Throwback Thursday and Twenty-Five!

Okay, I have seven minutes to write and post this to get this in for my TWENTY-FIFTH DAY of The Hundred Day Project!  I am so proud of myself — I’ve posted about 25 times more than I did all last year.  Huzzah!

I was going to be clever and write something poignant about how much this project has meant to me, and how motivating it has been, but I’m not that clever and I only have five minutes now. So in honor of Day 25 AND Throwback Thursday, here’s me at 25, probably on my way to The Deluxe.  (And yes, this is a “better” photo of me at 25.  It wasn’t my best year, but better than 22-24.).

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I wish I still had that dress, but I’m glad I’m not 25 anymore.

I did it!  Just under the wire!  VICTORY IS MINE.

Rest in Peace, Jean Nidetch.

This morning as I was getting ready for work, I noticed that my jeans were a leeeetle tight.  Okay, not a little — buttoning them took some serious effort in physics.  “They’re just out of the dryer,” I told myself as I sucked in my gut and strained to get them on.  “They’ll stretch out in a little bit.”

But my subconscious and I both knew that was a big lie.  All day at work I thought about unbuttoning my top button but I wouldn’t let myself, instead counting the seconds until I could get home and put on something with a nice, comfy elastic waistband. They didn’t get any looser; in fact, after lunch they were cutting me in half.  It was confirmed: my skinny jeans are now my “too tight” jeans, and those “skinny jeans” were already my go-to “fat pants.”   I don’t have a muffin top; I’m like a volcano spilling over.

While driving home and daydreaming about how as soon as I got home from the grocery store and fed the cats I was going to put on my cozy pajama bottoms, I was listening to the radio when the story came on that Jean Nidetch had died at age 91.  My first thought was, “I wonder if she was still at her goal weight?”

Jean Nidetch was the famous (and fabulous) founder of Weight Watchers. She started it because one day she was in the grocery store and ran into a friend, who congratulated her and asked her when she was due.  She wasn’t pregnant.  Whoops.  Apparently she went to clinical weight loss classes but they weren’t any fun, so she invited her overweight friends over so they could lose weight as a group.  (I think I would have mixed feelings about that invitation — on one hand, “Thanks for inviting me!” and on the other, “Wait, are you calling me fat?”)  Well, obviously it was a huge success — she and her friends lost all their weight — and she built it into an empire.  There are something like 40,000 Weight Watchers meetings every week all around the world.

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And trust me, it works.  I know — I’ve done it three times.  (Ha. Ha.)  Yeah, I’m a “Lifetime” member of Weight Watchers, meaning the first time I joined I lost to my goal weight and, well, quit.  And then I joined again and lost weight, but, well, quit.  And then the last time, I rejoined and lost the weight for my wedding and, well, quit, and now my jeans don’t fit.  Again.  I’m a total statistic — I am one of those that go, has success, quits, and gains it all back.  And then lies to myself about dryer-tight jeans and stomps around all cranky in uncomfortable clothes, and then rejoins and feels sheepish and sorta out of place because everyone is so earnest and I know damn well all my points will be spent on bagels and alcohol.

I’m not saying it doesn’t work — it does!  And there are some really great guidelines and recipes.  There are a few recipes I make all the time that are absolutely delicious…  The only problem is that they are SO good I have about 3 helpings, so about 5000 points.  (I’m not very good at portion control, they whole key to this thing.)  Weight Watchers has come a long way since the old days, when the food was much more disgusting (but much more glamorous:

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I mean seriously, can you imagine?  Fluffy mackerel pudding?  No wonder WW was a huge success in the 1970s; that crap was inedible.  My mom did WW when I was little and I think all she ate from 1972 to 1977 was grapefruit and cottage cheese with canned peaches and those Ayds candy appetite suppressants, which I found out the hard way you shouldn’t gobble by the handful.  However, that Frankfurter Spectacular IS spectacular, and someday I WILL MAKE IT.  (But probably won’t eat it.)

So I was a little sad as I listened to newscaster talk about Jean Nidetch passing away, even though to be honest, I didn’t know she was still alive. I’ve always suspected I would like her — she looks like a hoot — and I do admire her because she really has helped so many people lose weight and feel better physically and mentally.  And hello, I love women who start successful empires!  I think it’s a good organization that does support people — there’s no fat shaming, just a lot of empathy and support.  My favorite anecdote I heard today was that Jean used to share a story that she’d hide Mallomars in the laundry basket, and her favorite saying was, “Honey, if I can do it, you can do it.” And, by the way, when she died she still was at her goal weight.

The newscast ended right as I pulled into the grocery store parking lot.  I’d like to say that I was motivated, and I bought only salad and healthy things for dinner, but no. I totally bought ice cream.  Though in honor of Jean, it was “light.”

Rest in peace, Jean Nidetch.  Thanks for being awesome.

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Holy Trinity Birthday

Today was a pretty major birthday for three of the most major influential women in my life:

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In 1930, Nancy Drew was “born,” with the release of The Secret of the Old Clock, The Hidden Staircase, and The Bungalow Mystery.  Fifty years later I was at Robin Noble’s house for a sleepover and saw that she had a book that looked interesting, The Mystery at Lilac Inn, on her bookshelf.  The cover captivated me: two ghostly girls with white dresses and glowing bracelets, one blonde, one brunette.  I opened it and began to read, and started my life long love and obsession, really, with the intrepid titian-haired teen detective.  Nancy was smart, capable, modest, and kind, and when I found out that “titian” meant pretty much red-headed, I felt validated for my own maligned haircolor.  That book took me to a whole different world — much more than the Narnia books ever did — and I wanted so badly to be a part of it and to own each and every one. (I do, in several different editions. I guess it opened up the world of collecting, too.)  And I think I can trace back my love of vintage clothes and aesthetics to Nancy — after all, I loved those books and covers and illustrations so much, and wanted to drive a roadster and eat in smart tea-rooms and wear pretty frocks.  I learned more from her than anyone else, and feminist theorists can write whatever they want about her, but I don’t care.  I will always love her and she will always be my best friend, and I will always admire her unwavering sense of justice, and carry an emergency $5 in my pocketbook and avoid getting drugged with chloroform, all thanks to her.

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Nelle Harper Lee was born a few years before Nancy, but like the fictional heroine, her father was a lawyer and she was smart and feisty, too, and probably the literary queen of social justice (whether she likes that or not).  And like the Nancy Drew books I gobbled up a few years before I was assigned To Kill a Mockingbird in ninth grade, Harper Lee opened another world and obsession for me: Southern literature.  When my English class was reading it, I had to go to Chicago with my parents, so I had to read it on the airplane and do little synopses on every chapter to prove that I was following along.  And boy, did I.  I loved that book so much that I didn’t just do little summaries — I did an entire journal, writing the things that I would never have the nerve to say in class.  I poured my heart out to my teacher, Mrs. Pellom, about how much it affected me, and how much it made me cry, and how unfair the world was. It made me realize that times may have changed in the twenty years since the book was written and since the setting of the 1930s, but things were still far from okay –I suppose it was my first political and sociological awakening.  But I also discovered what a perfectly written book was.  To this day it is still my absolute favorite, and I still cry, and I still thank Mrs. Pellom for assigning it to us in Freshman English.

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And now for someone completely different: Ann-Margret.  Well, I first knew her as Ann Margrock on The Flintstones, of course, and then as Kim in Bye Bye Birdie, which I thought was so colorful and glamorous and weird and wonderful.  (Again with the whole early 1960s thing…)  And then, my God, with Elvis in Viva Las Vegas, aka most epic first date of ALL TIME.  They do more stuff on that date (except, you know, it) than I do in a year. They do couple song and dance numbers, water ski, ride mopeds, take a helicopter over the Hoover Dam, go to a nightclub…  It makes me tired just thinking about it.  And Kitten with a Whip which I just found slightly confusing and bizarre when I was young, but melodramatically silly and great, too.  I loved her and wanted to be her — sexy but sweet, multi-talented but charming, nice but kind of, well, odd.  (Hello, Tommy and all the crazy ’70s and ’80s stuff.)  A good and bad girl. I was never really any of those things, but there were two things in common we did share — red hair and being Swedish.  She was my ideal, and I still wish I could be as fabulous as she is.  (I tried.  It didn’t really work so well.)

So it’s pretty crazy that three strong women influences share the same birthday — all that are missing are Dorothy Parker, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Judy Blume, and Neely O’Hara.  But thinking about it…  If these are the women I put on a pedestal and have tried to emulate nearly my whole life, that kind of does explain a lot.  Huh.

Anyway, Happy Birthday, Nancy, Nelle, and Ann-Margret!  I’m so glad you were born!  All three of you have made this world a much better place.

Day 22.

It’s Monday, so that means a milestone with this Hundred Day Project!  It means that I’ve been doing this (nearly) every day, and I’m happy about that.  It felt good when I got the little email update, knowing that I haven’t flaked out.  Normally by now I would have lost steam and abandoned it, but I’ve stuck with this for three whole weeks in a row.  A miracle!

But then, of course, I look at the examples of what other people are doing for their 100 Day Project — things like making cute clay sculptures, typefaces, interesting photography… Being creative and artistic and I think, “What am I doing?  Writing stupid things that aren’t beautiful or creative, just for the sake of writing every day?”

And then I stop and forgive myself a little bit.  No, I’m not creating anything beautiful, but I am writing every day.  Isn’t that key?  And I’ve been trying very hard to be brief (which is not my strong suit at all) so it’s been an exercise in restraint and craft.  I’ve been feeling even more insecure than usual with my writing, and feeling frightened that since I’m getting older, I’m forgetting the details that I used to be so good at remembering and that I’ve always considered the magic key to my work.  Those details and memories may all be gone, who knows.  My brain is pretty full of other things these days, full of stress and worry and good and joyful, too, but just not what I wore to a party in 1988.  But I’m hoping that’s still in there somewhere, too.

Yet this 100 Day Project has filled me with delight, and has made me realize something important.  As I mentioned the other day I’ve been off-kilter — I haven’t been able to concentrate, and sometimes I’m not sure if I’m speaking in complete sentences.  Last week I was sitting at my desk, starting at an open spreadsheet and thinking, “I can’t do this.  I mentally and physically cannot type anything into this spreadsheet.” So I opened up my website and wrote the post about Seventeen Magazine that my friend Sian had given me for a topic, that I had been thinking about all week.  It took me about half an hour, but when I hit “publish,” I felt almost ecstatic.  It wasn’t a good piece of writing, but that wasn’t what mattered.  In that half hour I was writing and loving it, and I remembered something so important and learned something crucial: writing is my love, not my enemy, and it is my tool and coping mechanism — I just need to remember to use it instead of avoid it.

So no, this website/blog/whatever this is isn’t high art or funny clay faces, but it’s mine and I’m doing it, and I haven’t given up.  Every day I get to think, “What am I going to post?”  And that’s really great.  Sure, there aren’t many “views,” but that’s okay.  I’m its main viewer, and I see my contents growing and I feel good.  To me, that’s beautiful.

So Happy Day 22 to me!

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(The above image is something I Googled and found on https://myboundlessthoughts.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/22-things-you-should-learn-after-you-turn-22/, which is nice.  I’m way past 22 and I smile gently and nod.)

We Had a Party. Things Were Set on Fire.

Yes, I missed posting yesterday (I knew I would), because we had a party.

There were decorations:

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And hair-dos:

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And costumes:

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Interesting appetizers:

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And food from many lands, like Italy:

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And Mexico:

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And Japan:

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Eastern Europe:

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And Western Europe:

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The South Pacific:

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And even California’s much missed Nut Tree.  The full spread!

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Some things were questionable:

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While some things were fabulous and aflame:

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(All GOOD photos are by TaggyLee Mermis Bowers, photographer extraordinaire with a magical camera.  The other ones, the blurry ones, are by me.  I think you can tell the difference.)

Okay, you may be wondering what kind of a party has pickle AND flaming cakes…  It’s our Mid-Century Supper Club Potluck, and it’s so much fun.  Everyone gets together and re-creates recipes from old cookbooks, with often hilarious results.  This time it was an International theme which was so great!  I must say that this one had the most edible choices — for the first time ever, in our 7 years of doing this, my co-hostess Jennye and I actually sat down and ate.  That NEVER happens — we’re always so busy, and lets face it…  Sometimes the food from the 1950s is, um, not the most delicious…

The Potluck is one of my favorite things in life, I swear.  It’s a lot of work, but when I’m standing there, looking out at all the lovely people who make the effort to cook weird food and come and support us, it is one of my favorite things in the world.  This really is my happy place:

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And thanks to our guests’ generosity, we raised $175 for the Nepal earthquake victims and a full bin of canned goods for The Alameda County Community Food Bank.  Not bad!

If you want to be in on the next Potluck’s fun, join this Facebook group, The Mid-Century Supper Club Potluck.

(If you want to know how it all got started, here’s an old blog post that explains its origins.)

Thanks to everyone who came yesterday!

YOLO. And Bubble-Flips.

This past week has been rough.

Without getting into too many details, I found out that a coworker had died, which was shocking.  It was the kind of thing that as you’re driving along and seeing other people doing their everyday things you think, “How can they be so normal when the world is off its axis?” We were all shaken, and I still feel a little off kilter.  He was a good guy, and we miss him. I didn’t know him well, but I genuinely liked him.  But something like this also brings up scary thoughts about life and mortality and things yet to be done, making the days anxious and the nights restless.  And very, very sad.

But in the middle of the bewilderment and grief, I got a text from a friend.  I didn’t tell too many people — I didn’t post it on Facebook, since I pretty much prefer to think of Facebook as an online cocktail party.  (Yeah, I’m totally one of those people who posts pictures of cats and gross food and insipid articles and things like my discovery that bacon is better baked than fried.)  And I don’t feel like I deserve sympathy because we weren’t close, and people’s natural reaction to anyone’s death is kind condolences.  Which is nice, but it’s also not really my story, even if I do feel grief.  But it felt so big and I needed help coping away from my work circle, so I reached out to a couple of close friends and said, “Hey, this is what’s going on.”  They were all lovely and made me feel better with kind words and messages and texts, checking in. And one of them texted and said, “How are you doing?  Let’s meet for lunch.”

Her sweet offer in the middle of all of this made all the difference.  Seeing the words on my phone and the good heart behind them made me cry, and for the first time in days it was a happy cry.  So we met today for lunch, and showed up wearing the same shoes (which she actually gave me):

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And we ate lunch and she let me vent, and we talked about chocolate and clothes and Franciscan dinnerware and bubble-flips, but mostly we talked about friendship and how lucky we are to have found our circle of friends, filled with more generous, loving, and kind people who “get” one another, and how we have found our tribe.

And even though I’m already very well aware of this, today was a good reminder how rich I am with friends, and how lucky I am for my good fortune and don’t take it for granted.  The truth of it is that if I died tomorrow, I wouldn’t really have too many regrets — well, I would regret that I never really became a writer, that I gave up my apartment in downtown San Francisco, and didn’t go see the double-bill of Styx and Pat Benatar at Konocti Harbor — my life is good, and I’m surrounded by good people.  Like friends who check in and take you to lunch and talk about bubble-flips.

I guess my one big regret would be if they didn’t know I loved them, so I’m telling them all now that I do, with a special shout-out to my lunch date.  Thank you, friends.  You all make the world a better place, and my life a happy one.  I’m lucky indeed.

YOLO and all that.