Friday, April 18, 2014

to begin...

My job had become too difficult and stressful. My duties increased gradually over the nearly three years I was there. Then there was a huge mess earlier this year due to a water main break down the street. We were without phone service for about three weeks, and then without internet for about six weeks. I was using internet from home early in the morning, going into work around 11, leaving around 3:30, then more internet from home. I was practically working 7-7. Once someone suggested that we get a wi-fi hotspot, it improved some, but my desktop didn't take wi-fi so I was working on a laptop and a desktop at the same time. By the time the regular internet was fixed, I was dreadfully behind, and it was one of those spring seasons where there were two major events, two open houses, fall registration to prepare in addition to a lot of catch up.

At the same time, I was seeing a new psychiatrist, who took me off Lamictal and put me on Prozac. I'm not sure how fast Lamictal leaves the system, but I know Prozac takes a while to build up, so I was basically "uncovered" as concerns my depression and anxiety.

So I melted down. It's hard to remember a lot of it, though I was crying at work a lot during the last couple of weeks, then unable to go in at all. My analyst spoke to me by phone every day for a week. As I continued to see the psychiatrist and my meds settled in, I began to feel better, but also realized that 9-5 wasn't for me, never was, and I'd been trying to make myself accustomed to it for years.

I asked if I could return part-time, but they only offered me 14 hours a week, so I chose unemployment instead. I am finally going to find the patience to take better pictures of my jewelry and start an Etsy store, and look for freelance writing work.

In the aftermath, I had some emails from friends at the institute saying they would miss me terribly but also saying they felt I'd been dreadfully overworked. I'd never realized it. One said, "I am very angry with [my two supervisors]. They always overwork and then lose their best people." I hadn't seen it - I just thought that had been the job, and even though I was working flat-out, I was sometimes behind and sometimes very stressed-out.

I worked off a few hours I owed them training the new guy for a few days, but now I'm clear of it. Between that and the meds fully taking hold, I feel a lot better. Freer.

Right before I saw the new psychiatrist, I saw a new primary doctor, who put his foot down about my weight and blood sugar. My blood sugar had been out of control. So I took the whole thing in hand, totally changed the way I was eating, and my sugar is now down to normal, and I've lost about 6 pounds in 8 weeks.

I've changed to Barry's health plan, which was cheaper co-pays, and am beginning the process of a bunch of specialist checkups. Also have to have yet another trigger finger fixed, but it's a thumb, which means just a shot of cortisone and not surgery.

We're shooting to move next month. I'm rather stuck on the idea of living in Bay Ridge.

I apologize that this entry is heavier on news than on feelings, but I'll get caught up on all of it. I feel I have a wealth of time and energy, and being able to keep up with this blog will be one of the benefits.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

what's there to say?

Not moved yet. Having a multi-dimensional crisis over life, work, health (physical and mental). We'll see how well I pull out of this one.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

where I will no longer live

We've been asked to move out of our apartment. It's a long story, but the relevant facts are that we caused some damage to the apartment (leaking air conditioner, which we did not know was leaking or causing damage), and that the landlord never felt we kept the apartment tidy/clean enough. The latter has to do with the fact that the apartment has always been too small for us. When we first moved in, we had to put a lot of stuff in storage, and when we were unable to pay the storage, we lost it all. Even so, what remained in the apartment was not neatly storable and we certainly did have clutter. Not insane clutter, but clutter.

You have to figure that two middle-aged people who have all of their belongings in their possession (nothing stored in parents' attics etc) and who have some interests (reading, music) are going to have a lot of stuff. A lot of what I lost in the Great Storage Disaster was years and years of writing, many cartons of books, a lot of CDs and albums, a collection of baseball cards and a collection of postcards, and similar items. Barry lost some papers and all of his vinyl. While this was a lightening experience in some ways, it would have been nice to have the choice to keep some of these.

We've been sorting and clearing and throwing out as we look to move, and I'm starting to have a better understanding that I need to let go of a lot of things. As attached as I have been to my "stuff," it's clear that we'll never have a large enough home to make use of all of it, or store it neatly. I got rid of all but 100 or so books, pretty much only keeping those that are out of print, autographed, or books I worked on as a publicist. We got rid of a lot of CDs. We got rid of a lot of clothes.

As we needed to raise a good deal of money for the move, I sold my collection of 7,000 vintage bottle caps in one lot, to a collector in Germany. I kept about 20 that I'll display at some point. That was a little wrenching, but the truth is that it's all been packed up for about nine years, and I haven't had the money to add to the collection. It also turned out to be the single most valuable thing I owned.

Apartment-hunting is a hopeful and depressing thing. We saw a large, beautiful apartment in a great part of Bath Beach and put in an application, only to be turned down for poor credit. We've only seen one really bad neighborhood (Ditmas Park), but quite a few bad apartments. And there's no finding an apartment without a broker any more. There actually may be no obtaining a decent apartment without a co-signor, and it may be difficult to find one. Everything is much tougher, even since our last move eight years ago.

Although we were originally asked to move by the end of November, we asked for and were given until the end of December. Then the landlord called and offered us two months beyond that. This makes it less impossible but still hard.

The other bad part of this whole thing was that when we were asked to move out, the landlord decided that "cat" also had to go (we always told him we had only one although it was actually three), so the girls have been with Rochelle for about a month and a half, keeping company with her four. It's been a godsend - we couldn't have afforded to board them. But it's hard to have this kind of stress without the comfort of the cats. I've been visiting every couple of weeks. Maya won't speak to me, which just breaks my heart.

Other things go on, nothing too world-shattering. Barry and I celebrated our birthdays earlier this month with minor festivities. Things go well at both our jobs. I'm still reading and seeing movies and making jewelry.  Hard to balance mind and body, as always. Peacefulness is elusive. I want to make some changes once the move is behind me.

When I was looking to sell the bottle caps, I did approach V. by email, first time in five years. I caught the hobby from him, and felt it would be right to offer them to him first (also, I knew he would be able to afford them). He emailed back and said that he was in a cash crunch and couldn't buy them right now, but would I like to have lunch? I said I'd have to think about it, and never emailed again. I'm still patting myself on the back for that one. If he had said some small thing along the lines of "I've missed you" or "I've been thinking about you," I might have given it some slight thought. Maybe it was self-centered of me to contact him about the caps, since I was only interested in turning them into cash, but it was such a small instance of self-centeredness by comparison to the years and years that I let him take without giving. I'm really glad I didn't give in to a nostalgic blindness, nostalgia for the times that I enjoyed his company and believed we were friends, and conveniently forgetting how badly he treated me and how many times he hurt my feelings. I think that toxic mess is thoroughly out of my life.

And here are some of the scans of selected corks that I prepared for prospective buyers:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

where I live

I live in a neighborhood in south Brooklyn that few people have ever heard of, even other Brooklynites. I'd like to keep it that way. Too many Brooklyn neighborhoods have of late been colonized by youngish people priced out of Manhattan, and their new neighborhoods have become trendy and expensive (Williamsburg, for instance, and Greenpoint and Bushwick). Ours may not be at risk of falling victim to this trend as we're not very close to Manhattan, but I'm still not going to name it. Suffice is to say that we're somewhat near Sheepshead Bay.

It had been a working-class Italian neighborhood, but most of the Italians are gone. There are still a few Italian grocery stores and restaurants. But for the most part, the neighborhood is mixed working-class. Avenue U is the main drag. On the opposite side of U from where we live, there is a colony of rich Orthodox Syrian Jews, who live in large private homes. So we also have a decent smattering of kosher food stores and other stores that cater to the wealthy (designer clothing, fancy tabletop goods, fine jewelry). It's basically a safe, family-oriented neighborhood.

There are a number of industrial businesses under the elevated subway line (about five blocks from us); the jewelry company where I used to work is one of them. There are quite a few factories and auto repair shops. It's the only stretch of the neighborhood that's less than pleasant. Quite a few Mexicans and South Americans work there, so there are some Mexican businesses near the subway - including a little grocery where I can always get good mangoes and avocados.

The only thing we don't really have is a good supermarket. There's a Met Food about fifteen blocks away, but it's a pretty old market, narrow aisles etc., and I don't trust any of their perishables. But they're not bad for packaged foods. There's an excellent Shop-Rite a few subway stops away - we used to shop there, carry our perishables back on the train, and have the rest delivered. But they won't deliver to our area any more. We used Fresh Direct for a while (shop online and they deliver), but we had problems with spoiled meat a few times (though they always gave a store credit, no questions asked), and the prices aren't that great. So we're back to mixed shopping. Paper goods and cat products at a few cheapie places nearby; chicken and pork and beef from an Italian deli; other groceries, wherever. Produce is a bit of a problem. A wonderful kosher produce store closes during the summer, and is only open on weekdays the rest of the year. There is a really shitty produce market up toward Met Food; every time I go in there, everything looks pretty icky except the bananas. I shop some at the Union Square Greenmarket, near my office, especially this time of year, when there are great tomatoes and stone fruit. I've recently discovered Trader Joe's, also near my office, which has canned tuna at a great price and other useful groceries. It's basically impossible to get a decent loaf of whole-grain bread where I live, so I've been buying unsliced loaves at the Greenmarket, but just discovered whole-grain bread at Trader Joe's for a dollar less. (Counting pennies, as always.)

We have a great mom-and-pop pharmacy near us for prescriptions, and a Rite-Aid for discount-drug-store stuff (cosmetics, shampoo, deodorant). We have a store called Meats Supreme which is good for cold cuts, but we've gotten spoiled meat from them as well. (Got a couple of well-priced and excellent packs of beef and pork from Trader Joe' recently.)

For fish, we're a short bus ride from the second-largest Chinatown in Brooklyn, with many groceries full of gently priced fresh seafood. You can get salmon fillet at $5.99 a pound, which is mostly what I crave. We also sometimes buy white fillets of some sort (sole, flounder, etc) and occasionally shrimp. There is a kosher fish market a few blocks from where we live, but it is quite expensive and of course you can't get things like shrimp.

I don't consider our neighborhood all that great for walking, and we don't have a park of any sort. But we're decently close to Coney Island (a few train stops) and not that far from Prospect Park (two buses).

We've been there about six years and doubt we'll be moving any time soon (although we'd love a bigger apartment). It's still cheap, we have a good landlord, and you need all kind of good credit and hefty income to rent an apartment these days.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

odds and ends

Here are me, my mane, and Raghu Dixit. My phone was out of juice, and Barry is not good with his camera, so Raghu had someone take the pic with his phone and then posted it to Twitter.

So many random things on my mind...

I work a block from the Union Square Greenmarket, which is the best farmer's market in the city, and especially wonderful in the summer. Yesterday I came home with: local peaches, local nectarines, two kinds of plums (shiro and Santa Rosa), a quart of small heirloom tomatoes, a couple of Kirby cucumbers, French breakfast radishes (very mild), and a couple of young, mild red onions. Ate tuna last night mixed with chopped onion, tomatoes, cucumber and radishes. When I'm there, I tend to buy as much as I can carry. Barry is especially fond of the heirloom tomatoes. He loves tomatoes, but they're basically horrible and flavorless for most of the year. Most tomatoes have been bred to travel well and to be "attractive" (round shape), so most of them end up kind of hard and mealy...they look good but don't taste like much. "Heirlooms" are grown from old, non-hybrid seeds, and are grown outdoors and in season (as opposed to year-round in greenhouses), so they not only taste wonderful, but they're bumpy and delicate and irregular and all kinds of wild colors. When they're around, we basically eat them with everything, or eat them plain, and then buy more.

Splurged a bit today (hey, it's payday) at Sephora on a rollerball of Marc Jacobs' Honey. I got some small samples a week or so ago, and I love it, which is no small thing, considering that I am way picky about cologne and have only ever liked wearing a handful: Bellodgia (Caron), Coco (Chanel), Rush (Gucci), and Escape (Calvin Klein). I've tried others, but those are the ones I return to over and over. I go to Sephora a lot and just walk around and look at things, and always feel rather daring when I actually buy something, since you're basically spending at least $15 for a single item. And my inner cheapskate comes out when I look at $23 lipsticks, no matter how nice they are. I also bought a facial treatment I really like, an at-home facial peel. It's for daily use (yeah, right), but a box of five lasts me a month and only costs $15.

This is Patricia, who does cat rescue and set up near my office on nice days. She's a little wacky, but I love her to pieces. She never lets anyone touch the cats - but she lets me. This is earlier today - she's bottle-feeding three-week-old kittens. I admired one of them today, and she just handed it to me. We've tried to adopt from her a couple of times, and as much as she likes Barry and me, and knows we are long-time cat owners, she stalled and stalled and made excuses until we gave up. She kept saying she had to check this and that with her sister, that her sister would call us, and it never happened, even when we were trying to adopt an older cat - we thought she'd let him go easily, since older cats are much harder to place than little kittens. Still, since she lets me hold tiny kittens, we're still pals.

Friday, July 26, 2013

that's what I was aiming for

Finally, someone referred to my hair as "your mane." Thank you.

(Even better: he was a musician who'd just come off stage. I said, "You know, I was up there dancing the whole time." He said, "I know, I saw you - you were the only one I could see. I couldn't miss your mane.")

That might possibly have been the payoff for following musicians around all these years. And, you know, the music. The kind that makes you dance for nearly two hours.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

he's the coolest

Raghu Dixit is playing in New York on Thursday, but it's a bad week and we don't have money for tickets. So even though it's been a while since I tweeted him (I'm rarely on Twitter of late), I tweeted him and asked if he could comp us:

@Raghu_Dixit Dying to see you on Thursday but we are flat broke. Any chance we can get on the guest list? My husb and I loved the Sept show! - 24 Jul

@JennLevyBKLYN Sure thing! @GauravVaz kindly do the needful please. - 24 Jul

@Raghu_Dixit @JennLevyBKLYN - oops I meant 25th!

Honestly, do they come any nicer?

And any of you in New York - do come see him at SOBs on Thursday night!