No Life Without Art



When I first got out of college I had a friend who’s new wife convinced him that they had to have custom made drapes for their tiny New York City rental apartment.  They were poor and hardly had money for food.   Her line was “It’s just not a home without drapes.”  I’m happy to report they are still married even though at the time I gave them only a 30/70 chance after the drapes demand.


The only reason I even know about this is at the time my friend called me to quiz me what I thought was most important for a home to have.  Drapes were not in my top three, but I clearly remember saying that art was number one.


Perhaps I was tilted towards art since my mother is an artist and I had majored in art in college.  I can remember when I was about ten eavesdropping on my mother commenting to her best friend Shelly about how sad people’s houses were that had no original art.  Starving artist sofa size oils were definitely frowned upon in my family, especially anything painted on black velvet.


About a dozen years ago I went on a house tour with my mother in a small provincial southern town I refuse to name in fear of inciting a new war between the states.   Although some of the houses were beautiful and their furnishing exquisite, they all had one horrible thing in common — bad art.  Now some had prints or reproductions of famous art, but the worst homes had nothing but portraits of the homeowners through the years.  Yes, portraits are art and some are just fabulous, but it is a little spooky to have three pictures of the same people in ten-year age progressions in the same room.


Look at what is on your walls and decide if that poster you framed in college is still what you want to have hanging.  Chances are if you have not moved your art around you have stopped looking at it.  Now it is easier than ever to create your own art with inexpensive canvas prints that can be made from photos you take and upload to Costco. Russ has been bugging me to cover a large wall in his office in some artwork.  It is such a big wall that I needed lots of material or a giant budget. I made twelve canvases of photos of art glass I took on vacation and am going to display them in a grid.  For less than the cost of one small painting I’ll make a nine-foot square display.


Now, as a grown up I know drapes have their place, but if I had to chose between curtains or art you know which one I’d chose.  It may not block the sun out, but it will bring the sun in.

The BBQ Strategy

Living in North Carolina means you attend a lot of Barbecues.  When someone says BBQ here it more often than not means a pig pickin’ – or a meal that centers around all things yummy and uber caloric.  It’s not just the slow roasted pork slathered with any form of sauce, but the mayonnaise laden Cole slaw and deep fried hush puppies that make up a normal BBQ here.

Delicious as all those things and any number of other traditional sides, think Mac and cheese and banana pudding, are, but none of them represent diet type food.  What is someone who is trying to fit into a smaller size pant to do in these situations?

Begging off every invitation is just no fun.  Why should you miss the camaraderie of good friends just because they are people who are can enjoy that food and you are not.  I have found the best answer is to eat before I go to one of these festivities.  The secret is to eat something filling and very low calorie like some vegetable soup or a giant green apple right before I get to the party.  This will fill my stomach and keep me from feeling deprived when mealtime comes around.

I’m not good at taking small portions of everything.  One hush puppy leads to ten for me.  I am much better at skipping my most tempting foods, the cheesiest or most carbohydrate full ones, and eating just a little protein.  I drink a ton of water or if it is not too late at night unsweet-tea and keep talking.  Thank goodness it is rude to talk with your mouth full.  If there is not much offered in the diet category, and why should there be at a BBQ, I pray there are some new friends to be made who have not heard all my stories, that way I can talk rather than eat through the dinner hour.

The real trick is to not eat when I get home. The best of all worlds would be to be able to go right to sleep when I got home from a party.  My dilemma comes from my extrovertedness keeping me awake long after I have left a party.  I just have to stay out of the kitchen and be thankful that there is no leftover pork or pudding in my house.

Vegan Strip Club, Really?



Yesterday I watching the news and heard that Corey Booker, the Mayor of Newark NJ who is running for Senate had a controversy brewing because he was responding to tweets from a stripper.   I don’t think this stripper identified herself as such in the tweets so how was he supposed to know?  Especially since this particular stripper works in Oregon and not at just any strip club, at the country’s first vegan strip club.


Now Corey Booker is single so he is not cheating on anyone and as far as the news reported he did not tweet out any salacious photos like some other Yankee politicians, so where is the story?  It has got to be the vegan part that is driving all this news.  Vegan is the new black, no connection to Booker who also happens to be African American, which used to be the old black.


To me vegan is the new hip too, look if Bill Clinton can give up cheeseburgers, that means not ever eating neither the cheese nor the burger, then it is hitting mainstream.  What I am confused about is what vegan has to do with naked women?  Are the strippers who work there vegan and don’t like one dollar bills that have buffalo hot wings remnants on them tucked into their g-strings?  Sure the hot sauce could sting, but the hot is from chilies and they are vegan.


It seems to me that if you want to make news you either declare yourself vegan, you take off your clothes, or you tweet something outrageous.  If you do all three you are sure to make all three morning news shows.  So I am declaring myself right here and right now, NOT a vegan.  I am keeping all my clothes on for the good of the human race.  And even though I have a twitter account I don’t think I have actually ever tweeted anything other than one test message two years ago.  No news here!


I am perfectly happy for people to eat what ever they want, but I am getting tired of the vegan announcements and attention people are getting for forgoing eating all animal products.  Good for you, but I don’t care.  I wonder if Mr. Booker would have been caught up in this non-controversy if the stripper who tweeted her support for his candidacy had just worked at a regular old seedy strip club that served sausage-on-a-stick, I think not.

Is Chasing Happiness Making You Unhappy?



Seems like every where I turn I am reading or hearing people talking about happiness, are they unhappy, what makes people happy, blah, blah blah.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love to be happy.  I like to be around people who are happy.  Spending time with chronic complainers is not something I am good at, especially because those people don’t even know they are annoying.  I have the hardest time holding back from telling them what wet blankets they are, yet I do, or at least I walk, no, run away from them.


Is being happy all that you need in life?  And what is the time frame you are measuring to see if you are happy?  Is one good hour enough to be happy?  If I have a good day does that count?  What if I have five good days out of seven does that make a good week or do two bad days ruin the whole week?


Sometimes our loved ones are unhappy and that can change everything for us.  You know the old saying, “You are only as happy as your most unhappy child.”  This has to be a very twenty-first century thought because I don’t remember mothers when I was a kid who had of giant families being suicidal because at any one time some kid is unhappy.


Being grateful, kind, compassionate, optimistic these are things we can work on and I think that when you can be all these things happiness follows, but just going for happiness alone is a little self-centered.  My friend Molly sent me a study done by

Positivity Psychologist (Her title, not that I actually understand it) Sonja Lyubomirsky documenting the 12 things happy people do differently to increase their levels of happiness.  With the exception of “Taking care of your body and committing to your goal” the other ten were really about not focusing on yourself and nothing was about doing things that you think make you happy.  Happiness is a by-product of other things.


I think not worrying about happiness is the best way to go in order to actually get it.  Spend your time living your life not measuring your life and in the end you should be happier most of the time than not, that is of course as long as you are not one of those wet blankets.  But wet things can dry — It is never too late.

No Human Hold Button


The other day I ran into an acquaintance I had not seen in a couple of years.  She was generous in her compliments on my weight loss, not having known about my weight loss challenge or this blog.  It was nice to surprise someone since most everyone I know gets a bit or two of my daily humdrum by reading this blog, even if occasionally.


My friend asked me how I lost weight and I summarized the basic changes to my diet of eating fewer carbs, not much added sugar, veggies, fruits and protein, no major revolutions in the diet world.  I told her about the blog and my accountability to myself through brutal and I hope humorous honesty in a very public way.


“Well, now you can stop that,” she said.  “Stop what?”  I asked.  “Well you can eat a cookie now that you lost weight.”


I know she must have never had a weight issue in her whole life because she was shocked by my response.  “I don’t have a hold button on my weight.  I am either going down or going up and if I let my foot off the pedal I can easily go back to where I was.”  If only there was a pause like I have on my TV remote control.


It would be great to have a way to hold ourselves at a place we are happy with.  What if I could flip a switch and never get another wrinkle around my eyes, or that my skin would not get saggier?  Life just does not work that way.  We are all moving in some direction, either better or worse.  When I was a teenager I could hardly wait until the day I no longer got zits, that day came and the next day my skin was getting dry and tiny lines started to appear.  Well, maybe that is a small exaggeration; perhaps it was three days between acne and dry skin.


Since there is no way to pause ourselves at our best I am just coming to appreciate the littlest things that still work.  Today I am thankful for my wrists.  I gave up long ago on my breasts holding any shape that resembles round, eyesight being capable of reading a font smaller than 24 without glasses or my short-term memory holding a list of three grocery items from the time I leave my kitchen until I get in the car.  My long-term memory still works and it says my wrists today look like my wrists of 30 years ago.  Now that is something to appreciate.

Just In Case Vs. Just In Time Learning



Last night I went to a great talk by Pat Bassett who is the past president of the National Association of Independent Schools.  He is a recognized and learned expert on education and an enthusiastic and entertaining speaker.  His talk started with the idea that Americans are in our third revolution, the first being the actual American Revolution, the second the civil rights movement and the third being the Internet.


He went on to talk about how the Internet changes everything about school, something I whole-heartedly agree with.  How many times I have said, “Why should kids memorize things that they can look up in the blink of an eye with the device they hold in their hands at all times?”


Now don’t get me wrong, learning history so you can understand things in context not only about the past, but in real time is very important, but memorizing lists of things seems to be unneeded today.  One idea Pat talked about was “Just in case learning versus just in time learning.”  When you were in school did you ever say out loud, “When am I going to use this?”  That is just in case learning.  The problem is you can’t always predict what you may need to know when you are older or how learning one thing becomes a foundation for learning something else and the something else is really what you end up loving.


“Just in time learning” is how I learn now.  When I have something I want to accomplish and I need to master a skill I don’t have then I learn it.  I was never one to want to learn just for knowing, but always for using.  One example was when I became a consultant.  I did not really know how to use Excel or create complicated spread sheets, but suddenly I had a job that required me to do that, so I learned.  I taught myself as I went along.  The need drove the learning.


I know plenty of “life long learners,” some are people who would be happiest to be perpetual students, gobbling up knowledge just to have it and then there are others who learn new things all the time because it furthers a greater goal to create or do new things.  The important thing is that we continue to learn.  Don’t be deterred from doing anything because you don’t have the skill, just learn it.  The desire to accomplish something is the best motivator for learning something new.  Learn now before you just don’t have any more time.

Lynn’s Obsession



Most mornings my friend Lynn can be found in her black workout pants with her ancient black cashmere sweater tied around her hips and a colorful workout shirt.  This is her uniform for her addiction.  Actually Lynn has a couple of addictions and this outfit is not required at her Green Tea Latte spot, but for her Pure Barre workout. Well, the outfit is not required, but Lynn’s appearance at Pure Barre is.


So many early morning calls Lynn has made to me start, “Honey, come to Pure Barre with me.”  Since I have a place I workout I have not gone with Lynn.  I would hear other women talking who are equally addicted to the ballet like program complaining about how crowded the classes were getting, so I always begged off going with Lynn.  I have a lot of ballet traumas from my classes with my Russian ballet torturer, Martha Kruger who could have taught the Nazi’s a thing or two.


Months and years of Lynn’s praising Pure Barre and still I did not go.  So what has Lynn done to get me to try her work out, but bought a Pure Barre franchise with our friend Charlotte Jones and is opening it up in Durham in December.


I’ve started desensitizing sessions for my aversion to anything ballet like by holding a broom handle and looking in a big mirror with happy music playing.  I am counting out first, second and third position, but not in a Russian accent so that when the time comes for me to go to one of Lynn’s classes I don’t break out into a cold sweat and have flash backs of being hit on the back of the knees with a yard stick.


According to Lynn Pure Barre is nothing like my childhood dance class.  I am looking forward to understanding why all these women are addicted, but first I need to go find a black, thread-bare cashmere sweater that fits around my backside so I can look just like Lynn in class.  I’ve already tried her Green Tea Latte and know I will not become addicted to those, but I hope the Pure Barre is one addiction I adopt because it would mean not only would I burn more calories, but I would get to spend time with Lynn.