Comfortably Done

When I think about being retired – and believe me, I think about it A LOT these days – I always envision myself as comfortable, not worrying about where my next paycheck is coming from and how I’m going to pay my bills.  For most of my life, I HAVE been comfortable, and during those times when there was some financial insecurity (taxes and dental work in the ‘80s, single-motherhood and law school in my 40s), I had comfortably deep parental pockets to keep me from falling into desperate straits.  The money always came with the greasy film of maternal disappointment, but it filled in the gaps so it was worth a little shame.

Ergo, retirement, in my imaginings, is as comfortable as I’ve always been.  Even now, when I’m scrounging to pay bills and in debt, at least I have a little bit of equity in my house and 401(k) to be my security blanket – for the immediate future, if not the distant – to preferably get me through the first few years of the next phase of my life.

But then what?  I’m certain those “first few years” are going to zip by (as time seemingly does faster and faster every year).  What then?  Where will I be?  Will I be well?

I can’t see beyond five years, at best. And even at that, what I see is still very sketchy:  retire, sell the house, get a part-time remote-from-home job to supplement Social Security (for as long as THAT lasts, given the determination of the Republican Party to kill it), which will be at the low end of the scale in the first place because I’m choosing to take it so young, at 62. 

I just had my 61st birthday last week, so the retirement “plan,” such as it is, is less than a year away now.  I want to renew my attorney registration while I still have my job at the law firm, which will happen within 30 days of my birthday in 2021, after which I’ll hand in my official resignation.  I will have been at this job for a ridiculous 19 years (plus a summer) – I have never been ANYWHERE for that long!  I always envision me leaving the building for the last time and taking a deep, liberated breath for the first time in – well, 19 years.

But it is a troubling mystery as to how I’m going to support myself, which is not the best way to enter the last quarter of my life.  I have to live somewhere cheaper than Long Beach, for starters, and I have to sell my house while it retains its value and before it washes away in the next hundred-year-flood (which is guaranteed to happen a lot sooner than 100 years).  My house is at least half of my retirement nest egg, after all, although it would have been great to keep it as a rental property and ongoing source of income (but also potentially headaches). 

There’s myriad options for tax-friendly, low-cost retirement living. I get these emails and magazines called Ideal Living (“Find your ideal . . . destination, life, & home”) that feature articles (and lots of advertisements) about communities of every stripe, in every geographical location, at every level of affordability.  The possibilities are endless for me, but there are limits:  financial, first and foremost; weather (NO MORE SNOW PLEASE!); accessibility to friends and family.  I’d love to be near the coast, but the mountains of Sedona are definitely appealing. 

In my retirement time, I’d love to be free to do volunteer work, and maybe travel once COVID has been contained.  My college friends Erika and Curtiss are finally in a position to buy their dream home in the south of Spain but they’re STUCK HERE until Europe lets us back in.  They’ve mentioned my joining them, and it’s certainly high on my “future homes” list, sight unseen, just based on how much they love it (and how cool it would be to have them as neighbors in my sunset years, kind of coming full circle from being roommates and neighbors in my youth).  On the other hand, my sister keeps talking about a more flexible future adventure – traveling the country in an RV, maybe visiting all the U.S. National Parks (if they’ll still exist, that is).  And who knows where my daughter will end up?  She has the wanderlust too, born of the traveling we did when she was younger. Of course I’ll want to be close enough to her to have frequent visits, even if she never has children (which would be fine with me).

My health – and the availability of affordable medication – is also a concern.  I mean, it’s awfully unlikely that I’ll get HEALTHIER as I age.  I see it in my older friends (in their 70s and even 80s), how in their heads they still believe they can do the things they used to do with ease, but it’s no longer easy and sometimes it’s even impossible, and it’s all a lot SLOWER, in any event.  And I always worry with those folks that they might have a fall or a sudden illness and I won’t even know they’re gone.  But I’m 61!!  Within the next 20 years, I’m going to be just like them (I HOPE I can stick around at least another 20 years!).  Twenty years ago, I was 41, and that seems like a lifetime ago.  I was essentially a different person then, just graduating law school and starting my career as a well-paid attorney.  Somehow, in the course of those 20 years, I’ve watched my daughter become a woman and I’ve slowly chipped away at my well-paying attorney gig by working fewer and fewer hours, first as a part-timer, then as a contract, bill-by-the-billable-hour attorney, because I just couldn’t take the pace and I lacked the intellectual curiosity to advance in my chosen (well, I didn’t really choose it – it chose me) practice area.  And so here we are today, struggling to pay bills and heavily in debt when I should have saved a bundle by now.  I do own (most of) my home, we have minimal debt from my daughter’s education because I did manage to save some money for her college fund, and we were fortunate enough to enjoy a few really nice vacations, although it’s been a while since we’ve had one of those. 

The pets are an issue, too.  Caring for all these creatures costs me a lot of money in food, weewee pads, poop bags, paper towels and vet bills.  (Two of said creatures had to go to the vet for check-ups this past week and I’m out a thousand dollars.  One now needs surgery that I frankly can’t afford.)  And they prevent me from traveling because that would involve pet sitters I can trust and pages of written instructions – and more money to pay the sitters, of course.  Some of my cats are young, so I expect they’ll be with me for years to come.  Although my three doggoes are all 10-year-old geriatrics, there’s lots of time (and future vet bills) left with them as well. 

Ultimately, money is the real bugaboo, on all fronts.  Now, if I could just win the lottery, all these problems would be solved.  And frankly, it’s the ONLY way to resolve all these issues.  I wasn’t born independently wealthy, unfortunately.  (What is it they say?  Youth is wasted on the young?  Well, I believe that wealth is wasted on the wealthy!)  I would really only need a million (after taxes) to have a comfortable retirement, volunteer, donate to charity, help my family and friends – because that’s EXACTLY what I would do if I won the lottery!  (It’s how I entreat the Lotto gods every time I play my two $1 games a week, religiously, every Wednesday and Sunday.)

More realistically, though, the answer lies in learning to live more frugally and a little less comfortably than I might have imagined, as well as finding a steady source of supplemental income.  And I think I need to start right now. 

Getting some ideas . . .

Good Housekeeping

I don’t dig washing dishes, and housecleaning is not my bag.

My house is not clean by any standard.  It’s wall-to-wall wee-wee pads and surfaces that rarely if ever see a dust rag.  (I have a few bags of solo socks and old torn t-shirts to USE as dust rags but they rarely ever get used.)  I often wish that things would just miraculously clean themselves, like my windows or my Pillsbury Dough Boy cookie jar (that never actually has any cookies in it).

I frequently don’t even notice the accumulations of dust and grease and detritus until it gets pretty disgusting, or if guests are coming, and then I devote a day or two to a thorough surface cleansing.  I also think my level of disgusting is on a sliding scale.  I can be made to feel a little better about my lack of housekeeping when I see someone else’s house that’s worse, but that’s not saying much. 

My sister and I grew up in a home increasingly bordering on a hoarding situation, so we never developed any semblance of housekeeping skills.  (My mother was perhaps a candidate for Dr. Robin Zasio and Matt Paxton, the anxiety expert and “extreme cleaning specialist” who show up at a hoarder’s house with the 1‑800-GOT-JUNK crew.)  It took us years to get my mother out of our childhood home, which involved forcing her to part with forty-plus years of STUFF she’d long forgotten she had and trying to convince her how ridiculous it was to hold on to an electric yellow jumpsuit from the ‘70s that couldn’t have fit any of us even if we’d wanted to wear it as a joke.

I have the utmost respect for cleaning ladies.  One of my best (and longest-standing) friends has cleaned houses for a living most of her adult life.  I suspect all those chemicals had a detrimental effect on her health, truth be told (occupational hazard, I guess), but that woman can clean with the best of them, and takes pride in it, and deservedly so.  Her house is always spotless, too, just like her mom’s house was when we hung out there as kids – it still is, despite her mom’s crippling arthritis – even though she raised my friend, an only daughter, with five exceedingly rowdy brothers (my friend also had four sons), who I’m certain never lifted a finger to help with the housework.

I wish I had the money to hire a cleaning lady.  A lovely woman named Rosa cleaned my house for Miracle Maids (run by a man, of course) back when I was making actual money, but I ended up hiring her solo when she wisely gave me her direct number.  I wish I could do it again because she and her assistant were pretty damn thorough.  I stayed well out of their way while they worked their magic.

Cleaning may be considered menial – in my humble opinion, it’s more accurate to call it “essential” – but it’s so valuable, and requires a depth of skill that maybe you and I (definitely I) don’t have.  So you’re happy to pay someone else, a qualified professional, a fair fee to do it for you.  That’s mercantile life.  It certainly makes sense as far as I’m concerned.

And what Rosa and my friend do is not less valuable – in fact, to me, it’s MORE valuable – than the work I do for my law firm clients, and I’ll get paid many times more than Rosa for doing it.  That could have something to do with the years of education required to do what I do, or it could be because what they do is deemed to be “women’s work” and therefore deserving of less respect and compensation.  But their years of experience with tried-and-true best practices, and expertise with the tools of the trade, are of equivalent and measurable worth to someone like me who can’t clean for beans.

In fact, the current state of my house embarrasses me, and I wonder and worry every day about getting the house ready to put on the market when the time comes.  I certainly seem incapable of maintaining it, and I really only call for help when I’m in desperate need (an overflowing washing machine, say, or a permanently dripping faucet).  I’m going to have to hire handymen, painters, plumbers, tile-and-grout guys and, more than likely, an “extreme cleaning specialist,” which is going to cut into my expected profits.  But it will have to be done. 

And don’t even get me started on the five years of dog urine saturating my floors (not to mention the moldings) – it’s a given that all of it will have to be replaced, and most if not all of my furniture will be out on the curb for the garbage men when I vacate the premises.  (That’s another job that amazes me:  What would our world be like without our sanitation engineers? They deserve every dollar, and undoubtedly more than they’re getting.)

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to value the lives of all those folks that we take for granted – the cashiers at the grocery store, the fruit pickers, the hospital cleaning staff, fast-food workers – and ensure that they have a living wage, and health care for their families, and an opportunity to have a little nest egg for treats and trips and to send their kids to the college of their choice, and can set some aside for a comfortable retirement.  It’s really not a lot to ask.  It’s kind of the American dream, no?  It infuriates me when I see the wealth of a Bezos or a Walton, and their employees can’t even feed their kids without food stamps.  Could they not spare a small fraction of their billions to ensure that the people who are ultimately the source of their great wealth are fairly compensated for the vital services they provide and have the dignity of respectable income (and paid time off when needed) for a job well done?

I wish I could pay Rosa to clean my house on a regular basis, and I would have no qualms paying whatever she asked of me, because it’s worth every penny for me to not have to do it myself. Not to mention that she does such a better job at it than I could ever muster.  But I guess I’ll always be stuck washing dishes . . .

A New Nick Experience

This is an email I sent to my friend Sue, a fellow Nick Cave fan, to report on his recent live streamed, socially distanced concert experience, “Idiot Prayer: Alone at Alexandra Palace,” filmed recently in London.  I’ve left in the personal references, and anyone who doesn’t already have an appreciation for Nick Cave might not have an appreciation for this blog entry, but I encourage the interested and curious music lovers among you to check out some of the work of this modern-day genius, which is cited throughout.

Amidst an “I’m a technological disaster!!” panic attack, I wasn’t able to get the concert to stream on my big-screen HDTV, but it might have been just as well.  The experience on my 15-inch laptop screen was amazing in that I could get so CLOSE – and really, that was a huge appeal of this format, the NEARNESS of it.  So many times we’ve gone to concerts and shows of his where he was SO DAMN FAR AWAY that you lose facial expressions and lyrics.  But this live-stream experience, “Idiot Prayer: Alone at Alexandra Palace,” was something else entirely (well, it was sort of a live-stream – I didn’t manage to log in right at 10 p.m., when it was scheduled to start, but I was able to join in on a delay, so I didn’t miss a moment) – just the magnificent Nick Cave and a Fazioli grand piano so glossy that it reflected the hammers on the strings inside the piano as if they were in the back of the music stand, so you could see them as you were watching Nick from the front, a kind of weird optical illusion that caught my visual attention.

As he’s walking into this cavernous room, otherwise empty but for the piano and some microphones (and some kind of lightning out of frame, used to great effect throughout, illuminating eerie dust motes sweeping into every light source), he narrates the lyrics to “Spinning Song” (from his latest album, Ghosteen (2019)).  Then he sits at the piano and just dives in, with the names of the songs coming up on the screen in between but no more narration from him – just his deep, dark and dense lyrics, clear and crisp and every word understandable, another benefit of the closeness and the spareness of just a boy and his piano.

The camera gets very, VERY close to Nick, as well.  His skin is remarkably clear for a 60-something year old man, and he has a scar in the middle of his left cheek that could have been from a knife.  He wore rings on all four of the fingers of his left hand (I could never glimpse enough of his left thumb to see if he had one on there as well, but he may have), and his ring finger had at least three.  His nostrils are cavernous holes.  He’s got a prominent nose that overbalances his weak chin, a face ripe for caricature. His eyes, when he looks straight at the camera, are blue and galactic, his skin pale, set off by his jet-black, slicked back hair.

He would submerge into each song, focused, feeling it viscerally.  He rarely smiled, but once, as he finished a song (I think it was “He Wants You”) he gave a little laugh.

So here’s the set list, with my comments throughout.  Many of these songs we know pretty well from concerts and films and album listening over the years.  I actually own every one of his CDs from Henry’s Dream (1992) on, but there were quite a few albums before that, dating back to 1984.  (I own all of them except for Murder Ballads (1996), that is, which YOU actually had recorded on cassette for me – that album featured that otherworldly duet he does with his buddy Kylie Minogue, “Where the Wild Roses Are”.  But alas, the cassette was lost to the flood.)  He also has another assemblage of musicians that he performs with called Grinderman that I actually know very little about.  I only have one of Grinderman’s songs on my iPod and I don’t even like it that much. (I think it might have been from a “Free iTunes” compilation.  Remember those? I loved those! I got a lot of free, interesting music from those iTunes collections – Amazon had them, too, free samplers from some up-and-coming labels. But now Apple and Amazon are too obscenely mercenary to actually share new music, for free and for KEEPS, with us dinosaurs who still need to own hard copies of their music.)  But given that two of the songs in the set that I didn’t previously know (or know well) but liked very much were from the two Grinderman albums, I definitely need to explore further. From what I understand, Grinderman is basically the Bad Seeds without my beloved Blixa Bargeld and some of the other members from the various Bad Seed incarnations.  But I’m not as familiar with that catalogue as I need to be.


  1. “Idiot Prayer” (The Boatman’s Call (1997)) – A solid start, as is his wont. [A note about Boatman’s Call:  This is my favorite Nick Cave album, and it also seems to be one of his, because he plays a lot of these songs at a lot of shows, including this one.  I remember when he played “West Country Girl” when we saw – well, HEARD – him at Prospect Park, which is a song that always makes me think of you, for some reason. That’s from that album as well.]


  1. “Sad Waters” (Your Funeral . . . My Trial (1986)) – From an earlier album that pre-dates my collection. I really liked this song.  It was the first time I remember hearing him perform it.


  1. “Brompton Oratory” (Boatman’s Call) – Another gorgeous song from that album that he plays a lot.


  1. “Palaces of Montezuma” (Grinderman (2010)) – I liked this song quite a lot. I think I’ve heard him play it before but didn’t realize it was a Grinderman song.


  1. “Girl In Amber” (Skeleton Tree (2016))


  1. “Man In the Moon” (Grinderman (2007)) – Another Grinderman song that I had never heard before and liked very much. The lyrics were particularly lovely.


  1. “Nobody’s Baby Now” (Let Love In (1994)) – My first Nick Cave album!! Cover art makes him look a little like David Bowie from his Aladdin Sane phase.  I believe Nick counts Bowie among his influences but Nick is NOT on the Periodic Table of Bowie.  I think he probably should be.


  1. “(Are You) the One I’ve Been Waiting For” (Boatman’s Call) – Another of Nick’s gorgeous, plaintive love songs.


  1. “Waiting for You” (Ghosteen) – Utterly heartbreaking song. I wept the first time I heard it. He did a nice version here, his voice cracking on the high notes (as it should).


  1. “Mercy Seat” (Tender Prey (1988)) – An interesting thing happened at this point in the program. As happens sometimes when you have a solo acoustic set, on guitar or piano, an artist runs the risk of a repetitive, kind of low-key tempo throughout the set.  It makes the listener a little sleepy, I think.  In order to keep the intimate feel but increase the tempo, Nick at this stage in the show sneaks in a few of the songs that would maybe benefit from the power of the Bad Seeds behind him.  You’d think at first that he can’t do a piano-only, gradually building lava flow crescendo of “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth . . . “ BUT HE CAN.  He pounds the piano and makes it ring like there’s a whole orchestra (well, a SMALL orchestra) behind him.


  1. “Euthanasia” – This is evidently a brand new song that he debuted tonight (which I didn’t know at the time). It was kind of oddly incomplete, I think, not fully formed, but there were some thought-provoking moments.  Typical Nick.  I need to hear it again, though.


  1. “Jubilee Street” (Push the Sky Away (2013)) – Another of those “tough” songs where Nick beats on the keys to make up for the absence of Warren Ellis and a backing band. But I liked this version because I could hear every lyric and absorb every unsettling image.


  1. “Far From Me” (Boatman’s Call)


  1. “He Wants You” (Nocturama (2003)) – One of my favorite songs, and it sounded really nice in this performance.


  1. “Higgs Boson Blues” (Push the Sky Away) – I have to admit, this is probably my least favorite of his songs most nights, and the same went for tonight. The ONLY clunker.  He could have done any number of other songs – he did NOTHING from Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! or the Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus double album, and there’s a lot of sublime music on those three disks.  “Hold on to Yourself” from Lazarus would have sounded ideal in this slot, and he could have even pummeled the dark end of the piano a little. But Nick clearly has his favorites, and this is one of them.


  1. “Stranger than Kindness” (Your Funeral . . . My Trial) (Great album title, by the way – surprised “Mercy Seat” isn’t on that one.) – Didn’t know this song, either, but it was actually NOT written by Nick but by Blixa and a woman named Anita Lane. I actually remember reading about her in that graphic novel you gave me a couple of birthdays ago. [Reinhard Kleist, Nick Cave, Mercy on Me (2017)


  1. “Into My Arms” (Boatman’s Call) – Classic love song, one of my favorites of his. If I ever met a man who would specifically request this song to be played at his wedding, I would marry him!!  (Well, I’d WANT to, anyway . . . )


  1. “The Ship Song” (The Good Son (1990)) – Love this song. There’s an adorably joyful video for this tune from back in the day!  []


  1. “Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry” (Henry’s Dream) – Another opportunity for a piano-pounder, the last of the night. A golden oldie that we don’t hear from him too often.


  1. “Black Hair” (Boatman’s Call) – Last one from that fine, fine album. He loves this song, too.


  1. “Galleon Ship” (Ghosteen) –A heartfelt finale, kind of book-ending from the opening lines of the show.


After that, he pushes back his bench, surrounded by the sheet music he’s discarded on the floor around his feet as he was done with them, gets up and strides into the dust mites of an open doorway.

A beautiful show.  Yet another way to experience Nick.  He really has to be one of my favorite human beings on the planet.


A section of my bulletin board, on which Nick features prominently.

In This Time, Reading Not Writing, Listening Not Speaking

I’m in a weird place, blog-wise.  I’ve enjoyed the 2020 re-boot, and I’ve been pretty consistent with my posts (at least one, usually two a month).  But I missed June, despite a head full of thoughts (some of which I even managed to jot down in my journal).  I’ve got at least four separate blog posts germinating, with bits and pieces of ideas scribbled frantically before I lose them to the Swiss cheese that is my memory these days.  So far, I’ve assembled some random words comprising my take on human evolution, white male insecurity (that’s a juicy one), how pro-choice is the REAL pro-life, and, on the lighter side, the seeds of a piece on why I enjoy reading bios and autobios of artists, writers and musicians (among others – or, as we say in legal docs, inter alios).

But the bulk of my ruminating time has been spent on race relations and the despicable gaps in social justice in this country and what can be done to “fix it” – understanding full well that it ain’t gonna be easy to fix hundreds of years of broken.  And here’s where my blog problem comes in.

I started my blog with the intention of sharing my thoughts with the world – not that I believed my thoughts to be any more valuable than anyone else’s (or that anyone would even read them, for that matter), but I had thoughts, and I kind of wanted to share them, primarily as a way of making a barely-more-than-insignificant contribution to the betterment of myself and mankind in the process.  I mean, I have to do SOMETHING to make the world a better place – as far as I can tell, that’s why humans are on this planet:  to do our individual parts to improve ourselves, somehow, to move civilization forward.

Unfortunately, the current climate is not the place for a 60-year-old white woman, who has lived in privileged white communities on Long Island, New York most of her life, to weigh in with her two cents about Black lives mattering. My two cents are less than insignificant, except as an ally and supporter of my fellow humans who might not have been as fortunate as I was in the accident of my birth.  There are all these articles and Facebook posts asking, “What can white people do to help the Black Lives Matter movement?  How can white people make a difference in this racist system so deeply embedded in the fabric of this country?” (and really the world, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves – there’s too much work to be done HERE and NOW let alone repairing the damage of centuries of worldwide European colonialism).

And I WANT to help.  I WANT things to be different.  The wrongness of how Black people are treated in this supposedly “free” country is viscerally disturbing to me.  BUT IT IS NOT MY STORY TO TELL.  We had a “town hall” company-wide Zoom call at my firm a couple of weeks ago, which was a positive gesture by all means, but a solid third of the speakers were white people (white WOMEN, mostly), who, in my opinion, we have been hearing way too much from all our damn lives.  [An aside:  I’d rather listen to women than men, but still . . . ]

Now is the time for me to LISTEN, to read all I can and absorb the stories and dreams and hopes of Black people in this country, to shut my mouth and turn off my right hand (so to speak) and just respectfully listen and hear what is being said by the people whose story it is.  I hadn’t even realized there was a “Black national anthem” until I read the other day that it would be played before every game of Week 1 of the NFL season.  And the first time I realized the significance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” – the poem written by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson in the late 1800’s that was later set to music by his brother, which is considered the Black national anthem – was in the beautiful Juneteenth Google doodle, of all places (drawings by artist Loveis Wise and narrated by LeVar Burton []).  See what you learn when you listen?

A particularly good resource for beginning one’s listening/reading journey is Nikole Hannah-Jones.  She spoke at a function sponsored by my company and I was so moved and impressed by her.  (Also saw her a couple of nights later on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah”.)  A helpful introduction to her thinking and writing is her recent opinion column in The New York Times ( but she has also curated a comprehensive (and ongoing) compendium of writing and thought on the subject of slavery and its consequences in the United States called “The 1619 Project” (

Other useful actions to do my part to be supportive:  voting for the correct political candidates, making financial contributions to worthy causes, and speaking up in private settings where injustices are being done and horrible things are being said – maybe more out of ignorance than malice, although the damage is often the same.

But the big one, for now, is just to keep listening.  And reading:  I actually splurged on a New York Times subscription – it was $1 a week for four weeks; how could I resist? – and there is so much good writing in there, especially the Opinion pieces.  Honor Jones, in her preface to the Opinion page in the Times on June 26, 2020, talked about how “too much opinion writing is about trying to make already outraged people slightly more outraged.”  But she also said that the best pieces — in particular, the powerful piece by poet Caroline Randall Williams that Ms. Jones was highlighting, “You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body is a Confederate Monument” (  – “make readers see the world differently.”

In order for me to do that with my own writing, I need to do a lot more reading – and listening – right now.  I will write when I am ready.

Tell me more

“Tell me more . . . “

What Happened to May?


May is nearly over, but where did it go?  During this period, time seems to be doing a weird compression/elongation thing, where days zip by but every day feels endless, and not only endless but bottomless and topless, too, without structure, without a sense of getting somewhere.  Because we’ve literally been going nowhere (or at least limiting our movements), and the days blend into one another (I heard someone describe every day as “Blursday”, which I thought was accurate).  My daughter’s cousin (my nephew once removed?) just had his fourth birthday, and his mom posted on Facebook how it seems like her son was just born yesterday, and yet she feels like she’s been stuck in her house for 20 years.

And even though I work pretty much every day (gotta keep up my hours to keep those paychecks coming in this time of need, while my meager investments slide up and down with little concern for how it’s affecting my near-future retirement), I feel unmotivated, unenthusiastic for any activity, work-related or non. 

I’ve been healthy throughout (apart from seasonal nasal drip which makes wearing the mask a little, shall we say, soupy?), and other than my daughter’s boss, I don’t know anyone who has had the coronavirus.  I also don’t have many friends or family members in the health professions, so I’m not being affected that way, either.  I have great sympathy for everyone who has, and I’m grateful to be spared.  And I have no problem wearing a face covering outside (I seem to have abandoned the rubber gloves, but not the excessive hand-washing – although I confess I could be a bit more vigilant with my surface wiping). 

I’ve been watching my eating and trying to get exercise, but neither is as effective as I would have hoped, and the pounds aren’t coming off fast enough.  More exercise, less food, I guess.  Or maybe I’m just destined to be a life-sized, lifelong slug.  

I’m looking out my window at a beautiful spring day, sunshine and blue skies, and I wouldn’t mind a walk, but I’m stuck at my desk, waiting for work to come across, because I need the hours/money, and I would rather not be accused of not being “available,” especially when I don’t get online (I don’t get out of BED) until 10 most mornings.  I do tend to work into the evening hours, which is partly to blame for my lazy mornings – I stay on the computer working until 9 or 10, THEN sit down to decompress and watch my shows and do my nighttime tasks like washing dishes and putting out the garbage, and next thing I know I’m crawling under the covers with an assorted cat and/or dog and watching Lawrence O’Donnell say (at the end of the rebroadcast of his 10 p.m. show), “and so-and-so has the last word tonight, now stay tuned for the 11th Hour with Brian Williams” (also a re-broadcast), at 2 a.m.  And then I still have to write in my “joy book” (to the extent I have had any actual joy, which I try my damndest to discern amid the boring rubble of my day), play a couple of “Words with Friends” games and solitaire till I win, apply lip balm and hand lotion, and then the lights FINALLY go out at around 2:30 a.m.

Now that I’ve pulled the curtain back on my nighttime ritual, I might as well fill you in on my morning excitement, which largely accounts for why I prolong the emergence from my bed as long as possible in the morning.  It’s POOP and PEE everywhere – on the paper and off the paper – with an occasional vomit.  But if there’s no evidence of multiple pet bodily functions, that means I have to quickly throw on some clothes (sometimes I don’t even bother with a bra or my teeth and hope I don’t run into one of my neighbors who likes to chat) and take them out before they do poop and pee everywhere.  Once that’s done, it’s feeding time at the zoo.  First it’s meds, and then each dog gets its special mix of food, all the while shooing the cats from the dog bowls and screaming at the dogs to stop barking (especially Polly Wobbles – she is by far the most annoying “where is my food, human?” barker in the house).  Then it’s time to feed the cats, which is not as easy as it sounds, given that young Nigel is a fiend and has to steal everyone else’s food even before it hits the plate.  (Each of the seven gets its own individual, recyclable plate.)  Then, and only then, it is time for ME to have my breakfast, after which I settle into my daily routine, which is the same, day after day:  deal with work emails and tasks that need attention, and while I’m waiting to hear back from folks, poke around in  my emails and on Facebook.  I can get lost down a Facebook wormhole for hours, as long as no billable work arises.  This goes on from approximately 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. every weekday, with multiple breaks for errands, walks (with and without dogs) and rants from my daughter about what’s bothering her that day, and the ongoing debate of “what are we eating for dinner tonight?”  The days just blend into one another, same same same.  The calendar pages turn, and the days grow longer, the trees are greener and the weather gets warmer but nothing seems to change.  It’s getting kind of depressing.  I feel the need for a vacation, a change of scenery, a change of LIFE. 

Weekends break things up a little, because there’s no work to occupy that time.  Instead, we have big cleaning projects, and errands, and even last week a drive-by visit with relatives. I miss my shelter cat time, and, while I don’t miss them as much as my cat visits at the shelter (because the latter is relaxing and the other utterly exhausting), the adoption events on the Posh Pets van could sometimes make for entertaining days, full of laughs and camaraderie among a loving rescue family (with all its charms).  It’s always a joy to see a pup or kitten off to their forever homes with their happy new families. In the evenings I catch up on recorded TV shows, although I wish I could sit still for more than just the occasional movie.  (I read and hear about good movies to watch, and I put them on a list, but never seem to be able to coordinate a 2- or more hour viewing.)  Last weekend I burned some CDs – it’s a long-term undertaking I call my “CD Restoration Project”, which basically involves my saving on CDs all the music that I currently only own on my computer (and also inventorying it in a searchable file).  I do this because twice now I have lost my hard drive and the precious music on it (between the flood and a deadly [computer] virus) and had to recreate music from my iPod Classic, which (because you’re not actually supposed to be able to do that but I was lucky enough to employ a helpful Apple hacker) resulted in a glitchy iPod.  [Yes, I know, the cloud. Don’t trust it. Clouds are wispy. Things get lost or stolen.]

I have a million projects like this –sorting and framing photos, culling my books, catching up on podcasts (especially my cousin George’s Meanwhile at the Podcast []), downloading songs from vinyl to the computer (and then to CD and iPod [and, presumably, cloud]), reviewing and then organizing articles I’ve collected for one reason or another, putting my journals in date order (not to mention actually reading through them), and, of course, working on new blog posts and anthologizing my better historical ones – my list of projects is never-ending, but there is never enough time to begin work on any of them, let alone finish them.  I guess that’s what retirement is for.  Quarantine “down time” just isn’t enough, although there’s something else missing as well, which is basically what this post is about. 

I don’t know if I’d call it malaise.  It’s certainly not boredom – my mind isn’t checked out; in fact, it’s kind of chock full, but I lack the – energy?  Spirit?  Will power? I’m not sure how to identify it.  I just know it’s messing with me big time – literally (and especially) my sense of time. 

And overarching it all is this ominous dark cloud that obscures even a beautiful blue sky like the one I see out my window.  This country – this planet – is in a world of hurt.  And there are so many ignorant, cruel, selfish people in it, including (frighteningly so) in positions of power.  My daughter was saying the other day how hopeless she – like many people in their twenties and early thirties – feels about her burgeoning adulthood.  (In fact, I have a whole blog post under construction about evolution and hope for the future, but it’s not yet fit for human consumption.)  And while time is zipping by, November 3 can’t come fast enough for me.  I wish it were tomorrow.  [An aside:  I saw a great map today on Twitter:  Ah, if only poll numbers like these were a true arbiter of actual votes!]

In the meantime, I will try to keep my chin(s) up, factor in a little more exercise and try to take small bites out of my projects on a daily basis (or maybe use my weekends more productively instead of staying in bed even LATER than I do on weekdays when I have work to force me out).  It’s getting warmer and they’re opening the beaches (for residents only, at least temporarily) this weekend, and I may be resuming my shelter weekends soon if the kittens start flowing in (which, surprisingly, they have not yet, but they will).  And – dare I say it? – summer hockey?  Gotta try to stay positive.  Gotta continue to believe that the kind, sensible people in the world – who we hear about and honor every day and it can never be enough – outnumber the stupid, mean ones – who we hear from far too much.  Gotta hope that we’ll soon be seeing the end of this coronavirus.  And maybe then time will go back to its normal pace.

Tempus fugit (or not) [Skin Deep Tattoo, LBNY]

Quarantine Musings

When I look back at this strange time in our human history – and in my personal history – what will be the highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be) and themes to remember them by?

Songs – lots of songs.  Radio is a constant presence:  listening to WFUV, Alt 92.3 (on weekends only) or selections from my own diverse collection.  That includes purchasing songs for my expanding inventory of “mix tape” CDs for which I can no longer come up with clever playlist names (my most recent attempts:  “Musical Taste at 60”, “I Like to Own My Music” and “Can’t Stop Buying Music”) using gift cards I earn with points from my credit cards (which are a tad overextended at the moment, supporting those local restaurants who have chosen to stay open).  The most recent batch of songs I bought on iTunes (yes, I still do that) were mostly golden oldies (Laura Nyro, “Stoney Ridge”; Spirit, “Nature’s Way”; Phantom Rocker and Slick, “Men Without Shame”; John Doe with Kathleen Edwards, “Golden State”) that somehow haven’t made their way on to my iPod yet (and yes, I still have an old-school Classic iPod), but I also like some new stuff I’ve been hearing on the radio and also my favorite music podcast, Passport Approved.  (See – or should I say “listen to”—for example, Hamilton Leithauser, “Here They Come”; Nathaniel Rateliff, “And It’s Still All Right”; Mt. Joy, Caamp, even The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights”.  I told you my collection was diverse!)

Then, in the evenings (starting with the 6 p.m. news), there’s TV – catching up on DVR recorded shows and things I’ve been meaning to watch, drag queens galore – so many drag queens! – exploring new stuff with my kid, “Law & Order” on a never-ending loop in the background when I need to pay attention to work.  [An aside:  Nothing I’ve watched in the past month and half has affected me as much as the first episode of “We’re Here”, a documentary reality series on HBO featuring three inspiring and adorable drag performers – Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara and my favorite, Shangela –going to, shall we say, less enlightened parts of the country to “put on a show!” for the locals, and they each take on a “drag daughter” from the community to be in the show with them, and it’s all very uplifting and hopeful.  I pretty much cried the whole time, from sadness, joy and laughter.  Definitely worth a viewing.  A rainbow over this dark time, for sure.]  Not watching as many movies as I thought I might do, but finally caught The Florida Project (2017), which stayed in my mind for a couple of days afterward although I didn’t like it all that much.  Movies do that – stay in my mind.  They often show up as backdrops in my dreams.  Even more than the writing (which, for a writer like myself, is always paramount in every medium that uses words), the visuals in films are what stay with me.  That’s the whole purpose, as I see it – to capture those moments so they live on forever in everyone’s collective imagination, for generations to come.  (Think of how there is always at least one scene that each of our minds goes to when  you mention The Wizard of Oz, or Sound of Music, because everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – has seen those movies at some point in their lifetimes.)  And as ubiquitous as televisions have become (even very large-screened TVs), in my opinion there is nothing better than the wide screen at the theater to cement those images in your mind.  One interesting thing I’ve seen discussed during this quarantime (hah! I think I just invented a word!) is bringing back the drive-in, which would be a FANTASTIC idea, as long as  you could keep the quality of the sound and picture good.

I think about politics – how could you not??  I spend probably the largest fraction of time during my days (weekday or weekend; who even knows what it is anymore?  It’s either a day I have work or a day I don’t have work, and they all bleed into one another) reading articles and commentary on Facebook, and I cannot get over the utter stupidity and yet also the amazingness of people in this country – in this WORLD, for that matter.  Some people – I’d like to think the majority of us, but I have my doubts – are kind, and creative, and funny, and deeply sympathetic and generous.  Those are “my people”, the ones who make my heart swell and my throat tighten with emotion.  And yet there are others – some in quite prominent (and LOUD) positions – who are mind-bogglingly ignorant and narrow-minded and petty and selfish and cruel, lacking in decency and conscience.  Oh, they’re out there, in frighteningly large numbers.  How can they be convinced – CAN they be convinced? – that there are better ways to do things, ways that will benefit them as well as other people?  It makes me sick to my stomach.

On the other hand, I am, of course, surrounded by animals and their bottomless bodily fluids.  I take a lot of really bad photos (because I’m a really bad photographer, not because the subject matter is bad – in fact, the subject matter is adorable, which is why I’m trying (and failing) to capture it for posterity!), especially of the “youngsters,” Nigel and Kansas, who have their definite favorites in the house and are learning from their mentors how to “cat”.  Nigel loves Greg – LOVES HIM – and Kansas seems to gravitate to Mr. Kitten (why wouldn’t she?  Mr. Kitten is very handsome).  My Savannah is usually by my side or sleeping amid the dogs, who are scattered around my chair.  I keep tripping over them every time I get up from my desk.

(top left: Nigel and Greg – brothers from another mother; bottom left: Kansas (l.) learning at the feet of Mr. Kitten; top right: Handsome Mr. Kitten; bottom right: Savannah in her dog bed)

Which I am trying to do more often – get up and move around, that is.  When the weather is nice – which it certainly has been on some days during quarantime, no lie – I love to go outside and take walks, either with the dogs or solo, wearing my headphones, working up a little sweat.  I’ve also been trying to do mini-calisthenics sessions when I’m watching TV at night, and I try not to stand still, always swaying or doing toe-taps, whenever I’m at the kitchen counter or bathroom sink.  When a good song comes on, I even have myself a little dance party!  It’s all in an effort to burn calories, so that I can “earn” enough to counteract the calories I’m taking in (see my last post, “CICO-2020”, 4/17/2020).  But it seems like there are more days that are gray and rainy and cold (like today – a high of 48 degrees in late April is so depressing!), which tie in with my lazy mood so I don’t go outside much, if at all.  Those are my “true hermit” days, and I don’t mind them, to be honest, as long as they’re outnumbered by the sunny, warm days!

I haven’t been reading books – I finished the ones I had (which are now overdue, but the library is forgiving all fines), but I can’t get more because the library is closed – so I finally pulled my old Kindle out of the mothballs and charged it up to see if I remember how to download books on it.  I was doing that for a while when I was commuting, but I haven’t used it in literally years.  If I remember correctly, there weren’t many very good books available as e-books (lots of romance novels and mysteries – not my cup of tea), but I assume that has changed.

I have bits and pieces of blog ideas but not much discipline (which is how you end up with my current entry).  And there is lawyer work – fortunately, it’s been work I don’t mind that much, because it’s mostly drafting, which is really the ONLY thing I like about my job – because people and companies (remember, companies are “people” too!) always need their lawyers in times of crisis.  So there’s lots of restructurings and rent deferrals and unloading of assets and, of course, bankruptcies in all their various incarnations.  Work is for money.  That is all.  But I need it, and I need to devote at least a good chunk of my day to doing it.

Keeping in touch with friends has been a lifeline as well.  Between phone calls (including a fun three-way Zoom call with friends from New Jersey and Southport, North Carolina), emails and texts, I’ve “spoken” to folks from Quintana Roo to Dubai, and also my local buddies on the east end of town who I haven’t been able to have lunch with or visit for over a month.  One of these days we all may be able to see each other in person, although I suspect that there’s going to be a lot less actual travel from now on in favor of “virtual” visits.  And I think handshakes may have gone the way of the dinosaur – wither hugs as well??

Truth be told, my overriding feeling during this quarantine period has been laziness.  I stay in bed WAY too late every day, and especially weekends.  I’m often lethargic and uninspired, especially on rainy days.  But in a way, I feel that it’s justified to be lazy right now.  Other than first responders, medical professionals and the workhorses of essential infrastructure, the rest of us might as well just take this as a kind of forced stepping back, an opportunity to reassess, do some housecleaning, literally and figuratively, but no need to hurry, because we’ve got nowhere to go at the moment.  Then, when we’re ready to re-open as a society, we’ll have laid some groundwork for something better.

All in all, this time of sheltering in place and social distancing hasn’t been that difficult to endure, at least not for me, and not for my kid, although some of her friends are working hard to dampen her spirit.  (She called them “Whammies”, like in that stupid game show “Press Your Luck”, who come along to steal all your winnings.)  I haven’t gotten sick, and I haven’t gotten anyone else sick.  I am extremely fortunate that no one in my immediate circle has been afflicted, although I have heard of folks in my periphery losing friends and loved ones, and that will probably continue into the coming days and weeks ahead.  This is a horrible thing, this COVID-19, and no one really knows what to do about it.  Responsible people are all just trying to make up for lost time to figure things out on a daily basis.  I watch Rachel Maddow every weeknight, and she certainly keeps us apprised, but secretly I wish she would devote at least a little more time to all the other sneaky, destructive things trump and his minions are doing while everyone’s attention is distracted by death and disease.  November can’t come soon enough.  And people need to VOTE – VOTE VOTE VOTE, especially young people – because the more people vote, the better the chances that our long (only four years, but it FEELS longer) trumpian nightmare will be over and we can get the country back on the right track, especially now that we’ve seen all the fissures that need repairing.

P.S.  Some good news!! My foster Hopper (who had been adopted and returned – see my post “Foster’s Paradise”, 3/29/2020) got adopted AGAIN last week, by a very nice woman from Connecticut and her daughter.  I had always believed that the best home for Hopper would be with someone much like me – but perhaps with even fewer people coming through and a nice piece of property, rather than having to take him on walks where he encounters so many scary strangers.  And that’s exactly what he got! I hope he lives a good long life, spoiled rotten and loved, running around his 1.9 acre wooded yard chasing moles by day and snuggling with his people by night.


In order to buy myself some time for my next “deep” blog post, I thought I would do a little in-betweener, just to stay disciplined about posting Life Considered 2.0.  There’s a lot distracting me these days – sheltering in place while witnessing, on TV and the Internet, the overwhelming death and destruction going on all around me, trying to focus enough to do some money-earning work, with too many annoying little dogs constantly underfoot when they’re not chasing the cats and barking at nothing – but the primary personal concern for me these days has been my weight and doing something about it.

Somehow (I KNOW how – I ate too much CRAP) I gained twenty pounds between Halloween (that’s always when the trouble starts) and April Fool’s Day.  And let’s just say I was already on the meatball side (see “Meatballs”, 1/10/2020), so that extra 20 pounds was causing me to even burst out of the stretchy pants and oversized t-shirts that comprise my wardrobe.  True, I didn’t move much (which was a big part of the problem), sitting like a lump in front of my computers (one for work, one for entertainment) for hours every day, and in those rare instances when I did move (sometimes walking the dogs but mostly walking in and out of the kitchen for snacks), I would get winded way too easily and my knees and other joints creaked more than they used to.

Something had to be done.  Fortunately, spring arrived.  The days were warmer and longer, and I yearned for fresh air and sunshine.  And in a weird way, this pandemic has been a motivator, because now I look for any excuse to peel myself away from my desk – away from work and bad news – and get out and move around.  Being unable to go to the shelter (which is breaking my heart, not to mention depriving me of a source of exercise on weekends) or anywhere else, for that matter, in a roundabout way kind of pushed me outdoors.

I’ve been wearing an old-school Fitbit to keep track of my steps ever since my fellow “meatball” sister and I tried to challenge each other to lose some weight last summer.  I really only use it to tell time and keep track of my steps, but I learned recently that it also keeps track of how many calories you’ve burned.  At the same time, I had serendipitously read an article about a woman who lost 100 pounds using the “CICO” method.

Believe me, I’ve used every weight loss method known to mankind.  Some were more successful than others.  Most recently, I tried diligent food logging, which is now easier to do than ever using apps on your cell phone.  You type in the food you eat (you can even use the bar codes to display the calorie count for packaged foods), and it tells you how many calories you’re about to consume.  Of course, at its core, this “CICO” method is the basis for every weight-loss plan dating back to the early days of Weight Watchers:  calories in, calories out.  If you burn more calories (calories out) than you’re putting into your mouth (calories in), you should be able to lose weight.  BASIC.

It operates sort of like a budget:  You should only “spend” what you take in.  If I eat 1800 calories in a day (quite common), I have to burn off at least 1800 calories but preferably considerably more in order to shed any poundage.  If I do mega-exercise in a day and burn, say, 3,000 calories, I can pretty much eat whatever I want that day and still lose weight.

So far it seems to be working.  I’ve lost 3 pounds in two weeks, and I’ve even noticed a bit more spring in my step with all the increased walking (I try to walk on the beach when I can because the heavier steps provide an extra workout, and I might as well take advantage of living near the ocean, breathing in that refreshing sea air).  And if I’ve eaten a bit more than I should have in a day, in the evening I just start jumping around and doing calisthenics with my pathetic little one-pound weights in front of the television (usually when watching Rachel Maddow) until I’ve burned the requisite number of calories!  Now I want to start doing some aerobics, maybe using You Tube videos or online classes (I’ve heard good things about Pop Sugar’s “Active” website but haven’t tried it yet:

One wrinkle in my regime is that I basically need to remind myself to check my final step and calorie count just before midnight because, on this old-school Fitbit, the daily numbers disappear like they never existed and I have to start all over again.  Plus I force myself to stop eating at 11:30 after the news is over by taking out my dentures (full disclosure on the blog, Nan!).

But like everything else in my life, especially in these difficult times, I need to be patient with myself, not rush things or get discouraged, and just remember that it’s helping, little by little, to make me healthier and look a little better on those Zoom calls (man, those chins get prime billing!).

I do the bulk of my “earning” (burning) in the evenings!

Foster’s Paradise

One of the very few positive things to emerge from this pandemic is that people have stepped up and fostered (and even adopted) shelter pets, to the point where there are record low numbers of dogs and cats left to foster!!

Of course, as I long ago lost my mind where animals are concerned, I am doing my part.  Truth be told, I was fostering even BEFORE the self-imposed quarantine, but I’ve added to my brood since then.

First a little background to bring you all up to speed.

The OG

The “old guard” consists of Jojo, the 15-year-old sister of my beloved Raven (who we lost a few months ago), my obnoxious but adorable Pomchi, Munchie (10 years old next month), and the post-Sandy sisters Savannah (my soul cat) and Luna (who has become a troll, but more on that in a moment).  These four creatures alone are a source of many trials and tribulations, and also great joy.  Jojo literally went to college with my daughter, once she was able to live in off-campus housing that permitted pets (and for which I inevitably had to pay a “pet deposit”).  She’s a pretty chill creature, having been around the block a few times.  She used to have a real wanderlust but now seems content to just gaze out the window at the comings and goings of the birds that I’m pretty sure are living in my dryer vent.  Munchie recently suffered some kind of knee injury while jumping off my bed, which is par for the course with this little guy.  At a mere 9 pounds, he’s undergone two bladder stone surgeries and a left knee operation, which is a lot to put a tiny dog through.  Once the swelling went down and he was able to put weight on the recently injured right knee, the vet reassessed and recommended against another surgery.  “Too much arthritic damage in there already,” he said.  So Mr. Muncho will walk with a hitch in his step for the rest of his days, but at least we have the bladder stones under control.


Jojo and her “mom” at college

Savannah is the biggest cat – and among the biggest creatures – in the house, at a zaftig 16+ pounds.  Lately, when she tries to jump up on the counter where the food dispenser is kept, she sort of thuds into the cabinet, unable to get the requisite lift.  But she shakes herself off and tries it again from a different angle, and success!!  She’s had her share of health issues, including bladder stones of her own and the worst case of ringworm I have ever seen.  But she’s hearty, and affectionate, and tolerant of all creatures.  She sleeps comfortably amongst the dog beds and leads the entourage accompanying me into the bathroom.

Savannah and Polly CoexistingIMG_1695

Savannah ignores the dog in her bed; Savannah ponders the universe

Her sister Luna used to be my desk cat, but something happened in the past few months that has chased her under the bed in my daughter’s room, where she only emerges for food and brief petting sessions.  We cannot explain what happened.  She just may relish the peace and quiet of the under-the-bed zone, especially with the revolving door of beasts coming through this house.  We share some mutual cuddles a couple of times a day when I go in to feed her or clean the litter box (or just because I miss her being a fixture on my desk with the amount of time I spend at my computer), and then she scoots back into the darkness.

Luna the Desk Cat

Luna, former desk cat

Foster Fails

I have a couple of Posh Pets [] foster fails, as well:  Gizmo (my first) and Polly Wobbles.  Gizmo is a semi-deranged shih-tzu who put me in the hospital (not on purpose!) with an infected bite on my finger and has raging allergies and OCD.  Polly has ataxia, which causes her to walk like a drunken sailor and drool a little, and she also takes Pepcid daily for her acid reflux.  I’ve written about both of them in my blogs before.  Suffice it to say that they are indelible parts of the household with their own weird quirks but we love them both.

Gizmo and Munchie (and Savannah, ignoring the dogs in her bed); Polly Wobbles

The Boys

I told the story of Greg in my blog post “2017: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1/13/18) – he was the “good”, of course.  The Posh Pets cat director had a tragic fire in her home and all the shelter workers and volunteers ended up taking in her foster cats.  It turned out that Greg was just a freeloader and had never been one of her cats after all!  Didn’t matter – Greg moved right in with us and never looked back.  He is a handsome blonde tom who has a way with kittens and is the unofficial “big brother” of our house.  Mr. Kitten – or, variously, Harmon and Hunter, his names when he was on the Posh Pets roster – is a gorgeous lad.  We fell in love when we were fostering him as a kitten and just basically kept him.  Nothing more was said about it.  He is a mush and did I mention he’s gorgeous?  My daughter and I jealously fight over his affection.

The boys hanging out; sultry Mr. Kitten

Our last little fellow we didn’t think was a boy at all.  When we started fostering “her” and her sister Eve – two nasty little ferals who came into the shelter around Xmas 2018 – we didn’t think she would ever come around.  Eve surprised us by becoming a lovebug in short order and was quickly adopted, but Virginia never seemed to get the memo.  She did like food, however, and she LOVED Greg, so eventually she calmed herself down and tolerated us humans, as long as we kept feeding her.  She would swipe at you, nails exposed, every time you walked by once she determined you didn’t have any food.  My sister actually made progress with her one weekend when she was visiting, because she let her sit with her at the table and shared her breakfast with her, one nibble at a time.  (The cat never forgot – every time my sister comes over now, the cat formerly known as “Virginia” goes right to her, ostensibly looking for handouts but actually letting my sister pet her, too.)

About six months ago, one of the cats started peeing in weird places, and there seemed to be blood in it.  Well, you need to be a detective in this house to figure out whose excrement is whose, but I eventually figured out it was Virginia.  She was still a foster at this point (and still a girl), but only two potential adopters had ever come over to check her out, and she had lashed out (literally) at both of them.  So at that point I made the executive decision to keep her.  I didn’t figure she’d ever get adopted, and there WERE things that made her happy here.  She would even get very aggressively affectionate and rub all over my arms and hands when it was feeding time or if I was giving out cookies.  But now that she was officially mine, I had to bring her to the vet to see why she was peeing blood.

Ha!  This was no easy task.  On the first attempt, I ended up with a two-inch gash on my arm, she peed on me and hid for hours under my bed.  I had to cancel the appointment.  The vet was very understanding and suggested I give her a sedative first.  The next day, sedative successfully administered in her food (which she ate so fast she didn’t notice a thing), it was a little easier to load her up in the carrier and bring her to be examined.  Two surprises: Virginia was NOT a girl (although she, frankly, was not terribly well-endowed for a male cat), and s/he had a serious collection of struvite crystals in his bladder.  The remedy:  Magical prescription food that would not only cure him but also prevent the crystals from forming again.  Only problem was that if he had to eat this special food, in order to prevent him from eating everybody else’s non-prescription food (which he would definitely do), I would have to feed everyone the (expensive) prescription food.  This would not do anybody any actual HARM, although it’s a little higher in calories than your standard feline fare (and some of my cats – I’m looking at you, Savannah – don’t need the extra poundage).  It would just cost me more money.  But if it kept young – Virginia? We needed to come up with a boy name – healthy (and avoid us having to bring him more frequently to the vet), it would be worth it.

So – what to name him?  People suggested Virgil, which seemed to make sense.  My daughter started calling him Virgin, but that just sounded too insulting.  Yes, he’s a virgin – what choice did he have??  One day, I heard the XTC song “Making Plans for Nigel” (which always reminds me of my boss because his son is named Nigel and I suspect his son is a lot like the Nigel in the song), and I started singing it to Virginia/Virgil/Virgin:  “We’re only making plans for Nigel/We only want what’s best for him”.  That nailed it for me.  He is now Nigel (although all his vet records still say “Virginia”).


Nigel (fka Virginia)

The Current State of Play

Hopper – ah, Hopper.  I fostered him a few months ago, and we discovered that he has a bit of the demon in him.  He is devoted to us – perhaps unhealthily so – but when he meets new people, he loses his mind.  He is an adorable little 5-pound scruffmuffin with these sad button eyes, and you just want to snuggle him or carry him around in your pocket.  But you cannot, because he is evil.  I also get the distinct impression he does not like men.


Hopper, contemplating chasing a cat

Well, Hopper got adopted by a woman who stuck through his initial craziness upon first meeting her at the shelter, and she swore up and down that she didn’t have that many visitors.  She brought one of her two dogs to meet him (the other was elderly and didn’t travel well), and they didn’t hate each other, so we determined she would be a good adopter and off he went.  A few weeks later, one photo of a sleeping Hopper was sent by his adopter to the Posh Pets president with a note that said she loved him.  All seemed to be fine.  But then came the phone call – she was returning him.  Could I come pick him up at the shelter?

Now, by this time, I had another “problem child” foster pup at the house, an 8-year-old Maltipoo named Luna (“Luna Poona” is what we all call her, for some reason, and given that I already have a Luna at the house, I usually just call her “Poon”).  Luna, a former Posh Pet save from the Brooklyn ACC, was living quite happily with a married couple, but then the couple, late in life, had an unexpected baby.  Now, Luna didn’t seem to mind the baby (although you can never be sure with Luna, as she’s a “bite first, ask questions later” dog much like my Gizmo), but she HATED the baby’s nanny.  So back to Posh she came after six years.  (Returns break my heart.  I never want to judge – people have their legitimate reasons – but I kind of still do.)  Luna got bounced around to a few fosters, but she couldn’t control her peeing or her drinking (not to mention the biting of toes if your feet were in her way and fingers if you were silly enough to try to give her a treat that way).  There was clearly some sort of medical issue going on.  When she finally ended up at my house, she was officially diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, which is a condition affecting the pituitary gland that causes her to drink and pee to excess.  Now her Cushing’s is managed with twice-daily medication (which Posh Pets still pays for – she is STILL a foster dog, after all), but Luna has developed (again, like Gizmo) what appear to be seasonal allergies.  I have given her two baths in the past week, which make her look more like a curlicued poodle than a Maltese because I don’t know how to brush her out all fluffy like the groomer does, and she’s been relegated to wearing the cone of shame (although I’ve managed to find a soft one that’s a little less cumbersome and annoying for her, but unfortunately it still allows her to get to her ear and inside left leg, which seem to be her itchiest bits).  Posh Pets has her listed on the website as a “special needs” dog, and she will require the right sort of adopter, but so far, she’s still under my care for the foreseeable future.  She’s grown on me in the months that she’s been here. I get a kick out of the blank expression on her little monkey-face.  She just kind of looks at you, like “What?”

Luna Pouting on the Stairs

Luna Poona stuck on the stairs: “What??”

So back comes Hopper – the scene at the shelter when his former mom dropped him off was like a clip from a horror film, with this five-pound devil dog lashing out at everyone from what he thought was the safety of her lap.  I was trying to avoid seeing the woman by hiding in the cat room, but the shelter worker came back to get me.  “You’ve got to help – we can’t put a leash on him,” she said.  As soon as I walked into the office, he relaxed a little and came right to me.  We spent a few painful minutes listening to her, in tears, describe his unprovoked attacks on the elderly dog (not the one he had previously met) and her adult son and his children, to the point where the kids were now afraid of dogs (although I note that another of her grandchildren, a girl of about 14, had accompanied her and seemed very fond of Hopper, and he of her).  The woman had brought him to a trainer and the vet, and no one could do anything to “fix” him.  He continued to have this violent streak that seemed uncontrollable and, while she did love the little guy, she just couldn’t handle it anymore.  So Hopper came back to my house, and he’s been here ever since.  Posh Pets gets a ton of applications for him, because he’s adorable, but when the president explains what he’s like (and I actually spoke myself to an interested party the other day), they all turn off.  I think the perfect home for him would be a hermit like ME, but without any other animals and a bare minimum of visitors.  He would be a constant companion (yes, he sleeps with/on me), and I think he fancies himself a grand protector of his person.  He’s playful and can entertain himself with a wide variety of toys (which he tends to hoard).  He also lives up to his name and has an impressive vertical jump and could probably learn some circus-type tricks.  If I didn’t have all these animals (and if he didn’t spend so much of his time chasing cats), I might have considered keeping him.  He’s also young – only three years old – and that’s a big commitment for me.  I kind of imagine being “dog free” in 5-10 years, but I could conceivably have him into my late 70s.  He’s also really frustrating.  I was forced to bring him into a 7-11 the other day, tucked under my arm, and he lashed out so violently at one of the guys who worked there, even I was frightened.  There was nothing I could do to calm him, which was the truly alarming thing.  If worse comes to worst and no realistic adopters appear, we’re going to send him upstate to a woman who adopts “difficult” Poshies. He had been at her house to recuperate from kennel cough when we first rescued him from Animal Care and Control in Manhattan and she fell in love with him (which is easy to do, as long as you don’t see his “dark side”).  That might end up being the best place for him, out in the country without so many scary people (men?) around.

But wait – there’s more!!  Posh Pets recently took in five beautiful Pomeranians from the same home.  It was a mysterious owner surrender situation (I’m not privy to the details and I’m not going to ask); even though the Poms were well groomed and gentle, they were excessively shy and had never been to a vet.  During this stay-at-home crisis, while Posh is definitely doing adoptions (amazingly, they’ve done a few a day – cats and dogs – for the past couple of weeks), because of their withdrawn natures, the Poms are not good candidates for drive-through meet-and-greets with potential adopters.  So until we can have a safe location to hold more extensive meetings outside (or until the weather improves – it’s very rainy here this weekend), the Poms were better off going to foster homes rather than staying at the shelter.  First they asked if I could take two but, as I already HAVE two fosters, I declined (even though I felt bad about it).  But when it turned out that they only needed me to take one, and my “boss” (i.e., my daughter) said okay, Mackenzie came to stay for a few days.  She’s adorable, but she has a tilt – especially when she’s running, she looks a little like she’s on a NASCAR track – and her bark sounds like a squeak.  But I don’t think she’s going to be here for very long.  It’s tough to resist so much adorableness, and so far she’s displayed none of the quirks that Hopper has (although she is a little bit of an attention whore).


Mackenzie smiles

On the other hand, I think we do have a new permanent resident (although I haven’t made it official yet).  During the summer and fall last year, I fostered a ton of kittens, including one semi-feral feline named Kansas.  Kansas and her brother Vegas had come in a little older than most local kittens, hissing and spitting.  Once they were spayed and neutered, respectively, they were both ear-tipped so they could be put back outside.  But at the same time, some of the shelter cats experienced a bout of ringworm, so they were all quarantined in cubbies for a few weeks.  Kansas got over the ringworm quickly, and by that time she had calmed down enough for the shelter director to wonder if she might be able to be socialized rather than released to one of the local feral cat colonies.  She asked me to give it a shot, although Kansas was still very reluctant to let anyone touch her.  She lived in a cage in my house, just opposite my desk so she could see me all the time.  Eventually she would let me stroke her face and chin for long periods, which apparently led her to realize that this petting thing is pretty sweet!  But she relished the safety of her cage, and even when we left the gate open, she stayed inside.  When it came time to send her up to the cat room at the PetSmart store in White Plains, NY (where Posh Pets has a cat room), I figured she would do well given that she could live in the safety of a cage-like cubby and let people pet her all day long.  Boy, was I wrong.  She regressed and they ended up sending her back to the shelter.  She was shy in the cat room, but clearly remembered me when I went in there and would emerge from wherever she was hiding to let me pet her.  If I sat on the floor, she would even come and sit on my lap, which she had never even done when she was at my house.

A couple of weeks ago, a family came in to adopt one of the other kittens, a cute tuxedo girl named Caroline, who immediately jumped out of the cage on to the dad’s shoulder.  The mom and dad were sold on Caroline and were ready to take her home, but the daughter (who reminded me a bit of Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, right down to the faux-fur jacket) turned on the waterworks.  So we ended up bringing her into the room where Kansas and the other kittens were, and she fell in love with Kansas, who evidently looked like their previous cat who had passed away.  Miraculously, Kansas liked the girl and let her pet her (although she was less sure of the dad), and the girl beamed and begged and they ended up taking both Caroline and Kansas.  I was strangely sad, but I felt like the girl and Kansas had had a real love connection.

Fast forward a week and Kansas is back!  She hid for a few days (which we warned them she would do), and when she finally emerged, she evidently went on a rampage, attacking a visiting dog and some kids and the dad, leaving visible marks on the latter.  Now, this did NOT sound like my Kansas.  Even in her early days, she was never really violent – just hissy and spitty, sort of telegraphing violence but never actually going through with it.  She was always more fearful than aggressive.  Sure enough, when I went to see her soon afterwards, she was her same affectionate self.  In fact, if I’m not anthropomorphizing too much, she seemed really happy and relieved to be hanging out with me.  An idea started brewing.

When Posh Pets started farming out cats for fostering during this coronavirus lockdown, I closely watched the posts on Facebook, waiting for someone to say, “I have someone to take Kansas,” but no one did.  I asked my daughter what she thought about fostering Kansas.  She was noncommittal but didn’t say no.  I told her to bring her home with her when she went to work at the shelter last Thursday.  But I couldn’t wait and I picked her up on Tuesday.  She was under my bed for the first day – again, completely expected – but she emerged that night and gave me cuddles, purring up a storm.  I had clearly made the right decision.  And, having learned my lesson from my cat Mimi, who I delayed adopting for over a year even though I knew I wanted to from Day One, I’m keeping this girl.  She is a love, a Savannah “Soul Cat” Junior.



So I’m back up to seven (permanent) cats and three (permanent) dogs.  I enjoy following a photo blog called “Seven Cats and Counting” [], featuring a clan of dogs, cats, a turtle (Princess Maple Anne) and a fish.  I see these folks as kindred souls.  They’ve lost a couple of their cats in the past year or so, so now I’m waiting for them to take in a new one.  (That’s what the “and counting” is all about!)  And fostering (and adopting!) needy creatures is certainly welcome respite from reading and thinking about politics and COVID-19 for a change!! Adopt, don’t shop!

Cold Fish

We are living in very strange times.  All of the United States (and most, if not all, of the rest of the world) is hunkered down in their homes, protecting ourselves from an unseen, microscopic threat.  It’s not like your garden-variety disaster – flood, snowstorm, blackout – where you could look out your window and be confronted with the menace.  This is a wholly new monster.

I mean, there’ve been epidemics before – swine flu, SARS, Ebola (which in my mind is a truly scary disease, unlike the current “bad cold” symptoms that can be deadly in the wrong body) – but nothing that drove governors and mayors and other authority figures (and only reluctantly the so-called president) to literally force people out of bars, restaurants and stores, and cancel concerts and hockey games (!), to seal ourselves in our houses for the foreseeable future (only some vague “couple of weeks/months” end in sight) and avoid close contact with ANYONE – family members included – until we get some sense of how contagious and pervasive this new coronavirus COVID-19 and its associated illnesses actually are.  We’re isolating ourselves to protect the most vulnerable among us, which is truly altruistic and strangely at odds with the current climate of cruelty that seems to have infected much of America since trump was elected.

I’m not entirely certain this is the right approach.  To me, it feels like we’re all just sitting around waiting to get sick.  I do see the value, helped along by those memes of the unlit matchstick halting the potential conflagration and the graphs where cutting off a single branch of a flow chart makes a huge difference in the numbers further along; it does make sense.  But it also feels like we’re all going to get it – or some form of it – eventually.  I guess it’s just a matter of time.

But here’s an interesting dynamic:  social distancing is not difficult for me.  Nor is working from home, which I do on a daily basis (other than that one day a week when I brave the Long Island Railroad and NYC subway to go into the office, for which I treat myself with a yummy bacon-and-egg sandwich from the cart guy outside the building).

As I’ve previously written about on this blog (“A Brief Respite from the Hermit Life,” 10/27/15; “The Hermit Emerges,” 9/5/17), I don’t mind being on my own.  I can easily entertain myself, with music, reading, TV or movies, sleeping, writing, taking the dogs for a nice walk . . . you name it, I can occupy myself with it completely free of any human company.

I have, over the years, been accused of being somewhat of a cold fish.  It’s true – I am not fond of unwanted touching, even friendly, socially acceptable touching.  I am not a hugger, or a hand-holder, or a cheek kisser.  I’ve actually turned down invitations to extended family gatherings just to avoid the overwhelming cheek-kissing upon arrival and departure.  I was born into a family of cold fish, and I suspect my child has inherited many of my cold fish qualities (although her cold-fishness may have been tempered by her father’s more affectionate nature).

Don’t get me wrong – I like being with people, in moderation.  Some people I like to be with quite a lot, and when I’m with them, I don’t have any desire to be free of them.  But I am also quite content to be alone.  In fact, I’ve been texting and making phone calls – at least once a day during this anxious time – to reach out to those people I care about in my life.  And if called upon for any task or favor, I’ll be there in an instant.  In fact, I rather like when people ask things of me, because then I know that I’m doing something that has value to them.  But being by myself has never felt like a sad or lonely thing.  I know a friend is just a phone call away and I just relish the freedom and solitude.

So even though social distancing has not been a struggle for me, this whole COVID-19 exercise has me thinking about our future as a society.  Are we moving into a time where everything we do will be Internet-dependent?  Why have face-to-face meetings when you can do it on Zoom?  No need to John Hancock original documents anymore; everything can be authorized by Docusign.  We don’t have to go shopping in stores (and the increasing exodus from brick-and-mortar malls and “going out of business” sales are ample evidence of that) when we can get anything we could ever need or want more easily online.  And we pay with our credit card numbers, or PayPal or Venmo, so we don’t even need cash anymore (hence, the shut-down of multiple branches of large banks and the shuttering of small local banks altogether).

Of course, the big problem with trusting technology is that you CAN’T.  Technical difficulties continue to be the bane of our existence, especially now that we are so dependent on our electronic connections (wireless and blue tooth, too, for that matter).  I seem to be particularly susceptible to these glitches, and I tend to panic because I don’t comprehend the underlying systems.  Even if I could somehow educate myself (my employer is always offering tutorials and training sessions), technological capabilities change seemingly by the minute – every time I get used to using one kind of software or app, here comes version 2.0, followed in quick succession by versions 3, 4 and 5 (with “X” and “Plus” subsets available to confuse you even more).   For someone as old as I am, this kaleidoscopic shifting landscape is dizzying.  I cannot keep up with any of it.

What if there was a blackout, or a massive Internet crash, due to the overuse caused by all of us being trapped in our homes?  That would be a true disaster.  Malware and hacking are increasingly prevalent, too, as multiple mandatory trainings sponsored by my workplace continually warn us.  There are so many new terms associated with these computer infestations, we have to learn an entirely different language to even describe the damage, and we have to be ever vigilant for weird email addresses and shady texts.  We could be opening portals to company secrets, or our bank accounts or identities, and not even know it was happening.

So as much as I enjoy being in my house alone, I spend a great deal of that time at my desk in front of the computer.  And when I’m not at my computer, I’m watching my smart TV with 800 channels to choose from (so much content! It’s mind-boggling to a kid who grew up with seven channels on her television!).  I haven’t been using my Kindle for reading as I prefer actual books (the harder the cover, the better) but I could do that too, especially now that my local library is closed for at least the next two weeks.

One other thing we can do during this pandemic is get outside more often, especially now that the weather is warming (not to mention the planet, but that’s a topic for another blog post).  We can take our cell phones along, as long as there’s good service coverage (which is getting better, with hotspots and universal Wifi, but that’s dangerous too, because they’re not “secure” so any random stranger can read our texts and whatever else we do over our phones, which is pretty much everything these days).

We also still need to earn money, which is impossible for many of us.  In this particular instance, I’m fortunate to be in an industry that is at little risk of suffering, because when companies start losing money and fear going out of business, they need their lawyers more than ever.  But there is a lot of uncertainty in income streams for everyone, especially in certain industries.  Unemployment claims are skyrocketing and the system is having a hard time keeping up.  A $1,000 check from the government might help in the short term (and would it be “free” money, or merely a tax advance?  This is unclear), but there’s going to be a lot of long-term damage once this pandemic is over (if it ever ends, which feels like a distinct possibility at the moment).  The whole world is going to have to shift its perspective, I think, change the way we do things.  This may be just the beginning.

Cold Fish

Which is the cold fish?  Trick question – they both are!

At a Loss

I am at a loss as to what to write about this week.  I think I’m a little depressed about Elizabeth Warren dropping out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination following her steep descent in the polls and inability to generate the number of votes she needed to begin accumulating delegates.  She was so clearly the best candidate, in my mind.  While she didn’t have Hillary’s baggage, and she was exponentially more personable than Ms. Clinton (and equally smart), the American populace didn’t trust her, for some reason.  Multiple Democrats I spoke to held her missteps against her disproportionately to their seriousness.  One woman said she was turned off by Elizabeth’s claims to have Native American heritage, and thought it was misguided for her to have released her DNA results.  (But what if she HADN’T released those results?  She would have been criticized for THAT.  This is a pattern that keeps repeating . . .  Women and people of color have to be exceptional, and yet their errors and hiccups are deemed unforgivable.  They are held to a higher standard, and so fall further when they do something – ANYTHING – wrong.)

Another Democratic woman I know thought Warren was “being mean” when she repeated a statement by Bernie Sanders that he didn’t think a woman could be elected president in this country.  Yet another woman I know – otherwise very liberal in her thinking – excoriated Warren for attacking Michael Bloomberg during the debate by repeating an allegation that he had told a woman employee to have an abortion when she announced her pregnancy.  I pointed out to this woman that, had Elizabeth been selected as the nominee, and had she gone after trump that way in the general debates, Dems would have cheered her on.  In fact, she would have to be twice as “tough” and “mean” as a man to stand up to trump’s inevitable bullying and name-calling.  But she didn’t get the chance, so we’ll never know.

(Do you notice that these are all women making these criticisms?  It hurts my heart when women are so unsupportive of other women.  It’s true, woman are not perfect beings.  But I have to believe, as a percentage, there are far fewer female assholes in the world than male ones.)

But here’s the best thing about Elizabeth Warren.  After what must have been a crushing Super Tuesday, and her difficult decision to end the campaign she had worked so hard and so well to develop, down to the smallest detail (and which she was still willing to tweak as she heard from constituents and evolved her positions, as I would hope any intelligent world leader would do), she still managed to invite Rachel Maddow into her home in Massachusetts and do an amazing, gracious interview – without even getting choked up, which I frankly did a few times listening to her – and end with a still-positive message.  And to top off what would have been a devastating week for most folks, she did a brilliant cameo on Saturday Night Live and hugged everyone at the end (coronavirus be damned!).  (I especially loved the GIF she did with Kate McKinnon that made the rounds on Facebook where they were dueling dancing Elizabeths, and McKinnon could barely keep a straight face at the end watching Liz’s genuinely playful postures.)  I love you, Elizabeth Warren, from your trim, colorful blazers to your comfortable shoes, from your “I have a plan for that” to “She persisted”!  I know she will continue to be the kind of senator and public servant (perhaps with a role in the next administration?) who blow-torches through interrogations (as she reminded us today in a clip from 2016 she posted on Facebook of her grilling Leonard Chanin to emphasize what a terrible choice Chanin would be to serve as acting Deputy Director of her beloved Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; “He doesn’t belong within 100 miles of the CFPB,” she said in today’s post) and sparkles as a role model to the future Katie Porters and AOCs of Congress, state and local governments and the world, including all those little girls to whom she made pinky promises.  Ideally, some of her “plans” will even make it into the Democratic platform to shape policies for the near future (such as her blueprint for a new disability plan based – as most of  her “plans” are – on intensive consultation with the people who have the most stake in her positions).

So now we’re stuck with Bernie and Joe, two septuagenarians battling it out for a chance to defeat yet another septuagenarian in November, who represent the left and center (right?) of the Democratic Party.  The general consensus seems to be that Joe is the “normalcy” candidate, while Bernie would prefer a revolution.  Our system of government is so broken – trump being as much a symptom as a cause – it could probably use a good blowing up and starting over.  But people are afraid, and I get it.  We just want to feel safe again.  We want what we EXPECT to happen to actually happen.  And above all, we want trump GONE.

I truly hope that, if Biden wins a majority of the delegates (which appears likely, although it ain’t over till it’s over), Bernie can convince his supporters to work together with the rest of the party to remove the orange stain from the Oval Office.  Perhaps it would take something as simple as letting the Bernie Bros have a powerful voice in the platform process, a kind of “horse trade”: If we work together across the invisible line dividing the party to elect a Democrat as the 46th president, maintain the majority in the House and actually gain four (or more?) seats in the Senate, the moderate winners will make (and KEEP) some promises to the left on matters where agreement is the strongest, such as with family leave and child care and humane and economically effective immigration policy, for instance, and save the Medicare-for-all health care battle for later, or as something to be worked on in installments rather than all at once.  Show trump and his Republican toadies who the REAL dealmakers are!  And also show how the American democracy is supposed to work – allowing the minority a voice, but respecting the will of the majority, until the next election rolls around to effectuate any necessary adjustments.  Because for the first time in four years, the majority will really BE the majority and not just a vocal segment of the minority that managed to, by some combination of voter apathy, Hillary hatred, garden-variety cheating and a Russian finger on the scale, elect this abomination who, in my mind, is not even worthy of a capital letter for his name.

Apologies – I didn’t really mean to be so rabidly political this week after last week’s screed on socialism.  Losing the hopeful optimism that Elizabeth Warren represented for me was a tough blow.  But, like Liz, I’m going to try to stay positive and see a way forward through the fog.


Some of my favorite stickers from my daughter’s collection.