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Spring is Here! Not.

April 7, 2013 6 comments

garden

“Is the spring coming?” he said.

“What is it like?”…

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”

Frances Hodgson Burnett,

The Secret Garden

This weekend was opening day for town soccer in the Hudson Valley.The first day of soccer is always a clear indication that spring is truly here! Indeed, starting at 9am, the fields were flooded with kids ages 5 to 16, each one of whom came out ready to play ball!

There was just one problem.

game day 023

 It was 32 DEGREES!

Ehem!….that would be the temperature at which all things freeze! Including humans standing on a field.

But, Spring is here! Phil Said So! Remember? Two months ago in front of millions of people! Live! On television.Well Phil, it’s not and there’s a bit of an uproar here on the East Coast about it.In fact, there’s been talk of a lawsuit by a prosecutor in Ohio who wants to indict Phil for incorrectly predicting the weather, some back tracking gibberish about Phil’s “handler”mistranslating the prediction and even the calling of the poor fellow’s head by a radical few.

People who live on the East Coast take their weather very seriously and talk about it all-the-time! They really enjoy their four seasons: the (temporary) heat of summer, the cool of fall, the (temporary) cold of winter and the warmth of spring.Yes, the warmth of spring. Even though it made it to 50 degrees later in the day, well after the soccer games had ended, it was too little, too late. Thirty-two degrees at the start of any day is not spring. We were promised spring, an early spring! We’re waiting and we’re over due.

But heck people! We really can’t blame Phil. Even though Punxsutawney Phil has been predicting the start or stall of spring for the last 123-years amidst great fanfare, pomp and circumstance, and even though he predicted an early spring for us this year (back in FEBRUARY) let’s face it; no matter how you slice it, the truth is, Phil, is a groundhog! A GROUNDHOG! And groundhogs really don’t have special communicative or weather related powers.There is no such thing as “groundhogese“. I don’t think they even make good house pets.

You never hear anyone talking about their pet groundhog — ever.

mother nature new

It’s Mother Nature who’s the real culprit here. 

She’s the one to blame.

Go ahead.

I dare you!


 

Photo Credits: #1 & #3 – Google Images

Photo Credit #2 – Karen Szczuka Teich & Takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

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Namaste’ Nemo!

February 10, 2013 10 comments

Snow1

Namaste’ whose origins come from India is a word and gesture exchanged in salutation when meeting and departing, usually said with a smile, pressing one’s hands together and giving a slight bow signifying reverence and respect.

Schools closed Friday in anticipation of his coming and folks prepared ahead of time; buying batteries for weather radios and filling bathtubs with water. We hunkered down with necessary supplies; food, water, flashlights, charged cell phones, blankets, a good book to read. Then, much like with the coming of Sandy, we waited, some of us more anxiously than others. With each passing hour we wondered just how fierce he would be, whether we’d lose power and if so, for how long. It’s a humbling predicament to be held captive in one’s own home by the uncertainty of what the weather will bring. There is no greater force than that of Mother Nature and her wrath, should she choose to unleash it. The only thing you can truly rely on, is that nature will do what nature will do. At 8:30am Friday morning, the flakes began to fall. At first in the form of sporadic showers but by1:30pm, the snow was steady. By evening-fall, we had settled into the knowing that the storm was upon us.

With all due respect, Namaste’ Nemo!

An inch of snow an hour quickly turned to two and up to five inches per hour fell mercilessly in parts of Connecticut overnight. With him came hurricane-force winds. Major roadways in two states were closed. Curfews and car bans were instituted. Nemo had been unleashed in the Northeast only 100-days after and hardly enough time to recover from Sandy’s visit. In one night, Nemo left up to 3-feet of snow in parts of New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Over 650,000 homes were left without electricity.

Namaste’ Nemo!

Come Saturday morning, the sweet, steady hum of a snow-blower spewing its contents high above its handler filled the air. The scraping sounds of metal hitting asphalt could be heard too, for the many hours it took to shovel driveways and pathways freeing residents from Mother Nature’s captivity. Nemo was here and he left a thick, sparkling blanket of white as far as the eye could see in his wake.

Read

There is an oft-repeated phrase in A Game of Thrones, the series I’m reading, that gives the reader a sense of impending doom. Unlike the pleasant prediction that Punxsutawney Phil gave last week that Spring is coming, the repeated phrase in the books is that

Winter is coming…..

A chill runs down my spine, every time I read it. Winter, I am reminded, has not yet left us, which brings me to what lies ahead. Orko.

Last week, Phil said Spring was coming. This week Nemo said, not just yet.

Next week, Orko looms.

Oy!

Namaste’ Orko!

Phil Said So

February 3, 2013 8 comments

woodchuck

Have you heard? Spring is coming.

Phil said so.

I love mankind. We’re obsessed with advancing. We’ve figured out how to send folks to the moon. We can see our friends and family in other states and countries while we speak to them through our computers. We can send instant messages across the world by email and clean our floors with a small round mechanical orb without ever getting our fingers dirty. Yet, when it comes to identifying the natural progression of one season to the next (on the East Coast anyway) we regress to ancient German folklore and the belief that groundhogs have the ability to prognosticate the upcoming weather. That’s right, instead of using the latest in weather-related technology, we gather en mass and in celebration, since 1886 in fact, to rely on the prediction of an over-grown, over-weight, hairy rodent who’s been pulled out of his hole every February 2nd at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for the last 127 years. Did I mention this animal doesn’t hiss, purr, bark, snort, speak or text? Indeed, whether we hang on to our woolies or break out our shorts all depends on what he, Punxsutawney Phil does. It’s six more weeks of winter if he sees his shadow, Spring if he doesn’t! And, it’s all done rather cryptically, in the blink of an eye, in front of 20,000 live spectators and a few million television viewers.

Mysterious looking men, members of the Inner Circle, wearing black top hats and long coats gather before a swelling crowd. It’s said that Phil talks to the president of the Inner Circle through Groundhogese. A Leader in the Circle then translates to the crowd. I watched it unfold myself, the whole 4-minutes of it. One minute no groundhog. The next, he was being pulled out of Gobbler’s Knob. A minute later an old scroll was unfurled, the Leader began to read and voila:

“There is no shadow to see. An early spring for you and me!”

Winter is over.

It’s true. He said so. Phil, the groundhog. In Punxsutawney. I didn’t hear him say it but they said he did. Even though the thermometer read 19° while he was not seeing his shadow and the forecast for tonight is snow, Spring is coming.

Phil said so.  🙂

Worse Than The Worst

November 3, 2012 10 comments

With great anticipation we awaited her arrival.

Finally, nightfall brought her furiously nipping at our doorsteps, howling to get in. Seventy miles north of New York City windows shook and lights flickered as 60-mile per hour winds swept through the development I live in. Street lights dimmed while competing sheets of rain pounded the pavement demanding to be heard.

Shortly after 11pm, there was a loud, sputtering, buzzing sound that ended in an explosion somewhere nearby.

Mom! my daughter shouted from her bedroom,

What was that?

Not long after, a second thunderous explosion brought with it the deafening sound of silence. The eerie quiet filled everything around us with darkness. The air was still. There was no light. For several hours we had no electricity. Two transformers in our neighborhood blew. But this was not surprising nor was it a hardship. We knew she was coming. We were warned. And warned and warned. We knew she was quite possibly the worst storm to hit the East Coast in nearly 100-years. We were warned. We had ample time to ready ourselves for the worst. And we did, the best we could because we knew.

Yet, we had no idea. How could we? How can you know what is worse than the worst?

Who could anticipate watching water pour into the Hoboken Path Station or having to close the New York Stock Exchange for two days in a row– unplanned? How could you fathom that thousands of laboratory mice and biological research materials would perish in New York University Hospital’s basement drowning years worth of scientific research when fail-safe generators engulfed by water refused to turn on? And how could you imagine an entire neighborhood of over 100 homes catching on fire or a roller coaster partially submerged in the ocean?

Could you even envision a storm-surge so powerful that it could wash a boat up onto train tracks from the Hudson River?

I couldn’t. Yet it happened in Ossining, New York.

Five days later, the rippling effects of Sandy’s brief presence are more than evident. On Friday the gas station that I pass on the way to work listed $3.93 per gallon for regular unleaded gas. At noon, the same station listed regular unleaded gas at $4.09 a gallon. When I left work at 3:30pm I had to drive 20-minutes north to find fuel and paid $4.23 per gallon for regular unleaded gas. In less than a day’s time, gas prices sky-rocketed and drivers raged as they weaved recklessly in and out of lanes in our commuter-community in a mad hunt to fill their tanks. All along the main strip of Route 9 from Fishkill to Poughkeepsie gas pumps were idle, sitting with yellow bags over their nozzles indicating a lack of fuel. Indeed, signs posted at station after station read: NO GAS! Those stations that still had some to sell sported lines and lines and lines of cars backing up traffic on the main thoroughfare adding to the frustration and panic that has begun to settle into the minds of this otherwise unscathed community 70-miles north of New York City.

Still, I’m unbelievably fortunate and grateful for this small inconvenience in comparison to friends just a few miles south where over 70% of the people who live in my hometown were without power all week. Many still are. Chaos reigns without working traffic lights. Police officers stand guard at gas stations as rationing takes effect. Looting has begun.

My heart and thoughts are with them as well as my neighbors in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island and Staten Island where Sandy lingered long enough to leave unimaginable destruction; worse than the worst. They are heavy on my mind.

I pray for the human spirit of kindness to prevail as we brace ourselves for the nor’easter lurking in this week’s forecast.

Be safe.

Photo Credits #1-3: Google Images/Hurricane Sandy

Photo Credit #4:  Boat on Tracks/MTA

Photo Credit #5: Huff Post/Random Acts of Kindness

Oops! I Think The Universe Was Listening!

October 30, 2011 10 comments

When I stated last week that I had gotten my, second wind and was ready for whatever else should happen to come my way, boldly telling the universe to “BRING IT ON!”, I wasn’t exactly talking about the Nor’easter that came full force, literally blowing me and millions of others away this Halloween weekend!

No, No! This is not what I meant at all!

My blog is all about striving to live life on life’s terms and handle its unexpected events with as much grace and decorum as I can but I’m afraid the unexpected event of having a foot of the white stuff covering my front lawn in October, is nearly enough to send me over the edge!

Seriously, doesn’t Mother Nature know my son was supposed to have a championship football game this Sunday?

Or was it Old Man Winter who was awakened from his slumber?

Doesn’t he know he has at least four to six weeks left of snooze time before having to blast down on the North East?

Could it have been <GASP> my doing?

Perhaps this was an early, Halloween trick conspired by the two heads of nature?

Major tree damage, downed limbs and widespread, rampant power outages was the prediction and By-George, that’s exactly what we got! We lost power at around 5pm Saturday. By 7:30 our county was declared a “State of Emergency”.

Hurricane Irene and the rains that followed left our Hudson Valley grounds sopping to the roots! Throw in the seasonal fact that many trees still carry their fall leaves, add heavy, wet snow and gusty winds and you have the disaster that we got; two days before Halloween! It was a cold, long night but thankfully, we got our power back at around 10am this Sunday morning. Considering what I’ve come to see and hear, I think we’re among the luckier lot who got their power back as soon as we did. No doubt, some people in our and the surrounding areas will be in the dark for days!

My girl, surveying the snow right before we lost power, Saturday.

Ugh. I’m bummed! I’m a huge fan of this and all holidays. I love to decorate and celebrate. Who will see our graveyard now that it’s buried under a foot of snow? I want to hear the rustling of leaves beneath sneakers as the ghosts and goblins approach my door, not the squishy-squeaky sound of snow boots sloshing their way up the footpath!

My boy, who is going as a Cheer-leading girl, is gonna freeze his hairy legs off!

On his way to the Halloween dance at school Friday evening. When there was only leaves on the ground!

My girl, who is going trick-or-treating as a Sponge-Bob, is going to, well, be miserable!

Friday's pre-Halloween parade celebration at school.

It’s too early, too soon for this freezing nonsense! I’m just not prepared to be wearing my winter coat in October. It’s something I prefer to ease my way into, not be abruptly forced into! I’m not even sure I know where my snow boots are!

BRING IT ON!

I said it. It’s true. I put it out there.

I’m sorry.

Next time, I’ll keep my declarations to myself!

I don’t ever recall snow, let alone a full-blown storm in this New York area before Halloween. Do you? Were you affected by the storm?

Have a safe and happy Halloween everyone!

Photo Credit #1: Mother Nature

Photo Credit #2: Old Man Winter

Photo Credit #3-5: ©Takingtheworldonwithasmile.com & Karen Szczuka Teich

Irene’s Grace

September 3, 2011 10 comments

Last Saturday morning, my daughter and I left our peaceful retreat in the woods, hoping to get home before Irene got there. We made it, just in time to clear off the pool deck and secure all fly-able objects before the first onslaught of heavy rains pelted our area. Other than a few severe but sporadic downpours that afternoon however, Saturday turned out to be more like the calm before the storm. Things started out slow enough but strange for us in the Hudson Valley. Early in the evening, I noticed a few displaced turkeys.

If nothing else, their presence on the median in our otherwise “turkey-free” neighborhood was a sign that something was justnot right.

It wasn’t until around 6am on Sunday that Irene picked up the pace, becoming faster and more furious, showing her relentless nature. Hour after hour throughout the day, she presented us with a deluge of rain leaving the better part of my front lawn under water by late afternoon.

A happy “singing in the rain” moment for my daughter perhaps but a menacing sight for her mom.

She's literally "singing in the rain"!

In her fiercest moments, two sump pumps, a powerful wet-vac and ultimately even a bucket brigade couldn’t keep her at bay. She streamed right into our basement through the glass doors that lead out to the back yard. There was NO stopping her. In the 24-hours or so that she hovered over our area, I back-washed at least 9-inches of water out of our pool, into an already over-flowing street drain.

Under dryer conditions, you can easily see the three steps that lead from the basement to the pool area.

Late in the day, the fire department closed off our street. They pumped water out of homes while we watched a variety of small objects float passed our house down the stream that is normally our road. By nightfall, she was gone.

 

Irene was “beast” as my kids would say, doling out her special blend of mayhem in the most sporadic of places. Perhaps she was a disappointment to some, not packing the punch that was anticipated by so many who took great measures to prepare for her arrival. But to me, her arbitrary selection of where to leave harsh destruction reinforced the fragility of life and the urgency to live it to it’s fullest without taking it for granted. She left just enough damage in my basement and neighborhood to earn my deepest respect. In the days following, as I watched report after report on the damage and heartache that was left elsewhere in her wake, she reminded me in no uncertain terms, that no matter how difficult things may seem, there is always someone out there who has it worse.

There are no limits to the power of nature.

So, I’m going to wade in gratitude for a while knowing that, there but for the grace of Irene……

The path of Hurricane Lee

Tell me, were you affected by Hurricane Irene?

Keep your eye on Lee, Louisiana!

Photo Credits #1-5: Karen Szczuka Teich and http://www.takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

Photo Credit #6: International Business Times Hurricane Lee

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