Thursday, May 29, 2008

Random musings

Published in The Long Island Advance, May 29th, 2008

It’s not easy to come up with something witty, relevant, amusing, or important to write about every week and I’m always impressed that Mark, Brian and Sarah seem to do it so effortlessly here in the The Long Island Advance. There are times when I’ve written three pieces, one right after the other, times when I’ve woken up and written at 3 AM, and other times when it’s a bit more of a chore to come up with anything to say at all. It’s easier for me when there’s some sort of drama going on in my life that I can’t help commenting on, or I find some kind of amusing disparity between living in New York City, and living in Patchogue. I haven’t had a four column run in a long time and right now, all I have are random thoughts running through my head.

Since the deadline for this week is looming I’ve decided to just sit down and write, and see what happens. It’s kind of an interesting exercise to do that once in awhile. I took a writing class over the winter where the teacher suggested carrying around a marble notebook in which to spend at least 30 minutes per day writing. I was not good at that. I usually have a notebook handy, but when I don’t, napkins, discarded flyers or the margins of newspaper work just as well.

I’m a “when the spirit moves me” kind of writer.

The dilemma right now is, do I tell you about how interesting it is for me to live in an area where I regularly pass women on the street who are not only veiled, but may also be wearing a chador, or do I try to describe in words what it was like to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge for the very first time, or do I tell you how I wonder what the people I work for now where thinking by hiring me, or that I found out first hand recently that a good friend of mine in a “man magnet?” Or, maybe since I’m so conflicted about what to write, do I try and tell you a little bit about all of the above, and then try to string some common thread between them all as a means to wrap up at the end? Perhaps I’ll just give that a whirl and see what happens. After all, I can always hit “delete” and start over again.

Having recently read the book Reading Lolita in Tehran, I’ve become fascinated by women who live in this country and who hopefully are choosing to wear a veil, and are not doing so because there are people in their lives who are trying to make them invisible. I could write an entire column on this subject. The only problem is that I have way more than 750 words to say on this topic. Since limiting myself word-wise is usually difficult, the implications of what wearing a veil means for women is a hard subject to tackle in 750 words or less.

My policy is “if it can be said in three words, why not use three paragraphs, or better yet, three pages.” I have a friend who writes for a living and who is always saying, “Get rid of the extra words!” He has no idea how hard it is for me to part with any of my written words.

I have now almost finished four weeks at my new job. I sit at my desk and sometimes wonder how it is I’m here, at this place with the amazing view. It’s easy to forget how hard I worked to get here and that maybe I do really deserve this. I think that oftentimes people forget that they deserve good things to happen for them.

And, since I’m on the subject of my job, words cannot describe what it was like for me to walk home from work over the Brooklyn Bridge last Friday. It was one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen, and to think that I was afraid that by moving to the city, I would miss the scent of sea air. How silly of me.

Now reminded of the scent of the ocean, last Sunday I sat down at the bay with my friend JoAnn, who was visiting from Florida, and I had the opportunity to witness first hand her abilities as a “man-magnet” and it was pretty darn impressive. Some guy walking his two dogs started a 20 minute conversation with her, all based upon the logo that was on her tee shirt. (And, if she was veiled and wearing a chador, he would never have seen the logo to begin with!)

And, here I am at 840 words with no common thread to string all these random musings together. Oh well, maybe next time individual columns based upon all the above will develop. One never knows what I might be writing about at 3 AM.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A lunch time field trip

This is what I did at lunch yesterday......

What I wish I knew

Published in the Long Island Advance, May 22, 2008

OK, so…I’m going to dip a toe into a pond that I would normally be afraid to venture into. Normally I stick to “writing what I know,” which is usually a good policy to have. Today it will be more like writing about what I wish I knew.

If I wasn’t working in Human Services, I’d like to think that I might have stumbled into a career as a scientist. I’m sure this revelation will come as a surprise to my family, but it shouldn’t. At one time I wanted to be a marine biologist and it was all I can remember talking about. The movie Jaws cured me of that dream. And, let’s face it, if becoming a marine biologist was really that important to me I would not have let a mechanical shark scare me away.

Although I love sitting by the ocean, or standing at the edge getting my feet wet, rarely do I go in, and the moment I do the theme song from Jaws starts to play in my head and it’s just not worth the anxiety I feel not knowing what might be swimming around under me. Hence a career spent in the water did not seem like a good idea in the end.

In my fantasy career world of today, I can envision being a geological archeologist, or some sort of environmental biologist. I’ve been able to satisfy this need by visiting places like the Museum of Natural History, by attending lectures on the arts and sciences, or just by sitting in my living room, watching the Discovery or National Geographic channels. Yet, as a rule, I don’t write about science not feeling anywhere near qualified to do so.

I do have a growing concern about our environment though, and last year I ventured into that arena and wrote about it. So, in an effort to stretch my abilities just a bit more and set out once again into uncharted waters, I’d like to tell you about Science Debate 2008.

I’m on a few science related email lists and is one of them. The people who run this website have for months been trying to engage those candidates running for the office of President of the United States in a debate to see where they stand on issues such as “healthcare, climate change and energy and how science can tackle them.” They took many, many steps in order to make their invitation to discuss these topics appealing to the candidates, yet none other than McCain responded, and he declined.

There seems to be a misconception within the mainstream media that people don’t want to hear about this, therefore having this very important invitation publicized has been almost impossible. In an effort to prove that people are interested in what those running for office think about science related issues, a poll was commissioned by Research!America and ScienceDebate2008 and conducted by Harris Interactive ® that showed that 85% of U.S. adults agree that the presidential candidates should participate in a discussion of this kind.

“’This topic has been virtually ignored by the candidates, but this poll shows that Americans of all walks know how important science and technology are to our health and way of life,’ said Shawn Lawrence Otto, CEO of Science Debate 2008. ‘We’ve heard a lot about lapel pins and preachers. But tackling the big science challenges is critical to our children’s future – to the future of the country and the future of the planet. Americans want to know that candidates take these issues seriously, and the candidates have a responsibility to let voters know what they think.’”

I don’t have room here to go into detail about what I consider a very critical issue for our country. Clearly it’s not about the political party you belong to though. We all belong to the human race and we should care about what those who want to lead our country think about climate change, global poverty, education and renewable energy.

The Long Island Advance is about as mainstream media as I can come up with in order to publicize what I think is a very important topic. If I’ve tweaked your interest even the littlest bit, please check out and see what you might do to help bring attention to something that is so important to us all. You don’t have to be a “wanna-be” scientist to have a desire to be well informed prior to casting your vote in November.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I want to feel comfortable NOW!

Published in the Long Island Advance, May 15th, 2008

The view out the window of the bright yellow lunch room is stunning. With the sun creating tiny pinpoints of light that dance and sparkle across the water, straight ahead in the distance I can see the Statue of Liberty, and out the window to my right, the Brooklyn Bridge and a view of lower Manhattan that can only be described as postcard like. Every outside wall of this office in Brooklyn has stunning views of the city and the surrounding area, and I can’t believe I work here.

Six weeks ago a new job fell into my lap and I’m still adjusting to the idea of it. While sitting in the office of the Associate Executive Director of my previous agency, he let slip that someone we both knew was leaving her job and the agency she worked for was looking to replace her. I think he immediately saw my ears perk up and was sorry he mentioned it. I usually have to debate things with myself prior to making a move, but this was a no-brainer. As soon as I left the office for the day I called her to express my interest, and here I am now, looking out the window at a view you usually only see in pictures.

It’s not just about the view though. From the moment I stepped foot in the door for my first interview, I felt intuitively that I should be there. Normally I am a little nervous when interviewing, but this was the most relaxed and enjoyable interview I have even been on in my life, and my intuition kept saying “This is the job you moved here to have.”

A position such as this would have had to find me, since I’ve never been one to job hop and I’ve only been working in the city for less than a year. I like to stay places for a long time, probably because I’m resistant to change. I have great affection and admiration for the people I just left and had decided to commit myself to being there for at least another year, in spite of the fact that the job I was doing was overwhelming and very stressful. That was until this new opportunity was presented on a silver platter. Initially thinking I would just inquire and go on an interview, once I stepped though the door, all I could think about was, “This is where I’m supposed to be.” This was the kind of job I had envisioned when I was looking to move, and here it was. Who cares that I know nothing about Brooklyn and will probably get horribly lost.

Last Monday I waked into my new office to find the entire back wall decorated with a sign that said “Welcome Susan.” How cool was that? It was nice to have that sort of greeting since this is the first time in a very long time that I have not worked for people I already knew. Their warm welcome took the edge off the anxiety I felt at having to go through yet another transition, even if it is a positive one.

It’s hard to be an “I want to be comfortable NOW!” kind of person, and have major life changes happen every six months. I mean come on, it’s been a week, why don’t I know who everyone is, what they do and where their offices are located? I have great patience when it comes to others, and very little when it comes to me. I’ve been working on it and as you can see, having limited success.

Soon I’m hoping to have an entire year where nothing changes; although that’s doubtful considering now I think I may be moving to Brooklyn in the fall.
(My cell phone picture does not do the view justice!)

What not to wear

So......tonight after work I was standing on line in TJ Maxx on 6th Avenue and W 19th Street behind a woman who I thought was a great candidate for the show What Not to Wear. She had on a bright orange top which was too tight, a pair of black Capri pants, a wide black patent leather belt, black and red plaid stockings and metallic silver was a fashion statement that just didn't work for her, nor do I think it would have worked for anyone. You have to wonder if some people look in the mirror before they leave the house.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A dinosaur in my living room

Published in the Long Island Advance
May 8, 2008

From the corner of my eye I saw it slowly lumber across my living room floor as if it owned the place. Rolling gait, antenna sniffing the air, it was a 350 million year old dinosaur living in my apartment, and it completely unnerved me!

When thinking about moving to an urban area it was not crime, or my initial inability to use public transportation and not get lost that made me just a little fearful, it was bugs. I hate bugs, even the ones that are supposed to be good for the environment. Tolerating them is about the best I can do and looking for a means to get rid of them, like my shoe, is usually my first response.

In the years I spent driving all over Long Island as a service coordinator I‘ve been in many homes, some in better condition than others. On one particular home visit I sat perched on the edge of a chair watching the roaches walk down the walls and scurry across the floor toward me. I was completely horrified by what appeared to be an army of them, all heading in my direction. Wanting to appear unafraid I calmly stood up, figuring my ability to see them and step on them would be increased if I had a better vantage point. In hindsight “the army” was maybe ten, but let’s face it, if you’re seeing ten roaches in one place; chances are there are a whole bunch more hiding in places you can’t see. Often times for me what I can see in my imagination, is far worse than what the reality is. In the case of roaches though, I’m sure my imagination was underestimating.

Knowing that roaches are common in New York City and have not only survived, but thrived since the age of the dinosaurs, I decided to just not think about them unless I had to. Not thinking about them lasted about three days, then for weeks I obsessively did nothing but think about them, talk about them, wish my cat would hunt them, and look for shoes to kill them with.

I spent weeks researching remedies to solve my bug problem. Having the exterminator come was out of the question because of the cat. Svetlana, one of my coworkers, suggested egg yolks, mixed with Boric Acid and some water, then formed into little balls and strategically deposited throughout the apartment. I boiled the eggs and bought the Boric Acid, then hemmed and hawed about it. How big should the balls of egg yolk be exactly? How much Boric Acid was enough, or too much? Would my apartment smell like hard boiled eggs, and most importantly, would my cat Bandit think that perhaps I had left little Deviled Egg appetizers spread about her new home as a treat? Little by little while mulling all these questions, I peeled and ate the hard boiled eggs.

The solution to my dilemma was not an hors d’oeuvre, strategically placed about my apartment. It was as simple as going to the grocery store to buy those little roach motels. It’s been three months since I’ve seen a roach and for a little while, I was breathing easier.

My latest bug scare goes by the name of “bed bugs,” an even creepier menace. It is not comforting to know that they’ve been around probably as long as roaches. I have spent a ridiculous amount of money on products to stave them off after having heard from one of my neighbors that “they” might be in the building. I will now discretely apply dust in the form of diatomaceous earth to the crevasse and corners of my apartment, as well as some sort of environmentally friendly spray I bought. I’ll wrestle my mattress and my futon cushion into protective covers, and hope for the best.

Who would have thought years ago when I was adding diatomaceous earth to our pool filter, or making Deviled Eggs, that one day I would be considering using these very same ingredients to exterminate real, or imagined dinosaurs from my home? Not me.

Monday, May 05, 2008

My first day at HeartShare

This was what greeted me as I walked through the door of my new office today.....I'm so happy to be there.