Monday, August 04, 2008

New Digs

Buttercup has moved to a new, less purple location on wordpress. Email her at or check her out at: Buttercup In Gotham.

Monday, July 07, 2008


I'm in the process of figuring out a new direction for the blog, and possibly for me. While I ponder the possibilities and play with graphic choices, I'm taking my blog on a little hiatus. I expect we'll be back relatively soon, maybe not at this address, but certainly somewhere in the blogsphere. If I make a permanent move from blogger, 'll be sure to leave a forwarding web address.

Until then, enjoy the summer. I hope you find time to relax on a lake shore, sway on a hammock, and eat a few ice creams in the sunshine. That's what I've started to crave, more and more incessantly, here amidst the high-octane energy of Gotham. I love this city, but...

Saturday, June 07, 2008


I have a few moments to write because I just put my little nephew down for a nap. I calmed him, rocked him until he went to sleep, and then gingerly laid him down in his crib, holding my breath that he wouldn't wake up, and he didn't! He's all sweaty and adorable, knocked out for 20 minutes or so. Quite an accomplishment, Auntie, if I do say so myself.

I'm on baby-sitting duty with my mom (she does all the diapers) because my little sister just gave birth to her second child. I now have a niece! She's beautiful just like her brother. She's hanging out with her mom and dad in the hospital for a few days, so it's just me and my mom taking care of my nephew.

Having lived many years away from children, it's always astonishing, delightful, and eye-opening to be around them. How stay-at-home moms and dads do it is completely beyond me. How my little sister is going to take care of a one year old and an infant is beyond me. From the moment I've woken up, it's been (almost) all about my nephew. Me and my mom fed him, which was quite the experience, with him ending up covered in goo, and then we tag-teamed playing with him while first one and then the other showered and got dressed.

My mom vacuumed (vacume is such a strange word), cleaned up the kitchen, and made the beds while I rolled around with my nephew pretending to be a monster. I brought out finger puppets and he went angelically nuts, beaming and giggling and shrieking with glee trying to grab them all. His smiles are so sweet it's sometimes heartbreaking. For a while, I let him play by himself and watched as he picked up his toys one by one, mumbling shh-sing noises to himself. I tried to read some of my book, but kept looking up every few sentences. Moms of young children probably don't read a lot.

A few days ago, I was talking with my friends Em and Essa about leaving New York at some point in the future. I love the city, and right now the thought of moving away from it makes me feel like I would be carving out a piece of myself, so I'm not going to do it anytime soon. Maybe never, I don't know. During the conversation, Em said that no one should leave new york until they get to the point when they're really ready, because if they leave before they're done, they'll regret it. I'm not sure I'll ever be done with New York, so that leaves me in a bit of a quandary for the future (a quandary I suspect will work itself out eventually).

Playing with my nephew, I was thinking that a similar thing could be said about babies. You shouldn't have them until you are really ready. Right now, I still feel like I'm too selfish to have a baby. For example, I have stolen more than a few moments to read my book in between playing with him (stolen them from who? Him? Me?). Maybe that makes me a terrible Auntie? Or, maybe I'm just channeling mommy guilt and projecting it? Or, maybe I'm just being balanced about this? If I played with him 24-7, both of us would be too tired for anything else. It's OK for him to entertain himself, and it's OK for me to do the same. Balance. If I was a mom, I don't think I would play with my child 24-7 either. Who could? Instead, I imagine you do what my mom and I have been doing the past couple days, you work out a routine that works for you, try to keep the kids safe, if not perfectly clean, and you go with it.

Getting back to my nephew and new niece. They are so freaking cute. I feel really lucky to be an Auntie. Can't wait until Bean and the new baby come home from the hospital.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hostage In Legal La-La Land

I'm somewhere in the Midwest doing litigation training and I'm taking a quick break out of my mock-trial preparation to note that I would like the record to reflect that I would much prefer doing any of the following:

1) Riding my bike, with which I am still very much in love, all over New York. In fact, I'm going through withdrawal at the moment.

2) Pondering the existential crisis into which I threw myself after my retreat at the Chopra Center. The crisis being: What is my Dharma (i.e. "purpose and meaning" in life. Me thinks I must find it).

3) Meditating - I did not do my daily RPM today. Curse early morning flights! Or is it a lack of discipline, dedication, and organization I should be cursing.

4) Reading book 7 of the Anita Blake Vampire Chronicles. When last I left that marvelous world Jean Claude and Anita had kissed for the first time, after Jean Claude had taken a bubble bath just before "dying" at dawn. How hard could it be to find a human version of Jean Claude? Snap to it Universe!

The point, my friends, is that although this is a great training experience, and although I am grateful for it and will get as much out of it as possible - all caveats aside - I'd rather be doing something else at the moment.

If I only have one life, shouldn't I be spending as many minutes of it as possible doing something I want to be doing? Finding my Dharma. I can't even consider, however, these greater life questions because I have to go prep now. Duty calls.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

RPM (For Meditation)

How do I meditate? When do I meditate? How do I silence my mind? What do I do with the thoughts? These are some questions I have pondered during the last year. In it's most basic sense, mediation is sitting in stillness. Physical and mental stillness. One would think that sitting quietly would not have so much mystery around it, but it does. I want to know the "right" way to meditate. I want to know what to expect, how do I know that it's working, what's the proper way to sit, and again, what do I do with those incessant thoughts that poke up like an infinite supply of pink elephants the minute I start trying not to think of them?

This weekend, at a retreat lead by the Chopra Center, Renewal Weekend, I had some of those questions answered. They practice a type of mediation called "primordial sound meditation," where you meditate by repeating a mantra over and over again as a way to quite your mind chatter and allow you to go deeper within yourself. The three-party mantra starts with "om" and ends with "namah" (pronounced nemah), and has a sound in between that is your "seed," the vibration that the universe was making at the time of your birth. The Chopra Center has a computer that figures out your seed; without the computer program I'm not sure how to find out your seed, but I don't really think it's important. The important thing is to have a mantra, any mantra, but one that's a sound, not words with meaning that will create, rather, than still your thoughts.

In terms of how to mediate, the Chopra Center is big on comfort. There should be no discomfort or "trying" in mediation, according to Deepak. You are to sit comfortably and repeat your mantra. When thoughts come and you slip away from the mantra, gently drift back to repeating the mantra. The idea is to be gentle with yourself. There is no berating, no judging, no punishment. Just the mantra and gentle drifting back to the mantra when thoughts come.

In terms of when, one of the teachers, David Gi, gave us "RPM" as a meditation tool. RPM stands for: Rise, Pee, Meditate. Everyone rises in the morning, many of us pee, so we are 2/3rds of the way there. The third part is sitting down, even before you've brushed your teeth or gotten your caffeine kick of the day, and meditating for a half hour. Because a half hour is a lot, it might be too much at first. I made a commitment to try RPM for 20 days - until June 14th - and have done it for the past 2 days for about 15 minutes each. The idea is to create a stillness and silence within that you can take with you for the rest of the day into your relationships. So far, I think it's working today. I feel calm and well. It's nice.

For the afternoon meditation, David Gi gave us "RAW" - "Right After Work." Because I'm being gentle with myself and starting with baby steps, I'm not putting pressure on myself to do two meditations a day, but for the future it's something to think about. For now, I'm sticking with the RPMs. I have 18 more days to go. It's an experiment to see how I'll feel after 20 days of this. Anyone else want to try?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

White Noise

In honor of my new neighbor, a young pot-smoking guy just out of college who works in advertising and enjoys bringing over a steady stream of his pot-smoking friends to party on the balcony just outside my bedroom window on weeknights, I purchased this little white-noise number, the Marpac Sleepmate 980.

It's awesome. Although it doesn't fully eliminate the sound violations from my sphere of awareness, it does dull them enough so that I can reign in my anticipatory anxiety, slow my boiling blood, and talk myself down onto a calmer plane. Did you know that stress responses - like quickening blood, platelets getting sticky, and rapid breathing - increase one's susceptibility to disease and health challenges?

There's no need for me to outrun any saber tooth tigers, yet when I hear my neighbor at times when I don't want to hear him (when my need for silence and quiet goes unmet), I get stressed, and my body reacts just as it would if I had caught site of a tiger ready to pounce - albeit probably with much more anger and much less fear than if my neighbor actually were a bloodthirsty saber toothed tiger. Why is it that saber toothed tigers went extinct? Anyone know? I'm too tired to wikipedia it at the moment.

Anyway, getting back to the most terrific sound machine ever. It's fantastic and highly recommended. I keep it on the first setting to create a relaxed, noise muting environment. It's like a little white noise sound cocoon that envelopes and soothes, the effects of which are magnified by my earplugs (I can't quite break myself of that habit yet). Sensory deprivation. One day I'm going to go in to a dark sensory deprivation tank where I float on water in a wet suit that makes it impossible to feel the water, with ear plugs that make it impossible to hear, pitch blackness that makes it impossible to see, and no noise or smells. It would be awesome, and perhaps a little scary. It would have to be simple and easy to get out of instantaneously, or otherwise the anxiety would ruin the experience.

I'm tired and rambling slightly and clearly in need of my white-noise machine induced dream time. I'm on Book 5 of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Chronicles and continuing to voraciously eat them up one after another. All I want to say is that I love Jean Claude and Anita and can not wait until they get together. If I were Anita, I would absolutely choose Jean Claude over Richard. Richard is sexy but he's also kind of a pill. Jean Claude would totally take him. He's like Geoffrey from the Angelique books. Dashing, strong, and dangerously sexy, and a vampire to boot.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Killer Dream

I think the vampire books are getting to me (I'm on book 3). Last night, I had a nightmare where I was being pursued by a serial killer who may also have been dating my little sister. At one point, on a deserted rooftop in the middle of the night, the serial killer leaned over me, his heavy body pinning me to the ground, and said, as he stroked my lips with the flat of his thumb, "You forgive me. You're mouth will forgive me."

I was so happy to wake up alive, sans serial killer, - bob and all - I just lay in my bed for a few minutes at dawn, breathing deeply, filled with relief and gratitude. With no killer in sight, I can totally work this bob (thanks Starshine!).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Beckham's Bob

I do things sometimes, impulsively, and then sometimes I regret them. Sometimes I'm aided in these impulsive actions by scissor-wielding accomplices; they call themselves "hair stylists." Other times I do them myself, like when I was a second year college student studying for final exams and I went all OCD one procrastination-filled evening and started snipping the edges of my shoulder length brown hair.

By the end of that episode, four inches of hair lay limp and broken on the tiled bathroom floor, my hair just grazed the bottoms of my ears, and I still had a paper to write. I was not a pretty site. Thank god I was still in my tom-boy phase. The only thing worse than having hair shorter than my then boyfriend was a few months later when I was forced to appear in a hideous, poofy peach bridesmaid dress with my mushroom cap hair at my step brother's wedding. I was the only white girl in the bridal party and I did not do myself proud.

A month ago my hair was long and super annoying. So annoying that I booked myself an immediate appointment with my former hair stylist, blazed into the salon and instructed him grandly to cut it all off. Well, not all of it. Only about 5 inches. The intent was to transform my limp and lifeless locks, which I had become positive were pulling my face downward ever so unattractively, into a chic, flirty bob. For the first week after the cut, I couldn't have been happier. By week three - this week - my hair was beginning to annoy me. Rather than chic bob, I appeared to have been saddled with a matronly triangle cut, my hair plastered to my head, jutting out in a frizzy mess two inches past my chin. Ugh. How can a girl even consider taking up Internet dating again under these frazzled conditions?

So, I did what any quick thinking New York girl would have done in similar conditions. I called up my therapist's stylist - using a number she had given me weeks ago when I noticed her new fantastic hair cut (good stylists are almost as hard to come by as good apartments) - and took the first appointment she had available: 3:00 pm Tuesday afternoon. Even lawyers can play hookie when faced with an emergency situation. I have an event tomorrow night! Did I mention that my bike helmet had been exacerbating the triangular shape of my first foray in to the world of bob? Hideous.

The new stylist was great. Definitely more talented than my former stylist, and for that reason alone I might keep her, even though I'm not loving her most recent creation. She gave me everything I asked for, a style, a chic bob, a haircut with sophisticated flare, and she did it all with a dry-cutting, rapid-snipping technique that would have made Edward Scissorhands envious. The problem you ask? It's just a tad too short for my tastes. The kind of short that from moment to moment has me flipping between thinking "oh my god, it's an old woman haircut that makes you look like a boy - dig a hole and don't come out until it's grown out," to "omg, it's kind of cute and flirty, let me see it again from that angle, with that lipstick, with a little product, you could totally work it." I'm so torn.

Because burying myself like an ostrich is not an option, the only thing to do, like so often in life, is to fake it until you make it. I choose to imagine that it looks sexy and flirty and to wear absolutely fabulous earrings tomorrow night. For the record, I want to state that I did not, at any point in my discussions with my new stylist, request that she give me Victoria Beckham's hairstyle. But, that's what she did. Did I mention that my hair has not been this short in TEN years?

She should have given me Beckham along with the haircut. I would have been ever so much happier at the moment...

Stripper Names?

Do parents really need guidance regarding what not to name their baby girls so that they don't grow up to be strippers? Apparently, this site thinks they do. Sage advice from the site includes this gem:

"Baby Girl Names to Avoid: One of the biggest mistakes parents make when naming a baby girl is giving her a name that points her toward the pole. Avoid using car names. Mercedes isn't classy, it just sounds like someone trying to sound classy. Mercedes is, however, and excellent name for a stripper. Be careful naming your baby girl after some characteristics like Chastity. When you name your girl Chastity you are only making her a target and a challenge to dozens of high school boys in the future. "

Reading this, I feel like I'm listening to a spin-off of Chris Rock's HBO comedy special, which was hilarious. But he was making jokes. This appears to be serious. Strippers do not become strippers because of their names. It's not an accident. There are causes like abuse, exploitation, parental neglect, poverty, low self esteem, and a lack of other options. There is something really wrong about stumbling across cautionary information about strippers while innocently searching for a baby name.

Also, who made this site an expert on stripper names? And how sick is the world if naming a girl "Chastity" makes her a target for dozens of high school boys? If parents taught their sons to respect women, then women would not have to worry about whether they might one day be perceived as sexual targets, regardless of their dress, past sexual practices, current sexual practices, or their name.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

New Lovers

I did something totally awesome this weekend. After a year of fantasizing about buying a fold-up bike, I did it. I bought a Brompton - a top of the line folding bike - and it's hands down one of the coolest things I have seen in a long time. It's just shy of a full-sized bike, but it folds down into a square about 20 inches in diameter . I took my new baby (I go back and forth between thinking of it as my new baby and my new lover) to church, shopping, and then to the movies today. Everywhere I went, the stares followed.

It's hard not to stare at a 20-inch square contraption that folds out into a regular sized bike in 20 seconds flat. It's also hard not to feel like a suped-up technological bad-ass while unfolding the bike, particularly after just watching "Iron Man" and dreaming about being a superhero far far away from corporate America. I'm just being honest. I may not be a superhero, but I have a freakin' awesome ride now.

Since "Iron Man" came up, let me just say a word about Mr. Robert Downey Jr. I love him. Love, love, love him. On a serious note, I am happy he appears to have gotten himself well enough to make a terrific movie. He makes a deliciously entertaining and inspiring superhero. On a less substantive note, the man is beautiful. Deep, dark, thick-lashed eyes, wide shoulders, smooth muscles all over his back, arms and chest - strength with a dash of vulnerability and humor. I also have an unabashed weakness for perfectly manicured goatees. Pirates, the dessert warrior from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," Drummer, and my college boyfriend all played upon this weakness of mine. Sexy.

I could have watched him blow-torching together the parts of his "Iron Man" outfit for another two hours, easily. He's my new favorite superhero. He may even have unseated the Sayid-Jin-Sawyer triumvirate from their first place position in my fantasies. Nice work Mr. Downey Jr.

Getting back to real life, I'm planning to commute to work on my new baby tomorrow. I'm all geared-out, helmet and all. Green-house gases, boo-yah!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Old Maid Is Just A Card Game

A word about being single: Relative to stormy relationships, being single is fantastic. You get to do what you want, when you want, with whomever you want to do it with. You might not have the clouds bursting into rose petals around you, but you also avoid relationship-related pits of anxiety, uncertainty, and hurt feelings which can sometimes happen. Instead of the highs and lows, you have a more even-keel existence.

Feeling a little anxiety about being single, however, is sometimes unavoidable. For example, when a critical mass of your friends suddenly become engaged and/or married and you find your totally unattached self out at an event admiring everyone else's rings, it can be somewhat destabilizing. Don't get me wrong, I could not be more happy for my friends. Their happiness makes me happy; they're wonderful, they have wonderful men in their lives, and that's thrilling and exciting. But, to be perfectly frank, all those uniquely cut diamonds do make a girl just a tad self-conscious about her current lack of prospects. Not for marriage - just for men that she might be interested in.

This feeling is added to by comments from the peanut gallery, i.e. your family. Another example will be illustrative. The other day, I was talking with my father and sharing with him my excitement over a trip I am planning to Tanzania. The trip will include 11 days out on safari in 5-star camps and lodges, taking puddle-jumper planes in between camps, seeing lions, giraffes, elephants, and tons of other animals up close, and then a few days on the beach in Zanzibar. The trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I'm so excited about it.

My Dad asked me who I was going with and I told him it was one of my girlfriends who is a few years old than me. My father responded, "Oh, she doesn't have a boyfriend either?" I said, "Either?" I thought we were talking about my trip to Africa; I didn't realize were talking about my relationship status. That conversation was a few days ago, but it keeps coming back to me. It reminded me of a conversation I had with him while I was planning my trip to India last year. He said something to the effect of: You say you want a relationship, but you're not going to get it this way. Why don't you wait to go on these big trips until you have a boyfriend? At that time, we got in to a huge fight. Now that I'm more mature a year later, I just let it wash off of me, for the most part.

I know I'm single. I get it. I don't need comments implying that I'm doing something wrong just because I'm not neatly packaged away into a nugget of nuclear bliss. And let's just remember that I was in fact dating someone until 2 1/2 months ago. It's not like I sit up on a shelf twiddling my thumbs gathering dust bunnies around me. What is the point of criticizing me for doing something that I love (traveling)? If I was in a relationship and making the choice to travel on my own instead of nurturing the relationship - if I was really making a choice between (a) traveling and (b) relationship - then I could understand my father's comments. It's like he thinks I could make a worthwhile relationship materialize out of thin air at the snap of my fingers if I would just focus on it and stop flitting around the globe. Instead of using my coveted 4 weeks of vacation to do something fun and self-sustaining, I should apparently be directing all of my spare energy into hunting for men. Not.

The choice he imagines is not before me. I am not in a relationship. Going on a kick-ass trip to Africa is not going to limit my chances of getting into a relationship with someone eventually. Two weeks away from the New York dating scene is not going to destroy my relationship chances for life. Frankly, the way dating in New York can be sometimes, I might just have better luck bumping in to someone amazing outside of Manhattan.

The choice before me now is whether to (a) enjoy my life to the fullest or (b) feel sorry for myself. I like to enjoy my life, and I don't really have any reason to feel sorry for myself, so for many reasons, I choose option "A." All I can control is me, so I'm taking my single self to Africa. Because I want to, because I can, and because there's no one around to stop me.

The thing that really pisses me off about this is that there's no way my father (and probably most people) would have a similar view if I was a man. My brother Frey, who is one year younger than me, has a demanding job, just like me, and just like me spends his free time traveling. I don't believe my father has once said to Frey that he should focus more on settling down and less on enjoying himself. It is a total double standard based on this image of women turning into old maids if they're not married by the age of 30, and men becoming ever more sexy in their bachelorhood.

Well, fuck that. I passed my 30th birthday and my taxi did not turn into a pumpkin, and I don't think it's going to anytime soon, what with all the blessed cabs there are in Manhattan. Of course I could kiss a boy if I wanted to - most women could. But, I'm on a boy moratorium until I find something worthy of more than a roll in the shadows of a club. For now, I'm going to continue as I am: Yoga and meeting up with friends tonight, brunch, shopping, and going out tomorrow night, and Sunday to relax, run and enjoy the Park. It's not a bad life. It's actually quiet wonderful. It would be nice if the peanut gallery realized that.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Vampire Book Obsession

I'm obsessed. I picked up "The Harlequin," by Laurell K. Hamilton, quite by accident a few days ago. The main character is Anite Blake, a vampire hunter, necromancer, and - by the time of "Harlequin" - a lover of vampires and wereleopards, wolves, and lions. Cool female character, humor, hot vampires, magical powers, and masses of sex. For obvious reasons, I tore through it.

It wasn't until I had finished it that I realized "The Harlequin" was the 15th or so book in the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Novels and that there were 14 others that I had jumped over! I made a special trip to Barnes & Noble, couldn't find the first one, so settled on buying the second. I finished the second one and needed an immediate fix, so I went to a different Barnes and Noble and bought the first one. I read it last night, walking to work this morning on the sidewalks, on the subway, and in the elevator going up to my office. It was with extreme reluctance that I laid the book aside to begin my work.

When I was younger I read all of the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles and loved them, but until picking up the Harlequin I hadn't realized there was a whole genre of Sci-Fi/Fantasy that was Fantasy/Horror. Actually, I think it's quite unfair to put the Vampire Hunter novels in Horror. They're not "Horror" just because they have vampires sucking people's blood, rampaging zombies ripping people apart, or berserk ghouls... OK, maybe they are horror. I guess I like Fantasy/Horror Books (but not movies ala "The Saw"). Who knew?

Has anyone else discovered these awesome books? Other suggestions in the same genre?

Sunday, May 11, 2008


There must be something in the air because there have been a number of ex-sightings of late, not to mention some ex-play. I saw Drummer again a couple of weeks ago, in between being sick. In fact, he may have just given me my latest bug - a bug which I'm proud to say I beat off sans antibiotics and am now stronger for it. I'm not getting sick again this season. Period. We went to Beauty Bar and Snatchers down in the East Village and had some beers - the first beers I had had in almost a year. Apparently, I've turned in to a bit of a wine drinker. There was something about drinking a chilled $5 Brooklyn Lager that was unbelievably satisfying, and fun.

Perhaps too fun, because we ended up having a little sleep over and some smooching ensued. It was nice and comfortable in a way that I guess only making out with an ex-boyfriend who was cool can be. There was no awkwardness or anxiety. It was just pleasant. I'm not sure though that I'll repeat the experience because I think it's true that if you're directing your energy into the past, you're necessarily not opening yourself up the future, or even to the now. On the other hand, enjoying someone from the past in the present - with no concerns about the past and no anxiety about the future - is very much living in the present, so that' s OK. But, I think the whole "recycling" thing, even for an evening, can keep you stuck in the past, in a way that I don't want to be. I'm melancholy, sensitive, and nostalgic enough as it is - I don't need smooches with men of my past to mess with me.

And, if I'm honest with myself, though I did not want anything and still don't, mess with me it did. Not in a major way, but just a little. It's like a cove open to the Ocean that's been cordoned off by a deep wall of rocks piled one atop the other all the way up to the surface. The power of the open water is held at bay, the pressure remains carefully balanced as water passes back and forth between the cove and the open water, splashing and trickling over and between the rocks of the wall. A storm happens out in the Ocean and the wall protects the cove. But, the cove is only protected as long as the rock wall remains intact. Take a way a few boulders and suddenly a rush of open sea floods the cove, bringing with it pretty shells, pebbles, a different ph-balance, and, on occassion, a few sharks. My indiscretion with Drummer did not let a shark in, but it toppled a few boulders out of place. The wall was easily rebuilt, but the temporary break was a reminder that some things are probably best left out in the open water on the other side of the wall.

The other sighting wasn't really a sighting per se. I heard through the grapevine that my college ex-boyfriend is getting divorced. Totally unexpectedly, that news brought with it a small swirl of emotions. One of them was sadness. Sadness that we're all bouncing around this life like pinballs, running into one another, spending a moment here, a moment there, finding moments we think are special, building on them, and then watching them splinter apart. Sounds a little bleak and depressive, right?

I think I've been feeling kind of melancholy, and sure enough, the Capricorn horoscope on Facebook - an eminently dependable source - said today: "Capricorn, you're having a hard time shaking yourself out of your funky mood. Stay away from others so you don't bring them down." Thanks, Facebook. My little sister, Bean, echoed Facebook when she said to my Mother, upon hearing (a) that I had smooched Drummer and (b) that I was sick again: "Buttercup's got to stop kissing boys." I think there might be some truth to that. It might just be time for a Boy Moratorium.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Tea Time

One summer during law school, I went to Cambodia to work for an organization doing poverty reduction and women's rights work. I fell in love with Phnom Penh, the French colonial architecture, the rubble strewn streets, and view from the F.C.C. looking out over the steamy Mekong River. Phnom Penh is an eclectic mix of the old and the new, with pockets of modernity catering to the expat community at phenomenally low prices, with exquisite attention to detail. Coffee and tea served in blue and white china, a flower petal decorating a lunch plate, the lazy hum of ceiling fans stirring the hot, humid air, and sunlight streaming through bamboo shades.

After spending 2 months in Cambodia, I traveled to other parts of South East Asia with my friend Wood for about a month. We went to Siem Riep and saw the ancient majesty of Angkor Wat - massive temple complexes rising up out of the jungle, covered with intricately carved dancing girls that make the Mayan ruins in Central America look like nothing more than melted sandcastles. From Angkor Wat, we went to Hanoi and shopped among its crooked, curving streets, and then went to see the tomb of Ho Chi Minh. Over Ho Chi Minh's tomb gleamed the red symbols of communism, but out on the streets North Vietnam was humming with Capitalism. Hawkers selling trinkets on the street, shop's bursting with goods for sale, gellato parlors, books, handmade silk dresses, leather goods, metal work, fine jewelry, and delicately beaded bags. Hanoi was completely different than anything I had ever heard about Vietnam. It's a shopping Mecca.

From Hanoi, Wood and I traveled to Southern China, where we spent two weeks exploring the picturesque mountain towns of Dali and Lijang, and some larger cities in the Yunnan Province. I had no idea that China was so vast. At one point, I took a 12-hour bus from one point to the next and for hours saw only fields and grass; it was like Kansas, but in China. In Dali, a city smack in the middle of the backpacker's route, we had chocolate banana pancake and peach lassies, almost every morning.

Lijang was my favorite. It was a fairyland set up in the mountains, ringed with fields of giant sunflowers, its buildings fashioned in the traditional Chinese style, its streets dotted with red lanterns in the evening. Wood and I stayed in a guest house run by a family who lived on the premises. Our room was simple and white - white walls, white sheets, and white frosty air in the mornings before the sun's warmth penetrated the stones. Between our two beds was a small table upon which stood a large metal thermos painted with pale pink flowers. Each morning and evening, the guest house refilled the thermos with tea. It was wonderful. So soothing, relaxing, and comforting, and such a hospitable touch. To the Chinese, it was normal, but to me it was special.

Today, at the office, instead of filling up my french press with coffee, I filled it with hot water and dropped in two tea bags of green and black tea with an essence of peach. Sipping the tea and refilling my mug, in between working on my document this morning, I found myself smiling, remembering sipping tea up in the mountains of China with Wood.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Friends + Fun = Drinks

This week, I met up with my friend Pas from D.C. on one night, and my friend Bug from A2 (Ann Arbor for the non-Michiganders out there) on another. Pas was up in New York for work and Bug was back here visiting folks. I feel so lucky I got to see both of them. It's one of the perks of living in New York: People come to you.

My current interest in detoxification (I have another class tonight on detoxification taught by the Chinese herbalist), did not stop me from imbibing a number of toxins. I was celebrating, my friends were in town, how often do I get to see them? You want to prolong the enjoyment of their company and the wine tastes good, so you have another. It's not like I fell off the proverbial wagon. I had two glasses of wine on Tuesday and two glasses of wine + a beer last night. But still, that's 5 drinks already this week. Assuming I have at least 2 drinks on Friday and Saturday, that could easily get me up to almost 10 drinks in one week purely on a social (not-partying) basis. The numbers - and the toxins - can really wrack up.

To counter the toxins, I sometimes alternate between drinks and a glass of club soda with lime. As long as you have a glass in your hand, no one notices (or cares) what's in the glass, but your body notices because you feel a shade better in the morning than you would have had you not alternated. Last night, of course, I didn't alternate. I had a glass of pinot, a syrah, and then a stella artois. I came home and guzzled a glass of water and 2 motrin, channeling my high school days. I also ate some granola to sop up the alcohol, although I'm not sure that was necessary or useful. I feel fine this morning except that my stomach feels like I have a wet clump of clay sitting in it, my mouth is a little dry, and I'm tired. It's just no longer worth it to feel even a twinge of hung-over. It's like a wet blanket dragging across the dirty ground on an otherwise perfectly lovely summer day. This must be because I'm in my 30s, or maybe it's just the effects of having a more healthy lifestyle. It's the whole Princess and the Pea effect.

In any event, I had a terrific time seeing both of my friends, and I wouldn't trade a minute of it - or a drop of the toxins.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Chinese Medicinal Detox

In keeping with my current detoxification kick, I'm taking a 4-session class on detoxification taught from the perspective of Chinese Medicine. I'm quickly learning that the amount of knowledge out there on detoxification is staggering. There's ancient sources of knowledge like Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, more modern holistic approaches, and there's also, of course, Western Medicine/Science. They all have their own particular spins on detoxification, but they also have similarities that run through them.

In the second session of the Chinese Medicine class, the instructor looked at all of our tongues and categorized each of us as belonging to 1 of 4 constitutional types. (It was quite bizarre, but cool). He told me I was "definitely a 3," which is normal heat (or yang) but deficient yin. In order to increase my yin, I need to eat cooling, moistening food, and along with that I am supposed to eat "salty" foods like fish and seaweed (both of which are apparently cooling and moistening). Everyone in the class, regardless of their constitutional type, is supposed to reduce heat by eating bitter foods - many of the same foods that are known for their detoxification affect.

I also learned that the liver has two phases of detoxification. In the first phase the liver and its enzymes activities the toxins, in some case making the toxins - which had just been floating around the body or hanging out in the body's fat layers - toxic. In the second phase, the liver and its enzymes grab hold of the toxins and usher them out of the body. In order for the body to effectively eliminate toxins, both phases must operate efficiently.

When people go on dramatic fasts such as multi-day juice fasts or programs like the master cleanse, phase 1 is kicked in to high gear and masses of toxins are dumped into the body. This is why, for example, when fasting you often get a headache or suffer symptoms like exhaustion or weakness. There are simply too many toxins flooding the body for the body to grab and eliminate. I had often thought that using colonics or enemas to purge the bowel would effectively rid the body of the toxins released through fasting. However, according to the instructor of my Chinese Medicine class, purging the bowel just purges the bowel, it does not eliminate all of the bodies toxins.

What's the solution? It's quite interesting because it's based on providing the body with the nutrients it needs to support phase 2 activity. So, instead of forcing the body into a crisis state by depriving it of nourishment through dramatic fasts, a more effective way of ridding the body of toxins is apparently to nourish it so that it can operate the way it was designed to at the most optimum level. By the way, I believe that limited fasts of a day or so are beneficial for the body, mainly because it gives the digestive system a break, but that's different than a multi-day fast that, in addition to providing the digestive system with a rest, could cause a mass release of toxins.

It makes sense that gentler release of toxins into the body, one that the body could manage, would be better than suddenly releasing years or months of built up toxins. It's a like a stream with a few pieces of garbage floating on its surface. Standing on the edge of the river, you could easily fish out the individual pieces of garbage as the floated by. However, if someone upstream were to crack open a massive damn holding back a junkyard full of trash, your efforts to fish out the garbage as it floated by would be completely overwhelmed because of the sheer mass of garbage. The garbage would get by you and end up polluting the areas downstream.

It's the same with the body. We have to get the toxins out of the body, but we have to do it in a slow, steady, and sustainable way, rather than a sudden and dramatic manner. What I love about this approach (found in Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and holistic healing theories, but lacking in Western Medicine) is that it emphasizes harnessing the body's own power to heal itself. It's not about prescribing a pill here or a shot there; rather, it's about providing the body with the proper nourishment it needs to thrive.

Does this new knowledge mean that I've cut out all stimulants and other inflammatory agents and switched over to a strict diet of moistening, cooling foods? No, not by a long shot. But, I am becoming more conscious of my body's needs, and the way my choices regarding what I put in my body affect it, and I'm starting to make small changes. Change starts with awareness, and that's where I'm at at the moment - becoming more aware.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Doing some grocery shopping the other night in the natural food market near my house, I discovered these "goodbelly" pro-biotic and nutrient packed fruit juice shots. The last two days, I brought them to work and had them as a snack, once in the morning, and today in the afternoon. They're tasty, only 50 calories, and my stomach feels terrific. Not stressed out, tight, or uncomfortable in any way.

It could be that my stomach feels so great because I've been doing very little work today, focusing instead on signing up for holistic health classes and catching up with friends (a girl has to have her social life!), but it's also possible those little goodbelly shots work. I'm all about promoting digestive health, so I think I'll try a few more days with the shots and see how my tummy feels. Apparently, a lot of dis-ease starts in your digestive track, so if you have issues there, it's important to address them, and things that increase digestive health are a plus.

Not for nothing, I couldn't help but notice that goodbelly is made by Swedes. Figures.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sayonara Starbuck's (and Plastic Bags)

Yesterday was Earth Day 2008. (You know what is really amusing? My first attempt at writing that sentence came out like this: Yesterday was Earth Day 2002. Temporary Brain Glitch). In any event, as I was saying, yesterday was Earth Day. Did you participate? Take any eco-friendly action, become more eco-conscious (like learning about sterile "terminator" seeds engineered not to reproduce themselves)?

I'm excited and proud of myself because I implemented two changes this week to reduce my Ecological Footprint. Both of them are just little things, but they're positive steps in the right direction. Thinking about climate change, air pollution, disappearing bees, bats, tuna, and wild salmon, and the type of massive change and international cooperation that is going to be necessary to save the planet (and us) is too overwhelming. But, thinking about the little things each of us can do, step by step, to contribute to a more positive world, is totally within the realm of the possible. Here are the 2 little things I started this week:

1) Carrying a small reusable bag in my purse: I have an adorable little vinyl bag that I can fold up into a tiny square and keep in my purse. I've started carrying my breakfast to work in the bag, and also using it at lunch when I go out and buy a sandwich. Instead of using the paper or plastic bags all the lunch places automatically pack your food up in, I use my own bag (and even sometimes carry my co-workers food back to the office). It also comes in handy if I pick up something little - food or other things - after work. On Monday, I had a totally plastic-bag-free day. I want to build up to plastic-bag-free weeks, and eventually go totally plastic-bag free. That's one of my goals for this year.

2) Saying sayonara to my daily cup of Starbuck's: My friend Sage had the brilliant idea (she does it every day) to bring a french press to work and to store loose-leaf tea and coffee at her office. Each morning, she makes her own coffee or tea at work and uses a real mug. I've had quite a long love affair with Starbuck's but it's time to say goodbye. The coffee is not that good, it's an unnecessary expense, and most importantly, I generate unnecessary garbage by patronizing them. At a cost of $2 per cup, I spend at least $480 per year on Starbuck's, and toss at least 240 paper cups into the trash every year. That's horrible! I want to clean up my own act and start living in a more sustainable way. Today, I'm happy to report, I used no disposable items to make my coffee, and it tasted quite good!

What eco-friendly little things do you do? What could you do?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ayurvedic Doshas

I've been reading about Ayurveda lately, and I'm finding it fascinating. Ayurveda began initially as a means towards facilitating attaining enlightenment. Yogis seeking enlightenment couldn't get there with their heads aching, stomachs grumbling, and skin itching, so Ayurveda developed as a way to get the body in order. In the mind-body-spirit connection, Ayurveda focuses on healing the body so that you can be free to heal your mind and spirit.

Within the 5,000 years of Ayurvedic knowledge is lots of practical health information and wisdom. It starts with determining what of the three Ayurvedic doshas is most prevalent within you. You can think of a dosha as an element. According to Ayurveda, three elements make up the human body - Vatta, Pitta, and Kapha - and each person has a main body type that is one of those three elements. The dosha body types, in turn, have general guidelines for maintaining health and balance through such things as food choice and lifestyle. Permeating all of this is a sense of mindfulness and balance - two things I have come to believe are essential and highly desirable in life.

I, apparently, am a Vatta. I'm also apparently a Vatta with a Vatta imbalance (although I'm working to balance out!). I have a little bit of Pitta, and almost no Kapha. Vattas are air; they are in their heads, very sensitive, constantly thinking, obsessing, feeling anxiety. Vattas in balance are all of those things, but enthusiastic and grounded, something they can achieve through grounding activities like yoga and meditation.

Reading about Ayurveda and Vattas has been like an unfolding revelation. It's put the last couple of years, where I was so clearly out of balance, and then the last year where I've been working on attaining balance by exploring practices like yoga and meditation into perspective. One way of looking at it is to say that I have been trying to balance out my Vatta - unknowingly - by adding more Kapha (basically, chillness) into my life. I'm just an Ayurveda baby, so there's lots more to learn, but so far I think it's pretty freakin' cool.

Don't you want to know your Dosha? Take this quick quiz and find out. Namaste.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Guilty Pleasure

I read recently that a good line to use when meeting someone for the first time is "what's the most embarrassing song in your Ipod?" I'm not sure about that, but the question made me ponder what I had in my Ipod.

My current response to the question, hands down, is currently Miley Cyrus's "See You Again." I discovered it this weekend when I was trawling the apple store looking for new running songs, and since then have listened to it running down the East River, commuting around town on Sunday, and before Court this morning to psyche myself up. Yes, it's by a girl half my age. Yes, she has a show on the Disney Channel. Yes, I'm pretty sure she lifted the main base line from the 80s classic "I wear my sunglasses at night" (she didn't know! she wasn't born then).

Despite all of that, the song is unequivocally awesome. I dare any of you to listen to the song and tell me otherwise.

Here's a snippet of the lyrics:

The last time I freaked out, I just kept lookin down
I st-st-stuttered when you asked me what I'm thinkin bout
Felt like I couldn't breathe
You asked what's wrong with me
My best friend Leslie said, Oh she's just being Miley
The next time we hang out, I will redeem myself
My heart can't rest til then
I can't wait to see you again

You really can't get the full effect without listening, so take a listen. It's addictive.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Commute Enhancing

Many months ago, my friend Simone bought me the book You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise Hay. The book, in the vein of The Secret, but more practical and how-to oriented, is about the power of your thoughts to create your future - the power of thoughts to create your reality. It starts with recognizing negative thought patterns, moves to identifying where the negative thought patterns and beliefs came from, and then moves into how eliminate and release them from your mind.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book to me is the author's conviction that releasing negative thoughts, and replacing them with positive affirmations, can actually heal the body of illness and disease. That idea sounds far out there in a way, but it appeals to me because I do quite strongly believe in the mind-body-spirit connection. It makes sense to me that if your mind is filled with negative thoughts and negative energy (which I felt like my post of yesterday was a bit), those thoughts and energy could impact the health of your body in a negative way. Conversely, if your mind is full of positive energy, it seems eminently sensical that the energy could have a positive effect on your body, whether its boosting your immune system or creating more dramatic types of healing.

When Simone bought me the book, I was genuinely interested in reading it, and I had a sense that messages that I was ready to hear and learn awaited me in the book's pages. But, life, work, and relationships all proved distracting (sometimes pleasantly so, sometimes stressfully). In my moments of free time, instead of picking up You Can Heal Your Life, I found myself gravitating towards other books, mainly in the contemporary fiction genre, like Wind Up Bird Chronicles and Kafka On The Shore (both of which I really liked, and would recommend).

A few days ago, however, I had a brilliant idea: Buy the book on tape! Or, more precisely, buy the DVD of the book, and download it onto my Ipod. Really, I have to give Bacchus some of the credit for this brilliance because, for Christmas, one of the things he asked for were books on tape. He's very busy with his work and spends a lot of time in the car, and wanted to use that time in productive, mentally-enriching way (or, maybe he just wanted to read Ulysses). I thought it was cute of him, but didn't think to apply it to me, because I really enjoy the act of holding a book and reading it. That's how I like to experience books.

"Self-Help" books are different than novels and other types of books. Novels, I like to escape into. I like to fully absorb them and allow them to fully absorb me. With self-help books, you're not escaping into a different world, you're opening yourself to listen to lessons, messages, and tips - things that, I have found, are sometimes better in small doses. Hence, listening to them in small pieces on the way to work, on the subway, and waiting in line at Starbuck's all work perfectly! (Btw, I don't really like the "self-help" term, and I'm not sure if it's the most appropriate term. On the other hand, any books trying to help you grow as a person are, at their core, about helping you help yourself, so maybe it is an accurate term?).

The last two mornings, I've really enjoyed my walking-subway-in-line-for-coffee commute listening to You Can Heal Your Life. I'm about half way through and I'm finding the book full of useful information and positive, self-affirming messages. I'm really excited about the book, and I'm super excited about this "new" way of using my Ipod and making the most of my morning commute.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cascade of Events

A cascade of unfortunate events, that's how I would describe the last month and a half. It started with the Italian Man - after 3 relatively terrific months (and fantastic sex) - flaking out and me breaking things off with him. Great sex and getting wined and dined and driven all over New York were fun, but, in the end, they were not worth me sacrificing my self-respect (obviously), so I had to give him the figurative boot.

Even though it was ultimately my decision to end it, it was still a little disappointing because - up until the point where he showed a side of himself that I had not seen before - I had really started to like him. I guess that's why we date though, to come to know people over time, and to learn more about what we want and need out of a partner, and what we want out of ourselves.

While that situation was playing itself out, I came down with MRSA, a staff infection resistant to normal antibiotics that is apparently raging through the gyms and public transportation systems of New York right at this very moment. (Watch out!). After a series of doctors, I finally found an infectious disease doctor who diagnosed me correctly and prescribed me with super sulphur-based antibiotics to combat the MRSA. Things seemed to be looking up. It turns out, however, that I'm allergic to sulphur-based antibiotics, and as a result, I had a rather extreme allergic reaction to the antibiotics which lasted for almost a week (because I had no idea I was feeling so gravely ill from the antibiotics - I thought it was the MRSA). By day 5 on the pills, I was so sick -- from days of fever, chills, a constant headache, no appetite, and physical exhaustion -- that I felt too weak to roll over in my bed to have a drink of water.

Thankfully, I had done some research on the web on allergic reactions to sulphur and by day 5 got suspicious enough so that I stopped taking the medicine. Within 24 18 hours of taking the last pill, I -- almost immediately -- started feeling remarkably better. It was kind of amazing how quickly I started to improve once the medicine started to clear out of my system. My infectious disease doctor, when I finally was able to reach him, confirmed that I was having an allergic reaction, applauded me for stopping the medicine, and prescribed new non-sulphur-based antibiotics.

I got better just in time to work like a dog (where does that expression come from? poor dogs) for a few days before leaving for a brief trip to Mexico, which was supposed to be a relaxing, rejuvenating mind-body-spirit vacation. The vacation itself did not live up to my expectations, but I think the real problem was that I had a number of huge deadlines scheduled for the week immediately following my vacation. Thus, I wasn't really able to decompress fully while in Mexico. I found myself walking down the beach, after just checking my blackberry, trying hard not to think about work, but unable to clear my mind. I learned some valuable lessons, of course, such as the importance of not scheduling anything, if you can help it, for the week after your vacation. It almost totally defeats the purpose getting away, when you're unable to mentally get away because of what's looming on the horizon.

Since coming back from Mexico on the 4th, I've been working non-stop, around the clock. Although I had expected things to be busy, I had no idea just how intense work was going to be. Twelve days without a break is not fun, let me tell you. Walking through the office at midnight the other night, glancing out the window at the twinkling buildings, I was suddenly brought back to a year ago, at my old firm, when late nights were the norm. It was not a pleasant memory, and I most certainly do not want late nights to become a norm once again. It's also hard feeling so disconnected; from friends, from myself. When I go through those phases, where it's work and work alone 24/7, all of the other things that make up my life - the things that matter in my life - fade away into the background and lose them, temporarily. I lose touch with my life.

As you can tell by this post, now I have a bit of a break. I finished a huge project yesterday afternoon and went to therapy for the first time in weeks. I caught up with a few friends and family members over the phone, and am now catching up through writing this. I'm going to Swedish class tonight for the first time in weeks, and aim to go to they gym tomorrow night - again, for the first time in weeks (more like months). I'm crawling out of the cocoon, as it were, bit by bit. Cocoon is really not an accurate metaphor. Swirling sandstorm of chaos filled with asteroids and other dangerous objects would be a better one. Deep, dark pit also comes to mind.

In any event, where ever it is that I've been, I've started climbing out of it. Yay! Here's to hoping the end of the week brings more sleep, friends, connections, and better health (for me, and all of you). Cheers.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Absolut Says "Bite Me" America

Oh, you crazy Swedes, now you've gone and done it. With your off-kilter sense of humor you went from vodka to immigration and allegations of anti-US sentiments in 1.2 seconds flat. Didn't anyone ever teach you not to mix stiff drinks with politics?

It's very amusing to me that Absolute picked Mexico as the focus of its ad. Seems like they could have picked just about anyone who has lost in history and plucked on their nationalistic heart strings: The Aztecs before the Spaniards; Native Americans before the Europeans; Palestinians before Israel; Israelites before the Diaspora; Russia before the end of the Cold War; Vietnamese before the Vietnam War; Koreans before the Korean War; Pakistanis and Indians before the British; Africans before cololialism; and the list goes on and on. And let's not forget the Vikings before they calmed their sea-faring ways.

I don't believe for a minute that the Swedes are conducting a not-so-covert advertising blitz aimed at encouraging Mexican nationalism and drumming up anti-US sentiments. Probably, someone at Absolut just came back from vacation in Tulum where they fell in love with Mexico and happend to pick up an inspiring old map of the region. History is interesting, after all. I for one have an old map on my wall of centuries ago when the Swedes ruled huge sections of Denmark and Norway (Go Swedes!).

Some things really should not be taken so seriously. I mean, really, don't the people worried about the US's reputation have bigger things to worry about? Isn't there a war going on?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Maya Tulum, Maybe Not

For anyone out there considering a "mind, body, spirit" vacation at Maya Tulum, down in Tulum, Mexico, I would advise you to reconsider. Having just come back from Maya Tulum, I can report that the beach and facilities were great, but the mind, body, spirit program left a lot to be desired - mainly because, with the exception of two mediocre yoga classes a day that left me more annoyed than relaxed, there was no "program" of which to speak. It was more like a regular old resort than a wellness program.

In addition, the place was managed very poorly. The general manager told us he had just fired a large group of his staff, so it's possible Maya Tulum was just having a bad week. That might explain the waiters that could not understand our orders, the long delays in getting served at meals, and the general lack of organization. It does not, however, explain the lack of seamless-ness that characterized my experience there. For example - this is a small but telling detail - breakfast was not served until 8 am each morning, the same time as the morning yoga class began. That meant that each morning you had to think about when you were going to eat, because it hadn't been organized sensibly beforehand.

When you go on vacation - particularly one you intend to be a wellness vacation - you don't want to worry about anything. You want to lay back, do you your yoga, and revel in positive energy. When things run seamlessly, you don't have to think about anything other than how beautiful the water is, and whether you want to attempt a head stand in yoga class.

Although I still had a wonderful time despite some of the sub par elements, I would not recommend Maya Tulum. It pales in comparison to last year's Bikini Boot Camp at Amansala, a place I would unequivocally endorse which left me feeling mental, physically, and spiritually rejuvenated (and totally blissed out). I do have to give props to one thing at Maya Tulum, which rocked over Amansala: the spa services. Fabian, Leo, and Sergio rocked my world in terms of providing fantastic drool-worthy massages and body treatments. I've been missing them big time since returning to my hunched-over office quarters.

I would suggest staying at Amansala and then walking down the beach for a few body treatments at Maya Tulum during your vacation. Also, stick with the male masseuses. Sorry lovelies, but unless you know the woman you're getting can channel some serious strength, and assuming you like a firm, hard rub-down (and who doesn't), I would say the male masseuses are a safer bet than the women.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Decluttering Obstacles

I'm hunkered down in my office, where I've been since returning from Mexico on Thursday, working on a deposition outline. It's slow going. Compiling my potential exhibits and drafting my questions is like wading through molasses. I have to keep reminding myself that, come Wednesday, life will once again return to a state of relative calm. Relative being the operative word, because actually April is shaping up to be a rather busy work month. Rather too busy for my tastes, I must say.

Oddly, the major thing I wish I was doing right now, instead of sitting in my office, is working on my room. About a month ago, I was suddenly hit with the all-encompassing desire to finally, once and for all, organize my existence. I had made valiant efforts at cleaning up the clutter in the past - purging - but they had been short-lived and stunted in terms of the scope of my goals. It's like, prior to a month or so ago, I couldn't really see the clutter that was surrounding me. It didn't bother me. I saw it as a positive personality trait: I was laid back, not anal, able to exist and focus in the midst of seeming chaos.

But, then a flip switched. I confess that I think it happened in part after I spent some time at the Italian Man's place. His place was so perfectly ordered and quite beautiful. His bathroom was sparkling and spotless, his kitchen was bright and airy, his bedroom was minimalist (the bed was - not surprisingly - the height of comfort). All of his furniture was nice wood, not a scrape in sight, and his apartment was decorated with striking pieces of art. In short, his apartment was put together and adult. It also was inviting and had nice energy. When I went over there the first time, I couldn't get over how nice it was, and I felt a little like a kid playing dress-up - pretending I was an adult in such an adult environment.

Then I started thinking of my place, and how, for the past two years, I had been living temporary states of limbo, first after I moved in to EXBF's place and had to give up my gorgeous studio and put most of my things in storage, and then after I moved in to my current place under an illegal sublet situation. In the beginning of March, my living situation changed for the better. I got to stay in my place as a legal tenant and because of how everything worked out, the management company loves me. Always good to have the management company on your side. In short order, I had the management company fix my shower and take care of the mouse that had been plaguing my existence. And then, just in time for Spring Cleaning, I threw myself in to ripping out the old, spackling, and painting (as some of you saw in my partial before and after pictures).

Since that switch flipped, it's all I've been thinking about. I've opted to forego drinks in favor of staying home and working on my IKEA wardrobe. Walking down the beach in Mexico, I felt a compulsion to be back home, getting my things in order. Last night, I dreamt about my furniture and how I'm going to organize my t-shirts and work shirts. And, now, today, while I should be focusing on this massive project I need to get done asap, I'm twitching in agitation, wishing I was back at home sorting my belongings into "keep," "toss," and "goodwill" piles. Twitching in agitation. I'm obsessed.

I have an obsession and work is keeping me from it. I feel like I'm chomping on a bit and can't go anywhere. On a positive note, I have made a lot of progress, and when I'm all done, I believe I will have transformed not only my physical space, but also at least part of my mental space. I think that's why I'm so obsessed. The curtains have parted and suddenly all I can see is how essential it is to make my environment mirror the calm I want in my mind. It's kind of cool - and very uncharacteristic of me - be obsessed about this. I'm excited by it.

Now, if only I didn't have to do this work... I have important things to do!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Canaries In The Caves

According to the New York Times, something mysterious is causing bats to die off by the thousands. Bats, who are supposed to hibernate during the winter and stay safe in their caves during the day time, have been spotted flying out of their caves in daylight, and even during snowstorms, only to fall to ground and die. Many of them are covered by a white fungus that biologists think might be a secondary effect of whatever is causing the deaths. In one cave, the population dropped from over 15,000 bats to 1,500 bats in approximately 2 years.

Bats dying is bad news for humans. Bats eat insects, and without them chowing down it's probable that insect infestations could cause big problems for humans, not just at dusk on summer nights, but to some of our major food sources. The ecosystem is so complex, there are also a myriad other consequences of a potential bat extinction of which we are not even aware. What I find even more disturbing than all of that is what the (potential) mass extinction of any species says about the health - or lack thereof- of our ecosystem, the one we live in with the bats. If things are out of balance, if there are new predators out there that are causing mass extinctions to one species, it's only a matter of time before we are affected.

Take for example the case of CA MRSA, a virulent staph bacteria that can lead to death in 1 out of 5 cases, resistant to most normal antibiotics, that used to affect only hospital patients, but is now loose in the public, affecting unsuspecting Manhattanites, among others. I have no idea how I got it, but I've realized - and become quite freaked out - by how many possible ways I might have caught it: holding the subway rail, shaking someone's hand, patting someone's arm, taking change after making a purchase, opening a door, using gym machines, etc. If you think about how many times during the course of your day you encounter someone else's skin, or an object just recently touched by someone else's skin, you start to see all the possible ways you could pick up some nasty little bacteria - regardless of how hygienic and careful you are.

As I'm still radioactive, in addition to protecting myself from new infusions of germs, I've also had to make efforts to protect my friends and work colleagues from my germs. It's been such a surprise to me how often I now have to stifle the urge to touch my friends. It turns out that I'm rather touchy-feely. I hug my friends when I see them, when I leave them, I pat them on their arms, and they do the same. Of course, now that I'm a pseudo-leper, I have to maintain my distance. I douse my hands in hand sanitizer that I keep next to my computer any time I touch something "new," and I offer my friends handi-wipes when they leave my office in the event that they have to open the door by turning the handle. Being full of germs is no fun, nor is being a germaphobe, but I'm having to deal with the former, and I think I might become the latter, as survival tool. I have no interest, whatsover, in catching MRSA again, or anything else for that matter.

But, back to the bats. Unlike us humans, they don't have handy bottles of purel that they can douse their wings with hanging from the stalactites of their caves. They don't have protection from the new micro-predators, an example of which is AC MRSA, that are developing at alarming rates, some of which, studies indicate, we humans have created with all of our anti-bacterial soups and lotions and antibiotic fed cows. Is there a direct connection? I don't know. But the fate of the bats (not to mention the fate of bees, who have been mysteriously disappearing) is certainly connected to our own fate.

Reading the article made me think of Oryx and Crake, one of my favorite books, in which one species after another died off, and humans - the ones who could afford it - were forced to move off of the toxic, barely inhabitable surface of Earth into sterile corporate space pods, leaving behind the poorer humans to scavenge among the refuse. In the book, before humans were forced to leave Earth, before things got really bad, species started to die off, and kids played a computer game based on betting which species would become extinct next.

The animals are the canaries in the coal mine. If they go, we're next.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Before & After: Bath and Bed

In the last week - especially concentrated into the last 48 hours - I've put together four pieces of IKEA furniture, hung a wall cabinet and two mirrors, and painted my bathroom and a third of my bedroom. Lord knows I love the Swedes. They are my countrywomen after all. But, I can't tell you how happy I'm going to be once I never have to look at another one of their funny shaped "special IKEA" screws again (which, by the way, get stripped if you try to screw them in with a drill, get stuck and cause you to lose about a half hour trying to coax them out).

Although a productive Easter, I would not voluntarily repeat the experience next year. I much prefer the soothing ritual of egg-dying and snacking on mini eggos over forcing 9 feet long pieces of stubborn wood to form themselves into reluctant rectangles. But that was the crux of it: with all those boxes of pieces waiting to be assembled and walls waiting to be painted, there was no time for egg-dying. I'm so tired! And sore. Really, really sore.

Something positive, however, in addition to my new furniture, came out of the experience: Before & After pics! Who doesn't love a good make-over? Unfortunately, I still have 3/4 of my room to paint and half a wardrobe to put together because IKEA forgot to ship me all of the necessary hardware, so things are not quite perfect enough to give you the full "after" effect in both the bedroom and bathroom, but I can show you some tidbits.

Behold, one corner of the bathroom, before & after: Note the vast improvement a paint job, cabinets from Bed Bath & Beyond, and a black wicker basket can make on a girl's space for products.

Because the closet/wardrobe is still in progress (code for: lying in inconvenient pieces all over my bedroom), I can't show you that just yet. I can, however, show you my bed.

Behold, BC's bed, before & after:

I don't think the pictures do it justice, but the difference - to me - is remarkable. The transformative effects of a bed frame, as opposed to the hideous metal box spring support I've been laying on top of for the last 12 years can not be over emphasized.

Three times today, in between battling the wardrobe, I found myself drawn to my bed, fluffing up the pillows, and just laying back against my headboard, taking a load off. I never used to do that when all I had behind my head was a book shelf. I've decided I love headboards. They're my new favorite things, along with swiss coffee colored walls (I was so unbelievably sick of that lilac color).

By the way, the inexplicable something, which is considerably improved on Day-4 of what will be a 10-day course of super antibiotics, has a name. It's called CA MRSA, and it's probably in a gym or on public transportation near you, so look out!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Inexplicable Something

I am dying today as a result of some crazy systemic bacterial infection that I appear to have picked up god knows where. It started on my hand, then my foot, and now the inside of my leg. Attractive, no?

It's alarming and slightly scary because I don't know what it is, but the most disturbing and incredibly irritating part of it is that it itches like nothing I have ever felt before. O. M. G. I have often thought that itchiness would be worse torture than pain - although that might just be because, thankfully, I seem to encounter itchiness more than intense pain. Be that as it may, I Can Not Stand Itchiness. It's terrible. I woke up every few hours last night wanting to claw my foot off.

Because my primary care physician can not crack the case, I'm off to see an infectious disease doctor. Is this not crazy? My primary care physician asked me yesterday if I had "been anywhere exotic," and the only place that came to mind was India almost a year ago. It's funny that people always assume inexplicable things are picked up abroad - and in many cases they are - but what about the subway? What about the millions of people clutching the same metal poles that I clutch, breathing into the same tight spaces that I'm smashed into, wiping their noses and coughing and no one washing their hands or covering their mouths?

Obviously, I've started carrying purel everywhere I go. It hasn't done anything for the thing I've got, but hopefully it will prevent me picking up anything else.

This is terrible! (I say, even though I know it could be worse, and - trust me universe - am very grateful that it's not).

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Patience Is Not My Virtue

I've been thinking a lot today about patience, and contemplating whether I'm a patient person. In general, I think I am fairly patient. When I'm waiting on people to do things during the course of my day, I don't get impatient or snappy. I try to understand where people are coming from, and go with the flow as much as I can. I don't expect things to be done instantly for my benefit, don't take things personally, don't jump to assumptions, and generally remain pretty even-keel.

All of that goes out the window when it comes to relationships. I do not like existing in a state of uncertainty. It freaks me out. I want to know the status of things, how I feel, how they feel, and I want to know it all right now. I don't like waiting. I really don't like waiting for communication. It's annoying and aggravating and despite myself, it eats and eats at me. I don't feel that I should have to wait, so I try not to wait. I go about my day, which is busy and filled with tons of things, and I tell myself I am not waiting. My hairdresser says, "Don't wait" like it's as easy as switching off a light switch, and I commit myself to not waiting. But, I do. That's the part that really, really irks me, that gets under my skin and squeezes my chest in a miniature vice grip. It also pisses me off at myself.

I say to my Self, "Self, do not wait. Do not care."

And my Self replies, "But I do care, and I am waiting."

And, I respond, "God damn it. Why do you have to be so freaking honest all the time?"

The other night, I picked up one of my old journals at random and started reading. I have no cable or TV at the moment, so I've had to go to alternative means to entertain myself. The journal was from 1998, in my senior year of college, when I had just come back from studying abroad and being "long distance" with my boyfriend. This is the guy that I ultimately broke up with a year after college and then for years later remembered only the great things about him and our relationship. I used him as a comparison to other boyfriends and found them wanting. In between relationships, and sometimes during, I kicked myself for throwing away something which had been "wonderful." When it came up in therapy years later, I couldn't remember why I had ever broken up with him.

My journal explained it. It's filled with entries over the course of several months starting off with, "Kai and I had another fight last night." Back then, my 21-year old self was super annoyed with Kai because he was insecure and clingy, but also acting out by not calling her. Do you know how my 21-year old self reacted to Kai not calling her? She didn't react. She noted it, got pissed about it, and then went about her way basically with an attitude of "oh well, it's his loss." She was awesome.

The same journal entries that talk about how Kai did not call the day before and probably would not call again that day because he's so annoying and predictable, mention those facts in passing and then go on to list everything else that I was focusing on at the time, like studying, working, seeing my friends, and participating on various committees. At the time, I clearly was into Kai, and I clearly wanted him to call me. His lack of calling left me feeling a little hurt and lonely, but not in an overpowering way. It was something I took note of and didn't like, but I didn't take it personally. I'm not sure I would say that my younger self was more patient. I just think she was like, "whatever, it's Kai's issue, not mine." She had things to do, and she did them while letting the saga of their relationship play out over time.

One time, Kai tried to break up with me. I remember it distinctly. We were sitting on the porch swing outside of my house. He was tense and fidgety and he was refusing to look me in the eyes. He said, quite dramatically, that he wanted to break up with me. I responded, "Kai, don't be ridiculous. You don't want to break up with me, and we're not breaking up." I was 100% convinced of Kai's love for me, and I was 100% convinced that he was trying to break up with me, not because he didn't want to be with me, but because he was scared and trying to make a self-protective preemptive strike. Silly Rabbit. He seemed so transparent and insecure to me back then. It was touching. We didn't break up until a year later, when I decided that I wanted to date other people and broke up with him.

Back then, my actions were not at all based on fear. It's questionable whether they were based on love. They were definitely based on certainty, confidence, and an absolute conviction in my own power of self-determination. I was patient because I didn't feel anxious, so I could afford to be patient. I felt completely in control. I had time to let things develop and I didn't gnaw apart my stomach waiting for things to happen. I didn't gnaw. I didn't wait. I observed, took care of what I needed to, and trusted that Kai would come around and that everything would work out for the best (in my favor) in the end.

Now, if someone "tried" to break up with me, I would be out the door so fast I wouldn't even hear it swinging shut behind me. I feel sometimes like I'm sitting on a tiny tree branch, my wings half extended in the air, ready at a moments notice to take flight. I've become the self-protective one, though I battle this and try to be honest and upfront with my feelings. I'm so much more open and vulnerable now than I ever was then, but with vulnerability comes that sense of being gnawed apart from the inside out. Vulnerability brings with it desires and expectations, feelings of disappointment and insecurity, and anxiety. It also brings with it impatience, impatience to end the feeling of vulnerability.

My 21-year old self did not feel impatient because she did not feel vulnerable. She was strong, confident and impervious to pain. She was also emotionally detached, critical and judgmental, and lacking in empathy. Insecurity in anyone used to repulse her. Between the two of us, I'd have to say that I like the more developed, mature, and sensitive me of today, then my college-age self. Clearly, however, I could take a few pages from her book now and then. Today, I think I will channel her confidence and certainty.

A boy not calling is indeed annoying, but it's about him and not me, and I have better things to do than to wait on him. Instead, I'll push it out of my mind, keep it confined to the words in this post, and move on. Things will ultimately work out as they are meant to.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Hillary and Obama Together?

I'm somewhat stunned, and pleasantly so, that Hillary came back and won Ohio and Texas. I'm happy for her that she's not out of the race and I'm happy for Obama that he won Vermont and still has small lead in terms delegate numbers. As things now stand, I would be disappointed if either one of them failed to get the nomination.

Obviously they both can't get the nomination, but how great would it be if they could both be on the ticket? Hillary hinted at a joint ticket earlier today. Obama responded by saying she was a "tenacious" opponent and that it was too early to start thinking about joint tickets.

If they did a joint ticket, I would be thrilled, although I'm not sure who I would want as President and who as V.P. I could go either way on that because I think it's clear that in such a scenario we would be looking at a very close-knit President-V.P. team. Of course, someone has to have the last word, and that would be the President, so I guess it comes down to who I would want to have the last word? Again, it's a draw. I like them both and I want them both to lead the country.

The big question for me is could they, on a joint ticket, beat McCaine? Or, do both of them - standing alone or together - need an infusion of something different (i.e. something more conservative) in order to beat the Republicans?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Decluttering Work: Pre-March Purging Begins!

It's still February, but I've jumped the gun and started my Month of March Purging a few days early by cleaning and decluttering my office. It had finally become too unbearable to go on with out taking some serious action. I couldn't exist any longer with a pile of papers and opened binders two and a half feet high on my desk, obstructing my view of the door and quite literally burying me alive.

With that kind of disorganization, is it any wonder that I had been feeling increasingly stressed about work during the past couple weeks? My work energy was probably stagnating, zipping back and forth between carelessly strewn papers like a thousand little pin balls with no place productive to go, dragged down under the stifling weight of piles of half thoughts and thwarted intentions.

In a two-and-a-half hour whirlwind of post lunch activity, I sent boxes of documents to files, trashed unnecessary materials, organized my cabinets and shelves, put papers in folders, and had my secretary make the all-essential redweld labels. Labels are crucial. I don't think I'm overstating their power when I say that labels can change your world. It's true.

The crowning achievement was moving my poor little, slightly sickly, but hardy bamboo plant out from its dark corner behind my desk top monitor over to the windowsill. The poor little plant had started to take on the aura of an animal trapped in a cage no bigger than the length and width of its body - it too had been stagnating, just like my work energy, only I hadn't seen it, blinded as I had been by the overwhelming piles of paper.

Both the plant and I are going to be much happier now at work. I can already feel it. My whole office feels more spacious, the floor is clear of debris, and the little plant has an unobstructed view of the Empire State Building and the chance for hours and hours of delightfully direct sunlight. Splendid. Now, let's see if I can keep my office decluttered at least through the end of March. It would be an amazing feat but I feel strong, focused, and motivated.

Must be all that energy I just set free.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Spring Cleaning Is Coming

Change is happening. I don't know if it has to do with the cosmos or some internal force. It feels though like I'm embarking upon some kind of Phase II in terms of life transformation, life transformation being perhaps too strong of a description. Life tweaking is probably more fitting. This time, it's not about purging my life of negativity or massively changing my daily existence, because I'm actually quite happy with how things are at the moment, and have been for some time.

It's more that I find myself - it feels like suddenly, although I'm sure this has been developing over time - with what feels like (though it's all relative) tons and tons of space in which to explore things and do things that I hadn't even considered before. I have space in terms of time, but I also have mental and emotional space, which is really cool.

All of this space in which to contemplate has lead me to a decision that might not appear all that significant, but which I am really excited about and think will have a rather profoundly positive impact on me.

I've decided that March is going to be a Month of Purging. It's perfect for a number of reasons. First, because my living situation is changing such that there will be a new beginning which will require and allow me to buy new furniture, paint, and explore the wide world of organizational containers and tricks - things for which I do not have a natural affinity. Second, because it will soon be Spring, and in preparation a large scale Spring Cleaning is just the thing to do. Third, I have boxes and piles of things, drawers full of products, thoughts in my head, and old patterns of behavior that I no longer need, and want to get rid off.

It's going to be a month of physical, spiritual and emotional purging, and I think I'm going to write a post each day describing one act of purging.

Anyone else up for a little Spring cleaning?

Friday, February 22, 2008

SATC Movie Trailer

I just saw the Sex and the City Trailer here (from Jezabel), and I'm not sure I'm overly thrilled, although I'm attempting to remain optimistic. It appears that Steve might have cheated on Miranda (but just once, as if that would ever make it ok), Big and Carrie's wedding gets all snafu-ed, Samantha leaves Smith (gasp!), and Charlotte, the mom of an adorable little adopted Asian daughter, becomes pregnant.

The whole Carrie/Big wedding snafu plot is a little tired. Didn't we just see that on Gray's Anatomy with Christina and Burke? It's also not very realistic - not that I would ever hold SATC to maintaining a consistent level of realism - given the length and intensity of the pair's tortured love affair, and the way it was resolved at the end of the last season with Big racing to Paris to profess his love to Carrie. They love each other, they want each other; would Carrie really mess that up by becoming a bridezilla? Maybe, but what is more likely is that Big's commitment issues resurface.

I also don't necessarily buy that Steve would ever cheat on Miranda. She's never been my favorite, maybe because I'm a lawyer and I don't like the strong-woman-doesn't-want-to-be-a-mom-lawyer stereotype that she represents (my issues, not hers, and I'll save them for another time). I also never thought she was attractive, which I know is a very shallow thing to say. I'm not saying Cynthia Nixon is not attractive, but the way they styled her at times was simply hideous. As a character as a whole, I just never got the appeal. Steve, on the other hand, always seemed completely smitten by Miranda, so the idea that they would settle down, move to Brooklyn, be living the nuclear family dream, and then he would cheat doesn't ring true. On the other hand, they had their fair share of problems too so maybe some of them festered. We shall see. If Steve did cheat, I hope that Miranda dumps him on his ass and moves back to the City.

Samantha... Well, I don't have all that much to say about Samantha, in part because the trailer didn't give us a lot of hints about her part of the story. We see her with Smith in the bathroom, and then later we see her checking out a lot of men. Maybe she's with Smith, maybe she's not. Apparently she's still thinking about sex a lot, and apparently she's cancer free, which is good.

Charlotte has always been my absolute favorite. I love her. She's romantic, sweet, and classy. I noticed the trailer gave us glimpses of her daughter and glimpses of her pregnant belly, but Harry was no where in sight. I'll be pissed if Harry is no longer with Charlotte.

Regardless of the plot, I'm looking forward to this movie as another opportunity to revel in SATC. It's going to be like an extra, extra-long last episode, and even if it's not smashing, it's still going to be thoroughly entertaining. Hopefully the movie - although the trailer makes me wonder about this - will not destroy all the happy endings that the season finale left us with. So many people hold a view that the girls should not have all ended up "happily ever after," all with significant others. I vehemently disagree. That's what they wanted, and that's what they got. What's wrong with letting women get what they want? Personally, I'm all about love triumphing. If that's not what it's about, what's the point?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Who Will Cook: Part II

This topic, that I've recently begun thinking about with more specificity, what shall I call it? What tag does this fall under? I'd prefer not to name it "Gender-Wars" as I would hope that the exploration of these issues would not have to be tinged with a confrontational tone. "Parenting" isn't quite right, because cooking dinner, though arguably part of parenting, is much broader than that. It has to do with the division of household labor/nurturing/care-taking between a couple, something which could come up in a couple living together (I suppose), but seems to really crystallize as an issue to be dealt with once children get tossed in to the mix.

"Gender" is too vague, and also almost a red herring, because although gender has lots to do with this, it just as easily could have nothing to do with it. And, call me naive, but I'd like gender to have a very limited role here. I'd like, in my relationship if I were to have children, for the division of labor not to be about fixed gender roles but rather about the individual people in question and their needs and wants. I'd like the division of labor to take into consideration questions like, who is more suited to cook, who knows how to cook and who doesn't, who would like to stay at home or work outsidef of the home and why and what would that look like, what do the individuals care about and what do they want to pursue in terms of their professional goals, and how can the division of labor incorporate those goals? (I say this, but I also feel the way I just framed it sounds far too rigid, artificial, and formulaic than I would like it to be).

In other words, I'd like the division of labor, to the extent it occurs, to be tailored around the specific needs and desires of the individuals involved, and not based on any fixed notions of what's expected from one as a result of their gender. That's the basic problem with gender roles - they obscure the individual beneath a cloak of societal expectations based on the shape one's genitals, and in so doing often - mainly with respect to women - work to limit the ability of the individual to realize their full potential as happy, fulfilled human beings.

The starting point of the question should not be: You are a woman, so I expect you to do "X". The starting point should be: How can we balance things so that we are both happy and fulfilled individuals? The bottom line is that I'm going to be a good mother, and my partner will be a good father, if we are happy with ourselves and our relationship. If I'm happy working outside of the home full time or part time or not, and vise versa, as long as I'm happy, I will be a great mom. If, however, I'm not happy, my kids will feel that and they won't be happy either, not to mention my partner. There are so many uncertainties in relationships, but I think one thing is certain - a relationship will not be healthy and successful unless both parties to the relationship are happy and fulfilled.

I know that a couple can agree on many things ahead of time and think it's extremely important to discuss these types of issues early on in a relationship - if for no other reason than that it helps you grow and deepen your own thoughts on these issues. But, the only thing you know for sure is that change will happen, and as a friend of mine was saying, about the only thing you can do is work on being flexible, trusting, and good at communicating. You can't plan everything out (although that would be nice), but you can commit to solving together the many unforeseen issues that will undoubtedly arise. It's all about being a united front with both people having each other's back and supporting one another, and committing to that for the future.

Sounds fabulous, I know, but it still leaves the question that started all of this hanging out unanswered in the ether. Who will cook? I still don't know.