Tag Archives: Pets

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.

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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!

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Things That Bring Me Joy

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

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

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

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

My joys fall into four main categories:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four Kitties

When we hosted Jordan, one of the cats from the shelter, during the storm-that-wasn’t a couple of weekends ago, it occurred to me how territorial my cats are, especially given the tight confines of a one-bedroom apartment.  They have clearly staked out their favored spaces and, being creatures of habit, they don’t stray much from those spots.

The cat of longest standing in this household is Raven.  She is an unapologetic diva, the Queen of the Bed, who spends all day on top of or under the blankets in my bedroom.  Making the bed with Raven is always fun.  At one point I used to have a bunch of throw pillows neatly assembled against my headboard but Raven made it a point to toss them all around, even though some of them were probably bigger than she is.  (She is on the petite side.)  She does deign to allow the dogs and me to sleep there at night, but we have to put up with her walking all over us until she finds her perfect sleep position.  She also wanders around on my night table and knocks stuff off, which causes Munchie to bark and me to have to get down on my hands and knees in the morning to find what fell under the bed.  Nighttime is an adventure with Raven, but occasionally she will just settle in for a cuddle, and all is right in Raven’s world.  She is the boss of us.

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Luna is my desk cat.  She lies on top of my work papers and my desk calendar and the mini-notebook where I write down my spending as if they are comfortable little pillows, and she never gets angry when I gently remove whatever it is I need at the moment from underneath her.  The real bonus to having a desk cat is the ability to reach over at any time and give her a tickle on her chest and tummy, which are incredibly soft, like angora fur.  Sometimes she’ll grab my hand in her paws and pull it toward her, hugging it, careful not to extend her claws.  However, she is also a kneader, which IS painful because she DOES use her claws.  Most of her kneading takes place on the couch or occasionally the bed, if Raven is feeling generous and lets her on there.  I have to inch away or bunch my clothes or the blankets under her reflexive retracting fingers to avoid the pinches.  But she doesn’t care; she’s just expressing her extreme happiness.  Who am I to deny her?

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Newest arrival Mimi has at least three favorite spots, all in the living room, not including under the couch where she vanishes every once in a while, perhaps when she needs a moment of peace in what can sometimes be a chaotic household (although more often than not, on a typical weekday, I’m at the computer working and/or reading, the radio is tuned to Carmel Holt on WFUV, and everybody is peacefully asleep).  She likes to lie on the big standing boxes that hold my framed pictures (which I never unpacked but just leaned up against the wall under the window in the living room) so she can get the benefit of the breeze and keep an eye on the birds.  She also enjoys draping herself over the back of the chair, which doesn’t look all that comfortable but she doesn’t seem to mind.  In fact, that seems to be her prime “yelling at Mommy” position when it’s time for breakfast or cookies.  Her absolute favorite spot, though, is on top of the back of the couch.  If I sit in front of her, she has to touch me, maybe just to let me know she’s got my back.  Mimi is a great cat.  I’m so happy I took her home so she’s able to live out her golden years in utter contentment.  Clearly, she relishes her role as the guardian of the living room.

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Last but not least, there’s my soul cat, Savannah.  Savannah is the bathroom cat.  She spends most of her day in the bathroom doorway or curled up on a box just outside the door so she will be sure to see me any time I head in that direction.  She always has to be in there with me; she is the leader and only permanent member of the bathroom entourage, making sure I never relieve myself alone.  And if I accidentally close the door before she notices I’ve gone in, she busts her way through or, if it’s latched, scratches and jiggles the doorknob until I let her in.  She’s been known to hang out in the sink, especially in the summer, when the porcelain is cool.  When I brush my teeth, she stands on the toilet and reaches out to me – “Give me some pets, please!  Rub my face!” – and how I can resist?  I cannot.  She often presents her enormous belly for stroking, a position that isn’t limited to the bathroom.  She is like velvet, more plush than even the most expensive stuffed animal.  She is the cat I share my most intimate moments with, the only living thing that has recently seen me naked!

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So even in a little space like this apartment, the girls have all staked out their personal private areas, but one thing is clear:  They all like to be near ME.  They don’t pay much attention to each other, or the dogs, but they sure do love me.  And the feeling is definitely mutual.

P.S.  Let’s not forget Jojo, Raven’s sister, who is down in Morgantown with Darian, keeping her company and being her “emotional support animal” while she’s away at school.  (I read an article recently in the ABA Journal, of all places, about college kids needing “emotional support animals”, so evidently it’s a thing.)  I’m grateful for Jojo, who has always been Darian’s cat, living almost exclusively in her room when she wasn’t trying to escape for outdoor adventures or sitting on top of the kitchen cabinets.  Darian actually brought her to the vet today because she’s had a little cough, which might be asthma or might be allergies.  In general, the vet was surprised that she was nearly 12 years old because she’s so healthy and presents much younger.  Good old Jojo, giving my kid comfort far away from home for years to come!

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The Hurricane That Never Came

We spent the weekend preparing for Hurricane Hermine, which had battered Florida’s West Coast and was now pummeling the Carolinas.  It was not going to make a direct hit on Long Island, but there was a significant risk of flooding and high winds, so the Long Beach Animal Shelter, having learned the lessons of Sandy, essentially emptied out the shelter, sending the dogs and cats to temporary housing until the threat passed.

The reaction of Long Beach residents to Superstorm Sandy – or, rather, the lack of reaction – was in part based on what had happened the summer before, with Hurricane Irene.  This was the perfect illustration of the risk of over-preparation.  Some folks were decidedly affected by Irene.  My neighbor John, who lives in a basement apartment, was flooded and displaced for nearly a year, and by the time he was finally able to enjoy his brand new couch in his renovated living room, he was watching the weather reports saying Sandy was going to be the “storm of the century”.  For John, Irene was devastating, but for most of the rest of us, Irene was a whimper, a waste of good storm preparedness.  Darian and I evacuated at the recommendation of the City of Long Beach, despite not wanting to, and went to stay with my sister, who lives more toward the middle of Long Island.  Well, we lost power at my sister’s house (the outage lasted nearly two days), but when we returned to Long Beach the afternoon following the storm, the clocks on the microwave and cable boxes were steady and unblinking.  The power had not gone off at all, and not a drop of water had entered the house.

So when the doom-and-gloom predictions for Sandy came over the airwaves, I suspect that people didn’t take them all that seriously, given the sputtering storm that Irene turned out to be for most of us.  This may have explained why they didn’t evacuate the Long Beach Animal Shelter (which was not being managed by Posh Pets at the time), despite the shelter being located mere yards from the unprotected shore of the Reynolds Channel.  As a result, when the waters were rising at a shocking rate, the shelter manager and his son had to scramble for their lives and the lives of the animals under their care, getting everybody up to higher ground on shelves and cabinets until help could come the following morning, when the survivors were finally moved to a temporary shelter just over the bridge in Island Park, where they stayed for over six months.  Miraculously, only two animals – an elderly dog and a semi-feral elderly cat – were lost.  But the traumatic experience served as a valuable lesson to the current managers of the shelter (as well as some of us volunteers who have been around since then), so we cleared the facility.  My ex, who is now also volunteering there (it’s a family affair!), was down at the beach, taxing his back to fill sandbags to be placed at the back doors.  All but a few cats and dogs were parceled out to shelter employees, friends and fosters, and the director and one of the employees planned on staying the night on site.  I took one of the cats, Jordan, home with me.

Poor Jordan did not have a great couple of days, spending most of his time under my couch.  The first night, I could hear him making his way around the dark apartment, wailing.  I kept saying, “Shhh, Jordan!” (as if a cat understands what “shhh” means!), just waiting for the downstairs neighbor lady to start banging on her ceiling.  On Monday night he quit the mewling, but I did hear a single cat battle, even though, for the most part, the cats had largely ignored him the entire time.  (Only Gizmo had any interest at all, following Jordan around with his tail metronoming, like “Who’s this now?”, more curious than aggressive, but it put Jordan off, understandably).

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Jordan is the terrorized black-and-white tuxedo in the middle, Munchie photo-bombing bottom right.

This morning, it took a bit of maneuvering to get him out from under the couch and into the carrier but I finally managed, and back to the shelter he went.  If I had been in my house, with the extra room where I could close him off from everyone else, I probably would have continued to foster him and allow him to get acclimated to the resident beasts gradually.  But there are just too many animals in too small a space for me to consider it right now.  Fostering again is one of the things I’m really looking forward to once we’re back home.

As it turned out, Hermine did not have the predicted effect.  Long Island residents were in prep mode from Saturday to Monday, and Labor Day weekend turned out sunny and beautiful, with very little breeze, although the seas were rougher than usual.  Experienced surfers – and there were MANY – were permitted to enter the churning waves, and the boardwalk was packed with lookie-loos as the beach itself was off-limits.  It was only today that the wind picked up and the skies turned gray, and we were expecting some evening showers.  But there was little, if any, damage from Hurricane Hermine, which is currently petering out in the Atlantic Ocean.

The water line never came up to the shelter, so they were spared without even needing the sandbags.  But the staff used the time of vacancy to give the place a seriously overdue scrubbing (which is impossible to do when it’s full of creatures), and it certainly served as kind of a drill for the NEXT TIME we get a serious storm warning – and we WILL, because, as I think I’ve mentioned in this blog before, PEOPLE SHOULD NOT LIVE ON BARRIER ISLANDS.  There was measured and well-planned activity as the staff and volunteers cleared the shelter, and not one ounce of panic.

But I worry that NEXT TIME may fall victim to the same mistrust of the officials (and don’t get me started on those meteorologists!) and doubt that affected the populace after Irene before Sandy rolled around:  “Well, we got all prepared for Hermine and it turned out to be nothing.  Maybe we could get away with not doing so much for this storm.”  As much as I tend to avoid thinking about disasters, having a plan is never a bad thing.  And now we all know what needs to be done with a few days’ notice and many hands making quick work of a potentially stressful situation.

Summer of ‘16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pretty Little Penny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

Pet People

I love my pets, and I know how companion animals of all kinds enrich our measly human lives.  I do pro bono work for an organization called Amie’s Place Foundation, the mission of which is to prevent the forced separation of people and their pets, particularly in times of crisis and illness.  There have been numerous studies done that prove that, especially among the elderly, pets enable their owners to stay more active, mentally and physically, as well as more measureable impacts like lowered blood pressure.  The work supported by this fine organization resonates very deeply with me, and I am even more conscious of it now after having learned first-hand how difficult it is to find rental units (or even owned co-op units where there’s a controlling board that makes rules the residents have to live by) that will permit you to have even one pet, of small size, let alone more than one, of any species, breed or dimension.

In NYC, there is a movement – in fact, an entire cottage industry – to get pets certified as emotional support animals (or ESAs) so that landlords and management companies can’t force them (or the owner) out. Unlike service animals (which at present are limited to dogs and mini-horses specially trained  to assist their owners with specific disabilities – seeing-eye dogs, for example, or diabetes detectors), an ESA is an animal (typically a dog or cat but also other species) that provides a therapeutic benefit – such as emotional support and comfort to individuals with psychiatric disabilities and other mental impairments – to its owner through companionship. ESAs are not automatically granted access to places of public accommodation, but under federal law an ESA is considered a “reasonable accommodation” in a housing unit that has a “no pets” rule for its residents.  [Rebecca F. Wisch, “FAQs on Emotional Support Animals,” Michigan State University College of Law, Animal Legal and Historical Center, https://www.animallaw.info/article/faqs-emotional-support-animals#s2.%5D

At the other end of the spectrum, there are more and more companies (I imagine mostly in the  country’s “hipster earmuffs” of Silicon Valley and Brooklyn) that permit – nay, encourage – people to bring their doggies to work.  (For a great overview, see Jeff Daniels, “Pooch Perk:  More Companies Embracing Pet-Friendly Office Policy”, NBC News website, October 17, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/business/careers/pooch-perk-more-companies-embracing-pet-friendly-office-policy-n445931, or the adorable “Pets at Work” videos from Purina on YouTube, which, unsurprisingly, is a pet-friendly workplace.)  How much better we humans can focus on work when we have our happy pets nearby!!  I work from home, and my animals are always surrounding me, at my feet, sometimes on the desk itself (I’m looking at you, Luna!)  And I love when Savannah comes over and stands up with one paw on my knee and the other one reaching out to me for chin chucks and head bumps to break up the work day.  It soothes me deep inside.

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True, having my pets around me at all times is not all bubblegum and lollipops:  It also drives me crazy when the boys start barking for no apparent reason (not apparent to ME, anyway) and no amount of “Enough already!” will get them to stop, which is why I’ve taken to keeping a spray water bottle at the ready, especially now that I need to keep the noise to a minimum in consideration of my neighbors.  It’s less of an issue when we’re in our home, of course; then they’re just annoying ME.

Yes, there are myriad benefits to having pets.  There are also the monetary costs for daily maintenance – such as food,  litter, toys and other entertainment —and those very large special expenses – such as pet meds (which I understand more people are buying discounted online these days but I have yet to figure that out) and veterinary care for acute and chronic health issues.  There’s pet insurance, but it doesn’t really work the same way or cover as much as human medical insurance (and we all know how well THAT works).  I love my vet, All Creatures in Long Beach, NY, and they do give me a multi-pet discount, but they are VERY expensive.  Fortunately, while it can be a financial burden at times (most recently, $450 for an EKG to diagnose Mimi’s heart murmur), I can cover the costs.  But how many people neglect to get medical care for pets who need it simply because they cannot afford it?  I believe it’s one of the largest reasons people give up their pets (or don’t adopt in the first place).  My Gizmo is likely a victim of just that situation.  The way I’ve heard his story (although I don’t have all the facts) is, after getting hit by a car, his so-called “family” of 4 years turned him in to the kill shelter rather than get him the needed veterinary care.  Those people are jerks who don’t deserve to have a dog, for starters (and Gizmo’s got the emotional scars and trust issues to prove it), but if vet care had been free or low-cost at, say, a local clinic, or if there were a way for them to get financial help with serious vet bills, they might have decided they could afford to get him the help he needed.

Another prohibitive cost is for training, which would benefit ALL dogs (and their owners), provided that there’s follow-through.  (I once spent $500 on weeks of intensive training for a dog with serious separation anxiety only to completely abandon everything I’d learned after we were done with our sessions – so of course the dog did as well.)  Here in Long Beach, the wonderful Marty Aynat and his LB Dogs crew give free weekly training clinics for dogs of all breeds, sizes and temperaments, although I admit I have not managed to bring my naughty boys over yet.  I suspect they may need a “private lesson”, especially Gizmo, of whom it could never be said that he is friendly to – or even tolerant of – other dogs.

But the biggest hurdle of all to the universal acceptance of people’s pets, and dogs in particular ?  Irresponsible pet owners – that is, people who don’t clean up after their dogs do their business, leaving disease-carrying poop behind on public sidewalks and even other people’s property.  It’s infuriating.  I would love for my dogs to be allowed on the beach, or even the Boardwalk, but because a few bad apples don’t pick up after their dogs, the rest of us (who DO pick up after our dogs) are not allowed to enjoy the perks of Long Beach living.  It takes so little!  Just bring a baggie, and when the dog poops, put the bag around your hand like a glove and pick it up!!  Then find the nearest garbage pail – preferably a public one, but I’m sure a resident will mind less a tied up poop bag in his or her garbage can than big chunks of doodie on his or her lawn or driveway.  Is it really so difficult?

You also hear about horrendous cases of hoarding, like the recent cases in New Jersey, one where a couple had upwards of 250 dogs (how is that even POSSIBLE?) and the other lady with the 80+ cats.  These are isolated and unusual incidents, so disturbing that they’re worthy of being mentioned on the local 11 o’clock news.  But are these oddballs at the root of why landlords and management companies are so reluctant to let people with more than one pet to live in their buildings?  Chances are good that the pet owner is not a hoarder and will maintain a clean environment (and hopefully the dog or dogs will not carry on barking too much, as they are wont to do when they’re left alone bored most of the day), so people – and their pets – should be entitled to live wherever they’d like.

The bottom line is that, if pet owners want to be able to have their pets in all manner of residential and shared public environments, it’s up to the owners to be RESPONSIBLE.  Clean up after your pets.  Take them to the vet and make sure they’re current on their vaccines.  Keep them on a leash and control them around children and other pets.  (It really burns me when a person – usually a guy – says of his leash-less dog, “Oh, he won’t do anything,” and then the dog immediately and aggressively approaches my little pups and needs to be grabbed just in time.)  Better yet, get them trained.  It is a big commitment to have a pet, and the vast majority of pet owners are caring, responsible people.  But as with most things that are part and parcel of sharing our planet with other creatures (including other humans), we need to be more aware of how our actions impact others.  I believe pets can make us better people, if we let them.