Thursday, September 6, 2018

A "Mess" Done & Dusted

Photo: Jay Mantri

I know it's been quite a while since my last post, but like the polar ice caps that keep melting, I've been having meltdowns of my own.

And unfortunately, there are no long stories short here... ever since a tsunami of misfortunes unleashed itself upon us.

That said, should you choose to read no further, I'll understand, for your problems are probably greater than mine. But if you're willing, I'm able and now ready, to put 'pen to paper' in order to lay this mess to rest and finally move on.

The "mess" a.k.a. "the move," "the double move," or more aptly, the "move from hell," began when we were notified that our lease wouldn't be renewed and that the house we'd been renting for the past 12 years would be sold... the first of the waves in a current of bad news, the first breach in the floodgate swelling with tears.

Photo: Ray Collins

The second incoming tide prompting hysterics hit months later, in mid-January, in the midst of us trying to prepare for an April move with all our stuff pulled apart and strewn about the house trying to decide which things to toss, which to donate or keep... the news that a realtor would be listing and showing the place in exactly 2 weeks!... 30 days earlier than we expected, 30 days earlier than specified in our lease!

And so, we objected... objected to suddenly having to curtail our moving preparations, of having to reorganize our newly created clutter and keep things pristine, while also having to leave the premise, often at a moment's notice every time a realtor, accompanied by an inquisitive neighbor or potential buyer, wished to traipse through our private space filled with our personal possessions.

Yet, our objections went unheeded... much like our objection to the weather at the time that kept pounding our area with one snowstorm after another: 4 Nor'easters in 3 weeks leaving us little choice but to spend countless days and weeks shoveling white stuff from our sidewalks and huge driveway when time could be better spent packing and finding another place to live.

Only, much to our horror, there were no other suitable places: houses or apartments to be found, even with months of extensive searching online and working with realtors!

Photo: Ray Collins

So, with the house now sold and nowhere else for us to go, we were forced to do something we've never done. Settle. We settled on an available unit to rent in a high-rise... once highly sought after in the 1950's, left in disrepair then shutdown in the mid 2000's, and now being rehabbed and leased as luxury apartments with "rehabbed" being the operative word... though not a word ever written or mentioned by management.

But wait, I've managed to get ahead of myself... probably due to the whirlwind of events and monsoon of emotions that soon followed.

I believe Robert Burns said it best in his poem, "To a Mouse"..."The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men gang aft agley."

Known better in English as... "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

For as much as we planned this move, much continued to go wrong.

Like the leak that sprung suddenly in our soon-to-be apartment.

And while the leak was fixed promptly, the problem was more extensive than originally thought, requiring a total tear-out of the main sewage pipe from the 12th to 1st floors along with the new fixtures and tiles in all of the bathrooms... delaying the date of our 'move in' from April 15th to the 29th... the same day set for moving out of the house!

Thus, wiping out the 2 weeks we had planned for gradually transitioning out of the house and into the apartment.


Photo: Ray Collins

I wailed. Then wailed some more when next, the date of settlement changed, shortchanging our stay at the house by another few days, when every day mattered, for there was still packing to be done, movers and installers to be rescheduled, and a house in need of some prepping: patching, painting, and a good thorough cleaning.


And just when those torrential tears subsided, another surge of bad news emerged... stating that repairs at the high-rise were going slower than expected... and not to expect to move in until sometime in May.


It was then, in my head, when I heard "The Stones" playing...

"You better stop, look around
Here it comes... here it comes... here it comes... here it comes.
Here comes your nineteenth nervous breakdown."

Photo: Ray Collins

Only with so many breakdowns constantly ebbing and flowing, I was no longer sure of the count or if I could keep going, for what began as a 'single' move now became a "double"... "The double move from hell."

Double... because now everything had to be moved twice!!... once, from the house into storage... then at a later date, moved out of storage and into the apartment.

And Hellish... in part, because we only, just barely, managed to vacate the house on the date required, even though 2 AM was technically the next day.

And if not for friends, Doug, who spent days helping us pack, lift, and cart the contents from an entire house and full basement, and for Lu and Nhi, who volunteered to pack and store some of our valuables during those last frantic hours, we'd still be in the house packing, prepping and desperately trying to move out as the new owners were attempting to move in.

Then... with the house emptied and no apartment to go to, we moved ourselves and some bins filled with essentials, into a motel where we stayed, not days, but weeks!

4 weeks!... waiting for repairs at the high-rise to be readied, while watching the dollars flow from our pockets, for with the double move came double expenses: another truck rental and person to help with the move, the cost of rent and a motel, as well as all meals taken-out or eaten in restaurants, plus a plethora of tips for housekeeping and waitstaff.


Photo: Ray Collins

If only someone had just tipped us off sooner... before we signed the lease on our "new luxury apartment," which turned out to be neither new nor luxurious except maybe for some new tiles, fixtures, and appliances, and perhaps luxurious to some, in some parts of the complex, like the lobby, pool area, and amenities building that were intentionally built for "show."

The rest... is just old.

But with no other option, we had to take the entire high-rise "as is"... with its blips, chips, cracks, and blobs poorly painted over or hidden by carpets, along with its ancient mechanical systems that should have been gutted and replaced, but weren't.


Which is why, ever since moving into this place 3 months ago, I'm still having meltdowns... meltdowns due mostly to the constant comings and goings of contractors: electricians, roofers, plumbers, painters, drain cleaners, and HVAC guys who are continually called in to remedy huge problems.

And it's these contractors... along with the phone and cable installers, gardeners and trash haulers who are causing most of our problems... as they arrive early, sometimes as early as 6:30 in the morning, and park their vehicles under our bedroom windows when they have designated parking farther away.

And it's the racket these workers make... with their trucks beeping and doors being slammed, their mowers, leaf blowers and jackhammers blasting and dumpsters screeching when hauled, and it's their ladders and equipment that clank and clatter as they're lifted and loaded onto carts with wheels that squeak when dragged along asphalt... that wakes us up startled, forcing us to start our days loooong before we're ready.

And it's not just the contractors, the early hour, or noise driving us crazy, it's also the lights, newly activated and aimed at our building from the car dealership next door, that have turned night into day in our bedroom even with the vertical blinds tightly shut.

And if all this isn't annoying enough, imagine our frustration when the water, power, or AC is suddenly turned off.

It's enough to make one give up, or in my case... simply melt down.


Photo: Ray Collins

So it's come down to this... continue to be miserable with all of management's chaos and our own disorder: living out of bins and boxes with 3/4 of our stuff still in storage, or... choose to be happy?

In choosing happiness over misery, I'm reminded of something Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

And despite having to live in a complex with infinite problems, we happen to have a uniquely-configured 2 bedroom apartment with good bones and potential... one that's open and spacious (1400 sq. ft) with parquet floors and walls full of picture windows that flood the place with copious light and free-flowing air.

And on those rare occasions when all is calm and quiet, it's almost possible to forget the "helluva mess" we've been through... a mess that's almost done and soon to be dusted.


And in your next quiet moment, here are a few links you might find interesting:

27 tips for home-packing here.

Ice caps breaking down here.

Robert Burn's poem "To a Mouse" here, explained here, and recited here.

A young Rolling Stones performing "19th Nervous Breakdown" here.

More on photographer Ray Collins here and his waves in motion here

If you've read this post sticking it out to the end, thank you!

May the place where you reside
provide you with all the comfort & security you need.

XOX... Dyan

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Books, Attraction, & A Day in the World

Have you ever thought about why we're attracted to or gravitate towards some things and not to others? I haven't given it much thought until now as I continue to purge possessions and pare down on books in order to make an April residential move, to who knows where, somewhat lighter and hopefully less stressful than it already is.

Parting with books is hard, but now necessary. My collection is huge and with books being so heavy, the thought of lifting and carting boxes, and boxes, and boxes, and boxes, of them sits heavy with me.

And so, with each book I lift, I must decide which to keep and which to discard and donate.

So far, I've given away 389 books (and still counting) to two local libraries. Books on: Divination (Astrology, Numerology, I Ching, Runes, Luck and Feng Shui) the Arts (Writing and Writers, Artists and Art History, Painting, Photography, Creativity) along with Craft books (Origami and Bookmaking) the Soul, Dreams, Zen and Meditation, Motivational and Inspirational (aka) self-help books, good Fiction and more.

If only I collected stamps instead of publications (sigh), which is like saying, "If only my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a bicycle... an absurd-sounding statement often made by my dad (about wishing) that I'm only beginning to understand now. 

And so, it's with both hands that I'm clutching this book, A Day in the World, initiated by when exactly 63,294 amateur and professional photographers from more than 190 countries submitted over 100,000 images with descriptions (1,000 of them included in the book) documenting daily life on one given day, May 15, 2012.

Some might call this a 'coffee table' book (a large picture book that's displayed on a table to peruse and spark conversation, I suppose while relaxing and sipping coffee). I don't know, I don't own such a table.

What I do know is that this book weighs as much as some small tables, registering 6 pounds on my bathroom scale, which is why sadly, this book must go... but not before going through it again and again, once more.

And the more I look through this book, it's odd, or perhaps not so strange, that it's here, with these 6 images, that I stop and pause a bit longer each time.

pp. 88-90 London, UK, 08:45

"In the past 10 years, I have moved house eight times, living in Kabul, in four different flats in New York, briefly in Los Angeles, and finally in London. In each of these places, I always build a memory box corner. A suitcase full of secrets, a time capsule, an alcove, it gives weight and roots to a new place— and for that matter must remain untouched. I never sweep the dust off the shelf. Sometimes I add an object or remove one, but some are central pieces. As an ensemble, they comfort me, express the passage of time, and provide a form of permanence in my vagabond life."
Photo and description: Claudine Boeglin

A vagabond and a warrior, how extraordinary to have the strength and ability to frequently uproot one's self and continually move on.

pp. 80-81 London, UK, 07:57

"Ivy was looking at a Rapunzel sticker book in her room before she left for nursery. Her favorite is a nursery rhyme book. Ivy loves her room and is often found 'relaxing' (her word) with books or children's magazines."
Photo and description: Suzanne Plunkett

Ahhhh... a room of one's own, to be surrounded by the things that we love and intrigue us. How comforting and engaging.

pp. 24-26 Cape Spear, Newfoundland, Canada,  05:45
This is the easternmost point in continental North America.

"We see the first rays of sunlight before anyone else on this coastline. The lighthouse in the foreground is the oldest in Newfoundland, built in 1834 and used until 1995, when the newer lighthouse— whose light is visible in the background— replaced it."
Photo and description: Dave Armstrong

How privileged to have a light that guides you and to receive the very first rays of the day, each and every day, before anyone else in all of North America.

pp. 128-129 Kawasaki, Japan, 10:00

"My girlfriend started losing her connections to the outside world because of depression. She is being treated at a hospital for her illness, trying to confront the trouble inside herself. She is afraid to get a job, because she would have to quit if her condition got worse. Somehow she has found comfort in taking care of this little plant."
Photo and description: Daichi Koda

How grounding, people and objects can be when life becomes fragile.

pp. 386-387, 390 London, UK, 17:53
The skyscrapers of Canary Warf form a new financial district, to the east of the traditional city, in an area that once teemed with dockside activity.

"Looking out of my seventh-floor window, the pattern formed by the strolling office workers suggested an upturn in the market. I'd spent much of the day in meetings and it was almost time to go home, so this was an optimistic end to the day."
Photo and description: John Angless

For a change of perspective there's nothing like an expansive view from above. How uplifting!

p. 442 Chicago, USA, 18:23

Optimo Hats is in downtown Chicago in what was said to be the world's largest office building at the time of its construction in 1893. The Photographer was in the building but looking through the closed shop window to Dearborn St.

"I love this hat shop because it is reminiscent of a different era. The shot turned out to be a happy accident."
Photo and description: Jessica Garrett

How playful the Universe can be through coincidence, happenstance, and synchronicity as this man walking outside appears to be wearing the hat that's shelved inside the building at the instant the photographer snapped her camera.

And why these 6 images out of 1,000?

Apparently, we gravitate towards and are attracted to things that resonate with us, that speak to the I, me, my, of who we are at a given moment.

I believe this moment, of having to relocate, being in a state of flux and uncertainty, chose these images.

And if there's one thing for certain, it's that... everything changes.

I wonder if theses same images or new ones from the lot of 1,000 will make themselves known to me once things here become a bit more fixed and certain.

I'll let you know when I next visit my library and see this book, my book, sitting on one of their shelves.

Also, soon to be shelved for a limited time may be this blog, "Here and Next" as Michael and I undergo our residential move. Posts will follow once we're 'cable connected' and settled.

Till then... I'd love to hear from you on which things hold your attention or what things you choose to collect and why.

May your daily life be
grounded, connected, enriched, and surrounded
by the people and things
you love most in this world.

XOX... Dyan

Monday, February 19, 2018

Winter, Marshmallows, & Pillows

Photo: Dyan Titchnell

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we've no place to go
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!"
~"Let it Snow" lyrics by Sammy Cahn

Growing up on Long Island, New York, no adult I knew would dare tempt fate by singing, "Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!" for we had more than our fair share of frightful winter weather without encouraging more.

Sure, the term "Cyclone Bomb" hadn't been coined yet, but the mere mention of a "Blizzard," and one headed our way, was scary enough for it often brought extremely high winds, massive snow accumulations, and power outages that were deadly.


And when a fierce Nor'easter hit, all anyone could do was ride it out as my family did... hunkered down in our basement, huddled together in our hats, coats, and scarves with canned rations that were heated over a Sterno: a small tin of fuel with a flame the size of a candle... hardly a roaring fire and definitely not delightful.

Thankfully, not all our snowstorms were blizzards. The modest ones, that closed schools, businesses, and roads but left power intact, were my favorite for I'd spend hours outdoors, like most kids, building snowmen and having imaginary adventures with real friends.

And when my cheeks got beyond rosy and I could no longer feel my fingers inside my gloves, I'd head indoors and...

Toast marshmallows!... on our electric stove!

Source: Wikipedia

So messy I know, but I'd grab a fork anyway, jab one of those square puffs, and dab it to the red-hot coils on the burner, where I'd watch my marshmallow go from white to soft ochre, seconds before bursting into flames and turning black. Just the way I liked it... burnt on the outside and liquidy on the inside.

Marshmallows, Yum!

Besides being tasty when toasted, they were also fun to eat straight out of the bag... all squishy and cute, like little pillows perfect for small creatures.

But now, as an adult, those squishy marshmallows, like little pillows, remind me that I missed January's White Sales when bedding and linens were deeply discounted and that...

The pillow I'm sleeping on is now dead!

Source: Getty Images

I know this because I read that if you can fold a pillow in half, there's no life left in it and it's time to buy a new one instead.

But why do I need to buy a new pillow when the one I have is only months old? Pillows used to last years!... and came in just feather and foam.

Now the choices are vast: down and down alternatives, poly and memory foam, feather and fiber fill, microbeads, cooling gels, water pillows, shredded latex and lofts: light, fine and lux, all which come in soft, medium, firm and extra firm densities for back, side, or stomach sleepers, but few for people like me who sleep in all three positions... and none, if any, that last.


And although my pillow didn't have a very long life, it was a comfortable pillow until now. Only now, I can't find this exact pillow anywhere, in a store or online.

But I did locate the manufacturer and sent them an email with images of: the actual pillow with its diamond pattern printed on the fabric, the original plastic bag which held the pillow and included additional information on fiber content and size, the UPC from the store where I purchased the pillow... plus my request for a duplicate pillow and where I can find one.


Rebecca, from customer service responded immediately and said...

"Thank you for the information provided. I have included a link to a pillow that contains the same fiber fill as the one you are in search of... included is a link to a 'Classic Hydrogel Cooling' pillow."

But my pillow is a regular pillow, not one temperature controlled and I relay this to Rebecca who replies with...

"I apologize. I have included two pillows with the same fill you are in search of... one is medium to firm density, the other is firm to extra firm... included is a link to two 'Gusseted' pillows."

Immediately I email Rebecca and remind her again that I have a regular 'king size' pillow and not a gusseted one.

A few days later she replies...

"Hello. After much research, I have found a pillow that does not contain a gusset and has the same fill that you have been in search of... included is a link to a lux-loft, firm density, down alternative pillow sold in 'Standard' and 'Queen' sizes."

Standard? Queen? Hellooooo, are you not listening? I'm looking for King! I keep those last bits to myself and wonder if I'm communicating with an actual human or perhaps Siri or Alexa.

Instead, I thank Rebecca for her effort and let her know that I'll be following her last lead. A lead that is useless, for apparently the pillow I'm looking for is nowhere to be found.

So, it's back to the mall to test out each and every king size pillow. UGH!

But I did get some advice from a magazine: that when shopping in a store for a comfortable pillow, stand with the pillow between your head and a wall.

Like a bed gone vertical... like my brain right now.

Maybe I should make my own pillow... perhaps out of marshmallows, hundreds and hundreds of them hot-glued together... all squishy and cute like a big pillow perfect for large creatures, like me.

I don't know, it's winter... and I think I've lost my mind.

"Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!"

May your Winters be cozy
and your
Pillows be comfy.

XOX... Dyan

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love, Hate, & Morning

Photo: Dyan Titchnell

If you asked me if it's possible to both love and hate something equally at the same time, I'd probably say no.

But it's how I've come to feel about 'Morning'.

When unresolved issues silenced during the night resurface at first light adding to the dread that another day will soon be over before it's begun, and that I'll never accomplish all that I hope in the time I've been given... for once the sun sets... I'm done.

Photo: Dyan Titchnell

Yet in this light, soft and soothing, which permeates the room, there's also the freshest of air falling gently upon me from a sliver of an opened window where I hear birds, near and distant, tweeting and chirping among all that lies silent.

Ahhh... s i l e n c e

Restorative and suffocating... 'Morning' has me both loving and hating these times.

May you love and be loved
today, Valentine's Day,
and all your days.

XOX... Dyan

Monday, January 1, 2018

A Year Ago: Truth & Dreams


Do you remember last year...

on January 20, 2017, when the United States inaugurated its 45th President


the very next day millions of women here and around the world resisted our country's new leader, of questionable morals and divisive rhetoric, by marching in protest?

Of course you do... who could forget?

What you can't remember, because you never knew... is that two days later...

I woke up early with my heart racing from a dream of trying to catch a train to New York.

The sign on the train pulling into the station read "Greenwich"... an implausible destination for New York City, yet I jumped on anyway.

Source: Shutterstock

But the car was empty.

I raced down the aisle into the next car... but it was empty too. Three, four, train cars more... all empty... until I reached the front of the train with its few seated passengers.

With my heart still pounding, I questioned the first woman I met, "Is this the train to New York?"

"No!" she replied emphatically.

But could I trust her?

I couldn't afford to pass on this train if she was wrong. It would be hours until the next one left for New York.

In a panic, I exited the train and ran along the platform where masses of people were gathering.

Among the crowds, I spotted a woman conductor and breathlessly shouted, "Is this the train to New York?"

Her nonchalant nod implied, "yes".

Relieved but frazzled, I joined a queue waiting to board the same train I exited just seconds ago... and then tried to catch my breath.

When I woke from the dream, the wind was howling.

Perhaps it was the constant hum of fiercely moving air outside my window that conjured the rushing sound of an approaching train in my dream.

But dreams are rarely simple.

Why the urgent need to "depart"?

Photo: Elizabeth Low

Maybe it's due to an underlying issue stemming from a strong desire to escape from a government that spins lies into false truths.

If so, this dream is less about travel and more about "trust"... or the lack of it.

Why didn't I trust the first woman I met on the train? Did she deliberately tell me a lie because lying is now the new norm? Or if she believed this train wasn't going to New York, where did she think she was going?

If dreams are the means to solving the problems we face in our waking lives, or the methods for making sense of the disjointed and often random occurrences we experience daily, or are the producers of surreal stories manufactured from our hopes and wishes, then here's a more direct connection to my dream about trust.

Source: Dreamstime

Before going to bed and dreaming of my departure to New York, I had just finished reading: Happy as a Dane:10 Secrets of the Happiest People in the World, where the author, Malene Rydahl, credits the people of Denmark as being not only the happiest people in the world, but also the most trusting. And it's their strong sense of trust for each other and their government that contributes to their well-being and happiness.

Interestingly, Rydahl sites these examples:

"In Denmark, it's normal for babies to be left in strollers outside restaurants and cafes while parents dine inside. In one respect, no one is keeping an eye on these children, but in another, everyone is because people have trust in those around them.

And if you drive out to the countryside for your produce where there are roadside stands of fruits and vegetables, there'll be little pots to leave your money for the items you take. It's an honor system where no one ever thinks of stealing."

Imagine that!

And imagine this...

A government that stands by its words...

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
                ~Preamble to the United States Constitution, September 17, 1787

Then maybe it won't be so hard to imagine...

A life of trust, a life of truth, a life of fairness, kindness, happiness, and peace for all.

One can dream...

If not on this first day of the new year, when optimism is at its highest and wish lists are the longest... then when?

In Both Reality & Dreams,
May You Trust and Always Be Trusted.

Wishing you the very best 

XOX... Dyan