Tag Archives: New York Rangers

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!

Ends & Beginnings

Life is full of ends and beginnings.  In the past seven days since my last blog post, I’ve experienced the ups and downs and the comings and goings of ordinary existence.

One end this week:  my fostering of Fritzie (fka Frodo), who has gone off to live in his “furever” home with a lovely couple who will spoil him and treat him like the little prince he was born to be.  I don’t know what his former life was like; the horrible condition he was in when Linda from Posh Pets found him at Manhattan ACC would lead me to believe that he wasn’t well cared for, but his gentle demeanor was clear evidence to me that, at least at some point in his brief life, he had been loved.  Now that Fritz is gone, I probably won’t take on any more fosters for a while.  It’s not because fostering is a painful process; rather, it is a joyful one, because I know my foster fur babies are going to great new homes, where they can be the center of attention and affection.

Which brings me to a beginning:  I am moving into a high-rise apartment right on the Long Beach Boardwalk next week while my house is getting elevated, a process that could take anywhere from six months to a year.  I had no choice but to take the apartment on a year’s lease, although it wouldn’t surprise me if it turns out that I have to stay there for the whole year anyway.  Who knows what my contractor will find when he raises this weird little Lego house, with its additions and done-on-a-dime renovations over the years since its first incarnation as a one-room beach bungalow back in the 1920s.

The coming months promise to be stressful, but as soon as I get settled into the new apartment, I will at least have an eye of calm in the potential shitstorm.  The only problem with my new abode is that the management company doesn’t know the full extent of my menagerie, so at least the first few weeks may involve some stealth on my part, which I am most assuredly NOT looking forward to.  What I am looking forward to is being literally an elevator ride and a few steps from the beach.  And this apartment also has a lovely little terrace that faces north, where on a clear day I can see across Reynolds Channel all the way to the middle of Long Island and off in the west I can see the skyscrapers of NYC, especially at night.  It will be interesting to get a different perspective from what I’ve become used to in the 12 years I’ve lived in my house in the West End of Long Beach.  True, I won’t have to familiarize myself with a whole new town, but I will be in an entirely different neighborhood.  The West End of Long Beach, with its narrow streets and restaurants in walking distance and robust night life,  is considerably different than  “over East”, as my daughter calls it, which is mostly residential homes and high rises, a bus or bike ride from any shops or eateries.  It’ll be a change of scenery to look forward to, in any event, and it’s a chance to start a whole new set of (hopefully better) habits.  I plan to start a boardwalk-walking regimen right away.

Another end this week?  Well, the Rangers’ 2015-16 season, and maybe even their playoff hopes for the foreseeable future, seeing as they’ve traded away so many prospects in the hopes of winning in the present.  Over the past few years they’ve gotten tantalizingly close but not close enough, and now the win-it-all window has most likely closed.  Sadly, they went out with a whimper, throttled by the high-powered Penguins in only five games.  If I’m being honest, they were actually a tough team to watch most of this season, failing to display the necessary killer instinct, giving up late goals and squandering valuable points.  Perhaps this core group has one more push in them, but they’re going to need some serious evaluation at the team level and soul-searching on an individual basis.  They were even bad at being bad, unable to lose quite enough at the end of the season so that they would fall into the first wild card spot and face the Florida Panthers instead of the Penguins.  The latter squad is on fire right now and may give the Washington Capitals, who have been a juggernaut all season (and my prohibitive favorite to FINALLY win the Cup this year), a serious run for their money.

I’m a little worried about two things:  First, will Coach Vigneault get axed?  It did seem as if he lost the room in the end.  And second, is Henrik Lundqvist, one of the world’s elite goaltenders, done?  As Henrik goes, so go the Rangers.  Henrik looked literally crushed on the bench after being pulled in the last game, and later in the locker room afterwards.  I often wondered if something was wrong with him, especially during this series but really throughout the latter weeks of the season.  How far the mighty King has fallen!  It used to be that he could do no wrong, but might his head have gotten too big?  Did he have to be brought back down to earth?  He’s usually such a cool customer, perfect in every way, but I detected on more than one occasion a pissiness this season, throwing up his arms in aggravation at his teammates or a lack of referee’s call.  My chiropractor, a fellow Ranger fan, said he lost all respect for Henrik one night when the team gave up a late goal (as was their wont), losing him a shutout, and you could read in the King’s body language his petty exasperation over the slight.

Speaking of losing one’s head, one last joyous, highly anticipated beginning this week:  GAME OF THRONES IS FINALLY BACK!!  During the past couple of months I have been reading and watching everything I could find on the Internet about the coming season, and now it has arrived!!  At the end of the premiere episode last night, I was almost angry at the fact that I’d have to wait A WHOLE OTHER WEEK before I could watch it again!  Fortunately, there’s a new post-show show on HBO called “After the Thrones” featuring two writers, Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan, who used to do a similar video blog (or vidcast or whatever you call a podcast with video) under the late, lamented Grantland banner, to break down and discuss every aspect of each episode.  I am glad that they’ve been given a wider platform because I really enjoy their devoted and yet irreverent analyses.

GOT show runners David Benioff and D.B.Weiss have stated publicly that, after this Season 6, there is really only material for another 13 or so episodes, which they will probably split into two separate seasons (7 and 8), but then IT WILL BE OVER!!  THE END!!  I don’t know what I’ll do without it!  Of course by then I’ll hopefully have another volume of George R.R. Martin’s epic tome to get through.  I actually just finished Book Five, A Dance with Dragons, last week, just in time for the start of the new season.

There are certainly things I WANT to end – my current employment situation, for example, and this whole house-raising process – but there are others that I wish could go on forever (like Game of Thrones!).  I think that’s why I liked school so much:  Even though every year ended in May or June, come September, it would start all over again, with the promise of new and potentially wonderful experiences and bits of knowledge to be gleaned over the coming months.  There aren’t too many things like that anymore when you’re a non-teacher adult and, to be honest, I miss it.  Beginnings, middles and ends – but on some rare and wonderful occasions, we get to start all over again.

Lots of things that happen in our lifetimes may LOOK linear, but many more aspects of human life are cycles:  There is an end, yes, but it’s really just the beginning of something new.  I have no insight about this from a theological perspective.  To me, being born is THE BEGINNING, and when we die, as far as I know, that is THE END.  But I like to think that the end of one’s life on this plane will just be the start of some new life elsewhere.  And of course, at a very minimum, my physical body will return to the earth as ash and bone packed with nutrients for some future creation.

Why I Hate Hockey

Hockey is a supremely stupid game.  Things don’t happen the way they’re supposed to. The Hockey Gods reward and punish on a whim.  Case in point:  Tonight’s Game 3 in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Rangers-Pens, first of two at MSG.  Joint is jumping, Rangers come out flying and in fact play two pretty solid periods of defensive hockey, forechecking in earnest, clogging up the neutral zone and not letting the Penguins through.  Pens are on the power play in the first period when they take a double minor for high-sticking.  The teams play four-on-four for a while, then, not long after the Rangers’ power play starts, Krieder scores a beautiful second-effort goal.  The Garden erupts in ecstasy.

Ah, but no – our joy is short-lived:  The newly instituted coach’s offside challenge is employed and it turns out that the Ranger’s skate was inches over the blue line before the puck came over. Goal is waved off and we can feel the negative energy lurking.

Rick Nash scored a beauty of a short-handed goal to give the Rangers the lead but, truth be told, the Rangers spent much of the first two periods wasting offensive chances, including the rest of that first 4-minute penalty and then two more power plays in the second period during which they got barely a sniff.  Begrudging credit to Penguins, but Rangers need to work through that shit.  That’s the whole POINT.  You need to play BETTER than the other team.

Tonight, even though the game-winning goal was flukey – two Rangers collided at the blue line and the puck miraculously popped on to the stick of the on-rushing Penguin, who was almost shocked to receive it – he was just in the right place at the right time (for HIM). Now the Rangers are trailing with ten minutes left in the third period, at which point the Penguins rallied around their rookie goalie even more stoutly, and the Rangers failed to find the will within themselves to break through.   Any of them could have risen to the occasion and bulled his way to scoring a goal – anyone! – but instead no one did.

There’s this “advanced analytic” measure that the hockey stats nerds cite which is literally a calculation of LUCK.  It ultimately regresses to the mean, but some teams seem to consistently have better luck than others.  Yes, to quote an ancient hockey truism, “You make your own breaks” – by working harder, by putting in that extra effort.  But hockey is a freaky competitive experience.  Sometimes things happen that SHOULD NOT HAPPEN.  The puck pinballs in off three sets of skates, or conversely stays out of the net despite going from post to post along the goal line without ever crossing it.  A stick comes up into a guy’s face and it’s a penalty, but every once in a while – whoopsie!  Human error!!  – no one sees it.  There’s dozens of happenstances in a typical game that make the  diehard fan scratch his or her head in perplexity:  “How was that even REAL??”

And there’s another phenomenon that always baffles me:  how an ENTIRE TEAM can suck at the same time.  It must be bad mojo or something supernatural.  Even though a team has four separate lines and three sets of d‑men, and only five skaters are on the ice at one time, when something goes wrong for one of those lines or D pairs, suddenly it infects ALL the lines and/or ALL the defensemen.  How is that even possible?  I guess it is the case that confidence and positive energy can be contagious among teammates; why not a crisis of confidence and negative juju?

Well, the Rangers need to re-group.  That’s all there is to it.  There were a lot of positive signs tonight, but they have a very big problem (and I’m sure I’ve mentioned it in one or another of my hockey posts):  They don’t have the killer instinct.  They seem unable (or unwilling) to capitalize when they force the other team into mistakes.  Their power play is a prime example of consistently wasted opportunities to make the other team pay.  And they also don’t shoot enough.  How many times have we heard the fans at MSG screaming at the boys to “SHOOOOT!!”, especially with the man advantage?  They’re always looking for the perfect pass, the highlight reel play, when all they really need to do is get the puck on net and send some bodies that way as well.

Simple, right?  But they don’t listen to me shouting through the TV or sending telepathic messages.  Ah, how I wish they would!  It’s like I’m an “eye in the sky” and can see what ails them, but I just can’t get my message through!

Boys!  Rangers!!  I love ya, but you’ve got to SHOOT THE PUCK.  Please.

Sleepwalking into the Playoffs

I am mystified by the New York Rangers.

They had multiple opportunities to put what Coach Alain Vigneault calls the “checkmark” by their name as permanently in possession of a playoff spot, against non-playoff teams Carolina and Buffalo last week, but somehow fell into deep holes in both games from which they were not able to recover, despite turning on the boosters in the latter stages of  each contest.  If this is an indication of the Rangers’ thinking that they can just generate offense at will and score goals in bunches when they let inferior teams (let alone equal or superior teams) get ahead of them, well, I suppose these games have been “wake up” calls (although you wouldn’t have thought they’d need TWO “wake up” calls, but I guess we’re all guilty of pressing the snooze button occasionally).

Fortunately, they finally had some success against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets and the limping Tampa Bay Lightning last night and tonight in back-to-back games, getting the checkmark and solidifying third place, but having blown home ice advantage despite being in second place for much of the season.  In fact, the Tampa game tonight started off perilously like the two games against Carolina and Buffalo, with the Rangers going down by two goals and being thoroughly outplayed and outshot in the first period.  But the boys found their legs, and Henrik kept them in it (as he often does), Derek Stepan has stepped up his game for sure, and Chris Krieder has emerged from the fog he’s been in all season to show some signs of the brilliance his physical gifts allow him, and they managed to put the Lightning to bed.

Unlike their closest competitors, the Penguins and Islanders, the Rangers had been reasonably healthy.  Well, at least to our knowledge – teams have a tendency to hide the bumps and bruises at this time of year; but as long as the boys can still lace up the boots and know which direction to skate in, they’ll be out on the ice for every game – and at least until last night, when our captain and arguably our best defenseman suffered some sort of “upper body injury” (i.e., RIGHT HAND) and is unlikely to be 100% by the time the playoffs begin next week.  And then tonight, in the waning minutes of a 3-2 game, former Ranger and current Bolt Brian Boyle used his behemoth body to shove Dan Girardi into the boards, which resulted in a groggy “G” having to be helped off the ice, looking much the worse for his collision with the boards.  But in general, missing key players due to injuries can’t be the Rangers’ excuse.

My mother used to recite a nursery rhyme to me when I was being a naughty kid:  “There was a little girl who had a little curl/Right in the middle of her forehead/And when she was good, she was very, very good/But when she was bad, she was horrid.”  The 2015-16 New York Rangers are the little girl with the curl.  They’ve put up masterful efforts (beating the Blues and the Stars, two of the Western Conference’s strongest teams, “in their own barns”, as Derek Stepan likes to say), assembling an impressive 26-9-4 home record through 80 games and sending the fans home happy most nights (except, of course, for the one night Darian and I were there and also one game that Darian went to with a friend; in both of those games, as if to spite those of us low-rent fans who can only afford to attend a couple of in-person games a season, the Rangers stunk up the place).

But when they should be revving up to head into the playoffs – the REAL season – as strong as they can be, with confidence, clicking on all cylinders after a season of getting their timing down and familiarizing themselves with one another, they suddenly got LAZY, careless, unwilling to show the killer instinct that teams need at this time of year.  Even King Henrik, usually a dependable stalwart, has looked somewhat disinterested and pissy.

Maybe it’s all a ruse.  After all, these same Rangers, with very few new pieces, have gone deep into the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.  They must have learned some lessons.  They MUST know what they need to do.  So maybe they’re playing a rope-a-dope game with their opponents, pretending to be less-than-stellar so they can surprise the Pens and the Caps, like “Where were THESE Rangers all season long?”  Well, clearly they were saving themselves for the playoffs.  That’s what I’m hoping, anyway, even if it might be a bit delusional.

Check back with me in a couple of weeks to see what kind of mood I’m in where Rangers and playoff hockey is concerned.  It’s so embarrassing to me that the Rangers’ performance has an actual effect on my demeanor and state of mind for the entire day after.  As I’ve said previously [“Hockey:  An Obsession”, 4/21/15 – note that it was around this same time LAST season, when the boys were well on their way to making me suffer on their way to being eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Conference Finals), being so invested in something over which I have ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL borders on insanity.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I’ve even infected my child with the same affliction (although she fortunately only has a mild form).

And I must admit, they have looked much better the last two games (or at least for 5 of the 6 periods).  Their special teams are sharper than they’ve been all season, which is a real boon, especially in the playoffs when the teams are more on par with one another and the coaches often engage in chess matches.  An opportunity on the power play – or, alternatively, a huge penalty kill – can make a huge difference in the outcome of a game.

As always, I’m looking forward to the “second season.”  Rangers beat writer Steve Zipay of Newsday quoted Van Morrison lyrics to describe the upcoming playoff season:  “You make it to spring / And there’s no bed of roses / Just more hard work and bad company . . . “ (Steve Zipay, “As always, expectations high for Rangers come playoff time”, Newsday, 4/2/16, http://www.newsday.com/sports/columnists/steve-zipay/as-always-expectations-high-for-rangers-come-playoff-time-1.11646333).  There are sudden death moments and epic one-on-one battles over the course of up to seven straight games against the same opponent.  The NHL playoffs provide some of the most exciting sports action of ANY kind, no matter how the Rangers fare, although of course I’m a believer!  If not now, when?

Little Ball of Stress

I wake up pretty much every morning so weighed down by stress and worry and dread, it’s no wonder I have trouble getting out of bed.

Lately, the conglomeration of things in my life that cause me tension include my worries about the upcoming elevation of my home and trying to come up with alternative living arrangements.  The greatest stumbling block has been finding a nearby apartment in my price range that will accept my menagerie.  My realtor – a very nice woman named Bonnie who was recommended to me by my contractor – told me about three high-rise buildings managed by her office right on the beach block in the East End of Long Beach, reasonably priced, plain vanilla, and pets are just fine.

I felt a little like Goldilocks when she took me to see the available units:  There was a 2-bedroom, which was too big, and then a studio, which was too small.  She promised to tell me as soon as a 1-bedroom came on the market, and sure enough we were able to see one the very next day.  It ticked all the boxes – roomy, plenty of storage, price was right, primo location – although it wasn’t the most attractive of places.  I handed in all my application paperwork and the fee, and waited for the call to come in and sign the lease and pick up the keys.  But, according to Bonnie, evidently there was a “conundrum” with the apartment and I would have to wait for the next one.  That was over a week ago and I’m starting to get nervous.  In actuality, any deadline I have is self-imposed, so there is really very little need for the anxiety I impose on myself.  It was just that I had told the contractor that we could get started in April, so I worried that if I had to delay until May, I might get bumped off the calendar and would have to wait even longer to begin the whole agonizing process.

It turned out that was a needless concern.  I spoke to the contractor and he assured me I could get on the house-lifting calendar for May.  Now if my realtor can just come through with an apartment in the next week or so, I’ll have enough time to put my seemingly endless ducks in a row before the anticipated May start date.  If not, well – to quote Alfred E. Neuman, “What, me worry?“

Rest assured (or not, as the case may be), there is no shortage of other sources of stress in my life these days.  My daughter is having some real estate issues of her own.  She wants to leave her 2-bedroom apartment (which – long story short – has been a source of disappointment ever since she arrived last August because her roommate was a disaster and ended up skipping out halfway through the year, leaving her with a full electric bill) but she unknowingly obligated herself to stay in the place for another year in order to lock in a big $5 discount on her next year’s rent.  So now Mom has to put on her lawyer hat and see if I can get her out of the situation by the letter of the lease or, if not, to plead the case that she was an unsophisticated renter who didn’t know what she was doing and it’s unreasonable and unfair to make her stay there and/or force her to sublet half an apartment on her own.

There’s the daily work annoyances, of course, but the overarching stressor is money – or, more accurately, the lack thereof – and my endless expenses, which I have no idea how I’m going to meet given my limited income:  another year of college tuition, my semi-annual car insurance payment, getting a tooth pulled with no dental insurance, Darian’s summer internship in South Africa, security deposits for two separate apartments, and possibly having to pay three rents AND a mortgage installment for the month of May, combined with a less-busy-than-usual month of billable hours – it ain’t pretty.  A small tax refund will help but, in layman’s parlance, I’m financially screwed.  Only the lottery can save me now.

So how do I manage to combat the stress?  Not very well, I must admit, but there are a few things that help.  I saw a great quote the other day from famed scientist and philanthropist Albert Schweitzer:  “There are two means of refuge from the misery of life:  music and cats.”  (And to that I would add a chicken souvlaki platter with Israeli salad from Abe’s Pitaria.)

Music – most assuredly, yes.  I asked Darian today what the first thing is that comes to mind when she thinks of growing up with me as her mother, and she said:  “Traveling, and music.  Oh, and hockey.”  Except when the TV is on, there is always music playing:  music in the car, music on my headphones on the train, music in the background during the day while I’m sitting at the computer, music blasting while I’m feeding or playing with the animals or cleaning the house.  I’m also a collector of music, in vinyl, CD and MP3 form (I used to have cassette tapes, too, but lost them in the flood).  I have thousands of individual songs, hundreds of CDs.  As far as I am concerned, I will never have too much music.  My latest favorite is the new Cage the Elephant album, Tell Me I’m Pretty.  I’ve liked other songs of theirs, but this is the first time I’ve wanted to purchase an entire album of their music, and I’m extremely glad I did.  It’s been a while since I’ve found a record where I like every song, start to finish.  With the same Amazon gift card (earned as a credit card “reward” – I can’t afford to actually spend money on music), I also bought Badfinger’s Timeless . . . The Musical Legacy.  Now I finally own two of my favorite songs of all time, “No Matter What” and “Baby Blue” – classic nuggets of pop perfection.

And cats?  Also a big yes.  I love spending time in the cat rooms at the shelter on the weekends, making my way from cat to cat, chucking them under their chins and rubbing their cheeks, head butting and ear scruffling and slowly letting the layers of stress fall away.  I find scooping litter boxes to be a very zen activity, like working on a little sand and stone garden with the miniature rake.  I get the same relaxing feeling at home, sitting on the couch with Mimi on my right and Savannah on my left, two chubby lady cats luxuriating in being stroked by the chubby cat lady.  They’re so soft and sleek to the touch, like velvet and mink.  And they both purr so loudly I can literally feel the purring as well as hear it.  (Not to overlook the pooches:  While they are generally less affectionate, sometimes it’s Gizmo parked up on my left thigh, soaking in the mutually beneficial massage of his silky soft coat and his fat little body.)  Nothing gives me more joy and calms my soul more than those moments on the couch with my creatures.

And what about the thing that occupies the bulk of my evening hours from October to May (and hopefully into June), New York Rangers hockey?  Does watching hockey give me relief from my daily vexations?  Seriously??  Their performance of late, combined with the success of the surging and obnoxious Penguins (coached since mid-season by former Ranger assistant coach Mike Sullivan), has proven to be an addition to my sources of stress rather than a respite from them.  After a decent February, March’s alternating wins and losses are threatening to not only deprive them of home ice advantage after they were pretty solidly in second place (behind the juggernaut that is the 2015-16 Washington Capitals) all season long, but they might even get bumped out of the playoffs entirely.  With eight teams vying for seven spots, one squad is getting left in the dust.  Judging by the way the pundits poop on the Rangers (especially poor old Dan Girardi), I’m sure many of them think the Rangers will be the team to fall out, and certainly none of them holds out much hope about their chances in the post-season.  [An aside:  I think back to 2014 when the Rangers basically had to choose between keeping Ryan “Captain Cally“ Callahan or defenseman Dan Girardi.  The two were up for contract renewal at the same time and, given the limited salary cap space, one of them would have to go.  Cally ended up being traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for Martin St. Louis (now since retired), and Girardi got a hefty new contract (which many said at the time was a little TOO hefty).  Girardi had been a dependable stalwart for years, coming in undrafted but establishing himself as the bedrock of the Rangers’ top shut-down pair for a number of years.  But that kind of devotion takes its toll on a body.  Now that he is 31, all those hours defending hard-fought ice and blocking shots have clearly had a detrimental effect.  An already slow-ish skater, he’s become practically glacial, and his mental acumen isn’t what it used to be, either.  It’s unclear how the two tie together; maybe because things are physically more difficult for him, he has to think about them more, and getting too into his own head is preventing him from making the instinctive plays he’s made for years, so he overthinks and overpasses (which, truth be told, is a malady ALL of the Rangers suffer from) instead of just bulling his way out of the corner with the puck or shoving an opponent’s big body away from in front of Henrik Lundqvist.  Yes, Dan, it sucks to get old.]

I very clearly see their problems, watching from the eye in the sky while sitting on my living room couch.  This is what’s wrong with the Rangers:  They have all the pieces but they lack the urgency and intensity – that drive, that fortitude, whatever you want to call it; that extra SOMETHING that all champions seem to possess  – to take advantage of their opportunities, to capitalize on the other team’s mistakes.  They need to have a single-mindedness of purpose to FINISH.  They get plenty of opportunities, but they consistently waste them, to my great frustration and consternation.  My daughter and I frequently text during Ranger games, and I can’t tell you how many times I use the words “BLOWN CHANCE!!”.  It’s no longer even mildly amusing; it’s beginning to be pathetic.  They also need to be QUICKER – quicker with their decisions and puck movement, especially in the offensive zone and especially at this stage of the season, when they’ve had a whole year to sharpen up their timing and familiarity with one another (with some leeway for Eric Staal, who just came into the mix, and Rick Nash, who has just returned to the lineup after missing 20 games).

Who knows?  I keep hoping that the team, having made it as far as the Conference Finals twice and the Stanley Cup Finals once in the past three years, is saving their best for the post-season, now that they know what it takes.  Only time will tell.

Mats Zuccarello was telling everyone on the bench before last night’s game against the Florida Panthers (which, much to my relief, they won) to “Have fun out there”, and it’s so true:  When the boys are playing well, it’s way more enjoyable for them, and the same goes for the fans.  A good Rangers win, savored from my couch surrounded by purring kitties, is the best remedy by far for a stressful day.

Monday Blues (and a little anniversary)

Woke up cranky on Monday.  I’m ALWAYS cranky on Mondays.  It used to be even worse when I had to commute into the office on Monday mornings, because my dislike of Mondays would end up poisoning my Sundays.  Now, thankfully, the misery only rears its ugly head when I wake up on Monday (usually at least an hour before I absolutely have to, at which point I immediately re-set my alarm and go back to sleep for that hour rather than getting my fat butt out of bed and perhaps having a productive morning rather than a lie-in – see “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream,” 9/16/15, for a whining about my typically unhealthy morning routine), marking the end to my beautiful, free, relaxing weekend.

I am particularly foul-mooded on a morning after the Rangers have lost a game, and this Monday featured an especially brutal instance of this, as the hockey gods were not at all fair to the Blueshirts.  From being three goals down before the first five minutes of the game had even elapsed, the Rangers had methodically played CORRECTLY for the remainder of the game, and were able to tie it up on a timely power play goal with less than 10 minutes remaining in the third period.  Surely, in the eyes of those often fickle hockey gods, the boys were entitled to earn at least a loser point for their efforts?  And as they would have the momentum going into the overtime, their chances of getting that all-important second point – against a team immediately behind them in the standings, the pesky cross-town rival Islanders (once again, the new kids in town inserting themselves where they’re not wanted) – were good.  But no.  Following a face-off deep in their own zone, with less than 90 seconds remaining – bing-bang-boom! – the game was over, thanks to a lucky shot by an Islander fourth-liner from the top of the circle after a clear face-off win, made all the more painful by the fact that the Rangers had dominated on face-offs throughout the game at 67%, led by the quickly acclimating Eric Staal, who was 20-for-22 (91%!) in the face-off circle.  It wasn’t Eric Staal taking this face-off, though; it was Derek Stepan (at 46%, the only centerman with a losing percentage this night), who I normally admire but he just wasn’t good enough on this one, nor did his teammates (in this case, specifically, Keith Yandle) cover their respective men well enough, so the puck somehow ended up in the back of the net.  It was infuriating, and it made me mad all night and the next day (a Monday, of course), too.

Telling tales of being miserable on Mondays has certainly made its way into pop music over the years.  There’s New Order’s “Blue Monday”, the iconic dance song (in my younger “going clubbing” days, any time I heard its opening beat I would immediately put down my drink and run out on the dance floor, involuntarily herky-jerking all the way, one of the very few songs that had that effect on me), which was allegedly written in response to crowd disappointment at the fact that New Order never played encores, although lines like “I thought I told you to leave me when I walked down to the beach/Tell me how does it feel, when your heart grows cold” make it clear that Mr. Sumner et al. were having some dark Monday-ish thoughts when they wrote it; then, of course, the aptly named “Rainy Days and Mondays,” which it doesn’t take a genius to figure out would always get poor doomed Karen Carpenter down; “Monday Monday” by the Mamas and the Papas (“Every other day of the week is fine, yeah / But whenever Monday comes you can find me cryin’ all of the time”); and who could forget “I Don’t Like Mondays,” the only real hit for Sir Bob Geldof’s Boomtown Rats, which famously attempted to get into the head of a real-life young girl who, in 1979, went on a shooting spring at a school simply because she didn’t like Mondays.

I keep finding and posting inspirational quotes around my house – ostensibly for my daughter, but mostly for me – in the hope that SOMETHING, some little motivating phrase, will click the switch and get me out of my doldrums, which, needless to say, may find their nadir on Monday mornings but the fog doesn’t lift fully until Friday night, when the weekend begins anew.  A fellow WordPress blogging collective, The Seeds 4 Life [www.theseeds4life.com], read my “Some Thoughts on Death” post last week and reached out, evidently detecting a need in me for some uplifting words.  I immediately started following them and in the last few weeks alone they’ve posted scads of helpful New Age-y (but still helpful!) advice, such as, “Change occurs when the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change” (Judy Agiu, “How I Rediscovered Myself”, The Seeds 4 Life, 2/7/16, http://www.theseeds4life.com/how-i-rediscovered-myself)  and “Let yourself dream, and know that you can succeed because you already have” (Nikki Giovanni, “Who I Am Really Keeps Surprising Me”, The Seeds 4 Life, 3/7/16, http://www.theseeds4life.com/really-keeps-surprising-nikki-giovanni).  It’s all a bit hippy-dippy but, frankly, the blog has appeared in my life at a time when I’ve most needed these little snippets of crunchy granola goodness.

I often think of myself as kind of a lost soul, and this has become especially clear to me now that my daughter is making a life of her own and is no longer the lone focus of mine, leaving me, therefore, more often to my own deep thoughts.  I have passion but I lack direction.  I’m smart but I’m also fearful.  And my greatest existential sadness stems from all those things I’m not but wish I could be: artistically talented (in ANY genre); fit and small-breasted; well-enough off financially that lack of money would never be an issue (i.e., independently wealthy).  So it’s become vital that I have to not only work for a living, but I also have to work – and I’m talking about DIFFICULT WORK – to keep myself on a productive track, maintain a healthy lifestyle and outlook, and hopefully have some kind of positive effect on the world.

That was one of the reasons for starting this blog, a little over one year ago.  So happy birthday to Life Considered!  My little vanity project has survived a year of my procrastinating tendencies and bouts of sadness and lethargy!!  Let’s hope I can take some evolutionary steps forward in Year 2.  I promise I will continue to strive to be a pinpoint of light in a dark universe.

Some Random Thoughts in Early February

Of course I’ve failed at my resolutions for the new year. Making wholesale changes in your life is very, very difficult, even when you know how much better things will be if you can manage to make those changes.

One of those resolutions was, of course, to improve my diet but, to the contrary, I’ve been eating a ridiculous amount of food lately.  I don’t think it’s a “winter hibernation” thing, because after the blizzard of a few weekends ago, the weather has been unseasonably mild.  It’s been well into the 50s both days in February so far, and it’s supposed to go up to a rainy 60 degrees tomorrow (although they’re saying a chill will follow).  [An aside:  I remember when we lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, there would be a tease of spring in February (although a final cold snap would inevitably sneak through in March, chilling all the budding trees and early spring flowers), and I would actually start to feel less SAD (not “sad”, although that’s sometimes how I feel, but SAD – that is, seasonal affective disorder, some of the symptoms of which are feeling logy, lethargic, lazy, sleepy and just generally unenthused about life).]

The other day I ate so much – and so much CRAP – that I literally felt sick to my stomach, like a little kid who’d eaten too much Halloween candy in a single sitting.  I definitely need to get back on nutritional track:  adding protein, cutting carbs.  And I also need to start a walking regime.  With the weather so temperate, I have no excuses (even though I COULD use some better footwear . . .).  Although I must say, the other day I created something scrumptious:  a Thomas’ Maple French Toast English Muffin topped with crunchy peanut butter and a sliced banana and drizzled with honey.  Oh, man, that was good!  But what happened as soon as I was done?  I found myself in the fridge, looking for MORE FOOD.  It wasn’t that I was hungry; I just wanted the TASTE to continue.  Someone needs to channel Willy Wonka and create a gum or mint that mimics delicious food so that you don’t actually have to EAT it to experience the taste (without turning purple like Violet Beauregarde).

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Any time I want to avoid work or some other unpleasantness, my worst procrastination tendency involves getting up from my desk and walking into the kitchen on a mission to find something to eat. Maybe, instead of eating, every time I get up I should pet and play with the “kids”:  fewer calories, more comfort and joy.  One or another of the beasts is looking for attention at any given moment, so it’ll be a win-win situation for everyone.

Which reminds me, one thing I HAVE been able to do in the new year is to keep a daily “joybook” in which, before I go to sleep, I write at least one thing that gave me joy that day.  I also say a quick prayer every night to the non-denominational Higher Power to give thanks for all those things I am grateful for in my life: my comfy bed, the roof over our heads, enough money in the bank to pay the bills, my companion creatures, my daughter safe and sound away at school, and my reasonably good health are usually what comprise my nightly litany of gratitude, but I’ll occasionally add something specific from the day just passed:  a pleasant visit with a friend, a successful blog post, a good Ranger game.  I see it as a way to project positive thoughts and feelings out into the universe before heading off to dreamland.  It certainly doesn’t hurt.

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Hockey returns tonight after a brief mid-winter break to accommodate the 2016 All-Star Game festivities, held this season in Nashville, Tennessee (a “non-traditional hockey market” that turned out to be a fantastic forum for the event).  What had become a boring, trite advertiser showcase was actually a lot of fun this year, in no small part due to the fan-vote campaign to get John Scott – behemoth, pugilist and “great in the room” fourth-liner who was at the time a member of the Arizona Coyotes but was then traded to Montreal and sent down to the minors (some say as the result of a shady league conspiracy) – into the game.  The greatest thing about “The John Scott Incident” was that the guy had a smile on his face THE WHOLE WEEKEND.  He clearly had the time of his life, and so did his wife (hugely pregnant with twins), and his two adorable little girls (in their ‘Yotes jerseys and pink tutus and tights), and his buddies (of which there were many, and even more now after they got to know him better in Nashville).  Despite his goonish reputation, I still consider John Scott an elite athlete, a professional who gets paid well to play a game for a living.  But in a way, he is more like US, and his experience at the ASG was more like if Herman Q. Beer League went to the All-Star Game and was allowed to play with the “big boys,” sort of akin to how excited my chiropractor gets when he plays pick-up hockey with a journeyman NHL-er like Arron Asham (who had the distinction of playing for every team in the erstwhile Atlantic Division before it was morphed into the Metropolitan Division following the league’s realignment in 2012).  There wasn’t a single camera shot of the guy where he didn’t have a huge grin on his face, and we were all able to experience his enjoyment vicariously.

So, even though I was looking forward to the resumption of the regular season for nearly a week, it didn’t take long (one game) for me to have my hopes dashed for a Rangers return to form post-All-Star break.  All season long they have had a maddening tendency to squander their opportunities.  Chance after chance – BLOWN.  For starters, their special teams have been uniformly awful.  The key to success in a game like hockey, especially as they move into the post-season where there’s less and less separating the teams, is to take advantage of the other team’s mistakes, so special teams play and making opponents pay for their defensive errors become vital.  But I can’t tell you how many times in a typical Ranger game they fail to capitalize not only on their man-advantage opportunities but also two-on-ones, breakaways and wide open nets.  Tonight’s game against the Devils was a case in point.  Captain Ryan McDonagh made a great steal at the blue line and had a short-handed breakaway, which he somehow missed (I guess you could give the Devils’ goalie some credit), and then his teammates give up a power play goal with 5 seconds left in the penalty they were trying to kill – the second power play goal they let up in the game, as compared to an 0-for-4 performance on their own power play.  When will they develop the necessary sense of urgency, that killer instinct?  When they’re completely out of a playoff spot?  That situation is alarmingly close at hand.  I do not enjoy watching hockey when it’s this frustrating.  And yet I’ll be there in front of the TV again on Thursday, full of hopeful anticipation:  Will tonight be the night they finally get their shit together?

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January ended much the way it began – with the death of a dear friend, this one I actually knew (unlike my “friend” David Bowie). She was way too young (i.e., my age) and succumbed after a valiant battle with a recurrent, insidious cancer.  The world lost a special person, a loving mother, wife, nurse and friend.  Although I didn’t know her as well as I would have liked due to time and distance, I will miss her beautiful, always-smiling face.  Rest in peace, Rhonda Caputo Speranza.

The death of someone your age brings it home more intensely that you have to live every day with a purpose.  I often think about why we’re here on this planet, why we’ve been given these lives to live.  It can’t be just to perpetuate the species biologically; it must involve, somehow, our intellectual and spiritual evolution as a civilization as well (although I’m DEFINITELY not talking about organized religion, but that’s another post for another day).  I mean, look at everything we’ve done in the past few thousand years, let’s say from the time of the Romans (who were remarkably advanced in their day) until today.  Our technological breakthroughs have been exponential.  We are able to do and create things that people who lived thousands of years ago could not have even imagined (except for maybe Leonardo da Vinci).  But we continue to pollute with no consideration of our limited resources or our fellow humans, quite as badly as (if not even worse than) our ancestors, who didn’t know any better what consequences their waste and pillage of the earth would have.  And of course we still make war with regularity and otherwise find ways to steal from and kill each other.  That’s something that doesn’t seem to change about human nature.  But while that kind of thinking just makes me feel impotent and insignificant, I often wonder what I role I could possibly have in furthering mankind’s development.  I brought a child into the world, so there’s my basic biological imperative satisfied; but on a deeper level, what can I, Nancy Lucas – I and only I – do to make the world a better place?  What gifts have I been given that I must use to fulfill my purpose in life?  A friend recently posted something (without attribution, I’m afraid) on Facebook that I liked.  It said:  “Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.”  But why is my heart keeping that desire such a well-hidden secret?  After 56 years, you would have thought my heart would have spoken by now (or, if it’s been speaking all along, that I’d finally be able to hear it).