Monday, August 29, 2005

March of the Sshhh

I have a terrible habit of talking during a movie, about the movie, narrating the movie, adding extra sounds and dialogue that come out of my mouth without control. I can't seem to help it. My husband does this too, but he's more of a preview talker. He loves to give his preview reviews on the spot. At the end of a trailer, he likes to say loudly, "Hell no. We're not seeing that." When we saw the preview of Hildago and the wall of sand was about to come down on Viggo Mortensen's and his beloved horse's head, my husband blurts out, "$20 he makes it."

I'm not so rude that I'm whispering or talking through the most silent and poignant moments of a film like when I saw Motorcycle Diaries and I was mute because I was trying to take in all the beauty that was Gael Garcia Bernal and Rodrigo de la Serna, and behind me a woman talked the ENTIRE MOVIE explaining in spanish the complete historia de Che and la revolucion (which is not what the movie was about) to her friend who must've been like, "Let's see a movie and catch up." I thought at the time, This must be some kind of karma, but this did not stop me from yelling out in spanish, "Enough already."

My family saw March of the Penguins this weekend, and as the movie began it hit me like a ton of bricks that my daughters have inherited the same bad habit. At 10, Maya's wit has sharpened to a nice point, thanks to us, and Mina,6, came out of the womb a smart ass. The four of us together are deadly. But how can you NOT add dialogue to a row of emperor penguins waddling along for miles and miles and miles? They are dying for us to add expression to this. When the male penguins started their 70-mile journey to get their mate on, I whispered to Husband, "Must be some great penguin pussy for all that." Husband responded by yawning loudly.

As the penguins strutted along, my girls and I blurted a series of "Move it." "Let's go boys!" "Doh!" “Hey Ed, what’s for lunch?” Also, Maya asked me a ton of questions during the movie like, "Why do baby animals have to die, Mami?"

As the movie progressed we wore ourselves out a little with the penguin speak and just watched the amazing martyrdom that is Raising Penguin. Until the mother penguins left the eggs entrusting to the fathers' care to make the 70-mile journey back so they could get something to eat, and Maya yells out, "These mothers are like, PEACE. I'm outta here." And as the mothers waddle back one by one towards the sea to get their eat on, Mina finally speaks up by singing the Conga Line song, "da-da-du-du DU DU!da-da-du-da DU DU!"

And I laughed annoyingly through the rest of the movie over that one.

Friday, August 26, 2005

I Left My Hair In El Segundo

I left work early last Friday to get my hair did in Santa Monica a day before the reunion, and I was fully aware what an unbelievable risk that was. I am only asking for trouble by scheduling a hair cut the day before a big event.

It's an even greater risk for me because historically I have the worst luck with anyone that touches my hair. I have the straightest hair known to man, and because it is super fine, trying to style it is like dealing with a possum playing dead. My hair is wondering, Is the curling iron gone yet so I can stop playing limp? Because my hair is so straight it seems deceivably easy to cut, but as soon as the scissors snip shut, the ends of my hair react by looking like cut hay; like if you placed my hair on a cutting board and just chopped down the blade. It has baffled almost every stylist I've ever been to.

Winter of 1974: My mother gives me a perm. Why must we all go through this rite of passage? Immediately the home perm turns into a frizz fro. Two weeks later, every kink has succumbed to the will of the straightness. I again have the coveted Dorothy Hamill cut.

Summer of 1975: My mother trims up my Dorothy Hamill. Mother + Scissors = Me Justifiably Nervous. She tells me to STAY STILL. I am still. "STOP MOVING because every time you move, I have to even it out shorter." I stop breathing. When she is finished, I am an inch away from being a skin head. My mother thinks it looks uber hip. I stare in disbelief. My mother suggests I let her shave me completely bald because it would look fantastic. I want to kill myself.

1981 - I start cutting my own bangs with foot-long arts & crafts scissors. I end up with killer, uneven spikes that I rock through junior high.

1996 - I take a picture to a stylist near my job. I say, "Can you do this cut?" He says, "That's a fairly simple style." Cool. Then he proceeds to chop the shit out of my hair and somehow makes me look like Carol Brady if she were to grow her hair out two inches. As I cross the threshold of the salon I swoop my hair up into a banana clip and do not remove that clip for an entire year. Mandy still calls it The Year of the Clip.

1999 - I find Annie at some random salon in Irvine. When Annie touches my hair, my head illuminates and an angel gets its wings. I cannot believe how effortlessly and easily she finesses my hair to do her will. My hair bows down to her and behaves even after I leave the presence of Annie. Annie leads a rocker-chick life and dates only men that are wild stage divers and have tequila for breakfast. Annie quits the salon never to be heard of again. I cry real tears. I still have hopes that I will find Annie. Annie, are you out there? call . . .me?

1999-present - I only cut my hair now when the ends are at risk of spontaneous combustion. That's about once a year. Less, if I can help it. Eight months ago, I walked into a Carlton Hair. "Does Annie work here?" "Who?" "Is anyone available to cut my hair?" I stopped trusting anyone with color a decade a go. A bad haircut you can hide, but the color? Hell no. I only do the color now. So, some hip girl with spiky hair trims my hair and blows it out and I leave feeling hopeful and pretty fabulous. And as soon as I wash and dry it myself, I see that one side is chopped an inch shorter then the other. FUCK ME.

Friday - I use the Enee Meenee Minee Mo on the internet and pick a salon in Santa Monica and book an appointment with "Raz" for a trim and a blow out at 4:30. I leave the OC at 3:00, later than I wanted and go nowhere on the 405 freeway for one whole hour. I am livid especially since my cell phone has died and for some (still) unknown reason my phone charger and my car stereo take a shit simultaneously. I can't call Raz to tell him/her I'll be late. And I certainly can't go to the reunion with my split-end situation as epidemic as it is. At 4:30 I just get off the fucking freeway because I utterly hate every goddamn thing on the planet at this point. I am on the border of the lovely city of Hawthorn and El Segundo, and I call Raz from a coffee spot. I am shit out of luck. And if I wasn't so out of my mind I probably wouldn't have done what I did next. I walked into the Fantastic Sams next to the coffee joint and asked a 60-year old woman that was stoked to have a job to cut my hair. I sincerely thought, Raz had just as much of a chance to fuck up my hair too. You can't tell my hair is butchered while it's wet. It's seems so healthy and innocently limp after a cut so when Dinaria (my grandma stylist's name) started blow drying my hair I knew my hair was just as choppy as every other hair cut I've had in my life. I said, "Can you blow it under -- try to get a little bend to the end?" Mama Dinaria said, "Under? You don't want it flipped up?" For the love of god, flipped up? "No, I don't want it flipped up. Under." And she literally did not know how to dry my hair under with a round brush. It was an act of god how she tried to go under and it still flipped up a little. When she got to my long bangs, I took the hair dryer and brush from her hands and did it myself.

Whatever. For the reunion I soft curled my hair which takes cans of mouse and a sacrificial lamb, but the curl hid the chop chop of the ends. And right now I'm on the internet trying to find a course called Learn To Cut Your Hair Yourself. At this point, I think I can already achieve the staggered, faux layered look I have now so anything beyond that will be an improvement.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

HS Reunion, The Finale. And Happy Birthday To Me

I'm thirteen in this picture, about to enter 9th grade. My bangs are self sheered and the color of my hair is bleached by the sun, not by lemon or straight peroxide like we used to use back then. This picture was taken about three months before I pierced my nose with an ice cube and a sewing needle which in 1982 was out there because even though the punkers were elbowing their way onto the scene, piercing was not a big part of their look yet. I self pierced my nose -- which took several excruciating attempts -- after I went to an African festival at UCLA. Missing from this picture is the woven red and blue Nigerian skull cap I wore almost daily. We call this the When-I-Was-African stage. My expression in this picture seems to fall somewhere between smart-assery and complete tragedy; and I didn't realize that my face gave away so much. Around this time, I wore huge army surplus pants and aprons as an accessory, and for god knows what reason I spray-painted my entire bike silver; tires, chain, handle bars, every single inch of it. It looked fantastic to me though I got a lot of shit from other kids for that one.

According to the consensus at my 20 year high school reunion on Saturday, this is exactly how my classmates remember me. Back then, I felt like an odd and quirky outsider even though I couldn't fathom acting any other way than what I was oddly driven to do. At the time my classmates also thought I was a little weird, but they told me at the reunion they now remember me as creative and cool. As a teen you would've loved to hear that, but you can't expect other 14 year olds to give up that kind of praise. They don't know how yet.

The most interesting part of the reunion was that when my classmates found out I brokered semiconductors for a living and that I lived in Orange County and that Husband traded stocks, they concluded that I was a major sell out. They believed I was the last person that would live the life that I do. They felt that I would most likely have a creative profession or an activist's one. And I thought, you know what? So did I. It doesn't matter that I have nine tattoos because I look extremely polished compared to my teen self. It doesn't matter that I am a writer because I didn't say that's What I Did. It doesn't matter that I'm a radical at heart or that I stroke my inner hippie daily because I don't put that side out there for target practice any more. And I gotta say all of this is mildly upsetting, to say the least, -- because today is my 38th birthday. Crisis anyone?

So, that's what floats to the top days after the reunion, but all in all I had a great time. It's a cartoonish experience to talk to people whose 16 year old image is tattooed in your mind, but they now have a slide of baldness or wrinkles or more padding placed over this image. The craziest part is that the original image still comes through the strongest.

Other things realized at the reunion:
1. A black strapless dress with an A-line skirt that hits at the knees is a smash at any age. And boys that you had a big crush on 25 years ago will seem very intested in you when you wear it.

2. High school was a dangerous place. I mean, I was aware that drugs and alcohol and gang violence were going on, but JESUS. Or maybe it's that the older I get (read: the older my daughters get) the less funny all these little fucked memories become. "I did three lines of coke before finishing my homework." What? "I fucked Mr. SoNSo." The swim coach? "Rob got shot." Yeah, I heard that.

3. You spend a little more time than you really want at the 20th reunion talking about who's died from high school.

So, back to my crisis . . .I have well-thought out reasons for not being a homeless writer or painter that still rents single rooms from friends. And I don't usually make excuses for wanting to make enough money to not only support my daughters but to give them comfort. It's the internal battle that most don't see -- The Grand Battle of Balance: Sheltering Them Too Much vs.Handing Them Too Much. Instilling Responsiblility/Discipline vs. Yielding to Creativity. Respect/Diplomacy vs. Staying True To Oneself. I'm teaching them the Balance Game now because I know it's a hard one to play and because personally I prefer the Fine Line than letting that 13 year old unintentional maverick pictured above slip through the cracks. And I prefer it over letting my internal, innate weirdness make me completely disappear into myself.

Right as my crisis was hitting critical mass this morning, on my birthday (the 38th one which seems dangerously close to the 97th), I received my Writing Well Is The Best Revenge tshirt from Mrs. Kennedy. And somehow this made me feel much better. I guess mainly because this phrase means - to me - that all of what I do is not for nothin': The Fine Line, the Battle of Balance because I HAVE NOT STOPPED WRITING. When the kids are asleep and when the semiconductors are bought low and sold high, when I'm done nodding and yes'ing other TaeKwonDo moms in Orange County . . . I still write. I yield to the creativity and am true to myself.
Happy Birthday to Me. My face still reveals all.

Friday, August 19, 2005

High School Reunion, Part Dos

When my mother went to her 10-year high school reunion, I was only 10 years old -- whoops, did we all just do the math? -- but I remember specifically her freaking out about what to wear. She was on a mission to prove that the Grenada Hills High bad ass had turned into one classy lady. She chose a white jump suit with rhinestones lining the zipper. AWESOME. A JUMPSUIT. WHITE. WITH BLING. It was 1977, but still a rockstar statement.


For the entire month of August, I have been stressing about what to wear to my reunion. I'm embarrassed to think so hard about it, but that's part of the dilemma; I want to wear something that looks great, but also looks like I'm not trying too hard. Mission not accomplished.

I am an expert on-line shopper. I blow on my fingers and dazzle others with my ability to buy perfect fitting clothes AND SHOES by looking at the 2x2 picture on the internet. It's a bizarre talent, a mystical touch from the gods. I bought a dress on line for the reunion that I thought would be Understated Elegance. It was a brownish-purple wrap-around dress, 3/4 sleeves. It was nice -- corporate hot, but a little stuffy. So, I decided to do some live shopping. The reason I took up on-line shopping is because if I go in person, I am no longer focused on the task at hand. I, all of the sudden, need damask cowboy boots or paten-leather bathrobes. I have no control. The internet allows me to focus and though there is quite a bit of surfing, it's not the same as the maddening bombardment of beautiful clothes and must-have shoes that swarm and circle around me in a hallucinogenic haze the instant I enter Nordstroms. Must. Have. (Fill in the blank.) But I braved my madness and went. I found a beautiful, black strapless silk dress with an A-line skirt. A little nicer than I anticipated on getting, but simple enough to downplay. There was, however, this bow with a stupid rhinestone ornament attached at the waist of the dress that I immediately razor-bladed off when I got home. That's a good way to to ruin a good dress; by adding rhinestones. This dress did not need such jazzing up. Though I was focused during dress shopping, I did not escape the pull of the shoe department. I mean, come on. And I bought the most gushy dusty light-blue wedge heels with a rounded toe to go with my dress. I was in love with myself in my new outfit. I can't wait to reveal to the Samo High class of 85 what a classy lady I've become.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

High School Reunion, Part Uno

Saturday is my 20 year high school reunion which is ridiculous to say aloud. It seems just an eternity ago that I was a goofy but unintentionally cool (in hindsight) weirdo that attended Santa Monica High School. My style of dress alternated from punk (almost solely because thrift stores had the cheapest clothes) and a homeless-jock look which comprised of tattered, paint-splattered sweatpants and hand-me-down tshirts. I was the MVP of my basketball team and was even approached to play ball on a partial scholarship to Cal State Northridge; however, I couldn't figure out in my 17 year old mind how I was ever going to cover the partial not paid for . . . that aside, girls ball bored me. Back then they coached girls to play a mind-numbingly slow type basketball, just as Dr. Naismith had intended I'm sure, and if we had worn skirts for a uniform (might as well have), they would've stayed neatly in place. BTW, we were called The Lady Vikes. Do I really need to explain my disdain for this name or the endearing nicknames we were called? I couldn't wait for the girls season to be over so I could practice with the boys varsity team which I was invited to do by the coach in my junior and senior years. In 12th grade someone gave my mom a pair of pink and white striped dolphin shorts (um,1985, hello) which I snatched up because they bore my favorite quality in clothes: Free. I didn't really realized that the boys team saw me as a girl . . . until I wore those shorts to practice. Later I would think, Did I really wear pink and white striped dolphin shorts to the boys' varsity practice, in a sauna like gym where they were practically sweating sperm and running layup drills with hard-ons? Why didn't I just complete the outfit with a New Balance half top, high-heeled Cherokee wedges and a feathered roach clip in my hair? Because I didn't get those for free, that's why.

My best friend in high school and still one of my closest friends, Betsy called me yesterday about the reunion. She said, "I don't have any shoes for Saturday." I said, "You don't have shoes other than flip flops and sneakers." "That's what I just said," she said. I visit Betsy once a year to bear witness to her fantastic, adventurous life in Lafayette, a lush and quaint suburb above Oakland.

This is how Betsy lives her life.
That's her and her man, Jim jumping off a 10-story building apparently, into Utica Lake.

Betsy says, "How's the vegan thing going?" I haven't seen her since last November which was pretty much the exact beginning of Holiday Gorge 2004. The first night of my visit, she and I gorged ourselves at the Peruvian phenom restaurant, Limon in SF. We ordered page three of the menu. Maybe some of page four. I said, "I've discovered that veganism is a breeze for me. I love it." She said, "So, are you all skinny now?" I said, "Well, maybe 5lbs lighter." Fucking only 5lbs gone when I eat unprocessed plant-based stuff all day long even if I'm still working on that "portion" thing. "My skin is amazing though," I admit. "And my hair looks great."

After Betsy and I finish our conversation, and before I can snap my cell phone shut, I sprout 3 or 10 new pimples on chin. One is right above my lip which hurts like a bitch. great. That's always the way, isn't it? The one time you brag about yourself and it immediately goes to shit as the words leave your mouth. I was on hair-loss watch the rest of the night. Ten minutes after the phone conversation, my stomach bloated up in happy anticipation for my period.

Class of 85, here I come!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Weird Dog People

They say that a dog can improve your health and lengthen your life. And that can certainly sound like a load -- until you get a dog. I didn't realize until a year ago that having a dog most definitely improves the quality of life if they don't, in fact, add a few years which I now firmly believe. When Husband and I decided we didn't want any more children -- that we didn't want to mess with the Perfection we had already created (see left) -- we got a dog; we got Lupe. Husband actually did not want a dog and certainly not a pug, a breed I've always loved. I've heard that some people think they are ugly, but I’m not sure what they're talking about.

Seriously, what do they mean?
Though this one seems to have an anus for a mouth . . .
What's up with that?

It's been a year since I just decided to bring home baby Lupe, whether Husband opposed it or not, as my birthday present to myself. I took her out in the middle of the night for potty runs and brought her to work with me. Took her to the vet. But guess who now claims to love Lupe the most? Husband. Who talks mad baby talk and gets on the floor and rolls around with Lupe and declares he's never loved a doggie as much as he loves Lupe? That's right; Husband.

About once a week I tell Husband, "I never thought I’d let a dog lick me on the lips."

Fyi, this is how Lupe got around the first few months of her life. The Mina Transport System.

So, if one pug can elevate our happiness and extend our lives and create random outbursts of goofy baby talk and cause us to wiggle our asses and put our hands up like paws and jump around like idiots, what is the most natural thing to do? That's right, get another pug. When we were informed that Lupe's mom and dad had another litter, well, of course we wanted one more living being in our 950 square foot apartment. And I realize Husband and I have crossed the line -- to weird dog people where we will soon be taking our dogs to strange Pug Events and buying them lots of humiliating dog outfits. But I’m most definitely ok with all of this, and I simply see this as an exercise in extending our lives.

Welcome baby Carmen De La Rosa!
(Lupe looks months younger already too.)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Tips For Perfect Vacationing

*When picking a perfect place to vacation -- even if for only two days -- remember that you can gather all the recommendations and referrals you want, but it all comes down to your gut instincts. Does this look like a place you could really enjoy and make the most of?

*When your gut says, "Hell Yes," then without any inhibitions make sure you experience everything you want at this place. Do stuff you would never do. Like, sit on the balcony pictured to the left, naked. (One of the things I learned this weekend: Nature is awesome.)

Hey Gut, Isn't this place rad?
(This is actually overlooking the ocean, but the marine layer settled a couple hundred feet below us. It looked like we were dining on clouds; like when you look outside an airplane.)

*When you pay an obscene amount of money for the room rate, don't tell anyone, even when they insist you tell them. I find it highly embarrassing justifying it to others when I really have no business paying that much for a vacation. When you tell, then the conversation is no longer about how rad the spot is, but about "Damn! You just blew a month's rent." And, "Je-sus." And "All that for two days?" Three days really, and yes, two nights -- in paradise. I'd do it again. Because today I feel like a million bucks. Completely relaxed and fine tuned. Did I mention nature is awesome?

*Even after you sit naked on your woodsy balcony, keep doing things you wouldn't have done before like take a four-person yoga class in a yurt near a field with a husband that you'd never thought would take yoga let alone in a yurt.

This is a yurt.

*At the five-star restaurant at your five-star resort, tell the chef that you are a vegan and tell him to GO FOR IT - do whatever he wants. Who doesn't love a creative license and a green light? I got the best meals EVER this weekend: Grilled polenta piled with crisp roasted corn kernels and baby tomatoes. Cheeseless mini "pizzettes" with walnut pesto and portabella mushrooms. Sliced green tomatoes with basil champagne vinaigrette and pine nuts. It was no less than goddamn divine.

*There was no TV in the room and after the panic of having no mental pacifier to lull us nor ease our busied minds, we then paid attention to details in the room that we may not have before. Such as the brilliant architecture that bore perfect angles with which to see the woods without sacrificing privacy. (That's me taking full advantage of the robe and the stunning bay window.) The first night as I lay in my bed about to fall asleep, I realized the triangular skylight angled above our bed was a perfectly-positioned window to the sky. I watched the heavy dose of stars for 20 minutes this way (not sitting up, just comfortably with my head on the pillow). I witnessed no less than three shooting stars dart across the triangle window.

*Push the limits of how much stuff your spouse will do with you. I dragged mine on an hour-long walk around the 98 acres of the resort. Though we were kinda-sorta "hiking" through the woods, the path was kept immaculate, raked and safe. I'm sure the local snakes and other intimidating wildlife were either bribed or warned severely about scaring the guests. Every mile there was a bucket of chilled bottled water - I'm not joking. It was like when Jim Carrey's character in The Truman Show starts to realize that his life is being staged. I swear I might've seen staff poignantly plant a hawk feather on the path or spray a spectacular spider web with just a little more dew . . . We did encounter a flock of wild turkeys that hung out near the garden en route to the pool. We cut through the garden both days and each time, Husband and the head male turkey would have this unannounced race to the garden's gate. While we were in the middle of the garden, the Turkey Tom broke towards the gate in a hurried walk and Husband then sped up his pace too. I'd be the voices of the lady turkeys that didn't budge from under the garden's tree. "Where you going? Are you racing humans again? Oh, just leave us here when you sense trouble, jerk." FYI, Turkey 1, Husband 1.

*I also dragged Husband to the Star Gazing event on the restaurant balcony. I say "dragged" when he willingly went and enjoyed it all. Also, he was getting so much ass during our vacation, there was nothing he would've said no to. So, we looked at Jupiter through a telescope and checked out its three moons. Oh, and Cameron Diaz was out there too, star gazing with us. Yup. And then some guy asked the resident astronomer if Jupiter was larger than the sun . . . and I almost nudged Cameron Diaz and said, "My six year old knows the sun is bigger than Jupiter." I mean, if you are looking into the sky for the first time in your entire life, you'll probably figure out on your own that the sun is running the show. But god bless him for asking . . . P.S. everyone in Big Sur or at least at this resort is far too nice to have slapped this guy around. The astronomer simply answered without a shred of sarcasm that indeed the sun is larger. That would've been a little too much to ask of me.

This is what our waitress described as Second-Day Glow

Look, I glowed too

Thank you Post Ranch Inn for a great stay. However, paradise on earth means very little without your favorite person. Thanks to Husband for a dreamy time . . .

Monday, August 08, 2005

Mental Bullriding

I've been going through a little . . . skid lately where I can't seem to get my make up and hair right. More like I can't get the area from the neck up to stop looking like shit. I look in the mirror and think, "Holy, what the fuck's wrong with my face?" Bags, sunken in eyes -- actually it looks like my eyes have shrunken to the size of dimes. Weird. I've been applying my best make-up techniques -- usual fail-safe tricks -- to make me look better. I'll blow dry my hair, an infrequent practice for me but one that leaves me feeling fiercely fabulousa. But it's all for nothin' lately. I keep applying more and more eyeliner and more and more blush, and after I startle myself with the hooker clown look, I use a baby wipe and take the whole mess off thinking that the natural look may work best right now. But hell no. The eyes are now pea-sized and my skin looks like I have jaundice or leprosy, and it's droopy! (Those aren't jowls, are they?) Then there's a case of the waddle developing on my neck that I may take scissors to . . . I can't even get lip gloss on right because I've put on too much self tanner in my state of panic. I have lips the color of fucking butternut squash. And my hair is two-toned. Is that Garnier Deep Golden Brown on top and Feria Chocolate Cherry on the bottom? I have the straightest hair known to man, but I can't even apply a baby bend to the end with a hot curling brush. Nor can I get it to stop looking like I have an A-line skirt made of straw on my head. I nearly wore a grocery bag over my head today. Seriously.

Later, a co-worker said he loved my hair down and styled. I almost punched him in the face. I don't need his patronizing.

I used to have this theory -- a theory I had forgotten about until this week -- that if my face and hair were looking hot, then my body would feel and look like shit. And conversely, if my body was looking good, my face and hair would be unworkable; a bag-it day. I don't think these were figments of my imagination either. I wasn't necessarily down in the dumps about myself when I felt this way. In fact, I would be feeling pretty good because one thing, at least, was looking great. But I'd be perplexed that I couldn't get the whole package rocking all at once. I always thought, "Feh, at least I got one thing going." And it was all about accentuating that. I'd razzle dazzle with the face even if the top button of my jeans was about to launch itself into the stratosphere. So, I'm thinking this recent problem with my face must mean that my body is getting more kick-ass as of late. That's what I'm going with anyway.

Actually, I think this really all comes down to the fact that I haven't been sleeping well, and I don't do well with little sleep -- nor does my face, obviously. Husband has been out of town this week and I've been staying up late and being weird; watching movies and reading and thinking too much. And my dog Lupe, who weighs less than 20lbs, is a goddamn bed hog. GOD. I tried to go to sleep early last night and instead I just laid there with my eyes closed trying to figure out if I could ride a mechanical bull. I spent hours doing this and worrying about my up coming high school reunion, but that's another story. I'm going to a western bar for my birthday in a couple weeks and I don't want to look like a complete moron up on the mechanical bull -- because I will HAVE to at least try it -- so, I'm convinced that if I can figure out, in my mind, how to move with it, then I'll be able to stay on better, or at least look good before I'm flung to the sawdust. I've been to this bar before and though I didn't ride said bull then, I watched a Bride-To-Be get up there and make a THOROUGH ass of herself. Firstly, she couldn't seem to control her body in the least; she was just grunting forward and flopping back without one iota of grace. Secondly, her tube top slipped down and we saw one pre-marital titty. I said to Husband,"Did we just see a titty?" He said, "Yup." She pulled up her top quickly and when she picked herself up from being immediately thrown off the bull, she asked her friends, "Did you guys see my boob?" And her friends sang in unison, "NNNOOOO!"

IN ANY EVENT, I gotta get some sleep before I’m forced to buy a SARS mask for my orange lips and a lone ranger mask a la R Kelly for my beady eyes, or I'll have to ride that bull with a bag on my head.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Work Work-Out

I am fully aware of the benefits of "strength training". I get it. I understand that it is soooo necessary for oh so many reasons such as: So your bones don't crumble inside of your body reducing you to a skin sack. And because it helps your triceps from turning into propelling devices, bat wings or arm capes. It helps prevent your butt cheeks from dragging on the ground and helps your stomach from turning into a lava-like substance that can only be contained behind tight, high pants.

Strength training also keeps you from embarrassing yourself in the following situation: You are carrying groceries to your car, maybe three bags in tow. In the parking lot, you drop your keys and when you squat down to pick them up you feel like you have two grown men on your shoulders when you try to raise back up. You try to get up all smooth and graceful-like because you want to pretend -- for the shoppers around you -- that you are not struggling nor are you as weak as you feel; this all resulting in a pulled hamstring.

I am an expert in Knowing One Needs to Strength Train. Just ask me. But for ME to actually consistently weight train falls into the Amnesia portion of my psyche. I am constantly telling myself, "Ok, gotta hit the weights, yes." Weeks later, "Whoa, gotta do some sqauts here." More weeks pass, "Ok, what was I doing with these weights. I know they are good for me." "Today, I will start weight training immediately." And so forth.

Getting to the gym is hard. And carving it into your schedule; writing it on your calendar; pinning a note to your lapel in the morning is the only way to move working out OUT of the Amnesia part of the brain and into the section called Routine. And I had to do that with my strength training - before I forgot.

At work, Kim has made a back office into a great little make-shift gym. She bought equipment on eBay and out of the Recycler and we've all pitched in bringing hand weights and resistance bands. I even brought in a paint-splattered radio with a broken antenna that I bought in 1992 that has sat in my garage for 10 years because the CD player doesn't work. I'm a giver . . . So, when the gym was finished, about a week after I started working there, I knew it was God's way of saying, Get your ass in there 'cause the weights ain't gonna lift themselves. It couldn't have been a more blatant sign if Kim had built the gym right in my cubicle. And I made a commitment to myself to get in that little gym twice a week, during lunch and push some weights around.

Excuse #1: Here is an audio reel that runs in my head every second of my weight routine: One, two -- is ten reps enough? Ok, twelve then. Is this weight heavy enough? I hate when the weight is too heavy? Do I really have to do another set? GOD THIS IS BORING. Ok, six, seven -- ug. What am I going to do next? Will two exercises be enough? One for legs, one for arms? nine, ten. That's good enough . . . It's near torture for me. And I realized (I am constantly realizing) that I can't think, I have to put my mind on mute and just do it for 30 minutes, twice a week. 30 MINUTES. I CAN DO 30 MINUTES, if I don't talk to myself. 'Cause I really can talk myself in and out of anything and if it's remotely a drag, I'm talking to get out. And if it's about eating a COOKIE, I'm talking myself in. So, sshhh, mind, sshh.

Excuse #2: Our adorable little work gym is the hottest room -- in the world. It's like walking on the face of the sun. It is the only office in the building that gets no air conditioning, and when you open the door you see mirages off the carpet. You enter and your face melts. I'm like, "Kim, why do you have us working out in Satan's sauna?" And poor Kim felt so badly she brought in two huge industrial fans that just blow around the swirling heat gasses, but they really do help. Especially when you stand right in front of them. The first day I worked out in there, I did my lunges right in front of a humongous fan; as I counted my reps, my voice warbled and vibrated, that's how close I was to the fan. Kim peeked in. She said, "What? Are you shooting a workout video in here?" I then realized how Beyonce I looked with the hair blowing a la music video and me trying to keep perfect form, and of course I was talking to myself which probably looked like I was lip synching.

Here I am working out.

I've been going. To our little hot gym. Two times a week; Tuesday and Thursday at noon for 30 minutes. Because I just have to. I can do 30 minutes and whine and talk all I want, but I just have to like having to do laundry. I don't want to do laundry so often, but I have to. So, I've been keeping my commitment to my strength training regime. Me and my coworker, Teri; we've been diligent. Teri's got her own staunch commitment that she's sticking to. Maybe not the exact as mine, but I'm sure they are similar. We're not necessarily work-out buddies, but we find comfort in the fact that someone else Means It This Time. We talk a little, but not much, and we lift away. Teri's driven by her own goals, and I try to engage my core and reel in my swinging triceps and pull up my butt that was looking sad . . .Don't be sad, butt because I think I'm on track to finally making this Routine.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Big Papi

If Mama Luz is all fire, Big Papi, my father-in-law, is calm water. Sweet and mellow and kind. That doesn't mean he'll take a boatload of shit. He's just not one to show all his cards like Luz does. Big Papi lives the same terribly unhealthy lifestyle as Luz and though he works a physically laborious job (some exercise at least), he drinks at least six beers a night. When we visited this last holiday, his age seemed vastly accelerated and his blood pressure and cholesterol were out the roof. This, for obvious reasons, affected my husband profoundly.

During this same trip, we flew to Puerto Rico on Christmas Day. We took only Big Papi because Mama Luz claims she gets eaten alive by mosquitoes. This was one of those trips where we all had our own little lights go on about our lives -- staring at the Caribbean Sea will do that -- but Big Papi had a major awakening which we didn't realize until months later. In Puerto Rico, I had never seen him so happy and talkative. We walked around the mango-tree lined streets of Patillas where he had grown up and he did not pass a single person without stretching out his hand and introducing us, telling stories and beaming especially over my husband (like he always has) and our daughters. By the end of the week, we called him the Mayor of Patillas.

My husband and Big Papi would steal away often to the local bar which is basically a piece of tin on stilts covering a wood bar that stores ice cold Heinekens. I say steal away because Abuelita, Big Papi's mother with whom we stayed, is a Four Square Pentecostal and there is no fucking around in her house with the likes of beer and other traps of the devil. Unfortunately, when they went to the bar (or to "visit a cousin" as they told Abuelita), I was left to melt away in the little concrete house. Fyi, extreme humidity and plastic-covered couches do not mix. I was also left alone with Abuelita and the critical matter of getting me Saved which rubs me raw because coincidentally, my grandmother is also a Four Square Pentecostal and I had to learn at an early age to dodge the Personal Savior grilling. (Most recently, a zealous guy tried to save me while I was checking out his groceries at the health food store. He knew I needed saving and got in my face about whether or not I had admitted it yet. I said, "Jesus is awesome." He said, "Yeah, but have you accepted Him because if not you're going to hell." I thought, this is hell with you in my face, but I smiled brightly and said, "Why yes, I have." He could say nothing after that and I genuinely thanked the Lord for this.)

After we returned to NY from Puerto Rico, Big Papi told Mama Luz he was going to see a nutritionist. He said he was going to drink more water and less beer. He seemed sadly resolute when he told me, "I want to see the girls graduate from high school. I want to see them get married."
In April, months after our trip, my husband went to New York again on business and visited Mama Luz and Big Papi. Much to Husband's astonishment, Big Papi had lost twenty pounds. He had not drank one beer since New Year's Eve. This is a man that has had a six pack a night since my husband can remember. Big Papi was having a tough time with the water, but he's been drinking VitaminWater that Husband introduced to them in December. It's sweetened "water" but it's enhanced with some vitamins and minerals. Husband called me the night he got to New York and said, "I can't stop staring at him. He looks ten years younger."

I thought, it's one thing for the light to go on, for the epiphany to spark and give inspiration, but it's quite another for someone to take drastic action. In Puerto Rico, Big Papi remembered that life is fun and that his family loves him. He decided that he wanted to stick around longer for his granddaughters and he knew the only way that was going to happen was if he really did something about it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Maya, The Vegetarian

My 10 year old daughter, Maya, told me yesterday while we ate at Ruby's Diner, "I think I want to be a vegetarian."
I choked a little on my veggie burger out of surprise, even as I beamed a little. I said, "Really, baby?"

She said, "Yes," very proud of the announcement as she bit into her turkey burger.

I said, "I think that's totally cool, but do you know what a vegetarian is exactly?"

She said, "They don't eat animals."

I said, "That includes fish." She thought and then nodded, "Ok."

I said, "Or turkey burgers or turkey bacon . . .” She seemed a little surprised by this.

I put my hand on hers and said, "Tell me why you want to be a vegetarian." She giggled and blushed. After squirming a bit, she said, "Because it's good for the environment?" She looked at me to make sure she had said the right thing.

I said, "Great! How is that good for the environment?"

She said, "Because meat has a lot fat." (Huh?)

I said, "That's actually a great reason why eating less meat is healthier."

She said, "I want to be healthier. I want to me like you, Mami." She looked down shyly. And I almost put my forehead on the table and cried my eyes out.

I said, "Oh baby, that's awesome, thank you. But you know, if you really want to be a vegetarian, you can work your way there. You can try not eating red meat and see how that goes."

She thought for a second and said, "Ok!"

"And if you're cool with that," I said, "then try cutting something else out if you want. But you have to eat a lot of vegetables and fruits and good stuff, ok?"

I looked over at my 6 year old, Mina, who was munching quietly on a corn dog which I only let her have one out of eleven requests. She loves those nitrates on a stick and I gave in last night only because Ruby's serves a turkey corn dog. I said, "Mina couldn't give up the pork, could you Mina? Just like Papi." And Mina said, "Rice and beans is my favorite food." And I said, "Me too! What else is your favorite food?" Mina said, "Candy." Which is true. She'd eat all candy meals if allowed. We battle every single day about the limit of sugar she's permitted to consume. She'll take whatever she can get, but it doesn't stop her from asking every hour. I'm always trying to get her to eat more healthy sweet options. I used to work with a girl that grew up on a commune and her mother used to tell her that wheat crackers where cookies, and aren't they good? Mina knows the difference between a cookie and a goddamn wheat cracker from a hundred yards out. But, thank God, she likes Fabes All Natural Bakery stuff which is mostly vegan and fruit sweetened. She'll also take some sugar free gum as a treat, and of course Luna Bars. She eats so many Luna Bars, we call her the Luna Bar Princess. This last Valentine's Day, when all the kids volunteered to bring heart-shaped cookies and sprinkled cupcakes and candied kisses to their class party, Mina signed us up for Luna Bars and I had to buy boxes of Lemon Zest and S'mores. Mina's very picky about her flavors though she will try them all at least once, like a connoisseur. I emailed Luna Bar once and told them no one likes Luna Bars as much as Mina. They didn't dispute this.

Maya spoke up again, "When my friends try to pressure me into eating a hamburger, I'll tell them, Look, I'm trying to become a vegetarian so please try to respect that." This piece of dialogue sounded exactly like the Peer-Pressure-Drug/Alcohol role play we do regularly. I found it hilarious that she had turned this into a Dare Not to Do Drugs/Alcohol/Red Meat campaign. Good for her, I thought. But I decided to leave out the part that she'll get far more pressure to eat the things she's given up than she will to try weed or beer.

Then she said, "Mami, I'll give up red meat when I get back from New York." Both daughters left this morning for New York to stay with Mama Luz and Big Papi for three weeks. Waiting to start her Road to Vegetarianism was brilliant because eliminating red meat from the grandparent's meal plans would have caused utter chaos. "Great idea, Maya," I said. "Then you'll really be ready."

"Oh yea," she said.