a more healthy alternative to Pam).  Add lightly whisked eggs, S&P and a tsp of olive oil and cook until scrambled. 


  • Salad - I don't have to tell you how to make a salad, right?
  • Wrap - I'm loving Rudi's Spinach tortillas that I find at Whole Foods. They're large, nice and soft (especially if you wrap them in a slightly damp paper towel and microwave for 20 seconds). The grains in Rudy's tortillas are healthful: sorghum, amaranth, quinoa, etc.  I fill the wrap with whatever I have handy: chicken salad that I make from rotisserie chicken (dice chicken, add halved grapes and finely chopped celery - season with garlic powder, cinnamon, Jane's salt and coarse pepper. Add a dash of lemon juice and Miracle Whip Light to moisten); organic turkey from the deli, avocado, large butter lettuce leaves, leftover sauteed vegetables, mango salsa (Whole Foods), tunafish, etc. Sometimes I'll cook a veggie burger and slice it into fingers and use those in the wrap, adding almond cheese (it's really good!), etc.
  • Soup - this time of year there should always be a pot of soup simmering on your stove!
  • Cherry tomatoes on the side - Cherry tomatoes are my new potato chip!
  • Amy's frozen meal like the Tamale with Roasted Vegetables and a side of black beans (dairy free, gluten free)


  • Eating out is tricky. I tend to find one thing that works for me at each of the venues I haunt. If it's Maggiano's they have a salmon salad on a bed of mixed greens. I ask for dressing on the side and use it judiciously. I remove the little crunchy wheat things from the top and I send back the bread basket when it comes. That, and a glass of wine or Pellegrino is, on most days, satisfying. I remind myself that I can always eat something when I get home if I'm still hungry. At the Asian place, I'll order lettuce wraps, at Schaller's I order nothing because it's all unhealthy (I eat first).
  • Dinner at home might be an AmyLu's chicken sausage (Whole Foods) browned and served alongside some roasted and pureed butternut squash and 1/2 c. of brown or wild rice. (To make heavenly squash, get a large Butternut, cut it lengthwise and remove the seeds. Put the two halves in a roasting pan and brush with 1 TBS of olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with Jane's Salt, coarse pepper, garlic powder and nutmeg. Cook at 375 for the better part of an hour until it is slightly over-roasted. When cool enough to work with, scoop the flesh and puree in the food processor, adjusting the seasonings as needed.  If the squash lacks sweetness you can add a bit of maple syrup or honey (not much!).  And don't be afraid of making rice - it's easy. Use a size appropriate pan and bring to a boil, 2 c. water, 1 tsp salt and 1 c. brown rice. Reduce heat to very very low, stir and cover and then don't fuss with it.  When you think it might be done, part the kernels to check for unabsorbed liquid - cook more if necessary. When the liquid is fully absorbed, fluff the rise with a fork, turn heat off, cover and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.  Make a batch of rice and eat on it the entire week!
  • Mustard Tarragon Chicken Breasts (you'll love this recipe that you can prep in less than five minutes!) Put several boneless chicken breasts on a plastic cutting board (creeps me out to use wood - I worry that the chicken bacteria will take up permanent residence in the wood grain), cover with plastic wrap and pound them until they are twice their original size.  In a baking dish put some olive oil and then dredge the breasts in the oil (that means flip them around to coat them in the oil - both sides). Dollop a heaping tsp of good mustard (Grey Poupon or the Pommery I just wrote about is best) and spread with the back of the spoon being careful not to return the chicken spoon back into the mustard container!. Sprinkle with dried tarragon that you crush between your fingers, Jane's salt and coarse pepper. Put in a preheated 400 oven for about 15 minutes, checking frequently. The key to this recipe is not overcooking the chicken - cook ONLY until it is no longer mushy when pressed with your finger!  Serve with rice and a vegetable, etc.

Was this at all helpful? Did you get good ideas? It's one thing to get clarity on what you should and should not be eating but harder to put a new way of eating into practice!  In addition to the above, I snack on fruits and vegetables: a sliced apple sprinkled with Saigon cinnamon at 4PM most days, clementines when I feel like grazing, a banana or pear whenever, and if I have the points I might even indulge in 1 oz of tortilla chips and some mango salsa. Almonds are also a go-to snack (carefully apportioned) and those little massageable packets of almond butter are fun when squeezed on apple slices!  I drink only coffee, tea and water when at home.

Challenge today. If you're of a mind to change how you eat, how about doing a purge of your kitchen cabinets, getting rid of anything that doesn't support your new initiative and then stocking up with the foods that DO support health!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Josh's Perfect Week/Itemize the Elements

Tuesday and a really pokey start to the day - it's after 10 and I'm only now settling down to my computer. Last night at Petterino's was jam-packed and full of fabulous singers. The entire cast of the new I Love Lucy show that just opened was there and they each sang a tune for us. Then the fabulous Nan Mason who once owned the town as a top-billed Cabaret performer was there, looking and sounding fabulous. There were a bunch of sweet young things - teens who were in Chicago auditioning for various music schools - this is the week where all the major music schools hold auditions in Chicago. My voice coach, Mark Burnell, is always hired by Carnegie Mellon and he accompanies probably 100 actress/actor wannabees over the course of the week. A few of them got wind of Cabaret night at Petterino's and showed up.

Jerry accompanied me. I had met him earlier at a building on Ontario to give him my opinion on a loft he is considering buying - he wanted my input. Beautiful space - large for a single guy - something like 2600 sq. ft. but really great for entertaining - now he just has to make a hundred new friends so that he can use the space properly (he's a recent transplant from New Jersey). So we kicked the tires so to speak - turning on burners, filling the gigantic jacuzzi tub, listened to see if the noise from the Ontario on-ramp was off-putting, tried out the modern furniture that is also for sale. He liked it - think he's going to make an offer today.  Afterwards I ended up inviting him to join me at Petterino's - he enjoyed himself immensely and was crazy about my friends (and my singing in French!).

Tonight, quiet night at home and that's OK - it's scripted - "Tuesday - Quiet Night At Home". Are you laughing at me that I actually script the week?  It's something I'm doing more and more and while it may seem un-spontaneous it seems to be the only way I can ensure I'm getting life balance. I'm a fan of architecting one's week.

So much so that, when Josh came over last Thursday and admitted he was struggling, we got out a piece of paper and entitled it "Josh's Perfect Week." The thought behind this is that, of course, not every week (maybe not any week) is going to be perfect but with forethought he can have a truly gratifying week/life that includes all the elements required for happiness.  I interviewed him - asked him questions like:

  • Where does your family fit into your perfect week - do you need face time with them or just a few good phone calls?
  • What about friends? Who and how often?
  • Talk to me about food - what are your food goals? Do you need a refrigerator stocked with healthy food or would that make your nervous (things going bad)? 
  • Romance - does your perfect week include having a date?
  • Infrastructure - how important is it to you that your environment be neat, laundry done, car cleaned, bills paid - how often do you need to attend to this kind of stuff and what day of the week could be earmarked for infrastructure?
  • Creativity - what are you doing to exercise your creative muscle. (Turns out Josh's creativity is expressed on the computer which is fine and dandy but there's the whole "too much screen face time" thing going on. I'm thinking of buying him a few glass-blowing lessons.
  • Spending - retail therapy. Is this something that factors into your perfect week?
  • Time with work peers. Josh has taken to working from home most days and his work relationships are weakening. He identified he needs more face time with the people on his team, even if it seems a non-productive use of his time.
  • Josh's perfect week would include some time with animals even though his beloved dog is staying in the country with his sister and mom. Time for a new pet? Or maybe the need could be satisfied by volunteering at the animal shelter. (Note to self: get the name of the shelter daughter Catherine volunteers at).
  • Exercise - what kind and how often?
  • Reading time. Important
  • Sleep - seven hours. In bed by midnight - waking naturally without an alarm (Josh has the luxury of making his own work hours for the most part).
  • Group activities - intellectual stimulation - something he identified as being an important element in a perfect week. Thinking he will find something on meetup.com or start his own group.
  • Limiting:
    • alcohol
    • isolation
    • screen time

Next, we listed out the days of the week and sketched in what each day should look like, i.e. Sunday, errands and infrastructure, Monday - working from home and then meetup in the evening, Tuesday and Wednesday - go into the office and then quiet nights at home, Thursday - work at home and then hang with a friend in the evening, Friday or Saturday - date and the other night an adventure designed to get Josh out of his comfort zone. Etc.

So much fun to help other people solve problems! So much more fun than solving your own, right? Challenge today could be making that same list - itemizing the elements that should be included in your own perfect week that includes the right balance and elements that will make you feel invigorated, healthy, responsible, loved, creative, mentally challenged and connected.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Sunshine Patriots/6.4 ounces?

Monday and up and at 'em. Got a head full of steam with a bunch I want to accomplish today and this week. One thing - I'm wearing my pedometer again and it's a goal that at least one day this week, I'll hit the 10,000 step mark again. The knee isn't perfect but, thanks to giving up wheat, the inflammation is gone. Now I need to reclaim the gains I made before it blew out on me. 

Friday was terrible. Went to the piano bar early to secure a seat at the piano (they get snatched up). I'd already had a stupid day - forgot to check my calendar and accidentally blew off a lunch meeting with a client who called me from the restaurant we were supposed to meet!!! And the day before backed into a Volvo that was parked in the alley so I had to deal with that and chase down the owner so we could exchange insurance info. Things got worse...Bob did his "ignore Sarah" thing - I only sang a few songs in the first set and then he put me in singer limbo. It wasn't a federal holiday so I just sipped Pellegrino and ate a dry salmon salad while everyone around me sopped up olive oil with fabulous crusty Italian bread and ordered over-sized bowls of every kind of pasta imaginable. And, as the evening progressed, the chasm grew between me and the people I was rubbing shoulders with. When you're not drinking and everyone around you is pounding down drink after drink, soon communication becomes impossible - you're just not seeing things with the same lens. From my sober vantage point, everyone disgusted me. Finally I just threw in the towel. If I wasn't going to sing, drink, overeat - had no one sober to talk with, better that I just leave which is what I did. Slipped away and no one even noticed. Felt very invisible (and sad). Saturday had plans with Josh which he  blew off cuz he snagged an Internet date at the last minute, so I was again - shudder - home alone Saturday night, playing too much Scrabble with my newly made, random-opponent friends on my IPad. Sunday was better: breakfast with Lucas (Liza), a movie and dinner with friends Carla and Allan.

A thought has been inhabitating my brain over the weekend ever since I weighed in on Saturday morning at Weight Watchers and only lost .4 pounds. So hard! I worked at the weight loss all week long, tracking every  single thing I ate, making wise choices, weighing and measuring everything, didn't screw up once. To lose only .4 pounds which is a mere 6.4 ounces, when you've worked your ass off and have over fifty pounds you're trying to take off, is absolutely demoralizing and demotivating. Been here before - maybe you remember. I've tried, in the past, not to get discouraged when the weight refuses to come off despite my compliant efforts. I've even tried the tactic of celebrating .4 pounds as being wonderful, something to crow about. Carla tried to help me spin it. "Sarah, that's almost two sticks of butter!"  "Carla, it's a 6.4 ounce result for a ton (2,000 pounds) of effort! - it sucks!"

So the thought. What separates the mice from the men? How do other people get through stuff like this when they have a problem that refuses to yield despite their best efforts? How do they keep from becoming discouraged? And what do they do to affect a different outcome when faced with the same problem over and over again? Thinking of my spiritual father, Abraham Lincoln and how frustrated he must have been. He was doing everything right - focus, commitment, greater numbers of troops, more firepower and yet he was still getting trounced. The South was bolder and Lincoln's generals overcautious. He replaced his celebrated general and still he lost. So he replaced that celebrated general and still he lost. He ended up replacing five generals, losing political ground and support for the war, until he ended up with Grant who won the war for him.

Also thinking of Burt Bacharach. In preparation for my show, I've been listening, over and over again (mostly in the car) to every song that was ever recorded (he wrote hundreds of tunes). I'm trying to get a real sense of who he was as a composer - studying him from every angle. What I'm struck by is how many awful songs there are. He worked really hard for the hits he had! It wasn't magic! For each tune that hit the charts - the songs that now seem effortlessly birthed, there were a bunch of stillborns in between. Thinking the guy just showed up every day, applied the effort, looked for inspiration where he could find it, stumbled off the path once in a while but found his way back and just kept the forward momentum. And now? What a body of work! Didn't come easy though.

And I remember a recurring theme in my therapy with Kaveh, working the same issue over and over and over again until there was a breakthrough. This is how it went. Kaveh would touch a wound (deliberately). I would become incensed and hurt. There would be a blowout between us where I would invariably write him a caustic, insulting e-mail (things like, "You need to reconsider your choice of career", or "Didn't you learn anything in Psych 101 - you are a terrible therapist!") I would fire him and ask for a final bill. He would call me and ask for an exit session. I would ignore him. He would call again. I would begrudgingly agree to a final discussion. He would explain and I would listen. I would cry. We resumed the work.  This same scenario played itself out at least a dozen times, always the same, like Groundhog Day. Finally (duh!) I recognized the futile pattern and when the same hurt flared within me, instead of following an old script, I said, "This is where I get upset and fire you and then we talk it through and make up, right? Maybe we should just fast forward to the talking part and get through this faster."

So, this is where I give up the weight loss battle. Been here so many times. A new effort. A great loss (four weeks ago was down 3.8 pounds), The following week, down 1 pound, the next week, down .8 and then Saturday, down .4 - each week a diminishing return despite the exact same effort. This is where I give up, get mad, say "Fuck it, if I'm not going to lose, I might as well enjoy myself," and hit the bread basket.  Thinking I need to take a page from therapy and recognize the script....need to find the fast forward button and try something different this time. I'll stay the course for another week and let's see what happens next Saturday. I will channel the indefatigable efforts of Abe and Burt this week.

Eugene, if you're reading this blog, please appreciate just how hard losing weight is!!!!  It's not for the faint of heart - not for summer soldiers and sunshine patriots (in keeping with my war analogy)!


Friday, February 1, 2013

Brill Building/Too Harsh

Friday's here and if you're here in Chicago you woke up to a very cold day. It's February 1st and the temperature outside at this very moment is 1 degree! After writing this blog I need to send out my monthly "rabbit rabbit" greetings to the people I text with. It's a fun (maybe strange) British tradition to give "rabbit rabbit" greetings to those you care about on the first day of every month - is supposed to bring the recipient of the greeting good luck for the entire month.

Tonight I'll hang at the piano bar solo which is fine 'cuz I now know everyone there - it's a little family of singers and singing appreciators. So what if I'm the youngest one there (average age is probably about 70!)  And what's wrong that younger people don't love live music and The American Songbook? I don't get it!  Know it's just my opinion, but the music written in the '40's and '50's is so much better than the pap written today (with some exceptions) - better lyrics, catchier tunes, more sophisticated arrangements. Only thing that might come close after that is the music of Burt Bacharach and also the Brill Building songwriters in the '60s and '70's. Check out a list of the musicians who worked their craft there. Amazing, right? That would be one of my destinations if I could hitch a time-travel ride in the Tardis with Dr. Who.

Featured Inductee

This morning, during coffee mediation time, the words "too harsh" kept creeping into my consciousness. On the heels of "too harsh" came "too bossy". Thinking I need to listen to that censuring voice and put myself in a virtual time out. These days, I risk being a smarty-pants. Feeling like I'm emerging victoriously from a really difficult period in my life that included a bunch of hard stuff: setback with the knees, downsizing my business and the closing of the physical office space, financial challenges, sometimes crippling heartbreak, family worry, disorganization, empty-next syndrome and loneliness, and more. I've taken on each of those challenges with mostly good result and the future is looking rosy again. But...I gotta be careful not to become over-satisfied and smug and think I've got the one and only formula for success and happiness. How obnoxious is that? How obnoxious am I some days!!!???

Do you remember Nigel - I wrote about him a while back. He found me on OK Cupid, the Internet dating site. His writing is amazing, clever and erudite. He was also smitten with me and the compliments about my beauty and intelligence flowed - hard not to like someone who fawns over you! Then the revelation that he is married and pursuing liaisons behind his wife's back.  Yuck, right? The other day I was playing around with my phone and opened a factory installed app called "Talk". there were two people listed as being available for communication (not sure how they got there - maybe it's because they too have the app on their phone?) Nigel was one of them - showed he was "available" so I clicked on him and voila, there he was on my phone - it was a video chat. We got a chance to see each other which only made him more amorous. Then incessant communication from him - e-mails after e-mail, sometimes only a few minutes apart that I didn't even have a chance to respond to! And they kept getting racier and racier with double entendres like references to my "puss" (supposedly referring to my cat), references to how someone so NOT frigid could freeze up on the video screen (the app is imperfect), and then something about lust. I blasted him, or as Josh says, I castrated him. Here is what I wrote:

Nigel, as the British are fond of saying, "Down boy!" I'm not enjoying the sexual innuendos (pussy, lust, frigid, etc). It is stupid to "go there" with me - it is, to use your frozen analogy, a frozen life not lived - trying to make futile connections with a woman who is geographically unfavorable who has no intention of getting involved with a married man, and for whom the fact that you are cheating on the wife (trolling the Internet and engaging strange women for sexual innuendo and more IS cheating!) is a turn-off.

And here's the paradox. I actually find you attractive in a lot of ways. You are physically pleasing (great smile), you are really smart and well-spoken which is also appealing. And I'm sure if I knew you there would be more to like about you.  And yet.....the whole infidelity thing is a deal breaker. It all but negates that which is attractive. As I've said before, any women worth having would want nothing to do with a man who sneaks around behind his wife's back. We're not stupid. That whole, "once a cheater, always a cheater" rings in one's ears.  The irony is that, at this point, if you were to clean up your act - "man up" and fix what's amiss in your life, be honorable and honest, extricate yourself from a marriage that doesn't make you happy, I would still not go out with you - would always be suspect.

So where does that leave "us"? Friends, just. Maybe I can be your muse to make some positive changes. Maybe you can get yourself to a place where you really would be worthy of the kind of woman you want.

I know this is harsh, but I am impatient with you and not amused by your shenanigans.  I'm not sure why I even video chatted you the other day. I was messing around with the app and there were two people in the list of users - you and my friend Norma.  I chatted both of you to test out the technology and then we got a chance to see a different view of each other and I'm afraid things got stirred up a bit on your end.

I know your're unhappy. The job thing is distressing. You're stuck in some pathologies. You long for something more.  I get it.  

Sit down and write a mission statement for your life.  Read or re-read the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People by Steven Covey. 

Grow up and inhabit your skin fully!  Be a powerful and honorable man, finally.  It's not too late.

Think I sent him into the night with his tail between his legs. And who would want to be my friend after a message like that!

I was similarly hard on dear, sweet Victor last week. I don't write about him here in this blog at his request so I won't go into any details. Suffice to say, he was having difficulties with someone and I felt he was partly to blame and couldn't see his contribution to the problem. In an effort to be helpful, I not-so-gently pointed out his failings. He was furious and rightly so. Amazing that he was able to forgive me. We talked last night. My intentions were good - my execution, awful.

Challenge today. Maybe thinking about friendship and how one can be useful to friends without being officious and overbearing. I'm thinking most of you (except Eugene!) are delicate with your friends. And yet there ARE times when we can take risks and be useful during tough times by challenging our friends to look at things a different way. I love my friends. I'm not always the best friend. Too harsh sometimes.

One of my earliest memories - I was four and, like Spanky, the leader of my neighborhood gang. We tumbled out of our houses in the morning, only returning for lunch and dinner. Can't remember how we spent our days - think we made the rounds of all the old ladies, visiting with them in their parlors, cookies and lemonade. I remember the highlight of the morning was when the milkman came. We clamored around the milk truck and every day, he gave us each a chunk of ice that we licked till it was small enough to crunch. And most of my gang were older than me - I was a very young dictator! One day they revolted against my bossiness. I was exiled! Crying I went to my mother and told her. She listened, told me not to be so bossy and sent me back outside with a plate of cookies. I was reinstated on my throne, a humbled and more benevolent queen!  Thanks Mom for that!


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Blind Date/Delusional?

Thursday and time to plan the weekend. If you're a singleton like me, weekends can sneak up on you in a very lonely way! Today, taking Una (klatching neighbor) to my favorite health food restaurant for a birthday lunch. Josh over tonight for dinner and talk. Tomorrow probably piano bar and Saturday, oh dear, no plans for Saturday AGAIN! Will remedy that today. Sunday, Super Bowl party at Saleem's.

Last night's date was pleasant. Jerry met me at the piano bar which was my home turf advantage. We had a good time and he loved the music and the professionalism of the singers of which I was one. Very handsome, that one, but with physical issues from a motorcycle accident when he was 40. Hardest thing for him is that he lost his vision in his left eye and only has about 10% vision in the right. What I like is that it doesn't seem to slow him down (doubt that anyone last night realized he's legally blind) and he doesn't conduct himself like a victim - no pity party. It was a nice time.

Today, the word delusion is on my mind. I'm worried I might be delusional. Getting some feedback that I might be. I also saw an amazing movie on my IPad called, Lars and the Real Girl.  It should have been strange but it was touching and dear. A very damaged and lonely man whose mother died in childbirth, was raised by his heart-broken and emotionally disturbed father and now finds himself longing for connection but unable to bear the touch of another human being. He orders a life size doll (anatomically correct). Names her Bianca. Everyone in the little town he lives in embraces Bianca and plays along that she is really real. Bianca is a blessing. Though inanimate, she heals Lars, cleaves him to the people who love him and who reach out to him with tenderness. When he no longer needs her, he announces her illness (and subsequent death). By then he has made real human connections.

He was delusional - absolutely thought Bianca was real - fussed over her every need and grieved for her when she died. I think Liza and others think I'm delusional when it comes to Patrick. I haven't spoken with him since last May. He has only communicated with me a handful of times since then - most recently a sweet Christmas greeting. He doesn't respond to my communication. I'm not his Facebook friend and he has all but ceased posting anything to his publicly view-able pages so I'm in the dark as to what he is up to these days. These are the facts and I am not delusional about the facts - I can look at them dispassionately and assess the situation exactly as Liza does. The relationship is over....we don't even have a friendship...he doesn't want me in his life in any capacity. He no longer loves me, even a little bit.

So where does the delusion come in? I swear the body doesn't have just one brain. Actually a side bar to this discussion is a fascinating article I read in New Scientist entitled,  Gut Instinct - Alimentary Thinking. Seems our gut has its own information processing capabilities completely separate from the brain!

..the real culprit may not be the brain in your skull but your other brain. Yes that's right, your other brain. Your body contains a separate nervous system that is so complex it has been dubbed the second brain. It comprises an estimated 500 million neurons - about five times as many as in the brain of a rat - and is around 9 meters long, stretching from your esophagus to your anus. It is this brain that could be responsible for your craving under stress for crisps, chocolate and cookies...it can work both independently of, and in conjunction with, the brain in your head and although you are not conscious of your gut "thinking, the ENS (enteric nervous system) helps you sense environmental threats, and then influences your response. "A lot of the information that the gut send to the brain affects well-being, and doesn't even come to consciousness," says Michael Gershon at Columbia -Presbyterian Medical Center, New York.

Do you ever feel like two people? One, rational and measured, capable of assessing a situation accurately and making proper decisions - the other "person" a stranger, acting and reacting to stimuli and events in some kind of primordial way that has no basis in fact? Do you ever find yourself doing or feeling something that is inexplicable and mysterious as to its origin? For me, it really IS like there is this shadow being lurking inside of me who wants no part of facts and figures, who lives on a diet of raw emotion, who mostly stays in the background (shy?), but who is ever vigilant and powerful in her own non-verbal way, always monitoring the pulse of my (her) life, looking out for her own interests, intent on staying alive. And her "brain", it's other....not the active, reasonable, rational brain who runs the day-to-day show. Her brain is content to hum in the background, content to be white noise, but in its own way just as active. It's her brain that asserts itself in quiet moments of contemplation, who counsels to ignore facts and listen instead to her, who says, "Never give up hope". She preaches magic and the stories of children. If I'm open to her, listen to her voice, not shut her down with rationality, does that make me delusional?

I still love the guy...his birthday is in a few weeks. Told him (e-mail) I would, like last year, make him a birthday cake and drop it off. Asked him to take me out for my birthday (May) like he did last year, even though we were broken up by then. I'm torn because the two voices are battling it out. I know the rational thing is to stare at the hard cold facts and surrender to them, but I can't shut up the other voice that tells me to hold onto the feelings of love and never give up hope. It's hard. Friends, please don't tell me I'm being a crazy stalker to give him a birthday cake (it hurts to hear things like that). For God's sake, it's a birthday cake, not a rabbit in a pot. And please don't tell me to just get over him (if it were that simple, I would have by now). Just be there for me with fun and laughter and accept me for the complicated, dualistic person I am.

Wow, I didn't intend to write about this today! Was going to write about an article regarding weight loss friend Carol sent over (tomorrow). Challenge today could be renting that movie, "Lars and the Real Girl". Also think about that word, "delusion". Definition, "a belief held in evidence to the contrary". I'm wondering if sometimes delusions take up residence for a reason - there is some kind of work and healing to be done. Bianca was a delusion that healed. Are all delusions a bad thing?


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Adorable/Transformation Spa

Busy day. Work. Showing one of the apartments (I have two apartments on the ground floor of my house and one is vacant),taking Robin my accountant out for a birthday lunch, then a kinda date tonight - one of those Internet meet-for-a-drink things. Gloomy few days, right with all the rain? Wait, slap me if I EVER complain about winter rain! A few degrees in temperature and winter rain is easily winter snow and I absolutely hate dealing with copious amounts of snow - firing up the snowblower, sweeping the decks, slipping and sliding in the icy alley, all yuck. Having said that, is there anything more beautiful than a sparkly sunny morning right after a snowfall, everything painted white and pristine?

Grumbling and confused about something. It was also a theme in my therapy - something to get my arms around at a time when it's easier to get your arms around me! Weight loss and becoming a small person has a downside especially when you're only 5' 2".  Twice in the last two weeks, separate people have called me adorable. Another person called me "sweet little bunny". Another person told me, now that I've lost so much weight, they realize how short I am. It's something Kaveh and I talked about at length - the need for me to be BIG. God, it's like I'm a little disgruntled kid complaining, "I'm not a baby!"

I've lost 116 pounds - that's a whole person. 116 pounds ago, when I walked into a room, I was NOT to be ignored. I wore my weight with authority, unapologetically. These days I don't command that attention - I'm easy to ignore, sweet, little adorable bunny, me. If I really sit with that feeling of getting too small, I have to think it's why my weight has been stuck where it is.  I still have a bunch to take off but I've been staring at the same spot on the scale for over a year now.  Each time I take a run at further loss, I seem to sabotage myself. Could it be, it scares me to be adorable cuz adorable=little=invisible=powerless? I am still a "woman-hear-me-roar", lioness inside. How do I reconcile that with being precious? Hmmmm......

Subject change....percolating an idea for a new career. Nothing drastic - I'll still work the telecommunications gig like I have been but I have extra time these days with the kids out of the house, and my work not demanding much time. It's the right time to plan a change. Here are a few of the thoughts that are swirling:

  • I truly AM living well....finally. There have been huge changes I've undertaken...the weight loss, completion of therapy, learning to cook and eat in the healthiest of ways, blossoming my creativity (the  singing and writing), relinquishing my need to be the master of the universe (the control thing), making a difference in other peoples' lives, falling in love when I thought it would never happen to me, getting fitter, battling clutter and learning how to get things done, taking my place as a wise elder....all wonderful, right?
  • What if there were a way to leverage all these gifts and accomplishments into a career - helping other people along the same path?  What would that look like? A life coach? A nutritionist? A therapist? A GTD (Getting Things Done) facilitator? A creativity muse? A Landmark leader? A Weight Watchers leader? A motivational speaker? A columnist?  Seems like there could be a bunch of ways to approach this.
  • What skills and credential would I need to credibly sell my services and what would the venue be? Do I need to go back to college and become a therapist (an idea that appeals to me)? Should I do something really nontraditional like have a "spa" in my home where people could come and live for a spell (week or two) - I have the apartment! They would spend intensive time with me, attached at the hip, talking, figuring stuff out, making plans for change, learning to shop and cook, walks on the lakefront, and doing something creative like painting, writing or singing. It would be a way to kick start a new life. I would be the guide.
I'm going to work these ideas and come up with a plan. Your challenge is reaching out to me and letting me know what you REALLY think. Is this pie in the sky? Is there a need for this? Could it become a reality or is Sarah being naive? Thanks in advance for your feedback!