Monthly Archives: May 2016

Communal Living

I recall thinking that, if I had money (if I won the lottery, say), I would like to live in a high rise on the Boardwalk with an ocean view.  But now that I’ve had a taste of apartment living, I seriously doubt that I could live with such paranoia and hypersensitivity 24/7.  I’ve discovered that I prefer having a stand-alone house so much more, even if, in the West End of Long Beach, the properties are so close together that my neighbor Kerrie can literally look right into my office from her living room.  At least you don’t have to share walls and ceilings and floors, not to mention common areas and air space.

I hear my upstairs neighbors so clearly sometimes, it’s almost as if they’re in the apartment with me.  I’m sure the lady below me must hear us loud and clear.  I actually met her on the afternoon I moved in, and she seemed cool enough, even leaving a bag of old towels for me to bring to the shelter, but the other day she actually made three loud bangs on her ceiling, in the middle of the damn day, because the dogs were chasing Raven and making a tad too much noise (although, in her defense, I know that, like me, she works from home, so she might have been on a professional call or something that required a little more quiet than usual.)

I have neighbors to the left of me, who I can hear in my kitchen through the vent (although I haven’t met them yet), but on my right is the stairwell, so thankfully that’s one fewer person we can bother.  And I surely smell the weed at least a few of my neighbors fire up in the evening.  One night I was walking the dogs and I heard a ton of coughing from a balcony above.  Well, I thought, I can’t imagine so many of them have tuberculosis; they must be smoking, even if I can’t actually SMELL the pot.  As soon as I rounded the corner to go back into the building through the side door (another accommodation I make in my efforts to disturb my fellow tenants as little as possible), however, a big fragrant wave washed over me.  Clearly, those folks are not nearly as sensitive as I am about what their neighbors might think!

It’s been three weeks and I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable here.  I’ve met a few of my 6th floor hallmates and can actually remember their names!  (Shocking, given my crappy recall for names.)  Most of the folks I’ve encountered in the elevators and hallways have been understanding, even welcoming, about the dogs, but there was one guy who put a little bit of fear into me.  He ran into us twice, the first time as he was unwedging his surfboard from the slow-as-molasses elevator, and of course Munchie lost his mind and started screaming at him.  The second time, even though he didn’t have the surfboard, the dogs must have gotten a weird vibe from him, because they immediately started yapping at him again.  He started by saying, “I don’t mean to be rude, but how do you have dogs in this building?”  He said he’d lived here for 18 years and they’d NEVER allowed dogs before, and he finished up this one-sided accusation/conversation with an ominous, “I’ll have to make a call tomorrow . . . “  I immediately called my realtor in a panic as soon as I got back into my apartment, certain that the guy was going to give me away and we would get kicked out mere days after going through the hassle of moving in.  But she talked me off the ledge and suggested that I call the management company myself, proactively, on Monday morning.  After all, they DID accept my pet fee and pet deposit (even if they think it’s only for a single pooch), and the MLS description of the building clearly states that it’s pet friendly (as long as you pay the fee, that is).  I haven’t seen the guy since then, but now at least I’m armed with evidence and some peace of mind when I do.

The bottom line is that I’m trying hard to be a considerate neighbor, which involves keeping the dogs in check and masking all the cat noise, as well as sneaking out their litter box droppings so no one can discover them in the trash.  (My friend Barbara assures me that no one will go through my garbage, but YOU NEVER KNOW.)  Things like being aware of when you run the dishwasher or vacuum, literally tiptoeing around and wearing appropriate footwear, being extra careful not to drop or bang things or slam cabinets or doors – you constantly have to consider the impact your actions will have on your fellow residents, especially the ones with whom you are sharing walls or ceilings or floors.  And you hope they will do the same for you.

Such an interesting mix of people live here, it seems:  women of a certain age, single guys (including my “not rude” neighbor) of varying ages, young couples, a few singleton toddlers and their moms.  But so far, I have not actually SEEN one other dog.  I’ve met other folks who admit to HAVING dogs, including a cute couple from the 5th floor who told me they were adopting a baby shih-tzu this past weekend.  I’m dying to see him!!  I wonder how Gizmo would react to a puppy?  It’s probably just as well that we haven’t run into any other dogs, though, given Gizmo’s lack of control.  I’ve been carrying Munchie, tucked under my arm like a football, in and out when we go for walkies so he doesn’t get spooked by things with wheels or surfboards or windows or other large objects, but Gizmo is more difficult to control when he goes on one of his rampages directed at other dogs.

I guess you can get used to any living environment, so long as it’s clean and safe.  I have a lovely balcony, facing north, and on a clear day you can see halfway up Long Island.  And you can’t beat the location, directly on the Long Beach Boardwalk.  Despite my best intentions, I haven’t managed to start my new exercise regime yet, mostly because I’ve been afraid to leave the dogs alone for extended periods of time but also because I had the wrong sneakers.  No more excuses!  I finally bought myself a new pair of Sketchers, although I wore the wrong socks with them over the weekend and now I have a blister on my heel – there’s always SOMETHING that prevents me from getting off my butt and engaging in some moderate physical activity.  True, the weather hasn’t been great, either; it’s been an unseasonably cool and rainy May.  But after this weekend, the Memorial Day “official” start of summer, I’ll definitely be riding my bike more and driving less (the parking situation in the East End is no better than in the West End), and hopefully I can start my power-walk routine – just half hour at a time to start; the dogs will be fine for short periods.  By the time I move back into my newly elevated home (with parking!  and storage!!), I should be in better shape than I’ve been all year, overcoming the stress and worry about my housing situation, grateful after months of communal living to be back in a home of my own.

My Daily Dread

I wish I could be one of those people who don’t allow things to bother them – how does the saying go?  Like water off a duck’s back?  And I’m not sure when it happened (although I suspect it had something to do with becoming a lawyer), but I’ve become one of those nervous Nellies who fret and stress about everything, especially things that are wholly out of my control.  Every potential (and actual) misstep is a personal failing, a flaw in my character and personhood.  I hate feeling like this, and yet I still do (which somehow makes me hate it even more).

Every weekday morning, when I open my eyes – usually about an hour before I really have to get out of bed, although I will frequently stretch that hour out for as long as I can – the first feeling that comes over me is dread for the day ahead.  (Significantly, it doesn’t happen on weekends, which is why I appreciate them so much.)  What am I going to screw up today?  Petting Gizmo while he snores next to me helps me self-soothe a bit, and I will sometimes play a game of spider solitaire to try to start my day with a literal win.  But once my feet hit the floor, my daily slog begins.

The worst days are the ones when I have to wake up at 8:10 a.m. to catch a 9:21 train to NYC.  I’ve managed to schedule it so that I take the first off-peak train (saving $5 on a one-way trip) and can park on Long Beach’s main drag (where you’re not allowed to park until after 9 a.m.) rather than having to cross my fingers and pray for a spot on a side street.  The train ride is actually relaxing – I’ll listen to my iPod and maybe nap or read (if I’m not feeling too tired) – but as soon as the train pulls into Penn Station, the knot forms in the pit of my stomach and the wave of commuter humanity surges:  from the train, to the platform, up the escalator or stairs, into the concourse, over to the 8th Avenue Subway to board the E train uptown to Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street.  Even at that more “civilized” rush hour of 10:15 a.m. (rather than, say, 8:45), the chaos still surrounds you.

On the sidewalk outside my building, I get a bacon and egg sandwich from my regular cart guy – although he appears gruff, he always seems happy to see me – and grab a soda and then head up to my office.  I appreciate having an office of my own but, because I only occupy it one day a week, it is often loaned out on the other days to visiting attorneys who will inevitably steal my pens and leave some random document behind.  I log on to the computer and tackle my to-do list, catch up with friends (although after nearly 14 years with the same firm, not many of my friends are there anymore), try to snag face time with my frantically busy boss some time before the end of the day, and then pack up my papers for the work-at-home week ahead and leave the office at a decent hour.

The eastbound commute is always more difficult – more expensive, more crowded, more chances for an aggravating delay.  If I catch the right train, I can stay in my seat all the way to Long Beach; if not, I have to change at Jamaica, which is always a pain.  If I’m lucky I’ll get a window seat in a three-seater facing forward; that way, because I get off at the last stop, I never have to bother the person in the aisle seat and no one has to bother me.  If I’m REALLY lucky, the middle seat will remain empty and I can wag my elbows and keep my bag next to me rather than on my lap.  Generally speaking, though, the train ride, while long (and provided there are no inexplicable technical difficulties), is somewhat relaxing after a stressful day.  I catch up on my pleasure reading and listen to music until the train ever so slowly pulls into the Long Beach station.  I pick up my chicken souvlaki platter at Abe’s Pitaria and, at long last, head for home.

I feel guilty, of course, leaving the poor animals alone all day – some days, between the workday and the commute, it turns out to be an 8- or 9-hour absence.  Now that I am in my new apartment, it concerns me even more because I don’t want the boys to be barking and/or whimpering all day when I wouldn’t even know about it unless someone complained.  I considered buying a device called the Cube, which is like a nanny-cam that allows you to interact with your pets remotely.  While it initially sounded like a good idea, at least to enable me to keep an eye on what the kids were doing while I was gone, I’m afraid if they heard my voice coming from it, they would freak out and bark even more.

Walking in the house after a day away always makes me nervous.  What have they done to the house?  Have they pooped/peed/vomited in unacceptable locations?  Have they eaten something they shouldn’t have?  Have they somehow harmed one another (although that has NEVER happened, I still fear it)?  Once I’ve made sure everyone is in one piece and the mess isn’t too terrible, I walk the dogs, change out of my work clothes and settle in for some TV.  Occasionally I will reluctantly get back on the computer to finish something I left undone or that arose after I escaped the office, but I always hate when that happens.   It’s like an encroachment, somehow.

By the end of the day, my dread is basically gone.  I don’t know why it has dissipated, or how, only that it has.  And when I get into bed at night, after giving peanut butter cookies to the boys and tossing around cat treats for the girls (Mimi in particular is very vocal about getting her share), I actually feel pretty good.  I try to recall at least one thing from my day that made me happy to write in my joybook, and I give thanks to the Higher Power for my comfy bed, my creatures, the roof over my head and other various gratitudes.  Bedtime is probably the high point of my day.  But somehow, between that comforting moment and the following morning, about an hour before my alarm is set to go off, the dread and worry return, unbidden, to darken another day.

Settling In and Some Thoughts About Death

Tonight marks one week that I’ve been in my new apartment.  All of us – the two dogs, the stealth cats and I – seem to be settling in, although it is a lot to get used to after living in my own stand-alone home for the past 12 years (less four months of shared space with my ex and his family after Superstorm Sandy).  Of course, the work hasn’t begun on my house yet, but that’s why a year’s lease might not turn out to be such a bad thing.  Now that I’ve got a new roof over my and my creatures’ heads, the construction involved with elevating and renovating my house can proceed at its own pace.  (It should go without saying that the work must actually PROCEED at some point, but no need to worry about that just yet).

We’re still surrounded by boxes; in fact, I think some things – like the pictures that used to cover my walls – are going to stay in boxes until we move back in.  I don’t mind the lack of decoration, as long as it’s only temporary.  I confess that I am one of those people who like to be surrounded by personal touches that reflect my personality and the things that I love.  For example, when I’m at my computer and drift off into thought, I often stare at the bulletin board on the wall over my screen.  What’s on my bulletin board?  Well, here’s a photo (the bulletin board is currently not ON the wall at the moment, but that is one thing that I think I am going to end up hanging):  an Obama finger puppet, an illustration of famous noses, colorful ball magnets, a list of my monthly bills, some inspirational quotes –you know, the usual.

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I wanted the move to serve as kind of a purge so I could get rid of things that I don’t use or want anymore, but the problem is that I have a tendency to keep things even when I have no apparent use or want for them.  I think that’s something I inherited from my mother, although I internally fight against it.  Moving my mother into the basement apartment at my sister’s house from a four-bedroom home in which she had lived for over 40 years was a trauma I want to avoid re-enacting at all costs.  There was so much stuff in her house that she had forgotten what was even there.  A lot of it was rusted and rotted and moldy and gross, buried for years under still more assorted detritus.  At one point, the extra bedroom (the “spare room”) was so full there was only a small path from the door to about halfway into the room where you could basically survey the entire junk collection and possibly even reach what you might be looking for at the time.  Her basement was in much the same condition, and don’t even get me started on her closets!

I remember she had a bright yellow jersey jumpsuit from the ‘70s in her closet that she refused – REFUSED – to part with, to the point of angry tears.  We probably should have called in the “Hoarding:  Buried Alive” folks.  It was a supremely painful process, but we finally got her out, and there was very little space in her new apartment for her to hold on to her precious trash (although, of course, she still managed to collect and retain enough crap to piss off my brother-in-law, to the point where he accused her of being a fire hazard).

I went to put some yellow carnations at her and my grandmother’s niches on Mother’s Day, although my feelings about death are fluid.  I tend to think that when you die, you’re dead, adios, nothing, nada, no more.  (Jon Snow on Game of Thrones, after returning from the dead [SORRY- FAILED SPOILER ALERT!], said basically the same thing.)  But I’d certainly be open to considering that there is an alternate plane where our individual consciousnesses (is that the true plural?) kind of hang out until there’s some other use for us (i.e., reincarnation), or maybe even another planet in the vast solar system where souls go to be reconfigured after they die on Earth.

The issue I’ve always had with reincarnation is, why don’t we remember our prior lives?  Years ago I was past-life regressed via hypnotism.  As I recall, it was an extremely odd experience.  I went in very skeptically, and emerged no less skeptical, but SOMETHING clearly happened to me there.  It might have just been the calming effect of the hypnosis, conducted by a strange man in a hotel room with a gentle touch and a mesmerizing voice.  That I even trusted a total stranger to be alone with me, in the dark, in a random Sheraton in NYC was in itself highly unusual for me, and the process probably cost a sum of money that I definitely couldn’t afford at the time on my paltry editorial assistant’s salary.  But for some reason I wanted to give it a go.  One of these days, I’ll look through my journals to see what I recounted there about the episode because my memory of it is spotty, but the bottom line is that I did actually have a couple of “memories”, or “fantasies”, or “involuntarily made-up scenarios” – who knows what they were, really – that might have been me remembering prior lives.  One scene involved me sitting on a fire escape in a slip dress in some early 20th century city, crying about my brother (or boyfriend) who hadn’t come home from the war.  Another featured me as a young man, riding a horse in some medieval glen – as I recall, I think trusted that “memory” less because it was sort of King Arthur-ish; perhaps I had seen Excalibur recently – seemingly upset about a female (my sister?) who had died.  In each instance, I wept, openly and uncontrollably, and suffered an inexplicable depth of sadness.  The hypnotist guy explained that we’re able to pick up on those past-life memories that involve the most deeply felt emotions, but otherwise we have simply forgotten the day-to-day minutiae of our former lives.

The other thing that confuses me about the endurance of our consciousness is where it is HOUSED, for lack of a better term.  When I was an assistant editor at OMNI Magazine and running their fledgling OMNI Online service (one of the first-ever magazines available over the Interwebs!), I once had a long-running online debate with cryonics proponents from an organization called ALCOR Life Extension Foundation and even wrote an article about it for OMNI Magazine (with Paul Bagne, “Souls on Ice:  Cryoscience,” OMNI Magazine, October 1986).  These folks spend thousands of dollars to preserve their physical bodies (or, in some cases, just their brains) with the expectation that some future civilization will not only develop the science needed to reanimate them but also to cure whatever might have killed them in the first place.  The whole thing has always been ridiculous to me, but these people are passionate – perhaps bordering on the fanatical – about it.  In fact, they even managed to convince Tim Urban, creator of the brilliant “Wait But Why” website [] and an expert in procrastination (see “Procrastination Station”, 10/14/15), who went into his exploration as a doubter but came out kind of converted.  [Tim Urban, “Why Cryonics Makes Sense”,

But I digress.  My point is, even though I believe my mother and my grandmother are not somehow resident where their ashes are, held in niches in Pinelawn Memorial Park, on either side of my grandfather’s, I still go there and put flowers at the foot of the wall below the stones engraved with their names and years of birth and death.  I still say hi and talk to them, because I promised my mother on her literal deathbed that I would and because it can’t possibly hurt.  Besides which, YOU NEVER KNOW:  their spirits could be hovering nearby.  Or even just the fact that I am thinking about them – no matter their location, on whatever astral plane – evokes their souls, wherever they might be.

* * *

Speaking of death – SPOILERS AHEAD!! – Jon Snow is no longer dead on Game of Thrones.  It was inevitable.  He is the hero whose journey involved a descent into the netherworld, as all good heroes do.  I don’t have my copy of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces handy – it’s in a box somewhere, of course – or my Book of Tarot, which follows the journey of the Fool down into the underworld and back again in cards such as Death, the Hanged Man and the Wheel of Fortune (not that HORRIBLE game show for idiots that I refuse to have on my TV), where love and death are equally dispensed but it all eventually comes back around again.  The surprising thing, though, is that Jon Snow said he saw NOTHING when he died:  no heaven, no wise advisor telling him it wasn’t his time.  Of course, this must give him a whole new perspective on life, knowing that there’s nothing waiting for him on the other side.

One final GOT thought, this time about the polar opposite Snow bastard, Ramsay Bolton.  In the days after the weekly GOT installment, I am so filled with excitement about what I’ve seen, I want to read and watch everything I can about it, spending way too much time scrolling through the recaps and thought pieces in the days following the Sunday night episode as a way to keep myself engaged while waiting the long 7 days till my next GOT fix.  For example, the website has a new article every day by the members of their editorial staff looking at different aspects of that week’s episode or the show (or books) more generally.  Last week there was an article saying that the brutality on GOT was becoming gratuitous, and that Ramsay’s “ultraviolence” was excessive and pointless.  I disagree.  In fact, I use the term “ultraviolence” purposely and specifically as a reference to one of my favorite movies of all time, A Clockwork Orange.  At least Ramsay has a motive for his monstrosities:  to retain his power and hold on the North by instilling fear in others.  Alex in Clockwork had NO motive for his ultraviolence other than, basically, boredom and being the youthful product of a perverted social system.

The two scenes in episode 2 (“Home”) featuring Ramsay were masterfully creepy, I thought.  First, while his murder of his father Roose Bolton may not have been a total shock, because of the way the scene was staged, you’re not exactly sure at first who has stabbed whom.  Ramsay’s faced showed as much pain and surprise as Roose’s.  And then, as Ramsay walks through the courtyard with the clueless Walda carrying her swaddled newborn, the dread you feel – you KNOW he has to kill at least the baby, if not both of them, but how?  Was he going to drop/throw/stab the baby when he asked to hold him? Then, when he brought them into the dog kennels, you wondered, is he going to toss the baby and/or Walda into a cage?  But no – the action was drawn out, torturing the viewer as much as Walda, as Ramsay methodically opened all the cages, one by one, and then let out a low, horrifying whistle, after which all we hear are poor fat Walda’s tortured screams.  It was INEVITABLE.  Roose had created a monster from the start, and then kept baiting him.  You would have thought Roose was smarter than to be so easily victimized but he might have been blinded by his own smug superiority.

And you ALSO know that Walder Frey is not going to just sit back and take the murder of his child and grandchild.  Just look at what he did to the Starks because Robb broke his promised betrothal to one of the many Frey daughters!  For Ramsay to actually KILL his heir and link to the North – well, despicable Walder Frey will not let that stand.  Sic the sociopaths on one another!  Root for them BOTH to die!  (Yikes! – So bloodthirsty!  See what effect GOT has had on me?)

The Move

It’s night two in my new apartment and I’m sitting here in the dark.  The power has gone out again.  By my count, it’s happened at least three times since yesterday evening, when the movers finally left and I was on my own.  There is no apparent explanation.  This on top of (a) the elevator being out all morning, which meant I had to CARRY my two dogs up 6 flights of stairs – I am in such terrible shape, it took me literally a half hour to recover – and (b) the announcement today that there would be no hot water between 9 and 12 tomorrow.  Ah, high-rise living!

Believe me, this is no palace, but I was just happy to have a place that accepted my dog (yes, I know, I have TWO dogs, not to mention four cats, but they only KNOW about the one dog at the moment).  Yes, the dogs bark at every little noise, and have carried on who knows how long on the two brief occasions I’ve left them alone in the apartment.  But it’s certainly not a third-world country with random power outages due to crumbling infrastructure.  Or maybe that IS what’s causing the problem.

The last ten days or so have been a stress-inducing nightmare.  I’ve been literally worrying about EVERYTHING, with the possible exception of actual billable (and bill-paying) work, for which I am enormously grateful, although I will suffer the consequences on my next payday.  I packed and cleaned, and yet there remained so much to still be packed (by the movers) and cleaned (by me, eventually – I’ll probably head over to my house tomorrow and take the dogs with me – to wash some floors and leave the place at least in somewhat decent shape before all the construction nonsense begins (who knows when).  Now that all the utilities have been – or are in the process of being – turned off, if my contractor would only call me back . . .

The move began technically on Monday, when I brought Munchie and two of the cats over to my ex-husband Ian’s house.  I had washed all of my sheets and blankets and towels, given that I would only have access to a shared and ancient washing machine and dryer combo once I moved in, so the two remaining cats, Gizmo and I shared a single blanket.  I tossed and turned, barely sleeping during the five hours I was actually in bed, having stayed up way too late and needing to wake up early to bring the remaining menagerie to Ian’s and be back to the house by the time the movers showed up at 9 a.m.  Fortunately for me, Ian decided to stay home from work – again, for which I was hugely grateful – which alleviated my concerns about dealing with the animals and also the movers’ second stop at his house to drop off my daughter’s bed and some other items of furniture that she was planning to take down to HER new apartment in West Virginia later this summer.

Movers came right on time, got a parking spot (amazingly) directly in front of my door, and the packing and moving began.  But the process of doing so unearthed a shameful amount of dust and animal hair – so much for all my pre-move cleaning! – for which I kept apologizing.  (Hence the aforementioned clean-up required tomorrow.)

Moving was the easy part, comparatively, although it rained all damn day.  (Shout out to Jim Laria and his team at On-Site Logistics!!)  Now I am left with boxes upon boxes of a mind-boggling amount of (sorry – there’s no other word for it) SHIT, some of which I will probably not even unpack, so I need to find a corner to stack picture boxes and crates of books and journals and other decorative nonsense, including at least a dozen each of wine glasses and coffee mugs, neither of which I have ever used (or plan to use in the future).  Plus I don’t have a couch at the moment – I left my cruddy, broken-down old sectional, matching chair and coffee table behind as unsalvageable – so I at least need to clear a large enough space for a queen-sized Jennifer Convertibles sleeper sofa by the time it gets delivered next week.  I’m almost glad they couldn’t get it here right away:  Where would I possibly put it??

And then there was the issue of getting the animals in without creating a scene.  Since I only have two cat carriers, I had to do it in shifts.  Again, Ian was able to help to get everyone settled in, and as far as I know, we were not detected.  The dogs, of course, were going to be seen (and heard) eventually, so I had a story all worked out for how I would explain the existence of TWO dogs when I only indicated ONE in my lease application.  But now the dogs are out of the bag, so to speak, with the blackout and my hallway chat with some neighbors while they carried on inside.  “Yes, those are my little noisemakers,” I had to admit.  And you know what?  No one seems to care.  One of my neighbors (I think – she didn’t leave a note, but she’s the only one I told about my volunteering at the shelter) even dropped off a bag of old towels, I assume as a donation.

Last night I took a Tylenol PM for my aching back and to help me sleep, even though I figured I was so exhausted sleep would not be an issue.  I was wrong.  I basically woke up every hour – I don’t have a curtain on my bedroom window so it was actually quite bright – and every time my eyes opened, there was a new cat on my pillow.  This is unusual, because back in the old house, usually only the dogs and Raven slept in the bed.  But I guess Raven was willing to share her space and the dogs weren’t freaking out, so Savannah, Luna and even old lady Mimi took turns sleeping with me.  It was quite nice, actually, in a “security blanket” kind of way, even if I wasn’t doing much actual sleeping.  (Needless to say, I missed my usual Tuesday blog posting, but I’ve permitted myself a two-day pass.)

Today I’ve spent the day getting organized, going to an ill-timed dentist appointment to get my dentures fixed, dropping off my old cable equipment (which the installation guy was supposed to take with him yesterday, but didn’t) and picking up a few necessary items at the grocery store (like a broom).  I’ve made some headway with the boxes, and now I’ve been able to catch up on my blogging, thanks to a battery-operated laptop, although I won’t be able to post until the electricity – and the Internet – returns.  I was just about to make myself some dinner when the power went out, so I’m a little hungry, but I think I could afford to miss a meal.  Maybe I’ll just take this opportunity to GET SOME REAL SLEEP!!

I’ve been telling people who sympathize with me about how tough the next few months are going to be, “Well, I guess I just have to think of it as an adventure!”  So far, that’s pretty much what’s it’s been, but I certainly wouldn’t mind a little old-fashioned normalcy.