Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Aaah! I've gotten behind in my posting.  I've been tied up with some things that have been keeping me busy.  But despite the pace, the good news is that I've continued to focus on taking care of myself, physically, mentally, and creatively.  (Which, as it turns out, can all be done the same way.)

On the Physical front...
Movement. Tom and I have kept out promise to exercise 5/7 so far this week. We went walking (while estate sale shopping) on Saturday. We swam and stretched for an hour on Sunday. Monday and Tuesday were my planned 2/7 off (due to evening outings both days.)  We're back in the pool again tonight. 

Munching. One thing I've been really proud of lately is my commitment to keep up with my LiveStrong Daily Plate, where I document my calorie intake and exercise.  The big difference lately is that I'm forcing myself to be completely honest, reflecting exactly what I eat - no fudging, no forgetting.  Even if I have an off day (and I do have them, especially if I get home late or I'm overtired) I note exactly what I eat.  Previously, if I had a higher-caloric day, I might have ignored it, conveniently forgetten to enter my calories that day... which would lead to forgetting to enter the next day... and the next... until I wasn't being as mindful.  And it's fascinating, observing how those higher numbers happen. They tend to revolve around restaurants, or food we otherwise didn't make ourselves.  For instance, I was hungry today and had already eaten my sandwich by 11:00.  When the bosses came around and told us all they were ordering pizza for us, I was still hungry, and I said I'd join in.  Before it arrived, I plugged "2 pieces" into my Daily Plate, and saw that my calorie goal for the day was going to be completely fulfilled by noon. So I ate my afternoon salad, and now I feel like a single piece of pizza is going to suffice - with the benefit of leaving me enough budgeted calories for dinner.

So yay for this week's afternoon salad: Veganomicon's curried carrot dip.
Photo from Kahakai Kitchen

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
2 tsp grapeseed or other vegetable oil
1/2 tsp minced garlic1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Boil the carrots for 7-10 minutes, until soft. Drain and let cool just until they are no longer steaming. Place the sunflower seeds in a blender or food processor and process until crumbs. Add all remaining ingredients and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the processor as you go. Taste for salt and adjust the spices and lemon.

On the mental and creative front...

Well-filling.  In our home, we use a metaphor - one that I originally learned from my mother, actually - to describe what we have left to give, to ourselves, and to others.  When we've given too much, our well is empty.  When we've done more creative output than we have sought out creative inspiration, we run dry.  So we have to refill our wells on a regular basis.  We do this by making sure we have time to relax, to take care of ourselves.  We also do this by immersing ourselves in something that is new to the senses - new food, new art, new locations... anything that takes you out of the everyday can fill a creative well.  This weekend, well-filling started out at Universal's Haunted Horror Nights, which we attended on Friday.  Very fun, as always - though not up to par with some previous years.  (And nothing beats that first year, where everything was fresh and new to us.)   Then we found ourselves with some unexpected time on Saturday, so we took an impromptu trip around town to visit some estate sales.  This was such a blast - but more on that, later (plus photos of our finds.)

Water.  I've been keeping up with my ceremonial water-pouring in the mornings, plus time underwater in the evenings.  Nothing clears my mind more than time spent submerged or floating, swimming or stretching in a pool.  My friend Eric once told me he could tell, based on my conversation, whether or not I'd been swimming that day.  It's good to be back.

Writing.  We've done it - we've finished the second episode of Bubble Gumshoe.  Though we're considering collapsing all 5 mini-episodes into one 22-minute piece, which would just mean act II of V were done.  But we're moving along at a nice clip, and we've made the writing a firm habit (even on mornings after evenings out) so I'm happy about that.

Has been a surprising few days - including a few surprises that I haven't shared yet!  (I have to save something for blogging later, right?)

Friday, September 24, 2010

I like clothes.  That's probably not a secret to any of you.  It's especially not a secret to anyone who has been upstairs in our home in the last, oh, three years.... what with the hip-high and overflowing box of clothes that blocks our linen closet (and partially blocks the door to the guest room.)

I go through this box occasionally, to pull out things for friends who need them, or to do the occasional now-I'm-up-or-down-a-size try-on marathon possibly worthy of a movie montage.  I've kept everything - or I say I've kept everything - because I've basically been in the range of two sizes for the past seven years, and it means I have clothes waiting for me, whatever size I'm wearing.

This can be a good thing - I'm always a fan of wearing clothes that fit - not clothes that you want to fit.  This can also be a bad thing. For one thing, it's blocking our feng shui.  I don't mean to be all new-agey about it, but when things block your way, and you have to squeak around them or break your path, it breaks your general serenity.  And also, it's a crutch.  If I gain weight, I don't have to worry about getting new clothes.  If I lose weight, I don't have to worry about what I will wear if ever I gain weight again.

I'm not certain - but I'm pretty sure - that most of what's left in there isn't particularly beloved.  There are plenty of very nice pieces that still have a little (or a lot) of life in them.  And if I'm not using them, someone should.

We're tight in the budget-area these days (it was a tough year for freelance editors, mine included.)  So my first goal is to run each nice piece on fatsionxchange, the online community for plus-sized clothing sales.  And whatever doesn't get picked up within a few weeks will be donated.  It's our goal to spend part of a day this weekend, laying out, photographing, and cataloging everything.  I've even created a design for the sale html - since I've seen well-designed (well-marketed, essentially) sales have more success than plain ones.  Here's my design, with clothing items there for placement only. (FPO, in graphic design jargon, heh.)

It'll feel so good to have all of that out of the house.  And - you'll laugh.  Tom did, too.  With the extra budget, I'm going to... buy more clothes.  No, no, not lots of them.  Just 3 good-quality pieces that I've been admiring - and that I'll be buying as a reward for ditching all of those other items that have been blocking our way (and my progress.)  And it's a budget-neutral way to do it!

One of these pieces is a nice pair of feminine brown flats.  My current brown flats are a little too sporty to wear with a dress, and they've got that telltale two-year-old odor.  The other two pieces go together...

The Igigi "Coco" Herringbone cardigan and wide belt.  Doesn't it kind of scream "Heidi" to you?  All it needs is a good pop of red.

There's just something about a new outfit that makes me feel exceptionally confident.  But I suppose it doesn't necessarily have to be about newness.  I can also feel confident in a piece that fits and flatters, and is exactly my style.  One of the hard things about being plus-sized is that I don't get to choose just anything - I don't sew.  I get to choose what is most like my style, in a narrow range of options.  Part of this wardrobe-culling I'm doing will help me focus on what I like best, what makes me feel confident even when it isn't fresh off the clothes rack.  And as I continue to stay active and eat mindfully, someday I'll be able to shop at Anthropologie and be able to pick and choose from a variety of pieces that are my style.  We'll see how well I can prevent closet-crowding, then!

Tonight, Tom and I made a last-minute decision to head out to our now-annual Halloween tradition, Universal Horror Nights.  It's surprisingly cheap for a front-of-line pass on opening day.  (We purchased online, and it was only $10 more than the regular-ticket folks are paying at the door!)  I'm usually the Halloween-hungry one, but Tom has been salivating over the various Halloween events for weeks.  We'll get plenty of walking (and screaming) exercise tonight, but it can be a challenge to eat well at Universal after-hours.  I can probably swing a veggie burger, maybe some iceberg salad.  Theme park offerings of fried dough in various arrangmenets... they longer hold the sway over me that they did when I was younger, but when I start getting sleepy it'll be hard not to avoid sugar of some sort. (Hungry+Tired=harder.)  But then, I haven't eliminated anything completely from my diet.  Moderation is the key.  So, tonight, moderation.  And screaming.  Hurrah for the weekend! I'll post pictures of ghastly ghoulies for you tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I should credit three people whose recent new blogs inspired me to start this one.  My dear friend (and former college roommate, and once-my-bridesmaid) Aimee started hers to correspond and do some self-discovery.  Mark, who I mentioned two days ago, started his to keep him creating.  And David, another friend from college, started his to stay accountable as he takes care of his health.  His story is amazing.  He was a segment producer for a popular talk show, and worked on an interview with Richard Simmons, who offered to help him lose weight.  He has since lost 128 pounds - the old-fashioned way - since January.  I'm so proud of him, and he's definitely inspiring.  So here I am, with my own blog, hoping to balance the best of the three.  To correspond and discover.  To create and share.  To stay accountable - to myself and to you - for my health.

On the good news front, I have flipped what was floppy.

After writing about the gruesome glass of fuzzy lime-mint (and I don't mean fuzzy a la carbonation), I made sure to take the time to wash my work dishes last night, and bring to work a new lime and a fresh sprig of mint from our new herb garden.  Daily carafe-filling has become like a kind of spiritual ritual. No wonder I feel more centered today.
Photographic proof of fuzz-free limes!

Today's morning list made me happier:
  • Got out of bed promptly.  Check!
  • Get ready for work. Check!
  • Eat a healthy breakfast of ~300 calories (Check - today, a boiled egg, crumpets, and a teaspoon of the leftover passionfruit curd I made for Dad's visit.)
  • Pack three healthy lunch-snacks of ~200 calories. Check, check, check!  More on this in a moment.
  • Slice up the limes and tear up the mint for today's carafe of water. (Check the photo to the right!)
  • Enter today's chow into LiveStrong's Daily Plate (Check, right about ~1100 with 400-500 for dinner.)
  • Write with Tom for 1 hour in the morning.  Check!
When I'm mindful about what I'm eating, it is very easy for me to keep my calorie level around 1500-1600 while staying sated and satisfied.  Especially when we spend an hour each Sunday planning our menus for the week.  But when I'm not thinking about it, I can double that without even realizing it.  Especially when eating out - which we have nearly eliminated from our lives (except when visitors or special occasions call for it.)  We cook at home, and I pack my lunch.  Here's yesterday's slate of food, as an example:
  • Breakfast: 1 boiled egg, 1 nonfat greek honey yogurt. (190 cal)
  • Midday mini-meal #1:  low-carb tortilla with 2 oz turkey, 1 oz goat cheese, sliced tomatoes. (272 cal)
  • Midday mini-meal #2: A delicious bartlett pear that tasted just like the ones my grandmother used to grow. A serving of baby carrots. 12 almonds. (220 cal)
  • Midday mini-meal #3: A bowl of my favorite Tangy Edamame Salad. A nectarine. (160 cal)
  • Dinner: Morningstar Farms Veggieburger "Griller," with pickles and a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese. 3 oz of air-baked sweet potato wedges. (436 cal)
  • Dessert: 3 oz of homemade mulberry sorbet (200 cal)
For a grand total of 1478 calories. I'm not bored, and I'm not sacrificing flavor.  And because I'm eating small meals frequently, I'm not hungry.  (#1 on the whole hungry/angry/lonely/tired theory.  When I'm hungry - especially when my blood sugar is low, my judgment isn't as reliable.)

Over the last year, I've been seeking out salad recipes that didn't rely on leafy greens (which I have to limit - thanks, Coumadin.) I make a veggie salad on Sunday and portion it out through the week.  The edamame salad is definitely one of my new favorites.  I adapted it from a couple of sources, and it's the perfect light and healthy - but flavorful - combination.  I figure I'll share recipes on here as I find/tweak them, because who doesn't love a new healthy-and-tasty recipe? 

Mmm, Cherokee Purples...
Tangy Edamame Salad
  • 12 ounces of shelled edamame beans (fresh or thawed)
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh or canned)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh tomato
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup finely diced scallion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Mix everything together, and wha-la. Summer in a bowl.  This works best with ripe heirloom tomatoes - and Cherokee Purples are my favorite (witness their beautiful flesh above.)

Packing my lunch makes everything easier... except for those days when the office provides lunch.  It's a nice gesture, of course, and I know they're doing it in an effort to get us hanging out more socially.  But this week we had two office-sponsored lunches instead of one, and when that happens, I have to A) make good choices, which can be hard depending on the menu, and B) make sure I'm still getting the protein & veggies I typically bring in my lunch.  I wish there was a way to get our team to be social... that didn't have to involve food (of which I'm being mindful), alcohol (which I can't drink, due to my meds) or dodge-ball & paint-ball (which is dangerous for a Coumadin patient.)  We are... different, my team and I.

The team... goes out to food trucks every day for lunch. The greasy ones, not the gourmet ones.
....and I? Bring my lunch every day.

The team... talks about sports games incessantly, and are in a football pool.
...and I? Well, no one ever wants to talk about swimming laps.  On the other hand, have you seen the trailer for Black Swan? Odds are good for my Oscar pool next year.

 The team... wears sporty clothes, team jerseys, and other such things.
...and I? Am a Fatshionista.

Ah, well. I'm a black sheep in cute flats, with a yummy plum and a handful of spiced almonds awaiting my next snacktime.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Today was such a packed workday that this particular moment (at 6:30 PM as I wait for an update from my developer) is the first break I've really had.  It hasn't been a bad day, just a swift one - I got a lot done.

I don't mind being busy ("better busy than bored" is a phrase in frequent rotation) as long as I have the time to take care of myself appropriately.  Mostly it's a question of making time for myself.  What a concept - "making time." Wouldn't it be grand to just whip up a batch of it and dole out as necessary?  As it is, my workday involves at least 2 hours of time that I'd rather be spending in a number of glorious and relaxing ways. Instead, I fight traffic. I'm numb to it, after 8 years in Los Angeles, but I've only recently realized that the people I admire for getting so much more done in their days... they possibly have a half-hour commute total, if that.

On the up-side, I do try to use that commute time wisely.  In times of high stress or low confidence, I play my "centering/energizing" playlist to give myself a boost.  From time to time, I listen to audiobooks or podcasts.  Today, though, I listened to an album I recently purchased to help me get in the Film Noir frame of mind.  It's called "Murder Is My Beat: Classic Film Noir Themes and Scenes."  I heard a doozy of a scene this morning, from Crossfire. It has the kind of clipped, clever dialogue we're trying to capture in our fourth-grade Private Eye Sam's "noir-view" voice-over... but it's definitely not Sam-appropriate, heh.  To wit:

What did you say your name was?

Ginny. Because I'm from Virginia. I sure get tired of it here.

What do you work here for, then?

For laughs, dear. For laughs.

Every night?

Every night.  Tonight.

Til when?

Til we close.

Then what?

Me and myself and my great big bed - we sleep. 
I could have killed my girlfriend the other morning, she - 

You got that in quick, didn't you?

Drink up and be nice.
You know what I'd like to do? 


I'd like to take you dancing.

That's what the music's for. I work here.

I mean, really take you dancing.  The two of us going somewhere. 
Eating something. Talking about ourselves.


I'm serious.

Sure, I know. I remind you of your sister.

You remind me of my wife.

Now, if we can take that pace and syncopation, and add it to our tales of dames with cooties and stolen stuffed penguins, we'll be in good shape.

I'm a bit frustrated that we didn't get to write this morning.  It all comes back to time, and use of time.  I am working so hard at being balanced (and it's hard work!) but my recent attempts to bring social outlets back into the mix has already given my internal teeter-totter a good jostling.  Visiting friends Sunday night (and going out for a lunch meeting Monday) meant that I didn't take my usual weekly food-prep hour after Mad Men.  Going out last night (for a networking-type social meeting) meant that I was short on sleep and once again didn't get the food-prep hour in.  And forgetting to set the alarm this morning meant that I had two choices once I woke up: spend the hour writing, or spend the hour on food prep.  I went back to my LCD list: my list of lowest-common-denominator tasks that I have to complete in order to stay balanced and healthy.  Healthy food prep and consumption, and taking meds on time, those are the absolute lowest of the common denominators... that is, they're of highest importance.  So we skipped writing, and I chopped my veggies and wrapped my wrap, and it meant that today I was able to eat my small, regular meals with no time lost spent worrying about getting out (or fussing over calorie count) during the hours that rushed by me at work.

Water is on my LCD list, too.  Water to drink, and water to swim in.  Unfortunately, both are unaddressed today.  That carafe of lime-mint water I mentioned yesterday?  It is, hands-down, the biggest visual clue that I'm taking good care of me.  It means I left promptly, I brought my lunch, I stopped responding to clients for long enough to prepare and fill my pitcher.  When I look down, and that glass looks cool and inviting... I know I'm doing a good job with myself.  Do you know what that glass of water looks like today?  Lime and mint are decaying in a glass that has been sitting there since Friday.  It's disgusting.  And it's a pretty clear picture of just how much I've been rushing and neglecting, due to two school nights spent out, in a row.  Lest I forget: excepting rare special occasions, school nights are for regrouping and gathering zen... and that's OK.

Can't wait to share with you what we're working on (and what we presented during that networking-type time yesterday.)  I may have recently sent you a Facebook recommendation for the indie film Night of the Alien.  This is another project I've been quiet about.  I've been working on pro-bono marketing for this cult-style flick; Tom and I have been collaborating on the trailers.  (The teaser has been released already, but we didn't work on it.)  Just wait until you see it.  Some of Tom's best editing work, I think.  We'll be posting it... all in good time.

Monday, September 20, 2010

This morning, I checked off several - but not all - of the daily morning tasks that keep me moving forward.
  • Got out of bed promptly.  Check!
  • Get ready for work. Check!
  • Eat a healthy breakfast of ~300 calories (Check - today, a boiled egg, grapes and crumpets.)
  • Pack three healthy lunch-snacks of ~250 calories (No check. Work lunch meeting today... but my lunch groceries, including my favorite edamame salad, awaits tomorrow.)
  • Slice up the limes and tear up the mint for today's carafe of water. (Half-check. I have a large bottle of water with me, but I need to wash my dishes and bring the lime/mint tomorrow.)
  • Enter today's chow into LiveStrong's Daily Plate (check still pending)
  • Write with Tom for 1 hour in the morning.  Extreme Check!  It went very well, and we finished a great new Bubble Gumshoe scene. Almost done with Episode 2.
  • Wash dishes.  Ha ha, when do I ever get to this one?  I know the answer: when I don't go online in the morning.

I am so excited and proud to see what is going on in my group of friends these days.  We were, for a long time, what you might call... "creative appreciators."  Let's go to a concert, see a play, talk about a painting.  But we were also what you might call "shadow artists."  Wishing - even if some of us didn't realize it - to be part of the creative origins, instead of on the appreciating end.  I'm not sure how it changed. These things happen slowly under the surface and only appear as a sudden landslide.  But it has changed, for certain.  Here are some of my friends' recent projects that thoroughly inspire me:

  • Every time I hear a song from my friend Jesse's new label, LA's Fine, the music is equal parts catchy and surprising. Jesse's long history with the music industry - and his passion for really great work - makes him the perfect man for this job.  Over the last several years of our friendship, I cannot count the times he's sat me down to listen to "this great song."  Every one of them has been a gem.  And now he is going to be able to do the same thing for a wider audience of people. Lucky, lucky people.
  • I'm a silent movie buff already, so if I didn't know Donna, I'd still want to purchase her book, Rudolph Valentino: The Silent Idol - a labor of love I've been watching unfold as she's developed it.  I had the privilege of attending a screening of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse at the Academy's Goldwyn Theater this year, where the noted film historian Kevin Brownlow recommended the book to an audience full of classy film nerds.  She's been well-reviewed by all kinds of exceptional people, and she deserves every great review.
  • I can still remember hearing Lisa say that she wasn't a creative person - but nothing disproves that notion more than her jewelry company, Inspired Adornments.  Lisa's beautiful accessories are so elegant and unique.  I am proud to own (and frequently wear) one of her pieces, which was inspired by a vintage bakelite piece we fell in love with at an antique store.  Her business keeps growing and I can't wait to see the next piece she comes up with (and the next, and...)
  • My oldest friend in the city, Audra, has always had a gift with words that I wished she would share with - well, everyone.  Now, in the face of recent loss, she has started a beautiful, fragile art/writing project called The Lonely Telegram.  I won't spoil the details, because it is a story that's best in the discovering - but I am moved and made more thoughtful with each new telegram.
  • I've always known Matt to be extremely creative, but when he started regularly posting his photographs online, I was happy to see them! He has recently gathered his Disney photographs as a Blurb book, and I'm looking forward to whatever comes next.
  • Whenever I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of Mark's illustrations, I was always impressed.  He is a talented comic book author and artist who doesn't often post his own work.  But recently he's started a daily illustration blog, drawing a new picture (themed A to Z) each day.  I've subscribed to him on my Google Reader, and now it's a daily pleasure to see what crazy thing he's up to today.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My therapist tells me that I have a train inside of me.  I want to believe that's true.

She says that my ability to work around people's expectations and limitations (which must have developed in the last while, because I wasn't always this delicate) is a gift.  I am able to, on the surfacte, supply what they need and take a back seat, doing the groundwork and subtly making suggestions until they notice I have skills. And she says that it's like a train inside of me. I'm patient but inside my heart, there's an engineer steering this thing, who knows - like a mother knows her child - that I have the skills to make this happen, and nothing is going to stop me from getting there.

It's a comforting idea - that I believe in myself so completely as to be charging like a train.  On the surface, I feel like I waffle when it comes to faith in myself.  "Is this good enough?"  But I do see her point. It's been a long haul of career-building and heartbreak, and I don't even have a job that allows me to be a "creative" - a writer, a director.  But still, I find myself pushing (if gently) closer, closer towards my goals. 

And part of that, this year, has been the process of developing our animated series, Bubble Gumshoe. It hasn't been as constant as I'd like. When I'm exhausted, when I'm overworked, when I'm in self-doubt, I don't work on it as much.  But when I'm taking good care of myself, when I'm choosing healthy routines and taking positive action, we move ever forward.  No matter what, they're always there waiting for me... my patient husband-slash-writing partner... and the little characters we've sired, with whom we've fallen in love.  We're nearly finished with the script for episode #2, and I kind of love it.  And now I can say definitively that I have the chops to (co-)direct the eventual recording sessions, when we're ready.

This kind of boils down what the blog is about.  I know in my bones that I have got to keep pushing myself down these train tracks.  If I really look inside myself, I know I have what it takes.  And I know what I have to do - I have to take care of myself, so that I can keep writing, because I have to share these projects that Tom and I are developing.

It's strange... I've been doing all of this so quietly.  Tom, of course, is fully aware of everything.  My therapist has been helping me shape it, too.  But I seem to talk about it with so few others.  I'm so focused on finishing the hat that I watch the rest of the world from my window.  And that's where you come in, my blog readers.  I am not a terrarium.  I am not a self-contained system.  I'm not even a train.  I am a human, and I'm flawed. And I think I might need your support.
Finishing the hat
How you have to finish the hat
How you watch the rest of the world
From a window
While you finish the hat

Mapping out a sky

What you feel like planning a sky
What you feel when voices that come
Through the window
Until they distance and die

Until there's nothing but sky
And how you're always turning back too late
From the grass or the stick
Or the dog or the light 

There's a part of you always standing by
Mapping out the sky
Finishing a hat
Starting on a hat
Finishing a hat
Look, I made a hat
Where there never was a hat

- Stephen Sondheim, Sunday in the Park with George