Sunday, July 29, 2012

What's Right in the World: Bucket Lists

The Olympics are here! It is so inspiring to witness a global pursuit of personal and team glory. On a broad scale, I know intellectuals pshaw athletics as simplistic, but I think that is selling the unifying spirit of the games short. On a personal level, as a weekend warrior, I'm in awe of these athletes, most of them everyday people, in pursuit of the ultimate entry on a bucket list: competing at the Olympic Games.

I love hearing about others bucket lists. It means people have dreams, goals, an eye on the prize, a vision towards the future, something to look forward to. And I'm not talking exclusively of athletic endeavors. Dave and our friend Larry have a goal to prepare and serve the seven classic sauces as defined by French cooking schools (I don't think nacho cheese sauce is on that list). The girls want to take a cruise together to celebrate Denise's 40th birthday. 

In a nod towards my usual "typing out loud," it might be time to add some things to my bucket list.

I still want to be an extra in a movie. No lines, just a face in the crowd.

Get down to a size 10. I did buy two pairs of size 12 pants yesterday, so it's not too far off.

I'd like to learn to shoot a gun. I'm typing this as an American is accepting her gold in skeet shooting. I have no political reason for it, I think it's an amazing skill and I respect hunters who know how to shoot to kill with minimum pain to the animal, without ruining the meat.

I haven't tried one in a while, but I want to do a cartwheel. Why? Gymnastics commercial.

I want to go to NYC for a long weekend. LA too, if only to get on the Price Is Right.

I'd like to go to Europe and hit a few countries: Poland, France, Italy, Russia.

I'd like to attend an Olympics as a volunteer, just to be in the atmosphere.

Ooo, write a book. I did when I was a kid, and still have the draft with illustrations, Patty and her friends. It's childish at best but it's cool to know I have written one. Actually, I've written two, the other did not survive; it was in an orange notebook and was about two farm kids, Anna and her brother ...? who found a secret cave on the edge of their field, a gateway to fantasy-like adventures.

And for some reason, I think an episode of Curious George, I want to throw a clay pot.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Typing Out Loud pt.2:"You're Not Plus-Size Anymore"

I can't believe it. After years of dieting, beating myself up, trying most anything that might work, "it's" finally working.

I have lost 20 pounds.

How'd I do it? Well, I think it first started with "the diagnosis." My previous sugar number was 6.6, or in the range of a pre-diabetic. I was confident that after having eliminated french fries and sugared soda and theater boxes of sweets that it would easily be under control. I also had a variety of activity to "prove" to my doctor I was working on it: skating, running 5ks, swimming.

Then the number came back: 8.0: diabetic.

I got mad. WTF else was I supposed to do!?

Then I laid down the law and took a frank look at what I had been doing. All too often I would rely on a quick McD's stop for lunch, a bag of "healthy" chips for dinner, dismissing it as "only 37 carbs," not thinking of the empty calories. Even then, I slipped on the carb counting a few times, lapsing into bad habits for a day or two, then a week, then a month.

I also looked at my activity at the Y. I went to a class here and there, did a little bit on the treadmill, swam for fun. I certainly wasn't getting my money's worth.

It was time for change. It was time for a real challenge.

First thing to do was eliminate fast food and replace it with GOOD food. Ok, I concede to the occasional Subway and Taco Bell, but it's been a looooooong time since I've made McD's, BK and Wendy's routine. Carrots instead of candy. I also learned how to make kale chips.

I also altered the diet so there were more vegetables consumed. This meant more casserole type dishes where the meat was part of but not the main focus of the meal. More salads. Less pasta, bread, carbs.

Snacking changed too. I would stick a yogurt in the freezer for a frozen dessert - Yoplait Whips are awesome this way. Being a salty snacker, I went the nuts and kale chips route. Also veggies and dip.

And then there was Biggest Loser contest at work for motivational help.

Workout-wise, the March Madness challenge was a godsend. I found new exercises I like, new classes I like, new challenges that keep me from being bored, and a new confidence in myself as an athlete. I remember the first time I climbed on the scale, thinking "what the hell" and was stunned to see 3 pounds gone. That joy columnated in the number I saw today.

And thank God for the recall on my old iPod so I could trade it in and rock the latest generation nano that clips on my clothes and holds 12 times the content and 12 times the charge.

My friend Dan paid me one of the sweetest compliments: "I like how you're doing this. All this time you have talked about working out and eating habits. Not once have you mentioned a pill, a shake or a fad diet." It's a comfort to know I did it the right way as opposed to giving myself a complex or fell into disordered eating.

Some skating coaches who haven't seen me in a year exclaimed this weekend at my new look. I bashfully said something about the challenge of shopping and worrying about clothes that fit and flatter as opposed to being covered. They ackowledged the challenge as I plucked self-consciously at my clothes, saying bluntly "you're not plus-size anymore."

To some, 20 pounds may not seem like a big deal. But I've been fighting to lose weight since I sprouted a tumor on my thyroid when I was 23. As a matter of fact, this is the first time I've lost ANY significant weight since college in 1990. I'm also fighting against the forces of PCOS, diabetes and my heritage, so this little victory is a big deal.

Next goal is to lose 9 more pounds by my birthday, September 15. That's 6+ weeks, not sure I can do it without some drastic changes. I still want to do this the healthy way, and that is more important than mere pounds shed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Typing Out Loud: Creativity at Work

Quoting Sheila E from the highly underrated Romance 1600:
"I... I need my jewels, my diamonds and things... lawd!"

So I have various deadlines on the horizon and it's time to get some things in gear.

First, ArtPrize deadline is looming and the gallery we are in has set their deadline for September 9 so we can get ready and have an artists' reception. For me, that means getting the last 104 pieces done. The creative well was empty and I have been looking at those cards with hate in my heart.

Looking to be productive, I hastily made a crib sheet for judging skating under IJS, and had extra cards left over from it. Hating to waste them, I began doodling, with the idea of creating my own dancer icon. Well, they were fun, fantastic really, and I began to work on stylizing the image to make it truly uniquely my own. This fit of creativity followed me to Novi for a skating competition and I drew a total of 32 while keeping up with the Tigers game and watching a documentary on Ozzy Osborne.


For the last 60-something, I am recreating a set of Loteria cards, a Mexican bingo game. Since there are only 54 bingo cards, I have 14 cards left to go. My inspiration? Will went into my makeup case and destroyed my Ulta set by poking fingers in pots and ruining the shadows and lipgloss. Some were salvagable, but for what? Inspired by sand arts and the use of "paint" on ladies, I plan to grind up what is left and use the shadows as pigments for a small series I plan to call "The Feminine Mystique." I'm hoping the colors will stick by using spray-on glue as a base and a clear coat on top.

Art, hell people!

For the art show slated for October in Spring Arbor, organizers were insistent that we have booths with wares for sale, but it had to be work from the specific categories. I submitted work under paintings and jewelry/crafts. I worked a mandatory overnight shift last week in the middle of the heat wave, and kept awake making necklaces, above. I got into a serious groove and with the last of my wire, produced 25 necklaces. I will sell them along with note cards I've imagined as the "Tiny Art Series," a mere extension of The Book of Geno, but a smaller scale, "greatest hits" version. I'm also producing some canvases and will have the Pine Rest paintings for sale and feature Liquid Gold in my booth.

Then there is skating. Michelle and I have been revamping my "Song of India" silver free skate, to take out things that don't work and retool things that do. The footwork is clunky, and spirals are my go-to, so the footwork was scrapped for the long, lean, lovely and challenging lines of my sequence. It's challenging since I have to hold two different positions on one long edge.

Ah, Kurt. A clown with the perfect blend of charm and pathos.

And then there's my new interpretive free skate, which is "Smile" as sung by Nat King Cole, kind of in tribute to my dad. It's a signature piece for Charlie Chaplin, so a melancholy clown figure is in order. Michelle doesn't like clowns, and with the piece in our hearts being an artistic/dramatic, don't want to go the pie-in-your-face route.

This led to Kurt Browning. His clown number from a few years ago is probably the single most spectacular exhibition free skates I have ever seen. I am hoping to take his look and the characterization and translate it into my own sad clown that finds that sunshine at the end after all.

Finally, it was time to re imagine the boy's bedroom. He's been jumping into our bed waaaay too much, and it maybe he was ready for a big boy bed. Easy enough, we had a twin in storage. Out went his Lightening McQueen toddler bed and the baby bedding. A quick vacuum and a few rearrangements, and the twin was up. In an effort to make his room HIS and reclaim parts of our house, I cleaned out then moved his toy box up to his room, placing it at the foot of his bed. Next up went the Doug Fister Detroit Tigers growth chart.

He loved it. He climbed into bed and pretended to snore. He jumped up and down on the mattress, and gazed in awe at the baseball poster. It's cozy and cute, and for now, clean.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Why Art Matters: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Earlier this week, I snarked on facebook that I discovered the worst workout song ever while circling the track at the Y, that being Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

The song is as much a Michigan birthright as an appetite for coney dogs and Mackinac Island fudge. It's as much a part of our Great Lakes culture as a Detroit Tigers baseball hat and as common as a Ted Nugent story (everyone has one). And while pregnant, I can admit to some high hormones as I bawled my way through listening to the song on the radio, contemplating the 29 lost souls.

The facts are the Edmund Fitzgerald was a freighter ship that sank in Lake Superior November 10, 1975. Lightfoot, a Canadian folk artist, penned the song based on a Newsweek article on the disaster titled "The Cruelest Month." By his admission, he had writer's block until a friend told him to "just tell the story." The song reached #2 on the US singles chart in November 1976, a year after the accident.

But why has it endured? For one, it's a great piece of storytelling. Also, Lightfoot was popular act in the 70s and still is a staple on light rock stations. I also think it is a story that binds people together, a modern day disaster they remembered with wistful sadness. Finally, it's a great song.

The Great Ship inspires more than just song...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July Playlist: In the Backseat, Making out to Q106

Most Jacksonians would recognize this as a romantic destination at Ella Sharp Park. While not an in-the-backseat illustration, I love this rotunda, it looks like a mushroom.

One of my favorite authors is the master of the short story, O Henry. He would tell delightful stories of Manhattanites in search of love, man about towns and shop girls alike. His turn-of-the-century Carrie Bradshaws would entertain suitors not in her parents' home but "her parlor was the front steps, and her garden walk was Central Park."

Growing up a modern gal, my parlor was the car, either mine or my boyfriend's. We would drive with the windows down, the local rock station on loud, the night going on forever, which is of course impossible given my midnight (at 16) then 1am (at 17) curfew. Kissing was a favorite past time when I was lucky enough to have an enthusiastic partner.

Here's some "commerical-free, non-stop rock!" as I remember those nights parking at Grass/Pleasant/Vandercook Lake, the Jackson/Bel-Air Drive In, Ella Sharp Park, Cascades Falls or cruising the Ave. Yes, yet another trip back in time specifically to the 80s, but instead of the break up (February angst), maybe why we were there in the first place.

The Scorpions, "Still Loving You" - a musical and lyrical tour de force. Had an ex dedicated this song to me at any point in time post-breakup, I would have turned into a puddle and reconciled immediately, justlikethat. To make my lyrical point, I quote: "I'll fight babe, I'll fight, to win back your love again, I will be there... If we'd go again, all the way from the start I would try to change the things that killed our love. Your pride has built a wall, so strong that I can't get through. Is there really no chance to start once again, I'm loving you."

Stevie Nicks and Don Henley, "Leather and Lace" - Yes, it returns to the blog a year later. I quote, again: "you in the moonlight, with your sleepy eyes, how could you ever love a man like me?" With the slightest of Mona Lisa smiles, I recall with startling clarity experiencing a moment similar, a silvery night at the drive-in not watching "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and a sweet conversation that shall remain between him and I.

38 Special, "Fantasy Girl" - heard this one on our way back home from a birthday party last month which actually triggered this whole topic. This song makes me think of the County Fair, flirting with boys, and then getting all sorts of squirmy embarrassed if they responded positively. At 14, I wanted to be someone's Fantasy Girl while I managed my boy crush fantasies, but reality was a little too much to handle.

Honeydrippers, "Sea of Love" - documented in one of the Little Twin Stars diaries, flirting with boys at the school dance, yet no one daring to make a move.

The Temptations, "My Girl" - not rock, but MUST be included. It involves heading to the grocery store, and my boyfriend pulling over into the median to kiss me just because this song was on the radio. Take my breath away. I hope every girl has at least one random romantic moment like this happen in her life.

Allman Brothers Band, "Melissa" - a namesake song, so of course it has been associated with me time and again. Leading off a mixtape, closing out the DJ's show right before mine and sang to me sweetly if not slightly off key when played over the airwaves while "sitting" in the backseat.

Led Zeppelin, "Since I've Been Loving You" - What was it Damone said to Ratner about getting a girl in the mood? "Play side two of Led Zeppelin IV." Rat blows it with Physical Grafitti and "Kasmir." I think he would have been forgiven with some Zep3, this essential track appealing to both boys and girls. It's heavy, bluesy, melodic and has love in the title. Win.

Interesting to note, one boyfriend told me it wasn't ladylike for a girl to like Zep. Yes, it was one of the many reasons we broke up.

The Cars, "Moving in Stereo" - I was in a Cars/U2 kick in early '88 and this was in the tape deck. There's something so creepy/cool, ethereal about the song, hypnotic under a midnight sky or otherworldly during those deliciously tense, romantic will-he-or-won't-he-kiss-me moments. He did, oh yes he did.

Journey, "Feelin' That Way/Anytime" - Ah, Journey was the masters of the 2-for-1 classic rock song, and I would feel naked and incomplete hearing one without the other. This song takes me back, not to a car but a dorm room with too many beers and a guy I was willing to throw my heart at in hopes he'd hold on to it.

I'm not sure what to categorize him as, he was a romantic interest that was more than casual but  never reached full-on boyfriend status. He was significant enough that we officially broke up. I was important enough to garner a grand gesture from him in hopes of  reconciliation. He showed up at my 21st birthday party (uninvited), threw me over his shoulder cavemanlike, and carried me off to another apartment while shouting "I want to make love to you, let me show you!" I snuck out the door when he went to the bathroom to prepare his seduction. He is for sure one of the weaker links in the chain of romantic misadventures.

George Michael, "A Different Corner" - You're invited to your ex-boyfriend's graduation party and not sure what to say or what present to bring. Goofing off, you slide off the slippery bedspread while looking at photo albums and yearbooks, shared laughter turns into holding your breath, waiting and wondering. It doesn't take long for the reconciliation kiss to happen, change the course of your whole summer and make you remember in wonder at being sixteen, 26 years later.

Stevie Nicks, "Edge of Seventeen" - that would be summer 1986, which says it all, Mona Lisa smile back and intact. It's amazing really to remember being that girl/child managing affairs of the heart with a unique mix of confusing newness and maturity.

The Bangles, "Eternal Flame" - Cascades Falls Park. A date that started off bad, warmed up a little, then after a snowball fight and the best kiss ever, the evening is completely transformed. You climb in the cab of his truck to warm up, this song is on and he holds your hand for the first time.