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Archive for the ‘Service’ Category


I belong to an arts organization I founded in 2007. We recently created 6″x 6″ art canvasses to donate to an organization that raises money for vision-related healthcare abroad and on domestic Indian reservations. The organization takes the canvasses on the road to art fairs and galleries and sells them for $50 each.

I went to a fair yesterday where our group’s work was being displayed. I began chatting with a staff member and told her I was with the guild. She asked if I had any artwork in the show and I said I submitted it, but didn’t see it on the wall. She asked me to describe it. She lit up and said, “Oh, I bought that one. When I saw it, I just had to have it!” Then she asked me to pose with her for a “photo with the artist,” which of course I obliged.

I felt so good on so many levels. I raised enough money for someone to receive eye care, doing something I love to do anyway. I took a $5 canvas and increased its value to $50. I made the buyer happy to have a picture with the artist and finally, just being acknowledged as an artist was in itself rewarding. If you’ve read other posts about my lifelong struggle to earn the street cred to call myself an artist, you’ll get that last part.

I have volunteered and donated a lot of my time and services over the years. I would say without hesitation, that I got more out of it than the recipients of my deeds.

I encourage you to lend your hand, your time, your talents to those who need them. I promise you that you will receive more than you give.

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The following is from a letter I wrote to my sons five years ago. I never published it then as I was too raw and overwhelmed at the time. I came across the email today and decided I could share it, though God knows, the danger has not passed. If anything, there have been far too many more incidents of violence since. So many that we are becoming numb. This email reminded me to remain vigilant and hold onto my sons, no matter how old they get.

Dear J and D,
Ok, this is not meant to embarrass you but I wanted to share my feelings with you …
It’s been an emotional week. The bombing in Boston, just on the heels of the Newtown tragedy, has stirred my feelings of helplessness to protect my children in this crazy world.
No matter how old your children are, when a tragedy strikes – anywhere – a mother’s first instinct is to want to hug her children, as if doing so will assure me that you are ok and that I can protect you from harm. These events prove to me that we can’t always do that and it is painful to know that you must eventually protect yourself as I won’t be here forever. And even while I am here, I can’t control random crazy peoples’ deeds. So I tried to prepare you for the world as best I could. But when unexplainable things like this happen, I feel so powerless.
Yet, in spite of it, I know there is goodness – lots of it – shown through the many acts of heroism, bravery and kindness when terror struck. And that helps maintain my faith in humanity.
But no matter what, I needed to give you a hug the moment I saw you when I came home. At least I saw with my own eyes you were safe for the moment.
I am incredibly proud of the men you have become. Sensitive, with the belief you can and will make your marks somewhere on humanity. It doesn’t take a lot to change a life.
So, live your lives fully, in spite of the naysayers and the crazy, deranged people, without fear and with compassion. And remember I am by your side, whatever path(s) you choose, and throughout your lives, whether I am here on earth or in your memories.
Love you forever.

Mom

 

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The internet is abuzz with the tragic news of Robin Williams’ death. We struggle to understand how someone with so much talent and apparent good fortune could take his life. Depression knows no socioeconomic boundaries. Everyone is equally vulnerable. But those who share his struggle DO understand.
Depression and mental illness in general, is finally coming out of the closet. Those in it’s grip live with unimaginable demons. They are forced to hide them to be socially acceptable, so often struggle alone.
Being famous or heavily relied upon only make the isolation worse. It is difficult, though he did share his struggle, to disappoint the fans. The world’s response to Mr. Williams’ death confirms this. We are mourning the loss of a future without the enormous contributions he would have made – the potential enjoyment of his considerable talent. People say, “What a waste,” or “I can’t understand how he could throw everything away.”
As someone who has struggled with depression, I understand how driven to despair one can be at times. It has been debilitating, a cause of shame, something to hide, something to get through or get over. And it was totally out of my control as were the events that often preceded those times.
But I have never reached the depth of despair Mr. Williams must have felt, that would cause me to take my life.
Let us be grateful to him for the hours of happiness he gave us, in spite of the tremendous toll it took on him. Let us thank his family for sacrificing him for our pleasure. Let us hope he has found peace after all his suffering. And may he somehow know that his life meant so much to so many of us.

RIP

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I suppose you will be remembered in history books if you founded a country, but what about the founders of smaller things? Perhaps significant on a local level, or important to a cause. When that cause gets a life of its own, the founder is often dismissed as far as having any role in its being.
To be fair, some entities pay some sort of homage to the founder(s) in their history, but most do not.
This line of thought was precipitated by a wonderful conversation with one of my patients. At age 83, he has a sharp mind. We connected on some geographic and ethnic commonalities. The conversation led to Israel and he told me a story about his relative named Ra’Anan (not sure of the spelling), who had gone from NYC with a band of others early in the 20th century, to a town now known as Ra’Anana. He had become their Mayor, hence the name of the city honoring him.
I was fascinated by this as I know two families who live there. So, back at home, I tried to research the history of this town, to no avail. There was some reference to a group from NYC going there, but no one by a name similar to the town’s name appeared in any of the articles. I believed this man’s story. Thus, the founder had been forgotten.
I experienced a similar situation. When I lost a job I hated anyway, I turned to my passion – art – and decided to make a go of it. Practicing the craft was only a part of my goal. I wanted to create a community of artists of all kinds; visual and performing, to feed each other’s creativity, and bring us a sense of belonging. I rallied some people I thought would be interested in helping me. I requested the library’s community room, placed a tiny article in the paper. And they came! The need was evident!
From this group, a board was formed and we set out to deliver a community of artists in my own town. Life was good. When we were offered a chance to hire, at a very heavily subsidized rate, a consultant to help us set a course, make a plan and work out some kinks, the group began to splinter. Just a tiny bit at first, but then a huge, gaping hole opened up. Suddenly, my allies were my foes. They didn’t share my vision, which until then was working. When I started to enlarge the dream, the rebels came out.
Now power was being usurped and when I called them on it, they denied it. To shorten a long, painful story, I left the group behind. My only pleasure is that the organization continues. Sadly for me, the work I wanted so much to do is now happening – but I am not part of the community I brought to fruition.
So, that brings me back to the forgotten founder. I have moved on and do my “art thing” with other, more welcoming people. Some of the original cast of characters and I remain friends. The splintered faction is still splintered. I’m OK with it all. Except for one thing. Wouldn’t it be nice to be acknowledged as the person who brought together this community of artists? Yes, it would be.

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We’ve all had them. The sales pitch, political recording, or the request to take a short survey. They usually come as you are rushing to get dinner on the table or just about to put the fork in your mouth, right? Lately, it seems to me, I am getting so many more calls than before, in spite of being on the “no call,” “no email,” “no text,” “no fax” and “no bother me” lists. To add insult to injury, many are now done by robots. They don’t even have the decency to have a live person call to bother me!  I have obeyed their instructions to press number three to request removal from future calls, to no avail. So, I have had to take matters into my own hands. Here are some surefire tactics to stop the calls:

Caller: Hello, is the decision-maker home?

Me: Yes, this is she and she says she is not interested in anything you are selling unless it’s sex with a hot, young stud.

Caller: Click (and they probably took my phone number off the list)

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Caller (recording): You have been selected to receive a special interest rate on your mortgage. Press 1 to hear more about it.

Me: I press 1 until a person comes on the line, then say: Can you give me a special rate to repay my mortgage? My house burned down 4 months ago.

Caller: Click

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Caller: We would like to service your septic tank. What would be a good time to come by and inspect it?

Me: Do you do outhouses? Our septic system failed and we couldn’t afford to install a new one, so we are using an outhouse in the yard.

Caller: Click

See how easy it is? All you have to do is act crazy and they will take you off their list. It really works. Seriously.

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As a native New Yorker, my soul was torn apart on September 11th, 2001. As a human being, I am unable to fathom the depth of the pain of those intimately affected: those who lost family members and friends, those who responded and were and continue to be affected emotionally and/or physically. For marriages broken, children raised without their parents, parents who lost children.

Today is September 15th. Four days after the TV, newspapers and computer feeds were held hostage to horrific images, memorials, interviews, videos and the gut-wrenching stories of people and families still suffering 10 years later, I am finally able to comment. Even with stories of hope and healing, my overwhelming feeling is pain and grief. I couldn‘t write about it for these past few days – until I had a little distance. I managed to avoid media coverage most of the day – deliberately. I knew I would have to face it and decided to choose my time, late in the day, to pay my respects to those who directly and indirectly were affected by the events of the day.

On September 11th, my husband was home recovering from minor surgery. I went out to do errands, and as always had my car radio on in the background as I went from place to place. Between stops, I heard the news of the first strike. I called home to tell my husband to turn on the TV and tell me what was happening. Panic gripped the city and not much was known. During the next move in the car, I heard about the next strike. Now I was beginning to panic too and went home. By then, the picture was coming together – terrorism. Previously unknown in this magnitude on US soil. The day was a blur of anxiety, grief, horror, panic. Should I get the kids at school? No, they said it is safer to leave them there. Panicked parents took their kids home. I left mine as instructed, then learned they were among the minority of kids left behind. Were they traumatized? Who could make a rational decision that day? How did first responders – especially those in command – know what to do in an unprecedented time? How did those who survived, spend the next 10 years doubting themselves and suffering from survivor guilt, even though there was nothing more they could do than they did, except sacrifice their lives (in their minds – not what anyone expected was best)? I worry that it has been harder on them than if they had died.

So at 7 PM, I turned on the computer and looked at several memorial performances. Then I climbed into bed and put the TV on. I chose to watch the show with the video made by the young French Naudet brothers on the day of the attack. It was intended to follow the journey of a probationary firefighter and ended up being the most intimate look at what the events looked like from the inside – and more miraculously, a story of a miracle for Station 1, Engine 7 in NYC. Their firehouse lost none of their personnel, despite their heavy involvement in the efforts of that day. It was raw, real, inspiring, sad. I cried through most of it, feeling as closely as one could, to what it might have been like as events unfolded that day. I also said another goodbye to Alan Feinberg, a Lafayette High School classmate, who grew up to be a NYC firefighter and lost his life that day.

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For those of us with a touch of ADD and a low tolerance for boredom, juggling 10 projects at once is the rule. Few get finished, but the process is so much fun. Occasionally, it becomes overwhelming and I have to remind myself to scale back. When a project is completed however, it feels really good; especially when you love the result.

This week, we are at the very tail end of what seemed like a never-ending update to the kitchen. I naively thought an update was so much less of an interruption and less costly than a renovation, but now I think not. For one thing, we managed the process ourselves. Warning: don’t do this if you can’t tolerate endless frustration, zillions of phone calls to follow up and unanticipated things that will go wrong and cost more.

We did most of our purchases through Home Depot. Different salespeople for different pieces of the job, separate subcontractors and in some cases, subcontractors of the subcontractors. Lesson learned: if you have a problem, don’t deal with these subcontractors. Call Home Depot (or whoever you  made your checks out to) and let THEM deal with the people they hired!

So, the project started out in March, and got delayed because we found asbestos in the bottom two out of four layers of flooring. Another lesson learned: when one part of the project stalls, not only does it delay the project by the amount of time it takes to remedy that problem, there is a cascade of rescheduling delays. This is after all, the busy season for home-related work. Getting everyone lined up in the right order is a challenge.

The floor was in and beautiful, so we were able to proceed with the countertop. It is very nice except that it was supposed to arrive with a sealer that lasts 15 years with no maintenance. Considering that water absorbed immediately, I doubted this was right. When trying to get it resolved, I got the most inane explanations about why this was happening. If there is anything I hate more than cleaning a toilet, it is being spoken to like I’m an idiot or lied to. That’s a surefire way to lose my business. We are sill working on correcting the problem, but I’m on it like a bloodhound on the scent of a killer.

Our tile installer was so good, we asked him to come back and install our backsplash. Done and beautiful, No sweat with this part of the project, except we had to wait. Well worth it for the quality of the installation.

The painting of the kitchen cabinets started out on a bad note, with some more ridiculous explanations about why things were not going the way they should. Three different workers in three days, no communication among them and each had his own methodology. Didn’t look good, nor professional. The last person was clearly skilled and easy to work with, and all ended well – but not before having a little heart to heart with the project manager to straighten him out.

Except for little touches: trim, grout, sealing and adjustments, the kitchen looks done and is back in service. Well, except for cleaning out the insides of the cabinets and laying new liner – another project for me.

I don’t want to imply that the experience was all bad. I learned a lot and picked up some very good tradespeople. Let me know if you need a tile man, roofer, painter, carpenter and/or expert wood and antique restorer. We also got the name of a new plumber, as ours is sadly retiring, but since we haven’t used him yet, I can’t vouch for him yet.

All I have left (after cabinet cleaning) is a call to my retirement financial manager to ask if my investments include stock in Home Depot.

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