Weathering the Storm

The snowstorm of October 31st wasn’t unexpected. In fact, it seemed like everyone knew about it and was preparing even though the first I heard of it was the night before. Knowing what an early snowstorm can do I was expecting lots of downed trees and the potential for a longer power outage.

True to form the storm shut the region down for several days. For some communities, like Agawam, this meant over a week. Without tv, internet, and the power to charge up those smart phones that we all love the rapid flow of communication, quotidian for 2011, stopped.

Who had power? Where could you find the sundries that became necessary to buy (and re-buy) with a refrigerator out? What do you do when disaster strikes? These and many other questions came up for us Valley residents. Continue reading “Weathering the Storm”


As I was sitting down to try to write something in remembrance of 9/11 I kept feeling blocked. I don’t want to simply tell you what it was like to be there, across the street, when the first building’s walls rippled and blew shards of glass outward into the sky above my head.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind sharing what the experience was like or answering questions. Although sharing can sometimes be hard I think that being open about my experiences, even when they are traumatic, can help people learn and grow. Very little is learned in silence.

Sharing can also be hard because from the position of being the traumatized, the listeners reaction to the information can be irritating. With regards to my experience, while I believe we were all effected by that day it is hard for me to feel that someone who wasn’t there has a true understanding for my experience. Those who do really listen without judgment or expectation are the easiest to tell. Those who are the hardest to tell sparkle with interest in what they seem to hope will be arousing and sensationalist storytelling.

While remembering doesn’t make me sad or fearful, I know that it may affect you in an intense emotional way. Are you ready? Is that what you are looking for? So, I do respond to the questions, but I’d rather focus on the present than remember its conjunction with my past. The Now that is.


This year, I started getting calls weeks in advance since I’ve experienced more time incapacitated by PTSD this year than any other year of my life next to the 12 months post 9/11. Because of their knowledge of this I’m not surprised when my friends and family began checking in. I mean there are only so many late and middle of the night calls you take from someone you love before you check in on a potential triggering date. I’m thrilled to have such a caring support system that they are thinking about me and loving me by reaching out.

9/11/11 happens to be the 10 years to the date that something transformational happened in my life. While it created mainly positive changes in my life, I know that there are still challenges to overcome.

This year, I woke up with my loving partner at my side, happy. Everything went right that day. Strangers beamed love-filled smiles at me, I got tickets for my friends and I to go to an event that sold out way before the desire to attend was sated, my partner and I saw an apartment last minute and were told by the evening that we could have it. It is a day where everything went right, with just a little angst.

You’re Not Alone and Success is Possible

As I hung up the phone with the Director of Sustainability of a small liberal arts university, I was struck by the number of times that I have heard the same challenge articulated. The challenge – we have no money to work with- is a common one since schools that are fiscally conservative often have a small to non-existent budget to put towards sustainability initiatives which leads their Directors to face what feels like a huge wall.

The seemingly insurmountable needs – resources, manpower, support – feel like they grow larger over time since the Director does what they can, in many cases continuing to identify more and more that needs to be done around the school.  Overwhelming for certain.

I am going to propose a solution, or even better, show you that there is no insurmountable wall in front of you, there is simply a challenge that you have yet to overcome. Continue reading “You’re Not Alone and Success is Possible”

Yes, and…

One of the rules to improvisational acting is to never say ‘no’ or ‘but.’  Why?  Well ‘no’ stops the flow of creativity.  It stops momentum.  The trick is to say ‘yes, and…’

Just like a good improv, brainstorming is facilitated by always saying yes.  Gathering all the nuggets of information and ideas before determining which is best or suits the situation the best.  Continue reading “Yes, and…”

Dude, Where’s My Luggage?

A multitude of frustrations with my flight into Port au Prince.  I was arriving to help out and instead I was the one asking for help on my first five days.

This all started because on my way to Port au Prince my luggage was not put on the plane with me. While normally this might be understandable, since it was the third leg of my trip, I had picked up my luggage the night before in the Dominican Republic and dropped it off in the morning so it was more like a single flight.

Now, as I’ve understood it law requires luggage to fly with a person, otherwise it is take off. Why was mine not put on my plane? And why was it not there the next day.  And why on subsequent days did I have no luck with anyone answering my phone calls to check to see if it came in? Five calls and none of them answered…

Ultimately, I got my luggage back.  I’ve never been so thankful for having a travel toiletries in my carry on before in my life. And I’ll never fly again without at least one outfit in my carry on.

I guess no matter how frustrating this was at the time it was also ok.  It was ok because I got to experience the generosity of the volunteers around me.  Every day someone handed me a clean set of clothing.  I literally felt like I was living in bounty during a time where I physically had nothing.  So in the end I was able to be shown that no matter what I always have what I need.  That’s pretty amazing and something for which I’m profoundly grateful.

Gratitude and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because:

– It is about being grateful.
– You spend the time with the people who are the most important to you whether they are family or friends.
– It is a celebration of the harvest, or the good things that have come to you in the previous year.
– I do love good food and wine!

Gratitude is something that I regularly practice.  I say practice because it isn’t always easy to be grateful for a lost job, ending relationship, death of a loved one, et cetera.  But with every situation in our lives no matter how challenging and difficult, there comes the opportunity for learning, success and growth.   This is not always obvious and so often you can feel knocked down and that is the best time to practice remembering that like other ‘bad’ times this too will give birth to something better.

We don’t always know why things happen, but I have had many times in my past that I have felt hurt or resentful because of a given situation (not getting in to Colby for college, the lost of a good friend without reason.)  Later in life I understood why those situations happened, some many times over, and was able to feel grateful for them because of what came next that would not have been possible otherwise.

Now in my life, I am grateful and open when something that seems challenging comes up.  I realize that it may be quiting my job that allows for the space for my dream job to come into my life.  I am more open to understanding that every situation has a silver lining or possibility attached to it.

Dealing with the Tough Stuff

Dealing with the Tough Stuff, the latest in the SVN book series by Margot Fraser and Lisa Lorimer, was the topic of Friday afternoon’s plenary where the authors talked about their own struggles in their businesses and helped lead “feedback circles” for participants to get support with their own challenges.Dealing with the Tough Stuff

Lisa Lorimer, former President and owner of Vermont Bread Company in Brattleboro, Vt., spoke with passion about what it’s like to be in challenging situations as a business owner. Her great empathy comes from her own vast experience. She knows what it’s like to have to decide what to do when payroll is due and there is no money in the account. Lisa stressed that business owners need to have a place where they are able to talk about the realities of the business, something which was practiced later in the session in an exercise.

Although Birkenstocks are now a ubiquitous sight on college campuses all over the country, Margot Fraser, founder of Birkenstock USA, did not find the U.S. to initially be a receptive market for the cork-souled sandals. Her first distribution deal with the manufacturer was based on a “handshake” and her narrow focus on selling only one product made others call her crazy, but Margot admits she would have liked some seasoned advice when she was first starting out. Both Margot and Lisa agreed that creating a competent and skilled advisory board can be a lifesaver for a struggling entrepreneur.

The session wrapped up with a half an hour exercise with the participants shared their own challenges and offered advice to each other in small groups. This exercise not only got me much needed assistance, but it also demonstrated just how helpful it is to have a sounding board for not only idea but also troubles. I look forward to reading the book, which was included in each participant’s bag, and gaining even more insight of these two women.

Blog Action Day -or- Woe is Me Garden

This Blog Action Day on Climate Change and Global Warming I want to take a look at how the changing climate has affected my garden this year.

For anyone living in the north eastern Unites States, referring to the summer of 2009 is likely to elicit a sigh or perhaps a sarcastic laugh.  In my youth the seasonal description ‘April showers bring May flowers’ somehow became ‘April sunshine brings May, June, July and some August showers too!’  The temperatures were lower than usual and in combination with the excess of rain many of my plants had a less than ideal growing season.

You see, I have a plot at the Northampton Community Garden in which I grow fruit, vegetables, herbs, and some flowers.   While I like eating close to home for the lower environmental impact, I also think it is wonderful fun to watch things grow and to nurture them along the way.  But this summer as I was weeding, watering and planting another thing happened: my plants started to behave strangely in reaction to the seasonably strange weather that some referred to as ‘global cooling.’

First of all, my pepper plants never really grew.  When the plants finally got a little bigger, I was waiting and waiting for the peppers to come.  I’ve had peppers grow well in the past, but this year, nothing.  Research amongst my fellow gardeners and my ‘small-scale farming guru’ father taught me that peppers are of a tropical origin and grow best with heat, something which typically comes all of July and the first part of August, but only made a short appearance this year.

The other major challenge in the garden this year was my tomatoes.  The excess of water caused many fruits to split before they ripened and then the late blight, something that I have always know to signal the end of the season in late September, came early and wiped out a majority of the tomatoes.   Fortunately I had three varieties of the eight I planted which survived the blight.  The otherwise poor tomato growing conditions wiped out my hoped-for good season with this fruit.

I think it is important to notice that there are changes occurring and that we have some affect on those changes.  I don’t know if they are reversible, but I believe our daily wasteful habits contribute to continued environmental degradation.  Our environment supports life on this planet.  Shouldn’t we maybe pay a little more attention to this?