In the land of sunshine…

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Holidailies 2008

Nevermind that it rained this morning.  Nevermind that it’s overcast and looks like it might snow at any second (not likely).  I’m in the land of sunshine, damnit!  (Oh, wait, there’s the sun, I see it!)  I’m still sick and still hacking like I smoke three packs a day, but I’m here!

I was worried about flying because I’m all stuffy and didn’t want to be in enormous amounts of sinus pain or not be able to hear.  Fortunately, the flight was uneventful.  Although we left Laguardia a little late, I actually got into Ft. Lauderdale early, which was great.

It’s good to be home.  No matter how long I’m away or how long it’s been since I actually lived in this house (or even this state), it’s still always home.  I immediately settle in and relax and let go of anything else that’s going on in my life.  Fortunately, right now, as busy as work has been, my stress level isn’t particularly high, which is great, but I still needed a break from work and life in the city.  And having this cold that’s hanging on, it’s also good to be home, being fed and taken care of.

I’m getting a slow start today, which is just fine with me.  Still have a little bit of shopping to do.  Need to send out my holiday New Year’s cards.  Call some friends and check in.  Ahhh…lovely.  The beginning of vacation, with 10 days ahead of me, to fill as I wish.

So, nothing too exciting, but I did want to get back into writing mode, since being in bed for days on end feeling like crap didn’t inspire me to write much.  Hopefully, vacation will bring new inspiration…

Teenage Me and the spirit of giving…

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Holidailies 2008

I’ve been in bed with the plague (a bad cold and fever) for the last two days and didn’t have anything to write about.  So, this will be a short entry for a good cause.

Although I sometimes still feel like a teenager, more often lately I don’t (as evidenced by my previous entry).  Looking back, I sometimes long for my teenage years.  Things seemed much simpler back then, though as a teenager I thought everything was so complicated and important and there was such drama…and I was a Drama Queen.  Of course, hindsight is clearly 20/20.  As evidenced by the clothing and hair styles that we often look back at years later.

Last year was my 20th high school reunion and the reunion company made sure everyone had a name tag with their senior picture on it.  I know they say that they do this so we can all recognize each other, but I think they do it because it gives them the opportunity to laugh at our hideous photos.  And oh are they hideous!

That being said, I need to post my HAIRTASTIC senior photo for a fabulous cause.  What is that cause and how could my senior picture have anything to do with it?  The cause is Girls Write Now.  In January we are co-sponsoring their Winter Pair reading and so I’ve had a wonderful introduction to this fantastic organization that brings at risk teenage girls with promising writing talent together with professional women writer mentors.  The very cool Tayari Jones will donate $10 to Girls Write Now for the gratuitous posting of the hideous teenage photo.   So here goes…

Senior Picture

So, go forth and give to a good cause of your choice (maybe even Girls Write Now if you are so inclined) and in the spirit of the holiday season, give ’til it hurts or maybe just until it embarrasses you a tiny bit…

Not as young as I used to be…

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Holidailies 2008

It’s on days like today when I long for the ability to function on practically no sleep with little negative effect.  I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I used to be just fine if I missed a night’s sleep.  Right now I am so tired I can barely see straight and I’ve had a headache all day that previously would have only accompanied a hangover.

Obviously as I’ve gotten older, my ability to bounce back has disappeared.  Normally this isn’t really an issue.  It’s not as though I’m running around partying.  But, the other things that’s happened as I’ve gotten older is that I sometimes have inexplicable bouts of insomnia.   So, last night I got into bed, feeling tired and ready to succumb to a good night’s sleep.  Instead I watched the light change through my window and fell asleep after 6am, with my alarm going off at 8am.

The insomnia sneaks up on me and though sometimes I’m able to conquer it, other times I make it worse, by surfing the net, watching TV, doing things that keep me awake and keep me stimulated, rather than allow me to wind down. I’ve never been particularly disciplined about getting a good night’s sleep and have always been able to get by on just enough, or even not quite enough sleep.  However, I’ve noticed that within the last year or so, the sleep deprivation has been much harder to deal with.

I know that lack of sleep has been linked to obesity and it’s clear that when I’m really tired, I tend to make worse food choices.  I struggle already with ADHD, but adding on top of that a lack of sleep, makes the struggle far more difficult.  I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, but I know that something’s gotta give.  Right now I literally feel drunk and hungover at the same time.  That just can’t be good.  So, I’m making a New Year’s resolution, if a bit prematurely…MORE SLEEP IN 2009.

DISCLAIMER — THE ABOVE POST WAS WRITTEN ON WAY TOO LITTLE SLEEP.  ALL RAMBLING AND LACK OF ANY COHERENT THOUGHTS IN SAID POST ARE DUE TO ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…….

The pleasure in small things…

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 Holidailies 2008

One of my favorite things to do at this time each year is to visit the various holiday markets that pop up around the city.  It’s where I usually get most of my gift shopping done.   Last year because I was so sick, I never made it to a single one, and I really missed it.  Yet, somehow, I hadn’t yet gotten around to visiting any of them yet this year.  So, tonight after work, I went over to the Columbus Circle Holiday Market and walked around.

The added bonus is that all of a sudden the weather has changed (yet again) and we left ass-numbing cold behind and returned to a completely manageable 60 degrees.  Lovely for wandering outside from booth to booth.  Unfortunately, I found not a single gift.  I did find a pile of things to buy for myself, but I (miraculously) refrained.  Nonetheless, the visit to the market was a success, as it was time with myself, taking in the sights and sounds of the season.

I only have a week left in the city before I head south to visit my family.  I’m going to try and visit the other markets (Union Square, Bryant Park and Grand Central) before I leave and hopefully find some holiday gifts.  But, whether I find any gifts there or not, the pleasure for me is in the exploring, in the feast for the senses that I find as I wander.  It’s not necessarily that the items for sale are that unique, or that the prices are fantastic or even that I couldn’t find the same things elsewhere.  It’s because it’s my own little ritual and December in the city wouldn’t feel the same without it.

So here in bed at the end of the day, I realize that between running nonstop and being at home sick, I haven’t spent much time this month just enjoying myself.  This evening’s little outing reminds me of just how important that is for me to do.  Now off to a restful sleep…

Other People’s Holidays…

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Holidailies 2008

Growing up in South Florida, as much as I loved the holiday season, I sometimes felt a little deprived that our experience wasn’t out of a storybook.  There was no snow, no snowmen, no sledding.  Much of the time we wore shorts, went to the beach and could see the lights strung on the palm trees on our neighbors’ lawns.  And though the feeling of deprivation was partially geographic, it was also partially religious.  Being Jewish, the proliferation of Christmas and Christmas related merchandise, decorations, and TV specials, easily made Chanukah pale in comparison.

Don’t get me wrong.  I loved (and still love) Chanukah and my family’s own traditions.  But as a kid, “Herman the Chanukah Candle” was a poor substitute for Rudolph.   While Chanukah included a “great miracle” that I now appreciate for its place in the traditions of my religion, at the time it certainly wasn’t as miraculous as Santa’s one night delivery service, complete with flying reindeer, sliding down chimmneys, (nevermind that we didn’t have chimmneys in Hollywood, Florida), and the ability to do all of this without anyone hearing or seeing a thing.  Unsurprisingly, Jesus never entered into my equation, but Santa loomed large.

I never wanted a “Chanukah Bush,” which was a pathetic attempt to co-opt the majestic Christmas tree (this was well before my awareness of the Pagan Yule and Winter Solstice and my understanding that early Christians had swiped this tradition themselves).  I certainly didn’t want to get dressed up and go to church, like my friends had to do.  But, there was always something about the spectacle and lore of Christmas, and its place in a kid’s imagination, that I couldn’t help feel just a tiny bit envious about.  Fortunately, I had a lot of friends who weren’t Jewish and I was lucky enough to share in their families’ Christmas traditions, so I didn’t feel completely left out.

Outside of my family’s Chanukah traditions, among my favorite December memories are decorating the Christmas tree at Nicole’s house.  I picture us taking all of the decorations out of the garage.  We would unwrap all of the delicate ornaments, family heirlooms and macaroni creations alike.  Nicole and I would choose the perfect spot for each ornament…always on the bottom third of the tree, because we were short little girls.  We ate cookies and candy canes while decorating and there was always talk of what wonderful things Santa might bring. I felt such a reverence for this tradition, as in my mind, this is what it was all about. And in the same generous way that Nicole shared her family’s tradition with me, I hope that I was able to share my family’s tradition with her.

Growing up in a suburban landscape means that you are usually surrounded by people who are just like you.  I’ve always felt lucky that I had friends who were different from me.  My experience with Nicole and her family, as well as with other friends’ families (setting the table with Christmas dishes at Gina’s and eating date nut bread and cream cheese at Kim’s immediately spring to mind), gave me a taste of different traditions that enriched my life immeasurably.  And though I am now aware of the religious significance of Christmas, what my childhood experiences left me with is that the religion part (at least for me) is not what’s important.  It’s about family and beloved friends, and the the joy of time spent together and shared memories.

I still go to Florida each year for the holidays.  I still love my family’s own traditions.  Lighting the candles and exchanging presents on Chanukah.  Eating brisket, latkes and zucchini pancakes (that one is all our own).  Chinese food and the movies on Christmas Eve (like Jews around the world!).  Stone crabs and watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve.  As I read through this entry, it’s clear that food is an ever present part of these traditions and memories.  I’m Jewish, so this is no surprise.  But held in my heart are the feelings that this time of year always evokes for me.  The freedom of school vacation and the ability to sleep in.  The cooler air that sometimes greets us in Florida, meaning the oppressive heat disappears and we can open the windows and enjoy the fresh air.  The relaxation of a vacation and the lifting of any pressure that day to day life includes.  And though family dynamics can sometimes make things stressful, I try each year to walk away from the holiday season, renewed and refreshed to start another year, fortified by the love of my friends and family and the rare few days when we don’t need to worry about anything else but being together.

She’s Crafty…

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Holidailies 2008

Part of the issue is that I’m fighting a cold, but the other part of the issue is that I’m overwhelmed by all that I have to do before I go to Florida on the 23rd.  Also, overwhelmed by the millions of ideas floating around in my head that when I sit down to execute them, they either don’t materialize as I wish or they disappear altogether.

I’m a huge crafts geek.  There’s nothing that I find more inspiring than craft supplies, books, magazines, stores…you get the point.  I am certain that I own more arts and crafts supplies, books and magazines than most people and yet at the moment I am feeling paralyzed by my inability to do anything with them.  I have tons of projects in my head.  I have a whole bunch of people who need holiday gifts.  I am in my bed like a slug and staring at the television.  Now, I guess I should ease up because I am home sick this weekend and I am feeling a bit narcoleptic.  But that doesn’t explain the countless times over the last month or so that I’ve been staring at the TV or the computer screen or whatever, while thinking that I would do something crafty in a little while, and “in a little while” just never happens.

It’s this part of my personality that I find so frustrating on a regular basis.  Doing this stuff brings me a huge amount of joy and yet, I allow myself to be an immovable object.  I bought a bunch of amazing charm packs to create a couple of cool quilt projects; I have a ton of beads and ceramic pendants to make some jewelry, there’s yarn for knitting scarfs for my nieces, rubber stamps for jewelry-making and for ceramics.  Looking at all of these supplies makes me so happy.  Perusing the projects in my books and magazines does too.  I am inspired.  And yet,  I am stuck to the spot.

I have another blog that should be full of posts about the things I’ve made and the things I’m working on.  Nope, not a peep from me, other than promises of “soon”.  And an Etsy store that should be selling gifts for the holidays, and I haven’t managed to take a single photo or post a single item (though, there’s definitely stuff to sell).  Argghhh…the frustration of being trapped by my own inertia.

I want to turn over a new leaf.  I want to be productive and have stuff to show for my labors.  I want to sell the stuff that’s been packed away waiting to be sold.  But, I haven’t yet found the thing that will push me, to put me firmly in the place where I am creating on a regular basis and where I’m regularly earning some extra money from the stuff I’ve made, rather than the hankering to create that so easily turns into a missed opportunity spent putting it off.

The medication I’m on has helped somewhat, I guess.  It makes organizing my thoughts easier.  It makes not feeling overwhelmed a bit easier.  But, I know that the other part of this is just me and changing my habits.  Until I find some way to push past the natural inertia, I’ll be sitting here on my bed, staring at websites, perusing books and magazines, making plans for all the wonderful stuff I’m going to create.  A big ball of ideas and potential, yet to be turned into action…

My Life of Crime…

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Holidailies 2008

The addition of the Investigation Discovery channel to my cable lineup and the repackaging of 48 Hours, 20/20, and Dateline on ID and on We, plus the documentaries and Lockup series on MSNBC, have all fed my interest in true crime.  I’ve spent innumerable hours watching stories about sociopaths, scam artists, murderers, rapists and life behind bars.  Even as I sit here writing this entry, I am watching a Dateline NBC story about Casey and Caylee Anthony.

When I tell people about my true crime viewing habit, I find that they are usually puzzled.  It can’t be because it’s an unusual interest, otherwise, why would there be such a proliferation of these kinds of shows and repackaging of content from other channels?  Obviously, I’m not alone in this fascination.  Maybe I don’t seem like the kind of person who would be interested in this sort of thing.  Is it because I have a young face and people just assume that my interests would be all shiny and happy?  I’m just not sure.

Frankly, it doesn’t seem unusual at all to me.  In fact, I guess I’ve always had an attraction to this sort of subject matter.  When I was a teenager, I read a lot of mafia stories, like biographies of Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel.  In my early 20s, I read Helter Skelter in less than 24 hours and devoured a huge tome of stories about famous crimes and trials throughout history, over the course of a weekend.

In college, for a Sociology class on Societal Hierarchies, we were assigned a paper where we were to research the hierarchy of a country, a people, or a religious group.  I remember that we had to meet with the professor and give a description of our chosen topic.  When I met with her, and told her that I would be doing my paper on Men in Prison, she looked at me like I had three heads.  Not only that, she tried very hard to dissuade me.  In the end, I convinced her that it was the right topic for me.  I got an A on the project.

A few years back, after renting the Macauley Culkin/Seth Green vehicle, Party Monster, I became enthralled with the “Club Kids” saga of Michael Alig.  I then had to watch the original documentary of the same name.  I followed this by reading Disco Bloodbath and Clubland.  I surfed the web for additional articles on Michael Alig, Peter Gatien and James St. James and read and read and read.

More recently, I’ve turned my interest to religious cults and cult leaders, watching documentaries about Jim Jones and Jonestown, as well as reading and watching everything I can find about Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, and those who have, literally, escaped from the Sea Org – Scientology’s “elite” corps of members.  Although Scientology is not technically a “true crime” topic, the more I’ve learned about it, the more I come to see it as an enormous crime syndicate that continues to get away with ongoing crimes.

How to explain my interest in this stuff?  I guess there’s the part of me that sees a world and motivations that are completely foreign to me.  The audacity of a sociopath, who charms and ultimately injures the lives of everyone around them; the husband or wife who murders their spouse because it somehow seems like a better option than divorce; the religious cult leader, whose ego demands that other people follow him and then begins to believe his own hype.  The out of control drug addict that will do anything for a fix.  I can’t imagine being inside that skin.  A life lived that way doesn’t even seem fathomable to me, and therefore is completely fascinating.

The other side, though, is the side that sees a closer tie to me, to something personal.  Inside the stories of murder are seemingly regular people.  They feel backed into a corner, they snap, their desperation, fear, anger or helplessness makes committing a heinous crime seem like a rational choice.  Those are people who could be my neighbor, my coworker, or someone I know.

Being the victim of a sociopath makes you feel foolish and vulnerable and suspicious.  I know this from experience.  Once you know that these people are out there and that they manage to fit in among the rest of us and feign normality, you feel the need to arm and prepare yourself so it doesn’t happen again.

Learning about people who join cults and become seduced by the life and rewards promised by them, causes an initial, “that could never happen to me” reaction. However, if I’m honest, I do understand the wish for answers and for something that would make life easier.  Rationally I know that there’s no magic answer for life’s difficulties, but wouldn’t it be easier if there were?  And though I never dabbled in any kind of drug and I’m not a big drinker, I have been known to jones for chocolate, and to be consumed about my thoughts of getting some.  If that sounds silly, it’s not.  It’s the thing that makes me understand, even slightly, what drug and alcohol addiction must be like.

So, though I’ll never have a life of crime (the closest I’ve come to being arrested was a scolding by police for a series of prank phone calls made when I was 12), and my drug of choice will always be chocolate, I guess that this interest in true crime and religious cults is about a fascination with “the other,” while being a touch-point for “there but for the grace of birth, bad choices and accident, go I”.  Does that make sense?  It does to me…

Comfort and Joy…

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Holidailies 2008

I dragged myself into work this morning for a 9am meeting that never happened.  If I actually had any kind of commute, I might be annoyed.  I had intended to go to the meeting and then come home shortly thereafter and get back into bed.  That didn’t happen.  I even warned my boss that I felt lousy and wouldn’t be sticking around.  However, he kept walking past my office saying, “you’re still here?”  I got sucked into what I was doing, which was proofing our weekly email and futzing with the graphics.  Normally that would probably have taken me an hour, tops.  Today, all fuzzy-headed, I probably spent three hours on it and couldn’t get it right.  At about 1:45pm, I realized I hadn’t eaten anything all day (and wasn’t hungry), could probably have spent another hour futzing without accomplishing anything, and was likely running a fever.  I finally packed it in and came home.  I couldn’t wait to get in the door, throw down my stuff, and change back into my pajamas.

This morning I did ponder the possibility of just wearing the pajamas to work.  Then I realized that the days of my getting away with that particular fashion choice (hello, college) had long since passed.  Right now I am wearing an XXL t-shirt and a patterned pair of cotton pants that any circus clown would be proud to own.  If I stepped out of my apartment in this get up, someone would most certainly assume I’d lost my mind and take me immediately to Bellevue.  Still, I do long for a time when I could get away with it.  I am just not a dress up kinda girl.  There’s nothing better to me than coming home at the end of a day and changing into my pajamas.  And when I feel sick, like now, I really crave the comfyness of a clean pair of pajamas, and a good long nap.

And although today wasn’t particularly productive, I did come across some wonderful web-based entertainment to keep me company between naps. First there’s this:

Prop 8 The Musical! Written by Marc Shaiman and Directed by Adam Shankman. With a star-studded cast, including Jack Black as Jesus and a very special guest starring role by Neil Patrick Harris! A clever little musical theater piece, but with the added bonus of being about something really important.And while watching that video on the Funny or Die website, I came across a link to The WB Online! My wonderful WB is not gone or forgotten. And if I want to, I could watch Buffy or Angel or Firefly or Jack & Bobby or Everwood or Veronica Mars. But, they also have new content too! And I found a fabulous little documentary series called High Drama. It’s all about Barnstable High School’s production of The Wizard of Oz. And bless my little theater geek soul, IT ROCKS!

Okay, time for a nap, then some tea and soup. Then back to discovering more internet video content. As if I didn’t already have enough to watch on my DVR…

Cooties…

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 Holidailies 2008

So, everyone around here has been getting sick.  The weather has been bizarre — freezing cold one minute and practically balmy the next.  The mad rush towards year end has put everyone in high gear, high stress mode and I guess it’s sort of inevitable that the germs would be having a heyday.  And yet, I thought I’d manage to remain unscathed.  I guess I figured that the illness that ate my life a year ago this time was enough sick for a long long time.  Apparently, I was wrong.

Not that I’m an alarmist or anything, but this vaguely unwell feeling is coming on as a slow burn and that doesn’t bode well.  Last night I had a teeny tiny shallow cough.  Today, I felt achy and tired and tonight it feels like a mack truck is sitting on my chest.  It’s been a really long time since I’ve had a good solid case of bronchitis, and I’m afraid that’s where all this is heading.  The timing could not be worse.  Tons of work stuff to do, holiday shopping, and getting ready to go down to Florida for the holidays.  Ugh…I need to be well.

I hate being sick.  I know that’s not unusual.  Who does like being sick?  However, I’m a big freaking baby and living alone when I feel like this makes me want my mommy to come take care of me.  And no offense to my mom, because that would be ideal, but really, almost anyone would do.  Anyone who could wait on me hand and foot, feed me soup and toast, serve me ginger ale, throw away my bag of dirty tissues, tuck me in and take my temperature by kissing my forehead.  Okay, so I guess that would have to be my mom…

What was my point?  Oh, I don’t really have one.  Just that my head is fuzzy, I’m overtired, achy and can’t get comfortable.  And I do want my mommy.  I need to take another Zicam and go to sleep.  Maybe the zinc will push this crap through my system quickly, so I can stop feeling like crap.  In the meantime, whining is my only recourse…

How the $700 Billion Bailout Helps Me…

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Holidailies 2008

I’m not entirely sure that it helps me at all.  However, you know how Congress is notorious for adding on a bunch of other stuff that’s not necessarily directly related when they are passing bills?  Well, the economic stabilization bill also included the Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity Act of 2008.  And yes, I was up at 5:30am today reading online info about the inclusion of this provision in the passage of the bailout.  Not that I have any anxiety around my health coverage or anything…  As someone who has suffered from depression, has been in therapy,  and is currently struggling to manage an attention deficit issue, this has long been a concern and the passage of this law is really good news.

Although I am fortunate to have mental health coverage in my group insurance plan, I have always found it frustrating that there are arbitrary limits put on this coverage.  Why is it that 20 or 30 outpatient visits makes any sense at all?  If I were suffering from a physical condition that required ongoing care, it would be ludicrous if my doctor could no longer treat me after a certain number of visits, whether or not I was cured.  The net result of these limits has always put mental health firmly in the 2nd class category of care.  It’s reinforced the idea that maybe these ailments just don’t exist at all.

Though advances have been made over the years and the stigma attached to mental illness is no longer what it once was, there’s still a long way to go. When celebrities like Tom Cruise (who could use some serious therapy himself),  propose vitamins and exercise as a cure for postpartum depression, and Kirsty Alley testifies in front of a State legislature to keep children from being “smeared” with a mental illness diagnosis, they give credence to the notion that millions of people with issues ranging from schizophrenia to ADHD are just faking it.  While a “religious” belief against treatment is one thing, keeping others from being treated for serious, legitimate medical conditions is unconscionable.  For years, the stigma of mental illness and lobbying by groups like the Citizens Campaign for Human Rights (a Scientology-backed lobbying organization) have allowed for this inequity of care to continue.  Combined with the insurance industry’s behemoth lobbying machinery against anything that would require them to fork out more money, the battle to create equity in care has raged on for years.

Finally, finally, wiser heads have prevailed.  Even though it seems odd that this provision would be attached to the bailout bill, I, for one, am quite happy to know that something good may actually come from this economic crisis. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t go into effect until January 2010.  This means that until then, treatment limits are still in effect. Oh well, I know I’m very lucky to have a job that includes health coverage. period.  And until parity is in effect, I’ll just be thankful for the upcoming change.  I’ll also look closely to see what unrelated measures might be added to the impending auto industry bailout.  Marriage equality?  I know, wishful thinking, but you have to admit, it would make yet another corporate bailout easier to swallow…