The Danger to Our Democracy 

We expect the president to rise above petty arguments, to help enact wise policies that will enrich all of our lives, and to uphold the constitution. That includes freedom of the press. We want a president of whom we can be proud. But when the president engages in petty behavior like his most recent media-bashing tweets, it not only divides our country even further, it also embarrasses our country throughout the world and lowers our standing. People in other countries are now laughing at us. 

This is not a partisan matter—party leaders need to stop enabling Trump when he attacks the free press.

I wrote the following to address the issues at stake:

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Where You Get Your Protein Is Important 

Eating an apple can help curb your cravings for sweets.

This article addresses why getting too much protein from animal sources, especially high-fat sources, bacon and anything processed with nitrates, is harmful. And fructose (not the kind that’s added into processed foods but the kind that is naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables) may have some benefits.

I’ve been logging my food into My Fitness Pal for over 600 days and have found that my sugar intake is often over 50g. But my only source of added sugars is from breakfast cereals, bread, jam, plus a teaspoon of sugar that I add to my mug of herbal tea that I drink at night. I strive to buy the healthier cereals, I try to limit myself to two slices of bread/day because of the need to restrict carbs and calories, and I just add a dab of jam to my PB. The main source of my dietary sugar comes from fruits, veggies, and dairy.

I always strive to eat more veggies than fruit, I get my protein from varied sources such as beans, legumes, dairy (especially Greek yogurt), eggs, some chicken, and once in awhile, salmon.

If you’re on a budget, eating primarily vegetarian really stretches your food budget. I have to be careful not to over-consume beans and lentils, however, because of the high amounts of carbs and calories, both of which are detrimental especially for someone who had been pre-diabetic. I’ve reversed it, but once your body becomes insulin resistant as mine was, I believe that insulin resistance is something you always have to guard against by limiting carbs and calories.

In comparing black beans to split peas, lentils, and great northern beans, I’ve found that black beans win hands down. Black beans are lower in carbs and calories. Guess I’ll be buying more black beans again. My weight loss has stalled since my surgery, and I’ve got to get it going again.

I’d be interested in hearing from y’all about any healthy weight loss tips!

I’ve Had Better Days

I’ve also had better weeks. And worse weeks.

Saw my knee ortho (PA) yesterday and shoulder ortho today.

Knee: PA advises cortisone shot. I tentatively scheduled it for May 10. Weirdly, the knee buckled slightly when I stood up at the shoulder ortho today. But, it held. 

I went swimming the other day. Could do a great scissor kick while on my left side for the first time in I don’t know how long. That was amazing! But I had great difficulty doing the side stroke on my right side because of my shoulder, so I couldn’t test out my scissor kick there.

Right Shoulder: Random hardcore pain in R arm. We’re talking a 10/10 on the pain scale. Ice is highly effective in stopping the pain. The pain started two weeks ago today, out of the blue, which is why I scheduled my follow-up with my ortho a couple of weeks early. 

The surgeon tested it. The shoulder is now grinding and clicking, and there’s a smaller range of motion than there had been up until two weeks ago. The arm is also a bit weaker. 

The ortho is requesting a new MRI with dye to see if it’s torn (which would require another surgery) or if it’s just inflammation. This is freaking me out because they have to start an IV on you, and I just don’t trust the techs to do a great job, especially since my veins run, hide, roll, and collapse at the sight of a needle. 

From what I’ve read, failed shoulder surgeries are all too common—plus my original tear was large, requiring four anchors. But from what I’ve read, having a failed shoulder surgery is not good news because it won’t ever be as good as it could have been.

Left Shoulder: Having an open MRI Thursday to see why there’s grinding, weakness, and pain. MRI’s are not invasive, but no one loves them. You have to lay completely still for forty minutes or so, the darn thing is noisy, and the place I’m going to doesn’t give you headphones with music. At least I’m having an open MRI. The closed ones really suck (hence the cute cartoon).

Anyway, the staff had messed up the order (wrong shoulder and closed machine), but I think I’ve got that straightened out. If the imaging center doesn’t receive the corrected order in time, I’ll reschedule it.

So after today’s news, I was very depressed. Feeling better now, thanks to messaging with a BFF. But I will definitely require hand-holding. You all know by now how much I hate needles! 😱

So please keep your fingers crossed that I won’t need any more surgeries. Frankly, the novelty has quite worn off, thank you very much!

Ruminations, Louise Brooks, & More

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This tranquil secret garden was part of the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour about ten years ago.

This past week hasn’t been what I’d term thrilling—mostly I’ve been dealing with sudden, stabbing pain that would strike my right shoulder randomly, immobilizing my entire arm. This excruciating pain was related to my recent shoulder surgery.

But I don’t really want to rehash all the occurrences. Suffice to say I’m heartily sick of the subject. But I was taken aback when the pain hit me hard at the gym the other day, especially since I never work my right shoulder at the gym and all I was doing was getting off of one of the machines.

The pain was severe but nowhere near as bad as the first occurrence almost two weeks ago. I somehow shuffled over to a couch in the lobby and attempted to sit down. My BFF was with me, so she helped carry my stuff for me.

One of the staff came over and asked me if I was alright. I knew they’d be worried I had injured myself on the premises, so I hastily assured him that my condition had nothing to do with the gym. I asked if there was an ice pack on hand and there was! Sure saved my life.

Luckily, we had completed our strength training, so we rested and chatted for quite awhile. Eventually, my friend left and I finished my workout by putting in 30 minutes of rather low-key cardio on the stationary bike. Just didn’t have the energy to go all out. My body couldn’t do it. But, hey, at least I finished.

This coming week will be filled with various doctor appointments, PT, and filing taxes. Not exactly fun in the sun, huh?

I’ll be following up with two orthos (for my knee and right shoulder), and I’ll be getting an MRI on my left shoulder. I’m kinda hoping I just have bursitis and not a rotator cuff tear on the left shoulder. But it’s a bit unnerving to hear my left shoulder crackle whenever I do shoulder rolls. At least my right shoulder doesn’t make any noise at all.

Small mercies. I’ll take ’em.

NOW FOR THE FUN STUFF

No more Gloomy Gus; it’s time for the uplifting part of my post. First of all, my BFF and I are planning to visit a local nature park mid-week. She’s never been there, and it’s been over a decade since I’ve visited the gardens. We’ll walk around, commune with nature, and hopefully take lots of pictures.

I say hopefully take lots of pictures because my poor iPhone is old and storage is extremely low. Oh yeah, and the battery is starting to go, too. If only I had a great digital camera, or at least, the iPhone 7.

Believe me, I’d be running out today and getting a brand new phone with oodles of storage if I could only afford it.

Wait. That falls under the heading of the Gloomy Gus stuff. OK then. Back to the fun stuff.

We’re also planning on going on the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour in May. We took the tour over a decade ago and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I’m sure we’ll see some lovely gardens again, such as the one pictured at the top of this post.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Photography has been an interest of mine since I was a teen. Ever since my recent discovery of the Painnt app, I’ve been obsessively applying filters to some of my pictures and other free sources and have been sharing them on various platforms such as Instagram.

Filtering photos really is art in its own way, even if you’re just tweaking a stock photo. You’re puting your own stamp, your imagination, creativity, and indeed your own unique vision upon a subject. You’re enhancing color, increasing warmth, or adding ominous touches to the original photo. By the clever manipulation of light, shadow, color, and texture, you can completely alter the narrative of the original source photo.

And to me, that is exciting indeed. If I’m lucky, I find myself awestruck by the beauty and transformation of the finished creation.

I’m using the Painnt app on my iPad right now because my old computer with Photoshop on it isn’t hooked up to the internet. And yes, I also need a new computer and the latest versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Dreamweaver… ahem.

OK. Fun stuff only. See, I remembered.

DISCOVERING LOUISE BROOKS

I’d like to show you some of the work I’ve done this week. One of my favorite creations is this photo of the iconic silent screen actress, Louise Brooks. Frankly, I’d like to produce a high-res image of it in acrylic so I could display it.

I’ll post my filtered photo first, and next to it I’ll post the original black and white so you can compare the two. Interestingly enough, I had come across the source photo in a Facebook group dedicated to the 20s, 30s, and 40s. I was struck by Louise’s beauty and by the exquisite photo itself, so I thought I’d try working on it. I was pleased with the results.

I naturally knew who Louise Brooks was, but I had never seen her films, nor did I know much about her personal life. So it was highly gratifying for me to accidentally stumble across an intriguing BBC documentary on her life on YouTube last night. The documentary was based on interviews with her and included excerpts from her 1982 memoir, “Lulu in Hollywood,” which were read by actress Linda Hunt.

Louise was a fascinating creature. With her bobbed hair and hedonistic lifestyle, she was the epitome of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Roaring Twenties flapper—liberated, sexually adventurous, headstrong, and ultimately self-destructive.

Louise had an admittedly relaxed attitude about sex. She had affairs with some prominent men, like Charlie Chaplin, but she also claimed to have had a brief dalliance with Greta Garbo.

She socialized with William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies at San Simeon. Louise also worked with many of the famous stars, directors, and producers of her day, including W. C. Fields, Walter Wanger, Howard Hawks, Wallace Beery, and even Fatty Arbuckle after his downfall.

Louise soon tired of her new husband and Hollywood and went to Berlin where she made her best films. Berlin in the twenties was decadent and every sexual appetite could be easily satisfied, especially if you had the money to pay for it. But it was also a creative city in which to make innovative silent films.

Brooks is best known as the lead in three feature films made in Europe: “Pandora’s Box” (1929), “Diary of a Lost Girl” (1929), and “Miss Europe” (1930). The first two were directed by the famed Austrian director, G. W. Pabst.

It is in “Pandora’s Box” that Louise plays Lulu. According to Wikipedia, “Brooks’ portrayal of a seductive, thoughtless young woman whose raw sexuality and uninhibited nature bring ruin to herself and those who love her, although initially unappreciated, eventually made the actress a star.”

Pabst had predicted that if she did not mend her ways, she’d end up like Lulu. But Louise sought pleasure for pleasure’s sake and her personal life often too closely mirrored that of Lulu’s. She was on the verge of total self-destruction when film preservationist, James Card, rescued her in 1955.

Her memoir should prove to be a fascinating book. I’m looking forward to finding a copy and reading it.

 FILTERED PHOTOS 

Over the last couple of days, I began focusing on certain themes: horses, lighthouses, greasers or Teddy Boys, musicians, dancers, and a few miscellaneous subjects. Some samples of my work are in the following slideshows:

HORSES & LIGHTHOUSES

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DANCERS

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GREASERS & MUSICIANS

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50s GLAMOUR, RIPPED DUDE, & MISC.

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I’m always searching for new subject matter, whether it be current or evocative of the past. But there’s always something intriguing to unravel when delving into the social mores of a bygone era. You never quite know what fascinating tidbits you’ll uncover when you take some steps back into time.

Fun with Painnt

I’m a frustrated photographer and graphic designer, due to temporary circumstances, so it’s been a lot of fun playing with the Painnt app. I just downloaded it the other day, and it’s been gratifying to have some of my posts selected to be showcased to the Painnt Community. Hope you enjoy my slideshows.

This first slideshow features five that have been showcased: Into The Frying Pan, Rusty, Eternal Flame, Staircase to Serenity, and Juicy Orange.

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This next slideshow displays  many of my personal favorites.

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And here’s for all you animal lovers out there:

Spring Madness 

Spring is here, and the days are getting warmer. So what does that mean here in SoCal? The community where I live has opened the pool. Unfortunately, the pool is solar heated, which means the water still isn’t warm enough. But it’s supposed to reach the high seventies later this week, so hopefully I’ll get brave enough to take the plunge.

I’m looking forward to going swimming and gaining back some more strength and mobility. And cross training is supposed to help with weight loss. At least I sure hope so. So besides going to the gym, I’ll work on my breast stroke. Freestyle and water aerobics will have to wait for many months until my shoulder is completely healed.

In case you’re wondering about the main photo up on top, I had found the original, free image of the swimmer and then had fun tweaking it in my latest app discovery, Painnt. I’ve been spending hours playing with various filters… I love photography and special photo effects. I’ll have to showcase some of my favorite photos in the coming weeks. Here are some of my favorites:

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Quinoa gone wild.

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Dockside garden.

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Happy puppy.

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Beautiful flowers.

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Secret garden.

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Flower garden.

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Tabbies at play.

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Jewels good enough to eat. These berries look like sparkling gems.

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Pelican spreading its wings on Huntington Beach pier.

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A black and white photo of the famous bandleader, John Philip Sousa (center), and his band gets loaded up with color. My great-great-grandmother’s brother, holding his clarinet, is seated next to Sousa on the left. Musical talent definitely runs on my dad’s side of the family—now we know why.

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Sunset photo turned into sunrise colors in Painnt. Newport Beach.

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Sea bird. Newport Beach.

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Boating. Newport Beach.

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The seal lifted his heavy head to stare at me as we passed by. Newport Beach.

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Reflections. Dana Point.

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The bridge to peace and quiet.

Rare rainy day in SoCal.

Pretty pitty goes for a car ride.

Sketch created in Painnt app.

Dried flowers.

The Cottage. San Juan Capistrano.

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Got the Midas Touch… at least where flowers are concerned.

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Cozy outdoor fireplace.

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Stairs leading to beautiful cove and solitude. Laguna Beach.

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Mission San Juan Capistrano.

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Meditation.

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Textures and shadows.

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Classic brown tabby morphs into a jewel-toned kitty.

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Elegant baby shower.

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The Eternal Flame. Photo of lit candle with a black background was transformed into a beautiful mosaic.

Can An App Really Help You Lose Weight?

My Fitness Pal is a free app that I utilize daily to record my food and exercise. Not only does it help tweak my diet, but I’ve found the daily articles and recipes to be extremely helpful too.

Today, for example, I read an article written by Kim Westerman titled, “Losing Weight When You Physically Can’t Exercise: Doreen’s Journey.” Doreen used My Fitness Pal to log her meals. I’ve also benefited from logging my food and exercise each day in my quest to reach my fitness goals.

I, too, have experienced issues with mobility over the last ten years because of injuries, arthritis, and a couple of surgeries. I also have an acquaintance who is in even worse shape than I am, so I hoped that the article would prove to be an interesting and motivating read. It was.

SO I’M OVERWEIGHT—WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

I think what many people don’t realize is that obesity is far more detrimental to one’s health than they might think. Everyone pretty much knows that obesity can cause heart attacks or clogged arteries. But the very fact that someone is obese may bring on nasty metabolic changes, which in turn can cause diabetes, chronic inflammation, and arthritis.

New research suggests that it’s not the stress on the joints that causes arthritis, it’s the metabolic changes caused by an over-abundance of body fat. That was definitely an eye-opener.

It took being diagnosed as pre-diabetic in May 2015 to get me started on the road to fitness. I knew my body could only handle minimal impact exercise, so I took up swimming and water aerobics to build up my strength and flexibility. I cut my sugar intake drastically, ate better, and lost a little weight. I began going to the gym. But as the months went by, I found my weight loss was unbelievably slow and frustrating.

In July 2015, a friend recommended My Fitness Pal to me. I downloaded the app on my mobile devices and have been using it ever since. I heartily recommend it. So far, I’ve lost 61 pounds. Yes, I still have more body fat to lose, but I now have normal glucose levels. And that’s a big win for me!

Most people go on a diet to look better. But I’ve discovered that it was more helpful to consider looking good as a happy byproduct of losing weight. The true motivation for me to lose body fat and to gain muscle was to regain mobility, avoid diabetes, and increase my longevity.

I’M THIN—WHY DO I NEED MFP?

But what if you don’t want to lose weight—should you still use the MFP app? The short answer is yes.

You may think you’re eating a healthy balance of macros and micros, but nine times out of ten, you’ll find there’s something in your diet that needs tweaking. Most people that log their food are amazed how much sugar, fat, sodium, and calories they actually consume. And are you getting enough iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C? Usually the answer is a resounding no.

You won’t know the answers to your questions until you log your food into an app such as My Fitness Pal.

MORE ABOUT MFP

MFP doesn’t differentiate between ADDED sugars and what is naturally found in food. Since food labels do not reflect that information yet, MFP can’t either. Unfortunately, it’s the same with B vitamins. I’m hoping that once labels are improved, MFP will incorporate that information into their food analysis.

It’s important to note that if you’re eating clean and sticking to fruits, vegetables, and dairy, there will be naturally occurring sugars in those foods. Those are not inherently bad sugars. (However, if you’re needing to manage blood glucose, there are extra steps you need to take to ensure there are no untoward spikes, such as sticking to low glycemic load foods.) I always eat protein with every meal or snack to help my body deal with naturally occurring and added sugars.

One of the real dangers to healthy eating is consuming processed foods that are almost always laden with added sugar and sodium, not to mention additives, preservatives, and food coloring.

But there’s another danger that is often overlooked by even those who consider themselves to be clean eaters: adding too much sugar or salt to what otherwise would have been a healthy meal.

For instance, when I began making my homemade vegetarian soups, I diligently logged all the ingredients. To my surprise, I discovered that I was using entirely too much salt. It sure didn’t taste too salty!

So I cut back drastically on the salt and threw in a lot more spices to give my soups more flavor. I also add one or two tablespoons of Bragg’s nutritional yeast to each bowl of soup for additional B vitamins and flavor. I’m not a fan of nutritional yeast’s taste except in my homemade soups—that’s where I think it adds greatly to my veggie soups’ savoriness.

A friend of mine has strict dietary requirements for his various ailments, and he’s always prided himself that he’s been eating clean for years. However, he was adding two tablespoons of maple syrup to his daily breakfast of oatmeal and berries. Maple syrup is sugar. Even though he was eating egg whites with his breakfast, he still was consuming a big load of simple carbs each morning. This practice was detrimental to his health goals.

I advised him to stick to steel cut oats, not rolled, to lay off the maple syrup entirely, and to add a tablespoon of chia seeds instead. The chia seeds provide antioxidants, as well as healthy fats which help slow absorption and keeps you feeling fuller longer. That’s what I do, and even though I consider myself to be a recovering sugar addict, I’ve found I don’t miss the sugar in my oatmeal at all.

BUT ISN’T IT A HASSLE?

I wasn’t sure I wanted to log my food and exercise. I had tried keeping a food diary on paper many years ago, and I had hated it. But by using the app, the experience has proven to be fairly hassle-free and far more rewarding than I had assumed. I’ve been logging my food for over 600 days now. I think I can safely say that it’s a good habit that I’ve acquired.

Try MFP for a month. It’s free. And what can you lose, except those bad habits that have prevented you from being the healthiest you’ve ever been?