Friday, January 01, 2016

Standing Resolute

Some people say it's cliche to make a pile of resolutions especially if you can't keep them.  At the gym today, it was pretty full for a holiday, but I'm sure the crowds will drift away come February when folks escape the harsh cold for warmer climes or choose to hibernate instead.

For me, I've always been a goal-setter.  Even if I feel a bit short of an ambitious high bar, the results were generally admirable.  Often I find myself slacking or erring on the side of laziness when I should be stepping up my game and going all-out hardcore.  This year, I feel no different.  In fact, I want to set the bar really high to keep me focused and working hard.  My childhood love of Zelda and Might and Magic see these more as quests.  And they say that make a very public statement about your goals helps keep you accountable.  So here goes:

  • Finish small projects in my apartment, like the living room light fixture and the towel warmer
  • Save more money than last year
  • Read 35 books
  • Do some form of exercise every day
  • Unassisted pullups
  • Sub-2 half marathon
  • Face my fears and get my bike mojo back
  • Lose 10 pounds, some of which has creeped on with my new job (talk about cliche)
  • Complete Toughman
  • Visit Portland, Colombia, Cuba, Denmark, and Sweden
  • Get more serious about writing.  A family friend said to me on the phone, "you do so many interesting things.  Have you ever though about writing it all down?" Hey, why not?
  • Remember to take care of myself

May 2016 bring the realization of many of your own dreams.  At the very least, with the US presidential election, it's going to be one hell of a ride.  Please keep your hands and arms inside at all times and secure hats, glasses, and bags.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Open Letter to Random Drunk NYSE Trader at Dead Rabbit Last Night

Dear sir:

Allow me to recap how our exchange began, seeing as you appeared quite intoxicated. Earlier in the evening you told my companion she had beautiful eyes, and I asked your work colleague for two vacant barstools. That was the extent of our interaction.  So there I was, enjoying a drink with a close friend, minding my own business, when you and your associate started a typical bar chat.  This quickly devolved from the norm as something inspired you to want to talk politics.

Now, I tend to shy away from intense political discussion unless face-to-face with fairly close friends. However, I am happy to engage if the tone remains respectful and will go toe-to-toe when verbally assaulted. Perhaps I can give you some pointers so that the next unlucky victim you chat up doesn't walk out:

  • Reserve prejudging my political leanings and opinions based on my occupation. 
"Where do you work?
"A nonprofit."
"You must hate me."  
"Really? I worked in financial services for nine years, do I hate myself?" 
"You're a Democrat."
"Am I?"

  •  Start off with lighter topics. It's Thursday night, we are all trying to relax. For most people, that doesn't include statistics on crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Can I suggest how well the Mets are doing? 
[shooting sideways glances at my friend to save me, but our attempts to change the subject failed]
  • Review your high school biology textbook. 
"Lady, if you don't want to get pregnant, control your vagina."
Methinks that's under control if I'm thirty-something and childfree. Last time I checked, a man needs to provide a sperm delivery to conceive a baby. (NB: I passed the NYS Biology Regents with flying colors.) Control your penis, dickhead.
[asked for the check]
  • If I have a valid viewpoint, lashing out and calling me stupid is an ineffective debating technique. I will not be shamed for disagreeing. Don't tell me that your daughter will be smarter than me. Go live your values and spend time with her at home in Westchester rather than getting wasted and acting like an ass at a FiDi watering hole. 
[friend and I get up from barstools] 
  • Yelling at me to get the f- out of the bar only makes you look even more boorish. You claim your wife is "so happy", but if you treat her the way you interacted with me I would beg to differ.
You seem very angry and tormented. I hope you find something in your life that gives you peace and fulfillment. In the meantime, you are the reason this country is going down the tubes, as much as you want to blame our sitting President. I lament the loss of dialogue and finding common ground. Defunding Planned Parenthood will not restore the fabric of our society, minding your own business and your manners will. Gentle-man up.

"You are very rude and disrespectful."[exit]

Monday, June 08, 2015

Reunion, Take 3

In the blink of an eye another five years has passed, and the Class of 2000 made the pilgrimage up The Hill to relive our undergraduate shenanigans.  Though fewer took part than the five- or ten-year edition, there was a good turnout of old friends and new (to me) faces in Low Rise 9.  Made the drive up solo Thursday night with Spotify loaded for 240-mile trip from NYC and anticipation of fun times.

In short, the weekend included:
- corn nuggets at The Nines
- morning run up The Slope - feel the burn!
- Cafe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee - shout out to MFL and the fabulous trip to Vietnam we planned at the ten-year)
- saying hey to my academic advisor and talking about life post-ILR
- Junot Diaz keeping it real
- laughing at frat-tastic bruhs who snuck Mad Dog into the dining hall
- stealing wine from the lounge to drink upstairs
- snickering at same bruhs unsuccessfully kicking it to any XX chromosomes while wearing their wedding rings
- rained-out tents, whomp whomp
- Rulloff's, one of three bars left, and probably the only good scene left
- lamenting abovementioned changes in Collegetown
- Reunion 5k in the Plantations, including a warmup run there - kill me!
- morning coffee at Stella's
- aimless meandering around campus
- heel clicks with the saxes
- Chi-O Meetup at CTB
- Dino BBQ
- more tents, including lots of cutting the rug (grass?)
- late-night karaoke, where I may have put my hair in pigtails and sang a few bars of Baby One More Time

Driving two friends back made the trip home, including lots of bad drivers and the Tappan Zee/GWB traffic, all the more fun.  They may never want to ride with me again after hearing me sing along to my favorites.  If only I had the same company on the drive up.  No matter, I had a good amount of me-time on the trip, not only on the drive but also long walks reminiscing of the glory days of college.  The solo wandering gave me an opportunity to reflect on life and where I think I'm going, also considering some big decisions looming on the horizon.

Shattering the euphoria and sleep-deprived daze was sad news that a fellow alum and bandie died suddenly Sunday.  It is very trite and overplayed but still true that we don't appreciate the special times and the small moments until the carpet is ripped away from underneath us.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Thank God That's Over

Another year has come and gone.  It feels like each year passes faster than the previous, and in 2014's case I'm glad that it's over.  There were many ups and downs, trials and travails to struggle through.  It was not all down, and the troughs definitely helped me appreciate the bright spots and fun times with cherished friends and loved ones. In the past 12 months, I lost a friend/lover, my aunt, dad's cousin, and three former coworkers.  Throwing my back and my neck out right before the marathon was a double whammy that wounded my confidence and added five pounds to my midsection.  My problems are not as bad as others', and I know I should not complain.  It was also hard for some of my friends, with bad breakups and divorces thrown in the mix.  I think the ball drop this morning was a sigh of relief for many who fought through the curveballs life threw at us.

For the life of my home search, it seemed like my dream of finding a "big-girl" house would never be realized.  A year ago, I still hadn't closed, and even the closing was a nailbiter until the bitter end.  That experience taught me that having a strong advocate are absolutely key.  After that, the daunting task of renovating and decorating seemed to drag on.  At first I thought that painting and sprucing up would bring me and TT back together.  Unfortunately, it often felt like the apartment was more important than our relationship.  As a result, our separation turned into a full breakup, and I had to find a painter on a moment's notice.  Getting the other work done went from "two weeks" to three months when my contractor took a three-week-turned-five-week vacation.  There are still a few items I need to take care of, like a living room light fixture (and according to my mother, blinds in the sun parlor should be my highest priority).  The waterbugs have also diminished, although I've had two waterbugs get trapped in my bathroom light fixture and die - yech.  It feels like the apartment will always be a work in progress, but it's finally at a point where I can sleep, eat, cook, watch TV, work, and have friends over.  It's my sanctuary, my nest, my little slice of peace.

That peace has been desperately needed when I found myself single again.  Living at home again became very stressful.  Downsizing from an already small studio apartment to my childhood bedroom was very stifling, as well as navigating through my family's stuff and cope with the house breaking down piece by piece.  Having somewhere else to live couldn't have come at a better time.  It also became apparent this year more than ever that my parents are aging, and instead of leaning on them for help I now have to give them that support.  This very much hit home during my aunt's declining health and at her funeral.  During that experience I had to have strength to support my parents during their grieving.  In other areas, I had to put my big girl pants on and take on more things alone.  Instances like that made me wish I had a partner just to hold my hand, and I missed TT a lot.  The training wheels are off, I have to ride the bike myself now.  After my fall in Croatia and the month of agony while my forearms recovered, that is terrifying for me.

I'm grateful to have come out the other side stronger and in a better place.  Through many of these tough situations, I sought the humor and the positive side as well as a lesson.  My goal to face life with equanimity helped me ride the rough surf this year.  If I could name a resolution for this year, it would be fearlessness to continue pushing myself out of my comfort zone and tackle things that scare me.

May 2015 bring you the realization of your wildest dreams.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

DobrodoŇ°li u Hrvatsku!!

Everyone has been asking about my trip to Croatia in July. It has taken me a long time to get all my thoughts down mainly because I may have an exciting opportunity related to my trip. More on that when the time is right. For now, here's the short-short version:

Go. To. Croatia.

It's friendly, safe, relaxing, delicious, stunning, and less expensive than other parts of Western Europe.

Traveling solo, which I was encouraged to do by everyone except my mother, was treated strangely over there. Sometimes it allowed me too much time to think about stuff from which I was trying to distract myself.It was especially hard when I fell off my bike. You don't appreciate how much you use your forearms until turning a key or getting dressed is excruciating.

Despite the pain and the loneliness, I loved it. Would do it again, in a heartbeat. Book your trip before it is overrun with Russians, hipsters, and other undesirable tourists.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cold Shower, Warm Memories

While the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was intended to drum up support for research to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS for short, commonly known in the United States as Lou Gehrig's Disease), it has generated a host of mixed reactions.  Many have posted videos of themselves enthusiastically dumping large buckets of ice water over their heads and challenging others to do the same.  There has been a smattering who are sick of these videos clogging their Facebook and Instagram feeds. Others think charitable giving should be a private matter.  Some have even cited the disparity between donations to research organizations, which have spiked for ALSA since the challenge went viral, versus the number of deaths in the US from various ailments.  Pamela Anderson even went as far as to withhold her donation and instead challenge those conducting ALS research to halt animal testing.

I can see all sides of this scenario, although it baffles me why people would discourage any form of charitable activity or awareness building.  A few weeks ago I posted my own video, which I have since taken down because I didn't like how I looked and sounded.  My motivation to participate was not for recognition or trendfollowing but heartfelt.  

Just over six months ago, I lost someone very dear to me from ALS.  We first met at a training class for newly promoted Consultants and clicked instantly.  Yes, we were dipping quills in company ink, but our home offices were separated by the Atlantic Ocean and we were on assignments across the country from each other.  He was more than a colleague and occasional romantic interest, over time he became a good friend, confidante, and fellow funseeker.  

In September 2009 he was diagnosed, a month after the last time we were together in New York.  During the past four years I kept up with him on Facebook and Google Talk, sending pictures of travels and marathon medals.  When I knew I would be in Europe I would reach out to try to coordinate a visit, but between doctors vists, trips to Ayurvedic clinics in India, and bucket list vacations, we were not able to connect.  

The avid surfer, globetrekker, and guitar player I knew and loved became confined to a wheelchair, then lost the ability to speak, eat, and move.  Towards the end he would sleep with a ventilator and "type" with a special keyboard using his eyes.  He never lost his sense of humor.  Sometimes I wonder if he hesitated from seeing me because he wanted me to remember him before his diagnosis.  

Sadly, I did not get to see him before he left the earth.  His personality shone through at his funeral, where he asked close friends to "pimp his coffin" with photos of happier times. He had selected music as diverse as "Redemption Song", "Purple Rain", All Along the Watchtower", and "Lose Yourself to Dance".  I often found myself smiling through tears and thinking of that mischievous smile.  It blew my mind that he came to terms with his imminent mortality and was able to plan every detail of the memorial.  Now, when I hear a song that reminds me of him, or look at photos from one of our adventures, I laugh and feel a little wistful because I know his spirit is with me at that moment.

I wore a "patriotic" bikini top in my video in his honor.  Why did I do this, if not to give you lovers of the female figure something to ogle? When we first met, he asked me if American girls wear flag bikinis on spring break, to which I responded that I had never even seen one.  Sure enough, weeks later I texted him a photo of a mannequin in said bathing suit at a local boutique.   So I embarassed myself on Facebook to celebrate his thirty-eight-year life, keep the happy and playful memories alive, and tell a story of how ALS can impact not just the afflicted but also those around them.  

This is not meant to spur you to open your wallets or fill a bucket and ruin your clothes and your hair with it.  If anything, I hope you have learned a little bit more about this disease, gained a little more compassion for those who slowly and agonizingly slip away from their bodies as a result, and are inspired to reach out to your loved ones and make some happy memories of your own before it's too late. 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Finding Common Ground: SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Decision

There's been a whole swirl about the SCOTUS Hobby Lobby decision that compelled me to put some slightly disjointed thoughts down on the keyboard. I originally posted this on Facebook and got a bajillion comments, all very well-thought out and civil.  That gave me some hope.  As stable as we are politically that controversial occurrences like these do not devolve into rioting and senseless death, we seem to have lost our mutual respect and ability to debate an issue without resorting to personal attack and bloviating.  At least, I'm sure that's what space aliens must think from watching the plethora of news discussion shows that bombard us.  For whatever reason, the ability of Americans to find common ground.  I generally steer clear from wading into the cesspool of politically charged arguments and try to avoid wearing my politics on my sleeve/Facebook wall.  My preference is to deliberately consider all sides and have an intelligent discussion rather than get into shouting matches with people who refuse to listen to a carefully considered argument.  A good friend of mine whose writing I highly regard encouraged me to publish these thoughts as an op-ed.  Without ranting or being overtly partisan, here's some food for thought for those of you on both sides of the aisle:
1. Many women are prescribed oral contraceptives for medical reasons like severe cramps, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, premenstrual dysmorphia, etc. Many of these are serious conditions that are alleviated by the pill, allowing those afflicted to improve their health and potentially prevent losing their reproductive organs and therefore their fertility. I would hope that someone who is truly Christian would not jump to a conclusion that a woman on the pill does so simply for "recreational behavior" as Sen Lee from Utah stated, and would have compassion for someone's suffering.
2. Many married people use birth control, not just singles. Face facts, being able to plan a family by more reliable means than "the rhythm method" can be beneficial for both spouses. It's one of the factors that has allowed developed nations to achieve the prosperity they currently enjoy.
3. If you don't like Hobby Lobby's business practices, vote with your wallet and your feet. It is a for-profit company. Hit it where it hurts: don't work, shop nor invest there. There are many companies out there that have different policies. That's the beauty of living in one of the largest economies in the world. Do your homework. And if you agree, you are free to patronize them. Let the free markets sort it out.
4. Hobby Lobby invests in pharma companies that produce oral contraception. So it's ok to make money off of them, but not to allow employees to make a private decision with their doctor to use them. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone....

5. The four contraceptives in question are not proven scientifically to prevent implantation and work to prevent fertilization instead. Therefore they are not technically abortifacients. There is still the potential for implantation after taking these drugs if conception has occurred.  Yes, many people (including myself) believe that a life begins at the moment of conception.  Ask anyone struggling with IVF or other infertility treatment, and they will tell you that a fertiilized egg still has a difficult journey ahead between implantation and gestation to become truly "viable" 
6. Yes, the decision is structurally correct in the spirit of the interpretation of the law.  Judge Alito states that “it seems unlikely” that publicly held “corporate giants” would make religious liberty claims. However, his majority decision has kicked open the floodgates ifor a potential deluge of claims of religious freedom and violation of the RFRA by corporations on any number of hot button issues-vaccines, domestic partnerships, blood transfusion, organ transplantation, etc. It's a slippery slope. It's potentially good business for the appellate lawyers who argue these cases, but it could lead to a huge waste in taxpayer dollars for these cases to be heard.  It also raises concerns on where a corporate body's religious liberties end and an individual employee's begin.  Will we as a society become one where only Catholics work for Catholics, evangelicals for evangelicals, etc.?  It frightens me that we may self-segregate the way some neighborhoods in cities like Mumbai have.  One of the things I am proudest of living here is that people here are free to pray (or not) in whatever way they please, and we are all jumbled together.