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.

Kids

A month ago, young American high school students in Parkland, Florida (PUBLIC high school students – I’m talking to you, DeVos) faced an unspeakable tragedy when one of their own took a military-grade rifle to school with the express intention of killing as many people as possible.  Their response was to say, loudly and in unison, “ENOUGH”, and today, a chorus of young voices from not only around the country but also around the world have joined their powerful voices.  If adults can’t act like adults and do something – ANYTHING – to stop or at least minimize these tragedies, then maybe a bunch of loud, passionate kids can do something.  After all, a lot of these high school kids will be able to vote in the 2020 election – and who do you think they’re going to vote for?  True, the NRA funds politicians from both parties, but the vast majority of NRA dollars go to members of the Republican party, which in recent years –since they became the majority in Congress, and especially since the invasion of Trump – has become the party of the mean, petty and spiteful.

And their incessant mouthpieces, in the form of Fox News and Breitbart and Info Wars, had to belittle the admirable efforts of these young people.  These lunatics with their conspiracy theories!  They’d rather create elaborate fictions than admit to the truth they hear and see right in front of their eyes.  Like clockwork, here come Alex Jones and the tinfoil-hat brigade (or might it even be the Russians?), spouting nonsense that these kids aren’t real high school students and they’ve just seized on this shooting to further their left-wing agenda.  What contortions they go through to provide “evidence” for their insanity!

What might be a normal person’s reaction upon seeing these earnest young people who want to be the agents of change for a broken system, when it’s their futures that are at stake?  They are the largest stakeholders in ALL of these laws and regulations that aren’t serving them or their futures one iota.  My feeling – and the feelings of all reasonable people, from Rachel Maddow to Bernie Sanders – is that, it’s a shame that it took a massacre of innocents to prompt them to action, but good on ‘em for doing everything in their power (which admittedly isn’t much – that is, unless you accumulate enough voices and enough allies to become an immovable force, which is hopefully the way this will go) to get someone to fix the problems.

I am inspired by these grieving and traumatized and, frankly, furious young people who are FED UP with the complete lack of action by the people elected to protect and serve them (and in countless ways actually hinder efforts to protect and serve them) all over TV, finally getting HEARD and SEEN and resisting things as they are, in their horrible and horrifying state.  They are picking up the mantle from the women’s march(es), the Charlottesville protests, all those regular folks speaking out at town halls and picketing outside their representatives’ offices – people who are supposed to REPRESENT those regular folks!! –to preserve the Affordable Care Act and attempt to save the Dreamers.  But more and more, elected officials, especially at the Federal level, don’t act for the people who elected them, or even their children, as evidenced by the current waves of protests and picketing.

I happen to know first-hand that, given an opportunity, kids of all ages, but especially high school students, have a LOT to say about their schools, their communities, their countries and the world.  I spent four of the first five years of its existence working closely with the founder of Global Kids, Inc., an inspirational woman named Carole Artigiani.  Carole started Global Kids back in 1989 with the express purpose of giving young people a voice.  Global Kids’ motto was (and continues to be – the organization, based in New York City and Washington, D.C., still thrives) “Youth turning hope into action.” Through Carole’s connections and her tireless outreach (and that of her enthusiastic staff and the teachers at the schools where Global Kids is embedded as an after-school program), the students were given platforms at local community board and city council meetings, the governor’s office, Congress, and even the Council on Foreign Relations and the United Nations.  They’ve met with Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.  They’ve traveled the world.  For over 25 years, Carole’s aspirational little after-school program has produced generations of “woke” young people who have gone on to become teachers and activists and performers and leaders and lifelong speakers of their minds.  [www.globalkids.org]

And what about those teenagers in Kansas who want to run for governor who aren’t even old enough to vote?  It wasn’t a joke or a publicity stunt – they sincerely believe that their interests are not being addressed.  Something they learned from American history is the “No taxation without representation” protest – well, this is their way of saying, “Don’t make rules for me if my voice isn’t represented.  We may just be kids, but it’s our planet, our future.”  There’s even a 13-year-old political savant in Vermont who wants to run for office there and who already knows exponentially more about how our government works than the abomination who currently occupies in the Oval Office.

LET THE KIDS SPEAK – and actually LISTEN TO THEM.  Government at all levels needs an influx of young people, and soon, before the bitter, close-minded old folks in power now destroy the planet entirely, which seems more and more likely given Trump, and the obstructionist Republicans and the impotent, in-fighting Democrats.  There’s GOT to be a better way – so why not listen to the young inheritors of this planet when they actually have something to say about it?

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Reunion

The weekend before last, I attended my 40th high school reunion.  It was conceived and hosted by a classmate who I had not seen since we graduated in June of 1977, but who was one of my absolute favorite people in high school.  Colin was someone with whom every moment was literally spent hysterically laughing.  He reminded me of an amusing boredom-buster he and I and another friend (who was also at the reunion, who I enjoyed catching up with very much) used to do in Spanish class.  We’d write a line of a story, leave a single word on the next line, and then fold down the paper and pass it to the next person, who wouldn’t know what you’d written except for the last word.  Then that person would write the next line and pass it along, repeating until the page was full.  We’d read the finished result, often separately and silently, in class, and try our damnedest not to crack up to the point of being asked to leave the classroom.  We usually didn’t succeed.  Colin said he had actually saved some of them but couldn’t locate them in time for the party.  I hope he can find them for the next time we get together, which I anticipate will be soon because I really like the guy and want to stay in touch.  As he runs the hotel and restaurant in New York City where we had the reunion – shout out to the charming French Quarter Guest Apartments and the Bourbon Street Bar & Grill, steps away from Times Square and the theater district! – that gives me a fantastic excuse to see him again.

Those are the best kind of stories to tell at reunions, because not only do they recall a shared experience, they bring back some of the laughter.  Another such tale involved a party at our friend Robin’s house.  (Robin, sadly, did not attend the reunion, but she was fondly remembered by all.)  Robin had some great parties, which I always associate with listening to Elton John records and also, somehow, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, whose heyday was really before our time but we knew every word to every song anyway.  (“She’s Just My Style” was a perennial favorite.)  There would inevitably be drinking and, frequently, encounters of a sexual kind in her laundry room, which abutted the basement den where the festivities took place.  During one particular party, while the lights were low – well, off, actually – and there was much necking and petting going on, one of our male friends decided to disrobe entirely and plant himself for eventual discovery on the big console TV.  Suddenly, the lights came on, and there he was, in all his nakedness.  But who had turned on the light?  As our formerly bare-assed classmate reminded us at the reunion, it was Robin’s mother! And she was none too pleased to see a nude six-footer perched nonchalantly on the family television.

We also recounted parties at my house, where we practically invented the Long Island Iced Tea by mixing together everything we found in my father’s liquor cabinet, replacing what we took with water (which was inevitably discovered, resulting in one of my many teenage groundings).  One such party – in broad daylight – involved emptying the contents of my refrigerator into the backyard built-in pool:  sour cream, frozen vegetables, a pot roast.  I could not tell you WHY we did such a ridiculous thing, although it was likely a food fight that got out of hand.  And suddenly, way earlier than expected, my parents came walking into the backyard, open-mouthed in disbelief.  The partygoers (other than me, of course) scattered, but not before hearing my mother, in her fury, scream at me, “I give you an inch and you take the whole arm!”, a cliché mash-up that has provided decades of amusement among my friends who were there that fateful (but thoroughly entertaining) day.

Robin’s and my houses were not the only popular party sites, though.  Another one of our classmates (who sadly wasn’t at the reunion, and I’ve been really disappointed that she hasn’t confirmed my friend requests on Facebook because I’d love to see what she’s been up to all these years) had the absolute best party house.  Her mother was a night-shift nurse, leaving us an empty house for hours in the evening with no danger of being discovered.  Those parties were also an opportunity to commingle with the boys from Chaminade, a local Catholic school, which was a good way to enhance the available male talent pool, so to speak.  In fact, one of my high school friends actually married a guy from Chaminade that she met at one of those parties.  At the reunion, where they showed, on a loop, a montage of photos from our high school days that Colin had assembled, a delightful portrait of them from their junior prom kept coming up on the screen.

And then there was the ultimate party:  the senior class trip, an event that, as a direct result of the debauchery of my class, was permanently discontinued afterward.  On a side table at the reunion (next to a plate full of some of the most delicious brownies I’ve ever eaten), Colin had displayed a folder full of historical high school documents, including a student council list of “do’s and don’t’s” for the trip.  Prominently featured on that list was “NO LIQUOR!” Well, many of the suitcases that came on the bus with us to the upstate dude ranch contained not a stitch of clothes but full cases of beer.  “You said no liquor,” the kids would later offer as a defense, “but you didn’t say no BEER.”  I don’t remember much of the senior trip, having spent the bulk of it on the bottom bunk behind a blanket with an adorable kid who, in my memory, always reminds me of Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (also, unhappily, not a reunion attendee), but evidently the highlight of the weekend was a dousing of a particularly persnickety teacher with a fire extinguisher, which left a telltale trail of neon yellow in the snow.

Ah, those days!  We were admittedly naughty, but that’s when things were the most fun and memorable.  On the other hand, there didn’t seem to be the danger that pervades today’s youth.  We rode our bikes everywhere, at every hour of the day and night, and never wore helmets.  (In fact, in one particularly vivid and memorable episode, a bunch of girls snuck out from a slumber party and headed to the local park, where we were accosted by a wave of guys riding naked on their bicycles.)  Remember, these were the days before cell phones, so our parents never had a clue where we were (and frankly, I think they preferred it that way).  There were no guns.  There were drugs, and in fact a couple of my closest friends both lost brothers to drug overdoses, but most of my classmates mostly indulged in nothing stronger than beer, marijuana and whatever liquor we could steal out of our parents closets (or whatever we could convince someone’s older brother or sister – the aforementioned Robin’s sister was particularly helpful in this regard – to buy for us from the local liquor store, including a stomach-turning concoction in a bottle called Tango, a sort of screwdriver made with vodka and Tang, Southern Comfort, and Boone’s Farm Apple/Cherry/Blackberry Wine).  I can’t recall a single pregnancy scare or unwed mother, but, then again, in those days it still would have been a major scandal and very much kept under wraps.  In some ways, the girls of that time were kind of prudish, despite the ready availability of birth control, and this created a situation for which I personally suffered some ostracism and abuse, but that’s another story for another day.

There was something more innocent about that time, back in the late ‘70s.  Or maybe I’m just remembering it through rose-colored memory glasses.  Admittedly, there were moments of pain and shame in high school, too, most of which I’d rather not remember (a barrage of snowballs and a bombardment with eggs are two that immediately come to mind, both courtesy of the same jerk, who fortunately did not attend the reunion – although I might have been curious to see if he had an apology in him).  But for the most part, I loved high school, I loved my high school friends, and I’m glad I had the chance to see many of them again at the reunion, easily able to reminisce and laugh together again after all these years.

[A small word about politics:  Our gang was so simpatico at the reunion that politics barely entered the conversation (if at all), which was probably a good thing given that our class is represented by more than a few Trump supporters.  But I did manage to have a satisfying little rant post-party with my reunion roomie – who adorably was still able to fit in her cheerleader skirt and sweater, although the saddle shoes were a later vintage – and another one of our mates, sitting on the stoop of the hotel in a misty rain on an unseasonably warm January night, just to remind ourselves that there are a lot of free and reasonable thinkers from Seaford, too.  In fact, my OPA group was founded by and includes a number of Seafordites, which makes me proud, although the same could not be said about ALL of my classmates, based on their posts on Facebook.]

A good time was had by all of the sixty or so folks who attended the reunion.  I hope we don’t have to wait another forty years to do it again!

Seaford Class of 1977 Reunion 2018 [BBA Photography]

Seaford High School Class of ’77 (2018) (Photo credit: William Moseley / BBA Photography)

Retirement Options

My financial advisor always talks about “65-year-old Nancy,” and how we have to consider her when making financial decisions today.  65-year-old Nancy is the reason I need to keep working at a job that I find spiritually unsatisfying, because not only do 58-year-old Nancy and her 22-year-old kid need to live TODAY, 65-year-old Nancy needs to be able to live comfortably a mere seven years from now (it used to be more years but, man, do they zip by quickly, which makes 65-year-old Nancy’s plight that much more urgent).

When my mother passed away, she was able to leave my sister and me a small nest egg, mostly derived from my deceased father’s assets but also wisely invested, and my cheapo mother never needed to dig into the pot to cover unanticipated expenses, like both her daughters have done with some frequency.  (My mother also never paid full price for anything; it was always coupons and store brands, even though, in my mind, we were reasonably well off and didn’t have to scrimp.)  Over the past seven years since her death, I have slowly but surely whittled down a $350,000 inheritance to little over $100,000.  (And don’t even get me started on the $35,000 she left for my daughter, who, as soon as she turned 18 and was entitled to access the funds, spent it all – every damn penny – despite my entreaties to set some aside in a CD or money market account so she might have some left over for college or a car or something substantial.)

The bulk of my mother’s money went to into my house.  Insurance didn’t pay enough to cover the renovations after the storm, and then the elevation, despite the generous grant from New York State’s New York Rising program, was more costly than anticipated when, in the course of lifting, the entire rear of the house practically fell off and ultimately had to be demolished and rebuilt.  Of course, this resulted in my having two-thirds of a brand new abode, but it also meant that my assets were no longer in the form of (easily liquidatable) stocks and bonds and REITs but in real estate instead, which will only be realized once I sell the house.

This raises all sorts of questions about my future.  My daughter has stated in no uncertain terms that she wants to keep the house, which creates a small problem:  If I don’t sell the property, I don’t get the benefit of my investment.  So that’s one hurdle to overcome.  The other is actually selling the house for what it’s worth, given that it will need new floors throughout thanks to my pet pee situation.  And it’s also dependent on the economic environment, which I think right now is a buyer’s market given the glut of distressed lots and rebuilt homes since Sandy.  Sky-high property taxes will be a further consideration for anyone contemplating buying a home in Long Beach (that is, if there even IS a Long Beach if another one of those “100 year storms” rolls around).

The key may be to sell sooner rather than later, my daughter’s wishes notwithstanding.  She’s presumably going to be traveling the world working with endangered animals anyway; why would she want to come back to lovely but boring old Long Beach?  So her future factors into this, too, not just 65-year-old Nan’s.

Let’s say I sell within the next 3-5 years.  Would I go on to buy another place, or maybe just rent?  There are benefits and drawbacks to both.  I enjoy having SOMETHING to show for the money I pay every month, even if I do share it with a bank.  With rent, it’s basically just throwing money away for the privilege of living in someone else’s investment.  But as I’ve discovered over the years, home ownership is a royal pain in the ass when it comes to maintenance and repairs.  It was a pleasure, when I lived in the apartment last year, to have someone take out the garbage and shovel the walk (even if I never actually took advantage of my on-site super to fix things like the leak in my kitchen sink because I didn’t want to him to know I had a bunch of cats in the apartment!)

But the biggest question is, WHERE DO I GO??  One thing that’s quite clear is that I want to be somewhere much warmer than here, without the snow.  I’d also like to avoid major storms and weather events like tornadoes and wildfires and natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, which kind of limits my choices since nearly everywhere in the world has its own local destructions.

Plus, it’s got to be a lot less expensive than living in New York, because the taxes and cost of living here are probably higher than they are nearly anywhere else in the country, let alone the world.  If I’m going to be depending on Social Security and whatever remains of 65-year-old Nan’s paltry investments (including my meager 401(k)), there’s going to be a lot less money coming in (although I can probably come up with some online work – or, dare I say it, freelance writing? –to make ends meet).  And because I’ll be older, I’ll need someplace with dependable health care, which pretty much puts me out of the United States since our health care system here is an obscene embarrassment compared to the rest of the civilized world.

And what happens with my animals?  I’m up to eight permanent members of my furry family – five cats and three dogs – although realistically not all of them will be living three to five years from now.  If I move out of the country, will I have to quarantine them?  Can I ship them by boat or airplane?  The logistics are kind of daunting.  And if I do decide to rent, not everywhere is pet-friendly (especially with SO MANY creatures).

Clearly, I need to do more research, but two places keep popping into my head – one domestic and the other international.  On the domestic side, I’ve heard good things about Delaware.  I could live in one of the many lovely beach towns, so I’d be able to continue enjoying coastal life with less of a hurricane threat than Florida (or even Long Beach) and a slightly more temperate climate than New York (although with global warming, the mid-Atlantic states are seeing more snow than ever – ugh!).  Perhaps best of all, I’ve heard that Delaware is one of the most tax-friendly states for retirees and seniors, featuring no sales tax, low state income tax, and no tax on Social Security benefits.  As an added bonus, I’d still be close to friends and family who live in the New York area, and even closer to family and friends on the Delmarva Peninsula and North Carolina.

On the international front, though, there’s Costa Rica.  I’ve never been, but my daughter has, and she always raves about how much it appealed to her.  (“Costa Rica has a piece of my heart,” she says.)  Conceivably, if I moved there, she could come with me and pursue her career in wildlife conservation in an amazingly rich ecosystem.  It would also be a great place for the aforementioned friends and family to visit.  From what I’ve read and seen (Darian posted a great video on Facebook the other day that I keep revisiting [https://www.facebook.com/worldeconomicforum/videos/10155046651386479]), Costa Rica is a thoroughly modern tropical paradise:  low crime and cost of living, high regard for the environment and sustainability.  The more I think about it, the more I want to move there.

Who knows?  There are other places to consider – Sedona, Arizona; Portland, Oregon; Vancouver, Canada; Spain (where my friends Erika and Curtiss are planning to retire) or even Portugal.  But at the moment, Delaware and Costa Rica are the two front runners.

So now it just becomes a matter of getting 58-year-old Nan to be wise enough with her money so that 65-year-old Nan (or maybe even a younger version, if I win the lottery!) can think about the next phase of her life with excitement and anticipation rather than dread and worry.

2017:  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I blame the New Yorker.  I kept getting emails in my inbox from them, teasing me with a few of their intelligent, well-written articles and glimpses of the on-point cartoons (“Love them New Yorker cartoons!” frequently writes a Facebook friend.)  So, in the spirit of supporting definitely-not-FAKE NEWS (which also accounts for a subscription to the Washington Post that I can’t really afford right now), I ordered a trial subscription.  (I also, by dint of some clerical error that I won’t be calling to anyone’s attention, received not one but two fantastic New Yorker totes as a thank-you gift.)  The subscription has caused a bit of a problem in that I don’t have enough “free reading” time – I pretty much only ready on the train going into the city once a week, and really only coming home because I tend to nod off on the morning ride – and the New Yorker articles are so dense and just, let’s face it, LONG, so the magazines were just piling up.  I’m only now getting finished with the November 9 issue.  So I discontinued the subscription when it came time to renew at the regular rate (which, needless to say, I can’t afford).

Apart from overloading my limited reading time, the more egregious thing that my New Yorker subscription did was expose me to all that quality writing, which had the effect of shifting my confidence decidedly back into the “I will never write as well as these people” sphere.  So I blame the New Yorker, but that’s only one of many reasons why I seem to have abandoned my blog just short of three years from its inception in March 3, 2015.  It causes me indescribable psychic pain that I wasn’t capable (for whatever reason) of keeping up with my weekly blog posts, and since November I haven’t posted anything at all.  And yet that discomfort hasn’t been painful enough, evidently, because I haven’t done anything to stop it.

Is it mere writer’s block?  True, I haven’t been writing much in my journal either.  In fact, I have to force myself, most nights in bed before I fall asleep, to even manage to pen a few quick paragraphs to recount my day and beat myself up over how miserably I’ve failed at keeping up with my writing.  (On the positive side, I’m at least somewhat proud of that meager diligence, and also that I manage to write SOMETHING in my joy book every day, even if it’s “No joy today”.)  It’s also the case that my brain hasn’t been particularly brimming with creative ideas or juicy thoughts ripe for squeezing out on paper.  I’ve basically been BLANK for months.  The things that occupy my gray matter lately fall into three categories:  the good (not much – mostly my kid, my pets and volunteering at the shelter – oh, and actually having a parking spot every time I leave the house); the bad (my money woes, hating a job that I desperately need, lacking an overriding “purpose” to my life and continuing to be somewhat of a hermit); and the supremely ugly (TRUMP and the travesty our government has become in the hands of the Republicans).

The fact that it’s winter doesn’t help.  I’m pretty sure I may have mentioned it once or twice in this blog, but I HATE WINTER.  I especially hate when it snows, as it did this past week (nearly two feet in drifty spots), and digging out the carport was no picnic.  Thank goodness Darian had to free her car right away for a trip to Boston to catch a flight to the Cayman Islands (SO JEALOUS!) with her college friend’s family, and then a lovely man with a snowblower and three pre-teen “assistants” with shovels came by the following day to liberate my car.  To add to the snow, the temperatures were well below freezing for nearly two weeks and my front-of-the-house pipes froze, halting the flow of water in my kitchen and main bathroom.  Fortunately, we still had heat and hot water in the small master bath at the back of the house (tiny shower and tinier sink) throughout the frigid snap.  But only on Tuesday morning, as the temps hit 40, did all my water come back.  The short, dark days, the cold, the mess – all of that contributes to my seasonal depression.  Plus the Rangers – usually the only bright spot in the winter months – aren’t playing particularly well (and they’re actually in their “bye week” right now, so there’s been no hockey AT ALL for nearly a week), so that’s become more of a downer than an upper on the mood scale.

Underlying it all is this feeling of futurelessness.  Like, when I try to envision my life in twenty years, ten years, even five, I don’t see anything different than what I see right now, and that is ultimately kind of paralyzing.  Realistically, I know things won’t stay the same – in fact, I can almost guarantee that I won’t be doing this job much longer, which will create a whole different trauma.  I had my worst year, billable-hourly speaking, since I started working there over fifteen years ago.  And (by design) I don’t participate at all on any of our “big client” deals that the younger partners in our group spearhead.  When the senior partner in my office, who has enabled me to finagle my current plum working situation, was removed as practice group leader (“moved up” to global practice group leader, they said, but he and I both knew what it really was) last year, I was sure I would get my walking papers.  Fortunately, the new practice group leader knows me a little bit (although he works on the West Coast) and appreciates my work (at least so far), so he kept me on.  After this past year, though, there’s not really much justification for my retention unless I expand my scope and I am too lazy and unengaged to do that, I’m afraid.

So let’s say they cut me loose – then what??  I won’t get a severance package because I’m a contract attorney, not an employee.  I guess I could try to collect unemployment, but I have no idea how to do that.  It might force me to start another career, even if I have to begin at the bottom of the ladder.  At least I could explore areas that are more fulfilling to me – ACLU, civil rights work, even some kind of animal law, or perhaps not even practicing law anymore and getting back into the publishing sphere – but that would probably involve having to LEAVE MY HOUSE to work a regular 9-to-6 shift somewhere (to which I would also have to commute).  It’s been so long since I’ve had that experience, I don’t think I even remember how to do it (and I’m pretty sure I don’t WANT to do it).  That is, if I can even get through an application-and-interview process that sounds like the worst kind of hell right about now, given my lack of self-confidence.  I’m way too lazy for my own good.  And don’t even mention the inevitable reduction of income.

So, as you can see, there’s enough “bad” there to choke a horse.  I don’t even want to get into the “ugly” because it fills me with such impotence and gloom and an overriding fear that it’s only going to get worse, somehow, if all the controls come off completely.  I remember when Trump first (inexplicably, shockingly) won the election, the thing that most upset me was that there would be no checks on him, given that the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and he would take advantage of the Supreme Court nomination stolen from Obama (by those same dastardly Republicans) and create a conservative majority (please the gods, no one else dies or leaves while he’s still in office!).  (Alarmingly, it’s largely gone under the radar what a travesty Trump’s judicial lifetime appointments to the lower courts will turn out to be.)  He’s stacking the deck with hand-picked federal prosecutors and even trying to get the Justice Department and FBI, both of which are sworn to uphold the law wholly independent of any president, to swear fealty.  It’s an “American Horror Story,” all right.  And it’s brought out all this ugliness in so-called publicly elected (and supposedly publicly accountable) government officials.  Whatever happened to “You work for US”??  November 2018 can’t come soon enough, and there needs to be waves of volunteers helping everyone who wants to vote, because the Republicans are going to do their damndest to shut out (and shut up) the Democrats.

I’ve never in my life been so obsessed (and not in a good way) with the workings of our government, but it’s probably a civically responsible thing that I am.  In fact, every week I receive an email about the local neighborhood association meeting, and I note it but I never actually go.  (That’s not precisely true – I went once, when they were talking about hiring a “parking consultant” to sort out the parking situation in the West End, which turned out to be a colossal waste of taxpayer money with no apparent results.)  This year I am committed to going to the meetings regularly and maybe even getting involved on a committee or something.  The last president of the West End Neighbors Association went on to win his first election as city councilmember this past November, so who knows?  Maybe I would make a good politician!  There’s a woman I met at one of my Organize Plan Act (OPA) meetings named Elaine DiMasi who is running for House representative in Suffolk County to unseat the terrible Lee Zeldin.  She is a scientist and is operating a really intelligent campaign, getting out to meet her potential constituents and LISTENING TO THEM, which is something that I think this happy flood of women candidates nationwide will do much better, as a bloc, than their male counterparts.  (There are always exceptions – I’m looking at YOU, Susan Collins.)

One of the pundits I follow regularly since Trump came along is Robert Reich, formerly the Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton and an incredibly smart man (who also draws well!).  I saw on Facebook the other day his “GUIDELINES FOR 2018”, which I found encouraging and uplifting and entirely do-able:

  1. Don’t use the president’s surname. [Well, I do call him “Trump” but I never use the word “president” when I refer to him or, like Charlie Pierce of Esquire does, use an asterisk! One of my OPA colleagues always uses a lower-case “t”.]
  2. Remember this is a regime and he’s not acting alone. [And they’re the truly frightening ones – Trump is an ignorant puppet who can be easily manipulated.]
  3. Do not argue with those who support him—it doesn’t work. [I’ve lost so much respect for people I know who support him that I wouldn’t waste my time.]
  4. Focus on his policies, not his orange-ness and mental state. [Again, they’re not necessarily “his” policies since he only parrots what he hears – see #2 above.]
  5. Keep your message positive; they want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies grow.
  6. No more helpless/hopeless talk. [These two might be tough, but I’ll try my best.]
  7. Support artists and the arts. [YES! ALWAYS!!]
  8. Be careful not to spread fake news—check it out first.
  9. Take care of yourselves.
  10. RESIST.

To end on a positive note, let’s look at the good – and there IS definitely some, and I do my best to remember that.  My daughter is home, at least for a little while, till she figures out her next career steps.  January finds her, first, in the Cayman Islands for a rainy but warm vacation, and then she’s off to Thailand for five days (almost longer in the air than on the ground) to pick up some pups from the Soi Dog Foundation, an affiliate of Posh Pets Rescue who saves dogs from the meat trade and other cruelties in Southeast Asia.  Generous Soi Dog donors periodically offer to pay the round-trip airfare for volunteers to come to Thailand and then accompany a few doggies back to the States to find their forever homes.  It was an ideal opportunity for travel (which she loves to do), so she jumped at it.  She’s never actually been to Asia (apart from a wedding on the Asia side of the Bosphorus in Turkey), so that will be yet another continent represented on her “world travels” map.  I’ll finally get to see her again at the end of the month!

But in the meantime, I have furry children to keep me company.  We’re above maximum capacity at the moment, on the canine AND feline side.  The Posh Pets cat director, Vanessa Vetrano Vaccaro, had a horrible fire at her house just before Thanksgiving and actually lost five of her favorite cats, which was heartbreaking, although the many fosters living with her were saved and shuffled off to various locations in Westchester and Long Island.  In the chaos after the fire, I of course offered to take in one of her foster cats.  As this happened a couple of weeks before Darian’s graduation (on December 15, a day that will live in Lucas Family history!), I had a whole room in which to host him.  Turns out the cat I took home wasn’t one of Vanessa’s cats at all:  He was just a stray that lived in a foreclosed house down the block from her.  But he’s never going to live outside again, as he has become House Cat Supreme, lazing all day on the bed and getting cuddles and pets, non-stop purring and making biscuits.  He’s a big, beautiful strawberry blonde boy we first called Fred, which we had to change when another “Fred” was surrendered to the shelter the same day.  So then we were calling him “Big Red,” but once Darian got home, she decided she didn’t like that name because it reminded her of a girl she didn’t like, so now we’re calling him “Greg”, which seems to fit just fine.  Greg is still officially a foster cat but we are going to have a hard time giving him up.  My daughter is very fond of him as well, and shares her bed with him nightly.  They haven’t even posted him on the Posh Pets website yet as none of us can manage to get a good photo of him (as the below can attest – it does NOT do him justice).

Greg (fka Fred, Big Red)

Greg (fka Fred, Big Red)

And earlier this week I took home a little 7-month old Teddy Bear (bichon-shih tzu mix) named, appropriately, Teddy.  Teddy was one of fifty (!) dogs that Posh Pets saved from a puppy mill auction where they sell these beautiful creatures off like so much merchandise after having lived their lives as breeding machines, stuck in a metal cage with bars under their feet so the poop and pee can fall through, never feeling a human touch or love.  It was harrowing for the Posh folks that actually went there and for those of us here at home, too, as we heard the horror stories.  What a cruel business!  And what’s even worse is that so many of those puppy mill puppies will end up in shelters when the unthinking folks who preferred to buy from pet stores rather than adopt inevitably unthink their way into surrendering an animal whose family membership they didn’t fully consider. (More ugliness, I’m afraid.)  We can’t change people but we can save some lives, including little Teddy’s.  I didn’t have him for long.  He was adopted today by a lovely family in New Jersey and he’s going to have the best life ever.  Housebreaking and separation anxiety will need to be worked on (although he was a pretty quick study with the weewee pads), but he’s so cute and cuddly and playful, he’ll make a wonderful companion.  So now I’ll probably end up taking another one of the 50.  So many dogs!!!  Watch this space.

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Teddy has a forever home!

Finally, the ultimate “good” is this:  I have a roof over my head (and now I even have running water from all my faucets!); reasonably good health (although my medical insurance situation is a whole other nightmare that I’ll tackle in another blog post); a house full of love and barking (and yes, plenty of poop and pee – my garbage men must find me disgusting); good friends and family (even though I don’t see them often enough); and a college graduate daughter whose future stretches out before her like a sparkling (if maybe a little daunting) yellow brick road.  And maybe, just maybe, I can re-start my blog in earnest and resurrect it as the pleasurable pursuit it was intended to be.

The Graduate

The graduate and her siblings

Happy 2018!

A sad post-script:  My cousin George has officially retired “The George and Tony Entertainment Show,” which makes me very sad, especially as his foray into the podcasting arena was a catalyst for me to start my blog.  RIP, GATES.  You will be missed.  I am encouraged, though, by inklings that his podcast days are not entirely over and that there’s some new project in the works.  I certainly hope so!  Cousin George has shown himself to be an intrepid interviewer and a charming and funny host.  Can’t wait to catch up on some of the podisodes I missed in the last year or so and look forward to his future endeavors.

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Odd Connections

I’ve decided to get solar panels installed on my roof.  I had been considering it, having received marketing calls and been intercepted in the local Ace Hardware by solar companies, but for one reason or another – primarily because I wasn’t in my house yet, but even after I got back in, although by that time I had completely run out of money – I never pursued it.

One day, a young man from Trinity Solar showed up at my house with a clipboard and a smile and basically talked me into a free consultation.  The gentleman that came for the consultation was named Dave Glicker.  He was about my age, and I can’t pinpoint how it happened, but we realized almost immediately that we had a shared love of music in general, but especially the music we had heard back in the 1980s on a radio station named WLIR.  For anyone who lived on Long Island during that time and was of an age to be appreciating music on the radio (this was even before MTV, mind you), WLIR was legendary for introducing an entire generation to post-punk “new wave” alternative music, mostly from England but also from hip cities in the U.S. (like Athens, Georgia, or NYC) and even Germany.

Dave told me that he was going to see the new documentary, “Dare to Be Different – WLIR:  The Voice of a Generation,” which was being screened at the local Gold Coast Film Festival being held in Port Washington, Long Island, New York, about a 45-minute drive north of where I live, in Long Beach.  I had actually heard of the film a while back, when someone (I can’t recall who) told me about it, and also that it was possible to listen to a revamped version of WLIR online (WLIR.COM).  I immediately started listening to it on those days when I was at work (I generally listen to WFUV when I’m working from home, which is what was on when Dave was here and what might have triggered our conversation about WLIR, but in the city WFUV gets buggy for some reason while WLIR Online does not).  Dave, who in his life pre-Trinity Solar was a bit of a music and restaurant entrepreneur and still knew a lot of folks in the industry, said he could get me on the guest list.  He actually ended up buying the tickets, which he said he would write off as a marketing expense, but either way, I would be the beneficiary of a free entertainment experience, in addition to my home-powering solar array.

[An aside:  My solar system (yes, I’m calling it that, just like I call Dave my “Solar Guy”) was surprisingly inexpensive, and will be paid for over 20 years at approximately $35 a month, with no prepayment penalty for when I win the lottery and can pay it off in full.  Plus, I will be getting state and federal tax credits for installing it – that is, if that lunatic Trump and his topsy-turvy cabinet doesn’t screw things up in the meantime.  According to Dave, there is evidently a push on to charge tariffs for installing home solar.  Can you believe how incredibly short-sighted and backwards that is?  Instead of ENCOURAGING the economically and environmentally sound conversion of home electric systems to solar power, they want to PENALIZE it.  Sad!]

Here’s where it gets a little weird.  In our discussions about WLIR and music and clubs back in our youth on Long Island, Dave had mentioned a guy named Eppy Epstein, who used to run a music venue in Roslyn, on the north shore of Long Island, called My Father’s Place.  I remember it for their erstwhile “house band,” the Good Rats, and also a weekly event they ran in conjunction with WLIR called the Punky Reggae Party (really the first introduction of reggae and ska and dance hall to Long Island teens).  My Father’s Place went out of business years ago, but Dave said that Eppy was going to reopen a new and improved version (The New My Father’s Place?  My Father’s New Place?), a 200-seat dining and music establishment.  Then Dave suggested that we actually get on the phone with Eppy, right there and then, which we did, throwing out some names of acts we’d like to see at the new My Father’s Place.  So I got my first introduction to Eppy, and I told him I would put together a list of acts old and new that I would pay good money and drive the almost-hour up to Roslyn to see.  So that was interesting.

That very day, one of my Facebook friends from high school posted an article from Newsday, the local paper, about Eppy and his efforts to open the new My Father’s Place. [Glenn Gamboa, “Legendary music venue My Father’s Place reopening on Long Island after 30 years,” Newsday, Nov. 13, 2017, https://www.newsday.com/entertainment/music/my-fathers-place-roslyn-reopening-1.14963599%5D.  I immediately replied to brag about having spoken to Eppy that very day about that very thing!  And that he had asked me personally to come up with some potential show subjects.  It just seemed like such an interesting coincidence.

My sister and I went to the film a few days later – we met Dave there and also Eppy himself, in person, a very distinctive-looking man who also appeared in the movie.  I also ran into yet another person I knew from high school, who I hadn’t seen in literally years.  [An aside:  While I haven’t seen her, I do follow her on Facebook, and was tickled to see that her son actually drove around for a time in the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile!].  We chatted about the film and Eppy and also a (slightly late) 40-year class reunion that another classmate has been organizing at his hotel in NYC called the French Quarters / Bourbon Street Bar and Restaurant.  (Yes, I know – 40 years out of high school is ridiculous and I cannot believe that so much time has passed in my life.)

“Dare to Be Different – WLIR:  The Voice of a Generation” was a true time capsule.  Directed by long-time fan Ellen Goldfarb and executive produced by the WLIR station manager from Day One, Denis McNamara, it featured talking head interviews about the history and music that influenced not only the kids on Long Island and NYC (If you happened to be lucky enough to pick up the sketchy signal) but succeeding generations of new music lovers.  There were precious videos and live performances of bands we loved back then:  Duran Duran, the Clash, the Cure, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Howard Jones  – the list goes on and on.  In many instances, you’d see the youthful, adorable, impossibly coiffed artist performing his or her song, which would be followed by an interview with the same artist in the present time.  Some aged better than others, as we all do (as my classmates will discover when I see them at the reunion – the years have not been kind to Nan!)  But they all, to a man (or woman), said how grateful they were for the exposure they got on WLIR, before anyone else ever gave them a shot.

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There was also a segment of the film that really resonated with my sister and me about the local clubs that used to be promoted on WLIR and often featured the DJs, like Larry the Duck, Malibu Sue and Donna Donna (Larry and Donna were actually on site to do a Q&A after the film, together with Goldfarb and McNamara):  places like Spit, Paris New York and our favorite, the Malibu, right here in my current home town of Long Beach.  WLIR came to prominence after I had graduated from college, but I would go clubbing with my sister when she came home for the summer.  [An aside:  A night at Malibu was the cause of my most mortifying drunk-driving experience, where I could barely see straight as I went through green light after green light on Park Avenue (which fortunately is a pretty straight shot), but that’s another story for another time.]

All in all, it was a fun couple of days, and to think it all started because I decided to take the leap into solarizing my newly raised home.  Odd connections, indeed!

99 Problems (Minus 96 or So)

Generally speaking, my inability to make progress in life boils down to three chronic problems, all of which I have written about on this blog before:

Problem 1:  I spend money I don’t have. (See “Woe Is Money”, 11/3/16, and others.)  My current financial situation is dire because I was lazy all summer, and if I don’t put in the hours, I don’t make any money.  It’s as simple as that.  I’m always hounding Darian about making a budget and sticking to it, but clearly I need to follow my own advice.  Yes, I’m not an extravagant person, and I don’t usually go around willy-nilly buying unnecessary items I can’t afford, but I certainly don’t deny myself or my daughter anything.  I need to go on an austerity budget.  And while this problem is especially acute now, it is something I have struggled with all my life, even when I was making a healthy salary as a full-time (but thoroughly miserable) lawyer.

Problem 2:  Another lifelong problem of mine is that I eat what I should not eat, and way too much of it. (See “Weighty Management”, 3/1/17, among others).  The corollary to that problem is that I don’t move enough.  In recently months I have engaged in no substantive exercise whatsoever.  I take in too many calories and I don’t burn any, so I’m fat and staying that way.  It has health effects beyond just making me feel bloated and balloony.  The overeating and the lack of activity create a vicious cycle, because lethargy just feeds more lethargy.  Yes, there have been plenty of times in my life when I have been dedicated to movement – power-walking, yoga, even going to the gym when I had money and a gift certificate for six months of a personal trainer.  But the longer I go without exercise, the harder it is to get back on track.  Of course, even if I start exercising (and I will, I swear!  I honestly enjoy working up a sweat – when I can manage to get off my ass to do it!), I still need to make major changes in my eating habits.  I can’t help that I prefer sweet things like cookies and ice cream to, say, vegetables of any kind.  Thus it feels like I have to deprive myself of something I enjoy and force myself to endure something I find unpleasant.  Why does it have to be so difficult?  Why does taking care of my body feel like torture?  I have to boil it down to a pro-and-con situation:  Pro – I have a few moments of joy and deliciousness.  Con – I’m doing damage to my body, which needs to last a lifetime.

Problem 3:  My worst problem of all – the one that ties in to everything else – is my overwhelming tendency to procrastinate, in every sphere of my life, for big items and small. (See “Procrastination Station”, 10/14/15.)  I put off tasks and action items in the deluded hope that they will go away or miraculously resolve themselves.  But by procrastinating, I also potentially deprive myself of personal development, forward movement and perhaps even the chance to achieve something wonderful.  My procrastination has its roots in my utter lack of ambition, which (with few exceptions) has been a lifelong affliction.  No drive, no motivation, no PASSION.  This contributes to the procrastination in a major way because, if I could find something that I felt passionate about, I wouldn’t procrastinate.  Right?  For instance, I love hockey, so I never miss a hockey game.  If I must, I record it and watch it on delay but I will ALWAYS make time to watch it.  It’s the same with all my favorite shows.  I also make time for my pets (permanent and foster) and for volunteering at the shelter, even though every once in a while I just want to spend a lazy weekend holed up in my jammies and give the shelter a miss (but then I’d also miss out on spending quality cuddle time with my favorite “away” kitties).

Unfortunately, my procrastinating has gotten in the way of keeping up with my blog – hence, the lamentable three-week gap between posts – despite the fact that blogging is something I love to do.  I do blame work for some of that, because I’ve had to put in more billable hours in the past couple of months to make up for my “lazy grasshopper” summer.  If I didn’t have to worry so much about my next paycheck (which frankly is always already spent by the time it comes), I would write at great length every day, including more in-depth pieces for this blog rather than the quickie jobs I’ve been putting together just so I can keep up with my commitment (to myself) to post.

Where do I begin to fix this?  Well, for starters, I have to make a dent in the procrastination problem and “make it work”, like Tim Gunn says on Project Runway (which is one of my TV show passions that I never miss, especially this season with the adorable Brandon, who is destined to be a star; I only wish I’ll be able to afford his clothes when he becomes a famous designer).  I’ve just been to the doctor this week and, while she didn’t berate me for not losing any weight or bringing down my A1C, she easily could have.  I do enough berating for the both of us – often while I’m in the actual process of stuffing my face (“Nan, stop eating these candy corn!  Nan, don’t go back for another bowl of ice cream!  Nan, you will sorely regret eating this whole box of cookies as soon as the last one crosses your lips!”) – not that it does any good.  The doctor actually said something like “You’re not ready,” which is absolutely true, but also just another example of procrastination.  What am I waiting for??  A freakin’ heart attack?

On the money front, I should listen to my own advice and come up with a budget and then do my best to live within it.  I only have another six weeks or so to get my kid through college, and then she’ll come home and start earning her own money.  She is contemplating another field research program in Costa Rica for the summer and she has already been informed that, as much as the Board would like to support her higher education, the Bank of Mom is officially closed for business.  So that particular expense can be eliminated, although there will be a concomitant increase in the grocery and utility budgets now that she’ll be home full time.  I’m also going to have to increase my health insurance premiums because I’ll have to cover my kid as well as myself, and they’re discontinuing my current plan so I have to find a new (and inevitably more expensive) one in the limited 45-day window that the government has generously allotted for us to do so.  (I guess I should just be grateful that I still have the ability to buy insurance at all.)

I liken my cycle of self-destructive inactivity to the situation being experienced by the 2017-18 New York Rangers, ten games into the season.  They have been distinctly awful in spurts on defense and every mistake has cost them a goal.  On the offensive side of the puck, they do many good things but don’t get rewarded.  (Prime example:  Rick Nash alone has more shots on goal than almost everyone else in the league, with only one goal to show for it.)  So the frustration sets in and they try to do too much and end up doing themselves more harm than good.  It’s a vicious cycle that has resulted in a 2-6-2 record.  Eventually they will have to pull themselves out of this slump.  According to their coach, Alain Vigneault (who might be feeling a bit in the hot seat these days), the boys just have to take it one shift at a time, do the things they know they need to do, and trust that their efforts will pay off.  Then they can build on that.

That is certainly advice that I should take to heart.  One step in the right direction will lead to another, and so on and so on, and just keep on plowing forward till I get where I need to be.  Evidently, I get my best life counsel from Tim Gunn and AV:  Focus on doing the right things one shift at a time, and just make it work.  Ha!  That should be my actualization mantra!

P.S.  My permanent family has increased by one:  I have officially adopted Polly Wobbles as the newest member of the squad.  My foster kitten Gigi was adopted last weekend, and my other foster dog, the adorable Penny, blew up the Posh Pets website with applications for her adoption, so it is only a matter of time before we find the right fit for her.  After that, then maybe I’ll take a break from fostering – until the next one comes along, of course!

How Is It?

My friend Curtiss, when he greets me, always asks, “Nan, how is it?”  He did it back in our college days and he still does it every time he calls.  He’s got a certain way of saying it that is just so Curtiss.  There’s no other way to explain it.

But when you parse it out, it is an interesting question.  HOW IS IT?  Not “what” is it, which is easy to answer – it’s a THING, an object or a thought or a non-human creature (in the case of a HUMAN creature, of course, it would be “WHO is it,” which is an entirely different exploration) – but HOW.  In what manner is your life now proceeding?  It is going smoothly or roughly, well or badly?  What is your overriding mood?  Are you happy or sad, frustrated or excited?  It’s really the perfect question upon greeting an old friend.

So, if Curtiss asked me today, “How is it?” I’d have a multi-layered response.

(1)   I am angry and sad that 59 innocent people were robbed of their lives, and hundreds of people injured and permanently scarred, by a lunatic with many, many guns. I’ve written before how much I hate – DESPISE – guns and would like them removed en masse from the world.  (See “Frustration Overload”, 6/21/17.)  I know that is an impossible dream; I mean, despite the overwhelmingly positive results in Australia when the nation’s government paid their populace to give up their guns, even they couldn’t get rid of ALL of them.  And I am grudgingly respectful of people who grew up in a culture where killing wild creatures to eat is acceptable.  But why in the name of all that’s good do normal citizens need semi-automatic weapons?  Frankly, I don’t know much about guns (by choice), so I don’t know what type of gun it is that can shoot multiple rounds, one after the other, without reloading, that I could only imagine would be useful in a war.  And those types of guns may very well have limited use in military situations (I’ll leave my anti-war blog post for another day), but why does Joe Average Citizen need one?  Why does Joe Average Citizen need over a DOZEN when one is enough to kill the intruder from which you are supposedly defending yourself and your property?  I DON’T UNDERSTAND IT AND I NEVER WILL.

And then, of course, there is the ever-present dark cloud that is the Trump presidency, which I was sure would have ended by now.  I was certain the scales would fall from the eyes of the unfortunate folks who fell for his bamboozle-ry and they would kick his fat ass to the curb (and tell him to take his entitled spawn and spawn-in-law with him).  So on top of being angry and sad, all of that leaves me feeling frustrated and drained, because there is nothing I can do about any of it except worry and sign petitions and call my congresspeople and hopefully, in 2018, put Democrats back in the majority in Congress to stem the bleeding of our hallowed democracy, despite the institutional efforts to prevent that.  Consider how large a risk it is that the Supreme Court will find in favor of gerrymandered election maps in Wisconsin to preordain election results presumably forever.  (The ever-wise Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a great line about this case:  “It’s drawing a map so people think ‘Why bother voting? This is a secure Republican district or this is a secure Democratic district, so my vote doesn’t count.’ That’s not a good thing for democracy.”  Touché, Ruth.)

BUT

(2)  I also feel happy and optimistic, looking forward to some pleasant activities this week. Darian is coming home for the weekend, and the Rangers’ 2017-18 hockey season starts on Thursday.  I’m surrounded by furry affectionate beings who follow me around like I’m the Pied Piper, although they only listen to me when they want to.  Case in point:  Lately Munchie has been hiding under the bed when it’s time for walkies.  From all indications (other than this hiding-under-the-bed thing), Munchie seems to ENJOY walkies.  So why is he hiding under the bed?  More importantly, why does he refuse to come when I call him?  I’ve basically given up.  He’s the only one of the four pups currently at my house who only ever goes on the weewee pads or outside, so I don’t worry about him leaving me gifts where he shouldn’t.  And the cats are always up for a cuddle, except for my crazy foster kitten, Gigi, who would rather run wild in the “kitty playroom” (i.e., Darian’s room, which will be converted back into Darian’s room tomorrow, which will create an interesting dynamic since her cat, Jojo, is the undisputed queen of Darian’s room) than snuggle with me on the couch.

Another thing that excites and pleases me is getting my cash-back rewards in the form of a $25 iTunes card (“free” music!!) and $25 Amazon card (perhaps a nice book or CD??), so I can treat myself to some new tunes and/or reading material.  And something else happened today that left me feeling like the universe is looking out for me.  Unfortunately, I came in about $500 short on my bills this month (the punishment for enjoying a relatively lazy summer, workwise).  I was going to have to borrow some of Darian’s extra student loan proceeds that I’m holding for her in my savings account.  But lo and behold, today I received a surprise refund check from my health insurance company.  Huzzah!  It was in exactly the right amount to cover my shortfall!  I remember reading Lit by Mary Karr (2008) and being struck by her realization that, even though she struggled through some tough financial times, just the right amount of money would always show up when it needed to if she hoped for it hard enough.  I must confess that has happened to me a few times recently, which brings me to the last arm of my current “how” state, which is . . .

(3)  Grateful. I’m grateful that I have a roof over my head (almost half entirely owned by me!), a big-screen TV to watch my Ranger games, a comfy bed to share with some of my creatures (I’m down to two or, at most, three, if Savannah decides to join us, in my actual bed – everybody else is on their comfy little pillows scattered around my bedroom floor).  I’m grateful to have JUST ENOUGH money in the bank (although a little lottery win wouldn’t hurt!).  I’m grateful for my amazing human kid, who makes me so proud and who’s turning into quite an impressive adult who’s got her whole life ahead of her, and all my “fur babies.”  And I’m grateful that, even though I do have my health issues (obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and a weird seasonal allergy that I seem to have developed in my late forties), I am reasonably healthy.  This is especially the case because I’ve seen some of my friends suffering through life-or-death illnesses and conditions that leave me feeling sympathetic but impotent to help them, and yet secretly thankful that, so far in my life, I have been incredibly lucky with my health.  (Now if I would only take better care of myself, I might be able to improve that situation . . . )

So how is it?  It is MOSTLY pretty damn good.  Let’s leave it at that.