Tag Archives: time

The Curse of an Empty Head

Two weeks have passed since my last blog post and my head is utterly and completely empty.  Oh, don’t get me wrong – a lot has gone on, and there’s much that needs to be done.  But when it comes to blog ideas – or to any deep thoughts at all, frankly – I’m at a loss.

It’s just that my gray matter has been occupied by the usual nonsense, to wit:

(1)  Taking on more work so that I can earn money to pay bills.  One may think that, now that my house is effectively done and my daughter’s college is almost all paid for (thanks to a Parent Plus loan that will cover not only this summer’s courses but also a bulk of the Fall semester, which will thankfully be her last), I should be swimming in excess cash.  NOT SO.  There was my hospital stay that will need to be paid for somehow (given that my so-called health insurance carries a $6,750 deductible that has to come out of my pocket before they’ll pay for ANYTHING), not to mention the City MD bill (no reduced rate for a follow-up visit during which they basically just sent me to the hospital, evidently). And now my little Munchie needs not only bladder stone surgery (his second, which I expected) but also knee surgery (which I didn’t). There is no insurance (with or without a deductible) for THAT. Every time I think I’m out of the hole, something tosses me back in.

(2)  I wake up every day (usually later than I’d intended, reluctant to emerge from the safe cocoon of my bed, entertained by silly dreams rather than having to face the drudgery of my real life) wondering what new nonsense our ersatz president has gotten up to overnight. I never thought I could hate a public figure as much as I hate that man. I want him DISAPPEARED. I still ravenously read every critique I can; I follow Robert Reich and Keith Olbermann religiously (and Rachel Maddow, who’s been “under the weather” and absent from her namesake show for nearly two weeks and I’m going through withdrawal); and I hope against hope that someone with ability, power and good sense will take the reins of the government away from what Charles Pierce of Esquire has fabulously called the “vulgar talking yam” and MAKE AMERICA GOOD AGAIN.

(3)  I had barely recovered from the Gizmo finger biting infection when, lo and behold, at the Best Friends Adoption Event in NYC this past Saturday, a big jerk of a cat named Buster decided he’d had enough of my affection and bit the hell out of my right hand.  My poor right hand!  I’ve had to learn how to be more ambidextrous over the past month due to the fact that, before now, my left hand has been basically useless.  And I am so paranoid now about infection!  I have been washing and wrapping both bite spots on my hand obsessively, checking for the telltale red streaks up my arm (which have not appeared this time, thank goodness).  I’ve heard from various sources that cat bites are even worse than dog bites, but so far I seem to have dodged a bullet.  The oddest thing about it is, I’ve been bitten by shelter cats before and, for the first few months that he lived with us, Gizmo must have bitten my fingers and hands at least once a day, but there was never any infection.  Someone said it might be that my diabetes has compromised my body’s ability to fight infection, and that brings me to . . .

(4)  My health. Although I haven’t necessarily felt any specific physical effects, my “numbers” (sugars, A1C, thyroid-related hormones, cholesterol, lipids, etc.) have all been lousy over the past few months.  I believe this is directly attributable to the fact that I gained back the 30-plus pounds I lost a couple of years ago, primarily because I can’t seem to stop eating CRAP.  I also haven’t begun my walking regime.  My injured big toe has been to blame for that, although when the nail finally comes off – which the podiatrist said could be any day now – I’ll hopefully be able to begin in earnest.  I finally have a comfy pair of walking sneakers, so that’s no longer an excuse.  If I could just start walking regularly and cut back on my food intake – including a major reduction of CRAP – it would undoubtedly have a positive effect on my blood numbers and my general health and well-being.

But despite all of the above contributing to the empty-headedness that has plagued me for the past couple of weeks (actually, it’s been a lot longer than that, which is part of the reason why my blog has been biweekly lately), I have managed to enjoy some diversions, including going to a local music venue last Friday with my sister to see a few not-very-good bands, although the people-watching alone provided a couple of hours of amusement.  The evening was suggested by my cousin George (of the George and Tony Entertainment Show podcast), whose childhood friend was the drummer for one of the not-very-good bands (in their defense, it was in fact their first gig together), so he and his wife Connie had driven up from their home outside D.C. (eight long, torturous hours for a trip that should not normally take eight hours) for a reunion of old friends and family.  We ended up at a local diner after the show, where we could actually hear each other talk and had some laughs amidst good company and pancakes.  I didn’t get home till 2 a.m.!

Having my kid home has also been fun (if expensive). She’s been decorating her room and it really captures her personality.  It makes me feel like bit of a sluggard because I’ve barely done anything to decorate or even organize the rest of the house and I’ve been back home for over two months.  It is true, though, that in order to do so, I need to replenish the coffers, which hasn’t been easy (see #1 above).

I’m glad that the summer is finally here (although the weather has been anything but summerlike for the past couple of weeks now), most of all because, now that I have PARKING (!!), I can actually go out and have meals with friends, enjoy some live music under the stars (my friend Chris’ CSNY cover band Four-Way Street is playing right nearby in Island Park in July, which should be great, weather permitting) and generally engage in some semblance of a social life.  It’s so liberating not to have to worry about where I’ll be able to park when I get home, at any hour of the day or night.

Hopefully, a few solid days of rest and relaxation, not to mention some power walks, will clear my head enough to allow in some ideas of substance that I can explore in future blog posts.  I also need to broaden my exposure beyond Facebook and watching reality competitions on MTV.  I haven’t read a meaty, thought-provoking book in ages, although I just finished Call Me By Your Name  by André Aciman, a lovely gay coming-of-age novel whose main character I envisioned as my daughter’s former therapist (and mine before hers) and I’m finishing up The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer, who I like a lot but whose memoir-light doesn’t provide much food for thought (with the possible exception of a powerful piece about an abusive ex-boyfriend that should be required reading for every young woman).  I also haven’t seen any quality films lately other than Mad Max: Fury Road, which was visually arresting but ultimately kind of bleak.

So I here and now commit, in virtual print, that I will devote this summer to filling up my empty head with beauty and art and deeper thoughts about humanity and the planet to share as they come.


This past weekend, I was extremely wasteful.  I stayed in bed until after 11 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, and then got lost down the Facebook wormhole for hours at a time.  Together with the constant stream of posts on Facebook that generate outrage and foment revolution (interspersed with much-needed cuteness and laughter breaks), I also get an overwhelming number of daily emails from a whole slew of politicians, local and otherwise, and organizations like MoveOn.Org and Global Citizen.  I try to quickly read them and delete them, but I’m so far behind at this point, I don’t know if I’ll ever get through them all.

The two things I fear most when it comes to our resistance to all things Trump are (1) fatigue and (2) missing something.  There’s been such a bombardment, so many distractions and misdirections, who can be sure that they’re not sneaking things through – bad, destructive things, even worse and more destructive than the horrible stuff we KNOW about –without the media or the watchdogs knowing?  I think we can pretty much guarantee that that’s what they’re doing, and I don’t think it’s paranoia speaking.  But the fact remains that I spend far too much time occupied with it, to the exclusion of other important things that need doing in my life.

I don’t know why I can never tick off every item on my daily “to do” lists.  Are my expectations too high?  Am I just too slow and lazy and easily distracted?  I get down on myself about it, but is that self-denigration justified?  Should I push myself more or give myself credit for the items I am able to cross off my list?  I spend the bulk of my waking hours engaging in this kind of self-dialogue:  beating myself up for not achieving what I set out to do, alternating with letting myself off the hook with platitudes like “I’m doing the best I can (which has to be good enough)” or “Hey, I’m only an imperfect human, after all.”  It’s a constant battle between feeling like I have to be harder on myself to do what needs to be done versus treating myself with a little more kindness and patience.

Take, for instance, getting out of bed in the morning (or, more accurately, NOT getting out of bed). I don’t even get an early start on those days when I have nothing scheduled, as was the case this past weekend.  It’s such a waste of precious time, languishing under the covers when I’m not even really sleeping anymore.  But clearly, I prefer staying in bed to doing ALMOST ANYTHING ELSE.

Sometimes I wonder, if I ever did win the lottery and was able to quit working for a living and could do as I pleased every day, would I still waste so much time in bed?  I like to think that I would not; that, freed of the work shackles and possessed of a new outlook on life, I would leap out from under the blankets at first light, ready to take on whatever the day might bring.  I’m pretty sure that’s a fantasy.  Part of the reason I stay in bed is because I don’t go to sleep till 2 a.m. most nights.  Eight hours of good sleep brings me to 10 a.m., so I’m already losing the bulk of the morning just by virtue of my circadian rhythms.

Then, once I finally do manage to rouse myself out of bed – usually because I have to pee, or the phone rings, or Mimi is making a racket in the litter box – it’s time to slog through my seemingly endless morning routine:  shower, brush my teeth and put in my partial denture (which I used to be able to get away with not putting in but now it’s a necessity given that I’m missing a front tooth and I look like a hillbilly grandma when I don’t), take my pills, scoop out the litter boxes and pick up the wee-wee pads, take the dogs out, and feed everybody.  Last to be fed is me, and then I sit my fat ass in front of the computer and just STAY THERE ALL DAY, sometimes working but most of the time just trolling the Internet, trying to clear out my email inbox and keep up with all the reprehensible behavior of the Trump administration and the Republican-dominated Congress that does nothing about it (which has the effect most days of making me feel physically ill, and yet I can’t stop).

I really need to make some changes in my life.  I know I’ve been using my pending move/transition back to my house as somewhat of an excuse to remain in my rut but there’s no real reason not to make some adjustments starting right now.  Money, weight management (food intake and exercise), getting organized, writing more consistently, thinking about my job/career/future – all very important things.  I’m 57 freakin’ years old and it’s time to be a grown-up and get my act together.

There’s a blog I follow called Seeds 4 Life that sends inspirational emails every day.  A couple of days ago I got an email that said, “Today we will decide WHY we have unrealized dreams.  What excuses have we made?  Why have we allowed dreams to stay dreams?  Time?  Finances?  Fear?”  My response?  YES.  The post goes on to say that we have to DECIDE:  If what we want is important, we’ll find a way.  If not, we’ll just find excuses.  The idea is to change “one day . . . “ into “Day One”.  [Lily Daub, “One Day or Day One. You Decide – Unknown”, The Seeds 4 Life, http://www.theseeds4life.com/one-day-or-day-one-you-decide-unknown]  That advice resonates with me, but so far I’ve remained stagnant and continue to make those excuses, so clearly changing my life is not that important to me at the moment.  Of course, a perennial excuse is that I lack a clear vision for my dreams for the future.  I mean, I DO know what I want my future to look like but I don’t know how to get there from here, especially since the future I envision involves living on a lot less income and also requires me to be braver about putting my work (and myself) out into the world.

I wish I could end this week’s post on a more positive note.  Perhaps it’s just the winter doldrums getting me down, or being so close to getting back into my house and yet still not there.  Maybe it has something to do with my suddenly all-too-real job insecurity (see “Job Insecurity”, 2/7/17).  Maybe it’s Trump.  Who knows?  I guess I’ll just have to keep focusing on (and being grateful for) the little joys in life (Learning that my friend is cancer free!  Buying new music!  Kitties at home and at the shelter!  New York Rangers on a winning streak!  Chicken souvlaki from Abe’s Pitaria and Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt with all the toppings!  Watching the hilarious mocking of Trump from all quarters and knowing it’s making him furious!)  Once the seasons change and the sun gets warmer and stays out longer, maybe then I’ll be ready to make those changes I keep going on about.

POSTSCRIPT:  According to WordPress, this is my 100th post!  Whee!  I’m kind of proud of myself!


It is said (by whom?  To whom are such clichés attributable?  Is there any way to know, really?) that patience is a virtue.  True, in our fast-paced world, it’s hard to just stand still and WAIT for something, no matter how desired that something may be.  Of course you always have the option of throwing in the towel (another unattributable cliché) and choosing NOT to wait – you have other more essential things to do, for instance, or you can come back at another time. But sometimes you just have to WAIT.

Today offered a prime example of my waiting when I probably should have left and come back, although, in retrospect, there was nothing pressing in my life – work was going to be there when I got back, and I had to wait to pick up a prescription at CVS anyway.  On my way into the optician’s office to get one of the nose pads on my glasses re-attached, I thought I saw the optician Ella pass me on the sidewalk on her way out.  She might be going to grab a bite, I thought.  I’ll just sit here in the waiting room and wait until she comes back.  Half hour went by and Ella did not return.  A couple of ladies came in, but they did not appear to be looking for Ella; instead they walked toward the back, where a dentist and an audiologist had their offices.  At that point I thought it might be a good idea to go out to my car, where I could use this free time to sync up my new cell phone to my car’s Bluetooth.  I had a clear view from my car of the front door to the office so I would see Ella as she was approaching.  After a few minutes, there came Ella.  I finished setting up the Bluetooth, locked my car and went back into the waiting room.  THERE WAS A LITTLE OLD WHITE-HAIRED WOMAN IN A GREEN SWEATER SITTING IN ELLA’S OFFICE!!!  GAH!!  How did that happen?  Where did she come from?  I was certain there had been no one in the waiting room when I went out to my car.

Well, the woman in the green sweater and Ella proceeded to chit-chat and try on glasses and get measured and WHATEVER for another 45 minutes.  By now I’ve been waiting there for an hour and fifteen minutes.  A large gentleman in sunglasses with a heavy accent (Spanish?  Middle Eastern?  It was impossible to tell) came into the waiting room and engaged me in conversation (certainly not at my invitation) about topics from politics (Trump is “not very educated”) to the sign for Ella’s optician business being so hidden that, even though he lived nearby and walked past her office nearly every day, he had never seen it (I agreed that the same had happen to me the first time I came).  I also told him my tale of waiting for Ella, which prompted him to ask me a bunch of rhetorical questions (at least I don’t THINK he expected an answer) about “What is the hurry, really?  Why not wait?  Where else do we have to go?” that actually made me think about the nature of patience and how, sometimes, maybe just slowing down and sitting a while is not such a bad thing.

I could have gotten upset – and, to be frank, I WAS a little upset.  When it became apparent that the woman in the green sweater was going to be a while, Ella could have interrupted her meeting with her to briefly check to see if there was something she could help me with quickly – which, ultimately, she could have:  all I had to do was show her the broken nose pad and leave the glasses with her, and I would come pick them up later, which is what I ended up doing.  If I were a different sort of person (i.e., a PUSHY sort of person – believe me, there are plenty of those in the world and they make me a little angry; like, WAIT YOUR TURN, DAMN IT.  What makes you think you’re more special than I am?), I might have tapped on the glass divider window that separated the waiting room from Ella’s office and said, “Excuse me, can I just leave these with you?”  (In retrospect, I probably should have, but then I wouldn’t have a blog post, would I?)

But the sunglasses man’s words had touched me, somehow.  What WAS my hurry?  Where else did I have to be?  I could wait.  It was actually nice of Ella that she DIDN’T interrupt her meeting with the woman in the green sweater.  That would have made the woman in the green sweater feel like she wasn’t a valued client (although she clearly hadn’t been waiting for Ella as long as I had, having just come into the waiting room right before I went out).

Fortunately, the advent of cell phones has provided diversions while you’re waiting.  One thing I do is play a little game called Neko Atsume (which I understand means “kitty collector” in Japanese – see “More Whining About Time, 1/20/16), where I set out food and goodies – things to sleep on and play with – for a bunch of adorable animated cats with names like Smokey and Spot, but there’s also “specialty cats” like Joe DiMeowgio (who wears a little baseball shirt and only shows up when the baseball is out in the virtual
“yard” where the kitties hang out) and Mr. Meowgi (with his little samurai sword).  [An aside:  Periodically the makers of this game add a few new goodies and kitties.  My kid – who originally introduced me to this game while we were waiting in the DMV for her to get her license renewed – has told me that new cats have arrived in HER yard and there are new goodies to buy but that was fully three days ago and I have thus far not seen a single new kittie or goodie.  I feel gypped.]


My current go-to diversion when standing on interminable lines or growing roots in an uncomfortable waiting room chair is Spider Solitaire.  I am wimpy and play at the simplest level but even then I don’t win every time.  I love to wave my finger when the completed ace-to-king row magically folds itself up and flies to the top of the screen.  If I could figure out how to add the Words With Friends app to my phone, I would also play that during forced down-time.  Goodness knows I spend enough time playing it on my home computer while I’m waiting for responses to work emails and phone calls.  Or maybe just read a book, or catch up on the gossip magazines.  Don’t sweat the wait – enjoy the peace and quiet!

I generally pride myself on being a patient person, but is that just a symptom of a lack of assertiveness (of which I am somewhat guilty, I confess)?  In the end, though, I’d rather be polite and patient than pushy and in a rush.  It’s just more in keeping with my temperament and personality.  And really, what’s the hurry?  If I miss out, it wasn’t meant to be in the first place.  There’s usually enough to go around.  Isn’t there another cliché that goes, “Good things come to those who wait”?

My Life in Journals

I have been maintaining a daily journal continuously since 1978, my sophomore year of college.  And I’ve been schlepping the journals around with me on every move, boxes of them, ever increasing.  I’ve sworn to myself that, someday, I will review and catalog all of them, saving the “nuggets” (as I’ve always called the good or promising stuff) digitally, to be developed into something more substantial, and then, finally, burn the journals.  Sometimes I imagine that this will happen after I die.  Of course, it would help if I were famous and there were some literary historian who had an interest in doing the culling and cataloguing, who marvels at my diligence in saving every word with the exception of some journals in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet that were lost to Superstorm Sandy, which covered various periods of my life – it’s not like I lost the first half of 2003 or something like that, but rather I lost little bits from different years.  I tried to salvage them, sitting on my deck with latex gloves, paging through the moldy, stuck-together pages with ink illegibly bled and trying to find anything worth saving, but I gave up after a fruitless couple of vacation journals from a trip to the Pacific Northwest in 1994.

The content of my journals also varies widely.  Some entries are word sketches for future blog posts or essays or stories or, way back in my history, poetry, but I long ago discovered that poetry is far too esoteric for my talents – or maybe I’m just too wordy.  [An aside:  I read an article today in which a writer said she wanted to teach a college course where each assignment would consist of a three page piece of writing, which would then be edited down to a one-page piece, then to a three-paragraph piece, then to a one-paragraph piece, and then, finally, to a single sentence, developing the vital skill of editing, especially one’s own work.  I wish I could take such a class.  I have a tendency to blather on and I’m never sure how to end my writings.   I liken it to some of the designers on “Project Runway” who Tim Gunn tells to “edit with a critical eye”.]  I’ve got lists, and quotes, and unfamiliar words I need to look up.  My journals are basically a lifelong, ongoing conversation with myself.

Since I’ve started my blog, I’ve noticed that I write in my journal less often.  Maybe it’s because a lot of what I would have written in my journal I type directly into the computer, often because it’s coming up on Tuesday and I need to post SOMETHING.  But not everything in my journal should be posted on my blog.  I’d prefer my journals to be more a place for experimentation and introspection, where I can write words of encouragement to myself.  Unfortunately, though, I must confess that huge swaths of my journals consist of whining, complaining and beating myself up, along remarkably similar lines historically no matter the era it was written.

I am certain that buried in those journals is the fodder for a life’s masterwork:  a collection of essays or short stories that will serve as my breakthrough, the little piece of genius that can be my contribution to the universe, if I could just find it and then hone it – EDIT it – until it glows.

But when will this “someday” be, when I can organize and read through my decades of journals?  Of course it comes down to time.  If I could devote all of my waking hours (and even some sleeping ones, if I happen to be rewarded with a juicy dream I can recall in detail) to reading, researching, writing – and of course editing – if I didn’t have to worry about paying bills and doing work I despise in order to do so, I could have my perfect life and create my art.  Will I have to wait until I retire?  I’m afraid that I’ll still have to do SOME kind of bill-paying work even after I retire, especially considering the damage I’m doing to my already-sparse retirement savings due to the additional work I need to have done on my house and getting my kid through college (although both of those things, if considered in the big picture, are still investments for the future, just in a different form).

That’s why I need to win the lottery – so that money concerns can be removed from the equation and I can just be the writer I was always meant to be.

True, there are people who manage to write even while holding down jobs that require much more devotion than I give to mine.  My cousin George Hanna, on his podcast “The George and Tony Entertainment Show” [http://www.relmnetwork.com/gatent], always seems to find these creative folks who (a) host weekly podcasts (sometimes multiple podcasts), (b) read comics (or watch movies, or play video games – whatever their podcasts are about) voraciously, (c) attend conventions and conferences to network and promote their passions, and (d) still manage to hold down full-time jobs (and some even have kids on top of it all).  HOW DO THEY DO IT?  Have they somehow managed to extend the hours of the day?  Can they somehow survive without sleep?

I confess that I have become very adept at time-wasting in recent years, blaming my job and the need for me to be “available” but really just keeping up with multiple games of Words With Friends and trolling the Internet in the hope that Donald Trump will voluntarily withdraw from the presidential race or some disaster will befall his campaign that will otherwise force him out so Hillary can just skate into the job she has earned and we’ll be done with it.  When hockey season starts, reading hockey articles will occupy big chunks of my time, and next spring, it will be hockey PLUS Game of Thrones – all major time-wasting endeavors that suck hours from my potential writing time.  There’s no excuse.  All the “Seeds 4 Life” and “Daily Thoughts” websites I read (MORE time wasting) say I have to envision the changes I need to make and then make them, and keep moving forward, and all sorts of other words of encouragement and positivity.  Every night I go to sleep optimistic and hopeful that TOMORROW will be the day I can make the changes I need to make in order to take better advantage of my days, to be more productive, to make time to do the things that will give me joy and not just keep me in a holding pattern, waiting.  And every morning, I struggle to get out of bed until mid-morning, and then it’s dog-walking and litter-scooping and pet-feeding – and of course dealing with whatever work disaster has arisen from Asia overnight; the first thing I do, when I turn over in the morning to shut up my stupid robot phone alarm, is check my work emails – and the next thing I know it’s after noon.  I sometimes imagine that I could wake up with the sun, at 6 a.m. or so, and come out to sit at my computer (or on the couch with my journal) and just write, stream-of-consciousness style.  Or tackle the journals themselves, sorting them into piles by year and then just diving in, capturing anything that’s worth saving on the computer and making the little nuggets grow into gold.  See?  I have the project envisioned; now I’ve just got to make it into a reality.

One of my recent “Seeds 4 Life” emails contained a quote by Dr. Wayne Dyer, the late guru of positive thinking and renowned author of such books as Your Erroneous Zones, Wishes Fulfilled, Excuses Begone and The Sky’s the Limit:  “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  So the key is, according to this post, “If you’re not getting the results you want in ANY area of your life, know that the answer lies in change.  Change in your attitude, your approach, your thoughts, beliefs and perceptions.  Your life will change, when you make a change.” [July 27, 2016, http://www.theseeds4life.com/change-way-look-things-things-look-change-dr-wayne-dyer%5D

My friends from college are coming for a visit tomorrow and I’m very excited.  I haven’t seen them since we were together in Greece a couple of summers ago.  While in Fira, on the island of Santorini, they convinced us to buy these cool string bracelets from a shop called Babylonia.  I chose a bracelet with a purple braid and a silver charm that signifies “optimism”.  I never take it off and I look at it often.  It is my talisman, a symbol of my deepest belief that I CAN change, I CAN have the life I’ve always dreamed of as a reader and writer, surrounding myself with knowledge and interesting thoughts.  (That’s why I love school so much.)


As with all of these buoyant advice posts, easier said than done!  But I have to begin somewhere.  So . . . I’ll start tomorrow.  Check this space next week to see if I managed to have any success or if I’m continuing to wallow in my (possibly summer induced but definitely there) lethargy.

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.

More Whining About Time

Here’s the thing:  I am proud of the fact that, since last March, I have been posting a weekly blog, like clockwork, every Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.  It was a goal I set for myself that I’ve managed to achieve, and I will continue to pursue that goal.  But the quality of what I post varies widely from week to week, which is evidenced by the fact that sometimes I “advertise” my weekly blog post on Facebook and sometimes I don’t.  (But rest assured, there IS a post every week.)

Oh, I have lots of ideas for more in-depth posts, nostalgia pieces, controversial topics, social commentary – all of which require uninterrupted TIME to whip into shareable shape.  As I’ve often complained in this blog, time is something I lack, or at least I perceive that I lack.

I work part-time, at least four days a week from home.  Ordinarily I am able to bill – that is, charge to a client – about 5 hours of work a day, on average.  So what happens to the OTHER 16 hours of the day (allowing for a generous 8 hours of sleep)?  How could I possibly complain about not having enough time?

Pet care:  maybe an hour or two, tops, between walkies, feedings, poop-scooping, playtime and daytime (as opposed to nighttime) cuddles.  Internet trolling occupies a good chunk of my day, especially when I’m in “waiting mode” – i.e., standing at the ready for someone to respond to a voicemail or an email so that I can take the next required action – because I can easily interrupt it, if need be, as I’m not deeply invested in what I’m doing (which is usually reading articles, playing Words With Friends and “Liking” things on Facebook).  That easily occupies two to three hours of my time, maybe more, over the course of a typical day.  [Another time-wasting addiction I’ve recently discovered is a game (I guess you would call it a game, but you don’t actually win anything) called “Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector,” developed by HitPoint Studios, where you’re gifted with fish icons to be used for buying food and toys and other goodies for an entire community of virtual cats and then you keep track of their visits to your neighborhood with photos and mementos.  That pastime is a particularly good time killer when you’re standing on line or waiting for a train.]  Three to four hours every night of hockey games and/or favorite TV show watching to close out the day’s activities – we’re getting up there into the 9-10 hour range, added to the 5 hours of work, and there you go.  And on the one day a week when I go into the city, factor in another 4 hours of travel (but at least I get to read).

Truth be told, there are a few spare hours I could free up for more satisfying pursuits, but I seem to be stuck in a deep, deep rut and I don’t know how to get out.  Given my seasonal lethargy (I was one of the first people I know to claim to have SAD – seasonal affective disorder – which may explain those few moments of peace I experienced today in a warm car on a sunny but frigid day:  sunlight is supposedly the cure for SAD), now may not be the time to incorporate things that require energy, like exercise (at least an hour, between prep and cool down), although some may say that’s EXACTLY what I need to combat the torpor. At the very least maybe I could set aside some time for reading for pleasure rather than research.  I finally started the new John Irving novel, Avenue of Mysteries, and I’m finding it typically enchanting, but what I wouldn’t give for an hour or two when I could just curl up on the couch with the animals and immerse myself in his gorgeous prose rather than taking it in snippets before my eyes close at night.  Even better, I could perhaps resurrect my lagging correspondences with friends near and far.  One would think the ease and immediacy of email would have removed the obstacles to telling people you’re thinking about them WHEN YOU’RE ACTUALLY THINKING ABOUT THEM rather than putting it off until the perfect moment when I’ll have the time to write the perfect thing (which of course I never have), but that seems not to be the case for me.

I envy folks who can emerge from the cozy cocoon of bed in the quiet morning hours and get writing or other creative work done before the hustle and bustle of the day takes over, probably because I seem to be incapable of doing such a thing.  I DON’T emerge.  I think about getting out of bed, but then I just edit the alarm time on my iPhone, flip over the pillow to the cool side and go back to sleep.  Or at least I TRY to go back to sleep, but many times I don’t.  Instead, I’ll just lie there dreading the day’s work ahead and/or beating myself up for not getting out of bed.  It’s not a great way to start the day, but it’s pretty much how every morning begins for me.  I wish there were a “cheerful and energetic” button on my iPhone instead of the “snooze”.

I need a project, an inspiration.  I have my blog now, so that will likely be the vehicle for my explorations, but it needs to be something that will be the catalyst for changing my whole perspective, because I’m not enjoying my life as currently configured, and I’m not contributing much to the betterment of mankind.  Two years ago, my inspirational project was volunteering at the local animal shelter, ultimately even including being a foster mom to homeless creatures (right now, we are pleased to be hosting the adorable Fritzie).  Last year, it was my blog.  What will my 2016 inspirational project be?  So far it remains undiscovered, but it’s still only January . . .

In the meantime, maybe I can start trying to grab the day back from time-wasting activities, in much the same way as I’ve begun keeping a “joybook”.  Every night before I sleep, I write down at least one thing that brought me joy that day.  Some days it’s tough, especially when it’s bleak and grey and cold outside, and work has been more annoying than usual, and the Rangers have blown another game.  It’s usually the animals, but it can sometimes be as simple a thing as driving in my warm Fiat Pop on a cold sunny day, listening to a new song (Shearwater’s “Quiet Americans” – good stuff!), with a head free (if only for that moment) of work and other worrisome thoughts.  That was bliss.


So Much To Watch, So Little Time

As I do every January, I started a diet with the new year.  I’ve also resolved to wake up earlier, exercise more, and be more productive on every personal and professional front.  This, of course, is exactly the opposite of what the experts tell you to do, because you will inevitably fail in at least one – and most likely all – of your endeavors.  But I do it every year anyway.  There’s just something about starting over at 1, with a fresh clean page in the date book . . .

The new year also marks the return of a few of my favorite TV shows:  Downton Abbey (final season!), Shameless and Suits.  I’m looking forward to Bill Maher’s reappearance in January, especially with the presidential campaigns and primary seasons kicking into high gear, and John Oliver’s in February, in both cases after extended holiday hiatuses (“hiatii”?).  John Oliver actually had a great little web-exclusive teaser about how the key to your New Year’s resolutions is managing your disappointment when they break down (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxM3tvHowaM%5D).  [An aside:  I’m warming up to Trevor Noah’s iteration of The Daily Show, which also returns this week, but sadly there will never be another Jon Stewart (although Stewart himself is set to make a reappearance on TV in 2016 in some form of another, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with).]

When it comes to returning dramas, however, the TV powers-that-be seem to revel in torturing us with cliffhangers and forcing us to wait months – in some cases, nearly a whole year! – for answers.  The epitome of this is Game of Thrones (my love for which I trumpeted while Season 5 was in full swing – see “Fandom”, 5/12/15), which isn’t set to return until April after ending with Jon Snow’s shocking is-he-or-isn’t-he death way back in June!

I remember, when I was a kid, September was the key month when all your old favorites TV shows would return after their summer breaks – only three major networks, remember! – and you’d also look forward to seeing what new shows there would be.  But I don’t recall any suspenseful endings, per se – the first time I can remember being left hanging at the end of a season with a “what will happen!” shocker was “Who killed J.R.?” on Dallas.  Rather, it was looking forward to watching the new season of The Brady Bunch to see how the kids had changed, or what new songs they’d be singing on The Monkees or The Partridge Family.

Some old favorites will also be returning after the fallow holiday period:  Grey’s Anatomy (which I still enjoy, especially as they manage to continue to find pretty boys to add to the cast, the latest being the gorgeous Giacomo Gianniotti – where did HE come from?); Elementary; and my new favorite, Limitless.  But there is never enough time to check out new shows, no matter how highly recommended (Life in Pieces) or well reviewed (I read so many “10 best” lists on which I knew NOT A SINGLE SHOW!  How embarrassing!).  I keep thinking I might be able to binge-watch a full season of something.  I most recently tried it with You’re the Worst, which is only a half-hour show so I figured I could get through them more quickly.  I did like the show, with its quirky anti-love story and dry-as-dust humor, but I couldn’t establish a routine and they didn’t have all the episodes free on demand, so I’ve effectively abandoned it.  Lately I’ve seen a bunch of interesting trailers and ads for original content on Netflix and Amazon Prime and Hulu – yikers!  – that I’d actually have to pay more for than my already sky-high cable bill.  So much to watch, so little time.  It’s even worse during hockey season, when there are a few games every week to occupy my TV-watching hours.

And don’t get me started on the huge list of movies that I’ll never find the time for – if I can even manage to find the films, in whatever medium they might be available.  I’ve been debating reinstating my Netflix account, which I allowed to lapse a couple of years ago – again, because I had no time to watch the movies that were accumulating in my queue.  There isn’t a very broad selection of streaming movies, either, and I don’t want to get movies on DVD because then I’d have the added hassle of having to send them back when I’m done (which might be weeks or months after receiving them).  I do have a Blu-ray player but I don’t think I’ve ever used it!  Besides which, the movies I want to watch are mostly documentaries and indies, as well as classic punk cult films like Smithereens, Times Square and Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization, which were not on the Netflix roster last time I checked.

So, I have limited time to watch TV or movies – what about reading books?  I just reserved the latest John Irving novel, Avenue of Mysteries, and I’m so excited to read it because I love everything he writes, but when am I going to squeeze it in?  I do get nearly a full hour to read, each way, when I take the train into the city once a week, but the Irving book, if I get it in hardcover, will probably be too large for easy transport.  I’ve been reading the last available book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, which I can chew in small pieces, and I definitely want to finish it by the time GOT starts again in April.  I also just picked up a cool graphic novel I’ve wanted to read, I Was the Cat, written by Paul Tobin, illustrated and colored by Benjamin Dewey (Oni Press, Inc., 2014).  Graphic novels are also good options for reading in little niblets.  But having a couple of hours to just immerse myself in a novel?  That’s a luxury I don’t often have.

As if there wasn’t enough media overload to torment me, now there’s podcasts – when am I supposed to find time to listen to THOSE??  Because I’m fortunate enough to work from home, I’m able to follow a couple regularly – I never miss Marek v. Wyshynski or The George and Tony Entertainment Show – but there are so many podcasts out there that I’d like to try, covering every conceivable topic.  I just haven’t figured out how and, most importantly, when I can devote my more or less undivided attention to them rather than just having them be background noise.  Music is best for background; podcasts require too much of my focus to be part of a multi-tasking repertoire.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll need to live to 150 just to catch up with all of my lists of TV shows, movies, books and podcasts!  How do people find the time?  I envy and admire them.