Month: February 2006

Goal-free, as free as the wind blows

cornell_artsquad.jpg

Along with not being much for Valentine’s Day, I’m also not much for networking, self-promotion, school spirit or any type of change.

But 2006 is destined, it seems, to be the year of doing stuff I am not really much for. So a couple of weeks ago, I combined all of the things that repulse me (excluding Valentine’s Day, which had already been addressed separately) by attending my very first meeting of the Cornell Entrepreneur Network.

I did have a nominal reason for attending: to see and hear Steven Shapiro (ENGR, ’86) talk about his book and philosophy, Goal-Free Living. After all, with my twin pursuits of punditry and ultra-organization, it was only natural that I want to see, up close and personal, someone who is not only living his non-goals, but getting other people to sit up and take notice.

I arrived late by design, giving myself 45 minutes to get from Hancock Park to the Skirball Cultural Center during the height of rush hour. (For you non-locals, that is akin to giving yourself 16 hours to drive from Yakima to Key West. In a Geo Metro. Filled with cinderblocks.)

Unfortunately for me, or not, depending on how you look at it, things were still just ramping up when I arrived, 10 minutes before the talk was supposed to start. Worse, everyone, it seemed, had come in pairs, like this was some Ivy League Noah’s Ark. Some had even come in clusters. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to elbow my way into a goddam cluster. I’m shy, dammit!

Clicking into survival mode, I managed to kill a little time at the sushi and meatball stations, and got thrown a pity chat-up from the friendly and outgoing CEN organizer, Shannon…but STILL no one was showing any signs of massing in the speaking area.

Then a funny thing happened in line at the bar: I met someone. Someone else who was also not there with anyone else and also in need of a drink. We got to talking, so much so that the meatball station was threatening to close. He excused himself…and someone else wandered over to say ‘hi’. Then one of those Noah’s Ark couples wandered over and started talking, too, and all of a sudden, we were all chumming it up on the way to our seats.

The talk was great. I’ll go into greater detail once I’ve read and reviewed Steven’s book; for now, suffice to say that Steven was a lively, engaging speaker with an interesting tack on accomplishment, and that I more than got my money’s worth from the seminar. What was really extraordinary, though, was the way the evening started out as one thing (me coming to hear a speech) and ended up something else entirely, me leaping to the podium during open-mic time and giving a brief but impassioned speech about my presentation graphics* skills.

I left the evening with a handful of business cards and a whole new perspective on goals. Had I gone to the networking meeting with the goal of networking…well, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the meeting, let alone collected any business cards. Throwing myself into something new and scary just because I had a feeling that I might benefit by seeing and hearing this speech, all kinds of things happened.

The not-so-good news? I’m still sitting on those business cards, two weeks later, and I still haven’t sent my own card to the printers. Having backed way, way off my type-A goal-focussed lifestyle a few years ago, I’m now thinking it may be time to reintroduce a few of the old carrot-and-stick measures. Or at least time to climb into the cinderblock-laden Metro and point her East. With any luck, I can reach the other coast by sometime next year.

Unless, of course, I find something really cool along the way…

xxx
c

Photo of Cornell University’s Arts Quad by Hobbes vs. Boyle via Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

*After my recent tussle with the Evil Empire, I’m still having a problem saying P***rP***t.

The inside poop on SCD

cooking of Takayoki

As I was grocery shopping for what seemed like the 14th time this week, it occurred to me that I haven’t ever gone into much detail on what day-to-day life on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is like for Crohnies (and UC patients), most likely because way back when I started this here blog, I was already down to about 95% SCD-compliant, which, as any true SCDer will tell you, means you are not actually doing SCD at all.

SCD, you see, requires what its major proponent (the late, lamented Elaine Gottschall) called “fanatical adherence”. Since it’s predicated on eliminating every rogue bacterium in the gut, and since rogue bacteria can have a company picnic on one potato chip, there has to be a zero-tolerance policy towards fucking around. After all your symptoms are cleared up for a year, there’s cautious talk about introducing “illegals”, but most people on the SCD choose to remain on a modified version of the diet indefinitely, since it’s way healthier and they’re way scared of a repeat on the room-clearing gas and projectile diarrhea that brought them to the SCD in the first place.

Initially, my few cheats were small, but big: a half-piece of particularly toothsome bread, something I hadn’t tasted in 2 1/2 years, on an early date with The BF. A lavender cupcake at a friend’s film opening two months later.

But then I hit on what I should really use my cheat allowance for: dealing with the rogue illegals that turn up in virtually all restaurant food, no matter how ‘clean’ you try to order. Restaurant dining becomes more enjoyable by an order of magnitude when you do not have to grill the server on every, no, seriously…EVERY ingredient. In the steak. Or the steamed spinach. Or the “absolutely plain” house vinaigrette. Because I can almost guarantee you, that “absolutely plain” vinaigrette will have a minimum of three to five non-SCD-compliant ingredients which, in the early stages of recovery, could send you running for the toilet.

Everything was going relatively well (no pun intended) until last December, when I decided to get jiggy with the starches for the holidays. Mind you, my recent transgressions, an entire piece of rye toast at breakfast AND a forkful of potatoes AND a salad with Thousand, all in the same 24-hour period, were nothing compared to my old, “thank-you-drive-thru” ways. But a little too much fast & loose, plus a heavy round of antibiotics after some incredibly minor skin surgery and I was done fer.

So now I am back to square one, at least as far as the diet is concerned. Everything cooked and peeled. Nothing “challenging” like, oh…say…peppers or mushrooms or, heaven forfend, onions. After almost knocking myself out with my noxious wind after ingesting a stray piece of onion in last Saturday’s steak dinner, onions are off le menu for awhile. Along with steak.

It is not all bad, though. Tonight we are having baked acorn squash, sautéed baby spinach and bay scallops with shallots in a butter and wine sauce. (Smaller member of the onion family = smaller farts.) There’s a vat of homemade applesauce in the fridge (because the commercial stuff might contain sugar), along with homemade yogurt (because the commercial kind definitely contains lactose) and leftover homemade chicken stock (because the commercial kind contains, among other things, starch, stabilizers, gums and the dreaded catch-all “spices”).

Collectively, though, they represent dozens of man-hours of shopping, peeling and cooking. That is the hardest thing about following the SCD: finding the time in which to do it. With planning, you can really streamline operations, but the bottom line is it much, much harder to make everything from scratch than it is to ‘cheat’ with canned broth, pre-made yogurt and a thousand other modern convenience foods. When I’m on SCD, my convenience food is stuff I’ve made in bulk, portioned up, and frozen.

On the other hand, if you want a lesson in patience, humility and gratitude, you’d be hard-pressed to find one better than fanatical adherence to the SCD. Barring subjection to a major natural disaster or life-threatening illness. And with the worst of Crohn’s behind me (there’s that ass-punnery again, dammit), maybe it’s good to have a little refresher course in the difficulty of day-to-day living for most of this planet’s inhabitants. At least I have supermarkets, and a car to drive to them, and the relative security of knowing I won’t be shot at while shopping for them (although that graffiti-tagged car in the Vons parking lot this afternoon shook me up a little).

My complaints are tedious and few, and I tire of the whiny voice in my own head as I head out for the store yet again to get what too many people would weep with gratitude over being blessed with.

And so to dinner. And, after we wail through the leftovers, to the grocery store again tomorrow, I’m sure. I’ve been craving muffins, you see, which can only mean one thing:

Muffin cup liners…

xxx
c

PHOTO: Ungodly, surely SCD-non-compliant deliciousness Cooking of Takoyaki by tab2_dawa via Flickr

Things change, especially in my colon

cscope 0904

This was supposed to be a post about a surprisingly fun and interesting college alumni event that I attended last Thursday.

It was also supposed to be posted last Friday, maybe Saturday, at the latest. Because it really was a fun and interesting event, complete withon a cool seminar delivered by a lively speaker in a spiffy venue with bitching food and bev, which, frankly, I think is some weird, Cornellian point of pride because of that hotel school they’ve got.

However, as long-time readers of communicatrix-dot-com well know, I have Crohn’s disease, which basically means:

  1. My colon is a tyrant
  2. Like most tyrants, is willful, capricious and wildly oversensitive
  3. My colon likes to exercise its supreme power over me at the most inconvenient of times
  4. In the war between posting and colon repair, [my colon always wins.]*

As much as I seem to rattle on about personal stuff here, I really keep the bulk (ha, ha, I said “bulk”) of my personal shit (ha, ha, I said…oh, never mind…) private. Because really, how sexy is it to go into the gory details of your life when you’re in the 45th year of it? You catch my drift.

Anyway. Major fires have been put out. Pesky low-grade existential crisis lingers, but all hands are back on deck, er, in L.A., safe and sound, which has done wonders for my peace of mind, which, in turn, has done wonders for my lower intestine.

But I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to, one more time, plug the wonders of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which continues to be the single greatest thing I’ve ever done for my intestinal health, and possibly my health in general.

It’s not an easy diet to follow (quick: give up sugar, starch, and all even minimally-processed food!). I’d strayed from it over the last year because, ironically enough, I’d been feeling so good. But as anyone with Crohn’s or UC (or celiac disease, or IBS, or other pesky intestinal illness) will tell you, stress is a huge trigger for flare-ups. And for me, flare-ups are only stopped with the double-edged sword that is prednisone, king-daddy of the steroids.

Thankfully, five days back on the diet with fanatical adherence and things are looking up. I have a goodly portion of my energy back, and no longer feel like I might have to drop to whatever horizontal surface I’m on to nap. (At one low point over the last few days, I actually curled up in a ball on a closet floor for 15 minutes, rock on, party girl!)

Which is good, because right now, I’ve got to drive a motor vehicle downtown and beg the cold-hearted DMV employees to overlook a mailing deadline I missed while I was passing out on closet floors.

So, posts on goal-free living and other fun and exciting stuff soon. Meanwhile, if you see a middle-aged woman passed out on the floor of the Metropolitan Courthouse, for god’s sake, don’t give her a candy bar thinking it’ll help…

xxx
c

*Left bracketed part out in the original post. See? My colon really does rule.

All my love, just under the wire

sketchbook

I am not so much for Valentine’s Day, just like I am not so much for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas or even Thanksgiving, although I mind that one the least.

After many years of grappling with What To Do On Holidays, I have finally found peace with the notion that all days are equal chances to offer love and good fellowship and even, hell, especially, candy. But if I am to honor saints or presidents or martyrs (or be honored in their names), I would rather do it with words or pictures or hugs & kisses (especially kisses) than anything you can buy in a store.

That said, this little sketchbook is still my favorite Valentine’s Day gift ever. Until today, that is, when I get The BF back from duties that took him elsewhere.

And so, I am off to the airport. May you all fly with wings to the one you love.

xxx
c

The communicatrix’s bathroom guide to the year’s big events

Somehow, I wound up with a (free) subscription to Entertainment Weekly, a rag that has slid far, far downhill since the glory days following its launch (when I was a paid subscriber), but still holds some use as short-attention-span reading material.

And so, having burned through the frighteningly well-produced SXSW newsmag whilst brushing my teeth yesterday and the current issue of Jane (which remains mystifyingly, defiantly fab years after its launch) in a long tub soak last night, I was left with one raggedy-ass copy of EW to peruse on the can this morning.

But what ho! Whilst flipping through the US-thin pages, I was struck by the muse: I’ll review what EW reviews…in bathroom lingo! Short, sweet, and much easier to add to your del.icio.us than anything you read while performing ablutions. Erik, this one is for you…

The communicatrix’s bathroom guide to the year’s big events (film edition):

The Da Vinci Code: Poop that looks good coming out but falls apart as soon as it hits the water

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest: Occasionally perfect shower ruined by incessant flushing of neighbor’s toilet

M:I III: The hallelujah poop that accompanies the onset of one’s period

Flight 93, World Trade Center: Tedious issues of The New Yorker that molder away in the bathroom rack because you feel too guilty throwing them out

X3: Outrageously expensive styling product moldering away in your shower caddy because you feel like an asshole throwing it out

Casino Royale: The long-awaited re-release of the contraceptive sponge

The Devil Wears Prada: Toothpaste sample you got from the dentist you use when you run out of your brand which turns out to be halfway decent, although not worth switching to from your regular brand

Miami Vice: Overly expensive set of matching Italianate-moderne bathroom accessories that you receive via regifting

Superman Returns: Mold-infected tile that looks good for a week after you scrub it with bleach but really needs regrouting, if not total replacement

Lady in the Water: (see The DaVinci Code)

The Break-Up: Otherwise satisfying poop marred by painful and unsightly corn kernels

Marie Antoinette: Paris Hilton, the fragrance

xxx
c

Horrors heaped upon horrors

bellagio ceiling

I’m of divided opinion on the clustering of good and bad events. On the one hand, I’ve lived through some pretty compelling real-life evidence for the Bad Luck Streak; on the other hand, I’m rational and objective enough to understand that at any given moment, there are people going through much worse for much longer who manage their troubles with relative equanimity, so attitude clearly plays a large role in determining what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (cf Anthony de Mello‘s Chinese farmer story*).

The more I read about Buddhism, and I haven’t read much, the more I think they have something with this non-attachment thing. And a bonus-extra goodie with Buddhism (or Method acting, or talk therapy, or lots of other ways-in) is that you can benefit from its tenets (hey! that rhymes!) no matter where you step into the river. When you’re feeling crappy and resistant or angry and resentful or joyous and light, you can examine why and, if you’re honest about it (and when I say ‘you’, I mean ‘me’), you’ll probably learn something incredibly useful about yourself that you can apply not ony to alleviate your situation, but to do a quicker end-run around it next time.

What’s tricky for me is that I usually don’t feel much like dispassionate self-examination when I’m feeling good. Feeling good is the goal in this part of the world, with the added implication that feeling good as quickly as possible is even better.

Am I preaching? I don’t mean to. This is about no one else but me right now, me not getting down with whatever is happening in my Now, me being crabby and cranky and resistant. Me willfully shifting my gaze from the undeniably good, The BF, my health, my friends, financial solvency, to fret over the shadowy parts that lie just ahead. Fear slips its cool, slippery tentacles around me, one by one, and starts to squeeze slowly, until I can’t remember what it was like just to breathe easily.

Okay. I’m being a little histrionic for effect. Not that fear isn’t doing its slippery, squeezy thing; it is and it probably always will. The difference between how it happens now and how it happened 20 years ago is that I’ve gotten a little better at recognizing it (“oh, that old thing”) and understanding that (a) my hard-wired, primal reaction is not the only one at my disposal and (b) if I can keep it at bay, I will probably come up with one that will be far more useful for dealing with the situation at hand.

And so I add yet another category to the messy sidebar that communicatrix-dot-com seems destined to remain: fear. I’ve written about it before, of course, but I’ve always couched it in some more positive term: ‘change’ or ‘life’ or, let’s face it, ‘rants’. Sometimes, though, it’s just plain fear, of moving forward, of what will happen next, of the coat on the chair that looks like a monster, and there may be value in calling that particular spade a spade.

Besides, ‘negative’…’positive’…who’s to say?

Putting aside the real horrors of the world (which are all and always too recognizable), there’s a good deal of room for interpretation.

xxx
c

*It bears noting that both the title of this post and the Chinese farmer story come to you by way of my favorite ex-boyfriend, who has been nicknameless and seldom-mentioned to date, whom I now christen “The Whippersnapper” and to whom I say:

“Be careful what you wish for…Trevor.”

PHOTO CREDIT: akoestner’s “Bellagio Ceiling” copyright akoestner, via Flickr.

What happens when I lose my shit

weirdmom

About three weeks ago, I lost it.

I didn’t plow into some a-hole in an SUV on that stretch of Rossmore that narrows to one lane, even though they were honking up the road and totally deserved it.

I didn’t call out some a-hole at the grocery store who jumped into the newly-opened lane ahead of me even though I was next, or push someone into the poop their pet just left on our parkway or sidle up to some loud, self-important, cell-talking loser at Marshall’s and cut a ginormous fart. Oh, no, nothing so plebian and tawdry as that (although where urban civility has gone, I’ll never know, and as a civilian who’s sick of loud-talking, SUV-driving, poop-leaving a-holes, I’m not promising I won’t in future).

I cleaned The BF’s laundry room. With a vengeance. And without his express permission.

I’m not a particularly neat person, or even a particularly clean one. L.A. Jan, whose own apartment has been known to be liberally sprinkled with cat hair upon occasion, confessed to sometime repulsion on coming into proximity with my cooktop; suffice it to say there are several hundred things I’d rather do than clean my appliances, including emptying my own trash. It’s just that I have a certain threshold for dirt and/or clutter (which is pretty high, by the way) and every once in awhile, it’s exceeded. If I happen to be somewhere it would be ill-advised to touch anything, I hightail it out of there. If not…

I try to time these freakouts to coincide with some necessary task chez communicatrix, but since I spend a great deal of time at my country house (a.k.a., The BF’s), sometimes it happens there. Three weeks ago, it was a blocked laundry room passageway (note: no one needs more than ONE gigantic Hefty bag full of rags); today, it was a bedroom door that wouldn’t yield for all the stuff hung on the backside of it. First, a door that won’t yield; next, a pantry cabinet full of expired medicines. Pretty soon you’re wandering around a battlefield of moldy dry cleaner bags and ancient Tupperware.

Somehow, and I’m not quite sure how, I managed to make my gumption even out with the piles. It is not always thus. In my own little place, I am living with the neatly stacked manila folders that house the start of a major familial photographic overhaul, along with several other begun-and-abandoned projects. There are shelves that await relining, crap that awaits eBay-ing, dirt that awaits removal. No matter. I hit my ceiling today, opening a door that wouldn’t quite.

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll trip over the manila folders that hold my 1099s and blaze through my taxes.

One can only hope…

xxx
c

Photo: Me as the Weird Family Mom in Peace Squad Goes 99