Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Argo "f..." yourself!

I read that Argo is getting lots of Oscar buzz, so when Larry and I had a day to ourselves yesterday, we took in an afternoon show. Paying $9 for two tickets is certainly the way to go if you can do it. This incredibly suspenseful movie sped by in two hours. Larry remembered the six hostages being released back in the early 1980's, but I didn't remember any of it. Even though we knew, because history bore it out, that the hostages were freed unharmed, I was still glued to my seat while watching all the events leading up to their release being played out.

Ben Affleck directs this movie and plays Tony Mendez: the CIA's top "exfiltration" specialist to devise a plan to rescue six Americans who escaped the storming of the American Embassy during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. This six found sanctuary in the home of the Canadian Ambassador, Ken Taylor, played by Victor Garber. Everyone knew it was just a matter of time that soon these six would be discovered, and it became imperative to accelerate their escape.

Tony comes up with the idea of creating a ficticious science fiction movie after a telephone call with his young son, not living with him. He and his son love to watch movies together, and Star Wars is his son's favorite science fiction movie. Tony presents his plan to the CIA, and eventually convinces them it is the best of the worst possible choices available for the rescue attempt. He solicits the help of a makeup artist, John Chambers, played by John Goodman to get advice on how to create this movie. Chambers suggests the movie must have a big name in Hollywood associated with it to make it believable. They convince famed producer, Lester Siegel, winner of many movie awards and played by Alan Arkin, to help them. Then,"we're off"! The funniest line of the movie that became its "mantra" was one coined by Siegel at a splashy cocktail party to launch the film at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in response to a reporter's hounding questions, "Argo fuck yourself!"

The movie's premise is that Tony is the movie's producer and with Chambers' and Siegel's help, they create production roles for each of the six hostages along with Canadian identities. The Canadian film crew are considering Iran as a possible location for their film, after finding a previously discarded script, call "Argo". The partnership formed by Canada and the United States during this time of crisis was hailed in synopses cited at the end of the movie as unprecedented in history. The final scenes were nail-biters for sure. Don't miss it.

I feel like pineapple sage in bloom.

The favorite thing about my herb garden at this time of year is the color of the pineapple sage blooms. That vibrant red touches my heart and makes me feel alive. The color is a beautiful shade of red unmatched, in my opinion, by any Crayola crayon or colored pencil humankind can manufacture.

I am on a new path in life. A little over two weeks ago, I looked in the mirror and saw the fat woman I had become and denied existed. I never saw her in the mirror. This day, I did. During my sojourn to New York City, I saw her every time I looked in a mirror. I cannot relate to her. She is not who I am. I decided to join Weight Watchers (WW) as a result of my introduction to her, and after only two short plus weeks, I already see her melting like the Wicked Witch of the West.

I bought all the WW toys, and my newest motivator is The Activelink. This is a USB card that is house is a clip that I wear attached to my bra and my pajama top. I put it on when I get up and take it off when I go to bed. It monitors my activity all day. I just completed my first activity assessment and learned that I am adding one to two activity points to my plan each day. Activity in the "Points Plus" WW plan allows me to exchange them for food points each day if I want. It plugs those activity points directly into my eTools WW account and the program keeps a tally of my daily points while producing reports that track my progress. The Activelink challenged me this morning to a twelve-week program to increase my activity points to three per day. Bring it on!

I feel so motivated by this program for the first time. I tried the WW Points Program many years ago through work, but just could not wrap my mind around counting points. I find now that the toys I bought really make it fun to track points and motivate me to stay on track. I log everything I put in my mouth and check my progress each day. In just a short time, that thing changing my stomach so severely has disappeared. I've lots over seven pounds and I like the changes I see. I have more energy and I am highly motivated to meet the "other" me trapped inside this body. I haven't seen her in too many years. She is like that beautiful red bloom; bursting at the seems to come out.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My New York City Adventure

In my seat at Wicked with my new friend, Ariana.
After bidding my husband and puppies goodbye at 11:30 a.m. on October 12th, I sat behind the wheel of my Toyota Solara and said a prayer, "Please keep me safe on this drive and in the city. Please protect me from anything or anyone who would harm me. Please help me to keep my heart and mind open to whatever lessons I am meant to learn on this trip, and please let me have fun. Amen" Then, I let go of all the fear and apprehension I had been feeling leading up to driving to New York City alone for a long weekend, and turned the ignition.

I started Weight Watchers (WW) the Tuesday before I left, so I packed some WW snacks, fruit, baby carrots and several bottles of water in an insulated bag I bought from "Thirty One". I had my pocket point calculator in my purse as well as my paper tracker to log all the food I ate, as well as my walking activity in the city. And, I finally broke the seal on a new pedometer I had for years and never opened to log how far I walked over the weekend. My laptop got included with the latest version of my book on a thumb-drive to do some writing at night in my hotel room because I was attending a writing seminar after all. And lastly, I packed my wool coat, light gloves, a scarf and a hat with some warm clothes because NOAA told me it may be a bit chilly over the weekend. I would do the "New England layer thing", and I was so ready for an adventure.

My life has become a little complacent; a little too routine. I am happy and grateful for all my blessings, but I felt in my core that I needed a "shake up". So when I got the email about the writing conference in NYC, I knew I had to go. I invited my cousin to join me, and when she declined, I was not surprised. I wasn't sure she was ready for something like this, and I was afraid to go alone. I had been to "the Big Apple" several times, but never by myself. No, I would do this alone. It'll be good for me, I thought.

With traffic delays, I arrived at the entrance to the New York Inn on 8th and 46th Street at 4:45 p.m. I decided to drive because the train would have cost me almost $300. With the conference being about $600 and hotels as expensive as they are in this city, I wanted to save a little money and have flexibility on Sunday night after the conference ended to enjoy dinner with any new friend(s) I would meet. The Pennsylvania Hotel where the conference was held was about $300 per night, so I did some web research and found this Inn for $194 per night, including taxes. Everyone I met said it was cheap, and got a worried look on their faces. The hotel was a couple of blocks' walk from Times Square and only a fifteen minute walk to the Pennsylvania Hotel, across from Madison Square Garden.

I pulled up out front and laughed a little to myself. It was kind of "seedy" looking and was next door to a Subway. The narrow steps up to the entrance led to an equally narrow fourier with a handsome (India) Indian man behind the desk with a lovely smile who greeted me warmly. I instantly relaxed. I had called ahead several weeks before to ask about parking and storing my bags on the final day of the conference. I was told they had valet parking for $45 per day and a luggage room where I could leave my bags for $4 per bag. I thought this acceptable, and when I asked the nice man about the valet parking, he looked at me quizzically. "We don't have valet parking," he said. I said, "Oh, I was told over the phone that you did. Where do I park my car then?" He told me that the Central Parking garage was three blocks up and on the left.. I found it easily and the cost was $25 per day with a hotel discount as long as I got them to stamp my ticket. There was no elevator, and that first climb up five flights of steep, narrow stairs to my third-floor room was exhilarating to say the least. I thought my heart would pound out of m chest and I broke a sweat.

After I closed the door and thanked the man (I didn't tip him), I looked around and burst out laughing to myself. The room was the smallest hotel room I had ever stayed in. It had to be eight-foot square. The bathroom was made for "little people". I honestly did not believe I could even fit in the 12" x 13" shower stall. I'm not exaggerating! An air conditioner was still in the window and there were metal gym lockers for my clothes. But I had as big a flat-screen TV as we have at home! I called Larry and laughed my ass of with him over the phone. I thought it was hilarious, and felt like it was Jane Fonda's new apartment in New York City with Robert Redford in the movie, "Barefoot In The Park". I decided I would be getting a real "grassroots" New York experience, and was ready for anything. I put my suitcase on the luggage rack and walked to Times Square in search of a discount ticket to Wicked.

I found the kiosk, but Wicked was not listed. There was a young man outside helping people find what they wanted, and told me Wicked did not discount with them. "Do you think I could get one ticket from the theater then?", I asked. He told me to walk up to 50th and turn left, so I did. Along the way there were a group of hip-hop artists dancing to great music, so I stopped to wiggle along and snap some pictures.

They attracted a nice crowd and it made me smile. I found theater and there were hundreds of people standing outside in a perfectly straight line across from the front entrance. I asked some young people closest to me if this was the ticket line or if they already had tickets. A young woman said, "Oh no. This is the lottery line." I asked what that was and she told me I should go up to a window she pointed to and leave my name for the drawing to win a discounted ticket. I said thanks and headed to the window. "I don't know how this works," I told the nice man at the window. He told me to put my name on the 3x5" card he placed in front of me with the number of tickets I wanted. I could have two or three. I did as I was bid and put "1" in a circle under my name. "You can have two," he said. I told him I was alone and only needed one. He said, "Oh, ok," and took my card. "I'll be drawing in sixty seconds," he told me. I said, "Awesome!" in my head, "Just in time." I backed away to join the crowd.

Very shortly afterwards, that same man came outside to address the crowd with all the cards he had drawn in his hand. He began to read names. People crowded around me, pushing me further back. The fourth name drawn was, "Kathy Gardner". I yelled, "Oh my God!", and rushed forward to take my place in the winner's line to huge applause from the crowd. "I never win anything!" I gushed. I immediately turned five years old. I was so excited, I couldn't stop talking. Everyone around me was excited for me too. After the crowd of "losers" was disbursed, I was handed my card to collect the front-row-seat ticket for $30 cash, and a lime-green, metal button to wear on my coat that read, "I won the Wicked Lottery." I knew this was a very good omen for the rest of my weekend. I had no fears at all, and was already having a blast by myself in New York City. I am so happy I went and so thrilled I did it alone. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Getting Un-Stuck

Writing is hard work. Reliving choices I'm not so proud of in my past by writing a memoir is much harder. Walking down memory lane is like climbing this tree. Once I get to the first branch, the climbing is easy. But as I reach the top-most branches, my climb becomes precarious at best. I am stuck there, high above my Self; looking down. In looking down, I become afraid of falling. Falling into the dark places I am too afraid to venture. They are gone. Why go there again?

My past contributed to making me who I am today. I am a product of my choices: Some were healthy, and some were not. But the unhealthy ones offered lessons I could not have learned otherwise. Those lessons were useful and provided knowledge to maneuver through the maze of Life.

A Sage I met in the mid-1970's said that "knowledge is the key to understanding". I have made a Life's journey out of acquiring knowledge. But the knowing I seek is of my inner-most Self. The journey to Self is life-long, and well worth the effort. But, like climbing the tree, it does not come without some scratches, cuts  and bruises. Bandaids and antibiotics were made for healing those wounds.

Love is the healer. If a cut leaves a scar, the scar becomes a reminder of "the good fight". It is a symbol of reaching an even higher limb; a greater level of knowledge. Learning to love my Self; even my dark side, is healing and is required to achieve happiness. Happiness is floating down a lazy river in the sunshine while birds sing and fish make splashes around me. Learning to go with the flow of life by turning "upstream thoughts" into "downstream thoughts" is challenging, but very doable with practice. Practicing every moment of every day is my Life process.

I will find my prize at the end of this double rainbow when I reach the other side of this Life. But as I travel on my journey, I continue to notice every-day prizes like that tree, the river and the rainbow; the bird song and the fish jumps.

Making time to quiet my mind, especially "the squirrels in my head", as my sister would say, is one of my greatest challenges. Those critters keep me stuck. But they are smaller than me, and cannot keep me down. They are in the past, and the past is over. I am here in the Now. I take a deep breath and blow out the pain. I realize my past cannot hurt me, it enriches me. I become like the rainbow: full of beautiful color and light.

Writing this blog post is my first step back to that memoir and those memories. They are now in perspective and I can move forward once more.