Friday, May 28, 2010


1.) I am thinking about sneaking out to see Sex and The City sometime this weekend. I haven't heard great things about it, but I have not been to a movie in a long time and for some reason, it appeals to me to go see the fashions and fantasy the movie is sure to have. Escapism to the ninth degree...without violence and special effects (unless you count botox).

2.) Hey, Blogger spellcheck doesn't recognise botox!

3.) Ally worked her first two events for the catering company last weekend both of them were weddings. She both enjoyed and was exhausted by it. She came home and said she now understood why we acted the way we did after working all day! It sounds like she did very well, the owner said she was a natural when it came to serving. She is very cute in her tux shirt and bow tie, and very proud of having her first job.

4.) The kids here have a 5 day weekend due to the school furlough days (because of school budget cuts.) It must be very difficult for working families of small kids to deal with all these added days off from school. The "trickle down effect" of economics always seems to be negative - not positive the way it was always presented by those who promoted it.

5.) Those weather prognosticators are wrong again about the forecast today, it is once again cool and cloudy. How much money do these people make for so rarely being right? Come to think of it, how many people do we see every day who are not very good at their jobs? Sullen, slow, sloppy, incompetent at their jobs? I run into a lot of them. Yet they get hired and I can't.
Well, I now have 3 days off from job hunting and I plan to enjoy them. Hope you all do, too!

Thursday, May 27, 2010


A new study show AT&T was really on to something with their old 'Reach out and touch someone" ad campaign. A new study shows that simply talking to mom reduces stress levels for most kids, particularly for pre-teen girls.

Apparently women are all wired to produce the 'feel good' brain chemical oxytocin when we see babies, enjoy orgasm, breastfeed and go through labor. It is considered to play a key roll in bonding and in preparing a woman's brain for motherhood. This also gives us the "innate" knowledge of how to soothe children, and through soothing them from infancy, a reaction is created which can be triggered by our voice alone.

When put in a stressful situation and then allowed to interact with their mother on the phone or in person; the study showed the girl's stress hormone cortisol immediately decreased and then disappeared in 1/2 hour and oxytocin increased and lasted for an hour. In the girls who had no interaction with mom, there was no oxytocin released at all and the cortisol levels remained elevated for the duration of the test.

While the test was done with pre-teen girls, there is no reason to think that the results are not similarly helpful for kids of all ages. For instance, the study suggests that physical contact isn't necessary to comfort stressed-out teenagers who no longer welcome hugs from Mom as much as they used to. Just talking with your teens may have an effect on reducing the stress response, no matter how negatively they may react on the outside!

My college age kids call me all the time when they want to vent. They call me all the time about a lot of things. My sister is amazed how much they call, sometimes several times a day. She is certain her son will never call her.

The study suggests that our ability to cope with stress may be shaped by very early interactions with our mothers. From early infancy, the mother child relationship may help to strengthen and promote the development of the oxytocin system, which may have effects into later childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood on how we respond to stress. So if you have had a child who was difficult to sooth, for whatever reason, perhaps that bond would not be so well defined and the relationship not be helpful with stress.

This certainly makes me feel better in some respects. It doesn't suggest that you have to be saying the "right things" to have a positive effect. Certainly I have been known to say the wrong thing when I was trying to be helpful...that my motherly tone, love and affection may be enough to trigger the brain chemicals to save the day takes a lot of the heat off on my end of the stress level!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


This year California is experiencing an El Nino weather pattern. This means the ocean water in the southern part of the state is warmer which causes the jet stream to drop south from it's usual haunts up around Oregon and Washington state, down to the San Francisco Bay Area. So we have been having a very cool and rainy spring. By late May were are normally well into the high 70 - low 80 degree days; wearing our flip flops and capris and enjoying our patio time before the heat of the summer days sets in.

Instead, we are having rain, rain, wind, clouds and 60 degree temperatures. I dispare for having any tomatoes this year but I know we need the rain because we have had several seasons of drought. But today - the weather made it personal, and I am really unhappy.

I have my mosaic craft area set up on a outdoor deck. During a short period of milder weather, I untarped part of the work bench so I could grout a pot I finished at the end of the fall. I wanted to plant it because I had already bought the special kind of lavender I like and that's what I wanted to plant in the pot.

So the pot was grouted and sealed and I was just giving it a few days to cure before planting it. The wind must have whipped up the tarp and knocked it off the bench -

To get all those half marbles to set in place on the rounded pot took so much time. It is hard to see in the photo (because it is so darned cloudy) but the marbles are all iridescent and the glass tile is purple with metallic streaks, so it is a very fanciful look, different from anything I have made before.

So, it's feeling very personal, this El Nino.

Monday, May 24, 2010


I am a TV watcher. I am somewhat discriminating, I don't like nastiness, violence or a lot of beeped out swearing. (I will not say negative things about shows I would never watch because I frequently see them on lists of "guilty pleasures" of bloggers I otherwise admire!)

I will say that the top viewed shows are not generally the ones I am watching. I tend to gravitate to the odd or quirky like the short lived Pushing Daisies or Eli Stone. I also like good writing and over the top story lines which is what drew me to Glee, Lost, Gray's Anatomy and House. Good writing plus style like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. I am not much for reality shows with the exception of Project Runway, Top Chef and my favorite, So You Think You Can Dance.

House has lost it's mojo, I still like Gray's, but it, too is losing it's impact. Still loving the AMC dramas and the reality shows - and last night was the last Lost.

I camped out in my room and watched the 2 hour recap and then the 2.5 hour finale, completely enthralled. I think because this show was, from the very beginning, not like anything else ever done on TV. It was strange, full of odd occurrences, some explained seasons down the line, some never explained. And that's okay! Because it was all there to keep the viewers intrigued. To keep the viewers tuned in to see what pieces fit together and what were just stuff that happened that didn't really have meaning. Like life.

And, like life, in the end the viewers were most attached to the people and their relationships over the years. The symbols, the codes, the secrets - not so important. The people. What they went through together, the bonds they formed, the transformations they made were what mattered and what survived. So I had some teary moments during the finale and some trouble falling to sleep pondering if I liked the way it was ended. Which means right to the end of Lost, they did a great job of delivering great TV. I hope it is not the last time it is done.

Friday, May 21, 2010


1.) A general observation I have for businesses: You need to hire more people. The amount of bad will and negativity that is building up in your customer base is becoming insurmountable. Loosen up those payrolls and put enough people out there to reduce waiting times in line, on hold and for returned calls and paperwork.

It was really ridiculous to see one agent at the Delta counter trying to juggle seat assignments for a dozen standby passengers, announcements, scanning boarding passes for passengers being loaded onto the plane by zones while determining if their luggage would fit the extra small overhead compartments and tagging the over sized ones to be checked. She was frazzled, the customers were irritated and the whole boarding process took over 45 minutes for a small plane.

IT'S TIME TO START HIRING! The financial problems do not lie in the number of employees you have actually serving your customers.

2.) Speaking of jobs. All 3 of my children have become employed. My 16 year old will be earning $10.00 an hour which is what many of the jobs I have been applying for are offering - it is so sad. I am still buying lottery tickets.

3.) We hired a pet sitter for our 13 year old, somewhat blind and deaf, 7 pound mini-dachshund, Hilda, during our recent 4 day trip. We told the neighbors. Apparently, one of them called the police to complain that the dog was barking, in the house, at 11 pm on Monday night. We came home to a citation. Fortunately a "Courtesy Citation."

4.) We have discovered that our youngest daughter (a high school junior) is a lot more up in the air about her college preferences than we thought. She has been firm in her desire to attend a small to medium school in a moderately sized town. She wants a relationship with her professors and the feel of a campus community. However, she, fell in love with Philadelphia this week.

Penn is out of the question..but what about Drexel? Maggie's boyfriend just graduated from there and took her on a tour, she liked the campus, she has the admission requirements...and her big sister will be living in Philly for the time being...but once we were home we took the time to look at the Drexel website, and it is not a good fit academically. Ally doesn't really know what she wants to study and Drexel is designed for kids who are very focused going in.

So, how do we go about continuing to expose Ally to a variety of colleges that will keep her excited and help her find her direction? Any suggestions?

5.) We are a family of bike riders. My husband and two older kids ride a great deal, including on city streets. We frequently debate on the ins and outs of safe riding. Maggie rides her bike down the middle of the street to avoid car doors being opened. After reading about this fatal accident, I think she has the right idea.

On a city street in Oakland, a bike rider was knocked into/under a city bus when a woman opened her car door into him. He was killed. She continued on to her hair appointment. Yes, it was an "accident." It aways seems that the victims in these accidents are the dead and maimed bike riders who are following the rules and the people who cause the accidents are the hurried, careless ones wielding tons of steel.

As the weather improves and schools let out, please take the extra moment of time too look around you, check your mirrors and make sure that there is not a person on a bike in your path.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


We made it back from Philadelphia, we are tired and jet lagged, but proud of our girl for graduating and handling the family visit with such grace. My parents came from Palm Desert, Ally came along, only Zac missed out because he is still dealing with finals this week.

We walked and walked and ate and attended two graduation ceremonies. We met many of Maggie's friends and saw some of her hang outs and her tiny new studio apartment. All in two days time!

Friday, May 14, 2010


I have been reading and hearing about the new Geneen Roth book which Oprah and others are so excited about; Women Food and God. I have read Roth's books in the past and this seems to be a rehash of her themes, which resonates with some women, but not me. I am not a self loathing fat person.

When I was a slimmer, young woman I wished my thighs were not so big, but it didn't stop me from putting on a bikini and going to the beach. I have never been a skinny girl, at my lowest weight I was 130 pounds on 5'5". A solid, but hourglass shaped body. These days they would say I had "junk in my trunk" - and there have always been fans of that look. It didn't start with JLo.

So if you caught the Oprah show and heard them talking about how we have to be kind to ourselves and not shame ourselves - I agree. It's just that not all of us have that problem. No matter how obese I have gotten, I do not hate myself. Roth says:

"We somehow believe that if we hate ourselves enough, if we shame ourselves enough, we'll end up thin, happy, peaceful people. Somehow if I torture myself enough, I'll end up feeling great about myself and about my life, as if hatred leads to love and torture leads to contentment."

I just don't get that and I feel so sorry for people who do feel that way. Having food be the thing you turn to for comfort, for solice, for nurturing or whatever the reason a person turns to food rather than the other more (or less) healthy things out there when stressed and unhappy; then feeling self-hatred for it must be such a miserable way to live.

Since the focus on obesity started up last year, I have felt much more self conscious of my weight. I am much more aware of how judged I am for it. So apparently, the hatred comes from both sides.

I am glad that the book is helping some women find space for themselves in their lives. I hope it helps them be kind to themselves and to others. I hope they, like Oprah, find their answers in Roth's words. I know my food issues are not about self hatred, nor are they about spirituality or God.

I know I avoid feeling emotions by eating, I know where they come from and what triggers them. Knowing doesn't change anything. That is the frustration I have with these books. I spent years thinking if I could figure it all out it would be resolved - but it didn't resolve. The only thing that resolves it is the hard work of diet and exercise or healthy lifestyle or whatever you want to call it. Like a drug or alcohol addict, I will always have the urge, the overwhelming desire to eat the "wrong" things, to overeat when I don't like what I am feeling, to treat myself with food, to nibble all day.
That's what I know for sure.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


A couple of weeks ago there was a segment on 60 Minutes about Swedish Snus which is a smokeless tobacco product. It kind of looks like a tiny tea bag that the tobacco user tucks up between the gum and cheek. It doesn't cause all that spitting that chewing tobacco does, it doesn't smell and it is really undetectable that a person has the tobacco in their mouth.

It has been used in Sweden for many years and has proven to be significantly safer than smoking and is currently being marketed as a tool to stop smoking. Because some of the people in the US that 60 Minutes interviewed are using Snus and still smoking, there has been some criticism of the story.

Doctors at the American Council of Science and Health say “They accurately described the facts about smokeless tobacco as a harm reduction method: that it’s a substance that addicted smokers can use to get nicotine without inhaling the deadly products of combustion in cigarette smoke,” says ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “Dr. Karl Fagerstrom appeared on the segment describing the Swedish experience with snus. Swedish men in particular have switched from smoking to snus with resultant dramatic declines in smoking-related disease.”

Dr. Ross continues, “Unfortunately, the makers of snus are prevented by law in the U.S. from telling addicted smokers about the benefits of the product in helping them to quit; therefore, tobacco companies making smokeless tobacco have to market it as a dual-use product -- e.g., by highlighting the ability of smokers to use smokeless tobacco when they cannot smoke, such as in airplanes or meetings. We, however, are not bound by that proscription.” (Emphasis mine.)

All I know is that my husband has been a heavy smoker since he was 13 years old (he is 57 now). He smokes imported tobacco which he rolls into unfiltered cigarettes. His mother, a smoker, died of esophageal cancer when she was the age he is now. I have seen him try to quit 4 or 5 times.

Within days of receiving his first order of Swedish Snus, he is not smoking. HE IS NOT SMOKING. He is still a nicotine addict, but it appears that it is the delivery system that has always been the most dangerous aspect of the habit. And while he has never smoked in the house, it is definitely the most obnoxious part of smoking for me. The smell on his clothes, etc. is something I have never gotten accustomed to.

I am so glad we were watching 60 Minutes that night, I think it may make a real difference in my husband's health and longevity. I hope many more people try the product, which is easily purchased from Sweden (the American versions are, as usual, not of the same quality and variety.) He is enjoying trying the different "flavors" and styles and getting to know the variety of smokeless tobacco products which are available.

Friday, May 7, 2010


1.) Went to get the canvas umbrella and lounge chair out of storage just in time to hear the news that it is going to rain AGAIN on Sunday. Geez. If I hear one word about drought this summer I am going to scream.

2.) On the other hand it smells like heaven in my backyard, the early blooming jasmine is going crazy and the lemon tree is blossoming. The wisteria has faded, but the later blooming star jasmine is getting ready to pop in a couple of weeks.

3.) We are signing our last lease on this house. I will really miss the little back yard. It is the perfect size and setting. However, I will not miss the trains going by day and night.

4. ) Tom and I need to get focused on where we are going to move next summer. We had always talked about the beach, but it is unrealistic at this time both for work and financial reasons. I have refused to move to a nearby town he likes (I don't see the charm.) So we need to start visiting other towns and find an area we both like. Personally, I like the town we live in now...the only thing missing is water. I miss living by water.

5.) My sister came over and I tried on clothes I have been amassing for our trip to Philadelphia. Some are new and some are old things I fit into again. She helped me decide on outfits and has ordered me to go to her house to get accessories. Apparently she has a lot of them and I (a) need them and (b) am woefully lacking.

6.) The 10 day forecast for Philadelphia features thurderstorms. In the 260 year history of the school the graduation ceremony has never had to be moved from the outdoor venue due to weather. Here's hoping this is NOT the history making year...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I hosted book club last week. Which required me to clean my house with more attention to detail than usual. I mean, it just gets dirty again, right?

So I hauled in the step stool, climbed up and cleaned the glass shelves, washed some of the windows and went after all the cob webs - what is it about Spring and spiders? No sooner do I knock down the webs than more are spun...

I stopped at a farm stand on the way home from Montery and bought a flat of strawberries, so I made chocolate dipped strawberries to serve. The berries were huge! I piled them on a cake stand - they looked amazing! I ate one. I had more than enough to serve each member a Strawberry Bellini when they arrived.

I also made asparagus with thinly sliced ham rolled around them, and roasted for about 15 minutes. Very tasty and low cal. I had some hummus with pita chips and veggies and little pumpernickel bread pieces with dilled cream cheese and a slice of smoked salmon.

The food was a hit - the book, not so much. I had chosen "The Little Giant of Aberdeen County" because the writing had been compared with that of Alice Hoffman, one of my favorite writers. The book was okay. Next time I will pick a book I have read, like "Little Bee" which was very touching and sad.

This month we are reading "Look Again" by a Penn grad who teaches at the Law School. Appropriate for my trip there!

Monday, May 3, 2010


Growing up, my occasional trips from the suburbs to the City were the occasions when I came into contact with those folks my parents called bums. Now we would call them homeless and understand that many of them suffer from addictions and mental illness. I just knew that many of them talked to people who were not there and I was told to ignore them and what they said.

So the fact that everywhere I go now, there are people talking to no one there is very disconcerting to me.

Today I saw people talking to no one on the treadmill at the gym, in the grocery store, in an elevator and in the car behind me. In fact, the woman in the car behind me was having one of the most animated conversations I have ever seen. She was gesturing with both hands, waving them through the air, pointing at things. Her head was nodding emphatically. She was shrugging her shoulders and her face was a concert of emotions.

I am not sure I will ever get used to this.