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S.A.D. and Me

6 Feb

 After going home to Texas not once but twice this winter, I realized that I come from a place that is so bright and wide open that even on the bleakest winter day, sunglasses are necessary. While I am writing this blog post it is approximately 70 degrees in my hometown. It’s no wonder that every winter in New York I find myself in the doldrums. These past few weeks, I’ve been dragging; I’m exhausted, and feel like my life is going in a really bad direction. It seems like nothing is ever going to look up.

My journal entries from last year paint a similar picture:


Exhausted all day. Why is work so boring? Came home and watched Battlestar Gallactica (2 episodes); went to bed.


Couldn’t wake up this morning and can’t seem to get motivated. So tired. Work was sooooo loooonnnggg. Starbuck has decided to leave Gallactica to find earth. Now there is nothing to look forward to.

I’ve realized that its time to make a change. I refuse to be in the dumps for the entire season. Since I am not in a position to move to Texas, Florida, Arizona, California or any other sunshiny place, I’m going to have to use artificial means to lighten up. But how?

My symptoms point to a fairly common ailment known as Seasonal affective disorder, or S.A.D. There are several ways to treat the disorder (therapy and anti-depressants are among them), but most appealing to me is light. Yes, light. That seems to be what I’m missing more than anything. A warm climate would be nice, but I think it’s the darkness that really gets me down.

At any time of year I have a tough time waking up, but something about the winter turns me into a zombie. Last summer, I purchased one of those expensive Philips wake-up lamps on Amazon. Not only was the model I bought weird looking, but the wake-up alarm function was defective. Besides that it wasn’t a special light at all, just an incandescent light bulb encased within a white plastic cylinder with a cheap alarm clock attached. Ugh. No thanks. I returned it and decided it was just too ugly to try and exchange for a fully functioning unit. So that was that. UNTIL I found The Lighten Up! Sunrise Simulator, a product that mimics the effect of the rising sun using an existing lamp, oh and it only costs 19.95.


(photo courtesy of

Here’s how it works. You plug the unit (a small box) into an outlet and then plug a regular lamp into that. Eight hours later the lamp turns on, casting a very slight glow, and for thirty minutes after that it glows brighter and brighter, mimicking a sunrise. I’ve used it for approximately three weeks, and can say that as long as I don’t accidentally (or on purpose) turn it off or pile pillows in front of it, the light works. Now I don’t jump out of bed fresh as a daisy, but I do feel better. Not as shocked, not as prone to hitting the snooze button six times or being lulled back into sleep by NPR.

The second part of my plan is to incorporate a SAD therapy light into my daily routine, so based on Amazon reviews, I purchased a small Omega brand device that emanates a blue glow of 10,000 Lux

Omega Front

I wish I could say that this light is the ticket; that its made a huge difference during the past few weeks. But it just hasn’t. I purposely chose a small unit, thinking that it would be handy to transport the light between the office and home. But the effect is more spotlight than soothing glow.

beam of light

There’s nothing cooler than sitting in a cubical with bright blue mood lighting right on your face. What’s really put me over the edge with the Omega is that the kickstand has already broken off of the unit. 

Omega Back

I think that’s a little pathetic for an item that’s less than a month old, don’t you? I’m going to find a bigger and higher-quality therapy light or at the very least adjust the settings so that the light isn’t quite so “in  your face.”

I may still be cranky and struggling a bit, but at least I’ve found something that helps me to wake up in the morning. That’s better than nothing. In the meantime, I’ve booked a mid-February trip to California. If I can’t bring the sunshine to me, I’m going to have to fly to the sunshine.


Lunch Break Creative: Tourist Edition

11 Jun

Working in an office environment can be stimulating and challenging: the day flies by when solving expense report mysteries like a corporate Nancy Drew. Sometimes though, I feel a tad stifled and in need of a little creative stimulation.  In my last post, I shared my personal mission statement, “live to create and serve” and resolved that I would find ways to incorporate creativity into my working life.

What could be more inspiring than a visit to the New York Public Library’s Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Gallery?

The current exhibition is Shelley’s Ghost:  The Afterlife of a Poet which focuses on writer Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) and his second wife Mary, best known as the author of Frankenstein. The gallery is tiny, perhaps 200 square feet, making it the perfect size to tackle in less than 20 minutes.  Particularly enjoyable were Shelly’s notebooks, a necklace made of P.B. and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s hair, and a copy of “A Cat in Distress,” Percy Shelly’s earliest known poem.

The thoughtful design of the exhibition was another highlight, evoking a creepy, gothic feeling.

In addition to the ephemera locked behind the cases, are small takeaway note cards with various quotes from Shelley.

One card reads:

MUSIC when soft voices die,

Vibrates in the memory –

ODOURS, when sweet violtes sicken,

Live within the sense they quicken.

Shelly’s Ghost:  The Afterlife of a Poet
Now through Sunday, June 24, 2012
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Gallery
Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street
Cost:  Free

After enjoying the exhibition, I took some time to lollygag through Bryant Park, located directly behind the library on Sixth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets.

Bryant Park boasts many wonders, one being an outdoor Reading Room with various books to borrow while sitting in the park.

Near the Reading Room, Istumbled upon a discussion of Jen Lancaster’s new book, Jeneration X hosted by In Her Shoes author Jennifer Weiner.

I thought, wait a second – there must be more events where this one came from!  And as soon as the thought popped into my head, a copy of the Bryant Park spring guide manifested before my eyes.  I snatched the precious pamphlet from the bored, teenaged attendant and realized that there is an author’s discussion every Wednesday at 12:30!  The series is titled, “Word for Word Author” and its purpose (according to the guide) is for “Bestselling authors [to] share tricks of the trade, answer questions, and sign copies of their latest books.” There is a similar program for poetry on Tuesdays at dusk (of course the poets have to be dramatic about it and have their program at sundown). On select Tuesdays at 12:30, the Reading Room hosts a book club of favorite Oxford University Press classics.  If you sign up early enough, a free copy of the book club selection can be yours.

Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are also writer’s workshops, nonfiction discussions, and classic movie groups; and those are just the literary activities.  Other Bryant Park events include Yoga, Tai Chi, fencing, birding, juggling, beginner and intermediate language classes, and (be still my heart) knitting lessons. Not to be missed are both the world-famous HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, beginning on June 18th and my personal favorite, Broadway in Bryant Park, beginning on July 12th.  Did I mention that every single event is free?

Who could have known that so many engaging activities are waiting for us just outside the doors of our climate controlled, sterile offices?  Let’s try something inspiring and new.  Let’s get lunch break creative.

Freebie Alert – Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day

21 Sep

Just a quick post to let you know about an excellent freebie. On Saturday, September 24th Smithsonian Magazine is offering free admission to museums all across the country.

To take advantage of this deal, simply visit Smithsonian Magazine’s Web site here, enter in your contact info, and choose the museum you wish to attend.

Last year,  I used my free admission while visiting cousin Krista in Indiana where she was performing in “Camelot” with her dear husband Tony. We decided to visit the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park  where we tried on children’s costumes, talked to kooky interpreters, and had a merry-old time.

What museum do you think you’ll check out on Saturday?