Saturday, May 30, 2009

Call me a swinger!

Now that I have much more "Tracy" time on my hands, I'm keeping myself busy trying new things and getting more variety of activities in my life.

One sport that I haven't done very much over the years is golf. Oh, I took lessons as a teenager -- eons ago! -- but I never got over that sheer-frustration hump, and so I rarely played. But my dad (bless his heart!) has been taking me to the local driving range and putting green for practice, and he even arranged for me to get a lesson, which gave me the ABCs of the basic stance and swing.

Now we're getting out once or twice a week, and it's kind of fun! Obviously, I can hardly afford to take up the sport seriously at this point; but a bucket of balls is only about 3 bucks -- and that's good for at least an hour's entertainment. Plus, I always heard that a golf course is a great place to meet guys.

So, not only am I a swinger, but I'm a cheap date!

The best boss

I guess my recent blogs haven't made it very clear that I am currently not employed full-time. I've had a couple of jobs that only lasted a month or so, and a few freelance-type gigs, but nothing major.

And, like all the other highly-qualified people out there (suddenly, thousands of us!), I have been chasing the few available jobs, lame and low-paying as they may be.

You know, I just don't want to do it anymore. It's not worth the effort to send a resume to a job posting and then hear -- NOTHING! And networking seems to be fruitless right now, because so many other people are doing it as well! I've also come to believe that working for a big corporation just sucks your soul right out of you; so: No thanks to that, too.

Instead, I'm going to try it on my own. I've been given a freelance opportunity that is forcing me to update my skill-set (always a good thing!), including mastering Adobe's InDesign layout program. It's kicking my butt right now, let me tell you! I've spent the better part of a week stuck to my computer, sitting through an online tutorial and designing a 12-page document from scratch. But it has been a worthwhile effort: I've learned a lot about the program -- and my product is looking pretty darn good, if I do say so myself!

Hopefully, this new gig will lead me to other similar ones, and I'll be able to make a living out of it by working for the best boss ever: ME!

Monday, May 25, 2009

A film lover's orgy

Well, after four years of wanting to do so, I finally got a chance his past week to become involved with the Delray Beach Film Festival, a 5 1/2-day extravaganza of independent short, feature and documentary films. I signed up as a volunteer, and got to hang out at some of the key parties, catch a bunch of films, and even attend a scriptwriting workshop.

The festival's big "celebrity" was actor Giancarlo Esposito, whose work I've admired since his days on the excellent 1990s TV series Homicide: Life on the Streets. He was in town to promote his film Gospel Hill, screened on Saturday night, which he directed and had a role in. I enjoyed the film, a character piece set in the South that looks at race relations, old grudges and learning to let go. Esposito recruited some pretty impressive stars, including Angela Bassett, Danny Glover, Julia Stiles and Samuel L. Jackson. If you get a chance to see it (in a theater or on DVD), then definitely check it out!

The film festival was a real pick-me-up, let me tell you! The creative energy was truly palpable, plus I met some awesomely interesting people. And, even though it was a rainy week here, the thunderstorms somehow stayed away during the biggest outdoor events. You couldn't have scripted it better!

Next year, the festival organizers are planning on holding it earlier in the year (March, I think) to take advantage of the seasonal crowds. I'm really looking forward to participating again; hopefully with a bigger role!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The the new 'in' place to shop

I have a confession to make. I'm a "bargain" shopper -- meaning I rarely pay full-price for clothes and household items.

My favorite stores are Marshalls, Ross, TJ Maxx, as well as local consignment and thrift stores (which are full of designer duds in my well-heeled area, btw!). When I do go to mall stores, I'll always head to the sale racks first.

This frugal habit has served me well over the years; I think I look pretty damned put together, thank you very much! And with this new economy, the discount mentality is becoming downright "mainstream" -- just look at this recent Today Show clip for proof!

A big benefit of shopping at local thrifts is that many of them are set up to benefit a charity -- so your money will be doing something positive instead of fattening some CEO's wallet!

Of course, shopping at these types of places comes with its caveats -- such as inspect every item very carefully for stains, tears, cracks, etc. Also, set aside more time for your shopping expedition, because the stores are usually not well organized, they can be jammed with goods, and you'll probably have to try on many items to find a few gems.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Yay! for coffee!

Here's another health study to file away in the "good news" department: Coffee is not so bad for you, after all. In fact, coffee consumption seems to have several possible health benefits, according to a recent story in The L.A. Times. Why the sudden turn-around? Because new studies separate the effects of coffee from those of cigarettes -- which old studies did not, because many coffee drinkers were also smokers. And we all know how harmful smoking is, right?

But take note that the study is talking about coffee, not just caffeine: "'Coffee is a complex beverage with hundreds, if not thousands, of bioactive ingredients,' said (researcher Terry Graham). 'A cup of coffee is 2% caffeine, 98% other stuff.'"

Coffee seems to be beneficial for those with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cirrhosis, and Parkinson's, and it can even help improve your athletic performance. So go ahead, have that cuppa joe!

Of course, as with anything, you should consume coffee in moderation, because it does bring on negative side effects such as jitteriness and sleeplessness.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

He's the one

As I sit here writing this, I occasionally glance over to where Jake is sleeping. He's in his favorite spot in the room, underneath a side unit of the entertainment center -- I call it his "hidey-hole" -- and every time I look, I can't help but grin and feel warm and fuzzy inside.

While I was dating Matthew, I spent a lot of time away from home -- and away from Jake. But now I'm so thankful that I have Jake in my life, to welcome me home after even the longest absence, to love me no matter what, to entertain me just by being himself, and to want nothing more than to please me. I know that this furry little guy will help me heal my heart.

To me, dogs have always been more than a pleasant companion or a useful working animal. They give so much joy, so much comfort, so much unconditional love. They don't hold grudges (or at least not often, and not for long), they don't judge irrationally, and they are willing to let bygones be bygones. I think we humans could learn a lot from our supposedly "inferior" four-legged friends.

Well, apparently, there's a growing community of scientists who agree that dogs are more highly evolved than we previously assumed. According to a recent story in the Denver Post: "Dogs are full of natural goodness and have rich emotional lives, says groundbreaking animal behaviorist Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of the University of Colorado. ... 'We're not trying to elevate animals,' Bekoff said. 'We're not trying to reduce humans. We're not saying we're better or worse or the same. We're saying we're not alone in having a nuanced moral system.' "

Woman's best friend, indeed.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Update: It's all over but the crying

Over. Kaput. Finito. Splitsville. Going our separate ways. Moving on.

Yup, after assessing where we are and where we each want to go, Matt and I have agreed to cut each other loose to search for a better "other half."

I'm very sad and disappointed, of course, because I fell in love with this guy -- or at least who I thought he was! -- and I gave it my all. But, somewhere along the way, I lost myself trying to be the woman he wants. Frankly, I think he's looking for a fantasy; but you know, that's his problem -- not mine anymore!

So, now I'm free to set a different course for myself. I'll spend some lonely and sad nights mourning the relationship, to be sure. But I don't think that process will take me very long, for I've learned a lot about myself and what I need in a relationship. I really do believe there's something bright and wonderful out there for me, just ahead. And I intend to find it!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Intelligent girls do it better!

Memo to all those single guys out there who are "looking":

Want to find a woman who will give you your most satisfying sex life? Pass by the hot-bod "bimbo" (as tempting as she might be!) -- and go for the smart girl, says Britain's The Telegraph. A study of 1,000 sets of twins found that the twin with the highest degree of "emotional intelligence" had the most orgasms.

Well, duh!!!

Says the story: "Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to monitor and manage feelings and emotions in oneself and others." Says researcher Andrea Burri: "Emotional intelligence seems to have a direct impact on a woman's sexual functioning by influencing her ability to communicate her sexual expectations and desires to her partner."

I'd also add that emotionally intelligent women have more natural depth, are generally more empathetic and not so self-involved, and are much more able to access and activate their sensual "core"-- which can lead to multiple orgasms.

So, guys, if you're looking for more than a one-night stand, then look deeper than a killer cleavage or gorgeous gams ...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The rocky road

Well, after a little more than a year of dating, Matthew and I are taking a break. We've hit a rather large boulder on the rocky road of relationships. Oh, we still care about each other and want the best for each other -- but it seems we've got different ideas and expectations of what that entails.

But, whether or not this turns out to be an insurmountable boulder, I know that things will turn out for the best in the end. There's something bright and positive ahead for me. The trick, of course, is keeping my head up and my eyes forward -- instead of looking back -- so that I don't miss it when it turns up!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Let's talk about sex

Those words strike fear into every parent's heart. Oh, sure, most can choke out a brief birds-and-bees, this-is how-it's-done (the man's penis goes into the woman's vagina) lecture to their pre-teen; but I think that many people are truly intimidated by the prospect of continuing the dialogue as their kids enter their teen years. Teens' natural reticence and their tendency to want to learn from anybody but their parents also exacerbate this tendency. Thus, I think that many parents have ceded the sex-education responsibility to schools.

This past decade or so, unfortunately, abstinence-only has been the sanctioned message. Conservatives who back this approach believe that by discussing birth-control options, you tacitly approve teenage sex.

Sorry, I don't buy that! Messages promoting sex are all around us; so if we're not discussing with our kids the issues, choices, and ramifications of this activity, they're going to get their ideas from these places instead. It's like only telling someone: You CANNOT have chocolate cake! and then surrounding them with pictures and videos of rich, creamy, double-fudge cake. Sorry, you can't have that cake; it's bad for you and can make you fat! No diet tips, no suggestions for substitutions, no discussion of emotional triggers that make them crave the cake, etc.

Yeah, like THAT'S gonna work!

So, I was glad to read in The Wall Street Journal that Obama is going to cut funding for these education programs and funnel it toward programs that take a more realistic view of the whole issue -- which means, yes, promoting abstinence as the safest choice; but also teaching kids that they need to take precautions if they do decide to have sex. Says the story:

"Seventy-five percent of the funds would be set aside for programs that have been proved, through 'rigorous evaluation,' to delay sexual activity, increase contraceptive use (without increasing sexual activity) or to reduce teen pregnancy. An administration official said that no abstinence-only programs have met those standards. The rest of the money would be available to develop and test 'innovative strategies' for preventing teen pregnancy. Officials said abstinence-only programs could qualify for these funds."

Way to go, Prez!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Stick it to me!

So, the Sun-Sentinel reports that manual-transmission cars have fallen to alarming lows in popularity.

Says the Sentinel article: "As recently as 1985, more than 50 percent of male car buyers said they wanted a stick shift. Last year, 11 percent did, according to market researchers, with sales totaling 7 percent of new cars."

As someone who drives a stick-shift, I'm very sad to see this trend. It's a valuable skill to have, as far as I'm concerned (just look at how it handicaps some teams on the Amazing Race when they travel through countries that offer only manual cars!).

I learned to drive a stick as a teenager, when my best friend taught me how to drive her family's Volkswagen Beetle. I remember some grinding of gears and lots of gnashing of teeth before I got the hang of it. I also recall that she swore at the time she'd NEVER teach anyone again (though I think she ended up teaching her kids anyway ... but that was years later!).

My little 2000 Honda Civic has been a wonderful car: Zippy and fun to drive, super-reliable, and -- best of all -- extremely inexpensive to operate. (Manuals are better on gas, and usually need cheaper parts and/or repairs.)

I also believe that stick shifts make you more engaged as a driver, by keeping your focus on the task at hand, and thus making you more aware of the road and your surroundings -- which is definitely a plus in today's environment of clueless and distracted drivers. The newspaper story backs this up with its argument that sticks are less desirable to female drivers -- who apparently need the extra hand to apply makeup, talk on the cell phone, eat, or other really stupid habits to adopt behind the wheel.

No thanks! I think I'll stick to the stick.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Gearing up for battle

I must start getting serious about carving off a few pounds. As I've blogged about before, the weight is creeping back on -- slowly but stealthily; I am now up about two sizes (15 pounds) from my lowest point. And I've got to get a handle on it, pronto! Ideally, I'd like to take off 8-10 lbs., but I'd be happy with 5-6 or so and fitting into my size 6's comfortably ....

Problem is, I've been hit with a double whammy: I'm going through a stressful time (job-hunting, ugh!) -- and stress always makes me head straight for the sweets and carbs; and I'm also suffering symptoms such as mood swings and weight gain caused by peri-menopause and/or the dreaded Big M (I'm not exactly sure which cycle I'm in).

The answer, I know, is to cut back on my caloric intake. Yup, easier said than done! But I found a helpful list on of 100 ways to cut 100 calories. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:

1. Use light, whole-wheat bread, which is low in calories and high in fiber, for your morning toast or lunchtime sandwich.

2. Don't say "cheese" when it comes to burgers -- you're already getting enough protein, and you don't need the extra fat). Instead, load it up with lettuce, tomato, onion, and some ketchup and mustard.

3. Use nonfat or 1 percent milk instead of whole milk.

4. Use vinaigrette instead 0f mayonnaise-based salad dressings; and, while you're at it, dress your greens very, very lightly!

5. Eat grilled chicken instead of breaded or fried.

6. Use one less tablespoon of butter, margarine or oil in recipes.

7. Leave 3-4 bites on your plate.

8. Eat slowly to make your meal last and reduce your urge for seconds. (See my blog entry "Eat this way, not that" from Oct. 23 for tips on slowing down your eating.)

9. When dining out, tell them ixnay on the breadbasket.

10. And if you must have dessert, order one for the whole table and split it.

I'll bet you won't even miss those calories!

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