Archive | October 2012

Aftermath of Sandy – business as usual?

Photo from Atlantic Wire

No doubt about it. Sandy was no lady.

She barreled her way into our area with her high winds toppling trees, tearing away shingles and siding and breaking down power lines in order to achieve her self-proclaimed agenda. Strategically partnering with low pressure systems, other storm fronts and a full moon, she churned the depths of the ocean to ravage the eastern seaboard bringing flood waters and devastation to all in her path. Everyone and everything unprotected remained powerless in her wake. Thousands in our area are still without power. Schools remain closed and the buzz of chain saws and generators continue through the day and into the night. Much like Katrina, Sandy will linger in the minds of those hit hardest, but for some, perhaps even most everyone else, it’s a return to business as usual.

Today only clouds remain and the sun has made its way to peak through (at least at this writing). Some people are back to work and their daily routines, rightfully thankful that they were not more severely impacted by this less than genteel lady. Yet others continue to struggle in the throes of the aftermath.

If you’re wondering how the rest of us want could pitch in to help, there are agencies already at work besides the Red Cross. According to the Atlantic Wire, here are a few to check out.

“Other organizations working to help Sandy’s victims to whom you can donate: the Salvation Army, Feeding America, AmeriCares, World Vision, Save the Children, and Samaritan’s Purse, writes Abbey. The Food Bank for New York and the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in New Jersey are also accepting donations and possibly volunteers, according to Thriive.”

If you are looking for additional means to help, FEMA offers other national options for donations. Just one word of caution:  Check out these resource providers for yourself and donate responsibly.

One thing each of us can do, and that is to pray for those struggling in the aftermath of this storm. It is the most powerful resource we can offer. (The prayers of a righteous man avail much.)

We have lessons to learn in the aftermath of Sandy’s assault, and it is important that we gain a measure of wisdom rather than immediately returning to business as usual. More storms will come, and we never know how the next ones will touch us.

Waiting for the storm?

Here comes Sandy!

We in the Delaware Valley are waiting patiently for hurricane Sandy to visit our area with her pounding rain and 75 mph winds. Well, maybe it’s not so patiently. She is, after all, a devastating force to reckon with. Already, emergency teams have prepared shelters and most folks are bracing themselves for the worst and have stocked up on food, batteries, candles, etc. (If you still need C or D batteries, don’t bother looking. Everyone’s out.) Thus far, our power has not been impacted, but the electric company fears that it will. I’m waiting for the dentist’s office to open to see if my root canal scheduled for today will be moved to another less windy day. I think I prefer to wait for the storm. Schools have closed for two days, meetings have been canceled and now we wait for the storm.

Living in the Adirondacks for so many years, where storms of great magnitude are a regular occurrence, tends to reduce the angst that could come from these natural events. In some ways, it is a good thing. You can remain cool-headed in the wake of the storm, but you could just as easily become too nonchalant. There needs to be balance. But here’s today’s query. What do you do with this extra time away from your normal routine especially if the power does go out but you can’t? The kids and other family members are home, but computers, TV, movie media sources, etc. are all unavailable. Now what?

After outstanding school projects, review and required reading is completed and the kids tire of the usual board and card games or the batteries run out on their electronic games, you might consider working together on reorganizing closets, drawers, cupboards or any other cluttered space. We’re rapidly approaching the season of food and charity drives and this might provide the needed impetus to get ‘er done. Not only that, there are fringe benefits gained from working together and discussing how outgrown toys, books, clothes, etc. can truly be a blessing to other people. Who knows? It may even motivate them to take better care of the things they have in order to pass them along to someone else later.

Most of us still have some pre-digital snapshots around and looking at them can bring back some fantastic memories. If you have time and resources, you could create a scrapbook. At the very least, you could organize the pictures to put the book together later. If you’re totally into the digital scene, you could discuss fun memories that you’d want to include and print out the pics when the power returns.

See what other ideas pop into your head and let me know how they worked for you. Camping out in your own home, can be fun. Just make sure if you’re using candles or fireplaces, you take the appropriate safety precautions. As I write, the rain is becoming heavier and the winds are picking up. Guess I won’t have to wait much longer for the storm to arrive. If you’re waiting too or if it’s already hit, stay safe!

Will flattery get you nowhere?

Flattery will get you nowhere?

Growing up, one of my dad’s favorite sayings when I’d try to manipulate him to my way of thinking was, “Flattery will get you nowhere!” Dad could see through my schemes because he knew about how people “flatter with their tongue.” That word used for flatter means to divide, share, plunder, allot, apportion or assign. In other words, those who use it are trying to get part of you for their goals and agenda not your own. Dad stood his ground because he loved me and didn’t want me to get hurt or into trouble. He could see beyond my selfish whims.

Does the statement “flattery will get you nowhere” remain true today? After all, we’re continually bombarded with flattery-based rhetoric to pull us in a certain direction to purchase certain products or vote for a certain candidate. Does it even matter? If we are purchasing a certain brand of cereal or article of clothing, we’re not likely to experience any long-term problems. When we’re casting our vote, we could encounter repercussions, some that might extend beyond our lifetime impacting our children, grandchildren and those of everyone else in the nation. It’s important to stand our ground for what is right, so we need to know and understand truth in order to make a wise decision. We’ve got to look beyond that which tickles our ears. Yes, we’ll do our homework, but we can also observe how those trying to persuade us demonstrate their passion.

I read an alarming account on Fox News about  Wisconsin State Legislator’s son, Sean Kedzie, who was beat up trying to protect a Romney / sign in his front yard. Makes you question the discernment and amount of homework these perpetrators did to determine that it warranted violence and destruction of private property. Perhaps in this election, flattery is getting somewhere.

A babe speaks out about the Presidential election

Babe? No, I’m not talking about a hot looking woman; rather, I am referring to those who are considered too immature to count or have an opinion that matters. Yet this 13-year old young lady demonstrates that there is hope for the future. In fulfillment of a class project, Jenny makes a great case by looking at the track records of presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and gives each of them a grade based on their performance – novel concept. Looks to me like she’s already moved beyond the elementary teachings as she ably researched and organized her information to deliver it in a comprehensive and easy-to-understand format.  As a former teacher, I’d give her an A.

You may have seen this youtube video in other blogs, but I think it bears repeating for several reasons:

  • Jenny did an excellent job. We need to recognize and affirm our young people for excellent performance so that they will continue to move forward. It does not help anyone, especially the children, when you keep passing them on so that they won’t feel sad or unworthy. Instead commend them when they do well so they’ll learn to accept responsibility to do better or continue on their forward trek.
  • Jenny was more professional in her presentation than many adults in business today. Not only was she neat in her appearance, but she smiled and presented her information in a clear and concise manner. Obviously the debates were not her model.
  • Jenny was articulate in her speech – unless I missed it, there were no “Yo’s or dudes” in the entire presentation. She prepared her material, primarily factual, in an interesting, relatable manner. Everyone could “get it.”
  • Jenny had excellent mentors. Sounds like Mrs. Jackson and her father have accepted their responsibility and opportunity to teach her well including the newest technology.
  • Jenny made some outstanding points.

I’ve seen some comments related to this video stating that a 13 year old was incapable of producing a video of this quality. Maybe the commenter’s kids went to inferior schools. I have 3 grandchildren who could produce an equally professional video, but then they have parents who encourage them to do their best.

Want to watch it again? Click here:

Kudos to Yasniger for sharing this information.

Debatable results

Last night we viewed the last of the election debates between President Obama and Governor Romney, and the winner was – one more time – the candidate of your choice before you turned on the TV or watched online. Did either of the candidates change anyone’s mind? I think that one’s debatable.

One thing I observed this time is that Mr. Obama may have gained a measure of respect for the debate process as he curbed his tendency toward interruptions. How can interested citizens possibly hear through the name calling and comments sufficiently to discern which plan makes sense when one candidate can’t control his tongue long enough for his opponent to explain his version? Maybe that’s the plan. Because time is short, grab all the minutes you can. That way, no one will be able to hear anything but your side. Hmmm, didn’t we get bad marks for this in elementary school?

Evidently Rachel Martin of NPR did her homework and found out that indeed there are rules for these debates – lots of them. In her article, Turns Out There are Rules for the Debates. Lots, she tells us there are 21 pages of rules. Maybe that’s the problem. There are just too many regulations and not enough time to read and understand all of them let alone follow them. I guess it’s just easier to ignore them.  Does that go along with the line elementary school students use? You know the one, “the dog ate my homework.”

It seems to me, the Presidential debates, rather than being an opportunity to hear a clear, concise presentation of each side’s viewpoints and perspectives, have become an extension of the negative ad campaigns that have been frequenting the airwaves, tweets and other social media.  It appears it’s much easier to point your finger at someone else instead of intelligently explaining your position. Didn’t we learn that in elementary school, too? I think it was in detention not history class.

I’m beginning to think that perhaps Presidential debates have outlived their usefulness. They are more of an embarrassment than enlightenment. Maybe they should go the way of the cassette, typewriter and other outdated technology. I guess that’s debatable, too.

Can you find the perfect cheese?

I am still in the process of removing the stacks from my home office, but in so doing I found an insert from a book by Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese? In this quick read, Spencer spins his tale of two little mice that awaken one morning to find their cheese is missing. The cheese is an allegorical representation of those things we hold as a high priority for life like your job or perhaps an important relationship. Through their adventures to discover a new food supply, Spencer engagingly outlines the steps we all need to turn the challenge of change into the true opportunity it is. The insert contains 7 bullet points as a reminder of his key points. I think you’ll get the gist of the message. If not, you can get the book. The points are copied below:

  • Change happens – They keep moving the cheese
  • Anticipate change – Get ready for the cheese to move
  • Monitor change – Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old
  • Adapt to change quickly – The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese
  • Change – Move with the cheese
  • Enjoy change – Savor the adventure and the taste of new cheese!
  • Be ready to quickly change again and again – They keep moving the cheese

Spencer had a goldmine of an idea with this one. Today, not only is the original book still in demand, but he has created a specialized training curriculum for corporations using this material. Some of the more prominent companies use it with their employees. He’s also come up with specialized editions for teens and kids.

Now the book was very helpful as are the points listed above, but here’s the real question. Is it easier to learn from a story than it is from a list of points? It gets my vote because the bullet list triggered some detailed recollections of the tale, and I read it over 10 years ago. (Sometimes I cannot recall what I had for breakfast, so I’m thinking this is a stellar teaching tool.) Patrick Lencioni also uses this method of teaching business principles by illustrating them in a fictional format. Perhaps there are some who prefer Dragnet’s “Joe Friday” approach of “Just the facts, ma’am,” but the narrative accounts hold my interest and hence boost my retention.  If I understand the plan from the experience of two fictional mice and can remember it, I think I’ll be better able to adjust to change and find the perfect cheese.

So who won the VP debate?

Covered by Obamacare?

Even the media can’t tell. The morning-after headlines say it depends – are you asking a Democrat or a Republican? Bottom line is the polls are pretty well evenly split unlike the camera shots during the debate. There’s no doubt whose side the networks favor.

Personally, I got tired of Biden’s interrupting to take away Ryan’s opportunity to speak, and Martha Raddatz did not perform perfectly in holding him accountable though she did do a far superior job than her counterpart moderating the candidates for the Presidential race. That said, she was out to pin Ryan down for facts, but let Biden escape with generalities and words like “stuff.”

Did you notice the camera shots? Every time Ryan spoke, Biden’s pearly whites also showed up because of the split screen. (Kudos to Joe’s dentist.) When Biden had the floor, however, he often held the camera’s full attention and the full screen. Is this intentional? Absolutely. We even changed channels to see if this was the case on another station. It was.

Give me a break. I suppose I am naïve in the fact that I want objective news. Give me the facts so that I can make up my own mind. Unfortunately, the networks (Whose payroll are they on?) decided that we, the American voters, are stupid. We are incapable of making a decision without their subliminal messages directing us toward their candidate.

I’m putting my money on Ryan. He listened to the questions and both respectfully and clearly articulated his answers, and to me, they made sense. He even did it without the drama of a smirking smile. But then if I had spent as much on my teeth as Biden obviously has, I’d want to show them off too.

Christopher Columbus … who knew?

In a past post I mentioned that I had relocated an old history book, copyright 1885, on my book shelf. Since today we celebrate Christopher Columbus Day, I thought it fitting to see if there was anything of interest in this timeworn volume about this renowned explorer.

According to Barnes Historical Stories, Columbus entered the world in 1435, the first of four children and the son of a poor wool-comber.  He assumed responsibility to contribute to the family to educate his young brothers and support his aged father from the savings of his meager wages. Did you know that his hair was totally white by age 30? Supposedly due to trouble and anxiety, it makes you wonder why it is included in this history text. Can you imagine today’s kids even caring about the color of his hair let alone what might have caused it?

Yet Columbus had a dream that was 18 years in the making. Determined, shrewd and intensely religious, Columbus believed his mission came from the Lord to carry the true faith to the uttermost parts of the earth. He deemed this cause his purpose and pursued it with courage and devotion.

You would think that with the acclaim Ferdinand and Isabella received from sponsoring Columbus’ travels, they would have treated him exceptionally well. Evidently that is not the case. Columbus made four voyages for the Spanish royals, yet evil men slandered Columbus, and they disregarded their promise to him that he should become governor-general over the lands he had discovered. Instead, they appointed another governor, who promptly returned Columbus to Spain in chains. Spain’s general population was outraged, and Ferdinand and Isabella tried to ease the wrong done to Columbus although they never permitted him to be governor. Eventually they neglected him altogether. Columbus died a grieved and disappointed man and requested that he be buried with his chains, a symbol of the Spanish ingratitude.

Here we are 506 years after his death celebrating his discovery with a holiday, yet in this age of global travel and communications, few of us even think about the cost of his investment let alone the man himself. So, take a minute today, just for fun, and quiz your family and friends to see if they can remember any details of Columbus or his voyage to discover a new world. He changed history. As you share what you have learned about him, it might become a conversation starter leading to discoveries of your own about their dreams, goals and purpose in life. Hmmm, Christopher Columbus. Who knows? He might still impact lives to encourage a new world.

What was it like during the early Plymouth days?

I’m not sure how I ended up with this treasured volume, but Barnes Historical Series found its way to my bookshelf likely coming from the home of my maternal grandmother. Used as a textbook for 11th grade students in the Philadelphia schools circa the end of the 19th century, it covers US history from the explorers through some events in the late 1800’s. I especially enjoyed reading the fine print explanations of life during these various periods.

No way would you find this information in today’s academic resources. They would neither be politically correct nor would they support the changes that have occurred as history has been rewritten to agree with the more modern models of government. You know how it goes, if you say a lie often enough, someone will believe it, and it will become fact. The ironic part is that someone thought this volume with a copyright date of 1885 had already been rewritten as I found references relating to General Greene of Revolutionary War fame corrected in pencil. (My grandfather’s family was Greene, but I have no idea if they were related to the General.)

But alas, I digress. My intent was to provide a humorous example of life during the early Plymouth days.

In the early Plymouth days, every house opened on Sunday morning at the tap of the drum. The men and the women, the former armed to the teeth, assembled in front of the captain’s house. Three abreast, they marched to the meeting-house, where every man set down his musket within easy reach. … The sermon was often three or four hours long, and at the end of each hour the sexton turned the hour-glass which stood upon the desk. Woe to the youngster whose eyelids drooped in slumber! The ever-vigilant constables, with their wands tipped on one extremity with the foot, and on the other with the tail of a hare, brought the heavier end down on the nodding head. The care-worn matron who was betrayed into a like offense was gently reminded of her duty by a touch on the forehead with the softer end of the same stick. … “

Although the religious services provided a great contrast to those today, this text presents our ancestors as real people struggling with real life issues. You also see the level of vocabulary with which they wrote. Makes you wonder if today’s high school students would understand the words. I confess. There were a few words that I had to look up. I guess it’s a good thing I live in the age of the Internet and not in early Plymouth.

Fall Castings

The calendar reveals that the season has officially shifted to fall, and as I gazed out my window, I could not help but notice the flurry of leaves falling from some of the trees. Here in Pennsylvania the foliage is just beginning to turn. Although a few trees wear coats of red and gold, most continue to sport their green. Only a few trees are beginning to shed their foliage. As I thought about the trees casting their leaves in preparation for the winter, I wondered if the shedding related to life in general.

Actually, it caused me to reflect on a conversation I had with a former coworker now retired. Although her life has been riddled with hardship, she chooses to focus on what is good and positive rather than what is no longer possible. Her husband has traveled a rough and difficult road of health and though making progress, he’s unable to do some of the “chores” that usually would have been meaningful. Without use of his limbs, he could no longer mow the grass, tend flower beds or work on the car. It troubled him to have to pay someone to do these tasks. In years past, though bothersome, these jobs would have been a simple undertaking. My friend reminded her beloved spouse that it was OK to let some of these things go. The chores would get done but in another way. She encouraged him to let these jobs go and save his energy for those activities that were more important or pleasurable.

Sometimes in life, we are forced to let things go – a relationship, job, house or a myriad of other things which seem important to us. We can fight the loss and become depressed, OR we can let them go tumbling beneath us like the tree leaves in autumn. We can choose to focus our mind and energy in other directions and with higher priorities.  It seems fall’s castings may relate to life after all.