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.

I Don’t Understand

I’ve never considered myself to be a student of human nature, of the motivations that compel people to do what they do.  This probably explains why I never succeeded in my attempts at writing fiction:  All my characters think and sound like me because I literally can’t get into the heads of others.

There’s a lot going on in the world of politics today that I just don’t understand.  First and foremost, I do not understand the appeal of Trump.  Not one iota.  To me, there is nothing attractive or powerful about the man.  The way he looks, the way he speaks, his rampant narcissism and bullying – why every American isn’t disgusted by all of that (and more) is beyond my comprehension.  Behavior we wouldn’t tolerate from a middle schooler is allowed to inundate our airwaves, the Internet and print media.  Why do we waste so much time and space on him?  He is a laughing stock internationally and makes people worldwide question the intelligence (and sanity) of Americans.  Every time he comes on the TV or computer screen, I involuntarily avert my eyes from his ridiculous hair and orange face with the white circles around his eyes like some kind of sunburnt albino raccoon.  I cringe when I listen to him speak, garbling words and repeating his sixth grade vocabulary to the point of incoherence – who could listen to that and be anything but embarrassed for the man?  When his followers are interviewed at his rallies, they say they like him because “he tells it like it is”.  Well, if an incoherent soup of lies, insults and unsubstantiated boasts  are “like it is,” then I guess they have a point.

A woman I know professionally and with whom I’ve shared a meal or two, mystifies me with her Facebook posts.  She was very helpful to me during a stressful time in my life, and I genuinely like the woman.  Based on what she posts on Facebook, it’s clear that she loves animals and is concerned about the preservation of the natural environment, and she has even shared some intelligent and humane items on immigration and income inequality.  But she is an unabashed  Trump fan and constantly posts negative items about Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Democratic leaders generally that make them out to be liars and the scourge of our country and the reason why things are as terrible as they are in this country right now.  I cannot comprehend such utter cognitive dissonance.

I don’t understand why people like her consistently vote against their interests.  Why are there any middle class supporters of Trump at all?  If you’re not a multi-millionaire like him, he doesn’t care one whit about you except to the extent that you shower him with praise and adulation.  For that, you are useful to him.  Otherwise, he couldn’t care less.  I read about a recent Gallup poll that claimed 6 in 10 Americans think they’re better off today than they were three years ago, but I just don’t see it.  I must be part of the 4 in 10 who is struggling, paying more in health care bills, utilities, student loans and credit card interest than ever before, with no relief in sight, seemingly unable to get ahead or escape the crushing debt.  And yet, I saw another article today about the record levels of personal debt Americans are carrying.  That explains it, then.  We’re better off because we’re more willing to go into debt to get there.  (See my post last week about the curse of consumerism – and here’s a post-script to that:  I forgot completely to mention this new insane phenomenon of “influencers”.  For the uninformed, these are otherwise talentless individuals who have managed to develop a social media persona whereby they promote certain products and accumulate followers, which earns them money and the opportunity to promote more products and get more followers, and on and on.  Yet another thing I do not get at all:  why people waste their time and money on the advice of nobodies who want you to buy things just so they can bolster their reputations.)

I don’t understand why someone like Lindsay Graham can be so anti-Trump during the 2016 campaign – and be insulted and belittled by him; remember Trump’s public disclosure of Graham’s cell phone number? – and suddenly become his biggest fan?  Same with Ted Cruz or even “Little” Marco Rubio.  Don’t these guys have any self-respect?  Humans shouldn’t be able to make 180-degree turns like that without a good reason, and I haven’t seen one, unless fear of reprisals from a bully and a jerk are sufficient justification.  What has Trump done for Graham or Cruz or Rubio to make them change their tune so radically?  I just don’t get it.  And why haven’t former loyalists like Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson, who Trump insulted mercilessly both in and out of office, stood up and defended themselves, or at least questioned why this behavior is allowed to continue?  I’ve heard that former Chief of Staff John Kelly has finally started talking sense, but really, who’s listening other than people who already agree with him?

Some people’s motivations are clearer than others.  Take Mitch McConnell, for instance.  His drivers are greed and power.  That much is obvious.  But why is he so adamant about creating an insurmountable logjam of bills in the Senate that ultimately reflects badly on him?  I guess his Kentucky constituents are still behind him (although that will be proven in November, as a really attractive Democratic opponent, military hero and mom Amy McGrath, is lurking back in his home state generating grass roots support hopefully sufficient to remove his saggy ass from office while Mitch wastes all our time rejecting House bills in D.C.), but here’s a thought – why bother keeping Trump around?  McConnell could do the same damage with Mike Pence as president and have a lot less mind-boggling baggage to deal with.  If I were McConnell (which, happily, I am NOT), I would have cut my losses with Trump and thrown in with Pence in a heartbeat when handed a primo opportunity with the impeachment trial.  Pence is a lily white, homophobic, religious right-wing nightmare, but he’s not a megalomaniac, wanna-be dictator like Trump who daily threatens the rule of law and democracy itself through his cruelty, ignorance and self-absorption.  Frankly, I didn’t understand why there wasn’t more of a push amongst Republicans when they held both the House and the Senate to oust Trump, because only Republicans would have been in the line of succession.  Now, if anything happened to Trump and Pence to remove them from office, we’d have President Pelosi, which would be a karmically delicious outcome for Democrats but awfully dangerous to Republicans.  I have to believe there are other ways to disseminate the poison of the Republican agenda that don’t involve the unpredictable and ridiculously unattractive Trump.

That’s another thing I don’t understand about Republicans in general — why they have been so willing to abandon their core (or at least they used to be core) ideologies, such as reducing the deficit, limiting governmental control and preventing executive overreach?  In an effort to try to make sense of some of these motivators, I consulted former Republican media manipulator Rick Wilson’s book, Everything Trump Touches Dies, which provided a comprehensive analysis of why Republicans are so willing to drink the Trump Kool-aid.  But even with all of Wilson’s explanations, and acknowledging that, if Trump is skilled at anything, it’s being a con man (it’s certainly not being a deal-maker), those rationales still rang hollow.  Trump, to me, is like the old alcoholic who takes up residence at the end of the neighborhood bar, a built-in fixture bloviating about everything and anything, who knows it all and has all the answers, and no one listens to him until the bartender finally says, “Enough, old timer,” and calls him a cab so the patrons can finally get some peace and quiet.

Or do Republican goals only have meaning if Democrats are in control of government?  Another thing I don’t understand about Republicans is, if they want government out of people’s lives so much, why are they so fixated on controlling what women do with their own bodies, or what folks do in the privacy of their bedroom, or what children are taught in schools?  If you’re going to roll back regulations in favor of Big Agro and Big Oil and Big Pharma because they don’t want government intruding into the workings of commerce, what about rolling them back for the Little People?  (In that sense, I have somewhat Libertarian tendencies and think government should be less about CONTROL and more about SUPPORT.)

But enough about the incomprehensible Republicans – what about the Democrats?  How is Elizabeth Warren not the most popular candidate in the 2020 campaign?  Why are the strongest candidates at the moment all old white men in their 70s?  Why do young people so fervently support a crazy-haired old white guy who would (figuratively) blow up the establishment in a heartbeat rather than everyone’s favorite teacher, a mom and grandmother, who is truly looking out for the “little guy” in a less combative way than Bernie (but then again, don’t challenge her, because she’ll put you in your place in a heartbeat)?  She doesn’t have Hillary’s baggage, and she’s smarter than anyone in the room (but doesn’t feel the need to brag about it).  The New York Times, former fellow candidate Julian Castro and others clearly agree with me (although the Times split their endorsement with Amy Klobuchar, who I also like, but I don’t think she’s as complete a candidate as Elizabeth Warren is).  When she dialed back her plan for Medicare-for-All after being criticized for it, by saying, “Okay, we won’t force it on you, but we’ll give you a chance to try it, and I’m sure you’ll like it” – which in my mind was such a reasonable response: she re-considered her position and offered up a compromise solution — how was that a bad thing?  And yet pundits and the public deemed that a problematic development and have even blamed her supposed “backtracking” for her drop in the polls.  There’s a woman I know through my rescue group who is very kind and funny and I think we could be better friends if I ever managed to wake up early enough to join her at the local pool for Aquasize.  But she and I had a text discussion the other day where she said she doesn’t trust Warren because she had the temerity to release her DNA results in connection with the whole Native American brouhaha.  To me, that was Warren being transparent, but to her, it was disqualifying.  This is what we’re up against!!  I don’t understand it – not one bit.

[An aside on that episode in Warren’s trajectory:  I kind of understand where she was coming from with her claims to Native American heritage.  First of all, she was PROUD of it, so why is that a negative?  We should all take more pride in our Native American ancestors and predecessors rather than ignoring the slow genocide of a race of people that continues to this day.  I’m certain it was a matter of a childhood spent listening to family tales of a great-grandma or auntie who was a member of the Cherokee Nation, and feeling pride in that.  I have something similar in my history:  My father told us for years we were descended from gypsies, which explained his clairvoyance and ability to tell what was in wrapped packages before he opened them.  In my youth I would brag about being a gypsy (before learning about their darker side, of course), but I confess I would be a little disappointed if I did a DNA test and it didn’t come back with at least a little Romany ancestry.]

And one last thing I don’t understand (although believe me, there’s more):  What’s the deal with women who willingly subvert themselves to men ? Maybe their excuse is fear, or it’s all they’ve ever known, but thinking that way only serves to perpetuate second-class citizenship for females.  Why are there woman saying America is not ready to elect a woman president?  To the contrary, women should be DEMANDING a woman president, and since we actually make up a slight majority of the population in general, we should win every election if we stay true to our gender.

The bottom line?  I wish I had more clarity about human nature, but given that we are so complex and not always transparent, it doesn’t seem likely that I’ll get it.  People’s motivations will continue to be a mystery to me.  Even on those rare occasions when I think I know why people do the things they do, something will be revealed that shows my assessment to have been completely wrong.  All I know for certain is this:  Whatever their inclinations, the majority of Americans had better do the right thing come November 3 and vote the current disaster out of office (and make sure he leaves).  I am so tired of living in Bizarro World, where presumably decent and intelligent people are controlled by their fear of the insults and retribution of a Cheetoh-colored man-baby.

no understand

No comprendo.

 

The Curse of Consumerism

The modern middle class lives in debt so we can keep up with the Joneses, so we can get the best, the flashiest, the name brand, to boast and flaunt.  But why?  How is this relentless money-spending improving our lives in any way?

Oh, I’m guilty of it, I confess.  When I was suddenly making more money than I ever thought possible as a lawyer (and, not coincidentally, spending less time with my school-age daughter), it became so easy to just take her to the mall – especially around Xmastime, when long end-of-year working hours meant no time to search for meaningful gifts – and buy her everything she showed interest in having.  There is a definite appeal to going into a store, seeing something you like, and just buying it, with no concerns about whether you can afford it, or worrying that, if you buy this, you won’t have money for something more essential, like food or rent or dental care.

And if I miraculously won the lottery and had money to spare, where those worries weren’t a daily source of agita, there are certainly things – higher-end things – that I wouldn’t mind spending cash on, like season tickets for Rangers games (or at least a partial plan) and all the CDs I’ve been keeping lists of in the event I had money to buy them.  [An aside:  If I had season tickets for the Rangers, it wouldn’t be so disappointing when they lose at MSG, like they did last night – my daughter had gotten us tickets for Xmas, an incredibly thoughtful gift, and then they went and stunk up the place.  But if I had enough money where I could afford to go to every game (or most of them), a stinker wouldn’t disappoint me so much.]

If Superstorm Sandy taught me anything, it was about the impermanence of objects:  THINGS GET LOST, STOLEN, DESTROYED BY ACTS OF GOD.  You can do your best to protect them in fireproof boxes and Rubbermaid bins, but somehow, they will end up a pile of dust or in someone else’s hands. Having expensive things – like jewelry and electronics – also makes you a target for crime (because, of course, thieves have the curse of consumerism, too, only they don’t have money so they have to take YOUR things).

I blame the advertising profession.  (See an earlier blog of mine, “Ad Nauseum”, from May 27, 2015, that ruminates on the topic at length.)  [Another aside:  I recently inventoried my blogs from 2015 to 2018 and I realized that I have covered a lot of ground!  Revisiting some of my better ones will be the topic of a future blog, I’m sure.]  All that money wasted trying to get people to WANT things!  But Americans – and not just Americans, actually, but people the world over (I’m looking at you, Japan!) – are suckers for the next shiny, new thing, and if it’s more expensive, well, then it must be better.

And what is the attraction of name brands?  My daughter’s brother craves Gucci slides.  WHY?  They’re comfy shoes going on your stinky feet!  Does Gucci employ elves to manufacture slides that magically freshen your tootsies as you wear them while earning you compliments from passing strangers?  “Love those Gucci slides, man!!  Wish I had me a pair!  And by the way, your feet smell fabulous!”

Don’t get me started on those celebrities like Martha Stewart and Rachel Ray and other famous brand-masters who convince people that everyday, ordinary things like dog food and paper clip holders are worth paying more for just because they have the desired “name” on it. If Martha Stewart personally gave it her seal of approval, it must be worthy!!  And what’s the deal with lesser celebrities, like that Lauren Conrad person, who had her 15 minutes of fame on some MTV reality show and now considers herself a designer?  When I bought the Lauren Conrad brand slippers at Kohl’s (on sale, like all merchandise at Kohl’s at some point in the retail cycle, which is the only way I buy pretty much everything these days), they stained my feet orange and left tufts of fake fur all over my house.  When they were first offered for purchase, I’m sure those Lauren Conrad slippers were sold at a premium simply because they had her name on them.

If it were up to me, everything would just be generic and functional, and then there wouldn’t be a need for all these status purchases.  It would be the great equalizer – rich and poor, urban or rural, we would all have the SAME STUFF and spend the same amount of money for it, and it would last as long (without purchasing extra warranties!) and serve its intended purpose.  That might be boring for some, but it makes sense to me.

Who am I kidding?  I’m as much of a sucker as anyone else.  I literally just shelled out nearly $50 (money I shouldn’t really be spending given my precarious financial situation) at Bath & Body Works for hand soap and antibacterial gels in a mind-boggling variety of fragrances.  And yes, they were on sale, and yes, I had a coupon (which is how they get you in the store in the first place), but I didn’t NEED any of it.  It doesn’t bring me joy (although my new Confetti Cake Pop body spray makes me smile, at least for the first half hour after I’ve doused myself with it).

The curse certainly raised its head this week when we were forced, courtesy of a lady stopping short in the middle lane of three-lane road, to buy a new car for my daughter when her 2012 Jetta (which we bought from her uncle for a reduced price before she went away to college) was declared a total loss.  The kid told me, in no uncertain terms, that her dream car is a Dodge Challenger, and there wasn’t even a second option.  So off to the dealership we went, with nary a peep from me in protest, and purchased a 2018 certified pre-owned Dodge Challenger.  It was a complete impulse buy, probably a hundred dollars a month more than we could realistically afford, but she knew what she wanted, so that’s what we got.  I will say this:  It was a far less stressful car shopping experience than what I went through with my sister a few months back, when she didn’t really know what she wanted but she DID know she couldn’t afford to pay very much, so it was all about finding the best deal.  When you walk into a car showroom and you know what you want and what you’re willing to pay, it makes the salesperson’s life (and ergo YOUR life) a lot easier.

All that being said, I guess the moral of today’s blog post is this:  If you live hand-to-mouth, you have a lot fewer choices in life when it comes to consumables, even if you still WANT the expensive, name-brand stuff (and even if you sometimes make a misguided purchase you can’t really afford).  A little extra income goes a long way toward letting you satisfy your impulses with less guilt.  But some of the reasons we’re compelled to pay more for things are kind of ridiculous.  (Gucci slides?  Seriously??)

D car

The “dream car” (NOT a Honda).

Visualize Your Perfect Life

My daughter, at twenty-four years old and two years removed from college graduation, is in a limbo phase when it comes to her career (or at least next steps into functioning adulthood).  Her degree is in wildlife management, and during her college summers she did field study in Costa Rica and South Africa, both of which were awe-inspiring undertakings for her.

But since graduation, rather than finding employment in some exotic locale working with endangered species in the wild, or even working at one of our exemplary zoological parks (“The Zoo” on Animal Planet – a behind-the-scenes look at the Bronx Zoo – is a must-see for any animal lover), she’s been first a staff member and then the manager at the local animal shelter.  Indeed, she’s gained valuable hands-on experience working with dogs and cats (and the occasional bird, hamster or rabbit), learning how to handle difficult animals, administer medication and first aid, and maintain a public-facing municipal facility, often under difficult and always stressful conditions.  As of January, she has stepped back from that job and is taking a couple of classes at the local community college as a refresher in her chosen area of study, with the expectation that she will apply to graduate school programs in the fall.

The other day I asked her to imagine her perfect life, to visualize herself being utterly happy. What would she be doing? Where would she be living?  Who would be around her (human and/or animal)?  What does that happiness look like to her?

She confessed that she isn’t able to envision it – at least not yet – but she did say this:  “Maybe I don’t know what it looks like because I haven’t seen it.”  I said, “That’s fair,” but I also encouraged her to keep working at it.  Maybe she should talk to her new zoology professor at the local college, or her former TA, an ornithologist who finally, in her late thirties, after stints in West Virginia and Texas, found her perfect position in New England, to see how they got where they are now from where they started.  Do some research – look for cool documentaries (she already watches a lot, but more frequently about serial killers than the wonders of the natural world), read the newsletters that her university sends out, seek out and talk to folks in the field.  With any luck, in the course of her exploration she’ll know “it” when she sees it!

Some people know what they want in life very early on – like an elite athlete, or a child performer, or an artist – and then use visualization techniques to be more successful at their craft.  Others (like my daughter) aren’t as clear.  She knows animals are somehow involved in her dream career, and she knows it will be something that allows her to use her concern for the planet and passionate sense of justice to focus her efforts where they can have the most effect.  But unfortunately there’s no job description for that.

I’ve been grooming her for that level of happiness for years.  We’ve always had a hand-written saying stuck to the refrigerator door, at eye level so you see it every time you open it:  “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  It was so important for me to impart that message to her because I regret not doing that myself, not pursuing my dream career when I got out of college.  Somehow I lost my way, and 40 years later, I’m still at sea when it comes to my perfect livelihood.

But when it comes to my perfect visualized life, well, at 60 years of age, my vision isn’t all that different from my reality, with one small exception (who am I kidding? – one oppressively large exception, actually):  In my ideal life, I don’t have this job, and I don’t have to worry about how to pay my bills.  Other than that, though, I rather like a lot of things about my life right now:  I read, I write, I enjoy my animals, I volunteer at the shelter, I spend time with friends and family (although I could always use more of that) and I watch my beloved New York Rangers (even when they’re losing).  I live near the ocean and can smell the sea air and hear the waves from my deck (although I would gladly trade it in for a warmer option – I hate the cold and snow in the Northeast!).  I would add more physical activity – hikes, walks, maybe aerobics or aquasize – and subtract sitting at my computer all day, waiting for clients to respond to my requests and queries.  Just a few minor tweaks – okay, one LARGE tweak – and my life would be pretty much as I’ve envisioned it.  I’m just a lottery win away!

My happy place

My happy place

Raven

Fifteen years ago, I didn’t realize that there was a “kitten season”.  So when I went to look for a kitten for my kid for Christmas, I was shocked that there weren’t many to choose from in mid-December.  But I saw a photo of an adorable all-black baby, which the ad said was a boy, and I called.

The foster mom (a large, loud woman named Brandy who creeped me out when she told me, apropos of nothing, that former New York Ranger and New York City native Brian Mullen had pursued her romantically, leading me to think, wow, she has NOT aged well) explained that the kitten was really a female, and she was so young she wouldn’t be available until after Christmas.  And she also said there were actually two kittens – the last of a litter she had saved at literally days old when their mother was killed by a car.  She called them Serafina and Eleanor; my daughter immediately renamed them Jojo and Raven, after two pop stars of the moment.

Baby Raven

Baby Raven

Jojo was all gray – she resembles a Russian Blue, but I don’t think she is one – and Raven was, of course, all black, both solid without a spot or hair of another color (other than Raven’s stark white whiskers).  They felt like flannel and silk.  At first, they cuddled a lot, perhaps for security, but it wasn’t long before they went their separate ways and essentially became one-person cats:  Jojo was my daughter’s, and Raven was mine.  My bed was Raven’s kingdom, which she would occasionally let someone else share (including me).  I would often wake up in the morning with her literally lying on top of me, but more frequently she woke me with a poke or a nose nibble.  Jojo went away to college with my daughter for two and a half years, but Raven was a homebody.  She kept to herself, but didn’t mind a daily petting session, usually at night.  Oddly, she didn’t purr for years, but one day, suddenly, she did.  It was as if something had been jarred loose in her purr box.

Raven sharing her bed with Gizmo and with me.

Raven has been suffering for the past couple of years with hyperthyroidism and went from being a sleek panther girl to a bag of bones.  Her once silky fur turned greasy and full of dandruff.  The doctor prescribed Methimazole, which I gave to her in the form of chews.  Unfortunately, she wouldn’t eat the chews on their own so I had to break them up and stick the pieces on the backs of a few Temptations treats and then feed her a bunch of treats together so she wouldn’t be able to tell which ones had the meds.  But despite the medication, and even though her appetite never wavered, she was still losing weight.  (She also had some awful bowel movements, usually on my daughter’s bathroom floor, but let’s not dwell on the details.)

Yesterday, she appeared to deteriorate quickly.  Her eyes were sunken and she seemed to be struggling to walk.  I worried that the end was coming, so I brought her to the vet for one last set of tests.  He sent her home, promising to call in the morning with the results of her blood work.

Six a.m. this morning, my daughter came into my room.  She was getting ready to take a load of shelter puppies to the ASPCA facility for their spay and neuter appointments, and she found Raven behind her bathroom door.  “I think she’s dead,” she told me.  She was.

It was too early to take her to the vet so I gently put her in a box and tucked it away so none of the other creatures would bother her.  Jojo seemed not to notice, but who can really tell what goes on in the mind of a cat?  She’s known Raven all her life; they’re sisters.  Could Jojo sense that Raven had passed away?  We will never know.

I brought Raven in as soon as the vet opened.  They made a pawprint mold with her name beneath, and a few tiny black hairs got trapped in the indentation.  This, and photographs, are all that remain of my 15-year companion, a really nice cat, one of my favorites.  I will miss her.

Final Memento

Final memento

I’ve lost two cats in the span of a year – first, Mimi, an elderly cat who I had waited  a long time (a year too long, actually) to adopt but who belatedly became a cherished pet for the last three  years of her life.  (An aside:  The vet actually lost Mimi’s pawprint when she died, which made me determined to stay there this morning until they could hand me Raven’s pawprint rather than wait for them to call me to pick it up.  That was actually highly unusual for my vet, All Creatures in Long Beach, NY, whose doctors have been my trusted vets since I moved into my house in 2014.)

For some people, losing a pet is like losing a family member.  Your companion animals are a huge part of your life for what could be up to a couple of decades.  It is one of those ultimate unfairnesses that pets are given such short life spans.  But looked at another way, because they are so short-lived, you have a chance to know and care for many animals in your lifetime. Every pet is a unique soul.  I am grateful that I had the pleasure of sharing my home with Raven (and Mimi before her, and Loki and Alfie before her, and Beezer and Honey, Lucky, Puck and Simon – oh, my sweet, sweet Simon!) for however much time we had together.  And I still have six cats and three dogs who need my time and attention for the foreseeable future (not to mention my foster friends).  I’d rather not think about them dying until I absolutely have to.

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My Favorite Things

There are five general categories of things that I love more than anything else in this life:

No. 1 – My kid. While she’s certainly not perfect and even drives me a little crazy sometimes, I will always be her biggest fan.  I made her, after all, baked her in my body like it was an Easy-Bake Oven and she was a tiny angel food cake.

Second only to my kid I love my family and friends, and goodness knows I’ve been fortunate to have some really special people in my life – including my sister and my niece, and my first cousins on my mother’s side:  one is a podcaster extraordinaire (check out his podcast “Meanwhile at the Podcast”, described as “a show about pop culture, fandom, and the fun stories of everyday life” [http://meanwhileatthepodcast.libsyn.com]) and the other is a dad of two kids, the younger of whom I only know from Facebook (but I already adore her) and the elder I last met when he was barely walking.  I miss my cousins.

When we were growing up, and especially when my grandparents still lived in New York, we saw them a lot, and always spent holidays together.  I remember vividly the night before my cousin George was born.  Much of my extended family had gathered in the basement of my grandmother’s house in Queens Village to celebrate the 90th birthday of my great-grandmother, which included the whole panoply of second cousins and first cousins once removed.  My aunt hadn’t come to the festivities, however, due to the fact that she was ready to give birth, and in fact she did the following morning – on Christmas Eve of 1967.

But now my cousins live in the D.C. area and, while we follow each other on social media, we haven’t seen each other in years, which is really a shame.

Some of my closest friends, too – people I love like they’re actual family – are long-distance and visited much too infrequently.  One of the things I’m most looking forward to for my retirement is being close to one or more of them so that we can hang out on a regular basis. They are fun and fascinating to be around, and I cherish the time spent together, especially given that it’s so infrequent.

No. 2 – Music of all kinds (as long as there’s a melody). I’ve been accumulating my collection since I was four years old, although I had a devastating loss following Superstorm Sandy in 2012 when all my best LPs – hundreds of them – were warped and waterlogged and lost forever.  (I lost a lot of unreproducible cassette mix tapes, too.)  I’m still kind of old-school when it comes to my current collection, although I’m not a vinyl collector (I do have a few remaining second-tier albums and also took a box of my soon-to-be-ex-brother-in-law’s albums that he was going to just THROW OUT (the horror!), including a stash of Pink Floyd LPs that I’m very excited about).  Streaming music just doesn’t do it for me, although I certainly appreciate the variety.  I mean, I listen to the radio – WFUV, 90.7 on the terrestrial radio dial – all day, every weekday while I’m working from home, and in the car on local drives.  But I want to OWN my music, to be able to listen to it on demand, in my own flow and combinations, wherever I might be located (as long as there’s a listening device).  My classic iPod is battered and suffers glitches such as songs that end prematurely, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the greatest musical storage invention of all time, and incredibly portable.  I still buy CDs when I have Amazon gift cards, not to mention thousands of downloaded iTunes, which I then back up on recorded “mix tape” CDs with names like “The Never-Ending Collection” and “Nan’s Favorite Gift Is Always Music” (a not-so-subtle message to anyone who is thinking of buying me a present for my birthday or some other gift-giving occasion), which I catalog in a Mix CD inventory so I know exactly where to find any single song in my miscellany at any given time.  I’m kind of obsessive about it and only regret that I don’t have more time to enjoy the full variety of my music (basically only on weekends and long drives).

I also regret that I no longer have any good buddies in close proximity with whom to share my music.  Back in the day, communal music listening was a huge part of my life, but no longer.  I haven’t found any new friends who love musical exploration as much as I do.  There is a lovely couple I’ve become friendly with lately – I went to high school with the husband, who is a guitarist in a really entertaining CSNY cover band named Four Way Street, for which I’ve turned into quite the little groupie, and I also really like his wife; we all share political leanings as well as a love of music – but unfortunately they live miles away and we haven’t reached the point of socializing outside of band performances, where it’s not always so easy to communicate amidst the noise and crowds.

In any event, music for me has always been somewhat of a solitary pursuit, but one that I take a great deal of pride in sharing with like-minded, open-minded folks.

No. 3 – Animals, especially cats, and especially kittens. There is nothing cuter.

My daily involvement as a volunteer with the local animal shelter / rescue organization Posh Pets and being the foster parent of over 30 creatures over the past few years is a testament to that love.  Even though the never-ending clean-up of poo and pee and vomit can be exhausting, the incessant barking gives me frequent headaches and the cost of pet food (and wee-wee pads and paper towels) is bank-breaking, I get a warm feeling inside when one of my fosters goes to a permanent home where they will be loved and doted on.  When I pet my cat Savannah, or cuddle a puppy, or a kitten makes biscuits on my belly, or on quiet afternoons when all the dogs and cats are in their respective beds enjoying a siesta, it’s the pinnacle for me of peacefulness and joy.  Companion animals are deserving of better than we give them.  They trust us; they depend on us; we are their world.

No. 4 – Hockey, especially New York Rangers hockey. Such an exciting game – there’s no greater value for your entertainment dollar, as far as I’m concerned.

I’m far from a stats wonk, and I have no interest in assembling a fantasy league team.  I just like to watch the games, and I really only follow the Rangers.  Once the Rangers get eliminated in – or prior to – the playoffs (which has sadly happened every year since the blessed year of our Messier, 1994), I just immerse myself nightly in the glorious spectacle that is playoff hockey and perhaps a favorite will emerge over the course of no less than four grueling best-of-seven series that I think is deserving of the ultimate team prize, the Stanley Cup.

I appreciate the personalities of hockey players and enjoy watching their reactions to things happening on the ice, and I’m also fascinated by what they do for fun off the ice.  (One of the best things I ever watched on TV was the HBO Series “24/7” that followed the Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers in the days leading up to the NHL Winter Classic in 2011.  Uncensored and hysterical, it was a coveted insider look at what hockey players say and do during games and at home.)  Hockey is an incredibly human game.  Hockey players come in all sizes, from 5’6” mini-mighties like Mats Zuccarrello and Marty St. Louis, and the prototypical tiny tough guy, Theo Fleury, to giants like the 6’9” “Big Z” Zdeno Chara or the man-mountain goalie for the Dallas Stars, 6’7” Ben Bishop.  Even though, as a general matter, the players seem to be getting bigger and younger, there’s still room in the game for small and old(er).

I feel sad when the Rangers lose a lot, and I get frustrated when they don’t SHOOT THE DAMN PUCK, especially when they’re on a power play.  If I were a coach, I would preach the following:  Get the puck out of your zone, then get it deep into theirs.  Think shot first, always.  You can’t score if you don’t shoot.  I’m not as clear on defensive strategy, but that would be my simple but effective offensive game plan every time.

I spent my youth talking hockey with my dad, and my college years being a valued member of the Trinity College hockey coaching brain trust, as team statistician.  (A precursor to today’s “video coach,” I had the best overview of the action from my perch on the highest bleacher seat at center ice, and I memorialized every shot, goal and penalty in my trusty spiral-bound book, which we analyzed after every game.)  The players undoubtedly wondered about my motives for spending so many winters hours traveling with the team, but Coach John Dunham knew the real reason I was there was a pure love of the game, and he was the only one whose opinion mattered.

As a college graduate, I was certain I would have a career in the sports world (well, hockey was the dream, but I would have settled for any pro sport in those early days).  Thanks to an unfortunate life path divergence I’ll expand upon in some future post, it was a dream deferred and, ultimately, denied, because it’s way too late in life now.  In law school I seriously considered pursuing a career as an entertainment lawyer, and my Sports Law professor (who gave me an A) was a former trustee of the New York Islanders so I might have had an “in”, but it wasn’t meant to be, and I ended up as a summer associate at the firm where I’ve been ever since, dealing with aviation finance transactions rather than rinks and stats and sticks and pucks.

Even if it’s not my career, I can (and do) still love hockey from the confines of my own couch and occasionally even decent (but never great, which is always a huge disappointment ) seats at Madison Square Garden.  For a few years I even had the income to be a proud partial-season plan owner, with all the perks that came with it, such as an outing at Bowlmore Lanes in NYC with my kid, where we literally rubbed elbows with Brandon Prust (her favorite player at the time) and Rangers’ TV color man Joe Micheletti.

(An aside:  My kid also counts among her favorite things in life items 2, 3 and 4 above, but not so much item 5.  Which is  . . . )

No. 5 – The written word – both to read and to write. Right now I literally have four books going, from Rachel Maddow’s Blowout to James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to read any of them to the end and will in all likelihood have to return one or more of them prematurely to the library, to be re-borrowed to finish at some future date.  I am so jealous of a recently retired friend of mine who just published on Facebook his 10 favorite books of the year.  (Obama, too, always brags about his prolific reading lists.  How does he find the time??)

As for the writing part?  Well, here I am . . . staying up past my bedtime while trying to keep up with my weekly posts for this re-boot of “Life Considered”.  I maintain my dream of a wider readership (when I actually write something worthy of wider reading, that is).  And one of these days – probably in connection with my next residential move, which will involve considerable down-sizing – I’m going to have to cull through the decades of blathering journals I’ve been hoarding to see if I can find a nugget or two or three that might be the genesis of something publishable.

You know what I’ve concluded as a consequence of this analysis of my favorite things?  I NEED TO RETIRE.  Because once I do, I can indulge more deeply in all these things I love.

                     Some adorable kittens.  (Impossible to get them all to stay still!)

Meatballs

My sister and I have meatball grandma bodies.  We’re both about five feet tall (as I always remind her, at 4’11” she’s not even five feet tall, whereas I hover around 5’1”) and heavy breasted, which gives us the illusion of roundness from certain angles.  Our grandmother (born in 1918) was of the first generation who actively and persistently sought the svelte (but still curvy) figures of the Hollywood stars with restrictive rubber girdles and pointy bullet bras, flocking to Jean Nidetch’s fledgling Weight Watchers diet program in the 1960s.  I always remember my grandmother fighting with her weight, but she never really fit the meatball mold.  On the other hand, both her mother and her mother-in-law – great-grandmothers I was fortunate to know as a child – were on the more short-and-round side.  Unfortunately, my sister’s and my physiques seem to have skipped a couple of generations.  (Our mother, by our standards, was an Amazon at 5’6″ and always called us her “peanuts” when she stood next to us.)

When I lived with my mother after my divorce in 1998, between jobs and with an angry three-year-old who didn’t quite understand why Daddy didn’t live with us anymore (one time, she literally took a sharpie and wrote “NO” on various appliances and walls, although we never got a straight answer as to why), I was on a self-improvement mission.  My sister had just gotten married and lived a few towns away.  So we decided to take a step class at the Lucille Roberts halfway between our houses.  Our instructor was this beast of a girl (Cheryl?  Sharon?  Karen?), who was solid and tight, with thick thighs and a  high butt.  We tried so hard to follow her!  Neither of us has been blessed with the dancing gene (although I like to think I have a decent sense of rhythm, I don’t always know what to do with my arms). But we ended up, after a few weeks, being the confident ones who stood in front of the class, in full view of Cheryl/Sharon/Karen’s rock-hard derriere.  I can’t remember why we stopped going, but of course we did.  All of our fitness regimes (I’ve had many, my sister fewer – her roundness developed later than mine) eventually sputter out and die.

I’ve been though at least a dozen different diet or weight loss or lifestyle change programs, and I’ve been some degree of successful using each one.  I stuck with some longer than others, and for a few weeks, if not months, I wouldn’t feel like I was struggling or deprived, and the pounds – slowly but surely – would come off.

But then, something happens.  It’s always a different something (often, but not always, readily available holiday goodies starting around Halloween and extending through New Year’s), but the result is always the same:  falling off the wagon, eating uncontrollably, abandoning my exercise programs and packing on the pounds.  Most recently, my sister and I tried to be each other’s support system, texting each other at the end of the day with how many calories we’d eaten and how many steps we’d walked.  It was a good way to stay in touch with my sister, too, who doesn’t live very far from me but we don’t get together as often as I’d like.  She’s going through some major life changes of her own, and diet and exercise aren’t high on her list of priorities, even though she knows (we BOTH know) that when you’re exercising and eating right, you actually feel BETTER.  Unfortunately, we always fall victim to the opposite approach:  the only thing that we think will make us feel “better” when we’re struggling and sad is comfort food and couch surfing.

Not sure where to go from here.  They say it gets harder to lose weight and maintain fitness the older you are, and frankly, I’m older than I’ve ever been (and also fatter).  I’ve also come to the conclusion that I can’t (or won’t) give up those food items I love, like peanut butter, and ice cream, and pizza, and bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches – the list goes on and on.  So the way I see it, I have two options if I don’t want to be forever disgusted to look at myself in a mirror:  (1) Exercise on a regular basis, not just walking but perhaps getting back to a step or other aerobics class?  Perhaps I can do it from home?  If I just woke up an hour earlier every day, I could squeeze in some fat-burning activity.  At a minimum, I need to keep up with the steps – at least 7,500 a day would be ideal.  (2) Eat what I want, but eat way, way less of it.  No more obsessive binging, like polishing off a bag of Reese’s miniatures in a single night, returning again and again to the fridge where I kept the bag in a drawer (ineffectually trying to hide it from myself or at least make it more work to get to), grabbing two or three at a time, berating myself with every return visit.  Denying myself the foods I love – milk chocolate, cookies, the occasional giant blueberry muffin, peanut butter parfait Nips – would be like denying life itself. But I seriously need to develop better self-control.

Hopefully my sister and I can continue to encourage each other in our pursuit of fitness, and maybe, if we’re diligent, by the summer we can look more like frankfurters than meatballs (or at least cocktail weenies – nothing to be done about the shortness, I’m afraid).

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Meatball Great-Grandma in the middle, Grandma second from right, Mom third from right. No one could have predicted that the future would hold even more meatballs.

 

 

Life Re-Considered

I’ve missed my blog.  It’s been nearly two years since I’ve posted, for various reasons (which I will address in due course), and it’s almost as if my best friend moved away and lost touch.  Yes, I still write in my journal every day, and I still keep track of happy moments in my Joy Book (even though my entries sometimes consist of the simple declaration, “No joy today”).  But there’s a real void where my blog should be.

I started writing my blog in 2015 as an attempt to get my words out into the ether, to publicly post what I’d been hiding in my personal notebooks for decades.  I purposely committed to writing FOR MYSELF, and only for myself, so that I wouldn’t be disappointed if I wasn’t widely read or didn’t get a response.  Needless to say, I wasn’t and I didn’t, but that didn’t stop me.  For more than two years, I cranked out a blog entry weekly, re-reading and editing it until it was the best I could produce in a week’s time. I was proud of many of my blog entries, and occasionally even posted a link to particularly good ones on Facebook to access an even wider audience.  I was content.  I was writing, which is all I’ve ever really wanted to do and the only modest “talent” I felt I possessed.

But then the 2016 election happened, and slowly, over time, I lost the will to write.  All I could think about was how we had gotten it so wrong. How was an unabashed conman and rude caricature like Donald Trump allowed to become the president of ostensibly the greatest country on earth? How had enough Americans been so bamboozled to allow the only qualified candidate (by far) to lose the election?  It was as if a dark fog kept creeping into my brain unbidden, coloring everything in there.  If you look at the last few of my blog posts (monthly rather than weekly by then, in early 2018), you can see it clearly.

There was other darkness, too – my job, my lack of funds, my feelings of life passing me by.  And somehow the writing dried up and I stopped posting.

Oh, I thought about re-starting hundreds of times.  I wrote lots of solid first sentences, and even a full paragraph now and again.  But I couldn’t sustain the effort.  Frankly, I still wonder if I can, but it’s a new year now, a new hope of finally getting rid of the stain that’s been clouding the country, the world and my own mind for the past three years. I agree with a post by a friend on Facebook, who said optimistically that she welcomes 2020 because she wants to be happy again, to stop wishing the years away, yearning for a time when maybe we can use Facebook just to swap recipes or post photos of our pets rather than lamenting the destruction of our country and, ultimately, humanity itself.

So I’m giving my little experiment in thoughtful positivity another try, but I can’t promise to be a hundred percent positive a hundred percent of the time.  Please bear with me.  Perhaps it will be like a typical pro hockey season:  the rust of a summer of inactivity takes a few weeks to be buffed away, with daily practice and game-day regimens.  And by the time I reach the halfway point, I’ll either be in playoff contention or I’ll be selling off parts for a re-set.

I turned 60 last year.  I really thought I would have accomplished something in my life by now, and being a writer is all I’ve ever wanted to do.  The time is now.  I’ve really got nothing to lose.  Wish me luck.

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