Tag Archives: health

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!


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.

I Sing the Body Pathetic

Well, it’s official – WE’RE HOME.  Much remains to be done, both from a construction perspective (although I’m pretty sure it would only take, at best, two good days of work and they could be DONE with me) and an unpacking one.  It boggles my mind when I look around at all my STUFF, quite a bit of which never even got unpacked at the apartment.  My house has been considerably expanded, space-wise, but at this point I don’t have a clue how to effectively use my newfound storage.  So I continue to languish among boxes and loosely organized stacks of papers and random items that haven’t found a home yet, plus clothes and towels and blankets in need of washing (my brand new washing machine evidently needed a new drain hose; the service guy came but neglected to bring a replacement, even though I was pretty sure I told the guy at the appliance store when I made the service appointment that the hose was cracked, because that’s what the plumber had told ME – oh well, what’s a few more days in dirty clothes?).  Another major problem that has arisen is that all my bedroom furniture no longer fits in my bedroom.  I’m going to end up putting my rotating armoire (with the mirror on the back) in my closet (and lose the mirror in the process), but that will have to wait until I have some assistance.

You see, one thing I discovered during the past couple of weeks, with all the cleaning and packing and moving, is that my body is no longer capable of absorbing the abuse it could in the past.  There I was, schlepping boxes and smaller items of furniture, scrubbing tubs and floors and maneuvering the vacuum cleaner, day after day, sweating and shaking and fighting against the brutal wind with every trip to my car.  And then I wonder:  Why do my legs feel weak?  Why are my hands numb and swollen (not to mention cracked and dry to the point where my skin just splits on contact with, say, a plastic bag)?  Why is my back in such pain?  Surprise!  You’re officially OLD.

My stress levels have been through the roof, and a recent visit to my doctor revealed higher-than-normal blood pressure and blood sugar levels that were concerning enough that my endocrinologist called ME after getting the routine blood test results.  Not to mention the 20-plus (more like 40-plus, but 20 would make a significant dent) pounds I need to lose – my doctor actually tried to prescribe some medication to help combat my tendency to binge eat, but even after insurance and application of the manufacturer’s discount, it would still have cost over $200 a month, so I’ll just have to lose weight the old-fashioned way.  Exercise is a key, of course, but with my back out of whack and the weather not cooperating, power walking will have to wait another few days.

And as if my body wasn’t enough of a wreck, on Sunday morning I was fighting with my dog Munchie, who doesn’t yet comprehend that he has to be brought downstairs to go out for walkies.  I had managed to get Gizmo downstairs but Munchie was hiding under the bed.  In a huff, I ran up the stairs, calling him out for being a wussie, and SLAM!!  I stubbed my big toe on the steps and fell forward.  I knew it was bad – the extreme pain was a dead giveaway – but I didn’t know how bad until I took my boot off and saw that my right big toenail was the color of a ripe eggplant.  So that’s caused me to limp around ever since, which in turn has thrown my back further out of alignment.  I am a mess.

I know I’m blaming my advanced age for the deterioration of my physical self, but it even happens to young people, I’m afraid.  My 21-year-old daughter is always complaining about being in pain, partly because of her scoliosis but a recent visit to a local kinesiologist has revealed an adrenaline imbalance and a tendency to retain lactic acid in her muscles, which causes excessive soreness after she works out (which she actually does, a few times a week – she’s even been WEIGHTLIFTING as part of her cross-fit training, which I find so impressive).  He prescribed regular (expensive) chiropractic adjustments and special (even more expensive) supplements, and I keep asking her if she’s seen any discernible improvement, but evidently she hasn’t – yet.

I wish feeling healthy and sound and young again were as easy as taking a supplement.  But no one has yet found the magic pill.  We all get old and it sucks.  I just got off the phone with my 84-year-old friend, who was told today that she may need to have open-heart surgery, and my daughter’s 95-year-old great-grandmother is currently in the hospital having her legs drained of excess fluid and putting up a major fuss because she just wants to go home.  At 57, I guess I should consider myself lucky that I just have some generalized aches and pains and diabetes that I could control better if I just watched what I ate and started moving a little more.  I confess that I’d like to live to at least 95, if this currently (but hopefully only temporarily) pathetic body is willing.


In thinking about what to write in my blog post this week, the thing that’s been most prevalent is my sickness:  my actual physical sickness and my heart sickness over this horrible election result and the future of this country (and perhaps even the world).

I don’t get ill very often, but when I do, it’s usually bronchial in nature and it frequently involves copious amounts of coughing.  My freshman year in college, I had bronchitis pretty much from October till May; I don’t know how my roommate Erika put up with me, let alone wanted to live with me again.

This version of the coughing illness is made even more horrible because my coughing evidently disturbs the neighbors, evidenced by the lady downstairs banging on her ceiling the first night the hacking began.  Thankfully, she may have grown some empathy (or perhaps she’s away, which seems more likely) because she hasn’t banged since, perhaps since I’ve been trying to direct all of my night coughing into my pillows – at least when I’m AWARE that I’m coughing, which I often am, which also means that I’m not sleeping very much.  But coughing into my pillow is still noisy, and it’s jarring.  I’m certain my whole bed shakes.  My friend down the hall gave me some Vicks Vap-o-rub, which she swears will help me sleep.  That aroma of camphor and menthol always reminds me of being a kid, because that’s what my mother – and my grandmother before her – would slather on my chest whenever I had a coughing sickness.

Fortunately, I don’t get the bad cough every year, especially since I quite smoking cigarettes in 2010, but when it does come, the coughing itself is legendary.  This one is BAD, exacerbated by the high rise neighbor shame.  At least in my own house, with my kid away at school, I don’t disturb anyone but the animals, although for some reason, Gizmo likes to be even closer to me than usual when I’m sick like this; maybe he thinks he’s helping to hold my guts in.

I don’t want to go to the doctor thanks to a shortage of money and time, so I’ve been taking Duricef left over from a bout earlier this fall with sinusitis.  (Often when I think my cough is bronchial it turns out to be my sinuses and the resultant post-nasal drip.)  But if it doesn’t lessen in the next day or so, I may have to break down and make an appointment.

Of course, no amount of antibiotics can cure my OTHER sickness:  the Donald-Trump-is-President-of-the-United-States sickness.  That affliction will last four years, provided he doesn’t abdicate or get impeached.  In all the photos I’ve seen of him lately (and the fewer I see of those, the better – I literally hate the sight of the man), he looks dumbfounded, like he can’t believe what he’s gotten himself and his family into.  And speaking of his Stepford Children (poor shell-shocked Barron, standing on the stage as his father claimed his victory; if he only knew what’s in store for him . . . ), they can’t have it both ways:  They can’t be in his inner circle as president and also run his company.  It’s unprecedented and it’s absolutely wrong.  Maybe he will get enough pushback on this issue to have an impact, although that will be tough in this environment, where the lame ducks have no power and everybody in the Republican party is kissing as much Trump ass as they possibly can.  Grow a spine, people.  These are the folks whom we have entrusted with our governance?  Well, more than half the people who actually voted – not to mention those slackers who didn’t vote at all –did NOT want to entrust their governance to these people, which is why I have no idea how Republicans were able to hold on to so many congressional seats.  I’ve got the shakes just thinking about it.

The sickness (both varieties) has also resulted in the temporary abandonment of my walking regimen.  It actually would be beneficial to my health if I started walking again; I’m sure it would clear my sinuses, as well as my head.  But I just can’t muster the energy.  Lack of sleep will do that to you.  It also doesn’t help that I used to walk at sunset, but now by 6 p.m. we’re already in the dark of night.  It kind of makes my evening walks a little less attractive, but that’s what I’m stuck with until the spring.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I’m officially done with whining about my physical woes (the heart woes will linger, I’m afraid, but I’ve become almost numb to them; I’m just waiting – as I did throughout the election – for Trump to shoot himself in the foot and/or take himself out, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the expectations of the leader of the Free World).  My illness is a mere annoyance, a wrinkle in the fabric of my life.  It is NOTHING compared to the trials some of my dear friends have gone through recently (and some are currently going through).  It makes me almost embarrassed to complain.  In fact, every night, when I’m saying my prayers of gratefulness, I always thank the Higher Power for my “relative good health.”  But man, I sure hope I return to my NORMAL physical limitations soon.  I’ve got too much to do.  There’s money to be earned, the kid will be home for the holidays and my house (hopefully) will be finished soon, so relocation – and a REAL return to normalcy – is right around the corner.  I have no time for sickness of ANY kind.

Truly Random Thoughts (Or, a series of pretty accurate snapshots of my daily brain)

This past week was a bit chaotic, getting my kid off to South Africa for her three-week internship at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre on the outskirts of Kruger National Park.  She was surprisingly nervous for such an intrepid traveler, but by the time she arrived in Johannesburg yesterday – after 18 hours on two different planes with a four-hour layover in between during the early morning hours, so she couldn’t even enjoy some Heinekens in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport while she waited – she had calmed down and was ready to undertake her adventure.  Today we finally figured out how to communicate via text and a pre-paid phone, so that offered some relief, too.  While I was able to track her flight and knew exactly where she was in the sky at all times, it was still a little nerve-wracking until I knew for sure that she had touched down.  My biggest fear was that she would fall asleep in the airport and miss her connecting flight.  I’m looking forward to her photos and tales of her adventures.

The whole time she was preparing to go, I kept thinking about my (crazy, I realize now) parents letting me, at 15 years of age, fly by myself halfway around the world to live with strangers in Chile for three months (see “Viajes”, 7/14/15).  There was no Internet or mobile phones in those days so that you could easily keep in touch.  Now, of course, taking into consideration the time difference, you can have instantaneous contact whether you’re one mile away or 10,000 (more like 7,950, but still).  And frankly, I was a terrible correspondent.  I don’t know how they did it.  (Perhaps they were happy to see the back of me!!  I remember my mother telling me once that, from about the ages of 14 to 17, every time I came in the house the hair on the back of her neck stood up.)

* * *

I’m still having flashbacks to this week’s Game of Thrones episode.  It was the most intense hour of television I can recall in recent memory, and I’m counting down the hours to next week’s season finale, which promises to be another hour-plus chock-full of intensity.  But what am I going to do with myself after next weekend, with no GOT for another year and no hockey for at least the rest of the summer?  Maybe I should get out more, or catch up on some films.  I have a list as long as my  arm AND my leg of movies I want to see, but I’m not even sure any more how to go about getting access to them other than the ”On Demand” movies available on my premium cable channels.  I may have to break down and get a “trial membership” for Netflix, which they’re always offering to me as a former subscriber.  But, as I recall, they don’t have a great selection of films anymore, at least not available for streaming – and do they even still do the CD thing?  Maybe I can binge-watch “Orange is the New Black” or “Orphan Black” or even “Breaking Bad”, which I never watched the first time around despite being highly recommended by someone whose taste I trust.

* * *

I play Words With Friends obsessively.  I have like ten games going, with friends and strangers alike.  I don’t even really care if I win – I just like the challenge of playing against someone else, trying to make the best possible word with the letters I’ve got and what my opponent has left me on the board – and this despite the fact that the program crashes with alarming frequency.  Lately Google Chrome has been putting up an “Oh, Snap!” icon and asking me if I want to give my feedback about how mad I am that I keep continually crashing, and I always send the feedback, but I don’t know where it’s going or if it’ll do any good.  Who knows?  Maybe it’s putting me on some kind of “clueless” list of people who have no idea of what viruses and malware they’re allowing to infect their computers.  It’s actually time for my bi-annual visit from Neil, my computer guy.  And I’ve definitely learned my lesson about backing things up, so hopefully the next full-on crash (and I’m totally expecting there to be one) won’t be as devastating as some of my prior data disasters.

* * *

After an aggravating process of getting clearances for, and then undergoing, a minor diagnostic surgical procedure, I’ve officially gotten a clean bill of health today, which is always a relief when you get to be my age.  Even though I have chronic and multiple aches and pains in nearly every part of my body, and I take way too many daily pills for maintenance of my various conditions (many of which would be reduced if not eliminated completely by losing at least 20 and more like 40 pounds; my secretary and her husband recently had some kind of gastric bypass surgery and have succeeded in losing enough weight to basically cure themselves of high blood pressure and diabetes), I am a reasonably healthy person, and for that I am extremely grateful.  A few close friends recently have been valiantly battling cancer and other serious ailments and I’m full of admiration for their steadfastness and the strength of their life forces.  Support networks are so vital during treatment and recovery, but unless you’re right next door, it’s hard to know what to do to help (even though you really want to).  It also reminds you how precious friends and family are, and how beautiful life can (and should) be.  When illness afflicts our friends and family members, or tragedies like the Orlando shooting strike strangers, we are overwhelmed with sadness and grief, but life demands that the focus be redirected to things that are joyful and uplifting.  Easier said than done, I know, but that’s the only answer.  There is a great Martin Luther King quote that I have up on my bulletin board that reads, in part:  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

* * *

Speaking of hate, I’ve been struck by a thought recently about Donald Trump, who (finally!) seems to be sinking like a stone from the weight of his own ego and stupidity as his campaign implodes.  Wouldn’t it be classic if one day very soon he gets on TV and just says, “I’m out”?  I wouldn’t put it past him, not for one second.  He’ll spin it, of course, to make it appear that he has controlled every aspect, and he could have won the presidency, but due to one fake and/or overblown reason or another – he’ll come up with something absurd, I’m sure – he’s decided to abandon his campaign.  A move like that would show him to be nothing more than the big-mouthed bully (i.e., coward) that he is and would serve the lunatic Republican Party right.  We’ll see how this plays out over the coming months, but I’m a tad less frightened today than I was a few weeks ago that there is even a snowball’s chance in hell of Trump being elected president.

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The flaky lady downstairs is becoming an issue.  I ran into her in the lobby of my building yesterday and we rode the elevator up together.  She acts all friendly, but evidently she finds my dogs and their incessant barking “very distracting”.  First of all, I know for a fact that they do NOT bark incessantly because I am home with them the bulk of the time (6 days a week, at most gone for a couple of hours a day for errands or volunteering at the shelter).  They’re pretty lazy dogs, too, so I can’t imagine that they’re frantically running around screaming and yelling when I’m not home.  They’re mostly sleeping, and they bark – usually a short, sharp burst, nothing sustained, especially when I’m here to threaten them with the spray bottle – when they’re triggered by some noise or distraction.  The lady said to me, “You’re used to having dogs, so it may not seem like a lot of barking to YOU!”  Like everything else anyone says to me, I took this to heart, because maybe she’s right and I want nothing more than to be a considerate neighbor.  So I’ve started keeping a “barking log” in order to have some indication of exactly when and how often they’re barking and what’s causing it.  For example, at 12:43 A.M. this morning, someone was shooting off fireworks (yes, fireworks:  As you might imagine, this isn’t a particularly quiet neighborhood to begin with – the other day, a car alarm was going off every ten minutes for two hours from like 6 A.M. to 8 A.M. and then ANOTHER car alarm was going off every 20 minutes all damn day – and yet, it is my two little dogs barking occasionally that is so “distracting” to my downstairs neighbor).  Woken from his sleep by the racket, of course Munchie had to squeeze out a few barks.  I do not blame him.  Who is shooting off LOUD fireworks at 12:43 A.M. on a Monday night/Tuesday morning?  The nerve.  But the next time she challenges me on my noisy animals, I’ll be armed with EVIDENCE.

In all seriousness, I don’t know what she wants me to do about them, although at one point she (somewhat disturbingly, especially given how paranoid I already am about having more animals than I’m supposed to in this apartment) challenged my having TWO dogs, as if having one fewer dog would mean any less barking.  Dogs are legitimately permitted in this building, and I pay my rent like everyone else (and an extra fee and deposit for the privilege of having them here).  I’m entitled to live my life without having to change my behavior to suit my neighbors (although of course I have changed my behavior, because I’m sensitive like that, but there’s a limit).

Perhaps I should use my mediation training to settle my own dispute. In fact, there was an exercise that we did our in week-long seminar that involved noise in an apartment building, and in fact it is an extremely common cause of friction between neighbors.  Here’s what I would (and hopefully will, if given the opportunity) say to her:  “Look, [name withheld], as I’m discovering, a lot of this is just the reality of sharing walls and floors and ceilings with other human beings, all of whom are (presumably) paying their rent and entitled to go about the daily business of living their lives.

“But I am sympathetic to your concerns, and I want to be a good neighbor for the brief time that we’re going to be here together.  Short of me moving out or getting rid of the dogs, neither of which is going to happen (for a while, anyway, given that they haven’t even started working on my house yet), is there something I can do to address the problem?  Is any particular time of day more troublesome?  Would you like my cell number so you can text me if you’re being inordinately bothered by something the boys and/or I are doing?  I’m honestly sorry that my dogs’ barking bothers you.  I’d really like to try to come up with a mutually agreeable solution, because I like you and I think we could even become friends if given a chance.”

Think it will work?  Watch this space!  Besides, it could always be worse:  I have a friend who lives in a pretty fancy high-rise building with a Hudson River view who, a few times a week, sometimes in the middle of the day, hears quite clearly her neighbors having noisy sex!!