Sunday, August 31, 2014

Weekly Update Plus Month's End Looking Forward

A weekly update and month’s end post all in one?  Uh oh.  Hope you’re ready for a long one.

Having a pain-free knee has made a difference in everything.  I’m able to help with housework, move about to fetch myself some water or a book, even as I refrain from overdoing things.  Most of my exercise has been limited to the physical therapy exercises I did while waiting to see the orthopedist.  I say “most” because I did go for a walk with Kanika. Two miles and it felt so good.  Just like old times!

Blogger corrected the image
and reoriented it so it would be
right-side up.
Another upside-down drawing exercise,
unfinished because I ran out of time.
Nonetheless, I gained weight.  Only half a pound but every ounce is putting me further and further away from my goal which is increasingly out of reach.  Before I injured my knee and stopped exercising, I had been using My Fitness Pal with little success.  People were eager to friend me but, per usual, not eager to interact.  I would leave encouraging comments on their posts and they would give me a thumbs up click of the link.  (Similar to liking something on Facebook or plussing something on Google+ in that it takes no time or any real thought.)  I’m considering just giving up on it altogether now because, even when I posted about finally being pain free nobody said anything so it seems to me that they have better things to do and when I’m feeling discouraged about gaining weight and all I need encouragement more than ever.  Especially when, over the next few months, I’ll be dealing with the challenge of creating an exercise regimen that is both effective and will not risk injury. 

My choices are:
  • Stick with MFP and try to reach out to more people to add more friends
  • Find another website like MFP (I’ve tried SparkPeople and LiveStrong and would be willing to return to either of these, I suppose)
  • Resurrect my Body Blog which I stopped using several years ago

I’ll think about it some more in the next few weeks and make a decision which I’ll begin in October.  If you have any thoughts, don’t hesitate to chime in with a comment.  I’m trying to make a decision and I often find that easiest to do when I can weigh the pros and cons through dialogue with myself or others.

Really, don't know why
blogger is flipping the photos.
Anyway, another upside-down drawing.
Not only did I get to see Kanika this weekend but on Thursday my son, Marc, came back to town for Dragon Con.  I love it when Marc is in town!  We went over to Joe and Erin’s to play a board game that night which is why I was oh-so-tired on Friday.  He went to DC in costume on Saturday (dressed as Poison) and on Sunday (today) he took Shira with him.  So he was able to see everyone in the family.  Isn’t that perfect? 

Saturday I also talked with Love and had a lovely quiet afternoon chat and pizza for supper with Mary who came over after not seeing one another for months and months.  We are going to hang out again in October.  I have a birthday gift for her somewhere around here but I misplaced it.  (I also misplaced Matt’s and Pia’s birthday gifts.  Not sure where any of them are but I suspect they are all together and will be found any day now.)

So all-in-all, it was a good week.

September is going to GREAT!

Or maybe not.  You see, first the television in the room where I typically play the exercise DVDs and watch my movies, is the one that quit working.  We have another, smaller one, that will take its place so it’s not a crisis.  Just a disruption.

More worrisome is our car which is having transmission problems.  Transmissions don’t come cheap but what can you do.  If I were working, we could think about buying a “new” used car but that isn’t an option.  So we can only hope for the best.  We won’t know where we stand with the car until later this week but it is something that could influence the rest of September. 

But September won’t be all gloom and doom!  Rob and I are going to London, England.  This will be the first trip out of the United State for the both of us.  And what a first it shall be!  The whole time I was stuck in bed, a part of me was worried that I’d be unable to take full advantage of this opportunity.  How was I going to walk around museums or a castle when I could barely limp along with my cane?  Truth is, that was one of the reasons I was feeling so discouraged about the ongoing pain.  Truth is, that’s part of the reason I’m so delighted and relieved that I am pain free!  

Finally, it didn't flip the pic.
Last upside-down drawing.
What You Can Expect in September?

Well, I’ll do like I did last year when we went to New York.  I’ll post a series or “itinerary” posts of things we plan on doing on what days.  Naturally, there will be changes in the plans, just as there were when we went to New York.  Or perhaps the itinerary will stand firm.  You never know.  Our friend, Chris, will house and dog sit for us while we’re out of town.  We’ll worry about Holly, naturally enough.  Still, she knows him and will survive the distress of our leaving while benefitting from the knowledge that we may go away but we’ll never ever abandon her.  She’s our girl.   Snowdoll has experienced our leaving and returning more than once so, although it’s disruptive, it won’t be quite so traumatic.

So the next couple of weeks will be busy with the car and getting ready for our trip, packing things and making sure we have everything as planned out as can be.  I’ll be making the itinerary blog posts and some book review posts as well.  Hopefully, you won’t even notice I’m gone.   Of course, if you see me around google+ or twitter or tumblr, you won’t see me posting there or linking over to my blog posts.  You’ll have to remember to check in without my reminders.  Sorry.  Not much I can do about that.  I trust you’ll forgive me. 

Don't forget to vote in the poll to the left and choose a future blog post for your reading pleasure.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Weekly Quotations Part 30

Forgiveness is essential in life because we make mistakes all the time.  (156)

Hatred corrodes the vessel in which it’s stored.  (161)

Negative feelings toward others tend to separate us from ourselves and from others—they trigger aversion.  (161)

There are traditionally six categories of people with whom we train ourselves in the art of loving-kindness.  The trick is to start with an easy target, reinforce the loving-kindness habit, and work up from there.
  1. Self—Your personal identity, usually located within the skin.
  2. Benefactor—Someone who makes you consistently smile, such as a mentor, a child, a spiritual guide, a pet, or a piece of nature.
  3.  Friend—A supportive person toward whom you feel trust and gratitude and have mostly positive feelings.
  4.  Neutral—Any living being whom you don’t know and therefore neither like nor dislike.
  5. Difficult—Someone who has caused you pain, or toward whom you have negative feelings.
  6. Groups—Any group of living beings, for example, everybody listed above, everyone in your home, workplace, or city. (167-168)
The most natural time to practice loving-kindness toward others is when you’re genuinely happy—when you have loving energy to spare.   It’s easy to wish happiness for others when we’re happy.  (180)

To one who stands outside the Christian faith, it is utterly astonishing how ordinary a book can be and still be thought the product of omniscience.  (62)

The truth is . . . the conflict between religion and science is unavoidable.  The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma; the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science.  (63)

The core of science is not controlled experiment or mathematical modeling; it is intellectual honesty.  It is time we acknowledged a basic feature of human discourse: when considering the truth of a proposition, one is either engaged in an honest appraisal of the evidence and logical arguments, or one isn’t.  Religion is the one area of our lives where people imagine that some other standard of intellectual integrity applies.  (64-65)

While believing strongly, without evidence, is considered a mark of madness or stupidity in any other area of our lives, faith in God still holds immense prestige in our society.  Religion is the one area of our discourse where it is considered noble to pretend to be certain about things no human being could possibly be certain about.  It is telling that this aura of nobility extends only to those faiths that still have many subscribers.  (67-68)

Any intellectually honest person will admit that he does not know why the universe exists.  (74)

Further Out Than You Thought by Michaela Carter

The past.  It’s like it has nowhere to go.  It’s like that [May] pole.  We’re all tied to it, we all keep walking around and around.  Or else it’s like the earth—the earth spinning, but also how it builds up, a layer at a time.  It’s what we bury.  What we succeed in not thinking about, so long as we think it’s gone.  But it isn’t gone.  It’s never really gone.  And then it just bubbles up, like the tar pits, or like pus in a zit.  (197)

Outside the bar . . .  night was coming on like a hopeless, drunken come-on, tequila on its breath, red neon signs and, outside the shops, strings of colored Christmas lights hung fr)om the eaves like the sad close-lipped smiles of boys who would lure you in with their loneliness, that melancholia you’d try and try to fix.  (211)

How easy it was . . .  to take oneself out of the picture.  (221)

The light at the end of the tunnel . . . on never thought it’d be red.  At the beginning of the tunnel, maybe, but at the end, one presumed, the light would be white, bluish white, if it had any hue at all.  Red wasn’t transcendence, but return.  Red was home.  It was a stove and a fireplace, a cup of something warm to wrap one’s hands around.  (229)

Her waking dream would be lucid and the magic in her life, real.  (266)

The Lady and the Peacock by Peter Popham

Quoting Pascal Khoo Thwe:  People who had been silent for twenty-six years now wanted to shout, or at least endlessly to debate.  (61)

Once the waters of a revolution start flowing, you can’t push them back forever. . . . (118)

Quoting Ma Thanegi:  With the exception of very few I would like to hit poets who are writing poetry, usually very bad, about doing this and doing that . . . and reading them aloud. . . .  (134)

Every nation is defined by the holidays it marks; it is the way the story of the nation punctuates the passage of time.  (146)

Quoting Ann Pasternak Slater:  [M]ost of us were neither laid back nor laid.  (193)

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

Her notebooks became the ground where her conflicted anger and divided intellect could do battle on the page.  (6)

Life is walking tiptoe over land mines.  We never know what’s coming and, . . . we don’t have a good grip on what’s behind us either.  But we sure as hell can spin a story about it and break our brains trying to get it right.  (13)

Nonexistent, impossible, imaginary objects are in our thoughts all the time, but in art they move from the inside to the outside, words and images cross the border.  (26)

There are many stories and as many reasons for leaving the feminine behind and adopting the masculine, or dropping either one for the other, as was convenient.  (33)

What interested me were perceptions and their mutability, the fact that we mostly see what we expect to see.  (33)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Poll Request: WIP Sample (Rough Draft)

I don’t which of us noticed first but every time he was on the screen, all I could see was Sam.  The same arching eyebrows and plump lips.  The same way his wavy hair sort of flopped over his eyes.  The eyes were different though.  Sam’s were grey but this actor’s were brown.  Still, I caught my breath every time his character was back on screen, only realizing that I was holding it when he was on the screen for more than a few moments.
Just as I was trying to convince myself it was my imagination, Gelsey leaned over and said, “OMG, Linz.  He looks like Sam.” 
So it wasn’t just me.  She saw it too.  And then she sighed, exaggerating the exhalation.  You know, how those fangirls do when they are oohing and ahhing over someone.  The rest of the movie, I had to sit there as she giggled and gushed whenever the pseudo-Sam showed up on screen. I just followed along because that’s what we did. 
We were friends, best friends, and this was our last movie together before school started.  It was the end of summer and we’d be going to school together for the first time since we were kids.  It was the end of what was supposed to be The Best Summer Ever.  But it was a summer where things changed for me, for us, and she didn’t even know.  Gelsey just sighed and giggled while I played along and all I could think about was how Sam hadn’t emailed me or anything.  Not that I should have cared but I did care. I cared and I cared enough not to let my best friend know what I was thinking about.  Instead, I leaned in and giggled and, when the movie credits ended, the theater lights came up, I sighed in sync with her.
And we giggled together again, like old times, like we did when the summer was starting and everything was different.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wrote a Blog Post Because I Thought I Should Share (and Respond)

It’s funny, the things that will spark conversation.  For instance, Justin Schwamm writes a fascinating blog about his teaching experience where he often gets philosophical.  Maybe my life experience has little-to-nothing to do with his Latin Teacher experience; nonetheless, it’s surprising how often his insights leave me feeling reflective. 

For instance, this post in which he writes about what is mine and not mine and should.  The other day, I wrote a reply to an email from Erin.  You see, we’ve been working our way through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain together and, the other day, she shared a drawing she did that was not one of the exercises.  I was overdue with some of the exercises myself, having fallen a bit behind.  Maybe I was feeling guilty for not making time to do something I am honestly enjoying doing because, when Erin emailed me and said “I know this isn’t one of the exercises yet but I did this,” I wrote back:

This is what you should be doing.

Now, I meant this to be encouraging, to suggest that sometimes an exercise will feel a bit uninspired or time won’t allow for more than a few minutes of quick sketching and, on those days, it’s okay to draw something else.  But that isn’t what I said, is it?  Instead, I had inserted this judgmental and implicit word:  should

Now, maybe I should try to keep up with Erin.  And maybe I should make time for drawing.  But who am I to tell her what she should do?  I had clearly overstepped a boundary from mine to not mine, as Justin writes in his blog.  I was projecting my own should onto her.   

So I corrected myself in another email, apologizing for my faux pas.  Not that she even noticed or cared.  She’s gracious like that.  But I needed to own what I wrote even if I didn’t mean quite like that, because it is not for me to tell her or anyone else what they should do or how they should live their lives.  Half the time I’m resisting my own burden of should.  Which reminded me of a quote from an episode of Sex and the City in which Carrie Bradshaw is thinking about “the S-word”:
Carrie voice-over: After Miranda used the S-word twice, I wondered if “should” was another disease plaguing women. Did we want babies and perfect honeymoons? Or did we think we should have babies and perfect honeymoons? How do we separate what we could do from what we should do? And here’s an alarming thought. It’s not just peer pressure. It seems to be coming from within. Why are we should-ing all over ourselves?  (Season 6, Episode 15, “Catch-38”)
"Why are we should-ing all over ourselves?"  I have a theory about why I should all over myself.  I too often weigh myself down with what I should be doing (and, by association, should not be doing) when I don’t make the time to know my why, which is something else Justin’s been exploring in his blog.  When I know why I should be doing something, I remove the guilt and blame from my action and find myself doing something because it is a choice.  More than that, it is a choice rooted in a personal integrity that has nothing to do with an external should but is driven by an internal want, a desire that is connected with who I am. 

I’m going to try to remember this, to catch myself when I am thinking/saying should, whether about myself or others.  When I’m should-ing on myself, I’ll ask myself why.  And if I’m should-ing on someone else, I’ll just let it go.  After all, I don’t like it when I should all over myself so I think it’s safe to say I shouldn’t do it all over someone else. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Weekly Update: A Good Week That Got Better and Better

Stress free dog's life
Relief at last. 

On Monday I went to have an MRI and mammogram and, on Thursday, with the MRI results in hand, the orthopedist said I should have a cortisone shot, which would relieve the pressure, reduce the pain, etc.  I was warned that the next day or two could prove to be uncomfortable.  Fair enough.  But if I could hope for relief by Sunday then two more days of pain was nothing to concern myself over.  The pain never returned. Once I had the shot, it simply diminished slowly, ebbing and flowing but mostly ebbing. 

Can you imagine my joy, waking up Friday morning without a limp?  It returned but only slightly.  And Saturday, when Rob had a day-long gig, I was able to take the dogs out into the back yard with only the slightest bit of difficulty.  I’m so close to back to normal, I wish I’d had the shot sooner.  But I know that this is not a solution, that using cortisone is a quick fix that comes with a cost.  So I’m committed to continuing with the physical therapy exercises, building on them gradually over the rest of the year with hopes that by the year’s end I’ll be back to exercising fully. 

Shira's gifts.
One is on back order.
Any day now.
Fully but with limitations.   In the coming weeks, I’ll describe some of the modifications I’ll be making to keep up with the exercise regimen I had been doing which was helping me to lose weight.  Fingers crossed, I can get back on track and back to losing weight.  I won’t lie:  I worry that by holding myself back I won’t see any results.  But I’d rather hold myself back than be in pain.  The pressure to lose weight is increased, of course, because less weight means less stress on my joints and I must limit the stress on my joints whatever else I can do. 

I did not gain or lose weight this week.

Our first pizza choice
was super crowded
so we were looking for
an alternate pizza place.
You would think that my being pain free would be the highlight of the week but it wasn’t.  Nope.  I wrote all about what made my week extra special in this blog post.   And we had a great time.  Afterwards, she said something about how nice it was to be able to talk, something we are unable to do when we all get together.  I have been feeling I need more one-on-one time with my children and what Shira said confirmed what I’ve been sensing.  My children and I need time together, to just be the two of us. It gets harder as they get older, however.  Joe and I have been talking about the two of us going out for lunch or something as soon as my knee is better. Not quite there yet but I’m getting there.  So any day now, me and my son will have some time with just the two of us. 

It’s hard to believe that one week from today I’ll be writing my end of month post.  How is it possible that August is almost behind us?  The rest of this week promises to be good.  I’ll do my prescribed exercises.  I’ll read and write and plan. 

By the end of the week I’ll be free to walk on my own two feet.  Oh boy!

Oh boy!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Weekly Quotes Part 29

May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.  (134)

Ideally, we want to get all three components of metta practice working together:  words, feelings, and images.  (145)

At some point, the phrases will become empty or robotic.  Any object of attention is like that:  it loses its charge after sufficient repetition.  That doesn’t necessarily mean the words should be changed.  Instead, stay close to the wishing side of the practice rather than the feeling side.  Your core motivation is the energetic center of the practice.  Remind yourself why you’re meditating:  to be happy and free from suffering.  (146)

Be patient.  It’s not uncommon to spend the first 2 to 3 years of metta practice just learning to love yourself.  (149)

Love is a double-edged sword; it cuts away the pain in the present, but it also slices into the pain of the past!  (150)

Misquoting Jesus by Bart D Ehrman

To be sure, of all the hundreds of thousands of textual changes found among our manuscripts, most of them are completely insignificant, immaterial, of no real importance for anything other than showing that scribes could not spell or keep focused any better than the rest of us.  It would be wrong, however, to say—as people sometimes do—that the changes in our text have no real bearing on what the text mean or on the theological conclusion that one draws from them.  (207-208)

If texts could speak for themselves, then everyone honestly and openly reading a text would agree on what the text says.  But interpretations of texts abound, and people in fact do not agree on what the texts mean.  (216)

Letting people in is largely a matter of not expending the energy to keep them out.

Effortless posture is not holding my body in position, but being in position where I am not holding.

No one thing
is more profound
than anything else

and counting every sound
and seeing every stone
and letting in the wind
               and not having to be somebody

[T]he anti-Semitism that build the Nazi death camps was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity.  (42) 

Auschwitz, the Soviet gulags, and the killing fields of Cambodia are not examples of what happens to people when they become too reasonable.  To the contrary, these horrors testify to the dangers of political and racial dogmatism. . . .  The problem with religion—as with Nazism, Stalinism, or any other totalitarian mythology—is the problem of dogma itself.  I know of no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too desirous of evidence in support of their core beliefs.  (42-43)

Even if atheism led straight to moral chaos, this would not suggest that the doctrine of Christianity is true.  (46)

Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious. In fact, “atheism is a term that should not even exist.  No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist.”  (51)

Once you stop swaddling the reality of the world’s suffering in religious fantasies, you will feel in your bones just how precious life is—and indeed, how unfortunate it is that millions of human beings suffer the most harrowing abridgements of their happiness for no good reason at all.  (54)

The Art of Storytelling by John D Walsh

If you aren’t willing to tell stories poorly, you won’t tell them at all.  (139)

You have too much to offer to allow the attention of your audience to wander from what you are saying.  (154)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Happy 32nd to My Daughter

Somewhere along the way, my little girl, who used to love her birthday, turned into a woman who doesn’t.  I could go into the reasons I think she feels this way but the truth is it’s all conjecture.  If she has found a way to put her ambivalence into words, she has never expressed them to me.

That doesn’t change how I feel about her birthday, that for me this is a special, even a precious, day.  I haven’t said anything to her about my knee.  I don’t mean I haven’t told her what I found out yesterday.  I mean:  I haven’t told her anything.  I figured this Saturday she would come over with everyone else and we would all celebrate her birthday.  I’d tell her what’s going one and, by then, I’d even have more answers.

But then her brother couldn’t be here.  He went to a wedding last weekend and can’t take two weekend days off at his job.  Not back-to-back anyway. 

Then Rob got offered a gig to work at a venue he’s been itching to do.  And with MRI bills and such, he couldn’t really afford to turn down a gig. 

We figured we’d ask Matt if he could help out and we’d pay for his gas.  But Matt’s a teacher and, anyone who teaches knows, weekends are not free time.  He has papers to grade and such.

Which left us with Erin generously offering to drop Joe off at work and pick Shira up, bring her here, and then, when it was time to pick Joe up from work, they would take Shira home. 

Only Shira is super busy, getting ready for the end of con season, working on commissions, and she can’t really afford to spend all day Saturday here.  She was hoping to drop by for a few hours, have some pizza, some cake, open gifts, give kisses and hugs goodbye and be done with it.  Remember, she doesn’t like her birthday, so celebrating it is an arduous task.

I feel like I’ve been fighting so much lately.  I was fighting to get a job at the doctor’s office and now I’m back to fighting to find a job.  I’ve been in pain and fighting my way through weeks of physical therapy.  I’ve been fighting to not surrender to despair and seek ways that I can empower myself. 

And now I have to fight to get my loved ones together so we can share a celebration together?  Sheesh! 

Ahhhhh . . . but I shall not be defeated.  No way!  Rob and I threw our hands up in the air and surrendered.  I wrapped gifts while he made the batter.  He went out to run some quick errands while I made pudding and took a shower.   I dressed and we put the cake together. 

Nothing is going to stop me from showing someone I love how much I love them.  Nothing!  Not even the rain!!!

We packed up the things—gifts and cake—and we headed off to see my one and only darling daughter.  And yes, yes, yes, I am supposed to be taking it easy and not walking around outside the house because the ground is uneven and all but it wasn’t looking like Saturday was going to happen and, even if it did and could, it looked like I would have to go out anyway.  At least this way Rob would be with me to keep me from being too careless. 

We first took her to Mellow Mushroom but they are having a special and it was super crowded and noisy.  The wait to be seated was an hour.  There was just no way we were going to wait that long, not with my knee being painful and all.  So we headed to Blue Moon pizza.  What a brilliant idea.  Less noisy.  Less crowded.  And equally yummy.  Shira opened her gifts there and I had my first mojito.  It was good.  Sweet.  I can see why it’s so popular. 

After we ate an entire large pizza between the three of us, we headed back to Shira’s.  We left most of the cake with her, taking out a single slice. But it was a really big slice.  There won’t be any pictures of the cake, however, because it was a mess.  Easily the worst looking cake Rob and I have ever made.  But to be honest, I tasted it as I went along.  The butter pecan with apricot cake itself was delicious.  The flavor of the two fillings (vanilla pudding and apricot preserves) were delicious.  And then the vanilla frosting was delicious.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to make the apricot roses I had hoped to make, using dried apricots.  Oh well.  Even perfectly pretty apricot roses would not have made this cake look like anything but a mess. 
Messy it may have been but it is delicious.  Downright decadent. 

All in all, given how impromptu the whole evening was and how we had to shift gears from one place to another, we had a really good time with lots of laughter and love and even a few hugs.  Thirty-two amazing years.  I didn’t expect that she would continue to dazzle me as much as she did the first time the nurses put her into my arms.   

Someday I'll try to make sense of that.

In the meantime, I'll just let myself be dazzled.