Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It’s Time To Tell The Voices In My Head To “Shut The F*** Up!!!”

            I am suddenly aware it’s the second time this year I’ve used the F-bomb in the subject of a blog entry. Oops. Sometimes the F-bomb is necessary (sorry, mom). But I digress… Does anyone out there feel the way I do? Who, besides me, hears voices in their head? No, I’m not talking about the scary-creepy-schizophrenic kind, but the bossy, stressful voice continually reminding you of all the things you need “TO DO?” Yeah, THAT voice.

            I’ve always been a hard worker. I was the geek in high school who woke up in the middle of the night to study MORE for an exam I was probably already prepared for. (My own parents had to tell me to stop working so hard.) A virtual “To Do” list was something that was always running around my brain – kind of like the ticker that runs around the building in Times Square telling us about the latest news headlines.

            While it’s great to keep track of the tasks at hand, a perpetual ticker in my brain is NOT so great. I’ve tried making physical lists and setting alarms on my calendar, in an attempt to get that “To Do” list out of my head, but it doesn’t matter. The ticker never shuts off. It spins around and around, and sometimes wakes me up in the middle of the night. And as this ticker keeps spinning in my head, my life is spinning by at the same time.

            I was talking to a friend the other day about an approaching deadline I have for my writing – one that was self-imposed of course – and I was freaking out:
ME: “I have TO DO it by December 31st.”
FRIEND: “Why?”
ME: “Because I have to.”
FRIEND: “Why?”
ME: “Because I just DO!”
Okay, is it me, or do I sound like a bratty eight-year old? What the hell does “Because I have to” or “Because I just do” even mean? Where’s the rationale or the logic? Answer: there is none.

            I saw a great indie flick this week called “Stuck In Love.”  One of the characters, Samantha (played by Lily Collins), is talking a mile a minute to a guy at a party about how she feels—about how we all live life in fast forward, never stopping to be in the moment. Samantha comments, “We’re too busy rushing through everything so we can get on with what we’re really supposed to be doing with our lives.” And she suddenly realizes that life is happening RIGHT NOW and one day it will all be over, so she’d better enjoy it while she can. For a moment, I felt like I was watching myself on the screen. Oh Samantha, you GET me! (I guess I should give props to the screenwriter, Josh Boone, too) I have expressed these exact sentiments numerous times. Was someone trying to tell me something?  Do I need to stop and enjoy the moment? If only it were that easy! Isn’t it John Lennon who said “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans?” Oh, what to do about those annoying TO DO’s…

            Nothing like the last day of the year to make a resolution! In 2014, I am going to make sure I am in the present moment at least once a day, and put that dreaded “To Do” list away for a few minutes—hopefully longer. “To Do’s” are always there—cross one off your list and another one will inevitably crop up in its place. But when a moment passes you by, nothing crops up in its place. It’s simply… gone.

But what about that self-imposed December 31st writing deadline? Well you can’t totally teach an old gal, new tricks. I will make the deadline, and do something, though it won’t be enough to completely cross it off my list. “But you have TO DO it today,” says the Voice In My Head. Actually, I DON’T. “Shut the f*** up,” I calmly reply. Right now, I have some moments I need to enjoy!

Happy last day of the year, everyone!!! Hope you all find some time to enjoy YOUR moments...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Holy Hell… The Holidays Are Here (Again)!

            All of a sudden I get that angsty feeling in my body. My heart starts racing… and not in a good way. I imagine crowds of tourists and holiday shoppers, invading my streets and making it impossible to get to my place of work (which incidentally is in a park full of tourists and holiday shoppers).

            And whether or not this week kicks off the “official” start of the holiday season, I know the bitter truth. The holidays started back in September—at least that’s what the retail world would like us to believe. Perhaps this is part of the reason people don’t get as excited about the holidays as they used to. By the time they ACTUALLY arrive, we are over it. The only thing left to ponder is whether we want to hit the Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales, or simply avoid them altogether. I tend to go for third option. Commercialism, folks. Bah humbug!

While scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook, I noticed a friend’s status: “Remember when the holidays weren’t stressful?” That just made me doubly sad. Sad for my friend, but sad because I struggle with the same sentiment. Two other friends have already said they don’t plan on putting trees up this year. A coworker remarked last week, “I can’t wait til Jan 1st. I just want it to be over.” Granted my coworker and I work in a restaurant and we feel the holiday push in a whole different way than your typical 9 to 5er. When I worked on Wall Street it wasn’t a question of whether I would attend a Christmas party, it was how many parties I would attend. It truly was a time to eat, drink and be merry. In the hospitality industry, we certainly EAT, but we’re busy helping other people drink and be merry—for as many shifts as possible until we feel we can’t stand up anymore. Tis the season to make money, after all.

Sometimes it just feels like the holiday season is about anything other than, well, the holidays. Especially when you have vendors cat calling to you, trying to push whatever they have for sale. By the way, Overly-Zealous-Man-Renting-Bicycles-At-Columbus-Circle, I am NOT interested in touring around the city on one of your vehicles. For the record, just because I am wearing a backpack, does not make me a tourist. Please let me take the subway to the LES so I can get my pants altered by my tailor in peace, okay?

And for me, the holiday season brings the added stress of my birthday… a birthday that happens to fall on the last day of the year. And no—it’s NOT great to have a birthday on New Year’s Eve, in case you were wondering. One of these days I’m going to punch some undeserving soul in the mouth for exclaiming for the umpteenth time, “It must be sooooooo much fun to celebrate your birthday with the rest of the world!” Uh, no… it SUCKS. If you want further explanation of my feelings concerning my birthday, feel free to read it here: http://dinalaura.tumblr.com/post/15002650690/my-birthday-vs-new-years-eve-and-the-winner-is-not

But wait… here I am bellyaching, when I stop and remember I actually LOVE the holidays. It’s a time of year when telling the people who matter to you that they… matter to you feels natural. (Truth be told, it always feels natural to me.) It’s a time to look around you and be grateful for the ones you love, who love you in return. Even within the holiday chaos there is always time to breathe in and out, and recognize we made it through another year and look forward to new beginnings in the year to come. As corny as it may sound, it’s a time to feel the love and to spread that love outward… from your closest friends to perfect strangers. Anybody remember Annie Lennox’s cover of “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” from the movie “Scrooged?” Hmmm… hope it’s not just me. The bottom line is I believe the holiday season is about finding the “holiday cheer,” even at moments when the Grinch in you wants to tell someone to piss off.

In tribute to the 8 days of Chanukah and the 12 days of Christmas, here are some things I LOVE about the holiday season (in no particular order):

1) Ice Skating!
2) SweatersTo a New Yorker like me, nothing says “holidays” like cold weather and bundling yourself up in a comfy sweater.
3) Hallmark Holiday MoviesThat’s right, baby. They are cheesy and predictable and I love every minute of them. In fact, I have a Hallmark movie day coming up with my pal Betsy in a couple weeks and I can’t wait.
4) Holiday FoodDeviled eggs, eggnog, turkey and stuffing, pie, pie and more pie!
5) Santa ClausYes this Jewish-raised girl loves the man in red. Perhaps my Italian father can account for this. What’s not to love about a jolly, fat guy in a red suit? And he comes with all those adorable reindeer… hello?
6) Holiday DecorationsNothing beats a well-decorated Christmas tree. Wreaths, lights, garland… I love it all. And those front yards where the house is lit up so bright you can see it from several blocks away, just floor me. (I don’t wanna know what their electricity bill is!)
7) My MenorahOf course I can’t forget my beautiful menorah! And when I remember to light it, even better!
8) MistletoeI know it’s technically a holiday decoration, but I felt it deserved its own category per my “spreading the love” comment earlier.
9) Holiday PartiesEven a server like me finds a moment to attend at least one party! (Rosie and Kira… I’m Ithaca bound soon, so get ready for another Bota Box!)
10) Holiday MusicSorry, but I will never get sick of hearing Nat King Cole’s silky voice sing those famous lyrics: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”
11) Holiday CardsThey are certainly more rare these days thanks to the Internet and our Facebook walls, but they haven’t disappeared altogether. Whenever I receive a card in the mail, it makes me smile.
12) The Beauty of New York CityOkay, I know as New Yorkers we get jaded, but how gorgeous is NYC during the holidays? Everywhere you look, the city is decorated from beautiful store windows on Fifth Avenue, to all the Christmas trees, lights and those signs hanging from the telephone lines that say “Happy Holidays!” It’s so amazing!

I hope everyone finds a moment to enjoy the holiday season and make your own lists of what you love about this time of year. And Overly-Zealous-Man-Renting-Bicycles-At-Columbus-Circle—I’m sorry if I gave you a dirty look. But I still don’t want to rent one of your bicycles!

Happy Turkey Day everyone!!!

Monday, October 14, 2013

I Can’t Live Without You… or Can I?

            Who’s texting me??? I HAVE to know!!! I am a woman possessed, compulsively reaching into my purse every ten minutes or so to check my phone. In an age where everything consumable is accessible from your fingertips, text messages are my kryptonite. Emails? Nah. Voicemails? Not so much. But text messages? I MUST have them and I must have them NOW! With texting, you know someone is thinking about you seconds after they have the thought. It’s instant gratification of the mind!

            You can only imagine, then, how I felt when I reached into my purse at work and discovered my iPhone 4s was M-I-A! And yes, I did say the iPhone 4s… I’m one of those gals who waits for her phone to die (or in this case go missing) before upgrading to the latest and greatest model. At first, I couldn’t believe it. In all my years of using cell phones, I had never lost one. My coworkers helped me look in every crack and crevice, as they simultaneously bombarded me with questions: “Are you sure you put your phone back in your purse?” “Did you carry it somewhere else and just forget about it?” “Do you think someone is playing a joke on you?”

My coworker Eddie, a technology junkie, is an avid PC devotee and thus, a Mac hater. Despite his disdain for everything Apple, he scoured the Internet on my behalf (via his Samsung Galaxy) and determined we could locate my phone via an application called Find My iPhone. “Does my ‘location services’ have to be turned on to use the application?” I asked. “Yes,” Eddie replied. “Oops,” I responded. “I don’t keep that on, because it drains my battery.” Bummer.

But Eddie the Relentless figured out a way to remotely force my location services to turn on from his phone. VoilĂ ! The hunt for my iPhone was back in business. I watched the compass dial on the “Find my iPhone” app spin around and around… Guess where it landed? At my place of work! Unlike Elvis, it hadn’t “left the building.” Then where the hell was it? By the end of the night, the phone had not materialized and I went home, empty handed. I felt so isolated. Not because I couldn’t play Candy Crush, (which I don’t play by the way). It was like someone had unplugged me and I was completely disconnected from the world.  

All this angst made me wonder about the days when I didn’t even HAVE a cell phone. Wasn’t I fine back then? And wasn’t there a time when I used to write actual letters instead of sending an email? Friends used to tell me how much they loved my letters. “You sound just like the way you talk!” was a frequent comment. I used to write someone a long letter and by the time it was received, the uber-important fight I had described in minute detail, had long since blown over. Isn’t there something charming about that? And how about mailing someone a birthday/anniversary/get well card? Well, those were replaced by e-cards a while back, and these days I simply give the person a shout-out on their Facebook wall. Sigh. I write so infrequently with an actual pen that I no longer remember cursive. Do you?

When I started writing this blog entry, it was simply going to be a humorous anecdote that played out like an episode of “Monk.” I could call it “Mr. Monk and the Cell Phone Caper,” in which Adrian Monk solves the mystery of my absentee phone with his famous line: “Here’s what happened…” But somehow, the words weren’t coming. I realized I was struggling because my story wasn’t just about losing a cell phone. After all, I could replace it practically for free by extending my cell phone contract! No, what was bothering me was how much I had come to rely on this device and what that dependence said about me.

Cell phones have become like our IVs… our lifeline to the world. Or are they? During the 24 hours I was phoneless, I still met up with an old friend who happened to be in the city for the day. We had no prearranged plans; I didn’t even know he was coming to town. Despite that, he managed to track me down at my job, without my ever receiving a text message, an email or a voicemail from him. It made me realize that when someone really wants to contact you, they will find a way to do so. So I ask you—do we really need cell phones as much as we think? Or perhaps the real question is… do I?

Are you wondering what happened to my iPhone 4s? Eddie the Relentless continued to track the phone when he got home and I got an email from him at 3:00 a.m., telling me the phone was still at work and that he was going to bed. As my mom would say, “What a mench!” Several weeks later, the exact whereabouts of the phone is still a mystery, but I have since learned that I did not, in fact, lose it. I subsequently replaced my old model with the newer (though not the newest) iPhone 5. And while it’s nice to have a phone again, I somehow feel different. Don’t get me wrong—I still love my text messages! I just don’t feel the sense of urgency about them. I’ve discovered the people who want to reach out to me, will… one way or another. Perhaps the next step is to change the way I reach out to people. It might be time to break out my old stationary. Let’s just hope my handwriting is still legible...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dogs Never Judge, So Why Do I?

            It never ceases to amaze me an animal’s capacity to love, and to do so unconditionally. The way they look at you with such honesty and sincerity in their eyes is unparalleled amongst us humans. Perhaps the combination of these behaviors is what makes them free from judgment of the world around them.

            Anyone that knows me is aware of my near-obsession for canines. A passion for my furry friends led me to dog walking (http://www.libertywalkers.net) but even before that, my heart was full of love for “man’s best friend”. It didn’t matter what kind… Labrador, Dachshund, Poodle, Golden Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, Bulldog, etc… I adored ‘em all. Suffice it to say; long before I was ever a dog walker, I was a dog LOVER. I would accost people on the street and shower their dogs with affection before they even had time to give me permission. (These days, living in NYC, I always ask first.) One thing I’ve noticed almost universally is every dog’s ability to instinctively know I was “friend” not “foe.” Owners will commonly say to me, “That’s really weird. My dog isn’t normally so friendly toward strangers.” Actually, it’s not weird at all. Dogs know I want to be their buddy, and they, in turn, want to be mine regardless of what I look like, where I work or how much money I have in the bank. Dogs get what we humans don’t—accepting friendship without qualifying it is a true gift and blessing in life.

As humans, we are so distrustful. We assume everyone has an agenda and everyone wants something, and whatever they want, it can’t be good. Not true with our beloved tail-waggers. You want to pet them, awesome. You want to shower them with love, also awesome. You want to give them treats, even better. Dogs can instantly tell your intentions are good, and if so, all is okay in their world.

And the more I walk dogs, the more convinced I am in my beliefs. Take Bucky, for example:

Isn’t he gorgeous? Bucky is truly a gentle soul, who wants nothing more than to show you how much he cares (usually by pouncing on you and almost knocking you flat on the ground). When I was walking him the other week, I saw a man pushing a shopping cart who seemed to be ranting in a way that made me uncomfortable.  I was trying to move to the other side of the street, but not Bucky. He wanted to go over and say hello. A few seconds later, someone in the neighborhood was talking to the man with the shopping cart as if it was all perfectly normal. In that moment, I knew I had misjudged him. He was possibly learning disabled or handicapped in some way, but he was certainly no threat to me or Bucky. But then… Bucky knew that already.

            I was so ashamed of my behavior. How could I make such a snap judgment of someone? Me, who admittedly so often feels misunderstood herself… how could I turn around and do the same thing to someone else?

            And then there are days when snap judgments are non-existent because I’m oblivious to the world around me. Let’s face it; there are times in NYC, we all tune out. We walk around in a daze, worrying about our lives or maybe something as inane as what we’re going to eat for dinner. In that moment, a canine companion can be the perfect alarm system to alert you to approaching danger.  Meet Hercules a.k.a. “Boogie”:

I still can’t figure out how Boogie’s love for everyone and everything around him can be contained in his little body. He has boundless energy and enthusiasm and it’s so beautiful to see. That said, when Boogie backs away from someone or something, I know to get the hell out of its path. If Boogie doesn’t trust you, I know there’s something seriously wrong with you.

            And then there’s my dog, Fenwick a.k.a. Wicksie Doodle:

Wicksie is no longer with us, but when he was, boy was he a hoot! He was gorgeous, and knew it. So much so, he didn’t need to bother with anyone or anything. He was content to watch the world, and had little desire to interact with it. He certainly didn’t judge… to judge, you have to care, and my darling pup was far too aloof for that. Oh, how I loved him nevertheless!
            And I know there are naysayers like my friend Danny who claim, “What about a dog that doesn’t like a certain race of people—Asian, African American, Hispanic? They are obviously judging.” Well how did that happen? Human intervention, of course. No dog decides to dislike an entire race of people by accident. They were trained to do so. It comes down to this: left to their own devices, a dog can sniff you and know if they like you or don’t.

            Which brings me to an important point: judgment versus opinion—there is a difference! Look, as free spirited as I can be, I’m not preaching we all love each other (though I wouldn’t mind if we did). My acting teacher, Matthew Corozine, used to say, “Not everyone is going to like you, and not everyone is going to get you.” Some people are simply not our “cup of tea.” But that’s your opinion. Someone else may meet the same person you didn’t vibe with and think he or she is absolutely divine. No need, however, to slap a judgment on the person: “That person is crazy,” or “What a loser,” or “What a geek.” Just chalk it up to different strokes for different folks and move on!

            And I am giving this advice as much to myself as to anyone else out there, who might be reading this. It’s something worth striving for. Let the ultimate non-judgmental dog—Bella—whose best friend is an elephant, serve as inspiration to us all: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBtFTF2ii7U

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Does idiocy, like bad news, come in threes? If so, I got another one comin’!

Ever have one of those off days… weeks… months? Well, that’s where I’ve been. Summer is almost over and although fall is my favorite season, I still feel a symbolic death at the end of my flip-flop wearing days. For years, September meant a return to school and studying, aka stress. These days, all September signifies is the end to my A/C being on 24/7. I lament the back-to-school sales and the cute, trendy outfits the girls will be wearing on the first day of school. These students belong to a club I am no longer a member of. I’ve become an outcast. School always gave me a sense of purpose—a structure I could depend on. And as hard as I still work, some days that structure and purpose can be hard to find, especially since it’s self-imposed.

Perhaps my end of the season doldrums can account for my moronic behavior of late. More likely, it’s my weak attempt to deflect blame, and maybe I need to admit that age is slowly scrambling my brain. Whatever the cause, lately it seems as if stupidity flows through me like sands through an hourglass.

It all started when I ordered external hard drives from Amazon. I am admittedly an external hard drive geek. Ever since I fried my computer’s hard drive years ago and was forced to pay a whopping $550 to retrieve my data, I have been the “back up queen.” So I did my homework, researched the latest and greatest drives and finally settled on two drives (yes two) from Western Digital. My heart fluttered when I pressed “submit order”. I couldn’t wait to receive my drives and start organizing my data. (Clearly my thrill at backing up data indicates my need to get a personal life but I’ll save that for another blog entry.) A few days later, my drives arrived. But alas, when I plugged one of them in, nothing happened. I downloaded the user guide (something akin to admitting defeat) to no avail. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I picked up the box and stared at it, when it suddenly hit me. The name of the drive was missing the familiar “for Mac” at the end of it. I had bought the PC versions of the drives. Doh. One return shipping label and $12 in shipping costs later, the wrong drives were on their way to Amazon and the correct ones were now in transit.

Then for my second asinine move. I came up with the brilliant idea of doing my laundry before work. Sounds time efficient, right? I mean, what else do we do before work but eat breakfast and watch “Kelly and Michael”? Getting laundry out of the way on a workday allows my day off to truly be a day off. In theory, it’s genius. In practice, however, it presupposes that I’m going to remember to pick up my laundry when it’s dry! Later that night when I went to make my bed, I discovered I had no clue where my sheets were… or my work shirts… or any of my whites for that matter.

So the same night as my hard drive debacle, I walked to the laundromat to find my clothes sitting in a cart. The manager looked over at me and said, “I was wondering who those belonged to.” Oops. While I was gathering my clothes, a customer commented on how he had once left his clothes behind for two weeks. Apparently I’m not the only idiot in Astoria. Whoopee.

And now I’m simply waiting for the other shoe to drop. What stupid move will I make next? Move my car and forget where I parked it? Get ready for work only to remember I have the day off? I know those seem pretty innocuous, but in the heat of the moment, you feel like a first class imbecile. Is this all a sign of some undiagnosed psychosis? Seasonal Affective Disorder, perchance? Essentially it’s a mood disorder where people with normally good mental health experience mood swings in the winter or summer. That would certainly explain my summer blues, but not my turning into an ignoramus. I think my malady is in a class all by itself, and I am hereby declaring it: Dumb-Ass Dina Disorder.

Where is the cure, however, for my particular ailment? The approaching autumn may ultimately prove to be my savior. John Keats’ “To Autumn” speaks of the transition from summer to fall so beautifully:
Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run

Oh Mr. Keats… how I adore your eloquence. It speaks to me of summer’s passing, yet partnership with the coming fall to create a bountiful harvest. Here’s to hoping my life mirrors these sentiments. Let this fog consuming my brain be lifted by the crisp, cool air on the horizon, and allow me to move forward to a prolific and creative mindset. But until that chilly breeze hits me, you can find me sitting in the corner… wearing my dunce cap.