Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

It's all my mother's fault

Really. It is. Not that she meant to screw with my head. She didn't plan it at all. But the fact remains that I grew up in a Victorian, 10-foot ceilings, molding, sun porch, lots of space (once all them older siblings moved out).
It had a living room that looked like this:

Now I look for houses and the living room looks like this:

I had my back against a wall when I took this picture. They couldn't stage the room with a whole couch because it would have taken up too much room.

I'm spoiled, that's my problem. This house had an incredibly beautiful garden, but the house itself had such small rooms that though it was a three-bedroom house, I don't see how anyone could live in it.

I mean, I know what it's like to live crowded. I grew up in a three-bedroom house that held ten humans, a couple of dogs, assorted cats, and a series of non-wanted tenants such as mice, rats, raccoons, and honey bees. About the only varmint that didn't try to take up space in the house were skunks, and even then it was probably because they couldn't find any space.

I'm not planning on having any of the above living in my new house, except for the dog. But three bedrooms in a 900 square foot house is maybe squeezing things a bit. If you have really tiny bedrooms, you need a larger living room to balance things out. If this house had had only two bedrooms, and a larger living room, I think it would have been a lot more livable.

I know, I'm being fussy. People with small budgets can't afford big houses. But does small mean it can't feel spacious?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Haunting Houses

So, the realtor found a couple of homes that I hadn't seen listed, and off we went.

(Cue theme music from "The Dating Game")
Bachelor #1 House #1 had somehow "only just now played the message we were coming over." I realize it must be a pain to have strangers tromping through a house while you're living there, but it wasn't as if they hadn't been notified over 24 hours in advance. And shouldn't you expect that if you offer a house for sale, people will come look at it? They were polite enough, but it was awkward having their eyes follow me as I looked at the place. It must have been awkward for them as well. I mean, there must be no way for a seller to not feel like they're being judged themselves in that kind of situation. They had a nice dog, though. Followed me politely from room to room, didn't stop me from looking at anything, just wanted to make sure she kept an eye on the stranger on "her" turf.

House #2 - I wondered about it even before I walked in. Beautiful lawn, roses in bloom, well-pruned fruit tree, and gang graffiti on the neighboring garages. Walking into this house, it felt like I was walking into a tomb. The house was completely stripped over everything but the light fixtures. No attempt at staging, all the rooms were empty, echoing, and cold, the kind of cold that comes from a house that hasn't been lived in for a long while.

I looked at the living room, looked at the kitchen, looked at the dining room. I opened the door to the garage, and got a shock. There was a man sitting in the garage watching television. He was watching t.v. there because he lived there. In the garage. Which, though described in the listing as a real garage, had been converted into a room. Totally freaked me out. He must have heard us drive up, since we parked in the driveway and had been talking as we walked through the house, but he just sat there -- what, hoping we wouldn't look in the garage? Creepy.

For some reason that I can't properly explain, this really did shock me. The situation just had a very bad feel to it. I didn't even bother looking at the bedrooms or bathrooms. I turned to the realtor and said "Okay. I'm done here."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Running all the way from slug to smug

I got up this a.m. and did something different. After I did my usual low-impact cardio workout with my "personal trainer" Raina, I went outside and jogged in the daytime.

It was a beautiful, below-freezing morning outside: crisp, clear, and windless. The leaves were showing off all their pretty colors, and the sun was shining in a cloudless blue sky. And I loathed it.

I am not a cheerful runner, I've discovered. My inner slug is constantly saying things like, I don' wanna do this. Wah. This is BOR-ing. My goal is to tune out the slug while learning to listen to my knees and tendons.

I jog/walked for 36 minutes, alternating 1 and 2 minute intervals. At first I had the whole park to myself, which was good. When you're huffing, puffing, and red-faced, it's nice not to have an audience. But I think I'll have to break down and get an iPod or something like that. Marie's suggestion of a podcast geared toward newbies sounds like something that will cost still more money it might do the trick. Might help to drown out the inner slug.

After about 30 minutes, the sun had warmed things up enough so that other people started to come out and enjoy the day. I looked at them with the smug tolerance of a woman who'd begun her workout when it was still freezing. Apparently braving the cold brings with it a feeling of superiority.

I feel good now that I've stopped jogging. I do think I deserve a gold star for getting out there in the cold and doing the work.

Fall photo courtesy of flickr.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Me, Lola, & PBS

Christina asked about tips on running. I’ve run twice now, so clearly I’m an expert on running for office fitness.

Oh all right.
All I know is what Theresa told me:

1. Wear the right shoes.
2. Wear a sports bra.*
3. Start out slower than you think you can.

(Not mandatory for most men.)

Does anyone else have any other tips for a beginner? I'd love to hear them.

So far, following the steps above has worked out well. I’m starting off with a very slow walk/jog schedule, which hopefully will let my knees adjust gradually to the new demands being placed on them. I also invested in a heart monitor/stopwatch thingie, so I can check whether I’m getting too little, too much, or the Goldilocks version of a workout.

I don’t know why, maybe it was all this $$ spent on exercise stuff, maybe it’s a delayed reaction to the uncertainties of house hunting, but last night for some reason I decided to have a bit of a panic attack. Jogging around the park in the dark was a useful way of dealing with anxieties, especially since I’m not sure how else to address the panic. (Still not sure why I was feeling panicked in the first place.) So I jogged a bit more than before, still slowly, and at least that way my heart rate was elevated for a healthy reason.

The Beginning Runner’s handbook has what seems to me to be some good advice:

  • Don’t expect it to be fun at first.
  • Train your mind as well as your body (psyche yourself).
  • Don’t panic if you can’t keep to the schedule religiously, but don’t let the occasional slip up stop you in your tracks.
(Note: the rest of this post is a shameless promotion of PBS. But don't I segue into it neatly?)


Nova has gotten on the running bandwagon as well. To quote Kate Becker, from WGBH:

Six months ago, a team of rookies stepped to the starting line of the Boston Marathon. As members of Team NOVA, they were part of an experiment: a test to see what it takes to mold a batch of non-runners into a team of marathoners. Tune in Tuesday to find out how this diverse group of hopeful novices transformed physically and mentally to meet the challenge.

While you're waiting, why not click over to the Marathon Challenge Web site,, where you can meet Team NOVA and its coaching group, get training tips, and explore the physiology of fitness.

In case you’re in a country that doesn’t get Nova, she goes on to list other ways you can check out the action:

There are two podcasts and a vodcast scheduled to launch this week in conjunction with the show:

  • * On Wednesday, meet Sama Elbannan, a 28-year-old novice whose "Oh, it's just a marathon!" attitude evaporates almost as soon as she laces up her shoes. Then elite runner Uta Pippig, advisor to Team NOVA, describes her philosophy on running in "Taking the Marathon Challenge," also hitting iTunes on Wednesday.
  • * On Friday, "Coach Don" Megerle, director of the Tufts President's Marathon Challenge and a coach of Team NOVA, shares the adrenaline rush he gets from watching his runners achieve their marathon goals: "After the last person is finished crossing the line, it takes me several days to come down from that."

These 'casts are all available on iTunes. Or, visit our podcasting page to find out how to get them delivered directly to your computer:

I’ve got myself scheduled to run a marathon immediately after I start ice skating in Hell, but this program should help me to get mentally geared up to run any distance. Worth a try, anyway.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Maybe I'm setting my sights too high?

"All I want is a man who is kind and understanding. Is that too much to ask of a millionaire?"
Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Do you think maybe I might be setting myself up for failure? My ideal dream house might be... just a dream. I liked the look of this place, but probably too much maintenance. I don't do windows, at least not to this extent.

Tonight another jog fest, oh boy.
Photo courtesy of flickr.

Monday, October 22, 2007

See Mary run. Don't blink!

I actually ran last night. Well, jogged. In the dark, where no one could see me, so you'll have to take my word for it, but yes, I jogged and I live to tell the tale.

I'm following Theresa's advice (which is based on advice in the Beginning Runner's Handbook) and doing 4 minutes of brisk walking alternated with 1 minute steady jogging. It didn't seem as if I were doing enough. I kept thinking I should stop playing it cautious and just go do my imitation of a sprinter. Somewhere in the back of my mind is the idea that if I run faster I will get it over with sooner. (The back of my mind is not a place to go if you're looking for logic.)

Safety disclaimer: The park where I jog has lights, so it wasn't actually in the dark as such, and it's a quiet nothing-ever-happens-here place surrounded by townhouses and apartments. In other words, I feel safe jogging there in the evening. If it ever starts to feel iffy, my neighbors would gladly loan me their dog for the jaunt.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

House trek

And so it begins.

No, this isn't the house that the Realtor took me to. Far from it, alas. Learned that people who write descriptions of houses not only are grammatically impaired, they also have problems with reality in general. The house wasn't terrible, but it wasn't all they said it was, either. Why do sellers do that? It's like a guy in a personal ad describing himself as another Tom Cruise, when he really resembles Tom Arnold. I want to fall in love, feel a rush of heady infatuation that would make me throw caution to the winds and sign on the dotted line, not feel let down.

I'm not in love with the realtor, but I liked her well enough. She seemed like a nice person. (And resembled neither of the Toms, Cruise nor Arnold.) Pointed out some of the flaws in the house as well as some of the good aspects. At least I've broken the ice: I have now gone and publicly viewed my first house. I've declared to the universe that I'm seriously putting myself on the market for a new home, and it better take me seriously and deliver the goods.

I'm a bit bummed about getting my hopes up about this house. Maybe it would have looked better in the evening, or after a few drinks. Heck, something like that might even make Tom Arnold look more attractive. (At least, he's been married and I think more than once.)

I think the thing to do is go for a quick walk around the park in my fancy new shoes. I am a calm, confident woman who exercises daily, eats those damn green leafy things, and is firmly in charge of her own destiny. Or at least, that's my story.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

One small step for Marykind

I did something positive on my vacation; I went in to a running store. The woman made me run up and down the sidewalk in several pairs of shoes before she suggested a few different brands that I might like. Came out of that store poor, but well shod.

Tangential thought: one thing I'd always heard was that it was so easy to run. "No need for fancy outfits or expensive bicycles," everyone told me. "You put on a pair of good running shoes and you go." Hogwash. I don't know how you runners afford the habit. The woman next to me was buying shoes for her three daughters (two in elementary, one in middle school), and she ended up paying over a thousand dollars. For shoes these dang kids are going to outgrow in another year. WTF?

Also, besides being expensive, these shoes should probably be nicknamed Betty. They're ugly. The running store is across the street from my old high school, and these shoes are in the school colors of red and white. I feel like I'm on my way to a football rally. (Go panthers. Mash Mateo. Rah.) But I must admit they feel like a dream to wear. Maybe the ugly colors were designed to motivate me to muss them up by some good hard trail running?

Note: this post is my way of hitting the ground running, so to speak. Tomorrow I view my first potential house (i.e. a house with potential, almost kind of in my price range). I'm nervous about meeting my first Realtor and trying to pretend I'm a competent, rational adult in her right mind. By trying to focus part of my attention on exercising, I'm attempting to direct my anxiety into a healthy outlet. Gotta be worth a try.

I gained HOW much?

Oh no, no no no.

I don't believe it. I don't want to believe it. In other words, no.

In the past five days I have gained six frickin' pounds. (That's similar to a regular six pounds, but even heavier.)

I suspect my thyroid is throwing a temper tantrum, 'cause that's just plain strange. I'm tempted to pull an Oprah, and move to Hawaii for a month. This time last year I was in Maui, sitting on a balcony taking pictures like this one. (View of Moloka`i from G-G's condo.)

Ever seen the view from my office window? Right now it looks like this. Yeah, that's what I thought too. And on top of everything, I'm gaining weight like a Sumo wrestler gearing up for a championship match. House hunting was supposed to help me lose weight.

The trouble is that I can't concentrate on more than one thing at a time. Right now all I can think about is finding a house. Tomorrow I'm going to go view my first house. Need to get prepared.Exercise? Oh yeah, I should do something like that. Later.

I've decided I'm going to be Positive about this. Setbacks are a chance for me to develop my skills. The only way I will successfully lose weight and keep it off is by learning to keep to my exercise & veggies routine even when things are hectic. It's okay to feel stressed about buying a house, dealing with realtors, banks, and the prospect of taking on obscene amounts of debt. Just so long as I keep exercising and eating healthy stuff.

This preoccupation with weight seems terribly narcisisstic when I compare myself to people I know who are facing challenges like chemotherapy or the loss of a loved one. What the hell am I complaining about? I know on an intellectual level that my sitting back and feeling gloomy won't lighten the burdens they have to carry. All the same it feels self-serving to say "well, life goes on," even though it does.

The prospect of death emphasizes the importance of life. I'm focusing on ways to lose weight because I want to enjoy my life while I'm living it, as much as I can. Or at least not look back at the end of my life and see that I never made any effort to live the way I want to live, look the way I want to look, etc. the way I want to etc.

This blog is meandering into maudlin musing. Should I post it or delete it? You decide.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Me & Cary Grant

Anyone who's ever seen the movie "Suspicion" knows that technically this blog post should be titled "Me & Joan Fontaine," as Cary Grant’s character was the one causing the suspicion -- but Joan Fontaine's character was pretty dopey in this movie. And honestly, which one would you prefer to be linked with? Exactly.

What does Cary Grant have to do with looking for a house? Trust the Mary. There's a connection. Two connections, actually. Well, three. Looking for a house is a lot like looking for a mate or looking at a Cary Grant film: it can be romantic, or a comedy, or both. And it can create inside you a feeling of... suspicion...

Call me suspicious, but sorting through descriptions of houses awakens my inner paranoiac as well as irritating my inner editor:
  • When they say “Act quickly, this home won’t last long” – do they mean “won’t stay long on the market”? Or are they really saying that it’s going to fall apart as soon as the deal is closed?
  • Why would I want a home with a formal dinning room? I don’t like loud noises, formal or not.
  • Why do they want me to know that a house is surrounded by a “picked fence”? Was each board selected with especially great care?
Found a bank that would be willing to loan me as much money as I’m comfortable borrowing. Bottom of the market, definitely, but there are a few houses out there all the same. Not too many.

The next step is to start interviewing house agents. Have no idea how to go about doing that, but we’ll see what happens. I think the best thing to do would be to pretend I have some idea what I’m doing. I mean, Cary Grant didn’t start out as Cary Grant. I’ll read up on it a bit. Must be documentation out there somewhere. Also, this would probably be a good time to practice being suave, debonair, and charming.

And for some reason this isn’t doing wonderful things for the waistline either. I’ve gained four pounds in the last three days. Clearly I need more stress in my life. (Note to God: I’m just kidding about that last bit. Honest.) Or maybe the BCB theory is correct, and unbeknownst I’m eating more food to compensate for abandoning my dog. (My mother is actually spoiling the dog rotten, and the dog seems to be lapping it up, but that’s not the point.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Geez, the things I do to lose weight

Surprisingly enough, I survived my vacation. Didn't even gain any weight. Stress is good for my diet. Of course, the day after I came back, I put on two pounds. I figure I can either go away on vacation again, or find some other way to stress myself out.

So I'm looking into the possibility of buying a house.

Being a single woman all by my lonesome buying a house for the first time, well, this is going to do good things for the diet.

If you've been following the Dog saga, an update. Her ladyship stopped scratching herself as soon as we got out of town. Her fur was already starting to grow back within a day of coming back to California.

The vet had said that the blood test results showed an enormous amount of inflammation in her system. I think some of that inflammation must have settled in her joints, and being away from the source of the allergy reduced the inflammation dramatically. Not only did she stop scratching, she agreed to a very short walk the first day. By the third day there, she'd started suggesting the walk herself. By the end of the week, she had extended the length of the walk several blocks, and still had enough energy to bound after an uppity squirrel. She wasn't happy about my leaving her, but at least she's showing definite signs of recovering.

To me, this suggests another reason to move out of this place. Any location that made the poor dog so very sick can't be all that good for a human either.

I took loads of photos on my vacation. In case anyone was suffering from insomnia, I'd planned to post a couple of them here. The photo up top is sadly not a self-portrait. It comes from Flickr.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Green with pride, not envy

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Yikes! It's a good thing there are people out there who know what's happening out in BlogLand. I just learned from Marie's blog mousearoo's mumblings that today is Blog Action Day. People from all over are publishing posts today on the environment.

Saying we should do Something Good to help improve our environment is like saying you don't believe in kicking puppies. It's kind of assumed. But what specifically should I do today that could help?

Yeah, I could pledge not to drive the evilSUV today, but I was going to spend the day recovering from my vacation, so that's a given. I could make sure I recycle things instead of tossing them in the trash, but I do that already too. So I don't know if I can do any one thing today that will help the environment. But I can plan to do good things this week.

I'm going on record here to publicly state that I will go one whole week without driving the gas-guzzling evilSUV. I will bicycle to work or to the store. If I want to go into Portland to play, I will take the Max.

Anyone else want to go on record for doing Something Good this week? (No, BCB, it doesn't count if you publicly state that you won't drive my evilSUV for a week either. Nice try.)

Here's a list of 50 quick painless ways you can help the environment today.

Wikipedia also has a list of environmental issues, if you're interested.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Um... who am I exactly?

This is your brain:

Well all right, if you want to be pedantic about it, that's a picture of SOMEbody's brain. Stop being so fussy. Sheesh, some people.

This is your* brain after driving for several hours:

Cranky? Moi? Naaah. Fried, however, might be a much more accurate term. That felt like a lot of driving. I don't think I put more than 1400 miles on the car this week, but somehow I am extremely tired -- which seems odd considering all those hours/miles were spent performing an activity that mostly involved sitting and cursing the people in front of me.

*See pedantic comment.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Me & Jack Kerouac

Time to be on the road. Maybe I'll run into wonderfully creative characters disguised as penniless poets, fueled by angst and Benzedrine and spouting marvelous if disjointed tales that will eventually end up in City Lights in hardcover.

More probably I'll end up in the 'burbs visiting with family and thinking Positive Thoughts. Oh well. I can take it for a week. Probably.

Friday, October 05, 2007

See Spot. Stare at Spot. Whisper about Spot.

All right. Some foolish & non-polite people in the Hondo dog park seem to have some confusion on this issue, so let's go over some basics.

This is what a German Shepherd Dog looks like:

This is what a wolf looks like:

Still confused? Let's review.

German Shepherd Dog:


It wouldn't have been so irritating if people would have just asked me what kind of animal I was trying to persuade to walk around the dog park. But the staring and the whispering were... how shall I put it? Rude. No wonder Tanji wanted to leave after 3-1/2 minutes.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

May I touch your toes?

If I can't touch my own toes, does it count if I am able to touch someone else's?

What is fitness exactly? Are you fit if you can touch your toes? Last week, Fat Girl on a Bike devoted a whole post on her blog to trying to decide what the word "fitness" meant. Everyone had a different definition to offer.

A few hundred years ago, the Bacchus in Rubens' painting would not have been perceived as so grossly overweight as we see him today. Back in the days when starvation was a real issue in the Western world, fat was the fit option; it made you fit to survive the harsh times.

I seem to run across fitness articles on British websites rather than from America or other nations. (Are the Brits more fitness conscious? More probably I'm not looking in the right places.) I found this article today: Health and fitness: How do you shape up against the nation?

I thought this article was interesting because it offered five tests you could use to measure whether you were in shape or not. And because most of the tests seemed like something most people should be able to do. But according to a survey quoted in the article, most people can't:

  • More than half (53 per cent) of the UK population can’t touch their toes
  • More than two thirds (68 per cent) can’t do 20 sit ups
  • Over a half (58 per cent) can’t cycle for as much as 20 minutes
  • Over a quarter (28 per cent) of women admitted they can’t do up their bras at the back

I'm certainly not in good shape, but even so I can do these things. I'm wondering if this study asked people whether they could 20 situps, or if the researchers tried a different approach. If they offered people $20 to do 20 situps, maybe the people would suddenly discover that why yes, they actually could do those situps after all, thanks for the cash, Mac.

I was going to ask you, gentle Reader, if you could perform these tests. But I decided not to, because a) it's a bit on the personal side and b)most of the people in blogland are a lot more fit than I am, so it's probably a silly question. But do you know a lot of people, real people in the real, non-Internet world, who would have trouble touching their own toes?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

It could be worse, I suppose.

This is a picture of what my dog does not look like. She used to look like this, before she scratching her fur out. She is now down to bare skin everywhere she can reach, and she's scratching her skin until she's bloody. Even a verbal description of the situation is gross. I've gotten used to the way she looks, but people in the street stop and stare. The vet was shocked. And it's all my fault. Somehow, it must be. I'm her owner; I'm responsible.

I finally got the results back from the vet today. I'm not sure whether to be happy or sad. It's one of those situations where each time you add up the score you get a different answer.

The good news: the antibiotics and steroids have stopped the dog's constant miserable scratching.

The bad news: something in the medication is making her so tired she can barely lift her head to eat a treat from my hand.

The good news: the dog does not have Lupus (which, according to the Internet sources, has a "poor" prognosis).

The bad news: nobody knows what the heck is wrong with the poor suffering dog. All everyone can agree on is that she's allergic to my home.

The good news: I have a place to send her where she's not going to have an environmental allergy.

The bad news: it's 658 miles away and she's going to feel abandoned. Again. No dog should have to feel abandoned by someone it loves, but it's even worse to do this to a rescue dog.

I don't have any positive reflections with which to wrap this up. I just wanted to post a status report on the poor dog.