Tag Archives: New York Rangers

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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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!

Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Do the Best Thoughts Go?

I seem to have all of my best thoughts when I’m not in a position to write them down.  Driving is a prime example.  Music blasting, the open road, surrounded on all sides by awesome cloud formations, and the ideas just come flooding in – but I’M DRIVING, so I can’t write them down.  I actually bought a mini tape recorder so that I could dictate my thoughts, but that turned out to be more trouble than it was worth.  First of all, it was a cheapo machine and didn’t have one-touch operation – I had to push one button this way and another two buttons that way, and then make sure that the reels were moving, which I couldn’t do if I was on a parkway, say, which is where the inspiration usually strikes.  Then the battery would die because I would keep the recorder poised and paused, ready for me to use as soon as an idea came upon me, and then forget to turn it off.  And then, of course, I have a whole drawer full of mini-cassettes that need to be transcribed, if there is even anything on there.  On a few occasions when I’ve tried to listen back, there was actually nothing on the tape at all, which completely defeats the purpose.

I also have great thoughts when I’m power-walking.  I’ve got the music playing on the headphones and a strong rhythm to my gait, my blood is pumping and the ideas are flowing profusely – but I’M WALKING, so I can’t write them down.  However, I do have my iPhone with me, because I use the timer and step-calculation function to keep track of my walking, and I think my iPhone does have a dictation feature.  Maybe I should try using that to record my thoughts while I’m pounding the pavement (or the boardwalk, as the case may be).

Some of my most ingenious thoughts, though, come when I’m in the dentist’s chair hooked up to the nitrous oxide, but in this circumstance, I’VE GOT SOMEONE’S HANDS IN MY MOUTH so I can’t write down the shimmering bits of perfection that ping-pong around in my brain when I’m breathing in the sweet air.  Just this past week, I had two brilliant notions:  (1) I wish I had a device like Stephen Hawking has, where a robotic voice that seems to dictate his thoughts as he’s thinking them.  Although , without doing more extensive research on the device in question, I am almost certain that what’s really happening isn’t that the machine is reading his thoughts, but rather that he’s using his optical system (actually, I think it’s his cheek muscle) to somehow type on a keyboard what he wants to say, rather than having a direct line to the thoughts from his brain.  (2) I realize there would probably have to be health code regulations in place, but why couldn’t tattooers offer nitrous to their clients who wanted it?  Used properly, it’s completely harmless and would relax the human canvas while he/she is having the painful work done, and the tattooer wouldn’t have to deal with so much movement and tapping out when the canvas can’t take the hurt.

[An aside:  A new season of “Ink Master” has begun.  This season features a competition between teams assembled by each of the tattoo artist judges, Oliver Peck and Chris Nuñez.  (Dave Navarro, host and the third judge, is merely an aficionado – his talents lie on the guitar side of art.)  I confess to having a huge crush on Oliver Peck, with his ponytail and Yosemite Sam mustache, only-top-button-done shirts and ever-present toothpick.  Every time I watch “Ink Master”, I want another tattoo.  My next piece is going to be a cover-up/modification of the laurel wreath encircling the yin-yang on my shoulder [see “Tattoo Me”, 6/10/15].  I might try a new artist this time, even though I love the pieces that Liana Joy of Empire State Tattoo in Oceanside has done for me.]

Underlying all of this lost genius, of course, is my memory (or, more accurately, the lack thereof).  If I could just REMEMBER my thoughts so I could write them down as soon as I got home, I wouldn’t have this problem.  But for whatever reason – age, prolonged marijuana use in my youth, early onset Alzheimer’s – once I’m out of the car, or across the threshold, or (unhappily) getting oxygen pumped through my nose piece – the great ideas are often gone.  Just GONE.  Poof.  Maybe they will be revived in some other context at some other time, but unless I quickly write them down at the earliest opportunity, or unless it’s a REALLY good thought and I literally can’t get it OUT of my head, the thought will be released into the ether, and whether it will return remains a mystery.

That’s certainly something I value about my journals:  They are literally the repositories of my thoughts, a hard copy of my memory.  If I had the time (or, I should say, WHEN I have the time), I could pick a journal from any year, from 1979 through today, open it up, and know exactly what I was thinking on that day.  I’ve written about my journals previously on this blog (“My Life in Journals”, 8/17/16), and I long for the day when I can just lazily pore over every word, looking for those golden thoughts and brilliant (if I say so myself!) ideas that I managed to commit to paper before losing them.  I’ll then use them as fodder for future essays or articles or stories or even poems (although my poetry has always been pedestrian, at best).

A random sample, grabbed from my “Small Notebooks” collector box, from March 15, 2008, while attending my firm’s All Lawyers’ Meeting in Florida:  “(later, at a ‘speed networking’ event) One beer goes straight to my head, even on ice.  I’m very bad at standing and holding a drink.  I’m much better off when I can sit down at a table, or at least stand next to a table where I can set my drink when my hand gets cold and wet.”  I could maybe turn that into a whole blog post about my social awkwardness, how I’m so friendly and comfortable one-on-one but when you throw me into a group setting, I turn into a shy wallflower.

Ah, someday, I’ll have the luxury of recapturing my memories and using them to create art.  But until then, I’ll just have to figure out better ways to memorialize them, using mnemonics or technology or the discipline to hold them in my head until I can get to pen and paper (or fingers to keyboard, but I tend to scribble my thoughts rather than type them, even though I am a pretty fast typist).

* * ** *

A couple of thoughts about this week’s presidential debate, because it’s been heavy on my mind.  I knew Hillary would be better prepared, but for some inexplicable reason, I dreaded it, because Trump gets away with figurative murder and no one calls him out on it except left-leaning comedians.  And even when his lies and inadequacies are exposed, his supporters seem not to care.  Damn the “facts” and what they’ve seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears!!  They just have a “feeling” about him or, more commonly, about how horrible Hillary is, which is another thing I do not understand.  I’ve read a number of think pieces on it, and I do think her femaleness is at the root (for a good analysis of this, see Larry Womack, “Stop Pretending You Don’t Know Why People Hate Hillary Clinton”, The Blog, The Huffington Post, 9/26/16 [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/larry-womack/stop-pretending-you-dont-_b_12191766.html]).  Don’t these Trump supporters realize they’re being played??  Trump doesn’t even WANT to be president.  He just wants to WIN.

But in the end, reason prevailed.  By every measure (despite the seemingly intelligent woman interviewed post-debate who believed it was a “draw” and that Trump showed himself to be a “man of action, an agent of change”; how any sane person could say that Trump performed well in this debate is incomprehensible to me), Hillary was the big victor in the much-anticipated showdown.  The man was unhinged!  He couldn’t put together a coherent sentence or thought.  Bragging, complaining, doom-and-glooming (“inner cities are hell”, our airports are “worse than the ones in third world countries”, he said, among many other things that he called “terrible” or “bad”), with nary a constructive suggestion to fix any of it, apart from his tax cut for the rich.

Whoopi Goldberg called Trump out on his inability to complete a sentence this morning on “The View”, which I caught for a brief moment while looking to see if pre-season Rangers hockey was on TV tonight – which it was!  It’s so great to watch Rangers hockey again and get excited about the coming season!  The NHL’s exhibition World Cup of Hockey was a tease, especially that exciting Team North America overtime win over Sweden last weekend, but now it’s time for REAL hockey.  And I’m also overjoyed that Optimum, my cable TV provider, has restored the real-time pause and rewind functions.  Now if they could just come up with the technology to link the DVR recording to the actual TV show so it never cuts off early and you don’t have to manually add 2, 5, 15, or 30 minutes to the “ending time” of a show, or when football games go long and delay the start time of shows.  But I can’t get greedy.  I’m certainly grateful for the improvements thus far.  I love having the ability to rewind and re-watch a good goal, and then be able to skip the inevitable car commercial — live!!

Small Steps

Well, I’ve officially begun my walking regimen, and now that I’ve written it publicly, I have to stick to it!  I’ve started small, with 20 minutes a day, but I’ll try to quickly ramp up in intensity.  Ultimately, I’d like to keep it around 30-40 minutes, five times a week.  With the upcoming hockey season in mind, I’ve determined that I will walk the dogs at 5:15 p.m., watch the 5:30 p.m. local news, and then walk on the boardwalk from 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on game nights.  That way, I can get organized and prepare dinner during the pre-game show and then settle in to enjoy my favorite way to spend three-plus hours on a typical weeknight:  New York Rangers Hockey.  (It’s their 90th anniversary this year.  I’ve been following them for a little more than half that time, going on 50 years, which is pretty damn scary when you think about it.)  I can’t wait for the season to start!  This World Cup of Hockey exhibition being put on by the NHL as sort of a pre-training camp warm-up is just a tease; bring on the real stuff!  Less than a month to go!

My sister had given me a Fitbit last Xmas.  It was NOT on my list – the only thing on my list, EVER, is iTunes and Amazon gift cards so I can buy music and sometimes books – but my generous sister always manages to get me something extravagant for which I have no real need or desire.  (Believe me, I am ashamed of my ungratefulness.  I’ve actually proposed that we forego Xmas gifts entirely, but she won’t go for that either.)  The Fitbit was still in the box when Darian asked, in August, if she could take it with her to school.  She belongs to a cross-fit gym in Morgantown and really enjoys the program, and she thought it would help her keep track of her progress.  It also measures her sleep patterns.  To her alarm, the Fitbit has indicated that she’s a fitful sleeper and wakes up multiple times every night.  I know the same is true for me as well (see “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream”, 9/16/15), so perhaps it’s a hereditary affliction.

In any event, my friend Carole showed me that my iPhone has been keeping track of my steps and certain other movement factoids all along without my even being aware or inputting any information – provided, of course, that I carry it with me, which of course I have immediately started doing.  So far, I’ve managed to walk more than 5,000 steps a day, but ideally I’d like to aim for 10,000 daily steps, which I have heard is an optimal daily allotment.

This is not the first time I’ve undertaken a fitness plan, but hopefully this one will stick.  I recently had a lovely dinner with an old school friend, and she recounted how, feeling creaky and out of shape, she had gone to the local gym but was utterly daunted by the prospect.  When she told her trainer that she couldn’t possibly lift X pounds of weight, or do X number of reps, or walk X minutes on the treadmill, the wise trainer (who I’m sure has faced this challenge from many of his trainees) proposed that she aim to do HALF-X, or even QUARTER-X, if that’s what it took to get her going, because the important thing was just to GET GOING.  I’ve taken that message to heart.

She also said that she eats half of each meal at one sitting and then saves the rest for the next day.  That’s another good idea that I need to put into practice, in conjunction with the flexible 1,500 calorie diet that my doctor gave me today.  Small steps will get me where I need to go, if I can just stick to it.

While I’m encouraged about my increased physical activity, and I’m optimistic that I can better control my food intake (I’ve done it before, I can do it again – I may even meet with a nutritionist so I can learn how to replace all the CRAP I eat with more healthy alternatives), there’s still an area of my life that I’m having a harder time gaining control over.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago (“My Life in Journals”, 8/17/16), I was going to try to wake up earlier every day so that I could better utilize my limited life hours.  While I’ve been forced to get up before I really want to on a few occasions over the past few weeks, given my druthers – in particular over Labor Day weekend, which I considered a huge waste of potentially pleasurable time – I stay in bed as long as I possibly can.  I don’t even sleep!  I just like to lie in my comfy bed with the boys (and usually Raven poking me in the face looking for attention), close my eyes and try to avoid thinking about all the things I have on my agenda for the day.  So that’s something I’m still working on.

But here’s a small step I can take to start my day on a more positive note:  In at least three separate “daily advice” posts I read this week, the message was that, if you wake up smiling, you improve your outlook on the entire day.  So even if I can’t rouse myself at an early hour, at least I can try smiling when I finally do get out of bed!