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June 26, 2011

On the way back home I sat in the Daytona Beach airport alone, people watching. I have always been an observer and I have to make an effort to really participate in life, you know, not just watch it. (That is also wrapped up in my weight, have ya'll ever found anything more insulating than a fat suit? I have used my weight as a reason to sit on the sidelines for a long, long time.) (But that is another story for another day.)

As I sat there I watched a woman walk into the gate area, tall and deeply tanned, she walked in wearing a tiny little bright turquoise minidress and she wore a straw cowboy hat on her bleached blonde hair. She was dead sexy, well over 40, and not wearing bra. She was in great shape. I looked at her and then I looked at the women in the gate area, saw their faces. First they made notice of the blonde. Then they looked over at their husbands to see if they were looking at the blonde.

There is a certain woman -- you have seen her, I know you have -- who turns heads this way. Maybe people think her dress is too short, her hair is too blonde, her nails are too long. They are well over thirty, always have beautiful manicures, enjoy a night out with the girls. I call these ladies "Glamizons." I am not a Glamizon but would love to be one for just 24 hours. Most women look at them with smug condescension, men stare at them, the entire song "Harper Valley PTA was written about Glamizons. I'm more of a hippydippy type, but I love the breezy, fuck-you self-confidence of an tanned Glamizon. I guess I appreciate attention to detail, no matter where it shows up.

When we boarded the plane I got on and sat in my seat, fiddled with my knitting. I heard an, "Excuse me..." and I looked up and there she was, my seatmate, the hot blonde. The Glamizon. The woman in the aisle seat across from me rolled her eyes when she saw the bright blue dress.

Glamazon -- teresa -- and I got to chatting as the plane sat and idled on the runway and we kept chatting through the flight to Atlanta. We both ordered vodka tonics, and we both had birthdays this past week. She was in Daytona celebrating her 50th, I was in town on my 40th. ("darlin', you look 25," she said. "I would kill for your skin.") After a while she turned to me and interrupted some story I was telling about my trip to Daytona.

"Can I tell you something?" she said.

"Yup," I said. "We are strangers on a plane. Go for it."

"It is so nice to meet a good soul," she said. "You remind me of my daughter. I just hope that your forties are the best ever. Let's airplane toast to you being happy!"

And I got all teary eyed, people. Because this lady meant it. She genuinely wanted me to have a good decade, a good life, and I could feel her relief to meet a female who wasn't all judgy in her business.

If you have been reading this here website for any amount of time you already know I'm a girl's girl. While romantically I happen to like men, on a social level I get women. I understand us. I feel like I am part of the tribe. I need my girlfriends, I need the bond that comes from women sharing an experience. I support women. If you want to wear a burqua or wear a micro-mini, I support your decision. But I have had my moments, my catty, insecure moments. At my second Book Expo I remember making a snide remark about a fellow author who was wearing what I called a "slutty buy-my-book dress" and later I felt so bad about it, like I had sold out my own gender. I was feeling insecure so I denigrated her. Thank God I am past that crappy period in my life.

It's important to me to be a girl's girl, I work at it. When I hear someone say, "I've never really been a girl's girl..." what I hear is "...I talk shit about other women and try to sleep with their husbands." I do not date other women's husbands. You would absolutely fall over if you knew the amount of random, unsolicited email I get from married men. You know that recent Anthony Weiner weiner scandal? Didn't surprise me one bit -- but the women who kept chatting with the married Congressmen were complicit, too. I believe women have a responsibility to each other to draw the line. I have a line in the moral sand then I refuse to cross, it's a girl-code thing, I do it because it's right and it's real. And I try not to talk shit about other women (I fail sometimes, but at least I am aware of it.)

So there I was on the plane, sitting beside a woman who had the biggest heart, she was making a little toast to my new decade, sending out a hope for me into the universe. It reminded me that you just never know about people, you just never know when you will meet a kind soul in an unusual wrapper. I want my next decade to be that way, just like on the plane. Open and happy, willing and friendly, vodka tonic, good hearts in unexpected places.

Posted by laurie at 7:56 PM

June 24, 2011

Bob

bob-on-sofa.jpg

This photo was taken at my old apartment.
Back when I lived there. So sad.
But the picture is so Bob-a-riffic!

Posted by laurie at 7:55 AM

June 21, 2011

Humans at the zoo

This morning I was out early for a walk, it's supposed to warm up today and I like the cool mornings for walking. Later it will be near ninety degrees to welcome summer properly for the first official day of summer.

About midway through my walk I was at a corner waiting for the light to turn and I could hear sirens. There was a guy waiting at the light with me, and we watched as a police car with lights and sirens blazing went through the intersection followed by an ambulance, followed then by a mad rush of drivers who decided to just run the now-red light anyway, because by God, it was their turn! My turn, my turn, my turn!

I heard the guy waiting at the corner with me swear a little under his breath, then we both tried to cross the street but some lady in an SUV that she couldn't quite drive was doing some weird maneuver across three lanes and we had to wait in the middle of the street for her to figure out there were pedestrians in front of her car.

And I laughed. Because people here are crazy. And the guy heard me and started laughing too.

"I'm from Anchorage," he said. "I'm just in town for a few more days and, you know, I was gonna rent a car but no way. No way am I getting on the road with these people. I've seen people drive better in a blinding snowstorm."

We walked along the sidewalk for a few more steps and chatted about the traffic and the insane drivers and then he was back at his hotel and I was off on my walk. But this little conversation reminded me of something I saw on Friday.

On Friday afternoon I was driving down the boulevard, where it turns into Cahuenga and dips into Hollywood. There was traffic. Usually you don't come to a dead stop right there unless there's an accident or something, so as we all came to a crawl then a stop, I looked up ahead and I could see the flashing lights. Something in a store or restaurant must have been on fire, there were firemen and firetrucks everywhere.

Traffic was being funneled into one lane on the southbound side. In the big scheme of things this is not a crisis of traffic. Closing the 405 for Carmageddon is a crisis. Overpasses falling down is a crisis. Traffic momentarily diverted into one lane is not a crisis. But I watched in utter fascination as drivers in the cars ahead of me started freaking the hell out, "No! I am sitting still! Must be in constant motion! Fast! Because movement! is life!" and so a few of them honked (that did not help, by the way) and several just started doing weird shit like backing up, trying to flip a u-turn into oncoming traffic.

I glanced in my rearview mirror and just as I did there was a heavy thud as two cars about 50 yards back in traffic collided while both trying to make illegal u-turns. It was unfreakingbelievable.

Of all the animals in the animal kingdom, I think humans must be the most daffy. Here we had two people in two different cars, both so hurried and so unwilling to wait for three or even five minutes that they had to zip out, whip around and beat traffic. Except they crunched into each other and that little shortcut to save two minutes cost them so much. Having to pull over and wait for the police. Getting a police report. Filing a claim. Getting an estimate. Taking the car in for repairs. The five thousand envelopes that will arrive from the insurance company. Filling out the forms at the DMV. Paying the deductible.

All because they were too impatient to wait two or three or five minutes.

This is what happened last month when that lady hit my Jeep. After the crash she sat in her car, writing out her phone number for me, saying, "I was late for work." I remember looking at her with absolute disbelief, thinking You almost killed me because you were late for work?

That line keeps coming back to me at the oddest times. I'll see someone blow through a red light and hear that lady saying, I was late for work. And then I think, I hope they don't kill someone just because they couldn't bother to leave on time for work today. I've been walking almost everywhere since that lady hit my Jeep, sometimes I know consciously that I walk because I can, because if I hadn't seen her and if I hadn't been going the posted speed limit and if I hadn't slammed the breaks just when I did our collision would have ended a very different way. I go for my walks and I am so pleased my legs move. I don't even care that they're chubby legs or that I'm still short. I'm alive, I'm well, I'm walking. I've logged over a hundred miles on my shoes this month alone and it's only the 21st. Walk. Walk simply because I can.

Every day when I walk I see drivers who don't look into intersections before they turn. They speed into the crosswalk in their cars and the pedestrians have to scramble to get out of the way. I watch drivers zip through lights, there are lots of accidents on the boulevard. Lots of people are late, I guess, or just can't imagine sitting still for thirty whole seconds. I used to be like that a few years ago. Then I made the simple and life-changing decision to leave my house five minutes earlier. That's all. Every day I would simply leave five minutes earlier and then I didn't have to speed or run lights or be rushed or almost kill people every morning.

Five minutes can change your life. I walk almost everywhere now, but there are still days when I have to drive. I leave five minutes early, I take my time, I don't run red lights. I'm not in a panicked rush. That's my idea of hell, you know, always being in a rush, always having to be in constant motion, zipping past, honking at people, waving your tiny fist of rage at an old lady in a Prius. It's such a waste of energy. Crazy, daffy humans.

Posted by laurie at 8:45 AM

June 20, 2011

List

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Lightpost art in L.A.

So far this morning I...

1) walked 8.21 miles. Took me 2 hours, 16 minutes.

2) drank one liter of water.

3) ate 1/4 of a watermelon.

4) smelled bad.

5) showered.

6) packed up some stuff to take to the post office.

7) petted six dogs. I love walking in L.A.

8) emailed everyone I know to tell them I walked eight miles in one go and lived to tell.

9) contemplated going back to bed, having already accomplished something.

10) wrote this ditty as a placeholder.


I do have actual things to tell you about breakfasts and sweater progress and beer but all of that has to wait until I go to the post office, run some errands and buy cat litter.

Poop waits for no man, or woman.


Posted by laurie at 10:40 AM

June 17, 2011

Some Friday Stuff

Day before yesterday when they were jackhammering away to China I was so frazzled and unnerved I grabbed my bag and left the apartment in a fluster. I was in my car and headed up the road before I even knew where I was going. Going to the movies was a spur of the moment decision, I picked "Beginners," it started at noon and the line was short. I sat alone in a row in the dark movie theater, the only other people near me were in the row just below, a man and a woman in their 60s.

We sat in that movie theater and cried a lot. I loved the movie but I had a few moments when I worried I was falling into the ugly, guffawing, snot cry. It's that kind of movie. I felt so self-conscious about crying then I looked at the man in the row ahead of me, I assumed he was there with his wife but I don't know, maybe she wasn't his wife, maybe I just assume everyone is paired off except me, and I saw this man remove his glasses and slowly wipe away his tears. I felt better. I felt like it was okay to just be a blathering mess right there in my popcorn.

After the movie I sat in my seat and felt a little worn out in a good way.

- - -

Mysteriously enough the entire construction crew did not show up yesterday and so there was no jackhammering next door, no whining tile saw piercing into my arteries all day. It was a remarkably good day. Even with the opera enthusiast in the building across the alley playing Sonata of Depression and Killing all afternoon at the highest possible volume, even with the helicopters and airplanes and car alarms and the ambulances and sirens it felt downright quiet here. So that was the purpose of the jackhammer, perhaps. It was put on this earth to make me appreciate the ambient noise of my neighborhood.

I had a list of errands to run yesterday and I did none of them, I opened the windows and stayed home all day, no radio, no TV, just the sound of typing, an occasional meow from a cat letting me know I was a boring companion. I listened to secondhand opera from across the alleyway, music which I kind of like though you have to admit it's a really weird soundtrack to an uncertain time in your life. If you were feeling at a crossroads in a big crazy city and found yourself in some temporary apartment with all your stuff piled up in a corner and opera was the soundtrack running beneath it all you might think, Okay. Are we about to see a scene from The Godfather or is the war about to start or the disaster about to hit or is this the hipster heartbreak scene or are the neighbors going to be revealed as vampires?

Or maybe you wouldn't think that. Maybe you would just be happy your neighbor isn't playing Ranchero music all day.

The crew is back today. The tile saw started up at 6:45 a.m.

- - -

I love Los Angeles in the June gloom. In the mornings it's so gray and dreary and heavy outside, and it's chilly like winter. People wear hoodies and sweaters and jackets and there's mist. The mist feels like a rainstorm because any kind of moisture feels significant here, that's what it's like to live in a place where it only rains eight days a year.

Today and tomorrow are probably the last of the June gloom. Soon summer will start and the morning fog will be long gone and the sun will bake everything dry and the wind will kick up leaves and dust and topple big trucks in the Cajon Pass. The hillsides will catch on fire.

Sometimes I wonder if I should leave Los Angeles and find someplace cool and gray and quiet. Then I wonder how do you leave a city like L.A.? Once you make it here and survive here and live here, love it here, how do you ever leave it? People probably feel that way about any place they call home. Even if the underlying soundtrack is opera.

Posted by laurie at 9:58 AM

June 16, 2011

Friday

Mysteriously enough the entire work crew did not show up yesterday and so there was no jackhammering, no whining tile saw piercing into my arteries all day. People, it was a remarkably good day. Even with the opera enthusiast across the alley playing Sonata of Depression and Killing all afternoon at the highest possible volume, even with the ghetto birds and car alarms sounding periodically it felt downright quiet here in the 'hood. So that was the purpose of the jackhammer, perhaps. It was put here on this earth and in my neighborhood to make me appreciate the ambient noise.

I had a list of errands to run yesterday and I did none of them, I opened the windows and stayed home all day, no radio, no TV, just the sound of typing, an occasional meow from the peanut gallery. Some opera from across the way, which I kind of like actually, though you have to admit it's a really weird soundtrack to an uncertain time in your life. If you were feeling at a crossroads in a big crazy city and found yourself in some temporary apartment with all your stuff kind of piled up in a corner and opera was the soundtrack running beneath it all you might think, Okay. Are we about to see a scene from The Godfather or are the neighbors going to be revealed as vampires?

Or maybe you wouldn't think that. Maybe you would just be happy your neighbor isn't playing Ranchero music all day. (On a daily basis I am happy my neighbor across the way prefers opera to Ranchero.)

The crew is back today. The tile saw started up at 6:45 a.m.

Posted by laurie at 3:22 PM

In the jungle, the noisy jungle, the calico sleeps tonight

lion-toes.jpg

Posted by laurie at 8:28 AM

June 14, 2011

And finally here at 7:46 p.m. the jackhammer rests for the evening, the cement saw sits in its darkened truck, awaiting another day.

I explained to my brother Guy last week that I have a new appreciation for the torture techniques used at Guantanamo Bay -- particularly the use of loud, continuous noises. Today by 11 a.m. I was ready to convert to the church of Reggaeton and sell my first born and tell all my family secrets and even reveal the covert and well-protected hiding location of my one most valuable and prized skein of Tilli Thomas (with Austrian crystals, mind you) if only they would please please PLEASE make the noises stop.

In order to avoid selling my soul to the church of Marley, I took a 22-minute shower and listened to I GOT A POCKET GOT A POCKET FULL OF SUNSHINE on a loop. Loud enough to drown on the cement saw but not the jackhammer. Boy they are not messing around building their tunnel to China in the apartment complex. When actual magma starts spouting out and the dude wielding the jackhammer yells out for human assistance before he becomes trapped in the oozing fiery magma, I will bring my boombox to the scene and I will play:

I GOT A POCKET GOT A POCKET FULL OF SUNSHINE!I GOT A LOVE AN I KNOW THAT IT'S ALL MINE!

Tomorrow I am again waking at 4 a.m. to write for a few hours before the jackhammering starts, and the sawing. Oh the constant high-pitched whine of the tile saw has nothing on today's high-pitched scream of the metal tubing saw.

Sometimes I have to leave because it is making. me. crazy. The real crazy, not the funny, charming crazy which we'll one day start calling "eccentric" when I finally make some serious money.I'm talking Unabomber crazy over here. But when I try to leave my apartment the entire work crew of men -- about ten or twelve men --who seem plucked right out of a novel set at the day laborers section of the Reseda Home Depot -- all stop whatever they were doing loudly, and then simultaneously every man turns to stare at me as I walk by on the sidewalk.

It has this mysterious effect on me: I want to tear out their eyeballs with their jackhammers and then throw them down in a pit of frothing, molten hot magma. Is that so wrong?

Last week I tried writing at a coffee shop. I tried five coffee shops and one weird bakery/ice cream parlor that has a bathtub in the hallway. The point here is that these are not quiet places in Hollywood. These are places for homeless smells, panhandling, and lots of men and women talking about their screenplays, their craft, their headshots, who is booking a national right now, their agents, their dog's agents.

Truly it makes for wonderful anthropological outings but isn't productive writing time. Finally I resorted to writing in my car. I parked at a large, leafy quiet park and the weather was nice and cool last week so as long as my laptop battery lasted it was the next best thing to home. This week is too hot, though.

I will not be defeated. I will wake up early, write in the wee and quiet hours, go out for a long walk the moment they start their symphony of ear-splitting noises. When I walk past them I will be on my "phone" discussing "a terrible flare-up of Mucho Bad Y Mucho Contagioso Fiebre! So Sad!"

And maybe later if we're lucky they'll hit an underground volcano -- a scientific fact, duh! Just watch any movie called "Volcano" set in Los Angeles! -- and the magma will begin to ooze and Tommy Lee Jones will have to instruct everyone to abandon the construction site and let the magma seal it in for good. And after a few days of reporters and news helicopters and well, magma, the neighborhood will go back to whatever passes as "quiet" in this crazymaking, loud-ass, constantly pulsating city. AND I WILL GET SOME WRITING DONE. I got a pocket got a pocket full of sunshine!

- - -

This next portion is brought to you by Apple Computers which are so easy even a cat can use the webcam!

ONE: SOBA APPROACHES THE WEBCAM
soba-webcam.jpg
"Is this thing ON?"

- - -

TWO: SOBA HAS AN IDEA

soba-was-just-thinking.jpg
"I'm having a thought. A wonderful thought...."

- - -

THREE: SOBA CAMERA FRONT, CLOSE-UP, SPEAKS:

soba-just=oh=really.jpg
"Do we have a time machine? With GPS? I NEED A TIME MACHINE."

Posted by laurie at 7:42 PM

June 10, 2011

Pillowtop Cat Is Comfortable

pillowtop-cat.jpg
Pillowtop cat would like breakfast in bed, please.

Posted by laurie at 9:50 AM

June 8, 2011

Apparently I just woke up today and wrote a novel about walking

After I wrote all this I went back and re-read it and thought, "How do I manage to take a simple topic like sticking one foot in front of the other and turn it into a telenovela? FASCINATING."

Mad skills, ya'll. And all while wearing earplugs. More on that tomorrow, maybe, unless I kill the guy with the jackhammer first.

- - -

Reader Julie asked, "Just wondering, in terms of an exercise regimen, would you recommend just a walking regimen? And if so, about how many miles a day would you say make a real difference?"

Hi Julie! I'm probably the least qualified person in the world to be giving fitness tips -- this time last year I was a VERY out of shape, unfit, low-energy, depressed, overweight person. Then again, now I am a completely nutty but less depressed, less fat, less unfit person. So I can at least share what's worked for me.

I have been trying to get back into shape ever since my divorce. I guess I just reached a point where I knew it was now or never, and that was in June of last year. I had to make some drastic changes to my life and my schedule and I needed to get my priorities straight.

I started slow (seriously slow, like glacially slow) and plodded along from June, 2010 to August, 2010. August was just kind of a low point, no walking, nothing. I started up walking again in late September, slow at first and worked up to 30 minutes a day. In November I saw a big difference in moving from a 30 minute walk to a 45 minute walk each morning. My body changed and my mood improved dramatically and my energy level went way up. It wasn't an overnight transformation as you can see. It took five months to work up to a 45-minute walk each day and there were lots of stops and starts along the way.

Now I do about 90 minutes each morning, but I'm also trying to lose weight (not simply maintain fitness) so it works for me. This morning the weather was great (cool and cloudy) so I walked for two hours and twenty minutes! And the first three miles were uphill. CRAZY. My stamina has increased dramatically and I'm much faster. Like everyone there are days when I do less and days when I do more but I try to do something active every day, even if it's just walking to the corner and back.

Having said all that, by far the biggest change came when I added walking up and down hills! I just started that recently after my move. I have been doing this for about six weeks now and in that time my legs have become so strong that I can see a visible difference in my calves. And my fitness level has improved, too. The first few times I tried walking up the Hollywood Hills I about died. Now I do it almost every day.

Even after having one for all these years I am astonished at how well the human body works. The first day I walked uphill I could barely breathe. It gets easier and less huff-and-puff with each passing day. It's like my body has become my own personal science experiment.

The most important thing to remember is that this is a long-range thing. You don't have to walk eight miles today or ever. I started with five minutes and just kept at it.

- - -

Reader Faith wrote, "Hi Laurie! I'm so proud of you for getting all that walking in. I've been walking myself for 2 1/2 miles every day. It takes me about 45 min. So...I'm curious, how long is it taking you to walk those 8-9 miles? Sounds like lots of fun walking in the hills!"

Hi there! Oh, the hills are so beautiful. I had to move so fast I just took the first cheap place I could find that was move-in ready and I was not exactly overcome with happiness about it. But then one day I discovered how close I am to the Hollywood Hills and since that day my whole attitude has changed. It's just so darn pretty.

Right now I do the first two or three miles in the hills and it's slower going, then I switch to flat sidewalks. The current loop I'm doing is 5 1/4 to 5 1/2 miles and takes me almost exactly 90 minutes. If I add in an extra walk in the evenings it's usually just on flat sidewalks and I do about an hour (I seem to be keeping a 3.5-mile-per-hour pace on the sidewalk) so that brings a day's mileage to just over eight miles.

There was one day where I got a little turned around and walked seven miles at one time and that took me about two hours. I felt like I had just cured cancer or something. I was so excited I think I texted everyone I knew and told them about it. Then I showered and went back to bed.

Now I try to do a single long walk (about two hours) one morning a week, and it's about seven miles or just under. Today I walked just over eight miles in 2 hours 22 minutes, mixing both hills and sidewalks.

By the way -- and I know you didn't ask this -- but I completely understand that not everyone is going to be able to fit that long of a chunk into a daily routine right away. Obviously I had my own stuff going on and I personally needed to make this massive lifestyle change. I wanted to change my life and not be a morbidly obese person who was mired in depression and lived for "one day" sometime in the elusive future when I was thin and happy.

So I made changes. Therapy, walking, sleeping, cutting my expenses so I could live on less and have more time to get well. It's a process. It's absolutely working. But I'm not going to lie, it did not happen overnight. It's been almost a year and I'm still kind of in the middle of it. The difference is of course that I am now a whole lot closer to the "one day" version of me than I was this time last year.

- - -

Gaile wrote, "Laurie I am sure you told us this already, but how did you get started walking? I live in a rather hilly area, and I want to get in shape, I'm embarrassed when I am winded walking up two flights of stairs at work, but I get discouraged and honestly sometimes I get scared walking. Not of the neighborhood. Of dropping dead from being out of shape! And I'm not that overweight - maybe 20 lbs - and I work a job where I'm on my feet all the time. But I know I'm out of shape, and want to start walking and enjoying it. Would love to hear your thoughts on that. Hi to Bob and the girls!"

Good morning, Gaile! I am SO GLAD you asked this question because I have a goofy story for you. I bought the Nike sport band thing in January of 2009 and my intention was of course to get back into shape. I was still working at the bank and commuting loooong hours and I had no time to sleep or walk or do anything fun. I was very overweight and I used to get winded putting on my pantyhose. I was determined to start the new year right and do some walking before work each day.

Those New Year's resolutions. What can I tell you. I installed the Nike + thingy and the very next day I set my alarm even earlier than usual to get up and go for a walk.

I was a zombie in the morning. I laced up my new shoes and put on the wrist band and did the steps you're supposed to do to get it to track your time. Then I started my walk. Fitness! You will be mine! If I don't die on this walk!

I made it a whopping six minutes. Seriously. I walked up the sidewalk and back and after six minutes I needed to go back to bed. I was so exhausted and beaten down and out of shape. And later that day when I tried to upload my stellar walk on the computer I discovered the sensor had nothing to upload. I was so mad! I'd paid good money for that thingamajig. Plus I'd gotten up at 3:45 in the morning just to take that six-minute walk.

It took me a few days to realize that I had been walking so slow the Nike chip thought I was standing still and didn't record my walk. SO EMBARRASSING. Ah the good ole days when I was a garden slug.

I kept at it, though. After just two weeks of walking every morning I could see real improvements in my stamina and breathing and all that. Getting started was the hardest part. Staying motivated was the next hardest. For the rest of 2009 my walking went in cycles... sometimes I would get my act together and walk a lot in a month and then there would be three or four months of nothing.

As you can see it hasn't been a straight path from slug to daily walker. It took a lot of stops and starts before I got active. I had to change my whole life's structure and routine and it took time. Even right after my move in March I abandoned walking and just marinated in my own sloth for a few days. The difference now is that the periods of sloth are much fewer and shorter. MUCH shorter. What would have been a three-month spiral of doom and poor eating and depression and general couch potatoness lasted about two weeks.

During my long slow many months of start-stop I did discover two things that may be helpful to you:

1) If you walk in the mornings, a cup of coffee before the walk will make a world of difference! I usually wake up, have coffee and then go out. Just one cup of coffee makes my whole day better.

and

2) You will improve. No matter how out of shape you are the first day you will see improvements (noticeable, serious improvements) in your endurance and strength in just two weeks of walking every single day. It may be a small change but the body is sort of incredible and will surprise you.

I still think about that day when I barely made it around the block. Now I walk at least five miles every morning, half of which is uphill! And this is me we're talking about -- a former slug.


- - -

An email from reader Johnny asked, "Do you listen to music or what when you're walking?"

I'm all about the silence. And also pretty sure this makes some people cringe! No music, no tapes, no ipod, no earbuds, no audiobooks here. I use my walking time like other people use meditation. Those walks are my writing time. I compose paragraphs, work out the plot, write and re-write essays for this website all in my head while I walk. It's the closest I can get to meditating. It's also where I worked out the whole plot for my fiction book.

I've been taking two walks a day lately even when it's hot because of the LOUD CRAZYMAKING construction going on next door. Sometimes I just have to escape, so walking is my quiet time.

- - -

Canadian reader SandyB wrote, "Eight and nine miles! That is freaking awesome. Do you know that that is 12.8 and 14.5 kilometers in Canada ... isn't that the best? And then when we convert weight from lbs to kilograms my 150 lbs is 68.8 kilograms. Rock the metric it is win win!"

I LOVE THE METRIC SYSTEM! I mean listen, I'm American so I have no idea how to use it, but I love it for just the reasons you pointed out. I was on skype a while back with a friend who lives in Europe and I told him how many miles I walked then asked him to convert it to kilometers so I could sound like more of a badass. Yes, I really am that superficial.

Also, GO CANADA!

- - - -

So I love that we're all talking about and thinking about walking. There have been lots of interesting questions and chitchat and emails about walking lately. I'm certainly not an expert and Lord knows I'm not a picture of physical fitness, I'm just a regular shmoe trying to get off the couch.

Maybe that's a good perspective, though! I think if a skinny fitness instructor type told me she had just walked seven miles in one go I would not believe I could do it. But this is me we're talking about. I am carrying some good old fashioned American heft up and down those hills. I just started slow and worked up to it and didn't give up and now I can surprise even myself with my own endurance.

Walking is probably the closest I will ever get to real meditation and I like the way my brain clears out and calms down and it helps me sleep better, too. ALL that good stuff. But let's be real, I also want to lose weight and fit into my pants.

Has walking helped me lose weight? Yes. Absolutely. I saw my friend Corey a few weeks ago and she almost didn't recognize me, in a good way. But is it slow going? ALSO YES. And only now, a year later, I've started to become OK with this. I needed this time to get my mind straight and work through my stuff and I think it's been better for me in unexpected ways, going slow, adding incrementally to progress and fitness. I have had times when I've felt impatient, times when I slugged out and wanted to give up.

A few months ago I started to see how I've always associated walking (an activity I love) with weight loss (a topic I frankly hate). So that in my life walking became something I was "supposed" to do and "should" do and that sucked a lot of enjoyment out of it. In fact, I often avoided the activity all together because there is so much mental crap tied up with being fat/being a failure/not exercising enough.

Around this time I made the division between walking because it feels good and walking for weight loss. I decided that if I never lost another ounce I wanted to keep walking every day because it feels so good. And if people don't like the way I look they can stick it up their hoohah.

So yes, I have lost weight. But I am not skinny. I will probably never be skinny. People who think I need to be skinny need to find other things to worry about. I just do. not. care.

These days I walk because I like it, not because anyone is telling me to walk to lose weight. Something about that distinction has made a world of difference to my outlook.

It has been one wild year of changiness!

----


Last one, promise, about legs and pants and then some navel-gazing:

When I get back from my long walks, like this morning, I take a long, hot shower and then I rub my ankles and feet and calves with castor oil. I know it sounds like some weird old wives tale but it really works for muscle soreness and pain and stuff. And it makes your skin soft, too. I bought a bottle of castor oil at Whole Foods for about $6 and it lasts several months. If your feet or legs get sore after a long hike this may work for you. I love it.

And a few people have emailed me to say they tried the same shoes I'm using (Nike Free Run shoes) with great results. I'm so happy! I love sharing a find that works. So that got me thinking about one last thing:

Pants.

I wasn't going to write about this because it seems sort of embarrassing, but then I saw an article about some lady runner and she mentioned how important her special running shorts were (I think she called them "skins" or something) to cut down on chafing. And this lady was seriously thin and athletic, so it made me think that perhaps this is just a human body issue, not just a chub rub issue.

Last October when I really started ramping up my walking routine, I knew it was time to advance from brief 30-minute and 40-minute walks to longer walks of up to an hour or longer. But the first time I did a long walk I got some serious chafing issues halfway through the walk and had to hobble back two-plus miles home and that was a sad sight. I was just wearing regular old black track pants from Target, and the seams on my pants legs were thick double-knit bumps that rubbed and hurt.

So I went to Target and found these pants with flat seams. Now I know some of you are saying, $36 for a pair of track pants? Are you out of your mind? But hear me out.

If you pay $36 for a pair of pants that don't chafe or rub on your skin and that means you take longer and longer walks with no discomfort, then you are more likely to have better and better health from all that walking and exercising, maybe sleep better, maybe lose weight, maybe feel great. And if you keep on doing it (and don't quit because your shoes hurt or your pants rub the wrong way) you will get fitter and healthier and may even add years to your life.

Is that worth $36 to you?

This is how I've rearranged my life, and it's taken a year to get this far but it's working. I ask myself why I'm willing to spend money on Netflix or cable TV or popcorn or whatever and yet I balk at $36 for track pants. It's small things that can make a big difference.

It's been one year almost to the day that I left the bank and all those little changes have made a big turnaround. Yes, I'm poorer and I can't really afford a vacation and freelancing is uncertain. What's also true is that I'm not the same fat, sad, unhappy, lethargic, stressed-out version of me I was this time last year. I used to wake up each day already behind schedule, angry, and ashamed at what I saw in the mirror. I was depressed and I couldn't sleep and I kept breaking out in hives. Now I wake up and wonder if I should hike up the steep hill or the really steep hill, and then I think about this book I'm writing, I write, I wonder what the day will bring and I look forward to it. I have sad moments and happy moments and awkward moments, but that's normal. I'm not a broken, dispirited, gloomy woman anymore. I don't know why I'm telling you all this. Maybe I don't want you to lose hope. If I could turn the bus around I believe it's possible for anyone to do it.

It's not just about walking or eating well or doing what you love. You have to plug in, do whatever it takes to make things work harmoniously, take control of your life and body. But you already know that. I wasn't actually sure this year would work, I knew it was a risk (it still is!) but I'm here to tell you it's actually working. Somehow I managed to turn it all around. It's been slow, and it's not even over yet, but at least I am finally going in the right direction. And really, that is enough.

Posted by laurie at 12:42 PM

June 7, 2011

The sweater pattern is ready!

In case you are just joining our story in progress, a while back I saw a beautiful summer sweater in the display window of an upscale Los Angeles boutique. I loved it. I wondered aloud in an asking way if any knitters here had seen a pattern that looked exactly like the boutique sweater. Many awesome people responded and if you go back and look at the original post here and follow-up here you can find links to many free patterns online.

But none of the free patterns were exactly, totally 100% the same style sweater and I'm not the sort of knitter who can just wake up one morning and whip up a sweater by scratch or re-do a whole pattern on the fly and then Lisa in North Hollywood emailed her friend Vera in Los Angeles and Vera looked at the sweater and offered to make a pattern for one. And she did, in like three days! Crazy! You can see her sweater on her blog and purchase the pattern there as well. It's only $5.50 for the pattern to make this beautiful summer knit, I'm in AWE. I love it when people have mad talent and create beautiful things which I can then use to make my own beautiful creation. This is how I feel about chocolate, and wine, and food, and yarn, and movies, and this pattern. Very happy!

I got my yarn yesterday and started swatching. I started with a size 10.5 needle (that's at the bottom half of the swatch) and moved up to a size 11 needle, which created some crazy tension. Usually I'm a very even knitter (this is one of the advantages of being a tight knitter, even, perfect stitches) but on the larger needle I was careening out of control. I haven't decided which one to go with, I held both against my wrist and I think the fabric created by the smaller needle may actually work better.

boutique-sweater-swatch.jpg

Does cotton block well? I never knit with cotton. Hard to say. This yarn is 50% viscose, 50% cotton. It's a little shiny but for $22 it was a steal. My first real, adult-sized human sweater is now under construction. Happy summer knitting!

Posted by laurie at 1:08 PM

June 5, 2011

Easy slouchy hand-knit hipster hat (free pattern!)

I love knitting hats and I make a lot of them, mostly for family members and friends who live in colder climates. But there is one style of hat that is everywhere right now, even in summertime Los Angeles: the slouchy hipster hat. It's longer and a little looser that a traditional knit hat and you don't turn up the brim. Bright colors and textured cotton-blend yarn give this hat a relaxed Venice Beach look.

Here is my vintage bear modeling the hat:
slouchyhat-old-bear.jpg
(That's just a placeholder pic until I get some good pictures of my nephew Brett in his hipster hat.)


Free Pattern: Easy slouchy hand-knit hipster hat

Skill level: Beginner/Intermediate

Materials:
• Heavy worsted-weight yarn, approx 220 yeards. I used one ball of Noro Taiyo color #6
• Gauge: 4.5 stitches/inch
• Needles: 16" Circular and double-pointed needles (DPNs) of same size. I used size 9 needle, but you may need to go down to a size 8. I tend to knit a little tighter than most knitters. Knit a swatch if you're in doubt.
• Other: Stitch markers, one large-eye yarn needle, scissors.

Things you may find useful when knitting this hat:
• The easy roll-brim hat pattern, the basis of all my hat recipes
Working with circular needles
• A little diatribe on decreasing stitches
• My regular ribbed-brim hat recipe

General hat tip: I have learned from knitting approximately one gagillion hats that for most adults you can estimate a good fitting hat at 18" of finished fabric. This particular hat is a bit slouchy, measuring in around 20" in finished diameter. If you want a closer-fitting cap (like a beanie) check back in a few days, I've made a few of those, too and will post the pattern shortly.


Pattern:

Cast on 88 stitches. Join for knitting in the round, making sure your stitches are not twisted. You can place a marker if you like, but the world will not stop spinning on its axis if you don't have a marker. I never use one until I'm ready to start decreasing.

Knit in (Knit 1, Purl 1) ribbing for 1 1/2" or so.

Switch to stockinette, which means you knit every stitch in the round.

Knit in stockinette until the hat measures 9" or 9 1/2" from the cast on edge.

Begin decreasing:
- Place a marker to denote the beginning of the round, if you haven't already been using a marker.
- (Knit 9, Knit 2 together)* across the round. End with 80 stitches.

***TIP*** After every decrease place a marker. Use different colored markers from the one you use to signify the end of a round. This little trick will save you so much time and brainpower when decreasing for a hat. Now every time you work a decrease row, you know to knit together the two stitches just before the markers.

- Knit one round.

- (Knit 8, K2tog) across round. End with 72 stitches.

- Knit one round.

- (Knit 7, K2tog) across round. End with 64 stitches.

- Knit one round.

- (Knit 6, K2tog) across round. End with 56 stitches.

- Knit one round. This is also where I switched to double-pointed needles (DPNs).

- (Knit 5, K2tog) across round. End with 48 stitches.
- (Knit 4, K2tog) across round. End with 40 stitches.
- (Knit 3, K2tog) across round. End with 32 stitches.
- (Knit 2, K2tog) across round. End with 24 stitches.
- (Knit 1, K2tog) across round. End with 16 stitches.

Cut the yarn tail, leaving about 10 inches of yarn. Thread the yarn through a large-eye needle and pull it through all the remaining stitches on your needles. I do this twice because I am a little OCD. Weave in all ends. And you have a hat!


slouchyhat-markers.jpg
Markers after every decrease, plus a different marker to denote the beginning of a round.


slouchyhat-decreases.jpg
Yes, it's a loooong hat.


slouchyhat-sucky-picture.jpg
My self-portrait picture-taking skills have seriously devolved.

Posted by laurie at 11:59 AM

June 3, 2011

Question of the week

I love my reader email. Ya'll know I am pathologically opposed to giving advice until someone asks for it, and then I give them not just advice but one of my many half-cocked theories. And I have so many theories! One day I plan to write a book of all my theories. I will call it: My Head Had To Be Surgically Removed From My Own Backside!

Here is this week's email:

Hello Ma'am!

I would like to first state that this is NOT a joke. No matter how funny this may seem.

I was a born and raised southerner ( by the grace of God ) I've spend the last and only 22 years of my life in backwoods Georgia, and to be honest, I've loved every second of it. But now I find myself in a bind.

I've met this girl who happens to live in Las Vegas, and I've met her several times. Like face to face. I've been in her home and shook hands with her father.

My main question is this:

How badly does the world outside of the south suck? Is love worth moving out there to be with her? I figured you would know being a member of Dixie, then moving out west yourself.

I suppose that's it. Thank you kindly for your time and your funny knitting related stories,

Benjamin

Hi Benjamin,
I do appreciate your note. And being Southern myself I can appreciate the reason for your letter and simultaneously feel just fine being called ma'am. Even though I have a traumatizing birthday coming up in a couple of weeks. But enough about me!

Your experience moving out west will depend entirely on your attitude. I have noticed that when it comes to Southerners there are two types: hothouse flowers and kudzu. My philosophy here probably applies to all sorts of folks (New Yorkers, I am looking at you) but I only feel comfortable sharing my harebrained theories if they are based on my own experience. And I know Southerners.

Hot house flowers are fascinating, healthy, and lovely. They are also very particular about their circumstances. They like staying in the same location and dealing with a limited number of variables. They enjoy their regular meals and regular admirers. They hate being hauled out to the parched desert and shoved in a car for hours on end and dealing with pests and irritants. This does not mean there is anything wrong with them -- quite the contrary. They know exactly what they like. They know where and how they will best flourish and bloom. They very much prefer to stay in their hometown environment.

Kudzu will grow any damn where. I am kudzu. I was not the loveliest girl from my high school, or the most popular, or the most affluent. Instead, I was vigorous and determined. As soon as I could scare up the will and the way I moved out west. My life is unpredictable, and I have to clench on to any old thing sometimes. But I have seen a whole lot of this planet, beautiful, amazing things. I have met all kinds of people, I have had experiences that swerve from tremendous highs to crazyass lows but it is never boring and I never give up. Kudzo keeps creeping because it just cannot stay still very long. You can cut kudzu at the knees and next week that shit will be back on your porch.

So ask yourself, "Am I kudzo or a hot house flower?" This is not to say you are born and declared one or the other. You get to choose. I think I was born kudzu but once I landed in L.A. and acclimated (it takes a year or two) I slowly developed Hot House Flower tendencies. Now I am a prissy city person who expects everything to be just like L.A. I suck! But I sure love it here.

Now that I have gone on and on with another one of my ridiculous theories, let me break this down for you:

You are 22. Georgia will always be there. Move to Las Vegas. Throw your heart into it. Choose to be kudzu for a while. Approach it like a challenge. Get into it, visit all the amazing places in the West. Learn the lingo, eat the food, figure out how to have an open, happy attitude. You may not live there forever but while you're there you will have an adventure. And what is life without a little adventure?

Do not get this girl knocked up under any circumstances until you have been together a solid five years. I may be crazy in other areas but in this one I am spot on. Wear a condom. EVERY TIME.

Move. Be your inner kudzu. Take this on like a story you're going to tell someday back in Georgia. I have never once regretted anything I did in the name of true love. Be vigorous and determined. Best of luck to you!

xo
laurie

Posted by laurie at 2:28 PM

June 1, 2011

June first!

Just a quick list with lots of exclamation points!!:

One!
It is June first!

Two!
Vera is a miracle worker and has made lots of progress on that boho boutique sweater! You can follow all the magic here on her blog. Vera! Rocks!

Three!
Reader Dorothy said it best:

Just when you think the innernet is full of weirdos and bossy types, the good shines through in a huge flash of awesome.

AGREED!

Posted by laurie at 9:47 AM