Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My standard of beauty

Does anyone else feel sort of bad for Renee Zellweger and her new face? Like, what is she feeling today now that those pictures are out and she looks drastically different and everyone is all, "Hmmm. Ummm. Whaaaaaat?" Do you think she went to the event hoping that people would just comment on how youthful she looked? And now she's home crying into her scrambled egg whites because that was absolutely not the reaction? It's just awful to think about. I feel doubly bad because I've been guilty of commenting on her old face, thus adding to the obvious problem that these poor women in Hollywood have to care so much about their looks that they end up doing things to themselves that make them nearly unrecognizable. I've repented and won't say mean things about faces anymore. I'm sorry Renee. It was a perfectly lovely face. I hope you really, truly love your new one.

Which brings me to my complicated thoughts on altering our looks. On the one hand I wish that we could all just age with grace and perspective and wisdom, embracing our wrinkles and sun spots and dark circles and love handles and gray hair and still have the Bluebird of Happiness in our hearts to keep us young and fresh. And on the other hand I think that if you're truly unhappy about the way something looks, I mean really down in the dumps, you should have the freedom to change it. I wear mascara, don't I? Because I like the way it makes my eyes open up. Is there a difference between wearing mascara and getting botox injected into your forehead (other than botulism)?

I suppose the difference is that I can leave the house without mascara on. While I almost always wear it I don't think I'm a deformed short-lashed freak without it. It doesn't alter who I know I really am, is what I'm saying. The other day I slept through my alarm and woke up 10 minutes before seminary started (heart attack!!!). I had 5 minutes total to get ready which means that I had to cut it down to the bare essentials: clean clothes and brushed teeth.  I didn't even consider putting make-up on. But that's my standard. Other people's standards could be a lot higher. Higher as in cutting yourself up and putting a brand new face on because you don't like the face you've had your whole life.

Personally, I think it's all in our heads. You know how you feel when you're having a really gross hair day and all you can think is that the world will finally know what kind of hideous monster you are and they'll shun you and you'll spend the rest of your days in a cave. And then you walk into work and someone says, "Hey, you look super cute today." We have no idea what the world sees in us. It's usually a lot better than what we see.

Later, I will discuss how I think, "You can't possibly be 39," is not a compliment.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book the Old Lady Cruise!

I've had this shoulder pain for about 3 months now and I finally went in to have it checked out. You know how I am about going into the doctors. I don't go unless limbs are falling off. Or worse, I'm losing sleep. And I was losing sleep because of the pain. Unacceptable. So I went in and the doctor checked me out and we had the following conversation:

"So you didn't have an accident where you hurt it?"


"You didn't fall and land on it?"


"Did anyone or anything hit you there?"


"And it just started hurting one day."


"Well, it sounds like just regular wear and tear. You may even have a bit of arthritis. That's pretty common for your age."

FOR MY AGE?! She means 80, right? Which is terrific because that means I can retire and move onto one of those residential cruise ships that sail around the world year round. I can play bingo with all the other senior citizens who have arthritic shoulders.

She gave me a pamphlet that had some cartoonish pictures of activities that could cause this sort of pain. And with the exception of pitching in a local softball league, I do every single one of them. Reaching for my purse in the back seat while sitting in the drivers seat, yes. Carrying a heavy purse on one shoulder exclusively (and before that a back pack), my whole life. Carrying enormous loads of groceries all at once, of course, because if I don't do it in one trip then I have failed. Reaching up for and retrieving heavy objects, all the time, because I'm short and have to reach for everything. She also said I have the tensest shoulder muscles she's ever felt, which could be a contributing factor, and that I must have a really stressful job. Sure, if sitting around eating tootsie rolls and talking to college kids about super hero movies is stressful, then okay,

She took some x-rays to rule out a tumor or anything torn and sent me home with exercises and drugs and a suggestion to stop using my right arm for repetitive motions. Easier said then done, Doc. Have you tried using your mouse on the left side of your key board? Hard. Although my shoulder does feel slightly better today since switching over.

The ray of sunshine in all of this is that I have to go to physical therapy, which means I get to hang out with senior citizens in stretchy pants. I'm going to scout out a good roommate for my cruising years.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Art Society Field Trip

Heather sent me an email saying that Jarron mentioned what he would like the next Art Society to be. He said, "Either we go with Rachel to LACMA or antique shopping." Can you believe this kid? I mean, seriously.

So Kaiya, Jarron, and I had an LA adventure on Friday night.

First we got dinner at the Original Pantry, this old diner in downtown, where I had the best omelette of my life. It got middling reviews on Yelp, but that omelette may be worth paying for parking. The kids were properly impressed with the downtown vibe.

Then onto LACMA, where we:
messed around in this is cool installation that was just a bunch of hanging yellow tubes and pretended we were swimming in a pond,

sketched Picasso,

posed with sculptures,

and mirrored paintings,

and took the requisite picture in the lamp installation. I mean, anyone who has ever gone to LACMA has a picture with the lamps, right?

Lest you think these are serious, high-class kids I should mention that before I could stop them they both spit off the forth floor balcony of the contemporary building. Fortunately, it was onto a walkway cover so no people were harmed in the antics. Also they would get very close to the art. Now, I have this issue too. I just love the texture. I want to touch every painting I see. But I would remind them that getting kicked out of museums is not what the Art Society is all about.
Naturally, there was Neveux ice cream at the end of the night. Which means that they also got to see Hollywood at night, which is an adventure. But this is what I love about these kids. They're always up for it.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Punch Bowl Set

1. Lydia had some time to kill between our song practice and a girls night so we went over to the Upland farmers market and looked at antiques and ate empanadas and got a demonstration of some stun guns. The antique shopping made me recommit myself to finding the perfect punch bowl set. You know what I'm talking about right? The glass punch bowl with the little matching cups and the ladle. I firmly believe I cannot become a full-fledged Lady of Elegant Leisure without one. Naturally, Grandma Knecht had at least half a dozen complete sets and I could just kick myself for not snagging one when they were offered. But I was going off to college at the time. How could I possibly have known the significance of a good punch bowl set at that age?

2. Remember how I've told you before that you wear too much perfume? I stand by that. I love you, but you're making the deep recesses of my ears tingle. It is not a good feeling. Anyway, I have a bit of sympathy for you now because, if you can believe it, I have found a perfume that doesn't make me gag. This. While putting it on this afternoon I liked it so much that I wanted to wear more. I refrained, of course, but I get it now. You have my permission to slightly resent me when you're applying your scent and you stop at just one spritz even though you're tempted to do more. Don't do more!!!

3. The classical station is holding their membership drive and today's give away was a CD of 100 Christmas carols which means that they played a lot of them on my drive to and from work. Thus making it the first carols I've heard in the pre-Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas season. And for once I wasn't cranky about it. Normally when I see decorations or hear carols in October I get a little feisty. But this filled me with good cheer and made me rethink my no-carols-til-after-Thanksgiving rule. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Space Lip Balm

You really should have been watching the space walk this morning. It was so fascinating! Two guys aboard the ISS stepped out into space and replaced some doo-dad on the outside and you could watch the live-feed on NASA TV. Which I did, naturally. Well, I mean, I had it on. Because it was 6 hours long. If you saw how cumbersome their gloves are you would not question the length of time it takes to change shape ship doo-dads.

Camille and I were messaging each other periodically with questions. What will they do when they get to the dark side of the earth? They keep working. What is the "booty tether point" or the "burrito" they keep talking about? We never figured it out. Of course, we discussed the obvious thing, what about the bathroom. But we learned from our best friend Col. Chris Hadfield that they wear diapers. For such an exciting job there has to be some indignities, right?

Then Camille posed this very important question, "What about Chapstick?" You can't apply lip balm on a space walk. You guys, 6 hours without lip balm is a total nightmare! Remember, I took 12 tubes of Burt's with me for 3 months in Tunisia. I certainly don't go through a tube a week but you can never be too prepared. I start to panic when I don't have any on me. I know it takes the astronauts years to prepare to go into space. There has to be some sort of chapped-lip survival course for them to take in between spinning in centrifuges and practicing doo-dad replacements underwater.

When I get the call from NASA that they've come across this blog and have realized that I'm the perfect candidate for their moderately-humorous-blogger-in-residence program I'm going to have to have a serious talk with them about their lip balm technology. There are always questions about why we spend money on sending people up into space. And the obvious answer to that is, "Why wouldn't we, dummy? It's space!" But the not so obvious answer is that some of the technology out there today was first developed for or because of space exploration, such as an artificial heart pump that was modeled after the space shuttle's fuel pump, if you can believe it. But I think people would stop asking that question if the bearded space nerds of NASA could come up with a lip balm that lasted 6+ hours. Let's get on this, team!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bearded Space Nerds

Continuing our quest to become even bigger space nerds, Camille, Lindsay, and I toured the Jet Propulsion Laboratory yesterday. It's a NASA facility that is in charge of unmanned missions into space. So the Mars Curiosity rover? That was them. Cassini out at Saturn, Galileo at Jupiter, and Voyager 1 that is now well beyond our solar system, all built and controlled by JPL. We were with a pretty large group but this is how we knew we were amongst friends, everyone asked if we could keep the tour lanyards. You know you can comfortably spend several hours with strangers when they see the importance of a lanyard.

Some highlights:

1.  The place is teeming with bearded space nerds. This is just a slice of heaven for me.

2.  We got to see the BSNs working on a satellite that will be launched into Earth's orbit in January. It's called SMAP (Soil Moisture Active-Passive) and, in a nut shell, it will monitor weather. While we were checking it out the project manager wandered by and we were able to get the details of it. Like where the parts were manufactured. Let's hope the Russians don't find out I know this information. The PM didn't have a beard but he did have a speech impediment, which may be just as great.

3. Here's a fun fact about Voyager 1:  it is one of the fastest moving man-made objects in space. It goes just under 1 million miles A DAY. That's a lot of miles. And yet it will still take 40,000 years for it to be closer to the closest star than it is to our sun. We have got to get moving on this warp drive business. We are never going to be prepared to fight the Klingons at this rate.

4. Another fun fact about Voyager 1: it has a gold record on it that contains a collection of sights and sounds from Earth. Jazz, thunder, Beethoven, some kind of ethnic drumming, what sounds like someone opening a candy bar wrapper. And then a bunch of scientists talking about space stuff. You can actually listen to all 5+ hours here.  It was put on there on the off chance an alien comes across it in the vastness of space. Isn't that just the dreamiest thing you've ever heard of? But I will say for something that was created in the 70s, there is a shocking lack of Abba on it.

5.  We had the absolute worst tour guide. Curtis. I wanted to shoot my foot off every time he opened his mouth. First, he sounded like he had marbles in his mouth but talked at hyper-speed. And second he repeated everything he said at least 5 times. Here's some classic Curtis:  "This is a 1/3 model, which means it's 3 times smaller than the actual satellite. And the actual satellite is 3 times larger than what you see here. Because it's a 1/3 model." He would then say this again just to make sure we got it. And then a third time to make sure we had lost our will to live. He was the Voyager 1 of tour guides, he went really fast without getting anywhere. My absolute favorite moment was when Camille asked a question about a counter we saw in Mission Control that turned out to be Greenwich Mean Time and Curtis spent a few minutes explaining how clocks work, "Do you see these numbers that are showing 51, then 52, then 53, then 54? Those are seconds. Right next to them are the minutes. And then the hours." Did you get that? Don't worry, he'll cover it again. Fortunately, we were just happy to be there and were excited to see everything, so Curtis didn't ruin it for us. But sweet land of liberty!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Elegant Leisurewear

If you're looking for a style icon for your Life of Elegant Leisure look no further than Patricia Neal in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

This basically has everything you need for running errands about town. Errands such as lunch with a Swedish art dealer or picking out the perfect gilded cherub to hang in your boudoir. It has pockets to stash your calling cards and a dramatic collar to block the masses from breathing on you as you get into your chauffeured town car. And remember that a Lady of Elegant Leisure never leaves her penthouse without a turban.

As for your quiet moments at home, in between planning the menu for a dinner party in honor of the new mayor and keeping up your correspondence with foreign diplomats, there's this number:

You know you're really killing it when you accessorize with a poodle.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hot Flash

1. Mel Brooks had a prosthetic finger put on just before he stuck his hands in cement at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. I mean, come on! That is comedy gold. And if you click on that link you can watch a clip of it and see how tickled he is by the whole thing. That guy is a treasure.

2.  Does anyone else agree with me that those selfie pole thingies that you can attach to your phone are ridiculous. I've seen too many pictures recently of people with poles in them. This is absurd.  Why can't you just ask someone to take a picture of you? Or do what the rest of us do and just hold your arm out. Or stop taking pictures of yourself. I tell you this as a friend, you look a little dumb holding that pole.

3.  My seminary class is an hour long hot flash. I teach on the stage in the gym and there's no AC vent up there. It is, to say the least, a muggy mess. During most of the year it's no big deal but when we're experiencing apocalyptic temperatures around here it becomes a problem. That problem being how to effectively teach as a puddle of sweat. The kids seem immune to it. But also, I think kids are weird, temperature-wise. The other day I was stopped at a red light and a kid crossed the street in front of me wearing a hoodie and it was 106 outside!  Maybe I'm just a really athletic teacher and I can stop worrying about going to the gym. I am eternally grateful to Amanda who convinced me to get a fan the last time she was out here. I really thought I would only use it to choreograph dramatic Latin dances but now I think it will come in handy for when I swoon from the heat and the kids have to revive me.

4.  I call dibs on Hot Flash as my superhero name in about 5 years.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Books that Stick

Cynde, Stacy, and Teresa have all challenged me on Facebook to list the top 10 books that have stayed with me. (Oh brother, how grateful am I that this does not involve any ice or buckets.) I am happy to oblige but not on Facebook because, as you would expect, I can't keep it to 10. And I'll probably comment on several of them. Isn't it just the worst when you're FB friends post novellas when all you really want to know is what they had for dinner?

As you know, I forget most books a few days after I finish. So if a book leaves a big enough impression on me to be not just remembered but also regularly thought of, referenced, and recommended then that's a big deal. All of these books, on first reading, made me feel like I had come across something entirely new.

And now, the list:

1. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Stay golden, Ponyboy.

2.  The Trixie Belden series. Girl sleuth solving mysteries and getting in and out of scrapes with her friends. Also, they had matching jackets. Where do I sign up?

3. Anne of Green Gables and The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. When in doubt, ask what would Anne Shirley do?

4.  Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. It was the first of hers that I read. And thus it began.

5. Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is a perfectly written book.

6. East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Of course.

8. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.

9. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. This book haunts me. I side-eye it every time I pass my bookshelf because it won't leave my brain.

10. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. This is the book that turned me right off Dickens and then 20 years later, turned him into my literary boyfriend.

11.  These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner.

12.  Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

13. Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison. I snort-laughed my way through this

14. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

15. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

16. The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel

17. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.

18. The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman.  Out of all the books I've loaned and lost, this is the one I miss the most.

19. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

20. On Writing by Stephen King. His novels are way too scary for this delicate flower. But his thoughts on writing have been invaluable.

21. The Wednesday Wars and Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt

There. Let's read books!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"Our (county) fair is the best (county) fair."

Katie, Laura, Heather, and I made our annual pilgrimage to the LA County Fair on Saturday. Here's what you should know first, it was hot. Imagine taking a slightly damp blanket right out of a drier and wrapping it around yourself while having a hot flash. This is what it felt like. Only hotter. We spent the majority of our time walking through the shopping halls, the cool, cool shopping halls. And we snagged some fans from US Representative Ed Royce's information booth. I don't actually know who he is but those fans saved us so, ED ROYCE FOR PRESIDENT!!!

Speaking of which, don't you think it's funny that US Representatives set up info booths at the fair? Do people really stop and talk shop? I don't know about you but I'm too busy looking at useless kitchen gadgets and finding the weirdest fried foods to talk politics with people who volunteer for a congressman. I mean, sure, if Ed had been there I may have chatted before taking the fan. But at that moment I think I was on the hunt for one of those cooling towels you get wet and then snap a few times and it stays cool for 4 hours. Found and purchased, by the way.

The fair of today is not the same as the fair of my youth. Mostly there are just way fewer animals, which is a huge shame. I love looking at the animals. How often does anyone in LA get to be up close and personal with a cow's runny nose? In fact, several years ago, that was their marketing ploy. Come to the fair, city slickers, and see real live animals! I have so many memories of rows and rows of exotic chickens and long-haired bunnies and pens full of pigs. Not anymore. Now there are just a handful of cows, sheep, and goats. And notably, there are no more horses. Anywhere. The Clydesdales are gone. The horses for the western shows and fancy buggy competitions are gone. And there are no more horse races. This was a blow. The horse races have always been my favorite part of the fair. They turned the horse arena into a garden. I suppose that gardens are fine, but anyone can have a garden. What we really want are stables full of horses. Sunrise, sunset, right?

But the furnace like heat and the lack of animals did not stop us from have a great time. We did look at a lot of useless kitchen gadgets. And we didn't pass a single food sample without trying. And we watched a blacksmith demo that made me want to take a blacksmith class. Have you seen my forearms? I think I could be really good at it. Laura and I went down the giant slide. And we saw the Handicapable Foot Stompers Square Dance Club. And if that wasn't the most joyful thing I've seen in ages, I don't know what is.

And to top it off, I got 2nd place in the quilt square competition. Which isn't saying much because we live in a time when everyone gets a ribbon. So I shared it with several other people. But I don't care because now I have a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place ribbon from the fair and all of my dreams have come true. Up next, Best in Show.