Children Are Our Future

I saw the Nick Cave documentary “One More Time with Feeling” at City Winery in NYC last night.  It was yet another excellent “date” suggestion by my friend Sue (she always has the BEST ideas):  a free showing (to those who made advance reservations, which she did, twice, just to be sure) of the recent film describing his creative process and how specifically the making of his most recent album, “Skeleton Tree”, was a way of dealing with his grief over the accidental death of his 15-year-old son Arthur.  The film also featured his wife Susie Bick and his other son, Arthur’s twin Earl, as well as Nick’s long-time musical partner Warren Ellis.  Nick Cave is one of my heroes and I believe he is a genius writer, composer and musician, so I would have fully appreciated the movie as a straightforward window into his creativity (much like his “20,000 Days on Earth,” which was a dramatization of a “typical” Nick Cave-ian day).  But the pervasive undercurrent of pain and grief among the principals in the film made it heartbreaking as well as fascinating.

I cannot imagine the devastation of losing a child.  I agonize over those stories on the evening newscasts – like the one last week about that monster who, in an uncontrollable road rage, fatally shot an accomplished young woman, days away from attending her college orientation, because she wouldn’t let him merge into her lane – where a parent, face swollen and red from days of non-stop weeping, can barely speak when confronted by the news crews asking about the horrifying and unexpected death of their beloved child, even days or weeks after their loss.

My daughter is so very precious to me.  I never had any great desire to be a parent, and it pretty much took me the entirety of her nearly 22 years of life on earth so far to admit that I’ve done a good enough job raising her to not have caused her any noticeable damage.  She has never been anything other than amazing to me, this passionate, caring, intelligent, funny and gorgeous young woman, everything I ever imagined or wished she would become.  And her future is bright and exciting, although she’s not quite sure where she’s headed just yet.  (I’m not worried – she’ll get there.)  The possibility of her not being around anymore is beyond imagining.

My aforementioned friend Sue waited until later in life to have a child and her son, Jed, is the light of her life.  I saw a recent photo of him from his 8th grade graduation ceremony and he looked so mature and confident.  I knew she was somewhere in the background just gut-busting with pride.  My daughter’s aunt had her first child just over a year ago, and judging by the barrage of Facebook photos (which I love seeing), she cannot get enough of her kid (and neither can her mom, Darian’s grandmother).  A child who is wanted and beloved is a miracle in every way.

Sometimes I try to imagine life for my daughter after I’m gone (she’ll be pretty old by then, I hope).  She says she doesn’t really want children of her own (just pets), but I remind her that it was never on my radar either until the day when, at age 35, I found out I was pregnant and figured, hey, I’ve been in a committed relationship for 6 years and my boyfriend had just suggested that we “do the right thing” and get married.  (How romantic, right?  My ex finally figured out my sense of romance after multiple incidents like this:  He once sent me a dozen roses at my office for Valentine’s Day and I was furious at him for spending so much money.)  If I don’t have a kid now, when (if ever)?  Instinctively, it felt good to make the choice to go ahead with parenthood.  (It almost goes without saying, to anyone who regularly reads this blog, that I am grateful that I had the choice, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that my daughter and her potential daughters and every other daughter always have that choice as well.)

My pregnancy  itself was pretty painless, until about a month before my due date when I developed preeclampsia and my doctor put me in the hospital for a couple of days just to get my blood pressure under control.  Eventually, the toxemia, plus the baby being over 9 pounds, led to me being induced, which failed miserably, and then a C-section, so I never even went through labor.  In retrospect, having my daughter was the best decision I ever made.

But let’s say she DOES decide to have a child or perhaps two.  (I never understand anyone who wants more than two kids.  One is perfect, but two is okay, especially if there’s one of each gender, so they can keep each other company.  I had a friend who, in her forties, after a number of failed pregnancies, gave birth to boy and girl twins, healthy and perfect in every way.  And yet she wanted to risk having ANOTHER child, at her advanced age.  That was something I just couldn’t comprehend, but it’s a free country (so far), and people should be able to have as many children as they want, as long as they have the means to properly take care of them.  Her third child turned out just fine, by the way.)  Would Darian and her kids (and perhaps a father/husband) live in this house, our renovated bungalow here at the beach?  She made me promise I wouldn’t sell it, but the big questions is:  Will this house survive global warming?  Now that it’s been “flood-proofed”, it has a better chance, but if sea levels rise to the point where the Long Beach barrier island goes underwater, EVERTHING will be gone, flood-proofing be damned.

I saw an AARP article the other day that talked about how the number of people living to be 100 will increase 12 times by 2060.  [Jo Ann Jenkins, “Live to 100. Plan on It,” AARP.org, 5/2/17, http://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-2017/jeanne-calment-plan-to-live-to-100-jj.html]  In 2060, I would be counted among that number.  I think I would like that, as long as I wasn’t decrepit and/or demented.  I clearly ought to start taking better care of myself!

And yet I fear for our planet, for the human race.  It seems that the people with the loudest voices and the deepest pockets (despite not having the largest numbers) are hell-bent on destroying Earth and all the creatures who call it home.  I have always believed that our creator set our species, the most advanced on the planet, on this grand experiment to exponentially evolve and advance, to get not only smarter but also more altruistic and cooperative (see “Aliens & Altruism, 7/29/15, for an earlier take on this topic), but it could just as easily be that we were designed to self-destruct at or before some random “expiration date.”.  If that does happen, would it be during my lifetime?  My daughter’s?  The lifetimes of my daughter’s children, or their children?

What did our grandparents and great-grandparents (and beyond) think about this topic?  I mean, my great-grandmother (who lived to 102) was born in the late 1800s, before telephones and electricity and air travel, let alone computers and thousand-channel streaming TV.  I’ve never been a huge science fiction fan but it certainly is intriguing to project into the future, to wonder what human beings might be capable of, both good and bad.  For the sake of our children and (potential) grandchildren, I certainly hope it’s the former.

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Frustration Overload

The other night I watched the powerful documentary “Hell on Earth:  The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS” (2017), directed by Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested.  The filmmakers focused on two brothers who, with their families of young children, try to escape the two-headed horrors of terrorists claiming territory and a so-called leader who bombs and poisons his own people.  What is Assad’s end game here?  That he lords it over a shattered hulk of a landscape where whatever populace remains pay hollow homage and secretly hate him?  (Why do so many of the world’s despots have creepy close-together dead piggy eyes and petty little mouths?  Trump’s mouth resembles an anus, and Putin’s eyes are reptilian.  Assad, to me, looks like an ugly cartoon dog.)

What is the end game of ANY of it??  How will the impossibly complicated conflict among the various shades of Islam, secular and religious —and let’s not forget Israel, which is a burr under the saddle of ALL of Islam and a very key part of the Middle East notwithstanding Trump’s ignorance – come to any kind of conclusion?  Mutually assured destruction?  Holy war?  End of days??  Sometimes I wish there really WERE a messiah who would descend from the heavens to render final divine judgment on all the hypocrites and evildoers currently inhabiting this planet (and maybe resurrect all the monsters who came before, just for good measure).  And all the jihadists and evangelicals and hard-line Jewish settlers and atheistic bad guys (organized religion is responsible for a lot of humankind’s problems, but not ALL) will, once and for all, know that they’ve been wrong all along — that they’ve been erroneously proselytizing for a creator who loves its creation and would NEVER want it destroyed by war or murder or repression or man-made disease and climate catastrophes; that our creator, whatever or wherever it may be, is in all likelihood colossally disappointed by the way its precious creation has abused and maligned this most magnificent gift we have been given.

I’m just starting Richard Engel’s account of two decades of turmoil in the Middle East (And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East (Simon & Schuster, 2016)), from his vantage point as a war correspondent, and I’m already fascinated.  (I have such a crush on him.)  The Middle East of today is actually an artificial creation, manipulated by the world powers of Europe (primarily France and England), in much the same way that the populations of Eastern Europe were artificially and indiscriminately separated and forced together by Russia.  Of course, it was inevitable that the centuries-long exercise of colonial power by white, Christian, European men would end badly – the unwashed masses can only be trod upon for so long before they realize they’ve got strength in numbers and  can, with an effectively timed effort, rise up to resist their oppressors.  But what will it take?  What about people like me – perhaps a majority of us – who were fortunate enough to live a life of privilege, aware that it was at the expense of the less fortunate, but frustrated by the fact that there was little that could be done to change the situation from your vantage point, no matter how wrong you believed it to be.  And even at that, people of color, Native Americans, the poor and the homeless often resent much of the support and assistance proffered by (white) people who have sympathy and maybe even empathy but will never truly understand what their lives are like.

Of course, as a female, I am a member of a repressed class that, as recently as the 1920s, was still deemed to be nothing more than the property of our fathers and then our husbands, too feeble-minded (dare I say secretly dangerous?) to even open our own bank accounts or purchase a car.  Generally speaking, all women are still objectified and belittled and demeaned by all men — but especially white men in positions of power – to the point where the scores of white men dominating our current government (have you seen the lily white and exclusively male Senate crew making hash of this so-called “replacement” of the Affordable Care Act?) are attempting to control the decisions that only women should be able to make about their own bodies.  It boggles my mind that there is still such a powerful anti-choice movement in this country (which, it must be said, includes women among their number), to the point where there are quite a few states that have only a single location, in the entire state, where abortions can be performed.  ONE!!  I read something so obvious the other day:  these folks aren’t “pro-life” so much as they’re “pro-forced pregnancy”.  I saw a cool video posted by Bill Nye the Science Guy the other day [https://www.dailydot.com/irl/bill-nye-abortion-scientific-reasoning-big-think/?fb=dd%3Deg] where he completely deflated any claim that “life begins at conception”:  Eggs are fertilized by sperm cells ALL THE TIME but don’t necessary go on to become a child.  Any miscarriage – even where the woman doesn’t even KNOW she’s miscarried – is a wholly natural and uncontrollable response by a female body indicating that the conditions are not optimal for a full-term pregnancy.  But the bottom line is, WHO HAS ANY RIGHT TO TELL ME WHAT I CAN AND CANNOT DO WITH MY OWN BODY??  How does my choice whether or not to have a child have ANY impact on anyone other than ME??

Which gets me into a whole other line of frustrations about human rights:  as a human being, I should be entitled to exercise my rights to do whatever I please, unless and until MY rights infringe on YOUR rights.  Otherwise, it’s none of your damn business.  Gay marriage?  What the hell does it have to do with YOU, Mr. Conservative Politician?  That inane Defense of Marriage Act they tried to put forward a few years ago – defend marriage from WHAT??  Infringement on its “sanctity” by the gays??  The whole argument is hollow and frankly ridiculous.

The human rights battles being fought in the US of A are bad enough, but when expanded to the world stage, it becomes paralyzing in its magnitude.  A child unjustifiably detained by the North Koreans is returned to his parents with irreparable brain damage caused by his torture at their hands, only to die within days of his return.  For what?  For possibly attempting to steal a poster (although nothing can be proven, especially since he is not able to tell)?  Supposedly they believed him to be a CIA operative but still, torture is a universal crime.  North Korea may be a freakish anomaly (have you ever seen a satellite photo of North Korea at night?  THERE ARE NO LIGHTS), but dangerous all the same.  What is the end game for all of Kim Jong-un’s missile tests?  Would he actually dare to use his puny (yet still deadly) missiles on South Korea or Japan?  The unpredictability of it all is chilling.

Apart from North Korea, there are plenty of other danger zones when it comes to the human rights.  There’s the repression of the press and political opposition by Putin, Erdogan, China, the Saudis, countless African nations – it all becomes too much to bear.   I genuinely admire the people who work for organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and even the ACLU (local and national chapters), and I wish there was something I could do (apart from sending money, which I lack at the moment) to help.

I started writing this blog with an idealistic intention to make the world a better place one blog post at a time.  To the extent that my blog posts have any effect at all on the world – like a butterfly wing flap or pebble’s ripple in a pond – I try to stay positive and not complain too much about things I cannot control.  Trump winning the presidency was a rude awakening for me, and my blog posts during the election and in the time since are evidence of that.  His term thus far has been a nightmare of epic proportions and it’s just getting worse.  Our standing on the world stage is lower than it’s ever been, and trusted allies are questioning our commitment to shared goals.  On a personal level, my demeanor and frame of mind have been negatively affected on a daily basis.  I am afraid, and I am ashamed at my impotence.

But even Obama, as much as I respected him and believe he did as good a job as he could as president under the oppositional conditions he faced (but while always maintaining a sense of grace and higher purpose), failed in the Middle East and also domestically, with his partial and largely ineffectual efforts at gun control and reforming health care.  And under his watch, the monolithic Republican Party has gained in power and numbers, both fairly (thanks to a woefully ignorant voting public and lethargy among those who can’t even be bothered to vote) and unfairly (thanks to illicit gerrymandering, which hopefully the courts – including the Supreme Court – will succeed in curtailing, not to mention that sneaky little Russian “interference” that’s all the rage these days), both at the state and federal levels.  If even Barack Obama, ostensibly the most powerful and level-headed person in the world during his presidency, was not able to bring about as much positive change as he wanted to, what possible effect could my paltry little blog have?  The problems we face in the world right now are so overwhelming, all I can do is feel sad and frustrated and powerless.

I know there are good people doing good things out there.  I love my “Upworthiest” emails (do yourself a favor and sign up for some truly POSITIVE perspectives:  http://www.upworthy.com); they are a ray of sunshine amid the dark tales of war and waste and repression and inequality.  Wasn’t it Martin Luther King, Jr. who said that only light can defeat the dark?  But I guess it’s very, very dark these days, because all those tiny personal bits of brightness out barely seem to be making an impact.  (Remember George H.W. Bush’s “thousand points of light”?  Of course, he was using that image to encourage the “little people” to do more charitable work with their limited resources rather than relying on our taxpayer-funded GOVERNMENT to do it, but it’s still a nice metaphor.)

In contrast, so many things I read about or hear on the TV leave me upset, drained and demoralized.  I wonder why I even waste energy thinking about them.  There’s a whole laundry list of things that frustrate me these days, many of which will probably end up as a blog post of their own.  For instance:

(1)          Partisan politics:  When did Republicans and Democrats get so completely diametrically opposed with their political positions that they can’t ever compromise or even have an open discussion about things that are important FOR THE WHOLE COUNTRY, not just Dems or Republicans, not just rich or poor, not just white folks in Red States or recent immigrants in Sanctuary Cities (we are ALL immigrants, remember?)? We are supposed to be UNITED, especially as viewed by the rest of the world.  Don’t Republicans have children to whom they want to leave a healthier planet?  Can’t we agree that ALL Americans have “certain inalienable rights”, and then protect those rights for EVERYONE, no ifs, ands or buts?  Maybe the answer, like in most other civilized nations, is to break the mega-parties into multiple smaller factions, where coalitions can be built and it’s not so much “us vs. them”.  But the way things are now, it’s just dumb and nothing gets done.

(2)          Income inequality:  I have covered this topic a few times in this blog.  I find it so disheartening that people who have SO MUCH begrudge a few extra dollars in the pockets of people who work hard and still have NOT ENOUGH.  I’m sick of it. Develop some compassion.  Look beyond your bubble of privilege and wealth.  There ARE people of worth outside your protective shell who deserve a chance to succeed in life.  What was that quote I saw on Facebook the other day?  “Equal rights for others does not mean less rights for you.  It’s not pie.”  PAY UP, RICH PEOPLE!

(3)          Then again, you can’t make saints out of the poor, or drugs addicts, or petty criminals, either.  Yes, their unfortunate life circumstances have often forced them into difficult decisions, but there is something called “personal responsibility” also.  Poor people CAN succeed despite their limited resources and sad circumstances, but a boost and/or helping hand from people who are more fortunate would certainly not hurt.  And drug addicts and petty criminals should be helped to transition back into society with the support they need to thrive, not suffer the inevitable recidivism that is the only possible outcome for the profit-centers that our prisons have become.

(4)          Guns.  I HATE guns.  They are nothing more than penis substitutes, in my mind, tools for the weak.  Last week’s VICE episode (Season 5, Episode 71) was about how entrenched the gun industry is in this country.  Americans do love their guns, boy.  The VICE correspondent was interviewing the proprietor of the nation’s foremost gun mega-shop and he was saying how gun buying is cyclical, but as far as I can tell, in my lifetime, there has been nothing but an INCREASE in the number of guns and the ease with which people can obtain guns.  I think all guns should be incinerated, but I admit that’s unrealistic, given the American lust for firearms.  (Who, apart from a soldier, needs a semi-automatic weapon?  Would a pistol or a rifle not kill someone just as easily?)  A more sensible option would be for governments (probably at the state level, because the federal government is just too cumbersome and partisan to get ANYTHING done these days) to regulate guns like they regulate the motor vehicles we all drive.  Hey, they’re both instrumentalities of death:  cars are potential, but guns are assured.  That’s what guns are FOR – to kill things.  Yet we do more to protect each other from car accidents than we do from gun accidents.  I saw a statistic today that thousands of children are killed or injured by firearms every year.  Do Americans not want to protect their CHILDREN?  (Or I guess another solution is that kids could just be armed themselves, like the youthful gun groups and pre-teen sharpshooters sponsored by gun manufacturers featured on the VICE episode.)

AH, BREATHE, NAN.  We can only do what we can do.  In fact, I’m going to attend my Organize, Plan, Act meeting tomorrow evening.  They’ve arranged some interesting speakers, and I’m looking forward to spending time with like-minded individuals who are as frustrated as I am but who actually manage to maintain a positive outlook.  I desperately need to tap into that.  And hey, it’s not only safety that comes with numbers – it’s comfort, too.

Hopefully my next blog post will have a lighter message.  I think we could all use one. these days.

The Curse of an Empty Head

Two weeks have passed since my last blog post and my head is utterly and completely empty.  Oh, don’t get me wrong – a lot has gone on, and there’s much that needs to be done.  But when it comes to blog ideas – or to any deep thoughts at all, frankly – I’m at a loss.

It’s just that my gray matter has been occupied by the usual nonsense, to wit:

(1)  Taking on more work so that I can earn money to pay bills.  One may think that, now that my house is effectively done and my daughter’s college is almost all paid for (thanks to a Parent Plus loan that will cover not only this summer’s courses but also a bulk of the Fall semester, which will thankfully be her last), I should be swimming in excess cash.  NOT SO.  There was my hospital stay that will need to be paid for somehow (given that my so-called health insurance carries a $6,750 deductible that has to come out of my pocket before they’ll pay for ANYTHING), not to mention the City MD bill (no reduced rate for a follow-up visit during which they basically just sent me to the hospital, evidently). And now my little Munchie needs not only bladder stone surgery (his second, which I expected) but also knee surgery (which I didn’t). There is no insurance (with or without a deductible) for THAT. Every time I think I’m out of the hole, something tosses me back in.

(2)  I wake up every day (usually later than I’d intended, reluctant to emerge from the safe cocoon of my bed, entertained by silly dreams rather than having to face the drudgery of my real life) wondering what new nonsense our ersatz president has gotten up to overnight. I never thought I could hate a public figure as much as I hate that man. I want him DISAPPEARED. I still ravenously read every critique I can; I follow Robert Reich and Keith Olbermann religiously (and Rachel Maddow, who’s been “under the weather” and absent from her namesake show for nearly two weeks and I’m going through withdrawal); and I hope against hope that someone with ability, power and good sense will take the reins of the government away from what Charles Pierce of Esquire has fabulously called the “vulgar talking yam” and MAKE AMERICA GOOD AGAIN.

(3)  I had barely recovered from the Gizmo finger biting infection when, lo and behold, at the Best Friends Adoption Event in NYC this past Saturday, a big jerk of a cat named Buster decided he’d had enough of my affection and bit the hell out of my right hand.  My poor right hand!  I’ve had to learn how to be more ambidextrous over the past month due to the fact that, before now, my left hand has been basically useless.  And I am so paranoid now about infection!  I have been washing and wrapping both bite spots on my hand obsessively, checking for the telltale red streaks up my arm (which have not appeared this time, thank goodness).  I’ve heard from various sources that cat bites are even worse than dog bites, but so far I seem to have dodged a bullet.  The oddest thing about it is, I’ve been bitten by shelter cats before and, for the first few months that he lived with us, Gizmo must have bitten my fingers and hands at least once a day, but there was never any infection.  Someone said it might be that my diabetes has compromised my body’s ability to fight infection, and that brings me to . . .

(4)  My health. Although I haven’t necessarily felt any specific physical effects, my “numbers” (sugars, A1C, thyroid-related hormones, cholesterol, lipids, etc.) have all been lousy over the past few months.  I believe this is directly attributable to the fact that I gained back the 30-plus pounds I lost a couple of years ago, primarily because I can’t seem to stop eating CRAP.  I also haven’t begun my walking regime.  My injured big toe has been to blame for that, although when the nail finally comes off – which the podiatrist said could be any day now – I’ll hopefully be able to begin in earnest.  I finally have a comfy pair of walking sneakers, so that’s no longer an excuse.  If I could just start walking regularly and cut back on my food intake – including a major reduction of CRAP – it would undoubtedly have a positive effect on my blood numbers and my general health and well-being.

But despite all of the above contributing to the empty-headedness that has plagued me for the past couple of weeks (actually, it’s been a lot longer than that, which is part of the reason why my blog has been biweekly lately), I have managed to enjoy some diversions, including going to a local music venue last Friday with my sister to see a few not-very-good bands, although the people-watching alone provided a couple of hours of amusement.  The evening was suggested by my cousin George (of the George and Tony Entertainment Show podcast), whose childhood friend was the drummer for one of the not-very-good bands (in their defense, it was in fact their first gig together), so he and his wife Connie had driven up from their home outside D.C. (eight long, torturous hours for a trip that should not normally take eight hours) for a reunion of old friends and family.  We ended up at a local diner after the show, where we could actually hear each other talk and had some laughs amidst good company and pancakes.  I didn’t get home till 2 a.m.!

Having my kid home has also been fun (if expensive). She’s been decorating her room and it really captures her personality.  It makes me feel like bit of a sluggard because I’ve barely done anything to decorate or even organize the rest of the house and I’ve been back home for over two months.  It is true, though, that in order to do so, I need to replenish the coffers, which hasn’t been easy (see #1 above).

I’m glad that the summer is finally here (although the weather has been anything but summerlike for the past couple of weeks now), most of all because, now that I have PARKING (!!), I can actually go out and have meals with friends, enjoy some live music under the stars (my friend Chris’ CSNY cover band Four-Way Street is playing right nearby in Island Park in July, which should be great, weather permitting) and generally engage in some semblance of a social life.  It’s so liberating not to have to worry about where I’ll be able to park when I get home, at any hour of the day or night.

Hopefully, a few solid days of rest and relaxation, not to mention some power walks, will clear my head enough to allow in some ideas of substance that I can explore in future blog posts.  I also need to broaden my exposure beyond Facebook and watching reality competitions on MTV.  I haven’t read a meaty, thought-provoking book in ages, although I just finished Call Me By Your Name  by André Aciman, a lovely gay coming-of-age novel whose main character I envisioned as my daughter’s former therapist (and mine before hers) and I’m finishing up The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer, who I like a lot but whose memoir-light doesn’t provide much food for thought (with the possible exception of a powerful piece about an abusive ex-boyfriend that should be required reading for every young woman).  I also haven’t seen any quality films lately other than Mad Max: Fury Road, which was visually arresting but ultimately kind of bleak.

So I here and now commit, in virtual print, that I will devote this summer to filling up my empty head with beauty and art and deeper thoughts about humanity and the planet to share as they come.

An Inconvenient Week

It started on Saturday, a little over a week ago.  I had just come back from the chiropractor and was settling in for a pleasant Saturday morning, doodling around on the computer and whatnot before I headed off to the shelter in the afternoon.  I was in the process of feeding the menagerie (including my sweet foster dog Marco), the first step of which is giving Gizmo his allergy medication.  I wrap the pill in a meaty little pocket and sometimes smear it with peanut butter if he initially balks.  On this particular morning, he was particularly ornery and did not want the pill, no matter how many times I put it in front of him, on the floor or in my hand.  He finally had had enough and lashed out, catching the fleshy bottom part of the middle finger on my right hand, digging in his teeth and whipping his head from side to side for a couple of savage shakes.

After the cursing and tear-inducing pain, I ran my finger under cold water and did the usual cleaning and bandaging.  I put some ice on it and, when I went to the shelter later that same day, I made sure to wear gloves from the moment I got there.  But somehow, infection got into the puncture wound that Gizmo’s tooth had caused.  That night, watching “Fury Road” with my daughter and her brother, alternating 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off with ice packs, my finger just kept getting fatter and fatter with an escalating throb.

By the next morning, there were streaks up my arm, indicating a traveling infection.  It being Sunday, my regular doctor wasn’t in, so I walked over to the local City M.D.  The doctor there was concerned, even suggesting that I might want to go to the hospital now for “a few days” (!!) of IV antibiotics.  Ultimately, they were able to hook me up right there in the office, after taking some x-rays to ensure nothing was broken.   They sent me home with a prescription and said to come back on Tuesday.

Sunday was Mother’s Day.  The weather was pleasant, at least in the early part of the day, and my daughter and I drove out to Pinelawn Cemetery, where my mother’s ashes are in a niche (next to her parents – it was a promise I had made to her on the day she knew she was dying that I would keep them all together and visit often).  Afterward we had lunch at Cheeburger Cheeburger, served by a kid who looked a little like a low-rent Channing Tatum (one of my daughter’s favorite “boys”) and I really didn’t give my finger much of a thought, other than making sure to keep it elevated because whenever it hung down, it pulsed painfully.  I actually thought it might be getting better.

On Monday, the streaks up my arm were gone and the swelling in my hand had subsided.  The finger at first seemed better, but by the evening it had turned into an excruciating mess, cherry red infection in the flesh around the wound straining at the skin at the base of my finger.  By the time I went back to City M.D. on Tuesday, I knew I was in trouble.  They sent me directly to the emergency room, where I spent four hours  in the waiting area feeling frustrated at having to sit for so long but also sympathetic to the people there who were clearly worse off than I was, with my measly infected finger.  I was finally brought back and put in a room, where I had to put on a gown, get more x-rays and get hooked up to the IV that would be my “best friend” (said the nurse) for the foreseeable future.  Darian showed up with some yummy food but I couldn’t really eat it.  I hadn’t eaten much all day and so had a raging hunger headache on top of it all.

When the hand doctor arrived, I thought he was actually kind of cute, and we joked about which character he would be on “Grey’s Anatomy” (I thought he was plastic surgeon Jackson Avery; he thought he was Dr. McSteamy; I told him McSteamy was dead but he was the one who had taught Jackson Avery everything he knew).  Then he proceeded to put me through paroxysms of pain I don’t think I’ve ever felt before (with the possible exception of when I had kidney stones), digging into the puncture wound with some kind of sharp metal tool (tweezer, perhaps?) to clear out the poison.  Darian was contorting over in the corner, feeling sympathetic pain as she watched him torture her mother with a hint of a smile on his face.

Eight hours after I had first arrived, I finally ended up in a double room with a nice older woman with a foot infection, who told the same damn story to anyone who would listen (I must have heard it at least 20 times) about how she would give “holy hell” to the social worker if she didn’t let her go to a rehab center rather than home because her daughter was ill and wouldn’t be able to take care of her.  There was also some ranting about the medication she needed costing a thousand dollars a pill at the rehab center but her daughter had researched it on the web and it was only $15.  Compared to what replaced her when she finally succeeded in getting transferred to her preferred location (at $50 a pill), Roommate 1 was a peach.

New roommate:  stereotypical Long Beach white trash, Motley Crüe groupie (still, in her late 40s), recovering drug addict with a 30-year-old daughter with three kids who’s a plus-size model and a son in jail who DID NOT SHUT UP the entire time I was there, whether she was on the phone or talking to her herself, or the aides, or, later, to me (despite no attempt on my part to move aside the closed curtain, mind you).  (To add insult to injury, she kept forgetting my name.) Her TV was on top volume (I was using headphones and still heard her TV more than I heard my own), she kept playing snippets of (loud) rock music on her phone, and the whining and complaining and cursing didn’t stop until she finally fell asleep at around 11:30.  But at 5:15 a. m., here comes the light, the TV (loudly), and the talking, all over again.  She evidently spilled coffee on her bed so she had to wash out her pajamas in the bathroom (“Hope you don’t mind my wet pajamas hanging from the bars near the toilet” – like I had a choice).

Roommate No. 2 was annoying in and of herself, but there were other infuriations, primary among them being that I JUST WANTED TO GO HOME.  I wanted to leave on Wednesday, after one night in the hospital.  Dr. Hand was pleased with how the finger was healing and said, as far as he was concerned, I could leave, but he deferred to the infectious disease doctor.  She showed up a couple of hours later and sentenced me to ANOTHER night and day of IV antibiotics even though everything was going well.  “You don’t want to mess with the hand,” every medical professional I saw warned me, and my diabetes didn’t help matters.

I had a chronic headache from the moment I arrived until the moment I left, finally, on Thursday.  My blood pressure spiked due to the stress and the infection, so they prescribed blood pressure medication that I don’t need and that ended up giving me a wicked sore throat as a side effect.  I couldn’t sleep, the food (a carb-controlled diet, of course) was god-awful and no matter what position I put my bed in, I could not get comfortable.  (Like an idiot, I forgot to tell Darian to include my journal when she brought some clean undies and my computer and iPod.  I’m pretty sure I would have felt immeasurably better if I could have vented on paper.  I might have even managed to write a few “reserve” blog posts to use for slow weeks.  But I wasn’t that smart.)

Fortunately, I didn’t have much work to do, which was both a good thing (I wasn’t really missing anything important and no one was clamoring for me to produce documents or run a closing) and a bad thing (I was already having a quiet month and no work = no money).  The other major stressor, of course, is the cost of it all.  In my infinite wisdom, at the beginning of the year I had increased the deductible under my health insurance to $6,750 in order to reduce my monthly premium.  At the time, I had figured that I had never met my $2,250 deductible before and I was still getting things like doctor visits, lab tests and prescription drugs covered, so what difference would it make if I raised the deductible to $6,750 and paid $100 less a month in premiums?  Well, the joke was on me.  Who knows what three days and two nights in a hospital are going to cost me, with every pill and shot and blood test running up the tab, and seeing no fewer than three different doctors?  I am assuming that my deductible will finally be met, but where am I supposed to find $6,000?

By the time I finally got home Thursday night, after literally three hours of torture waiting for the release papers to come through, to enjoy a Wendy’s Son of Baconator and a bacon-and-cheese baked potato (finally!  Something I could eat and ENJOY), I felt like I had been through the wringer but was happy to return to the comforts of home and my familiar old life.  Sure, I had to soak and have Darian wrap my finger a few times a day, and I have to continue taking antibiotics, which are wreaking havoc on my stomach and related regions (and also my mouth – somehow my mouth constantly feels like I’ve eaten the saltiest of salt bagels, and no amount of beverage or even ice cream can soothe it).  And it sure was nice to sleep in my bed.

Spent a rainy Friday catching up with myself (and also treated myself to a late afternoon nap).  Saturday, we went to my daughter’s cousin’s first birthday party, an extravagant and spectacular affair with a barnyard theme that featured a couple of hours of live animals.  [An aside:  At the party, while I enjoyed barbecue (while trying not to get my finger bandage dirty) and partook liberally of the spread of adorable snacks and desserts), my miserable week somehow rubbed off on my daughter’s sister.  She managed to sprain her ankle playing volleyball on the front lawn and completely missed the animals, including a pony ride, because her dad (my ex) had to take her to the emergency room.  Poor kid.  I feel for her misfortune.]

And how did this week from somewhere-close-to-hell finally end?  In a fender-bender in major traffic on First Avenue, being tossed around the back of the Posh Pets animal transport van after being cut off by an Uber driver who yelled and screamed and threatened but then said “Never mind” when it turned out he didn’t have his license on him.  I landed knee, then head, and I think I jammed my bad finger at some point in my forward tumble.  But the good news is that Marco got adopted by a lovely family and, apart from the crash, a late spring day in Union Square with good people and lots of creatures was kind of a pleasant way to end a really long seven-plus days.  I’m looking forward to sheer uneventfulness this week (and maybe a few hours of work).

A humble postscript:  All this whining about my infected middle finger and two days in the hospital have given me a much greater appreciation of the suffering of my dear friends and family members who have been through the gauntlet of cancer treatment.  I truly have no clue how bad it could be.  My experience represented only a tiny fraction of what they had to go through (and, in some cases, continue to go through).  Hospitals are horrible places, but admittedly people do emerge from there and begin to feel better.  On the other hand, being in the hospital also reminded me a lot of my mother and how she spent her agonizing last months, shuttling between a hospital bed and a rehab bed and slowly losing her mind.  I can easily see how that happens as well.

One final thought:  As miserable an experience as being in the hospital was, the people there – the nurses and aides, and even the volunteers – were, without exception, pleasant and helpful, to the extent they could be given hospital red tape and protocol, which by their nature are frustrating for everyone.  Nurses and aides just have to deal with the bullshit on a daily basis, so they’re not as bothered and in fact retain their senses of humor and a gentleness of spirit that is perfect for soothing exasperated people like me.

Goodbye Boys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four Thoughts

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

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

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

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

(a)          RESIGN.

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

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

(d)          RESIGN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The State of the Brain Address

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

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

20170308_133331

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

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

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

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

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

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

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