Lethargy

This past weekend, I was extremely wasteful.  I stayed in bed until after 11 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, and then got lost down the Facebook wormhole for hours at a time.  Together with the constant stream of posts on Facebook that generate outrage and foment revolution (interspersed with much-needed cuteness and laughter breaks), I also get an overwhelming number of daily emails from a whole slew of politicians, local and otherwise, and organizations like MoveOn.Org and Global Citizen.  I try to quickly read them and delete them, but I’m so far behind at this point, I don’t know if I’ll ever get through them all.

The two things I fear most when it comes to our resistance to all things Trump are (1) fatigue and (2) missing something.  There’s been such a bombardment, so many distractions and misdirections, who can be sure that they’re not sneaking things through – bad, destructive things, even worse and more destructive than the horrible stuff we KNOW about –without the media or the watchdogs knowing?  I think we can pretty much guarantee that that’s what they’re doing, and I don’t think it’s paranoia speaking.  But the fact remains that I spend far too much time occupied with it, to the exclusion of other important things that need doing in my life.

I don’t know why I can never tick off every item on my daily “to do” lists.  Are my expectations too high?  Am I just too slow and lazy and easily distracted?  I get down on myself about it, but is that self-denigration justified?  Should I push myself more or give myself credit for the items I am able to cross off my list?  I spend the bulk of my waking hours engaging in this kind of self-dialogue:  beating myself up for not achieving what I set out to do, alternating with letting myself off the hook with platitudes like “I’m doing the best I can (which has to be good enough)” or “Hey, I’m only an imperfect human, after all.”  It’s a constant battle between feeling like I have to be harder on myself to do what needs to be done versus treating myself with a little more kindness and patience.

Take, for instance, getting out of bed in the morning (or, more accurately, NOT getting out of bed). I don’t even get an early start on those days when I have nothing scheduled, as was the case this past weekend.  It’s such a waste of precious time, languishing under the covers when I’m not even really sleeping anymore.  But clearly, I prefer staying in bed to doing ALMOST ANYTHING ELSE.

Sometimes I wonder, if I ever did win the lottery and was able to quit working for a living and could do as I pleased every day, would I still waste so much time in bed?  I like to think that I would not; that, freed of the work shackles and possessed of a new outlook on life, I would leap out from under the blankets at first light, ready to take on whatever the day might bring.  I’m pretty sure that’s a fantasy.  Part of the reason I stay in bed is because I don’t go to sleep till 2 a.m. most nights.  Eight hours of good sleep brings me to 10 a.m., so I’m already losing the bulk of the morning just by virtue of my circadian rhythms.

Then, once I finally do manage to rouse myself out of bed – usually because I have to pee, or the phone rings, or Mimi is making a racket in the litter box – it’s time to slog through my seemingly endless morning routine:  shower, brush my teeth and put in my partial denture (which I used to be able to get away with not putting in but now it’s a necessity given that I’m missing a front tooth and I look like a hillbilly grandma when I don’t), take my pills, scoop out the litter boxes and pick up the wee-wee pads, take the dogs out, and feed everybody.  Last to be fed is me, and then I sit my fat ass in front of the computer and just STAY THERE ALL DAY, sometimes working but most of the time just trolling the Internet, trying to clear out my email inbox and keep up with all the reprehensible behavior of the Trump administration and the Republican-dominated Congress that does nothing about it (which has the effect most days of making me feel physically ill, and yet I can’t stop).

I really need to make some changes in my life.  I know I’ve been using my pending move/transition back to my house as somewhat of an excuse to remain in my rut but there’s no real reason not to make some adjustments starting right now.  Money, weight management (food intake and exercise), getting organized, writing more consistently, thinking about my job/career/future – all very important things.  I’m 57 freakin’ years old and it’s time to be a grown-up and get my act together.

There’s a blog I follow called Seeds 4 Life that sends inspirational emails every day.  A couple of days ago I got an email that said, “Today we will decide WHY we have unrealized dreams.  What excuses have we made?  Why have we allowed dreams to stay dreams?  Time?  Finances?  Fear?”  My response?  YES.  The post goes on to say that we have to DECIDE:  If what we want is important, we’ll find a way.  If not, we’ll just find excuses.  The idea is to change “one day . . . “ into “Day One”.  [Lily Daub, “One Day or Day One. You Decide – Unknown”, The Seeds 4 Life, http://www.theseeds4life.com/one-day-or-day-one-you-decide-unknown]  That advice resonates with me, but so far I’ve remained stagnant and continue to make those excuses, so clearly changing my life is not that important to me at the moment.  Of course, a perennial excuse is that I lack a clear vision for my dreams for the future.  I mean, I DO know what I want my future to look like but I don’t know how to get there from here, especially since the future I envision involves living on a lot less income and also requires me to be braver about putting my work (and myself) out into the world.

I wish I could end this week’s post on a more positive note.  Perhaps it’s just the winter doldrums getting me down, or being so close to getting back into my house and yet still not there.  Maybe it has something to do with my suddenly all-too-real job insecurity (see “Job Insecurity”, 2/7/17).  Maybe it’s Trump.  Who knows?  I guess I’ll just have to keep focusing on (and being grateful for) the little joys in life (Learning that my friend is cancer free!  Buying new music!  Kitties at home and at the shelter!  New York Rangers on a winning streak!  Chicken souvlaki from Abe’s Pitaria and Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt with all the toppings!  Watching the hilarious mocking of Trump from all quarters and knowing it’s making him furious!)  Once the seasons change and the sun gets warmer and stays out longer, maybe then I’ll be ready to make those changes I keep going on about.

POSTSCRIPT:  According to WordPress, this is my 100th post!  Whee!  I’m kind of proud of myself!

Job Insecurity

I’ve been stressing for days about an annual job evaluation that I am scheduled to have next week with the new head of my department.  He is a partner I’ve known for many years, but his home base is on the opposite coast so we don’t often have an opportunity to work together.  Up till now, for the entire time I have worked at my firm , my trusted boss of long standing – a lovely man about whom I’ve written before (see “The Blizzard of 2016 and Some Thoughts About My Job,” 1/27/16) – has been both my direct supervisor and my evaluator as the head of the department.  This will be my first evaluation that isn’t with him.

[An aside:  The firm, for some reason, believes that associates need their assigned “mentors” (regardless of the extent to which such person has served as an actual mentor) to sit in on these evaluations, ostensibly for the protection and support of the associate.  I have assured the powers-that-be on numerous occasions, especially as I’ve become more senior and more separate, that I don’t need my “mentor” – a female partner with whom I have had a long, tumultuous and somewhat passive-aggressive relationship – to attend the evaluation on my behalf, but to no avail.]

My boss is well aware of the rationales for having cut back on my workload, and in fact is solely responsible for my special work situation.  I know he values what he calls my “institutional memory” (I have been there for nearly 15 years, after all), my responsiveness to the clients and my ability to handle the workload he sends my way largely autonomously.  But he also realizes that my evolution as a structured finance lawyer plateaued at about the equivalent of a mid-level associate.

So I’m dreading this evaluation with a virtual stranger, accompanied by a so-called advocate who has often been a harsh critic in the guise of “making [me] a better lawyer” whether or not I’ve asked for the feedback.  The thing that frightens me most is that I won’t be able to justify my half-time, work-from-home arrangement and, as a result, will bring about the demise of my cushy employment situation.  I fear it is much more likely that my evaluator (who is a very nice and fair man but who is trying to establish himself as the new “leader of the pack” following the long and successful tenure of my boss) will decide that I really no longer have a valid function within the group, I’m merely dead weight and I’m incapable of developing beyond my current status (the latter of which I freely admit).  Why would they possibly want to keep me around?

This raises two alternate streams of thought in my addled brain:

  1. I need to come up with a way to justify my existence at the firm, at least for the next year or so.
  2. I need to start thinking about a “Plan B” employment strategy that will prevent me from becoming homeless. This is further exacerbated by the fact that, thanks to my house elevation/renovation, I am in the deepest depths of debt and I’ve decimated my safety net.

Out of an abundance of anxiousness, I had a brief conversation with my boss last week to kind of toss out some buzz words that might satisfy my evaluator that I actually do bring value to the firm.  We came up with the following:  (a) Certain clients of long standing actually come to me directly with work and questions, often bypassing the billing partner.  (b)  I am responsible for numerous “one-off” and recurring deals that might fall through the cracks when the rest of the group is busy with large-scale transactions.  (c)  I can be relied upon by my superiors to complete work on time and correctly when asked to do so (although I only really get assignments from my “good” boss and my “nemesis” boss), and I am responsive to and dependable for clients.  (d) I don’t require a lot of administrative support, given that I have a certain depth of knowledge about common issues we frequently encounter in our line of work just by virtue of having done it for so many years (and I know enough to consult with the boss when I don’t) and facility with document manipulation, drafting and editing (I am a former word processor, after all).  (e) Finally, there’s the old stand-by economic argument:  At my level, they can bill the client much more for me per hour than the hourly wage they actually pay ME.  I am, therefore, a cash cow.  And even though I have a designated office in the city, I’m pretty easy on the overhead because I’m only there once a week

Who knows if it will work?  Perhaps I can just charm the fellow.  [LOL]

But this may be the wake-up call I need to give some serious thought to wage-earning- life-after-law-firm that will enable me to maintain my (and my daughter’s) lifestyle and simultaneously dig myself out of debt.  Truth be told, I really have no Plan B.  None at all.  And it is especially troubling considering that I’ve become basically a hermit who spends all her time sitting in front of her home computer, trolling the Internet and waiting for work requests to cross her inbox.

I saw something on Facebook today that listed 30 or so simple ways you could earn extra money doing things like being a “mystery shopper,” watching TV through a sort of measuring device to help market researchers figure out what people are (or are not) watching, or participating in focus groups.  You could be a bookkeeper (even if you’re math-challenged, like I am) or a proofreader for, like, $17 an hour without having to leave the confines of your home.  I could maybe try to do some writing-for-cash (it worked for Neil Gaiman, after all), although I don’t really have any marketable expertise.  I also looked into an online transcription company – I could maybe revert back to my old “profession,” although I can no longer type quite as fast as I used to.  A friend of a friend who abandoned the 9-to-5 world to become a freelance writer and jack-of-all-trades picks up paying gigs of all types by tapping into a sort of “service provider exchange”, and he seems to have found a reasonably happy balance in his life that I envy.  Then again, it’s just him and his dog that he has to support; he doesn’t have a college-age kid who thinks he’s a bottomless pit of money.

When looking for apartments last May, I mentioned to my realtor friend that I would be interested in learning how to do residential closings, because my years doing aviation closings might actually be translatable to closing on houses.  She said she could probably hook me up with some local lawyers who might need a hand, so that’s another possibility.

But there are three basic problems with all my “Plan B” ideas:  First, even if I did manage to string together three or four different freelance jobs, I would only be making a fraction of what I make now, and I’d still be responsible for paying for my health insurance and now taxes, too, which I currently get deducted from my monthly paychecks even though I’m paid as an independent contractor.   Second, the thought of submitting my resume and going on interviews petrifies me.  There aren’t too many jobs out there that I can just get without an application and interview process, and I am in no frame of mind to “sell myself” in ANY job market at the moment.  And finally, I have become so spoiled working from home these past few years that – shocker! – I only want to work from home, on my own schedule, wearing what I want and taking fridge-visit, local errand and dog-walking breaks whenever I need to.

I’ve had so many other things to stress about these past few months – my house, my lack of money, my downstairs neighbor, getting my daughter through school, not to mention the nightmare of Trump – that the job insecurity has been pushed to the back burner.  I’ve always known intellectually that my “good” boss was not going to be around forever and that, when he left the firm, I would probably be asked to leave the firm as well, but I was sort of in denial about it.  Now I am beginning to get more and more worried.  Next week’s evaluation will offer some clarity but, no matter the outcome, I think it’s definitely time for a Plan B.

The Frustration of Making Good Art

I have an extensive and ever-expanding list of books that I want to read, and recently I checked one of them out from the Long Beach Public Library:  A View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins, 2016).  Mr. Gaiman is a writer of some repute, of children’s books (the film adaptation of his book Coraline was nominated for an Oscar a few years ago, and he also won the prestigious Newbery Medal for his children’s novel The Graveyard Book), essays, fiction and graphic novels.  He is the creator of the comic book series The Sandman, which my cousin George (of the George and Tony Entertainment Show) probably knows very well but with which I am not yet familiar.  A View from the Cheap Seats is a way-too-large collection of his essays that I essentially abandoned after the first few, and then just cherry-picked through the remainder.  Mr. Gaiman is clearly a talented writer who ascended to his current stature by freelancing and fibbing his way through the morass of the publishing world, and he had enough raw talent – as well as a deep love and appreciation for literature of all kinds from a very early age – to make a name for himself in a field where that isn’t easy to do, especially in this day and age when so many people don’t read for pleasure anymore or, if they do, it’s fluff and nonsense like the Fifty Shades books or quick-and-dirty formulaic suspense novels.

I got a strong whiff of self-importance throughout Mr. Gaiman’s essays, and the sheer size of the collection is evidence of that; he and his editors might have been better served by culling some of the more redundant pieces (for instance, there were at least three essays about his wife Amanda Palmer and her musical collaborations).  When I envision my own collection of essays, which will happen one day, even if no one reads it (more on that in a moment), I want it to just offer a taste, to make my reader want MORE, to eagerly anticipate the NEXT collection.  And then, after I’m dead, my fans will have a full set of smaller collections by which my writings have been preserved for posterity.

I must confess, I found it a little disappointing last week that no one liked or responded to my blog post (“Some Post-Inauguration Thoughts”, 1/23,17).  I deemed it a decent enough piece that I even posted it on Facebook, and there was nothing offensive or outrageous in it, especially given that most of my Facebook followers are politically aligned with me.  I even thought that maybe some of my new “Organize, Plan, Act” (OPA) friends might enjoy it.  True, I didn’t post it on the OPA page (not entirely sure HOW to, actually), but a number of the OPA folks follow my regular Facebook page.  Evidently it didn’t interest them enough to read (or, even worse, if they read it, they didn’t “like” it).  Yes, I still do write the blog only for myself, but I’ve recently started getting some followers who aren’t friends or family (not many, but a few).  I was especially surprised that I didn’t get a “like” from a fellow WordPress blogger named Rachel Mankowitz, whose blog, The Cricket Pages, I like very much [https://rachelmankowitz.wordpress.com].  We always reciprocally “like” one another’s pieces, and I thought she would appreciate this particular one, knowing that she is also having difficulty getting her mind around a Trump presidency.  Much like I do, she muses in her blog posts about various topics, including politics and her graduate studies in social work, but the constant running theme of her entries are her adorable dogs, Cricket and Butterfly, and she includes photos of them in each essay with “their” thoughts and comments on what she is writing about.  Her blog is quite charming and insightful.  [A postscript:  She finally DID “like” my post the other day, so perhaps she was just busy, but she was the ONLY one to like it thus far.]  But, to reiterate:  I don’t really care, in the grand scheme of things, if anyone reads my blog posts.  I don’t write them for anyone else.  I write them for ME.  (Although – I won’t lie – it would be nice if other people DID read it occasionally!)

One of Mr. Gaiman’s essays was called “Make Good Art”.  It was actually a transcript of the commencement speech he gave at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 2012.  (Thanks to Mr. Gaiman’s humble brag, we know that the speech has been “watched many millions of times” online.)  He starts out by saying that he never graduated from “an establishment of higher education,” being essentially a self-taught genius.  The fact that he had been asked to give this commencement address was yet further evidence of his greatness, unlike those less fortunate souls who had to go school to learn how to write well.

(I don’t know why I’m being so harsh in my assessment of Mr. Gaiman.  It’s probably jealousy.  I admire – but also envy –writers who have had success, who have had the cojones to put their work out into the world and have it be well enough received that they have been able to earn a substantial living doing it.  But hey, good for Neil Gaiman that he’s become so successful that he can produce a 500-plus page anthology of just his nonfiction essays!  As he tells us often throughout the compilation, he HAS worked very hard.)

Much of his speech was alternately inspiring and frustrating.  I’m glad Mr. Gaiman has been fortunate to have enough money to live on so that he didn’t have to get a “real job” and could continue “making things up and writing them down, and reading books [he] wanted to read.”  Says Mr. Gaiman:  “Sometimes the way to do what you hope to do will be clear cut, and sometimes it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not you are doing the correct thing, because you’ll have to balance your goals and hopes with feeding yourself, paying debts, finding work, settling for what you can get.”  How did Mr. Gaiman do it?  He imagined that where he wanted to be – in his case, being an author and supporting himself through his words – was a distant mountain, and as long as he kept walking toward the mountain, he would be all right.  Well, I’ve had the mountain in sight for decades but, until I started writing my blog nearly two years ago, I haven’t really done much about making my way toward the mountain.  Maybe I should start.

But according to Mr. Gaiman, success has its own drawbacks (although I would be happy to test out that theory):  “I watched my peers, and my friends, and the ones who were older than me, and watched how miserable some of them were.  I’d listen to them telling me that they couldn’t envisage a world where they did what they had always wanted to do anymore, because now they had to earn a certain amount every month just to keep where they were.  They couldn’t go and do the things that mattered, and that they had really wanted to do, and that seemed as big a tragedy as any problem of failure.”

Even though Mr. Gaiman was discussing the woes of success here, I read them as the same woes I suffer in FAILURE.  How can I do what I love and own a home and put a kid through college and still have something set aside for retirement?  How can I do all those things and still follow my muse?  Why don’t I have enough talent to make a living doing the thing I love?  If I’m being totally honest with myself, it’s probably because I just don’t work hard enough, or feel confident enough in my work to share it more broadly, like on Medium or some other platform.  I certainly don’t market my work; I’ll occasionally put a blog post on my Facebook timeline, but that’s about as far as I’ve gone outside the safe little WordPress bubble.  I’ve written about this before [“An Aspiring Young Author,” 3/25/15; “How I Write,” 9/9/15], but it remains my deepest frustration, despite my dedication to my little blog that nobody reads.

But Mr. Gaiman’s piece did provide one piece of heartening advice that I can perhaps use as inspiration:  “People keep working, in a freelance world, and more and more of today’s world is freelance, because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time.  And you don’t even need all three.  [emphasis mine]  Two out of three is fine.  People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time.  They’ll forgive the lateness of the work if it’s good, and if they like you.  And you don’t have to be as good as the others if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.”  Maybe I can parlay this into some kind of freelance success, given that I’m a pleasant person to deal with and I am dependable enough to get my work in on time.  And while it may not be as GOOD as some others’, my work is not generally BAD (or at least I like to believe that it’s not).  So according to Neil Gaiman, an author I admire and envy (notwithstanding some of my more catty digs), there may be hope for me yet!

Some Post-Inauguration Thoughts

Well, it’s done.  We’re stuck.  Trump is the president of the United States for the foreseeable future.*  Something I never believed would happen has come to pass.  I remember telling my good friend Carole, when she expressed the grim certainty this past summer that he would be elected, that I couldn’t even conceive of it.  The nightmare is real.  I’m scared for my homeland, for current and future generations of Americans, including my suddenly politically aware daughter, but I feel existentially depressed and powerless to do anything about it.

I did join a local grassroots group called Organize, Plan, Act (OPA) that was begun by a couple of my high school classmates but which has expanded beyond the borders of Long Island.  (And anyone who is interested, please check out our page on Facebook.)  We had an in-person meeting this week, which made up for in passion what it may have lacked in focus.  There’s just SO MUCH we need and want to do – to protect our rights, to turn Congress and get more progressive representation that can actually resist the Trumpian juggernaut, to do battle on the side of “right” (not THE RIGHT, but what’s right and fair and sane) – but there’s also a danger that we’re just preaching to the choir.  We didn’t discuss this at the first meeting, but I think our focus needs to be on reaching out to people on the other side of the aisle who can be convinced to cross party lines and do what’s “right” (there’s that word again) when faced with decisions that will negatively impact our present and our future.  WE already know what’s what; it’s THEM that need convincing.  Yes, we need to let our Democratic senators and representatives know that we support them in their opposition, but it’s Republicans who we need to sway on issues because no matter how loud the Democrats speak, they will always be outnumbered (at least until mid-term elections in 2018).  Republicans may seem monolithic at times, but they’re not.  Representative Adam Kinzinger (R‑Ill.) was on “Vice News” the other night as an example of a congressional Republican who is not convinced by Trump and has publicly refused to blindly support him.  Senator Lindsay Graham is no fan, and neither is Senator John McCain, and I optimistically wonder if they (and others) would be willing to break party ranks if enough people from their own and other districts complained, especially if they have broader political ambitions.

Truth be told, I still feel powerless, even after the outpouring of support and solidarity represented by the Women’s March the day after the inauguration.  While certainly heartened and hopeful, perhaps most by the wide range of generations in attendance (with so many brilliant signs and banners; my favorite said “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance”), the first thing that popped into my head (and evidently – although I am loathe to admit that I share ANY thought with him – Trump picked up on it, too, in his first tweet on the topic) was, where were these people when Hillary needed them?  But then I thought to myself, these ARE the people who were “with” Hillary. Even if every voter at the Women’s March had voted for Hillary, there were still too many people who didn’t, who even now, months after her loss, continue to denigrate her.  There are actually people in my life who I consider generally decent who question whether she would have been any better.  OF COURSE SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER.  If Hillary were in office, we would know what to expect.  Now, it’s a constant, decidedly-non-fun guessing game in terms of how crazy Trump will be on any particular issue, or how wrong his “people”.  The very first gig of his press secretary Sean Spicer consisted of a petulant rant accusing the media of trying to make it seem like there were fewer attendees at the inauguration than there actually were.  WHO CARES HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE THERE?  There are so many more important things that need to be addressed.  Yet they continue to perpetuate lies in the face of actual facts to the contrary, like Kellyanne Conway saying Spicer was putting forth an “alternative” set of facts.  THEY’RE NOT FACTS!!  THEY’RE FALSEHOODS.  (Thanks, Chuck Todd, for your incredulous response that literally took the words out of my mouth.)  There’s a dramatic difference between the two that Trump and his people don’t seem to get.

I’m still a combination of numb and scared and angry, still feeling helpless and impotent. But the word that keeps coming into my head is VIGILANCE.  We need to be vigilant.  It’s unfortunate to hear people say they don’t pay attention to politics, and I confess that I was less than interested, even after the buffoon George W. Bush and his cronies stole the election of 2000 (although I would take W. in a heartbeat right about now), but it’s become very clear to me, with our rights and freedoms under threat, that the government impacts so much in our lives that we take for granted.  I’m just waiting for the day when I can stand up against some injustice or speak out when something needs to be said so I can feel like I’m having some positive impact, no matter how small.  One small impact added to a bunch of other small impacts should eventually add up to a large impact.  Unfortunately, so far my protest activities have been limited to the OPA meeting, emailing and phone-calling my senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and my newly elected representative, Kathleen Rice (all of whom, I am proud to say, are progressive and outspoken Democrats that I have voted for), and posting “Like” and “Angry” responses on Facebook, but hopefully now that my eyes and ears have been well and truly opened, I will be able to take more substantive action soon.

It’s tough to pull any positives out of the inauguration of Trump.  [An amusing aside:  I posted a great article on Facebook the other day (Charles P. Pierce, “Today Was Just the Beginning. The Reckoning Will Come”, Esquire.com, 1/20/17, http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a52437/donald-trump-inauguration-day-report/).  Something I particularly loved about the article was that every time Mr. Pierce wrote “President Trump”, he put an asterisk after “President”.]  But at a minimum it should demonstrate to Democrats and progressives and probably Libertarians and all clear-thinking people that they need to mobilize, make lots of noise and take meaningful action because Trump and Congressional Republicans have all the power and want to take any modicum of power that remains away from everybody else.  We can’t sit idly by and let our planet be ravaged and our rights infringed.  The Women’s March was just the beginning (I hope).

Finally, I’d like to end this kind of dark and depressing post with something a little more uplifting, my personal rallying cry, which has been borrowed in this form from an article by Seth Millstein (“What To Tell People Who Say You Have To Accept Donald Trump’s Presidency Now”, Bustle.com, 1/19/17, https://www.bustle.com/p/what-to-tell-people-who-say-you-have-to-accept-donald-trumps-presidency-now-31726) but I had already posted something along these lines in my first public stand-taking on the Facebook page of Rep. Peter King, one of the New York Republicans we are targeting for removal in 2018:  “I reject the implication that just because Trump is president, we aren’t allowed to condemn him anymore. To the contrary: We most definitely are allowed to condemn him, whenever we like and as strongly as we see fit. One of the nice things about living in a democracy is that we’re allowed to freely criticize our government. This is the constitutional right of every American, and I’ll exercise it under any president with whom I disagree. I suspect I’ll be exercising it frequently under the Trump regime.”

_______________

*I read something interesting on Robert Reich’s Facebook page the other day.  (I love Robert Reich, by the way – he is so measured in his outrage and backs up what he says with actual, not alternative, facts.)  He recounted a conversation he’d had with an anonymous former Republican congressperson who explained that the Republicans are really just using Trump to push their pet agenda items through – like repealing the ACA, gutting Dodd-Frank, cutting the taxes of corporations and the wealthy, yada-yada-yada.  (A quote that really struck me:  “They’ll get as much as they want – tax cuts galore, deregulation, military buildup, slash all those poverty programs, and then get to work on Social Security and Medicare – and blame him. And he’s such a fool he’ll want to take credit for everything.”)  Then they’ll suddenly find something Trump says or does so outrageous that they’ll have to impeach him, and then Crazy Scary Pence will become president, which is what they wanted all along.  Evidently, it was the condition they set for backing Trump in the election.  Sounds a little tin-foil hat but also TRUE.

Rescue Me

Becoming a volunteer for an animal rescue organization has been one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.  I’ve met many incredible people – dedicated and generous, and just a little bit crazy (okay, some of them quite a LOT crazy).  I get a strong sense from some of these folks that they prefer the company of animals to people, which sometimes means that, while we may have common goals, we don’t always get along with each other.  In the nearly four years that I’ve been volunteering at the Long Beach Animal Shelter, I have seen a number of differences of philosophy among strong personalities that have resulted in terminations of relationships, although there generally remains mutual respect even after the break.  Everyone’s in it for the animals, after all.

Today I attended a “gala” organized by a true friend of Posh Pets, a woman named Yvette Schneider.  The amount of work that she puts into the event is impressive.  This is the third one I’ve had the pleasure of attending, and each year I have known more and more of my fellow guests.  This year there was a whole contingent of Long Beach staff and volunteers, and one of our own, the shelter director Melissa McClellan, was honored for her service, along with the head of the “cat division”, Vanessa Vetrano Vaccaro, who mostly operates out of her Westchester home base but frequently “steals” our best cats from the shelter to bring up to the Post Pets cat room at the PetSmart store in Greenburgh, NY.  Both of these ladies are true heroes to me, as is the head of the whole organization, founder Linda Vetrano.  I’ve written about this animal-loving triumvirate often, going way back to when I first started my blog [“The Pet Situation”, 3/17/15].

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Posh Gala, Long Beach Squad

In addition to volunteering at the shelter on weekends, mostly to clean the cat rooms and give them love and affection, but I help out wherever I can – playing with puppies, washing feeding bowls, folding laundry, scrubbing litter boxes, you name it – I have discovered that I really enjoy fostering animals until permanent homes can be found for them.  My boy Gizmo was a “foster fail,” meaning I adopted him when it became clear that we had developed a bond and my home was the best possible home for him.  My other Poshie, Mimi, was never a foster – I knew I would keep her from Day One.  In fact, I waited a whole year to take her home, which I regret, because she ended up being shuttled between Long Beach, Vanessa’s house (she has an entire cat colony there, including the more elderly, infirm and “problem children” among the dozens of Posh cats), the PetSmart cat room, and back again to Long Beach, which is when I finally said, “What am I waiting for?  She’s coming home with me.”  Happily for both of us, she’s where she needs to be now.

But since I’ve been in my temporary housing, I haven’t been able to foster at all.  A few times, Linda has asked me to take in a small dog for a couple of days because there was no alternative and they would prefer not to leave them in the shelter.  (The shelter is set up for larger dogs; smaller dogs have to stay in cages and don’t get walked as often as they should, and they get stressed out with the excessive barking.)  At one point, two gorgeous Pomeranian puppies came in, and I took one for a few days and the other for a few days, and both times the lady downstairs freaked out.  When the banging on her ceiling was having no effect (and it DOESN’T – the only effect it may have is to make her feel better but it certainly doesn’t alter my/our behavior; in fact, when she bangs, the dogs actually bark MORE, thereby defeating her purpose), she ventured upstairs to complain in person about how she didn’t ask to live downstairs from a zoo.  (That was the last time I’ve actually spoken to her face-to-face, although we ran into each other in the elevator once and said NOTHING other than “Have a good night” when she got off on her floor.)

So when Linda asked me this week to foster an eight-pound Chihuahua she had saved from Craig’s List, just for the proverbial “couple of days,” I reluctantly agreed to do so.  “He doesn’t bark,” she told me.  He didn’t (much).  “Chichi” (not my favorite name choice; I mostly called him “Buddy”) was a sweet-natured dog and got along with everyone as soon as he entered the apartment – no fights, no excessive sniffing (although Gizmo did engage in some obsessive licking of the pup’s back while he was eating, for some reason – maybe he tasted good?).  Chichi did try to engage and play a couple of times – which of course is a no-no in this apartment because playing would be WAY TOO NOISY for the lady downstairs – but apart from that, the first night was relatively quiet.

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Chichi/Buddy/Richie gives us a smile

The next morning, though, first with preparing for walkies and then at feeding time, there was a lot of rambunctious activity – jumping, scratching the carpets, grimbling (sort of a growl/bark thing that Gizmo does) – and here comes the banging from below, on multiple occasions, getting increasingly loud and lengthy.  But once the morning activities were complete, we all settled in for a nice, quiet, snowy afternoon.

Unfortunately, I had to go out to do errands and stop at the shelter.  Even though I knew I would not be gone for long, I was afraid of how Chichi would react to my leaving, despite the fact that he would have plenty of company in my absence.  I do not have a nanny-cam set-up here, so I have no idea if they made noise while I was gone, but as soon as I parked on the side of the building where my apartment is located, I could hear them taking up the chorus, and I knew it would continue the whole time I rode up to the sixth floor in the elevator (which seems to take an incredibly long time when they’re carrying on like that).

While at the shelter, I heard from one of the employees that he and his family were interested in fostering the chi-baby, so I was ecstatic.  He would come to my place later that evening to pick him up.  But in the meantime, I had a visit from the president of the tenant’s association, a very nice lady who lives on my floor who is also incredibly diplomatic and considers herself EVERYONE’S president (unlike someone else in the news lately).  Of course her arrival caused a cascade of barking, but they quit as soon as I stepped outside to talk to her.  Some of the neighbors – she waved her hand sort of up, sort of down, sort of sideways, but of course I knew she was talking about the lady downstairs, for certain, and maybe another lady at the end of my hallway (who once asked me, as I was unlocking my door after having parked on the “bad” side so of course the boys were in a frenzy of barking, if I was going to muzzle the dogs to prevent them from making so much noise because “they do that quite often”) even though she didn’t say so – had been complaining to her.  The president couched it in terms of, “The dogs sounded like they were in distress,” and “What if something happened to you?”

I thanked her for her concern, admitted I had one more dog than usual at the moment (“Oh, yes, the neighbors can tell when you have more than your two dogs in there” – can they??  Really??), and that they would be barking again in about an hour when the guy came to pick up the extra dog.  And soon everyone would be free of us and our noise because I would be leaving in a few weeks (which the president knows, so we talked about the logistics of that for a few minutes, the obligatory dog noise conversation seemingly over).

So the sweet little Chihuahua ended up going to the guy’s house, and he told me today at the gala that they had in very short order fallen in love with the little dude and were going to adopt him, which made me EXTREMELY happy.  (They’ve also changed his name to “Richie”, which I think suits him much better!)  And I’m stuck here, with my two little noisy dogs and the galloping cats that make life a misery for the lady downstairs, for at least another few weeks.  But it’s weeks now and not months, and for that I am eternally grateful.  As soon as we get back in the house, the kids can make all the noise they want!!  And I’m going to foster the next little doggie that Posh Pets rescues, and maybe even take home a couple of the cats from the shelter of whom I’ve grown very fond.  I have a lot of rescue time to make up for!

Winter

We had our first blast of winter weather on Saturday, snowing all day, bitterly cold.  It was the kind of day when you just want to stay inside and not move from the couch and/or bed.  Unfortunately, I had to do some errands in the morning (including meeting with my painter – work on the house is progressing and it looks like we should be home in February, or at least that’s what I’m aiming for), but I managed to return home before any significant accumulation.  I even blew off my volunteering gig at the shelter – in fact, my daughter was working there, so she was able to ease my guilt a little by saying that the cat rooms were clean and I wasn’t really needed – and just holed up with the fur kids.

While the wind whipped the powdery snow outside, my abode was uncharacteristically cold.  Sometimes my apartment is so hot I have to keep windows and even the terrace door open to allow some cooling air.  But evidently the building’s heating system was either set for conserving energy or on the fritz.  At one point, it was so chilly that I cuddled up in the bed for a brief nap with the boys and also, interestingly, Mimi, who somehow managed to hoist her 15-year-old body up on to the bed.

It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be to dig my car out of a public parking spot.  Luckily I was right in front of the building and the plows didn’t block me in.  The snow probably won’t melt right away because the temperatures are going to be below freezing for at least the next few days (although back up into the 50s by Wednesday – a very odd state of affairs weather-wise) but it was very dry and easily swept aside.  When I move back home, I’ll have covered parking so I will be able to avoid major car-shoveling, although I must admit I was surprised by how much snow had blown into the carport when I was there.

I really hate the winter; I’ve written about it before [“The Blizzard of 2016 and Some Thoughts About My Job,” 1/27/16, among others].  The only thing that gets me through is, of course, my Rangers, who have been giving me more pleasure than pain so far this season.

I don’t know how I feel about this mandatory five-day hiatus for each team in the NHL between the first of the year and April 9, and there will even be another forced break for the All-Star festivities at the end of January.  Ostensibly the bye week was instituted at the request of the NHL Players Association, but it created a situation where the schedule has been condensed and the timing may be unfortunate for many teams – let’s say they’re on a hot streak and now they have to quit for five days, especially coming so soon after the holiday break.  On the other hand, it gives the players a chance to heal from the inevitable bumps and bruises that everyone suffers from at this halfway point of the season.

For the Rangers, they’ve gone into their forced vacation on a high note, with two strong performances against divisional opponents.  In their last game before the break on Saturday night, against the red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets, they had to come from behind after giving up early goals (an all-too-common habit that really needs to stop) but showed the grit and fortitude to rebound and put some pucks in the net and end the game in spectacular fashion.  Where I was content for them to protect the point and maybe go for two in OT, speedster Michael Grabner came in on one of his patented once-a-game breakaways and put the contest away with 16.5 seconds remaining.  Yay, Rangers.

Katie Baker, one of my favorite writers about hockey (and other topics), had an article the other day  in The Ringer covering the highs, lows, mosts and leasts of the first half of the NHL season.  [Katie Baker, “The Off-Kilter NHL Midseason Awards,” The Ringer, 1/2/17, https://theringer.com/the-best-and-worst-of-the-nhl-season-so-far-21a5bb91b83b#.1javpov3u]  Her take on the Rangers was interesting.  (She is a fan, it must be said, but fans are often the Rangers’ harshest critics.)  She talked about how they have shown brilliant highs and crushing lows so far this season, potting tons of goals but also occasionally porous on defense (including in that category the usually infallible King Henrik).  I don’t disagree.  But the thing that has struck me most about the Rangers this season is, despite their inconsistencies on the scoreboard, they are remarkably consistent when it comes to winning.  They have more wins (and more games, but still . . . ) than any other team in the league.  They’ve lost two in a row in regulation only once this season (although admittedly those were two colossal tanks).  They have winning records both at home and on the road (although I would love to see them absolutely kill it at home and never disappoint the fans who spend a ton of money just to see them; to have them throw up a stinker like they did against Buffalo the other night is just embarrassing).

So I’ll have to find some other sources of entertainment for the next five days, until the boys return to the ice.  Some possibilities?  Maybe some movies or TV series?  I’ve been seriously considering getting Netflix again, especially now that they have so much original content (“Orange is the New Black,” “Stranger Things”), plus it will give me a chance to check out some other series that I’ve somehow missed in their entirety (“Breaking Bad”, “Orphan Black”, “How To Get Away With Murder”).  Maybe I’ll catch up on my podcasts.  I haven’t listened to “Marek v. Wyshynski” all season, nor Greg Wyshynski’s other podcast, “Puck Soup”.  I’ve also sort of abandoned my cousin George’s podcast, “The George and Tony Entertainment Show,” which he has diligently been posting every week for over two years now.  His co-host Tony actually left the show recently, but George has become such a good interviewer, and has developed such a dependable stable of permanent substitute co-hosts (including, most recently, his wife Connie, who was a natural – they sounded like an old married couple, maybe because they actually ARE an old (adorable) married couple!), that he has managed to carry on without the eponymous Tony.

I can catch up on my reading.  I recently finished The Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins, and I’m almost done with A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick, both of which were lent to me by my friend Marcia from work.  Soon it will be time for a trip to the local library to tackle my book list (always including a bonus graphic novel, usually at the recommendation of cousin George, who is the comics expert).  I could also work on what I call my “CD restoration project,” which involves saving all the songs I have on the computer (or in some cases in the “cloud”, whatever that means)  to CD, so if my computer ever crashes again, I’ll have a recoverable version of every song I currently have in my music library.  I’m also making playlists for my friend Wendy while she’s recovering from a debilitating bout with chemo.  It’s been fun going through my collection A to Z to cull some of my favorite tunes for one of my favorite people.

So I have plenty to keep me busy for the next five days, the next six weeks or so (before I move back home) and the next few months, before the torture of winter will be over and spring will come again.

Commitments

Commitment:  n. (1) the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.; (2) an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.  (So sayeth the Google.)

Back in March of 2015, I made a commitment to myself to start posting a blog on a weekly basis.  It was a big step for me, exposing myself to the so-called “public” (even though no one was reading my blog except me and a few loyal friends).  The commitment I made to myself meets the first definition – “being dedicated to a cause or activity”.  In this case, the activity is WRITING PERSONAL ESSAYS – the realization of my true persona, my calling, my wished-for career.  And I was happy to dedicate myself to it, even though I didn’t plan particularly well or stockpile blog posts for those weeks when it was difficult to devote a few hours to writing (despite how much I might have wanted to because, truth be told, I’d rather write than do almost anything else).  But I wrote anyway, and I managed to stay true to my commitment, with only a few delayed postings, until Thanksgiving of this year, when I took my first “hiatus”.  Less than a month later, and I took ANOTHER holiday hiatus.  This is entering the danger zone.

The problem, of course, is the OTHER definition of “commitment” – “an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action”.  For a year and a half, I was able to come up with SOMETHING every week, even if it was merely a “top ten” list or an apology for not having anything good to write about.  But 2016 was a year unlike any other, and the past few months have been particularly difficult – not just politically, which, if you’ve followed my blog at all, you know I was personally devastated by the outcome of the election and am still somewhat in a state of denial (more on that later in the post).  But the biggest bugaboo for me these past 12 months has been MONEY.  (This is another one of my frequent blog topics:  I HATE MONEY.)  For the past 10 months I’ve been in the process of elevating my house, and I received a generous grant from New York State to do so (if not, I might not have done it, property values and increased flood insurance premiums be damned).  But there’s a big gap between the money I was awarded and the money I need, exacerbated in no small way by the fact that I’ve only received 75% of the grant amount and I won’t get the last 25% till everything is done and dusted, and in order to get done and dusted, I need to pay the contractors with SOMETHING.  Fortunately, my contractor, ANS Contracting (of Island Park and Long Beach – highly recommended!), has been patient and generous and hasn’t been chasing me for the next installment check.  Multiple issues arose during the process that ended up costing me about $50,000-75,000 more than I was anticipating, and more than I was getting in the grant.  Believe me, $75,000 is not floating around freely in my bank accounts.  Like many other adult Americans who have been making a decent salary for the past decade, I have retirement accounts and credit cards, and I’ve managed to dig a hole in one and build a mountain of debt on the other.  My security net is effectively ripped wide open.

The only possible mitigation was by working my ass off, because the more I work, the more I earn, and the situation called for some big-time earning.  I actually had almost as many billable hours in the month of December as I did in June, July and August combined.  So, bottom line:  I blame despised WORK and MONEY commitments for taking me away from my beloved WRITING commitment.

I consider myself a highly dependable person, but I frankly don’t relish the pressure of being relied upon.  One might think I would take a certain pride in it, but I don’t.  It just brings me anguish because I don’t like to let anyone down.  I make many outright commitments, which I do my absolute best to fulfill.  But it’s the unspoken commitments that eat me up inside, like when people have EXPECTATIONS.  Living up to people’s unstated expectations vexes me worst of all.  It kind of killed my marriage, and it’s why, until these past 14 years of what sometimes felt like indentured servitude at the law firm, I’ve always had a hard time staying with a job (and the only reason I’ve stayed at the firm is because where else can I make the money I make here?  NOWHERE ELSE, that’s where). It’s especially true when I work with one particular partner, because her too-high expectations of me are always being disappointed, although in a way it’s even more distressing when I disappoint the other partner I work with, who I like very much.  For a man who I rarely see angry in any way, believe me, you FEEL it when he’s mad at you.

Frankly, I think deep down I’m afraid of commitments.  It might be one reason why I’ve never been in a committed romantic relationship save for one, with my ex-husband, who I am basically STILL committed to, and not just because he’s the father of my child – he’s also my really good friend.  Somehow my commitments to my friends get back into the first category of “commitment”:  being “dedicated to a cause” – in this case, helping a good friend through a tough time.  Being committed to my friends is a very good thing, and it’s something I’m happy to continue.

So, here and now, I declare:  Today, January 1, 2017, is as good a time as any to re-dedicate myself to my blog, my friends, and all those positive commitments I’ve made in my life:  my daughter’s well-being as she advances into adulthood, volunteering at the shelter and fostering as many fur babies as I can, and now a NEW commitment – working with like-minded individuals to combat the horror show that is the looming Trump presidency.  A few of my Facebook friends have set up a group called “Organize, Plan, Act”, where we post useful things (such as petitions, mobilizations, letter-writing campaigns, and the like) that we can do, collectively and individually, to make sure the voices of the opposition are heard loudly and often.  We’re having an actual in-person meeting in a couple of weeks, which I’m looking forward to, but one of the activities we were encouraged to do recently was respond en masse to a Facebook post by our (Republican, blowhard) U.S. congressman, Peter King (although I certainly never voted for him), in which he implored all of his constituents to get behind the Trump and work together for a better America, and other blablabla nonsense.  I think I was able to get my two cents in before he started blocking dissenters from his page. My response:

“Mr. King, your statement is hypocrisy of the highest order, and Donald Trump is an embarrassment that I refuse to support in any way. Thank goodness I live in a country where the law of the land, our glorious Constitution, allows me to say these things and express my dissatisfaction with our government as much and for as long as I want, right up front in the First Amendment! Although from what I hear, apparently you would rather stifle dissent amongst your constituents rather than listen to and respect it.”

Step one in the revolt.  I am committed.