Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I confess...this time I actually will.  Confess, that is.  The following are things I hesitate to admit but will whisper quietly to my blog-reading public:
  • I have gotten MUCH better in terms of body confidence.  I can see that I am small and fit.  But I still step on the scale at least once a day.  Pee, put in the contacts, strip, and weigh (yes, pre-teeth brushing b/c I might absorb water...which is beyond silly).  And it absolutely impacts my mood that day.  I hate being that type of girl...but I am.
  • MM is in good shape.  X was very strong and worked out but was heavy side.  Both always say/said positive things to me about my body.  But they mean more to me coming from MM because he's got an admirable physique.
  • I want to be encouraging to all gym goers and I know that going in pairs helps a lot of people.  But I still want to throw things at the two chatty twenty year-old girls who have the same cardio schedule as me.  This is more of a confession because I am totally inconsistent (I want a different word there and it is driving me nuts).  There are some guys who chat on the weight room I kind of enjoy listening to them.  It is like a peek into man-land hearing how they relate (and gripe about their gals).
  • The gym I use shares a building with a tanning place (and I think they may share owners).  I get a "holier than thou" feeling when I pass people going into the tan place instead of the gym.  They have signs criticizing politicians for supporting the Tan Tax.  These make me want to write letters in support of higher tan taxing.
  • I seem to fall out of love quickly with the daytime TV that I use as background noise for job searching and as distraction at the gym.  But I've stayed more in love with The Talk.  I expected to like Sara Gilbert, and I do, but it is totally Sharon Osbourne who keeps me hooked.
  • I cheated a bit on my no-alcohol March.  I blame the back and frustrations therewith.  I had several drinks the day my doctor cancelled on me for a surgery and a glass of wine the day of the appointment because the poking made the pain worse (and I hadn't filled the pain script yet).
  • I am angry that I lost eight years of my life to the relationship with X.  It took meeting MM for me to understand how wrong the relationship had been.  X ended it but I should have.  Long ago.  I don't blame him, I think bad relationships are often more about the pair not working rather than one guilty party.  But I wish I knew then what I know now.  I want to write a whole post on this but I am worried I can't do that without getting meaner than I should and without laying blame (which I truly don't want to do).
  • Despite that, I think I threw a great party (and I really take credit for putting it together).  And I looked damn good in that white dress. 
  • I spent way too much time the other day on People of Walmart.  And I much of that time included feeling superior to folks.  I sometimes get that feeling among the general public as well, especially when I'm not limited to the gym or professional circles (which tends to attract a small range of folks).  It always leaves me with a feeling of guilt, but it recurs regularly.
  • I am generally enjoying Central PA, but I totally laugh at the caliber of the local TV news folk.
  • I chew too much gum.  And this keeps Rite-Aid happy because I take anti-gas stuff to address the resulting puffy tummy.  It is totally vanity medicating since the only side effect is the puffy lower abdomen.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

the smallest acts

I confess...I am a big believer in the value of small acts.  High school was miserable for me, I was successful academically but the social world was a mystery.  I went out for maybe five social events in my entire high school career.  College was much better but I still entered with a social disadvantage.  I still have a distinct lack of social confidence.  But a bit of a boost, a bit of a lesson in acceptance and welcoming, came from on boy.  We'll call him SG for Smilin' Guy.

SG was a sophomore.  He was involved in the orientation program (called "Customs"...we had 2-3 sophomores living with freshman as advisors of sorts...RAs with no actual power) but wasn't assigned to my group.  Somehow, he knew my name and every time we passed, he said "Hi Cheryl.".  It was simple.  And probably not something he ever thought about.  It seemed natural to him.  But, for reasons I can't quite express, it made a world of difference to me. I'd pushed my way through crowded high school hallways where I saw few welcoming faces (huge HS, very tracked so I only knew the "honors-level" crew in my year).  Here was someone who had no reason to know me but did and always took the moment to greet me.  It made me feel welcome.  I certainly thought he was cute but it was never a crush or anything like that.  It still made a world of difference.

And I always wanted to tell him but I felt awkward.  I actually have often gone out of my way to thank people for little things.  I'd send notes through campus mail to say thanks to people who made a difference to me...both friends and also more casual acquaintances whose little kindnesses mattered.  But I never told SG.  It felt too silly.  I had the perfect moment.  It was near the end of his senior year and we were both waiting to speak to a professor.  We were in the hallway of Woodside Cottage, a small house converted into offices for the English department.  It was quiet and would have been an easy moment to tell him...the professor would come soon so it wouldn't linger oddly.  But I didn't do it.

I got to law school and was again thrown off-balance socially.  I got lucky and found that some wise person picked the perfect suitemates for me and found some great friends even before the first day.  And, when the class gathered for some sort of mingling opportunity, I found SG was among the first years (aside: there were three Haverford grads in my UVA Law class and SIX in the class below us...I think that, if you looked at it in proportion to size of graduating class, there were more of us than folks who came from UVA undergrad).  I knew the universe had some message for me.  Some unfinished business.

SG and I were, again, friendly but not quite friends.  One day, I'll admit it was after a few drinks, I found SG alone on a bench in the school.  Using the added courage of being tipsy, I told him.  I'm not sure what words I used but I told him I had always meant to thank him.  That the small act of knowing my name and greeting me had made a world of difference to me.  He was clearly surprised, I doubt he could have guessed that something that was so natural to him mattered so much to me, but he took it well.  I eventually told the story to folks who selected the law school equivalent of orientation folks, which apparently made him even more of a shoo-in for selection.  I know he gave me props at one point too.

It's a small story, but I think there's a lot there.  People make huge sacrifices and sweeping gestures and they certainly count, but I think it is the smallest acts that matter the most.  Yesterday, MM used my car to pick up some gas for lawn equipment and topped off my tank while he was there.  It wasn't much (I'd had it 3/4 full) and he didn't say a word, but it was a small act of thoughtfulness.  And it made me smile.  Small acts rarely receive verbal gratitude, especially not the kind that compares to some big gesture.  But they still matter, often more than the giver realizes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

the shout-out list

I confess...I am a little bit nervous about expressing my love for products.  I have a history of falling in love with things only to have the product pulled or re-tooled.  But, I'm feeling the need for a "things I'm loving" list, so I'll just cross my fingers:
  • L'Oreal EverSleek Deep Conditioner -- I deep condition once or twice a week. This one makes more of a visible difference than any other I've tried. My hair is long, thick, and trapped between curly and wavy. I don't like its natural state and I blow-dry it straight daily...luckily it is tough enough to put up with that.  Deep conditioner always helps keep it under control but this one has an especially impressive day-of impact.
  • Avon Lotus Shield Anti-Frizz Serum -- I found this product in the summer when my mom had a sample.  As a non-makeup gal (well, minimal...eye cream an tinted moisturizer), I never imagined I'd place an Avon order but I'm totally in love with this one.  Just a small amount, even on my massive amount of hair, really makes a huge difference in smoothing and de-frizzing my hair.  It has even helped with weather woes...my hair typically frizzes at the mere thought of water and fog/mist is a real killer since umbrellas are useless...it hasn't had a HUGE test in that area, but it really has seemed to keep it under control and away from troll-doll state.
  • Electronic fireplaces -- I tended to laugh at them but have totally come around.  The new guy (let's call him MM for Military Man) has one in his living room.  We can leave the thermostat pretty low (even at 60) and the living room still stays plenty toasty.  At times, I still think the fake fire is a bit corny in appearance but I'm a fan of the practicality (esp with gas and oil prices being high).  An irony of unemployment is that you can cut certain bills but heating and electric bills rise when you are home all day.
  • The Talk - This currently tops my guilty pleasure TV list.  I plan my treadmill time to coincide...luckily it is slow enough at 2 that I can use one of the four TVs at my new gym.  On a related note, the last hour of the Today show is oddly on at 1 here so Kathie Lee & Hoda are also cardio companions.
  • Teddy Bear -- One of my Valentine's Day gifts from MM.  The one I have (not sure if it is the size of the linked one) is a really good size for nighttime holding.  Yes, that sounds like a 4 year-old...or a pathetic stereotype girl...but clutching something really helps on nights when the pain is bad.  And the tank makes me smile since I definitely noticed MM"s biceps when he took off his regular shirt and wore just the tank at the NYE party where we met.
  • Weis Diet White Birch Beer - Not the best of links but it is what I can find (and I am enjoying the fact that I noticed the "link" button on the blogger site).  This has a really fresh taste and I'm a big fan.
  • MM - Yeah, I'm a definite fan of the guy.  He's awesome.
P.S.  If any of these companies want to send me free stuff, I'd happily enjoy them.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

more reading fun....My New American Life: A Novel by Francine Prose

I confess...there's a lot rattling around in my head but I'm having a hard time putting it into words and really want to put something other than a bullet-point post.  A book review isn't quite what I'm itching to write, but you're getting one anyway since it will let me move the finished book from one pile to another.  Yes, I'm weird.

My New American Life: A Novel by Francine Prose is one I might have actually picked up on my own.  Actually, I'd have hesitated since I have a bias against authors with more than two or three novels under their belt so it is cool that this is one of the books that I got as an advance copy from Harper. 

The book's main character is Lula, an immigrant from Albania.  We find her working for a well-to-do man in the NYC suburbs as a caretaker for his son who is 17 and really doesn't need any care (Mom has left due to mental issues).  The father has also hooked Lula up with a lawyer to work on getting her legal status.  In both the legal world and in general, Lula tends to tell stories that people would expect...they aren't true (or happened generations ago) but they conform to American assumptions about life in other nations and playing on these stereotypes gets Lula sympathy and seems like a bit of amusement for her as well. 

Early on in the novel, Lula's very routine life is interrupted by three Albanian men showing up and asking her to hide a gun for them. This ramps up the cultural undercurrents of the novel that look at loyalty and the similarities and differences between the US and nations we assume are worlds away.  The home life of Lula's employer provides further evidence of the theme that things are rarely as they appear or as we'd assume.

I enjoyed the book.  I'd likely put it at 3.5 stars but it gave me enough to think about that I am fine rounding up to four (of five...goodreads and amazon use five stars and don't allow half-stars).  At times, I got frustrated with Lula.  I also disliked some of the overdone plot twists and mini storylines (the son's bizarre visit to a college seemed like a random short story the author just felt like inserting).  But it was generally a fun and thought-provoking read without ever becoming preachy (a fault shared by many books that take a critical eye to modern America).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book Worm: A Hard Death by Jonathan Hayes

I confess...I'm happy to be picking back up on my reading.  I'm well into my next Harper book but wanted to go ahead and review A Hard Death, a novel by Jonathan Hayes that the lovely Harper folks sent my way.

A Hard Death is a sequel to an earlier novel by the author (Precious Blood) and follows forensic pathologist Edward Jenner as he becomes immersed in a series of mysteries in southern Florida.  I do think having read the prior novel would give the reader a head start in understanding Jenner and his past (involving a serial killer in NYC and related personal background), but I was able to catch up.  I'm not a huge thriller/mystery girl but enjoyed watching the threads tie together and think Hayes handles that well, making the relationship between multiple mysteries more believable than a typical episode of CSI (the fact that two separate murders on CSI are inevitably related drives me nuts).  I did get a bit lost at time in the character names but that's not unusual for me.  I felt mixed on the more personal side of the story involving Jenner and two very different women in the Florida town....it felt forced at times and the characters didn't always feel fully fleshed.

Overall, an enjoyable read.  A solid three of five stars, which (I feel like a broken record) is a solid score from me...firmly in the "Good" range but not in the "Great" arena and not one I expect to read again.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

not so deep thoughts

I confess....sometimes I have no idea what to write as an intro for a bullet point post...
  • I have an interview tomorrow.  I don't tend to "do" nervous but find I am a bit nervous for this one.  I'm trying to see that as a good sign...I want it.  And not just because I feel a bit useless since I'm not working and can't even really help with housework since I can't move too freely.
  • I am still in a lot of pain.
  • On that note, I've been thinking again about assumptions.  I've been skipping weights entirely and walking really slow at the gym.  I feel self-conscious about that.  I've also been wondering what other gym-goers might assume about my relationship with my body.  I am making assumptions here too, but there are a couple very heavy gym-goers and I sometimes wonder if they have any clue how much I battle my body or assume it is all easier for me since I'm a fit size.
  • Last year, I suggested that Toyota engineered the oil spill since it totally knocked their accelerator issues out of the lead news spot.  It is totally classless to say, but I had a fleeting thought about Libya causing the earthquake.  Yeah, that totally counts against me in the good person tally.
  • I haven't watched Jeopardy as much of late, which is really a commentary on how awful I feel.  I did watch last night though and only one contestant made it to Final Jeopardy.  I'm dorky enough to have found that really interesting....though I do think the contestant looked a bit bored in the game.
  • I got two dozen roses and some chocolates this week from the new guy because he wanted to make me smile when I've been in a lot of pain.  It worked.
  • I used some Target giftcards for new bedding.  I am quite proud of my insight in buying a King-Size comforter set to better fit the Queen-Sized bed that has an extra deep mattress and an additional mattress pad on top.  The "deep pocket" Queen-Size sheets are also a definite improvement...especially with my habit of kicking in my sleep which often demolished the not-quite-fitting regular ones.
  • I have no interest in Saint Patrick's Day.  Well, I have an interest in the Mint Oreo Blizzard-of-the-Month.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I confess...I have nothing to say other than that I truly hate my body and feel at a total loss for strength.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

nothing new to see here...

I confess...I have nothing new to say.  My body is being so mean-spirited.  I am relying too much on pain meds and going through them too fast.  I am trying to hold on till my back appointment on the 21st but each day feels harder.  The endo and back are both in on the game....one monster is reaching in below my navel to squeeze and twist with the other is twisting a knife in my spine (and sending a lesser pain down my leg). 

I'm scared by the pain.  I'm scared by running through serious medicine too fast.  I'm scared this is my future.  I say that I just need to know...to tell me if this is my fate so I can learn to accept it...but I'm not doing well at acceptance.

I want to run away from me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I confess...I'm not giving up my diet soda. You can point me to proof it's bad for me, but I'm hanging on to that bad habit. I know it hurts my bones and has evil chemicals. I know it would be good to stop. But I have no plan to do so (and, while I appreciate links friends shared recently, I don't need any further information on it).

I am, however, working on another habit. I'm not religious (technically, I'm Jewish but see that as more cultural than religious...I do love my Quakers but I think I am truly an agnostic) so it isn't a Lent thing, though I notice the timing. I have noted before that I don't "do" New Year's Resolutions because I believe we make changes when the changes are ready to be made. And I think this is a ready point for me.

I am going to take the month of March away from alcohol. To be clear, I am not an alcoholic. I don't have a problem with it and I expect it'll come back in time. My normal habit has been some wine on Friday and Saturday night. Rarely more than 3 glasses, usually over a long period of time and with food. I'll have a bottle over Friday and Saturday...with glasses spread from 1PM to 10PM (note: it wasn't till after work hours when that was an issue). I simply enjoy red wine. I love the flavor and the texture. And the little bit of relaxation doesn't hurt.

I've been drinking more than that lately. I blame that on the early relationship phase where you just go out more and feel like celebrating. It isn't an amount I/we would ever have sustained over a long period. We absolutely get along wonderfully sober so it isn't some sort of relationship crutch. We are just as happy and content sober and relaxing at home as we are out and about or home with an open Malbec. It really is just having fun together and celebrating the fact that we found each other.

But it has been too much. I could step back to my normal zone. I think my normal zone is completely healthy for me. But I'm also in a horrid fight with my body. The endo and back have both been fierce fighters. On the doctor's beloved pain scale, I think 8 is becoming status quo. I am being proactive on the back and seeing a new doc on the 21st. I am trying to work with my body. It isn't smart to become bedridden and I mentally can't give up the gym but I'm taking care and trying not to push. I can't let the endo be an excuse, it won't go away and the workout won't harm it. The back is a mixed bag. Being active is good for back pain but I know it throws my form off and I want to avoid secondary injuries (this is from experience)

I'm tired a lot. I blame the pain. No one without chronic pain can really understand how totally draining it is. I sleep a lot. And have little physical energy during the day. My weekdays are really simple...I stay in bed, I get up and watch TV while going online and doing job apps plus more enjoyable stuff, I eventually stumble to the gym, I check in online, I watch TV. I'm still constantly tired. I can get through my workout with the blessing of endorphins and with the drill sergeant in my head (not always a friend to me and my body...). Body Tired, not always Sleepy Tired. The tired where you just need to sit and let your body sink away.

I'm also not thrilled with my weight. I've dropped a little bit since the New Year.  Smiling around the new guy must burn calories since it clearly hasn't been diet-related (note: in my world, "diet" = "food I eat", not a restriction plan). I'd really love to drop a little more. It is pure vanity. It isn't health. My body is at a healthy weight and I look fine. I know people would correct that and say "more than fine." I have image issues but even I can see that my weight is only an issue to me and that my current form is plenty slim. But I still feel best a bit trimmer and the goal level isn't unhealthy eaither.

So...I've decided I want to feel in control and that taking a break from the alcohol will help. I last had a drink on Thursday (yes, I had too many then..which spurred the self-eval). I am not having another in March. I may continue beyond that, but no promises. This is a health move, to see how my body reacts. It is also a mental challenge. I do like the idea of asserting control over it even though I am not an alcoholic and it isn't really something that controls me. It isn't an addiction (the diet soda totally is...I do know that) but it is certainly a habit. I like the idea of trying this. I also REALLY like the money it will save. The guy is doing it too, he is planning to stick with it even longer, and I know it will be a huge budget boost. Again, we'd never have kept up the early dating habits forever, but our tabs haven't been cheap. We can totally find other uses for that cash.

That's the plan. If you know me in person, know that I'm not drinking for a while. Know that I am NOT pregnant...everyone assumes that when a woman isn't drinking but I promise it isn't the case. I may go past March, I may not. If I say "no thanks" to a drink, please let it pass at that. If I go back to my wine after March, I won't see that as any sort of defeat. If I don't, please still respect that (and continue to avoid that darn pregnancy assumption!!). Again, I know I don't have a problem with alcohol...I have my issues, that really isn't one. Just deciding to try an experiment and see where it goes.

Cheers (w/ my Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper)?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

and so on....

I confess...once again, I find myself with a jumble of thoughts that I want to share but that I don't feel prepared to fully flesh out in an individual post. 
  • I haven't stayed up-to-date on the Wisconsin situation but it brings up one of the areas in which my liberal card might be revoked.  I feel really mixed about unions.  I recognize that the collective power is responsible for many positive reforms that we now take for granted and appreciate that unions help protect people who might be voiceless.  But I also think they can tie hands unfairly and that treating workers as fungible assets isn't always sensible, in ways that can protect incompetence and also fail to recognize excellence.
  • My back and I are fighting again.  It had never really become pain-free but a bit of snow shoveling a few weeks ago has left it acting up.  I have an appointment on the 21st with one of my father's colleagues.  I know docs do always want the best possible outcomes but I'll admit that I know the "Doctor Dad" card will help ensure I get the best possible treatment. 
  • I bought the current man in my world an electric heating blanket for V-Day.  I really did plan it as for him but admit I've gotten to enjoy it to.  We both like "pre-heating" the bed so the sheets are nice and toasty before we slip under the covers.  It has a ten-hour shutoff but we usually turn it off before totally falling asleep.  Definite win.
  • My family is complex.  I'm glad I never had to draw a tree because I can't imagine how it would look and branches have grown since my school days.  It can be messy and confusing and complicated.  Lots of people, lots of personality.  But I appreciate that it also means lots of homes.  I know the doors are open in both "parent" homes.  And I'm not super close to most of the semi-siblings but think it's safe to say they'd invite me in if I showed up on their doorsteps.  It's nice to know that there are always warm places and open hearts for me if I need them.
  • I wonder how much of the Charlie Sheen debacle is planned and calculated.  Is he sitting back and loving the character he's creating?  Regardless, I hope those kids have trust funds to cover really good therapy someday.
  • The TV just brought up the Galliano story again. He is the designer who made horrid remarks that were caught on video. I hate when people blame their actions on alcohol. I have no doubt the alcohol loosened his tongue and maybe he'd have known not to say it if he were sober, but that hatred is inside him. I feel the same about stories of domestic abuse filled by alcohol. Yes, it contributes. But the ugliness and violence is still in there. Alcohol may explain why it came out, but it never excuses it.
  • I spend a lot of the day online.  I do a lot of job search work but also spend time on Facebook and blogs.  I have really come to appreciate that I know some really amazing folks.  Part of me regrets that I didn't know how amazing some of them were during the time we were also seeing each other in person, but it is making me realize how much people can have hidden inside them.
  • One of the best parts of being 5'4" and dating a man who is 6' (and muscular) is borrowing his bathrobe to sit in while I'm relaxing in my PJs (longer time than normal folks since I don't get dressed till after my early afternoon gym trip).
  • I'm feeling uber-lazy.  Someone dress me and bring me to the gym. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

book review (non-fiction): The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

I confess...I'm always fascinated by stories detailing the unique trials and triumphs of women in harrowing historical periods but rarely seek them out actively.  So I was very pleased to select The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon to receive from the folks at Harper to review.

The author journeys to Afghanistan to find and tell the story of women who helped ensure the survival of their families and communities during the Taliban's reign. She meets a woman named Kamela and the book focuses on the dressmaking business that she ran, along with her siblings (mostly sisters, but one of her brothers helps as an escort and with other duties), in a Kabul suburb.  Kamela's family had been well-off prior to the Taliban's rule and education was highly valued for both the nine daughters and two sons.  The story highlights the vast changes that the Taliban brought, noting that the county had long suffered from political struggles but that Kamela went from an involved student to being more like a prisoner in her own home.  Kamela finds a need and learns to navigate the climate in order to create a dressmaking business that brings much needed money to her family and to neighbors as well. 

I give the book four out of five stars.  It is a story of strength and survival.  The telling is very simple, although I got a little lost at times with the multiple siblings and neighbors.  It is a story with a lot of hope and highlights the unique strength of women in oppressive regimes.  It isn't really a political history, or even a social history.  It doesn't claim to be an "average" woman's tale and I would have liked a bit more insight into how other women (esp those with less fortunate families) compared to Kamela's story, but that's probably a different book.  As it stands, I'd recommend this to readers who enjoy women's history as told through an individual lens.  It is a portrait of survival.