Thursday, February 28, 2013

New To Me - Volume 1: The book reading

A few months ago I was driving home and while passing Kendall-Jackson winery I saw a sign for their Heirloom Tomato Weekend.  I had seen the sign many times before and gave a passing thought to trying make an effort to go to the event.  A week or two later I saw an article about the same festival in a nationally known culinary magazine.  And I'll be honest, it pissed me off.  I have lived 5 minutes from that festival for more than 10 years and never gone.  Yet here is an article about how people from all over the nation make the trip to Sonoma county to sample the food and wine of amazing chefs and winemakers, and sample the apparently world class tomatoes my neck of the woods has to offer.  

It got me to thinking.  I work hard, I'm a good wife, I study hard in school, I'm a good friend, but what do I really do for me?  Don't get me wrong, I have a darn good life, but there are so many things on my "that might be fun to try" list that never get done that it might be fun to take a class in bookbinding so I can keep track of all of them. 

So I decided a week ago to take action.  While perusing the incredibly biased local newspaper I saw an advertisement for a high tea and bookreading with author Karen Russell.  I decided I was going, maybe. 

Author Karen Russell

Your probably thinking "She must really love the writing of this Karen Russell person", but no, because here's the kicker.  I had no idea who Karen Russell was and I don't really read for pleasure, but the thought of high tea sounded good, so hey, why not?

Here's the story of me and reading.  When I was younger my mother encouraged us to read all the time.  I have fond memories of sitting on a stool at the end of the ironing board and reading to her while she ironed my father's shirts.  As I got older however, I read less and less for pleasure.  I remember reading The Pearl by John Steinbeck and collections of O'Henry and Edgar Allen Poe stories that my mother purchased for me which I really enjoyed.  I also stumbled upon the work of Kamala Markandaya but it didn't take me long to read everything she had written.   After those the only reading I did was required reading for high school and I was not enjoying the material.  

A few years ago I took a humanities class and the required reading was The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.  It was like I had fallen in love all over again.  If you haven't read it, I'll tell you it's not for the faint of heart but it's an amazing story that kept me captivated.  I think I finished it in a week, which is pretty impressive for a non-reader.  After that I wasn't able to find anything that peaked my interest and once again I was in a reading wasteland.

Then last May, just before I was set to go on a cruise with my girlfriends, I realized I was going to have alot of time on my hands and I can only Zentangle 23 hours a day so much so maybe I should consider a book.  It was the height of the Hunger Games rage so I picked up a copy at Costco and called it good.  By the time I returned a week later, I had finished the book and was craving more.  

So what's a girl who has read ONE book in 3 years to do?  Buy a Kindle of course!  I told myself that it would be convenient to take with me on the ambulance and it's ease of use would encourage me to read more.  Lo and behold it worked.  I read the two other Hunger Games books plus Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed on the recommendation of my friend Adrienne from The Rich Life (on a budget).  

But I have always preferred short stories over full length books.  I guess it's my impatient reading nature.  So when I saw that the high tea with Ms. Russell featured her new book of short stories, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, I decided I was going, for sure.  Oh wait, I have no idea what this women writes about so maybe I should figure that part out first.   I got out my Kindle and ordered up Ms. Russell's first book of short stories, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and got to reading. It was a mix of fantasy, metaphor, alligator wrestling, and sisterly love and it was amazing!  I only managed to read the first story but that didn't matter.  I was going for sure.  No question!

So I called my trusty go anywhere, do anything friend Sudahlia, confirmed she was available, and bought some tickets.  

The event was at the Hotel La Rose, a local landmark hotel and was hosted by Copperfield Books, a local independent book seller. The cost of the ticket included a copy of the book which Sudahlia and I both had signed by Ms. Russell who is a funny, bubbly, adorable personality.  We were seated at our table with six other readers and then.......we fell down the rabbit hole.

I guess I just didn't know what to expect but these were people the likes of which I had not encountered before.  I expected light talk about the book and tea sandwiches but what ensued was deep serious repartee about MA's, MFA's critiques, writing schedules, first person, third person, and comparisons to Faulkner. I was entranced, mystified and confused.  Interestingly enough, the author seemed much more down to earth than any of the attendees.    She visited each table and then read a few pages from the book.  The ease and emotion with which she read made the reading my favorite part of the evening. She then accepted questions from the audience of about 30.  

What struck me about the question/answer portion of the evening is that even though I am not well versed on the writing process, the passion with which she speaks of her writing is exactly how I feel about Zentangle.  When she described how and when she becomes inspired I felt I knew exactly how she felt, as if the creative process surrounding writing and Zentangle is essentially the same thing even if the fundamentals differ.  

Overall, it was a very enjoyable evening.  I was proud of myself for stepping out of my box and making the effort to try something new.  So excited in fact, that I have decided to try something that is New to Me each month. Stay tuned for my next adventure!

I would love to hear about your favorite books and author's.
Do you have any suggestions for something new for me to try?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Putting it all out there...well, at least 100 pounds of it

Yesterday I implemented a plan I have been contemplating for many weeks now.  I'm calling it the The Healthy RN. The name represents the two journeys I am currently embarking on.  Becoming a healthy individual and a Registered Nurse.    

Left:  That's me on the far left at my friends wedding.
Upper left:  Playing paramedic at the county fair with Clo the cow
Bottom right:  Out with the girls
I'm not going to get into numbers and specifics but lets suffice it to say that I am a big girl.  A big girl who can stand to lose 100 pounds.  My motivation to lose the weight is because I want to be healthy.  I will never be "skinny" and I accept that.  I'm always going to be a curvy girl, it's just who I am, but I am not healthy and haven't been for a long time.  So I decided it was time for change.  It was a matter of timing, circumstance, and need that made me decide to get off my butt and get my weight under control.  A few weeks ago I realized I was going to graduate from nursing school in 95 weeks.  I realized that if I lost 1.1 pounds per week I would lose about 100 pounds by graduation.  That's when I decided to become The Healthy RN for the reason's I have listed plus a few more:

  • The F word - yep, the F word finally caught up with me.  FORTY.  I feel dirty even saying it.  About a month ago I had an amazing fortieth birthday party with family and friends.  With all that fun however, comes the realization that I'm not as young as I used to be.  All those problems that don't seem to afflict people in their 20's and 30's suddenly become crap you don't want to even consider "risk factors" when you turn forty.  That brings us to the next 3 items listed below.
  • Stroke - as a paramedic working on a 911 ambulance I see a lot of medical conditions that significantly impact the lives of my patients.  Of all the conditions I witness I am most scared of suffering a stroke.  A stroke, depending on severity, could limit my ability to be independent, to Zentangle and most importantly, to be a good auntie to my nieces and nephews.  The thought of not being able to play with them almost brings me to tears.
  • Cardiac disease - what is there to say except that I'm at risk.  I'm overweight, have a poor diet, a high stress job and have a strong family history.
  • Diabetes - diabetes scares me because it is such an insipid disease.  It creeps up on you and before you know it your doctor is talking to you about renal dialysis.  My father died from complications related to dialysis and I saw all that he went through and I know he wouldn't want that for me so for may dad, I'm making a commitment to not let that happen.  
My father and I on my wedding day.  I sure do miss him.

  • The husband - when you take the vow of "for better or worse" I think you have an obligation to the other person not to do things that would put you at greater risk for "worse".  Of course, things happen, but if I am at greater risk because of decisions to not live a healthy lifestyle, that's not fair to my husband.  Even though I know he would care for me no matter what, I would rather us live a long, happy, active life together. He has always been willing to live a healthy lifestyle so I think it's time to take advantage of his support rather than work against it.

The hubby and I at the Providence Botanical Gardens.

Hamming it up at Flo's Clam Shack in Massachusetts

  • The nieces and nephews - these kids are my biggest joy.  I don't have kids of my own so that means there is a lot of pressure on me to be the "cool" auntie that everyone wants to hang with.  I love rolling on the grass with them, flying kites, playing tag, doing craft projects, teaching them to cook,  going to the park, and attending their spelling bees.  But more important than all these things is that I have a responsibility to be a good role model.  I realized the other day that when I watch them I am always conscious of  making them healthy meals, limiting their sugar, and including plenty of physical activity in their day yet I don't bother to do that for myself.  A pretty pathetic double standard if you ask me.  I have a responsibility to these kids to be around for a long time so it's time to get healthy.

Hanging with the kiddos.  And this isn't even all of them!

  • The family - If you saw how my dysfunctional family acts when we are together you wouldn't believe it, but I think that for the most part we actually get along, and dare I say love each other!  I think it's unfair to create undo worry and concern if you can control it.  I know my mother worries about my health and she shouldn't have to do that and my brothers and sister in laws shouldn't have to worry if their children will have an auntie.  You get the picture.
  • Friends - I am so blessed to have an amazing group of friends. To be lucky enough to have a group of people who would do just about anything for you is a rare find and something that shouldn't be taken for granted.  I'm ready to accept my responsibility to be here for them as much as they have been there for me.
  • Chins - I have too many.  Enough said.
  • Being the big one - a few years back I started to notice that it was becoming more and more common for me to be the biggest woman at any given gathering.  This is by far, the thing that most easily causes me to become depressed.  Whenever I go somewhere and realize that I am the biggest girl it is almost guaranteed that I will start a downward spiral and usually turn to food for comfort.  It's a vicious cycle I don't care to repeat anymore. 
So by now you are probably wondering how I plan on achieving this goal of losing 100 pounds and becoming a healthy, happy, active person.  It's not really rocket science, I just looked at what I have been doing wrong and figured out ways to change my behaviors using common sense and a few tools.  So here's how I plan to do it:

  • Common sense eating - I have been on just about every diet imaginable plus my mother was a Weight Watchers leader so I actually know a lot about nutrition.  My problem is that I just don't try to implement it as diligently as I should.  One of my more successful diet attempts was using the Primal Blueprint.  The diet entails eating no grains and only limited carbs while eating an increased amount of fat.  It's similar to Atkins but has a more "real world" approach that I liked.  The problem was that one of the main sources of protein was eggs and I haven't had an egg (if it looks or smells like an egg I don't eat it.) in 20 years so it presented a real challenge for breakfast when you don't eat eggs and can't eat grains.  I felt great but after a few weeks the monotony was too much and my willpower failed.  So to become the Healthy RN I have decided to adopt what can most simply be called a healthy diet with no large servings of simple carbs.  I plan on focusing on healthy proteins, large servings of multiple types of vegetables and salads, moderate servings of fruit, healthy fats, and small portions of whole grains.  I think it's a healthy approach that is easily adaptable for the long run because my goal is to create a healthy eating style, not to go on a "diet".
  • Have a realistic exercise regimen - I plan on exercising 5 times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes.  In the past I have always gone exercise crazy when I have started a new diet.  I have bought equipment, joined more gyms than I care to mention, and created plans that were so detailed and time intensive that I never carried through for more than 2 weeks. My new approach it to enjoy exercise.  I know that sounds totally cliche but it's true.  The older I get the more I appreciate what nature has to offer and I'm going to take advantage of it.  Each month I plan on exploring 2 new exercise options.  It might be a new walking path, a hike, or a bike ride.  I am also going to find some "back up" exercise options so I have no excuse when my day gets to busy.  I have a very nice treadmill, and the hubby already set up a TV so I have something to watch while I'm walking.  I'm also going to dig out some pilates and exercise videos that I know I have lurking around.  
  • Utilize my friends - Like I said before, I have an amazing group of friends.  My girl's Chris, Andrea, Jenn, Sudahlia, Steph, Chandra, and Debbi would do just about anything to help me out and have offered to on numerous occasions but I'm the one who always make some excuse to not take them up on their offer.  Besides my girls I also have my two main guys, Greg and Margarito who have always stood by me no matter what.  So I have this great support system yet I manage to minimize any offer they make.  Well that stopped yesterday.  Bring it on girls and boys, I'm ready to work!
  • Taking advantage of circumstance - Like I said earlier, one of the reasons I decided to get healthy now is because of the nursing school timeline and how it coincides with my goal of 100 pounds. I just happened to get into nursing school with my co-worker and friend Sara, and let me tell you there is a new task master in town!  Sara seems to have taken on a mission of getting me to be healthy and active.   Nursing school is a daunting task in its own right but it's also expensive and has major time constraints.  These circumstances, combined with Sara constantly being on my butt about eating healthy, made bringing my lunch to school a natural decision.  I have also made a couple new friends, Kevin and Katie, who are being super supportive in helping me get on track with my healthy lifestyle.  Together we plan on walking the track and running the stairs at school and also taking a few "field trips" for some more nature based exercised.  I'm lucky to have ended up with such great friends for this journey of school and weight loss.  
  • Getting rid of the numbers...well sort of - When I have lost weight in the past, I have always put an enormous amount attention on the numbers, primarily how many pounds I've lost. My weekly goals were usually unrealistic and in many cases I was working with an unrealistic timeline.  You know what I mean, the "I have to go to my high school reunion in 2 months and need to lose 60 pounds!" diet.  It's unattainable and when you have so much pressure and then have a week where you gain a pound or two it sometimes creates a downward spiral that you don't recover from.  It's a self defeating plan to focus on pounds lost in a traditional way.  So I devised a plan for myself that tracks pounds lost in what I think is an unconventional manner.  I used 95 post it notes that I labeled week 1-95.  I then labeled each one with the week it starts and wrote what my goal weight should have been for that week as calculated by a 1.1 pound weight loss for each week.  Each week I will peel of that weeks post it note paying attention to whether or not I am on track for the week.  Sure this still involves the numbers but for me the number is more symbolic that I am on track with my healthy lifestyle than keeping track of how many pounds I have lost total.  My hope (fingers crossed) is that since my weekly goal is low, I might lose a few extra pounds here and there so if there is a minor gain (which there is bound to be) I will still be meeting my weekly goals in the long run.  It's a symbolic way for me to stay on track and physically see the weeks and pounds melting away!
My post it note weight tracker

So if you have stuck it out to get this far in my post you are probably wondering "Why is she telling us all this personal stuff?" and it come's down to one word: accountability.  I have tried just about everything to get healthy but I have never tried peer pressure/support/constructive criticism/commraderie  of this level before.  Every week I pour my heart into my Zentangle's and the Zendala Dare and each and every week my readers reciprocate by telling me how much they enjoy and appreciate them.  So logically, if I put this struggle out there I hope I will receive a similar response.  So loyal readers, I challenge you to join me, help me, support me, and offer your tips, tricks while sharing your challenges with me.  We can take this trip together and two years from now I will hopefully achieve 3 goals:

  • I will be able to run most of a half marathon.
  • I will be healthy, fit, happy and 100 pounds lighter.
  • I will be wearing a cute dress to my pinning ceremony and will be a Registered Nurse.

What challenge are you going to set for yourself?

This is what I look like 100 pounds lighter.
I haven't seen it in 20 years but I plan on
revisiting it again in a little under 2!
Who know's, I may even revisit the
Marilyn Monroe costume.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Zendala Dare #46

Still a little crazy around here.  Things should be back to normal by next week (said the crazy girl trying to cram it all in!).

Zendala Dare #46

Link to Zendala Dare #46 templates

UPDATE:  I'm a week late with this one but I may have to come back and add more.  This template was so much fun.  I see so many things that those outside "bumps" could be.  Seashells, planets, shiny bubbles ready to burst, but for my Zendala I chose to make them a loose interpretation of a gumdrop.

Tangles:  Vache 1, Vache 2

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Zendala Dare #45

Not much time for blogging these last couple days so I am going to hold off posting my Dare for another day or two but in the meantime here is this weeks template so you can get started creating.

Zendala Dare #45

Link to Zendala Dare #45 templates

UPDATE:  Well its on only 3 weeks late but I finally got my submission posted!

Tangles:  Inapod, Crescent Moon, Batter

Have fun and remember to link up below!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Zendala Dare #44

February is my birthday month and so far I have been blessed with a fabulous surprise party, breakfast at my favorite restaurant on my actual birthday, an impromptu Superbowl/birthday party on the ambulance and tomorrow my girlfriends are taking me to Reno for what I'm sure will be a fun weekend of Scrabble and helping orphans.  Yeah, right.  So this post will have to be short because I still need to finish laundry, pack my suitcase and find my feather birthday boa but I wanted to make sure that you had your Zendala Dare to work on while I was gone!  

Before we get to that I thought I would share what I did for the Diva Challenge.  This week was a UMT (Use My Tangle) challenge and the tangle was Dansk by Margaret Bremner.  I have used Dansk before and what really attracts me to this tangle is the amount of depth you can create.  I like this one in the same way that I like Printemps.  The key to these tangles looking great really lies in the shading.

Tangle: Dansk

Tangles:  Tawk, Tipple, Dansk, Chemystery,
Pystyl, Knightsbridge

Zendala Dare #44

I chose this template because it is so different from what we have been doing for the past few weeks.  I like the simplicity of it and the challenge of the straight lines.

Tangles: Tink, Amaze, Paradox, Fang

I was surprised with how much depth I was able to achieve with this template.  I feel like all the tangles worked really well in the spaces I used and I especially like the "new to me" tangle Fang.  It's kind of an optical illusion and so easy to do!

I hope you all have a great week and don't 
forget to link up below!


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Zendala Dare #43 - Feeling like an artist

This week has been a crazy whirlwind of parties, school, and Zentangle.  I want to tell you all about it but until I have some pictures to add, I'm going to hold off on letting you in on all the exciting news.  

Also, I apologize for the late posting but I fell asleep on the couch last night and then work was crazy today so I just couldn't pull it together to get the Dare up in time.  Twenty four hours late isn't so bad though, right?

Zendala Dare #43 - Feeling like an artist

What make's someone an artist?  Is it when you get paid for your work?  Is it when you finally have a gallery show?  Is it when someone else calls your work "art?"

Art is something we encounter in one way or another almost everyday, yet it also one of the most subjective things we evaluate.  I'll be honest, there are plenty of things that other's would call "art" that I wouldn't give a second look and I'm sure that they would say the same about some pieces that I find magnificent.  

remember the first time I created something that I thought was art.  It was a necklace that I created entirely on my own.  It had a large stone cabachon in the middle with intricate beaded fringe, a beautiful spiral rope strap, and a handmade clasp.   I used no one else's pattern and no one helped me create it.   No one was going to pay me for it.  It wasn't going to make it into a gallery.  MOMA was not going to come calling.  But it was mine.  My thoughts, my work, my colors, my creation.  It was something that I was previously unable to create.   And that's why it was art.  

For me, something become's "art" because I stretched my creativity to a place that I considered previously unattainable.  When I create something I thought I could never create, that's when it becomes art for me.  Sure, other's may not consider it art, but at that time I consider myself an artist.  If you follow that theory, then I am a constantly evolving version of the same artist because (hopefully) my work just keeps getting better and better.  

One day while searching Netflix for something to kill time I came across a documentary called Herb and Dorothy.  It's the story of a working class couple who become two of the most prominent art collector's in the world. You can watch the trailer here.  They don't have much money but the choose to look at art work in a different way and collect works that most traditional collector's would never consider. They manage to compile an impressive collection of modern art that rivals that of many museums.   This documentary completely changed how I viewed art and the art world and made me realize that my Zentangle's truly were art.  Another interesting film regarding how we as a society view art is Exit Through the Gift Shop.

That's why I love Zentangle because it give's me the ability to constantly better myself.  When I created my first Zentangle, it was a simple tile that used Hollibaugh as a string and then I filled in the spaces with Florz, Cubine, and Knightsbridge.  I remember finishing it and thinking, "Wow, that looks like actual art!".  To compare that to my work now, it's pretty simplistic, but I still consider it art because it was something I was previously unable to accomplish.  

Now, as anybody who tangles knows, some tangles are easier than others, and some appear more impressive in the finished pieces.  It's when those impressive tangles come together that I feel most like an artist.  

It's the first Saturday of the month so I am presenting you with an added challenge.  Fill the template below with your favorite tangles but I want you to feature one (or a few) that make you feel like the amazing artist that you are.  You know the one's I mean, the one's that make you go "Wow, I'm getting pretty good at this!  I'm creating beautful art!"

Here's this weeks template:

Link to Zendala Dare #43 template

I chose the official tangle Zinger for my two tiles

Tangle:  Zinger

I chose Zinger because even though it's just a few short lines sitting atop a long one, it makes me feel like I have alot of freedom when drawing it.  I can be big, small, wavy or straight.  The more freeform, organic tangles are my favorites and Zinger fits right in.  The tile above is a monotangle.  I thought about adding other tangles but in the end I decided I didn't need them.

Tangles:  Zinger, Florz
I feel that this tangle is slightly less successful but still interesting. I especially like how the stemless Zinger's came out on the edge.  The look like little beehives.  

I feel like Zinger epitomizes the Zentangle motto of "one stroke at a time."  With each stroke I feel more and more like I am creating rather than just drawing.  It's tangles like Zinger that make me feel like an artist.  

Join in this week's Zendala Dare and show us 
your most impressive tangles.  Remember to link
up below and tell us why you chose the tangles
you did.   I can't wait to see the results!



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