Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Year End (Mental) Clearance - and a song to boot !

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot….for auld lang syne.” *

You know the lyrics - it’s from that song we sing or lip synch because we don’t really know all the words, or, we may have imbibed too much to sing along. This traditional ditty signs off one year and ushers in a new one.
Another cycle of seasons and holidays and traditions and expectations that are embraced with four salient resolutions; more exercise, loose weight, less clutter, save money.

For many of us, these resolutions may join the company of the long lost forgotten toy sooner than Easter – for me it’s usually Super Bowl weekend ! Winter is half over, February vacation plans haven’t quite come together, Valentine’s is forecast to be Black Friday yet gain and more is expected with seemingly less rewards.

Lordy day, I sound like a Debbie-Downer, don’t I ?

Is it the fact that we are three days from the turning point of turning points ? New Year’s Eve ? Once again along with several others around the GLOBE we reflect on blessings and miracles, disappointments and loss.

It’s been a hell of a year; my mom’s health was at the top of the list – elder care and public health funding was both an education and my biggest accomplishment. My family showed how awesome they are not with gifts and parties and photos, but with actions and deeds. I received a generous respite in a cyclone of chaos from one friend who gave me his house for a week far off in the Hamptons. My colleagues overwhelmingly graced me with their trust to represent their best interest as the steward for the labor contract.. There was some loss – mostly intangible things like connections with people and opportunities for friend and family time that I missed or didn’t act upon with the initiative I should have.

While being house bound on the last Monday of 2010 I listened, first with bemusement then with disdain the endless whining about how inefficient the DSNY was at cleaning up after the Blizzard of 2010. I posted this on my status: I had surmised that our techno-instant gratification collective mindsets are turning a blizzard into a natural disaster because not every street is plowed and cleared. While I respect that lots of people need to get to work, perhaps this is a good time to reevaluate "non essential" personnel; take a group chill pill, read that book you got for Christmas, and relax. The response to this post suggests I am on to something.

Perhaps, then, it is in the same vane that I greeted the closing of the BARNES & NOBLE in Lincoln Square. Has the conversion to eBooks gone SO very well that not only we have we run out small independent book stores, but now they are making the big box go the way of the dinosaur ?

Will manual paper page turning books become as irrelevant as the daily newspaper ?

It leaves me with a new question;
WILL old acquaintance be forgot ?

Have a safe and Happy New Year ☺

*”Auld Lang Syne” Lyrics by Robert Brown, Music; Traditional. Late 18th century poem by Mr. Brown. Scottish origins, in which “auld lang syne” translates to “old long ago.”

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Have you let it all go if you never had it together ?

I'm not sure if it is a scientific fact or not, but, I think there is something said about having a preconceived idea , an image in your mind about what you look like before you look at yourself in a mirror. This is why when you "catch yourself" in a mirror or window, you may be surprised or aghast at what you see.

I have never been someone who fussed over hair/makeup/garment ensembles before leaving home; except during that social period in my late teens/early twenties when I was out till all hours having harmless fun. Really. I mean that; I have witnesses and accomplices who will attest to it.

For the most part of the past 10 years, I have relied on big eyes, good skin, a nice smile, and reasonably decent, though bohemian, clothes.

My mom was always conservatively dressed, with good Irish skin and lipstick as her only accessory. She taught me the mores of NOT staying out of the sun. I dressed seemingly well enough for most occasions, crediting my style to the events/ eras of my life; student, teacher, opera singer/audition ware, rehearsal ware, casual ware...but it seems that there was a change of some sort in the last decade.

And today, there in a glance from a mirror at Filene's Basement on the Upper West Side, (UWS), was one of those; "CUH-LICK" photo moments staring me back. My inward reaction was somewhere between, "oh dear," and, "damn, Suze was right."

While processing what I had just seen, in all its raw and 3-D glory, I came to realize that my boho chic had become boho frump. Tip to toe. The assessment of my likeness was blunt and unforgiving. I chuckled to myself thinking that Stacey and Brian from "What NOT to Wear" would pop out and take me hostage. As well they should.

Question: Is what I am visually communicating really what I am thinking of myself ?

If today was test day, the answer would be; I guess so.

It was midway thought the weekend; which was midway through autumn, midway through the academic semester; midway, (God willing), through my life. There I sat getting a pedicure thinking; am I this person that stared back at me for that moment, that walked all over the UWS ? Well, yeah. I am. I was.

Having gone into work that morning, I dressed WAY down in sweats, a tee shirt, old white sneakers, ( oh the shame), and donned my purple plum LLBean winter coat. My hair, freshly colored and trimmed, was...well, dry, up in a hair clip, and much to my dismay - not showing its finer self.

I looked frumpy. Schleppy. Sloppy. Un-noticeable. One of the unseen - not quite as invisible as a homeless person, but, clearly one of those extra NYers who blends into the crowd. Damn. When did that happen ?

Having slowly dropped some pounds I recently started wearing less "big" things, though I am clearly in a zone of discomfort. I like layered skirts, scarves, textures and colors. Some of my garments are too big, but I like them anyway. As far as buying new ones, I spend my clothing budget on different things at a time; currently I am overhauling tops/sweaters and the like.

I remember my sister-in-law telling me about the women in Atlanta who dressed to go shopping. That ole southern pageant type mentality - full wardrobe, hair and makeup style. I thought about the conversations my voice teacher and I used to have about the state of dress at the Met Opera; how it had de-evolved to a whisper above jeans and tee shirt; and seeing someone dressed up was an event in itself: one of the last bastions of formality slowly loosing its glamour.

While I am not one to ritually dress up for every outing, today was a wake up call. My inner self is happy and enjoys getting out and seeing the sites: I don't have to have handfuls of shopping bags - I like walking and taking it all in; the smells of NYC, the prattle of people on their cell phones, the chatter of children, and the kaleidoscope of offerings.

I have survived a lot, lived a lot, done a lot, and endeavor to do more. I have many projects going and I am excited about new opportunities. But you would not know it by seeing me today. Or, I fear, many other days.

So at 46 years old, my new question tonight is:
Could I let it all go if I never had it together ...and, can I get it back again ?

If I endeavor, just a few times a week to "step up" and make the effort to let the outside appearance match my inner essence, am I selling out ? Am I abandoning my boho nature and conforming to something that I don't subscribe to naturally ? Do appearances really count ?

Or does it come down to that naked realization: if what you are doing is not working, then do something different.
Boho Frump. Not working. Not liking the reflection.

I can change my reality - but I promise my family, friends and blog readers this; it's a change I believe in.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pink, by any other name

On Friday my school colleagues and I rallied to launch Breast Cancer Awareness month by wearing pink. This month is dedicated to being sure that every social opportunity sends out the message; BREAST CANCER IS STILL THERE. The Empire State Building even donned a pink hue.

Yet despite all the miles walked, monies collected and reported gains, Americans have jumped from having one in 15 women diagnosed with the disease in 1975 to one in seven women diagnosed with the disease in 2008.

One in Seven.

That is a LOT.

You can look around almost any venue you are in at any time and count seven women and say to yourself, "...one of us will get breast cancer." That's what I did after I was diagnosed; on the train, the bus, in school, shopping, "...5, 6, 7, yup, don't worry, it's me..." Of course, this was all silent - it was during that weird period of time after diagnosis when I would look at everyone's boobs and wonder; have you got it ? Did you have it ? Will you get it ?

Don't worry, I got it - you're okay...

What became more strange is the number of women I met who HAD had it - they were everywhere - all ages, all ethnicities, all sizes, shapes, all income levels, activity levels, education levels, and treatment levels.

Breast cancer has made some strides in the past ten years, but, there is still a significant amount of work to be done. There are many different types of breast cancer, therefore many treatment options. One of the most significant is the FTCP: Functional Tumor Cell Profiling, formerly referred to as the CSRA; Chemotherapy Sensitivity Resistance Assay. Simply put, this test takes your live tumor, any tumor for any cancer, after the margins for pathology are removed to assure that the surrounding tissue is clear. Then the lab tech chops the remains of it up into little bits. These wee bits are put into petri dishes and different chemotherapies are tried on each one to see which kills it best. The results are "in vitro," meaning - not tried in the body, but the results are based on YOUR individual tumor. What can be better than that ? When I heard the explanation of this assay, I had no doubt this was the way to go. In fact, I cancelled the bi-lateral mastectomy I had planned for both breasts and went with lumpectomies, and with the chemo recommendations from the assay and radiation, I have never questioned or looked back. I do pray from time to time I never see cancer again but I do not wonder about the science of my choice.

I don't do the marathons to raise money for The Cure and The Cause. I don't swathe myself in pink. I respect the people that DO walk and that DO donate funds. The generosity of the American people towards this disease is amazing. I respect that cancer is a formidable foe, but I don't fear it.

What I do is teach about the FTCP; I talk to women and men who are recently diagnosed with cancer and I empower them to have this assay done during their first tumor surgery; that is the caveat; it is only usable with live tissue, you cannot go back and test the sample that is put on a wax block in storage in a lab.

It's a hard sell. Women and men who have been diagnosed with cancer, find that their doctors are dismissive of the assay because it is not on their protocol; the results dictate what is the best choice, not the pharmaceutical company. Other than my own team of oncologists & radiation therapists, I am a team of one. But I continue to do it because I know it's right. I just know it is.

So on Friday when I found I didn't have a pink t-shirt I realized, "so WHAT ?" Cancer has as many shades of pathology as there are shades of pink. So I wore raspberry colored pants, a fuscia hip wrap, two pink flowers in my hair, a beaded Survivor bracelet, and a traditional pink awareness pin on a charm necklace that also showed hope, love and peace. I looked at myself and was pleased with this ensemble. It reflected the reality of breast cancer; each woman's cancer is a little different; and her survivor story is as special and individual as she is.

And THANK YOU to those who walk, run, wear pink and show your beautiful bald heads to the world to proclaim I SURVIVE !

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One month later...there's been a miracle

It's been a month since I checked my mom out of the rehabilitation nursing home.

On the day she left, she was undernourished at 109 pounds, ( at 5'7"), had been diagnosed with pneumonia three days before and her spirit was so broken she nearly left this earth. With the efforts of my family, the home health care team and her strong Irish grit will to live and be her own person again, I am pleased to report, that after one month, the Betty has recuperated, and is now onto recovering her life.

The first order of business was live like a cat; eat, sleep. Eat, sleep. Be happy. Eat. Sleep. Her stomach was shrunk to the point where she could barely eat a quarter of a sandwich. She was so weak, that going from the bedroom to the bath room was a monumental task. The antibiotics she was taking for the pneumonia she contracted in the rehabilitation center were making her irritable and more anxious, among other things. Slowly, with the dedication of the aides and infinite patience on their part, we worked 24/7 to help her recover from pneumonia, maintain muscle tone to walk, and gain weight through a slow and gradual increase in home cooked nutritious foods. I stayed with her for three out of four weeks, with Team Betty, leaving for one to come back refreshed and able to look at things with perspective and I realized a miracle had happened right here; we saved her life.

During one of the many, many hours I sat at her bedside during the first part of the summer she spoke of longings for things we used to do together; one of them was "get a dog" at the park outside the public library in my hometown. 'Get well so we can go to the park' I would say to myself as I held her hand and sent her positive healing energy through her fitful haze of overmedication, lack of nutrition and bone tired weariness.

So today- after an appointment, Mom decided she wanted a hot dog from the vendor who sells them at a stand in the public library's tree lined park in my home town. We found her, parked in the shade, and I brought two dogs with yellow mustard and the last root beer to the car. We shared the root beer with two straws, enjoyed the dogs and had chips I had packed in a plastic bag. It was the best lunch I had had all summer, and have been on a cloud all day.

It's a little thing in the scope of a 24 hour day but it's indicative of the kind of progress she is now making. Each day she's a little stronger, a little more strong willed, a little quicker step, a little faster on the quick response, and sometimes, a lot more tired; but a good tired; the one that comes from a day well lived.

To me, that's the miracle.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mom is home; New Norms...Summer is...

It's a picture perfect night in the Adirondacks; 60 degrees, cool, fresh mountain air, and full moon that is glowing in a nearly dark sky with small stars against a poetic blue velvet sky. Sitting on the lanai in a nearly damp lawn chair, nothing seems different than any other summer I have done so.

But tonight, something IS different. There is a sense that this is not as "for sure" as it has been. I was here last year, and the year before, and so on, even after chemo, after Italy, after the opera season, there was always the chair on the lanai for a few late night stare-at-the moon hours.

I never thought about how many more there may be; but I am thinking about that tonight. Circumstances and reality being what they are, being here this summer isn't the same. It just isn't. There is a foreboding sense that things will change, and this summer norm of being here and doing all the things my mom and I have traditionally done through the summer all these many years won't be so anymore. They just won't.

Mom is home; this is good. In six days time she has kicked pneumonia, put a bit of weight back on, is sleeping a little more, is a little less scared and from time to time acts like her "old self." But I have come to realize that things won't be the same, pre-fall, again. They just won't.

Therapists and nurses and doctors talk about getting her back to "pre-fall" conditions, and physically, that may be possible. But the loss of nutrition, weight and situational trauma from the totality of events may have taken an irrevocable toll on her. Sustaining her lifestyle for safety and comfort is at the forefront and is presenting new challenges; most of which are attainable among the family and resources at hand. But it won't be the same. it just won't.

She struggles with "all these people here" while knowing its needed for her to be in her home, where she wants to be. It's the new norm - someone here all the time. At 85, it's hard to just accept that in your own home; A walker. New norm. Knee brace. New norm. She knows she needs it, may not want it, but knows it's part of the program to be here; and thus, a new norm.

New norms now include my heart jumping when one of my brothers call me. Or when I see "Mom" on the phone screen wile I am out and the home aides are with her.

I am scared. I'm scared that my mom won't be able to stay in the house she has come to enjoy after selling her other one she built with her husband of over forty years. I am scared that she will not be able to shake the trauma of being in three different facilities and the subsequent experiences of them - though, overall, she received good care. I'm scared that one bad move will injure her further and home won't be an option at ALL - and that a facility will be the only option. Scared, sad, depressed; all these descriptors cover it.

One thing I am NOT scared of is my ability to make decisions for her welfare, safety and health. I didn't and don't have any regrets about the timing of my decision and following my gut in pulling her out of the rehab facility. My family was equally supportive and in agreement.

It is my fervent prayer to the Universe that this energy feeds her soul and recovery at a molecular level to create a new norm that brings my mom the physical, spiritual and emotional contentment and dignity that she should have in the twilight of her quiet life.

Should that not be the new norm ?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Another year over, Another bag of trash....New beginnings in the middle of the year...

Throughout the school year, charts are made, papers filed, folders maintained and records kept with the utmost skill and care of Ebenezer Scrooge's clerks. Yet in one or two afternoons, all of that makes its way into two large clear trash bags that are tossed curbside at a school, waiting to be hauled off to points we don't talk about much.

All that time. All that work. All that evidence of an academic year well or misspent, a student's growth chronicled for posterity - or until June, anyway. Some kids take it all home. Others toss it out right in class, so as to say,"...why lug it home, I can't keep it - there's no space, I'm done with it, already." Yes, this from eight and nine year old kids.

They argue a good point; why keep things we don't need, and don't WANT ? What is it in our minds that says, "...yes, save it, you may need it..." Is it some kind of 1930's frugal depression era, two generations removed genetic reprogramming that has made it's way into our molecular structure ? Are teachers more prone to this hoarding behavior because of the constant threat of cutbacks, not having enough, transient children that come in after all has been given out, and are still expected to come up with what is needed ?

This past week I was conscience of my behavior on this issue on two fronts.

First, at school, I was careful to save as many pocket folders as possible for kids who never have any, or not enough, or need them replaced mid year and claim their parents have no money; despite the new PSP game they just got. I pulled as many paper clips as I could find out of stacks of papers that were discarded, but made sure as many stacks as possible were given to my students. When I had saturated my kids, the overflow went to a neighboring class. Usable crayons were saved, stubs were not; no work books were thrown out, they were given to children, half used, half NOT used.

Second, apart from school, I eliminated something off my new business cards; my singer web site address. I was half aware of the decision as the design emerged for the new look and more focused on what to show as my purpose in having a card !
Educator. Writer. Cancer Care Advisor.
Included was my name, email, phone and this blog spot. (Shameless plug, but, did you subscribe yet ?)
Then I typed my singer site, and just looked at it. Then took it off. Then I took off the three descriptors.
Ten minutes were spent putting these four items on and off in different combos.
Then in one moment, I got zen and let it go. With only my name, phone, email and blog site on the face of the card, it is multipurpose, uncommitted, reflects the green/simple design of the template and shows a spot where if one wishes to know more, they can go. Basta.

Like the students, I made that choice to get rid of what isn't needed anymore. At least right now, as in 250 cards worth. Like handouts and student magazines, there will always be more. I look forward to seeing the new cards with the anticipation of a new school year's clean desk, shiny floors and sharpened pencils.

But there is plenty of time for that. For now students and teachers alike take a much earned riposa, to reflect and regenerate for the paper collection to begin again.

Summer - Welcome.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer's Song

What is it about Summer that makes everyone so happy ?

For many of my friends and I who are in education, it's a no brainer; No School !

As a college student, it was a great job and making money for the next semester, then going out at night in Lake George for all of the shenanigans to follow !
For the gardener, it's seeing the payoff for the efforts of planting, pruning and waiting.
Swimming, picnics, travel, leisure, reading, and a shady hammock seem to beckon in the season's offing...

This solstice, this year, for me was unexpected. On Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, though I had planned a quiet get a way in my fave ocean side town, the Universe took a different turn.

My mom fell, was hospitalized, and relocated to a rehabilitation facility an hour outside her/our hometown.
Great news; she is expected to return to not only her prior strength, but BETTER than before ! There will be some changes in day to day living for a while, but all early signs are that they are fairly unobtrusive and amenable; the goal is to return elderly to their most desired, familiar and comfortable surroundings. Mom shares this goal, and is working like an olympian to get there. She is amazing; at 85 she is "working out and wants the pants with the stripe." No problem !

So, with that and spending the last month commuting upstate on the weekends, I have had time to think and decide that though Plan A is cancelled, Plan B looks good.
Really good.

I had vowed last summer that I would NOT be upstate the whole vacation, no way, no how. I still hold that proclamation true. The difference is that while I drive to and from visiting Mom, and stay with her during her transition back to her house, I will be working on projects that have been pushed aside for too long.

While Java the Free Range Kitty continues finding her inner hunter beast, I will be writing, taking on line courses, swimming, visiting with old and new friends, meeting my great nieces/nephews, celebrating my Mom's achievements, shopping at the farm markets, and renewing myself for the school year to come. I will take a holiday at the ocean, but I am keeping my plans fluid and I am confident it will fall into place.

THE SECRET, by Rhonda Byrne, suggests that there are no accidents, that fate plays out "the way it is supposed to."

How I, we, deal with that hand is OUR choice. And for now, for this summer, I think it's all worked out quite nicely.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Break - Could the weather be better ?

NYC is in bloom !! Children are riding bicycles, grownups are walking, nearly everyone has gone out to play, and seasonal allergy sufferers have restocked their medicine cabinets with all the needed accouterments that welcome the pollen season.

Students and teachers have been on holiday and I know mine has been glorious. Splitting time between NYC and the Adirondacks, I did laundry and hung it out, spent hours outside and enjoyed a soft serve cone from Martha's - an upstate destination ! I finished a project or two, but have yet to clean off my dining room table. I made a batch of Gluten Free lemon poppy seed muffins and enjoyed a cup of tea on the lanai. I went to the opening of, "Lend Me A Tenor" and laughed more in ninety minutes than I had for months. I visited with friends, went out to lunch, and took a nap.

As I look forward to longer, sunny days, I am gearing up for the launching of a new project. Borrowing some skills from annieZcloset and the opera world, I am in need of your support by following my blog.

Would you be so kind as to do so ?

Thanks for your support.

Annie B in NYC !

Friday, March 19, 2010

A New Hat and New Mischief

When I was about 15, my mom and I were out in Glens Falls, NY, and we were talking about things in the 40's - mostly, what ladies did when they went out. We had gone to lunch, but were having such a lovely day, Mom said, "...well, when we were in need of lifting our spirits, we would go shopping for a new hat." So we did. I don't remember exactly where we went, but I got a hat. That hat is long gone now, but, tonight, I revisited that sentiment, and discovered something else along the way.

This evening, after a lovely gather of colleagues of past and present at a Tapis Bar,

Las Ramblas at 170 W. 4th, I walked up 6th Avenue. I needed to move and get some air, and the evening was so lovely, it was easy to do. While on my way into a much needed "cup," I spied a purple beret. It was crocheted, acrylic, and BIG. For my head and much thanked for big red hair, I am always looking for bigger than average hats. Though slightly out of season, I asked if I could try it on. I did - it was smashing - with a perfectly proportioned rosette on the front.

On an impulse I bought it and upon my head it sat until I got home.
I did not even care that it may have seemed garish with my dark raspberry colored top; I had a striped scarf to buffer the two warm hues. I was elated; I remembered that day I went hat shopping with my mom - and this was a perfect topper to another great day I had experienced.

But there is more; you see, recently, I have concluded that I lost my olive colored acrylic beret that I bought during chemo two and a half years ago. It has been in several photos of mine; and it's color always highlights my eyes, especially since committing to Redkin 4RC. But it has been missing for over two months; so has the brown one I bought - it's as if they ran off together. I have mourned the loss of those hats; ;mostly the green one, because of the motivations, memories and comfort they brought me. Java had snuggled up and slept on them.

I have let them go.
Whether they are sequestered somewhere in my house or closet or car or classroom not to be found for a long time, or, accidentally thrown away in a mad rush to tidy up, I just don't know. But I do know that I don't need to mourn their loss anymore, I can buy or make MORE hats - any color, and hopefully, any size.

I have to let them go.
I have to allow new hats to enter my life. New hats that will make their own memories, their own mischief, and punctuate various activities that are Annie.

Recently I started another journey that will require me to let things go- to part with the things I no longer need, and maybe don't want. I need to make room in life for NEW things, NEW adventures, NEW tastes, NEW experiences. I cherish the time and the memories of the old hats, but, there are more hats to be worn and loved.

Will I have the courage to do it ??

I believe so - I will simply don my new chapeau, and off I go....

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring, or nearly !

It snuck in this weekend. After months of cold and snow and ice and boots and umbrellas and cabs, a preview of Spring tip toed in on cat's feet and swirled around.

Getting my fill of vitamin D for the past two days I walked many blocks in the sun. I saw people shopping, smiling and generally happy to be rid of the layers of winter garb. I saw tulip shoots and crocus stems reaching for the sky. I watched the dirtiest of snow piles melt and leave only silt in their wake.

Strolling on the Upper West Side, there were children on scooters, bikes, and in strollers. Adults ambled about trying to balance all the kid-ware that they have these days. There were some people with shopping bags, some with Fairway bags and few with pretzels.

I didn't see anyone loaded down with packages. It just wasn't about that today. It was about feeling unfettered with 'things' and enjoying the ease of moving without baggage.

Yes, times are scary; everyone is concerned about their own financial wellness, and probably someone close to them in their own family and friend circle.

But for this weekend, for just a little while, there was the sun and the sidewalk. There were no boots and no umbrellas. Kids laughed and grownups smiled.

No one felt scared of a terrorist attack. No one was particularly worried about Governor Patterson's fate. Laundry and homework could wait.

It was a good day in New York City.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sloth, in the balance of it all....A reflection and a pardon

Today I had a snow day - a good old fashioned "no school" because of snowy weather. Though it came late by most standards, 5:30am, I had showered and washed my hair - I was still happy to get the text from a dear friend from school.

I had to stay up long enough to dry my curly mop, and in doing so enjoyed the dawn of the day and the snowy vista. Eventually I sunk into slumber and enjoyed an unplanned cat nap until 9am. I frittered the morning away - but gleefully dressed for the excavation of my car. Having parked on a Tuesday/Friday side I was doomed to get plowed in. Adding insult to injury, my car was parked in front of a well tended building where the Super had snow blown his sidewalk clear, impacting my car on the other side. This hour project was fun - I got the car cleared out enough and thru some of the snow BACK into the street ! I started the vehicle and moved the tires enough to secure a start spot for tomorrow where I will try again to leave my trusty spot - and I will get a sack of cat litter to assist just in case.

I came in and had tomato soup. That's what you have on a snow day; tomato soup. I made a piece of toast, Gluten Free, and had a slice of goat Mammoth cheese to go with it; an ample substitute for a grilled cheese product sandwich.

Then, I didn't do much of anything. All day.
I surfed the Internet. Did no reading, really. Sat and thought about this and that.
Sent out a few texts, talked to my mom, wrote a few emails, commented to a few FB posts....and watched the sun come out in the afternoon.

Dinner was uneventful, and the sum total of the day would include accessorizing a pirate costume for my godson.

That was my day. I did not get ahead on any project, and I didn't catch up on anything.
I just was.

Tonight I Googled the Seven Deadly Sins and Virtues.
Of all of the Sins, SLOTH is among them and I exhibited it today in spades.
I felt really down about that for a while.

Then I reviewed the virtues. Charity, humility, kindness, justice, patience and thought to myself; yes, I, along with my colleagues at my school, do practice these countless times throughout our days and weeks. There are the unspoken acts of kindness, the generosity during crises, the many times we articulate, "..oh, my mistake, I'm sorry," the fight for fairness and advocacy for those who cannot fend for themselves, and the fortitude to say, " let's try that again..."

Yes, okay - I was a sloth today.
And I hope many of my colleagues were, too.

I offer that we earned it. No guilt, no regret.
Tomorrow is Saturday and we will do laundry, shopping, get out and do what has to be done.

But for today, there was Sloth.
And it was good.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Conservative Nudge & A Dash of Fate

Tonight I watched Glenn Beck on Fox News as he spoke in the closing hour of the 2010 CPAC (Conservative Political Action Convention) in Washington, DC.

Now before you get all excited and politicized and polarized and opinionated, just listen, well READ for a moment. I do try to look at a variety of views and take good parts from what the kaleidoscope of speakers has to offer; sometimes the pickings are slim, but, it gets like that at the end of the buffet line at Golden Corral, too.

Say what ever about Beck, but I admire his humility in his very public ownership of being an alcoholic, as is demonstrated by his reference to it this very evening. He has other engaging qualities; and he is funny; he will be the first to laugh at himself within a minute of being the Grim Reaper of Doom & Gloom for America's future. So, that said, here's the take away message I had.

Get your sh** together, Anne.
Grow up. Face your fears. Take responsibility.
Do the hard thing.
Make the tough choices.
Do it now; while you are only 45, and you have a lot of time to fix and reinvest in yourself.
In direct terms, that means; pay off the credit card debt. Put the cards away.
Do without things - stop spending money on impulse stupid stuff, (electric pencil sharpeners NOT included).
Take care of yourself - deal with the body stuff.
Get rid of the clutter that has insidiously gathered in your residence of over 14 years now.
Remind those you love that you love them; they need to hear it.
Use the resources around you make what is old, new again.
Reread some books, chapters, journals that inspire you.
Borrow books, don't buy them.
I am happy, healthy, honest, trustworthy, smart, loved. Act like it.
No one owes you anything; but you owe faceless institutions a lot; get on it.

I went to cancel an order I had placed on HSN just over a week ago. There was no record of it.
ANYWHERE ! I guess it didn't go through; I am thankful. It is a sign I am headed in the right direction. Right, as in correct, political affiliation not withstanding.

What else ?

So, looks like I won't be going to OG this summer; but I can find another way to take a break somewhere and enjoy myself. I have a great NYC pad; clean it up, clear it out; don't be afraid to through stuff away - or recycle it. I am going to have to work to fund my further course study but that is an investment - different than an expense. The returns will be seen next year.

So, if you see that I am dining out less, (but mind you, that doesn't mean a draconian abstinence from dining out), carrying my own Gluten Free lunches and snacks about you now know why ! I am going to knuckle down and work toward some inner peace.

Much love to you all !
Annie B

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It's Snow, It's Okay...Happy Snow Day to YOU !

Thank you for the Snow Day, Mama Nature !

I love a good snowfall.
I enjoy walking around in the crisp air with little flakes plucking my face or going up my nose or wetting my glasses so I cannot see.
I appreciate an occasional update on the television about how things are going in the Big Apple and reports about troublesome roads or undue delays.

I do NOT like all day coverage of a snowfall that is a storm in the most classic sense.
I do NOT like hearing the drone of making a Kilimanjaro out of a West Mountain ski slope.

Honestly, New Yorkers, don't you think the coverage for this is a bit overkill ?
Really, don't you ?

While Washington, DC is certainly out of sorts for their seasonal climate expectations, is it so terribly unexpected for New York City ? For those of you from northern heritage; particularly my Rochester, Buffalo peeps, are you not laughing at all this ?

Cancelling school and advising not to travel unnecessarily is a good, no a great idea. School buses and slippery roads make for a bad combo. No one HAS to get to Target today; and if you are a supervisor of someone in retail; cut them some slack; be thankful they got in at all.
Same is probably true for anyone who travels to work tomorrow. Be grateful they are there, safely.

So, if you haven't gone out in the snow - get your boots on and go; chances are it's still fresh enough to look inviting; picture perfect even !! I saw some kids sliding down a hill in the neighborhood, and I truly wanted to join them !!

Take in the serene beauty that is not airbrushed or computer generated.

Hot cocoa for all, and to all, good Snow Day !

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Growing Pains

The past few days have not been business as usual.

Going upstate to see the family was different this weekend.

My mom fell in and needed to be taken to hospital in an ambulance, or as I call it per Law & Order, 'the bus.' I called my brothers to join me at the hospital, which they and their wives did unselfishly for six hours.

After minimal treatment and discharge papers, Mom came home, and I am thrilled to announce she is indeed fine.
More water, more leg elevation and follow ups NOT including a cardiologist, just her PCP.

While waiting for the ambulance to come, which it did in ten minutes, I found myself asking, "...is this how it ends ? ...is this what it's like ? "

I had a few quiet moments wondering if it was her time to go, and if I had really thought about it. Life with out my mom; her sage, her experience, he input, (welcome or not), her unfaltering love, her neurosis about locking doors, turning off lights and for the love of God taking the tea kettle off the stove.

Was I ready, or had I thought about not hearing one of her Uncle George stories, her Cuba-while-Dad-was-in-the-service stories ? All this rushed through my head as I waited with her, looking at her pallor, feeling a strong, but slow pulse, and eliciting responses that took a long time to come.
But they came.
She responded.
The Med technicians came.
The oxygen came.
And then she answered the questions.
Dismissed going to the hospital and announced she had to use the lou.

It wasn't her time to go.
Not on Sunday.
Not with the Jets in the quarter finals.
Not in the middle of winter where she can still see the fleeting colors of birds.
Not before her garden was abloom with perennials and what ever other annuals I could sneak in.

It wasn't her time to go, but, just as some innocence had been lost when I was diagnosed and treated for cancer, a little more of that wide eyed wonder ebbed away over the long weekend as I took the role of advocate for my mom's care in a strange place where she couldn't see all the different people around her and couldn't hear what was being said about and for her.

I did things and answered questions that adult children have to do for their elderly parent/s. I assumed the role of caregiver without hesitation, but with the stark realization that this is what is necessary now.

This is one of those benchmarks that I am both lucky to have, in that my mom has lived to be nearly 85; and that I, along with my siblings, are responsible to have - to take care of the woman who has always taken care of us, from near or far; sometimes very far, indeed.

So I go to bed tonight in my Manhattan apartment knowing she is as well as she was last week, with support all around. I am truly not worried, but more aware of what I have had for a long time and what I will lose when she is gone. But until then, we banter on the phone, cheer for the red team, discuss food - now we are going gluten free, and giggle about cats and birds and chipmunks and farm markets.

I don't know how long she has. I don't know how long anyone has - I don't know what I am having for breakfast, but, I do know that I am the woman I am today because she taught me more than how to make a perfect pie crust and how to cut and sew a pattern; she taught me to be my own person in the face of adversity and, "to thine own self be true."

The Betty - she really is something else.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Decade !

As dark falls on the first new day of the year, I am thankful for the opportunity to make a good first impression upon it.

I had a chance to really look at myself and my behaviors and their consequences/rewards today, and it was really eye opening. I was reminded in a most opportune moment that "...to do something the same way and expect different results..." was truly crazy. And in that moment, I think I grew up a little. While disappointed in the realization that real results require real work I figured out some very obvious things about life. I reflected on them on the way home.

Simply put, the way we live, communicate and carry on is a lot different today than it was ten years ago.

We are not only in a time of heightened security, we are subsequently in a time of heightened insecurity. International plane rides not withstanding, we may fear for our jobs, our privacy and our understanding of our rights and responsibilities. This not only changed aft 9/11 but has subsequently eroded into a complete turn around about everything.

While gains have been made in technology, specifically communications, why is it people are not talking to each other ? We text, we email and seem to avoid eye to eye, hand to hand, and sometimes, heart to heart contact. We applaud the components of accountability on a project, while sidestepping the process of making it a successful endeavor; thus more of a "gotcha" rather than, "great job, fulfilled as or beyond required." While electronic gadgets and extended hours and online shopping seemingly should make more time for "other things," it's harder to have time to meet with people, grab a drink or coffee, or just hang out for a game night at home with Monopoly.

Everyone seems so busy with all of the conveniences in hand, shouldn't we have more to show for it ?

Today I sent out a text blast to about a dozen people wishing them Happy New Year. Now I have decided instead to call each one and say it to the in my happy voice ! Really, hadn't I better walk the talk ? Be the change I want to see ?

So I am deducing that a telephone call today is like what a letter was thirty years ago; something that took some time and forethought that made the receiver feel really good.

Maybe that is what the next decade holds; small acts of making others feel good simply doing the thing that takes just a moment longer. I don't know; I'll give it a whirl and let you know how it goes.

And by the way, Happy New Year.