Saturday, September 22, 2012

Time, Love and Catnip

For those of you who haven't read this blog previously, Bumblebee is a handsome yellow tabby that my ex rescued from the streets seven years ago. My ex worked away from home for weeks at a time, so I raised Bumblebee mostly by myself.  He's loving and affectionate while at the same time being the best predator I've ever seen. Bumblebee is as agile as he is affectionate. He can jump three feet straight up in the air to catch a fly, and can kill a mouse in less than five minutes. He's about fifteen pounds, but feels much heavier when he's sprawled all over my lap or laying on my chest when I wake up in the morning.  I call him my dog-in-a-catsuit because he follows me from room to room, and if he can't wangle his way onto my lap, he will find a comfortable spot as close to me as possible. Wonderful cat, you say? Sometimes yes, sometimes not-so-much.

Due to horrific financial circumstances, I had to let Bumblebee go for a time and luckily, my ex stepped up and took him in until I got my shit together.  We were separated for about a year and a half, although my ex sent pictures and I visited him from time to time. Now that Bumblebee and I are reunited on our journey, it's been both wonderful and incredibly frustrating at the same time.

My apartment has navy blue wall-to-wall carpet. I don't like wall-to-wall carpet at all but my budget was limited and with my credit rating trashed due to the aforementioned financial circumstances, I had to compromise on an ideal apartment. You probably know where I'm going with this..... In the time that we were separated, I had forgotten how much Bumblebee sheds. Like most indoor cats, he sheds year-round and in addition, he just happens to be a heavy shedder even though his hair isn't any longer than your average tabby.  Petting him for just a few minutes brings up a cloud of hair; if you even think about picking him up, have your lint roller at the ready.  On top of this, Bumblebee has this incredibly annoying habit known as "mowing". I've had cats almost my entire adult life but none of my former pets did this. When Bumblebee cleans himself, he sometimes pulls out large tufts of hair.

I first noticed this shortly after he reached adulthood. I'd come downstairs in the morning and find a pile of white and yellow fur in the middle of the floor, sometimes more than one pile.  He's had regular vet visits since we got him, so I know this isn't due to any kind of skin rash or problem, and I check him regularly for bald spots. There are none. After consulting a Facebook friend who is a vet and doing some research on the internet, I finally found out that this oddball behavior is called mowing and some cats do it.... just because. I suppose it's the equivalent of nail-biting or knuckle-cracking in humans.  Which would be okay, I guess, if it weren't so damned messy.  I don't have a vacuum cleaner -- yet -- so a few times a week, I walk around the apartment picking up groupings of 6 or 7 large tufts of cat hair. It's a constant battle, dampening the broom or a rag to pick up the copious amounts of hair that are already all over the carpet, and now this. Sigh.

Seems to me that the mowing is occurring a bit more frequently lately. Not enough to alarm me; just enough to annoy me since *I* am the one who has to clean it up. In addition, Bumblebee's affection meter has been off the chart since his return. If he isn't sleeping with me, he's on the floor right next to me. Hence, my sheets are covered in cat hair. When I get up to use the bathroom, he is right behind me,intent on rubbing my legs and actually trying to get up on my lap. Geez, Bumble, can't a woman even pee in peace?  Lately, I try to beat him to the bathroom and I shut the door behind me.  I usually brush him in the kitchen since there is no carpet there -- thank whatever god there is -- but that means whenever I go into the kitchen, I am accompanied by constant meowing. And it's kind of funny. When he wants food or treats, he lets out a standard "meeeoooow", but when he wants to be brushed or when I am ignoring him, his cry is a short, crisp, "MROW!" as if he's saying, "Um, what's your problem? I want to be brushed and I want some attention and you'd better get on it."  If I ignore him -- which I do when I really don't want to be bothered -- he'll keep at it for a few minutes, rubbing my legs incessantly and then finally, he'll lay down on the floor and stare at me.

Sigh. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I love Bumblebee with all my soul and we will never be apart again if I can help it. But the constant picking up after him and the incessant need for affection is wearing on me. I understand it, truly. It's evident that Bumblebee was as traumatized by our separation as I was. Anyone who says 'a cat is just a cat', or who thinks that cats are all alike has never been owned by one. But as much as I adore him, I find myself pushing him away as often as I pick him up because he's seriously getting on my nerves with this constant "love me!" behavior.

I need an occasional break and Bumblebee needs reassurance that I'm not going anywhere and something else to focus on, so what's the answer?  Here's what I came up with. I leave my window blinds up about three inches and I made a perch for him out of boxes that don't need to be unpacked so that he can see out of the window. Not much to see since there don't seem to be any squirrels in this part of Queens but there are birds occasionally. I made a cat toy out of twine that he could chase around when he gets bored and then I bought another shiny green cloth mouse toy for him.  Sidebar: I saw cat toys in the pet store made of gray or brown cloth that looked like real mice or rats. For the life of me, I do not get why anyone would buy such a thing. If I got up in the middle of the night to pee and saw that thing lying on the floor, I'd have a coronary. Already had the life drained out of me by having that exact experience in the past, more than once, with a real dead mouse. No need to repeat it with a fake one, thank you very much.

The toys have helped somewhat. When he's not sleeping or focusing on me, he will bat the toys around for a few minutes at a time.  On my next trip to the pet store, I may get him one of those feather toys on a long wire so that we can play together. Have to watch him closely with those sorts of toys, though. Some (stupid, uninformed) pet toy manufacturers put small bells or little embellishments on some of those toys which are choke hazards for a cat as aggressive as Bumblebee. Might be okay for a kitten or a less predatory cat, but my feline likes to make SURE whatever he's chasing is quite dead. I'd be wary of leaving him alone with anything that had a lot of loose feathers or bells that he might choke on.  At the very least, I'd have to spend nearly as much time cleaning up catsick as I do cleaning up after his mowing.

I also bought catnip the last time I went to the pet store. Not all cats respond to it, but for Bumblebee, it's like handing him a really good hit of Columbian Gold. (No need for alarm.  I haven't smoked weed in decades.... but I haven't forgotten). He'll eat it, roll in it, and then zone out for a few minutes. Sometimes he'll go to sleep. Do I feel bad "drugging" my cat when I need a break?  Nah. I only give it to him once a week or so, sprinkling it onto the cardboard scratching thing he likes. Makes him happy and gives me a few minutes or hours of peace that I sorely need.

I'm not unaware that bringing another cat in would probably be the best remedy for Bumblebee's restlessness but a) I can't afford it, and b) my landlord would have a conniption if there were two cats thundering over his mother's head. She lives downstairs. Bumblebee has only been back with me for about two months. My hope is that as time passes, he'll relax a bit and not feel the need to be underfoot every waking minute.

Where is Bumblebee right now, you ask? Sitting on my lap. I have to reach OVER him to type on the laptop. Sigh.

Wish us luck, ya'll.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Today

Today is my birthday. Yay, me.  I'm still wondering where the last nine years went. Seems like yesterday I was just turning 50 and planning to move to Philadelphia.

I am learning that there is a peace in trying to take each day as it comes. It doesn't always work; we're always thinking about what we did yesterday and what we have to do tomorrow, don't we?  But I'm working on it. A dear friend of mine who is fighting cancer has always had the ability to enjoy every day, every moment as it happens. That used to annoy me sometimes because I've always been a bit of a worrier and a planner. But now I get it. I really get it, and I'm gonna try to take a page from his book. Can't do much about what hasn't happened yet anyway, right?

A few days ago, I rediscovered my jewelry blog. Started it quite awhile ago and completely forgot about it until I happened to stumble on it on my Blogger dashboard. I was going to scrap it but I've decided to keep it for awhile since I do have some followers there. (Wonder if they gave any thought to where I went and why I disappeared....? Probably not. Ha!)  Today I will post some of my latest offerings on that blog.

Today I am going to have a lovely lunch with my Favorite Daughter in Manhattan. The weather is predicted to be warm, sunny, and not humid. I had a horrible allergy/sinus attack yesterday and I was not looking forward to another warm, humid and rainy day.... and now it turns out that it's going to be exactly the kind of day I love -- it's barely going to be 80 degrees!  Thank you, Powers That Be. I know that this didn't happen solely for my benefit but I appreciate it anyway.

Yesterday I made myself a lovely lunch of Kidney Bean Dip with pita chips. Got the recipe from Nigella Lawson. It doesn't present well; in fact it looks like catsick - LOL!  But it tastes SO good.  And then I made myself a wonderful dinner of roast chicken with vegetables from a recipe from Giada DeLaurentis. Yummm.

A friend I haven't seen in many years was a strict vegan and exercise enthusiast. I used to ask her for tips on exercising and how to modify my diet. I've been trying to lose 20 pounds for the last 20 years, and I have lost it...although it came back and brought a few friends. I remember she always said, "Whatever you do, Lee, eat well."

Today I will eat well, enjoy the sunshine, and delight in the company of my daughter. But I'll probably spend a little time thinking about the next birthday, which will be one of those big ones: (cue ominous music) 60!  Friends have assured me that it won't be so bad.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Return of Five to Nine Design

It's been a looooooooong hiatus. Much longer than I had originally planned.  Life went sideways for a little while.  My creativity went out for a long walk and took some of my joy with it.  But I'm getting the mojo back, ya'll!  \(^_^)/

Taking some baby steps. Not feeling like I have to crank out a dozen, or two dozen things because I have to fill up the Etsy shop... or fill up a craft table for a show... or fill up my worktable.  I'm going back to making what I like and hoping that others are in sync. Let's see how it goes.

And if it doesn't go...well, when I make pieces that look and feel good to me, I tend to fall in love with them a little and feel a bit sad when they sell. (Of course, I get over it quickly!)  If the new things stay in the shop for awhile, then that's more stuff for my own jewelry box.

But I'd rather kiss my creations goodbye and send them on their way....

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Crusader Rabbit strikes again...

Crusader Rabbit is the name of a silly little cartoon I watched on TV as a kid. As I understand it, it was the first animated series produced for television. It wasn't a very sophisticated cartoon; Jay Ward would go on to produce much better fare, namely Rocky and Bullwinkle. But for some odd reason, the word "Crusader" resonated with me as a child; I don't know why. Anyway, every time I have to file a consumer complaint or take on some commercial entity that takes my money without providing adequate service, my mind goes back to that cartoon and I think of myself as Crusader Rabbit. Looks like I have to don the costume once again.

Here we go: I moved the sum total of my net worth into the SmartStop Self Storage in Jersey City in January 2011 where it lived for 18 months to the tune of nearly $200/month. A week before I was ready to move out in July 2012, favorite daughter Hayley and I went to check on the stuff to make sure everything was packed up and ready for moving. As soon as I opened the unit, I noticed that several plastic bags had holes and tears in them.  Most of my things were in boxes or suitcases but I had put some stuff into large plastic bags, mostly linens like comforters, pillows, blankets and a pair of heavy boots for snowy weather.  Some tearing can happen when you're shoving things down into a plastic bag, but I was quite certain I hadn't left so many holes in so many bags. Imagine my horror and disgust when I opened a bag and found rat droppings inside. Ugh. Double ugh. Triple ugh. I quickly closed the bag and put all of the ripped bags inside of larger construction-weight plastic bags, and then we continued to pack up and secure everything else that was in the unit.

The SmartStop office was closed by the time we left, so I called the next day to report the rat infestation. I was advised to call the insurance company listed on the storage contract. I told the storage manager that I knew that they did not normally provide a dumpster for customers to dump their trash but I did not want to have to touch those bags again and I thought they might make an exception in this case. Not so much. They told me that I could not leave anything in the storage unit; I would have to take the rat-damaged bags with me. I called the insurance company to advise them of the situation. Three days later, I got a letter advising me that the policy did not cover rodent damage.

HUH?

I then called the SmartStop corporate offices in Texas. A very nice lady gave me the phone number of the district manager. When I explained the situation to him, he said that he would call the Jersey City office and advise them that they should make arrangements for the damaged bags to be discarded.  That call was apparently never placed because the storage manager insisted that I take the rat-damaged bags with me.  I did not have any food stored in the unit. I paid nearly $200 for 18 months to secure my belongings, which did not include live rats. So -- if the storage company is not responsible for my damaged goods and the insurance company is not responsible for my damaged goods, who is?

I then wrote a letter to the corporate offices in Texas, including photos of the rat droppings all over the floor of the emptied storage unit. Three weeks later, the district manager called and left his number on my voicemail, but did not answer when I called back and did not respond to the voicemail I left.  Hmmm....

Next steps: Two weeks ago, I left reviews of SmartStop Storage on every website I could find that accepts reviews. Today, I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau in New Jersey.

Attention must be paid. As I understand it, the moving and storage industry normally receives a very high number of consumer complaints. Maybe I'll get restitution, maybe not. I'll keep you posted, blog readers.  In the meantime, if you live anywhere near Jersey City, I'd avoid SmartStop Self-Storage like the plague.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Perspective

Due to desperate financial circumstances, I had to put my things in storage for a time and move in with my mother in Far Rockaway. Needless to say, this was devastating to me on a number of levels. 
I moved in in January 2011. When the weather warmed in the spring, I'd go for long walks on the boardwalk. The walks served several purposes: sleeping on a couch every night is not kind to mild arthritis sufferers!  The walks helped me work out the morning aches and stiffness. Second purpose was to contemplate my circumstances and figure out what the next move would be, if there was a next move to be had, and the third was to give my mother and me some space from each other. Sometimes I brought my camera or phone to take pictures while I walked.

I've lived near bodies of water for much of my life: I grew up in a housing project apartment overlooking the East River; I bought a house in south Jersey two blocks from the Delaware; I often walked along the Schuykill in a park in Philadelphia... but the Atlantic Ocean is a whole 'nuther kettle of fish (yeah, I had to say it.)

As the months wore on, I grew to dislike Far Rockaway with a passion. It is aptly named: it's far from everything. There is only one bus that gets you off of the peninsula towards the subway, which takes almost an hour to get to downtown Brooklyn. There's no shopping area there; you have to drive or take a bus to find a supermarket or dry cleaners. As a non-driving city girl who's always lived walking distance from neighborhood amenities, living in Far Rockaway was torture. Even the beach and the ocean lost its luster for a time. By late summer, walking on the boardwalk and staring out into the ocean no longer appealed to me.

Fast forward 18 months. I've moved out of Far Rockaway. I called Hayley, my daughter a few weeks ago and asked if my grandson had ever been to the beach. Hayley said no, because she's not really a "beach person" -- no doubt because I wasn't much of a "beach person" when she was growing up. So I said, "Well, I'm kidnapping Lucas next weekend." It was time my grandson developed the same love of water that the rest of the family has! Side note: as children, my siblings and I often went fishing with my mother or grandmother. I don't have the skill or patience to work a rod and reel anymore but I still enjoy spending a lazy afternoon by the water. My ex-boyfriend loves fishing as much as my mother does. A few years ago, when I lived in south Jersey, I'd often bring a book and a chair and while away the hours reading or just watching him catch and release.


So Lucas and I packed up beach toys, towels and assorted paraphernalia and off we went. Just as I thought, just as all children do, Lucas fell in love with Far Rockaway. I mean, head over heels in love with the sand and the sun. He's a little afraid of the ocean -- which is OK with me 'cause I don't swim -- but at the end of the day, I finally got him to go close enough to stick his toes in.  



"GG" (short for 'great grandmother') and Lucas

We went for a second trip last weekend and had as much fun as we did the first time, partly because my mother came down and spent a few minutes on the sand. She made small sand castles and Lucas had great fun smashing them. She playfully tried to grab his feet or legs every time he ran over to do his "Hulk Smash!" thing which he found to be hilarious. For quite awhile, he stopped making sand-mud pies long enough to run over and smash her sand mounds every time she made them just so that he could run away from her grasping hands, shrieking and laughing his head off.

There was a woman with two young daughters sitting behind us on the beach. She asked how old Lucas was and told me that one of her daughters was the same age. She mentioned that her daughter wasn't having a good time because she was hungry. I advised her that there was a small convenience store right nearby, in the building where my mother lives. She was thrilled and ran off to get some food for the kids. I thought, "Isn't it convenient that there is a small grocery store nearby so that people can grab snacks while on the beach?"  I hated going to that store when I lived in the building because everything was marked up ridiculously: a small jar of mayonnaise was nearly 5 bucks, a two-liter soda costs over $2.00, etc, etc... but I guess if I was a store owner and I knew I was the only store around for blocks, I'd take advantage too. 

video

(I had Slacker radio playing on my phone while we were on the beach so our voices on the video are obscured by Red, Red Wine by UB40. Whoops.)

After several hours on the beach, Lucas and I went upstairs to my mother's apartment, showered, and then raided her fridge for rotisserie chicken and pasta salad. We washed it down with cream soda, my mother's favorite. (Shhh...don't tell Lucas' mom; she doesn't really like him to drink soda. Neither do I but what the heck.)

For Lucas and I, this is our last beach trip before school starts and probably our last one this year. But maybe not... maybe I'll take him one last time before the weather cools and this time, maybe I'll convince his mom to come with.

Far Rockaway is still too far from everything but it's become a memory-maker for me and Lucas. This is what he will remember years from now when I'm gone. So, so glad now that my mother lives right there so that we can visit her during our beach adventures as well as have a place to shower and grab some grub before taking the long ride off of the peninsula.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Stuff

A few of my Facebook friends are in the process of moving. As many of us do in the modern world, they've shared their journey online, expressing their frustration and fatigue at the enormity of moving all your crap from one place to another. Sharing any journey online invites comment and advice whether you really want it or not, so here it is.

I've moved more than a dozen times in my lifetime. I used to think of it as fun and adventurous. Whenever we moved to a new apartment, my daughter and I would go out for a celebratory lunch and then walk around our new neighborhood to find out where the laundromat and supermarkets were. It was great fun and we were happy and excited to get to know our new surroundings.

Fast forward ten years. Now, moving is nothing short of a pain in the ass. It's expensive, frustrating and time-consuming. I've decided that I will move once more before I leave this planet and that will be it. Wherever I wind up had better be on the ground floor because I will be an old lady who can no longer climb stairs. It had better be in a good, fairly quiet neighborhood because I will be too elderly to dodge bullets or put up with partying on a regular basis. It had better be in the city because I like city life and I don't drive. I lived in a suburb for a few years and decided I didn't love it. Suburbs bore me to tears (grass! trees! More grass. More trees. Lovely, but not stimulating enough for me.) and I think they contribute to pudginess because suburbanites don't walk anywhere except from the house to the car. (Sorry, suburbanites! Write your own blog if you're deeply offended!)

Anyway.........when you're moving, you're confronted with making decisions about all the stuff you've accumulated in your lifetime. Old clothes, old photos, old cards, old memories. Keep or toss? If you're downsizing, you sometimes have to be ruthless about shedding some things that you've become attached to. The thing is, though, sometimes you find that you're not as attached to some of those things as you thought you were. You've just kept them because...well, just because someone gave them to you. "I can't toss this!  It was a gift from Aunt Blabby!"  Where is it written that you can't throw away a gift you don't like, didn't want, and never use, especially if Aunt Blabby never comes to visit?

Purging is sometimes necessary.  I've actually grown to love it, perhaps a little too much!  In my zeal, I've tossed a couple of things I probably should have kept, but other things were just dust-collecting, space-hogging, don't-even-remember-who-gave-it-to-me-or-what-I'm-supposed-to-do-with-it -burdens and I'm glad they're gone.

For me, it was helpful to break things down in terms of "like" and "love", which is another concept I got from my wiser-than-her-years daughter. I used to (and still do, sometimes) buy clothing that didn't match anything I owned. If I liked it, I bought it. Too often, though, it would languish in the closet for months because it either didn't go with anything else or didn't fit quite right. I went shopping with my daughter one day many months ago and started to look at something. She saw the look on my face and said, "Mom, do you LOVE it or just kind of like it?  You said you were on a really tight budget so you have to spend your money pretty wisely." I put it back because I realized that it was nice, but just "eh", not "wow, I gotta have it!"

It's not a hard and fast rule, but I still try to use that to this day in terms of a lot of things. My advice to those in moving hell right now:  if you find that you can't be ruthless about getting rid of stuff, try the "eh / LOVE" method. If it wouldn't kill you if it burned up in a fire, toss it!   I used to keep Christmas and birthday cards (in the days when people were actually sending those things) for years. I'd hang them up on the wall around the Christmas tree as decoration. But one day it occurred to me that Christmas was coming again so most of those people would send new cards. Why keep the old ones?  LOL!  As for cards or gifts from a beloved friend or relative that passed on, I say "keep".  I told a Facebook friend recently that memories are in our heads and hearts, not in "stuff", but like most things in life, that's not a hard and fast rule either.

My family photos are important to me. I have probably 3 or 4 photo albums and a huge metal box of unsorted photos of 30 years of family get-togethers. Oddly enough, I'm not in many of the pictures because I was often the family photographer. Ha!

One of my brothers passed on a few years ago (still heartbroken every day) and one of my sisters and her daughter don't speak to me (long story, too personal for cyberspace). Yet I will keep those family photos forever because those kinds of mementos can never be replaced. You know the old riddle. If there was a fire and you have to leave suddenly, aside from family and pets, what would you take?  Bottom line -- don't feel you have to toss everything just because you don't use it daily...but don't feel you have to keep everything, either. Find the middle and leave enough space for new memories.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My Cat is in Love with His Cat Brush... and other random thoughts

Bumblebee is crazy mad in love with his cat brush. I mean, seriously. I mean, if he wasn't fixed and the brush was able to copulate, Bumble would be all over it.

It's been pretty warm this summer so Bumblebee is shedding more than normal.  He's a heavy shedder year-round but this is ridiculous. All you need to do is lightly touch this guy and clouds and clouds of white and blond fur lift off into the air, floating across the room like soft tumbleweeds. Looooove this cat to pieces but a blond tabby living in an apartment with navy blue carpet is problematic, particularly when you have no vacuum cleaner.  I miss hardwood floors. Hate carpet but the landlord obviously felt it was cheaper to cover every square inch of the place except the bathroom and kitchen with carpet. I guess I should be grateful that it's navy blue; he could have picked that godawful Pepto-Bismol pink carpet that is standard in many apartments and model homes. Anyway, I sweep the floor every other day or so and roll the  lint brush over his favorite spot (which, of course, is right by the front door. Way to embarrass me, cat), but it's an ongoing battle.  So, when I was visiting my mother last week, she told me I could have her dog's brush because Sam, her Papillon preferred to be combed.
Sam, the Wonder Dog

Went home and immediately tried it out. I'd forgotten how much Bumblebee liked to be brushed. I mean, I thought the cat would die from joy. He sniffed the brush, rubbed his head against it, and each time I stroked him, he turned, walked two steps and turned again, as if to say, "Brush this side now!  Now this side!  Don't forget my head! Oh, I like that spot near my tail! Again! Again!"

I brush him in the kitchen so that I can easily empty the brush into the garbage can and I am always amazed at how much hair comes out of that brush! I generally have to clean it off at least three times before I'm done. When I look in the garbage can, there's enough hair in there to make a new cat.  I might stop by Petland and get Bumblebee some catnip today. Not all cats respond to catnip, but to my blond bombshell, catnip is like Colombian reefer.  Between the catnip and the brushing, I might wind up having to do CPR on him later today.  Ha!

New subject: someone close to me is fighting cancer and his chances are slim. But he made it through a very intensive and difficult surgery yesterday so I've been able to exhale a little. Not saying any more about this. Some things are too personal to share with the bazillions of eyes out here in cyberspace (such conceit! Assuming that bazillions of eyes will be reading THIS blog.)  Just bringing it up this one time because it's contributing to my general good mood this morning.  More: I sold my dining room table and chairs last night -- finally! Lots of inquiries, false starts, some people wanted the chairs only and then changed their minds, some people offered to take the whole set and then didn't show up, yada, yada, but it's DONE. Yay! Haven't figured out what to do with the hundred bucks yet. I need so, so, so many things and my list grows each day. I could use a thousand dollars, let alone a hundred. Life in these United States is a little sucky when you have no credit cards.

Starting over after long term unemployment is no joke!  I need a bed frame, a new mattress, at least one dresser so that I can stop pulling fresh underwear out of a duffle bag each morning, a couch so that I can relax in front of the TV which is sitting on the floor because I need an entertainment center or at least a TV stand, the aforementioned vacuum cleaner... the list goes on and on... and a hundred bucks isn't really going to make a dent.  But I'm so pleased with myself that I finally got that thing sold!  My dining room set was too big for the room and I remembered that I had a foldable heavy-duty table that I bought for craft shows in the bedroom. That table is now occupying the space where the dining room set was, and it makes so much more sense.  It ain't elegant but it WORKS.

And...drumroll, please... I made jewelry over the weekend!  See, the thing is, this is BIG NEWS. I haven't been able to make a thing in over a year and a half. Amazing how depression creeps in and grinds you to a halt, almost without your knowing it. It's insidious and awful ... and I am leaving it behind, walking away with big, giant steps and daring it to follow me.  I read one of those Facebook signs (I think they call them 'memes') that said something like, "When life hands you lemons, spit the seeds out into its eyes". I'm sure I got that wrong but it doesn't matter. I'm digging the concept!  Screw the lemonade! Spit out the seeds!

Of course, I desperately need a better camera in order to take photos of my brand new stuff but I will just have to make do with the old ones for now. One has a better macro feature but the camera is too small and hard to use with my man-hands, and the other camera has a terrible macro feature. Neither one does a great job, but for now they will have to do. I hear it's going to rain this weekend so that might be the perfect time to fool around with the cameras and see what I can come up with. In the meantime, my Etsy shop is on hiatus.... but stay tuned for the imminent return of Five to Nine Design.

Might skip therapy tonight. I'm feeling pretty good!  What will I have to talk about for 50 minutes?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Reclaiming My Joy


I misplaced my joy for a few years. Writing and jewelrymaking, the two things that usually send me into the Joy Stratosphere were pushed into a drawer to be looked at occasionally and pondered, but I just didn't have it in me to take them out for a spin. Well, I did do some writing but that was only to keep me in pin money for a little while as I cringed, waiting for the next blow from The Universe. Initially, I was thrilled to find that a professional entity would find my writing good enough to pay me for it...but when you write for money, you can eventually become tense and anxious and burnout often follows.  I decided to take a break.

Now that I am slowly, slowly coming out of the other side of the Dark Days, I'm thinking about going back to both of these joys as soon as I get my place a little better organized. After spending all this time holding myself together with spit and glue, I am sometimes surprised to find myself smiling again at little things. In fact, the other day I laughed out loud at something so silly I still smile when I think about it.

I have one of those little window fans that is actually two small fans encased in one housing together. Unbeknownst to me, each of the fans has a separate motor; I think I assumed that one motor drove both fans, or more likely I never gave it a thought, until I put it in the kitchen window and plugged it in the other day. Almost immediately, the fan on the left went into motion. The fan on the right just sat there. The blades were completely still. I took a pencil and stuck it through the grate, trying to nudge the blades around, thinking that they just needed a little push. Despite my efforts, the right fan ignored me while the left fan continued to spin busily.

I sat down at the kitchen table with a glass of wine and let my mind wander. I thought about all the things I need for my new apartment that I can't afford -- yet. I thought about how tightly I will have to budget to stay here but I didn't worry too much about that; having been a single parent for many years, I'm used to having to budget every nickel. I've almost made peace with the fact that I will probably struggle financially for all of my days. I thought about someone very close to me who is fighting cancer with all his might... and may be losing the battle. At some point, I glanced over at the fan and much to my surprise, the right fan was spinning right along with the left. Ha!

I figured that it might be a little dusty or rusted since the fan has been in storage with the rest of my things for the past 18 months or so; perhaps it just needed a little time to get itself together. My apartment is as hot as Hades except for the bedroom where the air conditioner is, so I keep some of the ceiling fans and box fans going whether I'm home or not, especially now that Bumblebee the cat is back home with me. But I generally turn the little double fan in the kitchen off before going to bed.

This morning, I turned the double fan on, and, as usual, the left fan jumped into action while the right one sat there, motionless. But this time, instead of letting my mind wander, I sat and watched the fan while I drank my coffee. And this time, I caught it -- the right fan moved. Just a little. Stopped. Moved again just a little but then it continued to turn but sloooooooooooooowly, barely moving. And I found myself cheering it on: "Come on, little fan. You can do it! I know you've got it in you!" 

The right fan began to pick up speed, just a little... just a little... and then suddenly, the blades started whipping around, keeping time with the left fan. And I laughed out loud. I laughed at myself, cheering on a stupid window fan. I laughed because  I haven't found much to laugh about lately and I guess I just needed to, finally. Bumblebee the cat sauntered into the kitchen and looked at me, as if to say, "Losing your mind, eh?"  And then I laughed at him.

There's probably a lesson in there somewhere, right? This is an allegory or a metaphor for something in my life, yes?  It's too hot to try to think about it now. I'm just glad I haven't forgotten how to laugh. I was going to say that it's just like riding a bike, but that's not accurate. Let me tell you, you CAN forget how to ride a bike and it DOESN'T just come back to you after several years have passed, trust me... which is why I now have a three-wheeled bike, so I don't have to worry about balancing. Luckily, laughing doesn't take as much effort.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bumblebee is back!


During the time when my life was going through serious upheaval (now to be known as The Darkest Days), I had to give up my cats. Chloe, who hadn't been with me long, had to go to a no-kill shelter. She was shy and skittish, there was no time to find her a proper home, and it broke my heart, but ... it was what it was. Bumblebee, the cat who owns my heart, went temporarily to my ex. We had adopted him together nearly eight years prior, and he'd been with me through all the ups and downs. My former cat, Max, a beautiful black tabby had gotten very sick and had to be put down a few years earlier. I was crushed. Picture a 50 year old woman standing in the middle of a street in Center City Philadelphia, bawling like a five-year-old. That was me the day I took Max to the vet for the last time. A couple of years later, Abel, my ex, had found Bumblebee in the street near his old apartment. He fed him and his brothers and eventually brought him home. He named the cat Bumblebee because he is a yellow striped tabby and when he was a kitten, Abel thought the stripes made him look like a bumblebee. Yeah, I know. Don't ask.

We cleaned him up, took him to the vet, and then he was ours. Abel and I broke up long ago and since he worked far from home and was only home on weekends through much of our relationship, I got custody of Bumblebee after we split.  But we have remained friends, so during the Darkest Days, knowing how devastated I was at having to give up the cats, he  called and said, "You know I have a crazy schedule. I can't take them both, but I will take Bumblebee and you can have him back when things get better."  So, tearful and heartsick, I packed him up and sent him back to his 'dad'.

And now he's back. He's back. He's BACK!  Bumblebee was always a big cat but now he's even bigger. And he's just as affectionate as ever, following me from room to room, rubbing against me whenever I stand still. I've always called him a dog in a catsuit because he obviously did not get the memo that cats are known to be aloof. Aloof? I've had to gently push him off my lap twice today. My legs are bare and he's so happy to be back, he keeps trying to knead my legs and his nails are killing me. He doesn't like having them clipped but he tolerates it if it's done quickly. Note to self: remember that when he starts giving you the "I want to sit on your lap" look, put on pants FIRST. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Forced Minimalism

When life hands you lemons, pick up the lemons, cut them open and throw them in life's eye.

Most of the things that are important to me are in storage in Jersey City. The worktable I bought from Pottery Barn about 10 years ago. The three-wheeled bike that my ex bought me for my birthday a few years ago. My Tivoli table radio. My dishes, glasses, CDs and DVDs, books, all the usual things that make a house a home.  I've had items in storage before but never for very long. This time around, it's been 18 very long, very difficult months. I've missed my things and now it's almost time to retrieve them for good.

So I went to my storage space a week ago to prepare them for the Big Move and found to my horror and disgust that a rat had somehow gotten into my unit. Over the past 18 months, I've had several purging sessions with the help of my daughter. I had placed the purged stuff in large black plastic bags -- which apparently are appealing to rats. My boxes seemed to be undisturbed but the bags showed definite signs of being mauled and when I opened one of them, I found -- tada -- rat poop.

Lovely.

Needless to say, Rat was not in the unit; he'd done his damage and left, thank whatever deity there is -- because if he'd been in there, I'd have had a coronary right then and there.

So. I called the manager of the storage facility. I was advised that they have regular exterminator visits and that I should make my claim with the storage company's insurance company. I called them and got a very sympathetic person who advised me to take pictures of the bags and to try to list the damaged items as best I could. I have no desire to go back into the bags and sort through rat poop, but he suggested that I look for similar items online and list those with the appropriate cost.  I also called the corporate offices of the national storage company and told them about the rat issue. They gave me the name of the regional manager who told me that he would advise the manager that I could leave behind any bags that were damaged and they would dispose of them, despite their 'no-public-garbage-dumping' policy. This storage facility is the only one I've ever used that did not have a dumpster on site. They expect you to take your garbage with you.  In this instance, however, the regional manager assured me that they would take care of it.

Called the storage facility again today to confirm that the regional manager had spoken to the manager and that my file was updated with all the information. The assistant manager told me that he did see some info about the rat issue in my file but NOT about leaving the garbage behind. He said that was "unusual" since they usually do not allow anyone to leave their trash. He said he would speak to the manager to make sure that the regional manager had gotten in touch.  Have not heard from him.

I have not named the storage facility -- YET -- because I want to see how this plays out. I am moving out on Sunday, July 8, 2012. I will call the facility tomorrow. If all is well, I will name the facility and report the good news. If I am met with resistance, I will name the storage facility and bad-mouth them from YELP to Google to any and every other place I can think of.

Did I mention that I got a letter from the insurance company today advising me that they do not cover rodent damage?

If anything else is damaged aside from the things I care most about, I will leave it there despite their 'no public garbage facility' policy and if the storage company balks, I will, as I said, make them regret it as best I can.

I've been feeling highly stressed about this and about the move in general all week and this morning, it reached a crescendo. I felt weepy and out of sorts for most of the morning... but by afternoon, I had some kind of slow-motion epiphany.

I can live with less. I need to de-clutter my space and my life. Having dealt with horrific financial difficulties in recent years, I have had to leave many things behind that were once important to me... and I have learned that many things are just... things.  People can never, ever be replaced but most things (furniture, books, Christmas ornaments, knickknacks) are replaceable. And when you don't have them or you don't see them because they are locked away in storage, you forget that you have them. And when you forget that you have them, you can't miss them, and you don't.

In the past six months, I have had to start my life over again. This is not the first time, but I hope, I hope, I hope it will be the last.  New job, new apartment, new neighborhood, hopefully a new man is in my future...?..... and maybe I will have to start over yet again with fewer things.

But it feels kind of okay. I have more than my share of emotional baggage but  I have been slowly but consistently shedding it. I no longer want or need to have a pile of insignificant things pulling me under. I am seeking a simple, uncomplicated life. And I will have it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Lights, CAMERA, and the rest...

After a verrrry long hiatus, I've been trying to get back to making jewelry. Jewelrymaking was my happy place for a long time but life went slightly sideways for a couple of years and I just couldn't get back there.  But I'm back -- sorta.


An essential component of selling jewelry online is taking the perfect picture. Without the right camera and lighting, viewed online, the Hope Diamond just looks like a chunky piece of glass. 


I had an inexpensive Kodak that I LOVED but after dropping it one too many times, the lens came loose. I kept pushing it back into place which worked for awhile but finally, it pushed back. A friend got me a newer version of the Kodak I had but the macro function wasn't quite right. I then made a huge mistake and bought a Canon Powershot SD1200  online. Boys and girls, NEVER buy a camera online unless you are familiar with it first.  The one I bought is too small for my "man hands", has extremely poor battery life, and does not take macro pictures well at all. For those who don't know, "macro" is the function that allows you to take clear, closeup pictures. Without a good macro function, it's difficult to take good photos of the intricate details of jewelry, flowers or anything else small and detailed.  The photos here were taken with my Canon.  The one at the top left is fairly sharp but a bit too dark. The image at the right is fuzzy. Argh.

I need a new camera!  Don't know which one and my budget is VERY limited but I know just where to go to get recommendations. Off to the Etsy forums....

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Newest Form of Discrimination

The newest form of discrimination? Let's call it "creditism". You were out of work for two years or more THROUGH NO FAULT OF YOUR OWN, due to the crappy economy. Because you eventually wound up with ZERO income due to aforementioned economy, your credit rating suffered greatly. You now have a secure, stable, civil service job but landlords will not rent to you because of aforementioned credit devastation. You're not a bad person, you're a person who had something bad happen to you....but that is apparently irrelevant. You look bad on paper. It's a modern-day nightmare. The 99ers were victimized by employers who felt they'd been out of the workforce too long... and it was because of THEM that we were out there -- and some of us are still out there...it's a vicious circle. We were told to take "any job" as if jobs were hanging from trees and we were refusing to pick them.  And now, when some of us are trying desperately to get our lives back, short-sighted landlords are closing yet another door.  SO tired of feeling victimized.


If you check craigslist ads, maybe 75% of them mention that the renter must have good credit or a guarantor (which I do not). Some even post a number, e.g., "must have credit rating of 740 or better". In some cases, I have ignored that and called anyway, only to be met with, "Welllllll, we'll have to see...." At one apartment viewing, one guy told me, "Well, you might be OK now but sometimes creditors come after you and the next thing you know, you're being garnisheed...." So I have to stand there and do my song and dance while some guy tells me that he probably won't rent to me because HE thinks I *might* be garnisheed sometime in the future...
 Lovely.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Today's Frustration....

So... looking for an apartment in NYC is becoming quite a challenge. As a native New Yorker, I knew how high rents were and knew that I'd run into several hurdles. My budget is very limited; I work in Queens and I hate Queens with a white hot passion but the apartment needs to be in a commutable distance; my credit rating is in the toilet and landlords are starting to be picky about that... which is ridiculous all by itself. I understand the need to be cautious, however, the economy has hurt many, many people. It devastated me. I'm not a bad person, I'm a good person who had a series of very bad things happen to me that affected my credit rating adversely. I don't look good on paper. But that doesn't make me bad. I wasn't irresponsible; I was penniless. ........................................ So... went to look at a place in Brooklyn yesterday, near where I lived when Hayley was in high school. I still like the area a lot and was very happy to find something in my price range. But it was on the top floor of a three-story walkup. NO way I could drag groceries and laundry up all those steps, not at my age with a bad knee. And it was kind of small. I've accepted the fact that my budget may only buy me a studio apartment but it's got to be bigger than a shoebox. The landlord was a youngish guy -- well, younger than I am -- who had done a very nice job of upgrading the kitchen and bathroom. But the main living area was probably barely 10 x 12, and there were only two small closets in the whole place. If you don't have floor space, you have to build up and you also have to be able to store stuff away. That would have been difficult in that apartment. Obviously this one isn't going to work for me. ........................................ So... today I went to look at an apartment in Rosedale. I still don't like Queens but if the apartment is someplace that isn't TOO suburban, I can handle it. This apartment was in the home of a basement very close to the Rosedale LIRR and a bus that would take me straight to work in about 35 minutes. The good news is that since it was near the train station, there were small businesses around such as grocery stores, liquor stores, 99-cent stores, etc. But the supermarket looks to be at least a half mile away and so is the laundromat. That's problematic. But what made it unworkable is that Rosedale is right next to the airport and in the space of about 15 minutes, five planes flew directly overhead, so low that I thought it was going to land on the train station. You could actually see the smoke coming out of the engines. How do people sleep in that neighborhood, I wonder? I guess they've gotten used to it but it reminded me of when I lived in Brownsville right near the train station and had to deal with the #3 train barreling past my window every 20 minutes. HATED it. No way I can live that close to the airport. Sigh. The search continues. Irritated by the way my posts are viewing on Google Chrome. Since Blogger is a Google product, shouldn't it look best in Google Chrome? Au contraire. Trying to make paragraphs and they are not showing up in Chrome and barely showing up in Firefox. Grrr. Should have stopped and bought a bottle of wine on the way home. Could use a drink right now.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Whose lie is it, anyway?

I've been online for at least fifteen years, probably more and I'm a huge fan of online forums, bulletin boards, Facebook, etc. On or offline, people are people. We live in a society where people move away from friends and family and you don't get to know your neighbors well, especially in a large city. It's lonely. But I have made many friends online some of whom I have become very close to, some of whom know more intimate details about me than my own sisters do. My friendships are important to me. Connecting and sharing with like-minded people is important to me so I will take it anyway that it comes. Recently, someone in one of the groups to which I belong posted a question something along the lines of: "I believe that everyone lies. Agree or disagree?" I vehemently disagreed. I never lie, I said to myself... and then I thought about it. A person who has NEVER shaded the truth would have to be perfect. And none of us is perfect. Whether they are "little white lies" or large, ugly falsehoods, if it's not the truth, it's a lie, right? Upon further reflection I'd have to say, "I have never told a large, ugly falsehood to anyone I cared deeply about." That's the truth.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hair Journey

For the past 15 years or so, I've been committed to maintaining my natural hair. After years of going through an endless cycle of perming / hair breakage / box braids to retain length / remove box braids, perm again and watch hair break off yet again, I decided to go for locs. LOVED them. But I didn't take care of them properly and in addition, a lot of stressful situations happening at the time caused my hair to thin and fall out at the crown. Bye-bye locs! Had to cut them off (sob, sniff). Still dealing with some stress but I've been taking much better care of my hair and some of the hair that fell out has regrown. Yay! Working on my second set of locs now and hopefully they'll grow as long as the old ones, but will be healthier.

I'm a member of a natural hair group on Facebook where members share ideas, photos, and suggestions and provide support for those who are having a hard time giving up the "creamy crack".

Sharing experiences with all these fabulous sisters inspired me to record my own hair journey thus far as I make my way back to the locs I feared I'd never be able to regrow. I need a new camera desperately; in the meantime, many of these images were taken with my phone. The quality isn't great but it's the best I can do for now. As Oprah (or someone else) once said, "White women obsess about their weight; black women obsess about their hair."


These are some of the weaves I wore between 2008-2011. The straight weaves probably looked better but I was always afraid of my edges showing during windy weather and I never felt comfortable with straight hair. Loved the curly weaves but unless you buy very expensive hair, curly weaves start to look kind of raggedy after a month or so. Sigh.



During a heat wave in the summer of 2011, I decided I was sick of weaves and was going back to my natural hair, no matter what. Didn't know if I could grow my locs back but decided I'd just have to settle on a twa (teeny weeny afro). I couldn't bear wearing a weave one more minute.




My hair is healthier than it once was but it's still slightly fragile and grows more quickly if it is in a protective style. I think I'm a bit too ...ahem... mature... for box braids but I heard about genie locs (yard braids) and decided to give them a try. I love them! From a distance, they look very much like my old locs. My first set of yarn braids were short with bangs but I redid them. The short ones kept flopping in my face so I did them thinner and longer so I can wear them up when the weather gets warmer. I plan to keep them in for quite awhile, maybe over the summer. We'll see.


Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why You Cryin'?

Comedian George Lopez does a hysterical routine called "Why You Cryin'?"... and I thought it would be appropriate for this post.

Been listening to a lot of R&B lately 'cause that's what they play in my office. Kinda cool. I like everything but R&B is always in the center of my musical heart.

Singer Anthony Hamilton has a new song out. I'd never heard of him until very recently and when I discovered him, I was in love. His duet with Jill Scott "So In Love" is fantastic and the video is even better!  They look like they're having so much fun! And his other song, "Woo" is also fabulous.  But the one in heavy rotation right now on WBLS is called "Pray for Me". The entire song is about this guy asking God to bring his baby back to him who left because he did something stupid.


 This song irks me. He promises he'll go to church, Jesus will be his best friend, yada, yada, yada... if God brings his baby back.

It reminds me somewhat of Tyrese's latest, "Stay", another song about a guy who fucked up and wants his baby back. That one is even worse because one of the last lines in the song is "What about married life?  You're supposed to be my wife..."  Excuse you?  You screwed up but you're gonna ask ME about 'married' life?

Why don't these men think about the consequences BEFORE they do these things, pray tell?  Yes, that's a rhetorical question.  But here's my view: Don't beg. You messed up, OK. You regret your assholic actions. OK. Tell me you're sorry, explain why you trampled my feelings, promise you'll refrain from repeating such monumentally stupid actions and then work on making things better.

But please stop cryin'.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What's Next

Starting a new blog is kind of like moving into a new apartment, isn't it?  You have to get a vision of what you want the place to look like. You have to decide what goes where.

First order of business, post a new photo. The one currently displayed is about 2 or 3 years old. I looove that photo. I consider myself the world's most unphotogenic woman and it took roughly 20 attempts to get that picture. And for once, I am NOT using hyperbole! Really, it took that long for me to get a photo I didn't hate. Anyway, my hair no longer looks like that. That's a weave, ya'll. My ongoing battles with my hair which I am calling Lucinda this week (yes, I named my hair. You got a problem with that?) will be chronicled on this blog along with my other stuff... but I'd like to start with a more recent photo. Will tackle this issue later this weekend.

Hello, World. Here's the Intro.

According to The Free Dictionary online, the word "hyperbole" is defined thusly:

hy.per.bo.le
n.
A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect, as in I could sleep for a year or This book weighs a ton
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

HyperboLEE. It's not a misspelling... it's a great idea suggested to me by my too-cool-for-school favorite daughter (ok, I only have one daughter!)

I'm talkative, expressive, love the English language, and tend to be a bit dramatic in my everyday speech... so my daughter and I were chatting one day and I started going on and on about something in my usual bombastic and colorful language. Sometimes I'm aware I'm a little over the top, but more often I have no idea. Examples, you ask?  I'll often say something like, "I've called the guy 77 times!" I haven't reeeeally called the guy 77 times but I have called him a LOT. I might say, "I worked at KeySpan a million years ago...." Well, come on, it couldn't have been an actual MILLION years ago now, could it?  Anyway, during this particular conversation, I kinda knew I was a little over the top and I laughed and apologized to my daughter, saying, "You know how I tend to express myself. I'm the queen of hyperbole!"  She laughed in response and said, "You know, Mom, since your name is Lee, if you ever start a new blog or website, that's what you should call it: "hyperboLEE".  I chuckled and thought, "What a great idea."

So. Here we are.