Monday, December 15, 2014

OK, Now I’ll Admit It – Having a Bad Thyroid Sucks

My childhood/teenage asthma often led to an annual bout of bronchitis that kept me out of school for two weeks, mostly because I milked it for all it was worth. Nobody could lower her head in agony, or sabotage a thermometer reading, like me.

“But you’re not wheezing anymore,” someone would insist.

“Purely due to your catching me at a good time,” I answered weakly but firmly, fluttering my eyes. “All I need is one more day. What does it matter if I miss a Friday?”

Friday was usually a big day on Days of Our Lives. After two weeks of catching it promptly at its air time, not far from my beloved grandmother, I dreaded having to slum back to settling for the recorded version.

In college, I caught one virus, which didn’t last more than 72 hours. In my early twenties, I once lost my voice for another 72 hours or so. Sickness- and symptoms-wise, that was pretty much it for the rest of my twenties. Aside from dental visits, I rarely bothered to book check-ups because I didn’t need them. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started having “symptoms” that turned out to be a thyroid condition I didn’t take too seriously.

I went through a major health scare last month. Something much worse than a thyroid problem. I netted about 35 hours of sleep in 3 weeks, just based on all the anxiety. My symptoms’ worst-case scenario was that bad. Some words of advice - never obsessively Google your weird symptoms and come to an airtight self-diagnosis. The hyper-Googling will quickly convince you it’s the worst-case scenario; and the specialist you frantically schedule an appointment with will most likely look at you like you’re nuts. I didn’t mind that latter bit.

Last week, all the test results (have you ever had a 7:30 a.m. trans-vaginal ultrasound, before a long day of work?) for the worst-case scenario came back negative. The great kind of negative. The only tests that came back positive (the not-great kind of positive) were re: my thyroid levels, which I’d thought I had under control via nutrition and exercise, but now it’s back to the endocrinologist I go, for the first time in years. Never in my life have I had so many doctor’s appointments in a one-month interval.

“All I want for Christmas is my health,” I said, 3 weeks ago. “Nothing more than a continuation of this annoying but manageable thyroid thing.”

And I got it! Until the grand dame of a head cold I came down with, earlier today.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

No Mug Shot, Just Mug Shame

Although I rarely remember it’s there, when you walk into one grocery store in my neighborhood, the first thing you might notice is the Shoplifters Wall of Shame. Floor managers take a picture of every thief they catch, print out a black-and-white copy of that picture, and hang it above a towering stack of red shopping baskets. In each photo, the shoplifters hold up the item(s) they tried making off with. Many of them smile pretty for the camera.

“How could someone do that? I’ve never stolen anything,” I’ve thought, shaking my head.  I mean, dammit, one time I was the only visitor at a tiny museum in England, where nobody manned the front desk that sold postcards for the equivalent of twenty-five cents. I took a postcard, leaving behind that twenty-five-cent equivalent, along with a note detailing how honorable I had been.

It’s so easy to forget that I actually have stolen something. It’s so easy to block that night out. Ten years ago. A beer mug from a local beer garden. I was blindingly drunk when I stuffed it into my oversized handbag, after the guy I was out with not only suggested but encouraged it, as a way to avenge the epic fight I’d gotten into with a bartender who accused me of underpaying him when I hadn’t. I found that mug in the back of a cabinet earlier this year and now keep it at the edge of my desk, as a writing-utensils holder, as a reminder. In 2015, I’m giving it back. That’s my New Year’s Resolution. That way it’s simply something I’ve borrowed, like an overdue library book.

Meanwhile, I recently went to the grocery store, picked up a red basket, and happened to glance at the Shoplifters Wall of Shame for the first time in months. The first photo I saw was of the security guard I blogged about a couple of months ago, holding up the same bottle of wine he once tried handing over to me in my office. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

6 Reminders I Got While Volunteering (as a Tribute) at a “Small Business Saturday” Event

*The most down-to-earth New Yorkers live in Queens. Salt of the city.

*I’m cut out for standing in the cold, glovelessly handing out free stuff to people who weren’t expecting it. Makes me feel like Oprah. I could do it twice a week, if provoked.

*It takes more grit to maintain a small business than it takes to start one. Anybody can start somethin’. Not everyone can keep it going.

*Kids, including the shy ones, love getting a balloon. The way their faces light up when you ask if they’d like one is a thing of beauty. Surprise any young kid in your life with one balloon a few times a year.

*By kids, I mean developmentally, emotionally - not just people who are kids due to their chronological ages. Some of the biggest kids in the game are well into their 30s and 40s. They need balloons too. If they catch you holding a batch, they’ll straight up approach you to ask for one (of a certain color) for themselves. Why not surprise them with a balloon a few times a year as well?

*I’m very proud of what my friends do for a living and for their communities.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Imagine This

Walking through Central Park the other night, I was all but chased down (if you’re ever walking around, minding your own business, earbuds firmly in place, music at full volume, it guarantees you nothing – anybody desperately wanting to talk to you will move hell and earth to do so) by 3 people standing just inside the 72nd St. entrance, 20 feet away from Strawberry Fields. The kinds of people who have spent tons of time in the Bay Area, but not San Francisco proper. The kinds of people who passionately pull strangers aside to sign petitions on behalf of the environment, but habitually leave lights on in unoccupied rooms. They belonged to a “leadership group” and invited me (along with several others they had just assembled) to announce my vision, around the John Lennon memorial. My vision for the world, mind you. I asked whether it would be videotaped, and they said no.

“Sure!” I eventually said, and as they led me (in the dark, in the cold) to the John Lennon “Imagine” circle, I stressed out about my vision, big time. It had to be good. (Any stress I may have felt about the possibility of getting whacked was slightly overpowered by a feeling best characterized as: “How bad could John Lennon lovers be?”)

One by one, we strangers of all ages, races, shapes, and sizes went around the circle, broadcasting our visions, really putting those visions out there. Of course, it was videotaped because how couldn’t it have been? “Leadership projects” like these were made to be filmed, and I have no problem imagining the organizers firing up the bong before they watch their handiwork on loop a few weeks from now.

When one organizer pointed the lit-up iphone at me, I looked into it and said my vision for the world is More Kindness and More Mindfulness. An updated version of my vision would be: more kindness, more mindfulness, and more people practicing what they preach more often.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Now I’ve Written About It

Oh, how some people dress for the airports. On weekends. On overnight flights. Some aren’t doing more than dropping others off, dressed to kill, dressed to be seen, dressed for world domination. They’re the same ones who mousse up their hair or squeeze into heels for a 5-block strut to the post office, I just know.

(I would dominate the world in a long black or navy cardigan, pink tank shirt, sterling silver jewelry, dark jeans, and pink flats. Pink is more of a power color than red, even looking and sounding more arresting, so similar to “punk.”)

From my experiences, and experiences retold to me, the higher the net worth you project, the more of a target you can become. A bulls-eye for everything. As an adult, I’ve lived in many apartments - the swankiest address I’ve had was the only one to have suffered a break-in attempt (or what I still describe as a break-in attempt, even though the ground-floor window the predator opened from the outside was protected by bars). 

The first time I ever tried boarding a plane in shoes other than sneakers or flip-flops, a customs person (interrogating passengers “at random”) pulled me aside to ask whether I traveled for business or pleasure, and how much cash I had on me. He said I seemed like someone with a lot of money and he needed to make sure I wasn’t bringing more than $10,000 onto the island. (Is this what Zsa Zsa Gabor has to deal with? I bet she dresses up to hit the skies.) When, because he asked, I told him I write, the questions didn’t stop - he asked if I would ever write about our conversation. “Maybe,” I said, and he flipped around the ID badge hanging from his neck so I could no longer see his name and picture. 

I haven’t worn my best shoes to an airport since. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Just Was Always Meant to Work in a Helping Profession

It happened again. I was in a public space, needing a few questions answered, and assumed the person I asked for help worked there, when it turned out she didn’t. I end up doing this to people all the time. People end up doing it to me all the time (I believe this is called karma). Making too much eye contact, while having Midwestern manners and wearing shirts with crisp collars, can be all it takes, from the hallowed hallways of Graceland to the produce sections of grocery stores, where I’ve skillfully directed those looking for bags of onions away from the aisles where onions are sold individually.

The difference between me and some of the others is that I don’t get too sensitive or defensive about getting mistaken for an employee because I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad place to end up.

At one boring conference downtown, I spent so much time idling around the kitchenette (where the coffee, tea, and continental breakfast items were spread out) by myself, attendees eventually assumed I ran the room, coming up to me, asking, “Can you give me more milk?” or “Has this fruit been sitting out for long?” or “Why is it taking so long to replenish the pastries?”

“Oh, I don’t work here,” I said, in the beginning, my mouth half full with a muffin, but I later couldn’t bear to miss a beat. After almost an hour in there, I had gotten a real feel for the place, knowing how and where everything went. Or should have gone.

“That’s quite a bit of dairy in 5 minutes, pal. Take it back, take it black, it’s better for you. You’ll have some cheese with the lunch that’s coming out.”

“Don’t touch that.” 

“Shouldn’t you get back into the audience, all ears to the panelists?”

“Come on over here fella, I gotta bunch of red grapes that will change your morning.”

Wow, is it an honor to be considered an approachable expert about certain subject matters.    

Monday, November 3, 2014

Oh Ho Ho No

When we were children, my best friend and I co-founded a club devoted to Christmas. At its peak, there were a total of four members – the two of us and our little brothers. Meetings began in July or August. We sat on floors and discussed all things (minus anything having to do with religion) Christmas. We called it The Christmas Club. When I brought it up a few years ago, she declared it the best club she’s ever been in, and I feel the same way.

Larger society has piggybacked onto our childhood initiative and formed its own Christmas Club. One that’s not as sweet and innocent as ours. This adult takeover of The Christmas Club is too much of something good, like binge-eating your once-favorite food to the point where you rarely crave it.

My first “holiday” party invitation came a few days before Halloween and I made a face at it. Radio City Music Hall’s tree and lights have been up since last week - and got the face too. And some of these chain stores. I salute the retailers and organizations creative enough to come up with other fall marketing campaigns. (Here, I’m talking about non-pumpkin-themed fall campaigns because I haven’t decided what’s worse – the Christmas marketing movement or the pumpkin-spice one.)

Santas on the streets and Christmas songs on the airwaves in October. Tween me would have been thrilled, vindicated! Thirtysomething me: (1) asks what harm there is in everyone agreeing to wait a few more weeks (here, I’m talking about an official embargo); (2) prefers Thanksgiving to Christmas; and (3) wonders why so many people obsessively focus on the future, on what’s next instead of what’s now.