Why Are Restaurants Trying To Kill Us?

salmonI met my mother and sister for lunch recently. They live about an hour away, but there’s a large shopping area between us. We have a choice of several restaurants, but I like one in particular because their food seems healthier. And you can ask for nutrition data, which they’ll gladly bring you. On one sheet, in teeny tiny type, but at least it’s available. Like all restaurants, you have to be careful not to overeat the bread or sop up half a cup of olive oil with it. This time they had a new menu item, Sesame Hoisin Salmon salad. Spinach, snap peas, mango, Napa cabbage, pickled ginger, and shaved carrots. Wow! Cabbage and carrots, spinach and snap peas! Just reading it made me feel healthy. Then there was the salmon, “grilled and lacquered with a sesame hoisin glaze.” Lacquered brought up images of shiny furniture, but hey, grilled fish is good! Omegas! And finally, “orange-sesame dressing.” No mention of oil there, or cheese, so that also sounded light. Sign me up! I ordered that salad and ate every bit of it. It was delicious. It didn’t come with any bread — because I’d already had a third of what they brought to the table to begin with — so I really felt like I’d done myself a favor with my choice.

Then I went home and looked up the nutrition data for my lovely salmon salad. WHAT? Eight hundred and seventy calories! How is that bleeping possible? Did they inject the salmon with straight-up FAT? And thirty-two grams of sugar? From WHAT? It was a SALAD! Oh, and that bread and oil for the table? Twelve hundred and seventy calories! Divided by three comes out to … TOO MUCH. THIS is what makes me crazy about dining out. I eat what I think are healthy items, and they’re not. I know, if it tastes that good, it’s probably not good for you.  And restaurants load up on fat and sugar because our little lizard brains adore it, and it keeps us coming back. Yes, if I’m ordering fries or a brownie sundae or a big plate of nachos, I know I’m getting a huge number of calories and fat. But a salmon salad should not be a big surprise. We spend a lot of our food dollars at restaurants, and a lot of us eat out several times a week. We’re great customers! So why are restaurants trying to kill us?

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Strange Interview

Thank goodness there have been only a couple of times in my life that I have had to send out resumes and set up interviews to find a job.  One period of job searching occurred in 1980 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The reason I was living in Milwaukee and looking for a teaching position is a long story. But, suffice it to say, I had already taught elementary school for six years in the Boston public school system and found myself in Milwaukee with no job, no prospects and no connections.  So, I combed the newspaper for  teacher openings, sent out my resume and garnered a few interviews.

During this process I received a letter in the mail that I had  been granted an interview at the Indian School for a 3rd grade teaching position.  Having grown up in Ohio and then spending my post- high school years in Boston and New York, I had never actually known a Native American.  But, I needed a job and the position sounded very interesting.
I called my sister who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico – home to many many Native Americans – and picked her brain about what I might say to my interviewers about my limited experience with their community.  My sister even gave me a couple of well- known names in the Native American “world” to drop into my conversation.
On the morning of the interview I arrived at the small wooden school building surrounded by playing fields on the north side of Milwaukee.  I was  very nervous, but had nothing to lose and a lot to gain so I forged ahead.  The lady that greeted me told me that I had to wait a few minutes until they were ready for the interview to begin.  They?  I didn’t know the procedure and had no idea who They were.
After about 15 minutes I was brought into a darkened room.  The shades were drawn and the lighting was dim.  I could see two Native American men in chairs facing an empty chair obviously meant for me.  Off to the right side of the room were two more chairs with Native American women sitting in them – fast asleep.  The two women never stirred; they slept through the entire interview and were never mentioned by the men.  There was absolutely no explanation as to who these sleeping women were. The men ignored them and so did I.  Were they the wives of the two men  simply brought along for the interview, but not part of the process?  Were they also interviewers who had fallen asleep out of sheer boredom? 
The two men asked me a series of questions for about half an hour.  I told them of my education, my 6 years of teaching experience.  I explained to them that my sister was an attorney in Santa Fe and through her I had met some Native Americans.  Although total BS, I added that my sister knew this Native American and that Native American.  Of course, much of this discourse had absolutely nothing to do with me.  But, I wanted to come across as a person who believed in the goodness of all children – especially Native American children.
I was told that the interview was over rather abruptly.  I said my good-byes to the two men while averting my eyes from the two sleeping women.  I remember thinking that the room was so dark that I wouldn’t know my interviewers if I ran into them on the street.
I left the school with no hope of getting the job.  I thought that I was probably ill prepared to work with folks who thought it was all right that two women were asleep in the interview room. They probably wanted a Native American teacher – someone who really knew the community and could relate to the children better than me.  I was probably just a token white candidate and they had no intention of hiring me – thus the lack of explanation about the snoring women.
A week later I received a letter that the job was mine and I would start in 3 weeks.  
Real Estate Hint – Underground oil tanks are no longer legal.  If you still have an underground oil tank, it must be removed under full supervision of the local Fire Department before you can sell the house.  If an oil tank was removed from the property in the past you may be asked to produce the certificate from the fire department.  This may be problematic if the tank was removed 20 or 30 years ago.  If you can’t find the fire department’s certificate of compliance, check with your attorney.
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So Near, and Yet, So Far Away

There are a few items on my bucket list that should be easy to cross off, and yet, by virtue of their proximity, they always seem to fall to the bottom, i.e., “I can always get to that later”.  Years go by and opportunities come and go that might bring me closer to these destinations, but inevitably, they recede from grasp. 

 Foremost is Quebec, land of my ancestors, and a beautiful cultural destination in its own right. Maybe 6-7 hour easy drive from here. Even before I knew of the connections to my grandmothers’ families, I was attracted to Quebec as a very old, walled city overlooking a river with a very European feel. One of my girlfriends went to Quebec for her honeymoon, recommending it highly. She gave me brochures; they remain tucked away in a drawer. I have specific goals in visiting Quebec: to see the statute of ancestor Louis Hebert, an early founder of the city; to find my gr-gr grandfathers’ watchmaker’s shop (horlogerie); to see St. Gervais, where Memere’s family lived for generations; and to tour the Ile d’Orleans, in the middle of the St. Lawrence, where many early immigrants huddled for protection against the Iroquois. 

 We’ve made a family trip to Montreal, a big city with good food and hockey.  My husband is willing to make the trip to Quebec. But none of the genealogy exploration for him; his plan is to hole up in the hotel and do continuing professional education credits. I’d like someone who is interested in family history to make this trip with me; but so far, no one’s available.

 Then there is Nantucket – the Grey Lady – island of whaling ships and captains houses. The island is closer than ever, with the high speed ferry from Hyannis – half an hour from our Cape house. We’ve gone often to Martha’s Vineyard – an easy day trip. But the trouble with Nantucket is the effort and expense to get there in the summer when we have so many beautiful places near by. We almost got there one year – we had reservations at an inn during April vacation. Sadly, my father-in-law died, and we had to cancel. I still look for opportunities to go, but so far the circumstances have not worked out.

 There are other places: Deerfield, the home of the colonial village and French/Indian raids; the Brimfield fair – a huge outdoor flea market; Acadia National Park in Maine; Plum Island, on the North Shore; even Rockport, MA, I haven’t been to – we tried once, and couldn’t find a place to park. Lots of places in the area, full of charm and history, but I just can’t seem to get there. I suppose it’s a good kind of problem to have.

 Partly, it’s my unwillingness to drive highways, or to go too far alone. Plus, those “invisible cords” that tie me fairly close to home while the kids are with us. And, not to mention, my husband’s favorite destination is the Cape, so why look further? I am lucky that I have a traveling friend to make some bigger trips with over the years, but we would not have gone without her instigation.  But these little wishes seem to fall by the wayside, things that I could make come true myself. It’s really about setting priorities and not taking things for granted. And, for women especially, about not putting things aside too long before they turn into regrets.

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Sex v. Gore

Recently a friend said that she was disturbed because an
episode of The Walking Dead had a
steamy sex scene, and she wasn’t forewarned. She watches the show with her
teenage son and she thought a heads-up would have been nice. (If you watch The Walking Dead and don’t want any
spoilers, stop reading.) Although you didn’t see any body parts that aren’t
otherwise covered by bathing suits, it was clear during the scene that two
people were having sex. They were consenting adults, in love, and their
relationship was accepted and encouraged by everyone they knew. I thought it
was a sweet moment in a show that is mostly unrelenting horror and misery.

 

There is a huge amount of violence in the The Walking Dead. A lot of the violence
is directed at zombies, who admittedly are no longer human but still like to
eat them. But their decapitations, stabbings through the eye, and gunshots to
the head still bother me. Then there’s the 12-year-old kid who shoots a
father-figure-turned-zombie, witnesses his mother’s uterus getting sliced open
to save her baby, and then shoots his dead mother in the head to prevent her
from becoming a zombie. A man cuts off his own hand and cauterizes the wound. Humans
are eviscerated alive. All this and we’re objecting to a little sex?

 

We rate movies so that viewers can have guidance
about what’s appropriate for their children and themselves. But our ratings
system is heavily skewed toward violence. Years ago I watched I Capture The Castle with my preteen daughter.
It’s based on a charming novel written in the 1940’s. There are two incredibly
brief scenes of female nudity, one from a distance, both no longer than a few
seconds. For this the movie earned an R rating. My daughter was delighted and
went to school the next day bragging that she’d seen an R-rated movie.
Meanwhile if we’d watched any number of PG-13 movies we could have seen a lot
of murder, maiming, and mayhem. I think I’d rather my kids saw a bit of the
human body or two people expressing their love for each other, even if that
means explaining what sex is.

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Cyber-library

We have all watched as industries have become computerized.  The banks went to ATMs to cut back on tellers.  The travel agency industry all but died when we started to order airline tickets online. My own industry, residential real estate, has changed dramatically now that folks can look at pictures and videos of houses on their computers.

But, now I am watching as my local libary systematically moves away from professional librarians to machines.  Libraries made a leap into the age of technology with their online system making it possible to reserve books and videos while sitting in your own living room.  This was a boon to readers and avid movie watchers like me.  I no longer had to waste a visit to the library only to find out that the book I want to read is out and all I can do is wait for a phone call from a librarian to let me know when it comes in.  Now the computer will notify me when my book or video is waiting for pickup.

And not only that, I now get email notices when I have 2 days to return an item to the library before I will incur a fine.  I love that!  It has all but eliminated any late fees.

But that’s not all.  A few months ago I noticed a little machine sitting on the side of the checkout desk.  I inquired what the machine was for and the librarian took me through the paces of checking out my own books.  It even prints the slip with the due dates. There wasn’t a big sign or an attempt to show the public how to use the machine unless you asked. It was like the library had a secret that they didn’t want to share.

This week I noticed two new systems at the library.  The first one was a real shocker!  The shelves  of young adult books located directly across from the main desk had been transformed into shelves loaded with items that were reserved.The shelves were sorted by the alphabet presumably so you can find your own pre-ordered book or video by your last  name.  Aha!  They used to keep reserved items behind the desk so it was necessary to ask one of the library ladies to fetch an item for you.  Now we – you and I – can retreive our own reserved books and movies and check them out ourselves – no librarians needed.

The other thing I noticed this week was a computer pad lying next to the scanner on the main desk.  When I took my stack of books to be checked out – deciding for no real reason to use a live person instead of the little machine – the lady put the entire stack on the pad and voila! it scanned all the books at once and printed out the due date list.  No more scanning of each book separately. Oh my!  Now a machine can scan an entire pile of books at once.

I knew the 5 ladies behind the desk were doomed. 

” Oh, I see we can pick up our own reserved items and check out our own books.  Are you worried?”  I  tentatively asked the librarian as she handed over my books.

That launched the poor soon-to-be-obsolete librarian to start her rant.  She told me that she loved her job; all the librarians did, but it was obvious that the public library wouldn’t need them all.  She told me that she didn’t expect to be fired, but the town had not filled an empty job slot when one of the librarians retired recently.  She compared the library to the automobile industry – “You know they used to have people actually build the cars and now they have people watch the machines that build the cars.” 

I sympathized with her explaining that my industry had changed too now that houses were shown on the computer.

“Well, they’ll always need some librarians.” she said.

“Yes, someone will have to restock the shelves, order the books and oversee everything, but they won’t have to check books out anymore.” 

“I know.  Furthermore, they just purchased a cash register.  We have never had a cash register before.  We took care of collecting fines and keeping track of the money – and we were almost always right.  Now they make us use the cash register.  Pretty soon all fines will probably have to be paid by credit card.”

“Yeah.  You’re right.  I’m so sorry.”

And I am sorry.  It is hard to watch people disappear and machines take over no matter how efficient or cost effective they are.  And, I thought of all the college students who are majoring in library science and how they might have a hard time finding a job.  It’s a shame – a real shame!

There is one little caveat to this – I was speaking with a fellow Concordian recently and we were complaining about the librarians.  We both felt that they could smile and even chat with us about books.  I visit the library at least once a week and almost always in the late afternoon.  Of the 5 ladies I see regularly only ONE has ever spoken to me about the books I take out and she has not only recommended books but we have also exchanged opinions of books that we have both read.  Only ONE; the others rarely smile or say hello; one in particular always has a very sour expression on her face as though I am interruping something she has to do that is more important than checking out books.  So, although I hate to see the librarians dwindle down in number, I do feel that they could have garnered more sympathy over the years if they had taken a little bit of interest in what the public is reading. 

Real Estate Hint – The other day I entered an offer for my buyers in a multiple offer situation.  There were 3 offers coming in on the property including ours.  The first thing I told my buyers is to sit down at the computer and compose a letter of two to three paragraphs telling the Seller why they wanted to purchase the home.  In this case my buyers wanted this particular house not only because they thought it was beautiful but also because the wife’s brother lived on the street.  It worked!  Their offer was accepted.  Yes, the buyers offered the Seller a very good price, but they beat a cash offer with a quick closing.  The Seller liked the idea of selling to buyers who had family in the neighborhood!

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Fiction Writing

When you are a fiction writer you are forever seeing and hearing tidbits in real life that you might someday weave into a story.  I have not written fiction for a long long time, but I still plan to go back to it.  Non-fiction is not my first love but I have been pursuing it in recent years.  I think this is partially true because my creative juices have been sucked dry by my busy life.  I wrote fiction in high school and college when life was simple and I didn’t have to take care of a child or earn a living.  In my dreams I am the author of the next Great American Novel.  But, will I ever really seriously write fiction again? 

But every once in awhile I hear or see something that I think, “Oh I have to remember that for the book I will write someday!”

I had one of these experiences last Thursday.  I was chatting with a real estate customer, David Caruso, who plans to put his house on the market in the spring.  We were discussing the color he was going to paint the living room to get it ready for the market.  He told me that he could count on his father to help him pick the right color.

“My father was a colorist.” Dave explained. 

I looked at him and asked, “A colorist?  What kind of colorist? You mean a hair colorist?”  surprised because Dave didn’t seem like the type of guy whose father would be a hair colorist – although what kind of guy that would be I don’t know – but that was the only colorist I had ever heard of.

“No” said Dave, “My father was a wallpaper colorist.”

“A wallpaper colorist?  I’ve never heard of that.”

“Yeah, his job was to pick the colors for wallpaper.”

“There is a job for that?”

“Yeah, he did it for years.  In fact, he named wallpaper after me and my sister.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“If you look at the old goose wallpaper printed in a variety of colors by General Tire it is named DavidCaruso or DCaruso or DaveC and other wallpaper is named RoseCaruso or RCaruso after my sister.”

“You have got to be kidding!”

“No, really I have wallpaper named after me.  Noone else can say that outside the family!  It is our distinction.”

“No way!”  I laughed.  “That is too cool!” 

 Meaning this is  one of those delicious tidbits that  would be hysterical in a book!  I have to remember to make someone a wallpaper colorist in my novel – whenever I write it.

Real Estate Hint – When you sell your house do not pinch pennies.  Recently I had to get a quote for a customer who has moved to Europe for a Trash Man to clear out his house and garage.  We are talking a major clearout – wood, paint, insect poison, mouse poison, old tools, file cabinets, etc.. The price to bring in dumpsters, dispose of hazardous waste, etc. is going to cost the homeowner over $2000.  The seller was not happy and did not want to pay this large sum.  I had to explain to him that he had no choice.  He had accumulated all this stuff over 25 years and if he wanted to close on his house it all had to be removed.  He had to remember that he was making $600,000 and the $2000 was a necessary cost of selling his home.

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Words With Friends

I had to pull myself away from playing Words With Friends to write this blog.  If you like to read or write or play scrabble you will love Words With Friends

Words with Friends – the game that got Alec Baldwin in trouble  – is addictive.  I am currently playing with 3 friends (2 of which have 2 games going on with me simultaneously).  That adds up to 5 games at once.  My Iphone is set to make a little ping noise whenever it is my turn.  So, no matter where I am – watching TV, eating dinner, walking the dog, working at my desk – I know when it is my turn to make a word with the most points possible.

I am competitive enough to try to win every game.  Do I?  No way!  My friends win as often as I do.  Sometimes I just can’t make a good word or my letters are lousy or my friend plays a stupendous word with lots of points and I lose.  It makes me mad and I want to try again.  Thus the never-ending competition.

I have my strategy – look for the triple word, then the double word, then the triple letter, then the double letter spaces and try my hardest to land on them with my letters.   Probably everyone has the same strategy but I don’t  know; we don’t discuss our strategies.

One of my friends spells words that I never knew existed like ka and ai.  Now I play them too.

Since I started playing the game months ago, I have probably wasted a huge number of hours doing so.  The only up side is that I play less Sudoku. 

Want to play?  You can use any smart phone.  But, don’t even start if you don’t want to get addicted.

Now I have to go…I just heard the ping.  It’s my turn…

Real Estate Hint – Realtors spend a lot of time doing odd jobs for their clients.  This week alone I met a French client at the Social Security office to assist her in getting her social security card; opened a house I have listed for the moving company to make an estimate of the amount of furniture for the client’s move to Sweden; called a snow plow man to clear the driveway of a house so the moving company would be able to drive up to the house; brought my own fake fruit to a home so we could fill a basket in her kitchen before the public open house; met a fireman at a home so he could check the smoke alarms.  You get the idea!

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Wear Black and Drop 10 Pounds!

Driving down Main Street the other day I stopped for 3 women slowly walking across the pedestrian crosswalk.  The women looked about my age – shall we call it middle aged? – and I noticed that all 3 were wearing nothing but black – black skirts, black tops, black jackets, black boots.  I recognized in them the latest fashion craze among women I know – black on black.

Black has become the color most popular among middle aged women.  I think the trend is due to the forever repeated maxim: Black clothes make you look thinner.  Although we might like colors in our accessories, it is black dresses, skirts,sweaters and coats that we are drawn to.  We are comfortable in black – we feel it shows us off the best.  But, is this true?  Does black really make you look thinner? 

There are two slim and attractive women I work with – both over 50 – who wear nothing but black.  I have paid attention to them over the years and I can truthfully say that I have never seen them in any color but black – or once in awhile but rarely – grey.  They have all manner of black clothes – long skirts, tunic tops, pants, and jackets.  If you saw them on any given day you would think nothing of it.  But, day after day, year after year, they have never worn red or blue, yellow or gold.  So, do they really feel that their black clothes automatically drop 10 pounds of unwanted weight or do they just like this often drab and boring color?

I too am guilty of this sin.  Right now in my closet I have 3 pairs of black pants, 5 black skirts of varying lengths and styles, 1 black sweater, 3 black t-shirts, 2 black summer dresses and 2 black winter coats.  Although I love color and wear bright tops with my black pants and skirts and often add a dash of color in my accessories, I too perceive that black makes me look thinner and more stylish.

The good thing about having so many black clothes is that you are always ready for both a funeral and a sophisticated night out.  Black clothes go anywhere.  You can dress black up or dress black down.  You can wear black to the city or to the country.  It is never garish nor over the top.  You can wear black to any occasion.  I suppose it is even appropriate in the coffin – where you certainly want your friends and family to remember you 10 pounds thinner!

Real Estate Hint – In my area of the country it is not customary to do a home inspection before putting a house on the market.  Sellers often think it might be prudent to have a home inspector look over their house prior to listing it on the market so they can fix any and all problems.  Realtors advise against this primarily because sometimes knowledge is dangerous.  Once you find out a problem with your home i.e. termite damage, aging roof, leaky pipe you are obligated to fix it or disclose it.  As they say, ignorance can be bliss.  If the buyers’ home inspector finds problems with your house, you can negotiate the price of repair with them.  And, sometimes you get lucky – the home inspector doesn’t think some repairs are necessary!

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Go Away – I Don't Need Any More Friends

I wrote a previous blog about the logistics of setting up  social events with my friends – the complicated and seemingly neverending process of What, Where, When.  But, recently I have felt that I have to add Who to the list.

  I realize that I have many different groups of friends, mainly women but not entirely, who like to socialize on a regular basis.  This is a good thing.  But, I am starting to feel overwhelmed.  In fact lately it feels that all my groups are planning get-togethers and I find myself running from one to the other.  I shouldn’t complain.  Too many friends is not a bad thing; many people would like to have more friends.  Or maybe there are lots of people nowadays with groups of friends and are feeling as stretched as I do.  And, before you even think it –  I am not just talking about the holiday season which of course only adds to the frenetic activity.

So, here’s what I am talking about:

Writing Group
I put them first because this is the group that sponsors this blog.  This is a relatively new group for me.  I know it’s been years since we started meeting, but I didn’t join this group for social reasons; I joined it to encourage my writing. But I really enjoy this group of women – fun, smart and able to speak about things that are of tremendous interest to me –  and they seem to want to be  a social as well as a “working” group.  I enjoy our chats at the meetings and look forward to our holiday dinner.  This group wants to add lunches or dinners throughout the year so we can chat in an informal atmosphere; not when we are supposed to be reading and writing.  Also this is a party group and I have been pleased and surprised by the invitations I have received to some grand and wonderful parties at their houses. But I am still a bit surprised that the writing group has morphed into one of my social groups.  

Childhood Friends Group
I am extremely close to 2 women that I grew up with in Ohio  who live within a half hour of me here in Massachusetts.  We get together for all 3 birthdays and Christmas as well as numerous other times throughout the year.  We also have a quasi dinner party group where we irregularly cook gourmet dinners for each other as well as 2 other classmates and 2 spouses.  I love these people!  They are like family!

Work Group
Not only are there the rare office parties – Christmas, Retirements, Birthdays – but I am also a member of a sub-sect of about 20 folks who go out for drinks and apps every now and then.  Work parties are common in most offices and should be attended.

Hen Party
This group consists of 4 women who hung out together this past summer at White Pond.  We started to text each other when we were heading over to the pond so we could meet to  lounge in our chairs and chat in between dips in the water. We get along so well that we decided to continue our chats through the winter so every Friday at 9:30 we meet at a local breakfast joint to drink coffee and just catch up with each other.  They are interesting and funny women and I hate to miss a hen party. Cluck Cluck!

Movie and Dinner Group
I regularly go to dinner and the movies with 2 friends – a man and a woman who used to work with me.  We are spontaneous.  We text each other when there is a movie we want to see and then we quickly figure out the logistics – what night the 3 of us are free before the movie disappears from the theater.  I love to go out with these friends – we have a really good time – and I get to see the movies I want.  We can arrange a date in a few hours and run out to see a movie that very night! Impromptu “dates” make me feel young again!

Past Dog Group Group
I met 2 wonderful women at the dog park many years ago.  I still go to the park, but they don’t.  In order to see each other we plan get-togethers to try new restaurants or attend local events.  We went to the Concord Museum to see the Annie Leibowitz photo exhibit, to the Concord Art Association for a lecture, to 80 Thoreau to try the new restaurant.  We get along famously and try to always have an outing on our calendars.

Wink Wink Group
Every couple of months I attend a Wink Wink club meeting at a restaurant.  The members of this club are one of my favorite couples and one of their friends that they have introduced me to who I like a lot.  I won’t tell you what Wink Wink means but it makes us laugh. 

Mentee Group
And I mustn’t forget my group of 4 mentees.  I mentored these 3 women and 1 man for over 2 years with regular meetings and on-the-job instruction and now they want to continue meeting but in a social setting.  Drinks, dinners, visits to homes…whatever… just to get together and enjoy one another’s company.  I think it is good for them to rely on each other as they try to make sense of the crazy world of real estate.   I can’t not go; I am their leader.  But, again, another working group that has become social.

ARE YOU GETTING THE PICTURE?????

Recently a woman who I know from the dog park told me that she wanted to set up a weekly coffee klatch so a group of us dog lovers could get together to sit down and talk in comfort rather than just stand around at the park.  I blurted out, “Oh I already have a weekly coffee klatch and don’t think I have time for another one.”  I realized that I had insulted her, but it’s the truth.  I think I belong to enough social groups and I can’t commit to any more.  Am I a brat? 

I also have other friends I see by themselves – my colleague I have coffee with every two weeks, a friend I meet for lunch whenever the mood strikes us, my realtor friend that counts on me to eat Sushi with him every couple of months,  an old customer that I meet for Indian food…

As you can tell, I am a very social person, but I think I have reached my limit. So, if you are not on the list already – sorry – enough is enough.  I am sure there are plenty of people reading this who have lots of friends too.  If not, can I introduce you to some lovely folks?

Real Estate Hint – Our commission checks are based on a percentage of the purchase price.  It can be difficult for a Realtor to put the money out of her head and give equal service to all.  But a good Realtor does just that.  This week a man I have hired to do handiwork called me to represent him in his purchase of a piece of land listed for $35,000.  He is going to offer $27,000.  Of course, I told him that I would be happy to represent him in the transaction.  I stand to make $305.00.  Compare that to the sale of one of my listings priced at $1,500,000 which would earn me $21,150.  Hard to grin and bear it but that’s the job!

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A Life Slogan

We don’t control this earth. Not now. Likely not ever. Hurricane Sandy was an incredibly huge reminder, in case we needed one.

Monday was strange here in eastern Massachusetts. We lost power around 2:30 PM, much earlier than my husband and I expected it. In an effort to not get lost in the repeated hype that is our culture–hype over anything that can be hyped–my husband and I were not as proactive in preparing for this storm as we could have been. We took care of some things, but not others. The phones and iPad were not completely charged, but the laundry was almost dry. I wasn’t set up with batteries for a radio and flashlight, but I had candles and both our cars had gas, so could be called into commission to charge the phones and ipad, and possibly drive for ice if need be…because I had drawn water, and I was prepared with fresh food to feed our dog, but not with ice-filled coolers to keep our refrigerated food from spoiling.

After working over the weekend, my husband and I were both focused on cleaning that day, our drawers and closet of warm-weather clothes. The wind and rain were kicking up outside, and I was still in my sweats, so my husband took the dog for her last walk of the day, and I took a hot shower, not knowing when I’d get one again. I made it short, so he could have a shower when he got back if he was cold and wet. I proceeded to dress myself in long underwear, sweats, a sweater, a sweatshirt, two hats, and my fur-lined boots. As easily as I get cold, I wasn’t going to under-prepare in this department! I will not forget the time I went white-water rafting in the Colorado River. August, but the water was in the 40s, so we were all equipped with “wet” boots that were supposed to function like a wet suit for your feet. That would require your feet to have some heat in them to start, which mine often don’t (ditto, my body), so those “wet” boots functioned more like “ice” boots for me, the entire painful trip. I was going to keep my body heat in at all costs.

With a big glass-enclosed candle set up on the little dresser in our narrow walk-in closet, I set to work. My husband came home, peeled off his wet outer layer, reclined for a moment, and promptly went to sleep–for about 2 1/2 hours. That’s one way to handle a disaster, a pretty good way at this point as there was nothing we could do. I promptly began to sweat–it was only in the 60s outside–so removed the hats, and began to peel off layers.

As twilight set in, and the wind blew rain and leaves sideways, our dog was starting to talk about dinner. She was two plus hours off her walk and it was time to eat. I wanted to keep doing things until the last bit of daylight was gone, and I when I opened the refrigerator a few inches to slip some food out, I wanted to slip out dinner for everybody. Setting up candles around the kitchen, I continued with paperwork and bills until dark–when I noticed that the houses right through the trees behind our house had lights on. And so did our friends around the corner in our neighborhood my husband soon discovered. Our appreciation at the minor inconveniences we were experiencing from this historic storm now became tinged with annoyance, knowing people a stone’s throw away were enjoying the normal comforts of their home while we sneaked food out of the refrigerator and tried to see what we were doing. We ate in shifts, me lighting the gas stove with a match. I washed the dishes by hand, and headed upstairs with a couple candles to read in bed. My husband came up a couple hours later–he had charged his phone and iPad and was talking with people and browsing the net.

Our power came on around 2:30 AM, full force. My husband was downstairs with the dog, who had become very spooked over something, and come upstairs, where she is not allowed, to cry at our door. Surprises finally over, we woke up in the morning to not a day of rain, as predicted, but sun peeking through the clouds. Beautiful.

But between our two families, there are many homes owned in NJ, coastal NJ, and coastal Delaware. Extend our circle out to friends, and there are too many people with homes in these hard-hit northeast coastal areas to even count. The first primary video clip that hit the national news picturing beach bungalows destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in Ocean Beach, NJ, gave us our first look at the the neighborhood where my husband’s parents bought a small beach bungalow over forty years ago. We can watch that video on the computer, and freeze it, and my husband can pick out the houses of long-time family friends. His father is long-passed; his 86-year-old mother’s bungalow is just out-side the scope of the video. That’s all we had. Then other pictures and news started to trickle in, showing scenes like the fire just north of his sister’s house. The flooding in Hoboken where our niece lives. A telephone pole had fallen across my mother-in-law’s driveway at her home in central NJ; she has no services, but a clear view of the large branch that smashed through her neighbor’s window. More devastating news and more devastating pictures are trickling in, but we still have far from a complete picture. And every time I think of the possibilities of what the amassed damage may be at the end, just to people I know personally, or watch new clips of another ransacked coastal area, I tense up–my neck, my shoulders, my gut. How much work. How many families displaced. How much money needed to repair the damage. How many families who will not have that money. I am physically recoiling at the sense of the magnitude of this disaster, a natural reaction. Yet not a productive one. We rarely find flight from our challenges effective. In fact, flight generally leads to personal disaster. And fight, in the literal sense, doesn’t generally lead to positive results either.

Accepting whatever new challenge our modern life has floated by, or flown at, us, as peacefully and rationally as possible is the most productive response. Change is scary, and in a disaster, so, so scary. Unfortunately, as a culture, I think we are poorly prepared to handle any kind of change, minor or huge. Indeed, we are constantly conditioned to be generally petrified of what is ahead, barraged with messages on all fronts, fanning the flames of why we should so fear the future. Why do we go with this? Such fear of the future can only be based on a deep anxiety that we won’t emerge triumphant. And yet, we almost always do.

Forward is not just a campaign slogan. It is a life slogan. We cannot control this earth, nor the life we live on it. There is always a silver-lining if we aren’t recoiling too severely to connect with it. We will figure this out.

Forward.

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