Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Whining, minutiae-filled, boring

On Tuesday I cancelled a chiropractor's appointment I had for that afternoon because my digestion felt fine. Within @#$-damn 90 minutes I had a pain in my right ankle that was bad enough to have me limping. What the hell? But I hesitated to get my appointment back because I'd had so little sleep for the previous two nights: I really needed a nap before my 4:30 work shift began. The appointment or the nap? I went for the nap.

But the ankle didn't feel any better as I left for my work shift. All night, with every step, the pain reminded me of the mistake I'd made in cancelling that appointment. I felt so disappointed in myself. Plus I hate being in pain. Whenever anything bothers me, I constantly worry that it's my fault and it will never, ever go away and it's the beginning of my whole body falling apart and it's my fault.

By the time I limped home last night at 11:00 p.m. (having earned $35 dollars for my trouble) I felt so tired and defeated and certain that I had totally screwed up by cancelling that appointment. If only I'd kept it. If only this pain had started an hour and a half earlier, so I wouldn't have cancelled it.

I took a sleeping pill and finally got enough sleep last night/this morning. This week I wasn't scheduled to work today or tomorrow which would probably give my ankle time to heal. But on Monday I picked up a shift for tonight. And last night, determined to get out of working on Labor Day, I switched shifts with someone and that means I work on Thursday, too. So instead of taking it easy today and tomorrow, I'll have to keep working on this ankle. And then I work on Friday and Saturday nights, too.

I hate myself. I've had cake for breakfast and lunch today.

Monday, August 27, 2007

FINALLY

Well, well. The little brown one has finally toppled. Why is Michael Chertoff the most likely replacement for the attorney general position? How did that happen?

As I was watching a CNN anchorwoman greet two talking heads and ask them their opinions on the Alberto Gonzales resignation, I wondered, "Why do these so-called experts spend time voicing their opinions like this on places like CNN? Is CNN paying them? I doubt it. Are they hawking books? No. So what's in it for them to appear and say things like "President Bush wanted Gonzales groomed for the Supreme Court?"

Did anyone get my reference to George H.W. Bush's long-ago comment about his grandchildren? He said, "These are Jebby's kids. The little brown ones." Anyone?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dream Weight


Photo by my boyfriend, Bob.



For months, maybe even years, I've been thinking that since I'm five feet, two inches tall and shrinking, my ideal weight would be 118 pounds. This weight has seemed variably far away or impossible, depending on my state of fitness. But in the past month, I've been having some health problems that have affected my ability to eat. Unable to consume my usual diet, but not being willing to reduce my daily exercise, I suddenly dropped weight over the course of a few weeks. Sometimes your dreams do come true.

One day this month, the scale registered 118 pounds (see photo). I was stunned. I had reached my goal weight, my floating dream weight! It was a miracle. I felt so happy, so accomplished. My body was now perfect.

Or so I had expected. All those years I had been thinking that weighing 118 pounds would mean all my problem areas would be gone. That's what ideal weight means, right? Wrong. Losing weight in my 40's is proving quite different from losing weight in my 30's. I can no longer count on the weightloss to even out my proportions. I've been trying on clothes and looking in the mirror, trying on clothes and looking in the mirror. It turns out that weighing 118 pounds means I look thin, but my problem area is still solidly there: when I totally relax, I could easily be mistaken for being pregnant. It's the abdominal bulge I've spent my life hating and it's still there, even when the rest of my body is totally thin.

I exercise almost every day for over an hour. I conscientiously stick to 45 minutes of cardiovascular activity, followed by 30 minutes of resistance training, alternating days between arms, legs and core, with pilates thrown in for good measure. I watch what I eat and no one can call me overweight. But even when I lose as much weight as possible, my stomach still protrudes as if carrying a baby. As hard, hard, hard as I exercise and as far below 120 pounds as I can get, I think there isn't anything I can do about this 41-year-old body of mine. It is what it is.

It's sobering to give up the fantasy that there's an ideal weight at which my body will look 20 years old again. There isn't. At this point, the best I can achieve is looking great for a woman in her 40's. If I try to lose weight beyond that point, I'll appear starving and/or like a middle-aged woman who's trying too hard (we've all seen them). Working out every day and building muscle and trimming down and losing all the body fat just isn't going to get me a 20-year-old, hourglass figure, no matter what. I'm 41 and that means that exercising and dieting and self-discipline will help me look great, but not like Jessica Alba.

(p.s. Since reaching the 118-pound mark, my health problems have diminished and my weight has started going back up to its usual point in the 120's. Just as well.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Music for Sale

I decided to be a singer in 1992 (at the age of 26), but it was four years until I wrote my first song. After that, I began performing with friends sporadically and it was several more years before I had a repertoire of originals and a real band. In my most miserable years (my late thirties) I produced the most music: I played open mics and bar gigs, wrote songs about living in the moment and being single and making money, and paid the best instrumentalists I could find to perform and record with me. From 2002-04 I was working a cushy corporate job and had plenty of money for this. I managed to put together nine broadcast-quality songs, although I didn't have the follow-through to actually turn them into a proper CD.

Then I met Bob [lighting change, music shift] and I stopped feeling miserable. I actually became happy and the music stopped. In 2006 I didn't write a single song. For a year and a half I had no performances and my electric bass collected dust. I thought maybe I was done and the music had simply been a coping mechanism.

It is now summer 2007 and after a nineteen-month intermission, I'm making music again, but not for performance. I've realized I don't like performing, at least not the way many bands do it. I don't like bars, smoke, alcohol, being out late and I really can't stand the decibels at which live music is performed. I also don't like the burden of having to generate my own audience: posting flyers, sending out supplicant emails, doing open mic's and acting like the Pied Piper of "Come to my gig!" I'm not good at promotion and always disliked it. Self-marketing, plus the loudness and the lateness of the music scene, completely repel me, so I'm leaving it behind.

I'm now focusing on making recordings of as many original songs as possible and seeing if I can sell them. I've let go of the fantasy of one day hearing my voice on the radio. I no longer want to become even locally well-known if it means more self-promotion and more late nights in loud bars. I've stopped dreaming about being Discovered. For years I've been caught between the desire to be heard and the fear of finding out I'm really no good. Being a great songwriter with an incredible voice has been the most important thing to me and I think it's really hampered me. Terrified of finding out I wasn't a great songwriter with an incredible voice, I've always stopped myself before I really accomplished anything, before anyone could really hear me.

Listening to myself after my nineteen-month hiatus, I'm realizing that I'm not that great a singer. In fact, my singing voice might just be mediocre, but suddenly that feels fine. It no longer feels like my self-worth depends on how good a musician I am or how much people like my music. I don't really know why. I imagine some people aren't motivated until they decide they want to be Great. For me, letting go of having to be Great is finally allowing me to accomplish something.

Now I just want to generate some income from work I've already done. I love the idea of royalties: getting paid for work that's completely accomplished for as long as someone continues to use it. If one of my songs ends up in a commercial, that might mean royalties that stop after a few weeks or months, and many jobs will produce one lump payment. But I'm excited about the possibility of receiving money for an indefinite broadcasting period -- years? Oh, to hit the Gilligan's Island of music royalty deals.

I've joined TAXI.com, a company that supplies music for record companies, TV and film producers, and anyone else who need music for any kind of project. It could be months or years before I make the deal that pays me for music I've written and it's a process that requires great patience and persistence, but so be it. It'll take a couple of thousands of dollars in musicians' fees and recording fees to make these songs market-ready, but I've got to try. I believe it will eventually pay off.

Now I spend a good portion of my days rewriting lyrics, revising charts, practicing my songs and preparing to record them. I've got piles of original songs I've written over the past ten years. Why not try to make some money off of them? I just know there's someone who can use a children's song about being magical, an anthem to atheism, a soliliquy about facing death. Oh, I've got songs. I can supply a ballad about realizing you're middle-aged, a why-does-my-life-suck rant and a driving mantra telling us to "be here now." And I think there's a love song in there somewhere. Songs I got, and there are more where those came from.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Yay, August is halfway over

And here I am at the halfway point of August, feeling excited about the coming fall season, which includes one of my favorite holidays, Halloween. Halloween is the most widely celebrated American holiday that does not include any pressure, or even suggestion, to spend time with loved ones. I love that about it. When I was lonely and manless, I appreciated that only on Halloween could I throw myself into the spirit of the ritual, without feeling like a failure because I didn't have any family or lover to spend it with.

I love fall. I love the fall holidays and I love the long anticipation of Christmas. I've been dreaming about November for months and I'm ready to get on with it. This summer hasn't even been good for thunderstorms. I'm very disappinted in how little rain Chicago has had. You won't hear me mourning the end of summer.

Good-bye, August! Good-bye, sunburnt, languid, over-air-conditioned, can't-get-anyone-to-call-you-back, Summer! Well, summer doesn't really end until the end of September, so I'm premature, but I believe it's never too early to start thinking about Christmas.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Help me name my website

In 2006 when I stopped performing my original songs and stopped writing songs and stopped playing bass and singing at all, I seriously questioned whether or not I was "really" a musician and thought maybe it was a phase I had gone through -- in my teens and 20's and 30's -- and I decided to let it go. I had a website I had carefully built with info about me, songs you could hear and lyrics, and when my domain name, "reginarodriguez.com" came up for renewal, I said to hell with it. And I didn't renew it.

Well, in a great surprise to me, it turns out I want to make music again and I'm practicing and writing songs and getting ready to do some more recording. And now I'd like to get that website back up again, but of course "reginarodriguez.com" has been taken and I have to come up with a new address. Any suggestions? I'm brainstorming here:

reginamusic.com
reginasings.com
regrodriguez.com
reginarodriguez.net
regontheedge.com

I don't even know if these are available. Anyone have other ideas?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dennis Kucinich For President

After watching the Democratic presidential candidates in debate, hearing/reading about the candidates in debate, reading through their website and taking in what I can of the presidential race so far, at this point my vote is going to Dennis Kucinich (If the link doesn't work, it's http://www2.kucinich.us). The latest input on the race that I've seen is on Oh No a WoC PhD (Woman of Color PhD) who compares the candidates' latest public appearance. She was impressed by Kucnich and she'd never really considered him before.

I did some fundraising for Dennis Kucinich's campaign in 2004 and I still support him. He's the straight-talker and the one I want in the White House. In 1977 he was elected as Cleveland's mayor (the youngest mayor ever) and he's served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1997 (in Ohio's 10 district). He was one of few congresspeople who voted against the 2003 invasion of Iraq and has since voted against funding it. His presidential campaign platform includes the following:

Creating a single-payer system of universal health care that provides full coverage for all Americans by passage of the United States National Health Insurance Act.
The immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq; replacing them with an international security force.
Guaranteed quality education for all; including free pre-kindergarten and college for all who want it.
Immediate withdrawal from the World Trade Organization (WTO) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Repealing the US PATRIOT Act.
Environmental renewal and clean energy.
Providing full social security benefits at age 65.
Creating a cabinet-level "Department of Peace"
Ratifying the ABM Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol.
Introducing reforms to bring about instant-runoff voting.
Protecting a woman's right to choose
Legalizing same-sex marriage.
Creating a balance between workers and corporations.
Restoring rural communities and family farms.


Back in 2004 when I compared the presidential candidates, including Howard Dean, I knew Dennis Kucinich was my man and nothing has changed my admiration of and commitment to him. When Andersen Cooper asked (in the July 23rd debate) if the Democrats had failed the American people, Kucinich was the only one who began his answer with an actual "yes." He's consistent in where he stands on the issues and doesn't apologize for his convictions.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Spanish non-Speaker

The other day at work, I was standing near the manager's office. She was on the phone, but turned to me, "Regina, do you speak Spanish?" As I always do at that question, I felt fearful, hesitated and tried to think of how to get out of another opportunity to show what a failure I am to not speak Spanish fluently.

"Uh," I responded. "Kind of."

So instead of handing me the phone, she said, "Well, what does 'mejor' mean?"

"'Better.'"

"OH!" and she eagerly turned back to the conversation, happy to hear that one of her workers was recovering from an illness. A few minutes later, after she'd ended the phone call, she told me, "You really helped me out there." I thought she was being sarcastic and I felt bad that my contribution had been so paltry. But then she went on, "Just knowing that one word turned the whole conversation around."

She was serious. She actually felt grateful for my translation of one lousy word. I felt better. Maybe I wasn't such a complete failure. At least, not completely.

I wrote about my not-speaking-Spanish shame last year in a post called I'm a Bad Mexican, Part One. I ended that post optimistically, hoping that the complete lack of judgement I get from Spanish-dominant immigrants would counteract the judgement I've received from Mexican-Americans. I've found that American bilingual (Spanish/English) Hispanics tend to harshly judge those of us U.S.-born for whom Spanish has been a difficult second language (judgemental idiots).

It turns out the acceptance I've received from Spanish-dominant immigrants might never heal the shame I've had for almost 41 years. Sucks.

(Actually, for an American my Spanish is very good. I've got the vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, syntax, etc. But the psychological block of always thinking, "I'm going to blow it and look like an idiot and shame My People" is always there every single time I start to speak Spanish. And it sinks me every time.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

On Hillary Clinton

Yesterday I received an email from an organizer of the local Kucinich campaign, saying that if anyone wanted to attend the Democratic debate being held in Chicago tonight, August 7th, they should email him by last night. I was scheduled to work tonight, so I didn't even respond.

Then at 2:30 today I got a call from work: a gas leak in the building forced my restaurant to close for the night. This bizarre and rare occurrance means I'm not working after all, but what good does it do me now? If only I had responded to that email yesterday.

Anyway, I like the political analysis of a blogger called Profbwoman. She considers Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy and writes,

When the desire for power supersedes commitment to representing the best interests of the people and providing them with the basic needs to live lives relatively free of oppression there is no well-worded speech nor biological argument that should supersede the people from choosing a candidate that does represent them.

It is not anti-feminist to look long and hard at Hillary’s track record and find her lacking. It is not anti-feminist to demand that when we have a woman running the White House she represents the least among us better than she lines her economic and political pockets.


This is preceded by very specific criticisms of Hillary's words and actions in the recent and-not-recent past, including how she changes her stand on issues such as the Iraq war, depending on popular opinion. Profbwoman says it better than I, so take a look.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Birthday presents

A friend had a birthday party and on the invitation she put,

No gifts, please. But if you don't feel right coming to a birthday party without a gift, contact So-and-So to contribute to a gift certificate to my FAVORITE spa (it's all I want for my birthday!). But really no gift is necessary.

She did this in order to prevent people from giving her things she doesn't want or need, like candles and gift soaps, etc.

Some contributed to the spa certificate and some did not and that was fine. But some people came to the party with gifts they had bought. One brought cologne, another brought an expensive candle, another a bath gift basket. In other words, they brought exactly what my friend didn't want.

Am I wrong to consider those that brought the gifts inconsiderate since they didn't follow her wishes? Why would someone try to go shopping for something the birthday person will like when she's told them point blank that there's only thing she wants? Did the gift-buying people not read the request or did they think contributing to a gift certificate was too impersonal and thoughtless? I think getting a gift other than the only thing the person wants is thoughtless.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

July 23 Democratic Debate

At this point of the 2004 election season, we were months away from any Democratic presidential candidate taking the lead and looking like a likely nominee. I just can't get over how ahead of schedule we are to have Obama and Clinton (and Edwards, kind of) already being the clear front runners.

To prepare for the July 23rd debate, I went online and looked at the websites of Obama, Clinton, Edwards and - my hero - Dennis Kucinich. I was impressed by the level detail of Edwards' plans for the economy, Iraq and the environment. I was really impressed with the thoroughness of Clinton's health care ideas. Based on the websites alone, I'd be looking at Clinton and Edwards as my main choices.

Then I watched the debate. I still wish John Edwards' words captivated me a tenth as much as his physical appearance does. I like looking at him so much I wish he'd give me a reason to vote for him. But he never did in 2004 and he still doesn't now. Why? I don't know. His assertion that we can eradicate poverty in the first half of this century is optimistic and wonderful, but I seriously wonder if it's true. Wouldn't we have to completely overhaul the very economic structure of society in order to eliminate poverty? Doesn't the existance of a middle class depend on the existance of a working class? Isn't the United States sort of like the bell curve of an algebra class? In order to give ten people A's you have to give ten people failing grades, right?

I thought Clinton looked and sounded great at the debate, but I can't get it out of my head that she's part of the problem. As a senator, she hasn't impressed me by sticking her neck out for her convictions no matter how unpopular they are. She's demonstrated the same inability to admit the mistake (the MISTAKE) of backing the Iraq war as Prez Bush has demonstrated. Is Hillary Clinton "Bush-Cheney lite?" It looks like it. At any rate, while Clinton shows great campaign strategy, great beauracratic attention to detail and all the marks of a born politician, I haven't seen the passionate conviction I want in a president. What does Clinton truly believe in? On what issues will she not budge? What really matters to her, deep down? It's not just that I don't know these things about her, it's that by this stage we should already be able to see it in her eyes, hear it in her voice, feel it in her presence. But I can't and that makes me question her humanity and trustworthiness.

Obama has the passion and conviction I'm looking for and the plans detailed on his website back up that he's thinking in a way I can understand. I appreciated that he said he'd meet with formerly shunned world leaders like those of Venezuela, Iran, North Korea and Cuba (Cuba). I don't know why Clinton makes a big deal about needing conditions first. The United States has a long history of treating governments it doesn't like with sanctions that don't work, refusing to recognize them which doesn't work, and refusing to meet with their leaders, which doesn't work. If any of these tactics actually caused other governments to shift in the directions we want, the world would look very different.

Take Cuba, for example. Despite our best efforts to isolate it economically, asassinate its leader and bring it to its knees until it's begging to become a capitalistic democracy, it hasn't. Maybe it's time to start treating it as the successful, established government it is and not like a rogue state.

Clinton's answer to the world leaders question seemed fear-based and cagey to me. Obama's attitude of wanting to treat nations with respect felt much better.

I must say there are a couple of Democratic presidential candidates who aren't going anywhere, but whose presence I appreciated anyway. Mike Gravel came across as a cranky old codger, but he wasn't afraid to call stuff out. He called Obama out on some of his campaign contributions and Gravel repeatedly complained about how much more airtime certain candidates were getting, at the expense of others, like Mike Gravel. You go, Mike! Good for you! And then there's my favorite candidate, Dennis Kucinich. I voted for him in the 2004 primary, reluctantly switching my focus to John Kerry only when his was the only train leaving the station. On July 23rd Dennis was one of few candidates who answered yes or no questions with a yes or no (Edwards was horrible about hearing the question and then rephrasing it to his own ends -- "The question really is..."). When Anderson Cooper asked if the Democratic party had failed the American people, others talked around the question. Kucinich actually said, "yes" before he gave his longer answer, and I thought "Yay, Dennis! Break it down."

I understand some candidates (Edwards) would like to see the debates limited to the big-money candidates (although that's obviously not the stated reason). I say, no! We need candidates like Gravel and Kucinich to keep the discussions grounded in the actual questions. The hot air that gets blown around can pull us off topic.

And on the subject of personal sacrifice for environmental concerns, Cooper asked everyone to raise their hand who had come to the debate in a private jet. Everyone raised their hand except for Gravel and, my hero, Dennis Kucinich.

[Go here for a complete transcript of the debate]