Saturday, February 26

no shabat shalom

Where to begin? The peace has been shattered once again, making all our mundane, life-sucks type problems look insignificant ... for a few hours. About an hour and a half ago, another suicide bomber struck, this time just off the Tel Aviv beach front, in front of a club packed with twenty-somethings. Three of them were killed immediately, scores wounded. "And still we find a reason to believe..."

It's the culmination of a long, lousy week for me. Tired of work, coming up to two months now. Just very, very tired of rising early every morning to rush off to the traffic and nine-and-a-half bloody hours of sitting and staring at boring user guides for boring technology. Still thankful to be employed, though; it does beat the current alternative.

I had an "evalutation" this week. Ony because February is when they do them. So mine was "forward-thinking" as opposed to an actual evaluation. However, my boss did say I'd received several compliments on my contributions, which makes her look good, she says, having deliberately hired a not-very-technical writer for her tiny technical/marketing dept. -- since she has no budget for a technical writer AND a marketing writer, she decided to go with emphasis on the marketing. She says it's much easier to turn a marketing (i.e. more creative type) writer into a technical writer than vice versa. I agree. I asked her if I would be causing a problem if I didn't quite work all the hours I was supposed to (since I wouldn't be paid for them anyway -- it's all computerized) and she quickly assured me it WOULD be a problem, that the HR VP would come to her and question the situation. We wouldn't want that. I'm going to have to make up a few hours next week. Don't know where they're going to come from; guess I'll be pulling them out of my *ss.

Also went to a highly recommended naturopath (who is also an MD) to pursue a solution to my migraines. Long (expensive) story short: There are 3 serious issues to deal with, any or all of which together could be causing my body to react with migraines: 1) constipation -- he will be satisfied with nothing less than "one good bowel movement per day" -- the toxins that are reabsorbed by a body not eliminating frequently are very bad news; 2) my obvious sensitivity to caffeine means I need to lower caffeine consumption to the absolute minimum, starting with diminishing my first-thing-in-the-morning double espresso; and 3) my sensitivity to sugar spikes means I need to avoid bread and other flour products, and potatoes -- absolute staples to my diet! Pasta, strangely, is relatively okay. But otherwise, I must stick to low GI (glucose index) foods: those which raise blood sugar gently, not in a spikey manner.

Did you ever notice that bread and other flour-based products seem to fly at you like metal objects in an MRI room, exactly when you're not supposed to be consuming them? They're everywhere! What am I supposed to eat for breakfast? Answer: oatmeal. And oat bran. And crushed psyllium. With prunes.

Excused me while I take a geriatric moment.

Tuesday, February 22

meeting the lioness

In well under a decade, the Internet has changed our lives in profound ways that have seismically altered our frames of reference. Everything -- and everyone -- now seems knowable. I still remember my excitement, back in 1997 -- the stone age, barely 8 years ago -- before all the simple messaging systems (before aol's, yahoo's or even ICQ, and long before msn's) were in place, I downloaded an IRC app one evening that eventually worked for me, and I connected with some guy in India. The possibilities enthralled me, and still do. Of course we naturally become blase about technology that once was novel, but there's only so much you can do with a microwave; the possibilities of the Internet, however, are infinite.

And one of those infinite possibilities came to fruition this evening when I finally met Johnny, the Lioness of Lisbon. After work, I drove to her kibbutz (where she's staying this week for the funeral and shiva of her friend), trying to make out my scrawled directions in the dark. Just when I needed a red light so I could stop and check my little piece of paper, I couldn't get one. Israel's highways have become so very hi-tech and complex that I couldn't figure out where my exit was. At high speeds, in the dark, and with my glasses instead of contacts, the signage is almost impossible to make out. Amazingly, I made no wrong turns, yet still had no idea where I was, so turned back. After phoning Johnny and her friend, I discovered I was on the right track in the first place, so did a U-turn and went back. Snaking through many dark roads, eventually I found her. We found a tiny place for a coke and a bottle of water, and sat and talked and let grief find whatever expression it chose.

She has come to us under tragic circumstances, unfortunately, but the qualities of the Lioness are no less evident. Johnny is full of life in the midst of death, and resilient in the face of everything else the cosmos is throwing at her. "No rest for the wicked" is a silly old line we say when davka good people seem to get way more than their share of work to do. But it is interesting how the people with the biggest hearts do often have a lot to deal with. It's all part of who they are and why they're here on earth.

There's no getting around death -- the great leveler is in the cards for all of us -- so it's good when it succeeds in making us all the more aware of life. It is certainly a tough time for the Lioness, but her angels are standing by, all around, to offer comfort.

Sunday, February 20

thinking "happy" thoughts

I may have become a robot. Or a mind-sucked golem. This is the reality of what happens to full-time jobniks. Today, I was asked by a friend I haven't talked to since I started working (L, you know who you are, and this is all your fault), how I was coping. And I answered in a cheerfully optimistic tone that is SO NOT ME, "Oh, I'm learning to pace myself; it's really not all that bad. I just focus on the advantages of the situations (i.e. the MONEY I haven't had in nearly 4 years of un-or under-employment) and try to keep my mind off the COST."

Okay, after that conversation it started to creep into my mind all day what was really going on, how we actually manage to cope with the horror of full-time wage slavery: DENIAL. Also, REPRESSION. In other words, the real meaning of "getting used to the new reality" is that I have allowed myself to be drugged (by the MONEY) to the point where I've forgotten about not just the long long list of fascinating bookmarked blogs in my favorites list, but even the few in my close-in "crew" (as I warmly think of them) -- bloggers who actually bother to read me and even comment from time to time -- i.e. my lifeblood, my raison d'blogre.

And I don't read books. And I can't get through the Friday paper. I pay very little attention to the news (though it's looking optimistic, don't you think?) I'd like to go shopping and take advantage of the end-of-season sales (though by next week it'll be practically full-time summer around here) but that requires far more energy than I've got. Not that I honestly care, but the apartment is disgusting again since we still haven't solved the cleaning lady issue. (That's a whole story in itself.) I haven't gone to a movie in months (though we do rent old-ish ones) and the Oscars are, like, THIS WEEK!! And my copywriting course languishes on my desk, gathering dust, instalment two now crowding number one. I am hardly writing at all, in fact, other than here (no, the crap I write at work doesn't count).

And yet, when I'm at work, I just "forget" what I lovingly refer to as my "real life." aka things I'd rather be doing.

How does all this (just the most petty tip of the iceberg, of course) get neglected? I'll tell you how. When I walk in the door from work, I do dishes. And laundry. And make chicken soup (or just throw together a salad). And go to my in-laws. And try to get through (currently) 132 non-personal emails (I've given up, it's okay) and (don't) go to the gym because I'm too tired (or, last week, sick). And today I went to the grocery store before coming home from work. And tomorrow I'm going to a naturopath about my migraines before I come home from work. (And both days I'm actually leaving work early, so there will be hours to make up.) Oh yeah, and I DO find time to meditate, even if it's like midnite to 1am, because I'm committed to that in the belief that eventually nirvana will be MINE (mwa-ha-haha!). In between these things, I fend off talk to my daughter (who doesn't stop yakking until I give her the sign that my head is about to explode -- ok, I yell).

This is the reality of "coping" with full-time employment. I've numbed myself to all I could be doing; I've anaesthetized the existential pain with purchases of expensive one-nighters (plus spa treatment) in resort hotels and filled the gaping holes with all-we-can-eat sushi binges. Because now we can afford it. But it doesn't make up for what I'd rather be doing.

Maybe what I'd rather be doing looks like lazy-cow behavior to you. But I just don't see how the pointless activity I do all day for the sake of making money is more worthy.

Of course, thank god, I have no social life to miss -- other than my virtual one -- so that's the one really bright ray of sunshine.

Friday, February 18

Yam HaMelach mini-break

I think that's what Bridget Jones called it. In Israel, it's a "weekend" -- starts Friday, ends by Saturday evening, 24 hours and a bit. Mr. Squarepeg and I are going to the Dead Sea for a day's rest from our usual addictions (me: internet; him: tv soccer and sports gambling) and will pamper ourselves with massages and mud treatments and the soothing hypnotic view of the glassy "sea".

The past week at work has been hard mostly because of having a cold, despite not being a heavy one, other than a lot of nose-blowing. The week started out cold, but then got very hot and dry. Just when I think the cold is over, I've started getting a little irritation in my chest with a tiny cough, and that starts turning into a deeper cough that hurts. I woke up at 2am feeling very mucous-y and couldn't go back to sleep, and then when the cough stabbed my chest I knew I needed to get up and breathe steam. I boiled the water and put a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil in a bowl, then added 2cm of the water and covered my head with a towel. After breathing it for 5 minutes or so my chest felt easier. I did the dishes, boiled some more water, breathed some more steam, still didn't feel sleepy, came to the computer. Now it's almost 6:30 and no point going back to bed since I'll have to get up again in an hour. Damn. And we have to leave here by 10 am.

Okay, I gotta get outta here.

Monday, February 14

the echinacea fails me

Although I've been taking my echinacea almost every 3 hours since a sore throat made its appearance Friday night, I've still been hit with a cold -- my first in about a year and a half, I think. Pretty good record, and it's probably only a very mild version of the nasty flu virus making the rounds, felling colleagues right and left. Some congestion and sneezing -- that together with a mild headache to celebrate the start of my period, and I considered it a very good day to stay home! Even planned it yesterday at work, planting the seed as I blew my nose and held my head, with a slight moan: "If I feel like this tomorrow, I'll probably take the day off." After six weeks, I'd say I've earned a sick day.

I used the quiet at home to concentrate on burning some backup CDs of files and digital pictures that have been accumulating since '99 (back when I still had to scan them). Knowing that this is done is a load off my mind -- you know what they say: it's not a question of IF your hard disk will crash, but only WHEN. Though in 7 or 8 years of computer ownership, I've never had the misfortune. But at least half my immediate family certainly has, so I get to benefit from their painful experience.

My daughter -- for whom I am still her Big Love -- came home with a sweet gift for Valentine's Day: paper rose-studded heart box with an I LOVE YOU candle inside. She remains totally unfazed by my cynicism over these commercial dates, and manages to melt my scroogey-ness every time.

Friday, February 11

i think i see a pot of gold...

rainbow over raanana

Just thought I'd share the view from my bedroom window this afternoon, the reward following days of rain...
Below view reveals a double rainbow.

[Top shot was taken on "sunset" setting of my Nikon Coolpix;
click on photo to see larger view -- it's worth it.]

nobody does riots like the brits

"Slicha! Yesh tor!"

That's how the self-righteous Israeli admonishes queue-jumpers. "Hell-llooooo! There's a line!" It's usually enough, especially when backed up with another couple of irate customers.

Urbane Israelis frequently compare their low "queue-IQ" to that of the super-polite Brits (not to mention Canadians). What passes for a lineup in this country is characteristically wider than it is long, since people are always worried about someone with more hutzpa than them getting ahead (likewise when driving on the highways).

Apparently, though, the stereotype of the terminally correct Brit is just a little off the mark. Or maybe it's just the effect Ikea tends to have on the nervous system.

As exciting as Ikea openings are, I can't imagine Israelis trampling each other to buy furniture -- and Israelis LOOOOOOOOOVE buying furniture. Four years ago, the chain opened its first (and still only) store here in Netanya, the next town north of us, just a 15-minute drive away. The lineups were legendary. I've still never seen anything like it (including the time I took my daughter to "meet" Hilary Duff at a mall outside of Toronto).

It was during the Pesach holiday -- an especially feverish season for household purchases -- and I heard that people waited in the heat for two hours to get into the store. I went on the third or fourth day after the opening and the queue -- which was wide but controlled with ropes in a maze-like arrangement -- was still about 45 minutes. I guess Israelis see such things as "events" -- it's got the novelty factor, but it's nothing to get serious about. In the life-and-death course of Israeli events, this sort of thing qualifies as "shtuyot" -- minor stuff, nonsense.

Not the Brits though. The people who gave us Hillsborough have done it again at the opening this week of a new Ikea store in North London, as a result of advertising promising cheap couches. "Five people are in hospital today after hundreds were crushed as the opening of England's biggest Ikea store turned into a riot."

Guess that makes our rude little queues look pretty well-behaved.

the unholy triad

Greetings, friends, and welcome again to My Weekend. Weather report: cold and rainy. Prognosis: movies and Internet.

I don't actually mind the weather much -- though the winter sun is fabulous, of course -- because I know it won't go on much longer. At work, they're planning an excursion 2 weeks from now to visit the flowers in the countryside "at the peak of their blooming" and winter should be old news by the end the month. Then I'll be pining away at work, looking out the window and wishing to be outside. Followed pretty quickly by the inside-out version of Canadian winter: all hot, all the time, right through to October. So a little rain doesn't dampen my spirit.

I don't know what to do about my email anymore. It's not spam, but also not personal -- I probably don't receive even one personal email a day, on average -- it's all the lists I belong to that represent areas I want to know more about: writing, health, ADD, the neighborhood I live in -- it's endless. I was up to 116 emails by yesterday, and I had to just start deleting, willy-nilly, messages that I knew I'd never get to. I'm down to 94 now...

The interesting thing about this week at work has been the way my dormant learning curve suddenly shot out of the fog and leapt into action. I've been at the job six weeks now, and feeling totally out of touch with the technology I'm supposed to be documenting. Which is to say that I felt and looked very stupid. Anyone attempting to explain anything to me was met with a blank, if not pained, stare. Anything that was said to me went pretty much in one ear and out the other, as there was no brain-hook in place on which to hang new information. My brain was very tired and I wondered if this stuff was ever going to make sense. I desperately needed some foundation, and I spent most of the time (with copious "rest" breaks during which I tried to make a dent in my personal email) finding, printing out, and studying online tutorials in telecommunications. It was like studying latin terms in medicine, with thousands of acronyms taking the place of the Latin. Certain acronyms were repeated so many times that I had to try to learn what they stood for, but the words behind the acronyms were meaningless too. I pressed on, eventually discerning little patterns here and there; sequences started to look familiar; and then one day while someone was explaining a technical concept, I finished his sentence with the right word. Hurray! I could feel my IQ returning.

My boss has been exceedingly understanding throughout this period. She hired me to be more of a marketing than a technical writer, fortunately, and she knew what she was getting. In fact, in our very first conversation on the phone, I told her I wasn't very technical and she wasn't concerned. She keeps telling me not to worry, that she expects I'll be an excellent technical writer, but not for at least six months to a year. Meanwhile, she's happy to have my other skills, of high-quality editing and proofreading. Not being a native English speaker herself, she's counting on me to make her look good. I'm doing my best. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give her about an 8 as a boss, since she's organized, clear about what she wants and needs, and very ballsy. On a personal level, she's a 6.5 -- being very opinionated and competitive, and often strident, histrionic and not a thoughtful listener. Plus, her response to my humor is rarely satisfying. I can live with this, but her loud posturing did start to grate on me a bit by yesterday, and it'll be nice to have her away on business for the whole next week.

On the home front, little ms. squarepeg has been struggling no less than ever. She brought home a report card that was filled with grades in the 50s, plus one 40, except for art and English. Although I'm certain that she is better in English than anyone in her class, she only got 80, while several others got 100! I don't know what's up with that, but dear hubby has finally agreed to pay to send her for proper "assessment" so that she can receive the special conditions for students with ADD or other learning challenges.

ADD (or ADHD) is often thought of as a "problem" but it's very much a contextual issue. It is indeed a problem in a regular school learning situation. But that is because schools are designed to control and churn out average kids with average characteristics. People with ADHD need different conditions to thrive than average kids do.

I discovered ADD when I was in therapy many years ago. I was discussing my daughter, and my therapist went to her crowded bookshelf, overflowing with books three layers deep, and handed me "Driven to Distraction," a book that has since become quite well known, by Dr. Edward Hallowell. When I read it, I was astonished by how accurately his description of ADD matched my daughter's nature, and knew immediately that she was a classic case. Even more stunning was how it described my own life. And my husband's. And my sister's. And one of my brothers. And my mother's brother, and her father.

I'm reminded of this now because of an interview with Hallowell published today in Salon, in which he discusses his new book and the latest research on ADHD. The title of the latest book, Delivered from Distraction," reflects the optimism of the also ADD-afflicted doctor.

In his new book, Hallowell insists that ADD is not just a pathology and can actually be a source of creative and intellectual gifts, if treated properly. "The best way to think of ADD is not as a mental disorder," he writes in the introduction, "but as a collection of traits and tendencies that define a way of being in the world.

"I now really see the condition as a potential gift. It's a potential gift because people with ADD tend to have -- imbedded in the disability, imbedded in the problem -- sparkling qualities such as creativity, energy, intuition, the ability to think outside the box, tenacity, feistiness. Embedded in what's going wrong is a lot that can be made to go right. Take one of the core symptoms: impulsivity. Well, what is creativity but impulsivity gone right?

"So the point of treatment is to take this condition and unwrap the gifts. It's often wrapped in a lot of problems like disorganization, procrastination, distractibility, impulsivity, restlessness. You don't want to just curtail the negative symptoms. It's even more important to look for and try to promote and develop the positive attributes."

So what happens to ADD kids as they grow up? The symptoms may evolve into many varieties of coping strategies, but they don't go away.

"Distractibility, impulsivity and restlessness -- that same triad is present in both children and adults. [But] it can be a less obvious problem for adults because adults are allowed to do what they're good at, and they're not forced to do what they're bad at. Whereas kids are forced to do both what they're good at and what they're bad at. We ask kids to be good at everything, but adults don't have to be.

"Some professions are filled with ADD. Journalism is a hotbed. So is advertising and the stock market. Anything that involves creativity, risk, excitement, you'll find a lot of ADD people. Hollywood is ADD heaven. Actors and everyone out there thinks they have it. It's because it's high stimulation -- the structure is changing all the time and it's an adventure. Entrepreneurship of any sort is a great profession for people with ADD. A lot of doctors have ADD, a lot of trial attorneys, a lot of people in sales.

"Underachievement and a sense of frustration and feeling down on yourself and down on life are the hallmarks of undiagnosed ADD. And the older you get the more pronounced that becomes, and the longer you go without the diagnosis and treatment the more likely it is that you're going to suffer from this very negative version of yourself."
I'm looking forward to reading the book. But I already know that helping my daughter (and myself) find and concentrate on what we love and are good at is the main solution. It worked for Mr. Squarepeg, who's a maverick stock-trader and lives by his own rules (despite my frequent attempts to rein him in over the years) and it will eventually work for her too.

But the road is never a smooth one.

Monday, February 7

this just in: shot at mideast peace forces Condi to miss a football game

how pathetic that this is what the wire services now consider "news"

Sunday, February 6

coincidence? i think not.

Does anybody else automatically click away or change the channel every time the phrase "state of the union" is mentioned? I can't imagine giving my attention to anything less consequential or more full of shit as shrub's public statement.

The definitive comment on that came by email from my father (thanks, Dad!):

It was ironic juxtaposition how Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address occurred on the same day.

One involved a meaningless ritual in which we looked to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication; and the other involved a groundhog.

Saturday, February 5

just checking in ... finally

so. anybody bored with cats yet? -- my cat, that is.
though he be witty, urbane, and bawdy... still, he doesn't really compare to thoughtful introspection or even banal reports on my headaches or angst-filled, middle-aged life, does he?

of course, it's healthy to take a break from angst every once in a while, too. and my cat is a good way to do that. he's very attached to me, and makes way less noise than the other two people I live with. my daughter has even gotten to noticing how I escape to the bedroom and just let the cat come and cuddle with me, when I can't bear any more 12-year-old nagging, demanding, and complaining. it's true, I don't give her enough attention -- but there's never been enough attention to go around, since she's a bit of a bottomless pit, and I do need to pace myself.

this is especially true now, as a full-time jobnik. yes, I've survived the first month and have received the first paycheck -- I may hate the working life, but I'm paid net-after-everything (including the car + all its expenses) what many working-poor are offered gross (before any deductions) -- or bruto, as they say here. reminds me of what a brutish life working is. and frequently nasty. but certainly not short enough -- the nine and a half hours a day are killers for me.

I really tried to get to the gym one evening this week. wednesday, I believe it was. but then I realized I would only get there about 7:45pm and that I'd forgotten to wear my contacts that day anyway, and I really hate working out with glasses, so I just went home and took advantage of the quiet apt. because mr. S had taken the kid for a quick visit to his parents in tel aviv. I got to come home to peace. again I wonder how people with more kids keep their sanity.

thursday I tried again to go to the gym after work. but the mall, where the gym is situated, beckoned like the siren. I hadn't been shopping properly since starting to finally earn some money, and a fix would be VERY nice. too bad I was dragging my leaden gym bag around while browsing the racks. but still managed to put a noticeable dent in the credit card, finally finding the elusive pair of jeans -- stretchy enough (if there's no lycra, fuggedaboudit), and just low-waisted enough without being too low -- I'd been trying to find since last summer. shopping has become that hard -- I have no stamina for it anymore. also found a couple of pairs of pants on sale for the kid, who's grown so much that my perception was off and I bought the wrong size! but I was able to switch them the next day, so she's pleased. good thing she doesn't know those jeans I bought are boys' jeans -- she'd never wear them if she knew, and they are pretty baggy on her. maybe too baggy, actually. they may end up in the charity box...

I've lost a lot of my blogging lust now that my time is at such a premium. blogging simply means that there are other things that never get done. books and newspapers that don't get read; piles of mess that get higher instead of tidied up, salads and other time-consuming healthy choices that don't get made, a copywriting course I'm trying to do by correspondence, and my crucial daily hour of meditation -- the one thing I'm truly maintaining my discipline on because I believe that my mental health depends on it. on the other hand, blogging is my only thin wedge into the writing life right now (no, technical writing does NOT qualify!) so it does have no small purpose.

anyway, it's a rainy saturday. I'm signing off -- am feeling quite rotten with another headache since yesterday, slept badly with, and woke up with -- and going back to bed. pls forgive lack of caps and any typos; haven't got the strength to proofread today.