Print receipt? No, thank you.

The other day I realized a hidden opportunity presenting itself to me.   An opportunity almost twenty years in the making.  An opportunity so magnificent it will impact the way I go about my life.  An opportunity to break free and try something new. It’s time.  Time for change.

I’ve been banking with the same bank nearly twenty years now, and do you know why?   Because they offered me totally free checking.  Totally free checking twenty years ago. And I took them up on it.  And now two decades past countless $5 ATM withdrawals, it’s time.  Marine Midland, er, I mean HSBC, it’s not you, it’s me.  I’m more experienced now and looking for different things out of a relationship, something I’m just not getting from you.

I was always intimidated by the specter of altering the cash flow in and out of my vault.  I do a lot of business online, and have many vendors tapped directly into my accounts.  In layman’s terms, I have direct deposit and I buy online.  Life has a funny way of coming full circle.  Now that my deposit slips resemble that young man’s, circa 1989 – 1993, I don’t really have to worry much about screwing anything up by changing banks and account numbers.  And here I thought making ZERO dollars was all bad.

Apropos of change, I considered it my great fortune that this week (now almost 2 weeks ago) was Social Media Week in NYC and various other locales around the globe, and I decided to take full advantage of my time and check out the hype.

But it wasn’t hype.  It was awesome.  And I’m pretty sure it helped me gain some clarity around my search for something inspiring and fulfilling.

I went to some really interesting interviews,  talks and panel discussions around topics like collaborative consumption (peer to peer websites a la zip car), how people interactively watch television these days, an interview with NYC’s first Chief Digital Officer, and a panel discussion on the role of social media in civic action.  I was able to hear a keynote speech/insightful rantings from Douglas Rushkoff, the “author, teacher, and documentarian who focuses on the ways people, cultures, and institutions create, share, and influence each other’s values. (And) He is (also a) technology and media commentator for CNN.”  He spoke about living in the now, and embracing occupation of one reality.  He spoke very quickly and made a lot of salient points that it’s hard for me to really remember them.  However, I think a main thrust of his talk was being present even with all the social media lures out there.  At least I think that’s what he was saying – I was too busy trying to tweet, facebook, checkin and pin to make myself look important and all knowledgable.

I also gained the added benefit of experiencing the venues.  I was able to see the city from places I’d never been before like a view of “the ball” from the 30th floor of the Thomson Reuters building or checking in for a conference in the atrium of the J Walter Thompson building.

Happy New Year! Oh wait, it's only February....

And I certainly will not forget to mention the FREE Starbucks which I was able to take advantage of twice because I attended two different presentations in the Thomson building.  And by the way, the answer is no.  I did not choose to go these two different talks just for the Starbucks.  I know we’re on Martinson’s now (we’ve since graduated to Dunkin’ Donuts Sam’s Club style) but allow me an ounce of dignity.

Social media week was a really fun, enlightening and exciting experience, something I wouldn’t have known about or gone to had I not been blessed with being laid off.  This is where I was supposed to be and we’ll see how it plays out.  World… it’s on.

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I interrupt my irregular stream of posts for the following sad news…

My wife coined, and I subsequently used many times, the following funnyism regarding the inevitable, eventual demise of our cats, that they would simply be “going off to college” when they got nice and old.   It helped ease the emotional burden of the thought of the finality of our pets’ lives that neither one of us wanted to face, let alone talk about.  It didn’t help over these last 2 months, nor did it help yesterday when we buried our beloved Mina.

Our veterinarian felt a lump near Mina’s intestine on December 19th.  On December 20th our fears were confirmed: it was a malignant tumor.  Our beautiful Mina had lymphoma.   It hit really hard.  While Mina and her sister Bella were now 16, it was unexpected and painful.  We reactively started down the road of treatment via chemotherapy, yet we would soon discover after research and consultation, unfortunately, it does NOT lead to recovery in cats.  The statistics show that nearly no cats make it a year.  And those that do, die shortly thereafter.  It would be spending good money after bad, something we didn’t have the luxury of doing.  Apparently this is a very common issue for cat owners faced with the same predicament.  (Conversely, dogs do respond to chemo and can be cured.)  We’d already spent almost $2,000 diagnosing the tumor.  Each weekly treatment would cost an additional $500, not to mention the lack of a quality of life having to drag Mina into the hospital once a week, a place she despised.  Treatment would last for eight weeks at which point it would progress to once every ten days, and then to once every two weeks, etc.  Point is, even if it took, the best we could hope for would be another year.   We made the decision to stop treatments and give her prednisone, a steroid which acts as an anti-inflammatory for the tumor which would make her more comfortable.

Mina’s fate was sealed but I never really embraced it.  I compartmentalized the pain almost to the point where I didn’t feel any.  I even joked about it, hoping to eliminate any sad thoughts that made it through the chinks in my armor.   We watched her drop to maybe a pound from her average of eight.  She wasn’t spritely anymore.   She didn’t scratch incessantly and annoyingly at the kitchen cabinet begging for feline greenies anymore.  She wasn’t interested in climbing on her kitty condo.  She couldn’t clean herself anymore.  She left me gifts on my pillow some nights.  My Mina was slowly dying.

Saturday was miserable.  She couldn’t move.  She cried a lot.  She couldn’t eat or drink.  She couldn’t walk.  We made the call to the vet.  We had an appointment to euthanize Mina on Monday morning, at home.  But by 10PM it was apparent she wasn’t going to make it through the night.  She couldn’t lift her head, and whatever she could do it was just to muster a cry.  We begged her to just let go.  And she did.  With me and my wife sleeping by her side she passed between 12:30 and 2:30AM.

Sunday we drove out to my sister in law’s place in Blairstown, NJ.  She has 3 acres of land and graciously allowed us to bury Mina there, alongside some of her pets.  This was to be Mina’s final resting place.  We found a spot between two trees in the back.  And I dug.  And dug.  And dug.  And I never wanted to stop digging because I knew what it would mean.  But finally it was time and I knew it.  My wife brought Mina in from the house and we lowered her into her grave.  My mother in law, my wife and I shoveled dirt as fast as we could on the grave.  It was incredibly emotional but the hard part was over.

We’ve begun the process of healing but it hurts so bad.  I miss my cat terribly.  I miss her jumping on the back of our big pink chair, nuzzling her head in my chest as I scratch her chin with both hands.  I miss her kneading my leg under the blankets.  I miss holding her over my shoulder and massaging her neck as she drooled down the back of my shirt.  I miss everything about her.  I just plain miss her.

Farewell my sweet Mina.  Sleep tight.  I love you.