Tag Archives: DVDs

About my winter (and 2020 resolutions)

I’ve had a good winter. It was productive and the little “kick” in my step I felt in the fall hasn’t gone away. There’s been a bit of reprieve from an on-going problem in my life (not because anybody did the right thing but just out of a change in circumstances) and it’s allowed me to breathe a little easier. So that was certainly part of it. Creating more focus and direction for myself in the last three years with the annual resolutions has helped me considerably. I’ve already made a good start.

In a post a few years ago I remember saying that I felt like my life was a big ship in need of minor course adjustments. But big ships don’t change direction easily. They groan and strain and balk when required to turn; momentum has got them chugging along straight and that’s the easiest path. My ship has groaned and strained and balked but BY GUM it has turned. I don’t feel as wasteful. Wasteful of time, energy, talents, potential.

I stayed in shape and ate well. That’s one of the most important things I do every winter. It’s important always but tougher in winter. I pushed myself to not get lazy or eat more calories than I burned. In years past I’d be very active in good weather and was burning off the calories I consumed but come winter, when I slowed down physically, my calorie intake didn’t. I have finally realized I need to start dialing back the portions, even in a fairly healthy diet, in the fall not later in winter. I ate fruit like it was my job. A good, juicy mandarin orange, for one, is an amazement each time.

Somewhat of an aside but I feel like mentioning this: Last summer and again this winter, I bought a lot of food from Amazon. I’m in an area where Amazon offers home grocery delivery for Prime members. I only get Prime, which I split with someone, occasionally and when I do, I go to town. See, a year of Prime is $119. However, if you pay by the month and get it, say six months a year, it costs, at $12.99 a month, $78 a year. I don’t need Prime every month and I don’t even need it six months a year (last year I believe I got it for two months and two separate weeks when they had a special). Point being, when I do get it, I make sure to get my money’s worth and part of that has become groceries, both shelf-stable and perishable. Having food delivered to me has been wonderful. It’s not perfect but it’s made my life better. My life really does revolve around meals.

I was doing yoga but injured myself (not doing that) and had to cut back in the last month but have kept up my other exercising (push-ups, hand-weights, walking, and so on).

One of my goals was 8 attempts at a pull-up (or chin-up). Not 8 consecutive attempts but 8 visits to a local playground to have a go at it. The bar is just out of reach, so that when I’m standing on the ground below it, just the tips of my fingers touch it. I have to jump up to catch hold of the bar and decided that if I could touch my chin to the bar that’d count as a success. On my third visit I was able to do that and did it once more to make sure I could. I wouldn’t call this a pull-up exactly. I think a real pull-up requires you to pull yourself from a dead weight (no jumping involved) and to get your chin over the bar. Still, I was pleased to accomplish what I did!

I’ve read 15 books (out of a goal of thirty). I recently discovered Playaway books at the public library. They are cute little recorded books that you plug ear buds or headphones into. I am really enjoying being “read to”. I’ve listened to two books I read in years past, Animal Farm and The Handmaid’s Tale as well as two other novels. It’s fun to have these for variety (in addition to actual books) and I can go outside or do routine chores while listening. Some readers are fantastic at the narration and their talents really add to my enjoyment. (I was half-expecting that Margaret Atwood would read her own book but it’s Claire Danes; the story’s narrator is a young woman so of course it makes sense to have a younger person narrate.) While I’ve listened to books on CD in the past, I’ve yet to listen to any podcasts and resist reading books on any kind on an electronic device (like Kindle) so the Playaway books are a big deal for me!

I am on a mission to get rid of stuff. I’ve already put 72 items on my list this year. I’m not living in an empty house by any means but it is streamlined and orderly and visually attractive. Getting rid of a lot of stuff in the last several years is a big reason for that. I can find things, I know where stuff is. There is something very freeing in getting rid of things. I haven’t stopped buying NEW things but right now the things are going out in larger quantities than they are coming in; I’m trying to be very particular about what comes into my home (and my life for that matter; it’s all connected).

In December I fixed up my kitchen with a a “poor woman’s” semi-Italian update. No major appliances left or came in; it was largely a cosmetic project but I’ve been very happy with it.

I went through ALL of my clothes, looking at everything with fresh eyes. I got rid of (charity, etc) anything that wasn’t working for me or made fixes that could turn clothes into better versions of themselves. Whether I get them new or second-hand, I routinely have to take “tucks” in most of my jeans, pants, and shorts at the waist in order for them to fit right. (If I buy a smaller size, then the rest of the garment is too tight.) Taking in “tucks” at the waist makes pants or shorts sit where they should so the rest fits better.

If I got a piece of clothing free or cheap, I feel freer to “operate” on it. I bought these cute Forever 21 shorts for a dollar at a rummage sale last year but realized they were just too big. I remedied that by hand-sewing new seams down both sides and cutting off the excess. Now the shorts fit and flatter me.

This Merona sweater (a former Target brand) that I think I got from a thrift store is very sweet but just a bit big and additionally, it “gapped” in between buttons (you women readers know what I’m talking about; people can look right in at your bra! I hate that.). I fixed the button-gapping by sewing buttons (I keep a small stash of extras) permanently on between the gapping buttons at the top. Now the sweater is a pullover – since the newly added buttons sewn right through the front – but that’s okay because at least it looks good and I’ll be more likely to wear it.

IMG_20200312_100319

The second & fourth buttons are sewn right through the sweater

I also went through all jewelry. I think there’s a point, although I haven’t decided exactly where it is, where you can have too much of something to truly enjoy it. I think this is true of clothes and jewelry too. When I clear things out I can see what I have and I appreciate them more. This doesn’t mean I have hundreds of things because I don’t. Just that I want to manage anything I have where there’s reason (or desire) to have more than a few of it (clothes, jewelry, music, dishes, etc) so that I have a number that works for me. What is the point in merely collecting things in quantities you don’t actually use? Or really love? That’s where my head is at.

I’ve done 10 “good deeds” of the twenty on my resolutions list. The good deeds have to be something more than I might normally do; they can’t be everyday stuff I do all the time; I have to go a bit out of my way. And I have to do them with no idea of being rewarded. I hesitated to even mention this resolution when I wrote about my 2020 plans because I didn’t want it to sound self-congratulatory. I still don’t. But if I was reading this, I might want to know what kinds of things I’m talking about when I say “good deeds” so I will tell you one.

The small grocery store near me is having financial issues and going through changes. I have mixed feelings about the store but I don’t want it to fail and while I won’t give them extra cash (they’ve been doing quite a bit of fund raising) I will help in other ways if I can. On a recent Sunday many grocery carts were outside the store, where they’d been abandoned, rather than stored inside for new customers. Usually an employee is in charge of bringing the carts back inside but I could see nobody was around (maybe nobody ever does this task on Sundays or maybe it was just this particular Sunday). I took it upon myself to round up all the carts and bring them inside. It took a few trips. It is harder to push a line of carts than it looks! I came back through the store a few hours later to see if the carts needed to be brought in again but an employee had apparently already done it.

Basically, I’m keeping my eyes open for things I can do to be helpful or decent or kind, where it requires more effort from me than what I might normally do. And — except for here in this blog – I am keeping them to myself. They are secret good deeds, at least part of the time.

I cut back on my DVD watching. Less internet and less DVDS mean more reading, etc. I’m still doing crosswords and other mind-challenging activities. As much as I want my body to stay strong, I really, REALLY want my mind to stay strong. That said, I’m no zealot and I believe in entertainment. I’m catching up now on movies that were nominated for or won Oscars this year so my DVD-number is on the increase. I figure I’ll just slow it down later this year. I was uncertain about setting a number, but I think a movie a week is good, plus a few series.

It is always about balance. Modern life is not about balance. It’s about excess and immoderation, about indulging one’s self, and never having enough. Does that sound preachy? I don’t mean it to be. But everywhere I turn, I’m encouraged to overdo it and not in good, healthy ways. It is a real struggle to stay in your own lane and not be caught in anyone else’s agenda, be it an individual’s or a corporation’s, or even a government’s. You have to decide what is important to you and keep to it. Beat those distractions back with a stick! That’s what I tell myself.

I enjoyed this winter more than any in years.

About them 2019 resolutions…

Okay, so I did all right. I won’t be crossing quite everything off the lists but I’m basically satisfied. In both 2018 and 2019 I made highly specific “kinda, sorta resolutions” tailored to me. It’s worked out well.
I read 33 books. The goal was 20. I did most of my reading in the early part of the year. I put check marks by 13 of them, indicating which ones I really appreciated.  I can’t read the way I used to; it takes more to hold my attention, more to get me to sit in a spot for hours with a book. Because of that, six of my 33 were books I’d read in years past and wanted to read again. Sometimes I just need a sure thing. I have little patience these days for trying to get into a book, trying to relate to characters, or trying to care about the subject matter. I get restless. And I KNOW there are books – like all things – which can hold me; it’s a matter of finding them.

A year ago I bought a yoga mat and a DVD player for the TV in the living room, the only place (other than outside!) where I have space for doing yoga. As with the reading, most of my yoga was done earlier in the year. I am very active outdoors most of the year and didn’t need more exercise of any stripe. Because I hadn’t totally factored that in I fell somewhat short of my intentions. I’ve done the five-minute “sun salutation” 38 of 50 planned times and the 30-minutes of yoga just half of 25 planned times. That said, when I DID do yoga it was usually in 40-45 minute increments per the instructional DVDs.

I like yoga. I don’t worry much about fussy breathing or learning all the poses’ names, or anything that might daunt, bore, or intimidate me. To me, yoga is exercise. Exercise focused on strength, balance, and stretch. It’ll make your body move in ways it wouldn’t in the normal course of a day which is an especially good idea for anyone who is aging. Otherwise you end up like the tin man!😯 I want to be strong, agile, and spry as long as possible. The way I live is dependent on it at many levels. I will not go down easily. I know I’ll be doing yoga over the winter.

I did ZIPPO with learning Italian from cds. That fell off the map in short order because I wasn’t enjoying it and I wasn’t learning Italian. All I can say is I recently heard “piazza” somewhere or other and knew it meant plaza.😐 I think I ‘d like to learn – or try to learn – key phrases and words at least as a starting-off point rather than attempt the language itself. That, or I need different cds. I felt inept very quickly with the set I was using. Other than English, I have never felt I had an aptitude for languages and my opinion after this year hasn’t changed a whit.

Thai cooking wasn’t a success either. Thai cooking, it seems, requires a lot of ingredients I don’t typically have and more trouble than I wanted to invest. I did attempt spring rolls because I love them when I have them out but mine, which I decided to bake since I cook NOTHING in pots of oil, were okay, not great.  Instead, I continued to make this Thai-inspired cole slaw. If I can find more recipes like it, I’d definitely try them. Lime, peanuts, cilantro, be still my heart!

I watched a lot of DVDs, both movies and series. I had wanted an idea of the number since I’d never kept track. The thing I realized is that as with books, I need the right movies or series to hold me. I ADORE movies, as I adore books and music. But a lot of each is just average, nothing special, not to me. I want the gems, the ones I get excited about, the ones that thrill me, and make me sit back in awe of someone else’s brilliance and accomplishment. How did they do that?! That’s the feeling I want. That’s why I read, watch movies/series, and listen to music.  I want to have that O-MI-GOD feeling. Am I demanding? Do I expect too much? Yeah, well maybe. But once you’ve had that feeling, it’s Continue reading

Oil can for the my rusty brain

A short while ago, I wrote a post about feeling my life was lacking in intellectual stimulation.

My formal education ended long ago with a Bachelor’s degree, and while I remain a reader as well as intellectually curious, I could see that in recent times, I was looking more for entertainment than education. I don’t think that was entirely wrong – there are times in my life that I just don’t have it in me for whatever reason, to keep challenging myself. Times when just basically taking care of myself – and dealing with problems du jour or problems l’année – is enough.

I had slowly moved away from self-education. I no longer knew what I knew and what I didn’t. I was aware that math and science were pretty much gone, but overall I had no measuring stick. Was I losing my edge?

I started with taking two online IQ tests. The results of each were very similar – and let’s say I was happy with the number. My wits were still about me. I was going to take a third test to seal the deal, but never quite got to it. Perhaps my gray matter was taxed from all the exertion.

As a book and movie buff, I’m a regular at the library, but I now had a specific mission, and that was to ramp up the difficulty/challenge level of the material.

One of the places I began was a huge SAT book, complete with practice tests. I focused on the tests only – no ” brushing up” or “studying” for me – beginning with the language related tests, which are divided into two areas: Critical Reading and Writing. My scores were fine; Writing was good and Critical Reading was very good. Here’s my “cold test” answer sheet.
P_20150403_091915

I wasn’t going to even bother with the math, but ultimately tried the math test too, and it was laughable. It’s not that I never did well in math – I did B-student okay – it’s that I quickly saw that the math SAT test was almost entirely based on knowing formulas, and those, save one, are now lost to me. Whereas the math on IQ tests, I realized, is more about reasoning and recognizing patterns – that I can do.

Despite being a lifelong reader, I can’t read as I once did. I’m restless, physically active, and often in motion. When I sit down to read, I’m often distracted; something on the page will start me to thinking, and soon I’m either lost in thought (no longer reading) or hopping up to to go do something. Because of this, I opted to focus more heavily on educational DVDs, choosing topics I knew something about or was genuinely intrigued by. There weren’t going to be no forcing myself into watching The Complete History of Calculus or Nuclear Fission and You (No, these titles don’t exist, at least I don’t think so).

Here’s where I began:P_20150215_151900

I got lucky; there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. I didn’t get around to the LSAT review before it had to be returned (and it’s not like I’m headed to law school; I was just curious what’s on the test), but otherwise I watched them. Some were better than others and I count titles I’d watch again.

I can only gush about the multi-part nine-hour America the Story of Us. The series, had it been on TV when I was a kid, struck me as the sort we’d gather around the TV set to watch. It’s beautiful-looking to start with – what they can do now with film and animation just blows me away. If history had been taught more like this in my time, I might have actually cared. The film relies heavily on riveting reenactments, and highlights historical tidbits I never knew. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the film since my credentials are slim but since it was produced by the History Channel, I generally trusted that they knew their stuff.

Throughout the film, there’s an emphasis on what WE did and how clever and forward-thinking WE were, but I knew they weren’t talking about me. I felt a little guilty sitting in my comfortable chair watching those people take on the British, or lay those ridiculous miles of train tracks linking East to West, or producing goods out the wazoo during WWII, or bringing water to CA through building the seemingly impossible California aqueduct. And all the people who died doing these things, not to mention so much loss of life in so many other ways – loss which would make things better not for those people, but for others to follow. Watching the film, I was struck by how much was accomplished in growing this country in such a short time. It’s boggling.

By the time the film moved to the waves of immigration, it was well along, and it was then, when they specifically mentioned and showed Northern Italians as among those arriving at Ellis Island, that I got emotional. My people had arrived; only now, in however tiny a way, could I feel part of the story.

The film packs a lot in, and can’t cover it all, but my criticism is that it’s too self-praising at the cost of passing over serious problems. The current state of crime, drugs, and race are left out. The issues immigrants and nonwhites face in this supposedly equal and class-less society are short-shrifted. Nonetheless, this is a film I’d watch again.

Memory of the Camps, a PBS film, initially begun but never finished by, surprisingly, Alfred Hitchcock, showed what are likely the most hideous, heinous footage I’ve ever see of the concentration camps. The footage was taken immediately after liberation. It’s shocking, even if you think you’ve seen all this before. I watched because I think it’s important and the discomfort – although that seems too weak a word – it causes me seems small a price. The thing is, this just wasn’t all that long ago, historically speaking. We can’t call it “ancient history” or say “that will never happen again.” Especially when we’ve already got a movement saying it never happened.

I could go on about the various DVDs, but I should probably curb myself for purposes of this post. Let me leave you with the next round I checked out, and the current one:
P_20150325_110411
P_20150403_105607

I have to say, lastly, two things. One is that I’m feeling a lot sharper, I’m thinking about things. And the second is I’ve noticed WWII comes up frequently, or at least regularly, in my selections; it’s like I keep coming at it from different directions. I think I’ve underestimated its role or place in modern culture/history. I really didn’t know a whole lot about it but I’m paying more attention now that it’s been turning up on the radar. I’m not about to become ANY kind of war buff, but it’s good to fill in blanks in my knowledge.

You know what? This has been kind of exciting for me. It’s good to be back in learning gear.