Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Use It or Lose It

I started off the week with a strong motivation to accomplish much. Including at work. This is a hard motivation to muster since there are not a lot of things that immediately need to be accomplished but much that can be done nonetheless. It's amazing how much time one can waste in a day. There are so many more productive things I could be doing than wasting hours surfing the internet. Am I going to stop blogging? Of course not! But there are so many hours of unproductivity that I would like to transform into productivity. (Blogging is at least somewhat productive.) I want to take advantage of the time that I have rather than let it slip away into a past memory of wasted time that I can never get back. And that's one thing that you can never get back... is time. You either use it or lose it, and I want to use it!

So I bought a couple of books recently on Equipment Leasing and plan to start using my down time to further increase my knowledge and make myself more useful for when things do start getting busy. It is such a specialized industry that I am in, so many accounting laws, tax consequences, etc. to keep track of. Since I worked with the loan side of things before more than the leasing, I'm realizing that there are all sorts of things I can learn about this complex business I am in - a very specialized knowledge that will make me quite the commodity - even more so than I am now. Much of it I am already picking up on just in conversations I have with my boss and in reviewing the different leasing software options out there. But there is much more to learn of course. So today I cracked out the books at a couple of points in the day when things slowed down and I found that I didn't have anything else to do, or at least nothing that I was interested in doing at the moment. Great idea, except I found my mind wandering and having to read the same paragraph over and over and over again. I guess it doesn't work using it as a backup plan for boredom, as boredom has already set in and my mind is not in working and processing mode. So I need to start setting goals for myself to get to a certain point so I can read - make the reading my reward to work towards and then a goal for myself to read to a certain point. That way I can keep a certain momentum going and hopefully overcome this blackhole of time and space that is sucking my professional life away.

I know, you are all saying 'woe is me,' what a horrible problem to have - a job that is too easy, with lots of time to relax in a day, and a boss that doesn't care how I spend my time as long as I get my work done (which takes about one hour out of my eight hour day). I know the tables will turn some day, that I will be working late every night trying to get deals done when we have a couple million in the pipeline and aren't quite ready to hire additional staff. It's precisely then that I want to be able to look back and see that I'd done everything I could to take advantage of the time while I had it. Well, it's 4:00 and my boss just said let's close up and go home. I can't argue with that now can I? Good night all.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Progress Report

Last night, Don and I got the first disk of the first season of the Dog Whisperer and watched the whole thing - all nine episodes! So far, all of it is pretty much the same advice, approach, and techniques as he gives in his book, but it is still very insightful to see it in practice with real live subjects. Don has started reading the book too now that I have finished it and after watching a few episodes, he was able to take the techniques and took Seumas on his first one on one walk last night and they did beautifully together.

After the first full week of training with the dogs, I am so impressed and so proud. If I were to give them a grade on their leash progress, I would give them an A. It is exciting to see how well they respond to direction, and how much they crave it. Just like people, dogs seek fulfillment. Dogs are working animals and they need a job to do. When they sit at home all day with no direction, they get a lot of built up frustration and have no way to release it. This results in unhealthy behaviors such as chewing on household items, over excited energy jumping up on people, or fixations on certain toys or activities.

Cesar is really good at helping people understand that the dog's problem behaviors come from an unhealthy mind. And that unhealthy mind is usually created or at least reinforced by us, it's pack. When a dog has problem behaviors, people usually try to correct the behaviors with dog training. Dog training teaches the dogs to obey commands such as sit, stay, down, heel.... These attempts at training are often met with frustration or temporary fixes because they merely try to change the dogs behavior rather than addressing the source of the problem and are often met with poor results or temporary results.

The source of the problem is in the dog's mind. The problem may be fear, anxiety, aggression, frustration, or dominance issues and these things must be addressed in the mind first and then the behavior will follow. First you have to establish that you are the pack leader. For a dog who is fearful, insecure or anxious, there is no reason for them to be afraid in any situation if they trust you and are concentrating on following your command. For a dog who is dominant aggressive, obviously they are not going to follow a command unless you do the work to establish that you are pack leader first.

The good news is that a dog's mind is not nearly so complex as a human's mind. Unlike human beings, it doesn't takes years of psychotherapy and thousands of dollars to help rehabilitate an unbalanced dog. Cesar says that a dog has three very simple basic needs to achieve a balanced state of mind: 1. Exercise; 2. Discipline; 3. Affection. And always in that order.

I think, of all the things I have learned from Cesar so far, the only thing that makes me feel bad is that by not setting firm boundaries for the dogs and being a strong pack leader, I did not realize that I was contributing to an unhealthy mind and creating an unbalanced dog. Out of my love for them I gave them too much freedom and affection without strong leadership. Since they are such small dogs, there were not a lot of things that I needed them to do for me. It was o.k. if they jumped up on people when they came in the door because they were so small that they couldn't do any damage. It was o.k. if they barked a bit here and there because it wasn't too loud that it bugged the neighbors and I always could just throw them in the kennel if it got too annoying. What I realize now, is that even though I didn't need those behaviors from them, they still needed the boundaries from me. Without rules and limitations, they didn't know what was or wasn't expected of them. They had no job to do, no purpose, and no way to expend their anxious energy and pent up frustrations.

It is amazing to see the transformation in them since we have started working with them on a daily basis. Finally by walking with them every day and teaching them to heal they have a job to do. Their job is to walk beside their owner following my lead while we migrate. If I stop, they stop, if I speed up they speed up, if I slow down they slow down. It makes me so happy to see them trotting along beside me with their heads held high. They are so excited to be able to please me because they understand what it is that is expected of them and finally someone is telling them what to do instead of having to be the ones to make the decisions. It also gives me incredible joy after our walks to see them in deep relaxation mode with all of their nervous energy burned off, laying down, happily, peacefully and submissively, enjoying life in a much more balanced way.

Even though I feel bad that I didn't stand up and be the pack leader that the dogs needed me to be sooner in life I don't have to feel too bad about it. The other thing I have learned from Cesar is that dogs are always in the moment. Though humans may carry around baggage from past experiences, dogs do not. Unfortunately, humans often make the mistake of assuming that they do and these assumptions are then projected onto the dogs and can then hinder their rehabilitation. Because dogs are a live-in-the-moment-species Cesar believes it is almost never too late to rehabilitate an animal. Because of this he has been able to help rehabilitate and save many animals who have been deemed hopeless causes and were headed for death row. I think in our culture, almost everyone has grown up with the old proverb, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Because of this prevalent myth in our culture, before reading Cesar's book I believed that at just 2 and 3 years old, I had already "ruined" my dogs and would be stuck with their behavior for the rest of their lives. Thanks to Cesar, by helping me to understand my dogs needs a little bit better, in just one 30 minute walk, I was able to see a dramatic difference in both Cordy and Seumas. That's how much time it took them to get the message and respond to their deep need to be led. By continuing these daily physical and mental exercises, I am excited that I will be able to give them a much happier life than they had before.

Now that we are seeing such progress with the daily leash exercises, the next step for Don and I will be to sit down and decide what the rules of the house are going to be. Will the dogs be allowed to jump on on people when they come to visit or do we make them sit quietly until released? Can the dogs be in the bed with us or on the furniture, and if so when? Do the dogs eat before or after us? What do we do when the dogs bark? The good thing is that there is no right or wrong answers to the above questions. As the pack leaders of our domain it is up to us to decide. But for those "freedoms" that we do allow, it still has to be on our terms and it needs to be consistent, otherwise the dogs will not understand it as a rule that we have set, but they will think of it as their own domain where they get to decide what they do and don't do.

Updating Profile

I'm in the process of updating my blog profile and I'm trying to figure out how to get this picture posted to my profile. I think first I have to post it here and then go back into edit mode and copy the html URL. Let's see if this works. I know it can be done since Camille has one on her website.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Weekend Highlights

Friday Night - we did nothing. Nothing includes not making dinner. (We had leftover lasagna from the night before.) Not doing the dishes (sitting in the sink from the night before). Not exercising. And not walking the dogs. It was awesome!

Saturday - a little bit more interesting. During the day we managed to get a few things done. I actually got my desk cleaned off in our home office - gasp! For those of you who know me well, especially Emily if you are reading this, you know how much I hate to clean off my desk and how incredibly messy it can get. This is a major accomplishment for me. I have to thank Netflix on-demand for helping me to get my desk cleaned off. I had an afternoon of watching documentaries on my computer to keep me interested while I got my work done - interesting but not too interesting that I could tune in and out of while getting my work done. I watched "Maxed Out" a documentary about America's problem with individual and national debt. And I started this very wierd documentary called "Hell's House." Similar to a haunted house, this is a controversial "multimedia fire-and-brimstone performance designed to give its audiences a glimpse of what awaits those who stray from the path of a strict Christian life, put on by the youth members of a church outside Dallas." Yes, that's right I said youth members. Gross and disturbing. And I totally watched it. Aren't you ashamed of me?

I also started working with Seumas and Cordy on their leash training some more. I spent a good half hour with each of them and Cordy was a very quick study. After two half hour lessons she has it completely down. I am so proud of her! Seumas on the other hand is a different story. He understands how it works, but doesn't want to submit to my command. I hate to say that he's starting to lose some of that sweet-natured puppy personality and becoming more agressive. He has started barking at other dogs on our walks and on Saturday he even barked at a baby in a stroller. BAD DOG! This means I'm going to have to work with him a lot, and also it means he probably is going to have to finally get the snip-snip that he's been lucky enough to avoid for the first two years of his life.

Of course the funnest part of our Saturday is when Matt and Camille came over and joined us first for a gourmet dinner at Fatburger (yummy) and then for the highly anticipated movie Harry Potter V! An evening well spent. As Don and I are lazy bastards and have not read the books, we only have the movie to go on and we quite enjoyed this one. My favorite is still the 3rd movie but I haven't had a complaint about any of them that I've watched so far. What delightful stories and how fun it is to watch the children grow up on screen.

Sunday was another great day. Don and I made it a date day for the two of us. We went to church in the morning and afterwards we tried out one of the spas in our neighborhood and each got a full body massages. This was supposed to be a surprise that I had planned for Don earlier in the week, but the company called our house on Saturday to confirm the appointment and Don answered the phone. Oh well, surprise foiled but still very enjoyable experience. After our massages, we headed down the boulevard and picked the first establishment that looked good for an afternoon lunch. We ended up choosing a place called the Amazon Bar and Grill. As you can guess, the restaurant had a Caribbean style cuisine theme. Inside, the bar was completely covered with fake foliage, flowers, trees, plants, and a gigantic waterfall/wishing well in the middle of the room. Don and I both ordered shrimp dishes and I drank two tall glasses of pineapple juice because my massage therapist told me that it helps prevent the buildup of lactic acid which causes the soreness after a massage. And I think it may have worked because I am not that sore today. After that we browsed a couple of shops close by and then headed back the house where we both took big fat afternoon naps. So romantic! When it cooled down a bit in the evening, I got my training lessons in with the dogs and while Don took care of some laundry, and then we finished off the weekend with a couple more episodes of our current program that we are really into - Rome. Fascinating series!

So it was quite a lovely weekend. And here we are back to Monday. Have a good week!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Reading List

So I am currently in a moment of inspiration to bring more literature into my life. Perhaps it is because I am now a member of one of the most extensive public library systems in the United States - the Los Angeles Public Library. This means access to thousands of titles which I get to read for free. The free part is what I really like.

Since I joined the library a few weeks ago I have finished two books - Cesar's Way (dog psychology non fiction) and How to Cook a Tart (fiction murder mystery about a cookbook author and her disfunctional family). I also checked out and watched the movie TransAmerica - quite interesting and very strong performance by the lead actress (sorry, I don't know her name.) Right now I am starting the book "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" by Dai Sijie and I have ordered a hold on the Book "Dune" by Frank Herbert which I can't wait to get my hands on.

The thing about this library system is that though the individual branches are small, there are somewhere around 50 of them all together, so the interlibrary loan is the way to go. The problem is, though I can get my hands on just about anything out there, I don't really know what is out there worth getting my hands on. For the most part, I am a go-to-the-shelf-and-browse kind of person, but I definitely do not plan to travel to all 50 branches to see what's out there. And the library catalogue search has never really been all that helpful to me in randomly searching for inspiring titles. If I already know what I'm looking for, then great tool to have around. If I don't know what I'm looking for, then not so helpful.

This is where you come in... If anyone would be willing to help me in compiling a reading list I would greatly appreciate it. If you wouldn't mind recommending two or three titles of books that you have really enjoyed and a short description of why it was such a good read to you, this will greatly help me. While I'm inspired to read, I want to read as many good books as I can to keep the streak going and keep my interest. They can be fiction or nonfiction, though in truth I'm more likely to go for the fiction first. They can be light or serious, after all, I did enjoy the Nanny Diaries just about as much as I enjoyed Siddhartha. And they can be long or short, so long as they are a page turner.

I have a problem of not reading frequently enough and since it is so spread out I have a hard time getting into the story because I can never really get drawn into the momentum of it. Since I've moved to California, I've gotten into the habit of reading for about 20 minutes or so when I go to bed. I'd like to build on this and I need some great books to keep me coming back for more. Plus, I'm just plain curious to know what it is all of you like to read and who reads what so I know who to discuss which books with as I'm making my way through them.

For what it's worth, if any are interested and are working on your own reading list, some of my favorite books have been The Chronicles of Narnia and The Clan of the Cave Bear series also known as the Children of Earth series by Jean M. Auel which is a fictional anthropological masterpiece that takes place in prehistoric times.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Little Bear

A picture from Amber's first trip to the zoo. How jealous am I that I didn't get to be there?! Well, I definitely will get to be there on her first trip to Disneyland!

Picture again provided by Kristy.

Beautiful Girl

Who has the cutest niece ever? I do! I do!

Pictures provided by my sister Kristy on her recent trip to Oregon.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Mind of Dog

So I recently checked out a book from the library called Cesar's Way by Cesar Milan - known as the Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic Channel. If anyone has seen The Dog Whisperer show, you know that this guy knows his stuff. He is able to get amazing results with what most people would term problem dogs with serious issues. Often times, he is a last resort for dogs with dangerous tendencies facing euthenasia because no one else has been able to get them to respond.

The most incredible thing about Cesar is that although he is so successful at rehabilitating dogs, you only have to watch one or two episodes to realize that the problems do not rely in the dogs, but in their owners. We as dog owners, create the very problems and behaviors in our dogs that we are trying to get rid of. We create what Cesar calls "issues" in our dogs by unknowingly reinforcing unwanted behaviors and by not understanding our dogs basic needs and instincts as a species. For this reason, Cesar calls himself not a dog trainier, but a dog psychologist.

I know that word psychologist sounds kind of cooky. The term "Dog Psychologist" makes me think of some kind of new age pet psychic who comes in and tries to read your dogs mind or seance with their past lives to determine the original source of their psychological damage. Well far from it. In fact, Cesar himself says that the main source of our problems with our dogs in the United States (interesting perspective coming from someone born and raised in Mexico and viewing our relationship with our dogs from a foreign perspective) is that we humanize them. We try to solve our problems with our dogs using human psychology.

For example, Cesar says that when a dog shows fear around other dogs, possibly cowering or whimpering, many owners' natural responses would be to pick them up and give them affection and a feeling of safety - much as we would a human child. Cesar says that this would never happen in the wild in a dog pack. Weakness is not to be accepted or encouraged. A weak member of the pack weakens the entire pack and threatens the safety of the entire group. Instead of reinforcing the fear by giving affection at a weak moment, in a dog's world, a dog is more likely to gain the benefit of overcoming the fear by its owner maintaining a strong assertive energy that there is nothing to be afraid of and continuing through the dog park as if it were no different than any other situation. If you respond to your dog's fear by catering to it and cooing over it and removing the dog from the situation, you validate their fears and show your dog that you are not in control of the situation.

Anyway, the above is just one example but basically it demonstrates that as a dog psychologist, Cesar is dedicated to understanding dogs from the perspective of their own species, and by understanding the psychology of a dog's mind - how they make connections and associations, how they interact and socialize, what their basic needs and instincts are - we as owners can then interact with them in a way that will help them to be more balanced, better behaved, and more fulfilled as a member of the pack that we have chosen to bring them into.

So in a matter of a couple of days I have already blown through more than half the book and I am already seeing results with Cordy and Seumas. With Cordy being such a nervous dog, I am particularly interested in learning how to be a better pack leader to take some of that pressure off of Cordy who I know often feels responsible for our safety as a family. She shows this through her nervous barking and the body language around unfamiliar situations and especially unfamiliar noises. She has been this way ever since we got Seumas and wanted to protect him from potential dangers. By using the calm assertive energy that Cesar talks and setting more boundaries for the dogs in our household I think Cordy is beginning to relax more and feel protected under my leadership.

The other really important thing that I have learned so far from Cesar's book is how important it is to walk your dog. Yes, everyone knows that all dogs need exercise and there are many ways to exercise your dog. Seumas loves to chase his ball and Cordy would choose the laser pointer over food any day. (That's saying a lot for Cordy!) And those are both good ways to get some activity and mental challenge in for your dogs. But they do not take the place of walking. Dogs by nature are free roaming animals. When we bring animals into our lives as pets, we take away that freedom and we limit their mobility. Even if you have a big backyard, Cesar says that is like having a really big kennel for a dog. Dogs need to be able to get out of the house and explore their surroundings. I noticed that the dogs were very nervous after making the big move down here. They didn't really start to relax until we started getting them out of the house and gave them a chance to explore their surroundings. Now they are becoming more comfortable with their environment. Their "hunting adventures" have taught them that we live in a safe neighborhood with other friendly dogs and friendly neighbors.

Plus, walking a dog is one of the best exercises you can do to establish your position as pack leader. Cesar says always make sure that you enter through the door before your dog and that your dog does not walk in front of you but beside or behind you. This is the proper order of dominance in packs in the wild. If your dog walks in front of you than they are asserting their dominance - they are walking you not the other way around! I have been working with Cordy on her leash manners and she is already starting to show some improvement. Yes, this is Cordy we're talking about! Cesar has a whole chapter in his book dedicated to working with a dog on a leash and I can't wait to read about it in further detail as I can use all the pointers I can get. This is not an area of strength for me but with some new tools and dedication to do the training, I think we can make it work.

Anyway, if you can't tell yet, I highly recommend this book whether you are a dog owner or not. Dogs bring so much joy to so many people's lives. This book gives a lot of great understanding to how to create an environment that a dog needs to be a better balanced dog resulting in better behavior for us and more fulfillment for the dog - a win win situation!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Red Means Stop

Today in the mail we received a lovely piece of correspondence from the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Enclosed was a picture of Don running a red light. Taken from four different angles. And a ticket to pay $381.

Now that's just not fair!


Gaming Session #2 occurred of our yet-to-be-named campaign last night at our house. After two gaming sessions, we have officially broken in the den and can now start referring to it by it's proper term, "The Gaming Room." It really is a nice space to game. With laminate floors, wood walls, and high ceilings, it is by far the coolest room in the house temperature wise. One whole wall is lined with book cases and of course there's an entire book case dedicated to gaming books. Plus plenty of room for the essential gaming accessories - maps, minis, and mini bar.

Last night, our new friends Katie and Jeremy, introduced to us by our friend Rian, also joined the campaign. In addition to Camille they are also first time gamers. It definitely brings a freshness to the game to play with new people who are still learning and thinking unconventionally. They had some really good ideas and definitely added to the group both in and out of game! It is fun to have found such a great pair of kindred spirits.

I'm really excited about this gaming group. For the first time in a while ... actually maybe for the first time ever ... I think we have a group that is more intellectually strategic than battle heavy. In our group of 5 players, we have an elf cleric (divine magic/healer), a half-elf favoured soul (divine magic/healer #2), a half-elf rogue (sneaky and stealthy but quite squishy), a half-drow sorcerer/warrior (magic user with big nasty axe), and a Warforged Knight (Damage dealer but too honorable to play dirty). I think it will be interesting trying to solve our challenges creatively rather than just running in with our swords and killing everything in sight. On the other hand, we did almost have a total party wipe out last night from just two mangy rats. True, they weren't just any rats, they were horrid rats, but still how embarrassing would it have been if we were taken out by a couple of rodents before we had even accomplished our first mission. Last night we achieved our first objective, scored big on lots treasure, and several of us leveled as well. Leveling is exciting when you are playing a magic user because you get to cast more spells per day!

Me likes this new gaming group! Can't wait for our next session! And of course am getting excited for GenCon. I'm feeling the urge to invest in some new lucky dice ;)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again

In the words of my secret lover, Steven Tyler, I am "back in the saddle again" with my exercise routine. Since our big life transition occurred my life has been a bit sedentary. I've become a little soft with the lack of exercise and the constant eating out and I was starting to feel it. So I took the opportunity of going back to my regular work week this week to resume my daily schedule of hitting the treadmill when I get home. I had a good routine going on this schedule back in Tacoma and managed to lose about 10 pounds over several months. Since coming here I have definitely undone some of that work and am excited to get back on track. This after work treadmill routine works out well for me for a couple of reasons:

1. I don't have to get up the motivation to go somewhere to work out. The treadmill is right in my house and I don't have to pack a gym bag or find parking or spend time driving anywhere.
2. I don't have to get up early - I was never one to win the battle with the snooze button when it comes down to the choice of sleeping later or burning calories.
3. I don't have to depend on anyone else - while some people do better with a workout partner to motivate them, I do worse. If my partner is busy, sick, or unmotivated, I latch on to that as an easy excuse to skip myself.
4. It is a good way to unwind at the end of the work day and to transition into evening relaxation time. Don and I both get home around the same time. Don gets to decompress and unwind from his day usually on the computer while I decompress by getting my blood pumping and burning off some steam. Then we usually make dinner together and relax either by watching a dvd or reading or gaming or something. But we both find our together time a lot more enjoyable after we have had a chance to take care of some of our own needs at the end of a long work day.
5. I get to watch t.v. on my treadmill. Currently I going through the first Season of Dark Angel - recommended to me by my friend Jessica in Bellingham. It's not as bad as Charmed or Smallville but it's definitely not going to win any awards based on script. You can tell it was designed for a younger audience. But it has Jessica Alba in it and she's incredibly cute which is not a bad motivator when you are trying to work out. So I'll keep at it and see how it turns out. The show only lasted for two seasons so it won't take long to get through it and then I can start something else.
6. If I workout right when I get home, I don't snack until dinnertime.

In fact, now that I have started working out again, since I have appreciated how much better I feel physically with some cardiovascular activity, I have started to take pity on the dogs and been getting them out for walks after I finish my own workout. So last night and the night before they got to take a lap around the neighborhood. Last night we scored big when we came across an older couple in the neighborhood out for a walk. Since they don't have dogs of their own to spoil, they bring dog treats with them on their walk and give them to all of the dogs they come across. Cordy can't wait until we meet up with them again on one of our evening walks. Anyway, not only do they love the walks as all dogs do, but they are so much more at ease when we get home. Their nerves are calmer, they are more relaxed, and they will lay down on the couch and cuddle with us while we watch a show instead of trying to get us to throw the ball a thousand times.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Great Outdoors

Today is a little taste of home. Believe it or not, the sky is overcast and cloudy, the air is crisp and moist. I'm celebrating by having a cup of coffee which I almost never drink. I'm sure it will burn off soon, but there is a 30% chance of thundershowers. I hope we get them. The one thing about the sunny weather all the time with no rain is that everything seems so dirty to me. No rain to wash away the dust.

This weekend Don and I bought a carwash kit for our car and washed the vehicles. Actually, Don washed the vehicles while I scrubbed the barbecue down (both were in great need of a little detailing). When I got in my car to drive to work on Monday I almost didn't recognize it. I could actually see out the window. You really have to keep up on washing your car around here, no cloudbursts to do it for you and the dirt builds up quickly. Plus, washing your car is kind of an enjoyable way to spend a little time outside in the warm sun. Since we have gardeners to do all of our yardwork for us, this is our one outdoor chore. That and picking up dog logs.

I've noticed that though I have not spent anytime sunbathing I am already starting to get a tan just from the little time I spend outside doing errands and such. The criss-cross pattern of my REI sandals has become a permanent tattoo on my foot. The weather this week is supposed to hold steady in the 80's (as opposed to 90's and 100's) which will give me the opportunity to spend a little more time outside. Last night I took the dogs for a walk around the neighborhood and I have some errands to do during my lunch breaks this week which will be cool enough to walk to instead of drive if I want.

I've started to think about trying to grow some fresh herbs at home - maybe some rosemary, basil, oregano, mint, sage, lavender, tarragon and thyme. I'll have to do some reading and find out what kind of plants grow well in California. Since they took out the Hot Tub in the backyard (the landlord moved it over to her house next door) we have a perfect little clay Sunporch that's not being used and there are a bunch of empty planters sitting all around the front and back porch that are just begging to be planted with something. I've never had much luck growing things in the past but I figure it's worth a try if it means I might have the opportunity to have such a convenient supply of fresh herbs to cook with. Looks like I will be making a trip to the library soon for some research materials. Maybe I will make this my weekend project. If anybody has any good tips for growing herbs outdoors in planters I would welcome any and all advice since I know absolutely nothing about keeping plants alive and have been known to kill even cactuses (plural?). But maybe that was just because I kept it on top of my heater in my dorm room.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Back to Work

It's Monday and back to the working world again. I never thought I would say this, but the highlight of my vacation was the Transformers movie that we went to yesterday. It was unexpectedly really really good. It had the action and excitement of Terminator 2 with some really interesting fun characters and good humorous and serious moments. But I can't describe it as well as Don did in his blog so if you want to hear more about it you should check out his blog.

Though it is always nice to be on vacation, the thing I am looking forward to about going back to the work week is being on a regular schedule. I definitely do better on a routine with time that is regularly scheduled. I waste less time, spend less money, get more accomplished and enjoy my down time even more. This week I have some definite goals I want to accomplish. My goals are to work out after work at least 3 days, but hopefully even 4. I also plan to cook dinner every night instead of eating out. And my goal is to not spend any money on non-necessity items until the weekend. So there you have it. Let the week begin!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Day 5

It is Day 5 of my 5 day weekend. I wish I could say that I got a lot accomplished, that I got out and saw some new things, or that I played really hard and made the most of my vacation. Well I didn't. I did get a few chores done and a few errands done and played a little. But I also spent a lot of wasted time veging and getting lost in t.v. land on our new huge screen t.v.

Today we are going to see Transformers at the Arc Light with Matt and Camille and Camille is making dinner for us afterwards. It will be a nice way to finish off the weekend. Didn't even make it to church this morning. Man am I lazy...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Of the many fun things that we are enjoying about our new life in California, I am finding that one of the things I love the most is entertaining. I love having people over and feeding them. Maybe it is because I love food so much - good food - and enjoy sharing my love of good food with other people. So many people don't take the time to cook or try new things and I like to introduce them to my favorite recipes or things that sound interesting and different. Maybe it is because we have such wonderful friends who are so appreciative when I cook for them, who even do the dishes for me when they are done. The compliments make me feel really good about my cooking talents, but also, it is the genuine expressions of people enjoying food- it is nice to have played a part in creating that joyful experience. Maybe it is because of all of our talented friends who do so many artistic things - filmaking, acting, singing/songwriting, photography - that cooking is my one artistic creative talent that I am good at and enjoy and find passion in. Maybe, also, it is because for the first time in a long time Don and I have a home of our own that we are not sharing with other people. We actually have space to entertain and we don't have to worry about invading other people's space. And we love our home and we love sharing it. Maybe also it is because everyone is so spread out and social outings take an effort to drive across town, sit in traffic, guzzle gas, that I want to make their journey out to see us worth the effort and looking forward to coming back again. Truth be told, Don and I have had the opportunity to entertain a lot lately at our place and have not had the chance to get out ourselves and make the trek to see other people as much as we should have. I promise we will. But in the meantime, thanks to all who have graced our home and allowed us to host and share a bit of our new life with you and what brings us happiness. Thanks for letting us entertain!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Week of Fun

Don and I have quite the stretch of fun going on.

Saturday we had an amazing Dinner with Matt and Camille, and Camille's dad, Richard, and sister, Katie. We went to this amazing little Italian Restaurant down the street. They were PACKED! It's a good thing we had reservations, I got the feeling that some of the folks had been on the wait list for more than a scant yawn. They sat us in an octagonal table right in the center of the room. It was like everyone was eating centered around our table... pretty funny especially given how many people they had managed to fit in that crowded little one room restaurant. I was actually sitting at another couples' table, with my back turned to them of course. I was glad I didn't have long hair or it would have been dangling right in their dinner plates. Anyway, once we began to order and receive our food I figured out just why it was so crowded. Their food was delicious!!! They served Bruschetta as an Appetizer and Katie accidentally ordered some fried calamari. I say, "accidentally" because she meant to order some steamed oysters but her eyes slipped down the page and since everything was in Italian she didn't realize that she had ordered the calamari until it came. No harm, no foul, the calamari was very good too. Richard also got us going with a couple of nice bottles of smooth Italian Chianti. Not the cheap kind either. It was very nice. After scouring the impressive menu for about 15 minutes and sending the waitress away a few times because we couldn't decide on just one thing to order, Camille and I finally decided to split two dishes because we wanted to try the pizza and the pasta. So Camille ordered a pizza with ham, fresh mozarrella, marinated mushrooms, black olives and artichokes, while I ordered the homemade spinach ravioli in saffron sage sauce. OH... MY... GOD! The pizza was good but the ravioli was one of the best pasta dishes I have ever eaten. Don orded a cioppino soup with a pretty impressive presentation - and for garnish - an entire lobster in a halfshell sitting right on top of the tomato base. Can I say, "Wow"? As if we hadn't indulged enough, we finished off with a round of desserts which we all tasted and enjoyed, crem brulee which you needed an ice pick to crack (mmmmmm), Spimoni Ice Cream, Peach sorbet plated on an actual halved peach slightly frozen, and, of course, tiramisu. It was quite the lovely evening. Once we returned to our place we visited and played with the dogs until we were all comatose from our full bellies when poor Matt had to wake himself up and drive everyone home. Cordy and Seumas of course were delightful entertainment as they tend to be for their guests and Don and I are taking bets on how long it will take for Richard to get a wiener dog. So that twas Saturday.

Sunday, we did the church thing in the morning and a trip to Borders. And then Ben flew into town in the evening. Don and Rian picked him up from the airport and then he came over and we watched the newest version of the DemonHunters Orientation Video and visited for a bit. The DHOV is looking great by the way. Some really exciting performances, great camera work, and really cool editing are turning this thing into something far better than I think was originally expected. I can't wait to see it released.

Ben will be back over again this evening. Then tomorrow night we have a get together in Studio City - Rian is moving back to Portland for a few months so people are getting together to hang out with him before he leaves. Wednesday, Don and I both have the day off of work. So far no set plans for the fourth of July but I'm sure it will involve barbecuing something. Thursday night is day one of our new D&D campaign with Matt and Camille. And then it's Friday already. Of course, this is the week where I have Wed-Friday off so it is shaping up to be a pretty nice week.

Focus and Patience

Don and I saw the movie Black Snake Moan recently. We both loved it. It was very powerful with the music and amazing strong characters, the best new movie we have seen in a while. We will definitely buy this movie. See it if you get a chance and tell us what you think.

So I finally decided on a character to play in our upcoming D&D campaign starting this Thursday. Don is running the campaign and Matt and Camille and I will be in the campaign. I decided that I wanted to play a cleric of a Buddhist persuasion. I wanted to come up with a character with a really strong motivation and a well developed identity. I sometimes struggle with the roleplaying part of D&D, interacting with other characters and still being true to my character. Sometimes, it is because I haven't developed my character's personality enough to know what they would do or how they would react in a given situation, other times it is because I know how they would react but if I do what my character actually would do in that situation, it might be harmful or at least not beneficial to the group.

I had a harder time creating a character for this campaign than I ever have before because I wanted to play a character that I was more interested in personality wise than mechanics wise. Usually, I create a character based on the fighting style I want to engage in or whether or not I want to use magic and what kind of skills I want to be good at. Then I try to come up with a personality to fit that. Well, this time I did it the other way around. I wanted to pick a character that I was really interested in getting behind their thoughts and their actions - what they thought their meaning and purpose was in the world, what their background and history was going to be all about. I thought it would be neat to find a character that was different from myself, but whose ideas and experiences I could care about and learn from.

I have always been drawn to monastic traditions. Monasticism has a sort of romantic idealism for me. The elements of devotion, of study, of self-sacrifice, prayerful and poetic are things that speak to and quiet my soul. I recently had a discussion with a friend about Buddhism. He was somebody who stated that he himself felt that he was not a religious person, but that if he were to align himself with some sort of philosophy he felt very drawn to a lot of elements of Buddhism. It struck me after thinking about it for some time that I wanted to make this the defining element of character. Obviously, I am a Christian woman and that is the faith and belief system that defines me. But I thought it would be neat to be able to explore this profound religion through another character and see what inspiration it might bring to my own life.

So Don and I went to Borders yesterday and I bought Herman Hesse's book, Siddhartha which I haven't read since High School. I decided I would read it as research for my character. It is a short book but the kind that you have to take your time to read, to mull over the pages, meditate on them, experience them, take in every word. So last night I read the first chapter. In it, Siddhartha is well loved, well cared for, and well schooled. He brings everyone around him happiness, but he himself is not fulfilled. After meditating, he decides that he must leave his family and start a new path. He is going to join the Samanas and learn what he can from them. His father of course, is reluctant to see him go and at first does not grant his request. But Siddhartha stands firm. He roots himself and will not be moved until his father finally grants his request. The path he must follow is greater than the will of his parents. I think the thing that is most inspiring about this chapter is the focus that Siddhartha has. Despite the forces against him, his focus never deters from what he knows he must do, what is the right thing to do, and he is patient because he has faith that since it is the right path, it will come true.

I think those are two things that could help all of us, especially me, no matter what your religious affiliation is - Focus and Patience. I know in my own faith I have lost focus on some of the things that are important and a big reason for that is that I lost patience. In this chapter of Siddhartha, I think it shows us that patience is not born out of a lack of urgency. The things that need to be changed in this world, the injustices that need to be righted, are very urgent things. Rather, here, it seems that patience is born out of confidence - Siddhartha's confidence that he knew this was the right thing to do, Siddhartha's confidence that his father knew it was the right thing to do, and Siddhartha's confidence that eventually his father would do the right thing. For me, this means having faith that no matter what forces I come up against, that God's Will will be done in the end. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but that when we set a course to follow God's will, that our determined presence in the face of those who would oppose God's will has an effect, an effect that leads to change. It is a change that comes about from being moved internally by change of heart, not externally by means of force, otherwise patience would not be necessary.