Sunday, April 29, 2007

Green Vanity

I flew to Las Vegas this weekend for the annual semiconductor broker meet up. We fly in from all over the world to shake hands with other brokers who have gouged us on pricing and shipped only a few days late and allowed us to do the same to our customer. We wink and nod at each other, and pat our wallets and clink our fifth Jack & Coke. During the day of the two-day event, there are seminars warning us yet again about the mass amounts of counterfeit chips coming out of Asia. Representatives from watchdog companies give us lectures. They go to the podium dressed in golf shirts and sunburns. They pull up their shorts, turn on the overhead projector illuminating grafts of high-risk regions and the staggering reports of fake-chip injustice. They tap the mic and say, "Will you idiots please stop buying parts out of store fronts in China?" We veterans never go to these lectures. The best brokers don't subscribe to the paranoia, no matter how real the problem, because, hey, that tenth time we bought unmarked chips out of a parking lot in Shijiazhuang turned out to not only pass inspection, but only one in twelve parts failed on our customer's circuit board! Aaannnnddd, most importantly, we made twenty-two grand profit on the deal. Those are the odds we're willing to live with. Oh, we're a slimy bunch.

At night, parties are thrown and this is why we come. We convene in pits of nightclub bars and slither around. We pin our cards to our lapels and count how many new brokers have started up this year; a few more out of Long Island, more in Massachusetts, some out of Silicon Valley. My former boss used to say, "Any whiff of business and brokers pop up like mushrooms on a wet morning." The semiconductor business is not good now, hasn't been in years, but it doesn't stop the fungi from sprouting anyway. Even in a down market we make way more than a hero's pay. If teachers and firefighters would only broker excess books and hoses, and parts of their soul, they'd make more money too. We spend the majority of the parties reminiscing past deals: "Remember when we scored five hundred thousand capacitors from that mom-and-pop dealer in Berlin? That sucker was asleep at the wheel!" Or we complain about the market: "There will never again be an Allocation of 2000, my friends." And then we top off the evening big-timing each other: "I've cornered the Lithuanian market on battery sales" which is probably true because if the chip market has been shitty, we'll find a new widget to hustle.

I've gone to the broker show every year but one in the last fourteen years. I've twice gone eight months pregnant and still got hit on. I've had to break up a fist fight between one of my co-workers and a guy that fucked him out of some parts by selling to another broker who paid five cents more. I've dragged many a drunken co-worker from the parties with their heels dangling on their fingers. I've had a very straight forward business conversation that was capped with the question: "So, what are doing for sex tonight?" To which I laughed and said, "Well, it doesn't involve you." And he said, "Ok, then. Let me know if you need any more of those AMD processors from last week. Just scored a couple pallets out of the Ukraine." I said, "Will do." Brokers: Always slinging some kind of shit, always playing their odds.

Every year I stay up until four in the morning both nights. During the day, I always walk and shop for hours and never gamble. I always go to the spa even when I'm not getting a massage; I'll just change into the robe, hit the steam room, the jacuzzi and read magazines for hours drinking the lemon-cucumber water. Each year I do the same things except each year I do less and less work-related stuff to make sure I get in enough quality relaxing time, alone. Alone is what I hardly ever am at home so it's nice to hog a bed, throw my clothes on the floor, spend a ridiculous amount of time getting ready with a basketball game blaring in the back and with bad hotel coffee in pretty cups on the bathroom counter along with every single toiletry I own spread about. And the robe. I live in a hotel robe when I'm in Vegas.

When I travel, I like to slather myself in magazines; just pour them all over myself. I'll read anything glossy and with a pretty cover (Sucka!), but maybe I shouldn't have read the Vanity Fair 2nd Annual Green Issue on the plane ride in, right before touching down in a city that is grotesquely taxing on planet's energy reserves. Way to make myself feel badly for my weekend of broker bullshittin and grand Mami relaxation time. The articles in Vanity Fair tuned my senses to high-acute. Everything seemed techno-sensual and noteworthy. A young handsome cabbie speaking Street English with a thick Russian accent opened the door to his cab, which was a tomb of cologne. Perfumes and the like usually make me gag, but this smelled soft and confident, like a baby powder for men. The cabbie drove with his wrist, leaning and tapping fingers on the dash board and I looked out to the ever reconstructed Vegas. My heart ached over the excess. The extremity seemed so desperate; a throwing up of hands as to say, Fuck it, we're going out with a bang.

I didn't touch the Vanity Fair again, but placed it carefully in my bag to be combed over with much more concentrated consideration later. Ok, maybe I reread the part that specifically called out semiconductors as highly non-green. One of the articles specifically mentioned a capacitor that's made with tantalum. Tantalum is made from a rare mineral only found in the caves of some third world nation. This especially kicked me in the guts because in the year 2000 there was a tantalum capacitor shortage and I was so good at sourcing them that they called me the Tantalum Queen. My company made -- and I'm being modest -- a FUCKING SHITLOAD, A CITY-LOAD, a third-world-country-load, of money because of this shortage and in part because of my buying skills. I won Employee of the Year in our highest earning year ever. Which now, I dunno, sinks me. Depleting the world of natural resources; squandering my skills for misuse and greed and the degradation of the poor . . . ok, I won't start this shit again, but the title Tantalum Queen seems an embarrassment now, y'know?

I read many other articles this weekend too that taught me things; things I can't all recall because there was no pen in the spa robe. OH, I learned the origins of the word snafu, a military term, which means "situation normal, all fucked up." The word seems so innocent and openly used and the definition for some reason gave me great satisfaction. Fubar is the cousin to snafu and it means "fucked up beyond all recognition." And this seems sadly hip and tough -- an honest recognition AND a mask to pain -- because it was, after all, made up by the military. I read about a new film I can't wait to see. It's just out and called Offside. It fictionalizes (sort of) the world of female soccer fans in Iran, who are many and who are not allowed inside a stadium to watch a match. I read about Patricia Moreno who developed a form of exercise called intenSati that involves movement and verbal self affirmation. On the surface it seems corny and Secret-ish though Moreno has been developing it for years. When I learned that she invented this style to save her siblings from debilitating ailments, and succeeded, I loved her a lot for it. We know nothing beyond a surface; we are babies to a situation's real depth.

Which brings me back to the broker show. I played it light this weekend. I chilled. I hung with old industry friends who are great characters and are fun for lively conversation. I talked very little about business, and I tried not to look too much beyond the weekend, nor too much into the past. I just treaded lightly, in a robe, and told my ever maturing Consciousness of Purity that Monday was a fine day to start weighing heavy on me again.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Earth Day Birthday!

Tuesday is Mina's 8th birthday, but today we whooped it up with her friends. We threw a Taekwondo party with an Earth Day theme, and it was off-the-charts fun.

I love Mina's invitations.

This is my favorite part; girl eating carrot and apple.

I baked Earth cupcakes!

We figured the cupcakes would look better with some animal friends on top.

I colored the pig to look like our adopted, calico beauty, Ramona, who resides comfortably at the Northern Cali Farm Sanctuary. Same pose!

Check out Ramona's friends:

Putting the goodie bags together was a blast though it felt a tiny bit propagandous. Still an awesome bag. A friend from work asked me if for the party I was going to dress the children in orange jump suits, give them long pokers and make them pick up trash along the highway. It was a good idea, but I had already booked the Taekwondo studio.

Mina got to wear a special "birthday black belt" and lead her friends in a TKD class.

I think she's having a good time. Hard to tell.

How many black belts does it take to hang a piñata?

The piñata was Master N's idea and because sticks and baseball bats are for wussies, he also had Mina bust open the sweet, paper mache heart with a flying side kick. KI-YA!

Wish, baby, wish

Mina's crew

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

self portrait challenge - **AMENDED**

This is about how I feel. Really not able to get my footing as of late. Trying figure out my problem. It can't just be PMS. Can it? I just wanna lie in the sand and close my eyes for a minute. Just get my baring, my wits, my patience, my marbles, my balance. I'm anxious. I'm tired.

Other portraits of body parts here.

**AMENDMENT** Last night, I performed a regular Tuck-In Ceremony with the girls. A third kiss. A tenth hug. A "no you can't sleep in my bed." A "your foot wasn't hurting 10 minutes ago." Two sips of water, and the finale: "Enough already." I slipped into soft sheets next to Husband to read, and then I felt something very foreign to me, a feeling that I've felt so infrequently that each time I cock my head and poke at the feeling like I'm performing an alien probe. I felt nauseous. I stayed very still and ran my thoughts all over the nausea which sat on me like a beach ball. My mouth watered, and then from the hours of 9:15pm to 1:10am I threw up at thirty-five minute intervals. If I am not dramatic in life in general, I am a fantastically dramatic thrower-uper. I let it all out. Mad grunts during the act and between hurls, I release haunting groans that reverberate off the bowl. I stop no instinctual sounds. But as I threw up, I kept thinking maybe I haven't been surrendering to a mild depression but only bogged down by a stomach virus. I've never been so happy to vomit in my life. I didn't throw up the fact that I'm turning 40 in a few months, but every 35 minutes I slunk-strutted to the toilet and purged some of the doomsday about it. Maybe later, I'll be able to shit out the entire crisis.

I woke this morning at 5:30 with a surge of hope, overjoyed even. Today is one of my commute days to work -- an hour and a half away -- and I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it. I realized my job would be suspicious had I called in sick, a practice I have not done in a million years. But I bounced up, giddy and happy. I got ready and raced out the door to catch the sunrise on the drive in.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Somebody Just Kill Me

As the tension increases to find balance and true health, two nations within are spreading rumors of war. The Nation of Nurture and The Republic of Nature are both staking claim to my mood and actions. I am a body that gravitates towards Nature, but Nurture has compelling camps set up still. If anything, I am a peaceful body and I have decided to listen objectively to the demands from both sides, and then I'll set up a tentative policy from these negotiations. We will continue to go to the table until my mood, intuition and actions merge harmoniously.

The Nation of Nurture's Demands:

1. Drink 2-3 cups of coffee per day OR drink soy creamer directly from the carton with a straw
2. Pretend like I work out a lot when this is only in my mind
3. Forget consuming water. Who has the time?
4. Cupcakes for dinner
5. Eat soy bologna & veganaisse sandwiches daily
6. Buy bigger clothes and stay in the house eating bowl after bowl of cereal with soy milk in bed. Or any other vegan junk food that we (me & Whole Foods) pretends is ok
7. Sleep 10 hours a night and ignore the children between the hours of 7pm and 9am
8. Blueberry pie for breakfast
9. Squash the Republic of Nature with chemicals
10. Drink pasteurized orange juice

The Republic of Nature Demands:

1. Eat 90% raw and the only dead meal will be steamed brown rice and vegetables. Everything else is sheer poison.
3. Eat soaked nuts only. Ignore the strange little sprouts. Chew thoroughly
4. No soy, for fucks sake
5. And apparently no kale, brussels sprouts or cassava either now
6. Drink two liters of water a day though we all know that raw foodies need less water than mortal humans. Chuckle chuckle.
7. Exercise two hours a day
8. Meditate 20 minutes a day
9. Walk everywhere slowly and with intention
10. Eat slowly and with intention
11. Have sex slowly and don't orgasm
12. Grown your own food. Everything is poison.
13. Cut out your thyroid and just be done with it already
14. Journal. How do you feel?
15. Learn to sleep as little as possible, with eyes open preferably, and still be refreshed. (Another raw foodie super power. Chuckle.)
16. Shit at least four times a day. Or you're poisoning yourself

After a morning of deliberations, I have come of with the following peace policy:

Negotiated Policy

1. Morning coffee reinstated. (Oh yes I did.) In a PMS panic, I had a cup of coffee this morning and I don't think I can go back to life without her. I'm so much happier now even if it's induced with a drug. WWWEEEEE! To be honest, there are a lot more drugs I'd be using if they didn't make you feel like complete crap after. Oh, and didn't drag your life down the shitter. Oh, and didn't cause complete embarrassment when trying to procure. So coffee it is, and not cocaine or Addarall.
* Stipulation to coffee/soy creamer reinstatement: (I'm so giddy, I'll agree to anything!) Less soy use in general. For cereal, rice or almond milk (it's hard to say nutmilk, y'all . . .nnuuttt-milk . . .). Very minimal abuse of soy mint chip ice cream. No soy bologna. Occasional tofu (purer form and slightly fermented) and tempeh (very fermented). Fermented soy destroys most soy toxins.
* Second stipulation to coffee reinstatement: Must drink 2-2.5 liters of water a day. Fine.

2. Exercise 5-6 days a week. Seriously, one of the only ways I can stay on an even keel.
3. No cupcakes for dinner.
4. 70-80% raw. Nurture fought hard against this one, but it still makes much sense to me.
5. Fruit, in general, will be eaten alone with a possible daily miscombining. Fresh berries on anything? I'm not strong enough to deny that.
6. Kale and cassava reinstated, but no brussels sprouts.
7. Anything slow and intentional will have to wait until I have some goddamn time.
8. Will not hold in my chi. Funk that.
9. Will not fear the Art of Sprouting. Will experiment with nut sprouting (whoa).
10. All journaling will continue to be done through this blog even the agonizing Crisis Posts that my people must endure during this time.

The new policy has been signed and notarized by all parties. Hopefully, this will quell the swelling war within. If not, I'm just gonna have to keep trying. It ain't over until you're dead, as Maven says.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Eyes Have It

I went to a holistic nutritionist yesterday who performed iridology and live cell analysis on me. Both of these practices are listed on a quack-watch site, but so are a bunch of other alternative methods. I was open to give it a shot because quite frankly I feel a bit off but subtly enough for a conventional doctor to say I'm perfectly well. It's not that I'd put all my eggs in the iridologist's basket either because I believe, with the exception of medical emergencies, our bodies are our best care givers, intuition included. But I needed some guidance to what I feel is a slight imbalance going on within.

Initially, he was straight forward and stern because I think half of his practice is advising people to not eat McDonald's and such, but when he realized that I was on an earnest road to optimal health, he softened and said less, which I appreciated. He performed the live cell analysis first. A slide of my blood - taken from a prick - was put under a powerful microscope and appeared on a large, dark monitor where my cells were outlined in white. This technique captures something very beautiful about us, as living organisms, that we are made up of galaxies. It's exactly what it looked like. I counted quite a few as he searched the slide of just one drop. Immediately he noticed a slight B vitamin deficiency. A couple misshaped red blood cells told him so. This kind of surprised me though I'm not sure why when this is an easy deficiency to have as a vegan. He said that my thyroid was a bit off too, which surprised me more. But he explained that the thyroid is a B vitamin gland. And later, I got to thinking about all the other things that could effect the thyroid and coincidentally and almost shockingly my girl Michelle from Weaker Vessel brought up something in my last post's comments that has also been on my mind for a while: The ill effects of soy which has, test after test, been connected to thyroid issues and big hormonal imbalances in women. I know, I know, isn't soy supposed to be the miracle food? Don't 200 year old Japanese people thrive off of soy, but from what I've read, cultures that we swear use tons of soy actually do not use it as much as we think (Americans super size everything) and they certainly don't process the living shit out of soy neither. Soy can be fashioned into anything, can't it? What do you want? A sword? A flower? A wiener dog? OH, IT'S ALL SUCH A GODDAMN RAZOR'S EDGE.

That's about all that was said about my cells though had he said more, I would have been suspicious. If he had brought up more issues, I would've known he was reaching. He brought up two very legitimate things -- the B vitamin lack and the mild thyroid imbalance -- that I will address with a blessing from my intuition. Then he looked into my eyes. The right side reveals the mother's genetic issues, the left eye the father's. On the quack-watch site, they blasted iriodologists that diagnosed patients with ailments, but the guy I saw said he used this technique only to uncover a family history as to have a better map of a potential genetic mine field. After looking into my Mother Right Eye, he wrote on the sheet, "Bronchial, notch on the pancreas." My mother has severe asthma. My grandmother died of pancreatic cancer. From my father's eye, he wrote: "PANCREAS, lower back, small notch on liver." He said, "Does that sound right?" I said, "I didn't really know my father at all." The profundity of this information sunk in just then. The iridologist was giving me a view into that which has been a mystery to me. He said, "It seems diabetes was prevalent on your father's side. It's good you live like you do." He added, "I also see that he had a sensitive system." We sat in a few seconds of silence, in his dark office with my blood cells still swimming on the monitor next to me. He said, "Not enough of the sweet life, it seems." I looked down at my hands and cocked my head. He was dead before I was two. Not enough sounds about right. The nutritionist finished by saying, "You have a good constitution. Very good health. It's good you're balancing out the little things now as you go into your 40's. It will make things so much better for you." He sent me on my way with a couple suggestions for herbs, a blood cleanse to help with my detox, a thyroid balancer. He told me to take the multi vitamin I have a home, for god's sake.

And that was that. He all but yelled NEXT as I left. I bought some supplements and I feel a little better, emotionally for sure. I'm silently and mildly thrilled that my father -- a man I never talk about or hardly think of -- danced around in my eye, with his diabetes and his sensitive lower back, if just for a few minutes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Spring Cleaning

I've opened up a chapter of AA, in case you've been wondering where I've been. The chapter is called Vegan Cupcakes Anonymous, VCA. I wasn't ready, before, to document hitting rock bottom though I do share in my meetings. I'm 27 days sober. There are a million reasons why a person turns to cupcakes, all varying in small ways, the underlying themes running deep and similarly: A form of escape. Feeling like one is on an emotional slippery slope. A cry for help. They are delicious. Cupcakes brought me instant comfort. I thought other bakers were my friends. And I won't lie, I used cupcakes to make a little side cash. When my non-vegan friends praised me for making them "healthy" treats -- when they said they could down 40 of them (who can't?) without guilt, I knew something was innately wrong with offering mass amounts of cupcakes to the masses and to myself. Before, I couldn't see what it was doing to me. Who ever does. I had strayed from the truth -- shielded myself from it -- under the excuse that the goods are vegan. Vegan processed foods are the prescription drugs of the food world; a wolf in sheep's clothing, and vegans ride the razor's edge of abusing them.

I've also started a tiny off-shoot of VCA called Soy Creamer Anonymous. I'm the only member so not so anonymous. I'm 8 days sober, which means I've had no coffee in 8 days because the only reason I drank coffee was to enjoy the glorious soy creamer.

Eight days ago I went high raw which means, 75-80% raw eatin'; back to good ol' fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds. No coffee with soy creamer. No cupcakes. I can't say I feel fantastic yet, but intuition tells me to plod along. The detox has been fairly mild but interesting. There hasn't been maddening physical cravings. It has been more of an emotional detox, one of detachment from addiction where I used to hang my comfort hat. I've had a case of the Blahs. I don't even want a stupid cup of coffee. I don't even want dumb cupcakes. That makes me mad. I was really angry the first four days. Angry because food is fun, shitty food especially, and why couldn't I have any more fun? But my joints have been aching more in the last few months and my stomach has been upset and my skin looks a little rough and my belly is the softest it has ever been because my body is changing. All of this is less fun than highly processed soy shit and a dozen (fill in vegan sweets here). Way less fun. When my mood is washed clear, I know this is mostly about sprinting to face 40, not grumbling and whining and dreading. I've decided to welcome it, but I can't see doing that all clogged with evaporated cane sugar and nasty-ass palm oil.

I've just this second decided to open one more chapter called Talking About Turning 40 Anonymous. I'll try not to relaspe. I'll take it one day at a time. I'm 10 minutes sober.

This is all a work in progress. I've been brave. And I've been kind to myself because No Coffee is huge. I'm not sure I'll never have coffee again. I just think I won't ever have it every day again. Eating mainly raw isn't as hard as I thought though it takes concentration. It's easy when I concentrate and prepare. And it's easy to lose concentration at this point in my raw game.

Monday, April 02, 2007

40 is an Ego Squasher

I just wrote a long, boring post about my impending mid-life crisis. I was picking apart turning 40 - again. It was excruciating and needed to be deleted immediately. You can thank me later for sparing you. I wish I could save myself, but I suppose the depth at which I'm taking this introspection is needed? WTF already. Does it all have to be so goddamn soul searching?

I will tell you about my new aerobics instructor though. I'm taking Step, actually, which is the aerobics of the 90's. Only a few of us are still in love with Step and the others have evolved to Thai Boxing and Pilates. I went to a gym to which I was a member in the OC but hadn't ventured to the LA branch yet. The gym was mellow, not a meathead in sight to my relief, and I spotted what seemed to be college students and struggling actors past their prime. I fit in fine. I set up my step equipment in the way, way back of the room and stared and examined all others that walked through the door. There was a mix; older, all nationalities, all sizes, three other steppers on the younger side. There was an older Asian man to my left with a comb over and heather grey sweat pants pulled very high who, before class, repeatedly did double pirouettes on two toes and landed out of it with jazz hands open. His wife was at the very front of the class, her riser behind the instructor's, and she paid him no mind. She wore a braided red head band, a leotard over her tights. Her calves were the size of ham hocks. The instructor walked to the front of the class and my heart leapt. She was about sixty years old and had had a severe face lift where I speculated if a new mouth had been created. She was a wisp of a woman, teeny tiny with shoulder-length ash blonde hair which she swept up in a scrunchy as she approached the ministage. She wore beige support hose, white leg warmers over white Reeboks and a sateen royal blue figure skating skirt. She looked as if she had shut down Studio 54 a few times back in her day, and I immediately loved her deeply. Her moves were Classic Aerobics 1980, a-reaching and a-stretching, grape vines and jumping jacks. She didn't shout in the microphone with bubbly vigor as I had anticipated, but taught the class smoothly and well, which made me wonder about her more. I can't wait to go again.

I've been sticking to that music-heavy yoga class. My regular teacher is a tall, reasonably handsome British man. His name is fantastically British --- something like Henville Greywood -- but he looks very California-ized; tan and lean, running/yoga shorts and tank. He laughs loosely all through class, at his own jokes and at the things we say. I quickly learned that yoga instructors have no concept of personal space, which surprisingly, is ok by me. Henville puts me in wrestling locks to adjust my poses and if he's ok with me sweating on him and my feet in his face, then I'm ok with it. Screw it. I have zero ego in this class and that's been refreshing. I laugh and lose my balance while goofily posing. I do try hard. Henville will say things in the microphone like, "Well, that was graceful." And he and I will laugh. The Serious Expert Types don't laugh, however, but that's ok because they are amazing and I appreciate just being able to see a perfect side crane pose from two feet away. Last Friday, Henville had a substitute. Serious Expert Types don't like that either I assume because the only two people in class were me and another beginner. The only possible way to describe this sub was that she looked like a goddess. She was 5'10" lean but not chiseled away. She had sun-streaked skinny dreads to her waist. Her arm tattoos of peacock feathers and sanskrit were barely visible against her dark skin and a flat gold nose ring shone every time she turned her head. She smelled of lavender. I blurted immediately, "I'm not very good." She said, "I'll help you." It is easier to get lost in a sea of students and struggle through your practice than the alternating attention the Goddess gave the other beginner and me. I did my best, and the Goddess leaned on me and pushed against me and pulled me through to the other side of stretches. While adjusting my triangle pose, she placed the sole of her foot against my hip as she pulled my hand towards her. With the pull and in the depth of the strech, I farted. It was an unexpected tight brreepp. There was no hiding it. Thank god the music was kind of loud or else the other beginner would have heard it too, maybe she did. I said, "Sorry," not really sure if you should acknowledge such things (I mean who farts in the presence of a Goddess) and she said calmly, "It happens all the time." I giggled through two poses though the Goddess had long moved on to more enlighteded things. During the rest of the class I prayed it wouldn't happen again. There's only so much of this Zero Ego I can take.