Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What I Learned from a Girl Named Sandy

   I just got my power on after living in darkness and cold for 3 days. As Hurricane Sandy whipped and churned towards the shores of Long Island, I geared up for the fight, buying the last set of flashlights at Home Depot (they shine green and red!) gassing up the car,securing my deck chairs, and bringing in my chimes. I joined hundreds of others, buying snack food and wine, some with worried looks, others telling the cashiers their doubts about the storm being that bad. I even froze bags of water just in case I lost power.  I was prepared for the worst.

   The storm roared through my back yard, trees doing a hula dance. My miniature poodle, cowered in the corner of the living room, finally finding comfort on a pile of clothes in my closet. I remember clenching my teeth for a good 24 hours of so, even though I had power. I was alone in the house and I was nervous. Listening to T.V. news intensified my anxiety, so I changed the channel and watched The Horse Whisperer with Robert Redford...good movie! At around 10 pm, as I heard the winds die down, I decided to venture in my backyard to survey the scene

  There was 1 tree split in half, one trunk hanging over my neighbors fence, the other with the hammock rope tied to it still upright. Another huge tree uprooted hung precariously over the neighbor's fence, caught by another tree and one more cherry tree of my other neighbor's down in my yard. But at least I had not lost my power! I went to bed thinking I had weathered the storm pretty well, only to wake up to darkness.  The power had gone out at 3 am. Then began the darkness and cold.

   The days were tolerable, as I spent my time out of the house at the gym or walking the dogs. I toured my neighborhood, trees down and leaning on power lines, impassable roads due to non-working streetlights and silent shopping centers.  The nights, eerily quiet and foreboding were a different story. I navigated around the house, using candles and flashlights, and made sure I didn't open the fridge too much to preserve the packed ice bags that could save my food. with no power, I had no stove, hot water or heat. I started eating stuff out of the fridge. I created hodge-podges of meals - cold turkey meatloaf, tofu, hard-boiled eggs, eating anything I thought would spoil.

   Bored, I turned the radio station from the incessantly depressing news to music and found myself dancing in the kitchen to keep warm. I tried unsuccessfully reading by flashlight, in between spurts of sitting in the car  to charge my cell phone. The nights started getting colder, plummeting into the 40's and I began layering and adding blankets in bed. The heat of the dogs did not help. I'd wake up, frigid, with head throbbing from the cold. It was warmer outside, so I went outside one morning and stood with my face towards the sun, warming my body. It was heavenly.

    Finally after 3 days of this, I caved, and resignedly starting throwing my room temperature fridge food and thawing freezer food out in several garbage bags. I was busy packing to stay at a friend's who had a fireplace and camp out there for a few days, when I saw an unfamiliar sight-lights! Power back on, thankfully after three days, what a delightful surprise.

   I was able to look back on this experience more clearly and made these observations.  There are two different categories of people.  Those who care about others and are willing to help, like the ones that have generators and make coffee for the block and offer their homes for hot showers. Or the ones who own chainsaws and help cut down your fallen trees.  And then there are those who just take care of their own needs in times of trouble, for whatever their reasons are. But that's o.k., not everyone can be a saint. My local World Gym opened up the club to the community for those needing showers. My friend offered her home to me and my dogs to sleep in, even though she had no power, just a fireplace. So, thank you to all my friends who saw my status on facebook and offered me hot showers and places to power up.

    I also realized that going through a storm alone is not a lot of fun and neither is being in the cold and dark with pretty aromatic candles. So not romantic. Another discovery, the wine remained untouched. Anxiety does not work well with alcohol. I felt I needed to be on guard in case of emergency. I'd celebrate when it's over.

   I also learned how much we take the basics like light and heat for granted until we are without. And my dependence on creature comforts, like T.V., computers and cell phone, borders on shameful.

   This storm taught me a lot about the good and the bad of human nature and also about myself. It made me stop and think that I never want to be in this situation again and what steps I need to take to necessitate change.

   I also discovered when I finally had T.V. and a computer, about the devastation and destruction that existed over the tri-state area and felt ashamed that I complained about the cold. The boardwalk where I spent so many glorious summers in Far Rockaway is no more.  The restaurants I frequented in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, were consumed by the storm surge.

(Photo courtesy of Nathan Kensinger )

  There are so many suffering from the aftermath of the storm, whose homes were lost or flooded and so many are still without power. I hope relief comes quickly and that they are offered helping hands that carry them to safety and warmth and offer assistance.

If you'd like to help, here is a link: There are also many facebook pages devoted to Sandy relief for those who wish to volunteer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beach Run, with obstacles – Summer Solstice June 2011

I don’t run as frequently as I used to after killing my knees, running daily for 20+ years. But when I do run, I prefer the softer sands of West Meadow Beach in Setauket, at low tide. So, I started out, on this first day of summer, with the full intention of getting there right at the peak of low tide. But, as luck would have it, I ran into a friend whom I haven’t seen in a long time. So we yakked it up, and by that time, all that was left of low tide was an oblong sliver of sand, smaller than a ¼ mile track. I was determined, though, to run on the beach, rocky North shore seascape and all. So I started running circles on the sand track only to discover that my trusty Timex Ironman stopwatch had died, leaving me with only the music on my IPod to time my run. I figured, most songs run about 3 minutes and change, so I started counting off the tunes: Elton John’s “Amoreena,” Muse’s The Uprising,” Jason Mraz’“The Remedy,” Gavin DeGraw’s “I don’t Want to to Be”, The Eagle’s “In the City”, until I hit about 8 or 9 tunes, figured I must have been running around 30 minutes, and headed back along the beach to my car. Then, I realized how many hoops I’d jumped through, just to catch that small slip of sand before the tide washed it all away. There had to be a lesson here, some message, about life and determination, maybe? Or simply this: when you’re running out of time on the sand, just make sure you have some good tunes! Enjoy the summer!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On 140 words or more – Reflections on #140 confLi

Foreword: Yes, I’m cheating. This foreward won’t count for the 140 words (or more) in my reflections on the first Social Media 140 Characters Conference of Long Island, held at Touro Law on May 26th. While, everyone was busily managing their smart devices and laptops, I took notes, re-kindling my old school reporting. As observer and twitterer, here were some thought phrases I caught, in no particular order:

#RT means re-tweet. #MT means modified tweet. A twoosh is a perfect 140 character tweet; try to keep ‘em under 110 for RT purposes. “Bad writing is killing America.” Brevity is best. “Listen to your audience.” Serendipity exists. Lift people around you and you will be lifted. A tweet is a terrible thing to waste. Twitter reveals “who you are as an artist.” Ask questions and respond; forget about private stuff. People love bandanas. Power of twitter is to reach and touch human needs.

#Usguys has online community transparency. There is too much overuse of the words authenticity and transparency. We are…we are...trending! Backchannel to cool; Thought zoo. Achieve so much in so little time, so far away. Presentations can still be drawn on poster board. Journalism professor likes to dance. News anchor likes to sing.

Twitter tick-offs: private convos, cluttered backgrounds and #too #many #hashtags. Virtual party members must be quick and witty. “Meet people halfway.” Be a social median. Connect with 20 influential people. Remain engaged. “Less stress, more success.” “Fear of change is fear of failure.”

Social media is like dating. Focus on customer, not social media elite! We are all connected: #ff #ww Make a power website! Translating local news to patch=connecting people to community.

Don’t go crazy with metrics, ROI. What is your social network worth? No man or woman is a “real island,” but Staten Island is. May the Jedi force be with you. “I can see Brazil from Montauk.” Mobile apps are changing how we consume. Are you a poster or paster? #Spoonie became a heart behind the hash tag. “Patients want to be heard.”

“Tweet, tweet, you’re fired”. Interactions, not transactions need to be managed! Your cell phone can be a weapon in customer service. Duck! Law school students tweeting badly! Does that mean they use bad “sentences”? If you can make pancakes from scratch, you can make beer? Stories about the heart from the heart!

Infrequent tweeter feels inadequate. Plane in the Hudson photo – wow! Focus on the quality of your community, not the quantity. Too much coffee! Really good burgers. Field seats at Bethpage Park = sitting Ducks for foul balls!

Backword: Ok, I failed at 140 words, but the characters at the conference were succinct and passionate! (cue Theme from Exodus)

Monday, May 23, 2011

3 flew out of the Cuckoo’s Nest

I was monitoring the activity of Mama robin and her 3 babies for about 2 weeks. The marvelously constructed nest sat firmly and safely in the crook of a tree limb in a Japanese maple outside my son’s window. Sometimes the baby robins would be stirring, their little beaks yawning for food; other times, especially when it rained heavily, Mama robin would be in the nest blanketing (brooding) her babies from the storm. I’d check on them daily, and yesterday I looked out the window only to discover they had all flown the coop. I was sad, but realized this is nature’s ordered way of saying that Mom had done her job, the chicks have found their wings and must get on with discovering the world.

It was somewhat ironic and mirrored my situation at home. Soon, my youngest child will be leaving for college, leaving me with an empty nest. Letting go of my first child was rough; second, only mildly less painful; but this one will be the toughest. As a Mom, I imparted as much knowledge as I could cram into my kids about life; gave them survival tools, and then hoped for the best. I knew that they would never be exactly like me, but I’d hoped that they would incorporate some of the good stuff. (Inevitably, a little of the bad stuff goes along for the ride.)

So when the time comes for my youngest to take flight, I will write about how I’ve adjusted to this new chapter in my life, as I re-invent my nest.

Monday, February 21, 2011

My First LI Tweetup

At the risk of sounding like that famous duck, I had a tewefic time meeting my tweeps in the flesh at my first LITweetup. We met over drinks and apps, appetizers, that is, at Honu in Huntington. I played a little game, trying to match up the twitter avatars to the faces, and did remarkably well. After being welcomed by @SueanneShirzay, jewelry designer extraordinaire, I spied @NathanRKing behind a camera and @MissBeckala. I then proceeded to introduce myself to a magazine publisher, a Newsday reporter, a Mom turned digital columnist and several small business entrepreneurs. I knew social guru, @LovelyLu, my kindred spirit from the East, and entrepreneur and host with the most, @Namnum, from social media camp. My fellow LIMJSG tweeps, @LeeBogner and @PaulBiedermann were there too. As the night progressed, the topics discussed ranged from mortgages and parenting to co-working facilities and job hunting. Eclectic, and educational, this tweet-up was so important from a standpoint of how social media can bring people from such diverse backgrounds together to network. All in all, an important, enjoyable way to meet, discuss and learn new things. In one word, a real “ tweat”!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Downsizing on the upswing

Forgive me if I sound like Andy Rooney, but ever notice that all things mass
produced are shrinking? The other day, I reached out to grab a tissue from my tissue box, only to notice, hmmm...that won't work, and grabbed a second one. It dawned on me that even tissues have gotten smaller! Add to the list, cracker and cookie boxes’ net weight, the number of chips in a bag, toilet paper sheets per roll and candy bar sizes. They have all been mysteriously shrinking through the years! Where will it end? Prices, however, generally remain the same for these products, and the corporations are proclaiming that all this is provided as a service to consumers in order to maintain a "higher" quality product. Sorry, I don't buy it.
I feel we are being held hostage by manufacturers who are trying to pull the wool over our eyes. New packaging, words like, "improved" and "no trans fat" are supposed to entice us to buy these shrinking packages. What recourse do we have, but to purchase if we want/need the item? Is there anything we can do about it? Probably not, but at least being on the alert as consumers is the first step. Perhaps even going so far as letting the CEO's know that we like their product and will continue buying but are aware of the shrinking state of our
favorite box of cookies. What are your thoughts on this?

Here's a comic strip from The Consumerist blog/Grocery Shrinking Ray:

Monday, November 1, 2010

How to Become an Expert

In one word - LIVE! I'm breaking with my original promise to not write about personal matters. But since my personal life has dwarfed the professional one, I have no choice.
In between looking for an appropriate job for myself, I've become an expert on matters I never thought I'd have to delve into. I've learned about what it means to part of the "sandwich" generation. The analogy of 2 slices of bread, squeezing the filling to an unappetizing point, makes perfect sense.
In between the trials of teenagers, college decisions, monetary issues and the challenges of taking care of aging parents, there's little left in the middle. I've learned about assisted living, home care, CNA's, LPN's, HHA's, and the best walker for Mom. (her Cadillac as she calls it)
I've learned that you can get very lazy in a long relationship, take things for granted, ignore problems and differences, and then find you've wasted a lot of precious time.
I've learned about breast cancer as two of my friends were diagnosed in one year; the differences between stage 1 and stage 4, intra-ductal, and invasive.
I've learned a little real estate law, discovering how difficult it is in a buyer's market to get a mortgage, buy and sell a house, and the term "in good faith".
I've also learned about how the inexperienced teenage driver can change his or her life and other's in an instant. I carry around a batch of my favorite adages, "What doesn't kill me, will make me stronger." It's hard to gauge your strength while you're going through a difficult time, but I'm assuming, I'll be rock hard pretty darn soon!
Here's another one, "Live one day at a time." That's a great one, and I love the Zen, don't get me wrong. But on the other hand, there's something to be said about planning for the future. True, no one knows what the future holds, but gaining a sense of security will help you sleep at night. Unless you're truly interested in doily embroidering machines, or the plight of the Alaskan sloth, 4 a.m. is a lonely time of night to be up.
In the face of adversity, I've learned that searching for the best pizza has its rewards. I've been trying to check out DiFara's in Brooklyn, but finding them closed for one reason or another. Finally, I timed it right, and did experience the best pizza I've ever eaten!
I'm grateful for friendly cashiers at CVS, who say, "Today's your lucky day, you've got new coupons!" I appreciate my pooches that wag their tails and greet me like they haven't seen me in days, when I've only left for an hour.
In this time of economic insecurity, many of us live day to day, and look for comfort in various forms. I've become an expert in that too, listening to music, or playing the piano, sometimes even bumbling through Beethoven. Exercise and yoga are part of my stress relief, as are watching comedy and chatting with friends. Although, lately that has taken the form of texting and facebook chat...if only!
In my spare time, I've learned about how capable social media is for marketing, as I do some consulting work for a friend. It was amusing to me that I came across so many who purported to being "social media experts", so I took that with a grain of salt. In the seconds it takes to tweet, someone savvier will trump your product, website or blog!
I've become an accidental expert by living, making some mistakes and learning new skills; I've learned to take hard knocks, welcome soft nudges and develop resilience when bumping into things. Hopefully, it'll pay off one day. I will try not to lose myself, as I take care of others, by seeking out and finding joy in small pleasures.