Feeling Welcome: A Carpenter Bee With Every Room!

I bet you’ve stayed in a crappy hotel before, right?  Or one that isn’t exactly “crappy”, not at first glance, but after you start to settle into your room you begin to notice numerous things that are not quite…awesome?  Yes, it’s happened to me, too, most recently this weekend at a hotel near Tucson’s airport.  But to make things more exciting and fun, I decided to turn the cons into pros by finding silvery-sweet-life-lesson-linings in each less-than-optimal detail.  For example:

CON:  Hotel outdoor courtyard seems to be breeding ground for large black carpenter bees.

PRO:  Hotel at forefront of environmental awareness by providing sanctuary for black carpenter bees.  Hotel also providing me with opportunity to hone eyesight and practice attention to detail!  Notice one bee hovering outside room for 20 minutes, periodically extending its large black back legs, rubbing them together, and then retracting them before continuing to hover effortlessly IN FRONT OF MY DOOR.  When have to leave room for complimentary breakfast with daughter, notice that MANY OTHER ROOMS along the outside walkway also have their own carpenter bee patrolling outside their doors.  What a fantastic gesture on the part of the hotel to provide free pet service, as if instinctively understanding that we miss our dog!  So wonderful to have a black bee to follow us for a time!  Also, this provides opportunity to reflect on why bees like certain spots and not others?

CON:  Have to spend valuable time Googling black carpenter bees to see if it is safe to leave room without can of hairspray  in hand.

PRO:  Husband sleeping in anyway, so time is available. Also, am reminded not to take WiFi and modern technology for granted! In past, would have waited nervously in room for long time before running past bee. Now, because of the magic that is Google, am able to learn all about CB’s and even teach ad hoc apian  lesson to daughter and explain why the bee  hovers, why it rubs its legs together, and that the males rarely attack, although they may be curious about humans in “their” territory and may come close to investigate. But really, no, they are not going to sting us! Not even when three or four of them come rushing over!  And we’re not going to scream! Because we’re grown ups (at least one of us), who’s been on Google! Just keep moving, please, Sweetie Pie!

CON: Pile of black leaves in outdoor stairwell is actually pile of dead carpenter bees.

PRO: Discussion about Cycle Of Life; pesticide.

CON: Hovering bees are all still there on way back from breakfast. Five, maybe seven bees come close to investigate.

PRO:  Jogging past bees up stairs to 3rd floor guaranteed to burn off at least some of the calories in that cinnamon roll thing.  Also, get to repeat learnings to daughter about how the bees don’t sting;  they’re probably only following us up because they’re curious. Get to practice smoothing the terror out of voice and make it sound bright, cheerful, banal. Get to hear unafraid daughter say in clear, sweet voice, “Maybe they think we smell nice, Mama! They just like us, Mama!”  So, opportunity to appreciate daughter’s gentle point of view!

CON:  In-room coffee tastes so horrible that can’t even drink it.

PRO:  Makes me appreciate the beauty of really good coffee even more! Wishing I had some right now!  Bad coffee providing me opportunity  to reflect on the utility of delayed gratification in our society and whether denial in the moment leads to sweeter pleasure later on. Also, this reminds me  that I  downloaded risque “romance” novel to tablet to read later on.

CON: Creamer tubs contained spoiled cream. Makes coffee taste even worse.

PRO:  Note To Self: Why are you trying the coffee a second time? Don’t you realized that shit doesn’t improve shit?  Do you really think that shit improves with age? It’s not a fine wine, Jennifer. It’s Crap Coffee. Learn to Let. Things. Go.

CON: The bee is still there as we leave the hotel, hovering outside our door, wings so fast they are just blurs, so still in the air that  it looks like a black cocoon suspended by an invisible thread.

PRO: Am desensitized to bee by now! Could hold bee in hand! Could be bee scientist, attaching tags to bee and learning all about their habits! (If were not so boring.)  Breezily tell husband, who is eyeing them warily, all about their habits and lack of attackiness. Feel very brave, as husband is rather more used to me being terrified of large insects. Walk with jaunty waggle of hips.





Zebras In My Head


zebra card2“My head is full of fucking zebras!” is what I wailed to my mom over Thanksgiving, as she sagely tried to remind me of the adage, “When you hear hoofbeats, don’t think of zebras.”

“Zebras, and zebras, and MORE zebras. A whole herd of them. And they’re all coming for me!”

Or that was the sentiment, anyway, as we discussed my most recent anxiety, specifically that I was dying of a new disease of some kind {at this moment I can’t remember exactly what it was, although it was probably lung cancer or heart disease. Yes! I had a horrible upper respiratory infection, and somehow in my mind, I became convinced that it was really the first symptoms of incurable lung cancer.}

My sister Maria was listening, too.  “I have zebras in my head, too,” she commented.

“I think zebras run in the family,” I theorized, and then I added darkly.  “I should probably just paint black and white stripes on my forehead to let everyone know.”  I used my index finger to paint stripes on my forehead, then started to do a Travolta-ish move to make them cooler, now using both hands.

And soon the conversation turned to Miley Cyrus and her Wrecking Ball, and lots of other fun things that gave us lots of laughter, and the zebras were temporarily forgotten (although they lurked, of course, in the inner recesses of my mind, just waiting to pop out and yell SURPRISE! IT’S US!)

I like to joke about my chronic hypochondria, because it’s a way of trying to get the upper hand over it.  I always hope that by laughing at it, I can beat it into submission, at least temporarily.  It’s a bit ironic to have a “disease” that consists of believing I constantly have other diseases, and feeling intense stress and anxiety over that belief.  It’s something I’ve lived with since I was 6 years old, or at least that’s the earliest I remember feeling hypochondria; I’d lie away in bed at night crying because I thought I was dying of cancer.

And as I grew up, that fear was always with me like a second shadow, sometimes further, sometimes closer, but always present.  I know that everyone worries about death and illness, at least some of the time, but for me, those worries seemed to be much more prevalent and intense, even when I wasn’t sick.   I remember reading a passage in the book Catch 22 by Joseph Heller when I was about 11, and feeling a pang of intense recognition, and then thinking, “YES! Exactly! That’s EXACTLY how I feel, all the time!”

The quote was a thought from the main character, Yossarian:  “He wondered often how he would ever recognize the first chill, flush, twinge, ache, belch, sneeze, stain, lethargy, vocal slip, loss of balance or lapse of memory that would signal the inevitable beginning of the inevitable end.”  (Catch 22, Joseph Heller.)

And over the years, I panicked at the various chills, twinges, twitches and pains that turned out to be part of normal life yet made my life anything but normal by my extreme reactions to them.

I’ve had well-meaning people tell me earnestly, “Think about all of the time you’ve wasted worrying. If you just LIVED your life instead of worrying about all these things, you’d have a lot more fun,”  or, “Haven’t you heard that chronic stress and anxiety will make you sicker? You should stop worrying so much!,”  or, “Do you LIKE feeling this way? I guess you must; otherwise, you wouldn’t be this way.”

And my answers are ruefully: Yes, I know it; Yes, I’ve heard it; No, I don’t like it, but thanks for playing!  And also, you forgot the best one: “Don’t you know that eventually, one of your symptoms WILL turn out to be something serious? Why don’t you enjoy life while you can?”

I guess it’s like looking at someone with depression and saying, “Snap out of it!” and then assuming they like being depressed when they can’t just snap.  It’s fundamentally human to judge someone based on our OWN responses and our OWN abilities. Because it’s impossible to get into someone else’s brain and feel how they feel, it’s simpler to reduce the equation to something like “She just isn’t trying hard enough,” or “she wants attention,” or “she must just like feeling that way.”   This also gives us reprieve from the uneasy possibility that some things are not easily controllable, and that life sometimes hands us things that can’t be fully conquered.  It’s more comfortable to dismiss someone’s struggles by minimizing them to self-control issues; that way, we assure ourselves, that person’s problem could never happen to US because WE have the self-control to beat it.

Of course there are things that help chronic anxiety. Exercise helps; clean eating helps; talking helps; friendship helps; therapy helps; medicine helps.  I’ve engaged in various combinations of these for years, and found that for me, laughter is really one of the very best helpers. And, for the record, I DO enjoy life – heartily, fully, with open arms, with joy. It’s just that I also have these intense moments of…un-enjoyment.

Laughter is awesome. When I laugh at a joke, I forget all of my troubles for a split second; I earn a blink of respite from worry; my soul unwinds and relaxes for an instant.  And all of these instants add up, I believe, into something necessary for my psyche -  just like the rests between each beat of my heart allow it to keep beating for a lifetime.  I need the laughter breaks to keep myself sane and focused and able to keep going on with life despite the various aches and strains that turn my brain into a special kind of funhouse of panic.

This may be why I like puns and dirty jokes and clean jokes, why I enjoy finding ugly things in thrift shops with my sisters, why meeting weird people is AWESOME for me, why I love sarcasm and old SNL skits and Augusten Burroughs, and why laughter is just a big part of my life.

“Laughter is the best medicine” has been an adage for a century, and scientists have been researching the chemical effects of laughter on the brain and on the body’s ability to fight disease and reduce recovery time.  Researchers William F. Fry, M.D.  and Michael Miller, M.D., found that mirthful laughter can temporarily improve vascular health (they believe it temporarily reduces blood pressure due to the release of nitric oxide during laughter; internally released nitric oxide is believed to function in the vascular system as a vasodilator, relaxing blood vessels and consequently reducing blood pressure).

Other research found that mirthful laughter can increase the activity of “natural killer” (NK) lymphocytes in the body.  This could mean that unforced laughter at humorous things can, over time, improve a person’s immune function in regards to fighting serious illnesses like cancer as well as diseases like the flu.

Laughter functions like exercise, in a way – it increase heart rate and blood flow, as well as engaging various muscle groups in contractions and expansions. It’s believed to release endorphins, otherwise known as the “feel good” chemicals of the brain.

And who doesn’t want more “feel good” chemical, especially one that’s legal AND made right in your own body? That’s pretty damn cool, if you ask me!

I know that everybody has their own zebras.  You may not worry about having an illness, but usually there’s something causing anxiety and stress in your life: Maybe it’s a REAL illness, not an imagined one; maybe it’s work, family, politics, money, a large roach in the hallway, or a bottle of tequila that crashed onto the floor when you angrily tried to pull a bag of frozen salmon from the fridge (true story, BTW).

These things may not be funny (except for the tequila part) or wonderful (except for the part where the tequila actually made the tile grout SUPER clean where it spilled!) But there will be funny things in your life, things that you happen upon or things that you seek out.  Find these things and enjoy some laughter.  The zebras are coming, but laughter weakens the damn things, so laugh with me. Enjoy what you can!  I know that you surely do laugh; everyone does. But try to laugh MORE. Laugh right now – think of a good joke, Google something silly, call a friend, whatever works for you – but add in some laughter this minute. Your body and mind will thank you.

P.S.: And whatever you do, do NOT find and read article like this one, entitled “In Oncology, Hoofbeats Are Nearly Always From Zebras” written by Miranda Fielding, M.D. or this one, “Sometimes When You Hear Hoofbeats, It Could Be A Zebra” by Burton et. al. because these articles, while certainly informative, are not going to help you focus on the fact that probably? In your life?  Horse, not zebra.

P.P.S. – If you haven’t yet read it, the book Catch 22 by Joseph Heller is VERY funny.

P3S: As a general FYI, tequila IS a wonderful tile cleanser, once you are able to remove a)All broken glass from the vicinity, b)Your dog, who is trying to lap up the spill, c)Your daughter, who is screaming, “Did it get on Seahorse!? Is Seahorse OK!?” d)Your rage at whomever left the bottle sort of interlocked with the bag of salmon, probably yourself, to be honest, AND e)Your shoes, which now smell like a frat house floor.  Good times!

P4S: If you need help:

Food Court Musical:

Shweddy Balls on SNL.

Monty Python – The Black Night

Monty Python – French Taunts








Less Bread, More Veggie Juice

I’ve lost 50 lbs since I started cross-fitting and eating mostly Paleo, and suddenly I’m on a plateau.  This is a serious plateau.  It’s one of those zero-grade, perfectly flat plateaus that one might encounter in a physics problems:  “Imagine a perfectly flat plane.”  This is like all of Kansas rolled into my metabolism. This is like I’m on Family Feud and the topic is, “Top 100 people surveyed, Things That Are Flat,” and the Number One Answer is “My Weight Loss.”  * & **

jen before and after picsSee? I want to keep going! I want another, better “after” picture where I’m wearing size 12 jeans and looking all hot and stuff. (Size 12 jeans is my goal size right now.)

So I turned to friends and also to the internet for some learning and inspiration.  Because surely there has been at LEAST ONE PERSON IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD who has hit a weight loss plateau and somehow overcome it, right?

As it turns out, I am not alone! Here are the most common suggestions I found after examining many sites devoted to weight loss and getting past plateaus:

1.  Keep an accurate food journal and count calories for a while; you’re probably overeating for your new lower weight which now requires less energy to maintain.  You may also be having little “cheats” here and there which all add up.

2.  Seriously, track your food in a journal and see what you’re really eating these days. Tweak as necessary.  Are you having too many carbs? Not enough carbs?  Too much fat? Not enough fat?

3.  Mix up your workouts to boost your body into burning fat and calories in new ways. For example, focus more on cardio “fat burning” style workouts and less on heavy weights – do more reps with lighter weights when you incorporate weights into your routine.

4.  Make sure you’re getting enough water, sleep, and stress relief.

5.  Try intermittent fasting.

6.  Maybe you’re eating too few calories – again, the food journal can help.

7.  Maybe you’re not exercising enough.

8.  Maybe you’re exercising too much (this can overtax the body, increase cortisol, and actually make it harder to lose fat.)

9.  If all else fails, get your hormone levels checked.

After I wrote this down, I though: This is definitely a nice laundry list,  and I deserve extra points for the fact that there are several OPPOSING ideas on there! Too many carbs? Maybe too few carbs? Too much exercise? No..too little exercise!  Figuring it all out could be the experiment from hell!

But I decided to go through the list and determine which of these things would be the right place for ME to start, based on my own health and activity levels.  And here’s my current plan of action:

  • Keep an accurate food journal to determine what I’m eating – my problem would be too many calories rather than too few, too many carbs and the wrong kind of carbs, and possibly too much fat. I’ll watch those things carefully.
  • Be sure to drink enough water every day.
  • Keep getting enough sleep.
  • Get to the gym 3x/week, but not more (I need the rest days for sure!)
  • Try to attend more fat-burner classes and focus on less weight/more reps.
  • Do walks or bike rides with my daughter to the park every night.
  • Have less coffee, more cinnamon tea & jamaica tea.
  • Stop having all the “cheats” I’ve been sneaking in (yes, guilty here) – Girl Scout cookies, pizza, energy bars with gluten, slices of bread with butter, extra spoonfuls of Maple Almond Butter, French Fries, etc.
  • No intermittent fasting, but I’ll add in more green juices (I’ve been slacking off on them lately)

Writing it down like that makes me realize that my plateau may be coming mostly from the unhealthy snacks that keep making it into my diet lately.  For several months I was VERY strict; I’d take cucumbers with me to pizza places and I would not eat a single chip if a bag of them made it into my house.  But lately I’ve been slacking, having mouthfuls of junk here and there, and it’s adding up.  I need to start being more strict about Paleo, and keep my cheats to one cheat meal here and there, not a continuous stream of cheating every day.

One of my favorite quotes about the food journal comes from Jillian Michaels, who says on her blog, ” Truth be told, I mostly think of plateaus as a myth. My philosophy on weight-loss plateaus is that someone claiming to have hit one isn’t paying enough attention to detail. When you first start a diet and fitness program, you make drastic changes — maybe you gave up soda, started counting points, whatever — your body responded to that and you lost weight fast. To continue to lose weight, you’ll need to create a consistent calorie deficit, which means you’ll need to start paying attention to what really matters — how many calories you’re consuming and how many you’re burning. The only way to track this accurately is to count calories at every single meal.”

I don’t want to count calories forever, but it helped me at the start of my weight loss journey by opening my eyes to how MUCH I was eating.  Once I got into the swing of Paleo, I found that I could eat almost whatever and as much as I felt hungry for, as long as it was Paleo, and still lose weight. I hope that will still be true if I get back to strict Paleo eating!  But for a while I’ll track my food and calorie count to stay honest to myself about what I’m putting into my mouth.

I don’t know about you, but the “get enough rest” really resonates with me. There are people I know who can and do work out daily, completing hard workouts! — but I can’t. Three days of cross-fit a week is right for my body at this point.  Maybe a year from now I’ll be doing 4-5 workouts a week, and that would be great, but right now I need to listen to my body.  Although I push hard during each workout to be stronger, faster and lift more,  I don’t want to push past my body’s recovery limits.

And although I love lifting heavy (because it’s something I’m starting to be good at!), I’m taking seriously the suggestion about incorporating more fat-burning style workouts into my exercise line-up.  I hope that will increase my stamina as well as helping me to burn more fat. (Live in the Phoenix area and want to join me? My gym is called Made In Crossfit.)

Here are a few of the websites that I found especially useful when investigating plateaus and how to overcome them:

Marks’ Daily Apple – Advice on Weight Loss Plateaus

More from Marks’ Daily Apple on Losing Weight

Overcoming Weight Loss On Paleo from PaleoPlan

Crossfit Fire’s ideas – AWESOME Graph of “badass-ness vs. effort”!

PaleoNoPaleo’s article on Tara Grant:

If you have suggestions on what worked to help YOU get through a plateau when you were already eating mostly Paleo or gluten-free, and already exercising regularly, I’d love to hear them!  We can all learn from each other, hopefully.  Best of luck to you, wherever you are on your path to health and fitness!

more less web

Footnotes: * Other answers might be “that soda that sat on the counter for a few days before you got around to throwing it out,”  “the Earth, prior to Pythagoras,” and “not the surface of water in a glass pipette, because it forms a meniscus.”

** Did you ever watch the REALLY old Family Feud shows at your Grandma’s house on her grainy reception TV, fascinated and horrified by how Richard Dawson kissed ALL THE LADIES in such a gross, lecherous way?

Walmart, Cross-Fit, and Compliments from Drunks

The man next to my car was lounging in the back of an old 1970′s style station wagon, back door open, his legs open wide too, and a bottle between them.  The bottle was swathed in brown paper bag, but the smell of alcohol wafted out sharply, mixed with heady overtones of unwashed clothing. He had a dirty oven glove on one hand.


I should add that I was in the Walmart parking lot. It was 9:30am.

This car had not been there when I entered, or at least, the man had not been there.  He watched closely as I opened the back of my own car and began to pack up the plastic bags.

“Hel-Lo there,  Sen-Yore_Reet-Ahhhhh!” he called out, and took a swig from his bottle. Some of the liquid rolled down his chin, and he wiped it with his oven glove and snorted .[He was not Hispanic.]

“Hello,” I said, in a voice that indicated “I’m not going to be talking to you any more, and the Hello is only a pure courtesy and maybe a way to get you to not get mad at me for not responding at all, even if I really don’t want to respond.”

“You are sure purty!” called out DM.  “Fancy Fancy.”  [I was wearing the same sweats I'd worn to Cross-Fit this morning.]  I did not answer.

“Wow! Yer STRONG,” he commented, as I lifted more bags from the cart to my car.  As he spoke, I was lifting a bag that contained only paper napkins and drinking straws.

“Yes,” I said, rolling my eyes, avoiding eye contact, and then to amuse myself,  “It’s all the cross-fit. I can sure lift.”

“RRRAAGGHGHH!” exclaimed Drunken Man.  “Chester and I watch that stuff on the Olympics! You know, the skiing shit and the shooting shit.  Whoosh! Whooshh!”

He moved his arms and legs as if he were skiing, and in the process kicked himself and spilled from his bottle.  Surprised at the spill, he stared for a long time at the growing stain on his shirt. “Shoop,” he announced.  Then he bit his oven glove.

I tried to hurry.  There were a lot of bags, though.  “Maybe you mean decathlon?” I said. “Cross country skiing is not the same as – ah, never mind.”

“Do you know Chester?” Drunken Man asked me.  “He’s here a LOT. A LOT. I mean, a LOT.”

No, I responded. I did not know Chester.

“Chester’s just…getting some….STUFF, ” DM told me. “You know.  Stuff. Chester. Chester Stuff.”  He nodded knowingly and tilted his head as if indicating a direction. It was not the direction of the Walmart store.

“Ah,” I said.  I put the last bag into the car and shut the back.

“Chester is the best in the whole WORLD,” said DM.  “But kind of? Like? You know? Chester is tall.”

“Ah,” I said.

“Chester’s going ta drive me places, you know,” DM told me.  Then he added, as if insight had just struck, “Unless YOU want to drive me!  Chester probably won’t mind, I don’t bet. He gets mad sometimes, but we have like an understanding about the Sen-Yore-Ree-Tas.” He cocked his finger at me.

I was horrified. This was definitely going to be one of those “not going to put the cart back in the corral” kind of days, I could tell. I hurried into my car.

“GooBAAAH!” wailed DM, waving his bottle at me.

As I drove away, I was halfway tempted to circle back around and wait in the next aisle, just to see who — or what — Chester was. Or to look for the hidden camera, in case this was some kind of psychological experiment to see how people reacted to DM and “Chester.”

I kept driving, though.  Some things should probably just remain a mystery.  Besides, I have my own dirty oven gloves at home.



Cross-Fit Competition

Goblet squats, shoulders to overhead lifts, burpees, box jumps, pull-ups — I was exhausted from all of this, and I was just the photographer!

MIC group at competition web

I spent last Saturday, January 11th, at the CrossFit Now gym in Tucson owned by Michael Moseley where they were holding a competition to help raise money for the Arizona Homicide Survivors Fund in honor of the victims of the January 8th 2011 Shootings.

I was there with my friends from the Made In CrossFit Gym, which is  owned by Oscar Garcia and managed by trainer Caterina D’Agrosa, and I was eager to watch the competitions and take pictures of the MIC competitors. Two of the other MIC competitors are also trainers at the gym – Dominic Denton is already a level 1 certified trainer, and and Roman Ortega is shadowing him now and will start teaching soon.

oscar jumping 3 web

Oscar Garcia, owner of the Made In Crossfit Gym,  competing

There were four events that each competitor had to complete, and each  focused on different skills.  One of the workouts consisted of double-unders, burpees and box jumps while a second alternated rowing for calories with goblet squats.  A third consisted of lifts and pull-ups, and the final one was a combination of squats and overhead lifts with successively higher weights.

Oscar and Dominic had scouted out a good location to park the MIC truck the night before, so everyone from our gym got to hang out in one of the best “tent city” locations (each gym grabbed a spot along the sidewalk on the street outside the gym) — we had a shady tree and we were very close to the entrance.  Folding chair and coolers made it look like a day at the beach, but the athletes didn’t get such a relaxing time, since they had to do all four of those brutal workouts throughout the day.

early morning web

Oscar, Claus & Caterina enjoy the cool morning

harper and grandma web

Gymnast in Training!

MIC group web

Caterina, Oscar, Levi and Dolores near the MIC truck

relaxing web

Caterina and Forest in between events

resting 2 web

Resting on the MIC truck (who knew it was so comfy?)

roman and vida 2 web

Roman and Vida relax between events

A DJ played loud music throughout the day and there were a few booths set up to sell food, shirts and sweat bands next to a jumping castle for the kids.  The place was full of fit bodies wearing the logos from their respective gyms, but it was a friendly vibe too — everyone was supportive and cheerful.  It was definitely a family-friendly day, even though the kids got tired after so many hours of being there.

claus and charlie web roman and vida 4 webdenton family 3 web dolores and family 2 web harper 2 web michael and family 2 web ortega family 1 web

Oscar did the work of three people, since he was competing, coaching, AND cheering for everyone from his gym!

cheering for forrest weboscar lifting 3 web


stretching web

Caterina did a great job keeping everyone organized and offering coaching and advice throughout the day. She even handled the occasional photobomb with her usual grace.

paola 8 webgina and cate web

caterina and photobomb 2 web

Some of the athletes expressed anxiety about being watched and photographed by so many people, but they all did well despite the crowds and the audience watching every single movement they made.

Here are a few more from each athlete.

Oscar Garcia:

oscar with kettlebell 4 web oscar rowing 2 web oscar pullups 8 web oscar lifting 20 web oscar lifting 10 web oscar lifting 4 web oscar lifting 2 web oscar jumprope 2 web oscar jumping 6 webDominic Denton:

dominic with kettlebell 2 web dominic rowing 1 web dominic pullups 3 web dominic lifting 11 web dominic lifting 6 web dominic lifting 3 webRoman Ortega:

roman with kettlebell 3 web roman rowing 1 web roman pullups 2 web roman pullups 1 web roman lifting 9 web roman lifting 3 web roman jump rope 3 web roman burpee webAbby Loebenberg:

abby with kettlebell web abby warming up web abby on rower 4 web abby on rower 2 web abby lifting 6 web abby lifting 3 webPaola Moreno:

paola with kettlebell 2 web paola pullups 1 web paola lifting 5 web paola lifting 2 web paola 2 webMichael Mowry:

warming up web

michael lifting 13 web michael lifting 10 web michael jumprope 3 web michael box jump 5 webForest Redlin:

forrest with kettlebell 4 web forrest on box 5 web forrest on box 3 web  forrest lifting 4 web forrest lifting 3 web forrest jumprope 1 webGina Nyberg:

gina warming up 2 web gina lifting 4 web gina lifting 1 web   gina jumprope 2 web gina burpee 1 web gina with kettlebell 7 web gina with kettlebell 8 web gina on rower 7 web

At the end of the day the athletes were completely drained, but it was amazing  to watch them give 100% of what they had in the competition. It was inspiring to see so many fit people, and I felt motivated to keep working hard and eating healthy to get into better shape myself.

Thanks to Oscar, Caterina, and all the competitors - Oscar, Forest, Gina, Dominic, Roman, Abby, Paola, Michael.  You did a super job!  And a huge thanks to the CrossFit Now gym in Tucson for sponsoring and hosting the entire event.  And all of us spectators did a great job too.  :)

cheering web

jane 2 web jennifer and caterina web katie web levi 1 web lori 2 web lori and vida 1 web martha 2 webbeto webNow everyone gets to relax and recover…and get ready for what’s next on the horizon, whether it’s another competition or just the joy of staying in great shape at Made In Crossfit.  

oscar and guys web



Mean Green Juice


"Mean Green" Juice

“Mean Green” Juice

Green Juice is awesome!

Use the following ORGANIC ingredients for the “Mean Green”

  • 1 whole cucumber, peeled
  • 4-5 carrots, peeled
  • 1 bunch of celery
  • 1-2 apples, peeled, chopped and seeded
  • 1 lemon, peeled and chopped
  • a big bunch of parsley
  • a few handfuls of spinach
  • Swiss Chard or kale,  chopped up

Sometimes I put in beets, although lately I’ve been keeping the juice green.

I have an Omega juicer. It’s a slow juicer, which means that it uses an auger-like drill to squeeze the veggies and fruits apart, and it’s capable of handling pretty much anything – including wheat grass.  It’s also SLOW in that it works slowly, and the veggies must be chopped into very small pieces, almost as if you are preparing them for a stew — otherwise the juicer will seize up and you’ll have to clear it out.

veggies in bowl web

This can get annoying when I’m in a hurry, but the juice is delicious.  Proponents of slow juicers claim that there are more nutrients in slow juice because it oxides less during preparation.  (The other main kind of juicer – and the more affordable version – is the centrifugal variety, which spins the fruits at high speeds through a metal grate to juice them.)  I don’t know whether this has  been scientifically tested or whether it’s just a manufacturer’s claim, but I like the flavor of the juice and the fact that it can handle pretty much any fruit, veggie or leaf.

juicer 1 webSometimes the outlet clogs up when I juice celery, even when it’s chopped into tiny pieces, and even when I intersperse it with apples and carrot chunks.  The pulp is very dry, though – the machine really extracts most of the juice.  If you have a composter, you can dump all of the pulp in there to feel less like you’re wasting huge amounts of organic produce.

juicer 2 webI always get organic veggies for the juice, especially the celery, which is one of the most heavily pesticided vegetables when grown conventionally.  It’s expensive, but it’s worth it to have a healthy juice full of organic nutrients.

I don’t use these juices as meal replacements, but rather as healthy snacks. I often make one as a recovery drink after Cross-Fit workouts.

If you’ve done research on the web, you have probably read numerous health claims for various veggies and fruits.  Some of these are backed up by scientific studies, although the studies are often animal studies. Human studies may be  small and don’t always contain statistically significant samples sizes, and may not have been repeated.  Some of them seem to consist of  “myth” or wisdom passed down. I’m not knocking that — many times health knowledge and wisdom is contained in a culture and passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation. But I just want to caution you (as if you didn’t already know!) to be careful when reading health claims for anything on the web.

However, there have been some research as well as anecdotal reports that celery and beet juice can both lower blood pressure; that celery and cucumber act as diuretics; that all of these veggies have beneficial antioxidants and nutrients.

Cleaning the juicer is not that bad, as long as you do it right away.  A small brush is provided to help scrub the pulp from the metal grate and the other parts of the juicer, and as long as you have a garbage disposal it will be a piece of cake. If you don’t have a disposal in your sink, God help you.  Cleaning the juicer at my mom’s house is a nightmare!  (Still worth it, though, for the yummy juice.)

I’ve owned other types of juicers in the past, such as the Jack LaLanne juicer. This one is a lot cheaper than the Omega, and it works FAST – you don’t need to chop the veggies as small, and the juicer works quickly.  It can’t handle wheat grass, though, and I used to have problems when I fed in spinach as the juicer got older. Even if I did a few spinach leaves and then some hard stuff like carrots or apples, the pulp would become unbalanced in the juicer and it would start screaming and bouncing on the countertop. Then I’d have to turn it off, open it up, clean it out, and start over.  However, it is a great juicer and worked like a powerhouse for a long time before it finally gave out on me.

If you’re having a hard time choosing which type of juicer you want, here are the things I’d focus on:

-If cost is the MAIN factor, go with a centrifugal juicer, like the Jack LaLanne. It’s a great juicer, handles most fruits and veggies (as long as you’re careful how you feed them in), and lasts a long time.  It’s not the best at leaves, but it does do them fairly well– just be prepared to open and rebalance the juicer from time to time, especially as it gets older.

-If you absolutely NEED to have the capability of handling wheat grass and all other leafy things, go with a masticating juicer, or slow juicer.  These juicers will be more expensive than the centrifugal ones, but they often come with a multi-year warranty. The manufacturer claims that the juices are healthier, although I don’t know if this has been independently verified.

Of course you can make any kind of juice you like!  Adding the apple and carrot does make the juice sweet, and it might be TOO much sugar for you, especially if you’re on a strict Paleo diet.  In that case, you can go with cucumbers, celery, kale, chard, spinach, wheatgrass, parsley, etc — anything that works.

Some studies have cautioned against drinking too much raw spinach and chard juice, saying that it contains high amounts of oxalic acid which can contribute to a variety of health issues if over-consumed.  I don’t know how much “too much” would be, but I rotate spinach in and out of the juice, and usually eat my spinach cooked (which breaks down the oxalic acid that’s in it).  You’ll have to do some reading, and make some juices, and figure out what works for you.

I love my Mean Greens (sometimes I call them Khaki Bastards, since they tend to have more of an olive/fatigue color).  Some people at MIC think the Mean Green tastes like “ass” (CH) because of the huge amount of celery in it, and I think my sisters and brother in law would agree with this. However, *I* say that the butt-load of healthy veggies in there just makes it extra wonderful.

Try one and see!

mean green juice

P.S. – If you want to come over for a Juice-Date, just let me know! I’d be happy to whip up a batch of Mean Green and coffee, and we can discuss politics/literature/cross-fit/bad jokes/etc.







Have Yours”ELF” a Merry Little Christmas

When I first learned about The Elf On The Shelf, my mind was filled with a kind of burning, frustrated rage at the impertinence, audacity, greed, blatant consumerism and profit-driven publicity that it represented and encouraged.  I couldn’t imagine that ANYONE would want to buy or use one of these elves – these things that I considered creepy and phony.

elf pic 11 web

My sister and I ended up “enjoying” the elf in our own, special way!

I was wrong, though — the Elf has been embraced by  millions of happy Americans and their children. ( If you don’t know what “The Elf” is, well, first of all, welcome to the 21st century, and BTW, Obama is our president, and it’s December.)  The “Elf On The Shelf” is a small cloth elf toy which parents buy and place somewhere special in the house. Then, according to the package instructions, they inform their children that the Elf is there to spy on their behavior 24/7 and report back to Santa on whether they’re being good. Every night, the parents are supposed to move the Elf to a new location so the kids KNOW it’s real; often the parents create whole scenes for the Elf (so the kids find it watching a movie and eating popcorn, having moved all the clothes out of the closet – what an imp! – you get the idea.)

elf pic 3 web

Erica demonstrates the Elf’s flexibility.

I was horrified by this elf, although honestly,  the horror is less at the elf ITSELF and more with the ease and fluency with which our culture accepts a brand new financially-motivated toy as a bona fide tradition to be celebrated along with our durable, time-worn traditions of Christmas.  I suppose I want traditions to come from something more meaningful at heart, if they’re going to be adopted by millions and turned into something as real to them – as LIFELONG “real” – as Jesus and Santa. I’m not even very religious; we barely go to church in my family, and we’re as secular as it gets.  But in my heart I want to believe in Christmas, and I love the spirit of Christmas, and I want it to remain pure and unsmeared with  commercial crap.

But then Santa too is a fantasy creation, not even that old, and I  worry about coupling Santa too tightly with the meaning of Christmas.  When Santa is too prominent,  the true meaning of the season – of giving and love -  is diminished.  And then if a  new ELF is brought in, it adds another layer of phoniness to the scheme; now it’s not just Santa, but his helper ELF, who watches and reports back and requires purchases to be made (you can now buy books, ornaments, and clothes for the elf.)   Suddenly the whole meaning of Christmas is obscured further beneath a swath of buying and spending and pretending.

I understand that many people feel that the Elf brings a certain magic to their lives. It adds the joy and the thrill of discovery to their children’s morning as they find the elf in a new spot, perhaps with a gift for them to open.

And I GET that, but if we’re really going to celebrate what Christmas is about, perhaps we should create the magic ourselves, together with our families. Instead of relying on an external force (and a phony, commercially generated one at that) to provide our children’s “magic,”  maybe WE should be the ones who bake the cookies and play the tricks and set up the tableaux – we should be openly responsible for creating the fun every day.

Delegating the “fun-making” to the Elf teaches our kids, in  a subtle yet certain way, that joy is to be GIVEN to us, not made ourselves. Let’s show our kids how to MAKE our own joy.  Magic shouldn’t come from a box fabricated overseas by workers who don’t even celebrate our holidays. Magic should come from the way we spend time together.

Also, the elf is just plain creepy looking.   It’s the kind of thing that you find in a 2nd hand store; the kind of thing that comes alive at night! And gets you! While you’re sleeping! Watch out!

elf pic 5 web

Mom laughs as the Elf looks on, seeing ALL.

Luckily, my sisters Maria and Erica feel the same way I do about the elf (at least the hating it part.)  And over Thanksgiving we had a LOT of fun together with the elf.  We mimicked some of the pictures that the serious elf-moms do, except ours were a little less…wholesome.

elf pic 10 web

Elf learns to read!

elf pic 9 web

Elf expands vocabulary.

elf pic 8 web

Elf makes a very special friend.

elf pic 7 web

Fifty Shades of Red And White!

elf pic 6 web

Maria, hard at work on the Elf photo shoot in Barnes & Noble.

elf pic 4 web

Oh, no! Is somebody losing their head?

Oh my God, we had the best time with this elf. Some of us even had fun ALONE with the elf.  We laughed so hard our stomachs hurt. We shared many hours of joy together bonding over our silliness with the elf.  The elf even put itself onto my Facebook profile (it may be time to consider a screen lock password, BTW.)

elf pic 2 web

AJ is not too excited about the elf.

And suddenly I started to think to myself: “Hey, maybe this Elf thing isn’t so horrible after all!”  All of this  joy and laughter that we were creating together was sparked by...the Elf! (Although: it doesn’t take much for us to get going with our laughter. Also on the mirth-wagon this year were Miley Cyrus and her wrecking ball, fart-absorbing underpants, What Does The Fox Say, Unique Thrift Store & the many wonderful things therein, Bleu Cheese, and countless others.  We really are responsible for our own hilarity…we just use whatever is near as a prop to get us laughing.)


Can’t Read Signs


Still Can’t Read Signs


No Comment.

Finally figured out what to do about the Craisins sample I didn't want...

Finally figured out what to do about the Craisins sample I didn’t want…

And  I do have respect for the creativity that many moms and dads show when they make elf scenes. Some of it is pretty cool.  I know they are doing it because it’s fun for the kids and for themselves; they’re doing it for the same reason that my sisters and I pose it with sex books — to forget, if even for a moment, the stress of life.

So I guess we’re not all that different, the Elf Lovers and the Elf Haters.  Whether we enjoy posing the elf for our kids or mocking it, we’re all just striving to add some fun to our lives, those magical moments where we forget troubles and stress and anxiety, those moments of joy that live like bright sparks in our memory bank.  Like Republicans and Democrats, we can reach together over the aisle and together we can place the Elf into the naughty sections at Spencer’s in the mall. (Just Kidding! The Elf is WAY more hardcore than that!)

Don't Forget Your Veggies!

Don’t Forget Your Veggies!

I’m going to keep hating the fact that the elf has so quickly wormed its way into the heart of our Christmas tradition, which I had hoped would stay true to the things with which *I* grew up; I’m going to keep feeling annoyance at the herd mentality of the Americans who so easily latch onto the newest shiny consumer item and whole-heartedly embrace it; I’ll keep bemoaning the fact that the Elf represents a new low for our culture in terms of how diluted our enjoyment of Christmas has become.

But I know that other people don’t really think about these things like I do, and that they just want to have some fun, and for that I applaud their efforts. And for the fact that we all just want joy – THAT I will appreciate in everyone!

And whether you love the Elf or hate it,  remember to give your loved ones some joy and magic that comes freely from YOU – not funneled through another medium, but through your own beautiful smile and laugh and ideas.  Make sure that you spend moments with your special people, making your own Christmas magic together.

The elves are sure working on it!

elf pic 13 web

Maria, who took this, is the MASTER elf manipulator!



Thanksgiving and Paying It Forward

be kind card web

I love hearing about how my friends are nice to their families and to strangers; it makes my heart happy to hear about people sharing goodwill and generosity around the world.

To me, it seems that no act of generosity is too little, and no act of kindness is invisible — every time we do something kind, I think we’re increasing positive energy in the people around us, and then they will eventually inspire themselves or another to more kindness, like a chain reaction of kindness. I’m not saying that by doing this we can end war, or anything — but it seems like weaving ourselves together in a bind of kindness strengthens  a necessary chain-link in the armor that protects us all as we walk through daily life, trying to survive.

One example is “paying it forward” in the Starbucks line. One day, I was idly waiting in the long line, frustrated with the wait; when I got to the pickup window, the clerk told me I owed nothing. The car in front of me had paid, she explained, for my coffee, AND left her a $10 tip. She was glowing. She said that it happens about once a week that someone pays it forward like that, and when it DOES happen, everyone in the store gets excited. The $10 tip was extraordinary, she added – the paying it forward didn’t usually include that. (She also added that the guy was “hot”, which might have accounted for part of the glow.)

It made me think about giving and kindness, and a few days later I paid for the Starbucks for the person behind me, hoping to leave them with the warm feeling of care and happiness that I’d received myself.  (I even left a big tip!)

starbucks web

I’ve never been super generous, I suppose, but neither have I been super stingy. In college I would routinely buy a sandwich and coffee for the homeless man who hung out in winter outside the local deli across 116th St.  I always gave change to people who asked, if I had it.  Sometimes when I got older I donated to the United Way at work, and I always dropped my old clothes off at Goodwill. I volunteered off and on at a soup kitchen in high school. I generally donate to charities and causes that my friends share on Facebook.

But I’m not nearly as generous as I COULD be; it’s possible that I could help out more without significantly eroding the material quality of my own cushy life.  And so these little generous offers from strangers — whether it’s someone waving me in during bad traffic, someone getting my coffee, or someone just holding the door and smiling — these little encounters remind and encourage me to pay it forward myself by holding doors and letting people in and giving money to those who need it.

The other day, I was having lunch with my friend at the Hong Kong Buffet, when I noticed a remarkable pair of people sitting a few booths away. Their table was completely full of plates of food -  each man had 5 plates in play, and a stack of 4-5 finished plates. They were eating quickly. Both were wearing the unmistakable garb of homeless men; their pants were lined with unbending ridges of dirt; their shoes had loose soles, and each was wearing several dirty shirts. One man was rocking gently and talking, but it was to himself, as the other man was tilted away from him and shoveling food into his mouth while gazing at a distant point across the room.

A few patrons took the time to wrinkle their noses in disgust and make a point of walking FAR away from the homeless booth as they passed by, as if the men were radiating poison, then they’d glance meaningfully at the hostess station and back at the men, as if silently saying, “What the hell? What are they doing here?”

I was still mulling over my free Starbucks experience, and I had a different plan. I excused myself and went to the hostess station with a good idea, but started feeling awkward as I started talking.

“Excuse me?” I said.  “Those guys in that booth? I was wondering…are they, homeless, at all? Do you think?”

The woman sighed as if she were tired of the question. “I don’t know for sure,” she said, “and I think they’ll be done soon, so please –”

“I don’t mind,” I interrupted, “And I’d like to, if this isn’t too weird, I’d like to pay for their meal. If it’s OK.”

The woman stared at me. “You want to pay for their meal?”

Another hostess approached, interested.  “If you want to pay for them, I should let you know that they came in with another person, a woman, but she’s sitting by herself in that booth across from them. They’re not sitting together, but they came in together.”

“Well, I guess I’ll pay for her too,” I said. “But you don’t need to, ah, I mean, I don’t necessarily want them to know if was from me. Maybe just say that someone wanted to pay for them? I don’t want them to feel weird, like they have to thank me or anything.”

I handed over my credit card and paid, and sat back down with my friend and my meal.

The waitress immediately went over and bent down to tell the men something. They all looked at me and pointed. I could tell that she was definitely telling them who had paid.

A moment later the calmer and taller man approached. “I heard that you paid for my meal,” he said, looking at me with eyes that were blue and clear, even though his face was lined and worn.  “I wanted to say thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” I said, looking down, not sure what to say.

The man bent down and hugged me. He held my hands in his hands, and then hugged me again for a long time.  “Thank you,” he said, before walking back to his booth. The other man called out, “Yes, thank you.”  I felt simultaneously happy and horrified in case weird homeless germs were getting onto me. I understand this is probably awful, but it’s true, and I’m trying to be honest here.  Later, in the car, I smeared sanitizer on my arms up to my elbows. (Sorry! Can’t help myself!)

My friend was wildly curious and wanted to know what was going on, so I told her, and as I explained, a woman slid out of her bench and came over; it was the woman who had walked in with the two men.

“You paid for all our meals,” she said to me in a statement.

“Yes,” I said.

“Well,” the woman said, “That man there is my son, the one talking to himself. And I want to thank you for paying for our meals. My son is not well. He is not right in the head, you know. It’s from all the drugs when he was younger. And he won’t live at home, God knows I used to try keep him there, but he always runs out. He likes living on the street, or least wise, that’s where he always goes back to.  So I try to find him and bring him to lunch when I can, when he’s interested.  And I save up and bought him a mattress, so at least he has a place to sleep in the dump where he crashes.  I can’t give him money, because I don’t have much, and he isn’t going to buy food. He’s going to get more drugs. And I can’t sit with him, because he starts talking crazy and then we can’t eat here no more. But I do what I can with what I have.”

She added, “They won’t take him at the hospital, you know. They say he’s well enough and that he don’t qualify for free help, or for the mental help, you know. But he’s not right. He can’t work or nothing. He can’t barely take care of himself. I have to buy him adult diapers when I save up enough money for it. I buy them in bulk and drop them at his mattress for him. At least what I can.”

She was wearing a clean work dress and looked extremely tired out.  She offered to pay me back for her meal, and I said no, that I wanted to treat them.

The waitress boxed up to-go boxes for the men, even though they don’t normally do it at the buffet, and eventually the men  left, with the thinner man still talking to himself. A few minutes later the mother wiped her eyes and left too.

And I was glad I’d taken the time to do that, and I resolved to do more nice things, even little things, to make the world easier for someone,  if even for a split second.

So if my daughter and I see a person begging for money at the freeway exit, I always stop and give them some.  Twice we’ve driven to In-N-Out Burger to buy a meal for a homeless person with a sign at the roadside.  I like to think that she’s learning to be kind too; learning that although hard work usually begets success, that unlucky people are not necessarily lazy; that bad luck strikes like lightning that nobody expects, and it’s ALWAYS good to help someone, even (or especially) if they don’t help themselves.  I don’t know if karma really exists, but I DO believe that doing good things must  be good for the world.


I’m not telling this story to get pats on the back, and I don’t think I’m some suburban Mother Theresa. Like I said before, even when I *do* do nice things, I feel guilty that I’m not doing enough.  But I know that my family and many friends and acquaintances have a giving spirit, and I know that if every person who reads this blog does one nice thing for another person, that’s some fresh nice new things happening in the world.

If you’re a like-minded person, I encourage you to do something nice today or soon, no matter how small it is.  The warmth of being let into an unfriendly traffic merge can last for an hour.  The joy of receiving a free Starbucks can inspire a person to give something even bigger and better to a stranger. And buying a meal for someone might be the easiest and most fulfilling way to show gratitude this holiday season, when so many of us have so much.

*** P. S. ***

Here are a few more quotes on generosity that I like:

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Aesop, Greek fabulist (fl. 6th century B.C., possibly legendary)

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
Edith Wharton, American novelist (1862-1937)

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.
The Most Rev. Dr. Desmond Tutu, first black South African Anglican Archbishop

Kindness begets kindness.
Greek proverb

be kind card web



Paleo Weight Loss: 30 lbs in 4 months

I’m proud of the fact that I’ve lost 30 lbs over the past 4 months — it’s the first time in years I’ve been able to successfully lose weight and keep it off.  I’ve gone from a size 24 to a size 18.  It feels GREAT to be wearing smaller jeans, and to be confident that I’ll be wearing smaller ones yet in another few months.

Jen 4 months paleo webPeople have asked me what I’m doing, and the answer is Paleo Eating + CrossFit.  Paleo is an eating plan that eliminates gluten, many grains, refined sugars, dairy, legumes (beans & peanuts), and artificial flavorings/colorings/chemicals.  Basically it’s lots of vegetables, some meat/fish, sweet potatoes, some fruits, and more veggies.

I wanted to share a look at what 4 months of modified Paleo (I eat beans, tofu, oats, and some dairy) eating looks like – pictured below are some of my most common meals.  This is not everything I ate & cooked, but it’s a snapshot of how delicious and varied eating Paleo can be!

"Mean Green" Juice

“Mean Green” Juice

Paleo food page 1 webFor breakfast, I cook a LOT of eggs: Scrambled with mushrooms, onions, tomato, spinach, and pepper, hard boiled, or cooked as omelettes with veggies as a filling.  My daughter gets plain eggs, sometimes shaped like hearts.  Along with the eggs are veggies and occasionally bacon. And at least once a week I make “The Papa Oatmeal”, which is NOT Paleo, but which is delicious and healthy.  (Shred up an apple, cook it in water with cinnamon until it becomes like applesauce, then stir in oats and full-fat milk, let it cook, then sprinkle on ground flax seed and blueberries.)  I also make gluten-free pancakes with hazelnut flour, and sometimes I just have leftover chicken soup for breakfast.


Paleo food page 2 webLunches and dinners use a lot of veggies, chicken, and salmon — everyone in my family loves salmon, so it’s a great choice. I get wild-caught salmon that has NO red dye in it (be careful of farm-raised because it has artificial coloring added!).  I also try to get organic veggies when it’s possible.  Sometimes I’ll just roast a whole organic chicken for dinner, along with roasted veggies. It’s easy and delicious.

I love spiral sliced zucchini stir- fried with garlic, spinach sauteed with caramelized onions or or with lightly-cooked garlic and white beans.  I make a “green soup” with pureed cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, beans and chicken broth. I cook adobo pork, beef taco meat, chicken soup, and stir fries with veggies and tofu. I love roasting broccoli and onions (or other veggies) in the oven until they get slightly charred and yummy…and if I have left-over bacon grease, I’ll use that to bake them instead of using olive oil.  I also adore spaghetti squash, Thai curries, and shrimp veggie stir fries.  Instead of using rice, I layer food over spaghetti squash or shredded lettuce as a base.

Cucumbers are one of my favorite vegetables EVER, and my daughter loves them too. She’ll eat cukes, sweet cherry tomatoes, or crispy red bell peppers sliced up, so I serve those things quite often.

I also make veggie juices in my juicer every day (or nearly every day). My favorite blend is celery, carrot, apple, parsley, spinach, lemon/lime, cucumbers, and wheatgrass. Sometimes I add chard or beets, but the others are the “go to” daily recipe.


Paleo food page 3 webFor snacks, I try to have almonds, almond butter, or dark organic chocolate.  I sometimes have coffee with cream as a snack, too, or I make cinnamon tea.  And sometimes if I’m craving something salty, I’ll cook up some bacon!  I figure it’s better than eating a bag full of Cheetos and a can full of onion dip, and a few slices can usually cure my cravings and keep me sated for a good long time.  Other times I’ll eat a piece of organic nitrite-free turkey breast (I like Applegate Farms from Whole Foods.)  I usually have at least 1-2 squares of dark chocolate every day.  It’s really AWESOME to be able to eat chocolate every day and still lose weight!

I eat a modified Paleo diet, because I still have cream (organic full fat cream!) in my coffee, and I eat  hummus and beans and tofu.  But I’ve gone pretty much gluten-free and sugar-free, and I feel better and healthier than I have in a long time.  I feel crisper and sharper; mentally clearer. It’s like a fog lifted gently off my brain after about a month of eating this way.  I’ve also been sleeping better, my allergies (and snoring) have improved significantly, I have more energy throughout the day, and I seem to have more patience.  Or perhaps feeling less tired and bloated makes me happier, and that leads to more patience!  But either way, I’ve been feeling better and better the more I stay on my quasi-Paleo eating plan.  The longer I go without sugary foods and chips, the less I crave them, and the easier it is to stay on track with healthy eating.

Of course I allow myself cheat meals or cheat days. Last weekend I had delicious Indian food with friends, and I gladly ate the naan bread and rice in addition to the chicken.  Sometimes I have pizza on the weekends.On my daughter’s birthday, I ate cake…and then more cake…and then several MORE slices of cake.  But the next day I made sure to go back to the sugar-free eating, and in a few days I was back on track.

It was VERY hard to stop eating the sugary foods once I started; it was like all of my dormant cravings suddenly came out of hibernation and started screaming, “Eat Doritos! Eat dip! Eat Oreos!”  And that’s why I sort of prefer NOT to cheat massively if I can avoid it, because once I get the cravings going, it’s hard to push them back down.  Smaller cheats seem to satisfy my need for sugar and/or “junk” without tempting me to eat a whole bag of chips and candy bars.

Some people assume that eating Paleo means “all meat, all the time.”  The truth is that it’s a lot more vegetables than anything, although meat is allowed and encouraged in the right quantities.  I can and do eat grass-fed beef, bacon (organic & nitrite free),  organic chicken, pork, etc.  In fact, I have bacon several times a WEEK — more bacon that I had before eating Paleo! But if that concerns you, think about what I stopped eating: I no longer eat a big bowl of ice-cream every night, I no longer have 2-3 diet sodas a day, I quit eating my daily chips/dip and I eliminated my weekly fast food runs.  And when I have pizza, it’s 2-3 slices, not 6 slices plus garlic bread plus wings plus leftover pizza the next day.  When you compare, I think a few slices of bacon seems a FAR healthier trade, yes?

I wouldn’t say this is the easiest thing ever, but it’s getting easier.  And I like doing it, because I feel GOOD.  I  have a  support system — one of my good friends, Andrada, eats paleo, and offers me advice.  Another good friend, Jennifer, cooks healthy veggie-based meals that I sometimes copy.  And at the Made In Crossfit  gym there is a huge amount of support from people who eat Paleo and love to share recipes and cooking tips.

My husband started an amazing organic garden in our backyard, and I enjoy using our own vegetables in my cooking — it’s definitely clean, and the fresh taste is phenomenal!

peppersIf you’re interested in making the switch to Paleo, it’s not that hard!  For me, a modified approach works well.  I think my diet is about 80% Paleo, and I still have the foods I just can’t give up (hummus, tofu, cream, dark chocolate.)  And of course there are always the cheat meals.  Some people believe beans contain ‘anti-nutrients’ which inhibit the absorption of vitamins and therefore should be avoided. But I’ve never had an issue with beans, and so far I seem to be getting all the nutrients that I need, so I’m sticking with my beaniness.  I also love having cream and cheese now and then, so I do.  I find that cheese can be a trigger for me, though — if I sprinkle cheese on top of my veggies and meat, I tend to eat almost double what I normally would, because I just love the taste and mouthfeel so much — so I avoid it unless it’s a special snack.  And I need cream in my coffee to function…I just can’t stand it black.

But avoiding gluten/wheat has REALLY helped me bypass the danger foods: Fast food burgers, chips, white bread sandwiches (If I eat one, I eat three – I can’t stop!), cookies, pie, cakes — the things that have me eating them even when I’m so full that I feel sick.

I think there are many ways to eat and be healthy, including vegetarian diets, vegan diets, Mediterranean-based diets, Zone, etc.  This is just the one that is working for ME, and I plan to keep doing it in the future!  I don’t know exactly what I’ll be eating in a year from now, but I do know that for the rest of my life I plan to avoid refined grains/sugars and to eat as many veggies as possible.

I wish you happy and healthy eating!

And now may I perhaps interest you in more reading?  Here’s an article with more examples of Paleo foods.   And here’s one of my favorites about my dog.   And this one about memory techiques is super fun, in my opinion!

Heck, here’s the whole list. Enjoy!


Bark Park, Mouth Foam, and Lovers

Plain Old Dog, OK?

Plain Old Dog, OK?

My dachshund was pulling at the leash, trying with all his might to will himself over to a particularly large turd lying coiled near a creosote bush at the local park, and I was pulling back to keep him AWAY from this, when a lady’s voice interrupted:

“Who’s YOUR lover?”

Startled, I peered up from the tug o’turd to see a lady in her late 50′s looking at me appraisingly. She was wearing a red sweater with  glitter and rhinestones on it, and her glasses swung gently from a rhinestone-studded chain. Her voice was raspy and low and she had on thick red lipstick.

She tilted her head, awaiting my response.

“Uh, my?” I was lost. My husband wasn’t even WITH me at the park – although, who would look at a couple and ask “Who’s YOUR lover?”

She couldn’t possibly be reading my mind and divining my secret fantasies about –

“This is MY little LOVER!” she exclaimed eagerly, lifting up a small dog who was vibrating near her shoes, a small dog with lots of fluffy fur and lots of rapid paw movement, and put the dog to her red lips. The dog pawed at her enthusiastically and got its tail tangled up in her glasses chain.

“Oh, WHO’S a good little LOVER, then? Who’s a good little LOVER? Who’s my best little lover in all the world?  My Loooooooover. My sweet little looooooovvvveeeeerrrrrrrrr!” She crooned, and kissed the dog on its mouth. It licked at her red lipstick and wagged its tail companionably.

“YOUR little lover is adorable, too!” she added generously, and when her dog began again to lap at her cheek, “My LOOOOOVEEEEERRRR! Oh, you are SO better than a man, you are! SO better than a man! My better-than-a-man LOVER!”  The dog licked her lips and she threw her head back and laughed, HAR HAR HAR!

Pablo wanted to meet the Lover. He whimpered and pulled over to her legs.

“My dog, my PET, is named Pablo.” I stated.  I did not lift Pablo to my face or even blow a kiss in his general direction.  I patted him briskly on the head. “He’s a good DOG. We like him.”

The lady pulled the Lover to her bosom and rocked it like a baby. She rolled the words around on her mouth like a person sucking a piece of candy; like a person savoring the most delicious umami meal possible.  “This little Precious Biscuit is my LOOOOOOVER!”

“That’s great, that you, have such a powerful relationship with your dog,” I said with a completely straight face, although inside me, laughter was bubbling up dangerously.

“Is your name Catherine?” I asked. (“The Great?,” I murmured to myself so quietly that it sounded like a small throat clearing noise.)

“What? No. It’s not Catherine. I’m —–” she answered, and to be honest, I’m sort of preserving her privacy here, but also I completely forgot her name the minute she answered.

“But I once met a wonderful woman named Catherine at the Bark Park!” she enthused. “You DO meet the most EXCELLENT people at the bark park, I believe! Why, HER lover was a beautiful little miniature pinscher that looked just like a little doll.”

“Yes!” I said. “That does sound lovely. Well, it was great meeting you. Have a nice afternoon!”

As Pablo and I walked away (frankly, the turd was looking pretty promising at this point), I could hear her:  “My ootle wiggly LOVER smells just like a little breadbox!  You little LOVER! Oh, kiss me, you little LOVER!”

And that is why I don’t go to bark parks, I reminded myself. It’s because even though I OWN a dog, and I LIKE my dog — even LOVE my dog, my dog is not my “lover”, and I don’t let my dog lick my mouth on purpose, and I don’t look at my dog like I want to date him, and my dog is NOT better than a man.  And it’s THAT kind of person who seems to be magnetically drawn to me at bark parks, for whatever reason.

And here is another example of the people I meet at bark parks – Burt.

A few years ago, I took Pablo to a bark park. There was one other dog when we arrived at the Bark Park, some kind of cute cocker spaniel mix. I sat down at the picnic table with the spaniel's owner, a guy in his 70’s who was wearing a blue baseball cap and a frayed blue polo shirt with a pack of Marlboros in the pocket.  He was a homey chatty sort and he spoke just a bit too loudly, as if going deaf or used to talking to someone who was deaf.

"I'm BURT!" he told me.  "Burt with a U, not an E.  Short for BURTON.   I had a cousin called Bert, but that was from Bertram, and he was kind of a sissy boy. So I always associated Bert-with-e with sissy boys. Now me, I'm from Burton. Like a manly Burt, har, har, har."

I couldn't help but notice that while Burt-with-a-U talked, a frothy white spittle foam gathered at the corners of his mouth, sort of like the foam that cleans your car at the carwash.  It was pliable and plastic and moved as he spoke, and retracted into his mouth when he finished a sentence. 

 I was  fascinated with this spit.

Burt with a U talked about many things.  "Now, me," he told me, the spit foam busily forming and retreating, "me and the wife, we got this here dog down at the Humane Society.  You ever been there?"

No, I hadn't, I told him.

As we talked, a poodle urinated.  It was a male, but it squatted.  Burt was confused.  "Can they DO that?" he asked.  "I mean, if it's a boy dog and all.  Inn't kind of strange, a boy dog squatting?  I mean, I don't know much nothin' about dogs, though.  In fact, I admit I'm a little scared 'o the big ones."

"They can be intimidating," I said.

"OH, are you scared of dogs too?" asked Burt knowingly.

"Well, not really," I said.

"But you said they intimidate you," Burt said.

"Well, some of the big ones CAN be intimidating," I said.

"Because it sounded like you meant that you're scared of them," said Burt.

"Well, not really," I said again.

"Oh," said Burt.  Then he said, "Funny thing the other day.  Little old dog in here, couldn't a been much bigger than that poodle.  And some huge dog, the big ones, you know, the black ones with the big sharp teeth, you know that kind."

"Yes," I said, "the big black ones with the teeth.  Those."

"Yes," said Burt.  "A big black one with teeth. And the poodle started getting on the back of the big black dog, you know, getting on, you know what I mean," and he did a sort of motion with his hands that was apparently supposed to mimic a small dog humping a big one.

"Yes," I said, "I think I know what you mean, " hoping to forestall further explanation.

"I mean, it was getting with it," Burt explained.

"Yes, I see," I said.

"It was getting right on there, you know, trying to have sex with it and all."

"Yes," I said.

"Funniest thing I ever did see in here!!" Burt said, chuckling at the memory.  "I guess the black dog's owner didn't think it was too funny, though. But me, I thought that was funny.  But it was only 4 months old, that small dog.  Isn't that too young, don't you think, for a dog to be wanting sex?"

"It seems a bit young, yes," I said.

"But oh man, it was really getting up on there!" said Burt.  "Funniest thing."

Burt's spittle was thick and frothy now, from all the talking. I kept expecting pieces to break off and fly away, or to hang loose at his mouth, but the foam stayed intact.

"I mean, they get the operation at 6 months, I think," said Burt.  "Yeeeyyyccchhh, operations, I don't like to think about THAT."

"It can be sort of gross," I said.

"I don't mean that," said Burt, "although I have passed out before at the sight of needles."

He proceeded to tell me some army stories about passing out when getting shots for smallpox (?), and then he started a chain reaction: when the guy behind him saw Burt pass out, HE passed out, and then a whole LINE of guys in the medical tent passed out.

Burt then told me all about his previous dogs, one of whom had to be put "down" because  it was sick.  "Strangest thing," Burt recollected.  "Dog had this white foamy stuff at the mouth, and we just thought it was sick or something. But the doctor said the SPINE was breaking down, and we couldn't save her. So we had to put her down."

White foam?   I wanted to ask, "Foam like YOURS?  Is YOUR spine breaking down??"  --- but didn't.

Actually,  meeting people like Catherine and Burt are the BEST part of bark parks, now that I think about it.  What’s not to like about meeting someone so fascinating?  It’s much better than making ridiculous small talk about the weather or the traffic on the 202 or some nonsense like that.  The truth is, I enjoyed meeting Burt, and almost-enjoyed meeting Catherine (she was a little bit, ah, strange).

What I really don’t like about the BP? All the not-cleaned-up dog shit, and the way the whole place smells of it. I just honestly don’t like sitting in a big poop field for an hour while my dog, who is not the most adventurous of his species, huddles at my feet and hides from small poodles who want to hump him.

It’s too bad that Burt and Catherine were not at the park on the same day, though. I bet they would have got along just fine.



Actions & Fun – DSD 2013

roach tiramisu web(Yes, scrapbookers, you ARE in the right place!  Information on the P&Co. blog hop is included along with a diverting treatise on the world’s most durable bug.)

Do you like cockroaches?  I know that people eat them in parts of the world, even here in the continental United States.  In fact, according to filmmaker Justin Fornal, the middle of a roasted cockroach is “creamy like tiramisu” once you get “past the crunch.”  And my engineering friend Meredith  told me that once, on a trip to rural China, she was served a HUGE PLATTER OF BOILED COCKROACHES and urged to take the biggest, juiciest ones, since she was the guest of honor.

I ate a chocolate-covered cricket one time, but the cricket was deep fried and crispy, and you couldn’t even tell that it was in the chocolate. And as for roaches,  for most of my life I’ve tended to run screaming from them.

Here’s an example.  A friend of mine, who often posts inspirational messages on Facebook, wrote:  “”Most fears cannot withstand the test of careful scrutiny and analysis. When we expose our fears to the light of thoughtful examination they usually just evaporate. – Jack Canfield”

And I thought for a moment, and felt inspired to write this:

“I bet, though? That Jack Canfield never saw the size of the roaches that lived in the Foxfire Apt. complex in Tempe, one of which once forced me to hide in my bathroom for 45 minutes because I COULD HEAR IT WALKING AROUND ON MY DRESSER, and because of which I was consequently late to work. True story.”

And also this:

“It didn’t evaporate. I had to get brave and spray an entire can of Raid behind my Ikea futon and make my boyfriend remove it later on. Fun times.”

So what you can see from MY posts, apart from the fact that I’m a disrespectful smart-ass, is that I REALLY DON’T LIKE ROACHES.

You may be wondering why roaches are on my mind right now, and it’s a reasonable question. I was sitting in the local Paradise Bakery having coffee, and thinking about what to write in this very blog post, when a gigantic roach started running around and scared a lady sitting by in a window table with friends.

paradise 1 web

An affable, friendly busboy came with a broom and dustpan, looking for it, joking with the people who looked up.  One man pointed from his laptop:  “There! At the base of that table!”  –But it wasn’t; it was already long-gone, or recently-gone, but anyway: GONE, and the careful tilting up of three adjacent tables likewise revealed nothing.  So now, somewhat paranoid about my bare-sandaled toes under MY table, I kept checking the ground, because MY table was rather close to the original Table O’ Suspicion.

And THAT made me think about some of my memorable Roach Experiences.  My best friend from college, Jennifer T. (who is now a doctor in NYC) and I used to love going out for Chinese near Columbia U, and we had a favorite restaurant on B’way.  One time we had to alert the waiter to the fact that a half-dead roach was squashed to the side of a plate of noodle-crisps and duck sauce, legs still wriggling.  The waiter didn’t hesitate; he whipped off his waist-towel and wiped the roach to the floor, then put the bowl back onto our table with a smile. (We asked for and got a new bowl, but both suspected he’d just gone back into the kitchen and came back out with the very same bowl.) We ate it anyway and came back another time, because, hey, no big deal, not really…and it WAS our fave Chinese place!

And then there was the time in Rocky Point with my sister Erica, my BFF Lisa, and some other friends, when roaches literally AS BIG AS CATS were all over in her friend’s beach-front house, in the patio and in the bathroom and on the flat roof where we had to sleep to beat the heat, skittering around here and there, and we all just HAD TO DEAL because there was no other option.  Well, we were also drunk, and that helped me to deal, definitely, because otherwise I might have needed to have a heart attack.  [During one drinking game we had to tell Two Truths and One Lie and see if people could guess the lie, and my sister Erica came out of the bathroom and said:  "Ok, my turn.  In the bathroom are two big roaches as long as my hand. They are eating a third, dead roach and they are not afraid of me.  I stepped on them."  And as it was obvious that sentence #3 was the only lie,  because clearly she did not want to ruin her cool sandals with the squishy tiramisu-guts of these colossal creatures,  we all laughed like hyenas, and then we drank some more.]

And roaches showed themselves at  a funeral in Nogales, Mexico. The funeral parlor was in a busy area; the streets were hot, dirty, polluted. I stayed with my daughter in the long, narrow front room instead of in the room with coffins and pews.  When I went to check out the tray of pan dulces by the window, I saw a medium-sized bold roach walking under and over the pastries.  The plate soon emptied; other guests – in an air of general complacence (just the way it is?) did not comment, complain, or even seem to notice. Later on I saw two more roaches in there, and another one investigating the sugar bowl for coffee.

I did not, myself, bring attention to the roaches by exclaiming or commenting or even trying to kill them (which would have been a moderately noticeable production) and might have messed up some pastries.  This was due to a general respect for the situation and the way of life, like: Hey, so roaches are all over here, and people just DEAL with it; there are bigger issues to squeal over, and anyway, who am I to be too good for some Roach-Pastry? What am I, some Big Fart From Chicago? Not that people LOVE roaches on the pastries, they just — ignored them…and, it turned out, so could I. At least on the outside.

So…roaches.  Whether you eat them,  eat despite them, or run from them, they are all around us.  Perhaps I can make up my own inspirational quote using my roach experiences:  “  ”

OK, no, I can’t do that.  But what I DO know is that I’ve become braver over the years, and more capable of saying: “Roach on my pastry? Aaah – no big deal.  Roach on the side of the bowl? Sure, just wipe it off.”  Maybe it’s a way of recognizing that there are bigger issues in life to be afraid of, better places to expend energy, and that some  fears CAN be made invisible if you look at them head-on and suddenly find that you are completely able to handle them, and with grace, too.

So – I hope you can all go out and squash the roaches that are stuck to YOUR pastry or running around under YOUR table. Be brave! Be bold! I’m trying it, too.

Although I’m not sure I’ll ever look at tiramisu quite the same way again.

cake pic 2


If you’re reading this to get a letter for the Pixels & Co. Blog Hop, thanks for making it to the end. Whew! You ARE patient.

This is the kit, Piccadilly, that you’re going to get for FREE once you obtain all of your letters to use as the coupon code.You need to go through all of the blogs in order to get all 20 letters/numbers to get the full coupon code, which needs to be entered at checkout. My letter is P.


  • Shen
  • Tiffany
  • Deena
  • Laura
  • Shannon
  • Jennifer – P     <———– THIS IS ME!
  • Sabrina
  • Kelleigh
  • Crystal
  • Robyn
  • Leah
  • Dawn
  • Celeste
  • Karla
  • Shirley
  • Mye
  • Audrey
  • Anita
  • Ya Yeah
  • Gennifer

Once again, my letter is:

the letter P webNow that you’ve got my letter, please proceed to the next blog to keep collecting. Next is Sabrina’s Creations  -Sabrina at her blog.

Missed one? Here’s the full list of ALL the blogs to visit:

Simply Tiffany Studios
Deena Rutter
Laura Passage
Scotty Girl Design
Jennifer Valencia Photography
Sabrina’s Creations
Kelleigh Ratzlaff Designs
Crystal Livesay
Robyn Meierotto
Dawn by Design
Celeste Knight
Karla Dudley
Wild Blueberry Ink
Mye De Leon
Audacious Designs
Anita Designs
Ya Yeah Designs
Gennifer Bursett

My part of the Piccadilly collection is the sepia action for Photoshop CS4+ and Photoshop Elements 11+ — the action takes your color photograph and gives it a sepia tint. The layers from the action are fully editable so you can tailor the results and make the sepia tone lighter, darker, or more contrasty.  A pdf manual is included that explains how to install and run the action, and of course, you can contact me here at my blog or on the Pixels & Co. site if you have questions or need help. I hope you enjoy the action!

Sepia Action Preview Page

And please allow me to show you some other awesome actions that you may wish to purchase – these are actions I use while editing my professional photographs, and they each come with instructions on how to use them.

Skin Softening Valencia  previewMy favorite black and white actions:

high key bw valencia previewMy awesome Pink Frost (I LOVE this one!)

Pink Frost Preview Page webMy Color Pop Action, which defogs and cleans up images, as well as brightening colors:

Color Pop Action Template 600I also have inspirational journaling cards and flair using my own photography (always my own, never CU! — so you won’t see these photos anywhere else!)

photo journal card templateAnd more journaling cards:

photo journal card template2And this set…

photo journal card template3web

If you want to hear more stories, here are a few of my personal faves:

Dog Analysis For Beginners (or how to give your dog a whole pizza)

How To Whiten Your Teeth And Scare The Fex-Ex Guy

What To Do When You Get The Sexy Wolf And Red Riding Hood Costumes By Accident

Memorizing Claudia Schiffer in Cottage Cheese

Thanks for reading!  I hope I gave you a smile, and maybe the desire for a sweet Italian dessert. (Which may be as close as your very own backyard!)




Wolf Fur Costume…With A Silver Lining

Things don’t always turn out the way I want. Take, for example, this year’s Halloween costume, which I ordered from Wholesale Halloween Costumes on-line, and which was supposed to be a 70′s disco girl dress, headband and necklace.  Instead, THIS is what arrived yesterday afternoon in a huge cardboard box ["Amado: What the hell is in that box, anyway? What did you order?"]

"Howlin Good Time" Wolf and "Sexy Red Riding Hood"

“Howlin Good Time” Wolf and “Sexy Red Riding Hood”

The “Howlin Good Time” Wolf came complete with a rubber face mask, dandy striped pants, and a sexy partially-nude woman airbrushed onto the tie.  The “Sexy Red Riding Hood” came with some little scraps of cloth artfully arranged in a padded hanging garment bag.

“Hmmmm….” I said thoughtfully, as neither one of these special suits even marginally resembled the one I’d ordered.  I held up the wolf.  “Aaaaoooooo!” I wailed to the general area.  “AWhoooooooooo’s ready for Halloweeeeeeeeen!”

“Mama, what IS that!” Isabel was half-laughing, half-alarmed.

“Well, this is NOT what I ordered!”  I explained, dangling it in front of my husband, who was busy working at his computer and not really paying attention.

“Mama,” said Isabel eagerly, “It reminds me of something. It reminds me of the Catrin from that game.”  [from the Loteria game.]

“Yes, Sweetie!” I agreed. “It DOES remind me of the Catrin, too. Probably because this wolf is such a dandy-man!”

“Hey, Amado!” I urged. “Do you want to be a Lobo Catrin for Halloween?”

Amado was not interested in this excellent idea. “No,” he said.

“No, Mama!” Isabel was alarmed.  “I don’t want Daddy to be that!”

“I’m just kidding,” I explained.  “Besides, this is not really mine, anyway. I’m going to have to send it back.”  I pulled out the packing slip from inside the box. “This was SUPPOSED to be sent to….Gregory Scott. In Larkspur, Colorado. But they put it inside a box marked Jennifer Valencia. Nice.”

“I guess they go together,” I observed to Amado.  “Poor Gregory Scott. He and his girl probably need these for a weekend party, and they never arrived. And I don’t even want to think about what they had planned for later on, that they now have to postpone.” [Too late, BTW - role-playing image stuck firmly in my mind.]

“I guess I’ll call the company,” I said, and here is how that conversation went:

 Guy On Phone: Hello.

Me: Hello!  The wrong costume was sent to my house in Phoenix.  Your store sent me a Howlin Good Times Wolf and a Sexy Riding Hood, and I was really supposed to get a 70′s girl.

Guy: So you didn’t order the Howlin Good Times Wolf?

Me: No.

Guy: (looking up order number): OK, I see that you ordered a 70′s Girl.

Me: Yes.

Guy: That’s on the way. And who was supposed to get the Howling Good Times?

Me: Some person named Gregory Scott. But he lives in Larkspur, Colorado.

Guy:  Uh, does he live near you? Like, maybe you could drop if off at his house if you are neighbors?

Me: Well, I’m in Phoenix, and he’s in Colorado. And sure, aren’t we all global neighbors? But no, I can’t drop it off. It’s like 800 miles away.

Guy: So you didn’t order the Wolf.

Me: No.

Guy: And you don’t want to keep the wolf.

Me:  NO.

Guy:  But do you know Gregory Scott? Is he, like, a friend?

Me: No! I just got his name from the packing slip.

Guy: Ok. And he’s not, like, someone you know? Because, I’m, like, trying to figure out how this happened.

Me: No. I do NOT KNOW GREGORY SCOTT.  Someone at your store put the wrong order in my box.

Guy: (typing furiously). OK.

(Longish pause.)

Me: You should probably contact Gregory Scott and let him know that you accidentally sent his costumes to the wrong place. He probably needed them this weekend. And I noticed on the box that it was sent express. He’s going to be disappointed.

Guy: Yeah, that’s a good idea!  OK, I’ll put a note here to have someone do that.

Me: Great.

Guy: So, can you, like, send Howlin Good back to us? And Sexy Red? Just, you know, go to the website and print out the special return form, but be sure to print out the ones that apply to that style and brand of costume, and then you just affix it to the box but be sure to also include the order number and the return number, which you will get from another part of the website, and then take it to the post office?

Me: Oh, you bet. I’ll get right on that.

Isabel danced around the costumes in their big cardboard box. “Mama,” she observed helpfully, “You can’t wear that Riding Hood one.”

“That’s true, Sweetie,” I replied, googling “Gregory Scott Larkspur CO” to see if I could find his phone number, because I was pretty sure that Costume Wholesale was going to fuck up any communication with him, and don’t global neighbors help one another out now and then with a friendly informative phone call?

“Because,” Isabel persisted, “It’s too small for you, Mama.”

“Yes,” I said. “That is true.”

“It’s, like WAY too small for you, Mama!” Isabel continued. She warmed to her topic. “It’s made for a lady HALF OF YOUR SIZE, MAMA!”

“You’re probably right, Sweetheart,” I said.

Isabel was eager to demonstrate just how much smaller. She ran up to me and drew a line down the middle of my chest with the side of her hand.  “See, Mama? The costume is for a lady who is like THIS half of you, just the half part, Mama. Much smaller. See? See, Mama? See?” She looked up at me eagerly, eyes bright, happy to be so observant and helpful.

“Yes! Got it! I DO see! Thanks, Honey!” I said, because how can you not be charmed by a small sweet girl with a disarming smile and sparkling eyes, no matter what she says? She does have a point.   And hey, silver lining alert! –  Good reminder to stay away from the Oreos and keep on going to CrossFit!

So things didn’t go as I planned with the costume, but obviously things are going even worse for Mr. Scott and his little lady (size 4-6), because at least I can get some laughs out of the mistake, and all he is getting is rage (probably) and a cheaply made replacement costume from Spirit Superstore. But maybe he’ll laugh about it later.

Laughter is ALWAYS a silver lining, right?

So…awhoooooooo’s ready with THEIR costume?

P.S. – Couldn’t find phone number for Mr. Scott, at least not free number. Since when does the White Pages charge you for a phone number? Was I doing it wrong? Sorry, Mr. S., calling you is not worth the $10 is would cost to also get your criminal record and address history, and frankly, I’m not “that” good a global  citizen.

P.P.S. – So if anyone reading this happens to know Mr. Scott in Larkspur, CO, please tell him what happened to his costume.

And Peace Out.



Photo Shoot at Tempe Town Lake

I recently photographed a  family who drove from Eloy to Tempe Town Lake for their portraits.  We found some great locations around the Tempe Beach Park and the Tempe Arts Center fountains and had fun with it. The kids were sweet and funny and SO patient with all the walking and shooting!  Thanks to M. & her family for making it so fun.  The pictures are beautiful because YOU all are.

Mariel Family 5 web Mariel Family 14 webWe walked toward the big cement bridge and found some great light underneath it – perfect for getting the right skin tones.  And the grungy background of the cement is totally “in” these days (you must have seen all the pictures of families by loading docks, yes?) and I loved it.

The kids have luminous, lovely eyes and sweet faces, and I just really liked them.

Mariel Family 18 web Mariel Family 27 webThe whole family had a ton of patience – most kids are “done” with photos after 30 minutes and refuse to take more, but they were troopers and kept going as long as we kept suggesting new locations for photos.

Mariel Family 83 web Mariel Family 100 webThe weather was crisp in the morning and hot at mid-day, but it was not too hot, and overall it was perfect for the photo shoot.

Mariel Family 108 bw web Mariel Family 59 bw web

The water features and fountains at the Tempe Arts Center was a fun break for the kids and also offered up lots of awesome photo ops for me, so we were all happy!

Mariel Family 63 web2 Mariel Family 65 web2 Mariel Family 73 web2 Mariel Family 74 web2 Mariel Family 77 web2 Mariel Family 85 web2

For me, taking pictures is a joy – and I hope this gorgeous family enjoys them.

Mariel Family 90 web Mariel Family 86 web Mariel Family 76 web Mariel Family 10 web Mariel Family 15 web


Flying at 4:00 am

It was just after 4:30 am this morning when I left to drive to my cross-fit gym to both take photographs and exercise. The empty suburban lanes and the city lights sparkling in the black air reminded me of leaving for an early morning flight, for EVERY early morning flight I’ve ever taken; maybe the feeling of being only 75% alert and yet already pumping with adrenaline was mimicking the way I feel before I board an aircraft. Or maybe the unknown of an exciting trip was getting mixed up with the anticipation I always get before any photo job, but either way, I had to remind myself NOT to take the highway turn that heads to Sky Harbor.

I’ve enjoyed years of being fear-free on airplanes,  but have also lived through years of being so scared to fly that I tried Greyhound and Amtrak and Xanax, although not all at the same time. (Stay alert for future posts on these exciting topics!) It’s easy to understand how thoughts can get very intense when squashed around in my head which is squashed into a narrow aluminum cylinder hurtling through the air, on a trip that is squashed between work and life obligations, to meet people whose love I will try to squash into a very short time and then expand it out again later, trying to fill empty moments when I’m without them.

Luckily for us both, I sometimes write in a journal when I get nervous on airplanes! Lucky, because now we can both appreciate my witty and introspective airplane intensity.  Here is an excerpt from a solo trip I did to Chicago a while back:

“On plane now…a bit nervous each time the plane plummets a millimeter, sandwiched between two middle-aged guys.  Strange not to have Isa beside me, holding hair, eyes luminous, liquid.  Trying to think of anything interesting but mind feels empty, a looted warehouse.”

Realization: I have never called into a public radio talk show. But if I DID, I would definitely NOT waste precious listening time by gushing, “Diane [Rehm]! I LOVE your show! I’m SO excited!” before stating my comment, nor would I proclaim in a masterful “I’m The Boss” way, “And I’ll take my comments off the air.”  Damn straight you will, bozo.   You think you’re THAT interesting, that vivacious, that there was even a 20% chance they’d keep you ON the air? Ha.

Q: When Diane Rehm is out for “voice treatments,” what, exactly, is happening?

-Someone close by smells of salami. Also, farts gently drift into and out of my personal space like seaweed in the tide.

American Airlines. Pilot just gave long detailed itinerary.  Apparently we will be crossing many states and the Mississippi River. Pity not so good at geography, or might care more.

One of the flight attendants is wearing glasses that are extremely Sarah Palin-eque; also has hair of similar color/style. Wonder if I should say, “Thanks, Sarah. Hey, shot any polar bears lately?” when she comes by with drink cart. Haha. Seriously, though, she could be a 2nd rate look-alike model. Wonder how often she gets comments? Wonder if she is (she MUST be, right?) Republican? Hmmm.  Other F.A. looks very much like Vern Yip. Would it be cool to say, loudly, “Hey! Here come Sarah Palin and Vern Yip!” as cart approaches, to see if anyone chuckles.  Wish Amado were here. He’d laugh.

(-Salami smell embarks on powerful crescendo. Lots of waxy rustling one row back.)

Probably won’t, though. No rapport with seat mates established, or not enough, to make this non-weird-and-in-fact-cool-and-funny.

Dying to, though. REALLY look like them. 3rd attendant has no resemblance-thing going on, though. If I had cooler seatmates, they’d surely appreciate such wit.

-Drank 1/2 a Diet Coke. (Realize I def. prefer Pepsi.)

-Seatmate (R) now eating and exuding salami odor, too.

-Embarrassing moment: Couldn’t stand it anymore and commented pithily to L-seatmate: “Don’t you think that flight attendant looks like Sarah Palin?”  Since hadn’t spoken in ~ 1 hour, voice came out scratchy, small, and first few words blown away by the constant muffled under-roar of air, engines. He looked up from Sudoku book in slight surprise, and after parsing for a few seconds he put together what I’d said and dutifully looked up, peering left and right to see around Vern Yip. Then he politely answered that maybe she did, the glasses, maybe, and turned back to his puzzle.

You see, sometimes it really is better to squash certain impulses.


Still think she looks a lot like S.P., though.


What if I did THIS: Looked over L-seatmate’s arm and transcribed his Sudoku puzzle exactly, box for box, onto my page (not the answers, of course.) Then, tapped his shoulder and said politely, “Could you help me out on this box?” and pointed, showing him my (his) puzzle. Well! I mean, but sometimes that’s what you get for not appreciating an S.P.-lookalike. Ha.


Didn’t do it. Of course.


Guy 3 or 4 rows up ahead on left actually has pen behind EAR. He’s not even slightly “old”. And it’s parked firmly. Remarkable. Has big ears, though, and close to head. Can only assume that helps.

-Wonder if Vern Yip is lining up empty soda cans in trash in perfectly symmetrical little piles?

Tried placing small airline-drink straw behind ear just to see how it fits. It fell off almost immediately, dripping coke onto my shirt, and bounced in a weird way and landed on L-seatmate’s leg. Oops. He just looked at me and handed it back, but think some Coke got on his jeans. But at least I’m not the one farting, like I’m pretty sure HE is, so ….? Ok?

-Minor turbulence. Will NOT freak out.

Pilot says we’re “——Kansas, about an hour and a half ——”. Glad that microphone function and audibility not an indication of general flight safety.

Not liking turbulence. Wondering if should take Xanax, something I’d never do if flying with Isa? But since by myself?…. Amado not here to hold hand.

Pilot saying Buckle Up, Return To Seat. Says it’s getting “nasty.”  If that’s not a prescription tailor-made for a Xanax, I don’t know what is.

Must distract self. Think about the Sudoku thing! Ha! Ha! Laugh!Not working. May try magazine.

Exciting/Disappointing Event:

Free-to-me People magazine discovered in seat pocket! But….is dead Gary Coleman issue. Blech.

-Salami burps intruding.

Things that are satisfying:

-using a coupon and not overspending to make up for it (or so I imagine this would feel)

-using leftovers in a creative way that makes one at once feel crafty, frontier-woman-like, and less guilty for buying 3 new Disney DVD’s and a mega pack of apples.

Things That Are Vaguely Discomfiting:

Why does there always have to be at least one vaguely suspicious-terroristy looking person on every flight? Uggggh.

{from return flight notes:} Plane black except for isolated pockets of yellow. Only two from 21st row to first class; others sleeping.  L-seatmate doing crossword; have not the slightest desire to copy it letter for letter.

Plane continues to descend. Ears full of roaring/silence, need to pop, but won’t pop yet. Muted hiss and roar is a sort of timeless conduit; it’s every flight I’ve ever flown, all at once. Can’t wait to see Amado and Isabel.


Hmmmm. Now reading all of that back, it somehow seems, shall I say, less than wildly introspective?  How unfortunate that I only captured the SURFACE thoughts in my journal. I must make sure to rectify this by doing a more thorough recording job next time.

What do YOU think about when you fly alone? What do you do?  Have you ever shared a Sarah Palin joke with a seatmate, or copied their Sudoku?  How do you stay busy?  I need to know…I need ideas for next time.

Oh, and: What exactly IS D.R. doing during her voice treatments?




Maria & Jordan’s Engagement Photos

I recently took engagement photos for a VERY cool couple – my niece Maria Victoria and her fiancee, Jordan.

maria and jordan 60 bw webThey are both proud members of the United States Navy and just generally really awesome people, and it was a lot of fun to take their pictures at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden.

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They even did a few shots in their uniforms, although it was about 110 degrees that morning!

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To Maria and Jordan: Congratulations! We are all so very proud of you for your accomplishments and excited for your new life together.maria and jordan 36 bw web