Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 -- not the best of years, and not the worst

I think the thing I feel the most accomplished about this year was the work I did on my book. I hired a writing coach last January who read the book chapter by chapter. We either met in person or by phone to discuss her notes and then I incorporated them. My goal was to get finished by the end of August so I could submit the completed and reworked draft with my application to the UCLA extension memoir master’s program, and even though I wasn’t admitted I was encouraged by the instructor to begin submitting the book to agents.
Rather than do that right away, I asked my coach to reread the book front to back. That process has just been completed. In the next week or so, I’ll make some necessary changes and get the book ready for other submissions: to a publishing house specializing in women’s literature that is having open submissions during the month of January, and to several agents. I’m just going to have to bite the bullet and take my chances. Otherwise, I’ll never know. It will be a good way to get feedback. I could back track and get someone else to read it with a critical eye, but I don’t think I want to do that just yet. If I don’t get any encouraging responses from the January submissions then I’ll see about another read through.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A day of writer's woes

Yesterday could be called a writer’s day of hell. I was so optimistic when it started – raring to get going on my to do list, and by the time it was over I felt like I never wanted to write another word again.
I started out by sending four emails to people I thought could help me find an agent for my memoir – three former teachers and a friend who’s published quite a bit. I heard from two of teachers almost immediately. One said she couldn’t recommend an agent because the five she’s sent her new memoir to have all turned it down. An ominous sign I must say. The second responder who has always been so helpful in the past has gone so far up the food chain in the business of books that he couldn’t recommend without a conflict of interest. The other two haven’t responded yet.
Then I decided to get some poems ready for a chapbook submission. I chose Pudding House recommended by my cousin, Larry. What was intriguing about this group is they accept submissions all the time and usually respond within one day. Their format requirements are strict – no page breaks or page numbers, no formatting of any kind, Time New Roman 11 point font, and everything in one down-loadable file. I took my poetry manuscript and first edited out several poems, added one, and chose a title – Aftermath – and cleared away all the page breaks. I had an updated manuscript ready to go in just about an hour, and I sent it off with the promise of calling in my $12 reading fee as soon as I clicked the send button. That took a couple of tries and finally I spoke directly to the editor – who sounded real friendly. She also assured me I’d hear from her very quickly. I guess she didn’t have much else to do yesterday.
Well, quickly was quite an understatement. It took her just about an hour – maybe less – to read through my document of over 20 poems and decide it wasn’t right for her press, and she noted she gave it “serious” consideration. Less than an hour to look at 20 poems doesn’t seem like serious consideration to me. I wonder if that’s just her way to rip off poor, anxious writers of their measly $12.00. When I got that response just before going to bed last night I wanted to cry.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

To dos for the week

So, now that Hanukah and Christmas are over on to what I need to do to make the best use of my week away from work. First submit to poetry journals and contests. Second, work at finding an agent for my memoir – write letters to anyone I can think of who may have an in with an agent. Third, meet with my writing coach and work on any necessary changes to my manuscript. Fouth, decide if I need to have someone else read through the manuscript. Fifth, get the manuscript ready for the Kore Press open submission.
Besides all that I have a list of more movies to see. Today’s movie, Charlie Wilson's War, was great. Aaron Sorkin is a real master.
The other movies on my list are Atonement, Savages, Sweeny Todd, and the Great Debaters. I don’t know if I enough nights left in the week to see them all.
Needless to say, I don't know the meaning of the word, RELAX!!!!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Go see "Juno"

We saw “Juno” last night. It’s about a 16 year old who gets pregnant and gives the baby up for adoption. The script and the musical score are terrific. So different, so out there. This 16-year old is mature beyond her years – she even says she is handling things way above her maturity level in the movie. Also, the young actress who plays the lead role is so beautiful. Needless to say I was very taken -- and very much amused at times.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Another item for my bucket list

If you've been reading my blog you'll know I've been jotting down things I want to do before I die. I've called it a bucket list -- like the movie.
Yesterday I experienced Elizabeth's conversion ceremony in the University of Jusaism's Mikveh (AKA Jewish spa) -- an event pack-filled with beauty, love and spirituality.
I felt enormous joy in being there with Elizabeth at such a meaningful time in her life. I take great pride in being her friend – a friend across generations – and as she says, her mum in LA. She is so warm and loving and open that it’s a pleasure talking to and being with her. I really feel like her mentor and confidant – something so very special.
For the ritual she needed to completely immerse herself in the water three times and not touching anything – even her hands couldn’t touch each other. In between each dunk she said a prayer. At the end each of the Rabbis made a blessing, the cantor sang, and each of the witnesses said something. That part wasn't mandatory, but we all wanted to anyway. The women could actually watch the proceedings, but the men who were in the rooom had to stand behind a curtain with their backs to the curtain. They were witnesses to the sound of her dunking in the water. After we left the Mikveh area, she could stay alone for as long as she wanted.
Bottom line, I found it moving enough to want to experience it. It’s not the negative thing that the Orthodox Jews used to use it for – cleansing after women's unclean times -- e.g., after menstrual periods -- and preparing women to be Orthodox Jewish wives. Now, as a result of the feminist movement, women use it to commemorate all kinds of events -– deaths, births, anniversaries, as a way to regroup, re-focus, attain calm, and find new prospectives –- it would have been a calming and purifying thing to do after my son, Paul died. And, it's not too late. Perhaps Elizabeth will share the experience with me.
So, getting in a Mikveh is a new item on my bucket list.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A bad way to start the day

Any day that starts off with a mammogram has got to be bad. There is just no getting around it. From the time the technician called me into the little room with the breast crusher I was angry, and I think she was too. She barely said anything to me except stand straight, lower your shoulder, look toward me, look away from me. Take your right arm out of the gown. Take your left arm out of the gown. And when I complained that it hurt she asked if it felt like it was pulling from above. I said, no, it was pulling from below. So much so, that the underside of my right breast was red and sore when I was finished. Why is that that once she got me all in place and locked in she had turn the crank one extra turn before she took the x-ray? Was she afraid that I would somehow get out of her vice? No chance. I was already in there so tight I couldn’t move.
And, what’s the deal with her attitude. I keep hoping every year that someone else a little more pleasant will be there. But no. She’s always there. What did I ever do to hurt her? She’s the one doing the hurting. Maybe that’s it. She doesn’t like her job. And if that’s the truth I wouldn’t blame her. Can you imagine squeezing women’s breasts into that torture machine all day long?
The other thing she asks me every year is if I’m on hormones. And I always get the feeling that she disapproves that I am. If I continue to have normal breast exams why does it concern her? I would think that’s an issue between me and my gynecologist and my internist. I’m on a low dosage and have started to take them less days a week, but I’m not about to stop cold turkey. Some of my friends did when the Women’s Health Initiative came out with the news that HRT caused heart disease in women. But, my gynecologist was wary of the results and so was I. It only tested women over 65 who had never taken hormones before, not us younger women who started hormones with the onset of menopause, so we decided that the results weren’t pertinent to me. As is turns out, we were right.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My obsession with steps

My gym, the Spectrum Club, introduced a program called Health Miles a little over a year ago. I joined last January and have been wearing a pedometer at almost every waking hour ever since. Right now, at 4:30 in the afternoon, my pedometer says that I’ve done 16,192 steps today since I got up at 4:50 am. This is a little more than usual. Most days I amass between 12,000 and 15,000 steps – that’s enough already! But today I walked over to my company’s cafeteria for lunch, and a round trip there from my office is another 4,000.
The point of the program is to get in shape while earning money and other benefits, and if one earns the maximum miles (steps and bio measurements and fitness assessments and activity logging all get transferred into miles) – 36,000 within a year -- he/she can earn $250.00 worth of gift cards, various t-shirts, a gym bag and water bottle, and 12 hours worth of private training sessions – over $1,400 worth of stuff. And, you guessed it, I’ve earned all that and am still pushing on. Right now I have over 42,000 miles logged in with over a month to go. Also, throughout the year, Health Miles sponsors several challenges giving participants the opportunity to win even more money and prizes.
So what’s the point of all this? I’ve challenged myself further and further this year – at first I was satisfied with 9,000 steps a day, then 10,000, then 12,000, and now I’m not happy unless it’s 15,000. And mostly I don’t feel the worse for wear. Yet, this morning when my alarm went off, I really could have stayed right there in bed and left the pedometer on the bathroom counter where it resides every night. Up until I joined Health Miles I was content to workout five days a week. Now, I do some form of exercise – whether it’s at the gym or a walk to the beach – every day. And that has been going on for almost a year.
So, I’m headed for another choice. When my year of Health Miles is up in January do I re-up or do I go back to a more relaxing exercise regimen? After all, I keep reminding myself, I can be a little easier on myself. I know that I won’t ever give up exercising as long as I can walk, but I don’t have to be so obsessed about it.
Another thing that’s been nagging at me is how I can get other people in my age group to become or stay fit. I’ve thought about becoming a trainer for only older people – I think the need is there – yet, taking the training course is very daunting. And where could I get hired? What gym would want to hire an old lady when there are so many beautiful young people out there already?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Thanks, Monica, for your common sense

I read a short piece in last Sunday’s LA Times Image section by Monica Corcoran who admits to being over 40 – what a baby – and definitely not into this current young and hipper (Y&H, she calls it) movement where 40 is supposed to be the new 30. There is so much out there that speaks to staying young looking and cool longer that her opinion is a breath of fresh air. She doesn’t want any of those youth-style advocates to dictate hers which, she says, is evolving as she evolves and grows older. I can relate. Just because I’m still trim it doesn’t mean that I should dress like a teeny bopper. Even though my husband would like to see me in low cut mini dresses, they just wouldn’t look appropriate on a person my age. So I feel vindicated.

Monica, if you ever read this, thank you very much.

By the way, her piece is called “Timeless Untruths: A slew of books on staying young – or at least looking that way – fail to consider that 40, 50, or 60 may not want to be the new anything,” dated December 9, 2007.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The rude drivers' rant...

I've heard a new song on the radio lately about a 90 pound woman driving her SUV while talking on her cell phone and totally oblivious about what's going on around her. I can totally relate. I get so annoyed when people driving SUVs butt in or think just because they're in a big car they can over power us folks in the little ones.

I wrote a rude drivers' rant a while ago -- here it is:

Who Do They Think They Are: Rude Driver Rant

I’m inching my way to the street,
looking out for the cars coming at me,
and then there’s one –
there’s always at least one –
that makes a turn into the street I’m coming out of
without a warning
“A simple little turn signal – what is so hard about that – would have allowed me to go,”
I’m hissing under my breath.
But no. I’m still stuck
and that person is meandering happily down the street.

Those are the too busy to flick the turn signal on kind of drivers.
They start slowing down and edging over to the right,
and I’m thinking,
“What the hell is that guy going to do?”
Without warning the car turns right
and I’m left braking to save my life
with the guy on my tail
practically rear ending me in the process.

Now, I’m not one of those guys who gets red-faced,
ready to flip someone off at every provocation,
but one of these days – one of these days.

There’s also the cell-phone talker, hands-free driver
who pays no attention whatsoever
to anything around,
weaving from side to side in their lane,
hovering into my lane,
almost sideswiping me on the way,
most of the time with no hands on the steering wheel.
But, there’s no stopping that behavior

Well, let’s just think about it
What if all cell phones in cars were banned.
Can you imagine what kind of uproar that would cause?

What about the red light doesn’t mean me kind of driver?
Especially the ones who are creeping along
in front of you and then at the last minute sprint through the light,
leaving you to wait until it changes green again.
Where’s my gun? At that point I’m ready to kill.

But, red light lawbreakers are about to get their comeuppance.
Cops don’t have to be out on the streets anymore
They can be out for coffee
or giving some old lady a ticket for driving too slow
or better yet ticketing a jaywalker.
Now there are little hidden cameras at intersections
to take your picture just as you are in the act.

There’s also:
the slow driver
the fast driver
the tailgater
the ones who take cuts into the through traffic lane
from the right-hand only lane,
people who think they can butt in anywhere they want
just because they drive a SUV,
the ones who park their huge trucks and SUVs
in the compact parking places
leaving no visibility for the rest us.

Another of my piss offs is the hand waver.

Just the other day I started to turn
into a one-way driveway to mail a letter
and a car comes out
almost ramming into me
obviously going in the wrong direction.
The lady gives me a little wave and a shrug like,
“I really didn’t mean it,”
Really didn’t mean it?
Then why did you do it?
Thought you’d get away with it, didn’t cha?

And, what is with that little wave, anyway?

I do a lot of walking around my town,
I wait at cross walks until it’s my turn,
I’m a good citizen I wait my turn
I obey the rules
I don’t want to get killed
So I wait my turn
and just when I get the little walking symbol on the street light,
and I’m stepping off the curb
someone does a quick right turn
with that little old “I didn’t mean it” wave
as if she were the Pope
absolving us of all our earthly sins
and nearly runs me over.

Friday, December 7, 2007

No, I don't feel guilty about working out!

This morning I felt completely vindicated about my workout program when I saw a short, slim gray-haired woman, maybe about 10 years older than me, walk into the gym with her weight training gloves on and sit down at one of the machines and begin her workout. That made me feel better about working out so hard. That woman looks good, she walked in briskly with a purpose, and went to work. So, why should I feel guilty about working out and about how much I work out? I’m doing it to stay healthy and trim, and it's working! Besides it's a good jump start for my day.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The real question

So last night Bob asked the more important question re my laser zapping experience – why at my age would I even care if I have a few brown spots on my face. Yes, that is the crux of the matter. I’m too old to care. It’s enough trying to look young already. And still I can’t help myself from doing it. Of course, I’ll never be too old to keep my face moisturized and out of the sun, but to actively do procedures to try to erase the ravages of age is totally ridiculous.
I’m getting to be so much like my mother, it’s embarrassing. I remember a time – very close to the time she died and she was well into her 90s. she was in the hospital and I was sitting by her bedside. And she kept looking at me and finally said, “You’re so beautiful. Look at me how old and wrinkled I look.” It was a nice compliment to me, but it showed how vain she still was at that age. I said that I was sure to look like her some day – just that I had a few more years to go.
And lately, when I look at myself I see more of her face in mine – the jowls, the wrinkles down the sides, the sagging lines under my chin. I definitely take after her – both in that vain attitude and in looks.
When I read Nora Ephron’s “I Feel Bad about My Neck” about a year ago, I wasn’t feeling all that bad about mine. But that’s gradually changing. I’m feeling worse and worse about it.
And, I need to stop and rejoice that I'm still here! I need to learn to accept the aging process – slowing down, widening through the middle, and liking how I look just as I am. I need to learn how to accept that I can’t continue at the fast and stressful pace I’ve been on at work much longer and that one of these days I’ll look like my mother looked in that hospital bed.
One of these days I’ll write about my workout routine. That’s a whole other issue I have to deal with. Let it suffice to say now that I do way more in my workouts than any 67-year old should ever do, and I’m still pushing to do more. And, the only person I’m competing with is myself. Now figure that one out!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Out damn spots

Okay, here's the initial verdict on what's involved in getting rid of those damn age spots by laser.... I think the best thing is to write about it step by step.

My appointment was at 3:45 on Monday, December 3 – supposedly 15 minutes early to fill out the usual new doctor information sheets where they ask about medications and allergies and surgeries and if I’ve read the patient protection manual. And yes I filled it all out and signed my life away. I was called into the room on time – like most examining rooms except there were a couple of large machines on either side of the narrow high table that the nurse told me to lie down on. She informed me that she was going to apply numbing cream that needed to be left on about 20 minutes before the procedure. That totally caught me by surprise. I asked when I made the appointment how long the procedure would take, and I was told about 15 minutes. I hadn’t been told about that prep time.
So, I lay there trying to hold a magazine over my face and concentrate on reading it – not an easy feat. Gradually I could feel the numbing cream working and after 20 minutes the nurse came back to wipe it off. At no time during this process could I see my face or what was going on. Anyway, she wiped and she wiped and she wiped and when the cream was off, she put on a clear gel and said the doctor would be in, in a couple of minutes.
An understatement. I waited another 15 minutes until he appeared – young (way too young to personally have experienced age spots), slim, and with a complexion like a baby’s. I asked him the question I usually ask before a procedure I’ve never had before – like when I got a tatoo – does this hurt worse than a bikini wax? Of course he’s never had a bikini wax either, but he did say he’d heard this wouldn’t hurt as much.
Another understatement. After he looked my face over and we chatted about what results I was looking for (a complexion like his, of course), he said he’d do a couple of test zaps to tell how much power to use. Those test zaps hurt – a lot. And, then he said he was ready to go for it, and continued zapping one after the other until he covered my entire face. Each zap was like a sharp knife point going into my face.
I began weighing: laser age spot removal or water boarding, water boarding or age spot removal? Needless to say, I’ve never experienced water boarding, but just having the thought gives you an idea how bad it felt. It was not only the pain of the zap, but the constant flashing of high intensity light. I had little goggles on over my eyes, but they barely cut out any of the rays. I definitely felt like I was in a torture chamber, and I was in it at my own choosing. Thankfully, the 15-minute procedure time I had been told was correct.
So, I’m left with this question: now that I know how bad it is will I go back for more? The doctor says I’ll need anywhere from three to six treatments – at $300 a pop – to get the best results. Yet he did say I’d see some change with just one.
Afterward, the nurse came back to clean off the gel and to apply cold compresses, and by the time I walked out of the office I felt like a human being again. My face was a little red and felt mildly burned, but otherwise looked fine. And now after two days, I have some pin-prick size darker brown spots here and there, but those, he said, will slough off in a about a week.
I’ll keep you posted on the results and whether or not I go back. I made an appointment for mid January. Check back with me then.
By the way, the tatoo hurt worse than a bikini wax too.

Monday, December 3, 2007

What a wonderful weekend!

This past weekend was the best – three whole days off for pampering (manicure, facial, and massage inside of two days) and being with people – especially young people whom I love. And the best part is that it started out raining and raining hard. Bob and I fell in love on a rainy night over 40 years ago, and the magic of its power has stayed with me ever since. It’s just too bad that we get so little of it.

First off was lunch with my new adopted daughter, Elizabeth. We’ve known each other such a short time and yet it’s like we’ve always known each other. We can talk about anything and the talking is non-stop. I found it so interesting that we both gravitated to reading at a very young age virtually gobbling up as many books as we could. I can’t say that I learned to read at age three like she did, but once I started there was no stopping me. Our lunch was packed and all too short.
Now, since I’m her Mum in LA, I have to find the perfect conversion to Judaism gift for her. This will be my first conversion ceremony in a Mikvah and my first conversion party, so I’m in a quandary about what to buy. Probably books – Jewish literature, Singer short stories. Well, I’ll take a look. I want to give her something significant and lasting. After all, I’m her Mum in LA. I truly am honored to have that title.

Then on Sunday I went to see the Murakami exhibit at MOCA – actually the Geffen contemporary – with my darling niece, Dara. Even though I found the exhibit lacking in creativity – lots of repetition of images, it proved its point – Murakami’s art is a mix of artistic images and commercialism. Had I not been with Dara, I probably would have passed it off as totally unworthwhile, but she got me thinking about its merits. I especially liked the originality of the sculptures, not only the figures but the materials they were made from. That's what I love about Dara -- she is so smart.

Then we went to the LA Opera to see and hear Don Giovanni. I had seen the same production with the same scenery and costumes three years ago, but it was well worth seeing again. Besides the music is Mozart – how bad could that be? And, it was such fun going with Dara – she had never been inside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion or eaten lunch on the Music Center patio or had experienced this opera. It’s nice to share. Since Bob chose to play golf instead of go to the opera with me this was a perfect opportunity for Dara and I to bond.

One of the things Dara asked me was when I’m going to quit work. If it could be today I would, but financially I cannot quit until we sell our spec house in the Valley. We bought it and fixed it up expecting to flip it within a month. Now, it’s been on the market almost six months – we conceived of this flipping idea just weeks before the greatest real estate downturn in history – and we’re stuck paying over $5000 per month to keep it all together. So, like I told Dara, my quitting is off the table until the house is sold. And then I plan to do it in stages – work part time for a while if I can arrange it, and then come in as a consultant – if I can arrange that as well. I’m still on the same path. It’s just slow-going right now.

However, still working is not keeping me from experiencing. Having every other Friday off gives me more time and opportunities to get out among 'em and catch up on things and people I've been missing.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

More on beauty

Actually, I want to start with Gail’s reaction to my blog – that it’s good to write things down rather than having those thoughts continually rolling around in your head. She said, “Expressing the thought on paper so frequently defines it in ways abstractly thinking does not.” I agree.

And now about those sun damage -- AKA, age (liver) spots....
In a little while I’m going for a facial – the object is to get my face clean and ready for the photofacial treatment I’m going to have on Monday. This – at the recommendation of my facial lady, Dinah – is supposedly going to help get rid of those spots I have all over my face. In the last few years I’ve tried so many different products – Kinerase, Glytone with 4% hydroquinone, Vitamin C, and now an organic product that is supposed to lighten skin discolorations – and nothing seems to work. I also, on top of everything I use, slather my face with sun block in the slim chance that I’ll expose it to the sun during the day. That, I might add, is almost impossible during the work week. And when I go out on the weekends, I am doubly careful – sun block and a hat. So, we’ll see what the photofacial does though I don’t expect results with the first treatment. I’ll know more on Monday how many treatments it will take, or if it has a chance of being successful at all.

I certainly didn’t know when I was a girl that going to the beach every day during the summer and greasing up with oil and iodine to get the most effects from the sun’s rays were remotely harmful. Even later on when we lived on an island in the South Pacific very close to the Equator I had no knowledge of the benefits of sunscreen. In fact, I don’t even think sunscreen existed then. Ben, too, suffers the effects of sun exposure from those island years. He’s had several precancerous moles taken off his back.