Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Not Wanting to Miss Out

Lots of the time, I think I get drawn into the idea that I have to do more to make sure not to miss out on something of value. Today is Hallowe'en. I wanted Alan to have a good day. In the morning, we did school. He likes to have the routine of it and enjoys learning. When he wrote in his journal about his plans for the rest of the day, he put in "park day" because on Tuesdays, we go to the Conejo Valley Park Day for Homeschoolers. We didn't go last week. He wanted to have a day of "long pages" as he calls our extension of work into the afternoon. Today, I said to him, "We are going to be driving around a lot today. Let's decide whether we want to go to the park or not." We talked about what else we needed to do today. Driving to the park meant a long drive in the opposite direction. We bagged the park day. While I didn't get the check in for ice skating, nor did we greet anyone that we know at the park, we did save ourselves the drive. I hope we don't feel as though we missed out on something when we get there finally next week.

We wanted to get to the post office today. I had some mail to go out, including our absentee ballots. Ever since we became citizens, Don and I have made a point of getting informed on the propositions and also marking our ballots for the people we think will represent us best. I wanted to make sure the ballots got in and got counted.

We also had to get a few groceries. I try to plan ahead so we don't need to go too often, but we always seem to be running out of something such as Alan's soy milk and fresh fruit and veggies. We had to go today. While I was putting away the groceries, Alan got the mail, put the large garbage cans back in our yard and then ran on the treadmill. He did his two miles in just 23 minutes, which is a record for him.

With just a few minutes before we had to leave for a trial of an additional gymnastics class, we took a snack break. Alan had a great workout with this group. I think we will be adding this class to the one on Thursday. The instructor is excellent for these special needs kids. We need to take advantage of his availability. Alan's whole body is getting stronger. His upper body is no longer as weak as it was. His motor planning is improving. The class was over at six p. m. We came home and he wanted his supper. At seven, we began to encourage him to get his supper over with so he could get his costume on and go trick-or-treating. This is likely his last year to go out, although there were scads of kids I thought had deeper voices than his. Maybe we will let him go next year. We'll see then.

After he and Don returned, Alan took off his costume and got into the shower at his usual 8:17 time. He picks the time. I'm glad he is into a hygiene routine. Some boys don't want to take the time to get clean. It is on Alan's agenda. He didn't dive into the candy, either, because he isn't into candy. (I need to stop eating the mini-Snickers bars myself. I have already gone and brushed my teeth once. I need to do that again. Stop that, Mary!)

I am glad right now that we didn't get to the park.

Coincidentally, I got a book out of the library on Monday called Crazy Busy: overstretched, overbooked and about to snap! Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD. Some lines on p. 58, jumped out at me as I flipped through the pages though I haven't started reading the book. Dr. Hallowell, who has treated many for ADD, says: "Owing to the conditioning we've received in the past ten years, some of us are simply unable to slow down. Others frankly don't want to. For them, F-state is fun. ...These are habits some people develop simply because such habits make them feel charged up, as if doing a lot fast puts them on the cutting edge of life."

I think Alan will remember this Hallowe'en with pleasure instead of as a blur when he didn't get much out of it. The day went smoothly. One of the reasons we homeschool is so that we can plan our days. If something doesn't fit into our schedule today, then tomorrow is another day.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Fall Time Change
Even here in southern California where the amount of daylight is not cut so dramatically as it was when we lived in Edmonton, in the fall when the time changes, we have darkness at suppertime with no daylight after dinner. In addition, this year, we had a much cooler day than we had yesterday, which was cooler still than the day before. I would say we have had about a fifteen degree drop. There was early morning drizzle and in the late afternoon when I went to Curves, I was glad I had worn my new hoodie. Yes, I did get that hoodie for a reward for going regularly. This one is light purple. It was on special at our "boutique" called Tar-jay. I wouldn't mind having a black one, but am glad to have a colored one.
The mood has been set for real fall weather. There are red, brown and yellow leaves blowing around and decorating lawns and sidewalks. There aren't so many that people are getting out to rake them. People here don't do yard work of their own all that much. The mow, blow and go guys will blow away any that are left when they get to it.
Alan likes sweat pants to put on on cool mornings. He had his on this morning. Yet when it was time to go to the teen center in the afternoon, he changed to shorts. He had hoped to play basketball. The gym was in use by typical teens playing volleyball for the third week. Apparently he played pool and board games. He was also telling the woman in charge about his favored computer games "back in the nineties when I was a little kid." He keeps asking me if I remember the fifties and tells me that his sisters remember the eighties. All this in his new, low voice much of the time. He wants to see some photos taken when he was a child. I wish that I had been the kind of mom who hired a sitter and sat in the dining room putting photos into albums, just for a brief moment. I told him, though, that I was really busy carrying him around in my arms, doing things he wanted to do, and taking him places. I took photos but didn't get them into albums. Maybe we can unearth some this winter. He could help me to organize them into years if he wanted to during the long evenings indoors.
When Don came home and gave me a hug, he said I felt cold. I told him I needed to put on a sweater. He lit the gas fire in the fire place and we had a glass of wine while reading the paper. Cozying up while the daylight fades isn't a bad ritual. We bring the dogs in to the family room for company. Even here in southern California, we do indoor pursuits during the fall and winter.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Photo Options

It seems to me that we are leaving no photo record anymore. Back in the middle of the last century before color film was always used, we had negatives to go with black and white photos. They lasted a long time and could still be copied years later. I know we have many of them around still tucked away in some box or other. Black and white photos, such as the single professional photo we had taken for our wedding, still look good. On the other hand, the color photos taken by friends and family are funny looking in color now. They weren't really good quality then, either.

Nowadays, we have a movie camera, though it isn't yet a digital camera. We have a digital still camera and we can copy our photos to the computer. We have plenty of photos we have taken with that camera. The thing is, even for ones we would have liked to keep and put in an album, they are only in the computer. We have our own printer but there is so much to be done to adjust the image that we don't do it often.

For Alan's RDI therapy, we are encouraged to take video and send it to our consultant. This weekend, Don bought a device that allows me to hook the camera up to it and to the computer and burn a DVD directly. Our other system of hooking the camera up to the home theater system is too complicated and I have never learned to use it. That means that I can't use the video camera and burn a DVD when Don isn't here to do it. Now, I am learning how to burn it through the DVD burner in the computer. Then we will have a disc which we can hope will last a long time and that we can look at later.

Don has taken some of our old home videos, particularly the ones that include Brian, and burned a DVD of them. The thing is, the home theater system is clunky and he has to mess around to do it. All that with valuable time we need to be doing other things, such as relaxing for even a few minutes.

I know that some people send their photos out to be "developed" from their digital camera. I don't know how that works. Don did copy some to a device and we brought them to a machine at Target. After all the work was done by the two of us to select photos, orient them and then print, the machine malfunctioned and we walked out without any so were discouraged from that process. I really don't want to spend time on Saturday morning hunched over a machine at Target.

I think there is also a way to send the photos online to Target from our home computer and then we just have to go in and pick them up. I think that there are other services that do that also. All I have done so far is to put some photos up on Yahoo! photos. I will have to investigate how they might be printed from there.

All these options and new technologies that don't seem to be straightforward mean that we don't have a photo record. I wish I were more technologically savvy. Right now, though, it is all I can do to figure out how to blog. And today, I read that some people actually write blogs that appeal to many people. They have ads on their blogs, know how many hits they get, and make money from their writing that way.

I'm not throwing up my hands and saying I am too old to figure this out. I think I just need some mentoring. And, if you have figured out how to send digital photos out to be printed, do tell me. I don't want to be a Luddite!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

How Do You Take Your Tea?

Since I moved to California, I have always had the dilemma of what to do when getting tea here. If I am offered tea, I usually take it when I am out because I can't drink cafeinnated tea in the evening and making decaf. usually requires another pot for the host or hostess, putting them to extra work, or they don't have any.

Then, most often, I am offered tea bags and boiling water. At least the water is boiling in private homes. Usually in restaurants, it is merely hot. For a good cup of tea, the water must be boiling and just taken off the boil to pour over the tea bag or tea leaves. Once I have allowed the tea to steep long enough, I usually also have to decide what to do with the tea bag. If I am given a cup and saucer, it could possibly go in the saucer. Most often, I am given a mug. I am guessing that the host or hostess usually doesn't drink tea him or herself, or if so, they dispose of the tea bag into the trash immediately. I often don't know where the trash is, and also, I don't want to drip hot tea over their floor. Does one squeeze out the tea bag into the mug and hope for no drips?
I wonder if giving the hostess a tea pot would be considered a rebuke or otherwise be impolite?

Today, I looked in Pier One for a tea pot. There were none sold there. We went to Cost Plus. They did have tea pots, but they were for one or two cups. I did get a small tea pot, but rarely am I making tea that I want only one or two small cups. I am making it to drink several cups. That's what I do in the afternoon when I am home. I even reheat it if it goes cold. Unheard of, I know, to tea drinking purists. My mom, who never owned a microwave, would drink tea cold if it had gone cold before it was used up. I don't like cold tea. I never drink iced tea. It isn't the same drink. Certainly it doesn't taste good to me if it is sweetened.

To complicate my tea drinking when I am a guest, I need to have a bit of milk or cream in it for it to taste good. My husband takes his tea clear. I like mine with something white. Liquid white. The vilest thing I have had to drink was a cup of tea with powdered coffee whitener. I hate it in coffee and think it spoils the coffee. For tea it was vile.

What I'd really like is to give all my hosts and hostesses a proper tea party with my lovely china tea sets I brought from Canada which were wedding gifts. I would do it to bring us all pleasure, but I am not sure it would not be seen as being a snob. I don't want that. So, if you are one of those who offer a mug and a tea bag, please help me out and put me at ease. What do you expect me to do with the tea bag? And, what if I would like a second cup?

Oh, and also, none of this herbal tea stuff. They aren't the same thing at all. I'd rather have a glass of water, thank you.

Friday, October 27, 2006

By the Seat of Our Pants, Sort of

I have had a few people show surprise or even incredulity when I was asked where Alan goes to school. He is almost 15 and I tell them that he has always been homeschooled. Our other kids went to traditional public schools in Canada and California. They did well. I knew at once when I investigated special education for Alan that he would not be well-served. It is not that there aren't dedicated people, both general education teachers and specialists in schools. After all, I taught remedial reading myself long ago, and think I did do some good for those kids.

What I find amazing now that I have done it, is that people are willing to turn their children over to a group experience that might be stressful and not a good fit for even the best student. I sure was one of those parents with our other kids.

I knew that Alan needed consistent, one-on-one, quiet help. He also needed to have some say in what he was doing. He needed me not to always command, but to invite him to join me in doing what he could do and then just to challenge him on the edge of his competence. Also, his abilities were and still are widely separated from preschool on up well into high school. There is no way that any other teacher except for his family would work with him at each skill and at each level. We also get to hire specialists to work with him at times and if it isn't working out, we have no argument. We just stop the service since we are in charge and we are paying.

Without knowing any other local parents of an autistic child who dared to keep him at home, I went online in search of others who were doing so. When he was still officially a pre-schooler, but would have been in school (it begins at age 3 for special needs kids), I was corresponding via e-mail with other parents who had similar children. None are exactly alike, of course. Alan was not verbal. He had some obvious sensory differences which have mostly faded. He was, however, reading. One of those online friends suggested that I look at the American Hyperlexia Association web page, and I did. Learning that 80 percent of hyperlexic children were on the autism spectrum was difficult, but I was determined to see how that early reading would help him.

The other big break for me was to discover the newly-formed Aut-2B-Home e-mail list. Tammy, the originator, has a daughter just two years older than our Alan. She is also hyperlexic. From Tammy's Web site and by reading the e-mail list, I gained support and information. This has been going on for probably about ten years. There is a core group of us that post frequently, giving each other ideas and support while we engage our children at home.

Now, we also have RDI therapy for Alan. And, luckily, the parent-psychologists who conceived this therapy and are rapidly teaching it to other parents and certifying consultants also homeschooled their typically developing children and feel that homeschooling, for a short time, or even throughout all their school years, is beneficial to children on the autism spectrum.

So, today I told Alan that I knew nothing about functions. He reminded me we had met the beginning of the function concept earlier and explained it to me. Oh, yes, it is positively thrilling for me that he can and does understand such a concept well enough to teach it to me. I'm always searching for new ideas and ways to help Alan with the areas that are still lagging. I need these shining moments to remind me that he can learn and learn well. We plotted points on graph paper and found lines of symmetry today in his math lesson also. At my age, these concepts are not going to be useful, but he has many hurdles to overcome and I am so happy he can learn.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

How Much or How Little?

The various methods suggested for how much exercise a person needs or how little one can get away with sure sell plenty of magazines and gym memberships. Since I have recently joined Curves and for several weeks have also been walking on the treadmill for two to three miles at a time, I am vitally interested in this question. I am anxious to see results. Lower numbers. You know the ones I mean.

Of course, I do also have goals besides losing weight. I want to be stronger. That is most important to me. In addition, I need to be more flexible. Finally, I want to be able to keep my balance, as falls are more common in older people.

But tonight's question is about exercise. I have been looking at the Self magzine that Dana kindly bought for me. It lists a number of "calorie scorchers." That looked promising as a title. The first one is Jump Rotation. Looks to me like a good way to twist my ankle and not be able to exercise for awhile. Another is the CanCan. I wish. I haven't ever been able to kick high and at this age, don't expect to be able to mange it. Then there is the killer push-up. I can't do any push-up. This one looks to me as though it is doable only by a twelve-year-old or a mechanical doll.

So, given the machines at Curves and 30 minutes three times a week, plus the walking, when will I see results?

I decided to turn the pages and see what I can promise myself for regularly getting myself to Curves and onto the treadmill. I sure will be getting a new pair of shoes for workouts soon. I overpronate and need good support with inserts. But that's not what I mean by a reward. That's an essential.

It won't be deep green or burgundy eyeshadow. I haven't worn eyeshadow or any eye make-up in years. And, it won't be any pair of high heels, whether I took them in to have the soles rubberized or not. Getting the soles rubberized by a cobbler is suggested by Dana Delaney, the actress. I gave up wearing high heels when our Dana was in high school. I was late to catch a plane to a ceremony when she was being honored as one of ten top students in the Bay Area. I really wanted to get on that plane. I just made it, but the high heels slowed me down almost too much as they closed the door just after me. I decided when I sank into my seat that I would never be hobbled by high heels again.

But here's a possibility. How about a cup of really good Earl Grey tea? Or maybe a soft, light, velvety zip up sweater-jacket to wear to the gym on cooler days? Or the exotic-sounding Aloette Hot Soy Manicure Treatment. Apparently you are to let the candle burn for 10 minutes, blow it out and then rub a few drops of the melted wax onto your skin. I sure did like the hot wax treatment with my recent manicure, at least on my hands. It was too hot for my feet. Thank you, Dana and Cate, for introducing me to that.

And, back to adding into my program to max the benefits. I'll be standing on a towel on one leg while brushing my teeth to improve my balance and drawing the alphabet with my toes while talking on the phone to strengthen my ankles. And smiling when I talk on the phone. Apparently, if we smile, we feel better, even if we didn't particularly feel like smiling before, and also the person listening feels the smile in our voice and responds. Exercising the smile muscles won't help me lose weight but it may have its own benefits.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My husband works closely with the FDA in the course of his work. He is involved in blood product safety. He says that the FDA does good work and protects us all. I think that in many ways they do their mission well. Yet, like any administrative body, mistakes, some lethal, are no doubt made.

Today I learned that the FDA rejected a petition from the Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs on September 26, only revealed today, that would remove thimerosal from all vaccines.

The FDA has been adamant that there is no connection between vaccines and autism.

However, there is no argument when it comes to mercury being a poison and that is why it is used as a perservative agent where thimerosal is half mercury.

Why, then, are we allowing this poison to be injected? Especially in young children? Many vaccines have had thimerosal removed. Why can't the FDA remove it from all vaccines, then?

Our son is partly vaccinated. I won't allow any more vaccinations that contain thimerosal. It is possible that his immune system can't handle mercury and I am unwilling to take further chances. When he is an adult and able to review all the facts up until that moment, he can decide if he wants to take any vaccination that contains thimerosal, or not.

I believe that vaccinations do save lives. In fact, tomorrow, I am scheduled for an influenza vaccination. It will contain thimerosal as it is in adult vaccines for flu. I am willing to take that risk. I wish I didn't have to but I have no choice now as thimerosal is in all adult flu vaccines to my knowledge.

I would not have taken the risk of having him vaccinated with a compound made with thimerosal had I known when he was a baby and taking many vaccinations, that there might be a connection between thimerosal and autism. Every medical person I spoke to, and my husband, said that he needed the vaccinations.

He did not develop symptoms of autism until he was in his second year of life when he was having many vaccinations.

Could it be that the doses of MMR vaccine which protects against three diseases, measles, mumps and rubella, caused his autism when combined with a genetic predisposition? Or could it be that many vaccinations in a short time with an unformed immune system, and those vaccinations, along with the genetic predisposition caused his autism to manifest itself? The FDA rejects this theory but several respectable scientists raise these questions.

The entire theory of herd immunity is based on nearly everyone getting the shots so that few will become ill and carry that illness to others. And, the dirty underlying fact is that some will be injured by the vaccines. Yes, some children do get the very disease that they were supposed to be protected against. Some do have neurological damage. That is the cost of herd immunity. A cost that is acceptable to those who believe in it. It is outrageous to those who have a child so damaged, proven or unproven.

In this case, the FDA is in error in my opinion. Parents are not given straight information. Those densely written permission slips we sign after scanning them are not the answer. We did not get a fighting chance to give informed consent. I gave uninformed consent.

I hope that the Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs does prevail, through the court system if need be. I am going now to the Web to get information on this organization.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Our Day as a Couple

Cate again offered to take Alan for the day on Friday. Actually, she offered to take him for a couple of days, but we wanted to also spend a day with her and Jim. So, we took Alan to her on Friday morning. After hugging her, we left quite soon. She and Alan had plans to go to the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

Don and I took the highway through the mountains to the top of the Monterey peninsula. We were soon through the mountains, which reminded us both of British Columbia secondary roads. Most of it was a narrow, two-lane highway. I do not like sharp drops but I did enjoy the trees and some of the views.

The beach town of Capitola was the first stop. We bought coffees and went out onto the boardwalk by the restaurant to just sit in the pleasant sunshine and relax for a bit. The buildings beside the shore are painted in many different bright colors. They reminded me of photos I have seen of some European beachside buildings and some I have seen in Mexico in any town. We drove next down to Monterey. I was reminded of two friends, one an online friend of many years, who said she was in naval post-graduate school there. We passed by the school a couple of times. Hi, Tammy! Another friend, who I have met three or four times in real life but who I also know primarily through e-mail, said she grew up there. Hi, Terry! We strolled by the waterside and ate a delicious lunch in a floating restaurant many people must miss because there are steep stairs down to dockside. I do love to be by the water and love to watch the boats and people coming and going. Most of the boats were at anchor on a Friday. One woman came down and sat sunning herself on her boat, which is what I would do if I owned one and wasn't thinking of actually taking it out on the bay.

After lunch, we took the Seventeen Mile Drive toll road along the coast to Carmel. We had done this route once before in January in the fog and damp. It is spectacular in the sunshine. Don stopped a couple of times to admire the view. Golfers would love the area. Bill, Jim's brother, told me on Sunday that there are five courses there and he has had the experience of watching passing whales while he golfed. Probably those were grey whales migrating to and from Baja.

We parked in Carmel on a side street. Carmel is full of tourists' shops and galleries. We strolled around for a couple of hours, admiring things, but mostly not shopping. We just strolled by and in and out of some shops. I'm glad we stopped there. It is a pretty town, but now I have seen it. The time before, we just passed right on through, going on the hunt to find the monarch butterflies we know winter there in the trees. We didn't see any in the dense fog. Some monarchs overwinter nearer to our home and this winter I think I will try to go see them when it is a partly sunny day.

We decided to drive back to Monterey to Cannery Row. We parked the car and walked up through cannery row to a beachside spot. We were fascinated to see sea lions in the bay doing what Don called porpoising. They would go by in lines, leaping out of the water and breathing and then back down, over and over. I think they were chasing dinner. We watched them for quite a while. Neither of us felt hungry. We talked about going back up the coast but I did not want to go back through the mountains in the dark. We cut back to the 101 freeway, watching out for that 55 mph stretch around Salinas, staying in the slow lane. We didn't want to get picked off again for exceeding the speed limit, although the traffic was passing us by.

Once we got back to San Carlos, we talked with Cate and Alan who had had a lovely time at the Exploratorium and eaten a late lunch. Then Cate took Alan to shop for his preferred supper foods at Whole Foods. He was having a great time. Since Jim was working overnight, we felt fine about leaving Alan with Cate. Don and I went to supper at Izzy's which was crowded with noisy people. It is a Zagat rated restaurant with good food. It was also convenient because we simply walked across the parking lot to get to it. It was a good end to a fun day for us. We like to remember that we are a couple and it was kind of Cate to give us this time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Our Trip to the Bay Area
In California, the area around San Francisco is referred to as the Bay Area. Never, ever say "Frisco" to someone who lives in that area! Our daughter, Cate, with her husband, Jim, lives in San Mateo. That part is called "the peninsula."
On Thursday around 3 p. m., we began our road trip to the north. Unfortunately, there was a long slow down and stop and go traffic from Camarillo through to Ventura. It took about twice as long as usual to make that drive. From our home, we can get to Santa Barbara in an hour in good traffic. The drive went well until Salinas. Salinas is where much of your salad comes from in the rest of America. It is also where the tainted spinach was grown. At any rate, on the divided highway, which is normally a 65 mph road, there is a section we did not notice in the dark marked 55 mph. These signs ought to be marked in another color, because there are plenty of 55 mph signs for trucks and the ones for cars did not stand out. Suddenly, I realized there was a flashing red light behind us. Don pulled over and the officer came over and told him he had passed three of those 55 mph signs and was clocked at 72 mph. He asked for Don's licence and insurance. He went to his car. When he returned, he asked Don where he was going and Don answered that he was honestly just trying to get to see his daughter. The officer told him to slow down and left. Don discovered that he had not given him a ticket! How he picked our car out of all the others, many that were going much faster, I do not know, but I am glad Don didn't get a ticket. So, if you are passing through Salinas, particularly in the dark, do watch out for the twenty or thirty miles of 55 mph roadway! We went through it again on Friday, coming back from Monterey, and Sunday on our way home, and you can imagine we were in the right lane going the speed limit while everyone else passed us by.
Once we got to the Fairfield Inn in San Carlos, it was after 9:30 p. m. so we decided we would just check in and see Cate in the morning. Thank goodness we had a safe trip up. (to be continued tomorrow)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Home Again

There is too much to write about to tell about the short vacation we are back from. I did want to mark this day separately at any rate. This is my husband's 60th birthday. The first birthday I celebrated with him when we were going together was his twentieth. That makes it 40 years of birthdays! I don't know where the time has gone in so many ways. We thought we were all grown up at twenty. In some ways, we were. However, we have grown together so much in these years. Having a faithful, loving partner is the greatest gift one can have in life and his is and has been all through this time. We have been blessed with smart, loving children. Our family circle has grown to include our grandson and son-in-law. We are thankful.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

On the Road Again

This time last month, we were touring the White House. This morning, I am getting ready to leave for the San Francisco Bay area. Our daughter Cate and her husband Jim live there. Next month, we are going to our other daughter, Dana's home for Thanksgiving. I am lucky we can get to do these trips.

In our family there are and have been some people who stay home and won't or wouldn't travel after a certain age. I have to say, I can sympathize a bit as I am nervous about getting out on the roads.

I don't want to keep others from enjoying traveling, and if I said I needed to stay home, they would also either have to stay home or choose to do so. Also, once I am at the intended destination, I enjoy myself.

So, I do what I can to quell my worries. I print out maps. I get and read travel information. I think about how much fun we are going to have. And now I have to get off the computer and get the last minute things done.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Santa Ana Winds
This morning I was awakened about half an hour to an hour before I like to wake up. The Santa Ana winds were blowing. They are expected to blow throughout today. Many regions of the world have characteristic winds in periods of the year. I notice that they are unsettling to people and often make people anxious and jumpy.

Here, I think we have reason to be nervous since the winds suck moisture out of already drying plants and small sparks can start fires that are driven miles from the source rapidly. Although we live in a suburban area that is between a hospital and a high school, and thus likely to get plenty of attention if a fire approaches, I still worry. In addition, we are leaving our dogs at a kennel that has hills above it this weekend.

I did read on Wikipedia, my new source of quick information on such phenomenon, that there are some benefits to the Santa Ana winds. One is stirring up water in the ocean, bringing deep water to the surface. I forget why this is beneficial. Apparently it is, though. Also, the air is clear. Don mentioned that he had never seen the air so clear here this morning. Yes, but. There is often a "Yes, but." There is all sorts of stuff being blown to my home that will come in in the form of dust. I will likely have some allergic rhinitis as a consequence. Also, the yard gets full of debris that needs sweeping or blowing to remove, just when we are going away. The pool fills up with leaves. We'll scoop as many as we can before we leave. Hopefully, the winds will have died down by noon tomorrow.

I am trying to carry on as usual to get all the preparations done to leave tomorrow. I do feel jumpy, and wish I could just climb back into the warm bed and draw up the covers.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Growing Taller Before My Eyes

Due to the large gap between our adult children and our now fourteen-year-old boy, it has been awhile since I have witnessed this. There is a time in the teen years when a person suddenly seems to grow every day, or so it seems. This is Alan's time.

Today I shipped off a large boxful of jackets which we removed from Alan's closet and I washed to send to our grandson. They no longer covered Alan's arms by several inches. The very next place we went was to his favorite store, Old Navy, to buy a light jacket, a heavy jacket and two long-sleeved pullovers. I got size XL in the boys department and knew as I bought them that I would be soon shopping in the men's department, and maybe not size small. He may have to start right in with medium. How do I know this? He is more than five feet, four inches tall already and wearing some T-shirts that used to be mine. I no longer fit them due to girth, not length.

In the past, due to the fact that he says he hates change, we had a hard time getting Alan to let us pass on clothes, particularly ones he was fond of. His grey Old Navy jacket was one of those favorite items. Yet today, there was not a single protest about losing his grey jacket or his almost equally preferred fuzzy blue pull-over. He picked new ones, tried them on with no protest, not even a discussion. As soon as we agreed they fit, he let me add them to our purchases. I have to say, this is the most flexible he has ever been about buying new clothing.

Young men's casual pants this year seem to be overloaded with blue jeans. There seem to be few with elastic waists. He has always loathed jeans and refused to wear them. I wonder if a pair of blue jeans is in his near future? Yesterday, I would have said, "No way." Today, I am not so sure. He actually might decide to buy his first pair of blue jeans. We're always trying to have him fit in with what other boys are wearing since he has so many differences that can be picked out and picked on. Blue jeans, the quintessential American male choice in clothing, could be my next purchase.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Losing My Mind
I'm not exactly losing it, but I feel close to it. More than discombobulated. More than mildly frustrated. My "main" e-mail address has been provided through our former cable company, Adelphia. When Time Warner took it over, we were told we would have time to change over to their e-mail address and be able to tell everyone that we were getting a new e-mail address.

Suddenly, my last e-mail to my adelphia address happened at 8:35 last night. This morning, when I went to my computer, I could not download my e-mail, nor could I e-mail out via adelphia. I wasted plenty of time today trying again and again to get my e-mail to download. I turned my computer on and off several times. I have lots and lots of things in my inbox and all kinds of files.

So, Don tried hard tonight to switch me over to my new e-mail in order to see if it would let me at least send e-mail. While he was doing that, he brought up an address book. Great! We both thought that would help. Horrors! The e-mail addresses are five and more years out of date. Other people I care lots about have new addresses in that time. If I lose everything I had it will take a long time to rebuild my address book. I care a lot about many lists I am on and people to whom I have given my e-mail address.

I also have a lot of files stored that are e-mails that I want to keep under various headings. I don't want to lose those.

Dh is really computer literate. He tried for a full two hours to make it work. It still doesn't connect. I am just sitting here, glad I have my yahoo address, and that blogspot had that address also for me to be able to write from.

If you are reading this and want to send me an e-mail, please send it to mary_baker91789@yahoo.com. I'll be checking that more frequently than daily now. Perhaps it will become my main e-mail address or perhaps I will go over to gmail. In the meantime, please write to me so I don't feel cut off from the world. I'll be grateful.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Buying Flower Bulbs

Every springtime, which here can be in February, I like to have the flowers from bulbs that I grew up with. I read somewhere that people long for the places and experiences they had when they were young the older they get. That would be me.

For the twenty-one years I have lived in California, I have bought tulip bulbs. I remember when I lived in Edmonton, our friend Mark Wilson, a biologist, said I was like a squirrel every autumn, burying my bulbs. There, though, I didn't have to replace the ones from the previous year. They reliably rebloomed. For seven years, I was always adding to the next spring's display. Here, I don't get even a second year's bloom and have to buy new bulbs every year. I grow the tulips in pots by the front door in our southern California home. The flowers last about ten days and then I have to put in bedding plants. I enjoy them so much.

Where I came from in British Columbia, there were people who came out from Holland after World War II. There was a large display of tulips, complete with a windmill, near the hospital. Also, when I was a small child, we lived on a fruit ranch which during the period just before the first Great War, had been planted in bulbs for flowers to be shipped to Vancouver for sale. The British owner at that time went off to join the fight and never returned, so the plants by the time of my childhood were blooming in beds surrounded by grasses and weeds such as burdock. My mother always cut many flowers from the abandoned beds to bring indoors to cheer our drafty rented home during the wet spring months. When we moved to our own home, that stopped and she and dad planted their own flower garden. So I grew up with spring flowers.

I have always also loved irises. There were some in my parents' garden. They are hardier here than the tulips and they do rebloom, so the ones that I bought today will be added to the ones I have already planted here in our past three years of ownership. If we get a hot spell in the spring, they don't last long. One benefit of a rainy spring is longer-blooming irises.

Today, I also bought hyacinths. I only got three because even in a pot, they last only a week and if we get hot weather, they are just out for a few days before wilting. Still, I love their fragrance and will have some by our front door. Mine are purple this year.

Lastly, I bought one more Calla lily bulb. They are so regal and fragrant! They also don't last very long if the weather turns hot. They look and last best with raindrops on them. It will come up again and again. I have one already beside our fountain. I'll have to dig out a spot for this new one, likely in the same area so I can keep it watered easily.

Whatever the weather in early 2007, for a few days at least, I will have flowers blooming from bulbs and corms. For now, they are chilling in the crisper in the bottom of the refrigerator to give them the cold they need to bloom. That's why I can't plant them in the fall like I used to do. I will plant them just before Christmas because we need the crisper space for food during that season when our family expands. Planting them out in pots will give us back refrigerator space. It will also give me the pleasure of renewal and remembrance.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Making Dinner
I have been making dinner for many, many years. Now most people would think that I have it easy. You see, I don't cook on weekends. My husband has since 1973. He also cooks lots of holidays and I have to carve out my own parts of those meals.

Just the same, I do prepare a lot of meals. I am also blessed in that my husband will eat a lot of different foods. Not tofu, at least if he recognizes it, but still, lots and lots of foods. The thing is, though, he is a carnivore and feels like if he doesn't get meat, he isn't getting a meal.

I am moving away from eating meat. Tonight, I told him that I had had about enough chicken for a lifetime. I rarely eat beef or pork these days, either.

So, I am on the hunt for some new recipes. I picked up The Antioxidant Save-Your-Life Cookbook at the library. Somehow, though, I don't think many of these recipes, as healthful as they may be, will be on my list for making ever. Shimmering Tuna in Aspic does not appeal to me. I don't think we will like Broccoli Pudding, as much as we both like broccoli. And Brussels Sprouts with Grapes? I don't think so. Time to look in another cook book.

The Ultimate Casserole Cookbook looks as though it may have more possibilities. Yet why or why do they have to put cheese in so many of them? I like cheese, but I also get tired of it, and it has rather more fat than I want for many days.

Quail a l' Orange? No way. He'd eat it. I would not. Baked veal? Same story. I could never eat veal or lamb.

Several recipes call for half-and-half cream. Those must be for waifs that want to put on weight. Not meant for most of us.

I will have to keep looking. In the meantime, if you have any sure-fire recipes that don't take three bowls and four hours to make, shoot me an e-mail. We're really not finicky.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Choosing Movies

My family would say I am not a movie person. She's a book person, they would say, not a movie person. Well, yes, and no. I do love a good book and like to choose fiction ones that don't have grisly deaths and torture in them. That is just like my choice of movies. However, I can stop reading the book, skip pages or just turn to the back to see how it came out, if it gets hard to take. I do like to have a look into others' lives and minds.

I am in the mood for a good comedy movie. We rarely go out to movies. I thought we might go to the new Robin Williams movie, A Few Good Men. It has been panned. Don also told me that he heard some bits on NPR that aren't suitable for Alan. They may not be suitable for me, either. Too bad. I often like Robin Williams in the movies. This isn't the first one of his we have decided not to see, though.

This month, we decided to join Netflix as a family. Alan had a Netflix membership given by his sister for awhile but he misused it. We asked her to discontinue it. Now, though, the three of us will be putting movies into the queue, and I will find some to put in also. Alan's choices will be seen by one of us and permitted or not permitted in the order. On the weekends that Don or I have chosen a movie that Alan won't be allowed to see or that he doesn't want to see, he can still rent one from the library. The library collection is not very big or varied. Also, new movies have to be back inside of two days and when I borrowed a DVD about making the Hobbit, which I consider educational, the clerk warned me that fines are one dollar a day so I will have to watch to get it back on time. I have had to pay those hefty late movie fees before. Netflix doesn't have late fees.

When I was young, I read such books as Mila 18. Nowadays, I know I would have nightmares recurring night after night. I know about atrocities. I know about loss. I can't take anymore. It is as if my heart has overflowed with tragedies and can't bear imagining any more of them. That's why I was dismayed by the popularlity of Alexander McCall's books. I tried one when I was a member of a book club. Nope. I won't be going there again. I also went to see a film that women in my church were screening in a private home. I still sometimes have nightmares about that one and I had to leave before it was over.

Some people call it escapism to get into a movie that is a thriller. For me, it is not something I can escape from when my brain keeps showing it over and over and over and intertwining people I love.

It isn't that I always want to watch "fluff" and inconsequential stuff. I'd gladly watch a movie on Eleanor Roosevelt or something set in another time or place that did not incorporate senseless violence or cruelty.

If anyone can suggest to me a selection or several from Netflix's offerings, I would love to have them. I need to laugh.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Keeping the Worry Monster at Bay

I probably should have writeen Keeping the Worry Monster Away since I have no idea where the words 'at bay' come from to mean away from me.

I am constantly bombarded with worrisome reports. Yesterday, there was some more in the newspaper about the emissions from the Rocketdyne facility now owned by Boeing on the edge of our community. There were radiation leaks around 50 years ago. One day in July of 1959, the 26th to be exact, "a nuclear power reactor at the Santa Susana Field Lab suffered a partial meltdown, releasing a large amount of radioactive material" says the newspaper report. Radioactive tritium, along with already know 'perc' has been found in groundwater. The reactor has long ago been removed. I am not savvy enough to know anything about half-life and whether or not there remains any danger, particularly several miles away. Still, I worry.

Last night, I had my hair colored. My stylist keeps persuading me to get it colored. In the back of my mind, I have thought about the supposed connection between hair dye and lymphoma. Today I began to read my November Prevention magazine. This has news that calms that worry down. Apparently in 1979 manufacturers stopped using known carcinogens in the dyes. I had not been coloring my hair much before that time. I probably started in the 1980s.

I do like to put nail polish on now that I no longer bite my nails. I still have a hard time growing the nails evenly. It does help to apply a coat of clear polish. There is another article in Prevention that also calms me down. Apparently some base coats are labeled formaldehyde free. I will be reading the packages to find one that is so labeled. Recently I have become aware that a compound called phthalate is, well, worrisome. The writer says that CoverGirl, L'Oreal and Avon now make their entire nail care lines sans phthalates. I wonder how I can find out if OPI does also? Further on OPI Top coat is recommended, so perhaps they do leave out phthalate but perhaps not.

I'm buying more and more of my self care products at Whole Foods and other health food stores. I wonder if my trust is naive and I might as well just buy my shower gel at the grocery store, probably at a lower price.

We spread lots and lots of compounds on our bodies without giving it much thought. I wear sunscreen every day, applying it in the morning. I certainly do put sunscreen on my son when he is going swimming or going to play basketball outdoors. Yet I read that if I don't apply it enough before he goes outdoors, it doesn't work as well, as it hasn't sunk in, and if I don't reapply it within two hours, he is in more danger than if I didn't put any on. At least here I don't need to worry about whether or not he gets enough Vitamin D from sunshine. Just walking around from the car to the store or through our outdoor mall, he gets sun exposure when I haven't put sunscreen on. With his fair skin and blue eyes, I probably should be even more diligent. He does hate the feel of it, and I wonder if he will put it on himself when he reaches an age when he refuses to let mom put it on.

I've almost stopped having any bleach or cleaning compound that has chlorine in it in the house. In addition, for the past few years, our swimming pool has not had chlorine in it. The chemical Don uses is basically peroxide.

The slogan "Better Living Through Chemistry" certainly seems to have been yes, it's wonderful on the one hand, and no, it has been increasingly awful since the proliferation of chemicals in our homes, food and environment over my lifetime.

I would still like to learn to meditate. So far, it hasn't worked, as these thoughts keep running through my mind.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My Attempts at Not Being A Frump

So, I just got back from having my hair "done." In this case, I was having it colored. My stylist also trimmed the bangs a wee bit. You see, I hate long bangs on me, no matter how good they look on other people. I asked him early in the summer to trim the bangs way back. Too short. I did look like Imogene Coco. That's who I told my husband I didn't want to look like. Is that how her name was spelled? I don't remember. I wish I could say she was "pre-me" but not quite. After that, I let him stop cutting them so short and now, tonight, I found that I could barely stand them. Martin is a good stylist, blending both what I want and what magic he can do with scissors. I made an appointment for next month, hoping to maintain myself reasonably.

After the hair salon, I thought I would go in search of a new belt. My old one is ragged around the holes and was so cheap it didn't even have grommets. I am keeping it, mainly to encourage myself as I can get it to cinch up another hole with the renewed exercise and diet efforts. I won't wear it outside the house anymore. Now I have been aware that waists were not even covered, much less belted recently. At the same time, several pairs of my pants have belt loops. I sometimes go without any belt, but I think that looks as though I am forgetful. I can't blame the store for having only a small display of belts. Tops and bottoms that don't meet in the middle have been in style for quite awhile. It took me only a few seconds to realize that suddenly, the belts that are for sale are twice as wide as what I consider is a normal belt width. They most certainly would not go through any of my belt loops. I suppose I could wear the belt over the top of the loops. However, I am not willing to call attention to the waist that was there not too many years ago. It seems to have disappeared, making my shape more columnar than it was. I didn't buy a belt. How am I going to find a decent belt? I don't need it to keep my pants up as I long ago was that skinny as to need a belt for that purpose. I just think it looks odd to have empty belt loops.

And what about a purse? When my shoulder started to bother me, one of my daughters suggested I buy a back bag. She pointed out that distributing the weight between my shoulders would prevent that one shoulder from getting sore. I did get one that holds a lot. My other daughter gave me one that holds somewhat less, and I do use it sometimes. I find it hard to pare down what I want to tote. I noticed that many women are going around with no bag in public. All I see is their cell phone attached to them somehow. I will have to study this more closely to see how. I asked one of my friends how it is that she doesn't carry a purse and she told me she leaves the things in the car. When I went to Curves, the trainer said that many women leave their purse in the car. Aren't they afraid that their life will be stolen along with their car? I did get a small thing that holds the cell phone and a couple of cards with a zipper pocket for money. I put my driver's licence and one card in it and left my wallet at home a few times. It felt really strange and then what if I need a mint or a hair brush or tissue? Those things are all in the large bag, along with my glasses case for my sun glasses, the small coupon organizer where I keep this week's coupons, a pen, and sometimes my check book. I'll have to observe other women to see what the tribe does with all their handy stuff.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A little while ago I got off the treadmill. Just a few weeks ago, I would have popped the top on a caffeine-free Diet Coke. Recently, a new friend was talking about how bad for her, and likely others, the artificial sweetener in it is. I knew about this concern but chose to ignore it. I decided to revisit the Diet Coke issue and to only drink one once in awhile instead of as a fairly often treat.

When my husband was out shopping, I asked him to get me some flavored water. He likes raspberry, so the fridge had a bottle of water labled Pure Life Raspberry Splash: Natural Fruit Flavored Water Beverage. I popped the top and began to sip. Then I noticed that Nestle is the brand. We won't be buying this brand again.

What to drink is always a dilemma for me. I do not care for the taste of plain water. Maybe it is the water here, or maybe not. I often make a large pot of hot tea. That is what my parents and grandparents did. I like to drink tea. However, I don't want tea all the time.

I don't drink much in the way of juice. Occasionally, I will order a tomato juice, and right now I have individual cans of tomato juice on hand as well as a large can to go with a meal. My husband cautioned me not to rely on that too often because of the salt content.

Another concern about water is its purity. I have to say I don't know the source of the local tap water. I do know it is routinely tested and that my husband has filters in the fridge and in the bar area tap. It is not hard to forget that contaminants such as "perc" have been found in the groundwater not all that far from here where there is a former Rocketdyne facility.

Some evenings, I join my husband drinking a glass of wine. I even like the odd Chambord or Bailey's. Every morning starts with coffee. Many meals are accompanied with a glass of nonfat milk.

In the days to come I will be investigating other choices of beverages. I am reminded that at our previous house, where we had eight lemon trees planted by the previous occupant, that I often drank filtered water with a splash of lemon juice. Here, we have just one kumquat tree. Perhaps I will have to slice one and drip kumquat juice into my water. I wonder how that would taste? I'm feeling adventuresome.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I wonder if other people find our home cozy. I know I do, most of it, at any rate. There are some features that make it more comfortable than others. I know that the paper and book mess covering the game table just inside the front door needs to go. I just need to find the motivation to get at it. The thing is, each pile represents an unfinished project or something that needs attention. Still, I know it subtracts from the ambience of our home for visitors and for us.

We are fortunate to have many lovely things and more than enough furniture for this house. The one we moved from had more rooms. We have done our best to make this house our home, and passed on some things or junked them. To me, a cozy home doesn't have to be spotless. On the other hand, our windows need cleaning and the dust on many surfaces needs to go.

I do wish that our home reflected who I think we are more than it does. I like to think of myself as reasonably well-organized. Yet my desk has lots of papers on it and the one upstairs in our bedroom is worse! It does have a lid that closes. It needs work! And besides that, there is a pile of papers in the corner. I desperately need to get at this. I just don't know how I am going to manage sorting out what is there and storing what is left after I recycle much of the paper.

Each day I need to take a fresh look at surfaces and see if I can get a start on clearing off ones that need clearing, wipe the ones that are clear but grimy and try to get the critical voice in my head to quiet down.

We always seem to get things in better order when we know visitors are coming. Is anyone up for a trip to sunny southern California?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Do You Do Yard Work?
Here is southern California, yard work is much the same as everywhere else, yet different. Yes, we are lucky to have flowers year round. I have no room for a veggie garden on this lot. We did grow basil and tomatoes in containers this year. That's it for a vegetable garden. The rest of the back yard has hanging baskets and roses and not much else except for perennial shrubs and trees that need pruning.
So, today, we tackled the front flower garden beds where there are a lot of perennials and not much room for me to put in bedding plants. The major problem is that the previous owner planted English ivy as a ground cover. It moves into the flower bed relentlessly, even though we beat it back severely. Today was one of those days.
The major times to garden in our area are fall and spring. People who don't live here think we have vegetable and flower gardens year round. Yes and no. Yes, something is always growing. Bougainvillea, for example. It is always glorious. We don't have any. In the summer months, people don't do much in the flower and vegetable gardens. It is much too hot to spend much time planting and weeding. We don't have the long daylit evenings, although it does usually cool off in the later evening, unlike in Texas or Missouri, for example. And, December through March, it is often wet and not advised to pack down the soil in the flower beds by tramping in them.
We do have some plants others would consider exotic. There is a huge flax with five or six foot long swordlike leaves. It is probably ten feet around and through. The leaves are tough and need cutting back. We had Alan helping with that. He hated it. Next to that, there is an enormous philodendron. It looks somewhat like I imagine a jungle plant would look with huge leaves and thick stems. It also needed cutting back. Don got out his electric hedge trimmers, Alan and I used the manual hedge trimmers and we tried some unsuccessful yanking.
At the back of the area I have claimed for bedding plants, the dreaded ivy had moved in. Don took his large gas-powered weed whip to it. He also had Alan lopping off some from the suckers from our ornamental cherry tree which our neighbor below does not want cut right back as she is concerned about the stability of the bank between us. Fair enough. We previously agreed that cutting them off to the height of her fence would be what she would like. I removed several overgrown plants, now around 3 feet high, which had been planted last spring at around 4 inches in height. Don got a shovel and removed a large plant I didn't plant, so someone before us did. This house had two previous owners. It was crowded up against a shrub that we keep trimmed in a box shape and to me spoiled the look. It doesn't flower, so I was happy to see it dug out. I cut back the two rose bushes I also didn't plant. They don't do well there because they get too much shade. I do like roses, however, so they stay. Next week, I plan to weed the front of the flower bed that is mostly invaded by grass and oxalis. By the end of October, I will put in pansies, petunias and whatever else I can find in the garden center that I enjoy. These are spring flowers in other climates. Here, they need the cooler temperatures of winter and they thrive then. One thing I am reminded of is that I hope I am not too late to get bulbs that need winter chilling. They appear in September in the revived garden centers that normally go more or less dormant in the summer. What we have to do here is rush out when we aren't thinking of them, simply because, I think, now is the time they are shipped to America for fall planting elsewhere. We don't put them in the ground, though, like we did when we lived in Canada. Nope. They go into the fridge. We need to get them now so we can get them potted up before we need the crisper space for Christmas. They need six to eight weeks in the fridge. We are beginning the second week in October, so I am late for this and hope I still find decent tulip bulbs. I just love to have them and ever since moving to this country 21 years ago, I have planted them in pots and usually have blooms in January and February. This is also the time to get iris roots. I must remember them.
That brings us to the flower bed outside of my study window. On the left side, there is about three feet of a lavender bush. Today, I let Don cut the height back and trim it up. The center is all dead wood. We hope it will grow and mask that mess. When the hummingbirds come, I hope there will be a new flower stalk from the flax. From it, over to the lavender, and then into the fountain, the hummingbirds flit and I get to watch the show when I am at my desk. In the front, there is a spindly potato bush. I don't care for it much, so I pruned it back severely. Behind it are the hydrangeas, which I do love. I do try to change them from pink to blue and this past year, I think, they only got to white. I was using coffee grounds for the needed acid. I will have to see what else I can do to manage that process.
Not many women here can be seen out in the yard. In fact, many men leave the yard work to the mow blow and go guys. We do get the front lawn mowed weekly. However, the yard work that comes along with enjoying the process of planting a flower garden is still something Don and I do together. I select the flowers but he loves roses and many other flowers and would cut them all and bring them inside and place them in vases if I didn't object. I would like to figure out how to have some small area as a cutting garden. Maybe at the next house.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Catalog Browsing
I'm not much of a shopper. At least, I don't shop until I drop. Once in a long while, I enjoy going out and looking at things, but I don't shop recreationally much.
Today, I am tired. I have spent the afternoon browsing catalogs. Now and again, I find something I can give as a gift that keeps me out of the Christmas shopping crowd. I also have the perennial problem of trying to find something my husband would like for his birthday. Browsing in catalogs seemed like I wasn't wasting the entire afternoon.
One of the things I like to do is turn down the page of a catalog of an item that interests me. I learned that one of my e-friends does this too. Her husband was relieved to find out she didn't want everything that she so marked. It's just a fun thing to do, to imagine getting the item.
I turned down the corner of the page that has restaurant style iced tea spoons. Now I have a few unmatched long handled spoons, and I don't use them all that often. I don't drink iced tea. I would use them if I made a smoothie or milk shake, but how often do I do that?
Some things, I must admit, do turn up at the house, ordered from a catalog. One recent doo dad was a toilet ring remover. It is supposed to erase a toilet bowl ring like magic, just like an eraser. I tried it. I didn't press really hard when I drew the pumice stick around the ring. I was worried it would scratch the bowl, and I have no desire to help replace a toilet again, so I laid off rubbing the ring. I have read that pouring a can of cola into the bowl and letting it sit overnight would also remove the ring, but so far I haven't felt like wasting a can in case it didn't work.
Magazine holders would bring order to all the magazines I keep around. I pass along plenty, but several always remain by my bed and stashed in other places. A set of six magazine holders is $9.99. It does seem a bit of an expense for something made of colored cardboard, so the magazine mess remains. Maybe someday.
My charitable husband has said that the good thing about a catalog is that a person can often find something that isn't sold in stores. Yes, but so far I really haven't missed having a pair of mesh shower shoes. I would rather try to lose weight than buy waist and collar extenders. And, lots of times I don't believe the claims. My eyes look tired, but I doubt that sudden change under eye lift serum is going to make the bags less visible. I'm quite sure he wouldn't think a satiny sleep cap would be a great addition to my night time attire, even if it would keep my from having to wash and style my hair in the morning.
And so, mostly I pass on ordering. Yet the next time one of our dogs pees on the family room carpet, I may order Urine Gone! which claims to eliminate odors with extreme enzyme action and comes with a black light to detect the undetectable.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Knee Pain and Exercise
Yesterday, I walked on the treadmill. When I was done, my right knee was a little sore. Tonight, before I began on the treadmill, it was sorer still. Instead of doing as I had in the past and skipping my exercise, I decided to take two aspirin and just walk at 3.5 mph with no incline. I used to walk with an incline but stopped when I got knee pain before.
It seems to me, that if I wait until all pains are gone, I won't be getting enough exercise. I don't know if this is the right approach. However, when I don't exercise, my weight creeps up. I want to get my weight down. That's why, even though I like our ritual of reading the paper, having breakfast together and then taking Alan to his acting class on Saturday morning, I will get up, shower and go to Curves. It opens at 8 a. m. I can go over there, do my half hour of exercise on the machines, maybe skip the stretching, and get home in time to change and go to the acting class. I want to go along because that is the time Don and I have together without Alan. It is like a date, even though we usually run errands. Sometimes we do wander in Borders or go to a coffee shop. Mostly, though, Don gets to choose where we go and it is someplace like Lowe's or the 99 cents store. I just like being with him without having other people to take care of or to interrupt. It makes me calmer and more able to cope with whatever else comes in the day.
So, I still have the dilemma of whether or not to walk when my knee hurts, but I also have new resolve to get exercise at Curves three times a week at least and walk on the treadmill five or six days a week.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Getting the Balance Right
Awhile ago, when my weight was a few pounds higher than it is now, I lost twenty-five pounds by going to Weight Watchers. The plan is effective. However, like most people who take off weight with a diet, I gained about two thirds of the weight back. I never did learn how to take off those two or three pounds over goal and get back to goal weight.

In the spring of this year, Don bought a treadmill because I found it hard to get out to walk and wasn't getting exercise. He felt Alan would benefit from using the treadmill, too, and Don also has used it, although not as regularly as I would like. Alan and I have used the treadmill several times a week. Alan is up to two miles, after being stuck for a long time at one mile. He is also going to a gymnastics class one day a week. The coach believes that special needs kids can do as well as typically developing ones: it just may take them longer to get the routine.

I was hoping that I would bring my weight down by walking regularly. It didn't happen. I hope not to have to go back to Weight Watchers, so I am watching what I eat, walking 45 minutes five or six days a week and I joined Curves. Now I don't think the only thing I will get from Curves is weight loss. I hope that I will also get stronger and more flexible. I have noticed that my upper arms keep waving and I don't like the trend of fat that moves like a pendulum instead of muscle that looks and feels better. In addition, I am hoping the appearance of my legs will improve and some of those fat dimples could get lost. I didn't invite them. Just like the pot in my waist area. I want to uninvite that, too.

The reason that I am perplexed about the weight not coming off is that I still eat mostly vegetables and whole grains. I really don't eat much meat, and I am eating even less meat than before. I do eat fish and plenty of salads. I do eat nuts, and it isn't like I eat a whole bag of them at once. I add cranberries and dried cherries and sunflower seeds to salads. I don't put in a lot. I take fish oil capsules, the Nordic Naturals brand, that are contaminant free. I don't buy products with high fructose corn syrup. Candy and cookies are really rare in my diet. I'd love to eat chocolate, but don't indulge as I don't want more pounds. The same goes for pie. Now I love a good pie. When Don mentioned this month's Marie Callender's pie sale, though, I asked him to pass because every time I eat pie, the weight goes up one or two pounds, and that is just with having a slice a day until it is gone.

One thing that pleased me today is that I read that older people prevent frailty by exercising. If they become frail and can't exercise as much, doctors are being asked to look for heart problems that have not yet become a heart attack. It stands to reason that if there are blockages and a person hasn't got energy or gets pains from walking, treating them will prevent muscle wasting and brain damage from lack of oxygen. I am taking my medication regularly for higher cholesterol than is optimal, as well as taking the fish oil and eating nuts. I also read recently that people tend to begin taking the medication as prescribed and then stop taking it, so the problem returns or gets worse. Knowing that, I have been diligent about taking the once a day pill.
I want to keep up with the pursuits that I have and keep learning and loving for many more years. As I learn more about keeping fit, I also hope to drop those pesky unattractive pounds.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It seems to me that I need a bunch of new skills. I do need to sort out a bunch of papers, books and objects I have collected over the years. No question. However, there are photo albums, and lots and lots of negatives and prints that have no organization. There are papers of all kinds. Some have words on them I need to re-read and find a way to store. Many, many can be thrown away. Yet in those piles, there is handwriting I want to keep, words from friends and relatives I want to keep, and my own writing of bits and pieces over many years.
Within all the books I own, there are many I won't look at again. I do need to pass some on. There are even some that need to go in the trash. That's where Don sent Alan with The Body in Question. Public libraries call this "weeding." The weeds, though, need to be separated from the books I still value. Just because a book was written before yesterday doesn't mean that it is out of date.
It occurs to me that taking close up photos of some things could be helpful. I don't know how to do that kind of camera work. There are photos I would like to copy.
Additionally, there are items that I want to keep, even though they may have no use to me. They belonged to my parents or to us and they have sentimental meaning. Don is really good at figuring out items that can be restored. Recently, he sent a jar that has the word "biscuits" in the side of it out to be repaired so we can use it at Christmastime to serve cookies. Mom kept bought cookies in it mostly and they never lasted long. We don't eat cookies all that much but we do in the holiday period and we like to make and decorate them.
It is important to me not to lose a lot of what is unsorted and piled or kept in boxes. Now, though, there are overflowing tables and boxes that must be dealt with so that we can clean. I can no longer stay up late at night to work on such items. In fact, even if I get half an hour during the daytime, I find it hard to discipline myself to get a start on even a small area. Last weekend, we did make a start together. I need to use the skill I learned from FlyLady that I can do anything, that is stand to do anything, for 15 minutes.
I need motivation, mostly. And I do need to figure out how to organize and store a lot of what I want to keep.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I did know that when I got "old" that hair would sprout in places it never appeared before. I did know. I knew that some places besides my head would have white hair rather than dark brown, which is my natural color. I have got used to plucking stray white eyebrow hairs, for example. Not all of them are white. Just a few. As soon as I notice them, I pluck them out, whether in the eyebrows or underneath. Soon, I may have to get a pencil to color the eyebrows all the same. And, as I expected to have to, I have had to trim a few nasal hairs that projected outside of my nostrils. What I did not foresee, though, was that a couple of hairs on my face would actually be bristles. For years, I have plucked the soft brown hair that grows out of the large mole on my right cheek when I saw it. Now, though, there are two bristles that I feel before I notice them with my eyes. One grows out of the fatty growth on my lip. I have asked my last two dermatolgists about removing the growth. They both weren't enthusiastic and said they could "shave it level" and maybe it would not grow back. So far, I haven't had anything done. Sometimes, though, I am wistful that I am no longer young. You see, were I young, I am sure that some kind of plastic surgery would be suggested. At any rate, I know my current insurance will not cover it. It would not cover two small fatty lumps near my left nostril, even when the dermatologist was removing a nearby basal cell carcinoma. Maybe I should find the money to go out of plan and see if I could get them all taken off. That would likely take care of that one brown bristle. Lately, too, I have found a white bristle that often feels like a sliver just on my chin where my neck meets my face. Once or twice, I have broken the skin attempting to get hold of it with my best tweezers. Eventually, I do get hold of it, most times. Yesterday, though, I was so annoyed with the feel of it when my hand brushed it that I grabbed my razor for my legs and sliced it off. It will be there again in a few days, I know, and I will have to try again to nab it. I know, I know, I should be glad I can still see, walk, run, after a fashion, and breathe deeply. More important things do batter my mind. Somehow, I think I've earned nattering about my bristles.

Monday, October 02, 2006

My Week at Curves
One of my dear friends suggested more than a year ago that I should join Curves. I haven't been able to leave Alan before now, so didn't do it. We installed a camera in Alan's room we call the Alan cam. We told him we could start giving him some independence. Don can watch Alan via computer so long as Alan stays put at his own computer. Also, every Monday for eight weeks, Alan is going to the special needs session at the Teen Center from two o'clock until he asks to be picked up, usually at 4:30, although he could stay until 5 p. m. He says he wants to come home and watch Zoom, but on tape. Whatever. I am so glad to have the two and a half hours while he enjoys something else. He plays pool and basketball.
Since Curves doesn't open until 3:30, I go to the library, do errands, or just sit in the van and read after I drop him off a bit after 2 p. m.
I am not really fond of exercise with others, to put it mildly. However, I really didn't want to have to return to Weight Watchers and I also want to lose some fat and get stronger. I signed up for the year so that I would make myself go. So far so good.
At Curves, which is only for women, the machines are designed to work pneumatically and most work on both directions at one time. Today, I found that one can actually complete the two circuits in 30 minutes. However, if one were to stretch both before and afterward, I don't think one could manage two circuits. So, today, now that I am sort of familiar with how to manage, I started on a pad warming up but running slowly. I started with the machine that my trainer said she did wrong for five years. I love her for that. Actually, she is everyone's trainer, but for the first session, she did go around with me to each machine and the second time she mostly followed me. Today, she helped me some as did the other trainer, but mostly I had to share them as there were more women there. I want to master this machine because it is easy to do it wrong and get no benefit. My target heart rate in the ten seconds given for measuring is 19 beats. I was able to get up to 20 beats with fewer interruptions for teaching form. That's one benefit of less attention. I did two circuits. I was tired after them and felt I got a work out. I did do the recommended stretching at the end. I know my face was not as red as one of my fellow exercisers. She has more to lose. I could not help a bit of comparison. Really, though, I am going for my own health. I do dislike feeling like a klutz. Lara assured me I would feel more comfortable by the end of a month. I will go there on Wednesday and Friday, too. I will be glad of the opportunity to walk in, get a workout, and not have any pain. At my age now, I am grateful for that. Of course, I would like to have my clothes fit better, too.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Our Evening of Elegance

Weeks ago, Don got an invitation to An Evening of Elegance which was to celebrate his division, Baxter Bioscience, and Baxter's 75th Anniversary. I ordered a dress and jacket that I found in the Coldwater Creek catalog back in August and hung it uncreased in my closet.
On Saturday mornings, Alan goes to Actors for Autism at Joey Travolta's Entertainment Experience in Encino. Knowing this, Cate and Jim gave me a gift certificate at the Burke & Williams spa in the Sherman Oaks Galleria. Don and Alan deposited me there about 9 a. m. They went off to wash Don's car before Alan's class. I entered the mall. I even rode the steep escalator to the second level when I couldn't find the elevator right away and found the spa.
Once inside, all is hushed. It isn't tomb-like but more like church before the service. A few muted voices could be heard. I was given a tour but was too timid to do any of the spa services that are complimentary. I didn't even take off my clothes and put on a bathing suit and robe. I will bring a bathing suit if I ever go again. Clothing is optional in parts of this spa. Not me. I didn't even think I wanted to try a massage by a stranger.
I had booked a manicure and pedicure. I probably have had seven or eight professional manicures and maybe three pedicures ever, all in the past five years. I was given a technician who led me, gently pushing me, I would say, through a maze of halls to the manicure room. There were two chairs and two technicians in this room. It was airy and though dim, not dark. The chair was a massage chair, which I have experienced before. However, a few more amenities befitting this type of spa were given to me. Kappy brought me a warm neck pillow first. She began to work on my hands and filled the foot bath. Everything was done in slow motion. I had a paraffin dip after she trimmed my nails. I thought the wax a bit hot. She covered my arms with towels. Then, the woman next to me was startled when she had her feet dipped into the wax. I was surprised but at least I was prepared. When it was my turn, I found that I too thought the wax too hot for my feet and each one was dipped three times. It did feel good once the wax coated my feet. Both my arms, up to my elbows, and my legs up to my knees were also massaged. Several times, Kappy asked me to relax. That is really hard for me to do.
I chose clear polish for my hands and splurged on pink for my toenails. After she was done, Kappy suggested next time I try a body massage as she said I deserve it. Hmmm.
Don and Alan picked me up outside the mall and we went on home for a late lunch. Around three, I showered and did my hair. Don put my dress and jacket into the garment bag with his tuxedo. I ought to have known it would get creased. It wasn't until we were dressed and leaving the hotel room I realized my sleeves were creased but I had to go like that. Next time I think I will bring a yet to be purchased steamer or steam it with the iron before dressing. Don wore his tuxedo and put on a bow tie for the first time. He took several tries before he was satisfied it looked right. I thought it was especially fine with the white shirt and black buttons, his vest and tux.
We settled Alan with his computer. He was good about it because we had long promised he could watch a DVD of Hoot. When the computer that could play DVDs crashed, we were counting on being able to hook up the DVD player to the t. v. in the room but it didn't work. I was under the impression that DVD players worked independently of the t. v. but apparently not.
When we went downstairs, Don suggested we get our photo taken first which was a good thing. There was a long, long line. We both felt stiff while being posed, especially after watching some of the people pose like Hollywood starlets. Luckily, I think one of the poses turned out.
Despite not being the first to arrive, we found that not many people took their seats at the assigned tables. We went in and located ours and since nobody else was there yet, went back out and got glasses of wine. Eventually, some people did sit at our table, so we went in and found places.
I thought the dinner was well done. I ordered a vegetarian meal. The dessert was cheesecake. I noticed several men wore tuxes. After I read the invitation, I saw that it said "semi formal" but there were several ladies in formal gowns and several men in tuxes. I didn't see the invitation until the day of the event. I got an e-mail for the Evening of Elegance weeks ago. Many people must have read that as formal and I don't blame them.
The band was extremely, extremely loud. We did dance a few times but kept escaping. We claimed our gift of the heavy crystal photo frame and took it up to the room. We went up around three times to check on Alan. He was on the computer, showering and in bed. He managed fine and was unconcerned. We left him with his cell phone and told him to call us if he needed us. There were breaks for the chances on the prizes. Those were some prizes! One was a complete home theater with flat screen t. v. One was an ipod Nano. A couple were nights at hotels and one was a Malibu restaurant dinner with a limo ride to and from the restaurant. The person at each table who had been with Baxter the longest got to take the fragrant bouquet of lilies and irises home and since Don had been there 21 years, we have the vase in our kitchen where we can see and smell them for a few days.
The people who were at this event all work long hard hours and travel a lot for the most part. There was a short video of some of the products and patients, along with workers comments. The president of the division gave a short speech, and she was appreciative of everyone's efforts. Don paid for a room in the hotel for us to stay in. I think it was well worth it. We were able to have Alan right there, to have a couple of glasses of wine and relax, rather than worry about the traffic going home on the freeway. When he drove back this morning, Don commented on how easy a drive it was on Sunday morning, unlike the same drive on Saturday. This wasn't a sunny summer Sunday with people going to the beach so the freeway wasn't busy.