Wednesday, November 30, 2011


We all look forward to vacations--the break, the change of pace, the new, the adventure, the exotic, the quiet time, or whatever it is that this year’s vacation entails.

In Europe they even call this a holiday: holy day. This is a set apart time, a time to savor, a time to restore and refresh.
I always jokingly say that work interrupts my husband’s life, and vacations interrupt mine. I like work. I do work I like. 
But, every year, I am in charge of scheduling, ticket buying, and all of the general planning that go into vacations.
Once, we took a 21-day trip through Texas, following James Michener’s book, Texas. It was one of the most wonderful trips we have ever taken. As we explored Ft. Davis, where the University of Texas observatory is, the director said: “You should stop on your way back home, because we are having a star party.” At the time, our son was really into astronomy, so we responded. “I will have to see where we will be then,” I said. 
“Oh, you’re probably like my wife,” he continued. “You probably have envelopes in your purse with the itinerary and budget for every day. My wife plans like that.”
I reached down into my purse, and said, “You mean these?” as I retrieved my 21 envelopes with the event and cash for each day of our trip. I had to chuckle that I wasn’t the only one over-planning such things.
Twenty-one days was a very long trip for me. I like being away four or five days at a time, and then getting back to work--even though my work can actually be done anywhere. It’s just that the fam doesn’t like to see me working when I am supposed to be relaxing or playing. I find both of those things very difficult.
So when I planned our recent eleven day holiday, including Thanksgiving, to California, with a few days in Las Vegas, I wasn’t concerned about the time, because I had work to do in between the fun. We would have a lovely Thanksgiving with our children and grandchildren, the first in almost 20 years, and that would be so wonderful--and was.
And, we would have a couple of days with our Los Angeles daughter and her husband, before the dreaded Black Friday and the surrounding days of preparation she needed as a retail manager. That meant the Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t going to be on Thursday. but on the Sunday prior to the real day. Retailers’ families accommodate. 
Knowing everybody else would probably be having their normal Thanksgiving plans, and that the youngest would be at her store, the rest of the week, we worked in a few days in Las Vegas, where, someday, are planning to retire.
Well, not really retire, since I don’t believe in that, but where we will start our second or third careers. Namely, Jay will do motorcycle restoration and continue building his adventure bikes and other cool bikes, and he will enjoy the diverse terrain of the desert for rides he has always wanted to do. His journey is being chronicled at blogspot also:

I will continue writing and doing my networking, and my smaller businesses, and my business coaching and resumes. And, like I said, I can do that anywhere. And, since I hate hot, humid, and Jay hates cold, the desert is a good compromise. I will miss trees,  but, we will be less than five hours from the kids, so that will help.
Our days in Las Vegas were charmed. Our word for it is really that we had “favor.” God seemed to be putting people in our pathway who would guide us to the Real estate we wanted to see, and we already were quite pleased with the church we had found in Northwest Las Vegas. Thanks to Groupon, we also had scheduled other events, like U-Drift for Jay (see attached video), and a pedicure for me, and then we also had the whole four days of meals scheduled and paid for. (I told you I plan ahead!)

It was a wonderful week. We felt more sure that this would be a destination for us in a decade or so.
We returned to California Sunday night, and even though it took us eight hours instead of four (we forgot it was still Thanksgiving weekend for the non-retailers), we had a wonderful time just talking and praying, and dreaming of our new life--someday.
But, that eight hours, and the long transcontinental plane trip back, via Dulles to Bradley, and we were very, very glad to be home.
No matter how much fun a vacation is, there really is, as Dorothy said, “no place like home.”
What I find rather curious though, is how much our bodies seem to relax, recover the day after we return home--a place that only two years ago, wasn’t any more than another vacation place. Home is where your food is, your shower, your towels, your products, your tea pot, your bed, your pillows--your comforts. Even though the time share and hotel pillows were better than ours, and the beds, remarkably were firmer and more rest-producing, they still aren’t the ones we’re used to.

Maybe it’s jet lag, but I don’t think that is all there is to it. Home is safe; home is the place you can get back to normal. Good as vacations are, home is home.

Monday, November 7, 2011

LOFT LIFE: Weathering the storm

During a crisis, there’s always a lot of talk about how people behave. Some people reach out to help, others tuck in and wait, others get angry, some are depressed. Human nature is a fascinating thing to observe, especially in a crisis.
The recent Nor’easter that hit the Northeast, rare in October, wiped out power for more than 700,000 people in Connecticut alone. Other states were hit hard too.
In our apartment complex of about 800 residents, our old manufacturing buildings have central, boiler-room heat, which also supplies our hot water. There is a generator back up, only for emergency lights and the elevator corridors.
We were lucky. In our building there is a library, powered near the elevator, on the generator. In this library, there was still heat and power for light and electricity to charge phones, computers, IPads, IPods and, as we discovered, coffee pots and electric crock pots and griddles.
It’s quite fascinating, as I said to observe how people behave.
As we first wandered down our hallway, we discovered coffee awaiting us, with two lovely families there, providing three pots of the brew. This evolved, over the four days we spent together in the library, into one pot for regular, one for decaf, and one for hot water.
The first day, the coffee pots shared a table with the electronic gadgets, mentioned above, all plugged into power strips in the only two outlets in the room, the power strips also provided by a couple of the residents who had found themselves party to the library gathering. 

By the end of the day, we decided to pull over a second table from the other side of the room, making room for the electronics to have their own table, away from hot water and spills. This redecoration also provided a bigger play area for the children on the other side of the room. We were learning, adjusting, becoming homey.
One of the men was busy making bacon and eggs, and others provided bagels and sweet rolls, and bread, which one of the coffee families informed us could be toasted in their toaster, also now available to all.

By lunchtime Sunday, about 17 hours after the foot of heavy, wet snow had knocked down so many power lines, the clever people in our library had decided their food would spoil if electricity was going to be out for a week, as predicted, so they might as well share.
Dinnertime was a feast. One woman brought in about $50 worth of chicken and steak, and began cooking them on her electric skillet, while she chopped goodies and dished out salsa, sour cream and other ingredients for fajitas. She had thought ahead. Her generosity was dispensed without fanfare or need for applause. She was just being herself. Others brought bacon, brats, hot dogs, and various other meal-hearty foods, with no expectation for return, just sharing.
As new people came in and gathered that Sunday, there were at least a dozen people huddled together, at any given time, enjoying that strangers were becoming friends.

We kind of feared seeing management arrive, because we weren’t sure our electric skillets and coffee pots were allowed. But, we had no worries. Head of maintenance laughed, telling us he knew what was happening because he could see the generator output at his command center. Our general manager and his staff stopped by, actually to encourage us, and to say how pleased he was at our camaraderie. We offered them coffee, sweet rolls and other goodies, and began to realize how blessed we were that they understood and approved.
Families with young children kept them under watch, while they described friends with infants and other family members who didn’t have the luxury of our respite warmth.
By Monday morning, our cold, unlit apartment offered nothing. Coffee was on our minds, and we gathered what food items we could contribute, took our flashlights to the storage room to pick up plates and cups, and our cooler, and headed back down the hallway to the library. There was plenty of snow and ice for the cooler without having to open a freezer.
It was a similar crowd with a few more people, but still amazingly uncrowded, considering that in our building alone, there must be more than 100 people.
Monday was Halloween, and the students in the crowd rigged up a projector and a white board screen for a spooky, family-friendly, DVD. Others brought in bags of candy they had ready, and encouraged the three families present to get their children costumed and ready for tricks or treats, assuring that treats would not be missing, even if power was. The children were ecstatic. The adults felt empowered. Even these little gestures were very important to keep ourselves mentally stable during the long wait for our own places.

 By Tuesday, we had made friends, had begun to network, had shared all of the foodstuff in our refrigerators.
It is curious that others were invited, but were shy, or reluctant, or not willing to be thrown together in a roomful of strangers.
But for those of us who ventured out, we really did establish relationships. I met an entrepreneur who was thrilled to find a writer in her building. We exchanged business cards and promised future work together. 

The generous fajita cook has a home-based business we are sure to patronize.
Another woman promised to drive me to the Italian market in Springfield, since you all know I don’t do Interstates. I have wanted to go there for two years. 
One of the women who didn’t respond to the invitation, confessed to me the day after we got power, that she was intrigued by the big hearts of those who shared so much. And after the power came on, we didn’t all go back to our apartments and forget. We now see each other in the hallway and say hi. We know names. There’s a special place in our hearts for these people we shared a room with for almost four days.
And, a week later, while about 60,000 Connecticut people still have no power, our people, mostly the ones who had met in the library, responded to the flyer on the doors for a chili cook-off and football game in the Community Room. We gathered again for a meal, strangely again with our crock pots. It just seemed like a tradition. And, we got to talking about what our next Community Room activity would be. We’re friends now. 
They say that crisis brings out the best and the worst in people. Our new friends in Building 2 library certainly were a tribute to human nature at its best.