My very gifted brother

His name is Doug and he's an extraordinary artist, has been since he was 8 years old. His other passions are lepidoptery (butterflies) and baseball. He's loved those things all his life, with a side trip into building race cars some years ago. Except for that detour, he's been completely faithful to making art, playing ball, and finding and raising butterflies. As I mentioned earlier, our family hasn't been big on staying in touch, being close, or knowing what's going on with each other. I found out the other day that this brother of mine has published papers on the subject of butterflies. He's a known and respected lepidopterist -- this is my brother we're talking about here. Not that he couldn't be a known and respected butterfly guy, but gee whiz, what a thing to find out. Most of the articles and papers were published 20 years ago, but there are still people referring to him and his research and his methods even now. I'm really proud of him.

What I love about Doug is his imagination. I love his paintings, especially this one. It hangs in our house and it's fantastic. He's very talented but has never had representation, has never figured out the "art scene," hasn't had a show in a gallery. He's had his work in an artist's coop in Tucson, where he and his wife Mary live, and he used to take the time to get in the local art and craft fairs.

Fusion of Light

Fusion Alchemy

This one hangs in our house too. It's a much older painting than the others. This was done before he started adding other materials to the surface. Nowadays he puts pieces of mirror or metal or cloth or candy wrappers, whatever makes the texture more interesting. I admire him so much.

Kim and I had dinner with Doug and Mary a few years ago. We were on our way from San Diego to Florida. So I haven't completely lost touch with him, but to be honest, I've never tried very hard to know him. I like him. Being the self-righteous jerk that I can be sometimes, I don't think I've let him be himself. I keep wanting to make him into someone else. My bad.

Doug made this set. I've owned this for 20+ years and I've actually used it a few times. It's exquisite. I don't think we have any other things that he made.

Self Portrait by Doug Mullins


Noah and the Whale, Five Years Time

While you're waiting for me to finish my next post (a long one about my talented brother Doug) watch this! It's so fun. I'm happy that I found it -- the song was on [redacted], which I was visiting this morning (even though I hate that the Bruce Willis movie clip starts automatically, drives me crazy).


Gentle Ride

Would you like to feel your heart expand about 10 sizes? Would you like to fill up with high-test love and happiness? I know I love that feeling, when I feel peace and love and hope, when I cry tears of joy, when my heart just feels like it's going to burst out of my chest. Well, I've just spent the morning digging those feelings brought to me courtesy of Haris Blackwood, a very old friend of mine. I met Haris in Tempe, Arizona (where I've met the best people in my whole life). She's a song-writer, singer, musician and humanitarian. She teaches love, compassion, understanding and joy.

I've just listened to her first CD, Gentle Ride, which she recorded in 2002. The album is a lovely mix of Haris' original songs and her favorites from other song-writers. I had tears streaming down my face listening to Don't Laugh at Me by Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin. There's a whole program around this song to teach youngsters about caring and empathy for others. And it's just the sort of thing Haris embraces. Her rendering of From a Distance likewise had me bawling (in a good way). You'll also find Willie Nelson, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon represented on this album. The three Haris original songs are Gentle Ride, Restless and Ace of Hearts -- all captivating songs. But Haris told me recently she particularly likes Gentle Ride (so do I).

You grab the dogs and I'll make sure there's gas in the car;
We'll drive until sunset and sleep wherever we are.

Here's Gentle Ride, have a listen:

This is the CD -- I love this photograph. Now, for those of you fortunate enough to live in Portland (Oregon, of course), you can hear and see her in person. See, this is one of the reasons we've got to get to Portland right away. She's actually playing January 26th at the Plantation House (St. Helen's) and at the Bethany Village Grill on the 30th. Get out there and see her Portland. Bring your friends and make an evening of it!


Florida stories: Our neighborhood, some things we saw

We went for a long, long walk on Sunday -- the day after the humongous rainstorm. The drainage ditches had enough water for the ducks. It's not a big deal because there are so many lakes and ponds all over the place anyway. (Just in case there's not enough humidity in the summer.) click on photos for larger images

Very few of the small creeks have bridges this nice. I love this one, love the rust, the shape, the boards. And I particularly love that it's overkill. It's right beside the road and not close to anything important, on a street with no sidewalks or bike lanes. So very Florida.

Oh, and this. Coles guns and ammo store. The owner just fixed up the outside with this great new paint job. We almost missed it, it blends so perfectly into the jungle of foliage around it. There's such a weird mix of stuff around where we live -- see the blue dome, that's the Greek Orthodox Church across the street from Coles. What's even weirder about Coles is that usually on a Sunday the parking lot is jammed with trucks and SUVs, all of them with gun racks, of course.

There aren't a lot of things that are fun or inspirational or particularly aesthetic around Clearwater, but we found this just a few blocks from our house. I adore it. It's splendid in its simplicity.

Here's Stevens Creek, looking at it from the east and then from the west, the tide obviously way far out. This is a wonderful place to watch birds. Speaking of which...

As you can see, we don't quite have the hang of the new camera's auto focus ability. Hmmm. I imagine we'll figure out what we need to do so this doesn't happen again. Sadly, I don't know what kind of bird this is. I'm pretty sure it's a heron of some sort. Lovely, even if his head is out of focus. (Please don't be all up in my face about not putting it here, taking another one, etc. I like the photo.)

When I put this shirt on there were a couple of things I thought: 1) I like that the biology teacher in Upstream wears brighter and brighter Hawaiian print shirts as the winter in Homer, Alaska gets colder and darker; and 2) I like wearing this because it was my brother's -- the brother I hadn't spoken to in over 20 years; my sister asked me to pick something from his things that she'd brought home after he died.

This is what Spanish moss looks like before it attaches itself to something else, like an oak tree. Spanish-moss, also called Florida moss, long moss, or graybeard, is not a true moss. It is an epiphytic plant, which grows on another plant, but does not rely on the host plant for nutrients; epiphytes make their own food. Orchids are epiphytes.

And here's the way you most often see it. There are trees in our neighborhood that are almost completely covered with this stuff. Some people love the way it looks, associating it with romantic notions of the South. Bah! Even though it isn't a parasite, it looks like a parasite and can appear to take over a tree.

After we'd been walking about an hour we were both whining and complaining about aches and pains and the need to rest. We tried to book it home but took a wrong turn down a dead-end street and had to double back. So. We hopped into a Comfort Suites motel that was deserted and helped ourselves to hot chocolate and coffee. We had a nice rest.

And this is the Pinellas Trail. The very famous Pinellas Trail. It stretches from the southern tip of Pinellas County (where St. Petersburg is) north into Tarpon Springs, about 34 miles and is a testament to what hard-headed people can accomplish. This path was railroad tracks. The train stopped running and some clever citizens organized and fought for this as a solution to abandoned tracks. Nice, huh? Anyway, our house is just up there about 100', right off the trail. We're going home now.

The new balcony

Allison and Carl moved into their new apartment just before Christmas. This is the first place they've had that has a balcony. See the strings of red lights behind the tree? That would be the balcony. It's really wonderful because they have a totally awesome view that you don't have to climb three flights of stairs to see. I have lots of photos taken from the roof of their last place.

So, the other day Carl is enjoying the scenery from his new balcony and you'll never guess what he saw. A peregrine falcon.

The falcon is in there. Somewhere. In there. But isn't that a gorgeous view? Even, or maybe especially, in wintertime.

Okay, we've zoomed in a bit and the falcon is right there -- about the middle of this picture. Do you see him (her)?

There. Now you can see him, yes? He's so beautiful. There are lots of stories about birds of prey making their home in New York City. Fascinating. But that's just me.


Pen and ink and more

I've always loved pen and ink drawings. I tried for years to learn even the rudimentary skills necessary to make a decent drawing. I got pretty good at abstract drawings and I liked them a lot. But the genes for drawing and painting went to my older brother, I got different creative juices.

I was visiting at Flawless Beauty and she introduced me to Kayte Terry, who has the blog love forever and Kayte introduced me to Kristy Hall, who, among other things, has just finished The Diary Project. Okay, did you follow that? In other words, I was blog surfing and I'm so very glad I did and in the direction I did. I enjoy fb for her tips on natural skin/body care. I'd never wandered into any other places from hers and just decided on a whim to go over to lf. love forever is awesome. I'll be going back for lots more of that lady's inspiration.

But I was telling you about my love of pen and ink drawings. And that would be why I mentioned The Diary Project. Kristy describes it this way:

"The Diary Project is a year long art project. Every day in 2007 I am drawing on an envelope, placing something secret inside and posting it to myself before my midnight deadline. When these envelopes return to me they will be kept unopened until they can be exhibited as a whole artwork. Members of the public will then be able to open the letters and investigate the contents. Once the letters have been opened, the contents will be displayed on the Diary Project blog. If you're a gallery owner who would like to exhibit the completed project in 2008, please email me.

Check it out: "Members of the public will then be able to open the letters and investigate the contents." Wow. I'd go to that exhibit. I love that she was willing to draw an envelope every day. I love that she was thinking of a year of envelopes. She used lots of other things (media?) besides ink, like gouache, pencils, watercolor. Here are a few of the envelopes:

In The Diary Project, each envelope is described, the materials used, sometimes the inspiration for the drawing. It truly is fascinating and inspirational. She makes it look so easy. Go visit, you'll like it.

And after that, if you're really inspired and you want more, more, more, you MUST go see her other artworks.

Florida stories: Driving home in a gully washer


The mysteries of the blogosphere

1. How can bloggers be "stumped" for what to write about? WTF. Why would they have a blog in the first place? I’m stunned at the number of sites devoted to “how to think of something to write about on your blog.”

2. Are there some rules of etiquette a newbie needs to know? I've posted comments that were not that disagreeable or argumentative that got deleted. I have to assume the blogger was offended. (See #4)

3. Is it against the bloglaw to do a search by keyword for blogs you want to have a conversation with? I posted a comment that challenged the post and the blogger said I shouldn't be key word searching and to cut it out, kiss-kiss. Another WTF. I actually hadn't done a search, but her response got me thinking. I sometimes do have an agenda but so do most bloggers. Which brings us to the next question.

4. Are bloggers unwilling to enter into debate? Are they only interested in preaching to the choir? I know I would delete a comment if it was spam or an attack on me personally, but it seems stupid to not be willing to have a discussion about something. I don't know, nobody has left any kind of comment that challenged me.

5. Do non-bloggers jump from blog to blog through the various blogrolls? It would make sense, yes? You don’t have to be working on a blog to be interested in what other people are doing on their blogs, right?

6. How do I get people to read the f#%^&ing blog in the first place? Only 2 or 3 of my real-life friends and my daughters read it. I can’t even get my other friends to visit. I thought one of the ways was to visit other blogs, leave comments (only agreeable, cheerleading type comments, of course) and something that links back to my blog. OK, a couple of people have visited because of that. I’ve seen posts that have 75 comments, some have over a hundred. Is it the length of time that that blog has been around? Is it the fame of the blogger from some other activity, i.e., [redacted] is a blog done by a guy who writes for Esquire.

7. Is it unusual to obsess about the number of comments you receive? Can someone tell me how to stop worrying about it? It has occurred to me that there are visitors who do not comment, therefore there are more people reading than I am aware of. Like Cyndi. She must have been reading for a while, but didn’t leave a comment until something really bit. And how did she find it in the first place?

8. Here’s a good one, not exactly a question, but certainly food for thought. A soldier dies in Iraq and the next day a new post appears on his blog. He had sent the post to a friend with the instruction that if something happened to him, she was to post it. It’s a little odd, but when you read the message it makes perfect sense.

9. And then there's the question of whether or not to respond to comments in the comment section. I've seen blogs where the author will reply to every comment, even when they're getting 70, 80 comments. Are you kidding? And the responses to the comments take on a conversational tone, which is cool, but again, no disagreeing allowed. Are the people leaving the comments personal friends of the author? Are they just other bloggers who drop in so regularly that it seems like a bunch of friends? Do the commenters come back and read the reply to their comment? It's way too complicated. I need to know how this works.

I don’t think that’s all of my questions, not by a long shot. But now that I’m participating in this cultural phenomenon, I’d like to understand more parts of it. I realize I’m a little behind the curve, everybody else has been doing it for years; they’ve learned some of the tricks. I even registered at a site called Blog Ninjas where a blogger can get “help.” Hmmm, we’ll see about that. In the meantime, if you’re reading this and you don’t leave a comment, could you at least send another person to my blog? Hell, even if you DO leave a comment, send a couple more people here. Thanks.


Ahhhh, yes, watch this

It's been such a very long time since I've thought about, looked at, or experienced in any way, the joys of dance. I'm particularly fond of modern dance -- sure, I've seen some really stupid stuff and have even taken a few really stupid classes. But for the most part, the modern dance that I've seen or been taught has been exciting, inventive, fresh and liberating.

I took a lot of dance classes at Arizona State, some modern, some ballet, a little jazz. And I met some incredible people, very dedicated to their art. That kind of dedication is not something I have or know too much about (except where Kim is concerned). I was married to a dancer/choreographer/teacher and his inability to function outside of the dance world eventually eroded our marriage. For him, a wife was sort of like a light bulb or groceries, it blows out, you get another one. Weird, but I can see how a person would have to do that to succeed. Many of the dancers I knew were like that. People, both dancers and not, were either useful or not.

I miss dancing. I miss it a lot. I'm hoping that I'll get back into it when we move, that somehow I'll be in good enough shape that I can take a class or two. Since the new me wants to exercise, then, what the hell, let's dance!

I have tons of great images of dance -- I was the photographer for the dance program at San Diego State University for a couple years. But they're all packed, waiting to go to Oregon. I'll show them to you when we get to the other side.

I found this today while I was looking for something (I have no idea what) and really really really love it. I hope you enjoy it too. The choreographer is Nadia Oussenko, and she's just a whole lot of fun and energy.

Stories told by flowers: New digital camera

I'm sure you've figured out that Kim is a gadget geek, a lover of all things techno. Which is good. It means he keeps up on stuff that, if it were up to me, we'd be in the way back. He reads Popular Science and Wired and he gets feeds (what the %#$^??) of things moderne. So. He's owned a great Pentax 35mm camera for years and he's bought great lenses for it at no small cost. But who in the world is shooting film these days? It's just not right. I bought a Nikon Coolpix some years back and was mostly liking it. Recently we bought a little nothing digital camera, the kind you see people pull out of a pocket while sightseeing. It works -- it's good for the web, email, etc. You take pics with this camera, not images (see Photography sidebar).

Ta-da! We got a new digital Pentax that will accept the lenses from the old Pentax!! Yay! What a great idea. But this sucker is complicated, at least for me it is, Kim is patient and studies manuals. Well, naturally we needed to go try it out, right? Naturally. But where? We decided, after a brief foray on the web, to go to the West Tampa Historical District. That sounds good, doesn't it?

Here it is. I'm not kidding. And we were lucky to find this. We debated buying a Tampa map and NOT buying one won. Oh well. We drove around, trying to remember the streets that bordered the Historical District. What we didn't know is that West Tampa is primarily a very old, rundown area and the Historical District designation is an attempt to clean it up. Oh well again. We figured there were probably lots of old, getting-ready-to-be-renovated buildings like this one, if we could just find them.

But there was a small problem -- we hadn't eaten in hours and we were both starving. Plus, we didn't have a map. Plus, what passed for restaurants in this area were not places we could actually eat. We got back on the only freeway we recognized and headed back toward Clearwater, thinking we'd go to one of the places we were familiar with. Nope, you can't get there from here. Not without a map.
This is where we ended up -- a resort hotel restaurant on Tampa Bay. Works for me. I was so hungry and really needed a restroom. I do love a fancy, full-of-itself eatery with a chef. And this chef makes his own potato chips! Oh. My. God. They were marvelous. So was the rest of the food. It was lovely lounging on the deck, nice umbrella, being waited on. Maybe you think I'm going to say that something happened to wreck the idyllic scene, but no, nothing like that. It just stayed wonderful.

The first thing that came to the table was the usual bread and butter, but this time it included a special dish of salt. Salt. I don't know. Of course, the people waiting on us think we're completely bonkers, we're snapping pictures of the bread, the dishes, the chips. We probably did look sort of silly, but do you think I care?

Not me, I've got this little bit of paradise -- gorgeous day in January, nobody else on the patio (I hate perfume, even when I'm outside), tasty food, happy husband with his new toy. Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about. I could sit here all day, sip my iced tea, watch the birds and the clouds. Mmmmm.

This was the best desert I've had in ages and ages. It was just this tiny glass of key lime pie with some graham cracker crust bits scattered around in it, topped with really sugary meringue. Yummy, yummy, yummy. Kim liked it too, darn it. It's probably better that we shared it. I would have moaned and groaned and whined about it if I'd eaten all of it myself. Isn't it so cute, with the little berries and the sauce kind of raked like that? Yes, this place thinks a lot of itself.
We admired this wall decor -- a fabulous sculpture of different kinds of birds, made just from different thicknesses of wire. I could do that. Just as soon as I get my new shop up and running. Heh, heh.

So, instead of the West Tampa Hysterical District photography day-trip, we took the let's-eat-at-the-
most-pretentious-restaurant-on-Tampa-Bay photography day-trip. And it was lovely. Just lovely.

We had a good time, a delicious, if overpriced, lunch and learned lots of cool stuff about the new camera. Next time, we'll take you along with us, okay? Don't worry, we'll go dutch.


And now for something completely different

Ok, just sit back and watch. Maybe Kim and I will build one of these in Oregon.

Some geeky things

Kim is the serious geek in our family and I learned about these two things from him. I want to pass them along because they are very useful in this digital-email-linkedup (or is it linkedin, or maybe it's linkedto, whatever)-bloggy-yahoogroup kind of world.

The first thing is a place where you can type in an acronym and find out what the hell other people are talking about when they talk in abbreviations. This is very annoying to me, this talking in initials. Like IMVHO or LMAO or LGBQ or any of the thousands of other irritating shorthands. Butsoanyway, it's called acronym finder and I use it about 200 times a day. Maybe that's a slight exaggeration.

The other is a site where you can paste in a ridiculously long url and get back a little bitty url. This is very handy. I have seriously cursed people who throw gigantic urls into a post without realizing that it gets broken into pieces and then, if you want to actually go look at it, you have to fumble around with copying it and pasting it. Too much work. So. In the interest of making your links in your posts really easy to use, check out tinyurl.

You can thank me later.


A voice from the past

Cyndi writes:
"I was crouched next to you when you first met Kim. We were on a mattress in a corner of Terry's living room at Contempo. There were suddenly lots of strange people there that night in May.

Then Kim came over and talked to us for a long time, and made you laugh a lot.

I didn't ever know you felt that way. I never felt that way. I wish you had told me.

One of the things I remember Kim saying to me was about how he thought a good couple would be one where you would read together, different books, and then sit and tell each other what you read.

Kim was filled with significance of thought and interesting ideas. All the traits you ascribe to him here are true from my memory of him. Seen through your eyes, I see how very special he is, and that you are able to appreciate each other for who you each are.

How good to know now, knowing you each from the start, and what happened to each of us that first decade or so, that you and Kim found each other finally, in a way and at a time when you could finally become a couple.

As soon as I saw, a few months ago, you had got back with Kim, I realized, yes, that is who she should have been with all along. And now, reading this, I wanted to tell you so.

I was there at the beginning, but I have gone a very different way, which can't be very surprising to either of you.

Looks like none of us live in the southwest anymore, but we left very strong impressions behind us there. Endings can be the best part of a positive experience."

This is mind blowing to me. I've tried numerous times over the years to find this person and here she is, reading something I put on my blog and then writing this astonishing response to it. It's hard for me to describe how weird this is.

Cyndi was my only friend in high school. I would pick her up in the morning, we'd go for coffee and a few smokes, then maybe we'd make it to school. We'd eat lunch together and then, when school was over, we went to her house and drank Coca-cola and ate SaraLee marble cake. We listened to Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and occasionally Broadway show tunes -- go figure, right? I think there was a girl named Sherry who hung around with us once in a while, but we weren't super good friends with her like we were with each other.

Cyndi and I were in a couple of the plays our senior year. I think we were both in Cyrano de Bergerac and maybe we worked backstage on The Sound of Music. The two of us were oddballs. We didn't really fit in too well -- we weren't jocks or nerds or cheerleader-types or even very sociable, for that matter. We stuck together and were pretty much ignored. On Friday and Saturday nights we'd go to Terry's apartment in Tempe, where I'd get blasted as quickly as I could and spend the rest of the evening trying to get sober enough to drive us home. Understand, this was 1966: "don't drink and drive" had not been beaten into us, we'd probably never heard anyone say it, hell, my car didn't even have seat belts!

I hounded Cyndi into going to Arizona State with me. It was great fun moving into our own apartment a few blocks from campus. Can I just interject here how strange this is, remembering all this stuff? I haven't thought about any of this for years and years. Strange, but fun too. Anyway, we got a one bedroom apartment for $66.00, close enough to walk or ride a bike to class.

It was at the end of that school year that Kim and I went to San Francisco in my old 1949 Mercury with the pillows in the back instead of a back seat. Cyndi went to New York to do summer stock. That was the summer I stumbled into $cientology, which, in my drug stupor seemed like an answer to something. When the new school year started, Kim and Cyndi were both back in Tempe. I was heavy into $cn and made it my mission to convert as many people as I could. So I did. It was because of my involvement that Kim, Cyndi and another friend of ours, Irv, got into the cult. Cyndi even married a $cnist a few years later. I know that she got out and divorced the $cnist and raised her son.

I lost track of Cyndi for quite a few years and then we hooked up somehow, not too long after Allison was born. We drifted into and out of each other's lives for years, until about 1990, when we had a falling out. I haven't talked to her since then. From the tone of this message she left in the comments section of Kim, she has changed quite a bit. I really want to talk to her, but I don't have any way to do that other than write to her here and hope she reads it.

Hi Cyndi.



I finished reading this book today. I stuck it in an envelope and mailed it to Lauri. She's lived in Alaska for the past 30 years and will love reading it. She'll love it for its wistful heroine Marty as much as for its setting: Homer, Alaska. (I just this minute found out that Lauri has run out of reading material. . .how serendipitous.) I rummaged around and found a few reviews of it. One reviewer said, "Melissa Lion approaches her second book, Upstream (she debuted in Swollen), with tender-loving-care." Another did an interview with Melissa as a companion piece to her review. I liked this interview because Melissa talked a lot about her writing and how it works for her. You can Google Melissa Lion and find all kinds of interesting stuff.

I'm not a book reviewer, but if I was I'd say that teenage girls will love this book. I don't think this book is just for teenagers, though. It's a really good read. I like Melissa's style, it's tart and sassy and the teenage narrator feels very real, if just a touch mature. I don't always believe everything in the story, but I loved reading it and I definitely cared about Marty and Dottie and Gwen and their mom. Oh, and Katherine too.

When Melissa was in high school, she wrote short stories. They were remarkable. I remember one, it had greenbeans in the title and another one about a girl who becomes the 12th wife in a Mormon family. Such good stories. I remember thinking how extraordinary it was that this 16 year old had so much insight into other people. Melissa does have insight, plenty, and I still don't know where it comes from.

I recommend both her books -- Swollen and Upstream. And I recommend reading her other writing, which you will find by going to Melissa's website. Enjoy!

Florida Stories: Here's to Jeff and Stephanie

I'm excited to tell you about my trainers (that's right, plural). But first, there's a little back story you need to have: Kim and I moved to Clearwater in May 2005. We had purchased two houses in April. Both houses needed work; the one we were going to use as income property wasn't too bad and the one we intended to live in was majorly awful. I can't even begin to describe how awful it was. Think Florida, and then 100x that. Anyway, it didn't take very long to get the rental ready and then our complete attention was on our house. It was difficult living in it, but we had no choice. So for two solid years, my only job was the renovation of this house. I did all the demolition and 99% of the finish work. I don't do electrical, plumbing, major construction. The house was finished and we put it on the market last July. And I was in very, very, very bad shape. I had not taken care of myself at all. I had worked my body hard and had done virtually nothing to repair all the damage I was doing: long hours, heavy lifting, repetitive movements, etc. At the end of those two years, my right shoulder, elbow, wrist, my back, my hips, my knees, you name it, it hurt. With the house done, I decided to spend my new free time doing things that would be good for me. My first decision was to get acupuncture for the pain, which was a good thing to do. It really helped. The next thing I did was hire a personal trainer. That was the weirdest thing -- the equivalent of deciding to live on Mars. I mean, who hires a personal trainer? Brad Pitt maybe, but ordinary, regular folks? I don't think so. But I did. I did a little bit of research, looked at what kinds of things to be careful about and then, the next I knew, I was going to this gym twice a week. It's not a gym like Gold's is a gym, where you can get a membership and do whatever you want. This place, AMA Fitness (not connected with the American Medical Association, thank god), is like a private club. You go there only to work with a trainer. I knew that I was never going to exercise at home, by myself -- simply not going to happen. So, I work with Jeff. He's a very, very good trainer. That statement is based solely on the changes in my body and attitude over the last 5 months. Jeff is a cyclist and a sports fan -- he knows all about football teams and players. He goes on really long bike rides almost every weekend and his legs are definitely a bicyclist's legs. I like working with him because he gives clear instructions, he's patient, has a wry sense of humor, and is sooo encouraging. He only lets me cheat the tiniest bit, like on walking lunges, but mostly he makes me go further than I think I can. And I feel so good when I do.

My other trainer is Stephanie. She owns Poise Pilates and also works with clients at AMA, which is a good thing for me, otherwise I probably never would have found her. And the difference she has made in my posture, balance, alignment and breathing are priceless. This is one amazing woman. When she set out to learn about Pilates, she didn't just learn Joseph Pilates' method and his exercises. She read medical books so she'd know which muscles were doing what -- not something taught to Pilates instructors. She also prepares future instructors for their certification, and they pass. Like Jeff, she practices what she preaches. A big part of Pilates is breathing and learning to expand the ribcage. Today Stephanie demonstrated for me what breathing is really about. She put my hands on her ribs and stomach so I could feel what happens when a person takes a really deep breath. She inhaled for 35 seconds. You try it -- see how long you breathe in before you run out of room. Stephanie can show me the exact exercise to do for practically any muscle/joint discomfort I'm having. I whine about something and boom! she's got instructions for where my arm should be and how long my neck needs to be and which part of my foot to put my weight on. Amazing. I love how I feel afterwards. I love how my life has changed because I'm so much stronger and taller and more able to see my future.

Thank you Jeff. Thank you Stephanie. I'm more grateful than I can say.

Shouting from my soapbox: Too much plastic

As many of you know, I get very excited about "issues" and like to rant and wave my arms around. Well, here's another one (after the too much perfume one, which was such a big deal to me I started a blog about the evils of perfume/fragrance). This one is plastic. Do you have any idea how much plastic you use and throw away? I was completely appalled when I honestly assessed the amount of plastic waste in our household. And don't tell me it's okay because you put it in the recycle bin. THAT'S EVEN WORSE THAN USING IT IN THE FIRST PLACE!! Check out this video about what happens to plastic set out in your recycle bin. (Don't bore me with details about how this news report concerns British plastic -- you can be SURE that the US of A sends tons and tons and tons of recylcing to China.) My friend Lauri sent me the name of a very interesting site: FakePlasticFish. That's where the video is. It's worth spending some time there and educating yourself.
Recycling is a thing of the past. Recycling is part of the problem now. Using shit that gets thrown away is not okay. It's time to examine our trash!! Do you want to help or do you want to continue thinking that you're a good doobee because you gather up all your plastic bags and take them back to the grocery store??? Arghh. In the '60's we shouted "If you're not part of the solution, YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!" It was true then and it's true now. Here's an excellent first step: sign the Think Outside the Bottle pledge, that will help. It's important to remember that changes can be tiny, you don't have to solve the entire problem by yourself today. Here are three suggestions: take canvas bags with you everywhere, never let anyone send you home with plastic bags; get a glass bottle with a lid that you can refill with water, never buy bottled water; and pay attention to the things you're buying: how much plastic are you going to have to throw away because of your purchases.
Okay. We can do this. I feel another self-righteous blog coming on.



I've loved Kim all my life. I loved him before I even met him. And I knew the moment I saw him that he was the one I had dreamed of. He's been in my heart forever and will always be there.

photo by Donna Padowitz

I love him because he's kind and patient. I think I can be pretty obnoxious but Kim doesn't seem to be bothered -- he likes me the way I am, he loves me with all my warts. We've been married 13 years and he's lost his temper twice. That doesn't mean he isn't passionate, he just isn't an angry person. And he's never petty.

I love that he's so incredibly smart. Sometimes he shows me stuff about computers or math or astronomy and I'm just in awe. He understands a lot about the world and the universe and how things work. He loves to teach me new things; I know I can ask him anything and he'll know the answer or know where to find it.

Kim is creative and playful and intuitive. He has wonderful ideas about making a new life in Portland, what sort of house we'll build or make, the new skills we'll learn, like welding. He's constantly learning new things -- new programs, new tools, he just keeps growing smarter.
And he has much better taste than I do. I think he sees better than I do and I love looking through his eyes.

I love him because he's generous. He would do anything for me, give me anything I asked for. And he wants me to be happy. He gives me happy all the time. It just falls off of him, or beams out of his eyes. We don't argue (anymore). It's so fun to talk about something we feel differently about because we don't get upset when the other person disagrees. And once in a while, one of us is the proud owner of a new point of view, almost always a good thing.

Kim and I got married October 3, 1993. We had written out our vows, purchased rings, cut a boatload of roses from the neighborhood gardens (with permission) and we had some candles. It was just the two of us and after we'd said our vows, given the rings and lit the candles, we opened a couple of beers and giggled. A few years later, we went to a county courthouse and made it legal. A little while after that, we put together a small party for family and friends. It was very fun, very light, with good food, yummy champagne and a dark chocolate cake that said For Always on it.

And later that night, we danced.