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July 31, 2010

End-of-July check in

Over half the year has passed already and finally I'm making some progress. I'm glad I started the year with my two goals -- get healthy and get happy -- and decided to keep myself accountable with these monthly check-ins. I was not cheering the concept of public accountability back in April and May but things have evened out. So, here it is:

1) Goal: Get Healthy

With more time at home I no longer have to worry about cooking ahead for a whole workweek. It's AWESOME. Just eat what you want when you want. It took me a while to get into a rhythm with it, but now I am so there. If it's 8 a.m. and I just had a long walk and want chicken and rice for breakfast that's what I cook.

My physical fitness goal for July was the same as it has been all year -- walk every day for the whole month. In July I got close to my goal. I walked 21 days out of 31. And these weren't your quickie 15-minute strolls, on 19 days I walked over 3 miles each time.

Just a word here about my walk-every-day-in-a-month goal. Over the past few months as I have continued to make and re-make this goal (and continued to not meet it) I have gotten hundreds of comments and emails and suggestions from folks online. "Just shoot for three days out of every five." "Five days out of seven..." "Every other day." "Aim for 10,00 steps a day, and buy a pedometer!" "8,000 steps..." "5,000 steps!" "Take the stairs!" "Just park far away and walk and count that..." "Go for mileage not days!" "Speed not mileage..." "Instead of walking try yoga!" "...swimming." "... biking."

Now this stuff is always interesting and funny to me. I love trying to see what clicks with people or makes them tick. But sometimes I can be kind of slow on the uptake! So I didn't at first understand why so many strangers had an interest in modifying my personal goal. It took all this time for it to finally sink in. People look at goals differently and for some folks, watching me miss my goal month after month must be like Chinese water torture, slow and painful. They simply wanted to give me tips to help me move along already.

The whole purpose of goal-setting for many folks is to achieve it as quickly as possible, check it off and declare victory so they can move on to the next goal. That does make sense now that I think on it. Continual plodding failure must feel like, well, failure. And failure becomes a problem to solve. So it came out as, "Here, just do this and then you won't fail!"

It's very sensible. But my brain works differently. Sure, I have to-do lists of little items that need checking off quickly: go to the post office, buy milk and cat litter, drop off this bag of stuff at the goodwill, mop. But my personal goals are very different from to-do list items. They are my landmarks along a path, my hopes, my optimism for what I want to be like in the future. For me, the real success in a goal comes from working toward it each day. For example, one of my goals is to declutter my home. The success isn't achieved on the one day I wake up and look around and think, "There! I've done it! Check! Now what do I do next?" The achievement in my mind is spending ten minutes every day or so to declutter a drawer or sort through old paperwork. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Anyway, my goal of walking each day in a calendar month isn't a particularly difficult goal. It's not very physically demanding ("walk" is loosely defined, no set time or mileage) and it's certainly not financially unachievable. It's a good, do-able goal. The actual victory of knocking this goal off a list will pale in comparison to the days spent working toward it. Let's be honest, nothing dramatic is going to change in my life just because I walk 30 or 31 days in a row. The real success is derived from working toward it and getting incrementally better.

There is no way I would change the goal and dial it downward to meet me halfway. The whole point of my personal goal setting is to rise up and meet the challenge. Tomato, tomahto.

Don't get me wrong -- this isn't to say my way of looking at goals is better or worse than any other way. It's just different. Thank God we're all different, yes? My way would drive some people insane, but to my little brain it's simply another whole month stretching ahead of days that I can possibly achieve a goal. The goal is arbitrary. The exercise is the point. The only reason I am yammering on and on about this is that I think it's fascinating we're all so different! I personally love it. And if it weren't for my future husband Al inventing this innernets I would never have had you all share this with me. Thank goodness for Al.

So of course in August my ideal is to go on a walk each day in the month. One day I'll get there. See, it's like a mystery. Gives you something to look forward to!


2) Goal: Get Happy
Another vaguely defined goal, but you get the idea. And things are good. I've been able to spend time with my family and the cutest dog ever, it's great having them on the west coast and especially now when I can actually visit with them. The rest of the time is my own. I'm well-suited to being alone most of the days and I keep myself busy and industrious. My stress level now is so different I can't even explain it without adding in some effusively bad 1980s breakdancing.

I definitely miss the office environment, having friends and coworkers nearby. But I'm loving the work I'm doing and the change is good for me.

No matter what happens in the future, I want to keep this calm feeling of not always being in a rush. I have my moments of panic about money and finances but it passes. Everything will work out. Somehow. I truly believe this down in my cells.


- - -

So that was July. In August my goals are to walk (for the whole month!), write more (which will make me happier and keep me feeling productive), and cook a few new recipes. I want to try some new stir-fry meals and maybe make something with Indian spices. I am actually even starting August by inviting a friend over for dinner next Friday (I don't entertain much, so this is a nice little change for me.)

It seems to be working so far.

Posted by laurie at 6:36 PM

July 30, 2010

Breaking News: Cat Ladies Set to Take Over World, team coverage at eleven

1) Al Gore why haven't you called me?
I am waiting. I even started spending more time upstairs in my apartment because I get better phone reception there. Bob needs a new daddy. Get a move on. I'm not going to wait forever you know! (Totally lying. Will absolutely wait forever.)

2) Speaking of Blob Bob

I've had to cut off the Meow Mix because he's getting so... fluffy. Now he has this healthy holistic blahblahblah food and he hates it. Yesterday he chewed through half of my latest issue of Entertainment Weekly in what I believe was a well-planned retribution attack.

3) Oh-kay, here's the situation, my parents went away on a week's vacation...
(Song lyrics from when Will Smith was a rapper. Oh ye of youngness who do not remember the good old days.) So my folks may be staying in Orange County for a while, maybe even a month or two! Very exciting, because the OC is LA-adjacent and I can see them more regularly. My Dad is slowly improving and that's a relief, though he's not all the way better. I think it is very surprising how things work out. If I were still at the bank I would never get to spend time with them even though they're in my time zone and just a car ride away. But now I get to see them really frequently and we can have dinner together and just visit. Time isn't merely a luxury, it's the only luxury, isn't it? Time to breathe, time to just hang out with someone, time to do grand experiments with deodorant.

4) I ponder not just the navel but the underarms as well

You can't really experiment with deodorants when you're working full time. If you get a product dud you could find yourself five minutes before the afternoon staff meeting trying to de-stink with wet wipes or mask with perfume. Don't act like you don't know. So I have taken this opportunity -- this grand life change -- to do awesome things with my time like experiment with deodorants. Yeah, I know, because my life is about science, people. Practically a modern day Marie Curie. I plan to report on the Stink Mitigating Study of 2010 very soon in an essay so detailed it is sure to win me a Pulitzer.

5) The Summer of my Knitcontent
Summer knitting continues in full force, I'm now on the first of many hats. This one was originally planned for my Dad but even though I measured carefully and swatched it still may be too large -- I hadn't counted on the high cotton content of the yarn being so darn stretchy. I'm used to using wool which holds its shape so well. But all is not lost! My little brother Eric who has a ginormous Sputnik-style cranium loved the looks of this hat and so if it's too big I'll give it to Eric and use the other skein of yarn for another hat for Dad.

I'm using Noro Taiyo in color #5 (gorgeous, amazing) and unlike most Noro this yarn is very soft, probably thanks to the 40% cotton content and 30% silk. It's also 15% wool and 15% nylon. I almost always buy my Noro on sale but even at a discount this was a pricier skein (I don't remember what I paid, but I only ordered two skeins because of the price). But I was surprised what you get for the money -- a good size skein, 100 grams/200 meters and it's unbelievably gorgeous yarn! Each skein is more than plenty for a big, cushy hat. I think this yarn would also make an excellent bag (it feels durable) or mittens.

I'm making a 2x2 ribbed hat of my own creation. There's a nifty little trick for getting the brim to fold just right -- you knit 2, purl 2 for the length of the hat brim (I like it just around 2 inches) then when you're at a place you want the hat to fold you mix up the pattern -- on the next round you start with purl 2, knit 2 and keep working in that pattern the rest of the hat. The offset row where the two different ribbed pattern meets makes a natural fold.

When I'm done I'll write up the whole pattern and post it. My big challenge will come with decreases since I like to decrease totally in pattern and retain the ribbing. It will be fun working it out.

Also, I'm not sure why my iphone camera got all fuzzy and romantic this morning for a dang hat but here it is:

taiyohat1.jpg


Here is all the help I had behind the scenes styling this photo shoot:

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taiyohat4.jpg

- - -

Oh! And yesterday I saw the movie "SALT" with Angelina Jolie. It wasn't bad for a summer afternoon popcorn flick. I'm still not a huge Angelina fan but I love me some Liev Schrieber. And it was good to see a female action star movie. After listening to the female leads in both Killers and Knight & Day do nothing but whine and hyperventilate and scream and run in circles while people shoot at them, it was kind of nice to see a woman scaling buildings and doing insane Tom-Cruise style traffic jumps with nary a whine or cutesy comeback. Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

Posted by laurie at 8:44 AM

July 29, 2010

Bow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah

My folks have been staying out near San Diego and I got to see them this week when they came in to Orange County. I spent a lot of time following the dog around with my iphone, taking his picture:

nightdog1.jpg
Sleepy dog on Grandma's bed. (That's a picture of my Grandma & Grandpa on the bedside table.)

Here he is finally getting some attention from my mom because he is so neglected. Yeah. So not the center of all attention of the universe...

nightdog2.jpg

And here he is watching all the neighborhood dogs walk by:
nightdog3.jpg

Yesterday as I was driving home along the twisted, congested freeways of Los Angeles I was reminded that it's summer tourist season. Lots of cars from out of town, lots of folks with GPS units and maps and still puzzled looks and mad gesturing at missed exits.

As I drove through downtown there were some crowds on the overpasses holding big banners and waving signs about the immigration stuff going on in Arizona. And of course this is Los Angeles so there's lots of honking and fists raised out of car windows in support, all of us carrying a little Cesar Chavez down in our souls. But it's not just this day or this issue, we always have people running around civic buildings and big intersections and movie studios holding placards and carrying banners protesting something or another. And I wondered what the visitors to our fine city think when they see the residents running around protesting stuff, all the cars honking just because it's traffic, and why not honk.

Or what do I know, maybe nonstop daily picketing is a way of life everywhere? Maybe in Des Moines and Kansas City and Boise and Charleston it's a regular old Wednesday to see people hanging bedsheets off the overpass with spray-painted slogans, just like in Los Angeles. What do you think?

Of course when I finally traversed the traffic and got back home my kittens were happy to see me and they got plenty of lap time and also a little paparazzi time. Here's Soba, exuding tortiness:

soba-iphone-closeup.jpg

Later she plans to take over a small country. Something with ample Greenies distribution and no picketing allowed.


Posted by laurie at 9:35 AM

July 23, 2010

Fryday Five

1) Shocking Developments
It has taken six full weeks but something has finally clicked. It happened this week. Suddenly my walks went from being an obligation (something I knew I should do) to what I most look forward to all day. That is insane in the membrane. I'm not sure what happened. I think it's taken this long just to get past the physical acclimation (going from desk jockey and top-notch couch holder-downer to daily exerciser was not an easy transition.)

For those of you who love and enjoy exercise you can skip the rest of this. I myself haven't really enjoyed exercise in years. For one thing, when you have a tight schedule it feels like one more item you have to fit in your limited free time and add to the growing to-do list. And that's irritating. The other issue was that I had gotten so out of shape even a short walk was a huff-n-puff affair and all it did was reconfirm the bad feelings I had about my weight and health.

But for the past five-almost-six weeks I've really stuck to it, plodding through the first weeks with short one-mile walks that took almost forty minutes. Even now I'm not going to win any races, I still clock about an 18-minute mile, but I'm edging past three and a half miles each morning and I've gone from feeling like a wounded blob afterward to feeling more energetic than before I started. Can you believe that?

So, if you too are completely out of shape and hate the very idea of slogging up the block and back I think it will get easier. It took me six long weeks. But something turned over inside me. Crazypants.

2) Which is how I found myself in the sand yesterday
After I walked yesterday morning I showered and got dressed and had breakfast and did some writing and this and that I sat at my desk and looked outside where the sun was just starting to break through. It was just so pretty. And when I thought about the day ahead the one thing I wanted to do more than anything else in the entire world was to walk along the beach. So I did! I threw a few things into a beach bag, slipped on my flip-flops and I was off to Malibu Lagoon.

It was a spectacular day, with plenty of lovely wildlife in the bird sanctuary:

malibu-ducks.jpg


And plenty of other goodlooking wildlife, too:

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I walked the whole length of the shore to the pier and back and then sat in the sand and read a book for a while. Sometimes I just sat and did nothing at all. I loved watching the surfers paddling and bobbing in the ocean. I loved listening to the waves crashing and foaming on shore.

One of the perks of walking so long in the sand is that your feet get all smoothed and buffed, it's nature's best pedicure.

My flintstone feet love the sand:

malibu3.jpg
Yes, yoga pants at the beach. It was 68 degrees!


3) This book I'm reading is pretty good
I took Women Food and God with me to the beach. (What a load to carry! Thank you, I'll be here all week, tip your waitress.)

I've read just about every book Geneen Roth has written (I even went to one of her workshops back about 15 years ago) and I like this book, though I don't think it's going to resonate with everyone. Well, not that anything ever does.

The one thing inside this book that jumped out at me the most was a quote that's not even from Geneen Roth, it's from the writer Annie Dillard:


"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."

Ain't that the truth.


4) Maybe I should re-evaluate all that teevee time?

I got some very excellent emails yesterday, this one made me feel relieved to see that it's not me, it's Design Star's fault:

I'm mostly a lurker on your site, but I just wanted to tell you that you are SO right about HGTV Design Star. My husband and I have watched every season of that show, and we really thing it has gone down hill this season. They got a new producer, the guy from Survivor, and we think that's the cause. The whole dynamic of the show seems really different now - it seems like Survivor with some paint thrown in! I wish it was more like last season. Anyway, it was nice to see that we aren't alone in being disappointed in this season. --Melissa

AHA! So they changed producers, and now that you mention the Survivor thing it does seem like Survivor with paint chips. How annoying. It used to be such a good show and I still love David Bromstad. But maybe I should take back that one hour of my life and let go of Design Star. Maybe.

Also thank you to everyone who assured me I am not alone in my Real Housewives of New Jersey trance. Why is it so compelling? Why?

5) And for your weekend, I leave you with these...
Just want to share some of the beautiful beach with you! I only live about 30 miles from the coastline (up the 101 and across Topanga Canyon) but I'm embarrassed to admit I rarely go to the beach, maybe just two or three times a year if that. If you park on PCH it's free, and that fresh air and sunshine and sand are so good for you, it's a great way to spend an afternoon.

I think the very best thing that has happened to me in the past six weeks -- well aside from not feeling like I'm about to die when I walk a block and a half -- is that I have actually relaxed. Intellectualy I realize that you make a choice each day how to react, to live, to be and all that. But in reality when you're spread thin and full to the very limit with anxiety and worry and exhaustion it's hard to choose good feelings. This little break has given me my life back. There's a purely Puritanical streak inside me that feels guilty for enjoying a day off work but I'm successfully ignoring it. Why feel guilty about enjoying a day? After all, like the lady says, how you spend your days is how you spend your life.

I'm sure I could wake up each morning in a panic over money and the future and all that (oh trust me, I know how to do that REALLY WELL) but instead I'm actively choosing to look at all the good stuff. There's even some great stuff. It was there all along but I was so tired and worn out I couldn't see it. The anxiety has diminished and I just wake up loving the luxury of time, knowing nothing lasts forever, I might as well enjoy it while I can. I don't think I am explaining it very well. All I can say for sure is that I don't feel like a tightly coiled spring that's about to explode anymore. When I talk to my friends they say, "Even your voice is different." Nothing is perfect -- I feel obligated to add that -- but still. It is actually possible to be in an imperfect, unsure, not-perfectly-stable place and still feel OK. Who would have thunk it.

I hope you enjoy the this little trip to the beach as much as I did!

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Posted by laurie at 9:25 AM

July 22, 2010

Some stuff and some TeeVee

The weather is so nice, it finally cooled down and the scorching hot temperatures backed off a little. When I go for a walk in the morning it's actually cool outside! I love it.

I know summer's going to return but it makes these little breaks even better. The best days are when we have the marine layer and it's cloudy in the morning. My Jeep doesn't have A/C so on really hot days I don't get out much, it's just excruciating in the heat of the day. When it's cool like this I can run errands, sit in traffic and not baste in my own sweat.

- - -

On this website I write about the things I enjoy chatting about. If I don't want to talk about something in detail, I simply don't go into the details. This is the same advice I give people who ask me about personal blogging: it's a good idea to have clear boundaries and share carefully in a public forum. I'm happy to be candid about many things but not everything. Without boundaries you feel stripped and deconstructed. And trust me when I say no one wants to see me strip.

I realize some people reading today feel cheated out of the good dirt about how it is I came to be self-employed after so long in the corporate world. I got your emails. And I understand your natural curiosity and certainly I would be curious, too. But this is not a website about my day job and never has been. I don't think that's ethical, for one thing, and it's certainly never been the focus of my stories. I left my job at the bank (and left with some great friends and memories) for a new little adventure. That's all I have to say about it. Think of it as an uninteresting plot device in a bigger, more furry and yarn-covered story.

For several weeks in June I chewed over the best way to even mention it here in my online diary. I didn't want to pretend it hadn't happened since obviously it's a big change in my personal life but I also have no desire to chat with the world at large about all the intimate details of my employment. In general I just think it's a good idea to keep a good boundary there.

I hoped that treating this change in my life as a fact, a part of the timeline and brief logistical narrative of June, would be sufficient for this website. I apologize to the people who just think this isn't good enough. I don't know what to tell you. I guess you'll have to find a TV show with a much better plot than this old poopy blog. I highly recommend the new season of The Closer. That Brenda Leigh is the best woman on TV! And a Southerner at that.

Ok, so yes there have been changes in my life but they are all good changes! Now let's move on.

- - -

Speaking of TV, my best friend, I cannot believe I tune in every week and watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Even when I am watching it I wonder why I am transfixed, if I am losing IQ points, why they pronounce things the way they do. I vacillate between wanting to adopt Danielle's children the whole episode or wanting to get my TV set vaccinated for gonorrhea. Or both. But I love watching Bethenny Getting Married. Even at nineteen months pregnant and with big cankles she was still hotter in a bathing suit than I will ever be and yet I do not hold this against her.

The Closer has been really good so far this season, though I sure didn't see the twist coming Monday night with Captain Rayder's investigation. The show that follows The Closer is a new cop program Rizzoli & Isles and I wanted it to be good -- I love Angie Harmon, I think she's a really appealing actress -- but the whole setup seems a little fake and weird to me, and not in the good-fake Castle way. I'm still going to give it a chance though, because that's how I am with TV, slutty and fairly undemanding.

I watch two reality/contest shows -- HGTV's Design Star and Next Food Network Star. I was thisclose to bailing out of Design Star because they kept sending home contestants other than Nina. I'm sure she's talented and all that, but I would rather eat a bowl of cold cow brains for an hour than watch 30 seconds of Nina hosting her own show. Finally finally they sent her home this week and the whole show gave a collective sigh of relief. Doesn't it seem like they're too focused this season on the team dynamics instead of the design? Not sure I'll keep watching this show after all.

The Food Network competition is more interesting, though. I think my favorites are Aartie, Brad and Tom. I like Herb a lot, too, he's got such a great personality. I can't imagine how hard it must be to live and compete with a housefull of strangers and do it all in front of the cameras.

The best thing about trashy summer TV is that it feels productive when I'm knitting. With the air conditioning on, of course, and a big mug of hot tea.

- - -

Best thing about working at my own keyboard is all the help I get:
laptopsoba.jpg

She's sitting on my lap as I type. Makes for some furry shui.

- - -
no comments today

Posted by laurie at 10:32 AM

July 21, 2010

Out out damn spot, and box, and lotion.

First, a look at my newest editor:
bob-the-editor.jpg
Just the top half. the botom half comes later.

- - -

When we had our little earthquake a few weeks back, I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom going through some paperwork. I looked up at the lamps swaying back and forth and then I looked down at my clothes.

"If this thing keeps going and turns into The big One," I thought to myself, "I am sure going to have to change my T-shirt before I can evacuate the premises."

Afterward I thought it was pretty dumb to keep a cheap T-shirt that was mainly held together by holes and stains, a T-shirt I didn't even feel comfortable wearing outside my bedroom. It's not like I don't have a bazillion other T-shirts. And this one didn't have some deep sentimental value, it just happened to be a shade of green I liked so I kept it long past its expiration date. I chucked it the next day along with two others in the same sorry state.

It's like that with me, I have to constantly monitor myself or I start hoarding my stuff. This summer I've been making an effort to cull and pare down while I have the time and it's a good activity for hot afternoons. Most of the real clutter is hidden away in drawers and in closets and in bins. Yesterday I pulled everything out from under the bathroom sink, Lord, you'd be surprised how much crap I can Tetris into a tiny cupboard. It's the only bathroom storage I have -- there is another bathroom in the apartment but I promised myself I wouldn't use that room's below-sink storage area since it would become unseen clutter. And I managed to keep my promise to myself.

Bathroom clutter just creeps up on you. One day you're a normal red-blooded American with a backup bottle of shampoo and two half-used frizz-ease products under the sink and before you know it, just a year has passed and you are hoarding what looks like a closeout sale from Sally's Beauty Supply.

I tossed old half-empty bottles of nail polish, dried up cosmetics, an eyeshadow I'd had so long it had an ancient, excavated quality to it. The activity of decluttering comes with a feeling of being in control. It's an illusion, probably, but a seductive one, like the flip side of acquiring things (which provides the illusion that this object or handbag or lip gloss will make us better, happier, complete.)

I've been decluttering steadily and still don't feel like I've accomplished much. Cleaned out the closet. Sifted through the dresser drawers. One night recently I closed my eyes and tried to remember what my first Los Angeles apartment was like, back when I had No Stuff At All. I can remember the layout of the place (it was infinitesimally tiny, you could stir a pot of spaghetti on the stove while taking a shower in the bathroom and simultaneously answering the front door) but I had nothing at all in the way of stuff. That was before home computers were a regular thing (reminder: I am an aged cheese) and so I had no desk, no computer, no external hard drives and printers and scanners and cables. No throw pillows. I did have some books, many of which I still have, and my clothes of course and shoes. I didn't knit so there was no yarn. I couldn't remember what stuff I had though. I looked back through photo albums from that time period and there was not one single picture of that apartment anywhere. Weird.

Decluttering feels good, though I'm wary it will become an excuse to re-stufficate. You know. You get to feeling that you've pared down so much you might as well go shopping. I'm not in real danger of that, since I'm not shopping at all these days both for financial reasons and because there simply isn't anything else I really need. But it's good to think about the motivations and the urge to re-populate the stuff. I certainly don't want to end up one day surrounded by towering piles of junk like those people on television programs about hoarding.

I've always held onto things and collected bits and pieces but now I have a LOT of stuff and I want to get to a place where I feel less heavy. What if I want to move when my lease is up this fall? The very idea of moving all this crap all over again makes me want to puddle up in the corner. I think when you're lighter and more mobile you just have more options. I don't need a pristine magazine home but I did love the feeling I got from staying in the cabin this summer and it would be nice to feel that peaceful in my own house. What a weird malady, this addiction to things. It's such a comfort and such a weight.

But anyway, the straggly old t-shirts are gone and that's a good thing. I did finally donate the backup skillet and some cookie sheets to the Goodwill. My closet is getting a trim down. There's still a lot of stuff hidden in the home office tucked away in boxes and in closets and inside decorative little baskets but there are plenty more hot afternoons ahead to tackle it little by little.

- - -

And finally, end with the cutest feet on the planet:
bob-cutest-feet.jpg

Bob feet.

Posted by laurie at 8:53 AM

July 19, 2010

Hand knit gloves, perfect in July

They're all done!

gloves-finished1.jpg

My completed hand knit gloves. These were knitted using Noro Kureyon Sock Yarn in color 256 on size US 3 needles. For the pattern, I went with the glove recipe in The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes & Gauges. I can't recommend this book highly enough. You can use the pattern to create a custom item that fits you and works with your yarn.

gloves-finished3.jpg
Not easy to take a picture of your own hands, you know.

The second glove knitted up faster since I knew what I was doing but the first one wasn't terribly difficult or anything, just a little time-consuming. These gloves only used a portion of my skein of sock yarn, I still have enough left for at least one more glove, two if they're fingerless. Of course my poor skein of yarn is in three pieces now since I dug around inside it for hours one day trying to match the colorway of glove #2 to the exact colorway of glove #1. The gloves aren't perfectly matchy-matchy but it's Noro, it's going to be a little slubby and uneven and I got the colors close enough for my liking. I just didn't want my gloves looking like they'd been knit from different skeins of yarn. Also, I may be slightly crazy that way.

There are a few mistakes and my stitches are a little tight but I think my gloves sort of perfectly capture the state of mind I was in when I started the project. I'm also ridiculously proud of my handiwork here. Handiwork! If you had told me five or six years ago that one day I would be knitting my own gloves on tiny little toothpick needles with tiny skinny little sock yarn I would have laughed at you and asked what you were drinking. And, based on where I was in my life five years ago, I would have asked to share whatever you were drinking. Not only was I uninterested in small, time-consuming projects, I was completely unable to read a pattern back then.

These gloves were not the most complicated thing I have ever knitted (that honor goes to my entrelac scarf, maybe, or the red baby sweater, only because those crazy Debbie Bliss instructions are impossible to decipher.) But I think this is the project I am most proud of by a long shot. Sock knitting didn't take with me and while I love my hats and scarves and weird inventions, I think gloves are by far one of the most fun things I've ever made (I also loved making mittens, but I think I'll wear gloves more often.) Of course it's July in the Valley so what do I know. At this rate I may have to move to the north pole.

Here are some outtakes from the bigtime glove fashion shoot:

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My next projects are all hats. A hat for my dad (at his request, very exciting) and a hat for my mom. She already picked out some yarn from my stash but then mentioned she also wants a hat in navy blue and lime green stripes, so I might make her two hats. Hats for all!

Happy summer knitting ... crank up the A/C!

Posted by laurie at 10:40 AM

July 16, 2010

Lo, and water fell from the sky!

Each day this week I've tried to get out of the house earlier and earlier to avoid the heat. I made the mistake a few days ago of walking past 8:30 in the morning and about had a heatstroke in front of a Starbucks.

So this morning I made a quick cup of coffee (the secret, I have discovered, to my morning exercising success) and got caffeinated for my walk while watching a little Good Morning America. The featured story was about a tiny little tremor in the Washington D.C. area -- a 3.6, not even something left coasters would classify as a quake. We get those every day and twice on Sundays. Apparently it sent people in the D.C area into a mild panic, with a flood of calls to 911. Californians laughed into their lattes.

Having lived here now for sixteen years (!!!) I consider myself fully Los Angeleno-ized and I also scoffed. Just last week we had a 5.4 and people yawned. Put that in your pipe, Washington, and smoke it.

Feeling smug and nonchalant about the earth and its mysteries, I laced up my shoes and headed out into the far more terrifying world of the city in summer, a race to exercise before turning into a melted heap of sweaty lard.

These days I'm clocking just around three and a half miles each morning (it sounds like a marathon, but it's an easy walk on a sidewalk and it takes about an hour.) It's even easier when it's not an oven. I made it to the stoplight that is my turnaround point and I was halfway back to home when I felt a splat on my head. I let out an audible groan.

"Shit!" I said. Then: "Bird shit, most likely."

But just as I was mentally calculating the statistical likelihood of getting avian flu from a bird poop attack, I got hit by another. And another. I looked up to see what incontinent creature was flying above and I saw what appeared to be a cloud. Then I noticed other people around me on the sidewalk also standing stock still, staring upward. What was this strange, fluidlike substance coming from the sky? Was there a movie shooting nearby with a weather machine? Or could it be the unthinkable ... could it be rain? Rain in July? Has that ever happened?

What do people do in such an unusual circumstance?

Well, if you live in Los Angeles and have lived here long enough to fully assimilate, you apparently stand out on the street staring at the sky like a dumbass. That's what I did. That's what all the joggers and dogwalkers and coffee drinkers around me did. We all stopped in our tracks and stared at the sky. Where water mysteriously came forth and moistened us.

Finally I realized I was still a mile from my apartment and this odd liquid aberration wasn't letting up so I hustled my sweaty and now rain-soaked butt back home. When I got home I turned on the news and sure enough Lisa Breck on Fox 11 was saying there were reports of pouring rain all around the city. It's NEWS, people. NEWS. Though I have to say the Southern part of me thought this wasn't really pouring rain. It was more of a little light shower. If that. But still, said the Losangelized part of me, it's rain! In July! Very noteworthy!

Then I remembered that story on GMA about the tremor in Washington D.C. and how I scoffed. I wonder what they would think of us nutballs who don't get out of bed for anything under a 6.0 but lose our bacon every time there's an ounce of precipitation. Funny.

Posted by laurie at 9:22 AM

July 15, 2010

Summer knitting, had me a blast

We were lucky this year and it spoiled me, all those weeks of thick marine layer covering the coastline and inland until noon or longer kept the temperatures moderate and even chilly in the morning, just the way I like it. Now we've gone from June Gloom to July Fry in a span of two days. The hotter it gets the more I want to sit inside with winter movies and snowy documentaries and the Cooking Channel. Is the Cooking Channel new or have I only discovered it through the magic of unemployment? They show old episodes of Julia Child's The French Chef and one of my favorite cooking shows, Two Fat Ladies. I first saw the Two Fat Ladies on BBC a decade or so ago when I was traveling, probably to someplace cold. I don't understand a good portion of what they say and they make things I would never eat but it's strangely compelling.

The second knitted glove is coming along quickly by my standards, a testament to how much I loathe the slimy heat:

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That's the only upside of summer. The outdoor oven air pushes you indoors near the pretty yarn and anyway the TV isn't going to watch itself you know.

- - -

Last night I was flipping through the recent cb2 catalog and several items caught my eye.

A knitted pouf:

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Another color:

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And some felted knit baskets:

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Another view:

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The pouf was going for $79 and the largest felt basket for $29. The pouf would last about ten minutes here in Chez Fursalot before being engulfed in cat hair and snagged by a passing cat talon but it's cute nonetheless. The baskets are a good idea for a future project. Looks like they would be easy enough to make and I do have the world's reigning supply of Patons Up Country in my closet. And there is a lot of summertime ahead, hot days stretching out full of knitting and air conditioning.

- - -

Today's three happy things:
1) Cucumber and avocado salad with cracked pepper, salt and balsamic.
2) Finding an SD memory card I was sure I had lost.
3) Julia Child's memoir My Life in France, which I'm reading and loving. I share her deep love of butter.

Posted by laurie at 11:39 AM

July 14, 2010

Hot

It's hot.

Earlier this morning I went out for a walk and I had to turn around a little early because I was worried about getting sunburned before 9 a.m. Even if I'd worn sunscreen it would have sweated off, I looked like I'd just run a 10K in the middle of the Sahara. The sun was already burning and baking the Valley, it's supposed to be over 100 degrees the rest of the week. Hopefully sweating is an appealing trait, look, I'm glossy!

As I walked back I noticed people arriving at a small coffee shop with a patio out on the boulevard. The smell of pee was already overwhelming. I don't see a lot of homeless people on that block but there must be at least one very avid outdoor potty spot nearby because that whole block always reeks. In the heat it was even worse. I was staring at the folks sitting out drinking coffee in the steaming urine aroma and I couldn't for the life of me figure how they could stand it. They stared back, wondering why I was dripping wet and exhausted.

Summer.

Later today I'm going to dust off my treadmill, remove the items I've been storing on it (most expensive storage device ever!) and actually plug it in. I have lived in this building since September of 2009 and I have not even plugged in my treadmill. Awesome. Anyway, that's my plan for later. Summer is when I most want to visit someplace cold and snowy. Or watch movies about cold and snowy places while knitting things I could use there such as wool gloves.

- - -

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Posted by laurie at 10:32 AM

July 12, 2010

Well, it's a marvelous night for a moondance.

The title is from the song I've had stuck in my head since last Thursday. I love you, Van Morrison, but please make it stop. I was even singing it in my head last night as I slept, or tried to sleep.

I've been re-reading one of my favorite books, Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. He writes nonfiction that reads as smoothly as a novel (my other favorite in this genre is Sebastian Junger, author of another all-time favorite book, The Perfect Storm.) Into Thin Air is a first-person view into the now-infamous Mt. Everest expedition of 1996 where two very well-known mountain guides and many others died in a single day. I'm fascinated with people who climb mountains and I love reading stories about extreme climbing and watching all those documentaries about it, though I myself plan to climb no higher than the top of the stairs here in the apartment to do some laundry. I've watched both seasons of that reality show about people wanting to climb the mountain and just the trek to base camp itself seems daunting. I go through phases where I read a lot of mountain climbing stuff. Is this odd for an avowed couch potato? Maybe it's like armchair traveling?

Last night I read a few chapters before I went to bed. Even though I have read this book twice and already know how it ends, duh, it's still a page-turner. Finally, I put the book down and went to bed and then had a very detailed dream about me, my mom and my dad climbing Mt. Everest. Apparently I am sporty in my subconscious. We made it all the way to camp four and then all the sudden I had to turn around and go back. And in the dream my parents were like, "Ok! See you later!" and I was really mad that they kept going. It was dramatic. Apparently my head is combining all the time I've spent reading about Mt. Everest with all the time I've spent with my family recently and is spitting it out reality-show style in a dream. Freaky. And it was all played over a Van Morrison soundtrack.

- - -

My parents drove their house-on-wheels from Idyllwild to Orange County to be closer to Grandma. I went down last week to visit and on Saturday we were at the nursing home chatting with Grandma, she seemed really good. We got on the topic of traveling -- she and Grandpa traveled all over the world before he passed away -- and I asked her what her favorite travel destination was in all that time.

"Well, I found something to enjoy about every place we visited," she said. And she went on to tell me about some of her favorite places, like seeing the Crazy Horse monument in South Dakota.

"You know, Grandma, I've never been there. Or to Mount Rushmore. Or most of the middle," I said. "Sometimes I feel embarrassed that I've seen so many far-off places and I've only seen part of the United States."

"Oh, I think you're doing it just right," said Grandma. "Travel now and see the world while you're young and can stand those long plane rides. Later when you're older you can stay here and see the whole country."

All this time I felt a little guilty for always wanting to go off somewhere else and see the world and in just a five-minute conversation she changed my whole outlook. That's one of the things I've always liked about Grandma. She never really makes excuses or has regrets.

- - -

Finally:

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Like watching paint dry. The progress of glove #2, now at the thumb gusset.


- - -


Finally, finally:

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Sobakowa enjoying a little early morning contemplation time.

Posted by laurie at 10:01 AM

July 7, 2010

Stuff & Gloves & Hats, oh my

After writing so much about stuff yesterday, I thought I should get off my duff and actually make good on the promise I made myself to slowly pare down. I have a lot of difficulty getting rid of books. And I have A LOT of books, so that's where I started.

While I was basking in the clutter-free zone of the vacation cabin and thinking about what I could let go of at home, I decided to part with some of my travel books. For every vacation I have thought about or actually gone on in the past five or more years, I have a guidebook or two or four. The guidebooks are a perfect storm of my personal hoardiness: they represent both a happy future (as in, "One day I will visit these places and be happy!") and in many cases they also represent a happy past event ("I used this guidebook when I went to Bermuda with my mom and it was so much fun.") What's goofiest of all is that travel books get out of date almost as soon as they're published and if I were to revisit or go to any of these places I'd buy a new one anyway. Yet still I hold on.

It seems to me that much of my hoarding has to do with some future life in which I will need or want or have a place for the object, whatever it may be. And on most of those television programs about extreme hoarding you'll notice they almost all have that in common: saving everything for someday, some unknown happy future when you have it all together, which makes their present day unbearable.

In the case of my travel books, they represent both happy memories of the past and happy expectations for the future. But they aren't the future and they don't open up and reveal the past, either. They're just books about logistics. You would be surprised how long it took me to decide which ones to keep and which to let go of!

Why was this a hard decision? Weirdo.

This is how many travel books I had hidden on my bookshelves:

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The final keep pile is on the left and the donate pile is on the right:
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So I ended up keeping 10 books, four of which are out-of-print and I wanted to keep them, and donating 20. It was a good start to the morning.

- - -

Last night while watching my Netflix arrivals (Leap Year and Local Hero, apparently I was in an Irish/Scottish frame of mind) I knitted on my second glove. I love the yarn so much. It's Noro Kureyon sock yarn and it's just beautiful, nubby, richly colored.

Do you find that the second thing in a set (gloves, or sleeves, or socks) takes you more time or less time to finish? I think I am knitting this one much slower.

And is it just me who seems to tighten up on gauge for the second one?

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- - -

While I was up visiting my folks my dad asked me to make him a multicolored hat. This is very exciting because 1) my dad never asks for stuff and 2) I get to make him something he wants! I'm trying to decide between making my own stripes or using a self-striping yarn. And I probably should make it machine washable. Maybe an assortment of Lion Brand wool-ease striped together? I love making hats. I haven't made a good hat in a long time. But I am also tempted by some Noro Taiyo I have in my stash. I guess I need to ask my mom how she feels about hand-washing a hat.

Also, why is it that I always seem to really ramp up my knitting in the hottest days of summer? Yesterday morning I was lured into the early a.m. marine layer and pretended it would be a cold and blustery day. That lasted until the sun came out and warmed the valley midday. It's always summer when I want to up and move to Ireland or Copenhagen or just about any one of those travel book destinations.

Maybe I'll keep an extra Iceland book, just in case.

- - -

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Frankie is so exhausted from being cute.

Posted by laurie at 12:11 PM

July 6, 2010

The Cabin in the Woods

Although I didn't spend my time up in the cabin writing a manifesto and wearing a hoodie and growing a beard while plotting thermonuclear destruction, I did enjoy the little break away from the city. I love Los Angeles and its assorted chaos, but you know you've been in it too long when you need a tape recording of car alarms and doors slamming and airplanes and honking cars to get a good sleep at night.

My parents let me borrow their white noise machine. It did in a pinch.

When I heard "cabin," I was expecting something rustic and possibly dorm-like with no bathrooms. I wasn't specifically looking forward to the camping aspect, I've never been a fan of rustic, but all in the spirit of adventure, etc. etc. What a surprise to discover that the cabin was practically brand new with a full kitchen, sparkling clean appliances, a perfect (private) bath with a full shower and tub and a bedroom all to myself!

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(The cabin from outside.)

There was a little living room with a small sofa that pulls out into a bed and a comfy chair in one corner. A drop-leaf table and two kitchen chairs sat by the sunny window and led right into the kitchen. There was a small hallway with a pantry, and a storage nook and the bathroom off to one side. At the end of the small hallway is the bedroom with a large closet and a bedside table with a lamp.

There were narrow stairs right outside the bedroom leading up to a small loft. You'd have to kneel down to move around up there, though it would be perfect for kids (or for storage). Actually, this tiny cabin was both cleaner and more efficient than the old house I was renting and it somehow managed to have more storage than this big ol' apartment I'm in now. Explain to me how a newish gigantic apartment can have nary a single pantry, linen closet or towel cupboard? How? Seriously. I have to keep my towels in a bin in my bedroom closet.

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(Table, hallway leading to bedroom, loft above.)

Being inside the cabin was like sleeping in the den of efficiency. It was peaceful and clean and tiny, but outfitted with everything you need. It had a TV with satellite and a DVD player in the living room, it had a full-size fridge and freezer, the kitchen sink faced a window which looked out over a field of pines so you could watch the squirrels climbing trees as you did the dishes.

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(Making a cup of tea at night.)

From the first day I was in the cabin I was astonished at how little and perfect it was -- all a person needs in one compact, well-ordered package. Isn't that what I am always hoping for in life? A well-ordered home? And I kept telling my mom over and over again, "This is the amount of stuff a person should have, it's just enough to be happy and not heavy." I spent a lot of time while I was up there in the mountain air thinking about stuff and my accumulation of it. Inside the cabin there was a place for everything, and just enough of the right things (and plenty of spaces that hadn't been filled up, too, which felt expansive.)

For example, in the towel cupboard in the bathroom, you could find four clean white facecloths, four clean white handcloths and four clean white fluffy towels. That was it. No hodgepodge assortment of towels collected over fifteen years, no mismatched bargain buys and impulse on-sale linens squashed into the shelves. Nothing spilled out when you opened the door. Everything you needed was right there, neatly lined up, just what you need and nothing extraneous.

Same with the linen closet (the cabin had a linen closet and my three-story condo has nary a hutch. Go figure.) Inside the small linen closet was an extra blanket, an extra set of sheets and pillowcases and two extra pillows. I have ferreted away two comforters, six duvet covers and the assorted sheets of the apocalypse in every coat closet in my house.

The kitchen in the little cabin held just enough thick, creamy stoneware plates and bowls to feed four people. Same with mugs and drinking glasses. We'd stopped at a grocery store before climbing up the mountain (I was serious when I said I wouldn't be going up and down the winding mountain roads until the day I left) and I bought food and a few basic kitchen supplies: olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic powder, lemons, garlic cloves, foil, clorox wipes, paper towels, soap. I thought I would miss my huge spice selection and cooking gadgets from home but you'd be surprised how little you need, really. Or maybe it was just me that was surprised. The simplicity of the cabin made it manageable, easy, enjoyable.

It was an immediate and absolute contrast to my real life. I have seven beaten-up cookie sheets in various stages of rusting and disappointment. The cabin had a single, perfect, clean cookie sheet. You know what I mean?

Don't misunderstand, I am really glad I moved into this apartment because I needed a change and I wanted to live in one of these pretty Mediterranean-meets-LA-style condo places at least once in my life. But it feels like a job in itself, keeping the place clean and tidy. It's a lot of space to manage and instead of feeling more organized and spacious it's the exact opposite! And it was the same at the little house I rented in Encino-adjacent. I just have a whole lot of stuff. And I take myself with me, it seems, wherever I move.

My relationship with my stuff is tricky. It feels comforting and cozy sometimes, and I love my stuff. And then sometimes it makes me nervous, the idea of cleaning and caring for this stuff, packing it, moving it, unpacking it, re-arranging it, the very idea is exhausting.

Spending all those days in the cabin is just what I needed, I needed to feel the spaciousness of a completely clutter-free home, even if it was just temporary. I think I brought some of that feeling home with me. It's not easy for me to pare down. I have a hard time letting go of things. It's an emotional connection: people leave, places change, everything moves so fast but your stuff stays right where you last left it. So I understand the lure. But it's a false sort of security and for as often as stuff feels comforting it also feels smothering and heavy and impossible to ever be free of it. There was something expansive, liberating about living (even for a few days) in a perfectly appointed space with just what one person really needs.

No grand conclusion at the end of this. Just planning to spend a little time each day this week cleaning out my closets, getting rid of a few things here and there. I just bought a new skillet and the temptation to keep the old one ("as a backup," I told myself) was loud but I cleaned the old skillet carefully and placed it in a bag for Goodwill. I do not need a backup skillet. Good grief.

And anyway, there was one thing crucially missing at the cabin. Three things really. The cats!

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Two out of three cats agree.

Posted by laurie at 11:58 AM

July 5, 2010

Idyllwild

My parents have been staying in the family truckster at a campground near Idyllwild, California and I spent the last part of June with them. I stayed in a cabin, equipped with satellite TV and indoor plumbing just as the pilgrims intended.

Idyllwild itself is a picture-perfect mountain town set high up in the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside County. The town sits about a mile up the mountain and the campground climbs up further, about another 1,000 feet. I think that's the highest I've ever traveled upward without being in an airplane! I was on a very high mountain once in Iceland but I think it was still only about 5,000 feet (of course it was in meters so I don't remember the height exactly, and I had my eyes closed for most of the drive.) (Good thing I was the passenger.)

I'm woozy-panicky afraid of heights and mountain roads so once my mom drove me up to the campground I had no intention of going back down the mountain until it was time for me to come home. There was plenty to do, of course, like finish my first hand-knit glove and admire the spectacular scenery and visit with my parents and play with the dog for hours on end:


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Dog helping me knit.


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Dad taking pictures in Idyllwild.


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Entrance to the pretty campground.


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The guard dog in action, keeping the RV free from invading squirrels!


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The guard dog's fluffy butt.

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Everywhere! Huge pines.

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RV life.

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View from the truckster's campsite. Pure blue sky! I almost choked. Very used to my brown and crunchy air.

- - -


Tomorrow I have more pictures from my little vacation, including the cute cabin I stayed in. But today I'll end with a mystery, since I know you all are smart and someone in the internet will have the answer.

WHAT on earth kind of tree is this? They're all over up there on the mountain, with very smooth red bark (almost like a eucalyptus right after it sheds its bark) but the trunk is very red. They have smallish grey-green leaves and tiny pink flowers that attract bees. Any ideas?

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Comments are briefly open, you crazy nature lovers!

Posted by laurie at 10:22 AM

July 4, 2010

Monthly check in (Independence Day edition)

At the beginning of 2010 I set two resolutions for myself and then resolved a third thing, which was to post a little check-in with myself each month, mostly just for me. To keep me accountable.

In the beginning it was fine and well and I was happy with my progress and then somewhere in mid-April I was wondering what the hell I had been drinking to come up with THAT idea, that whole accountability thing is for suckers who don't know you can change your name and move far far away! Or go off the grid and talk into your bra and direct traffic in your nightgown!

But then June happened and I made so many changes all at once that I was really glad I kept some accountability around, so I could stay focused and organized. And I got up each and every day and reached for better.

Best of all, I went for a lot of walks. It's so simple, it's such a little thing we all take for granted, just walking, but it's pretty effing great. It doesn't cost anything, it's relaxing, you feel victorious. I dialed down the whine and wine, since both tend to bring me down. I cooked A LOT. It felt comforting and happy to measure and season and taste and roast. I cleaned my house so that it felt good to walk into each room.

Every time I started to have doubts or worries, I did one of the following:
• Went for a walk.
• Cleaned house.
• Listened to selfhelpy upbeat stuff on my ipod.
• Listened to great music.
• Moisturized.
• Flossed. My teeth were in shock. They did not know what this "floss" invention was.
• Read a good book.
• Watched a great movie.

And I worked. Instead of freaking out about the instability I'm just focusing on the sheer pleasure of long, uninterrupted blocks of typing. I've been working at a job or in school (or both) since I was 14 and this is a whole new kind of day, making my own structure. And I slept. I didn't think I would, I figured the insomnia would continue but by mid-June I was actually sleeping. Maybe it was the walking or just the fact that I move more all day. Or maybe I was simply exhausted, but I slept. It's a whole new day when you've had some sleep.

In June I left my position at the bank (eight and a half years is such a long time in one job!) and it was so funny, I knew it was a great move for me but I also cried because I knew how many great friends I had made there and how many lovely memories I have with my goofy teammates.

Later in June my grandmother had another stroke and went back to the nursing home. Not too long after that I finally got to see my dad, who has been sick since early May and I just got back from a nice long visit with them where they were staying up in the mountains in Idyllwild. And of course I got to visit with their dog, who is decidedly their favorite child.

And that was June!


Posted by laurie at 11:20 AM