Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Ticket of the Month Club

This morning didn’t go according to plan. I was way more productive than I have been of late, so I wasn’t out of the house until way past noon. I was getting myself set to go out when I heard someone knocking on the door at half past one. It was one of the neighbors asking if that was my blue car parked outside. Seems the meter maid was right outside. Well by the time I grabbed my keys it was too late and the ticket was already written. Damn, that seems to be the story of my life. Helpful neighbor guy said I should try to talk her out of it, so I pulled out my lost-my-job sob story. She looked sincerely touched, but said she still was going to turn it in to her supervisor, as if that was the best she could do. Geez, how lame is that? You’d think that if my karma was good, she’d be ‘family’ and my cute smile and sad story would have had her ripping up that ticket for me.

Ah well. I’m still kinda pissed off about it. I’ve never been able to talk my way out of a ticket of any sort. Maybe I’m just not that sort of person. I do seem to be the kind of person who would somehow get signed up for the ticket of the month club. At first I joked about it, but then I looked back in my checkbook to see when I’ve written checks to pay for parking tickets, I saw an alarming trend. In the past 3 months that I’ve been unemployed I’ve gotten three parking tickets. I suppose it could be a coincidence. Perhaps I’ve got more time to go places where tickets are given out. I was too busy working to get parking tickets before. And now boom, three tickets at one-month intervals. You have to admit that you’re even starting to wonder if this club exists.

Okay, while you were waiting (I know it didn’t seem to take very long) I went and checked the Internet for the club. Hmmm…these folks didn’t seem to be listed. I found this one site that had a variety of monthly clubs like cookie of the month, bama pie of the month, chocolate of the month, cigar of the month, Delightful fruit club, but no ticket clubs. The once a month club sounds like someone’s sex life, but appears to be a philanthropic organization to help you find time to do good deeds regularly. I even found a show of the month club that sounds like the sorts of tickets I would enjoy, except that it’s in Boston and way to far to travel to see a show. I kept going and found some truly bizarre clubs like fuck of the month and the odd, yet popular, weed of the month.

So this may be a closed membership, but if you ask nicely I might be able to sponsor you. I seem to be connected in all the wrong ways.

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Sunday, June 23, 2002

Six Months of Effort

In one week, I'll have been working out for 6 months. I'm rather proud of myself. I've been slacking the last few weeks, but for the majority of the time I've gone 5 days a week. I've been keeping track (more or less) when I go and what I do. When I don't go, I try to write down why, so I can see if there are dangerous trends I need to be aware of.

I feel better on the days I work out and I know it. I don't like the way the gym gets hot during the day, so I try to get in early. Also I'm less likely to run out of time if I plan to workout first thing.

I start with 20 minutes of cardio. In the beginning it was less, maybe 10-15 on a recumbent bicycle since that seemed to be the easiest for me. Now I'm hooked on the elliptical trainers and do a solid 20 minutes each session. After that I do weight training, either upper body or lower body.

I mostly keep to myself when I work out. It's nice having people around but not feeling compelled to have to talk. I always listen to music when I'm upstairs doing the cardio portion. Last Friday I forgot my headphones and CDs at home and didn't enjoy it as much. The equipment has a little TV, CD and cassette player. I may look at the images on the TV, but it doesn't keep me going during the tough parts like music does. I don't listen to music when I am weight lifting. I like to concentrate on what I am doing, and listen to whatever they are pumping through the stereo system at the time. That and watch people.

I am more aware of muscles, both my own and those around me. I may stare at someone as they are working out, not because I'm attracted to them as much as I admire their muscles. As convenient as it would be to be able to work out at home, I still like going to the gym, at least my gym, because I can see other people working out.

I'm going to be adding some free weights to my routine. I mostly use the machines because I know them and it's comfortable. I've been reading up on the benefits of using free weights. I just like having more options available to me. I am starting to get a little bored with my current routine, so I think this will help. Before I would add weight and that kept me challenged for a while.

Six months. I took some before pictures about a month or so ago. I wish I did this back in December, but I still have a lot of room for improvement now. I'm working up to doing a Body for Life Challenge. I've been working on my diet lately since that seems to be the tougher part for me. Even with all my free time, I've having a tough time dealing with eating six times a day. I need to do this cheaply, but the three days I tried, I felt like I spent the whole damn day in the kitchen preparing, eating and cleaning up. I'm going to try my friend, Cat's trick by preparing food in advance and putting it into tupperware containers. That will also help me get my eyes to see the right size portions.

In the months that I was able to work out 5 days a week, I have been rewarding myself with little treats, a CD, a new top, etc. After 3 months, I got a big treat, new sneakers. I keep thinking that 6 months is a big deal, but can't come up with anything that seems quite right. Maybe it'll come to me when I'm not looking.

Exercising doesn't seem like much effort now. I remember one morning in March thinking how I'd love to call in sick and take a mental health day. I didn't because it would mean that I couldn't work out since my gym is only a few blocks from where I worked. I realized that I had changed enough to have this be something I look forward to and in some ways is a reward to me. Considering how much I hated gym class as a kid, this is a huge deal. I'm very proud of myself that I've gotten this far and I look forward to getting to the end of the year and seeing how I look and feel then.

What was I Thinking?

Even in the dark mood that I’m in right now, I still manage to make myself laugh. The ex and I have been exchanging email the past couple of days tying up loose ends. Every time I see her name in my inbox I am overwhelmed by these feelings. They run the gamut as they have since the sixteenth of February when we decided to call it quits.

I’ve been mostly sad and angry. I wasn’t expecting her to give up on us when I issued an ultimatum that took me a couple of weeks to compose in my head. She was the one who taught me it took more than desire to make something work. It took work and effort and lots of times it wasn’t going to be easy. And there were lots of times when I wondered, what was I thinking?! We got through a lot of those times and I always felt stronger, more able to cope with life.

Now that it’s over, I say those words and hear Christine Lavin's voice saying, "What was I Thinking?!" and it makes me laugh.

I’ve been thinking a lot today about my life. I’m still happy that I am getting a chance to start things over again. I realized that I keep tripping over memories. I think I was avoiding them by keeping busy and distracted by the logistics of moving and job hunting. Today the smell of a grove of eucalyptus trees reminded me of the weekends I spent with her in her grad dorm room when I first moved out here. The green lushness of the Mills campus was the backdrop as I slowly fell in love with her. Later, hearing a song on the radio as I turned onto Gough, reminded me of the time a year and a half ago when I was afraid that she might die, as I drove home from the hospital. I remembered how scared and confused she was earlier that morning. I remember reassuring her that everything would be all right. Within a few hours time, while I went home to try and get some sleep, she slipped into a coma as her body tried to cope with fulminant liver failure. When she got the liver transplant she needed, I was so relieved and thought that if we could get through something like this, everything else would be easy.

I know there will be more memories to deal with. The bad ones make me feel better that this was the right thing to do. The good ones make me feel sad and wonder why there weren’t more of them. I’m still very sad that I’ve lost my best friend. There are so many things that I only shared with her. I’ve been lucky to have other friends step in to help fill that void she left behind and share how they felt when this happened to them. I know this is the part where someone reminds me that time heals all wounds. And maybe they’ll say in their best Christine Lavin impersonation, “What was I Thinking? What was I, Blind?!...” and make me laugh again.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Why staying up late is a bad thing

Not having to get up and go to work has been wreaking havoc on my schedule. For the most part I’ve been trying to maintain some semblance of a routine. Y’know going to the gym in the morning, working on my job search by day, leisure pursuits in the evening.

That worked fine back in April when I was doing outplacement seminars. In May the reality of my split-up with my ex and the need to move out of our house took over the job search and any leisure pursuits. I packed and organized my way through May. I stopped going to the gym for a week or so around Memorial Weekend when packing, lifting and moving boxes up and down stairs replaced my regular exercise routines. Once I packed up 98% of my stuff in those storage boxes they deliver to your house and take away when you’re done, I was free to haul the remaining 2% of my critical possessions to my new house-sitting job (which conveniently freed me from having to find and pay for a new apartment) and clean the old house.

But now it’s June. Sure there was a week of settling in and getting my affairs in order (That is such a posh little phrase don’t you think? Much better than getting my act together or other organizational phrases.) but that’s all over now.

I’ve been going to the gym again and eating properly now that I have a place with a stocked kitchen. But the routine is a little off. My friend Dorian calls from time to time and we go for walks around the area. Not little leisurely strolls where window shopping can be done, but arm-pumping aerobic walks that get your heart pumping. But I like going to the gym in the morning because it reminds me of the last daily routine that worked for me before my life fell apart. That and the fact that I hate exercising in a hot gym and it gets hot in the afternoon when the fog burns off and the hot almost-summer sun starts warming up my gym. I keep all my good hair and body products at the gym as a reward, so I am always happy to leave clean and fresh ready to take on the day. But things get a little fuzzy after that.

I need to keep a little flexibility to have networking meetings or perchance an interview. Then I find myself working later into the evening doing research or searching job boards to see who is hiring and which recruiters seem to be getting jobs to fill.

One such evening, I was downstairs in the den watching TV. Granted it was on mostly for background noise, but before I knew it the movie I was watching over and some program came on. It was an infomercial pretending to be an actual show. As if we’d be fooled into thinking that it was anything but a 30 minute commercial. I was still engaged with my online pursuits, so I left it on and I’ll admit that I’ve a soft spot for these things. I’ve bought mops and exercise equipment that seemed to fill a void I hadn’t known existed until these nice actors pointed it out to me at 3am in the morning.

However, this morning I wasn’t going to be swayed. The show was a make-over format where a bunch of ‘friends’ sit down and talk about how they are aging and how they wish they could afford to have some “work” done. The older and wiser friend shares a secret and next thing you know they are putting bits of medical-grade scotch tape on their faces to give themselves quickie face lifts. I was howling at the absurdity of it and disappointed that the breast lifts weren’t being done with live models but with TV graphics.But I knew that there were good reasons why normal people were asleep at this time. Hell, I should be asleep at this time even if I only aspire to normalcy these days!

So you’ll be happy to know that I did take the cue and turned off the television and went to bed, safe in the knowledge that some day I would meet some woman with alert eyes, a firm chin and perky breasts all being held up with invisible pieces of plastic tape. It also reminds me that I need to get a life and quickly!

Monday, June 17, 2002

Living with other people’s mysteries

It’s been almost three weeks since I started house-sitting. I had forgotten how much you can learn about someone by what they have or don’t have in their homes. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not going around and snooping in closets and other personal places. I’m talking about what they have in their kitchen, on their bookshelves, in their pantries, on their walls and so on.

Cabala, my co-house-sitter, and I are coping with the lack of a vegetable steamer. The pasta pot or the microwave seem to do okay, even if it’s not what we would choose to use. It took us a while to find things like measuring spoons and dish soap. They were there, just not where it made sense to look initially. Other things had a greater importance in the house and got special treatment. I love the fact that practically every room has a bookshelf in it and after a week or so I understood what was where and why.

I’ve been adjusting to a few short-comings too. I’m a little shorter than the owners of the house and couldn’t quite reach the dinner plates when they were all in the cupboard. I ended up having to move about 4 of them to another place in the kitchen so that I wouldn’t break anything. I was looking for a recipe since I have been in the mood to cook since the day after I packed up all of my cookbooks (odd but true) and got bopped on the head with a little book that was sitting on top of the desired cookbook. Now I couldn’t see that it was there and imagined that it would be safe to pull a book from its high perch. I did bitch a little since I got a little cut on my forehead, but from then on, I would go and get the step ladder to pull down things to avoid any additional injuries.

But being short does have its benefits. An Italian couple originally owned the house and the husband spent a lot of time working on the cellar to add additional rooms to the house. Since he wasn’t especially tall, the ceilings down there are no greater than 5’8” high. This is not a place for the claustrophobic! But at my short (5’2”) stature, I don’t have any problems. I have modified my stretching to be more in front of me than above me since my hands do hit the ceiling if I try to reach above my head.

What I have found most intriguing since I’ve been here is the proliferation of mirrors throughout the house. I’m not talking a couple here and there, but over 20 mirrors are hanging all over the place. At first I thought it was to make a smaller room bigger. But now that I’ve found them out in the garden and in the oddest places, like nestled in a bookshelf, I’m realizing that this is a mystery that I’m not going to be able to reason away. I could just ask Laura, one of the owners, about the mirrors the next time we talk. But I’m enjoying the mystery and coming up with my own stories to account for them. I will ask when the house-sitting job is over, I’m not going to torment myself (or you) without knowing the truth. But be prepared for a boring answer. It might not measure up to the imagination and the stories that we’d come up with.

Send me your ideas and let me know if you want to know the real truth.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

A whole lotta nothing

One thing I’m noticing is that even without a job, I manage to keep myself busy day after day. Some of it is honest job-hunting activity, but other times it’s just doing the little errands or chores that need to be done. I spoke to Laura who I’m house-sitting for this morning. She had some questions about managing her digital photos. So I had a little fun doing a work related task. They are having fun visiting friends and relatives in the Deep South. In their absence, my fellow house-sitting, Cabala, and I have been wooing, I mean taking care of their 3 cats and minding their house. Even after scrubbing my last place from top to bottom before we left, I still have this occasional urge to clean things. 

I’m not going to get into the details, but we’ve been busy. But this is just my hanging around the house projects. I don’t have a lot of my things with me, so you’d think it would be easier to focus on my key projects. Y’know like getting a job? I got my oil changed yesterday afternoon, since it was about time for that. I needed to buy some yellow thread to mend a favorite t-shirt that got some odd holes in it. Of course I have regular trips to the gym in the morning, but now they end in my lowering the top on my car and driving home enjoying the sunny weather we’ve been having the past couple of weeks. I don’t do this when I have to go to the office in the morning.

I went for a walk with my friend Dorian, which qualifies as exercise (we walk fast) and afterwards tagged along as she went to the pharmacy and supermarket. I got some fruit that I wanted while I was there. I love walking away with a bag full of fruit for under $5. I even picked a perfect banana that I would eat as I waited out on the sunny benches for Dorian to finish her shopping. What a treat! Why don’t I do these sorts of things all the time?

Nothing is happening at breakneck speed in my life right now. I’m a little amazed that I’m enjoying it as much as I am. When I’m working, I get so caught up in the frenzy of the workplace. This is so completely different. I know I’ll start getting really antsy soon. This seemingly relaxed lifestyle isn’t really me. But it sure does feel really good right now. I’m sure someone is thinking that this is just what I need at the moment. My life has been extremely chaotic, so slowing down and enjoying the simpler pleasures, like reading the morning paper as I eat my breakfast at the kitchen table. When I’m at work, breakfast usually occurs over my keyboard as I scan my email and plan my day.

I’m getting back into the habit of keeping track of things like my time, my finances and now even my exercise and food habits. Tomorrow after I do my daily job-search routine, I’m going to organize my papers and room. I’ve got to get used to living in a single room and a little organization is in order. I’m finding myself spreading things out all over the house. Usually not a problem until I forget where I left something. Argh!

Saturday, June 8, 2002

Sunny days

God I love those sunny summer days! Today there was an Italian Street Painting Festival in San Rafael. My friend James was going to be there since his wife was going to be working on a painting with people from work. Without anything better to do, I decided it would be good to get out especially if there is art involved.

I woke up a little later than I had anticipated and after considering skipping the gym, decided to go, if only for the fact that I'd have to pay a $2 toll anyway, so I might as well go to the gym. I'd stopped going for the two weeks it took me to pack and move all of my worldly possessions. Of course carrying boxes up and down stairs provided me with a pretty good workout. In any case I'm glad to be back and to have that little bit of structure in my life.

After I finished my workout, I took the top off of my convertible and somehow managed to choose the worst possible route to the Golden Gate Bridge. Even after 4 years in the area, I still don't have more than the basic paths in my head to get from point A to point B. Perhaps this is something that will soon change?

In any case, the weather was beautiful and I slowly made my way to the Street Painting singing along to the radio. Singing in a convertible is different in that people can actually *hear* you singing. But I was up for the challenge or just didn't care.

I found parking and walked to the festival. At first I was awed by the drawing and artistic skills of the artists to translate a small idea onto a huge piece of asphalt. Upon closer examination, I saw them use grids as well as stencils of all sorts to lay the basic drawings down. How cool! Whenever I see other artists using these sorts of tricks (or perhaps techniques would be a better word) I feel better about the ones I use when I paint.

I never thought about pastels as a medium I'd want to use, too messy and too much dust, but I wanted to be a pastel artist today. Many were just okay. But some were just too awesome for words (although that doesn't seem to stop me from trying to find some words). They even had small squares for kids to do their own and sold a square with a box of pastels and a blending eraser for $10.

I love it when kids are inspired and then empowered to show their creativity. This is so frequently discouraged in order for us to learn more valuable skills, like memorizing facts and mastering logical information. Okay, so that's not entirely fair, but creative expression doesn't always get it's fair share of time in our lives. If you are sitting there disagreeing with me, then tell me how many times today you were able to express yourself in a creative manner. I did for once remember to bring a camera with me. Actually I had two, but chose to use my Lomo camera exclusively. It seemed like the right choice for the day.

Wednesday, June 5, 2002

My Life is a Mess

Really. I wouldn't make this sort of thing up. Now I'll admit that even in its present state, my life is still better than a lot of other people out there, but here it's all about me.

I'm working on getting things in order and preferably better than they were before. I've been out of work since March 20th, broke up with my partner of 4 1/2 years, and as of today, am without a permanant place to live. So my options are pretty open right now. In some ways, all these options are daunting and make it harder to just do something. I can't dawdle too long otherwise I can add being pursued by bill collectors to my list.

Today feels like the begining more than it did before. I still have all these loose ends to tie up, but I'm starting from scratch now. I'm actually a little excited by this all. I don't let that out too much, but I am. Mostly I'm nervous, scared, angry, restless and occasionally depressed. I'm ready to move on, so getting motivated and keeping it going is what's on my mind today. Since I'm rarely able to focus on one thing without distraction, you'll be able to share in the myriad of thoughts I have at any one time. Today, I'm just keeping it simple. and short.