Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Epic Fail

As you can probably tell from the headline, I did not complete my 50,000-word novel by the deadline of November 30. In fact, I only wrote 23,018 words (less than half!) and didn't even get to the plot part of the story. I'm trying to not get down on myself about it, reminding myself that my writing methods do not lend themselves to such an attempt, and congratulating myself on some excellent and terribly thorough character development; but I am nevertheless extremely disappointed and more than a little irked.

Mostly I'm irked about the time. I didn't get as much time to spend on this project as I'd hoped. There are so many calls on my time and energy; and then there's the need to concentrate on the writing without interruption, and such circumstances don't often present themselves when I am surrounded by people asking me questions and asking me to do things and asking me to go places or just chattering in the background.

But this is my life, so I take what I can get. I wouldn't like it if I had nobody depending on me, so I can't really complain if those people won't leave me alone.

At any rate, I'm grateful to NaNoWriMo for the inspiration to create this story; I'm going to keep working on The Math Teacher's Dead, but I am going to take a break from it for a few days to clear my head. I think I might move it over to a blog, as I did with Worst Luck, or just keep working in Google Docs for the time being... the latter is much more convenient for accessing from different places, but makes a rather unattractive web-page when you publish.


Well, in this space I was going to share with you all the other exciting (or at least amusing) things going on in my life... but there isn't anything. That book was my only pastime. Maybe now I'm not under the gun, I can think and breathe a little better.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why Must Life Be So Time-Consuming?

The NaNoWriMo novel isn't going so well... I'm more than ten thousand words behind schedule, and the month is half over. I don't see how I can possibly catch up. I'm not going to admit defeat yet, but I don't believe I'm going to make the deadline.

I guess I underestimated how difficult it would be for me to plow ahead without thinking about what I've already written. I can't give up the fine-tuning of character development...I can't just say "Danny Vandervere is thus-and-so," I have to show how he got to be that way. And since this story is a prequel, the need to establish his identity becomes even more imperative... I have to make what the teenage Danny becomes conform to what the adult Danny already is (although I have, after a great deal of arguing with myself about it, changed his hair and eye color; brown hair and brown eyes can be shown to be beautiful in a photograph, but it doesn't come across in print as well as black hair and blue eyes).

But even more frustrating is simply finding the time in which to write. I can doodle at it, mostly in editing mode, during odd snatches of the day; but to really sit and write, I need hours of uninterrupted time with no chores, no errands, no sleepiness, nobody talking to me, and no TV. And such blocks of time are few and far between... I mean, between work and Grandmother and Caroline and my must-see-TV, I don't have a hell of a lot of just plain idle time.

And while I suppose I could give up my TV shows, I can't stop working, and that's a much larger block of time; Caroline could probably find something else to do with herself for the month, but Grandmother needs me to do certain things for her...basically, the time I save giving up the things I can give up won't amount to enough time to be worth the sacrifice.

But despite my shortcomings and disappointments, I am enjoying the hell out of this project. The development is incredibly satisfying, and the research and thinking-out of plot devices and the pondering choices in scenarios has been immensely fun... I feel more alive than I have in a while.

If you'd like to take a look at what I've got so far, I'm writing it in Google Docs, which has a nifty webpage publishing feature for sharing documents: The Math Teacher's Dead.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Can't Talk: NaNoWriMoing!

So after letting Worst Luck languish for two years, I suddenly decide to write another novel... a 50,000-word novel, to be specific, in exactly 30 days. Due to various malign influences at FaceBook and JUB, I was inspired to join the annual National Novel Writing Month event (better known as NaNoWriMo, though I'm not sure how that's pronounced) and squeeze out a tome of approximately 250 pages at high speed.

The challenge, and what makes this very attractive to me right now, is that you simply don't have time to edit; you have to just produce, word after word, paragraph after paragraph, to get it done in time. Editing has always been my weakness, I'm forever going back and tweaking and fixing. But with the NaNoWriMo, it's all output and no going back... the Devil Take The Hindmost School of Writing.

The rules are simple: start on November 1 and finish on or before November 30, all new writing and nothing you've already written, nothing plagiarized of course, and have fun. You can use plots and characters already developed, just so long as the writing is brand new. I can do that, right? I mean, I write lengthy screeds all the time, thousands of words squandered in status updates and message-board arguments; it doesn't matter if the story is good, what matters is achieving the output in the time alloted.

So I was waffling between creating a new plot and characters from scratch or else mine one of the ideas I've had for later Danny Vandervere stories, which would take place after the events of Worst Luck. In the end, and very nearly at the last minute, I decided to compromise and do a sort of prequel to Worst Luck... a story about Danny Vandervere when he was a high-school senior.

So the story is called The Math Teacher's Dead (get the Julie Brown reference? No? Too incidental?) and is set in the town of Vandervere, where Danny's family owns everthing as far as the eye can see, and most of the people too. The math teacher with whom he is having an affair is murdered, and Danny is the most likely suspect; his family position is keeping the police from sniffing in his direction, but Danny wants to find out what happened before the luck of his position runs out.

A pretty thin premise, and I have no outline and no ideas yet about the structure of the story. They'll just have to come to me as I write (like the title did after the fifth paragraph I pounded out this morning). And it's very exciting, making it up as I go along; it's also exciting checking my word-count: one must average 1667 words a day to hit the goal, and I had 2112 as of noon today.

Of course, I won't always have four-hour stretches of time to myself, so I'm going to have to carve out the moments where I can. And on weekends, I need to really bulk up on the words (I'm going to try to make it to 3000 before bed tonight) so that when I fall short on the weekdays I won't lose out on too much time.

Anyway, I'm really excited about this project, and will keep you updated...I notice that when I have a writing project going, I tend to write more in my other outlets. And though I am putting all of my FaceBook apps into hibernation, and will not be downloading any games or watching any more TV than my Must See shows, I have a feeling I'll want to check in here to keep you posted on my progress. (And BTW, I'm at 2500 words now and it's not even dinnertime).


Before I go back to the opus, though, here are some pix from my very festive Halloween... Caroline and I went to this nightclub she likes called Slide, and we had a really good time. And most importantly, I looked great:

And while we were sitting there, we met this lovely boy who hung out with us for a little while. I suppose you could say we chatted, but I could barely hear what anyone was saying, could barely hear myself think under that sound system; but his name is Marlin, I got that much, and he liked the movie Where the Wild Things Are. That and being cute as a bug's ass was enough for me. Oh, and guess what song was playing when he sat down with us? Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)"!

There were lots of other beautiful young people about, many of whom I wish I'd photographed... but I never like to draw attention to myself by snapping flash photos in a corner like an old letch (and I do not use "old" casually...there's a good chance I was the oldest person in that joint; there may have been a couple of contenders for older, but it would be a pretty close call).

Of particular entertainment was a gorgeous blond boy dressed as Max from Where the Wild Things Are (hence our even talking about the film, which incidentally I am completely uninterested in seeing despite Marlin's fervent recommendation). I learned later on that it was the boy's 24th birthday, and he was having a very off-the-hook evening, flashing his boxered fanny through the drop back of his wolf suit and even stripping the thing off his torso to give us a very nice view while dancing on the table; Caroline went to freak on him at the dance floor and express her appreciation, but up loomed the boy's girlfriend, who was dressed as Mr. Peanut (or rather Ms.) Said peanut didn't care for Caroline's moves, and inserted herself cane-first between them; Caroline, game and polite, smiled her regrets and came back to the table.

"Mr. Peanut salted your game," I said, hoping she'd see the joke, which I thought was a stitch.

"I know, did you see that?" she answered, not getting it.

"You got salted by a peanut," I said more pointedly.


"Mr. Peanut salted your game, you got salted by a peanut... get it?"

She got it, and we had a good laugh about it...and she told me I have to blog about it. So here I am.

Well, back to the NaNoWriMo. I have to decide whether or not to introduce a pedophile into this introductory section of the story... well, more precisely an ephebophile, but that's a very fine distinction to many readers and I might alienate someone, so I have to think of whether and why it's important.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Goth? Emo? Steampunk?

I'm thinking of going Goth. I mean, I look good in black, I can even rock the dyed black hair; I love old-fashioned clothes, frock coats and riding boots and all that; I'm already fairly pale, and I'm emotionally unstable, and I totally dig the vampire genre...

...but then I remember that I'm 41 years old, and that brings my big black balloon back down to earth. There may be Goths in their forties, but I'm pretty sure that's not the guy I need to be.

I think part of this yen is my sudden obsession with the following:

I don't know what it is about this song, the lyrics are nonsense but the words and phrases hit me, and something about the tempo-changes and key-changes and the way it builds just really stirs me up. I have more than once started crying while listening to it.

I've also been reading a lot of Poppy Z. Brite, who can do gothic horror like nobody's business; I figure Halloween-time is the best time to read horror novels, so I loaded up at the used bookstore... and between listening through My Chemical Romance's oeuvre trying to decide if I want to download more of it, and reading Lost Souls, and forgetting to take my Wellbutrin twice this week...well, it's no wonder. You'd want to go Goth, too.

(When did I start using ellipses instead of em-dashes, by the way? It's been a habit so long, and I only recently started noticing how wrong it is.[/total non-sequitur])

Of course, one problem I face (aside from missing the appropriate age window by twenty or more years) is that I don't know what, exactly, Goth is... and how does it differ from Emo? They seem interchangeable, and yet at the same time very different. What's the music for each? Will I like it as much as I like "Welcome to the Black Parade"? Or will it send me screaming back to the showtunes and opera?

And then of course there's the Steampunk thing, which doesn't seem to have a whole lifestyle attached... it's just an aesthetic. The first I heard of this style, by the way, was in Architectural Digest, so I'm kind of leaning that way. But it seems a lot more elaborate and a lot more expensive to carry off. Yet it's also a lot more colorful than Goth, so maybe it's worth thinking about.

Too bad Halloween doesn't come once a month instead of once a year, so I'd have an excuse to try these things out and see if they work.


Speaking of Steampunk, I recently had a most amazing experience: I went to see Wicked at the Orpheum with my sister and my niece and my niece's boyfriend for the niece's 18th birthday.

(Can you believe Ariel is eighteen? Christ, that makes me feel old.)

Now, I downloaded the soundtrack... excuse me, the original cast recording, soundtracks are for movies... a long time ago and have been a fan of the music for years, "Defying Gravity" being far and away my favorite song. And I'd seen the production numbers put on for the Tonys, and had read a synopsis of the show so I'd be able to put the music in context. And I was afraid when Suzie suggested this outing that the touring company wouldn't live up to the original Broadway cast that I had memorized. But I wanted to see it, and I wanted to see it with them, so I went.

And I have to tell you, there is nothing like live theatre! I mean yeah, this cast wasn't up to Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, in fact the Elphaba and the Fiyero were played by understudies; but I was in tears almost the entire time, and every song blew me out of my chair. Oh, and Patty Duke of all people played Madam Morrible, and she was fantastic.

But to bring the sequitur back, the staging of Wicked is done in a gorgeous steampunk style that you wouldn't believe. The Time-Dragon Clock is sort of the superstructure of the stage, so there are clock and machine parts everywhere. And the Orpheum has a notoriously small stage, but the set was built out around the proscenium and into the theatre itself, even up the side walls... it was so cool!

Of course, I should have known it would be great... just the month before, I'd gone to the theatre with Grandmother and my cousin and my aunt and uncle for my uncle's birthday, where we saw South Pacific. Though I'd never seen the movie, I knew the premise if not the complete story, and the songs were mostly familiar as big-band standards.

But WOW seeing it live, with the staging and casting of the new production, was just amazing! The whole first act was just nothing but sexy and funny, and then it got serious, and then it got really serious, and then it had a happy ending and the lights came up on me flooding with tears (I pretty much cried through the whole second act).

(Here's the New York cast doing "Nothing Like a Dame"; the touring cast was WAY sexier:)

So if a musical that didn't really catch my interest beforehand could make me fall to pieces like that, I should have imagined that a musical whose score I had memorized would completely flip me out.

And now I'm addicted to live professional musical theatre. It's a damned expensive addiction... though we got our Wicked seats through a really neat lottery thing that they have once in a while (if there's a bargain to be had, my sister can sniff it out) and they only cost $25 a head for the partial-view Orchestra, when we saw South Pacific it was full-price central Orchestra and cost $105 a pop! Maybe I'll have to develop a taste for heights and get the nosebleed Balcony seats, those usually go for half that.


And sequituring around from that...I feel, sometimes, like I'm sitting in a theatre box, a pair of opera-glasses to my eyes, watching myself go crazy. Like it's not really me going crazy, but somebody playing me on stage. It's a really strange feeling. Not unpleasant at all, but a little worrisome... mostly because I know I'm not watching someone else from a distance, I'm doing all this crazy shit in my body, in my life, in front of real people.

The good news is that nobody else has really noticed that I'm going crazy. I appear to be acting normally for all intents and purposes. So why do I feel like I'm going crazy? Perhaps these meds aren't doing what they ought and it's time to switch out again.

Actually, during my normal pre-Equinox freakout, my symptoms were extremely odd. Like I never felt sad during the depression bits, but I felt so unbelievably tired...one day I had to call in sick and just lay in bed. I never felt manic, but I talked faster and was so horny I couldn't concentrate. Like the emotional symptoms were gone, leaving only the physical symptoms... and intensifying the physical symptoms. Weird, and probably not what my meds are supposed to do.

But I really don't want to change again. I hate changing meds. It's so hard getting used to the different feelings, and so hard getting the dosage rhythms just right, and so hard learning new words for different pills. It's just a hassle, is all.

Oh, well... the whole "whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger" palaver. I should be ready to run a looney-tune triathlon by now. But it's all so wearisome.

So that's all I can think of to talk about just now. I'll check back in soon to tell you all about Halloween... I'm going as a pirate again!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September Song

It's that time of year again, the dreadful weeks leading up to the autumnal equinox, in which my depression unpacks its adjectives and makes itself at home. Not that I don't get depression symptoms at other times of the year, but I always experience my severest symptoms from the beginning of August up until the latter part of September (the same thing happens in February and March...what is it about equinoxes that makes me crazy?)

But this time around, I had the job thing going on (see previous entry), and that kept me so wound up and preoccupied that I didn't really notice any symptoms. When I got to the end of the job thing, after a particularly wound-up week of interviews and waiting, and I didn't get the job... so everything unwound all at once, leaving me lying in a sticky smelly pool of emotional detritus. From there I plunged into a deep depression, and after a week of that I started swinging between depression and mania (swinging so fast and frequently that perhaps "vibrating" would be a better word), and just generally falling apart...where you find me now.

I must say, though, that I wasn't all that upset over losing the job. I mean, I was certainly disappointed, it was kind of exciting to think about, and a lot of thought and emotion and work went into the process; and then all the excitement ended in nothing more than the status quo.

But, in general, I am relieved I didn't get the job. During the interviewing process, I started to feel very strongly that I really wasn't ready for that big a jump... it wasn't just fear, it was a rational look at what I learned during the interviews which resulted in a distinct impression that it would require more of me than I had to give... specifically in the realms of authority.

I mean, I'm pretty good at being authoritative, but I have never been comfortable with exercising authority; and in that position I would have to exercise authority all over the place. I'd also have to hobnob with the executive level, not just listening attentively to their needs but also schmoozing them into accepting what I can give them instead of what they want. Not my cup of tea, you know?

Well, anyway, I'm over it. I got some good ideas about things I can do to develop myself professionally, and I will still keep an eye open for further opportunities; but in the meantime, I am going to focus my remaining energies on doing the job I have to the best of my abilities (if not better...better would probably be good).

So let's see, anything else going on in my life? Probably... but I can't think of it right now. So I guess I'll just slide off to work, wishing you a happy day and a pleasant tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

So Here's The Thing...

I was reading through my archives a few days ago, amazed at how much and how frequently I used to write here. But then, I was a few years younger and had more energy; the depression and the ensuing medications hadn't scrambled my brain yet, so I thought more efficiently; my work schedule was two fewer hours with a ten-minute commute, so I had more free time; and most importantly, I had a much easier job, so I had time on the job to write.

Nowadays, I have little energy, my brain is fried, I spend three fourths of my waking day either at work or heading to or from work, and that job keeps me completely occupied the entire time I'm there. Of course, I do have some free time, if Grandmother doesn't want me to take her somewhere, or Caroline doesn't want to go somewhere, or there are no Court shows or anything... but I seem to spend that time on Facebook or playing puzzle games or surfing for porn.

So instead of posting every time a thought crosses my mind, I've fallen into the habit of only posting when something important happens in my life... and the definition of what's important becomes broader and broader. Like, after posting about my dreadful Disneyland vacation, I rather dropped the ball and neglected to post about my quite lovely Oregon vacation three weeks later. But I didn't have any breakdowns or epiphanies, nothing amazing or horrible happened, and I took all these pictures and I'd have to upload them and I was too tired and lazy to be bothered... so the whole thing was thrown under the bus.

But before we continue, here is my favorite picture, taken along the coast:

Well, anyway, on to topic... I once again have something on my mind, something potentially life-changing, and I need to share about it and record it for posterity.

So I'm having job drama again; but this time it's neither worrying about losing my job nor being unemployed and looking for a new job: this time, I am worried about applying for a new job without having gone through the usual procedure of getting booted out of my current job first.

Wait, let me back up and give it to you in the proper order...

A few months ago, I was sitting and chatting with my office-mate (who is also my supervisor) "Beth" (not her real name, naturally) and we got on the topic of upward mobility within our company (which, you'll remember, is a social-services nonprofit).

Upward mobility is actually fairly common here, as the muckety-mucks always prefer to promote from within whenever possible, as it saves time and keeps good people working for us instead of for someone else. So Beth and I were talking about jobs that we'd seen that we might like to move on to someday. And I said I'd like to have the quality assurance job held by "Janet" (again a pseudonym), based on what I'd seen of it... she's the person you call when some input error needs to be fixed in the database, the person who trains new employees on how to use the database, and the person who massages the data and generates the data into reports for various internal and external parties.

My cup of tea, right? I love data! And it has a teaching component and a customer service component (internal customers rather than external customers, even), so it looked like the best job for me to grow into when I get tired of the job I have.

But just three weeks after this conversation, Janet up and quits to take a more research-oriented job somewhere else. I was stunned! I vowed to not covet anyone else's job ever, for fear that they would also leave abruptly. In a company that is always at least a little understaffed, sudden departures create havoc.

I particularly thought it was very poor timing... if her departure was to have been any use to me, I'd have to have some more experience under my belt, more of a reputation in the company, and more... well, moreness. I figured someone would be hired shortly, and I'd have to wait ages and ages for him or her to vacate in my favor.

Well the months passed on by, and I sort of forgot about the whole thing, except when attending the meetings of the POMSST committee (which which stands for "product outcomes management system strategy team...the POMS part is what I refer to here as "the database") on which Janet and I both served... and even more, later, as the circuits by which one requests data-corrections became increasingly Byzantine. But it did not strike me as unusual, jobs frequently remain vacant for a long time, since our company does take forever and a day to complete a hire.

But then "Doug" (who was Janet's boss) stopped by my office and asked me to please pretty-please apply for the job... all of the resumes he'd received since Janet left were from recently-laid-off engineers from video-game companies, people who had the technical quality-assurance experience but lacked the customer-service component the job requires. Though I lack the advertised qualifications (such as a business degree and three years of related experience) Doug thinks I can do the job, based mostly on my contributions to the POMSST committee as well as emails I've sent him about improving the intake forms.

Sooo... what do I do? There are so many pros and cons.

I mean, yeah, I want the job, but I don't feel ready for it yet... I wanted to stay in my current job at least another year before I started looking for advancement opportunities; but this opportunity won't be there in another year, it's here now.

On the other hand, do I really want to give up my cozy desk in my comfy office with my agreeable boss/office-mate in our lovely Berkeley location, and go work in the hideous rabbit-warren Richmond office with people I don't know in a room without windows?

On the other other hand, this new job pays WAY more money than I'm making now, like half again as much...and considering the deplorable state of my finances, this is a very persuasive point.

That's a lot of hands. There are more hands, but they're really sub-hands to the hands listed above, concerns about the commute and potential personality clashes and leaving Beth in the lurch by vacating my position. It's been very confusing and upsetting, all in all.

Well, after three weeks of dithering over all these hands, I decided to go just say "fuckitall" and go for it. Part of that decision was inspired by a whole week of customer-service overload while I covered the career center duties for its vacationing admin (after which the idea of never speaking to another external customer again had great appeal)... but more importantly, most of my objections were fear-based: a fear of responsibility and a fear of stress and a fear of being so much more of a grownup than I'm ready to be and a fear of what would happen if I got into the job and totally sucked at it (in my current job, if I make a mistake, only Beth knows; in that job, if I made a mistake, it would be known and obvious to a dozen people, several of whom are at the executive level).

Of course, some of those fears are perfectly valid... I mean, I can't take a lot of stress, it makes me sick; and my happiness does depend a lot on my environment, I need spacious rooms and windows and trees...the Richmond location is truly ugly, in a sketchy neighborhood, and a lot further away from home on congested freeways.

However, my friend Jason (who doesn't need a pseudonym, since I have been talking about him in this blog for years) who also works in the same company (who in fact told me about and helped me get my current job) soothed some of these fears. Our company almost never fires people for getting in over their heads (gross breaches of company policy being the usual cause), they just move the offending person to another position that better suits him. Our managers also respond well to negotiation, so I might very well (if offered the job) negotiate having my office in Berkeley instead of Richmond since it's more centrally located for travel to all our offices.

But the main thing he pointed out to me is that applying for the job doesn't oblige me to accept the job; I can bring up my concerns at the interview, float the idea of working from the Berkeley office... and if I decide I don't want to take the job after all, I can simply decline.

I don't know if I'll have the nerve to decline, I've never in my life declined a job... but like I said, I've never in my life been in the position of having a job I actually like when being offered another job. It's very strange.

So anyway, having decided to take the step, I had to update my resume to reflect my current job so that I could send it in with my application. But (on top of the difficulty of having to encapsulate my current job duties) after taking a gander at my most current resume, the one that I used for the job I have now, I discovered that it could not be converted... it was an administrative assistant's resume, completely unsuitable for a quality assurance job. I had to rewrite from the ground up.

Well, that took me a couple more weeks. I've always hated writing resumes anyway, the idea of trying to sell myself is always difficult for me; and I know from working in employment services that resumes have changed somewhat in form and content since I first learned to write them (more than ten years ago), so simply describing the jobs I've had won't cut the mustard anymore... I needed bullet points and sans-serif fonts and action words.

As usual with writing problems, it resolved itself on a phrase... I went to sleep thinking about personal professional assets, and woke up with the words "a strong sense of investigative curiosity" in my mouth (literally... I spoke it aloud when I woke up). From that, it was cake.

Of course, cake though it may be, the resume suffered the same lack of time and energy that affects this blog, so it was another week before I finally completed it and got it ready to fax. And even then, I had a qualm or two about faxing it... but I held my breath and pushed the buttons, and now the whole thing is out of my hands.

That was all a week ago, now I just have to wait to hear back. And I'm not on pins and needles about it, either; in fact I can't say I'm really invested in whether or not I get the job at all... making the decision to apply was enough investment, now I am perfectly content to just wait and see.

However, I am trying very hard to get caught up with my backlogged work: if offered the job, I'd really hate to leave Beth holding the bag and trying to keep up the office's workload while searching for my replacement. And even if I don't get the job, there's absolutely nothing wrong with being all caught up.

So that's what's going on with me these days. How's with you?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Et tu, Mickey Mouse?

I have always loved Disneyland. It's so bright and colorful without being idiotic, so beautifully realized and meticulously detailed... and, most importantly, clean. There are lots of huge restrooms and lots of different kinds of food and lots of shopping. The rides are fun, and the areas for the lines to the rides are usually entertaining in themselves; even the roller-coasters, which I generally loathe elsewhere, are exciting without being uncomfortable or scary. I've been there a half-dozen times before, and though some trips were better than others, I always had a great time.

Until now. I didn't realize that is was possible, but: yes, Virginia, you can be suicidally miserable in the Happiest Place on Earth.

To begin with, it was unbearably crowded (and longtime readers will know immediately that this in itself is enough to ruin a trip for me); worse, it was unbearably crowded by very small children: we visited the week of Memorial Day, just after a national holiday but before most schools let out, so there were many people on vacation but very few school-age people: most of the adults in the park were pushing strollers.

I have no idea why anybody would bring a stroller-sized child to Disneyland, most of the charm of the park is going to be lost on such creatures: they aren't going to see any magic, they can't discern how different it is from reality, they won't be going on many rides...they're just going to be pissing and screaming and wishing they were back at home with their Disney videos and their Disney toys.

To make matters still worse, there were two such creatures in my own party, my cousin's youngest two, a boy and a girl aged two and three. And while I won't go so far as to say that these tots were ill-behaved, they certainly behaved with rather less decorum than I am accustomed to expect from my companions. They did not scream ceaselessly, but still screamed rather more often than is ideal. And, like everyone of my bloodline, they have opera lungs.

Sadly, these two weren't the most frustrating aspect of our group. The thing is, unless you're going to either split up completely or stay together completely, you cannot coordinate the movements of twelve people in a crowded amusement park. Considering the width of differences in age, mobility, and tastes of all the people concerned, what we should have done was make an itinerary of what each of us wanted to do, arrange the best way for everyone to do what they wanted, and then split up and meet at exact intervals for meals and visiting; instead, we went wandering off in all sorts of directions, following one person's whim or another's, splitting up with only the vaguest plans to regroup at a particular place without agreeing on a time.

As a result, we didn't see or do very much in the park, and considering that Grandmother hadn't been there since 1960, I thought that was really too bad. My whole purpose in going with them in the first place was to be of assistance to Grandmother, to push her wheelchair and see to her needs... and what I believed she needed was to go on a couple of rides, see around the park, and spend some time with her kids, grandkids, and greatgrandkids.

Instead, we spent a lot of time waiting in a small group for the other people to show up at whatever rendezvous point we'd set. And I mean a lot of time: I spent three hours sitting at a table outside the Enchanted Princess Experience (or whatever that shillfest was calling itself; it wasn't even a ride, it was just a shop where you could buy princess paraphernalia and then stand in a line to get your picture taken with a princess character) before all of our party returned; then we went to take the Mark Twain Riverboat ride and spent another two hours waiting for everyone to regather because they split up on the way.

If you've ever been to Disneyland, you're probably aware that the Riverboat ride isn't very interesting in the dark.

And all this in roiling densely-packed crowds. Frustration + crowds + muggy heat + screaming toddlers = one seriously fucked up me. I was skirting the edges of an anxiety attack, which frequently threatened to spill into a psychotic episode, the entire two days we spent in the park. It was utterly utter miserable hell.

Oh, yeah: and there were no cute guys. NONE. That was just wrong.

But you know, even though Grandmother didn't get to do all the things I wanted her to be able to do, she did get to go on some rides, she did get to visit with family, and she did have a fantastic time: that was the whole point of the trip, so I guess it should be enough for me. And though the hell of it was quite hellish enough, it wasn't completely hellish: I did manage to get hold of the fabulous beignets at the New Orleans Jazz Cafe in Downtown Disney, and I rather enjoyed the parade (during which I cried) and the fireworks (during which I also cried...but then, I was crying a lot, anxiety does that to me).


So anyway, the rest of my vacation (I took the whole week off, one day to drive down, two in the park, one to come home, and one plus the weekend to recuperate) was extremely pleasant. I got some laundry done, slept a lot, watched some movies (if you can get hold of The Fall, I heavily recommend it), and just lay around and depressurized...both from the trip and from the work and family. Grandmother and the rest of the family went on to Arizona for a few days, so I had the house to myself, all kinds of quiet and blissful with dearth of responsibilty.

One of the things I most enjoyed was the reorganization of my wardrobe: all of the clothes that I set aside to go to Goodwill have to be revisited, since many of them were thrown out because I was too fat to wear them; but now they'll fit just fine, while many of the things I kept are now too floppy and huge for me. I'm also having to buy new pants, because the ones I had in storage weren't enough to suit my need for sartorial variety. I even had to buy new underpants because most of them were too big and didn't fit anymore.

Oh, the woe of having to shop!

But as of this morning, I have lost 40 pounds since starting my new eating habits. That's a number that makes me dance around with glee, let me tell you. Forty pounds. That's as much as my little screaming toddler cousins weigh: imagine detaching an entire toddler from your body. It feels really good.

And in general I feel really good. I'm still having money troubles (exacerbated by shopping for my new form, not to mention taking expensive vacations in Hell), the guys over at Match.com aren't falling all over themselves to get at me (though I did meet one guy, whom I really like, which is worth the price of admission), and I've been finding it unusually difficult to concentrate on anything, from work to play... despite all that, I'm really enjoying life.

I'm not going to let that enjoyment be ruined by any of the above, nor by my fear that it's all a pink cloud that will evaporate once my body completely adjusts to the new meds. We're just not going to think about that.

So I shall check in with you again next time something interesting happens; if I don't check in, it will be because nothing interesting is happening.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Cautiously Optimistic

I'm almost afraid to say it aloud (or in print) for fear that the Fates will hear me and snatch it all away, but I actually feel happy right now. Can it be that my meds are working? Is all the effort of positive lifestyle change finally paying off? Can it be that life might just return to normal after years of psychochemical chaos?

Time will tell... but for now, the Lithium-Wellbutrin cocktail is definitely doing the trick. And the exercise and the revised but still shockingly healthy diet are helping. The wearing of smaller pants, putting on shirts in which I had despaired of ever looking like anything other than a Macy's Thanksgiving Parade balloon... and having cheekbones, and beautiful hands again, I have a feeling all of these are improving my mood.

Oh, hey, take a look at some fresh photos where you can see my cheekbones and my nearly-vertical silhouette:

That last picture is my favorite... I've entitled it Alas, poor Artichoke! I knew him well, Horatio. And the second one is what I look like to myself, the face I see in the mirror but have never seen in a photograph before. It is a very exciting photo set. Caroline was the photographer, by the way...the last pic was actually taken first, in the Whole Foods produce department, the others were taken in my backyard just before sunset...it's all about the best lighting.

I had a motive in having those pictures taken... something that has come up (pardon the pun) since I've started on this new cocktail is a sudden resurgence of interest in having a boyfriend. I don't know what I would do with one, I just suddenly wanted one; and so in a fit of curiosity and romantic hopefulness, I actually signed up for a dating site. A paid dating site, even (Match.com, in case you're interested in joining me).

The first challenge was the creation of a really good profile essay. The online guides always stress selling yourself, pointing out your good qualities and demonstrating what a great catch you are. Unfortunately, I couldn't sell blankets to Eskimos, I don't really know what my good qualities are, and I don't actually believe I'm much of a catch. I mean, I know I'm a good person, I can be a lot of fun in the right circumstances, and I'm certainly presentable... I can knot a tie and tell my forks apart and everything. But I haven't ever really had a boyfriend, not in adulthood anyway (and I count "adulthood" as starting at twenty-seven), so I have no idea what qualities I could bring to such a relationship.

The first draft of my profile essay was, to my eyes, a masterpiece of charmingly self-deprecating explication. My theme was Contradictions, and I played on that theme beautifully, three paragraphs of mismatched characteristics and false appearances arranged with Aristotelian precision. I also wanted a person to approach me with no illusions that might later be problematic, so I then presented a half-dozen potential-turn-off facts about me that I read as "refreshing honesty" but others would likely read as "good reasons why nobody in his right mind should date this freak."

The response from my fellow hopefuls was a Thundering Silence. I got a couple of "winks," but all from people on the other side of the country (which baffles me), and no direct emails. During my own searches, I found a guy whose profile I absolutely loved, who referenced some favorite films and had a good gag in each paragraph, who was fairly easy on the eyes, and I thought from his comments that he might like me... so after a whole day of working up the nerve, I wrote to him; the next day he replied with a very courteous "Thanks, but no thanks" that left me reeling for another whole day (I never did learn how to process rejection).

After that, I decided to rethink my approach to the profile essay. Maybe Caroline was right, and I talked too much about myself. I mean, the "what I'm looking for in a guy" paragraph was oddly brief and waaaaaay at the bottom of the column. So I bid adieu to my fantastic paragraphs and started fresh... this time starting with what I was looking for in a relationship, who I was looking for in such a relationship, and what they might find in me (this being the approved order). And then I blathered on at some length about the rest of my profile: see, most of the profile is just dots, you click a radio-button for a choice that describes your political leanings, turn-ons, pet types, and the like. I felt a little cheated by the sparsity of those answers, so I filled the rest of my profile essay with proper expounded answers.

Wanna see it? I don't suppose you can look at it without joining the website, so I'll just copy and paste what text I can:
Life is a banquet...but where is the fishberry jam?
* 41-year-old man
* Oakland, California, United States
* seeking men 25-55
* within 10 miles of Oakland, California, United States

Relationships: Never Married
Have kids: None
Want kids: Do not want to have kids
Ethnicity: Asian, White/Caucasian
Body type: About average
Height: 6'3" (190cms)
Religion: Agnostic
Smoke: No Way
Drink: I don't drink alcohol
Hair: Dark brown
Eyes: Grey
Best Feature: Eyes
Body Art: None
Sports and exercise: No Answer
Exercise habits: Exercise 3-4 times per week
Daily diet: Keep it healthy
* Book club/Discussion
* Coffee and conversation
* Dining out
* Movies/Videos
* Museums and art
* Music and concerts
* Performing arts
* Playing cards
* Shopping/Antiques
Education: Bachelor's degree
Occupation: Administrative / Secretarial
Income: $35,001 to $50,000
Languages: English
Politics: Liberal
Sign: Capricorn
My Place: Live with parents/extended family
Pets I have: Reptiles
Pets I like: Birds, Dogs, Fish

For fun:
Reading, writing, online message boards and social sites; trivia, etymology, languages, history, art, jewelry; bargain shopping, window shopping, grocery shopping; finding surprising new things to like.

My job:
I work for a non-profit social services agency, chiefly engaged in data management, but also poking my nose into other facets of human services. It's incredibly satisfying to do work that supports people in need.

My ethnicity:
I'm only one-eighth Chinese (people usually say it shows in my eyes), but I'm very proud of that heritage; I'm also Irish, German, Dutch, and Norwegian, but these were all homogenized by too many generations in the US.

My religion:
I believe that God exists, the creator and central intelligence of the universe... but that's as far as I'm willing to commit myself.

My education:
I'll never stop learning, though I stopped paying money for it when I got my BA in English Literature from San Francisco State (magna cum laude, which means very little but I'm unreasonably proud of it).

Favorite hot spots:
Bay Street, Piedmont Avenue, College Avenue, Solano Avenue, and Mountain View Cemetery (no, I'm not goth, it's very pretty there) are favorite local hangouts; Victoria BC, Waikiki HI, and Disneyland are my favorite vacation spots (so far).

Favorite things:
Mystery novels, jewelry, all kinds of art, crossword puzzles, elephants; Big Band music (especially Ella Fitzgerald), classical music, pop and rock and whatever else makes me move or think; conversations with lots of laughter (dry humor is best).

Last read:
Just finished Charlaine Harris's 'All Together Dead' and started on 'From Dead to Worse.' I'm on a vampire serial binge these days.

About my life and what I'm looking for

I'm looking to add a zing of romance to my life... and I don't mean the "candlelight, flowers, and strolling violinist" kind of romance (though that's nice), I mean the "I get a thrill of electricity in my heart when I see you" kind of romance. How that zing might develop, I have no idea, no agenda: it could be a flirty friendship, dating, LTR, or even marriage (once it's legal again); I'd like to see what happens without pushing it in one direction or another.

Nor do I have a "type" when it comes to men, none of the men I've loved in the past had much in common, physically... what's important is that mysterious "click" of attraction. We have it or we don't, and you can never predict who will click.

I do, however, require a man to be kind, to have a generous heart and a teachable mind, to have a respectful suspicion of social convention and an instinctive distrust of easy answers, to be fairly free of expectations and resentments - but not quite perfect just yet. The quirks and imperfections are where the flavor is found!

But enough about you, let's talk about me! I'm a lot of fun in conversation (I even like talking to myself), I have a head full of arcane facts and pertinent analyses, I'm great at color-coordinating, and I have excellent table-manners. I prefer ideas to opinions and questions to answers. I vastly prefer being indoors to being outdoors, though there are some outside things I like; I hate all sports...nothing wrong with them, they just bore me into a coma; strenuous physical activity is anathema, and though I go to the gym to keep myself healthy and will occasionally dance or lift heavy objects or push a vacuum-cleaner around, I don't find any pleasure in it.

Huh, 2325 characters left to go. I hate blank space. Allow me to elucidate some of the radio-button questions that dissatisfied me:

Want kids: I hesitate to admit that I don't like children, as it makes people think I'm an ogre. Thing is, I do like children, but only from a distance: I can't keep up with their needs, I exhaust quickly around them, and I would make a miserable parent.

Body type/Diet: I just lost 30 pounds with a diet and exercise plan. I've become so accustomed to the diet (mostly oats, lean meat, green vegetables, and supplements) that I get sick when I eat "normal," which has made restaurants something of a challenge. Now I need to step up the exercise portion to tone and shape what's left. But I feel oddly shy about going into the shape/tone part of the gym, I always feel like people will laugh at me.

Smoke/Drink: I quit smoking 11 years ago; my aunt has cancer and my father has COPD, so I've become a bit of an anti-smoking fascist. I've also been sober almost 14 years; I'm not so fascistic about the drinking, but I don't like the smell of it.

Hair: it's dyed dark brown; underneath, it's mouse-brown with great clumps of rat-gray.

Best Feature: I had to say "eyes" because nothing that I consider a best feature was listed... I'm told I have a beautiful speaking voice, I've received many compliments on the texture of my skin, and I think my toes are cute.

Sign: Capricorn with Scorpio rising and Gemini moon.

My Place: I live with my Grandmother. She's ninety and Texan and conservative ("the whole gay thing" is still a bone of contention between us, since I am out), mostly very sweet and kind but occasionally cantankerous. She is my priority: she was here for me from the beginning of my life, everything good in me comes from her; and I'm going to be here for her to the end of her life.

Pets: my Claudius is a 2.5-year-old red-eared slider, almost 5 inches long. He's very standoffish, he hates being touched and spends most of his time staring at me from under his basking rock...and I love him dearly.

If there's anything else you want to know, I maintain an open-books policy, so shoot me an email; let's see if we can get that "click" to happen for us.

So, that's not too bad, is it? You wouldn't hit the back button so fast it breaks your mouse, would you? Well, the proof shall be in the pudding... I just posted the new essay yesterday, along with a new profile pic (cropped from the artichoke picture above...do you think I should have used another one?) and there hasn't been time for much response.

And, honestly, I don't have much hopes of this yielding anything more than something I can chalk up to experience. But hey, I already spent the money, I might as well spin the wheel.

Well, anyway, I'm out... I have to go check out the menfolks in my Daily 5 matches, which I noticed had refreshed when I went over to copy my profile text. Have a super day, and don't take any wooden igloos.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Climbing the Chasm

After that last post, my yo-yo got stuck at the end of the string, and I was in an extremely unpleasant place for a couple weeks... angry all the time, and tired, and uncomfortable in my own skin. But then my psychiatrist told me to just jack up the lithium to the next dose and see if that helps (and if it doesn't, we'll add an antidepressant, maybe Zoloft or Wellbutrin) ... and it did! It made me very very sleepy for a whole week, but I was no longer depressed or angry.

Well, I was angry, but not so much. I've discovered that a lot of the free-floating anger I've been experiencing lately is actually caused by people: I am very angry with certain specific people, and I have no way of talking to them about it... I actually doubt that talking to them would even make a positive difference; and with no way of processing the anger, it just sits and festers and makes me irritable so that I become angry at other people and things and situations for no apparent reason.

But my mood, in general, has been pretty good (aside from the fatigue, though that's starting to pass off, as well), no crying or screaming or needing desperately to get out of my body. And I guess that will just have to do for the time being... unless you have a pill for this creeping sense of hopelessness? This odd sensation that no matter how hard I try, I'm never going to get any farther than the quagmire in which I currently wallow? Do they make a pill for that?


So, during that very dark period, I had to go off of my diet. It occurred to me (and this opinion was backed up by other authorities) that my severe limitation of carbohydrates might be having a deleterious effect on my mood... apparently, too few carbs can trigger serious depression. So I went off the diet, allowed myself to eat a scone here or some toast there... but nothing crazy, still no candy or white-bread or potato-chips.

In fact, I probably only added a few hundred calories to the daily intake, almost exclusively from whole-grain (or "slow") carbs. And my weight-loss slowed, but didn't stop. I'm now 22 pounds down, and almost ready for those size-36 pants (which I fortuitously stored in the basement when I had to start wearing 38s...I got rid of the 34s, though... I mean, let's be real).

The financial diet has been harder than I expected, though. I have been paying my bills, stashing my savings, and keeping very close track of my expenditures; but numbers are not exactly my forte, and I can't figure out why my financial register (which I maintain in Excel) doesn't match with my bank statement. So then I sit and try to compare and (uhm, what's that word again?) reconcile the numbers, and it gives me an immediate headache.

Maybe I'll get better with practice. But I'd rather spend my frightfully limited energy on something else, like maybe my work. Speaking of which, I have to go there again...

May the heavens tickle you in the naughty places!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Being the Yo-Yo

Playing with a yo-yo isn't all that fun... I mean, it's amusing for a moment, once you get the hang of it; but unless you have the dexterity and the time to devote to learning tricks (with which to amuse others), it's just something to keep your hands busy while you wait for something better to come along.

But as boring as playing with a yo-yo can be, imagine how much fun it is(n't) to be a yo-yo: up and down, down and up, around the world, walking the dog, spinning and bouncing... and none of it under your own control.

I don't know if I like what my new medication is doing for my mood. It's certainly not stabilizing it, as a mood-stabilizer should: rather it's keeping me from staying very long in either the depths of depression or the heights of mania. I am not depressed for days on end, I'm depressed for an hour or two; I'm not manic for a week, I just start thinking obsessively until the next mood-swing comes along; and I'm seldom just normal, I'm mostly swinging between the two extremes.

One of the things that makes these swings so different from what I've had in the past is that they seem to be connected to outside influences... I'm not depressed for no reason, or obsessive for no reason: I get depressed or obsessed when someone makes me sad or angry. I'd almost become accustomed to feeling something for no reason; but now I'm feeling things for a reason... and feeling so much more strongly, so much sadder or angrier than the situation warrants, certainly more than I am comfortable feeling.

I mean, I'll be watching a movie and something sad will happen, and rather than a passing sensation of sympathy, I actually despair, I weep and hurt and want to die...and if something else reminds me of it a week later, I start crying again! Or someone at work will irritate me, and rather than just call him or her an asshole (silently, of course) and go about my business, I obsess over how horrible that person is and how much nicer the world would be without that person and how much I'd enjoy physically harming that person and... well, you get the picture.

These are all things I'll need to discuss with Dr. Shrinkimadink when I see her in April. In the meantime, I'm just trying to keep it together. Psych meds always take so long before you get the full effect, it takes a lot of patience. And as far as side-effects go, the lithium isn't so bad. It's slowing my weight-loss, and I can't hold my water through the night so my sleep is always interrupted, and I feel pretty stupid unless I take double-doses of fish oil and ginko biloba; but there has been no hair-loss, liver dysfunction, nor sexual side-effects, so I guess I'm doing OK on that front.


In other news, the diet continues apace... another three pounds, bringing me to a grand total of sixteen pounds removed ("weight loss" is such an uninspiringly passive phrase, so I've started calling my diet "weight removal"). And I'm starting to actually look thinner, there is no longer any foldover between belly and groin, and my pants are starting to feel loose. Yay, me!

I'm now at the halfway point in the ten-week program, and I couldn't be more pleased. Well, I could be more pleased... like if I was losing faster and working less hard for it... but I'm as happy as is probable to be.

Well, my chatty mood has dissipated... I guess I'd better go do something else instead. Dancing with the Stars is coming on soon, I think I'll go put on my watching-other-people-dancing-shoes!


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Diets & Budgets: So Very Alike

While it's a little early to call my diet a "success," I am certainly on track (13 pounds total as of Monday), and I am learning a lot about what I can eat versus what I want to eat versus whether it's even worth trying to trade one for another.

One of the things I've discovered is that I don't have to eat certain kinds of food, I just habitually eat them. I "want" to eat bread and chocolate and mayonnaise (yes, straight out of the jar, I almost did it the other day when I was upset), but I want them out of habit more than out of any particular desire for them... I think they'll make me feel good, they don't actually make me feel good.

If I went and ate a hamburger right now, I would certainly enjoy the flavor, but I wouldn't feel any better afterward, it wouldn't make my day any brighter or my mood any happier. It would just be a passing pleasure with an uncomfortable cost in wasted calories and fat-grams (a cheeseburger from In-n-Out is something like 500 calories, a third of my entire daily intake). Candy is the same, the amount of calories in a little mini chocolate-bar is equal to half of an entire meal, and it's not nearly as big or filling.

So I'm starting to look at food as simply fuel, rather than as something from which I have to derive pleasure. Of course, I require that my food taste good, bad-tasting food actually depresses me, but I don't need all the textures and varieties and gourmet hoop-de-doo that I thought I needed... that's all just habit, not need.

My daily diet now consists of very simple small meals at regular intervals (two hundred calories every two hours). For breakfast at 7 a.m. I drink a vitamin shake I bought from a very persuasive salesman at GNC, which fills me up fairly well; at 9 a.m., I have a Clif Bar with my tea; at 11, I prepare my lunch, which I split into two equal portions, consisting of a steam-bag of green vegetables (but not leafy-green, I can't stand those) and either plain fish fillets or thick slices of lean lunch meat (turkey, ham, beef); at 1 p.m., I eat an orange and two cheese sticks (made from low-fat milk, only sixty calories each), or maybe a bag of raw sugar-snap peas; I eat the second half of my lunch at 3; and then at 5, I eat another Clif Bar on my way to the gym, where I do twenty or thirty minutes of cardio (depending how crowded it is...there's a 20-minute rule when people are waiting), jam out on my iPod, and ogle the passing hotties (and get very irritated when there are no hotties... last Tuesday, I swear I was the hottest guy there).

Then for dinner at 7 it's either another fish fillet or else a smallish piece of meat with raw greens like arugula, maché, or baby spinach (my inability to eat cooked leafy greens has been something of a hurdle in my meal planning), maybe with a tomato and a few squirts of spray salad dressing; finally I get a bed-time snack at 9, which is usually a cup of warm milk and either cheese sticks or turkey slices. I've been averaging about 1450 calories a day, and I seldom ever get hungry.

None of the food is very exciting, it's in fact quite plain; but I'm not getting tired of it, either... and best of all, it's really easy to prepare. Those steam-bags of veggies are the cat's ass, let me tell you (Birds Eye started the trend, but Safeway came out with a store brand which I rather prefer; especially the string beans with edamame and mushrooms, divoon)... throw 'em in the microwave for five minutes, dump them in a bowl, and you're in business! And the fish fillets (I use Gorton's, grilled salmon or tilapia, no breading and only a whisper of sauce) are just as easy, put them on a plate and nuke for four minutes, and that's all you have to do.


So, again while I wouldn't yet call it a success in toto, the success-so-far has inspired me to start "dieting" in another portion of my life: my finances. My credit record is an absolute shambles (score in the mid-600s), my credit-card debt is a shocking mess (though not as big as a lot of people's), and I overdrew my checking account again this week (I keep forgetting about my student loan payments for some reason), resulting in crippling overdraft charges.

I found myself, the last couple of days, asking myself why I put up with this crap from myself; rather than let it continue, I have taken what I learned from creating my diet-and-exercise regimen and am applying the new knowledge to a budget-and-savings regimen: First, I set some goals (zero balance on my credit cards, and three months' pay in my savings account, within three years); then I figured out a plan (using a credit-card calculator, I discerned how much to pay on my credit cards every month, and then put those and my other expenses in a nice spreadsheet to see what I can do on my base pay); and most importantly, am going to start right now rather than "someday."

I believe that what I have to do to make this work is stop thinking of money as something to spend... or, rather, stop thinking of money as something that makes me happy when I spend it. Yes, I derive a great deal of pleasure from buying things, but it's simply not worth the pain of getting slammed with increased interest payments (I'm over 33% APR on all three of my credit cards) and overdraft fees (I just gave the bank $150 that it already knows I don't have).

Essentially, I have to prioritize the fleeting pleasure of an eBay spree against the lasting pleasure of financial security, just as I have prioritized the fleeting pleasure of a mortadella-and-provolone-on-rosemary-focaccia-with-pesto-mayonnaise against the lasting pleasure of being able to see my penis without a mirror. I can't have both, I have to choose... and I shall choose what will give me the greater benefit rather than the immediate fix.


I sound so sententious when I'm starting on a new project, don't I? I'm going to have to work on that. Lighten up, bitch! It's just life, nobody gets out alive!

Here's wishing you a spectacular day. Love!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Walking on Imported Air

So I just came back from the scale and can report the loss of (and good riddance to) three more pounds! That makes for a grand total of ten pounds... and ten pounds are so much easier to visualize than seven... lots of things come in ten-pound increments, potatoes and flour and oranges.

Better still, it's really starting to show! Not around my tummy, so much (belly fat is stubborn), but in my face and neck and hands: I'm down to just one chin, I can see my cheekbones, and my old rings fit again! It's very gratifying.

It's also very time-consuming... planning meals, meticulously recording calories, fat grams, carb grams, and protein grams of everything I eat, looking up nutritional information online when I eat something that didn't come prepackaged... and it simply takes longer to eat a bowl of chewy vegetables and a slab of turkey than a nice soft sammidge, longer to peel and chew an orange than to peel and chew a Snickers. And then there's the gym time...not just the time I spend in the gym, which is only about thirty or forty minutes, but also the changing clothes, the extra little bit of drive, finding a parking space, taking a few minutes every morning to repack my bag, making sure my iPod is charged, and so on.

It is so time-consuming, in fact, that I haven't got time for other things that I enjoy doing... for example, I started this blog-post, as the date-stamp and first paragraph will attest, on Monday morning; however, I am completing it just before bedtime on Tuesday night. My gift apps are stacking up over on FaceBook, and I've barely made a peep on JUB. I'm even neglecting eBay!

But hey, you give a little, you get a little. Nobody ever got anything worthwhile without sacrificing something along the way... I'm giving up some leisure and a few pleasures in exchange for a much healthier (and easier-to-look-at) body. It's not an ideal exchange (one would of course prefer all the benefits without any effort at all), but it's the going rate.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Seven Pounds

I'm trying to develop a visualization of what a seven-pound object might look and feel like. Say, a newborn baby, or a bag and a half of flour, or one of those supersize tubes of cheap hamburger. Seven pounds of potatoes, seven pounds of jelly-beans, seven pounds of foam peanuts.

See, when you weigh two hundred and fifty-two pounds, and you lose seven of them, it seems rather a meager drop in the bucket, a paltry 2.7% of the total; but if you think about carrying a seven-pound object around with you, and then getting to put it down, it takes on a different dimension... it seems somehow more impressive. Say, a gallon of milk and two boxes of eggs in a shopping bag. Or a dozen paperback books in a knapsack.

At any rate, I've launched into week three of the diet, and it's still going really well. I haven't lost my momentum or my focus, I'm still enjoying the challenge of filling my belly without padding it up further, and I've seen the truth about how exercise elevates your mood (something I always knew on a logical level, but just last week experienced: I was suicidally depressed, but I made myself go to the gym anyway, and after a mere twenty minutes of cardio I felt quite fantastic).

I have this image of myself returned to the slender figure of ten years ago (well, fifteen years would be better, but not realistic at all), the figure that I still identify with myself. And I'm going to hang on to that image until I get there... thirty-four waist, I'm comin' to gitcha!


So let's see, what else exciting is going on in my life?

Last week, my kilt and related paraphernalia arrived in the mail. And, as promised, I wore it to work on Friday, and got quite a few compliments (and a number of bemused stares). I thought I looked pretty good in my get-up:

The kilt was very comfortable, except for having to hold the pleats in the back when I sat down. The sporran was a little bit of a trial, too, but that's just because I'm simply not used to having a big furry object bumping my basket when I walk. I also left the hat off, for though it looked quite dashing on me, it was a little too warm indoors for it.

I don't think I'll wear it to work again, but I'll certainly sport it for parties and such in the future. My next purchase (in installments) is going to be a full-regalia formal outfit with the Prince Charlie jacket, the fly (that's the scarfy sort of thing that goes over the shoulder), flashes (the little flags on the socks) and maybe even some ghillie brogues (the laces wrap around your ankles)... I'm very interested in the "Pride of Scotland" tartan for this outfit (also called "Honour of Scotland," it's mostly heather-purple and soft gray-blue with green and white highlights), and am even considering getting a starter-kit bagpipe to see what I can make of it.

Or, conversely, I may lose interest in the whole Scots proposition. It has been known to happen before, I get all obsessed with something, but once I actually get it and play with it a bit, I just stop caring. Witness my dollhouses, all of which are jumbled down in the basement and completely ignored, though once they were the very light of my life.

Well, anyway, after the kilt day, it was time to return to my more accustomed skirts, as Saturday was the (45th Annual) San Francisco Imperial Coronation at the Gift Center. This is one of the events I always love to attend, San Francisco is the Mother Court and so delegations from all over the country come to honor Mama Jose and the drag empire that started it all.

I had been looking forward to this event for quite some time, having bought a dress for it long in advance. And I have to say, the outfit was one of my most successful looks:

You can't quite tell from this picture, but my shoes matched my corset. Caroline made three of the necklaces for me, the longest one and the bib from Swarovski crystals. And though the hair is a little too "closer to God" for my usual tastes, one does have to make a little more of an effort for SF Imperial. I mean, there are queens there with tiaras that weigh more than the weight I lost in the last two weeks! The Empress of Las Vegas came in with a tiara that was at least four feet tall, and her hair was about another foot above that! I looked practically conservative in that company (oh, check out the photos at RichTrove.com).

And speaking of company, here I am with my reigning Royal Grand Duchess, SoHorny Beaver, and this year's Queen of Hearts as well as Royal Princess, Vivian Lee St. Michael:

I had a lovely time at the event, though I have to say I got a little bit bored towards the middle (I didn't really know the reigning Emperor John Weber nor Empress Cher A Little, nor did I have any personal stake in the coronation of the new Emperor Paul Maka Poole and Empress Angelina Josephina Manicotti), and had to leave before the third act because it was getting too close to my bedtime.

But I didn't get anxious around all the people, I didn't feel lonely or awkward, and I got to chat with a lot of people I know and some I'd never met before. And I even stuck to my diet, even though there was quite lovely-looking food at the table, as I'd had the foresight to stuff my purse with 130-calorie Atkins bars.

Well, I can't think of much else to talk about now... life is rumbling along alright, and I'm pretty happy about it. So I guess I'll close with a spot of lovely young man, and bid you a simply fabulous day!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Boing, Boing, Boing!

You know, sometimes unhappiness can be a great motivator. The mood I was in when I wrote the last post was me hitting bottom, and all this week I've been bouncing back up off that bottom. It's quite pleasant and invigorating.

I think some of it is the new medication... though only a week and a half into it, now that the horrible-nightmare-side-effect is gone, I am seeing some results... but just being on a new medication feels like "doing something."

And since I love a theme, when I started the new meds, it seemed like a good idea to add more "doing something"s to the mix. So when I was at the Kaiser pharmacy getting my lithium prescription filled, I bought this cute little book they had at the counter, a ten-week food-and-exercise journal from Calorie King (a damned useful website, with a food info database that can't be beat), in which you record all the food you eat, counting calories and fat grams as well as carbohydrate grams and protein grams; you also record your exercise for the day, and take body measurements every week and summarize your food/exercise averages.

On Monday I sat down with the book, not long after finishing that last post, and read through some of its suggestions and figured out what I was going to do to lose some weight. Now, I knew from previous diets that if you cut four hundred calories off your daily intake, you should lose three pounds a week; and if I manage to lose three pounds a week for the ten weeks of this journal, that would be a satisfyingly substantial thirty pounds. A person of my size should take in around 2400 calories a day to maintain weight, so I'm trying to limit myself to 2000 calories.

Thus far it's been a smashing success. All this week I've been averaging 1600 calories (food minus exercise), and taking in perfectly healthy amounts of protein and vitamins while I'm at it. I'm eating a lot of vegetables (and I mean a lot, like four servings just for lunch), replacing dairy with lean meats (turkey is a great night-time snack), avoiding empty starches and getting my carbs from whole grain whenever possible (like multi-grain bread instead of white), and drinking absolute gallons of water every day. I've almost completely cut out sweets, only indulging if it's a special occasion (like a birthday) and even then having only the tiniest sliver of cake or pie. And I'm trying to get to the gym for at least twenty minutes of cardio every day, though so far I've only managed three out of seven days.

I haven't weighed and measured yet (I intend to do that in the morning), but even if I haven't lost weight or girth yet, I have to say that I feel a hell of a lot better. I'm standing up straighter, I'm sleeping better, I have fewer headaches, and my mood is dancing on the verge of actual happiness.

Hopefully, it will last and isn't just a temporary side-effect of the new meds... but even if it doesn't last, I think I'm developing some really good habits. I'm learning a lot about food, too... like, I never would have guessed that pork loin is lower in calories, equal in fat, and higher in protein than beef loin... DuBuque canned ham in particular is surprisingly low-cal. And I'm finding a great deal of satisfaction in eating a steam-bag of veggies with sliced turkey instead of a sandwich for lunch... more filling and I have more energy in the afternoon. And I discovered that the treadmills at the gym each have their own personal TV attached! No more ESPN and MSNBC with subtitles, I can watch whatever I want!

So anyway, that's what this week has been like. I'll check in again next week, or sooner if something interesting occurs to me.


Monday, February 16, 2009

In Which Cthulhu Ruins a Perfectly Lovely Party...

I'm very unhappy right now. The last two days, it has really been borne in on me that I have an incurable disease... treatable, perhaps, but a disease that will be with me for the rest of my life. I mean, I knew that, but I just didn't realize it, if you know what I mean. And if I wasn't already depressed, that would certainly depress me.

But then, I do have some experience with treatable but incurable diseases that don't show on the outside... I mean, I've been living in recovery for alcoholism for fourteen and a half years. But with the alcoholism, the treatment is simple and holistic... don't drink, go to meetings, do the steps. There's no chemical medication to screw around with, no doctor and pharmacist to see, no inability to function in the day-to-day world (at least there wasn't for me).

So I guess I'm going to have to work on moving from realization to acceptance. I thought I had accepted the bipolar disorder, but I guess I hadn't considered all of its facets and depths. Maybe I should think of a better phrase than "incurable disease"... how about "PermaNut"? Or maybe "The Eternal Consistent"?


So Dr. Shrinkimadink went all old-school on me and prescribed Lithium as a mood stabilizer. It's like the oldest psych med still on the market... and I figure if it's still around, it can't be that harmful, so why not give it a whirl?

Of course, it's a little early to tell if it's working, but in the five days since I started, it's manifested some side-effects already that I could really live without... I keep waking up in the middle of the night and am unable to get back to sleep. Worse, I had the most horrible and incredibly vivid nightmares on Sunday night.

With the waking up, the nightmares were divided into three distinct parts. In the first one, I was in a mansion with some people I didn't know, rather like the characters from Clue (the game, not the movie) but not exactly them; during the course of a week spent in this mansion (which was so vividly real that I could draw you a floor-plan of it), each night a malign creature from above reached down into the house with dozens of long tentacles (sometimes squidlike, sometimes metal), plucked one of the guests through a window or skylight, and then destroyed the part of the house we had been standing in. There was this terrible sense of hopelessness, of wondering when I would be next, trying not to get too attached to my doomed fellow guests, grieving for the destruction of lives and the beautiful house.

The second dream was the exact same story, in the exact same house, but more vivid, with more lifelike characters from movies and from my own writing. The malign creature was more specific and realistic, a thing from outer space with a zillion long tentacles and these huge claws (the only parts of the creature we ever saw...it was only after I woke up that I put the name Cthulhu to it, in the dream it was just there), and it didn't limit itself to one victim but rather plucked as many as it could from whatever ingress it could find, completely at random. And like I said, it was vivid... it was like it was really happening, the details were perfect, the horror was real, it was so terrible that it's haunted me all day.

The third dream was rather more dreamlike and surreal, but somehow sadder and more painful. There was another house, but this one was a huge overcomplicated Victorian by the sea, in which someone I loved was trapped (I didn't know who, exactly, I think it was Shiloh but it might have been one of my fictional characters); trying to get to him, I was being pursued by a malign entity that could assume any form and could alter my location, even the time... I would be in a room, and it would morph into another time and place in which something horrible was about to happen, and from which I had to escape before it happened. The entity would take human form and torment me in the shape of strangers and friends and family. And no matter how hard I tried to get to that room, I kept getting further and further away.

Anyway, it upsets me to just write about it, to remember it at all... but I've been afraid that if I didn't write it down, it would just haunt me, take up room in my mind, keep bothering me.

I hope this isn't going to be the usual thing with the Lithium... I will go stark staring mad if I keep having nightmares like this.


So anyway, what else is there to talk about? I had a really great day on Saturday, Caroline and Jason and I went to the RGDC King & Queen of Hearts Show. I was one of the emcees, so I couldn't back out at the very last minute like I've been doing, and so though I was feeling depressed and anxious all day, I went anyway.

And I'm so glad I did! I had a fantastic time; after a few minutes of near-panic anxiety, I just perked right up and did a great job emceeing, and had a very good time all evening. I usually do have a better time if I'm more involved in what's going on, that something I have to remember next time I'm feeling icky at an event... just get involved, and you'll feel better.

Unfortunately, I then spent Sunday in a complete crash, weary and weepy and suicidally depressed... not helped at all by the fact that it was pouring down rain all day. I tried to distract myself with reading, but the stories (short historical murder mysteries) seemed terribly sad; I put on a DVD, but the violence (I was watching the second season of HBO's Rome) made me even sadder. The whole day was just a ghastly mire of sadness... even comedies and porn made me sad. But oh, well. I didn't kill myself or anybody else, so I guess it worked out OK.


In other news, I am in the grip of a new obsession: kilts!

I was browsing around on the JUB message board, and somebody mentioned Utilikilts, how sexy and comfy they were, and there was a link to the website. So I went to the website and thought they looked kind of neat, but then I saw the prices... upwards of $150! So I went on eBay to see if I could find them cheaper (because that's what I always do when I'm offended by a price, regardless of whether I want the thing or not), and found that they still went for really high prices, even the used ones.

But while I was dawdling around, I started looking at traditional Scottish kilts, and suddenly got hooked on them. I learned a lot about plaids, particularly generic tartans that don't signify any particular family or clan, such as the Pride of Scotland, the Saltire, and various other such. I learned about lengths and construction and how and with what to wear kilts (such as the fact that the boy above is wearing his kilt wrong-way-round... the pleats go in the back!)

After a lot of shopping around and thinking things over, I ended up buying a plain black kilt, with matching hose and a Glengarry cap and a kilt pin and a rabbit-fur sporran. Then from another vendor I bought a long-sleeved black T-shirt with a gorgeous white Gaelic design on it, and a silver and amethyst thistle brooch for the hat. So far this little folly has set me back over $200, and I haven't even started on belts and shoes! I'm also looking at some other things to round out the outfit, hell a whole Scots wardrobe... Prince Charlie jackets and ghillie shirts and fly plaids and...oh, it's just endless!

But whence came this sudden and overwhelming fascination with all garb Scottish, I have no idea. The funny thing is, I'm not even remotely Scottish, not a drop of Scots blood in my whole body. My mother's adoptive mother was born a MacDonald, and I suppose I could claim that if I wanted to... though the MacDonald plaid isn't really to my taste (too much orange); and of course there are Irish tartans, which are by county rather than by name, and I have plenty of Irish ancestors.

And in case you were wondering... I intend to wear boxer-briefs under my kilt, despite tradition's decree that one wear nothing underneath. I'm all for traditions, but not when it means getting a breeze up my hoo-hoo.

So that's about it for me... I'll check back in next time I have anything of interest to say. Toodles!