Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Our Hurricane Experience

The day after Sandy hit New York and New Jersey, it's business as usual in Midtown Manhattan. While nationally known stores like Starbucks and McDonald's are closed and the Disney store in Times Square is even boarded up, local businesses are open and packed to the gills with patrons. The small grocery stores and delis are running out of items to sell and the shelves are slowly emptying but they seem to be well stocked with toiletries and the places that makes fresh sandwiches to order seem to have a constant stream of customers.

Taxis have taken to the streets after a very short 12 hour hiatus and those streets are lined with tourists and New Yorkers alike. Rumor has it that bus service may start up again tomorrow but the subways and tunnels are closed indefinitely.

There are many areas in New York and New Jersey that aren't as lucky as Midtown Manhattan. Over the weekend, we visited the Empire State building, the site of the World Trade Center, and Battery Park, all of which are under water now. Almost one million people are without power and tonight, temperatures are predicted to drop down to the upper 40s and many are displaced and staying in shelters.

We are among the blessed. My sister Denise, my nephew Kirk and I are set up in a hotel with a giant king-sized bed and full-sized futon, full power, a microwave and a refrigerator. We are safe and sound and feeling guilty about how good we have it. Granted the road to get here was trying and difficult but we couldn't have asked for a better outcome.

The aftermath of the hurricane is similar to that of a war zone in many areas of New York but the reality is that there is a pocket that remains untouched by the storm. And we are in that pocket, shielded from the destruction.

In All Things, Give Thanks

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

This weekend we met Sandy. And we wish we never had. Before she showed up, we were having a glorious time. But we are thankful for the days we had leading up to Sandy's arrival. We are incredibly grateful. We had so much fun. As my nephew said, "It was good and I liked New York. My favorite part was being in Times Square surrounded by the lights and all the awesome stores."

We were so blessed to have three days packed with nearly every tourist adventure imaginable. On the first day in Manhattan, we strolled to Rockefeller Plaza where we watched ice skaters in the rink and browsed through the Lego Store. We shopped in Times Square and spent a fortune at the M&M's store. 

Then we hopped a bus to the 9-11 memorial site where we met Harry, a wonderful older man with a toothless grin who pulled us aside and shared the World Trade Center's history with us. He taught us about the seven buildings on the site which coincided with the seven points on the Statue of Liberty's crown which stood for the seven seas over which people traveled from the seven continents to find a freedom represented by a flag with seven red stripes. We explored the neighborhood around that site, visited wall street, took a photo with the bull and walked down to the harbor where we saw the Statue of Liberty in the distance. We resisted the temptation to buy Rolex watches and bags and sunglasses from men who sidled up beside us and whispered great deals in our direction. 

Then we ended our day with dinner and drinks at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square where we waited an hour to destroy a platter of loaded nachos and where we left with souvenir glasses in tow.

On day two we slept late and it was good. Then we passed through Magnolia's bakery to pick up muffins and cupcakes and what is now Kirk's favorite milk before heading to NBC for a tour. We walked the halls of NBC like we owned the place. We made brief stops in the studios of Brian Williams and Dr. Oz and Jimmy Fallon before Kirk took a seat behind the news desk and shared the day's news with our tour group. He was a star! 

Next we jumped in a pedicab for a tour of Central Park. Our driver, a young man who emigrated from Kazakhstan, peddled our rickshaw to various stops in the park like the Bethesda fountain and Strawberry fields. We watched a young couple get engaged near the John Lennon memorial and saw the building where Yoko Ono still lives.

Finally, we rode out to China Town where we walked through the markets and ended up in Little Italy where we ate the best pizza ever.

On the third day, we went to church at St. Patrick's Cathedral, at breakfast at the Majestic Delicatessen, ferried out to Lady Liberty, looked up our ancestors on Ellis Island and ended up at the Newsies, a Disney musical on Broadway. We finished up the day with burgers and salad at the most expensive Friday's on the face of the earth and a shopping spree at the grocery store in preparation for Sandy.

Even though the last couple of days have been stressful and trying, we are thankful. What an amazing trip this has been! That is what we will choose to remember.

Monday, October 29, 2012


I do not consider myself to be a brave person. But I supposed it is true that I am good in a crisis. Truthfully, the only way I survive in moments of uncertainty is by communicating constantly. Talking through the situation at hand helps me keep perspective, helps me stay grounded, and helps me reassure myself while reassuring others that everything is going to be alright.

Hurricane Sandy has landed in New York and seems determined to do as much damage as possible. In the midst of her destruction, our only connections to home are our cell phones and Facebook. Thank God for Facebook.

The following entries represent day two of being trapped in New York thanks to Sandy:

"it's finally raining. NYC is a ghost town. We are packing up to switch hotels. I'd be lying if I said I am not scared. But I'm keeping a brave face/voice for Kirk & my parents who are scared to death at home."

"The rain has arrived. There are something like 200 Starbucks in Manhattan & every one we've seen is closed. McDonalds too. But we found a deli with a Chinese buffet, a salad bar & some lovely Latino men making sandwiches so we stocked up and came back to the hotel. Tomorrows flights are now canceled too so... Kirk's teacher sent homework. Please say some prayers for my uncle Donald & aunt Eleanor who are riding out the storm at a trucks top in jersey. More later! WE MISS YOU STL!"

"Watch KSDK tonight. Just got interviewed by Casey Nolen..."

"Seems the flooding around us is getting really bad but we have no evidence of that here. Jersey has it the worst. Again, it just looks like a rainy night in Midtown. The lights flickered a bit but for now, we still have power. I'm taking comfort in being in a hotel right next door to the fire department. 

If we don't answer texts right away, it's because we are preserving the battery for calls to

 our parents & Ed. Kirk now has a stomach bug. Poor kid has been throwing up all night. I think it's half nerves & half crappy chinese from the back of a turkish deli (or something like that).

Thanks for the prayer & the calls & the texts. And thank God for Facebook making our world seem smaller right now & St. Louis feel a little closer.

Love you all!


the deli across the street is still open but the streets are pretty bare."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Calm Before the Storm

My sister, my nephew and I were in New York for a long weekend and suddenly found ourselves with no way home. Every year, my nephew Kirk and I travel somewhere for his birthday. For months in advance of his July celebration, we discuss where we might like to go together and how we might like to get there. A plethora of ideas are laid on the table and they almost always include London and Los Angeles because those are the home towns of Kirk's favorite actress. We have traveled by car, train, and airplane. We have traveled near and far. This year, we agreed upon New York as our destination.

Kirk also agreed to allow his mom (my sister) to join us on this trip as well since the chosen location was so grand. We booked out trip for October because autumn in New York is so beautiful. The anticipation of our trip built over the course of the three months between Kirk's actual birthday and our departure date. Finally, last Friday, we boarded a plane and just over three hours later, we were walking the streets of Manhattan. 

I love New York. And now so does Kirk. But after a tour of Central Park via pedicab, visits to the top of the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, shopping in Times Square, and taking in a Broadway show, the weather shifted dramatically. Hurricane Sandy was suddenly pounding at the doors of Manhattan Island. Instantly, our experience shifted from fun and exciting to frightful and nerve-racking. 

I moved up our flights, hoping to escape New York before the storm hit bu our flights were canceled anyway. We rebooked them. Then we booked a rental car, just in case... We thought driving 16 hours wouldn't be terrible and at least we would be home. Within hours, however, the mayor of New York announced the city was shutting down. Our second round of flights was canceled and we realized that we would soon be without transportation and without a hotel room.

Finally, I booked a new hotel, we packed our bags and we walked 7 blocks to our new temporary home with bags in tow. 

Facebook provided a a way to keep those at home updated. Here are the posts from the first day of the storm:

"flights out of NY are canceled. we have no hotel after tomorrow at noon. we do have a car but can't pick it up til tomorrow. at Laguardia... and there is no mass transit or cab service tomorrow due to the state of emergency. the rain that was supposed to start at 8 AM has not started so that's the silver lining I suppose."

"longest day ever... we are staying in NYC until at least late Tuesday. Flights rebooked, found a hotel, bought provisions at the grocery store b/c the city has literally shut down. they're even sandbagging in Times Square & there are cops everywhere. (i mean more than usual.) the mayor ordered everyone to stay home tomorrow. still no rain. just a little windy. that said Jim Cantore is here in battery park so I guess it's gonna get real!"

We are safe. We are together. We are waiting out the storm.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Six Seconds

Research shows that great hugs take six seconds for the participants to experience the full benefits. It has been said that hugs are the cure-all for our ills. It has been my experience that most people don't really hug any more. But I urge you to hug someone today. Hug with your whole being and your whole heart. It does a body good. And a spirit too...

"Everybody needs a hug. It boosts your metabolism." ~Leo Buscaglia

"You can't wrap love in a box. But you can wrap a person in a hug." ~unknown

"A hug is a handshake from the heart." ~unknown

"That's what people do who love you... They put their arms around you and love you even when you're not lovable." ~Deb Caletti

"Men greet each other with a sock in the arm. Women greet each other with a hug, and the hug wears better in the long run." ~Edward Hoagland

Friday, October 26, 2012

New York, New York

The fist time I heard Bette Midler’s story, I wished I had packed a bag at 18 at headed to the Big Apple. Bette was braver than I. She moved to New York, lived in a closet-sized apartment and waited tables while enduring the painstaking process of making her dream of being a performer come true. While I had known since I was six years old that I wanted to be a singer and I loved the idea of Broadway, I never mustered the courage to follow in Bette’s footsteps. 

In sixth grade, my class went to camp for a week. I don’t remember the point of the trip. That is to say, I don’t know why our school chose to send sixth graders there year after year. I am sure there was some educational basis and while I despised the social element of it, I did learn a lot. We cared for and rode horses, learned about composting, slept under the stars and awoke covered in cool morning dew and we repelled down a really tall wall. At every point int he experience, I remember asking what was going to happen before participating. I discovered that I loved repelling even though I was terrified to try it at first. Thank God for a hot counselor whom everyone called “Dude” who provided plenty of motivation for this chubby, four-eyed girl from the city. 

It wasn’t fear of getting hurt or even death, however, that caused my hesitation  to repel down the wall in the woods or that prevented me from moving to New York after high school graduation. Fearlessness was my strong suit. The thought that something bad might happen to me never crossed my mind and caused my parents countless hours of worry. It was fear of failure. What if I wasn’t good at it? Whatever it was... What if I failed miserably and others made fun of me? What if I put myself out there and I became a laughing stock?

One day, the same year I went to camp, a neighbor boy followed me home from school and mocked my singing every step of the way. I remember him saying, “If you think you’re so good, why don’t you...” He went on and on. I acted tough but I was dying inside. That feeling stayed with me for so long. Too long, in fact. Even today, when someone attacks my ability or my talent, I feel it in the pit of my stomach and the thought crosses my mind, “what if I am not good at it? Oh my gosh, what if I am one of those people you see on American Idol auditions who really believe they can sing but they can’t!

Of course I recover from the negativity much quicker now than I did when I was a kid but it is so evident to me now how critical our growing up years are and how impactful negativity can be. And as I walk through the streets of New York, I wish I would have known better as a kid. I wish I would have never doubted myself. I wish I would have been more like Bette.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


One by one, he carefully scooped us up and carried us to the car, laid us in the back seat, and covered us with blankets and baby dolls. As the sun rose and peeked through the windows of our cream-colored Chevy station wagon, my younger sister and I would slowly sit up and rub the sleep from our eyes. Suddenly, excitement would build from our toes to the tips of our head... VACATION! It started the same way every year. Dad packed the car in the middle of the night, loaded us in the car and headed out so he could get most of the drive out of the way before we woke up.

No matter the distance or the location, vacation was always a treat. Most years, we would spend time at Table Rock Lake where we fished off the green astro turf-covered dock and swam until our hearts were content. And often, my parents would bring a cousin or three along or a friend so there would be someone to be the tie breaker in arguments between my sister and me. On the odd occasion we traveled further than the lake, driving across as many states as possible en route to our final destination. We cruised the border between the United States and Canada, shot across the country on an Amtrak train and flew to Disney World.

My parents sparked my interest in travel at a very young age. They shattered the boundaries of our city and opened the doors of possibility for me, my sister, and many others. Vacation still makes me giddy and even causes me to lose sleep. I try to venture out of St. Louis at least three times each year. I take one trip with my immediate family, one with my nephew for his birthday, and one with my friends.

This year, my travel bill was booked solid with trips to California, Nevada, Florida, Georgia, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas, Alabama and, up next, New York. If I am lucky there will be at least one more jaunt slightly west for a friends birthday in November. And before my lifetime draws complete, I'd like to see the continents I haven't visited yet. Who's with me?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's Like Riding a Bike

In 2011, for the forty days leading up to my 40th birthday, I blogged every day. What a tremendous challenge! Committing myself to stop for a moment every day and write down my thoughts, while seemingly self-indulgent proved incredibly difficult.

Some days, a topic presented itself willingly and the blog practically wrote itself. Those are the good blogs. On other days, I fought tooth and nail to force words from my brain and through my fingertips.
But in the end, it was so much fun and looking back at the blog now, I realize it was an intense period of self-discovery.

As I near the end of my masters program at Webster University, I am taking a creative writing class and the first assignment involves journaling. For the next eight weeks, I will repeat my 40th birthday exercise by blogging every day. I am looking forward to the stories that might unfold and if there are topics you'd like me to cover, please leave a comment here or send me a note.

In the meantime, I thought it might be fun to go back and explore that 40 Days til 40 blog. You can find it here: http://michele-40daystil40.blogspot.com/ 

Enjoy! And get ready! The adventures in journaling start now!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Adventures in Journaling

Starting tomorrow and continuing for the next eight weeks, I will be blogging every day for a masters class I am taking at Webster University. Consequently, I will be reading more and cutting out weeknight television as well.

While I am not typically short on topics, I would love to hear from my readers about topics you would like me to cover.

Do you have a question? Do you want my opinion on a particular subject? Do you need advice? Bring it on! Leave a comment here or send an email my way and let me know what you think I should write about next!