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Friday, November 9, 2012

Things I never thought...

In the past two weeks, I have seen and thought a number of things I never would have imagined.  I mean, growing up in New Jersey and spending a decent amount of time down the shore, I intellectually knew that every so often, there is a hurricane or nor'easter that has the potential to wipe out large swathes of the Jersey shore.  My great-grandmother had a house on the beach in North Wildwood that was wiped out in the nor'easter that hit in 1962.  My mom remembers it well, as she spent a lot of time there summers with her siblings and cousins.  The house was shifted around on its foundation and one wall was torn off, like a dollhouse.   The rebuilding and recovery that followed that storm did not work out in my great-grandmother's favor, as the property was seized by eminent domain, she was not given fair market value and it was decreed that nothing would ever be built on that site.  The statement should have been...nothing will be built on the site until we are offered the right dollar amount, then we'll let the highest bidder build.  Because that's what happened.  No bitterness, and from everything I have heard, my great-grandma took it in stride.  After a storm like that, there is much to be grateful for.  I understand that much better now...I am exceedingly grateful that my family and friends who were hit by "Superstorm Sandy" are all physically unharmed.  Many lost power and suffered property damage, but on the whole, we have been very fortunate.  Even those who cannot get to their homes have family and friends who are more than happy to open homes to welcome them until access or alternatives are available.

I have seen many photos of damage to New Jersey caused by previous storms of a lifetime, but never imagined I would be looking at the reality happening in front of me.  I love the rides on the boardwalks in Seaside and Wildwood and there aren't any words to describe how it feels to see a familiar roller coaster sitting in the ocean with waves washing over it.  (Happily, Wildwood was not impacted the way that Seaside unfortunately is).

Gas rationing is a reality here.  Again, something that I heard stories about from the last time it happened here the 1970s.  Seeing gas tankers on the road a few days after the storm brought a sense of relief that was surprising, after days of seeing lines several miles long at the gas stations that were open.  Yesterday I saw no fewer than 40 power trucks from various far flung states in my brief commute and felt a second wave of that same relief.  Many have come from far and wide to help get the power back on as we faced some serious cold and a second storm that brought snow to the area.  Thanks to them for traveling far and working in all kinds of crazy weather to help so many strangers!!  

Finally, I never thought the aftermath of a storm would be tougher to weather than the superstorm itself.  Dealing with all of the challenges and the unknown has been much harder than riding out the actual storm.  The storm came, it caused damage, and it ended.  Getting back to normal hasn't really happened yet.  Just because power came back on didn't mean it would stay on, and getting the damage fixed won't happen overnight.  Electric service is not something I will be taking for granted anytime soon.  Nor is cable internet - a modern convenience that really does make a difference in terms of how connected we feel to the rest of the world.  Even relatively minor damage will probably still be with us until spring at the very least.  It has been hard on my daughter, which I am struggling with too.  She keeps asking if there is another storm coming.  She clearly understands that this had a big impact and is concerned, but she is not quite three and I'm not ready for this to be something for her to fear.  Her everyday life has been shaken up, even the little things like going out to play in the backyard and going to daycare to play with her friends.

I know this reads more like a journal entry than a regular blog post, but I don't have a journal and this seemed like a good place to get my thoughts out.  I have heard first hand so many accounts of personal devastation due to the storm that I grow ever more thankful for what I have, and for the people in our lives.  Many firefighters have come from our area as well as from out of state to support the fire companies in the hardest hit areas.  Thank you for your service, and please stay safe!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Superstorm Sandy

Before I start in on the storm itself, just a note about generators:  if you are using one, please, please, make sure that it is OUTSIDE and that the exhaust is pointed away from your home.  Outside does not include in a garage or basement.  Please also make sure that you have battery operated carbon monoxide detectors and that you heed them if/when they sound an alert.  We are starting to see deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning and houses burning down as a result of improper generator use.

Things here in New Jersey were already pretty crazy, then Sandy hit.  We were very fortunate as were our families and most of our friends.  We were all fortunate in that we are dealing with things like property damage and gas shortages rather than loss of life.

During the storm itself, my parents stayed with us after being evacuated from the shore town they live in.  My in laws live in the next town over, they were evacuated as well, they headed up to my brother-in-law's house about 45 minutes north of us.  They were all able to return to their homes on Wednesday, and there was little to no property damage for either.  Sandy shifted north before making landfall, putting their homes on the southern and less severe side of the storm.  We actually got hit harder here in Central NJ than their towns did.  

Just a quick note about evacuation, and then I promise, I am done on my soapbox.  If you live somewhere that is under a mandatory evacuation for a storm, please heed it and head to a family member, friend or emergency shelter.  Staying can put our first responders in serious danger and for the most part these are volunteers who are away from their families to help others in need.  Taking unnecessary risks endangers everyone involved and at the end of the day, property can be repaired or replaced.  Our loved ones can't.

I found the anticipation leading to the storm to be a challenge.  Probably in part because of the anxiety it brought out in my almost 3 year old.  She kept asking if the big storm was here yet.  For that reason, we did our best to keep the tv news and storm reports off.  The first thing she asked each morning was, "Is the storm coming?" Closely followed by the statement, "I don't want the storm to come."  Strangely, last Tuesday she kept telling me she wanted to go to the beach.  When I told her we couldn't go to the beach, she told me we needed to go to the beach right then and build sandcastles.  This was out of the ordinary for her, though she does love the beach.  After all of the anticipation of the storm, she ended up falling asleep a few hours before the worst of it hit us, about two hours earlier than she normally goes to bed.  

Our power went out about two hours before the brunt of the storm hit us, so it was nice to have my parents for company in the dark.  I'm usually on my own with my daughter during severe storms of any kind because my husband is always either working at the hospital or out and about with our volunteer fire company and ems.  The number of calls during events like these tends to be quite high, due to live wires being knocked down, transformers catching fire, people becoming stranded in their homes or on the road, and other issues too numerous to list here.  For us, the wind was the biggest issue.  We live near a river that floods and across the street from a lake, but we are high enough to avoid flooding.

We had six trees come down in the storm, and they did take out our fence.  The fence is less than three months old, and we saved for quite a while to put it up, but it's just a fence, it can be fixed.  The big old trees that fell somehow avoided seriously damaging anything other than the fence and our little lawnmower shed.  My dad and I watch that literally disintegrate as the roots of a tree came out of the ground hoisted it out of the ground. One did fall toward a neighbors house, but it landed on his roof without going through at all.  It's just resting on his roof.  I've never seen anything like it.  

The aftermath of this storm continues to wreak havoc in our area.  We were among the lucky ones to have power restored the day after the storm.  I am thankful for this, but almost feel guilty about it as well.  We have a wood stove insert in our fireplace and a gas stove with two burners that can be used even when the power is out, and we have camping lanterns and a solar hot water heater (though that is only available if it has been sunny).  We filled both cars up with gas before the storm hit, so we haven't had a need to sit in any of the hours long lines hoping to be able to get gas.  

I am saddened to see the devastation this storm wreaked on the Jersey shore.  I have spent many summer days on beaches and boardwalks that are now gone, swept into the ocean.  I can't even wrap my head around it.  The photos and footage don't seem real to me, even though I know they are.  I love living in New Jersey - I don't know of anywhere else where you can live within one hour of major cities, the ocean, forest, and mountains.  I don't always like the way New Jersey is portrayed on reality tv, as that is not my NJ.  The real New Jersey is what I have described above, plus much more.  Those truly from New Jersey are resilient, hard working, knowledgeable people with high expectations of themselves and those around them.  There are also those who are tough talking, but most have an internal toughness and a willingness to reach out to help others that is valuable in times like this.  There are those that say that the shore should not be rebuilt, especially the barrier islands.  I disagree.  The shore will be rebuilt, and improved.  The boardwalks a beaches will be reopened.  I look forward to being part of it and spending time on them with my daughter like my parents and grandparents did with me.  

Until then, I will help in any way I can.  Right now, that means having friends over who still don't have power and staying out of the way until the roads and wires are cleared. It also mean sharing my husband with those in need while he goes on fire and ems calls and works at the state shelters that are open nearby.  It doesn't seem like much right now, especially when there are people who have lost everything.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Feeling Like I've Found My Calling...Again

I am a licensed, non-practicing attorney working in a corporate setting.  I knew that I wanted to go to law school from the time I was 14 years old.  That was when I discovered my high school Mock Trial team.  I was hooked.  I started out as a spectator and very quickly got more involved.  I found I had a knack for picking out important details when reading a case.  I also had a talent for thinking on my feet and tweaking my case based on what happened in the courtroom.  I didn't know how realistic this forum was, but one of the advisors was a judge and I found myself with a mentor.  Walking into a courtroom after law school, I knew I had found where I was supposed to be.  I'm not big on public speaking in general, but it came naturally in the courtroom. 

Sadly, it appears a litigation career was not in the cards for me.  My dream was to be a county Assistant Prosecutor(AP) (despite the low pay), I never wanted to be on the other side.  I also didn't really want to be in private practice doing civil litigation either.  I worked in enough law offices that did that to know it wasn't my passion.  When I went through law school, no one seemed to have any inkling that the legal job market was about to tank.  Big time.  Where I live, most people take AP jobs to get litigation experience quickly and then move on the the much better pay available in private practice.  The legal job market tanked right when I was hoping to take advantage of that turnover.  The folks who had those low paying government jobs decided they liked having secure jobs and the turnover stopped. 

This left me in a pickle.  Do I try to find another job in private practice somewhere and hope I find my spark again?  Or do I try something totally different?  I went on about 75 interviews in a year and a half and didn't find it.  I did work during that time, but it was on a contract basis.  I found a number of things I couldn't see doing for any length of brain became numb. 

I fell into my corporate job sideways.  I was signed up with a legal temp agency and an unusual opportunity came my way.  It was great, I got to use my law degree every day and my analytical thinking got a workout as well.  I ended up being hired from temp to permanent and loved coming to work everyday.

Fast forward 7 years.  My job has evolved to the point where I no longer do most of the things I loved about my job when I started it.  I've found myself adrift, again trying to find my spark.  My responsibilities are fairly niche, made up of things that are important but the value tends to be missed until something goes wrong.  This also puts me at risk every time there is a reorganization in my company, which, in this economy, is pretty much annually.

This year I decided to put myself out there.  I've been shuffled around many times and felt that I had nothing to lose, so I took an idea that had been percolating for a while and threw it out on the table.  I don't have it all together when it comes to work and family life, but I have found some coping mechanisms the hard way.  I put together a program to make it easier for the moms that come after me, and my company has received it really well!  The program has taken on a life of its own and I have tons of ideas for what comes next for it. It's got the potential to grow like crazy and be a real asset for a family friendly company.  I really wish this were my full time job!  I love my company, I've found my spark, and it is helping my colleagues to help each other - we really are each others best resources. 

It's so exhilirating and kind of depressing at the same time.  Putting myself and my personal experiences out there to facilitate conversations with my colleagues has been surprisingly rewarding.  And once I get them talking, they are full of better ideas than I could ever come up with.  Everyone seems to be energized and motivated when they leave, better able to cope with whatever their situation is.  I've gotten great feedback from many participants in my sessions.  I love feeling that I was a part of that, and that I can continue to be of service to them by having more sessions and more topics...

And then I come back to my real job, so empty by comparison.  I'm not an HR professional and if there were such a job at my company, odds are that I would not even get an interview for it because I would be considered massively underqualified. 

Thanks for reading.  I feel better just having gotten this out.  I'm going to continue to develop the program, as it feeds my spark and makes my day when I can get a group together and make a difference for them. And if it doesn't help my performance rating, then so be it.  I can live with that. 

So I feel like I've found my next calling, but this time I have to figure out how to grow it and make it part of the everyday in my career!

Friday, September 21, 2012

I Got the Mail, Daddy!

Gotta love those little ones and their developing motor skills!  On Sunday, I watched my daughter spend several minutes trying to open our front door.  It's not a light door, and the doorknob is a little slippery for small hands.  On Sunday, she was completely unsuccessful.  By Tuesday, however, she got the hang of it.  Yeesh.  She was home with my husband, who found her in the living room holding a sheaf of paper.  "I got the mail, Daddy!"  Daddy assumes she went shopping in the paper recycling (as she does on a regular basis) and is pretending that those papers are the mail.  Nope.  "No, Daddy, the mail was between the doors."  Since there was a box in our mail that day, the mailman put the remaining mail between the screen and inside door.  Little one opened the door and retrieved the mail!

Now, to be clear, she never left the house and the screen door was locked, so she wasn't getting out.  She can't reach or turn the lock on the screen door, which will now be activated at all times!  It never fails to amaze me when she masters a new motor skill all of a sudden.  She definitely gave her Daddy a heart attack at the thought that she can open the big front door and that constant vigilance will now be required!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Transitioning to Pre-school

I can't believe I am writing these words, but my little one has completed the transition from Toddlers to Pre-school!  This is her first full week of pre-school, and while she is struggling a little with the transition, it is already clear that she is learning lots of new things.  Already! 

Yesterday she used scissors for the first time.  I never would have thought to introduce scissors to a child a few months shy of three years old.  Kind of like I would never have had her finger painting at 5 months old (which she did in daycare, and loved it!).  At the same time, I like to think that I am not a helicopter mom and I do generally let her try things out earlier than other first time moms might. 

As she was eating dinner last night, she very casually looked up at me and said, "Do you have baby scissors?"  When I told her we didn't have scissors for her at home, she very seriously asked me to please go buy some.  So we will, at some point in the near future. 

She also has started to learn what quantity is associated with each number from 1-5.  Obviously not completely, but the jump in knowledge in this and other areas is very noticeable, especially since it has only been a few days.  I wasn't expecting that!

On the down side, she was really attached to her caregiver in Toddlers and we really miss her.  Drop offs this week have been a little shaky.  Our girl is NOT a morning person, so there is a certain amount of grumpy orneriness in the morning.  Dropping her off in toddlers was a breeze, though, because she would see "Miss Sashi" and go right to her for hugs or dive right into whatever activity the group was doing.  There have been actual tears and clinginess this week.  I'm hoping this is very temporary!