The GGA Project -- Day #51 "Close Your Eyes and Open Your Mouth"

Aren't those just about the scariest words you could be asked to respond to?  Ok, of course there are far scarier things to be imagined, but these are pretty choice.  I feel like I wouldn't even be able to go for the offer/dare these days just because there are so many things I truly don't want to eat.  Many of my friends, despite the fact that it's been 8 years since I stopped eating meat, still offer me meat dishes. I don't blame them; it's tough to keep up with everyone's special food needs.  My own Dad still occasionally offers me meaty food things every now and then and looks genuinely surprised and embarrassed when I remind him about my vegetarianism.  Knowing this, it's hard to imagine just taking that leap of culinary faith.  Not me.

But today I did do something of the sort, because I found myself in a place where there was just about no possible negative outcome when it came to flavors or substances that could land in my mouth.

Today's New Activity: 31 Flavors, Mama Makes the Call

This afternoon my Mom and I took the baby to the park, and driving on the way back, my Ma chimed up with this super awesome sentence:  "Chupi [my son's nickname, one of 14 or so], Nana thinks she might have some Baskin.Robbins gift certificates in her purse."  Mmmmmusic to my ears.

I think I'm going to expose myself as the most boring person who ever lived in admitting that I have been eating the same flavor of ice cream since I lost interest in Bubble Gum flavor, some 26 years ago or so.  Cookies and Cream has been the way to go, without exception, even though I gaze at all the other flavors every singe time, just waiting for one to call out to me.  They never do.  On the rare occasion, Pralines and Cream has volunteered to tag along for a second scoop, but those occasions were indeed rare, and anyway, it's still a pretty unoriginal add-on.  I mean, couldn't I come up with a flavor whose name didn't end in "and Cream?"

Today, I was once again perusing all the options, about to go for tried and true, and then I thought better of it.  I turned to my Ma and asked her to pick one.  Any one.  "Really?!" she asked.  "ANY one?!"

"Yes," I said.  "You choose."  I made only one caveat, purely in the interest of avoiding food waste.  No Cherries Jubilee, please.  I just wouldn't want to eat those dry, gummy cherries.  That left Ma with 30 flavors from which to chose.  She warned me that she wasn't gonna pick chocolate, as if I could be frightened off by that.  I'm really glad she said that, actually.  I don't even like chocolate ice cream much, and especially not the ultra-rich kind they have at Baskin Robbins.

She delivered me the following:

It's called Icing on the Cake, and it has little bits of icing and cake in it (shocking, I know).  It was crazy sweet (I think it came out of the kid section), but I was in just the right mood for it.

The new flavor was a nice change; I definitely needed to get out of that "and Cream"-y rut.  But what was more interesting was the pleasure of letting go and letting somebody else make the call.  I know my Ma would never lead me astray (on anything in life, least of all ICE CREAM (it's kind of a focus area for her)), but still it was an exercise in openness to just remove myself from the thought/decision-making process and allow what may come.

Nice things can sometimes appear when you get yourself out of the way.

Or when you grunt at them until somebody takes pity on you (not that monkey would know anything about that):


The GGA Project -- Day #50 "Chuck E. Cheese for Grownups "

Before I get going here, and apropos of nothing:

The other day at the bank, an elderly Chinese customer handed me this note, then proceeded to speak to me at length in Chinese.

Unfortunately, I don't speak Chinese.  If you knew what I looked like, you'd know there was really never any reason for this man to have believed I did speak his language.  But no matter.  He was confident in my ability to understand, and I guess this note was easy enough to puzzle out.  The man was making a withdrawal, and this seemed likely to be to denominational breakdown he wanted.  No problem there.

I took out two $50 bills and put them on the counter, and he immediately began saying and repeating over and over again this single word:  "Sundesh"

It sounded like that, anyway.  I couldn't tell if he was saying something in English that I couldn't understand because of his accent, or if he was still speaking Chinese.  The only thing I could think was that he was asking for new bills; since the Chinese New Year is next week, many customers have been withdrawing money to give as gifts, and they all want brand new bills.  But the $50's I'd pulled out were new, so I didn't think it could be that.

I tried repeatedly to understand what he was saying, to no avail.  On the off chance he was speaking English, I made a writing motion with my hand on a sticky note and asked if he'd be able to write it for me.  He smiled and nodded enthusiastically, then took back the paper he'd handed me and wrote the following:

Awesome.  I love the idea that I wouldn't be able to understand spoken Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese, I'm not sure which) but would somehow be able to read it.  What a vote of confidence!

Anyway...back to the GGA.

I wish I could remember the first time I talked to Jesse.  I bet he does.  He remembers everything.  I guess, though, to be more precise…I wish I could remember the first time we laughed at the same thing or one of us made a joke the other found funny.  I just wonder at what point I recognized the potential for actual friendship in the person who had for some months just been a coworker I occasionally passed in the receiving room and with whom I'd exchanged few words.

It doesn’t really matter when it happened—just that it happened, because in the roughly 7 years that have since passed, he has come to be one of the people I trust most in the world…a true kindred spirit and a confidant.  Sometimes it scares me how similarly our minds process things, just everything, and how it sometimes seems we were specially planted in each other’s worlds with the sole purpose of ensuring we each had enough laughter in our lives.

Jesse has advised me sagely on a whole host of issues, and he is one of very few people I trust with just about anything.  Plus, I’m pretty sure that if we were both strapped hopelessly to the front of a runaway Mack Truck, he would somehow figure out a way to get us out of the mess.  This is useful of course.  This sort of thing happens every day.

I've also prepared him for the idea that we will grow old in the same loony bin.  I don't feel potentially crazy anymore, but there was a time when I did...and recognizing this same potential in him, I thought we may as well plan for it.  At least I'd know I had a dear friend nearby whom I cared about and who could keep all the memories alive, since, as I mentioned, he remembers every single word ever uttered.  (And for the record, I also don't think he's crazy anymore.  It's amazing how much a person's level of crazy can be affected by whom they're spending their time with.)

And so...it was great to leave a whole day free to hang out with Jesse(kins) and do

Today's New Activity: Dave and Buster's

People who live in the area would no doubt be surprised to learn I've never been to Dave and Buster's.  I just never really felt drawn to blow half my paycheck on arcade games before today, I guess.

I exaggerate.  It's actually far less expensive than I thought, based on legends I've heard.  I mean, I suppose if you went at night (like most adults must when they are not with children...this afternoon was definitely family time), ate a full-blown dinner, and did any drinking while you drained and recharged and drained and recharged your play card, it could get very costly.

We just got some appetizer-y lunch (pretty tasty!) and played a small sampling of the games.  First things first, however.  I implored this lovely woman

to read my fortune and tell me what was up.  Somehow she was able to almost instantly print it out neatly on a keepsake card.  She even busted out a little drawing to lend some imagery to the words.  Amazing!

Looking very much forward to that "romance or friendship" that's gonna come rock my world.

After fortunes and lunch, we first tried a shoot-the-zombies game.  Didn't work.  Zombies won.

Then I rode a motorcycle.  This was the best because I've had a growing desire to ride an actual motorcycle lately, a plan that has so far been thwarted by all the Moms in my life reminding me how easy it is to get squished doing so.  I count myself among those Moms, by the way.  Though I really really want to ride, the repeated thought of doing anything especially risky while I've got a young monkey to care for is indeed sobering.  Next best for-now solution: pretend motorcycle racing--incredibly unrealistic (run-ins with walls and other players result in bumps and "flips" as opposed to crunchings and beheadings), but still fun in that you get to rev and lean.

We also played ripoff Wheel of Fortune and Skeeball, and Jesse make mincemeat of a bunch of insurgents while also rescuing hostages.  Nice.

I had a super spaz-out on the dance-off machine, which had for some reason become a skateboarding machine instead.  I could not master a single directive on this thing, and the worst part was that I was given some kind of second-chance challenge in the form of MATH PROBLEMS running up the screen that I was supposed to solve and move my feet to answer accordingly.  That was disastrous.

In the end, Jesse and I played 4 or 5 spins on what amounted to a ticket-dispensing machine, with the goal of collecting enough tickets to win something for when I would pick up the baby later this evening.

So, the combined $20 of our efforts afforded the little guy this fun surprise, and the Sweettarts too (not for the baby).  :)

Monkey absolutely loves it.  He carried it around and kissed it all evening (made out with it really...he can get a little carried away)

Overall, Dave and Buster's was pretty fun.  What is surprising to me, though, is to think of all the money we adults spend just trying to keep ourselves entertained.  Arcades used to really kind of just be for kids.  But I guess somewhere along the line somebody realized that adults needed the kind of escape afforded by arcade games as well.  Don't get me wrong...I really think diversion is important.  There is time enough for having to think and concentrate and earn money and run errands and make dinner and fold clothes and clip our toenails.  There's time enough for being adult in all the traditionally accepted and unpleasant senses of the word.  I'm just struck by the realization that on any given Sunday afternoon, hundreds of grownup people are pumping mounds of money into machines at Dave and Buster's, many of them coming away with nothing more than the remnant satisfaction of downed zombies and maybe a tangible stuffed thing to give to their kids.  It's all good though.  It's all good.

Oh, and this song is for you, Jesse...  :D


The GGA Project -- Day #49 "Let There be Light"

As may already be clear from the blogs I've posted, my Dad is my go-to person when I need to replace, fix, or otherwise make better pretty much any thing I can think of.  For a few weeks I've been driving with one headlight out, which is not only unsafe, it is pretty much the equivalent of begging the cops to stop and ticket me.  No bueno!

I've sort of been putting off replacing the light because, well, I didn't know how.  I thought it would involve carefully popping off the clear cover and then struggling to get it back on without causing any major damage.

Turns out it's nothing like that.

Today's New Activity: Learning to Replace a Headlight

Turns out, on certain models anyway, the headlight's bulb is actually replaced from under the hood.  And it's incredibly simple!  Well, it wouldn't have been if my Dad had had to do it himself.  His hands are too big to squeeze in the space between the bulb and the car's battery, so it would have been extra work for him.  But I was able twist it out without incident.  Then Pops just snapped in the new one, I twisted the contraption back, and that was it!

So this is not the most exciting of new activities, but it was a really good one because it's a lesson that it's often more work and worry to put off doing something than to just take care of it.  And anything that lessens potential interaction with the 5-0 is a good thing, in my book.


The GGA Project -- Day #48 "Another Man's Treasure"

This afternoon had me out with the monkey, scouring the local thrift store for an outfit to wear to the pick-a-decade-any-decade theme birthday party I'm attending tomorrow night.  The shopping trip was a total bust, as 90's frump isn't what immediately comes to mind when I think of dressing up fun for a party.  I may have to find my way down to Moon Zoom tomorrow for some genuine vintage threads.

Anyway, while we were out in lovely, picturesque downtown Hayward (and I joke, but there are some surprisingly quaint little pockets of my new town), it occurred to me that I'm not often enough out on the streets, exploring the shops and whatnots where I live.  When I lived in downtown San Jose, I walked everywhere, had ventured into a good majority of the establishments within walking distance, and felt like I knew the place pretty well.  Hayward and I...we're as yet still acquaintances.

So after the Salvation Army I ventured my way across the street to a little spot I've passed many dozens of times and had so far only intended to check out.

Today's New Activity: Visiting the Local Consignment Store

This man is running to get there!

Meh, the consignment store was a let down.  Stuff was overpriced and to be honest, not that interesting.  The walls were covered with so much terrible art it was difficult to even focus long enough to try and pick out a gem in there.

I would have taken pictures of some of the more unique or intriguing items for sale, but the owner woman was pretty consistently around (I think people are generally a little freaked out when shoppers take pictures in their store), and honestly there just wasn't anything pretty enough, different enough, or even funny enough to warrant sharing.

No matter.  It was nice to be out and enjoying the afternoon for a spell.  And it did make me want to spend more time appreciating my very immediate surroundings.  I blogged about this in the beginning of the month, but I was talking about San Francisco then.  I can do A LOT more in the way of exploration where the East Bay is concerned.

Looking forward to it...


The GGA Project -- Day #47 "Check"

For a while now I've wanted to try playing chess online.  Being terrible at chess as of now, I wasn't even sure I could find a forum where the skill level of players is essentially zero.  Plus, I'm a little shy about interacting with strangers online, even if I'll never know who they are and all we're doing is playing chess.

Plan B: tonight, a 2-second "play chess against the computer" Google search led directly to chess.com, where one application allows you to...you guessed it...

Today's New Activity: Computerized Board Game Smack Down

There were 4 levels to chose from.  I went with the 2nd level, which is "easy."  It quickly became obvious that the first level, "silly" would have been more appropriate.  But I went with easy because I actually have played some decent chess matches in the past.  It's been about 6 years since I last played though, and also I really don't think I do well playing virtually (at anything, that is).  The site does a decent job of making the pieces look more tangible than the flat depictions I've seen in books, but it's still a very different feeling than sitting in front of the board with all the possibilities right there before you.

I have never had the patience to study chess strategies.  Any wins I've managed to eek out had to do with just taking a lot of time to think through moves, and probably also with playing against equally unskilled players.  In essence, I know how each of the pieces move, and the rules of play (though the "Castle" move still needs to be explained to me every single time), and that's about it.

Thinking about that, though, I remembered *how* I learned the rules of play, which was a trip down Geek Memory Lane.  When I was a little girl, I used to play checkers with my Dad.  Checkers was fun, but I always wanted to learn to play chess.  Watching chess played (and I don't even know where I would have, as a kid.  My parents didn't hang out with people who played chess, and it's not exactly a game fit for live coverage on t.v), you get the impression that important decisions are being made.  Chess pieces, when moved, land with weight...with authority.  You watch people oh so thoughtfully contemplating the options, then moving that piece with dignified gusto and always a hint of fear.  It feels as if a move made in a game of chess could somehow matter to the outcome of larger, more pressing issues.  In contrast, checkers feels pretty much like flicking candy around until everyone gets bored enough to move on.

Anyway, my Dad told me for years that when I beat him at checkers, he'd teach me to play chess.  I think this was a good, fatherly move on his part.  But there were two problems with the plan.  First, since I didn't care much for checkers, I wasn't exactly challenging him to play me all the time (a necessary part of the deal).  I wasn't, therefore, getting any better at it.  And secondly, even if I had, I think I didn't stand a chance at beating him any time soon.  So, I decided to cheat and sidestep my Dad's seemingly impossible accomplishment/reward system.  When I was in high school I stayed after school a few weeks in a row to attend Chess Club meetings.  I totally forgot about this until today.  I went solely for the purpose of learning the rules, and then never went again.  If that is not the Ultimate in Dork Rebellion, I don't know what is.

Back to today.  The first game I played was a joke.  Check mate in four moves.  

I survived a little longer in the second game, but only because I weaseled my King back and forth for some time until they all closed in on me.

There were some rules I'd definitely forgotten until I tried to make moves that the computer wouldn't allow.  At least 5 times I was prevented from making a move because you aren't allowed to make a move that puts yourself into check.  How civilized.  But speaking of that, I find it really annoying that a sometimes hours-long game of chess can end with the words (or the politely unspoken but smugly implied) "check mate," and then you just gaze at the board and contemplate the outcome without ever TAKING the King.  C'mon people!  Finish the thing.  And I'm not even the kind of person who's into rubbing things in or even winning (I was just talking about this the other day...I actually feel kind of guilty when I win at something.  I need to look into that, by the way), but still: you've done the work, you've matched wits and strategies and come out on top, go ahead and take that King!

Oh well.

It's nice to know this play-against-the-computer option is out there.  I think it would benefit me to practice some more chess play.  Engaging in an exercise that forces you to carefully think through the implications of all your next moves has got to be a good rehearsal for life in general.  I think most people could benefit from thinking more before they move.  And I'll probably be looking for some real life chess challengers soon, so I'm just putting that out there....


The GGA Project -- Day #46 "Shock Talk"

This is another one of those days that lets me know that, no matter how rough the past half year has been (or I suppose it's more accurate to say the past 5 years or so), it has all been leading to the moments of realization and growth that I'm experiencing now.  It has all enabled me to look at the ways I've assessed, processed, and reacted to the occurrences and actions of the people in my life with renewed clarity.

And basically I can see that I've been all wrong, all along.

Ok, maybe not all wrong.  But a lot wrong, a lot of the time, and for a long time running.  For a number of years, and especially since I've abandoned a connection with any specific religion, the way I've made moral decisions in my life was to ask whether doing something would intentionally (or even unintentionally) hurt somebody else.  I have certainly failed at acting in accordance with this moral code; I have certainly done the things that hurt others.  Usually I come to find out after the fact that something I did hurt somebody else unintentionally, but occasionally I have gone into something knowing very well the potential harm.  For those incidents, I am truly sorry.  For most of them, I have taken the time to say so to the person(s) affected.

There is another way, however, to fail at this moral code.  And I'm seeing now that probably 95% of all pain I've experienced--most likely throughout the course of my entire life--has to do with the woefully misguided interpretation of my own moral code.  I've left out a crucial element, which is to say that, all along, I should have also been asking whether an action I would take had the potential to hurt me.

After all, I'm a person too.

As I sit here and write this, I cannot *believe* how ridiculously simple these equations are:

Hurts others = bad.  Doesn't hurt others = good.  Hurts me = bad.  Doesn't hurt me = good.

Really, look at that and tell me whether we still need a list of specific commandments that spell out all the details.

But simple as this is, it has still somehow eluded me all this time.  Now, for sure, I've had my moments of clarity...glimpses into the beauty of the most stripped down interpretation, allowing me to see straight.  Example: some 7 years ago, I was really struggling with feelings I had for a person who was (and likely will always be, even if single) completely unavailable.  I'd made a series of choices that caused me to care more and therefore hurt more than I ever should have, knowing what I'd known all along about this person's (un)availability.  For weeks I walked around feeling semi-haunted by my inappropriate feelings and all the sadness and confusion that went along with them.

Then one day, it finally occurred to me:  I'd done this.  I'd gotten myself into this state, through my own choices.  The other person wasn't doing anything to me, keeping me captive in any way, wasn't in any way responsible for making it any easier.  In that moment of awakening I felt a freedom I had never known before:  If I'd gotten myself in that mess, it was, of course, me and only me who could wrest myself free.  And so, pretty instantly, I did.

Even though I had that experience and benefited greatly at the time from the knowledge, I still managed to unlearn the lesson in the intervening years.  And I am not of the opinion that I should have every last thing figured out by now.  I certainly hope that I will spend a lifetime learning.  But this lesson I really would have done well to retain, and to act as one who knows better.

So, back to the moral code.  The biggest way in which I feel I have failed to live in accordance with the harm/no harm principle is by not being honest.  This works on two levels.  One: I have been often and undeniably dishonest with myself.  I have fooled myself about what I could live with, who I wanted to be, and what it means to be happy.  Two: I have been often and undeniably guilty of lies of omission.  There is so much I've withheld over the years that I sometimes think it's kind of scary.  This has been most harmful in the romantic relationship sense, but I can see now that it has negatively affected every single relationship in my life.

Let me clarify that I'm not talking about withholding the truth about actions I've taken.  With the exception of those harmful actions I already alluded to, I have not done too many things I've felt were necessary to do any confessing about.  What I'm talking about is neglecting to share my true thoughts and feelings--about important matters, and to the most important people in my life.

For a long time I think I have sold myself the line that I'm just trying to be "nice."  That I'm trying to be sensitive to people's feelings, that I would hurt them if I were truly honest, and that I want people to like me.  Now, I can see that most of that is bullshit.  What I have really been is cowardly.  And I have failed to accept the somewhat obvious notion that if I have not been honest with the people I love and care about, they don't really know me, and do not have the potential to love me fully, the real me, anyway.  And all of my truth omitting has caused major infractions of the moral code.  I have indeed, deeply and often, hurt myself as a result.

I am shocked with the implications here...of how much time I've wasted.

It's a good thing.

It occurs to me I must be sending out some kind of invisible signal letting the universe know I'm ready to practice this lesson as a child would painstakingly scrawl out cursive capital Q's, over and over again until she got it right.  I say that because in the last week I have been presented with a number of opportunities to speak and act exactly in accordance with my true feelings on wildly varying topics.  And each time, I have chosen to speak and act in truth.

Amazingly, I'm still alive.  Amazingly, I still have a job.  Amazingly, I still have friends.

Amazingly, I also found some self respect.

All of that was background--sitting, however, squarely in the foreground of 

Today's New Activity: New Honesty over New Beer

In line with all of this, I arranged a meeting with a friend I care about to talk.  There were some things I needed to get off my chest, and a little bit of historical coming clean I wanted to do to explain thoughts and feelings I was having that would affect our friendship going forward.  This followed the sharing of another honest-but-difficult-for-me-to-talk-about feeling I took the chance on expressing to my parents (they still love me, for the record).

The quasi-bar where I met my friend served a number of beers on tap.  My go-to would have been either Sierra Nevada or Sam Adams.  Sierra Nevada was out.  Sam Adams was not.  I chose Shock Top instead.  Shock Top is a beer I know nothing about and do not really care enough for to research and share anything about here.  It was just okay.  The choice of a new beer obviously takes backseat to the activity surrounding its consumption anyway: the truthy seepage.

It feels really, really good to be honest.  Of course, I must say it helps to be surrounded by loving people with whom sharing the honest truth is a safe activity that can lead to a deeper understanding and greater mutual appreciation.  Not all friendships and relationships function in this way, of course.  But those that do are the ones worth keeping close at heart anyway.

I hope I will always be tactful and considerate when sharing my true feelings.  And I hope I can also have the forethought and strength to avoid unloading my own feelings only to burden another person.  Of course it is always somebody's choice how they want to react to being told anything, but I still think it's best to first examine the motives for sharing in the first place.

So then...fair warning: if you know me, chances are there are things I haven't told you about how I think and feel.  Of course this is true, as it is undoubtedly true of anybody (anybody who still has friends anyway).  Some of it may have at least partially to do with you.  Most of it probably doesn't need to be told.  But in few instances, I may be making up for lost time.  Haha.  That's not a threat, just a promise to be a better, more trustworthy, and fully three-dimensional friend in the future.

Sending you all much love....


The GGA Project -- Day #45 "The Novelist"

Today's going to be a super quickie, since the bigger new activity of the day was a real mental and emotional drain, and I think the best thing I can imagine right now is crawling into bed (at 9pm!) and sleeping it off.

So I'll just settle for sharing a minor new thing, the choice I made at the library today to finally check out a living legend of a writer whose writing I've wanted to read for some time. 

Today's New Activity: Philip Roth

I picked up Everyman.  Haven't cracked it open yet.  The end.



The GGA Project -- Day #44 "Breakfast of All-City Quarterfinal Distant Runners-Up""

It's very rare that I eat fast food these days.  It's not that I'm all high and mighty about my food choices (though I know a lot of people think the choice to be vegetarian itself reeks of holier-than-though snobbery--I hope I have never in my life given off that kind of vibe, at least not about the vegetarian thing.  I certainly give my Cheetos-for-breakfast friends a hard time and Momish lectures about food.  But I can also get down with 7-11 nachos or a half-box of macaroni and cheese burrito now and then.  Yes, you read that right).  It's just that there really aren't many good veggie options at fast food restaurants, and those offered tend to be stick-shaped and deep-fried, and leave me feeling bloated, and sad.  Which reminds me of

Today's New Activity: BK Breakfast

There is a Burger King a stone's throw from my workplace.  I tend to ignore it, except for on the two occasions when I went there for lunch (they make a surprisingly decent veggie burger!).  But three days in a row I've cut my drive-time too close to make it to Starbucks before work and drove on through for some weak-but-tolerable coffee from BK.  This morning I was also hungry, so being the sophisticated foodie that I am, I sprung for these hot mamas:

Those, my friends, are funnel cake sticks.  That, my friends, is a mini-vat of icing meant to make more pleasurable the funnel cake sticks.  This, my friends, is a bad idea.  It's especially a bad idea at 8:30 in the morning.  I would say it was something less than a breakfast of champions, for sure.

So this is a good time to revisit that conversation I mentioned in yesterday's post, wherein Kelsi asked if I'm finding the new activities to be less appealing than the things I'd always done.  Yesterday I'd said that I was actually finding myself wanting to repeat many of the days' new activities.

Today...yeah, today is not one of those days.

In other news....Get it?  "News?"  As in "new" as in "new activity," but plural?  Eh?  Eh?


But there is something else.  Today I went in for another session of acupuncture.  I've been going somewhat regularly, and my acupuncturist has been working on trying to improve my circulation (I typically have the kind of iceberg feet you'd recoil from if you met under the covers).  He's actually made some progress, as I don't feel quite the usual sting of cold when I'm un-socked, and I haven't recently been embarrassed to shake hands with people, feeling the need to apologize for the sudden jolt of icey unpleasantness I'd offered by way of greeting.

Today, he busted a new tool out of his bag-o-tricks.  Moxibustion, or "Moxa."  I'd never heard of this before.  It is apparently a very old traditional Eastern medicinal technique that involves what looks like a super thick stick of incense, made from something called mugwort herb. 

This is one he gave me for use at home.

What he did was light the end of it to a point where it becomes like a thick, burning ember; then he waved it very close to my skin at points on each of my hands, legs, and the bottoms of my feet (that part was tricky since I'm absurdly ticklish on my feet (not helpful when he was looking for the right point to target) and was furthermore a little freaked out by the fact that he was approaching the bottom of my foot with a supersized matchstick!)

The funny thing about the treatment was that "you're done when it's too hot," as he told me.  So basically it's like when your skin starts to feel like it's burning, you're good.  I'll be interested to see if and how it enhances the treatment he was already doing. 


The GGA Project -- Day #43 "40-Love"

Today I had another GGA play date, this time with Cheryl, a heretofore acquaintance-type friend, whom I met through my friend Kelsi.  I think she's super cool, even from the little time I'd spent with her, so I decided to include her when I was inviting friends into my project.  And I was very happy when she accepted.  The coolest thing was that she didn't tell me ahead of time what we were doing, which was great because I looooove surprises!

She told me to be dressed for doing a physical activity, but not to worry because she wouldn't be dragging me to a gym.  She also told me to bring some flip flops along.  Unfortunately, I misinterpreted this to mean only flip flops (I figured maybe we'd be doing yoga or something)...most unfortunately because we ended up going to play tennis! (Shoes always beats no shoes in tennis, for the record)  Cheryl is a devoted tennis player, playing in two different leagues of mixed doubles.

Today's New Activity: Surprise Tennis Lesson

Now, tennis is not completely new to me (though I haven't played since middle school), but I've never had any kind of lesson in playing and I definitely suck at it about as much as a person can.  But Cheryl was kind and patient enough to guide me through the basics of forehand and backhand swings, then camp out oh-so-patiently on the other side of the net, sending perfect little meatballs my way so I could practice the techniques.   She was a sweet and very helpful teacher, and I was able to make a little bit of improvement during the time we spent there as a result.  I only sent *one* tennis ball flying over the net and into the abyss.

The greatest thing about today's activity was that it completely embodied the spirit of the project.  You can't get much more open than you are when you agree to spend time with somebody without knowing what you'll be doing.  I sort of think we don't have enough surprises in our lives, most of us anyway.  And the part that was most inline with the project was that, after spending a while dabbling with tennis, I knew I'd want to do it again, and soon (this would be a good time to confess that I also found myself thinking about the World of Warcraft a few days after playing and thinking that I might want to run my little gnome around for another afternoon).

I was talking with Cheryl about this.  You know, up until shortly before I started this project, I was definitely at a point in my life where I felt like I just pretty much knew what I liked, and that's what I did.  I didn't think to even join in on stuff that I didn't already do, and I certainly didn't seek out new things just to see if I'd end up liking them.  How incredibly sad.  I mean, it's only been 43 days and already I'm overwhelmed with the thought of how much I've been missing out on.  Tennis was fun!  And if Cheryl hadn't been game to join in on my GGA project, I might have gone the rest of my life without ever again picking up a racket.  And that, while not tragic, would still have been a shame.

Kelsi asked me last week whether or not part of what I was discovering in the course of doing all these new activities was that I already knew myself pretty well, and that the things I was already doing were the things I most enjoyed after all.  I could easily have imagined that to be the result as well, but I told her that I was pretty much finding the opposite to be the case.  What I was really learning was that, if given the choice between what I'd always done and something completely new that I *could* be doing, I was now having a hard time imagining any good reason not to take the new path.  I've been having a lot of fun with all the new stuff.

There will be plenty of time in our lives to do the things we know and love...but opening ourselves up to the unfamiliar always has the potential to bring unexpected joy, and a new beloved hobby to our worlds.  I swear I must have seen an afterschool special on this topic somewhere along the line. But then, somewhere further along the line, the message got lost.  I'm grateful for the chance to be to be re-learning the lesson now.

I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon with Cheryl and am so thankful to her for helping me discover a new way to get some exercise, one much more fun than half and hour on a machine at the gym.  I only wished I'd had the chance to watch her play against somebody on her level, because I could tell she's a very good player.  But I do look forward to next time, when I'll be wearing the proper shoes and I can get my ass properly kicked as well  :)

After tennis, we went to Kelsi's, where she was hosting the monthly meeting of a Women's Group she started recently.  There are about 7 of us who get together, have a little snack, talk, and then do some kind of creative activity, led by a different woman each time.  So far we've journaled to a writing prompt, and today Nicole led us through a mixed-media collage project.  Nicole taught art to children and adults for years, so she's a great teacher and has loads of supplies, which she's very generous with.  We took turns holding Kelsi's newborn son, Max


...ensuring each of us, including the new Mama, would have the chance to transform something like this

into something like this

Tee hee.  The collages aren't finished yet.  There are a few more steps Nicole will be showing us next time to blend everything more organically, etc.  But one woman, Christina, mastered the thing outright and made a beautiful piece of art already fit for framing and even selling (wish I had a picture of it...maybe I'll get one next time, when the rest of us finish ours).  She kept talking about how great this outlet was for her (she's not only the mother of two but also a daycare provider to two other children, so time to herself is incredibly rare and precious).  I was so happy to see that somebody with true artistic talent had this opportunity to express it in a way she wouldn't have taken the time to do on her own.  And the group is such a supportive and non-judgmental one...a good place to get one's art on without the ugly critic monster coming along to squish down all the good times.

Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.  :)


The GGA Project -- Day #42 "Winter Hike"

Trails line the canyons on either side of my parents' house.  Despite having known this for more than a year, I haven't ventured onto any of them.  And it was a beautiful, beautiful day (not to rub it in, all you non-Northern Californians, but it was sunny and 68 degrees today.  Yeah.) to finally check one of those trails out.

Today's New Activity: Hiking (Literally) in the Backyard

I went with my Dad, since he's been mountain biking on these trails before and could show me the way.

I was so surprised to learn that this super shady and well-kept trail is just literally 5 steps off a road I travel up to six times a day.  There is a small creek that flows along the trail, so the hike had a pleasant gurgling soundtrack accompaniment.

We came upon a tree that had apparently been struck by lighting at the base, its limb now covering the walking path.

Ooh, so many beautiful, mossy trees

We walked the length of the 1.8 mile trail, which raises in elevation by about 800 feet in that distance.  The hike was mostly pretty easy, with not-too-steep inclines, well-spread out.  There were, however, two crazy steep hills, one of which just went on and on and on!  I really almost stopped about 3/4 of the way up that one, but had to rally with a bit of self-talk:  "What are you?  A quitter?!  You're no quitter!!"


What a lovely afternoon.


The GGA Project -- Day #41 "Potatoes & Cheese Forever"

At Target the other day, I bought a sack of potatoes.  I couldn't resist; they cost like $1.74.  But even as I was buying them, I was thinking 'how am I going to make use of an entire SACK of potatoes?'  Enter

Today's New Activity: Making Potatoes Au Gratin

Turns out if you add all of the below pictured ingredients and bake for like and hour and a half

regular old potatoes become this bubbling mass of joy

Man alive!  It was a pretty simple recipe, too.  So that was a double win.  They tasted good, but next time I will use heavy cream instead of milk (because as you can see, there isn't nearly enough fat in the recipe as is!) and mix in some sharp cheddar along with the medium for a little extra kick.

I followed the serving with a trip to the gym in an attempt to lessen the potential damage.  But mighty failure occurred when I returned from the gym to find the pan still cooling on the counter.  Just one more bite!...or five.  

Heard Words
Briefly, it's another installment of too-rarely-used words I heard in conversation recently.
Waylaid:  "I would have been here sooner, but I was waylaid."
Dapper:  "I got new pants and shoes and am feeling pretty dapper."
Untoward:  "I would hate to find out that customer was doing anything untoward.  He's such a nice man."
Ok, that is all.


The GGA Project -- Day #40 "Let's Just Put and End to This"

It occurs to me that there are going to be days when the new thing I take on will be of absolutely no interest and/or carry no significance, to anybody aside from me.  Hahaha....maybe most or even every day is like that.  But you know, what?  I'm okay with that.  Because really, WHAT is going on in a woman's life when she decides--after something as mundane as a plate of gnocchi--to commit to an entire year of daily new activities?  One would certainly have to assume that she was experiencing a something.  And that something may be a bit of a solo journey of exploration, no matter how many friends are invited along (and so totally welcomed and appreciated, I add).

If I were a man and a smidge bit older it might just smack of mid-life crisis.  But I wonder about that term.  Maybe what we've all along been calling a mid-life crisis would more appropriately be called a mid-life awakening.  Mid-life kick in the ass?  That has a nice ring.

Anyway I would like to think I'm way too young to be having a mid-life anything.

I do imagine that one day I will be drawn to write more specifically, perhaps feverishly--over the course of a single week and in one long, unrolling spool of typewriter paper, all On the Road-like, about the circumstances that brought me to this place where I now stand.  It's hard to imagine I won't.

This project of mine is all about experiencing new aspects of life and enjoyment, yes.  But it is also very much (and in fact more) about reclaiming my autonomy, my sense of what is normal and how totally OK it is to want to live life doing the things one enjoys, and about my desire to see how different approaches to life and problems will help me on this path of healing and rebirth I'm a-traveling.

For now, I hope anyone reading this will forgive my occasional forays into vaguery and metaphor, because this was another one of those days that was just really all about something that was important and crucial to me in terms of breaking a pattern, but which I won't get into details on.

Today's New Activity: Thank You and Good Night

For the past few months I have been allowing myself to get caught up in a complex pattern of manipulation from time to time, even though I had taken the major step necessary to end its occurring on a daily basis.  Today, however, I finally, finally, finally, when faced with the prospect of a repeat incident, felt the overwhelming strength and complete resolve to put an end to it, right in the moment....to end the conversation, exit the situation, and protect myself and my son from the negative exposure that might have otherwise followed.  It was a refreshing and empowering feeling, followed by a complete lack of second-guessing or guilt.  All very, very new to me.

I feel like the work experience from two days ago was something of a warm-up, a preview to coming attractions.  My Mom especially, and other supportive people in my life, have always told me about the change that takes place when one finally decides to make this important shift...the taking back of one's personal rights and power.  I now wish I would have listened years ago, because I never would have imagined how different and good it would make me feel.

And I have to give a big big shout out to my friend Jenn, who will probably never read this since she's such a luddite.  But she has been one of three very important "goons" in my life (my Mom and Nicole being the other two) these past few months, always willing to go to the mat on my behalf and shake some sense into me when I was letting my judgment get clouded by the murky fog of manipulative control I was heretofore absurdly susceptible to.  I had called Jenn on my way to my encounter with the would-be difficult meeting; I was in search of a bit of guidance and moral support.  Like a pro, she came through.  I don't know that I've ever been happier to make a phone call (aside from the "I'm pregnant" calls I made when I was) than I was to make the "you would be so proud of me!" call I made to her afterward to tell her how it went.  And she was...proud of me.

More crucial though, to myself and to the Mama who's trying to set an example...I was and am proud of myself.

And afterward I was feeling just happy enough to catch a late movie with some pals in a state of absolute mental liberty and gratitude.

Good good, very good day.


The GGA Project -- Day #39 "Topless"

Would you believe this was my Mom's idea?!  Yeah...we were riding along in her car, on the way home from Target, Chupi in the back seat, when she asked, "What are you going to do for your new thing today?"

I said, "I don't know yet...I was just thinking about that."

And she said, "Have you ever flashed a trucker?  That would be fun, wouldn't it?!"

Hahaha.  Kiiiiiiidddding, of course.  Silly goose.  What she really asked was, "Have you ever driven a convertible?"

I thought about this for a second, and it turns out I hadn't.  Hard to believe...I've been driving for 16 years now.  Not only that, I've only ridden in a convertible (in the converted state anyway) I think, maybe two times in my life, the most recent occasion being more than ten years ago.

Today's New Activity: Driving a Convertible, Top Down :)

We didn't want to drive on any major, busy streets with the monkey in back, so we waited until we were on the mellow, two-lane road that leads home off the freeway, and we switched seats.  She put the top of her cute little VW Beetle down, and I was off.

Oh, and it was such a beautiful day for it, too!  I can't believe the wonder of living in a place where the sun shines warmly and we can ride around with the top down in the middle of January.

I've been thinking/talking a lot lately about wanting to buy a motorcycle, and mostly what I like about motorcycle riding is the feeling of traveling outdoors.  To my surprise, driving the convertible felt a lot more like that than I would have imagined.  Of course it didn't feel like it feels to ride a motorcycle, but that closeness-to-nature sensation was definitely there.

My long hair, left down, was surely not the best idea.  If I'd been on a longer drive I would surely have found a bit knotted freak show on the top of my head by the time we reached our destination, but thankfully it was only a minor disaster.

I could easily get used to this new activity, so I hope my Mom won't mind finding the gaping hole in the garage where her "June Bug" usually sleeps.



The GGA Project -- Day #38 "You Don't Say"

In the interest of keeping my job and avoiding going into stuff I'm not eager to share yet about all the analogies and connecting lines to what I've been experiencing in the past half year, I will not go into the details of

Today's New Activity: Speaking my Mind

Hey Vaguey McVague, what gives?  I know, it's kind of lame to choose a new activity I can't really write about, but I just want to share that it was a truly refreshing experience.  It made me know, once and for all, that I have indeed grown as a result of recent, trying times.  I am closer to being the kind of person whose example I will be proud to show to my son.

And I will say that it's not that I've never spoken my mind, but never in this context, never in the midst of intimidation, and never without becoming shaky or wanting to cry.  Today's feeling was all new...full of strength and true self worth.  A nice change.


The GGA Project -- Day #37 "Food Challenge"

Today I found myself with the monkey at Santana Row to see the performance of a local band called So Timeless.  They play a mixture of classic R&B, soul, funk, and hip-hop.  Jonah Johnson, the band's front man, is a tireless and magnetic performer....always active in the community and promoting.  And he and his sister Alexis Rose (who does an insanely good rendition of "Natural Woman" by the way), combined with the band's stellar sax player and other members, put on a great show.  I was very happy to stumble upon the news that they'd be performing today.

I asked my best gals Nicole and Kelsi to come along and bring their munchkins, and luckily they were both able to make it on short notice.  AND the sun came out just in time.  Quadruple score!!

Honestly, just being OUT and able to enjoy a bank holiday was new to me.  I have for years worked at jobs that did not allow for the day off, so it was such a nice treat to feel like one of the normal people who gets to enjoy that happy little bonus nugget of a weekend.  It's so relaxing to just sit on the grass and take in a show in the middle of a Monday afternoon.

Now, poor planning had me arriving at the show in a semi-starved state.  The food options at Santana Row are many, but I wanted to stick close to the stage, so my choices were limited.  I pretty much went for the very closest option, which doubled as

Today's New Activity: Lunch at Pluto's

I've heard this place has great salads.  And salad *would* be the obvious, best choice for a vegetarian, but nay.  I was definitely in a Saturn's Garlic Potato Rings (sometimes referred to as "french fries") and Macaroni and Cheese mood.  (Man I hope my son has not inherited my ridiculously childlike food palate.  I mean it's fine if he has for now.  I just hope he outgrows his.)

A word on their salads, though: while I think it's great that they're made to order and you are able to choose from a nice selection of salad fixins, I think there's something very odd about tossing piping hot meat on the top of a salad, which is an option that most customers go for.  It must be amazing though, because the line for salad was 5 times as long as the line for sandwiches, kids meals, or sides...so they must be doing something right in that area.

What I found very annoying about Pluto's, however, was that the ordering process was entirely chaotic.  On the menu you're supposed to read while standing in line, it says that if you're not ordering a salad you can go directly to one of the other lines.  However, nobody is standing in any of those other lines, so to do so you just look like an idiot who somehow doesn't see that there are 184 people in line ahead of her (or worse, a deliberate line-cutter).  Still, I followed the one brave-souled woman who had ventured into the "sides" line and waited 14 minutes while the man who was tossing salad meat onto and off of the grill and was WAY too busy to also be saddled with additional responsibilities tried to find time in-between meat duties to take our orders.

And here's the weird part...people who had their already-tossed salads in hand began to pile up in line behind us...like I don't know if they were supposed to hold out their salads for the meat guy to top them off, or if they wanted meat-free salads and were just waiting in line to pay.  It was totally confusing.  And all I wanted was mac and cheese and fries, both of which I could see and could have scooped right into a container if they'd only let me.  But instead I had to wait for Meat Guy's attention, have him write out a ticket for it, which immediately went to the end of a loooonnnnng line of other order tickets, stand in another line to pay for the food, then wait another eternity for somebody to come along and scoop some starchy goodness into a container for me.  Did I mention I was semi-starving here?!  I know I sound like a whiny brat, but it really kills me when there is a good concept for a restaurant but such poor execution.  I think they need a dose of Gordon Ramsey up in there.

Anyway, once I finally had my yellow-themed lunch, I was happy.  And it was really yummy.  Garlic fries were a bit much in the garlic area though...one of those gifts that just keeps giving, even now a good 9 hours later!

With my rumblin' stomach quieted, I was free to enjoy the company and the show.  Chupi and Sureya (Nicole's daughter and Chupi's 5-months-older cougar of a girlfriend) were movin' and groovin' like pros.

It makes me so happy that my baby boy likes to dance.  I know you can teach a person to dance, but I'm not sure you can instill in a person the desire to dance.  That seems like something you are either born with or not.  And it would be tough for me if I had to drag him out to get his groove on at every single wedding and other music-infused event from now until forever.  And who knows, he may develop that self-consciousness that makes a lot of former movers just one day stop moving.  A lot of people "outgrow" their childhood lack of inhibition, unfortunately.  For now, however, I'm thoroughly enjoying watching him explore rhythm and shake his little money maker, haha.

At the end of the concert, he took it upon himself to push Sureya around in her stroller.  We joked that they'll be pushing each other around like that again, in wheelchairs, 80-90 years from now :P


The GGA Project -- Day #36 "Shhhhhhh"

I don't really remember how I first came across Postsecret.  It may have been when I was working at Barnes & Noble and the first book of postcard secrets was published.  But however I first became acquainted with it, I have been a loyal follower for some time now, and reading every Sunday's new secrets has often been a source of joy, sadness, solidarity, reflection, and intrigue for me.  Strange then, that as long as I've wanted to, I've never before taken the plunge into

Today's New Activity: Sending My Super Private Thoughts & Feelings to Postsecret

If you're not familiar with Postsecret, I'll sum it up here.  Frank Warren, the man behind the website and virtual cultural phenomenon, began a community art project by putting his return address on 3,000 blank postcards and handing them out to strangers.  He asked the recipients to write down a secret they'd never told anyone and send it back to him.  He received a positive response, and in 2005 began posting the secrets on a website.  He was amazed to discover that people were deeply affected by the chance to read and identify with the unmentionable thoughts and experiences of others.  Here are some of his words on the subject:

“The universal truth about secrets,” Warren said, “is that sometimes when we think we are keeping a secret, that secret is keeping us. By knowing that someone shares the secret, the burden gets a little bit lighter.”

A story about one of Warren's lectures says, "the biggest pattern he saw in the postcards was that the secrets weren’t about murder or crime, but self-harm and loneliness. He said suicide is America’s secret."

Warren began using the proceeds from the books of secrets collections he sold to fund suicide awareness and prevention.  And over the years I have read many comments and secret postcards themselves in which people give testament to the positive effect Postsecret's existence has had on their mental and emotional well being.  Many readers and secret-senders claim that reading about a shared secret or lightening themselves of the burden of their own did, indeed, help save their lives or--at the very least--greatly improve their outlook.

If you check out the site, you'll see that many of the secrets expressed have to do with disturbing or upsetting subject matter.  Once in a while there is a silly secret, like somebody admitting to eating boogers, but very often the secrets are heavy, are laden with anxiety, shame, and deep, deep despair.  I suppose the nature of Postsecret really lends itself to this sort of admission.  If these things weren't painful or difficult to express, they probably wouldn't still be secret.

I know some people find it curious that reading about other people's misery could ever make one feel better about his or her own worries.  But I can say that some of the secrets I've read on Postsecret have certainly been life-affirming for me.  And not the rainbow happy ones...the ones that remind me that we are all flawed, at times troubled, neurotic, angst-ridden, injured, confused, angry, petty, dishonest, self-conscious, and over-the-top.  These secrets give me continuing hope that as long as we are acknowledging, owning up to, striving to make better, and connecting with our fellow human beings, we are, however meanderingly so, still on the right track.

Today I set out to lighten my own load.  It was interesting, what came to mind when I had the blank postcards in front of me, awaiting the juicy news.  There were things I'd long thought of sharing that suddenly didn't seem important at all.  And there were things that just finally occurred to me were as prominent in my thinking as they proved to be.  Writing one of the secrets brought immediate tears to my eyes, and it wasn't even the BIG one...at least I didn't think it was.  The one I thought would be the most painful to put on paper turned out to be a walk in the park.

That's part of what I like so much about the exercise.  If I hadn't taken the time to express that surprisingly sorrowful secret, I wouldn't have even known how good and cathartic it felt to get it out.

All told I created 10 postcards.  Some people get incredibly creative and arty with their postcards, but mine were just bare-boned bits of baggage in a none-too-fancy font.  I would love to one day put some more creative juice in to it, but for today my goal was simply to take that first step on the road to a 100% clear conscience.

I think creating these little guys with some regularity would be a good habit to get into, even if I didn't send them to the official address.  People talk about finding secrets in the Postsecret collection books in bookstores, posting them on walls at Postsecret lecture events, taping them to bathroom stall doors, etc.

When I was finished I bought some postcard stamps from the machine at the post office, then stood in the lobby and read each one out loud before sending them all on their merry way.  Oh, and a moment for a picture too.

Lookit me...all paranoid and posting in black and white so you can't even recognize them by color!

Oh, but I decided that in the interest of just a wee bit of disclosure, I'll share the most innocuous of the secrets I unloaded...so if you happen to see this one on the Postsecret website, you'll know the culprit:

    "I'd love to consider myself a sophisticated "foodie," but the truth is that I'm always happiest when eating rice and beans."

Don't say I never shared anything with you.


Oh, and just one more thing.  Today I also tried out an idea I saw in Real Simple Magazine--making my own dry erase board.  The idea was to take any largish picture frame and replace the picture with a piece of material or any decorative paper.  Since the glass is automatically dry erase-friendly, you're left with a custom dry erase board that isn't ugly.

I went to Michael's, where they had album frames on sale for $4 each.  Then I went to the (HUGE) aisle of individual scrapbook pages and chose one I liked (25 cents!).  Bam!  Cute dry erase board that can be revamped at any time for a quarter :)


The GGA Project -- Day #35 "Dirty Work"

I guess yesterday's linoleum-laying project was considered qualification enough for my Dad to request my help with

Today's New Activity: Installing a Toilet

The old toilet in the guest bathroom wasn't horrible, but the water ran a little too often, a little too long, so it was time to replace it.  I learned more than I ever thought I would about toilets and toilet removal and toilet installation today, which, again, is good know how for the future.

Out with the old.  Yeah...all the way out to the front lawn

Then time for the lovely task of scraping the sealant off the floor and the wax seal from around to poohole (technical term you don't really need to bother yourself with).  I spared the gunky stages from photography, but I *did* think you might like to know what's there, under your toilet:

Hmmm, it's so brilliantly simple.

Thankfully this project was not too complicated and only required a little extra time than expected because my Dad had to bore new holes in the floor to get the above screws out.  Other than that...easy breezy.  Lemme know if you are in the market for a new toilet because I am your woman!  And I'll charge $5 an hour less than your favorite contractor on account of the possibility I may just do something to cause a toxic geyser to bust out in your bathroom.  Hey, give me a break....I'm NEW to this!!

Dirty work out of the way, I'm free to enjoy the rest of the day.  I had time to take Chupi to the Slide Park, where he went up and down and up and down and wowee, what fun!  And on the agenda for

Today's (2nd) New Activity: A Show at Glen Park Station in SF

From what I can tell, Glen Park Station is a dive(y) bar where my new friend Liz's friend is playing as part of what's billed as the Acoustic Triathlon.  It looked interesting when I saw the event in my Facebook sidebar, so I decided to invite myself along.  I've never been to this bar, and when I think of it have been to very few venues at all in The City.  Plus, I've as yet not had the chance to hang out with Liz aside from at the party where I met her, so I'm super excited about tonight all the way around.  More on that later, perhaps.

Happy, beautiful Saturday, y'all!


The GGA Project -- Day #34 "Bendy Tile"

My parents are the King and Queen of Home Improvement.  Since they moved to their home here in Cali about a year and a half ago, they've completely remodeled their kitchen and master bathroom, replaced the carpet, painted the entire house inside and out, changed every door nob and lighting fixture, installed a new heater and tankless water heater, and had three doors and a closet installed where none existed before.  The only major improvements left are a master bedroom closet overhaul, new hardwood flooring, and a fireplace remodel.  The house is beautiful, and a major improvement from the state in which they purchased it.

The big, glaring stuff my parents redid made perfect sense; they are things that anybody with the means and energy would tackle.  But there are things they think to redo or revamp that the majority of people would never even consider.  Or maybe it's just me who wouldn't...I'm not sure.

Anyway, on the home improvement list for tonight was moving the washer and dryer to the garage and covering over the linoleum below it in time for the new washer and dryer to arrive tomorrow morning.  When the appliances were removed, my Mom diligently set to work cleaning the linoleum.

"Why are you cleaning it?" I asked.  "Aren't you going to take it out?"

"No," my Mom answered, we are going to put the new linoleum over it."

"Oh....so why are you going to do that?"

"Because this linoleum is ugly."

Yeah, can't argue there.  (this is obviously before the major cleaning).  Still, I'm not sure I would have had it in me to go to the trouble of linoleum-ing over this ugly linoleum, which big appliances would be mostly covering anyway.  But when my folks do something, they do it all the way, and they do it right.

And this attention to detail (notice how artfully I avoided saying "anal retentiveness") that they both possess made it that much more surprising and touching to me that they trusted me with

Today's New Activity: Laying Down a Linoleum Floor

I didn't even know you could buy linoleum in squares that mimic the look of tiles (sans grout, that is), or that you could just peel and stick them.  Cool!  And I really wanted to try this out because my hope is to have a home for the monkey and me one day, and I'd love to start learning some home improvement skills for when that time arrives.

Monkey feels the same way, apparently, because he was super intent on helping vacuum during the old linoleum clean-up process (he's obsessed with the vacuum and will play with it (this little vacuum or the giant shop vac) longer than he plays with any single toy of his.  When he was done and my Dad had stripped off the wax finish from the old linoleum, I set to work under his careful tutelage.

Measuring and cutting the corner squares...

Fitting them all into place...


Yes, that's a little gap there up against the floor, but it's to be covered over with a threshold strip.

Now the only work remaining for the evening was to re-paint the lower back and side walls of the laundry nook and all the baseboards.  Why, you ask, when nobody in the world stands a chance of ever seeing these areas unless my parents move out and take their new washer and dryer with them?

"Because it just feels better, knowing it's clean and done right," is my Mom's answer.  I really like that attitude.  If only we could keep all the areas of our lives in such clean, working order...even the parts that nobody sees.

I'm looking to feel that kind of clean all the way around recently: to go to bed knowing I'd done my best that day....been the best person and mother and friend and citizen and employee I could be.  I almost never achieve "best" in all or even one of those categories...but there is something to be said for sleeping well, having a clear conscience, and working toward improving daily.  There is something to be said for taking the time to do it right--clean up and clear up and rework, in preparation for shiny new things you're welcoming into your life :)