Tag Archives: food

99 Problems (Minus 96 or So)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Weighty Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things That Bring Me Joy

Like some of my favorite TV shows, my blog went on hiatus for Thanksgiving week.  It was certainly not planned or intentional.  I just failed to come up with anything to write about or the time to write it.

Truth be told, I’ve been in kind of a deep, dark lethargy these past few weeks.  It’s partially the election and the all-encompassing feeling of dread I have for what’s ahead for this nation.  [On that front, I read  an interesting interview with Robert Reich today that outlines in detail the things we all have to fear from a Trump presidency:  Danny Feingold, “Conversations on Trump’s America: Robert Reich Previews a New Era of Savage Inequality”, Capital and Main website, 11/29/16, http://capitalandmain.com/conversations-on-trumps-america-robert-reich-previews-a-new-era-of-savage-inequality-1129%5D  I avoid the news because I hate having to look at his face, let alone listen to the crap coming out of his mouth (or the mouths of his surrogates – that Kellyanne Conway person in particular gives me the heebie-jeebies, but she may be on her way out, evidently).  I’m just waiting for my call to action, because I know it’s coming.

It might also be the too-early arrival of night since we turned back the clocks a few weeks ago.  Not enough sunlight means not enough energy for Nan.  When it gets dark at like four o’clock in the afternoon, I just want to cuddle up on the sofa with a couple of cats and zone out in front of the TV, but IT’S ONLY FOUR O’CLOCK!!  And of course I can never wake up in a timely enough fashion to take advantage of the earlier arrival of daylight.

But in the midst of these doldrums, I still manage to find little bits of joy to sustain me. Beginning on January 1st of 2016, I’ve been diligently recording, every night before I go to bed, at least one thing that gave me joy that day.  Believe me, some days it isn’t easy, and I do have to admit to writing “No joy today” on a number of occasions.  But I’ve been pretty consistent about it, so I feel like I’m at least making an effort to stay positive even when I feel myself slipping into depression.

My joys fall into four main categories:

(1)  My various companion animals, both at home and at the shelter.  Without question, animal contact has given me more moments of happiness than probably anything else.  There’s nothing better than stroking the cheeks and chin of a cat at creating mutual bliss between the participants.

(2)  Things on TV, like new seasons of my favorite shows, like “Shameless”, “Project Runway”, “Ink Master”, and of course “Game of Thrones”, which I miss terribly.  Seriously?  We have to wait till the summer for its return??  I’ll have to console myself with . . .

(3)  The Rangers and, to a lesser extent, the New York Football Giants.  Like Sunday, for example – no joy on the Ranger front, as they were shut out by an Ottawa Senators team that played ITS game better than the Rangers played THEIRS, but at least the Giants won, pretty convincingly after a slow start, a game they were supposed to win.  Odell Beckham Jr.’s elation when he scores touchdowns (even if it’s called back, like the one he scored on a punt return) is just contagious.  Yesterday, because they were in Cleveland, he had concocted a little Lebron James tribute where he pantomimed the thing that Lebron does where he throws out the powder or fairy dust or whatever it’s supposed to be.  Although I must confess that the Rangers are also responsible for entries like (from April 21), “Not only NO JOY but DESPONDENCY; Rangers were embarrassingly lethargic.  No work = no money, too much food – I didn’t have ANY joy today.”

(4) FOOD.  Yes, I admit it – food gives me joy.  Sometimes it’s the only thing in a day for which I can muster appreciation.  My weekly chicken souvlaki platter with Israeli salad from Abe’s Pitaria is a constant, especially when I can pair it with yummy frozen yogurt (with multiple toppings) from Tutti Frutti.  Desserts of all kinds, Digiornio’s stuffed crust pepperoni pizza, dinners out with friends – some of my greatest moments are comestible-related.

There’s other stuff, too, that doesn’t quite fall into any of those categories.  A magnificent Long Beach sunset during one of my Boardwalk power walks; listening to the perfect song as I’m riding my bike (R.I.P. big blue bicycle – I’ll get a new one when I move back home and can actually store it inside so it doesn’t die from rust rot, like my former bike did); a visit with a good buddy I haven’t seen in a while.  Even something as seemingly insignificant as finding a good parking spot can make it into the Joybook.

Sometimes I can’t evoke “joy” per se, but on those days I record what I think of as “contentedness”, like one day in September when the weather was gorgeous, I kept up with my walking regimen (which, I confess, has fallen by the wayside, another victim of my recent lack of motivation) and I managed to earn $500.

But what this whole exercise has done for me is forced me to appreciate the small moments in life.  Joy doesn’t present itself in big chunks; it comes in little snippets, and if you’re hustling and bustling mindlessly through your days, or solely focused on the downswings, you’ll miss those precious moments.

So the little Celtic Daybook that my friend André gave me way back in 1990, that I’ve been holding on to blankly for all that time, has finally gotten filled (with only one more month to g0).  Even in this awful year, I still managed to find quite a few things that brought me joy.  And now I need to get a new daybook for 2017, because I’m afraid we’re in for a bumpy ride, so joyful moments will come at a premium and must be memorialized and cherished at all costs.

Summer of ‘16

Summer’s almost over.  According to my building superintendent, they’re closing the pool at 6 p.m. on Labor Day and he’ll be cheering when he turns the key for the last time of the season.  I guess pool maintenance is not one of his favorite activities.  In fact, water in general has been a problem here in the four months since I moved in – once being without hot water and twice being without water of any kind for the entire day.  As I’ve mentioned previously in this blog, my temporary housing is no palace, but I guess it could be worse:  A small three-story apartment building a block over had a whole row of terraces collapse today.  Fortunately no one was hurt, but the seemingly sturdy brick façade crumbled like crackers.

In fact, it’s been a tough couple of days in Long Beach.  We had our first water fatality yesterday – a Brooklynite who waited till beach entry was free and the lifeguards were off duty to go into the rough waters – and then two chicks on a jet ski crashed into the Long Island Railroad Bridge crossing the Reynolds Channel and were pulled unconscious from the water.  (Last I heard they were in critical condition but will probably survive.)

So it’s been kind of a dark ending to a weird summer.  Being displaced from my home has certainly contributed to the odd feeling, although I must admit that it was an interesting change of perspective to live on the Boardwalk side of town.  Frankly, I took very little advantage of the primo location, which is kind of a shame.  I never visited the aforementioned pool (although Darian spent a couple of afternoons there) and, despite it being literally steps from my front door, I never set foot on the beach either.  On those few occasions when I did take a stroll on the Boardwalk – meeting my friend Barbara halfway between our buildings for a delightful late afternoon chat; watching Darian and her dad play beach volleyball; having dinner with a friend at the Shoregasbord (a collection of food trucks just off the Boardwalk, comprising the surprisingly limited culinary choices when one is waterside) – I enjoyed it very much.  There’s something about the air and the light when you’re at the beach that gives everything a magical sheen.  [An aside:  Much about Long Beach real estate is incomprehensible to me.  There are so many abandoned parking lots and empty storefronts.  As far as I can tell, there’s incredible opportunities here; it’s a perfect time to renovate the entire city almost four years after Superstorm Sandy destroyed it, given that every street is already a construction zone.  Someone is clearly not making the kind of far-thinking decisions that would help this city thrive.  Is the short-sighted waste driven by greed?  I can’t imagine any other explanation.  If you own a property in need of a tenant, why would you price the tenants out just so that your property can continue to stand empty, wasting money that it could be earning?  It makes no sense.]

But living in a “foreign land” isn’t the only thing that was strange about this summer.  One good friend is suffering through cancer, and two are going through a divorce (one was a relief, the other a devastation).  There was a falling out among folks I like at the shelter and as a result I spend a lot less time with a good friend.  I barely saw my kid at all, between her being in Africa for three weeks, hanging out with her townie friends and basically living at her father’s house the rest of the time because at his house she had a whole basement to herself rather than having to share a one-bedroom apartment with me.  I spent a lot of time on my own, on the computer, playing Words with Friends (at one point, I had nearly 30 games going and most of them had a “QI” somewhere) and reading disturbing articles about politics and encouraging ones about how to build self-confidence as a writer.

Work was quiet.  I got a taste of what it might be like when I’m retired (or when I win the lottery, whichever comes first), although cash flow is certainly a problem and I’m in a little bit of denial about it.  I’m like the grasshopper who played all summer and then had no food when the winter came and had to depend on the kindness of the ants (or, in my case, the small inheritance that my mother left me that was supposed to fund the aforementioned retirement).  Like a kid getting ready to go back to school (except without the new shoes and school supplies), I’m anticipating a very busy few months on the work front to make up for my vacation-lite summer.  I actually regret not taking a week off outright, rather than working an hour or two but remaining shackled to the computer every weekday waiting for the next client query or assignment.

I went religiously to the shelter on the weekends, even though some days I kind of wished I could stay home and listen to music and play on the computer.  But by the time I got there (usually on my one-speed rusty-chained bike, at least two directions of my journey against the wind and torture on my butt muscles) and started petting my favorites, all the stress would leave me and I’d be glad I came.  We had fewer kittens than in previous years (which is a good thing!) and they actually took away my favorite little one, Penny, so that she and her two siblings could get adopted sooner with more “people traffic” in the other Post Pets location at a PetSmart in Westchester.  Right now the only kittens we have at the shelter are six painfully adorable babies that we affectionately call the “ringworm kitties” because they have it and they need to get rid of it before they can be handled.  I am dying to cuddle them, and they’re not shy at all, always crowding the front of the cage and squealing for attention, not like some feral kittens who cower in the back and hiss and spit at every approaching hand.  My other “love cats” this summer have included Ginger, a gorgeous white cat with a distinctive mark on her nose, who was recently adopted and apparently, based on a photo posted on Facebook by her new mom, is quite the queen of the household already.  There’s Jackson, who almost became a member of the family when Darian took him home for a trial run but he had an unanticipated freak-out and attacked her so violently that she’s still a little scared of him, even though he is the most affectionate mush in the cat room.  My new boyfriend is Romeo, a big gorgeous creamsicle that Vanessa, the Post Pets cat director, is inevitably going to steal because she takes all the brawny strawberry-blonde beefcake for herself!!  So I’m enjoying him while I can.  And I’ve kind of fallen in love with a dog this summer, a humongous galoot of a female pittie named Jenny Craig (so called because she was desperately in need of a diet and some moisturizing when she first arrived) but I call her Mama because she’s as sweet as pie and you can’t help but love her.

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Pretty Little Penny

This has also been the summer of sausage – specifically, Aidells Roasted Garlic and Gruyere Sausage; I’ve tried others, but those were hands down the best.  I’ve been eating them a couple of times a week, on a golden brioche roll with Dijon mustard, with slaw and potato or macaroni salad on the side.  Yum.  I’ve also been on a watermelon kick, especially enjoyable when it’s juicy and sweet.  And ice cream – it wouldn’t be summer without ice cream (although, truth be told, I eat it all year long).  Often, when I go over to check on the progress on my house, I’ll stop by Caffe Spiaggia for a soft serve cone or a milkshake and just sit in the parking lot and savor for a few peaceful moments.  I’ve also been slightly obsessed with cookies, which has prompted frequent visits to Country Boy Bakery for a black-and-white or giant chocolate chip.  And I discovered Little Debbie Cream Cheese Streusel Cakes BUT THEY NEVER HAVE THEM IN THE DAMN STOP ‘N’ SHOP!!  So they’ve teased me with deliciousness and now they’re withholding!

I didn’t catch up on movies, as I’d planned, and I didn’t even watch much first-run TV, although last weekend I binged on “The Night Of”, the HBO limited series that considered a murder and the navigation of the criminal justice system by a kid who’d had the very best – and very worst – night of his life.  It was riveting, especially the first couple of episodes, but left me feeling unsatisfied at the end, with unanswered questions and unresolved relationships.  In fact, what has most often been on my TV this summer is “Law & Order”, which has replaced “Law & Order:  SVU” as my go to background noise while I’m messing around on the computer, usually playing Words with Friends.

Some new music I discovered this summer:  Midnight to Monaco, “One In A Million” (a real ear worm, that one – I even caught Darian singing it); “Shut Up Kiss Me” by Angel Olsen; a new crunchy nugget by a UK band called Tibet that I heard on Passport Approved, “I’ll Put You In My Pocket”, and also the new Peter Bjorn & John, “Breakin’ Point”.  I listen non-stop to WFUV during the week, and even stream it in the office on the days I go into the city.  I love the lunchtime DJ, Carmel Holt; she seems like someone I would like to be friends with.  And the mix is always so eclectic – it comes the closest in song selection to my own iPod than anything I’ve ever heard on radio.

The other thing that was distinctive about this summer has been the consistent heat.  I swear my AC has been on continuously since the beginning of July.  We were going to move it from the bedroom window into the living room, figuring that would best cool the room where I spend most of my time, but we left it in the bedroom, where it blasts on me at night and resulted in a doozy of a sinus infection.  I’m longing for the day I can turn off the air conditioner for good and open my windows wide to let in the crisp fall air.

September has always been my favorite month, probably because of my birthday but also because it meant I could go back to school, which I always loved (and to which I very much wish I could return) and hockey starts again.  It’s the time when all the returning TV shows finally have new episodes, interspersed with premieres of intriguing new programs, although I haven’t seen anything that’s piqued my interest in the “coming attraction” ads thus far.  And before we know it, my house will be finished and the kids and I can head back home, and maybe we can even add to our family and take home a foster or two.  (My daughter is already talking about getting a kitten to keep her cat Jojo company – my first “grandchild”!)  As much as I enjoy the pace of the summer, and the sun and blue skies, and the warmth, it’s almost unreal, kind of like a “time out” from the regular routines of life.  Sometimes I think I’d like to live in that “time out” world, but then I come back to reality:  Is an “endless summer” really possible?  It’s a nice dream, I guess, but ultimately unsustainable.