All posts by nanluke81

About nanluke81

Life Considered is a blog about life on Planet Earth and having consideration for all the creatures that share it. And occasionally hockey, and music, and whatever other absurdity or amazingness catches my fancy every week. Life Considered is written by Nancy Lucas, a person who knows a little about a lot and cares deeply about our planet and its inhabitants.

Goodbye Boys

I was fully expecting to post here in celebration of a Rangers’ win in Game 6 of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but such was not to be.  It was very clear from the outset that they were missing some key ingredient, the focus and energy they needed to win a game they had to win to stave off a miserable end to a moderately successful regular season and build on a quality performance in the first round in dispatching the Montreal Canadiens.

They frankly did not deserve to win, in spite of a couple of spurts of excitement for fans desperate for a bit of heart and effort, on home ice, in a must-win game.  But whatever they needed wasn’t there.  They just didn’t have the will.  Ottawa, on the other hand, rose to the occasion, following their game plan to a T, making the blocks and scoring the goals required to win.  The Rangers, alas, did not.

All day – actually, ever since they lost game 5 on Saturday afternoon, a contest they should have won, that they actually earned but could not nail shut – I’ve had a feeling of what could only be described as ambivalence.  I’ve wanted to feel excited but there was something not quite right in my gut.  And then I watched them come out in the first period without a lick of urgency and give up two goals without an answer despite three power plays, failing miserably to get through the neutral zone while playing defense like shredded linen.  It frankly made me felt a little sick to my stomach.

Second period, I waited for the spark.  It was sorely missing until more than halfway through the period, when finally it came, in the form of the team’s living sparkplug, Mats Zuccarello (who had earlier gotten bloodied by a high stick from his very best friend who now plays for the other team, earning four minutes of power play time that the Rangers summarily wasted), made a beautiful pass to Mika Zibanejad and the boys were on the board.  But it didn’t take long for that happy balloon to burst when the best defenseman in the NHL – and in this series – Erik Karlsson made an all-world play to score the eventual winning goal after breaking up the Rangers’ two-on-one in his own zone.

There was a brief moment early in the third period when it looked like they might tie things up.  Darian and I, watching side by side on the coach, in unison, screamed “YEAH!” when Chris Krieder did what we always want Chris Krieder to do (but which he doesn’t do often enough) and scored a gorgeous runaway-freight-train breakaway goal.  But another failed power play and a tightening up by the Senators – who, it must be said, played exactly the kind of game they needed to play to win and were the better team all night – and time ran out on the Blueshirts.  I was hoping that there would be some sort of karmic justice, where the Rangers would come back to tie the game in the last minute and then win in overtime, just like the Sens had done to them in Games 2 and 5, even though the Rangers were the better team in those games and deserved to win them.  But the hockey gods had other plans for the Rangers, and the Rangers themselves couldn’t rise to the challenge.  THE END.

I don’t like to watch the post-mortems when the Rangers lose, so I don’t know what any of them had to say for themselves.  There was no explanation, no justification for an entire team to just completely choke, to be unable to match a stellar effort by the opponent with one of their own to put together a playoff game for the fans at MSG to remember.  I’m sure I’ve written before in one of my many blog posts about the Rangers how mystifying I find it when an entire team kind of sucks simultaneously.  Could no one – not one of the 18 skaters and one goaltender on the ice at any one time – put the team on his back and carry them forward in this most crucial of games?

I’ve noticed recently that I’m just not as enthusiastic about the Rangers or professional hockey in general as I used to be, even during this 2016-17 season when the boys had some good stretches of exciting hockey.  But during the last couple of months, the Rangers were complacent, content to sit in the playoff position that would enable them to cross over into the “weaker” division.  They started well in the first round; although they threw up a real stinker of a Game 3 in the Garden, they were able to find their collective heart and spine and string together three convincing, mature victories over Montreal.  This second series against the underdog Ottawa Senators has been a different story, however, with the late-game defeats on the road (after having been such a strong road team all season long) even though they outplayed their opponents for at least 55 minutes out of 60.  Problem was, it was those last five minutes that cost them.

I’ve begun to question the value of sports in general.  I mean, I know it’s an entertainment alternative, just like movies, Broadway theater, opera and ballet, rock concerts and stand-up comedy jams – just another way for humans to enjoyably spend their time, attention and lots and lots of money.  But somehow people get really invested in sports, identifying with the individual athletes and teams to the point of obsession.  I’ve often described myself as a “die-hard Ranger fan” (what does that MEAN, actually, “die-hard fan”?  That I’m willing to die for my team, like a soldier for her country?)  When I was working full time and had more disposable income, I actually invested in a partial season ticket plan for a couple of years, ten games a year at the Garden.  The seats weren’t great but it was a fun thing to do with my kid, who I had always wanted to inculcate as a fellow Ranger fan, and we got invited to events like a “Bowling with the Blueshirts” night and meet-and-greets with Rangers alumni.

I can’t really explain my diminished enthusiasm.  There are quite a few players I like on the current team, and for the most part they had a good season.  But there is some piece missing, some spark, that has made hockey not as much fun for me to watch anymore.  Perhaps it’s because other aspects of my life have moved to the forefront and have left less room for things like listening to Marek v. Wyshynski podcasts or ravenously reading every article after a win.  Maybe I fear they are destined to be an also-ran for the foreseeable future and their proverbial “window” has closed.  I’ve loved Henrik Lundqvist for a long time and he is unquestionably the best goalie the Rangers have ever had, but for the past couple of seasons, there’s been something almost bratty and petulant about him.  You can see it in his body language on the ice, the way he yells at his teammates or throws up his arms in frustration.  I know it’s valued as intensity, and everyone says he’s the most competitive guy they know, but it’s beginning to bug me a little.  And lots of other Rangers have failed to live up to their advertised potential (Rick Nash and Derek Stepan come to mind), or have outlived their usefulness (Dan Girardi and Mark Staal on the blue line, for example).

Ultimately, I am left disappointed, like I have been every year since 1994 and like I probably will be for years to come.  So now I’ll pulling for the Washington Capitals, a perennial also-ran team themselves, although they have to get through the injury-plagued Pittsburgh Penguins first.  But maybe the answer is to invest a lot less of my limited time in the New York Rangers.  Hockey can be fun once in awhile, but I don’t have to live and breathe it anymore.  (But check this space in October – you never know.  I say basically the same thing every year.)

Four Thoughts

Much to my chagrin, my writing lately has been suffering from a few blocks.  One of them is a seeming inability to hold on to a single train of thought for any extended period of time.  I don’t know what the cause is; it’s probably just an excuse that I’m making to myself to explain away my lack of writing.  But I WANT to write, I WANT to get back on the blogging track.  So this week I’m posting a prime example of what I’ve been suffering from:  four separate thought trains that have been running through my mind at various times, but none of which I’ve been able to develop into something larger (nor has something larger appeared in my brain to take over instead).

(1)  I’ve been awash in emails from politicians and organizations that want me to sign petitions or answer survey questions, all of which support the anti-Trump agenda, and I am in total agreement with them – with one exception: MONEY.  I do not have a dime of spare money right now to contribute to a candidate or a cause, and that’s always the last page in the survey or the petition request:  “Can you donate (a) $5 or (b) more?”  (I note there’s never an option for “(c) Sorry, can’t contribute at this time but I’m fully behind you in every OTHER way.”)  Which raises the question:  All that money that goes to support candidates and lobbying efforts – where does it actually go, and what exactly is it used for?  And how does a recipient of all that money account for spending it?  Knowing a little bit about how non-profit organizations work, I am aware that even the smallest grant requires reams of periodic reports to explain where every penny was spent (not to mention the detailed measurement metrics of outcomes and line-item budgets that go into a request for such sometimes measly funds).  Who keeps track of the campaign contributions and the hundreds of thousands of dollars poured by lobbying behemoths like Big Pharma, for instance, into an organization like the one in Arizona whose sole purpose was evidently to oppose the recreational marijuana initiative?  Or do those funds even need to be accounted for?  Is it like a blank check?  And what actions do these organizations undertake – with or without coffers full of Big Pharma money?  Ads, transportation, printing and copying, phone bills — what could possibly cost so much money?  I mean, clearly the denizens of Big Pharma have more money than they know what to do with but, of course, rather than lowering drug prices for the needy public, they’d prefer to spend huge sums to fight unnecessary political battles and create even more unnecessary and inane advertising campaigns.  Could the blank checks be nothing more than – dare I say it? – bribes to have political influence, to convince politicians and also the public that whatever Big Pharma wants, Big Pharma should get. But who cares about the public interest, really?  To Big Pharma, regular people are mostly idiots but are valuable for putting even more money into the pockets of the 1 percent (who don’t already have enough, right?).  I’ve always said that I hate money, and this is yet another reason why.

(2)  I know I am not alone in thinking that current U.S. administration and Russia were in collusion on the Syrian chemical attack as a way to deflect from the election intrusion / ongoing influence mess.  I also know it sounds like a cynical tinfoil hat conspiracy theory, and an unimaginably tragic way to do it, but I wouldn’t put it past them.  What’s the cost?  The horrific deaths of a couple dozen Syrian children?  We’re all just pawns in their global realpolitik game.  Those “beautiful babies” were probably going to die anyway in one way or another, whether as a casualty of the interminable war itself or by drowning in the Mediterranean trying to escape.

There was an email from the resistance watchdog group Countable the other day asking “us” (i.e., right-minded people) what advice we would give Trump.  They required you to make a video, which I’m not equipped to do, but I did have some advice for the ersatz president:

(a)          RESIGN.

(b)          Divest all of your business holdings or put them in a truly blind trust, run by someone who is not a friend or family member (and especially not your children).

(c)           Release your taxes if you’ve got nothing to hide.

(d)          RESIGN.

I still find it hard to believe that so many people in this country were conned by this bozo (and continue to be – a recent poll said something like 96% of the people who voted for him are still behind him, despite his daily display of idiocy).  He is in a position of unimaginable power (especially given his party’s dominance in Congress and now the Supreme Court), and yet he is mind-bogglingly ignorant, incapable of thinking about anything outside of his own self-interested perspective.  He is, literally, a danger to democracy and the health and safety of the American people.  I saw a powerful post the other day by a guy named John Pavlovitz called “Let the Record Show” [http://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/01/19/let-the-record-show/?utm_campaign=coschedule&utm_source=facebook_page&utm_medium=John+Pavlovitz] that exactly captured my sentiments about him.  He is horrible in every way and at least once a day I am sickened by something he or one of his cohort has done.

(3)  This has been a very weird hockey season for me. I have barely listened to the Marek v. Wyshynksi podcast and I don’t obsessively read every article I can find on the interwebs, even after a win.  The Rangers had moments of real brilliance during the regular season, but especially toward the end they were playing some pretty damn boring hockey.  Maybe it’s because they had sewn up their preferred playoff spot quite a while ago (even if not officially, it was a reasonably foregone conclusion), crossing over into the Atlantic Division to play the “weaker” competition.  Their malaise on home ice has been pretty embarrassing at times.  So now that the playoffs have begun, when I normally would be pumped to the gills and thinking about it every waking minute, it almost became an afterthought. (Well, not exactly, but Rangers hockey hadn’t been generating the enthusiasm in me it once did.)

But in the first round, against the Montreal Canadians, they managed to regroup to play some impressive hockey after a real stinker of a Game 3, their first game in the Garden, which scared all of us fans into thinking that maybe the MSG curse was real.  In fact, I would describe their last three games in the series – all wins – as “mature.”  It probably has something to do with the reams of playoff experience this team (led by their coach) has, so they know what to expect.  That is just one of what I believe are their four keys to their success, which have been ignored by seemingly every professional pundit (and even the amateurs), even considering that I’ve been reading and listening to less commentary than usual.  When I do read and listen, no one ever gives the Rangers credit for these things:

(a)          The aforementioned playoff experience – according to The Hockey News, in the past five years, New York has played in 13 playoff series, better than Pittsburgh (11) and Los Angeles (12) and tied with Chicago. [Ryan Kennedy, “Rangers Mix of Depth, Youth and Experience Makes Them A Playoff Darkhorse,” The Hockey News, 3/13/17, http://www.thehockeynews.com/news/article/rangers-mix-of-depth-youth-and-experience-makes-them-a-playoff-darkhorse%5D.

(b)          The fact that, all season long, their play has improved as the game has gone on.  Look at their scoring this season by period:  first period, 62 goals; second period, 85 goals; third period, 101 goals, which led the NHL pretty much all season, only overtaken at the end by Pittsburgh with 103.  And yes, you’d like to see a better start out of them, especially at home, but a solid second and third period will overcome a less-than-stellar first period almost every time.

(c)           They were the best road team in the NHL, at 27-12-2, which really helps when you have your struggles at home.

(d)           They have incredible scoring depth.  I admit that I have heard this from some folks lately, particularly since AV inserted the Russian rookie Pavel Buchnevich into the lineup and now is able to roll four lines that can all generate offense.  They can match up against anyone, because if their first, second and third lines get nullified by the opposition, up comes the fourth line – with the two dependable Swedes, Oscar Lindbergh and Jasper Fast, and speedster and free-agent bargain Michael Grabner, who gets at least one breakaway a game – to chip in a goal or two.

So even though no one gave the Rangers much of a chance to be the ultimate champs this year, and while I am unabashedly biased, I think they’re in a great position to go all the way this year (finally!)  1994 was a long time ago, and King Henrik isn’t getting any younger.  It’s the last diamond he needs for his crown.

As a purist, I appreciate that the best hockey is made up of equal parts excitement and frustration in crazy momentum swings, but I also enjoy dominant performances, where a team is firing on all cylinders, making the opposition look like minor leaguers, in total control in every area of the ice.  During the playoffs, you don’t see too many of those types of games because the teams are so evenly matched – these are the best of the best, the last teams standing after a grueling 82-game season.  Of course the competition is going to be more fierce, the skill levels more balanced.  There’s also got to be some adversity at certain points in a playoff season, where you think your team is done but then they rise from the ashes, or the ultimate prize wouldn’t have such great value in the end.  It’s just one series of excellent hockey after another, four series in all, until you finally get to raise the Cup.  Man, I love playoff hockey!

(4)  I have recently been revisiting (in my mind) the “why” of this blog, now that my second anniversary has passed. It was a creative outlet, to be sure, and a promise to myself to “get my writing out into the world,” even if no one in the world (or very few people) actually read it.  Apart from a few posts of a link on Facebook, I’ve never really publicized it; in fact, I’m still a little afraid to, even though I think some of the stuff I’ve written in this blog over the past two years is decent enough.  But is it decent enough to actually convince someone to publish it more widely?  Is there anyone outside of my small circle of friends and family (and a few loyal WordPress compatriots) that would pay money to read it?  This is highly doubtful.  So there my aspirations lie (or die, as the case may be).

But it got me thinking about why people do things in life, and I’ve come to the conclusion that people do things for two reasons:  (a) they enjoy it or (b) it’s a means to an end, which is usually enjoyment.  I certainly have enjoyed writing my blog, although sometimes I feel self-imposed pressure to PRODUCE SOMETHING WEEKLY.  On the one hand, it’s good for me to push myself; on the other, there are no rules here!  This is a safe place, a free and easy space, meant to be enjoyable – and it truly IS.  I love to write my blog posts.  Sometimes they flow like water; sometimes they’re more work, especially if I don’t have a particular topic in mind (all the more reason to have a “stockpile” of blog posts that don’t necessarily need to be topical or timely).

I also started my blog because I presume that some of the things that I have to say are important.  I believe I have a positive, progressive world view that I hope/wish more people on this planet would share.  In other words, if more people thought like me, the world would be a much better place for more people.  And if I could change one mind, get one mind to think differently about something important (or even not so important, but at least important to that one mind), then I would feel as if I had accomplished something good on the karmic scale.  It’s a little frustrating knowing that I’m always preaching to the choir, but maybe, someday, someone will read something I’ve written and, as Urge Overkill once famously sang in “Sister Havana”, “come around to my way of thinking.”

The State of the Brain Address

So much for re-dedicating myself to my writing.  I’ve really fallen down on the blog job.  Weeks go by with nary a word being written in my blog (nor in my journal – I’m lucky if I can scribble a sentence at the end of the day saying how mad I am at myself for not writing).  My sense of discombobulation has lessened little (if at all) now that I am back in my house.  I look around me and all I see are boxes to be unpacked and windows to wash and papers to organize and I feel so overwhelmed that I’m incapable of doing much of anything.

On the financial side of life, the major money-suck of the house elevation project has thankfully ended and recovery has begun.  It helps that the management company was able to rent my apartment right away, so I’m no longer on the hook for rent through the end of May and I will even get my full security deposit back.  I finally received my overdue mortgage assistance payments for January and February (on the last day of March) and, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be getting one more payment – although who knows when (but then it can be a pleasant surprise!).  New York Rising reduced the last installment of my grant money because the reality of my house didn’t match my architect’s plans, so that means I won’t have as much of a surplus after paying off the contractor – that is, if my contractor ever actually finishes my house.

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That’s another source of frustration, and I think it’s universal (it’s certainly happened to me with each of my prior construction projects):  When a contractor only has a few things left to do to finish a job, he suddenly disappears and stops taking your calls, or if he does respond to your pleas, he only answers a select few of your questions.  It would take, literally, a DAY to finish what needs doing in the house, but for some reason they can’t spare a crew for a DAY to do it.  I’m trying to be understanding and patient, but I’ve been in the house for three weeks now and I’m still waiting for a shower enclosure in the master bathroom and some patching and cleaning in the entry foyer (what I’ve taken to calling my “lobby”), so I can get the painter in and be DONE.  Darian will be back from school for the summer in a couple of weeks and I’m pretty sure she’s going to want to take a shower at some point.

As always, my job is a source of great stress for me.  I am grateful that they sort of left me alone during the week I was moving, because dealing with the irrelevant nonsense that comprises my job responsibilities was the last thing I wanted to think about.  But in actuality I was only hurting myself by not bringing in any dollars.  And believe me, dollars are NECESSARY.  I am so deep in debt that the bank where I have all my accounts and a mortgage won’t give me a home equity line of credit until I literally pay off ALL of it, which would mean there was little left over for actual home improvements (i.e., doing the “cosmetic” stuff on the front of the house – right now, it’s just plain gray concrete), which sort of defeats the purpose of getting a home equity line of credit in the first place.  It essentially becomes a consolidation loan.  I was certainly intending to use the HELOC to pay down a big chunk of my high-interest debt (paying off debt at 5% interest rather than 20% is a no brainer, even for someone as brain-challenged as I am at the moment), but I didn’t plan on paying ALL of it as a condition to receiving less than two-thirds of the loan amount I had originally asked for.  AAAGH.  I hate money so much.

Other things occupying my brain at the moment include my new foster baby.  He came with the name of Acro (like “acrophobia” – fear of heights – because according to the geniuses who surrendered him and his brothers and sister to Posh Pets, he used to jump off furniture and demonstrated NO fear of heights), but I didn’t like that name, and he didn’t seem to respond to it anyway, so I’ve started calling him Marco.  (I considered calling him Fabio, because he’s got these flowing golden locks and a dopey look on his face, but I figured Marco sounds a bit like “Acro” so he wouldn’t have to make that big of an adjustment to get used to a new name.)  He is a doll, a cuddlebug , a sweet-natured boy.  But he is clueless.  He was never leash-walked and wants no part of it, even though he watches longingly as Munchie and Gizmo get taken out for walkies a few times a day.  He is reasonably well paper-trained, but that hasn’t stopped him from peeing all over the house.  That’s basically because Gizmo lifts his leg on furniture and boxes and plastic bags – basically wherever he thinks a spritz of piss might be needed – despite my best efforts to keep him from doing it in the new house.  I even got to the point of putting a male diaper on him, but it irritated this little hernia ball he has on his belly so I’ve stopped using it.  I’m going to have to resume, though, hernia ball or no, because Marco has to pee everywhere Gizmo has peed, and vice versa.  I’m in a constant state of frustration, with my paper towels and trigger-spray bottle of Nature’s Miracle Hard Wood Cleaner and No More Marking (which frankly does not work).  I have to find some kind of magic formula that I can mix up and spray in all the problem locations that would prevent the boys from peeing in that spot once and for all.  I fortunately found a great, earth-friendly rug cleaner, and I’ve taken to actually closing my bedroom door, which Munchie (who likes to hide under the bed) and Raven (who enjoys luxuriating on top) are not terribly happy about, but it’s an easy enough solution to keep the door closed.  I’ve also blocked off Darian’s room so the cats can get in there but the dogs can’t, but now the cats are leaving their own “marks” in the form of hairballs and little bits of chewed-up plastic bag drawstrings.  I had originally thought I would put the litter boxes in the utility room, which you access by walking through the master bedroom and master bathroom, but (a) there’s a fire door on the utility room that doesn’t stay open on its own so I would have to get a heavy-duty door stop and (b) Darian said she really doesn’t want to have to keep her door open all the time, which she would have to do if the cats’ litter boxes were in the utility room.  She wants me to keep the litter boxes down in the “lobby”, but then guests would be greeted by litter box smell as soon as they walk in.  As it stands now, the litter boxes are in the kitchen, along with all the wee-wee pads.  With the exception of Munchie, who is ALWAYS on target with his squirting, Gizmo and Marco will inevitably miss the pad, so even though they ostensibly wee on the wee-wee pads, I’m still always forced to clean up the perimeter with my ever-present paper towels (I should buy stock in Bounty!) and the Swiffer.  Who said a kitchen was for food?  In my house, it’s the pet toilet.   So there’s that.

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Not to mention all the nonsense on the news about Russia and Syria and this horrible, horrible Trumpian episode in our nation’s history.  I’ve been trying to limit my Facebook scrolling, and I just delete all the emails from members of congress and progressive organizations trying to get me to donate (I cannot – see above re financial constraints), but I did invest in a subscription to the Washington Post (gotta support the legitimate print and digital media!) and I do follow my Organize, Plan, Act Facebook page on a regular basis.  It’s all just so disheartening.  These people – not just Trump and his minions, but McConnell, Sessions, Pruitt, Ryan, just to name a few – are just so mean-spirited and regressive.  So much time and effort wasted in dialing back the progress made on so many fronts during the Obama years just because it was Obama who did it.  They never ask if it really NEEDS to be done, or if it’s any good for the country, including the constituents who were conned by Trump into voting for him.  Consider, for instance, removing the requirements that car manufacturers have to meet certain MPG standards.  Why change this?  Who is it benefitting?  Car companies were ALREADY complying with the standards, and the outcomes have been nothing but positive:  better fuel efficiency, more value for the money and no discernible negative impact on their profits.  Are they supposed to now abandon all the scientific advances they have made on this front?  IT MAKES NO DAMN SENSE.  None of it does.  Why in heaven’s name would Sessions re-engage in a war against marijuana when it’s quite clear that, not only is that against the will of the people, an increasing number of whom are even voting to permit recreational use, let alone medical use with proven benefits, but it will undoubtedly result in an increase of activity deemed criminal and more people of color in prison.  THIS IS NOT PROGRESS – IT’S JUST DUMB.  Why roll back EPA-mandated protections?  Will former polluters now, like some kind of real-life Snidely Whiplashes, twirl their greased mustachios and snigger because they can poison more children while lining their pockets?  WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?  And don’t even get me started on the wealthy not paying their way (although I must confess that I benefited from a “rich man’s law” when I had to pay taxes on the capital gains of the investments I sold last year to pay for the improvements to my home that weren’t covered by the NYS grant, but as I kept reminding myself, that law was not really meant for ME.  And I still have to come up with $2,000 that I don’t have to pay my 2016 taxes.)

Despite my daily “to do” lists (on which I do actually manage to cross things off now and again although never fully) and being pretty much busy from the time I wake up (usually later than I want to) till the time I go back to bed (also usually later than I want to), I feel like I have nothing to show for whatever it is that I’ve been doing all damn day.  I’ve clearly lost steam on my blog, which provided a valuable creative outlet, basically because I’ve had nothing of substance to write about.  I feel like my creative juices have dried up, or maybe they’ve just gone under the surface while my brain is overflowed with all of the aforementioned nonsense.

Incredibly, I’ve even lost interest in hockey, perhaps because the Rangers have been playing like crap for the past few weeks – maybe even months – because they’ve been solidly entrenched in the first wild card spot for the playoffs, which enables them to cross over into the “weaker” division (i.e., they won’t have to face Washington, Pittsburgh and Columbus, arguably three of the five best teams in the league all season long, until the Eastern Conference final).  I’m just hopeful that they’ll be able to flip a switch and suddenly be the best possible Rangers they can be.  There have been periods during this season when they were scoring like gangbusters, and others when they were squeaking out 1-0 and 2-1 games playing masterful defense.  It’s true that they’ve been good on the road all season (the league’s best road team, in fact), and they’ll have to be in the playoffs, too.  But for the sake of Cup-hungry Ranger fans and King Henrik’s waning career, they had better press the “Good Rangers” button starting tomorrow night and keep it going into June.

On that note, I will quit my bitchin’ and get on with my disjointed life, try to gain some focus and find a little more joy.  Sun and blue skies will certainly help!  Happy Spring to All!

I Sing the Body Pathetic

Well, it’s official – WE’RE HOME.  Much remains to be done, both from a construction perspective (although I’m pretty sure it would only take, at best, two good days of work and they could be DONE with me) and an unpacking one.  It boggles my mind when I look around at all my STUFF, quite a bit of which never even got unpacked at the apartment.  My house has been considerably expanded, space-wise, but at this point I don’t have a clue how to effectively use my newfound storage.  So I continue to languish among boxes and loosely organized stacks of papers and random items that haven’t found a home yet, plus clothes and towels and blankets in need of washing (my brand new washing machine evidently needed a new drain hose; the service guy came but neglected to bring a replacement, even though I was pretty sure I told the guy at the appliance store when I made the service appointment that the hose was cracked, because that’s what the plumber had told ME – oh well, what’s a few more days in dirty clothes?).  Another major problem that has arisen is that all my bedroom furniture no longer fits in my bedroom.  I’m going to end up putting my rotating armoire (with the mirror on the back) in my closet (and lose the mirror in the process), but that will have to wait until I have some assistance.

You see, one thing I discovered during the past couple of weeks, with all the cleaning and packing and moving, is that my body is no longer capable of absorbing the abuse it could in the past.  There I was, schlepping boxes and smaller items of furniture, scrubbing tubs and floors and maneuvering the vacuum cleaner, day after day, sweating and shaking and fighting against the brutal wind with every trip to my car.  And then I wonder:  Why do my legs feel weak?  Why are my hands numb and swollen (not to mention cracked and dry to the point where my skin just splits on contact with, say, a plastic bag)?  Why is my back in such pain?  Surprise!  You’re officially OLD.

My stress levels have been through the roof, and a recent visit to my doctor revealed higher-than-normal blood pressure and blood sugar levels that were concerning enough that my endocrinologist called ME after getting the routine blood test results.  Not to mention the 20-plus (more like 40-plus, but 20 would make a significant dent) pounds I need to lose – my doctor actually tried to prescribe some medication to help combat my tendency to binge eat, but even after insurance and application of the manufacturer’s discount, it would still have cost over $200 a month, so I’ll just have to lose weight the old-fashioned way.  Exercise is a key, of course, but with my back out of whack and the weather not cooperating, power walking will have to wait another few days.

And as if my body wasn’t enough of a wreck, on Sunday morning I was fighting with my dog Munchie, who doesn’t yet comprehend that he has to be brought downstairs to go out for walkies.  I had managed to get Gizmo downstairs but Munchie was hiding under the bed.  In a huff, I ran up the stairs, calling him out for being a wussie, and SLAM!!  I stubbed my big toe on the steps and fell forward.  I knew it was bad – the extreme pain was a dead giveaway – but I didn’t know how bad until I took my boot off and saw that my right big toenail was the color of a ripe eggplant.  So that’s caused me to limp around ever since, which in turn has thrown my back further out of alignment.  I am a mess.

I know I’m blaming my advanced age for the deterioration of my physical self, but it even happens to young people, I’m afraid.  My 21-year-old daughter is always complaining about being in pain, partly because of her scoliosis but a recent visit to a local kinesiologist has revealed an adrenaline imbalance and a tendency to retain lactic acid in her muscles, which causes excessive soreness after she works out (which she actually does, a few times a week – she’s even been WEIGHTLIFTING as part of her cross-fit training, which I find so impressive).  He prescribed regular (expensive) chiropractic adjustments and special (even more expensive) supplements, and I keep asking her if she’s seen any discernible improvement, but evidently she hasn’t – yet.

I wish feeling healthy and sound and young again were as easy as taking a supplement.  But no one has yet found the magic pill.  We all get old and it sucks.  I just got off the phone with my 84-year-old friend, who was told today that she may need to have open-heart surgery, and my daughter’s 95-year-old great-grandmother is currently in the hospital having her legs drained of excess fluid and putting up a major fuss because she just wants to go home.  At 57, I guess I should consider myself lucky that I just have some generalized aches and pains and diabetes that I could control better if I just watched what I ate and started moving a little more.  I confess that I’d like to live to at least 95, if this currently (but hopefully only temporarily) pathetic body is willing.

Discombobulation

Discombobulate:  to confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate.

This is why I’m so crappy at making decisions:  I’m too easily discombobulated.

My first officemate at the law firm is an amazing polyglot who speaks fluently at least five languages (and is working on her sixth).  Early in my legal career, I had no idea what to expect when it came to running a closing for an aircraft or large ship financing transaction.  The barely controlled chaos of the parties making last-minute contract changes and chasing things like insurance certificates and approvals from foreign government authorities was an entirely new experience for me and it left me feeling (and, frankly, frequently still does) very discombobulated.  I mentioned that to my officemate as we were working together to close a particularly challenging transaction and she laughed.  She couldn’t believe that “discombobulated” was a real word!  Once I convinced her that indeed it was, it became one of her favorites, although she always had difficulty pronouncing it.

My frequent discombobulation is not only apparent in the work arena.  Money is also a source of great discombobulation for me, no matter whether I have a lot (should I spend it or save it?) or not enough (how can I pay all my bills?).  And of course, now, a prime discombobulator in my life is getting me back into my house.  Moving Day is officially March 21, because that’s when I’ve hired the College Hunks (three hunks for three hours for a “stress-free” move, they have assured me) to move me out of this apartment and back HOME, come hell or high water – or even 12-18 inches of snow, which was actually predicted for today – but of course nothing is as easy as it seems.

It didn’t help that this was the stupid lost-hour weekend, where your body thinks it’s one time but it’s really another for a few weeks, until your circadian rhythms adjust.  As much as I love that extra hour of sleep in the fall, I despise the deleted 60 minutes in the spring.  For some inexplicable reason, I made things even worse for myself by staying awake later than usual, till after the “new” 4 a.m., trying to make a dent in the TV shows I have recorded on my DVR, because I’m going to lose them when I move.  I had to wake up early to have egg sandwiches with my kid at 9 a.m. before she started her drive back to West Virginia after a spring break week during which I barely saw her and only heard from her (as is usually the case) when she needs money.  And I was going to be spending the afternoon at an adoption event at the local pet store, with puppies and kitties looking for forever homes.  Needless to say, I was pretty exhausted, and my brain functions even less sharply when I’m physically spent and sleepless.

Fortunately for the kid (and for me), even though I am still waiting for my mortgage assistance payments from February AND January, New York Rising pleasantly surprised me by making available part of the outstanding amount they owe me from my construction grant.  So after paying down a good chunk of what I owed my contractor, I had a few bucks left over to give to Darian for her trip home.  (As aside:  I’ve made her hand over the credit card on which she is an authorized user because she has ABSOLUTELY no control when it comes to using it.  She just doesn’t get how credit cards work.  She’s smart enough to know that she shouldn’t have her own credit card, which is a good thing, because (a) she earns practically nothing, especially now that she’s cut back on her office cleaning job, and (b) she has no concept of the fact that it all needs to be PAID BACK,  WITH INTEREST.  I am MORTIFIED that I am so deep in credit card debt right now.  I’ve had an excellent credit rating and now, for the first time in over a decade, purely because my credit utilization is nearly 50%, I have sunk to merely “Good”.)

New York Rising gave me the money even though I don’t yet have my certificate of occupancy, which is kind of required in order to actually “occupy” my house.  My contractor assured me that the house had passed inspection last Thursday, but when I asked to get the inspector’s report in advance of the actual certificate of occupancy to give to New York Rising, the City of Long Beach suddenly decided that I required a two-car curb cut from the sidewalk in front of my house.  The original mason had made an error and only gave me a single curb cut when I have a two-car carport, and we were certainly going to get it corrected, but we were going to wait until I was back in the house.  Evidently, the City of Long Beach made this decision for me:  Fixing the curb cuts had to be done as a condition to getting the COO.  My contractor was lucky enough to be able to find a mason who could do it quickly and for a reasonable cost, and the guy was there breaking up the existing cement right away, on Thursday, but due to a messy snowstorm on Friday and frigid temperatures over the weekend, they never got to pour the cement.  Instead of having ingress for two vehicles, I have barely half of one plus a big gaping hole with “DO NOT CROSS” yellow tape surrounding it. Tuesday’s snow storm and post-storm freezing temperatures will delay the concrete pouring for the foreseeable future.

In addition to the expanded curb cut, there are a few other things that need to be done in the house –namely, installing the shower enclosure in the master bath and “polishing” the entry foyer.  The shower enclosure isn’t as urgent because Darian won’t be back in the house till May (she’s getting the master suite, because she actually entertains in her room – I just sleep in mine).  But I need to paint the foyer and coat the stairs with polyurethane, which should really be done before we move in to avoid having to live with the headache-inducing chemical stink and keep the creatures from walking on the steps before they’re cured.  So I made an appointment with my painter for this coming Thursday without knowing if the foyer would be “polished” by then. Never mind that I’ve been bugging my contractor for a couple of weeks to get it done (which seems a rather simple thing, to my untrained eye), even after I told them when my painter would be coming , but they kept pushing me off instead of just FINISHING ME.  I would think they’d want me out of their hair, especially now that I’ve been able to give them some actual money. While they’ve responded on other queries from me (like “Where’s my damn key, please?”), they wouldn’t answer me on the foyer polishing question.  DON’T THEY UNDERSTAND THAT I NEED TO KNOW!?!

The contractor was also going to get his cleaning crew in to sweep and scrub, but I can’t get a response on that question, either.  I may end up having to do the heavy-duty cleaning myself.  I just need the appropriate tools, I guess, even though cleaning is not in my bailiwick.  (I also have to clean the apartment I’m leaving behind, including the microwave, which I understand can be done easily and naturally with a lemon, which I need to buy because I don’t usually have lemons sitting around my house.)

Plus I have to call the realtor lady who is in charge of this building as soon as possible so she can start sending prospective tenants over, because the sooner I can get someone in there (Apri1 1, anyone?), the sooner I can stop paying rent.  I was kind of counting on getting my security deposit back, so I’d rather not have to use it to pay my last month’s rent.  I’m a bit stressed about the realtor lady accompanying the prospective tenants, because then she’ll see I’ve lied about the size of my menagerie.  I mean, obviously they can’t kick me out now, but they could very well keep the “pet security” portion of my security deposit, if not my entire security deposit, as a penalty for lying about the quantity of animals in my apartment.

The storm has completely thrown off the moving schedule.  When I finally got a cryptic text response from my contractor yesterday, he said that everything depends on the weather.  I get that, but now I’m left to make a decision, and you know how good I am at making decisions.  Here is just a small example of  the way my mind works when suffering from discombobulation:  Should I push everything back by a week, which at worst risks me having to pay another month’s rent, or do I just plow ahead and get the stairs done now but let the painting wait until after I move in (which my painter was kind of intimating I should do anyway, given that the movers are probably going to ding up the walls and whatnot).  And if the cleaners can’t get over there before the weekend, or Monday at the latest, I’ll have to do my own cleaning, which is a lot for me, and I’ll need to go out and get the necessary tools, but I guess it’s doable if I want to move in on schedule.

Should I maybe call my sister?  She’s a bit of a know-it-all who’s always telling me what I should have done after I’ve done it.  Or maybe my realtor friend?  Or even Darian?  Ultimately, the choice is down to me and only me.

It’s all so stressful and dizzy-making.  I just want to magically wiggle my nose, like Samantha on “Bewitched”, and have it all be DONE already.  Meanwhile, I’m trying to work as much as I can so I can earn the money to start paying off my debt, which brings us back full circle to the lack-of-funds horror show.  Ergo, discombobulation.

Every decision I make involves this confusion and insecurity.  It’s a wonder I get anything accomplished at all.  (It probably goes without saying that I blame the delay in this blog post on all the aforementioned discombobulation.)  And yet, somehow, I always manage to find my way, despite the dread, despite the discombobulation.  It’s almost as if I didn’t need to get bogged down with the two “D’s” in the first place.  Who would have guessed?  But breaking the cycle is easier said than done.  I’ve been this way pretty much all my adult life.  It remains to be seen if I will ever be able to just MAKE A DECISION, without all the waffling and self-doubt, without the confusion and fear, or at least to do it in a controlled, organized way (e.g., a pros-and-cons list).  Believe me, I’m working on it.

Weighty Management

My sister and I have challenged each other to lose 15 pounds by April 1.  She’s smaller than I am, but we’re both rotund little women, of a type that might turn into prototypical Italian grandmas.  In her case, the weight loss is for a wedding.  In mine, it’s just garden-variety being sick and tired of my physical self in its current state.

A couple of years ago I lost about 30 pounds, but I’ve slowly but surely let the pounds creep their way back (as I have been prone to do all my life).  My blood sugar numbers were under control, but now my endocrinologist has had to increase my medication, with the next dreaded step being daily injections.  I also hate catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror (I try to avoid it most of the time), or being bombarded by my multitude of chins when I take a rare selfie or Face Time with my daughter. Spring is coming, the weather is getting warmer, and the layers of clothes will need to be peeled away before long (especially given the recent unseasonably warm February days). It’s long past time to kick-start some serious weight loss – 15 pounds for me would be just a drop in the bucket, but at least it would be a beginning – and better health, to emerge from my hibernatory sludge and shed those excess layers.

Exercise is a huge part of it.  I’ve written about my attempts to start and sustain a walking regimen on multiple occasions (starting way back in one of my earliest posts, “Breaking Bad (Habits)”, 4/1/15).  That’s key.  In addition to the power walking, I’ve also been thinking about buying one of those twisty balance boards [the Simply Fit Board, $44.99, which seems like an awful lot for a curved slab of heavy-duty plastic – perhaps I can find a cheap knock-off, although I wouldn’t mind paying more for something as long as it was made in the USA] that the Shark Tank lady financed and also advertises on late-night TV infomercials so I can start using it when I get back in my house* (I shudder to think of the disturbance it would create for the lady downstairs if I did it here!!) when I’m  watching the Rangers or catching up on my shows.  Instead of sitting on my expanding ass, I could be twisting my fat away.  I also kind of miss my yoga classes with the weird instructor at Long Beach Adult Ed, with his long stringy hair and bald pate. One thing is for certain: I must get more mobile.  And once I do that, I’ll see an improvement on all fronts.

But the biggest issue for me, by far, is my obsessive eating. I’ve been trying to do some self-analysis to get to the root of the problem so I can hopefully break the cycle.  Why am I an obsessive eater, completely unable to stop when I start?  Well, I usually start eating out of boredom, or as a distraction, or procrastination.  But I believe the obsessive part of it comes about because I like the taste of things.  After eating something delicious, I just want that deliciousness to continue until my head and my stomach (or both) tell me it’s time to quit.

I’ve tried all the tricks, like, don’t have the “bad” stuff (really, the “good” stuff, you know what I mean?) in your house at all, or, if you must have it, put the healthy items up front and easily accessible and hide the naughties.  But every time I go into the kitchen, I’m soon chest-deep in the fridge, completely ignoring the healthy snacks to dig out the hidden stashes.  Or I’ll make up proper-serving-sized snack baggies with trigger foods – and then eat five of them, which defeats the purpose entirely.

Alas, despite my efforts at self-analysis, I don’t know why I do it, and I don’t know how to fix it.  I’m just weak when it comes to delectable foods of all types:  salty, sweet, savory – but mostly sweet. They just taste so good, I just don’t want the yumminess to end!! Perhaps the extra pressure of the competition with my sister, plus more activity in milder weather, can serve as an effective impetus (although it hasn’t so far, I’m afraid!).

* Update on moving back home:  Inspections for the certificate of occupancy from the City of Long Beach and the balance of my grant from New York Rising are scheduled for this week.  This is a huge relief.  My contractor actually told me that, as far as he was concerned, I could move in any day.  True, my boiler blew an electric circuit when they tried to install the thermostat incorrectly, but once that’s fixed, I’ll have heat, electricity and water. So what this means is: I am FINALLY going to hand in my notice to my landlord and leave as of the 15th of March. And then we’ll be home and we can make as much noise as we want!!

Willful Ignorance

Synchronicity, serendipity – whatever you want to call it – is real.  My early notes for this week’s blog post read, “Not sure what I want to blog about this week but I had an idea – maybe the Willfully Ignorant, or Willful Ignorance, or something like that.”  Mere moments after writing that in my journal, I came across multiple articles and quotes that echoed that very thought.

First was a post on Facebook by my friend and fellow resistor (the master resistor, actually) Chris Cangeleri of an opinion piece from the Miami Herald called “In Trumpworld, it’s OK to be ignorant” [Leonard Pitts, Jr., MiamiHerald.com, 2/17/17, http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/article133497824.html].  A great quote from the piece, which almost exactly captured what I had been thinking to write, was:  “It’s time we talked about the most consequential political divide in this country.  That divide is not between liberals and conservatives. Rather, it is between the ignorant and the informed, between those who have information and can extrapolate from it and those who do not and cannot. There is an education gap between left and right, and it poses a grave threat to our national future.”

I’ve written about this before and I likely will again, because it’s something that troubles me very much about my country.  I’ve never considered myself one of those “Rah-Rah-U.S.A.!” people.  As much as I grew up loving the Olympics, it was the sportsmanship among athletes rather than the competition between countries that appealed to me most about them.  I’m part of a generation – the Baby Boomers – that has witnessed a time of greater prosperity than has ever been known in the world, and the United States has had the most respect it has ever had (or may ever again have).   I’ll save the history lesson for another day, but the bottom line is this:  I can never remember a time in my 50-plus years of life when there was such a sharp gap between the educated and the willfully ignorant in this country.

And there is no greater evidence for this than the results of the 2016 presidential election. During the campaign, whenever I listened to Donald Trump speak (and how could I NOT?  The mainstream media, which he now deems them “the enemy of the people,” gave Trump so much free TV time, we couldn’t escape him), I would hear nearly nonsensical strings of fourth-grade-level vocabulary words in run-on and incomplete sentences that wouldn’t be conveying ANYTHING, really, and he would punctuate his every line with “Believe me!”  or “Am I right?” and a wave of his signature stubby-fingered OK sign.  (What a tell!  Every time Donald Trump says “Believe me!”, he is clearly lying.)  And I would say to myself, “How could anyone in their right mind think he’s making any sense whatsoever?  What is he SAYING?  Does he even listen to HIMSELF?”  Yet so many people – none of my close friends (with whom I am universally politically aligned) but certainly many people I know, who I consider at least semi-intelligent – were hearing something completely different.  What they were hearing was what they WANTED to hear.  It didn’t matter if it didn’t make a lick of sense; they wanted to hear it, so that’s what Trump was saying.

In considering this week’s post, in addition to the Pitts article cited above, I also serendipitously came across a couple of pithy quotations.  One was posted by another one of my fellow resisters on Facebook, from an American abolitionist and vocal supporter of women’s and Native American rights back in the mid-19th century named Wendell Phillips (who was also a contemporary of Frederick Douglass, who still has definitely NOT done any great things lately).

The Wendell Phillips quote:  “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few. The manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten. The living sap of today outgrows the dead rind of yesterday. The hand entrusted with power becomes, either from human depravity or esprit de corps, the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continued oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot; only by unintermitted agitation can a people be sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity.”

Heavy stuff, but the bottom line is this:  In a free country, the people have to be vigilant about their rights because once they hand over their power to the elites in control, it is damn hard to get back.

We’re a nation of sheep, as Trump’s election has proven:  ignorant people being led by the nose by Fox News and con men and people with money who control the people who don’t have money.  The populace is woefully ignorant – and willfully so.  Organized religion contributes to that, and also a lack of respect and support for teachers and public education (as evidenced by the ability of the thoroughly unqualified Betsy DeVos to not only buy her position as Secretary of Education but also to make noise about eliminating public education entirely, to be replaced by some mishmash of home schooling and charter schools and God in the classroom – egads!).  Sometimes I think people are happier to be told what to do rather than to think for themselves.

I’ve written about this before in a broader post about public education [“An Ideal Education,” 7/6/16].  It troubles me that so much focus in schools is on teaching to standardized tests and not teaching youngsters how to think for themselves based on their powers of observation and critical analysis.  That kind of emphasis is sorely lacking in schools until college level education, and by then most of the folks who need to be critically thinking about their roles and responsibilities in this country and the world have essentially dropped out of the system.

The founders set up the U.S. Constitution as a blueprint for governance of the people, by the people, coming as it did out of the fight for independence from a controlling monarchy.  Today’s sheep give lip service to patriotically living up to the standards of our forefathers but they’re not willing to question authority and get involved in their own governance.  It’s an awesome responsibility, and what’s happened is that large numbers of people (perhaps a majority of us, and I include myself in that number) have abdicated their power to such a degree that they allowed a con man to be elected by a bare majority of the bare majority (57.9%) of eligible Americans who actually bothered to vote in a damn presidential election, let alone mid-term or local elections, when you can have the most access to the governing power that most affects you.

The other quote I came upon was from George Orwell, whose classic 1984 is undergoing a rediscovery because of its prescience.  Said Orwell, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”  This is so, evidently, because it is so easy to believe what you want to believe, especially when people in power are pushing it on you, despite the actual FACTS in front of your face.  The denial of the FACTS in front of one’s face has become alarmingly common, and the people in power are doing nothing to change that (and, in fact, are unabashedly promoting such denial).

That George Orwell quote was cited in a transcript of the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at the UCLA given by Bret Stephens [“Don’t Dismiss President Trump’s Attacks on the Media as Mere Stupidity”, Feb. 18, 2017, Time.com, http://time.com/4675860/donald-trump]. Following on Orwell’s quote, Mr. Stephens said, “We each have our obligations to see what’s in front of one’s nose, whether we’re reporters, columnists, or anything else. This is the essence of intellectual integrity. Not to look around, or beyond, or away from the facts, but to look straight at them, to recognize and call them for what they are, nothing more or less. To see things as they are before we re-interpret them into what we’d like them to be. To believe in an epistemology that can distinguish between truth and falsity, facts and opinions, evidence and wishes. To defend habits of mind and institutions of society, above all a free press, which preserve that epistemology.  To hold fast to a set of intellectual standards and moral convictions that won’t waver amid changes of political fashion or tides of unfavorable opinion. To speak the truth irrespective of what it means for our popularity or influence.”

I could go on – I haven’t even touched on the absurdity of the accusations of “fake news” by Trump and his minions against established and reputable newspapers and media conglomerates with extensive fact-checking teams and decades of public trust.  Certainly, the big ones are controlled by a few powerful (wealthy, white, male) people, but I think, if Big Media is guilty of anything, it’s of trying too hard to be fair and balanced, to the point where they’re almost afraid to call bullshit when they hear it.  Not to mention the free publicity they gave (and evidently continue to give, since Trump is still campaigning even after winning) the Trump campaign.

But I’m preaching to the choir.  It seems highly unlikely that I will change anyone’s mind or convince them that they need to work a little more on their critical thinking skills because they’ve been bamboozled bigly by a con man.  I go to sleep every night hoping that, when I wake up, it will all have been a bad dream.  But perhaps one good thing has come of this horrible political nightmare:  The outpouring of protest and public outcry will maybe, just maybe, cause some of the previously willfully ignorant to do a little more digging, get a little more involved, and start seeing clearly what’s been in front of their own eyes all along.