Saturday, October 31, 2015

Blog Post Anxiety

When I started this blog in early September, I set the goal of 100 posts by the end of the year. The focus would be on quantity, not quality. This will be my 53rd post. There is enough time to meet the target. But will there be enough inspiration? I am feeling anxious.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Autumn in New York

It's autumn in New York, and the pumpkin donuts at Dunkin' are ripe for the picking. I treated myself to my first of the season at Newark International Airport on my way back to Orlando. The Dunkin' Donuts establishment is modest to a fault - just a counter with a few stools and two small tables in the passage way before you enter security. 

Despite the drab ambiance, the pumpkin pastry, matched with a bottle of orange juice, transported me to a landscape of fall foliage and crisp temperatures. It was time to recover from the subway and NJ Transit rides and prepare for the passage through the ever-vigilant TSA employees. Others may abuse drugs and alcohol in times of stress. My poison of choice is a flavorful donut every time.

New York Diners

Your basic New York 24-hour, breakfast all day, 12-page menu, Greek diner is heading for extinction. At least, that is what my friends tell me. Is there nothing sacred left in the world!

For the 24 years I lived in New York, diners were my kitchen and pantry. I knew I would never go hungry any time of the day or night. And I didn't need to bring a friend. My New York Times was sufficient company. A woman eating by herself in a diner was not remarkable in any way.

I would stop at my favorite diner on 9th Avenue after working out at the gym. On Marathon Sunday (my favorite day in New York), I stopped at the Moon Rock Diner across from my apartment for sustenance after my 8-hour tour of duty as a Central Park Marshall, holding back the crowds as the runners completed the race. 

When I moved to Orlando, each trip back to New York was celebrated with a least one diner meal. On several occasions, I picked a date, time and diner and invited friends to join me. They were happy reunions for me and meeting opportunities for people from different parts of my life. Whatever else you want to say about them, diners are efficient - for eating and socializing. 

Save the diners!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

In Transit

Transit papers were the holy grail
for Ingrid and Bogey.
At OIA, TSA PreΓΌ is the prize. 

What I like is arriving too early.
I disappear in the crowd
in a state of existential loneliness.

Not here.
Not yet there.

Perfect Running Partner

I run by myself; I like the quiet. There was one time, however, when I had the perfect running partner.

I was at a business retreat in Montauk, at the tip of Long Island. Before the morning sessions, I went for a run along a nearby country road. As I was getting started, a yellow Lab ran up to me. I'm not used to dogs, and at first I was a bit nervous. But yellow Labs are so sweet and friendly that I accepted his request to join me.

About 10 minutes later, a large dog, barking loudly, ran toward us. My buddy peeled off to engage with the other member of his species while I kept running. I didn't want to get in the middle of a fight. A few minutes later, I heard loud panting behind me. My running partner was racing to catch up; we finished our run together, in joyful companionship. Perfect!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My Brilliant Blogging Career

I started my first blog in February 2010 as part of my executive coaching website. I posted 23 times in 2010 and 53 times in 2011. Now and then, I forwarded the link to a post to some clients. I don't think anyone else read the blog. It was a start.

My second blog was more personal. As I stated at the inception: "This blog will chronicle my adventures as the precinct woman for Precinct 437, Orange County, Florida, and Lake Nona NTL for OFA, leading up to the November 6, 2012 Election." My output was modest: 10 posts in late 2011 and 53 in 2012. I increased readership by uploading each post to my Facebook page. There were "Likes" and even some favorable comments. In addition to capturing  my exploits as a novice grassroots political organizer, the blog was an exercise in loosening up my writing style. I made progress in that regard.

This blog is about nothing. Like the Seinfeld show. But not as funny. Here I am going for quantity, not quality. I started in early September 2015; my goal is 100 posts by New Year's Eve. My readership numbers in the very low single digits ( 2 or 3). 

Law and Order

I'm addicted to Law and Order in all its varieties: the original, SUV and Criminal Intent. I'm not alone; several of my close friends have shared their addiction stories with me. I haven't heard of a 12-step program to cure the affliction, though. But who wants to be cured?

Watching the show calms me even though the stories are usually about murder, rape and other violent acts. Watching reruns intensifies the soothing effect; when I know how the episode ends, the suspense is muted.

The title of the show telegraphs its appeal. In a chaotic, unsettled world, each episode provides a coherent story line and resolution. In some cases, the criminal goes free; but that only makes us appreciate all the guilty verdicts more. We don't take them for granted. There is order in the universe.


I've been reading a lot about Mindfulness. I am not sure what it means. It seems to means different things to different people. For some, it is a form of meditation. I've never been able to meditate - to clear my mind. First of all, I can't get into a comfortable position. Anything close to a lotus position is way beyond the limits of my flexibility. Running is the only activity that comes close to clearing my mind; lack of oxygen to the brain may get the credit.

I read an article about the use of mindfulness techniques to help athletes overcome panic at the starting line. The therapist wisely avoided using "mindfulness" in the exercises, instead using terms more aligned with an athlete's focus on physical prowess. It worked.

I am now trying to be mindful of my shoulders, which are generally in a state of raised (physical and emotional) tension. As I walk around the pond in the evening, I focus on relaxing my shoulders. It is worth a try.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Science Homework

When I pick up Gisela for soccer, I am often pulled into her homework assignment. Dorin valiantly struggles to get Gisela's attention for the final questions on the page while my little soccer player looks for her shin pads and water bottle.

Last night, the subject was science: what do you get when you combine two atoms of hydrogen with one atom of oxygen? Last week, the subject was English grammar, specifically parts of speech and sentence structure. Thanks to Mr. Weinstein, my 7th grade English teacher, and four years of Latin in high school, I excel at parts of speech.

Monday, October 19, 2015

We'll Always Have Paris

Socialists and economists label generations based on various factors that make sense to them. Movies are not explicitly included in the mix. A mistake. Someone who has not seen Casablanca is definitely in another generation. Birth dates, political engagement, acceptance of gay marriage are all interesting characteristics to look it. I know for my generation "We'll always have Paris."

Art of Packing

When I was an investment banker in Chicago, I traveled a lot. I had clients in the Midwest and on the East Coast and West Coast. St. Louis was almost a second home.

I began to practice the art of packing and have been refining my technique ever since. Now that I travel to New York 4 - 5 times a year, in different seasons, I recycle packing lists saved on my hard drive. Why re-invent the wheel? 

Florida has two seasons - rainy season and dry season. The temperature range is limited from my Northeastern perspective. New York still has four seasons, with the temperature range getting more extreme as global warming builds. There are sweaters, jackets, wool pants and other cool/cold weather clothing I only wear in New York. The standard packing lists remind me what to wear.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Amateur Anthropologist

I am an amateur anthropologist. Neither my one undergraduate course, nor my reading of Margaret Mead and her colleagues, confers a professional status. Yet, as I have moved through life, I have had the chance to study many different cultures.

Investment banking, for example. That was a hostile environment in which the natives were not friendly to females competing with them. For the seven years I worked in the field, someone was always trying to fire me. Using my skills as an anthropologist, I was able to identify the key behavior patterns of the natives. I then used that sensitive information to shape my behavior as a member of the tribe. It worked. I left on my own terms and in my own time - to study another complex culture.

Intrigue, hostility, and treachery were the hallmarks of the culture of New York State government, my next research target. Fortunately, I had several rabbis to explain the rituals and identify the key players. Again, I used the scientist's cool detachment to chart a path through the jungle. After about 5 years, I left with my reputation intact and letters of commendation. The trick is being in the game but not of the game.

Friday, October 16, 2015

I'm a Believer!

When I started as a neighbor team leader for the Obama campaign in January 2012, I took it on faith that the phone banks and canvasses would bring results. I had never worked at the grassroots level before and had no first-hand experience of these campaign tools.

The day after President Obama's re-election, I was in a daze - exhausted from the many months of campaigning and not quite sure that the victory was real, not a mirage projected by my stressed-out brain. 

Mid-morning, I left my apartment to get my mail and bumped into Roberto, the junior member of the complex's maintenance team. I had helped Roberto register in Florida after relocating from New York and given him information about the candidates, issues, and voting schedule. Roberto told me that he and his mother had waited in line for 6 hours on election day before casting their votes for President Obama. 

In my already emotional state, I teared up and kept repeating "Oh Roberto, thank you. Thank your mother. That is so wonderful!" Roberto looked at me quizzically. Why was this woman getting so worked up? Then it happened. He looked me in the eye and said calmly: "I told you I would vote." Now I'm a believer. When we connect with people one-on-one, we can make a difference. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Morning Person

I didn't stay up to see the Democratic Candidates Presidential Debate because I am a morning person.

Also, because I am much more into politics when I don't actually listen to politicians.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Winston Churchill and Me

In my safe deposit box at the bank is a telegram dated November 24, 1943, from Aunt Lillian to Daddy serving in the coast artillery in Hawaii. It announces my birth about 6 that morning. Mother and baby are doing fine. 

I was born pretty much in the middle of World War II, and my own creation myth is deeply tied to that worldwide cataclysm. That may explain my enduring interest in the history of the period and my attachment to the heroes of the battles - political and military. 

I have read five of Churchill's 6-volume history of WWII. I stopped at that point because the story it told no longer seemed relevant. As the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union fell apart, the agreements that came out of the Potsdam Conference of 1945 were being superseded by current events. The map of Europe was changing once again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Baseball: Life Lessons

Be Resilient: Even the best players strike out or are thrown out more often than they get on base.

Be Patient: The best hitters don't swing at every pitch.

Have Fun: The best players always keep the joy in the game.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Baseball: Philadelphia

Beginnings: It started even before we could afford a car. Daddy took Jackie and me on the bus to Phillies twilight double-headers. Stadium food was beyond our budget so Mommy packed sandwiches in brown paper bags. Daddy's love of the game was contagious. I caught the bug; it was a lifelong bond between us.

Grand-Slam Home Run: I flew in from Chicago, and Dad and I went to a Saturday afternoon game while Mom worked. It was a beautiful fall afternoon, but the Phillies were losing badly. In the bottom of the ninth, they came up for their last at bat, many runs behind. Even my optimist father got up from his seat, ready for a quick exit. But wait! In a breath-taking turn of fortune, the bases were loaded, with two outs. The last batter hadn't been having a very good day, or season for that matter. Defying our expectations, the baseball gods looked with favor on him, and he hit a home run. We won! My father, in his sixties, picked up his thirty-something daughter and jumped up and down with joy. I love baseball!

VIP Parking: I took the train in from New York, bringing with me a VIP parking pass and four prime tickets to the Phillies game, gifts from a printing company I did business with. Dad, Jack and Juancarlos joined me for a special outing. We began the night with an outstanding Italian dinner at Ralph's, in South Philadelphia. My father's delight at flashing the VIP parking pass and getting a spot close to the stadium was well worth the slight smudge on my shining ethical principles from accepting the gift. It was photo night, and Juancarlos and I ran around the field with our camera as the Phillies players mingled with the fans. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Baseball Vignettes

Baltimore: Comer, Bill and I go to Baltimore to see the Orioles, Comer's favorite team. We eat crab cakes on crackers, the best baseball stadium food ever.

Chicago: Wrigley Field doesn't have lights so Tom, John and I go to afternoon games during the work day in our investment banker attire. We are guests of Chapman and Cutler, the big law firm we do business with. This is a great Chicago tradition. 

Boston: Newly arrived in New York, Steve and I make a pilgrimage to see the Big Green Monster at Fenway Park. We fly the shuttle from LaGuardia to Logan, take "The T" to the park, and stop at Legal Seafood for dinner on the way back. The Baseball Gods look with favor on our devotion.

New York: Elliott and Leslie take me out to the ball game, to see the Mets. Elliott treats for dinner at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. We take the "7" train to the stadium. I am now a true New Yorker (although my heart will always be with the Phillies; but that's another story).

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ode to Grassroots Organizing

Hi Lake Nona Neighbors,

About 30 people turned out for our gathering last evening. We filled Betty Jo and Steve's home with positive energy and commitment to working hard to elect people who will truly represent our interests, not those of big corporations and big donors. 
  • We shared our hopes and concerns for the future. We want to keep the gains made under President Obama's leadership, not move backwards. We want elected officials who take the science of climate change seriously and work to protect our environment for our children and grandchildren. We want thoughtful leaders who consider the consequences of actions before rushing into dangerous situations. We want local officials who care about our communities. 
  • Sean Ashby talked about his goals for making changes in Tallahassee. Sean is running for FL House District 50. An ardent educator in Orange County public schools, Sean spoke of the need to protect public education and to make sure our community is well represented. For too long, the Republican incumbent has ignored our needs.
  • Susannah Randolph told us why she is running for the U.S. House of Representatives for District 9. Drawing on her long experience as a community organizer, Susannah stressed the importance of building a strong foundation for electing Democrats at all levels of government. That means registering voters and getting them to sign up to Vote By Mail. This is key to victory in 2016.
This is just the beginning. We all can see how Lake Nona is growing, with new apartment complexes going up everywhere we look. We will reach out to new residents to get them registered and encourage them to Vote By Mail. We will educate our neighbors on the issues that affect them. We will make calls, knock on doors, get out the vote. 

It will not be easy but it will be so important. And we can do it! 

I look forward to working with all of you.

Thanks and take care,


To George

When I am calm in crisis, wise in advice to family and friends,

George - mediator of disputes, source of strength - guides me.

They told me I learned to read on his lap with newspaper before us
When pitchers and catchers reported, we assessed the Phillies’ perennial prospects.

Dissecting each trade and position, he would declare that this was their year.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Running in the Dark

The days are growing shorter, and it is dark when I set out for my morning run. I avoid the jogging path. I am afraid of snakes that might be slithering there. I don't want to be attacked by very small insects that fly around the path before the sun rises. 

I run around the apartment complex, past the parked cars and the buildings where most of the windows are still dark. Each lap of the complex roughly equals one lap around the jogging path (about 1/2 mile).

I pass people with jobs that start early as they walk to their cars. Middle and high school students head for the bus, their internal clocks at odds with the too early class start. 

Then there are the dog walkers. There is one cat on a leash that takes an early morning saunter around the area. A woman usually walks the cat; this morning, it was a man. The second time I lapped the cat and its owner, the cat was curled up on the branch of a small tree. The man stood looking up, the cat's leash in his hand. I said: "Looks like you have a cat up a tree." "Yes," he said, with a slight smile. Strange.

Monday, October 5, 2015

First Coaching Client

I am my first and best coaching client. Whenever I give advice to clients, I am also reinforcing that advice for myself. 

I believe in the possibility of change because I know that I have changed. Not at the fundamental personality level, of course. I have moved out of my comfort zone in many ways, strengthening traits and behaviors that make me a better person and managing those parts of my personality that get in my way.

We are all works in progress.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Twenty-One Balloons

My first idea for cover art for my poetry collection was a hot-air balloon. I liked the idea of traveling through space-time without much direction. It seemed a good metaphor for my life, at least from my perspective, which gives great weight to serendipity. Family and friends probably think I have charted a more deliberate course. 

So it seemed fitting when I was asked to help Gisela with her reading assignment, The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pene du Bois. The protagonist takes off with a giant hot air balloon after 40 years of teaching arithmetic to boys. He is certainly looking for a leisurely escape from routine and time to read on the porch of the little cabin suspended from the balloon. 

I have read about half the book at a quick pace. I find the style both disconcerting and charming. It combines fiction with fact, which is not unusual. The central event is the eruption of the volcano Krakatoa in 1883, with a great loss of life and property. I haven't reached that part; let's see how a book for 5th - 6th graders handles a cataclysmic event.

That's Really Funny!

I am in awe of the winners of The New Yorker's cartoon caption contests. The cartoons have at least two actors (sometimes human, sometimes other species), with one actor clearly the speaker. A funny line never enters my mind as I scan the latest entry.

Sometimes, the cartoon is set in prehistoric times, featuring cavemen commenting on a situation, perhaps a painting on the wall of a cave. What if the cave paintings of Lascaux and Altamira were actually cartoons, and cavemen (the women were probably working and not seen fit to take part in this intellectual challenge) were trading captions near the fire. That would be really funny!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Vote By Mail

My absentee ballot arrived yesterday. Since I began working on campaigns in Florida, I have voted by mail. I spend early voting and election days making calls and knocking on doors to get people to the polls. That is important, but I miss showing up at the polling place myself.

Perhaps, other people miss it, too. I don't mean the standing in line and, at times, confusion. I do the miss the sense of community: we are all in this together, and voting keeps our democracy strong for the benefit of all of us. There are many reasons for the drop in voter turnout in the U.S. I will not attempt an in-depth political/sociological analysis. I believe that one reason is a decline in the sense of community. That makes me really sad.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reach Out and Touch Someone

In my childhood, the telephone was attached to the wall in the kitchen, used primarily to check in with family. With time, a princess-style phone took its place on the night table in my parents' room. Always the outlier, I didn't talk much on the phone as a teenager.

From those old movies with people on the farm placing calls through Matilda, the local operator, to today's constant TV ads on the many wonders of the iPhone, something strange has happened. The phone has changed from a tool for bringing people closer to an instrument accused of creating alienation. Digital natives use the phone for texting, taking professional quality photos, sharing videos, and checking Facebook feeds. Actually talking to someone seems a rare event, at least on the ads.

Reversing the trend, I've been making calls. I'm inviting neighbors to meet local Democratic candidates and party officials at a house party next week. The 2016 election cycle has started, and I am reaching out to touch fellow warriors in the fight for social and economic justice.